Tag Archives: Yoshitomo Tsutsugo

Baseball babble-on 5-21

OK time for another Pro Yakyu News rant for after-the-fact criticism for the sake of criticism .

Yoshiaki Kanemura knows a hell of a lot about baseball and how it’s played, but he also just likes to take the piss and criticize things that really aren’t any big deal. One of the spear carriers for playing baseball the Japanese way, he’s the one who attacked Alex Ramirez for batting Yoshitomo Tsutsugo second, calling it “an insult to Japanese baseball.”

On Friday, his pet peeve was outfield positioning in the Fighters-Lions game. With two outs and runners on the corners, a fly to medium-deep left from No. 9 hitter Ryo Ishikawa fell near the line just out of reach of Cory Spangenberg for an RBI single.

Spangenberg had been playing at normal depth and probably wouldn’t have got it if he had been playing shallower, but Kanemura had a spaz.

“He’s playing too deep! The outfield defense coach must be seeing that and grinding his teeth!”

When the Lions had two on and out in the fifth in a 1-1 game, left fielder Haruki Nishikawa was playing at normal depth but just failed to haul in a drive to the track off the bat of Takeya Nakamura.

“He’s playing too shallow! What’s he doing? I can’t believe it.”

In a sense, Kanemura was right, in retrospect, Spangenberg WAS playing too deep, and Nishikawa WAS playing too deep. But that’s the kind of criticism Katsuya Nomura talked about when he turned pro.

As a young catcher, he needed to get a power hitter out, called for a curve, and it resulted in a big hit. His coach, he said, shouted at him, “You idiot! Don’t call for a curve against a power hitter.” With that in mind a few days later he called for a fastball. The coach, enraged, hit him across the head and said, “How stupid are you? Never call for a fastball against a power hitter!”

Nomura said, “I was still a teenager, but I quickly realized that a lot of the coaches didn’t know what they were talking about.”

Alex Ramirez, the flexible manager

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez, like pretty much any ballplayer you talk to, has a huge bag of cliches and simple rules to explain how to prepare for and play baseball games in the form of expressions “you always want to…” or “you never…”

But when you get past the superficial sound bites that come from being a former big leaguer, you get a guy who is always on the lookout for the next thing that might work.

On Sunday, Ramirez said he was open to using a reliever to break the first-inning ice for his starting pitchers as “openers.” If so, he would be Japan’s second manager to opt for that kind of a role following Nippon Ham’s Hideki Kuriyama.

Ramirez has long been used to getting flack in Japan. A lot of foreign players took exception to his choreographed home run celebrations that the fans loved, often saying, “If you don’t do that back home, don’t do that here.” To which Ramirez was fond of answering: “In case you hadn’t noticed we’re in Japan, not ‘back home.'”

As a manager, he has been criticized for batting his pitchers eighth, something which makes a ton of sense.

Having a batter who reaches base bat ninth means fewer RBIs from the No. 8 spot in exchange for more no-out, runner-on-base situations for the top of the order — something that will help you score a few extra runs a year.

Last year, when Ramirez had his best hitter, and Japan’s cleanup hitter, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo bat second, the old farts screamed, calling it an insult to Tsutsugo and Japan.

Last year, I tracked how each team’s starting pitchers did before and after facing their 19th batter in a game. Last season, when bullpen games were becoming very common, the BayStars were second-fewest in NPB with only 55 games in which a starter faced 19-plus batters, but it didn’t really help them.

From the 19th batter on in those 55 games, BayStars opponents had a .382 OBP, the 10th worst in NPB, and a .511 slugging average, worst of all 12 teams. The Fighters were the flip side of that. The pitchers who were allowed to go past 18 batters were really good, posting a .250 OBP and .196 SLUG.

Mind you, the Hiroshima Carp had 125 games in which their starters went through the opposing order more than two times while being nearly as good as the Fighters starters in those situations. But the Carp rotation — which led NPB with a .469 quality start percentage, was deep and the Fighters’ wasn’t.

The BayStars young starting corps has the chance to be an elite group, but Ramirez isn’t going to turn a blind eye to the possibility that using openers as part of a well-thought-out plan could help. Like the Fighters, the BayStars have a solid analytics team, and it would be no surprise to see DeNA improve their pitching and defense next season just because of Ramirez’s willingness to fly in the face of ignorant criticism and try the next thing.