Tag Archives: Yomiuri Giants

npb 2020 7-6 games and news

De La Rosa out with oblique strain

The Yomiuri Giants are expected to deactivate Rubby De La Rosa due to a left oblique strain suffered in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Chunichi Dragons the Hochi Shimbun reported Monday.

The 31-year-old right-hander, who joined the club last summer, leads Japan’s Central League with four saves. He left the mound after facing one batter in the ninth. His sixth pitch to Dayan Viciedo ended up in the seats.

The Giants are expected to replace De La Rossa on the roster with Brazilian flame thrower Thyago Vieira.

The show must go on

Despite a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 infections in Japan, Nippon Professional Baseball said Monday it is still planning to admit up to 5,000 fans per game starting Friday and allow crowds of around half-capacity from Aug. 1.

At least they tried

The Hiroshima Carp and Hanshin Tigers were rained out in Hiroshima on Monday. The date was scheduled as a make up game and was activated after Friday’s first game of their series was rained out.

NPB 2020 6-30 GAMES AND NEWS

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Giants knock off BayStars

The Yomiuri Giants hit three home runs in a come-from-behind 5-2 win over the DeNA BayStars on Tuesday. The win kept the Giants in first place in Japan’s Central League.

With a 2-1 lead in the sixth, BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez pulled left-handed starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi with one out and one on with three right-handed bats coming up. Hayato Sakamoto walked against hard-throwing right-hander Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kazuma Okamoto singled in the tying run.

With two outs, Gerardo Parra singled in the go-ahead run, and Yoshihiro Maru and Okamoto homered for the Giants in the eighth. Twenty-year-old Giants lefty Shosei Togo (2-0) surrendered two runs in the first but followed with five-straight scoreless innings before being pulled in the seventh.

Rubby De La Rosa allowed two runners in a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save.

Giants activate Wheeler

Zelous Wheeler, whom the Giants acquired last week in a trade from the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, was added to the active roster on Tuesday. He was inserted into the starting lineup, batting seventh and playing left field.

The Giants have the maximum of five imported players on their 31-man active roster, one of whom will not be eligible to play. Teams are allowed to suit up 26 players this season instead of the traditional 25 while using the additional non-playing spots on pitchers between starts.

Almonte slam lifts Dragons

Former New York Yankee Zoilo Almonte hit a game-breaking seventh-inning grand slam and starting pitcher Yuya Yanagi (1-1) overcame five walks over seven innings in a 5-0 Central League win over the Chunichi Dragons.

Moore bounces back with solid effort

Matt Moore came back from a disappointing Japan debut last week to strike out 10 over six innings, while allowing one run for the SoftBank Hawks in a 1-1, 10-inning tie with the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome. Moore allowed three hits and a walk.

Fighters starter Naoyuki Uwasawa, making his first start since a line drive shattered his kneecap on June 18, 2019, allowed a run over five innings.

Lions get past Albers, Buffaloes

Andrew Albers (0-1) allowed two unearned runs over four-plus innings to take the loss as the Seibu Lions held off the Orix Buffaloes 3-2 at MetLife Dome.

With two outs in the fourth, Albers walked two-time defending PL home run champ Hotaka Yamakawa and allowed a single to Shuta Tonosaki. An error loads the bases, and veteran left-handed-hitting grinder Takumi Kuriyama hits a flair to center for a two-run single.

The Buffaloes pulled two runs back on former Mets and Orioles farmhand Aderlin Rodriguez’s first homer in Japan.

But new Lions import Reed Garrett helped slam the door with his fourth-straight 1-2-3 inning in relief. Tatsushi Masuda worked the ninth for his fourth save.

Spangenberg day to day

Corey Spangenberg was held out of Tuesday’s game after feeling pain in his ribs in pregame practice, Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji told the Nikkan Sports, saying his new left fielder and leadoff man is now day to day.

“He goes full speed in practice and full speed in games,” Tsuji said. “And if he really gets hurt that’s going to cost us a lot.”

Carp, Swallows rained out

Tuesday’s game between the Hiroshima Carp and Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, has been postponed. It’s the first rain-out of the Nippon Professional Baseball Season, that started on June 19, nearly three months late on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

Note: A previous version of this incorrectly stated the game was in Hiroshima.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Eagles vs Marines

The Lotte Marines have won eight-straight, the last a labor-intensive, clinical dissection of Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Sunday. Tonight they’re up against the Rakuten Eagles. The Eagles send big lefty Hayato Yuge (1-0) against the Marines’ Kota Futaki (0-0).

The Marines are back with a bopper in the No. 2 spot as Katsuya Kakunaka starts against the right-hander.

Since I’m typically at the office watching games, this is the first time I’ve been able to casually take in the pregame. The Eagles did away with the national anthem before the first game of the series. With no fans in the stands, DH Stefen Romero just stood up in the dugout and kind of waved to the cameras.

Top 1st

Takashi Ogino somehow gets the barrel on a splitter below the zone and flairs it into center. He cruises into second with a double when the ball kicks off the glove of center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi.

Kakunaka, up there ostensibly because he can hit the ball hard, sacrifices.

Announcer: “Of course you try to play for one run when you are playing well.”

Ikuhiro Kiyota homers on straight 1-0 fastball over the inside part of the plate and pulls it deep into the left field stands. Marines 2, Eagles 0.

Brandon Laird tries the same thing with a sinking fastball and flies out easily to left. Leonys Martin follows with an easy grounder to first.

Bottom 1st

Futaki starts Eigoro Mogi off with two called strikes at the bottom of the zone, but can’t get him to chase one outside. A 1-2 forkball doesn’t topple until after Mogi lashes it into center for a leadoff single.

Longtime Marines captain Daichi Suzuki up to bat against his former team. A generous call on a back-door slider to the left-handed hitter and a foul put Suzuki in a hole. The announcer feels it necessary to comment on the fact that the Eagles aren’t bunting when trailing 2-0 at home, because for many in Japan, this would be normal behavior.

Another splitter from Futaki, not a great one either, but Suzuki is fooled enough that he hits into an easy 6-3 double play. Blash fouls off an inside fastball. Blash miss-hits a high straight fastball and flies out to center.

Top 2nd

Shogo Nakamura draws a four-pitch leadoff walk. Yuge hangs a 2-0 fastball to Seiya Inoue, but he miss-hits it and flies out deep to center. Tatsuhiro Tamura up.

