Jones and Balentien

The kotatsu league: Balentien moves to PL powerhouse Hawks

Dutch international slugger Wladimir Balentien has joined the SoftBank Hawks, the Pacific League club announced Monday. The 35-year-old Balentien will not count against the team’s four-man foreign-registered player limit because of his nine years in NPB.

The 35-year-old Balentien, who hit 60 home runs in 2013 and became only the second player to win a Central League MVP without his team winning the pennant. He broke Japan’s single-season record of 55 first set in 1964 by Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh and subsequently tied by Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002.

According to Kyodo News, Balentien’s deal is for two years and will pay him 500 million yen (roughly $4.5 million) next season.

The Hawks are three-time defending Japan Series champs. No PL team has ever won four straight. Balentien will wear No. 4, which until now had belonged to his former Yakult Swallows teammate Keizo Kawashima.


The table below gives Balentien’s career wOBA and win shares in Japan with his WAR and wOBA rankings since 2014 — the first year Delta Graphs tracks them for. The WAR rankings are for hitters, the win share ranks are for all NPB players.

YearwOBA – NPB rankWin Shares – NPB rankWAR – NPB rank
2011.33517.1 – 29th
2012.40722.1 – 11th
2013.50432.9 – 1st
2014.435 – 1st15.3 – 41st3.1 – 22nd
2015.2941.5 – 323rd-0.3
2016.388 – 8th18.9 – 26th2.3 – 34th
2017.380 – 11th8.8 – 106th2.0 – 39th
2018.391 – 19th19.3 – 26th0.7 – 54th
2019.400 – 8th16.4 – 33rd1.9 – 43rd

The Hawks also announced they have reached an agreement with pitcher Rick van den Hurk on a one-year contract for 2020. Van den Hurk is entering his sixth NPB season. He pitched just three times during the regular season and started Game 3 in the Hawks’ four-game Japan Series sweep over the Yomiuri Giants.

Swallows poised to sign pitcher Koch

The Yakult Swallows have reached an agreement on a one-year contract with 29-year-old right-hander Matt Koch, Kyodo News reported Monday.

Koch is 8-8 in his major league career with 4.88 ERA over 125-1/3 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has a 6.44 ERA over four Triple-A seasons with the Pacific Coast League’s Reno Aces, about 0.8 runs higher than the team’s ERA during that span.

In 246 innings at Triple A, he’s struck out 5.9 batters per nine innings, while walking 2.3. With Yakult, he’ll be teamed up with another former Diamondback, pitching coach Takashi Saito.

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