Tag Archives: Tadahito Iguchi

Iguchi eyes ‘Sweet Home Chicago’

When he retired as a pro in 2017, Tadahito Iguchi, the second baseman for the Chicago White Sox’s 2005 World Series champs, said he someday hopes to be back in a Sox uniform.

“Yes. That’s my dream,” the second-year Lotte Marines manager said in March.

Iguchi returned to Japanese baseball in 2009 after four years in the majors, and though his career appeared all but over at the time, he went on to play 10 more seasons before retiring in 2017. From there, he moved straight into the manager’s chair at Zozo Marine Stadium. He said it was not an easy decision to make that jump, but didn’t want to throw away the edge of knowing what his players were capable of by having been on the front lines with them.

Remembering Ozzie Guillen

Iguchi said the biggest skill he takes into managing is communication and cited his former Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen as his biggest influence.

“In some sense, he (Guillen) is kind of crazy,” Iguchi said. “But he communicates well and is charismatic.”

“Having been with the players here as a teammate when I was still playing and speaking with them on the bench, I think I’d established good communication with them.”

How about the motivation side?

“He (Guillen) has the ability to motivate people. That’s something I think I lack,” Iguchi said.

One of just a handful of Japanese position players to go to the majors, Iguchi said he gained some insight into the differences between Japan’s game and America’s.

Coaching in Japan and America

“I could understand how the internal conditions differed between organizations here and there,” he said. “Japanese coaches are always teaching you how to do things. Over there, they are more like advisers, taking a supporting role. Japanese players generally wait for what a coach has to say. Over there, you do things on your own and when you don’t understand, you might seek advice.”

“In Japan, the coach does all the talking. So, I think there are a lot of Japanese players who don’t really understand their own strengths.”

As part of his plan to revitalize the Marines and build a foundation for the future, Iguchi wants to adopt a more hands-off approach to young players from this season, although one expects it won’t be easy.

“There is something about Japanese baseball that makes coaches want to teach too much,” he said, although he will have a willing ally in the form of pitching coach Masato Yoshii, also a former big leaguer.

In his final year as a player, the Marines finished dead last in Japan’s Pacific League. in 2018, they escaped the cellar by two games. Iguchi said that as a rookie manager, he may have hurt his win total by sticking too long with less proven players, but he hoped those investments pay dividends down the road.

For someone who played 21 years, perhaps it’s natural for Iguchi to have a long-term vision, one that contrasts with the win-now mentality that some here see as a cancer in Japan’s beloved sport.

Changes are coming

Activists trying to protect the arms of elementary and junior high school kids believe that teaching the youngest kids that winning is the only thing that matters encourages abusive excessive practice and leads to burnout and arm injuries. They are calling for pitch and practice limits, and Iguchi said such rules are inevitable.

“That’s the era we’re in,” he said. “These days we are concerned with how many days a guy throws. It’s the same in America. That’s where we are headed so I don’t think there’s any going back.

“When I was in elementary school, I hit off a tee at home all the time. I think long practice hours just for the sake of winning might be a problem. If the purpose is to learn teamwork and communication with others, then long hours are well spent I think.”

“We do have to be concerned about kids’ health. I played rubber ball baseball when I was in elementary school. So many players never went on to play at a higher level because they ruined their shoulders or elbows. I think was lucky I wasn’t a pitcher. For the coaches to coerce the kids is something I am not sure about, but I want people to strive more and more to be No. 1.”

That’s something Iguchi has ample experience with, having won three PL pennants with the Hawks a Japan Series title with the Marines and, of course, the 2005 World Series win in Chicago.

2005, making it look easy

Oddly enough, that championship kind of snuck up on Iguchi, who was simply too busy playing hard to see the bigger picture going on around him.

“I was just going as hard as I could for the whole season, and it was more a feeling that I did all I could rather than a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “Perhaps had we not won the first year and then won the second, then I would have been happier. But I was just going from start to finish, and didn’t really have a grasp for what was happening.”

And after he accomplishes his mission in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Iguchi may turn his gaze again to the south side.

Monday musings: Dave’s return

No, Dave Okubo is not back with the Rakuten Eagles, but we wouldn’t know it from the number of outs they’ve made on the bases through their first nine games.

When Hiromoto Okubo managed the Eagles in 2015, the Auduban Society had to disassociate itself from Rakuten because of the number of Eagles who were being slaughtered on Japan’s base paths that season. It’s been four years, but the reckless version of the Eagles have returned with a vengeance.

The Eagles’ offense has actually functioned so far this year. They finished the season’s second weekend with 45 runs, tied with the SoftBank Hawks for second behind the Seibu Lions for both the Pacific League and NPB lead. They’ve 121 runners, excluding home runs, which is second in NPB behind the Lions. The problem is 18 of those have been lost on the bases — which doesn’t count the eight removed on ground ball double plays (tied for second most in NPB

Pct of runners’ outs on bases (through 4/7)

TeamBase running outsTotal BRPct

The Eagles’ outs break down as follows: runners out on bases: 9, caught stealing 7, picked off 2.

No sacrifice is too great

Despite the fact that Pacific League pitchers only bat in nine games a season — when on the road during interleague play against Central League opponents, PL teams typically sacrifice more often. In the past eight seasons since a uniform ball was employed in 2011, the PL has sacrificed more often than the CL.

This year, however, it seems to be the CL’s turn for the ultimate sacrifices again. Last year, the CL also led by sacrificing 2.2 percent of the times a runner was on first base, while the PL was getting the bunt down 2 percent of the time.

Two things appear to be driving the change: 1) an influx of new managers who bunt less, Seibu’s Hatsuhiko Tsuji, Rakuten’s Yosuke Hiraishi and Lotte’s Tadahito Iguchi, and 2) a change of heart in Sapporo. The Nippon Ham Fighters, once one of NPB’s most bunt-happy teams under former university teacher Hideki Kuriyama, have begun to shy away from the sacrifice.

One wonders whether there is any connection between having a general manager who is familiar with sabermetrics in Hiroshi Yoshimura and the Fighters’ more astute look. The Fighters definitely employed an extreme infield shift last week against the Rakuten Eagles, and are also dabbling with the use of an opener.

This spring so far, five of the six PL clubs are among the six least-frequent sacrificing teams. The PL’s Orix Buffaloes, run by old-school skipper Norifumi Nishimura rank sixth, and have been the PL club most likely to bunt.

And while you’re looking at the table, spare some time for a round of applause for Iguchi and the Marines.

Team sacrifice attempt pct (through 4/7)

TeamSHFailed SHRunners on 1BAttempt pct

Speaking of the Marines

Not only has Iguchi’s team not attempted a sacrifice this season, but when you look at how the 2018 season ended, we may be seeing something of a pattern. Having spent much of my life watching Japanese baseball, I thought nine games might be a record of some sort, but it’s not.

Although Iguchi’s team sacrificed once in its season finale, the Mariners did not record a sacrifice hit in any of the preceding 15 games. That gives them a 25-game stretch with one sacrifice.

He told me before the season that his coach’s were not going to go overboard on instructing the unique talents out of the young players but didn’t say anything about sacrifices. He didn’t have a streak anything like that — or like this year’s — during the rest of the 2018 season.

That 15-game streak is pretty remarkable, although Tsuji’s Lions had three nine-game streaks last season, and the Eagles had a 13-game streak.