Tag Archives: SoftBank Hawks

Moore no longer in talks with for Hawks return

Lefty Matt Moore, who bounced back from injury in a respectable 2021 season for the SoftBank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League, has ended talks with the four-time defending Japan Series champs, according to a Tokyo Sports report on Wednesday.

Moore, who will be 32 on June 18, had one of Japan’s more effective changeups and did well to miss bats over 78 innings in his first NPB season. According to Delta Graphs, Moore was seventh in swinging strike percentage among the 53 pitchers with 70-plus innings.

He completed his season with seven hitless innings en route to the win in Game 3 of the Japan Series, which the Hawks swept for the second year in a row.

Moore, whose 2020 season with the Tigers was wiped out by an early injury missed two months after suffering a left calf muscle injury in July. He was non-tendered in December although the Hawks were keen to keep him and had been trying to bring him back. The Tokyo Sports report said the pitchers’ agent had suspended talks and that he would seek a major league deal for 2021.

Tokyo Sports is probably Japan’s least reputable outlet, but that is largely because it is the No. 1 forum for former players wishing to dump on active managers in encourage job openings in uniform for guys now sitting in press boxes.

This report, however, has the ring of truth to it, with Hawks officials telling local media that bringing back Moore was one of their offseason priorities.

The Hawks are now only the second Japanese team in history to win four Japan Series in a row, following the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants, who won the national title nine straight years from 1965 to 1973.

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Giants want DH — but CL isn’t Ready to Switch

Japan’s Central League resoundingly rejected a Yomiuri Giants proposal to adopt the designated hitter rule on Monday.

The Yomiuri idea is interesting because it’s novel. The Giants, Japan’s oldest existing pro baseball team, although not its first as Yomiuri likes to pronounce, have a history of pretty much doing whatever they want.

When Yomiuri thinks change is in its selfish best interest at the expense of its business partners, then it’s time to be progressive. Whenever a change threatens the team’s monopoly on power or influence, then Yomiuri falls back on how baseball is all about tradition.

Twenty-seven years ago, Yomiuri forced the other teams to adopt free agency because the Giants wanted to skim off other clubs’ veterans, never mind that it would cause other clubs’ salaries to jump. Free agency destroyed the Hiroshima Carp’s dynasty, but that was a price Yomiuri was willing to pay for the sake of giving players their just desserts.

The proposal stated three reasons: 1) the extra stress imposed by the coronavirus, 2) CL pitchers got hurt more this year, and 3) fans don’t want to see pitchers giving away their at-bats by swinging fruitlessly or keeping their bats on their shoulders. This last one, the proposal said was unacceptable from the standpoint of a professional organization.

No. 3 is probably the most likely, and for the reason Hara suggested–that the Giants, having not won a Japan Series for eight straight seasons, a franchise record, need to get away from tradition in order to rectify that situation. The DH, I would argue, is a small part of the puzzle, but far from the only one.

The gap – why is the Pacific League stronger?

The idea that a DH would make Japanese professional baseball stronger is probably true. But there are other things that would make pro baseball stronger that the Giants are dead set against, such as joint licensing and marketing, because they would diminish the Giants roles as the kings of Japan’s small pro baseball hill.

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Uehara takes aim at system again

On Thursday, former major leaguer Koji Uehara took aim at the posting system in a column for Yahoo Sports.

Readers will probably know I’ve been a big fan of Uehara’s wildcat stances for players’ rights and against Japanese baseball’s status quo. When Tsuneo Watanabe, then the Yomiuri Giants’ autocratic owner said he’d release any player who was so low as to send an agent to contract negotiations, Uehara sent an agent. The team didn’t release their ace as Watanabe promised, saying the lawyer who negotiated on Uehara’s behalf wasn’t an agent but a “consultant.”

Going postal

In the wake of the Giants’ posting of pitcher Shun Yamaguchi a year ago, and their current ace, Tomoyuki Sugano, this winter, Uehara recalled his own experience with that process and said the system needs to be fixed to make it less arbitrary.

In 2005, when he requested Yomiuri post him, the Giants blasted their star in public, calling him “selfish” and a player “who does whatever he wants.”

