Monday, February 29, 2016

NPB 101: How to read a Japanese baseball lineup card

This is not chicken scratch. There's a way to read this

With the 2016 season upon us, I figure I can give a simple guide on how to see a lineup card so it can become easier for you.

There are some basic things to understand before we go into looking at one. Here are some notes:

-Foreign players names are in Katakana while domestic players are in Kanji. The Kanji derives from Chinese.  Essentially, when you have a foreign name, you can use the alphabet in Katakana and make a new word in Japanese. This means your surname could be pronounced with a Japanese accent.

-Pitchers bat in the Central League while the Pacific League has a designated hitter. Like MLB interleague games, the home team decides which rules occur when the Pacific takes on the Central.

-Lineups are usually announced 35 minutes before a game. That's the exact deadline for managers to submit their cards to the umpire.

-There is a Twitter account for each team that presumably tweets the live score/lineups/and boxscores in image form. (Other accounts include Baseball King) You can follow an account for your team.

Chunichi Dragons

Orix Buffaloes

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Chiba Lotte Marines

Yomiuri Giants

Saitama Seibu Lions

Hiroshima Toyo Carp

Tokyo Yakult Swallows

Yokohama DeNA Baystars

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

Hanshin Tigers

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The Lineup:


First thing to note in this example is how the team name is on the left with 西武 (Seibu) in this case.  Obviously it helps to see "Lions" on the top.

The numbers of course from left to right represent the batting order (while the pitcher of course is listed afterwards for a Pacific League team).

The Red and Blue lines below the numbers represent if the player is left handed or right handed.

Red - Right handed batter.

Blue - Left handed batter

Red / Blue - Switch hitter

Below that is the Kanji (abbreviated) for each position the player is for the game while in the field.

Here are the Kanji for each position:

- First Base / Ichi

- Second Base / Ni

- Third Base  / San (Not pronounced like San Jose, but Sahn)

(These should be self explanatory I hope.  That's also how to say 1-2-3 in Japanese)

- Designated Hitter. This kanji has multiple meanings including "finger" / Yubi. In this case, it's short for 指定 / Shitei which means to designate/assign.

- Right Fielder. The kanji obviously means "Right" in a directional meaning, which is pronounced as Migi. 

- Center Fielder. The 中 kanji has a lot of meanings, but in this case it refers to the center or Chushin. It can also mean Naka which is where we see plenty of names containing this kanji.

- Left Fielder.  Like right, Hidari is how to say "left" in Japanese. Pronounce Hidari like Hidodi.

- Catcher. This kanji is abbreviated for 捕手 / Hoshu, which means "catching arm". In Japanese, they can also say "catcher" in Japanese with キャッチャー in Katakana.  It's pronounced as catcha. 

- Shortstop. It's an abbreviation for 遊撃手 / Yūgekishu, which literally translates into "playing shooting arm."

- Pitcher. Once again, the kanji is abbreviated for 投手 / Toshu. "投" can mean to throw, or toss away while "手" can mean hand/arm. So it's a literally translation of throwing/pitching arm. It's possible you can also hear ピッチャー / Pitcha said by announcers.

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Reading the names:  

This part can become tricky, but here is the best way to shortcut this. You can always use Google Translate, but the NPB website has the roster listings in Japanese and also in English. In this case, take a look at the Lions pages listed below:



You'll notice immediately that the Japanese page is by position, then numerical order while the English version is done by position, then alphabetical order by romanized surname.  The last name is also listed before the first name in Japanese. 

Matching the numbers is the instant way to do this. See the jersey number listed on the left. After some studying and repetition of seeing the same names over and over, this becomes easy over time.  

For the following, we can conclude the lineup is as follows: 

1. CF Shogo Akiyama

2. 3B Naoto Watanabe

3. 2B Hideto Asamura

4. DH Takeya Nakamura

5. 1B Ernesto Mejia

6. LF Takumi Kuriyama

7. RF Tomoya Mori

8. C Ginjiro Sumitani

9. SS Yuji Kaneko

P. RHP Ken Togame

Now when we tweet, that's too many characters to fit into the 140 limit.  We will abbreviate it by listing the order, then using positional numbers just like a baseball boxscore. Here's the guide for those who aren't used to the numerical positions

When we tweet the lineup on our @GraveyardBall account, it will look like this. 

8 Akiyama

5 Watanabe

4 Asamura

DH Nakamura

3 Mejia

7 Kuriyama

9 Mori

2 Sumitani

6 Kaneko

(P or 1) Togame

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As a bonus using the method above, I can also write the Chunichi Dragons lineup (from the top of this post). Using their English and Japanese roster pages, I can conclude the following:

1. CF Yohei Oshima

2. SS Naomichi Donoue

3. 3B Shuhei Takahashi

4. 1B Dayan Viciedo

5. RF Ricardo Nanita

6. 2B Tetsuya Tani

7. LF Nobumasa Fukuda

8. C Shota Sugiyama

9. P Drew Naylor

So to type this lineup on Twitter it would look like this:

8 Oshima

6 Donoue

5 Takahashi

3 Viciedo

9 Nanita

4 Tani

7 Fukuda

2 Sugiyama

1 Naylor

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So there you have it.  You can now read Japanese without having major expertise on the language when looking at a lineup card. It will take some practice and memorization, but after awhile, you'll get used to it.  