This guy had a GREAT game on Sunday against Orix with four superb at-bats that were instrumental in Lotte’s win. But with the run and hit on, Tamura misses a low inside pitch with a kind of cricket swing and catcher Hikaru Ota guns down Nakamura to complete the double play.

Bottom 2nd

Hideto Asamura turns on a first-pitch inside fastball and it dies at the wall for a leadoff double. Hiroaki Shimauchi rips a hanging first-pitch slider up the middle for an RBI single. Marines 2, Eagles 1.

Romero takes a borderline fastball away for Ball 1, and Futaki misses in the same spot with a slider and still no swing. He offers at a high splitter and knocks it past third and hustles into second with a double.

A bad first-pitch slider in the heart of the zone, and Ginji Akaminai’s eyes light up. He misses it a little, but it drops into shallow center. Tie game. Eagles 2, Marines 2.

After a conference at the mound, Hikaru Ota misses a bunt, but Akiminai steals second. Ota then grounds to second to bring home Romero. Eagles 3, Marines 2.

With the infield in for a play at the plate, Tatsumi grounds it through the infield. Eagles 4, Marines 2.

Mogi walks and there are two on, and Futaki is done. Manager Iguchi had no patience with his offense and now has no patience with a starter who’s throwing hittable pitches in the zone. The new pitcher is lefty Toshiya Nakamura, to face the left-handed-hitting Suzuki with one out and the game slipping away.

And there it goes… Suzuki blasts the first pitch into the right field stands. Eagles 7, Marines 2.

Asamura strikes out swinging to end the inning.

Top 3rd

Two quick outs for Yuge in the third. Guessing seven early runs will help his execution a little. But a Kakunaka single and a walk to Kiyota, and the Marines have a chance to get a run or two back.

Yuge sneaks a slow pitch past Laird in the zone for Strike 1. A foul and it’s 0-2. But Laird taps one back to the mound.

Bottom 3rd

Shimauchi strikes out swinging at a high hanging splitter. Romero gets ahead in the count again before swinging and missing a low fastball. Two more misses from Nakamura and Romero walks. Akaminai, however, goes down looking at a pitch on the outside corner, and Ota also goes down looking, on three pitches.

Top 4th

Leonys Martine up to lead off the Marines’ fourth. He hits under a fastball and it floats into shallow left for a single. Shogo Nakamura flies out to right. With Inoue at the plate, Martin takes second when Yuge bounces a splitter and scores easily on a liner to left center. Eagles 7, Marines 3.

Tamura goes down swinging for the second out, and Yudai Fujioka lines out.

Bottom 4th

After an impressive third, lefty Toshiya Nakamura walks Tatsumi to open the fourth. The Eagles are piping in the sound of their fans chanting for Eigoro Mogi. Tatsumi draws a bunch of pickoff throws from the left and then steals his second base of the game easily.

The 14th pitch to Mogi is his 11th foul of the at-bat, and he walks on the 15th. Two on and no outs for Suzuki, who hit the first pitch from Nakamura for a home run. This time he’s up there to surprise the world with a bunt but pops it up. Now he’s sacrificing. Suzuki strikes out looking and now with Blash up, Nakamura, having failed to pick Tatsumi off first, tries his luck with him at second.

Blash hammers a high 1-2 fastball, pulling it into the left field corner. Tatsumi scores, but Mogi is cut down on near-perfect throw from Kakunaka in left. Eagles 8, Marines 3.

Asamura this time clears the fence. Hammering a hanging Nakamura splitter out to left for his fourth home run of the season. Eagles 10, Marines 3.

Top 5th

Kakunaka with a nice swing on a high fastball produces a one-out single, but Kiyota grounds into an easy double play.

Bottom 5th

Lotte switches out their battery. Right-hander Tsuyoshi Ishiazki and rookie catcher Toshiya Sato in for Toshiya Nakamura and Tamura. Romero will be their first test. Romero strikes out swinging after missing a slider and a cutter low and away. Akaminai flies out. Ishizaki, a 29-year-old journeyman who spent most of his fringy career with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, is looking very sharp. He catches Ota looking and it’s a 1-2-3 inning.

Top 6th

Yuge still in there for the Eagles. A curve and a fastball and Laird is gone. A pair of two-out singles brings the rookie Sato up to the plate. He has a good at-bat but grounds out to end the inning.

Bottom 6th

Ishizaki is locating his slider and fastball. He gets four-straight ground balls off miss-hit balls, but ground balls sometimes get through. Suzuki beats out an infield single with two outs, Blash finds a hole and Asamura walks. An inning that was in control is perched on a precipice.

The battery tumbles over the cliff. Ishizakai gets ahead against Shimauchi by working outside with his fastball land slider. Sato calls for a low-inside 1-2 slider, Ishizaki gets it up just a bit and Shimauchi doubles in two runs. Eagles 12, Marines 3.

Romero follows by barreling up a fastball away and driving it out to right for an opposite-field home run. Eagles 15, Marines 3.

Top 7th

If this were international baseball, it would have just ended on the mercy rule. But it isn’t, so right-hander Tomohito Sakai is in for Yuge, who barring a catastrophe will improve to 2-0.

Top 8th

With former high school star Tomohiro Anraku on for the Eagles, Martin hits pay dirt with one of his big swings, taking it out to right for his first homer of the season. Eagles 15, Marines 4.

Final score: Eagles 15, Marines 4

Where’s the mercy rule when you need it?

NPB 2020 6-25 games and news

Hooray for the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Rick van den Hurk and Wladimir “Coco” Balentien wreck the Seibu Lions in Pacific League action on Thursday. Van den Hurk took a no-hitter into the eighth, and Balentien, Japan’s single-season home run record holder, homered twice, his first since moving from the Central League over the winter.

“I want to thank my boy Coco for doing what he did tonight. Before the game he said ‘Let’s go, the Kingdom of the Netherlands boys, let’s put a good game together.'”

SoftBank Hawks pitcher Rick van den Hurk

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Friday’s starters are HERE.

Wheeler now a Giant

Zelous Wheeler leves the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles on Thursday after five seasons in Sendai, where he was the first import in franchise history to reach 100 home runs. The right-handed-hitting 33-year-old moves to the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants in exchange for 27-year-old lefty Shun Ikeda, who was a junior member of the first team bullpen in 2017 and 2018.

Wheeler’s English language NPB page is HERE, while Ikeda’s is HERE.

Both clubs are off to solid starts, although as Jason Coskrey points out, that COVID-19 may have played a hand in the Giants decision. With the pipeline to overseas talent the Giants often depend on for midseason reinforcements currently severed, Yomiuri may be looking to acquire spare parts for the coming months.