“I don’t want to complain (about my treatment). What I want is a standardized system. Currently, a player can ask to be posted and if the team can say ‘No’ and that discussion is over in one minute.”

–former major leaguer Koji Uehara

That might be OK if players could choose to play for a team that will post them, but most are not in that position.

Uehara argues for giving a player the right to post himself after eight years of service time. This takes the coy game of players being sly about their desires to play in the States, and simply allows a player to say “I’m going” and be done with it.

From pillar to posting system

He said the issue is that posting is 100 percent up to teams and that clubs with deep pockets like Yomiuri and the SoftBank Hawks, can afford to let their free agents go to the States without compensation, while other clubs, who have posted their stars, can’t.

The irony in Yomiuri’s rejecting the posting system for 20 years is that by forcing other teams to accept free agency, Yomiuri unwittingly created a door for Japanese stars to move to the majors without compensation. Not long after free agency was introduced, Hideo Nomo’s success in MLB created a market for Japanese talent. Once that happened, Japanese teams on tighter budgets to get value for stars before they went to the majors as free agents.

No quick fixes

But while it’s easy to say, let’s have automatic posting after eight years of service time, it’s just a patch on a particularly ugly system of labor control that is a legacy of America’s Gilded Age.

The pitcher recently argued for automatic free agency, which would instantly make every player with the necessary service time a free agent. In both cases, he aims to let the system shoulder the burden that players now must carry on their own shoulders of whether to file for free agency or to ask their team to be posted.

And though his solutions are simple to grasp, they would require major changes to the rules, and since the Japanese Professional Baseball Players Association is relatively powerless, the owners are in no hurry to undertake systematic reform.

Even if change improves the business, the effort needed eats up time and energy. Besides, as long as things function the way they’re supposed to — even if that way makes no sense — no one in baseball thinks there’s a problem.

The solution at hand

Actually, players don’t need any kind of structural change to force teams to post them, as the SoftBank Hawks could likely tell you. They do, however, need the guts as amateurs to say, “Do it or else.”

A year ago, the Hawks and the Giants passed over a generational talent in the draft, 100-mph high school pitcher Roki Sasaki. The pitcher, who could have opted to turn pro in the States, met with teams interested in him prior to the draft and may well have demanded a contractual agreement to be posted.

This is something that amateurs have a right to do in Japan that they don’t have when turning pro with major league clubs, because of the shape and structure of NPB contracts. The risk, of course, is that teams will discard their draft picks and refuse to sign them — Japanese teams receive no compensation picks for unsigned draft picks.

Having individuals buck the system and make individual demands, as Uehara did, is what he’s aiming to avoid. But simply putting a patch on pro baseball’s autocratic norms won’t change the deeper problem.

The real problem

The problem is not the posting system, but the draft and reserve clause. These deny amateur ballplayers the right to freely negotiate and then tie them to their teams indefinitely.

The current system paints this as normal. Even fans, who would shudder at submitting to that kind of control over their own careers, consider it’s OK for ballplayers to have no choice or freedom, because, well, “It’s normal.”

An ideal solution

But there’s no reason why a more normal framework wouldn’t work, and pro soccer is a great model.

Teams and players can negotiate with whoever they like and agree to fixed-length contracts from Day 1. Players can move when they themselves and both teams agree to the terms, without any of this “players cannot claim any of the money involved in the transfer” nonsense.

Rosters could be limited to keep wealthy teams from hoarding the best talent, while development issues could be solved by having real minor leagues with the same rights over their players that the top flight leagues enjoy.

Applying a normal solution to the radically abnormal pro baseball situation we take for granted may be hard to fathom, but that’s no reason it wouldn’t work. It would be different, and difference in baseball is often interpreted to mean bad, but an organic, humanistic system could be a whole lot better.

I don’t know about you, but I’d find it a lot easier to support Individuals and teams that come together organically instead of having their movements within the system structured the way mazes structure the movement of laboratory rats.

It’s not like it will ever happen, but the world would be a saner and more reasonable place if people didn’t think that autocracy.

