Drop Down

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Permanent Hiatus

Dear Readers,

Due to family and career commitments I can no longer commit to what this blog requires me. I will be stepping away from social media as well in order to work on what is most important to me.

Thank you for all your support of this blog over the years but I will now be putting my writing on indefinite hiatus. I may come back one day, but not in the near future.

Feel free to leave comments on this post if you want to get in contact. I'll still get the notifications in my mail box.

Update 31/07
I thought I owed you more of an explanation. This blog is a great source of joy for me, I love sharing information about the Dragons with all of you and I love having a platform where I can talk about my favourite team. However, it is no more than a hobby. I don't have any expectations or illusions about doing this for money or it leading to some dramatic career change in the future.

Given my desire for perfection and want to supply something that's near a quality I'm happy with, my life priorities have become a bit unbalanced. I quite honestly spend a bit too much time thinking about and looking up what's going on with the team and too much time thinking up blog posts, let alone writing them. It has clouded my priorities.

As a family man, my time is limited. I work full-time, I take care of my wife and daughter and I otherwise need to look at improving on my career prospects. I quite honestly don't have the time to do all that and this blog at the present moment in time.

I hope that at some point I can come back, and I would still like to cover the draft in October if I can, but I can't really guarantee anything at the moment. Thank you all for your support once more and hopefully, one day, I can get back to working on this blog with the same regularity I once did.



Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Swallows @ Nagoya Dome 5 July - 7 July; Another regional rain-out, but shortened series sweep

The Dragons were meant to take a game to Hamamatsu in their annual face-off with the Swallows in Shizuoka but as is often the case with outdoor games at this time of the year, one needs to compete with the rain. The rain unfortunately won the battle in Hamamatsu with the rest of the games to be played out at Nagoya Dome.

The Dragons did a handy job in a shared series despite the loss of key reliever Joely Rodriguez. Zoilo Almonte was given a recall while Hiroshi Suzuki also rejoined the team.
  • Game 75: Swallows 3-1 Dragons
  • Game 76: Swallows 1-7 Dragons
Game 75

The Dragons took the lead through Dayan Viciedo's single in the bottom of the first but it would be the Swallows who would capitalise with Tetsuto Yamada's 21st homerun of the season equalizing the scores in the third while Takahiro Araki gave the Swallows breathing space in the top of the 5th. 

Yudai Ono pitched 8 innings with 9 strikeouts but those 3 earned runs blemished what was otherwise a good start. The Dragons lineup couldn't muster the runs needed to support their starter however but Shuhei did his best going 4-4. 

Game 76

The team once again rose to the occasion for Yuya Yanagi's start as he claimed his 9th win of the season. Yanagi continues the high value from the starters as he tossed 8, 1-run innings with 8 strikeouts in a comfortable win where the Swallow's Yuki Takanashi continued his poor run against the Dragons (ERA v CD 10.57; 5 starts). 

All the runs but one came in a destructive first inning. Tetsuto Yamada had put the Swallows ahead with his 2nd homer in as many games, but the Dragons stepped on the gas with Dayan Viciedo hitting a 2RBI double, Naomichi Donoue smashing a  3-run homer and Yuya Yanagi claiming and XBH RBI. 

A Ryosuke Hirata single in the 3rd would end the scoring. Yanagi would keep hurling his way through 8 innings while Daisuke Sobue mopped up in the 9th. 

Yanagi continues the great form that earned him an All-Star call-up this year. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Giants @ Tokyo Dome 2 July - 4 July; Dragons make a Giant mistake

This week was marred by controversy over manager, Tsuyoshi Yoda's comments over the use of "omae" in the popular chance theme, "South Paw." Yoda, who sees the word omae as disparaging and disrespectful toward the players expressed his distaste for the word suggesting that the chant be changed to use the players' name. Omae (お前) is a colloquial version of saying "you." It is normally used when someone of a higher position is talking to someone of a lower position or if two people of equal position are talking. It comes with it a connotation that the speaker is higher in status than the person being spoken to. Whatever your position, the Dragons ouendan have ceased the usage of the song, based on the tune of Pink Lady's song of the same name, which has caused some uproar among fans and has even brought the attention of national talk shows discussing the appropriateness of such language.
I like the song, but conversations like this are healthy to have as a society. Some players have come out saying that they don't really mind while it has been pointed out that many other clubs use chants that include the word "omae". Whatever the case, this seems to have had a poor effect on the team as they were trounced by the Giants at Tokyo Dome.

The series started of with a Tomoyuki Sugano shutout and ended demoralising 5-3 loss where Enny Romero continues his rich history of giving up homeruns at Tokyo Dome. With Masato Matsui being moved on in a trade the previous day, Takuya Kinoshita was brought up to the first team.

  • Game 72: Dragons 0-6 Giants
  • Game 73: Dragons 6-7 Giants
  • Game 74: Dragons 3-5 Giants
Game 72
Tomoyuki Sugano has been without his usual swagger this year for the Giants, but he kept the Dragons scoreless through 9 in a 115 pitch CGSO where he took 6Ks. 
Young Tatsuya Shimizu started the game but leaked two solo homeruns to Toshiyuki Kamei and Christian Villenueva  in his first 4 innings. The Giants would score their remaining two runs off the pitching of Toshiya Okada as Hayato Sakamoto and Yoshiharu Maru both hit solo efforts into either side of the stand. 

Shuhei Takahashi was the only one hold his own with the bat with a 2-hit game in a relatively unimpressive, nothing more to say, loss. 

Game 73
The Dragons and Giant went neck and neck exchanging blows in a thrilling encounter that ended with a walk-off win for the Giants. Kazuki Yoshimi was pulled after 2 innings after he showed he doesn't have what it takes outside of Nagoya Dome. Toshiki Sakurai similarly for the Giants only lasted 3 innings as he gave up 3 earned runs to Dayan Viciedo and Yota Kyoda. 

The Dragons would extend take the lead in the 7th via Kyoda initiating a squeeze and a Yohei Oshima single. Christian Villenueva would have other plans as he evened the scores while Toshiyuki Kamei also came to the rescue with a lead taking single in the bottom of the same inning. 

Takuya Kinoshita would give the Dragons a chance with his first homer of the season bulleted into the left stand. An unfortunate and ultimately uncharacteristic error from Shuhei Takahashi on a Daiki Masuda bunt allowed Akihiro Wakabayashi to score and claim a walk-off victory for the Giants. 

Game 74
Do you remember Romero throwing his glove in disgust? I think he's gotten used to seeing his pitches in the Tokyo Dome stands as he gave up a game winning grand slam to Hayato Sakamoto in the 2nd inning which saw a megaphone ejected from the Chunichi ouendan. 

Ryosuke Hirata would score Toshiki Abe on a sac-fly in the 5th but a solo shot from Seiji Kobayashi in the 6th cancelled out the reply in quick time. Abe's double combined Nobumasa Fukuda scoring on a grounder from Takuya Kinoshita put the Dragons within touching distance of a win but they were snugged out by an efficient Giants bullpen in another, solid, loss. 

The biggest blow for this game would come after it ended as Joely Rodriguez pulled up sore after pre-game practice. He was later de-registered from the first team. I personally had been hoping Rodriguez would get some rest during the interleague period so we could make use of the DH and he could do some low intensity stuff on the farm, but it didn't happen and here we are. Hindsight it 20/20 though but I felt he was being trotted out a few too many games in a row.
On the bright side, Kento Fujishima looks likely to come up as a replacement.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Tigers @ Nagoya Dome 29 June - 30 June; Tigers tussled to the side

After a few days off, the Dragons would return to action at the Nagoya Dome in a quick and tasty series against the high flying Tigers. The Dragons would extend their streak to 5 wins with the top of the rotation showing marked resiliency to take out two solid wins.
  • Game 70: Tigers 1-6 Dragons
  • Game 71: Tigers 0-1 Dragon
Game 70
A big 2nd inning from the Dragons off the pitching of Koyo Aoyanagi would be just about all the team would require to finish off the Tigers. The Dragons batted around the order where Takuma Kato claimed the lead with a double while Ryosuke Hirata, Yota Kyoda and Yohei Oshima would put the lead to 5. Masataka Iryo would push the lead to 6 before Seiya Kinami scored a consolatory RBI in the 7th.  A relay of Joely Rodriguez and Raidel Martinez would close out the game. 

Game 71
Yuya Yanagi pitched out 8 scoreless innings for no run support while Hiroto Fuku was tagged with the win after the game went to the 11th inning where, in rather anticlimactic fashion, the game would be decided on a Raphael Dolis wild pitch to allow Ryosuke Hirata to score in a walk-off win. 

The Dragons only managed 2 hits of a staunch Hanshin pitching effort, but the Tigers would the the maestros of their own destruction giving the Dragons a somewhat undeserved win.  Yuya Yanagi struck out 10 in his 8 innings in another wonderful performance. He has a 0.93 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 29 innings against the Tigers this year.

In other interesting stats, Shuhei Takahashi seems to try his hardest with Yanagi starts as he's batting .455 with the former Meiji Uni captain on the mound.

As part of All-Star selections, Shuhei Takahashi got the call through the players vote while Yuya Yanagi and Yota Kyoda received an invitation from the manager meaning we have 3 Dragons at the 2019 ASG this year!

TRADE NEWS: Masato Matsui, Yusuke Matsui dealt to Orix Buffloes for Takahiro Matsuba, Kengo Takeda; Steven Moya also traded for cash.

The Chunichi Dragons have traded catcher, Masato Matsui and outfielder, Yusuke Matsui to the Orix Buffloes for left-handed pitcher, Takakiro Matsuba and outfielder Kengo Takeda. Steven Moya has also been traded to the Buffaloes for cash.

Trades don't happen very often in Japanese baseball. The Dragons very rarely do anything in the trade market with players. Last year Ryuya Ogawa was traded away for cash to the Lions, but the last time we traded for a player was with the Orix Buffaloes in 2014 for Taiki Mitsumata which saw Kyohei Iwasaki move away from Nagoya.

5 years later, we have two trades, separate but related, we have to unpack and get a bit excited about. While the trade for Moya was separate, it is worthwhile thinking of this as a package and may have sweetened the return a little bit.

First of all, the losses. Masato Matsui has been #1 or #2 behind the dish on this roster the last couple of years. Matsui was favoured over Shota Ono last year while, apart from an injury, he has featured as more or less the #2 catcher on the top team behind Takuma Kato, particularly after Ono was demoted a month or so ago. At 31 years old, Matsui was one of the elder statesmen behind the mask with only Shingo Takeyama more senior.

For me, moving MM solves a few issues. Firstly, he is the least appealing of the catchers. He's bang average. He doesn't really hit and his lead and arm strength are so-so. Compared to current options, he doesn't have much going for him. In terms of a trade piece, he probably has the greatest value of the current catchers outside of Ishibashi and Kato who are probably untouchable at the moment. If the Buffaloes were looking for a catcher, Matsui was a good option to give up. On the farm, you can only play one catcher at a time, and moving a veteran to allow guys like Ishibashi to get more experience is a big plus for me.

Yusuke Matsui is another that is a bit older than his counterparts at 31. Matsui is an Osaka native, so he'll be heading home in a sense. He has never been a regular. in the Dragons outfield. He has popped into the team to add outfield depth and to pinch-hit throughout his career, and outside of a useful tail-end to 2017, has been expendable. YM gets traded for someone much younger in 25 year old Kengo Takeda, but we'll get into that shortly. Just like with Masato Matsui, moving on an aging, average, outfielder will open up spots for younger players to get ABs on the farm.

In the return, Takahiro Matsuba appears to be a reasonable left handed pitcher with plenty of experience pitching in relief or starting. His velocity isn't super impressive as he tops out at 149 km/h. He has a slider, curve, and forkball in his armory. I've also heard he has a circle change. Matsuba was selected #1 by the Buffaloes in 2012 and has since gone on to make 97 starts for a 27-35 record and a career 3.83 ERA. Last year, Matsuba only pitched in 8 games with the top team, 7 of which were starts, while this year he has 22.2 IP in the Pacific League with a 5.56 ERA. On the farm, he looks much better with a sub 3.00 ERA this year, but it hasn't been a good couple of years for Matsuba who had his most productive season back in 2014 when he had an 8-1 record for a 2.77 ERA.

Matsuba certainly looks an interesting return. Good farm statistics but poor results in the top team could imply that the Pacific League knows him a bit too well. This could, possibly, mean that he could surprise in the Central League. He'll add to our depth of lefties and his flexibility means a bullpen role could work out as well. The Dragons only have Toshiya Okada and Hiroto Fuku as options out of the pen, so Matsuba gives cover there while Yudai Ono is currently the only consistent Japanese lefty in the rotation at the moment, so a starting job could be on the cards too.

Kengo Takeda is perhaps the more interesting, longer term piece. Takeda is an outfielder with defensive prowess who had a mini-breakout with the Buffaloes in 2017 where he batted .297 over 97 games. He didn't quite produce to the same level in 2018 with the top team but was still solid on the farm hitting .282 in 122 PAs. This year, Takeda has continued to slump batting sub .200 in the Western League and in the Pacific League in limited appearances. On statistics alone, even at his best, he's a banjo hitting central outfielder who has a good arm and good range. His OPS has never been higher than .698 but he has the potential to get plenty of contact.

The good thing about Takeda however, is that, at 25, he is young. The Dragons have only Kosuke Ito and Masaru Watanabe in the outfield that are younger. Furthermore, if Takeda can get back to hitting well, he could be a possible successor to 33 year old, Yohei Oshima in center-field. Ito, I think is the long-term successor provided his progression continues, but Takeda could be the in-between option particularly as he's more defensively accomplished. Takeda certainly has a lot more upside than Yusuke Matsui so this part of the trade is a big win for me. At best, we have a future Oshima, at worst, we have a Kudo/Fujii type 4th outfielder.

Lastly, Steven Moya. Moya has been a victim of circumstance. Had the Dragons bullpen been stronger this year, he would have seen a lot more time with the top team. The fact of the matter however is that there are only 4 visa spots available for non-Japanese players and we just can't wedge Moya in there. Raidel Martinez and Joely Rodriguez have proved to be extremely important in the bullpen while Dayan Viciedo will never be dislodged from his position at first-base unless he need to make another visa run or gets injured. Add into this Enny Romero, who has been required in the starting rotation, there ends up not being a lot of options for Moya to see the first team. The fact of the matter is, he's killing it at Western League level and the Buffaloes just recently lost their foreign slugger, Joey Meneses to a 12-month doping ban. It's a trade that just makes sense. Moya will likely man the DH for the Buffaloes while the Dragons still have to find a place for Zoilo Almonte. Moya was a model professional during his time with the team, and under different circumstances he would have been a starting member.

Older fans might have a sense of nostalgia about a foreign player being traded for cash to the Buffaloes. The added dimension of a drug ban creating a need for a trade makes it all the more interesting.

In 1988, Kintetsu Buffaloes slugger, Richard Davis had his contract torn up after he
was found to be in possession of marijuana. Looking for a substitute, the Buffaloes turned to American, Ralph Bryant who was toiling away on the Dragons farm team. Foreign player limits at the time meant that Bryant couldn't see the top team as Gary Rajsich and Kuo Yuen-chih filled up the limited spots. Bryant's contract was purchased by the Buffaloes and the rest is history. Bryant went on to have a successful 8 year career in Osaka where he captured 1989 Pacific League MVP honours on the way to slugging 259 homers in his NPB career. A multiple homerun champion, Bryant certainly showed what the Dragons were missing out on.

With Joey Meneses being caught doping and given a 12-month ban, the same situation that brought Bryant to the Buffaloes has brought Moya in. Will the result be the same? We'll just have to wait and see.

Overall, I feel the Dragons have traded for the future. Matsuba and Takeda are younger than the players that were given up and have more upside than both too. Both also fill in areas that the Dragons need to bolster recruitment, so this works out quite well. Getting something for Moya was a good result and it means he has a chance to ignite his career in Osaka. He's been too good to be a farmhand, so hopefully the Buffaloes will give him the appreciation he deserves.

Overall, a trade that will probably work out to be fairly mutually beneficial. There is an element of risk over Matsuba and Takeda not turning around their recent form, but there's more possibility to prove their worth with the Dragons. Masato and Yusuke Matsui however have already reached their potentials and having them continue their careers elsewhere benefits the team.