Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August: News and Musings

Hi all, time for an update of sorts with a bit of news about what's going on.

First of all the talking point:

  • FA Risks; who's staying and who's going?
  • Manager search update
  • The good, the bad and the fugly - Results and Records
  • 2016 Draft Information and possible targets
FA News

Alright, well, I'll start off with what I've heard regarding possible free agent moves. First of all, Yohei Oshima, probably our best bat this year (averaging around .300) has elected to browse the market. He is eligible for domestic free agency this year and has taken his right to do so. However it is worth noting that just because he has elected to be a free agent doesn't mean he won't resign with Chunichi. I think it would be an absolute travesty to lose him particularly after the season he's having and we really have no one else in the organisation notable enough to fill in for his offensive and defensive production. He steals bases, hits for average and has one the Golden Glove for center-field 2 years in a row. The other outfield options in the organisation don't fill me with confidence. Shota Tomonaga would be a like for like replacement, but he's just a speedster with bang average numbers on the farm. We might see a stop-gap replacement of some sort in the future if he leaves. 

The other major piece at risk this year is Ryosuke Hirata, el captiano. While he's had a pretty rough year with injuries and being moved up down and sideways through the line-up (he's batted at pretty much every spot from 3-7 at some point) hasn't helped things at all. At the start of the season he was well on track for around ..280 and 20 homers, but his production has really slowed up of late. That however doesn't change the fact that he is still a very good player and very important to the Dragons. The poor season we're having and the mismanagement of Tanishige might well sway him to look elsewhere. He hasn't as yet elected for free agency but the team would take a massive hit if he left. I said our outfield options aren't hot and there's no one that can replace what Hirata offers. I wouldn't be surprised if someone like the Giants was hovering around waiting for him. I honestly believe that if we lost Hirata, morale would completely nose dive. We need to keep him. 

Otherwise some of the veterans are available as international FAs this year with Araki, Morino and Iwase open to sign for teams overseas. Given the stature of all of them as club legends though they won't be going anywhere and they're already being reported to be making moves to remain for next season. 


The future of our foreign legion however is much more uncertain as the 7 players on the books may well be culled quite significantly. The good new however is that Viciedo has signaled that he wants to stay in Japan and play with us so he appears to be undergoing contract negotiations with a view to stay. I am very happy with that. His production has been off the second half of the season, but so has the whole team. 

Undecided/Should Stay

While I have not hear solid new about the others, Raul Valdes has mentioned a desire to stay and I can't see why not given he's been fairly solid this year despite his age. Ricardo Nanita had a blistering start to the season only to get injured (not unlike last year) and I suppose there are possibly doubts over whether he'll stay given that injury history, his age, and the emergence of Hiroki Kondo. Jordan Norberto is probably the only other of the group that deserves to stay based on his performances so far and I personally hope we hold on to him.

Probably Gone 

Drew Naylor, Juan Jaime and Leyson Septimo I would think would be on the way out. I really don't want Drew to leave as he shows a real desire to play well at this level. He's shown a desire to adapt to the Japanese way of playing/coaching and I would hope they'd keep him on even as a relief option. Jaime has been a victim of a season ending injury at the beginning of the season and we've barely seen any of him. Septimo had one start and hasn't been seen since so it's likely he'll get the chop too. Anderson Hernandez always seems to do something for the team and his willingness to drop in and out of the firsts freely is quite an asset but given the local options we have for middle infield spots (Endo, Donoue, Kamezawa, Araki, et al), I can see him possibly leaving. 

I am yet to hear about us moving for any FA players from other teams, but I have heard we will be looking at the market. The weirdest rumour I have heard however is that we are in for Hawks outfielder Ryuma Kidokoro who, despite his career .200 average, was the MVP of the interleague series hitting .415.

Manager Search Update

There's really not much to add but the noise is still Michihiro Ogasawara, our farm team coach. He's got the credentials really and the owner seems to like him. I can't see the management thinking outside the box for this one and I completely believe he'll get the job. The farm team are second in the Western League at the moment and Ogasawara has done well with his charges. Whether or not that will translate to the big leagues is another thing entirely. I personally think he'll be a good coach but whether or not he'll get the support he needs is another thing entirely.

The good, the bad and the fugly - Results and Records

We suck. Currently we're the whipping boys of the NPB and we don't even look like upsetting anyone. Mori has not done anything that Tanishige couldn't have done and we're just seeing so much crap it's ridiculous. Mori even had Shuhei at 2nd base for some reason in the past few games and that makes about as much sense as eating 5 bars of chocolate a day to stay in shape. Viciedo has been out injured which has not helped things but the batting line-up is just woeful. We recently went on a 15 game run of scoring 3 runs or less. The worst in 48 years. For real. Our bats don't produce frequently enough. 

Also to add to all the doom and gloom, our number one pitching prospect, Shinnosuke Ogasawara is 0-5 this year which is the second worst high school rookie year in NPB history and the absolute worst in the Central League. He has not pitched badly at all. He should be more around 3-2 or so. The batting line-up has not helped him in any of his games and two of the occasions he looked like getting a win (on his debut and then the following game) the bullpen didn't hold on for him. Fukutani gave up 4 runs in relief on Ogasawara's debut and Tajima gave up an equalising run against..someone I can't quite remember in the 9th inning to rob him of his win. I feel sorry for the lad. He's really improved a lot. He's putting his secondary stuff in the zone a lot more often now and his most recent start was a fantastic 8 strikeouts in 7 innings where he only conceded 3 hits including a 2-run homer. Makes me sick that this team can't help a young guy out. 

For the good thing however, we have actually had two good wins in the last two games. While we lost the series against the rampant Carp on the weekend, Naomichi Donoue struck his first career grand-slam in the third game to give us the win. Shota Sugiyama then went on to get his first career slam against the Tigers yesterday against an errant Shintaro Fujinami. 2 grand slam games in a row is a first for the Dragons in 10 years. Donoue was also on fire against the Tigers as he hit 4 to contribute to the team's win. 

Kazuki Yoshimi also strung together two wins in a row recently which is the first for him in a while too which is good to see. 

2016 Draft Information and possible targets

Well, unless you follow university/high school/industrial league baseball you're probably not going to have heard of either of these guys, but that's why I'm here.

Meiji University stater, Yuya Yanagi has been suggested by Chunichi Sports as the number one target for the Dragons at the draft.  He's a former graduate of lauded Yokohama Senior High baseball club (where Nobumasa Fukuda among others is an alum of) and was the team ace at the Spring Koshien in 2012 where he pitched 26.1 innings in 3 games taking 22 strikeouts for a 1.72 ERA. 

He's been posting good numbers in the Big6 University League in Tokyo. He posted 5-2 from 60 innings with 73 strikeouts for a 1.95 ERA (2nd best in the league) in fall last year and he has posted an even more impressive 6-1 from 72 innings with 87 strikeouts for a 0.87 ERA in the spring league this year. He was selected in the Best 9 for both league seasons

He has played for the Japanese national university team and took an astonishing 8 straight Ks against the US in a 1-0 shut-out win. 

He can throw a 150 km/h fastball, slider, a killer curveball, change-up, two-seamer and a cutter. A pretty diverse arsenal. 

We desperately need better starters and Yanagi could provide that but he is apparently being chased by Rakuten and the Giants as well as apparently 10 Major League teams if you can believe it. Although, I must admit, given our batting woes a good solid hitter wouldn't go amiss either....

The other target that has been mentioned is someone that is probably going to be the most sought after pitcher in the draft for a long while. Soka University's Seigi Tanaka. I've heard some reports that as many as...well...all of the teams are interested in having him. He may well be the most sought after player at the draft since Hideo Nomo. 

He played his high school ball with Soka Senior High but his team didn't make it as far as Koshien. He has however been tearing through the university leagues in both the fall and spring leagues last year, he posted 6-0 with an era of 0.40 and 0.00 respectively. No one can hit this guy and he strikes out just over one batter per inning on average. He also took part in the Haarlem Baseball Week with the Japanese national university team and ended up with 16 wins from 22 games for a 0.47 ERA including striking out 11 in 9 innings for one run in the semi-finals. 

His biggest weapon is his 154 km/h fastball which, well, is fast. He regularly clocks speeds around over the 150 mark and his strikeout numbers speak for themselves. 72% of his pitches in the Haarlem tournament were straight deliveries. He also has a slider, fork, curve and a cutter in his kit bag that appear to be used sparingly. He's a big lad at 186cm and 90km, but the extra weight helps with his power.

I don't like our chances of snagging Tanaka, we never do well in the contested lotteries, but we might get Yanagi if we go in for him from the off. Have a feeling that Yanagi might be the better fit for the team.

Anyway that'll be all from me for now. Just thought I'd throw a bit of news out there and do a bit of research on my won. Already looking forward to the post-season! 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Pause in Activities; Manager discussion

Dear Readers,

I feel as though the only reason I post these days is to post apologies but I'm afraid this is another one and hopefully will put an end to a lot of things I left up in the air previously.

As I cannot put in the same effort and quality into my match reports, I will not be posting any more for the rest of the season. The writing of the reports I can do, but the spicing up of them ie, the gifs (which I feel sets me apart from some other bloggers) is something that takes a lot more time and something I can't do anymore with my current life priorities.

Unless the Dragons somehow make it to the playoffs (HAH!) I will not be doing specific match reports. I will reassess next year as to whether or not I can provide better coverage in future. I still want to keep this blog going and I want to bring my passion for the Dragons to you as much as I can.

All I can promise you at the moment is that I may post the odd update regarding pertinent news to the team or if I just want to get something out there. I can promise I will cover the 2016 draft and I will write reports on the new players that we sign.

In the meantime I will still be semi-active on twitter and I will still be updating articles on Wikipedia as much as I can.

My most recent Wikipedia articles are this list of Chunichi managers (took me about a week to complete) and I have also taken it upon myself to start some pages in English on the draft. I have so far only done 2015 and 2014 but will get through more as time passes. I do my best to update the player pages when they pass certain milestones or whatever, but that's generally only to pages that  I've already cleaned up a fair bit. I have also started some templates for Chunichi Draft picks as well which you can see at the bottom of 2014/2015 draft pick player pages. It's a facet on the Japanese Wikipedia that I thought was a good touch.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. Match reports are beyond me but I'll do a season wrap and put up anything I think is interesting.

While I'm here I may as well talk about the major news out of the Dragons camp that is the "resting" of Motonobu Tanishige, our manager. After a slew of well...average results the Chunichi chairman has axed our long serving catcher as manager with the end of the season somewhat in sight. Our head coach, Shigekazu Mori has taken over as interim manager. From what I've seen since Shige's axing, we've been worse without him. The Swallows and the Tigers have been taking the piss out of us and I wouldn't be surprised if Tanishige's dismissal has deflated moral in the club. I never understand mid-season axings. We have nothing to lose and Mori is by no means going to be a better manager. Would have made more sense to axe him at the end of the year but maybe that's just me. I feel sorry for him but that's baseball. According to this article I found however, it may be that his use-by date was cut short due to, ahem, differences with the general manager, Hiromitsu Ochiai. (What a surprise!)

The hunt for a successor is going to be an interesting one though and not one that I can predict. A lot of fans are going to be shouting out to bring in Mr Dragons, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami who has been interested in managing since his retirement in 2009. The door is open now and maybe a few years on the sidelines watching the game might have been good for him. There is a bit of controversy surrounding Tatsunami though as there have been whispers, and I do say only whispers, of him being involved in a drug scandal with Kazuhiro Kiyohara who was arrested this year. That might be enough, whether evidence is founded or not, for the Dragons to give him a miss.

The other choices out in the ether are a lot less clear for me. I think given Michihiro Ogasawara's management of the 2nd team, there might be an opening for him. I think he'd be a good choice and would bring a good personality to the coaching staff. It might still be a bit early for him though although it seems the job is his to lose according to this article. Of the recently retired, Kazuhiro Wada, Masashi Yamamoto and Kenshin Kawakami all ring bells as possibilities but the former two seem relatively happy with punditry (and don't seem like managerial types to me) and Kawakami had a bit of an acrimonious end to his Chunichi career so there might be some bad blood between him and management (most likely between him an Ochiai).

I'm essentially clueless as to who will step in. It might be one of the current staff members, it might be someone that decided to retire this season (Morino? Yamai?) but hopefully whoever it is will give this team a kick up the bum, bring in some good players in the draft and get the Dragons back on course to being contenders. Ochiai is in charge of a 3 man team to find a new manager and that means probably someone he likes (ruling out Tatsunami and Kawakami).

The Dragons are currently sitting in last place and the only thing we can really be happy about is that we'll get out automatic first pick in the draft at the end of the season. Let's just hope it's not another Ochiai special like Ryosuke Nomura. Ugh.

That'll about do me for now, but as I say, I will update periodically but I will no longer be doing match reports as I can't balance the workload at this particular point in my life.

Thanks for your understanding.