Hi all, another podcast of sorts today which is a half-rant/analysis about Neo being converted to a pitcher by Kazuyoshi Tatsunami. I make a few comparisons and largely throw my arms up in despair.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Tatsunami's monstrous attempt to play Shuhei Takahashi at short-stop against the Lions last night is telling of a few things, most of which is there isn't a place for Takahashi in this team. Shuhei missed out on a number of months with an injury to start the season but now it seems there are better options at his two preferred positions of third-base and second-base.
There's a number of issues that are preventing the former regular's use and here I would like to run through a few of them.
1. The form of Toshiki Abe
Abe had a pretty bad year last year, but this year, the Iwate-born infielder has been one of the Dragons' hottest bats. He's currently hitting a .275/.344/.450 slash which is one of the best among Dragons hitters. His splits are also a bit strange for a right-handed hitter as he's only hitting .238 against lefties but in a small sample size of 21 plate appearances. He's otherwise striking .281 against right handers. Shuhei has traditionally been a good hitter against righties and last year he was abysmal against lefties. A platoon situation therefore is off the table somewhat at second base. Plus, let's face it, Abe is slugging at a level that is beyond what Shuhei normally musters and in a team that lacks big hits, taking out Abe would be suicidal.
2. The development of Takaya Ishikawa
Out of all the position players in the Dragons organisation, Ishikawa has by far the highest ceiling. A third-baseman that hits for power and is an above average defender is a prized commodity and seeing him develop and ensure he can be that superstar the teams needs in future is important and in particular a mission of Tatsunami's this year. Ishikawa has been typically inconsistent for a young hitter this year and has been slashing a modest .228/.269/.423 this year. While the slugging potential is certainly there, the on-base ability hasn't come along just yet. Only 7 walks in 135 plate appearances is somewhat telling of where Ishikawa is at with his plate discipline, but he doesn't strike-out and awful lot either (26 this year) which means he's getting contact but perhaps just not on the right kinds of pitches.
When we look at his splits however, he is only hitting .215 against right-handers in 107 PA while, in a much smaller sample size, hits .313 over 16 PA against lefties. Ishikawa is a potential platoon candidate with Shuhei based on these numbers but we must take into account two things. Firstly, there just don't seem to be a lot of PAs against lefty pitchers in the Central this year compared to the inverse. Secondly, you want Ishikawa at this stage in his development to face everything and everybody so that he can adjust and get the experience so he can be better at hitting right-handers; this is a tack I think the Dragons are definitely taking. So in this respect too, finding time for Shuhei, who offers little power but probably better on-base skills, is not really a prime candidate.
3. Positional inflexibility
Shuhei has shown a willingness to move around the diamond throughout his career to get opportunities. First coming up under Morimichi Takagi, there were attempts to play him at short-stop to replace the departing Hirokazu Ibata. Shuhei was a bit exposed at short and ended up being billed as a third-baseman, trapped behind Hector Luna. Once Luna left the organisation however, Nobumasa Fukuda started providing power from the hot corner, and Shuhei was then given an opportunity at second-base where he was competent but still looked like a WWI-era tank turning double plays. We all know that he has an elite glove at third-base. The diving catches and neat footwork have been somewhat of a trademark, but at the moment team need is not at third, it is probably at short-stop if anywhere. Unfortunately, Shuhei is built like a power-hitter and is not the kind of guy you want at short-stop long-term. That being said there's really no-one banging on the door to be the team's next short-stop.
Takahashi is essentially the odd-man out at the moment. He can't play short, but is probably capable at just about every other position across the diamond. However, what does Shuhei bring to the team? Good corner infield defense and on-base skills. Given Ishikawa is a competent third-baseman that can bring in extra bases, this limits Shuhei to play third. Second base is currently occupied by the team's hottest hitter and another that is more skilled at getting extra base-hits. The question is, what do you do with Shuhei? If this were the MLB, there'd bit a strong case to trade Shuhei to maybe bring in a potential short-stop but I don't think the Dragons would part with one of their team faces so easily.
What is the solution? Well, it might just sort itself out. Patience with Ishikawa may dwindle and that might force Tatsunami's hand to play Shuhei at third more often. Abe could get injured or drop-off, and that too would allow for Shuhei to be first-up at second-base. At the current point in the season there just doesn't seem to be a proper space for him unless you are using him as cover to give Abe and Ishikawa rest-days which again, seems kinda unlikely for the Dragons or an NPB team to do.
Let's all agree, that no matter what happens he should never appear at short ever again.