The production of DH-right fielder Jabari Blash and the acquisition of free agent infielder Daichi Suzuki from the Marines has left Wheeler on the outside looking in.

Live blog: Lions vs Hawks

I had planned to go with the BayStars-Dragons game tonight, but don’t get the cable channel that covers the BayStars home games and they’ve pulled off the streaming service I subscribe to, so its back to MetLife Dome, amid the reservoirs overlooking Tokyo.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 1st

Keisuke Honda starting for the Lions tonight, and he’s a guy I liked quite a bit last year. An easy fly out to open the game, an easy grounder, and Yuki Yanagita skies one to the warning track for a 1-2-3 inning.

I’m due to appear on the Sports Information System podcast, on Thursday in the States I think, and the host asked me about who was good at framing pitches. Well I don’t know if Tomoya Mori is good at it, but he certainly looks like he got the first on Yanagita by yanking a ball into the zone.

Bottom 1st

Rick van den Hurk on the mound for the Hawks for another abbreviated season. Injuries in the spring and the summer limited him to two regular season starts in 2019.

He fans Corey Spangenberg with his spike curve to open the game, and then gets a fly out to left, where Wladimir Balentien is playing tonight for the second out. Mori rips a first-pitch fastball, but it goes straight to second baseman Keizo Kawashima.

Top 2nd

Honda misses in the heart of the plate with a 3-2 slider and Balentien drives it over the fence in left for his first Pacific League home run.

Yuya Hasegawa flies out on a high 1-0 fastball and beauty of a 2-strike changeup inside at the knees and Seiji Uebayashi looks at Strike 3 for the second out. Nobuhiro Matsuda grounds to short and we go to the bottom of the second. Hawks 1, Lions 0.

Bottom 2nd

Two-time PL home run king Yamakawa pops up a high fastball, and Shuta Tonosaki walks. But Takeya Nakamura hammers a low fastball to shortstop Kenta Imamiya, who was shading the slugger toward third and started an easy double play.

Top 3rd

Honda gets two quick outs to open the third, a 1-0 fly to left by Taisei Makihara, and a fly to center from Takuya Kai. Ryoya Kurihara, however, battles and draws a nine-pitch walk, and Kawashima singles up the middle to bring up Yanagita.

Yanagita fouls off the first two fastballs he sees, but lays off the next four pitches, the fourth being a 3-2 fastball over the inside corner for Strike 3.

Bottom 3rd

Lions veteran Takumi Kuriyama goes down looking at a fastball on the inside edge and doesn’t look any happier than Yangita did, but umpire Shoji Arizumi has been calling them there all night. Fumikazu Kimura grounds the first pitch to third, and Yuji Kaneko grounds to short.

Top 4th

Balentien goes about as deep as you can go in his second at-bat, blasting a lazy fastball up and over the plate to the walkway behind the left-field stands. Coco 2, Lions 0.

But Honda has little trouble after that. Hasegawa strikes out swinging at a high fastball. Uebayashi grounds a changeup to second, and Matsuda misses a low 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

Spangenberg grounds out and Sosuke Genda gets jammed on a first-pitch fastball and flies out to center. Van den Hurk overpowers Mori, who hits a come-backer and we’re going to the fifth.

Top 5th

Tonosaki at second base well positioned to scoop a hard-hit grounder from Makiharafor the first out. Two easy flies from Kai and Kurihara make it 1-2-3.

Bottom 5th

Another 1-2-3 inning for van den Hurk as the Lions cannot get the barrel on the ball as he locates with the fastball and mixes in that slider and his curve.

Top 6th

Shota Hamaya, the Lions’ second draft pick last autumn out of the corporate leagues relieves Honda, and surrenders a leadoff homer to 1.73-meter Keizo Kawashima. Hawks 3, Lions 0. Hamaya issues a two-out walk to Yuya Hasegawa, but gets out of further trouble.

Bottom 6th

A groundout and two strikeouts against the Lions tail, and van den Hurk has now faced the minimum thanks to the second-inning double play.

Top 7th

A 1-2-3 for Hamaya against the bottom of the Hawks lineup.

Bottom 7th

Van den Hurk has needed 63 pitches through six, but no matter how easy he’s making it look, this lineup isn’t easy. Spangenberg hits a high changeup in the air to short. Genda and Mori both strike out swinging, and van den Hurk has seven on the night.

Top 8th

Three up, three down for Hamaya and we’re back to the star of the show for the bottom of the eighth.

Bottom 8th

Middle of the Lions lineup, and Hotaka Yamakawa swings and misses at a high fastball for Strike 1. He can’t hold up on a slider on the outside corner and its Strike 2. Yamakawa then hammers a high pitch out of the zone. Van den Hurk deflects it as it bounces past. Kawashima grabs it but can’t throw Yamakawa out at first and the no-hitter is no more.

Tonosaki grounds into a force, giving the Lions speed on the bases, but not quite enough to score when Takeya Nakamura finds the gap in right center for a double.

Kuriyama, a grinder who always dictates his at-bats, has looked lost tonight. A 1-0 curve catches the outside for a strike. Van den Hurk misses low with a fastball and way outside with a curve. A slider in the zone fouled back and it’s 3-2. He tops a breaking ball in the heart of the zone back to the pitcher, who gets the easy out. Hawks 3, Lions 1.

And that’s all for van den Hurk. Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo is on with a runner at third and two outs.

And we have a game. Kimura smashes a breaking ball between third and short to plate Nakamura, and the tying run is on. Hawks 3, Lions 2.

No. 9 hitter Yuji Kaneko up and quickly behind 0-2. Moinlo misses with two fastballs before whiffing Kaneko with another.

Top 9th

In relief of their second-round pick last year, the Lions bring in their top pick, Tetsu Miyagawa. The right-hander strikes out Balentien, but Hasegawa tattoos a pitch in the middle of the zone for a single.

Pinch runner Daiki Mimori on and steals second, and Uebayashi grounds to first. Matsuda barely gets the barrel on a curve and Kaneko can’t make the catch as he races in from center. Hawks 4, Lions 2.

Makihara walks and the Hawks have two on and a chance to put this game out of reach, and it’s battling Keizo Kawashima. But Miyagawa keeps the pesky right-handed hitter from doing any damage and we go to the bottom of the ninth.

Bottom 9th

Closer Yuito Mori on in the ninth to face the top of the Lions order. Mori falls behind gets Spangenberg to ground out on an offspeed pitch. Genda strikes out swinging and Ukyo Shuto, in left for Balentien gloves it for the win.