Enjoy your baseball!

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions coaching outlook: Is this the end for Norio Tanabe?

Is Tanabe a bridge or on the hot seat?
The 2016 season for NPB season will begin at the end of March, but the big picture suddenly draws question marks for what happens to the Saitama Seibu Lions manager after the year is over.

In the offseason, the Lions added three coaches to their staff. Hideki Hashigami is the new strategy and tactics coach, where he previously worked with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2005-2009 and in 2015 as well as the Yomiuri Giants from 2012-2014. He also worked with the national team in 2013 for the World Baseball Classic.

Masanori Taguchi is the new battery coach while Tomoaki Sato will be in charge of outfield defense and base running. Sato will presumably be the first base coach while Hiroshi Narahara will remain at third base.

Hisanori Yokota, the team's pitching coach in 2015, will be the manager for the farm team at the ni-gun level. However, the biggest change is Tetsuya Shiozaki being promoted from farm manager to pitching coach and "Head coach" (which is an equivalent to bench coach in MLB terms).

This is only speculation, but putting the pieces together gives us the feeling that 2016 could be the end for Norio Tanabe as the head manager. According to Jim Allen of Kyodo News, Shiozaki was supposed to be the successor to Hisanobu Watanabe (Nabe-Q) after 2013 where the latter stepped down. Nabe-Q currently works in the front office as a senior adviser. 

Lions general manager Haruhiko Suzuki might have disagreed with having Shiozaki as the skipper and made the selection to put Haruki Ihara to be the manager for 2014. Ihara failed miserably and resigned in the middle of 2014, where Tanabe took over as the interim manager. Nabe-Q had no say in the hiring of Ihara.

Tanabe led the Lions to a 69-69-5 record which was short of the postseason and fourth place in the Pacific League. Despite the shortcoming in the second half, they signed a one year deal through the 2016 season. The biggest key in all of this is that Tanabe is in a contract year, meaning he's only guaranteed to manage the team this season.

In historical trend, Ihara was once a stop gap manager for the Lions from 2002-2003. He led the team to a 2002 Pacific League pennant which resulted in a sweeping loss to the Giants. In 2003, the Lions came in second place wit a 77-61-2 record, 5.5 games behind the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks which was short of the postseason. (The Climax Series didn't begin until 2004).

Those two years were grooming seasons for longtime catcher Tsutomu Ito, who became the manager in 2004 and it was the plan all along. Ito would lead the Lions to their first Japan Series championship since 1992 which included a crucial elimination Game 5 win in Fukuoka. Today, Ito is the manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Nabe-Q could have more power to get "his guy" in Shiozaki as manager in 2017, no matter how the 2016 Lions finish under Tanabe. Suzuki could give in and for the long run, Shiozaki appears to be the man after this year. He should know plenty of the farm players from his experience as ni-gun while this year watching as the second in command for the Lions dugout.

Tanabe's back is against the wall. He most likely knows he needs to win now or else he is replaced with Shiozaki waiting in the wings. Tanabe cannot be "fired" because his contract expires after the season, but he would be let go at no extra cost. While this theory in Shiozaki being the one next in line is just speculation, there's too much evidence which draws us to this conclusion after his promotion to head coach.

What we do know is, the managerial position is uncertain for 2017 and that Tanabe will be in charge on Opening Day. This could very well be an all-or-nothing season for Tanabe to make a lasting impression as a manager in his career.

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Position Outlook Series: 

Catcher

Outfielder

Bullpen

Infield

Starting Rotation 

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Seibu Lions 2016 Position Outlook: Bullpen


The Saitama Seibu Lions bullpen was one of the problems in 2015. Their only strength was on the back end relying on three individuals.  This year hopes to be a different outcome with some additions.

Locks: 

Tatsushi Masuda: Masuda was the best bullpen arm of the Lions and it reflected in his FIP, where he doesn't walk guys, but strikes them out instead. It was only until the last months of the season where he became overworked due to the limited options in the bullpen. He should remain the setup man for 2016.

Shota Takekuma: Takekuma was mostly a lefty specialist, but was capable of coming in for the seventh inning if needed. He was the only reliable middle reliever who could take an inning before the eighth. It's possible that he's a rotation candidate.

Tomomi Takahashi: Takahashi was the closer for 2014 and 2015, but some ugly regression had him demoted in the middle of last season. There was no evidence he was playing through an injury, but there can always be speculation by how poor his velocity was in the second half. He is coming off a separate injury where he hurt his leg fielding a ground ball after a bad step.  Takahashi is penciled in to be the closer, but it's possible someone else can take over.

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The Imports: 

Esmerling Vasquez: Vasquez was the only foreign signing from 2015 to return for 2016. He appeared mostly in middle relief in medium leverage situations, but his control was shaky. The only positive is how he never gave up a home run.

C.C. Lee: Lee is the newcomer from the Cleveland Indians organization. It will be his first time playing professional baseball in Asia, as he spent time in the minor leagues for a majority of his career. Lee has a 3/4 deliver and is a possible closer candidate. His numbers have consistently involved strikeouts at any level of baseball.

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Spot starters/Long relievers:

Ryohei Fujiwara: Fujiwara had one appearance as a long reliever, but would only see a limited playing time. It's possible he can be seen in middle relief.

Ryoma Nogami: If the Lions don't like Nogami as a starter, he could easily come to the bullpen to fix the depth. Last year, he was involved in split start with Chun-Lin Kuo out of the pen. There is a better chance they make him a starting pitcher to being the season. 

Yosuke Okamoto: Okamoto had a bad start to the year giving up home run after home run, but had a stronger second half where Norio Tanabe even played him during the seventh inning.  The Lions have had him appear for some spot starts if necessary last year.

Yasuo Sano: Sano was a second round draft pick in 2014 who appeared in one spot start last season in Hokkaido. He looks like a bullpen candidate, but with the ichi-gun they could have him for a spot start as another option.

Depth: 

Toshihiro Iwao: Iwao had some interesting FIP numbers due to his strikeout abilities, but had a lack of control to stay with the ichi-gun. While he didn't give up the long ball, he coughed up several gappers that were just short of the fences.

Kazuki Miyata: Miyata appeared in a handful of games last season, but mostly had low leverage innings. He earned a win against the Hanshin Tigers with a decent appearance in middle relief.

Kentaro Fukukura: Fukukura was a seventh round pick in 2013, but remained productive in ni-gun. The Lions brought him up for one low leverage appearance.

Atsushi Okamoto: Okamoto is a veteran who saw medium leverage playing time in the first half of 2015. The Lions kept him buried in ni-gun after interleague play.

Hirotaka Koishi: Koishi appeared out of the bullpen with the ichi-gun last year for a handful of games, but he is a starter while in ni-gun.

Takuya Toyoda: Toyoda appeared last year in only three games. He helped preserve a tie in Nagoya against the Chunichi Dragons during the 12th inning once.

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The Draft Busts: 

Yuta Nakazaki: Nakazaki was a first round pick out of high school in 2008. He has only appeared in seven games at the ichi-gun level in 2013.

Tatsuya Oishi: Oishi was highly touted in 2010, but has struggled after injury and has only seen time in the bullpen at the first team level. He appeared in 2015 with three scoreless innings in low leverage.

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The Farm: 

Yusuke Tamamura: Tamamura was a fourth round pick out of high school in 2014.

Takayuki Yamaguchi: Yamaguchi was a fifth round draft pick in 2013.

Shogo Noda: Noda was a third round pick in 2015 out of the industrial league.

Seiji Kawagoe: Kawagoe was a second round pick in 2015. Hisanobu Watanabe said he is a setup candidate for the long term.

Tadasuke Minamikawa: Minamikawa was the fifth round draft pick in 2015.

Tsubasa Kokuba: Kokuba was the Lions' eighth round draft pick in 2015.

Naoaki Matsumoto: Matsumoto was the 10th round draft pick in 2015 out of the independent Shikoku Island League.

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Verdict: 

We expect C.C. Lee to get the nod over Esmerling Vasquez for the last foreign roster spot on opening day. With Kuo, Ernesto Mejia and Andy Van Hekken locked to be on the roster, this is the only spot left among the imports.  This unit hopefully has more depth with some immediate contributions from Noda and Minamikawa with the ichi-gun.

It's possible that moving a few starters to the bullpen can make it easier in middle relief, as the team was too dependent on Takahashi, Masuda and Takekuma to get the job done last year. The closer position will need to be established, because closer by committee is rather a nightmare, which is what was forced to happen in 2015. If the closer can stay in position and the middle relief shows improvement, it will go a long way to a possible playoff spot for 2016.

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Other positions in the series: 

Catcher

Outfielder

Infield

Starting Rotation 

Manager Norio Tanabe

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 Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Seibu Lions 2016 Position Outlook: Infield

How often will we see Okawari-kun in the field?
The Saitama Seibu Lions infield will have some minor changes with the recent loss of Ryota Wakiya in free agency. However, they will have more depth through some recent changes.

Locks: 

3B Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura: After coming off a great 2015 season, the Lions are expected to reduce his time in the field and have him as a designated hitter in 2016. His track record shows that he has yet to play there consecutive seasons of at least 100 seasons in his career. Based on trends, he would have a significant injury this season, which is something the team doesn't want.

2B Hideto Asamura: The starting 2B should still be playing, but there are question marks if he can put it together for a full season. He may never repeat his 2013 season, but last year saw a good first half followed up by a dismal second half.

1B Ernesto Mejia: Mejia is the second-highest paid player on the team behind Okawari-kun. Despite having a "down" year hovering around the .220 mark for much of it, the Lions still rewarded him with a raise to bring him back for 2016. He still amassed 27 home runs and fans hope he can have a better rebound season compared to the frequent ground balls last year.

SS Yuji Kaneko: Kaneko started a good number of games at SS, but a conditioning problem sidelined him for most of the second half. At minimum, he should be on the ichi-gun, but no guaranteed everyday starter.

SS Shota Tonosaki: Tonosaki made his ichi-gun debut in his rookie season last year. They gave him an extended look at SS, but now he will be the 3B behind Okawari-kun. He has good speed, but his bat is still a question mark.

Depth: 

Yuji Onizaki: Onizaki is mostly a shortstop there for defense. His bat is poor, but can make great plays in the field.

Naoto Watanabe: The Lions put Watanabe in ni-gun camp, but he is the most versatile veteran among the infielders. He can at any position if needed and provide a respectable bat as well as glove in a reserve role.

Shogo Kimura: Kimura is the newest Lion, where the team secured him after a tryout. He's capable of playing all over the infield if needed, but could spend more time at SS due to the lack of a bat. Kimura can hit for a better average, but defense is nothing spectacular.

Hotaka Yamakawa: Yamakawa was a second round draft pick in 2013. After spending two years in ni-gun, the Lions feel he could be ready for more time with the ichi-gun. He was a former teammate of Shinzaburo Tawata at the college level and is capable of playing 3B and 1B. Most likely he will see time at 1B if they want to give Ernesto Mejia a day off. It's possible that he could be a defensive substitute. With Yamakawa being recently injured, it's unsure how long he is out.

Kyohei Nagae: Nagae is a defensive specialist who comes in for the late innings. He's solid defensively at SS, but doesn't have the bat to be an everyday player. With Kimura on the ichi-gun, he could be buried down in ni-gun for 2016.

Daichi Mizuguchi: Mizuguchi was a former ikusei draft pick who earned a promotion to the 70-man roster in the middle of 2015 for hitting above .300 in ni-gun. He has been pegged as a reserve 2B with speed, but most likely will spend the year in ni-gun.

The Farm: 

Kazuki Kaneko: Kaneko was a fourth round draft pick in 2013.

Haruka Yamada: Yamada was the Lions' fifth round draft pick in 2014.

Nien Ting Wu: Wu was drafted in the 7th round in 2015. He was born in Taiwan, but went to school in Japan, meaning he will not count as a foreign player when he is on the 28-man active roster.

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Verdict:

The Lions lost Wakiya in free agency, but picked up Kimura to the roster. They were able to expand themselves at the SS position with another option, but does that mean Watanabe gets bumped down to ni-gun? Defense at shortstop should not be a problem and it becomes flex position.

Tonosaki will be learning on the fly in the field, as he saw time at SS last year in the second half. It's possible he gets eased into 3B when Okawari-kun is playing DH. There are more pinch hit options on the bench while Nagae and Yamakawa provide depth. I don't see Mizuguchi playing much unless there's an injury to Asamura.

Can Mejia and Asamura have good seasons for the full year? Or do they become only good for half a season, bringing the team down? Okawari-kun was healthy last season, which was a rare exception. Kimura should be plugged in at 3B or even 1B as he can play multiple spots on the infield.

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Other positions in the series: 

Starting Rotation

Bullpen


Outfield

Catcher

Manager Norio Tanabe

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall


Friday, February 19, 2016

Yusei Kikuchi Named the Lions Opening Day Starter


Saitama Seibu Lions manager, Norio Tanabe announced that their 24-year old lefty will be starting the first game of the season on March 25th against the Orix Buffaloes.

This is the first time that the former high school star will garner the honor of being the Lions opening day starter. Last year, Takayuki Kishi was scheduled to start on opening day, but an abdomen injury gave the honor to Kazuhisa Makita which turned into a 1-0 victory at Seibu Prince Dome.

At times, Kikuchi was the Lions best starting pitcher and he finished the year posting an ERA of 2.84.  His revised FIP (more on that in a future post), was a 2.93 (with the older constant showing a 3.07), indicating that there will only be more success in Kikuchi's future. Those numbers were second among Lions starting pitchers, with only Takayuki Kishi placing better with 22.2 fewer innings.

Kikuchi also led Lions starters in K/9 with 8.3 and finished second to Kishi in K/BB with 2.22. His walk rate did spike up a little bit (3.7), but without a doubt, Kikuchi's performance last year (presumably combined with his performance in camp) has earned him the role of being the opening day starter. His velocity was hitting a max of 154 KM/H (95 mph) on the radar gun.  

When drafted, Kikuchi was considered to be a phenom out of high school and expected to help any team who would land him. Hisanobu Watanabe (Nabe-Q) won the 6-way draw for his rights at the 2009 NPB Draft with the hope he would be the next great pitcher. The video below shows the moment Kikuchi was selected and later drafted by the Lions after Nabe-Q pulled out the winning ticket after drawing first. 




Kikuchi will be quite important for the Lions to have success in 2016. He has what it takes to be the Lions ace in the future, but one thing to look at is his workload as a whole. He hasn't thrown more than 139.2 IP  in a season and that number will need to get above 160 to supplant Kishi as the Lions No. 1 starter.

This will be the first time a left handed pitcher will start for the Lions on Opening Day since 1992. Kimiyasu Kudo, who was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and current Fukuoka Softbank Hawks manager was the last, per John Gibson. Here's a list of the Lions opening day starters since 2006.

2006-2007: Fumiya Nishiguchi
2008-2012: Hideaki Wakui
2013-2014: Takayuki Kishi
2015: Kazuhisa Makita

BEAST! (For 2016)

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ranking NPB's Four Man Cores for 2016

Tetsuto Yamada and Yuki Yanagita are the reigning MVPs. They also boost their team's core to the max.
There are some basic measures in looking at how a team is constructed and who's got the best talent. And one of those is naming a four man core for each team, based on a variety of factors, like upside, age, or simply who the best four players are for THIS particular season.

I'll note that I've stayed away from recently drafted players since they're still unknown. Just remember, just because I rank your team lower, doesn't mean I don't think they're good. Teams like the Chiba Lotte Marines get punished in rankings like these since they're a team built on its depth. I'm just ranking how each four player core ranks against the rest, plain and simple.

This exercise has known to be quite important when measuring a team's championship window and understanding what the team needs going forward.

 I'll give a few examples using MLB clubs to try and get the ball rolling.

The 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers:

SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Zack Greinke
CL Kenley Jansen
1B Adrian Gonzalez

The 2015 Kansas City Royals:

OF Alex Gordon
1B Eric Hosmer
3B Mike Moustakas
CL Wade Davis

Without further ado, here are my rankings with the players I believe fit into each team's core. I try not to put in relievers, unless they're extremely important to the team and really are off the charts. There's a few of those that make sense for a handful of NPB teams.

1. Tokyo Yakult Swallows

2B Tetsuto Yamada
3B Shingo Kawabata
SP Yasuhiro Ogawa
OF Wladimir "Coco" Balentien

2. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

CF Yuki Yanagita
3B Nobuhiro Matsuda
SP Shota Takeda
CL Dennis Sarfate

3. Saitama Seibu Lions

3B Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura
CF Shogo Akiyama
SP Takayuki Kishi
1B Ernesto Mejia

4. Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters

SP/DH/OF Shohei Otani
1B Sho Nakata
C/DH Kensuke Kondo
OF/2B Haruki Nishikawa

5. Yomiuri Giants

C/1B Shinnosuke Abe
SP Tomoyuki Sugano
SP Miles Mikolas
SS Hayato Sakamoto

6. Hanshin Tigers

SP Randy Messenger
SP Shintaro Fujinami
OF Kosuke Fukudome
SS Takashi Toritani

7. Hiroshima Toyo Carp

SP Kris Johnson
SP Hiroki Kuroda
2B Ryosuke Kikuchi
1B Brad Eldred

8. Chiba Lotte Marines

OF Ikuhiro Kiyota
SP Ayumu Ishikawa
CL Yuji Nishino
OF Katsuya Kakunaka

9. Orix Buffaloes

OF Yoshio Itoi
SP Yuki Nishi
SP Chihiro Kaneko
OF/1B Takahiro Okada

10. Chunichi Dragons

SP Yudai Ono
SP Shunta Wakamatsu
OF Ryosuke Hirata
OF Yohei Oshima

11. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
SP Takahiro Norimoto
CL Yuki Matsui
IF Ginji Akaminai
3B Toshiaki Imae

12. Yokohama DeNA Baystars
OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
OF Takayuki Kajitani
CL Yasuaki Yamasaki
1B Jose Lopez

So there you have it. This is where the debate begins. Let me start by addressing some of the surprises to the list. I have the Swallows ahead of the defending champions because of the possible upside of a healthy Wladimir Balentien. I could very well see him falling off a cliff with injuries, but until then, he's included in the four.

When I compare the two groups when it comes to their cores, I went with the Swallows. The Hawks are the better team, especially because of their depth, but they don't have the best core in NPB.

I may seem like a homer by putting the Lions at No. 3, but I believe that they have a core as good as anyone in the league and that's who their team is built around. Sure, they may not have the depth that other teams in the Pacific League have, but when comparing the four players alone with the rest, they deserve to be there.

The Fighters as a team to me are a bit overrated especially when you look at their run differential and the overall upside doesn't compare to the Lions with Akiyama as well as the possibility of a bounce back season from Ernesto Mejia.

For the Marines, they're a depth based-squad and don't have the top line talent to compete in this kind of exercise. I've found that the four man core is especially important for how far a team goes in the postseason, because in those games, depth plays down with the best players playing at all times and the bullpen playing smaller. The top line talent in the Central League lapped Chiba, as a result.

Let me know what I missed. Did I get any of the cores wrong? Am I overvaluing or undervaluing some teams? Let me know in the comments.

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Monday, February 15, 2016

Akiyama and Sumitani will be part of Samurai Japan in March exhibitions


Samurai Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo announced the roster for the two exhibitions which will occur before the 2016 NPB season on Monday. Shogo Akiyama and Ginjiro Sumitani are the Saitama Seibu Lions who are on the roster.

There will be two games on March 5 and 6 which will take place against Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). The game on March 5 at 19:00 JT will be in Nagoya Dome and the one on March 6 at 18:30 JT will be in the Osaka Dome.

Some basic rules will include a designated hitter and no pitch count limit. There will also be no extra innings and each game will end after nine innings regardless of the score.

Here is the full roster for Samurai Japan for the series (NPB teams in parentheses):

Pitchers: 

SP Yudai Ono (Chunichi)

SP Daichi Osera (Hiroshima)

UPDATE: Due to elbow issues, Osera will not be pitching for Samurai Japan.

SP Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri)

SP Yuki Nishi (Orix)

SP Yasuhiro Ogawa (Yakult)

SP Shota Takeda (Fukuoka)

RP Chiaki Tone (Yomiuri)

RP Ryo Akiyoshi (Yakult)

RP Yuito Mori (Softbank)

CL Hirotoshi Masui (Hokkaido)

CL Yasuaki Yamasaki (Yokohama)

CL Yuji Nishino (Chiba)

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Catchers: 

Ginjiro Sumitani (Seibu)


Motohiro Shima (Rakuten)

UPDATE: Shima is out with a bruised hand.

Yuhei Nakamura (Yakult)

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Infielders: 

SS Kenta Imamiya (Fukuoka)


3B Nobuhiro Matsuda (Fukuoka)

2B Ryosuke Kikuchi (Hiroshima)

3B Shingo Kawabata (Yakult)

UPDATE: Kawabata has withdrawn

1B/2B Ginji Akaminai (Rakuten)

SS Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri)

1B Sho Nakata (Hokkaido)

2B Tetsuto Yamada (Yakult)

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Outfielders: 

Shogo Akiyama (Seibu)


Ikuhiro Kiyota (Chiba)

Akira Nakamura (Fukuoka)

Ryosuke Hirata (Chunichi)

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama)

Takayuki Kajitani (Yokohama)

UPDATE: Kajitani was injured, a replacement was made with Yoshihiro Maru.

Yoshihiro Maru (Hiroshima)

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Notes: 

-Takashi Saito, remembered as a Baystar, Eagle and being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is one of the five coaches assisting Kokubo.


-There are no Hanshin Tigers on this team. Everyone else in NPB is represented with at least one player.

-Kokubo couldn't choose the best pitchers available, where players like Shohei Otani, Takahiro Norimoto and Shintaro Fujinami are not there. He claimed they were the "top players" at the moment as a way of covering things up.

-For anyone wondering what the Oendan songs are of these players, ベル TV uploaded a full songs complication showing what it sounds like when each player is at bat.  At 5:04, the Samurai Japan team has a special theme song called "Dream Park" which is a song often heard as an outro for broadcasts.  Lastly, there's a special chance song for Samurai Japan at 5:44 as well as a scoring song afterwards. 





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Seibu Lions 2016 Spring Training outlook: Starting Rotation

Can the Lions rotation be healthy with Takayuki Kishi?
Like every team, Saitama Seibu Lions starting rotation is a vital unit in order to have a successful season. In 2016, the team hopes to improve upon what they did last year, after falling apart in the second half.

Here is a look at the rotation candidates for the upcoming season:

Locks: 

Takayuki Kishi: Kishi is the ace without question for the Lions. Despite being injured for the first two months of the season, he still showed he is the best pitcher on the team. He also ended the season with an injury and hope to be healthy for 2016.

Andy Van Hekken: Van Hekken is a Holland, Michigan native (not the Netherlands or Holland the country) who is remembered for pitching a complete game as a Detroit Tigers September callup rookie in 2002. After bouncing around farm team organizations, his career took off in South Korea while in the KBO for the last four years. Van Hekken doesn't have the velocity, but looks like a solid control pitcher who can also field. As the Lions' most expensive pickup of the offseason, he should be pegged as the No. 3 starter.

Yusei Kikuchi: Kikuchi had a solid rebound year after recovering from an injury in 2014. Besides Kishi, he was the other reliable arm who could strike out batters. After Norio Tanabe said he wants 15 wins from Kikuchi, it's safe to say he will start in the rotation. Update: Yusei Kikuchi has been named the Opening Day Starter. 

Maybe?

The Lions were having several players come in for relief at the end of 2015. The rotation becomes uncertain after everyone collapsed at the end of the year. The players listed in this section should be playing, but we don't know if they will be starters or not. They also aren't guaranteed to be on the opening day roster. 

Kona Takahashi: Takahashi got his baptism of fire late in the 2015 season, but had some flashes of promise which included a complete game shutout against the Chiba Lotte Marines. He even won the Pacific League pitcher of the month for August. It's possible that he could start the season in ni-gun, but with the high first-round investment, he will play a significant number of games in 2016.

Ken Togame: Togame came in and won his first home game in nearly two years after spending the 2014 season injured. He was rewarded as an All Star for 2015, but fell off in the second half like the rest of the Lions pitchers. He particularly gave up a high number of home runs and while they were mostly solo in the first half, they became damaging in the second half of the year. Togame is currently in the ni-gun camp, but the former first-round draft pick should see time.

Chun-Lin Kuo: The young pitcher from Taiwan had a rough go-around in his first season playing in Japan. It was his first time playing baseball at the professional level, only appearing as an amateur during international competitions prior to 2015. Kuo should be in the rotation at the start of 2016, but projects as a back end starter with ground ball capabilities.

Kazuhisa Makita: Makita was the opening day starter in 2015 due to Kishi being hurt, but the bullpen collapse forced a decision to make him the closer, a role he once held in 2011. This move backfired and he saw time in the rotation again, but wasn't the same as a result. He began spring training camp with influenza and didn't make the trip to Miyazaki at first. It's possible they make him a bullpen candidate in the event they like someone else.

Ryoma Nogami: Nogami had a respectable first half, but couldn't close out once the second half began. The Lions had him in as a spot starter and long reliever by the time the season was over. He could be a decent No. 4 starter, but nothing spectacular. With his regression to the bullpen last year, it wouldn't be surprising if he remains in the bullpen.

Shinsaburo Tawata: Tawata is the Lions' first round draft pick from last fall. The team sees him as a starting pitcher and he could help right away. If there are question marks with the rotation, we could see his NPB debut earlier than expected.

Shota Takekuma: The Lions had Takekuma get an extended look in an intra-squad game. Being known as a lefty specialist last year, it's possible that he's a rotation candidate. Takekuma has eight career starts and has been with the team since 2008.

Isamu Sato: Sato was a draft pick from 2012 who spent his rookie season in ni-gun as a starting pitcher.

The Farm: 

Yasuo Sano: Sano was the first 2014 draft pick to make his ichi-gun debut last season as a spot starter for one game. A second-round draft pick, he received extra work in the winter in Australia's baseball league. It's unclear if the Lions view him as a starter long term or a reliever, but he did pickup starts in Australia.

Makoto Aiuchi: Aiuchi was also a second round draft pick and served a team suspension to remain in ni-gun for 2015 after some off the field troubles. He was a frequent starter in ni-gun. His jersey name is registered by his first name as "Makoto" and unfortunately he recently was sent to the ni-gun camp after an elbow injury. 

Keisuke Honda: Honda is more famous for sharing the same name of a soccer player on the National team, as well as AC Milan at the club soccer level. The Lions view their 2015 sixth-round draft pick as a long term starter candidate.

Koki Fujita: Fujita was drafted out of high school in the ninth round last fall. He is another long term starting pitcher waiting in the wings.

Hirotaka Koishi: Koishi has been a starter in ni-gun, but only seen time with the ichi-gun in relief.

Projection: 

From looking at who is available vs. who can be a starter, anything can happen. Here's how I predict the rotation vs. what I want to happen:

Prediction: Kishi, Makita, Kikuchi, Van Hekken, Kona Takahashi, Kuo

Preference: Kishi, Kikuchi, Van Hekken, Kona Takahashi, Togame, Kuo

The one thing I believe in, is that for whomever struggles, Tawata will be waiting in the wings to take his place. It wouldn't be surprising if Tawata's NPB debut comes as early as late April barring no injuries. At the latest, he should be given his "baptism of fire" no later than June.

I would have a tight leash on Togame and Kuo if I was managing. It's possible that Kuo could be useful in middle relief as he showed flashes last year in that situation, but I think they're invested in him to be in the rotation.

Another preference is that I'd rather have Makita in the pen as the "bullpen ace". His submarine abilities could be good in middle relief, as long as he isn't closing to be a change of pace for opposing batters. I predict Makita is in the rotation solely under the belief of how their mound is build at Seibu Dome. Some pitchers complain that it's as hard as a rock and flat, but former Lion and current Softbank Hawk Dennis Sarfate said that it was built for Makita in an interview. With this in mind, he most likely goes to the rotation.

As a result of the Lions' draft class from last fall, the options are open for Tanabe to choose who he wants with more depth.

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Other positions in the series: 

Catcher

Bullpen

Outfielder

Infield

Manager Norio Tanabe

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Follow us on Twitter: @GraveyardBall 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Oakland A's/Seibu Lions Series: Hiram Bocachica



From bench player, to Japan Series hero.

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Tenures: 2005-2007 with the Oakland A's, 2008-2009 with the Seibu Lions

Statistics with the A's: 23 games, 55 PAs, .122/.200/.384 1 HR, 3 RBIs, -0.2 bWAR

Statistics with the Lions:

2008: 78 games, 279 PAs, .251/.344/.556 20 HRs, 47 RBIs

2009: 75 games, 236 PAs, .215/.342/.467 13 HRs, 32 RBIs

The final profile in this series involves the last player to be a part of recent success with the Seibu Lions. Like many players in this series, Bocachica is yet another example of someone who had a lot of potential and hype going into his professional career, and unfortunately he never really lived up to it in MLB. Fortunately, the Seibu Lions were the team where he found success that allowed him to show flashes of the talent that MLB scouts gushed over during the process of the MLB Amateur Draft of 1994.

Hiram Bocachica was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he would attend a high school in Bayamon, the same city that fellow baseball players,  Yadier Molina and Felipe Lopez grew up in. As an accomplished amateur player, the Montreal Expos took him the in the first round of the 1994 Amateur Draft with the 21st overall pick. Bocachica signed with Scott Boras as his agent, at a time when Boras wasn't as well known as he is now. Shockingly, Bocachica only took four days to sign with the Expos, which is something we're not accustomed to seeing from any Boras client.

In Baseball America's top 100 prospect list, Bocachica was named the 65th best prospect in all of baseball. This list would include Bocachica for the next two years with him at ranked at #73 and #50, respectively. With his status as a top prospect, Bocachica would put up impressive base stealing numbers, but his power numbers would not show up until a few years later.

The Expos would attempt to cash in on Bocachica as they'd trade him to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with 1996 All-Star, Mark Grudzielanek. The Dodgers would send Jonny Tucker, Peter Bergeron, Wilton Guerrero, and a familiar name for A's fans, Ted Lilly. This deal took place at the 1998 Trade Deadline with the Dodgers looking to help build their chances of making the playoffs.

Bocachica would continue his minor league career and he'd finally show home run power for AA-San Antonio and AAA-Albuquerque. Because of this, he'd earn a September call-up to Los Angeles at the end of the 2000 season. He'd play in 8 games that season in a reserve role.