Other news: Yakyu Cosmopolitan on YouTube and I collaborated on a video. They have used a bit of my analysis for their video on the rise and fall of the Chunichi Dragons. Please give it a watch.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
With the severe lack of runs over the past few seasons, it's hard not to get a little skeptical as to whether the Dragons ever scored runs with an proclivity whatsoever. I often find myself looking back into the Dragons' history for the greatest that have played the game for the team. And while those celebrated by fans quite commonly come up with a scour through the data and statistics, I'm always excited to find cases that challenge those conceptions or that highlight the careers of players long since forgotten. I am also keen here to find out if the Dome era has really been such a negative for Dragons hitters over the past 25 years.
In this post, I'm using data on wRAA (weighted runs above average) and WRC+ (weighted runs created plus) to give you an idea of some of the most productive seasons by players in a Dragons shirt.
Here's some definitions before we move on:
wRAA measures how many runs a hitter contributes, compared with an average player -- so a player with a 0 wRAA would be considered league average, offensively. It's calculated by finding the difference in the number of runs contributed between a player and the league average (which is determined by the league average wOBA).
wRC+ takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for important external factors -- like ballpark or era. It's adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.
First, as WRC+ is a statistic that is based on wRAA plus a few bits and bobs, I will present to you the greatest career years for Dragons based on position and wRAA. This will be followed but a top 10 list not constricted to position.
|1||1962||122||90.6||S. Etō (171), D. Newcombe (161), M. Maeda (143)||3rd|
|2||2006||117||103.5||K. Fukudome (212), T. Woods (191), K. Inoue (130)||1st|
|3||1966||115||65.3||S. Etō (204), T. Naka (168), M. Takagi (165)||2nd|
|4||1996||114||81.8||T. Yamasaki (167), T. Chen (149), A. Powell (141)||2nd|
|5||1991||114||74.9||H. Ochiai (206), T. Chen (140), K. Tatsunami (121)||2nd|
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Fall camp has wrapped up now with Tatsunami and co. holding the reigns for the first time. There were a few interesting stories to come our of camp, but the overall theme seems to be "aim high" and instill players with confidence. Case in point being the encouragement to Yota Kyoda that he could be a "triple 3" player. Much encouragement was given to Takaya Ishikawa as well as someone who could hit 40 homers in a season. Overall, the messages have been very positive and some of the new techniques passed on by the new coaching staff seem to have been a hit. Dayan Viciedo was also on the receiving end of some tips to change his approach to hit for more power.
Missing from the camp however were new 1-gun pitching coaches, Eiji Ochiai and Akinori Otsuka. 2-gun coach, Takashi Ogasawara needed to step in as the "on the ground" coach, but Ochiai had sent on instructions from Korea. Ochiai's KBO team, the Samsung Lions had playoff commitments this year which has delayed Ochiai's arrival. Otsuka meanwhile has been sent to the Dominical Republic to scout new players. Possible international signings however have been put on the back burner while the world sorts out the severity of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In awards news, the Golden Gloves were announced on Thursday with the Dragons capturing three different positions. Dayan Viciedo (1st Base), Yuya Yanagi (Pitcher) and Yohei Oshima (Outfield) all picked up ther 2nd, 1st and 9th awards respectively. Oshima's 9th golden glove is a club record.
Without further ado however, let's skip to some of the pick-up points of the past few weeks:
- The Dragons are kicking the tires on former Marines hurler, Yuta Omine. Omine was released through the senryokugai notices and is being looked at for a development contract signing. The logic seems to be that the farm needs an experience innings eater now that Yamai has retired.
- Former manager, Tsuyoshi Yoda has been welcomed back to the club as an "executive advisor" for whatever that means. The Dragons front office appear to have wanted to keep Yoda around either for his pitching nous or perhaps for his connections across baseball in Japan. Either way, it is not a full-time role but it keeps Yoda in the Dragons fold.
- Katsuki Matayoshi has elected for free agency being the first former independent leaguer to do so. The Hawks, Baystars and Buffaloes are said to be the most interested in his services with the Dragons leaving an offer on the table should Matayoshi want a return.
- Ariel Martinez became the first foreign player ever to join fall camp for the Dragons. The catcher welcomed his family to Japan not long before the start of camp and showed his wares to challenge for a starting position next year. Tatsunami has already ear-marked Ariel for a possible transition to left-field to which the player is amenable. He has since headed back to Cuba for the off-season.
- During training, the Dragons official YouTube channel blew up. Some interesting videos to watch if you've got some spare time.
- The smallest men on the team, Keisuke Tanimoto and Takumi Yamamoto will be training together in the off-season. Yamamoto has previously earmarked Tanimoto as someone he wanted to learn from given their comparable height.
- Akira Neo will be in the mix for outfield spots next season as Tatsunami indicates short-stop is perhaps a bit beyond him at the moment. While recently retired, Atsushi Fujii called out Neo that his hitting style "won't work", Neo has indicated a willingness to tear it all down and start again to ensure his longevity as a professional.