Final score: Hawks 4, Lions 2

NPB 2020 6-21 live

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Giants sweep Tigers

Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 last year in KBO for the SK Wyverns, had a rocky start in his NPB debut Sunday, but earned the win as Kazuma Okamoto and Gerardo Parra homered to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers and a three-game series sweep at Tokyo Dome for the defending CL champs.

Sanchez allowed one run, on a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, allowed four walks and four hits, but lasted 5-2/3 innings.

Morishita shines in pro debut for Carp

Masato Morishita, Hiroshima’s top draft pick out of Meiji University, struck out eight in his pro debut against the DeNA BayStars. The righty, who I had a look at in the spring, walked two and gave up four hits in a 104-pitch, seven-inning outing at Yokohama Stadium.

Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale finish in Morishita’s debut as four-straight BayStars batters hit line drives off Tyler Scott in the ninth. Toshiro Miyazaki finishes it off by finding the gap against the drawn-in outfield and two runs scored to end it.

“I believe that our strategy was good but that guy was real good. He has the potential to be an ace pitcher. I was glad they took him out of the game,” DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said.

BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira allowed a run over six innings on a walk and five hits, while striking out two.

“It was a great game all the way from the beginning. Taira did a great job from the beginning and the relievers did a great job.”

Yuki Kuniyoshi worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Spencer Patton, who worked the eighth, got the win.

Lions rookie Yoza solid in losing debut

Kaito Yoza allowed three runs over six innings in his first-team for the Seibu Lions, but the bullpen blew up over the final three innings in a 12-2 loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Solo homers from Sho Nakata and Taishi Ota gave the visitors an early lead they would never give up.

Mima wins Marines debut

Manabu Mima, who joined Lotte over the winter as a free agent from the Rakuten Eagles, allowed a run while striking out nine in just five innings in the Marines’ 5-1 victory over the SoftBank Hawks.

Seiya Inoue homered in the second off reliever Yuki Tsumori after the Hawks starter, journeyman Akira Niho loaded the bases by hitting Shogo Nakamura in the head. Pitches that strike a batter in or around the head are referred to as “kikenkyu” (dangerous pitches) and call for an automatic ejection for the pitcher.

Former major leaguers Brandon Laird and Leonys Martin reached base before Nakamura was hit and scored as Inoue put the game out of reach early.

June 21 Live blog: Buffaloes vs Eagles

Off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday, folks. Having a look at Orix and Rakuten today, because my favorite Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the mound for the Buffaloes.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 2nd

Yamamoto has consistently the best stuff in Japan, and it looks like he’s put some muscle on his once spindly frame. He struck out the side in order in the first and got a one-run lead in the home half, but two ground balls in the second produced the Eagles’ first hit.

  1. Dangerous Hideto Asamura grounds out softly to 2nd.
  2. Hiroaki Shimauchi gets a grounder through between 1st and 2nd
  3. Former Buffaloe Stefen Romero grounds to short and the enigmatic Ryoichi Adachi starts the inning-ending double play.

Bottom 2nd

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi went 8-7 as a rookie last year and was second on the team in innings pitched with 127-1/3 because the club’s two best starters, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto missed time with injuries

Ishibashi’s average fastball velocity last year was 145.2 kph, and he’s a four-seam, cutter, splitter, and two-seam guy, although be aware the two-seam description generally encompasses two distinctly different pitches, a hard running fastball and a two-seam sinking fastball–which is the rarer of the two in Japan.

  1. Kenya Wakatsuki grounds out.
  2. Ryoichi Adachi singles to center.
  3. Shunta Goto singles to right to put runners on the corners for Takahiro Okada.
  4. Okada, who slid home headfirst to score on Keita Nakagawa’s sac fly in the first, singles in the Buffaloes’ second run.
  5. Aderlin Rodriguez looks like a player built for Japan, a smooth compact swing, who makes excellent contact. Ishibashi hangs a forkball and Rodriguez hits it high up the wall in left for an RBI double, Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0.
  6. Rodriguez, however, contributes an out on the bases, thanks to some slick defense by Eagles first baseman Ginji Akaminai. Ginji goes to a knee to stab a ball off the bat of Masataka Yoshida, makes the play at first and then throws behind Rodriguez who is trapped between second and third.

Top 3rd

  1. Akaminai, who wears “Ginji” on his uniform as his registered name, grounds out to second, topping 1-2 splitter.
  2. Catcher Hikaru hits a little comebacker to Yamamoto for the second out.
  3. Ryosuke Tatsumi, the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year swings and misses at a low fastball for another 1-2-3 inning. The thing about Yamamoto is that he has so many quality pitches, that it’s very common to see everyone guessing wrong and getting terrible swings even at mistakes in the zone.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Adam Jones had two hits on Saturday, and put a sweet swing on a straight fastball in the first for a single that contributed to Orix’s first run. Ishibashi gets a generous call on a low pitch from home plate ump Masanobu Suginaga, and Jones goes down looking.
  2. Keita Nakagawa, who had a strong rookie season playing all over the musical chairs game the Buffaloes’ infield resembled last year, flies out to left.
  3. Koji Oshiro, another of those versatile infielders from 2019, grounds out to short.

Top 4th

  1. Eigoro Mogi gets under a high 151-kph fastball and flies out to left.
  2. Daichi Suzuki, the former Marines captain who moved to Sendai as a free agent over the winter, swings under a high 1-2 running fastball to go down swinging.
  3. Jabari Blash, who struck out looking in the first, flails at a beauty of an 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

  1. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki launches a hanging first-pitch slider away to the warning track for an opposite-field leadoff double.
  2. Adachi tops an attempted sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, and Ota throws out his opposite number at third.
  3. Akaminai, playing in tight at first base, makes a good play on a little chopper by Goto.
  4. Okada, who raked in the spring and in practice games, pulled a high hanging forkball over Akaminai and down the right-field line for his second double of the game and a 4-0 Buffaloes lead. This is quite a turnaround for Okada, whose career has been in decline for nearly a decade, and who spent most of the 2019 season on the farm after a handful of sloppy at-bats and fielding misplays at first base.
  5. Ishibashi snaps off a nasty curve to send Rodriguez down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Not a great fastball, but Asamura doesn’t get a great swing on it and pops up down the left field line.
  2. An easy fly to lefty by Shimauchi and Yamamoto appears to be operating on cruise control.
  3. He works carefully to Romero, who ends a good 6-pitch at-bat by fouling out.

Bottom 5th

Rookie right-hander Taisei Tsurusaki on the mound for the Eagles after Ishibashi gives up four runs in four innings. Tsurusaki is making his debut against the middle of the Buffaloes lineup. He looks to have a repeatable delivery, comes over the top and keeps his hand on top of the ball.

  1. Yoshida, one of the best hitters in the PL, swings at a huge 12-6 curve before taking a cutter on the outside corner for Strike 3.
  2. Jones provides less of a challenge, grounding a first-pitch fastball away to second.
  3. Nakagawa walks on seven pitches and steals second easily.
  4. Oshiro walks on 6 pitches.
  5. Wakatsuki flies out off the handle, and the rookie survives without any damage done.

Top 6th

  1. Nice at-bat by Ginji, but he tips a 2-2 shoot into Wakatsuki’s glove for Strike 3.
  2. Backup catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita batting for his catching partner Ota and grounds out easily to first.
  3. Yamamoto is toying with Tatsumi, going after the corners with his hard stuff while getting three strikes with his curve. Tatsumi goes down swinging at one low out of the zone.
Thanks for that Jason. A Yamamoto curve is not fair to pinch-hitters.

Bottom 6th

Veteran lefty Wataru Karashima on the mound for the Eagles. He had a serviceable year in the rotation last season, going 9-6 in 117-1/3 innings. He is in middle relief this year with closer Yuki Matsui moving back into the rotation. He’s basically a fastball, slider, curve change guy.

  1. I love watching Ginji Akaminai play first base. He is everywhere on everything, and knows where to look and when to throw. Another good play opens the first as he throws out Adachi to open the seventh.
  2. Goto flies out to left.
  3. Okada’s confidence is dialed up to “11” now after floundering for several seasons. He is balanced at the plate and ready to attack EVERYTHING. He walks to bring up Rodriguez.
  4. And Rodriguez, short to the ball on an inside pitch and pulls it down the line in left for a double. Okada to third.
  5. Okada, a small guy with a quiet stance in the left-handed batters box, doesn’t look like he should be dangerous, but he has serious power and plate discipline. Not this time though, as Karashima gets him to ground to short.

Top 7th

Don’t remember when the PL started the innovation of playing the visiting team’s Lucky Seventh song on the stadium speakers, but it is a nice touch, since no matter what park you’re at in the top flight there will be at least five or six hundred fans on the visitor’s side of the outfield waving their flags and cheering on their guys.

With no fans in the stands, the Kyocera Dome scoreboard was showing Eagles fans cheering from home on streaming video while, the Eagles song, what Casey McGehee called the “Igloo song,” plays.

  1. Mogi grounds out to open the visitors’ seventh.
  2. Suzuki misses a 3-2 inside fastball for Yamamoto’s 10th strikeout.
  3. Blash grounds one up the middle for an infield single.
  4. Asamura miss-hits a cutter to short for an easy out.

Bottom 7th

Tomohiro Anraku, who made a name for himself in high school with his brutal pitch counts, comes in to pitch the seventh for the Eagles.

  1. Jones looks at two fastballs low and away before grounding out to second.
  2. Nakagawa lined a pitch to short right center, and nearly got caught out thinking it would get through when Tatsumi cut it off in center.
  3. Pinch runner for Nakagawa at first, and Yuya Oda swipes second. Oshiro flies out to center but not deep enough to send Oda to third.
  4. Wakatsuki grounds out and we’re going to the 8th with the Eagles trailing 4-0.

Top 8th

  1. Shimauchi flies out to first on the second pitch.
  2. Romero flies out to second on the second pitch.
  3. Yasuhito Uchida, batting for Ginji, who may have twisted something when he miss-stepped making that play to open the seventh, rips a single to right.
  4. Yamashita his what they call a “bonda” in Japanese, an easy out, on a grounder to second.

That’s 94 pitches for Yamamoto and with a four-run lead, he won’t be back. Thirty years ago, I guarantee, he’d be getting ready for the ninth. Back then, there was no good excuse for lifting a starter who was leading. “How can you take him out? It’s a close game” or “How can you take him out with that big lead.” You name it, there was an excuse for it.

Bottom 8th

Anraku, the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2014, is back for the ninth.

  1. Adachi lines out.
  2. Goto fouls off two, two-strike pitches before striking out swinging in an eight-pitch at-bat.
  3. Anraku finally makes Okada look like the guy who could possibly be lost at the plate as he hesitates on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for Strike 3.

Return to TOP

Top 9th

United States international closer Brandon Dickson on in the ninth. He was a productive starter for the Buffaloes for six seasons, but last year, with no one else to turn to, he was thrust into the closer’s role, where he’s been dynamite. He finished 2019 as the closer for Team USA in the Premier 12.

  1. Pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita flies out to left.
  2. Mogi grounds out to second.
  3. Suzuki fouls off a tough two-strike fastball on the outside corner. Takes a ball low for 2-2, and puts a good swing on a fastball but lines it straight to Goto in center for the Buffs’ first win of the season.

Final score: Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0

Winds of change

Former Dodgers GM, agent and Blue Jays international scout Dan Evans said Thursday he expects Japanese teams might poach some amateur talent from among the amateurs who are either drafted by MLB clubs this week or who were passed over in the majors’ effort to cut expenditures on baseball.

There are several reasons why this might happen and a few reasons why it might not.

Why top U.S. talent may leave for Japan

  1. Signing bonus pools and slot money
  2. Deferred bonuses and reduced draft
  3. The Carter Stewart Jr precedent
  4. NPB developmental contracts
  5. More interest in developing overseas talent
  6. Quality of competition
  7. There are few things better than getting well paid to live in a foreign country.
  8. The possibility of entering MLB as a 25- or 26-year-old free agent.

Reasons why talented amateurs may stay

  1. Living in a foreign country is not an easy adjustment
  2. Japanese baseball can be a bit like boot camp
  3. Most teams lack the infrastructure and know-how to handle and train non-Japanese youngsters
  4. Agents
  5. Lack of international amateur scouting
  6. NPB’s self-imposed limitations

My Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast partner John Gibson responded to Dan’s tweet by saying that if amateurs subject to the MLB draft DO come to Japan, it will largely be accidental since it has happened once, and then only because of a series of coincidences. Still, because it has now happened, agents and NPB teams may have a more open-minded approach to the possibility than they did 18 months ago.

Ok. So here are the reasons why it might happen:

Why it could hapen

Signing bonus pools and slot money

This is not new, but the idea that MLB teams would band together with the help of the players union to cap how much amateurs could get paid means Japanese teams can outbid them. This wasn’t the case back in the day, but it is now.

Deferred bonuses and reduced draft

I’m not going to talk about the stupid stuff MLB is doing to cut corners since that would likely come out of the wrong orifice, but this year is different, and the rewards and opportunities MLB teams are even less tempting than usual.

The Carter Stewart Jr precedent

Carter Stewart Jr set himself up to set a precedent when he opted out of reentering the 2019 June draft and instead moved to Japan. This was, as mentioned above, the result of a fortuitous series of coincidences. The Atlanta Braves tried to cheat him, he wouldn’t play their game, and his a former coach was a scout for Japan’s SoftBank Hawks.

A lightning strike was needed the first time. It won’t be an accident the next time around.

Here ourJBW Podcast interview with Carter Stewart Jr HERE.

Something John and I realized from talking with Stewart was the value of working out with former major league veterans and being able to watch them and learn from them. Japan’s foreign community can be small. The community of foreign ballplayers is even smaller, but some of those guys had long careers in MLB and overseas and can be a huge resource that few minor leaguers in the States will have access to.

NPB developmental contracts

These are non-roster, three-year contracts that allow the player to take part in minor league games here and earn a spot on the 70-man roster. The minimum salary for a developmental player–often referred to as a “three digit” player because their uniforms all have three digits–is 2.4 million yen a year, about $22,000.

That’s not much but it’s better than what anyone is going to get in minor league baseball, plus the living conditions are vastly better. This is a new thing that didn’t exist 20 years ago and this extra little step means less commitment is necessary for Japanese teams to give overseas talent an extended look.

HERE‘s a primer on NPB’s salary structures.

More interest in developing overseas talent

This ties in with the developmental contracts, because they have opened teams’ eyes to the possibility of signing low-rent international talent, and then promoting the best players. The idea that imported talent is only for impact now has changed a bit because of that, and that change of mind means more receptive audiences when the agents of U.S. amateurs come calling.

The SoftBank Hawks may have started it, but their Pacific League-rival Seibu Lions are eager to catch up and completed an expanded minor league facility behind their home park, MetLife Dome, outside of Tokyo. The Central League’s Yomiuri Giants also have the infrastructure and the cash to make to make it work now.

Quality of competition

People slam the quality of competition in Japan as not being as good as it is in MLB. It isn’t as good, but most of the people who say that don’t quite understand the way in which it isn’t as good. There are elements of Japanese ball that are better than in the majors, but talent depth is not one of them.

With fewer minor leaguers and fewer organizations, there are only about 1,000 pro players in Japan, meaning that while Japan’s national team could probably kick ass in MLB once the players got acclimated, the quality of talent drops off much more quickly than it does in MLB, so that even the best clubs will have a regular or two who might be fringe Triple-A guys in the States.

What that means for a young guy learning to play pro baseball is that if you are good enough to make it to the first team, the level of competition you could face as a teenager would be vastly higher than anything you’ll see below the major leagues.

Get paid to live in a foreign country

OK. So I’m biased on this one. But Japan is a great place to live. It has its quirks and head-shaking customs, but find a place that doesn’t. It’s safe, clean, and the people are generally welcoming and hospitable.

Enter MLB as a 25-year-old free agent

Ok or maybe as a 26-year-old. Do you know how many players reach free agency in the major leagues before they’re 26? Almost none. If you can cut it in Japan, and you don’t absolutely want to play your whole career here, you could enter MLB as an international free agent when all but the most elite in your age group are still pre-arb.

But no rose bush worthy of the name is without thorns. So here are some reasons why a number of talented amateurs might avoid Japan despite all its benefits just so MLB teams can treat them to the luxuries of minor league baseball.

What’s holding guys back

You have to live in a foreign country

Japan’s a great place to live, but it isn’t the same as home. The food is different, the language is different, many things that signify baseball for you will not have the same meaning for your teammates. It isn’t for everybody.

Japanese baseball can be like boot camp

Bring your running shoes. Practices are early and practices are long, and while the coaches here will teach you everything, some can lack interest in the possibility that a player can succeed in a way he doesn’t imagine. So players often get put into pigeon holes–although this is more for domestic guys, who’ve already had their approaches put into buckets as Lotte Marines pitcher Frank Herrmann referred to Japan’s different styles.

Teams lack infrastructure and knowhow

OK, so one team has done it, and probably more teams are interested in doing it, but to be honest only three teams out of 12 could probably pull it off.

Former Tigers great Masayuki Kakefu said when he asked the front office why the team doesn’t do more to develop more talent, the answer was money. It takes more than just signing players to developmental contracts, they need a place to play, coaches, equipment, trainers, housing, and money to transport them around to their games.

Most teams just look at that and say, “Nah. We’re good.”

Agents

Eighteen months ago at the Las Vegas winter meetings, I asked Scott Boras about the possibility of top amateurs flocking to Japan. His answer was, “Won’t happen.”

And though he represented Carter Stewart when he signed with SoftBank, two different sources have told me that was only because Stewart’s family threatened to take their business to another agency (CAA) if Boras wouldn’t cut a deal with the Hawks.

Lack of international amateur scouting

Although Stewart was spotted by a Hawks scout, that was just luck. Not even every NPB team has overseas scouts, and virtually all of them are looking for professionals, not amateurs, although that may change.

Self-imposed restrictions

On a recent episode of FanGraphs’ “Effectively Wild” podcast, draft and amateur scouting analyst Eric Longenhagen discussed the possibility that Japanese teams should welcome the talent that otherwise would be going into MLB organizations.

He suggested now was the time for NPB–and Korea Baseball Organization, too–to boost their international profile by signing elite American talent. He mentioned it would be a good time to change NPB’s limit of four imported players on the active roster and to perhaps look into overseas broadcasting deals while MLB continues to suck wind.

The problem is that the players union would need to approve more imported players on the roster, and like most owners, they don’t give a fig for the league’s international appeal. Also, NPB doesn’t control its own TV rights, the individual teams do. The Pacific League might do so via Pacific League marketing, but the old school Central League? Don’t hold your breath.

Conclusion

I won’t be surprised if one or two guys come to Japan, especially if they were not drafted, and are looking at minor league salaries with virtually no signing bonuses. Those whose families cannot support them may find that the only way to keep their pro baseball dreams alive is in Japan.

