Tag Archives: Zelous Wheeler

The kotatsu league: Rakuten snaps up former Buffalo Romero

The Rakuten Eagles on Monday announced they have reached an agreement on a 2020 contract with 31-year-old outfielder Stefen Romero, who spent the past three seasons with the Pacific League rival Orix Buffaloes.

The signing gives Rakuten a third hard-hitting imported position player to go with third baseman Zelous Wheeler and right fielder Jabari Blash.

Romero, who played in only 81 games in 2019, dealt all season with a neck issue that he said would require a month of rest. On April 19, he suffered a right oblique tendon injury in Sendai that kept him out for nearly a month. He was again deactivated for a month from June 23 due to inflammation in a right oblique tendon. On Sept. 3, he hurt his right knee running the bases, but returned 10 days later.

Despite all those troubles, he posted a .305 batting average leading to a .363 OBP. Those numbers were likely skewed by good luck. After a .282 average when not homering or striking out from 2017-2018, Romero’s figure in 2019 was .385 in 295 at-bats last season.

Romero, who said he now makes use of a Rapsodo device in his offseason workouts, has become an extreme flyball hitter compared to how he was when he arrived with Orix in 2017 according to Delta Graphs.

His English language NPB page is HERE.

Romero is the sixth veteran the Eagles have acquired this winter, having brought in a trio of Lotte Marines (infielder Daichi Suzuki and right-handers Hideaki Wakui and Tomohito Sakai, former San Diego Padre and Seibu Lions submariner Kazuhisa Makita, and former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever J. T. Chargois.

The Sendai-based Eagles finished third in the Pacific League last season behind the two-time defending PL champion Seibu Lions and the three-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks. They ranked seventh among NPB’s 12 teams in both pitching and fielding according to Bill James‘ Win Shares, but dead last in offense.

The Eagles have never reached the postseason in an even-numbered year, finishing sixth, fifth, sixth, fourth, sixth, fifth and sixth.

NPB games, news of Sept. 24, 2019

And then there were 2 (undecided playoff spots)

Tuesday started with five playoff spots still undecided, but with two games featuring all four Pacific League playoff and pennant aspirants, things got settled in a hurry as the Seibu Lions knocked the Lotte Marines out of the postseason, while clinching the pennant after the Rakuten Eagles locked up third place by knocking the SoftBank Hawks out of pennant contention.

“A lot was said about our pitching,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said after his team clinched with a league-worst 4.31 ERA. “But the closer we got to the finish line, the better it got.”

The Lions have now won back-to-back pennants while finishing last in ERA. The only other team to do so was the 2001 Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Pacific League

Lions 12, Marines 4

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte’s Kota Futaki (7-10) threw a string of poor pitches up in the zone and got hammered, while Zach Neal (12-1) allowed three runs, one earned, while not issuing a walk for the fourth-straight game.

Shogo Akiyama, who’s said he’s bound for the major leagues after the season ends, broke the game open with a three-run, second-inning triple.

The Lions will wrap up their season on Thursday in a now meaningless game in Sendai against the Eagles, who locked up third place and the final playoff spot. The Lions will host the final stage of the PL Climax Series at MetLife Dome on Oct. 9. They will play the winners of the best-of-three first stage in Fukuoka between the Hawks and Eagles starting on Oct. 5.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 4, Hawks 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Zelous Wheeler’s 19th home run, a two-run shot, overcame a 1-0 deficit against Kodai Senga (13-9) and Rakuten overcame a tense ninth before closer Yuki Matsui got the final out against SoftBank.

Wheeler gave a typically laconic hero interview HERE.

With both Senga and Eagles starter Manabu Mima proved adept at pitching out of jams, with Mima making a couple of big fielding plays to hold the Hawks to a run over five innings on Alfredo Despaigne’s 34th home run.

Matsui came close to blowing a three-run lead in the ninth but held on for his 38th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 3, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Chihiro Kaneko, who left Orix in a contract dispute improved to 5-0 against his former team with five scoreless innings lowering the Buffaloes’ former ace’s ERA against them this season to 0.49 over 37 innings.

Tyler Eppler worked two innings of relief for the Buffaloes, striking out five. Here’s the video of his 1-2-3 fifth against the heart of the Fighters order.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Tigers 5, Giants 0

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin stayed alive in the hunt for a playoff spot as five pitchers combined on a six-hit shutout of league champion Yomiuri. The Tigers trail the third-place Carp by 1-1/2 games. Hanshin has three games remaining, Hiroshima one, but none against each other.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 7, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Toshiro Miyazaki hit a three-run first-inning home run as DeNA came close to locking up second place while eliminating Chunichi from playoff contention.

With the exception of the 2004 to 2006 PL seasons and those seasons in the 1970s and 80s when the PL had a first-half/second-half championship playoff, Japan’s regular season has decided the league pennants. Since the Central League appropriated the PL playoff system in 2007, the playoffs have only served to select which team from each league plays in the Japan Series.