- Under Eiji Ochiai's instructions to hold 1-hour bullpen sessions per pitcher, the boys have gone ham throwing an enormous amount of pitches. Takumi Yamamoto threw down 380 pitches in a session while Hiroto Takahashi threw a PB of 246 pitches in his bullpen session. The main question however is, why?
Sunday, November 28, 2021
I have been playing around with a statistics database and decided to put together a little retrospective on the Dragons pitching staff over the years. The Dragons have been blessef with any number of excellent pitchers in their history, and it is here that I'd like to examine some of the best seasons, as calculated by wins-above-replacement (WAR). While not the definitive statistic, WAR can go a long way to help us understand how good a player was relative to his peers.
I have capped the dates at 1960 as data before then for WAR is incomplete. I've also not included any pitcher with a score of 4.5 WAR or lower to include. Firstly, I will list each "leader" of each decade since the 1960s. Baseball has changed and I think it only fair to judge players in each era. I have also put together a more definitive list of single-season WAR leaders into a small list to show you what some of the best pitching years in Dragons baseball have been.
First, the 1960s:
Hiroshi Gondo entered folk-lore with the saying "Rain, Gondo, Rain, Gondo, Gondo" as the only thing that stopped him pitching was the rain. In 1961, Gondo's rookie year, he threw a painful, 429.1 innings over 44 starts which included 32 complete games, 12 of them shutouts. Gondo went on to win the Sawamura Award and the Rookie of the Year award for his mammoth efforts. The load took it's toll however as Gondo only pitched for 3 more seasons before converting to the field as his arm all but fell off.
There's a few interesting candidates here, but it's Mitsuo Inaba who claims the top spot. In 1972, Inaba started in 35 games, pitching 261.1 innings for a 2.76 ERA with 14 complete games including 8 shutouts. A 20-11 mark in decisions would prove to be a career high for the righty who would move to the Hankyu Braves in 1977 and have further success.
This one surprised me a bit, but Tatsuo Komatsu in 1985, his Sawamura Award winning year, was to be the best of this era. Over a relatively modest 25 games started, Komatsu pitched 210.1 innings for a 2.65 ER, 17-8 record and 172 strikeouts. Komatsu actually played a further 8 games as a reliever appearing in 33 games in all. Alongside Genji Kaku, the 1985 Dragons team had a pretty formidable 1-2 at the top of the rotation. Komatsu would play for a further 9 years with Chunichi having another excellent year in 1987.
I knew this one as he's one of my favourites. Shinji Imanaka pitched a peach of a season in 1993 where he captured the Sawamura Award. Masa Yamamoto was his rotation mate that similarly had a career year in WAR. Imanaka dazzled his contemporaries with his slow-curve and 148 km/h fastball. Imanaka started 30 games with 14 complete games including 3 shutouts. What's perhaps the most impressive is an 8.9 SO/9 as he fanned 247 batters over 249 innings. One of the best of the best, Imanaka was an amazing pitcher to watch. Unfortunately, much like Gondo, his longevity would be affected and while he still put up a further four 10+ win seasons, he ultimately succumbed to injury at age 30.
Again, another surprise but this one is edged out by former Major Leaguer, Wei-Yin Chen. Alongside Kazuki Yoshimi, Chen showed himself to be the MLB calibre talent he was with a remarkable 2009 season. Chen pitched in 24 games, hurling down 164.0 innings. He would show amazing control to strikeout 146 batters for a miniscule, 0.933 WHIP. While only claiming an 8-4 record, Chen would put himself in the shop window for a move to the Orioles in 2012.
Chen's partner in crime, Kazuki Yoshimi in 2011 put up the best WAR during the lull that was the 2010s for the team as a whole. Yoshimi would have an 18-3 record with a 1.65 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over 190.2 innings. If it weren't for a certain Masahiro Tanaka, Yoshimi may well have been the Sawamura Award winner in this year. A career best season for the then staff ace, it's perhaps not a surprise he's on this list. After a good 2012, injuries got the best of Yoshimi but he still pitched 100+ innings for the Dragons in 2016 and 2018 before retiring in 2020.
We've really only just started this decade, but Yudai Ono's 2020 Sawamura Award winning year was pretty good. In a shortened season, Ono threw down 148.2 innings over 20 starts. His 6 shutouts and 10 complete games rang among the best conversion of a CG to SHO out of any of these pitchers. Striking out more or less a batter per inning, Ono also has one of the best SO/9 out of any of the luminaries on the below list.
Here the top 15 pitchers by WAR in Dragons history based on their best season: