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Friday, March 27, 2020

To design a pitching staff: Enough bulls in the pen?

Latest News

More uncertainty has come up regarding the start of the season as Japanese news outlets have reported that 3 Hanshin Tigers players have been diagnosed with COVID-19. There is a very good chance this will impact the start of the season. However, hang all that, we're still going to have a look at the future of the team. Whenever we do start, things probably will remain just about the same.

This also comes on the back of the news that Moises Sierra has signed a fully-rostered deal and was awarded the number 45 for his efforts. He bolsters stocks in outfield and can hopefully cover for or even do better than Zoilo Almonte while he recovers from injury. Sierra needed to be signed by the end of this month or be released by the team due to rules regarding age 26+ over foreigners on development deals.

Bullpen Outlook

As we looked at the starting rotation hopefuls last post, I'd like to talk about the bullpen this time around. It's a bit tricky to see what's going to happen with the pen but the pre-season has given us an idea of how it might shape up. I'm going to give my thoughts on where I see the bullpen at the moment and what might need to happen for it to actually be good enough.
Who will be loosening up in the Nagoya Dome bullpen most this year?
Out of probably anywhere in the team, the bullpen looks shakiest. There's a lot of players that either need to prove themselves, or there's just a bit of uncertainty given the youth and injury history of some of the players. I've put together a couple of lists with how I see our medium/low leverage bullpen arms and our high leverage bullpen arms.

Med/Low Leverage
Daisuke SobueYuki Hashimoto
Keisuke TanimotoTakahiro Matsuba
Shinji TajimaTatsuro Hamada
Yu Sato
Yusuke Kinoshita
Junki Ito
Hiroshi Suzuki
Ryosuke Oguma
Takuya Mitsuma

High Leverage
Raidel MartinezToshiya Okada
Luis GonzalezHiroto Fuku
Kento Fujishima
Katsuki Matayoshi

You're probably going to either be slightly depressed or confused looking at this list. To be quite honest though, the amount of 'proven' high leverage relievers is certainly on the low side. Out of those that I've listed as the high leverage relievers, there's a lot that could go wrong with any one of them. Based on recent form I'd say Fujishima is probably the most consistent of the bunch while Gonzalez has shown himself to be competent. Hiroto Fuku is probably the next best arm with Fujishima in terms of his track record in 2019. Question marks remain over Okada, particularly as closer, and whether or not Matayoshi will find some semblance of form. Matayoshi has looked good in pre-season in his outings and Okada is probably just about good enough.

One area of concern regarding Okada is his home/away splts. At Nagoya Dome, he had a comfortable 1.59 ERA over 22.2 innings. Away from home however, he pitched 27.2 inning for a 5.20 ERA. Ouch. Looking at Okada's splits on counts as well, it's obvious that if he doesn't get on top early, batters have an advantage. Raidel Martinez similarly has 1.00 ERA at home and a 5.93 ERA away. It's needless to say that Dragons pitcher benefit a lot from their home ground. Even while Martinez and Okada have proven to be some of the better arms in the bullpen, are they good enough when they play outside Nagoya? Hiroto Fuku and Kento Fujishima are just about the only Dragons relievers to have better numbers on the road. Fujishima in particular had a 0.56 ERA across 16 innings away.

Are these 3 the best Chunichi has to offer?

On the other side of the coin, there's a lot of mid/low guys that could build themselves into high leverage relievers with a bit of momentum. The key people in those categories for me are Yuki Hashimoto, Takuya Mitsuma and Hiroshi Suzuki. I think these 3 have the stuff to be reliable bullpen arms in the latter half of a game, for them it's just a matter of putting it together. I have perhaps been harsh on Hashimoto, but he is a rookie. He has done well in pre-season but his inexperience is one I'm not happy to bet on just yet.
Can one of this trio be the next arm to rely on in a pinch?

Mitsuma has steadily improved over the past year. Mitsuma had an okay 3.81 ERA over 28.1 innings on the farm, while he improved on that with the top team with a 3.38 ERA over 34.2 innings. He's proven himself in those middle innings. I believe he has the stuff to make it in higher leverage situations as well.

Hiroshi Suzuki probably has the highest ceiling of the three with his fastball that tops out at 156 km/h. He collected 14 saves last season and was dropped for it as he continually gave people heart attacks by loading up bases and otherwise had an ERA unbecoming of a closer at 4.32. Control is still a problem for Suzuki and while he seems to be developing some good secondary pitches with his cutter and what seems to be a slider, there's still some way to go for him to fulfill his potential. He only played in 3 games this pre-season pitching 3.1 innings for no earned-runs but also no strikeouts and 4 free bases given to the opposition.

As the old addage goes, bullpen arms are volatile. To be a good reliever, you need to do it over a number of years and there are few that do. They either flame out or just plain lose it. Anything could happen at this stage but my money is certainly on the 6 relievers I've listed in the high leverage area to be on the roster come opening day. I'll lay down my idea for my ideal bullpen when I go through the possible opening day roster in a future post.

Overall, the outlook for the bullpen I don't think can be as optimistic as with the starting rotation. In saying that however, the bullpen rotation that was introduced last year with Yoda and Hideyuki Awano has been effective so far. A lot of arms were brought up and sent down last year to give variety out of the pen and rest those who needed it. The cool-off times were used effectively and overall I think bullpen management was much better in 2019 than it has been in the past (even if Joely Rodriguez was a BIG part of that bullpen).

How it will all gel together with Okada as full-time closer and Luis Gonzales in his first year in Japanese baseball is yet to be seen, but we should probably temper our expectations if the starter can't go 5-6 innings into a game.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

To design a pitching staff: The evolving starting rotation of the Chunichi Dragons

Here I would like to spend some time talking about the pitching of the Dragons. The reason for this is, that what our rotation will look like this year is going to be very different with what we opened with in 2019. Having a bit of a look at the battles that are happening in the team for spots, is a good use of our time here.

Graphic care of Nikkan Sports
The starting rotation is probably the key area where we're going to see a lot of change. Last year, because of injuries and poor form, we had Daisuke Yamai in the rotation and Shotaro Kasahara as opening day starter. While both would fail to hold down a spot in the rotation for whatever reason, this year's options look more interesting with a lot more healthier, relatively in-form arms to choose from.

The main contenders for the 6-man opening day rotation are going to be Yudai
Ono, Yuya Yanagi, Shinnosuke Ogasawara, Takumi Yamamoto, Kazuki Yoshimi, Kodai Umetsu, Koji Fukutani, Shotaro Kasahara and rookie, Yuichiro Okano. I think this will end up just about neatly sewn up by opening day, particularly with Romero now out of the equation, but compared to the start of camp, there's less certainty about who will actually make as players have been able to press their case through extended time with practice games. Lets have a run down on the locks, the hopefuls and some dark horses.


1. Yudai Ono - 32 y/o, LHP

I don't think there's much question about Ono opening the rotation as the staff's ace. Whether we get 2019 Ono or 2017 Ono is yet to be seen, but I think he gained a lot of confidence last year. It probably also helps that he has a decent supporting staff behind him now. Ono's form is going to be key to success that the Dragons will have this year. If he has an off year or goes down with injury, that will hurt the floor of this rotation.

In 2019, Ono had a huge bounce back year. This was largely attributed to his willingness to pitch higher in the zone which was apparently something Hideyuki Awano suggested to him. This resulted in more strikeouts and better results overall leading Ono to his first individual title as 2019's Central League ERA leader. He was then selected in the successful Premier12 Japanese team to cap off a fruitful season for the southpaw.

Ono has the tools to be a Sawamura winner. If he's going to do it, this is the year to. At 32 he's got quite a few miles on his arm but has a good mix of skill and guile to make it happen. Ono is also someone who can go deep into games a pitch a lot of innings. He lead the Central league in innings pitched in 2015 with Shintaro Fujinami. If he can get some more wins under his belt, he'll be a real contender for those honors. At worst, I think he'll at least get his 3rd career All-Star call-up.

2. Yuya Yanagi - 26 y/o, RHP

Yanagi had a breakout season in 2019 and while he had a blistering first half which lead to his selection for the All-Star game, he cooled off over the backend of the season only claiming 2 more wins and ballooning out his ERA. While is 11-7 record is the best any Dragon could muster, his  3.53 ERA was less flattering.

Yanagi showed some amazing form in 2019 and was certainly in talks for a Sawamura Award winning season midway through the year. His 13K game against the Lotte Marines in June followed by his interleague valuable player nomination seemed to cap off the awakening of a juggernaut. In the tail-end however, Yanagi somewhat unfortunately became the team's Swallows specialist where he made 9 starts against the Tokyo team throughout the year. This probably helped the Swallows hitters get used to Yanagi and unfortunately affected his results as the season wore on.

Yanagi threw 170.1 innings in 2019 and we can only hope for similar quality in 2020. It's often hard to back-up after such a successful season so the honus is on Yanagi to prove himself as the undoubted #2 in this rotation and solidify his spot throughout the season.

3. Shinnosuke Ogasawara - 23 y/o LHP

Ogasawara has had his injury problems and last year was no different. The 23 year old missed the majority of the season making only 7 starts at the tail end of the year with a relatively impressive 3-1 record and 2.56 ERA. Ogaswara is perhaps another that growth is expected of this year as he enters his 5th year with the Dragons.

Only 2-years removed from being opening day starter, Ogasawara still represents a lot of potential yet to be fulfilled. There is a lot of good parts to Ogasawara's make up but injuries have really killed any momentum he's had. Still yet to pitch more than 120 innings in a season, it will be hoped that the 2015 Koshien winner will be in a better place particularly after having some extra rest with the delay of the start of the season.

In his last two practice game outings, Ogasawara hasn't struck out a batter. This concerns me. I know we shouldn't read too much into these things, maybe he's polishing his breaking balls, but to not get a strikeout in 12 innings is a little disconcerting. I'm not sure of the hardness of contact he's gotten in these outings, but I do hope he starts missing bats again soon. Either way, I see Ogasawara as the best potential #3 in this rotation to round out a top three of former top round draft picks.

Best of the rest

This guys I list here are just about going to be in the rotation come starting day or at least have an inside running on getting a job.

4. Takumi Yamamoto - 20 y/o, RHP

The dimunitive, Yamamoto has taken some impressive strides in the last 18

months and the youngster from Hyogo prefecture looks like he's a very good chance to start the year in the opening day rotation. In the graphic I started this post with, Nikkan Sports see him as a lock to be in the rotation, and while I'm disagreeing here to a minor degree, it just goes to show how far his stocks have risen.

A #6 pick in 2017, Yamamoto has probably shone just about the brightest out of anyone in his cohort. Alongside the likes of the highly rated Sho Ishikawa and the fireballing Hiroshi Suzuki, Yamamoto has shown steady progress as a starting pitcher and has lit up some eyes with a great arsenal of breaking pitches that dip and dive to deceive hitters. He pitched just 45.1 innings last year, but with a 2.98 ERA looked the best of many of the pitchers at times showing his potential.

I'm at a loss as to what my expectation for Yamamoto are. This will be his 3rd year with the Dragons and as a professional ball-player. He's not a tall guy which does make you think he won't have extended success but his fighting mentality, perhaps the best of his class in that regard, will pull him through where other pitchers falter. I'm a big fan of his moxy and I'd say he's a very good chance to start in the rotation this year.

5. Yuichiro Okano - 25 y/o, RHP

Okano is a brand new acquisition and has just about shown that's he's good enough to be in the rotation for the opening 6 games. Okano has been steady in his outing in spring training and in practice games so I would honestly be suprised at this point if he didn't have a starting job come the beginning of the season.

His scout report and results so far, suggest a steady pitcher who is going to eat innings for few runs. He doesn't have lightning stuff nor an awe-inspiring heater but has very good rhythm on the mound and is able to turn it on when he has to.

I'm a fan of Okano and even if he doesn't start straight away, we'll definitely be seeing something of him this year even if it's out the bullpen. So far however, I think he starts.

6, Kazuki Yoshimi, 36 y/o, RHP

I'm not a huge fan of Yoshimi anymore, but as a #6 or so in this rotation I could just about stomach him. He's not been great the past couple of years and is far removed from his best. However, in terms of a mix of experience and ability, he's probably the next best candidate after Ono.

Time and TJ surgery have not been kind to Yoshimi. It looked like we might see some level of the heights he achieved early in his career when he came back from surgery and posted a 3.08 ERA over 131.1 innings in 2016. It has however only gone from bad to worst for the once heralded ace of the rotation as he posted a 6.41 ERA in 2019 in only 19.2 innings. From 2017, Yoshimi has been nothing but replacement level with a 0.2 WAR in 3 years.

Yoshimi, may have had a 6.41 ERA, but here's the light in the dark, he had a 2.22 FIP. While the sample is small, that's a very marked difference. Maybe the Dragons will bet on those peripherals, but one thing is for sure, time is running out for a comeback with so many young arms now chomping at the bit.

7. Kodai Umetsu, 23 y/o, RHP

The man that only managed 1-win his entire competitive college career already
has 4 in his first season of professional baseball. Umetsu had his injury worries to start his rookie year, but he made a storming end to the season. If you're going to bet on potential, Umetsu has to be in your starting day rotation.

Umetsu has only made a handful of appearances with the top team in this extended spring training, but has looked just about good enough. He let up 3 runs against the Carp which led to him training with the second team for a while, but his comeback performance in a recent practice game was solid enough to make his cause look tenable.

Umetsu has an aura of great potential and should he he stake his claim and stay in the rotation in 2020, could be a big contender for rookie of the year honors. It's just a matter of how he bounces back after his first taste of professional ball.

Dark Horses

8. Koji Fukutani, 29 y/o, RHP

Koji Fukutani is the fireball closer that wasn't. "The Professor" as he's often called
due to his academic approach to the game, has tried to reinvent himself as a starter the last 18 months or so. One promising start last year was all we saw before he went down with injury.

Oftentimes a bit too cerebral, Fukutani gradually fell down the pecking order as a reliever. He was an All-Star in 2014, closer in 2015 and in more recent years has been a low-leverage reliever. Starting seems like it might remove a bit of the mental element of clutch situation that Fukutani seems to have struggled with and quite honestly, I like what I saw in his start last year where he threw 6Ks in 6 innings against the Carp.

Fukutani has had some innings in pre-season as well. Against Orix on the 10th of March, he struck out 6 batters in 4 innings unfortunately for 3 earned runs. The ability to strikeout guys is there and if we don't see him on starting day, we'll definitely see him make some spot starts throughout the year.

9. Shotaro Kasahara, 25 y/o, LHP

Last year's opening day starter appears to have fallen off the grid. Injuries and concerns over a heart arrhythmia limited his time last year but there hasn't been much of him seen on the first team squad this pre-season either. He has spend most of his time tuning up on the farm, but the fact that he's a lefty and has a track record makes me think he's an outside chance for the starting day roster.

Aforementioned illnesses prevented Kasahara from building on his breakout in 2018, but tuning up on the farm, it has been said that his fourseam is getting back to normal which means his change-up will have a bit more life as well. I don't think we can read too much into last year given his health issues, but we can hope he will turn it around again this year.

Given the first-team haven't given Kasahara a chance this pre-season make  me think that he's a little further away from the starting day than any of the others listed here. However, that extra few weeks of preparation might make him jump ahead in the pecking order. Who knows?


In the end who will be in the rotation and who I want to be in the rotation will probably differ. Here are my two predictions:

What the Dragons do: Ono, Yanagi, Ogasawara, Yoshimi, Yamamoto, Umetsu
What I'd prefer: Ono, Yanagi, Ogasawara, Umetsu, Okano, Yamamoto

I think with Yoshimi in the rotation, you're betting on his floor being better than a younger player. I personally think Okano will give equal if not better value in the rotation. Unless you want to hold on him as a wild card for when Yoshimi eventually does burn out his usefulness. Having a pitcher up your sleeve that hasn't been seen by the rest of the league too much, could be quite useful down the stretch. I would also definitely bet on Umetsu. I think the potential is huge and he could be a future ace for the team. Yamamoto I'm not as high on as others, but he has earned his spot, the others speak for themselves.

From what I can see, even without Romero, this team has a lot of depth to pull on but I do worry about the floor. If Yanagi or Ono go down, it's a very average rotation with a low floor and high ceiling. Ogasawara would be the most proven then and I wouldn't want to rely on him anchoring the rotation at this point in his career.

Starting day looks to be just a month away now and hopefully we'll see some top quality baseball to come. Look out for some more posts in the future about some of the other position battles as well as a prediction for the season ahead.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pre-season Megaupdate: Coach shuffling, new acquisitions, other notes

Apologies to all for the blackout, I'm back on track with some other projects and can now devote some more time to the blog. This is a post I've been working on for a few months and has been on the backburner. Some of it you may already be well aware of, but I think it bears repeating in the lead-up to the expected season now slated for a late April start.

Staff Ins and Outs

The backroom has been given quite a shake-up this year with 2-gun posts almost being wholesale replaced while the 1-gun staff have also received some additions and promotions from the farm.

  • Michihiro Ogasawara (2-gun manager)
  • Masahiko Morino (2-gun batting coach)
  • Akio Ishii (2-gun batting coach)
  • Fujio Tamura (2-gun battery coach)
  • Hiroshi Narahara (1-gun infield defense/baserunning coach)
  • Toru Nimura (2-gun manager)
  • Kenta Kurihara (1-gun batting coach)
  • Alonzo Powell (roaming batting coach)
  • Shingo Takeyama (2-gun battery coach)
  • Hiroyuki Watanabe (2-gun infield defense/baserunning coach)

The exits of Ishii and Morino are a result of poor hitting results from farm batters in 2019 while Fujio Tamura was just running out his contract as a left-over from Shigekazu Mori's backroom. Narahara was seemingly let go in the immediate aftermath, but after his appointment as Rakuten Eagles farm manager was announced, you can see why he left. It's a step up in his career and even though he did wonders for the Dragons defense last year, it's time for him to open up a new page in his career.

The big additions here at that of the former Carp clean-up hitter Kenta Kurihara and the 3-time Central League batting champion, Alonzo Powell. Powell was a star for the Dragons in the early to mid-90s and has been coaching in the United States since retirement. He most recently finished an assignment as the San Francisco Giants hitting coach but also served as the hitting instructor for the now infamous 2017 World Series winning Houston Astros. You can't help but be a little excited that the Dragons are bringing in a foreign coach with that kind of experience. Apparently Powell and Yoda have been pals since their playing days. Yoda had played with the idea of recruiting Powell to his backroom if he ever became manager and while it wasn't able to happen this year due to Powell's MLB commitments, it has come to fruition for 2020.
You can listen to an interview with Powell here care of Japan Baseball Weekly podcast. It's a great listen and hopefully we'll hear more from him this year.

Kenta Kurihara is another that Yoda shares a bond with having both served in the backroom for the Rakuten Eagles. Kurihara was a hard-hitting first-baseman for the Hiroshima Carp in the 2000s also serving as clean-up hitter for Samurai Japan on a number of occasions. Certainly a younger staff member, Kurihara will be looking to help inject more power hitting prowess into the Dragons hitters.

Otherwise, Hiroyuki Watanabe comes back into the fold after spending some time in the shadows of the Dragons office. He previously stood beside first-base for Motonobu Tanishige. One of a very select few defensive specialists at first-base in his playing days.

Former team captain, Nimura returns as chief farmer.
Toru Nimura returns to his position as farm manager after helping the likes of Hirokazu Ibata break-out when he was beginning his career. Seen as somewhat of a hardass, it will be interesting to see if he will be as good as Ogasawara was with the team. If anything, Guts approach was rather hard nosed as well, so maybe the players won't notice a difference.

Finally, Shingo Takeyama's retirement has been rewarded with a coaching role. By all means a solid defensive catcher with good game-calling skills, Takeyama should be just about good enough considering the catching royalty that the 1-gun staff holds claim to in Takeshi Nakamura and Tsutomu Ito.

While there have been a lot of ins and outs, there also been a lot of shuffling between the two teams. Here's what the everything looks like going into 2020.

1- gun positionNameNumber
ManagerTsuyoshi Yoda92
Head CoachTsutomu Ito83
Organisational batting coachAlonzo Powell93
Batting coachTakayuki Murakami85
Batting coachKenta Kurihara73
Pitching coachHideyuki Awano74
Pitching coachMotoyuki Akahori84
Battery coachTakeshi Nakamura80
Infield/baserunning coachMasahiro Araki88
Outfield/baserunning coachHidenori89
Conditioning coachYasushi Miki91
Conditioning coachHiroshi Tsukamoto95

2- gun positionNameNumber
ManagerToru Nimura72
Batting coachToshio Haru71
Pitching coachTakuya Asao81
Pitching coachTakashi Ogasawara86
Pitching coachKen Kadokura87
Battery coachShingo Takeyama75
Infield/baserunning coachHiroyuki Watanabe76
Outfield/baserunning coachTakahito Kudo78
General position player coachMitsuo Tateishi90
Conditioning coachHiroto Mizuno94
Conditioning coachTakemi Miyamae96

As you can see, Haru and Kudo have been demoted while Hidenori and Araki are given a chance with the top team this year. Araki is only in his second year of coaching, but by all means received rave reviews with the farm team this year, while Hidenori is somewhat more seasoned having already seen time with 1-gun as the the third-base coach under Motonobu Tanishige. The other thing that we might find outstanding about the shuffle is that 2-gun have only one batting coach (with Powell likely to come in here and there) while the team in general has no left-handed hitter among the staff. Yonetoshi Kawabata was supposedly linked with a batting coach position, but for whatever reason that seems to have fallen through. Kazuki Inoue was also linked to the position before joining Akihiro Yano's staff at the Hanshin Tigers.

I feel as though we've finally stepped out from the Ochiai/Mori shadow and have really started to find a new looking Dragons team molded by Yoda's leadership. 

Player INs and OUTs

Most of the dirty work has been done through the senryokugai notices in October, but we have had one more departure with Joely Rodriguez signing a 2-year deal with the Texas Rangers in the MLB. The lefty was on-fire for the Dragons for the last 18 months and it's no surprise he's picked up a major league deal. Better the US than the Yomiuri Giants.

A big loss, but a big move for Rodriguez.
In regards to the foreign legion, the Dragons have been able to negotiate new deals with Enny Romero and Zoilo Almonte while negotiations with the Cuban government, have resulted in Raidel Martinez and development catcher, Ariel Martinez sticking around for another year. Dayan Viciedo otherwise moves into year two of his 3-year deal. Otherwise, the Dragons have also snared a Cuban hurler through their negotiations with the government in Yariel Rodriguez. The 22 year-old who played for Cuba in the Premier12 this year will be coming in on a development deal.

With Rodriguez gone and Almonte's health in question, the Dragons have been quick to make some acquisitions to cover any eventuality. Former Orioles farmhand, Luis Gonzalez has been signed as a replacement for Rodriguez but unfortunately lacks the same profile of his predecessor. Gonzalez seemingly has a high fly-ball rate which seems like an odd idea give the effectiveness of the Dragons infield defense. However, that is the man that has been picked up on this occasion. Former major leaguer, Moises Sierra has also been captured but on a development deal. Sierra has been brought in to cover for Almonte if he's not 100% at the start of the season. As he is over 26, NPB rules state that he has to be activated by the end of March or be released. It will be interested to see how that plays out particularly with the season delayed. I say the Dragons probably activate him in any case rather than risk seeing him leave while Almonte breaks down. 
Something has to be done about Sierra's contract.
Development deals included, the Dragons will be running with 8 Latin players on their roster this year with 4 Cubans and 4 Dominicans. The Dragons have only had 4 non-Latin players with the team since 2009 (Wei-Yen Chen, Matt Clark, Drew Naylor, Dillon Gee) which shows the continued reliance on the Caribbean pipeline and the connections that Shigekazu Mori has brought and continues to bring to the team.

Overall however I think we'll see Romero, Gonzalez, R. Martinez and Viciedo as the first-team regulars to start the season. Gonzalez may fizzle however and we might see more of Almonte/Sierra as a result. There'll be similar juggling issues that we faced last year but I'm confident that the bullpen will be stronger this year even without Rodriguez in the back-end. Unfortunately Romero is now out for the first half of the year which does open a chance for someone to make their mark in the top team but unfortunately leaves a hole in the rotation.

Spring Training

While the rookies stated training in Nagoya after the New Year period, the team will generally be coming together after a well rested or full on training schedule over the majority of the off-season. Perhaps the most interesting training that was undertaken was a short-course at Driveline Baseball for Takumi Yamamoto, Kento Fujishima, Katsuki Matayoshi, Shotaro Kasahara and Akito Okura. Driveline sent out instructors to Japan to for a clinic or two with more than a few players across the NPB.

For those that don't know, Driveline is known for it's use of biometric data to help players identify issues with their form and help them use their body more effectively. Nippon Ham Fighters, Chihiro Kaneko was one of the first NPB players to seek out Driveline and he went stateside to work with them in the 2018-19 off-season. Since then, the profile of the Driveline team has risen in Japan and it's good to see some notable, young Dragons having some of their stuff analysed. Let's hope we can see an uptick from all 5 pitchers involved. I personally think Matayoshi and Kasahara have the potential to benefit greatly.

Spring camp went about as well as you could hope with the majority of open-sen games played behind closed doors. With most fielding position filled, it's been mainly an audition for the starting rotation with quite a few different names milling around. I plan to make a post regarding the outlooks for the rotation in the coming week or so in a lead up to the new opening day as well as some other notes about the team and fringe players we might see in the team.

For the time being I hope this tides some over. I do apologise for the long absence and while I can't guarantee any regularity, I still want to be one of your first stops for Dragons news in English.