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The gap

On Nov. 25, 2020, the Yomiuri Giants failed to win a Japan Series for the eighth straight season, surpassing the franchise’s longest drought without a Japan championship. The Pacific League’s eight straight wins are now one short of the record, set by the Giants from 1965 to 1973.

Prior to last week’s win, the CL had won three series between 2003 and 2019. Now it has gone from three over 17 years to three over 18, barely a significant difference, but it took this PL victory to set alarm bells ringing in Japan’s media for the first time.

It’s not like it wasn’t obvious from 15 years of interleague play. So why now? The answer probably is two straight sweeps by the Hawks of the Giants. No team had ever swept in consecutive years, and the Giants are branded as Japanese pro baseball’s flagship franchise.

From 2005 to 2019, the PL’s record in interleague play was 1,098-966 with 60, a .532 winning percentage. But four more series wins and the stories suddenly flow about a dire state of affairs. It’s like no one saw what was in front of them, or did see but didn’t want to admit it.

What’s the difference

Alex Ramirez, who managed the CL’s DeNA BayStars from 2016 to 2020, said on his new Youtube channel that two factors create a synergy that lifts the PL above the CL, better velocity on the fastball and better base stealing ability.

Ramirez said as much when asked a couple of years ago, so this is not a new argument. According to Delta Graphs, the average CL four-seamer is slightly faster than in the PL, but Ramirez’s argument that more starting pitchers have better velocity in the PL is accurate.

Velocity

In 2020, 28 CL pitchers threw 70-plus innings. One, Shintaro Fujinami, had an average fastball velocity of 150 kph or more. Ten, or 36 percent, averaged 145 kph or more. The median average was 143.45 kph.

Three of the 25 PL pitchers with 70-plus innings threw 150-plus, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Drew VerHagen and Kodai Senga. Ten of those, 40 percent, averaged 145-plus, while the median was 144.4 kph.

This year was a good one for fastballs in Japan. I don’t recall seeing so many batters swing under heaters by so much, so it’s not just speed but better backspin. Ramirez argues that because CL hitters don’t face as many good fastballs in their own league, they have more trouble adjusting to the PL’s pitchers.

Former Yakult Swallows pitcher Shohei Tateyama is the first person I heard say, “The PL is just better.” My analysis had for years been based on the belief that the quality of the two leagues was essentially balanced and most of us were sort of trying to figure out how one league could consistently outperform another that was essentially its equal.

Tateyama said the designated hitter, which eliminates the need for pitchers to be pulled for pinch-hitters, combined with the PL’s huge pitcher-friendly parks — before the invasion of shortened distances in Sendai, Fukuoka, and Chiba — made it easier to develop pitchers in the other league.

So the first question that sprung to mind was: Is it the pitchers or is it the hitters, and how could one tell? What if one took each team’s pitching results and compared how it did in its home parks against CL and PL hitters? If the CL and PL hitters are the same, the visiting league shouldn’t matter.

The data

Interleague play is difficult to compare to league play in any way other than wins and losses because the contexts and numbers of games in each venue vary from year to year, and interleague play takes place from the middle of May to the middle of June and not in the peak offensive season from the mid July to mid September.

But if you average each team’s home performance against the other 11 NPB teams in their main stadiums up until say June 30, you can then get an average for how all 12 teams’ offense and defense perform in the same parks — their main stadiums — against the two leagues, and are thus comparing apples with apples.

If the PL advantage is all in the pitching, we would expect each league’s pitchers to be equally successful in their home parks against visiting hitters, regardless of their league, while the CL hitters at home do better against their own league’s pitchers than those from the PL.

So how did it work out? I used to repeat this study every year or so, but to be honest, I don’t remember when I did it last, but the numbers are basically from 2005 to 2016 or so. Here’s how four different groups compared in OPS.

  • PL offenses at home: vs PL pitchers: .707, vs CL pitchers: .714
  • CL offenses at home: vs PL pitchers: .728, vs CL pitchers: .713
  • PL defenses at home: vs PL hitters: .697, vs CL hitters: .656
  • CL defenses at home: vs PL hitters: .711, vs CL hitters: .681

The lone category where the CL outperformed the PL was in producing against visiting PL pitchers in the CL parks. Until about four years ago, all the PL parks were bigger than all the CL parks except for Nagoya Dome and Koshien Stadium. It’s only speculation but I wouldn’t be surprised if the PL pitchers were less comfortable pitching at the three super home run-friendly CL parks: Jingu Stadium, Yokohama Stadium and Tokyo Dome. I need to replicate and update the study, and I’ll get around to it.

Either way, it isn’t JUST the pitchers, but rather the overall quality of competition in the PL.

Base stealing and other issues

Because the PL is a better base-stealing league, Ramirez argues that in playing PL teams, CL pitchers are more likely to throw fastballs in order to give their catchers a better chance to control the running game, which plays into the hands of hitters who are a little better at hitting fastballs.

Although I think that is a very small thing, it probably does contribute to the PL’s advantage, but there are other differences, particularly in how the pitchers attack hitters.

The differences are slight, but for the past three seasons, PL teams have gradually thrown more and more pitches in the zone relative to CL teams. In 2019, four of the six teams with the highest percentage of pitches in the zone were in the PL, This year it was six of six. The Dragons and Tigers each threw a CL-high 44.5 percent in the zone, The Buffaloes were low in the PL with 44.8. All six CL pitching staffs produced higher swing rates out of the zone than the six PL clubs.

What’s it mean? Not a lot by itself. But the PL is trending toward a league that challenges hitters a little more in the zone, and the CL is trending more toward being the “try to get guys to chase” league. The PL is also trending more toward being a flyball pitcher league.

Talent base

The PL’s edge has continued despite that league losing more of its better players to MLB in recent years. That should not seem sustainable, but somehow it has been. However, the Nippon Ham Fighters are certainly feeling those losses in the standings and that talent drain is going to be felt more acutely next year without ace Kohei Arihara and leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa.

One reason why the PL has been able to maintain its edge may be finances.

Three CL clubs, The Giants, Swallows, and Dragons, are renters. Their home parks are expensive deadweights rather than cash cows. On the other side, every PL team but the Fighters either owns or has an operating license for its park, allowing those five clubs to keep every extra penny spent there. When the Fighters open their new park in 2023, watch out.

The Dragons are also on a tighter budget than before. Big buyers in the free-agent market from 2002 to 2009, the Dragons are now bargain shoppers. They’re awfully good at it, but sometimes money makes a difference. It used to be that virtually every star that switched leagues went to the CL from the PL. That’s no longer the case.

The Hiroshima Carp have taken up some of that slack with the help of their Mazda Stadium-driven riches. They are not spending on free agents but they have been investing in development and locking up their talented players. Since the current free-agent era started in 1994, the Carp’s lot was to introduce top talent to NPB and then pass it on to other teams with deeper pockets. But those days are gone.

The draft

Ramirez said the draft is the way to fix the imbalance. He suggested the CL adopt more of a major league-style draft strategy of prioritizing amateur pitchers who throw hardest above those who have the best command and secondary pitches.

He’s not the only one who thinks so. One former CL player was appalled at the large number of smaller guys his team drafted, ostensibly because of their baseball smarts and mature skills.

A former CL executive, from back in the day when the leagues were separate entities rather than just separate desks in the commissioner’s office, said recently CL teams sometimes shy away from drafting players the Giants want, supposedly to stay on Yomiuri’s good side.

The landscape

I don’t know how true it is now, but currying favor with Yomiuri used to be a key part of the business plan for the Swallows, Carp, BayStars and Dragons. One doesn’t really see that in the PL. The SoftBank Hawks may be the top of the class now, but none of the other teams in the league are going to hand them the keys to the car and let them drive the way Yomiuri does in the CL.

The Seibu Lions have begun investing heavily in development infrastructure, and the Fighters have a great minor league facility that can step up even further once the money starts pouring in from their new ballpark in Hokkaido. The Rakuten Eagles have not been shy about investing in either veteran talent or their stadium. There is no need for PL teams to wave white flags as they gradually find more ways to profit from their ballparks.