And if you’re a player and your agent doesn’t know any NPB international directors, hit me up and I’ll connect you.

Do the right thing

Japanese pro baseball is trying to open its season in a responsible way, but that does not mean it’s easy. This was made clear on Wednesday, when one of its 2019 MVPs, on one of the nation’s more popular teams tested positive.

Compared to the United States, Japan’s COVID0-19 response has been fairly apolitical, meaning disinformation has not been a huge problem here. But even still, this is a tricky issue here and something that does not bode well for American baseball this year.

Officials rushed in to declare that everything was normal, and a top epidemiologist concurred, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning about whether playing baseball in empty stadiums is still feasible.

Hayato Sakamoto, the Yomiuri Giants’ team captain and one of the faces of the Japanese game was reported to be asymptomatic. He and a teammate had PRC tests taken because the Giants asked everyone in the organization who comes in contact with players to have antibody tests taken.

The Giants were quick to point out that no one would have known about Sakamoto or Oshiro’s brushes with COVID-19 had they not undergone team-wide testing. Because epidemiology specialists ruled the players to be low risks to infect others, Nippon Professional Baseball, which has a long history of accommodating the Giants, said “Nothing to see here.”

That may be true. There is no indication that results are being fudged, but there are questions about how far teams are willing to go to make sure things are done in a safe manner. The PR-conscious Giants ordered everyone connected to the team who had come into contact with Sakamoto and Oshiro to undergo a PCR test within 24 hours.

But the Seibu Lions, who played the Giants on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome in a practice game in said essentially, “we were not told it would be necessary, so we are not having tests done.” The Lions and Giants were due to play another game on Wednesday but the Giants canceled it.

There’s the problem.

Japan has avoided doing rigorous testing, not because of a lack of capacity but because testing would increase the known number of infections. This has partly been a policy to put a good spin on the government’s handling of the situation although it most certainly started as a way of protecting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Japan in which the nation had invested huge sums.

People with symptoms have been unable to get tests until they’re really, really sick. People have died at home because they were told to self-quarantine and stop bothering doctors and government COVID 19 hotline operators.

That’s the social picture. But there are other questions.

1. Why wait to retest?

Sakamoto, Oshiro and the two others were reportedly given the PCR tests on Tuesday evening after they played against the Lions. But the antibody tests, which are said to produce very quick results were supposedly completed by Sunday.

What took the Giants so long to get PCR tests for their four COVID-19 candidates? Did nobody at the team bother to find out about the antibody test results until after a game was played?

Whatever it was that allowed the two to play after they were believed to have been infected raises a flag. Teams are trying to establish new procedures and manuals so it just might have been a case of something falling through the cracks.

So nobody’s perfect, and certainly most people aren’t perfect the first time they try out a new system. But if the Giants are the team pushing hardest to have a system in place, and they dropped the ball, what does that say for everyone else? NPB is trying hard but it isn’t easy, and no one should be fooled into thinking it is.

Taiwan has managed it because of national preparation and quick aggressive responses, but Japan is not Taiwan, or even South Korea for that matter.

2. What about NPB’s strict guidelines?

NPB is in the middle of formulating strict quarantine and isolation guidelines that would keep anyone testing positive away from their teammates for a long time.

These sounded harsh but practical. Any player or team staff member testing positive would be required to stay home until two weeks after testing negative. The first news that those guidelines were too impractical to teams whose job is to win games first and foremost was when the Giants told people they expected Sakamoto and Oshiro to return as soon as they tested negative.

To that end the two were hospitalized so they can be tested daily. The guidelines, which were due out a few days ago, are apparently still being hammered out.

NPB’s secretary general Atsushi Ihara, a former Yomiuri employee, said nothing that was learned Wednesday was going to change peoples’ thinking about starting the season on June 19 as planned. It should be noted that Ihara was a chief actor in the plot that overthrew former commissioner Ryozo Kato–when Kato wouldn’t introduce a livelier ball the teams wanted, Ihara got a few others to conspire behind the commissioner’s back to change the ball without his knowledge.

The hidden game of baseball and MLB

All this points to is that despite NPB working hard to appear to lay all its cards on the table and be open about how it will attack the coronavirus issue, things are not as transparent as they seem.

Even in a country where the government is not a huge spreader of disinformation and COVID-19 has not become a political football, nothing is exactly as it seems. Owners have declined to talk about financial losses, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a concern.

In the United States, where reopening is a political as well as an economic issue, it will be far harder to get straight answers to complicated questions. If anyone says it will be safe and feasible to play baseball even behind closed doors in the United States this year, there is an excellent chance they are talking out their ass.

Ramping up: 16 days to go?

Two positive tests for COVID-19 by Yomiuri Giants players derailed their team’s plan to play a practice game against the Seibu Lions at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, the club announced according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

The news comes a day after Tokyo’s government issued an alert about the danger of a second wave of infections after 34 new confirmed cases were announced in the metropolis on Tuesday.

Sakamoto, Oshiro test positive

There were supposed to be six practice games on Wednesday as teams build up for Nippon Professional Baseball’s June 19 season openers, but Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara abruptly called and end to the home team’s practice on Wednesday according to a source with the team.

“Everyone was running around like crazy,” the source said. “The Seibu Lions showed up later for their practice and there was nobody on the field and they didn’t know what was going on.”

In May, two days after June 19 was announced as Opening Day, the Giants said at least 220 people in the organization would get antibody blood tests for the coronavirus.

“Why don’t you test people before you announce when you’re going to start the season?” the source asked.

Actually, the Giants were the one team to do early testing, having 218 people in the organization take an antibody test. The four who tested positive then took the PCR test that produced the players’ positive results.

The show goes on

Due to the nature of the players’ test results, a top epidemiologist has declared they are not high risks to infect others due to the small amount of virus DNA produced by their tests. Dr. Mitsuo Kaku, who has been advising NPB on its health guidelines believes the players had been infected for quite some time.

Armed with that information, NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara, said the infections changed nothing for the time being,

For their part, the Giants have ordered everyone connected with the first team to undergo a PCR test by Thursday morning. The Lions said there is no indication any of their players needed to be tested and the club is moving forward with its workouts and practice games as planned.

Guidelines

NPB is currently in the final stages of formalizing coronavirus guidelines that would reportedly force players testing positive such as Sakamoto and Oshiro to self-quarantine for two weeks after they produce negative test results. But with Opening Day now barely two weeks away, that and the added time it would take for them to regain fitness would — if applied to the Giants’ guys — keep them out of action until well after Opening Day.

The Giants, however, said they were keen to get the pair back as soon as they tested negative, which at first glance seemed to fly in the face of the guidelines. Having said that, the Giants as an organization have a long history of flouting guidelines when it suits them.

The SoftBank Hawks’ game at Kyocera Dome against the Orix Buffaloes started on schedule at 6 pm. While starting Wednesday afternoon, the Giants began having all their players and staff PCR tested.

Bour, Mejia continue to bop

In the four day games that did go ahead as scheduled, Justin Bour of the Hanshin Tigers and Alejandro Mejia of the Hiroshima Carp each homered for the second-straight day at Koshien Stadium.

Kosuke Fukudome also homered for the Tigers, which is kind of cool. I like it when a guy who is 43 and (almost) too old to be my son is in the game highlights.

Ramping up: 25 days to go

Less than one day after Nippon Professional Baseball announced its season will start on June 19, teams began hitting the gas, ramping up their workouts in order to be ready.

The Opening Day is actually the fourth one NPB has announced this year, but the other three were all: “This coronavirus thing should be done before it interrupts with business as usual.” As teams resumed playing intrasquad games on Tuesday, there was no sense that this is usual.

Orix played today at Kyocera Dome Osaka, giving viewers a chance to see Adam Jones in action.

Speaking of Orix. Here’s some video of one of my favorite pitchers, Buffaloes right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Take me out to the ballpark

On Monday, NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito said teams weren’t even talking about when they might get fans into the park, but that silence didn’t last long, according to the Nikkan Sports.

“We are following government guidelines and will work within the restraints imposed by local governments,” NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara said.

The season will start with games behind closed doors, and from July 10 at the earliest, teams might be permitted to allow as many as 5,000 fans. The current guidlines on event activities could expire by Aug. 1, but teams are going to limit crowds to half of their stadiums’ capacities.

The Hiroshima Carp have been allowing up to 500 fans a day into their workouts at Mazda Stadium.

Clapping for carers

One of the things the players decided to do when they resumed workouts was to perform a symbolic show of support to the frontline health workers that have enabled Japan to weather the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and enabled NPB to even talk about opening the season.

Throughout the country, teams distributed videos of their players saluting healthcare workers. Here’s the Seibu Lions performing theirs at MetLife Dome just outside Tokyo. The guy leading them is the team’s new captain, shortstop Sosuke Genda.

Double trouble

Once upon a time, every Sunday during Japan’s baseball season meant between three and six doubleheaders. One of the few successes Japan’s players union ever had was cutting them out as burdensome. There haven’t been any in NPB since October 1998, when they were made necessary to make up rainouts so teams could finish their seasons.

On Sunday, the entire Yomiuri Giants roster will mass at Tokyo Dome for an intrasquad doubleheader, a sure sign that things are not normal this year.

Maru goes behind fielding numbers

I wasn’t the only one to take note of Yoshihiro Maru’s declining fielding metrics since 2016 with the Hiroshima Carp, but I may have been the most outspoken about them. The important thing to remember, however, is that they are measures of things. And those things only become place holders for skill and ability in our heads and don’t represent actual reality.

It’s important to remember that just because someone’s metrics have declined, things other than declining individual performance might be at the root.

The table below gives three metrics for each year: Fielding Win Shares, and his ARM and UZR 1200 ratings from Delta Graphs. While Maru’s skills may have not altered one bit, his numbers rebounded in 2019 after he moved to the Yomiuri Giants.

Maru’s fielding figures

YearFieldingARM1200
20144.3+1.9-7.4
20153.3+4.0+4.5
20164.7+4.1+11.1
20173.6+2.4+16.1
20182.9-4.6-4.9
20195.3+1.9+8.5

Maru’s story

“I don’t think my speed or the quality of my jumps improved any from when I was in Hiroshima. The difference was (Carp right fielder) Seiya Suzuki,” Maru said Sunday.

“As long as I’ve played, I’ve always gone to catch balls if there was ever any doubt. It wasn’t the case that I let Suzuki catch balls in the gap, but rather his being fast and getting to more balls first.”

“I think the reason my data in Hiroshima gradually shrank, was that Suzuki played more and got better.”

In 2018, Maru’s numbers took two hits, one from playing time when he missed 10 games, and another from having a good fielder in left, Takayoshi Noma, instead of the previous platoon combination of slow sluggers Brad Eldred and Ryuhei Matsuyama.

The Giants, on the other hand, put him in an outfield that frequently had Alex Guerrero (slow) in left and Yoshiyuki Kamei (old) in right, and voila! Maru’s best defensive win share season of his career.

Not my thing

One thing that took me by surprise was Maru’s opting for domestic free agency after the 2018 season instead of sticking with the Carp until he could go overseas under his own power. I always saw him as a similar player to South Korean star Choo Shin Soo.

“No that was never going to be my thing,” Maru said. “I just didn’t see myself doing that and had no interest.”

Scout diary: Feb. 29, 2020 – Notes from the preseason

Saturday began the second weekend of expanded preseason baseball in Japan, allowing some looks at players who’ve been off the radar so far. Here are some assorted notes:

SoftBank Hawks, OF, Naoki Sato

A 21-year-old corporate league outfielder, Sato was the Hawks’ alternate pick after they failed to land high school pitcher Yoshinobu Ishikawa. In his lone at-bat, he put a good swing on a fat pitch down the middle, drove it to right center and cruised in with a triple. As a right-handed-hitting amateur, I timed Sato going home to first in 3.9 seconds. (80 speed).

Israel Mota, OF, Yomiuri Giants

A 24-year-old right-handed hitter, Mota was handed a standard contract this week — he joined Yomiuri on a developmental deal — and added to the 70-man roster. He’s been swinging hard and chasing a lot in camp.

Mota’s swing is compact and he homered when he made contact with a hanging 3-2 slider on a two-strike swing that allowed him to drive it a bit.

Keiji Takahashi, LHP, Yakult Swallows

I forgot how much fun this guy is to watch. With his herky-jerky left-handed version of Ryan Ogawa’s delivery, I half expect him to contract on the mound and transform into a little car or something like in the movies.

Takahashi throws low 3/4. He has an exaggerated violent right leg kick. He lowers the leg most of the way and holds it as he raises his hands over his head until pausing at the apex, then as he lowers his hands, he raises his right leg to meet them and goes into something like a normal delivery. After the gyrations, the move home is a picture of smooth efficiency, particularly with the fastball. His curveball release point looked different, and he didn’t command the pitch well in this game.