There is no mistaking, however, that SoftBank does things differently. The Hawks are probably the most MLB-like team in Japan, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

They probably manipulated the service time of their best player last summer, keeping Yuki Yanagita on the farm two weeks longer than necessary after an injury to keep him from becoming an international free agent this year. And SoftBank refuses to be swayed by the kind of Japanese cultural norms that see other teams posting players to the majors “out of consideration for their contributions.”

The Hawks may not be driving the PL car, but it may only be a matter of time before other clubs decide that to compete with them, they, too, have to start being more ruthless in their pursuit of victory. The PL has for most of its history been the underdog league and has consistently toyed with new innovations, much to the amusement of the CL teams. The CL clubs have followed the Giants lead in asserting that THEY knew how to run baseball businesses.

The CL has consistently been picking up lessons from its PL rivals, the biggest being the playoffs. The CL laughed while PL teams raked in better attendance late in the season until in 2007, the CL came on board. This year, the CL followed the PL and found its first league sponsor. But when the coronavirus gave the CL a chance to ditch its playoffs, which the Giants have been firmly against from the start, it did so at the drop of a hat, suggesting the Giants’ wishes still matter.

The Giants see themselves as ruthless winners, but they are also wedded to making sure the system they rode to the top of the CL and have rewritten to stay there, never ever changes, lest someone else replaces them.

I’ve written this many times before, but the Yomiuri Giants are in some ways similar to Japan’s last feudal rulers, the Tokugawa shogunate, hell-bent on maintaining an obsolete system, whose principal function is keeping them in power, while the world marches on outside.

Is change on the way?

A colleague at work asked whether the latest Japan Series setback was enough to spark change. It might be since it at least has people talking about the difference between the leagues as being one of quality rather than some kind of mirage caused by the weird interleague format.

A case of baseballs

It sort of reminds me of what happened in 2004. OK, a lot happened in 2004, but one of the things that happened that tumultuous strife-torn summer had to do with the baseballs. For years, Mizuno had been getting a bigger and bigger market share by producing more and more lively baseballs, even ones that often exceeded the COR specs.

In the late 1990s a few teams were still using balls by more than one manufacturer, and before balls became an issue in 2004, you could call up each team and they would tell you which company’s balls were used in which games. From that, it became clear that Mizuno’s balls were largely responsible for a steady increase in home runs.

In the summer of 2004, the Dragons, playing in cavernous Nagoya Dome and possessing a lineup with virtually no power, decided to switch from Mizuno, thus breaking the first rule of the Mizuno Home Run Club, which is don’t talk about the Mizuno Home Run Club.

Suddenly, every paper in Japan began researching balls, home run distances, and rates. They concluded that Mizuno’s balls were indeed juiced. This did not sit well with fans who were already fed up with owners’ handling of that summer’s restructuring and labor strife.

The first solution to this PR problem was to talk about it but not really do anything.

Mizuno introduced “less-lively balls” and home run rates kind of stalled, but resumed their climb within a few years. Japan got in 2011 a single uniform ball that was less lively. That’s a whole nother story, but it took nearly 10 years from the time the public became aware of the issue and a palace coup that overthrew the commissioner before Japan got a reliably uniform ball.

If it takes the CL that long to get its act together and make the structural changes needed to catch up, the league probably won’t win more than one or two Japan Series over the next 10 years.

An interleague shortcut to change

I’ve never been an advocate of getting rid of the leagues and merging them into one 12-team competition but the easiest way to get the CL to improve might be to throw those teams into the deep end of the pool where the PL’s sharks are swimming.

Let’s say we keep the two six-team leagues and kept the team who wins the most games in each league as the champion. We then expand interleague play to say 36 games again and then at the end of the season take the teams with the four best records in NPB and have them playoff to see who gets into the Japan Series.

In that format, we might have five years in which no CL teams even make it to the Japan Series. That would definitely light a fire under some butts, as the Giants win pennant after pennant only to watch the Japan Series on TV.

The other easy way to change will be when the Giants realize that winning an easy league is no longer reward enough when they get pounded every year in the Japan Series. At some point, Yomiuri will stop talking about the value of their old-school business model — that helped it secure a chokehold on the league — and start talking about how change is necessary for the good of the game.

Series notes Nov. 18

This will be the first time since 2007, that teams will be meeting in the Japan Series for the second straight year. That last series in 2007 ended in dramatic fashion as journeyman Daisuke Yamai and future Hall of Famer Hitoki Iwase combined on a 1-0 perfect game clincher to beat Yu Darvish.

The time before that, the Yakult Swallows beat the Seibu Lions to win the 1993 series after losing the year before. The Dragons did that in 2007 as well, coming back to win after losing the first time.

This will be the 13th time for a Japan Series rematch the following year, and the Yomiuri Giants may be hoping that recent history points in their favor. Prior to the Swallows and Dragons winning the rematch, the previous year’s runners-up were 0-10 against the previous year’s champs.

This will be the Giants’ 10th rematch in franchise history, and the Hawks’ fourth — and their fourth rematch against Yomiuri. The teams last faced off in the infamous 2000 “brain surgeon” series — the schedule had to be juggled after Daiei rented out their home park to a neurosurgeon’s convention.

The Giants’ lead their Japan Series series 9-2, with the Hawks’ only win prior to 2019 coming in 1959. The Hawks’ 2019 sweep was the sixth in series history, with both the Hawks’ championships over the Giants coming in four games. The Giants are the first team in the 71-year history of the competition to return to the Japan Series after being swept the previous year.

NPB 2020 Sept. 19

NPB expands crowds

In a season that started behind closed doors on June 19, and welcomed in up to 5,000 per game starting from July 10, Saturday saw teams bring in somewhat larger crowds after a month and a half with no reported infections among spectators.

In the four day games played, only one was held out doors, where Yokohama Stadium welcomed 13,106 allowing fans to sit in the new left-field wing seats for the first time.

The other day games all saw smaller crowds: Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome had 11,937, Nagoya Dome 9,732 and Sapporo Dome 8,740.

“We were told it was only 13,000 people but it felt like 40,000 the way you guys cheered for the teams. Thank you so much,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said in his customary on-field interview after home games.

Hawks look to expand fans overseas

Starting Saturday, the SoftBank Hawks’ YouTube channel will be posting videos accessible in multiple languages in order to build their overseas fan base. Whether or not one is a fan of the Hawks, it’s kind of fun.

BayStars hand Giants 3rd straight loss

Neftali Soto hit his 100th home run in Japan, one of four hit by the DeNA BayStars in their 7-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium.

Lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi (5-4) brought an unusually crisp fastball and abstained from his bread-and-butter changeup for much of the game as he allowed a run on two walks and two hits over 5-2/3 innings.

A run in the sixth snapped a 2x-inning scoreless streak for the Giants, who avoided a shutout but not a third straight loss.

Takayuki Kajitani reached on a first-inning error and scored on a Keita Sano single and then drove in three runs with his 13th and 14th home run. Soto, who is trailing in the race to win a third-straight home run title, hit his 16th.

Giants starter Nobutaka Imamura (3-1) lost the southpaw struggle, allowing three runs, two earned, over five innings.

In the end decided on two pitches in the sixth and six in the seventh. With DeNA leading 3-1 in the sixth, Giants right-hander Yohei Kagiya loaded the bases with one out. Tatsuhiro fouled out on one pitch, and Yasutaka Tobashira popped up lefty Ryusei Oe’s first pitch.

In the top of the seventh, the Giants loaded the bases on one out against Yuki Kuniyoshi. Lefty Edwin Escobar entered to face Gerardo Parra, who rolled the sixth pitch back to the pitcher and a 1-2-3 double play.

Carp squeak past Swallows

Shota Dobayashi hit an eighth-inning game-tying home run and scored the go-ahead run in the 10th-inning when rookie Minoru Omori bounced a two-out two-strike pitch past the reach of second baseman Tetsuto Yamada that lifted the Hiroshima Carp to a 3-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

The game was a duel between rookies, Carp right-hander Masato Morishita, a highly-sought after amateur who has been extremely solid, and Yakult’s second-pick last autumn, right-hander Daiki Yoshida, whose stuff and command has been a little less dominant.

Tomotaka Sakaguchi brought the Yakult Swallows from a run down with a second-inning home run.

With one out and a runner on first, Sakaguchi went after a low first-pitch fastball like he knew it was coming and pulled it into the right-field stands for his ninth home run. Prior to this season, Sakaguchi’s high was five home runs, in 2009 and 2010 with the Orix Buffaloes.

He then did what low-power hitters are supposed to say after they hit a home run, that they were trying to play small ball and trying hard not to be Mr. Big Shot home run hitter by using the word “tsunagu” – ぀ăȘぐ.

“My focus was on batting aggressively from the first pitch so I could set the table for the batters behind me,” said Sakaguchi, who was followed by the seventh, eighth and ninth spots in a lineup that is fifth in a six-team league in runs scored and 10th worst in Japan.

Abe homer beats Tigers

Toshiki Abe hit a three-run home run and Koji Fukutani (4-2) worked 6-2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Nagoya Dome.

Tigers right-hander Takumi Akiyama (5-2) allowed five hits and committed two errors that made all four Dragons runs unearned.

Fledgling Eagle holds off Hawks

Ryota Takinaka, the Rakuten Eagles’ sixth pick in last year’s draft, held the SoftBank Hawks to a run over 5-1/3 innings in his pro debut and Hideto Asamura singled in the tie-breaking run in the seventh in a 3-1 win over the three-time defending Japan Series champs at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Takinaka a 25-year-old right-hander, scattered five hits and one walk while striking out one.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked 1-1/3 scoreless innings to protect a one-run lead, and Alan Busenitz worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 12th save for the Eagles.

Buffaloes beat misbehaving Lions

Sachiya Yamasaki (3-4) allowed a run over seven innings and Aderlin Rodriguez doubled in two runs to break a 1-1 sixth-inning tie in the Orix Buffaloes’ 6-3 win over the Seibu Lions.

The Daily Sports blamed the Lions loss on their mistakes, and they certainly didn’t help, but five walks by lefty Sean Nolin (1-2) didn’t help either.

Nolin left in the sixth with one out and the bags juiced. Rookie Tetsu Miyagawa hung a 1-2 slider that Rodriguez lined into the left-field corner. A wild pitch made it 4-1.

The Lions had two on with no outs in the seventh but shat themselves. Rookie catcher Sena Tsuge pulled back a first-pitch bunt attempt and the lead runner failed to make it back for the first out. A sharp grounder to third, which was not a mistake — except in the sense that people who write those dumb articles have to include them — was turned for a double play.

Roller coaster Arihara spills Marines

The roller coaster season of Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (5-7) continued with eight scoreless innings in a 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Marines starter Tsuyoshi Ishizaki (0-1) allowed a run over three innings to take the loss without allowing a hit. He did, however, walk five and strike out five.

Arihara started the season 0-3, allowing 12 runs over 22 innings. He had another three-game stretch where he went 0-2 and allowed 16 runs 19-1/3 innings, and was coming off a start against the Rakuten Eagles on Sept. 13 when he gave up nine runs in 2-1/3. He improved to 3-0 against Lotte, however.

Active roster moves 9/19/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/29

Central League

Activated

TigersC39Kenya Nagasaka

Dectivated

TigersP77Onelki Garcia
TigersOF68Shunsuke Fujikawa

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP57Ryota Takinaka
MarinesP30Tsuyoshi Ishizaki
BuffaloesP11Sachiya Yamasaki

Dectivated

EaglesP56Sora Suzuki
BuffaloesP49Keisuke Sawada

Starting pitchers for Sept. 20, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Chihiro Kaneko (1-3, 6.82) vs Manabu Mima (7-2, 4.62)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Andrew Albers (3-6, 4.07) vs Wataru Matsumoto (3-3, 3.82)

Hawks vs Eagles: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Shuta Ishikawa (6-2, 2.47) vs Takayuki Kishi (1-0, 9.19)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6:30 pm, 5:30 am EDT

Yasuhiro Ogawa (8-3, 3.15) vs Yuta Nakamura (-)

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (6-3, 2.26) vs Seishu Hatake (0-3, 5.95)

Dragons vs Tigers: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Takahiro Matsuba (2-4, 3.30) vs Kenichi Nakata (0-1, 6.23)