In 2001, Bocachica would make the Dodgers out of spring training, and he'd play as a bench player though the entire season, appearing in 75 games. He'd fail to expand beyond his role as a bench player, and in July of 2002, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later. That player ended up being Jason Frasor, who is now a veteran MLB reliever.

Bocachica would appear in 34 games for the 106-loss Tigers and it was becoming clear that the term "failed prospect," would surround him. As a 27-year old, Bocachica would spend the 2003 season in AAA-Toledo and would struggle to make his way back to Detroit. Following the 2003 season, Bocachica was granted free agency and he signed with the Seattle Mariners.

He'd split time in Tacoma-AAA and Seattle, playing mostly as a fourth outfielder whenever Ichiro Suzuki needed an off night. He'd spend one year in Seattle before signing with Oakland in the offseason after being released by the Mariners.

In 2005, injuries would limit him to only a few games in Oakland and Sacramento. In 2006, Bocachica had a huge Spring Training, but a bone growth in his hand didn't allow him to begin the season with the A's on the bench. He'd again play sparingly in Oakland, but he'd play well in Sacramento.

In 2007, Bocachica would hit his one and only home run in an Oakland A's uniform in a game on the South Side of Chicago which went off of Jon Garland. The A's would DFA Bocachica at the end of May and the San Diego Padres would claim him.

He'd play 27 games with the Padres and on July 17th, 2007, Bocachica would play his final game in the big leagues. He had one home run in his major league career as a member of the Padres. For a guy who only had 15 career MLB home runs, he had an impressive resumé among guys he homered off of. Bocachica homered off of Randy Johnson, Kirk Rueter, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana and Zack Greinke to name a few.

In the offseason, Bocachica would sign a one-year deal with the Seibu Lions, bringing his career to Japan. It was a time of great scandal for the Lions when Bocachica signed with them as a major scouting scandal saw them punished in the 2007 high school draft. The Lions had their first three picks taken from them, as the draft is in the fall after the regular season. They were also coming off a fifth-place finish from 2007.

Things in Japan would start off slow for Bocachica, and to start April, the Lions would send him to the farm team. He'd rejoin the ichi-gun during late-April and he'd provide a breakout game in this matchup against the Orix Buffaloes with two home runs.



Bocachica was already on a tremendous team with an impressive four man core of Hiroyuki Nakajima, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura, Takayuki Kishi, and Hideaki Wakui. There was even a speedster name Yasuyuki Kataoka who was a key member, along with Takumi Kuriyama. He found himself playing in the lower half of the order, but played extremely well for the rest of the season. The Lions would win the Pacific League Pennant by narrowly edging out the Orix Buffaloes by 2.5 games.

After a Yu Darvish-led Nippon Ham Fighters upset the Buffaloes in the first round, the Lions would square off against the defending Pacific League champions in the Climax Series. Bocachica didn't play very well in the series as he only had one hit and was benched for the final three games, but the Lions would defeat the Fighters in five games.

As the Lions would continue their formula of bludgeoning their opponents with the home run. The Lions would hit 7 homers in the series, a trend that very much followed what they did in the regular season when they hit 198 which was 47 more homers than the second place Buffaloes. The final out of the 2008 Pacific League Climax Series can be seen here.



The Lions would meet the Yomiuri Giants, who are known as the kings of Japanese Baseball in the Japan Series. It was a matchup that would have Lions fans hoping they could get some revenge for the four game sweep that the Giants gave them in the 2002 edition. While at the same time, bringing the franchise back to the Giant-slaying of the 80s and 90s, when the Lions defeated the Giants for the Japan Series on three occasions.

The series would go seven games, with the teams getting heated at some points. Most notably, when Giants gaijin starting pitcher, Seth Greisinger, hit Hiroyuki Nakajima's elbow which caused a bench clearing and a bit of scrum with Nakajima taking exception in Game 4. The very next at bat was the decisive blow when Okawari-kun hit a monster home run which would be his first of two on the day. The story that day would go to Takayuki Kishi who'd throw a 147-pitch complete game, shutout and would tie the series at two games apiece. Here's a video that chronicles that particular game. (The hitting incident and home run is at 4:17)



This game would provide a precursor to what would be the big story of the entire series and that would be the rubber arm of Takayuki Kishi. He'd come up big providing 5.2 IP of relief in game 6, to save the Lions and send them to game 7. Bocachica would play in games 1, 3, 6, and 7, and he'd help provide the happy ending to Kishi heroics in game number 7.

With the Giants ahead of the Lions 2-0, Bocachica would pull one back with a pinch hit, solo home run. It was a moment that he'd later describe as the best moment of his career.  This video contains Bocachica's home run (at 6:24) as well as commentary from television analyst, Katsuya Nomura on both Game 6 and Game 7.


The Lions would scratch out two runs in the 8th inning and then Alex Graman would shut the door with the 6 out save. The players would toss their manager, Hisanobu Watanabe, into the air in traditional fashion and then they'd do the banzai in front of their massive section of traveling fans. Here is the final out of the series.


For those who want to see the critical 8th inning where the Lions scored two and took the lead in broadcast form, here are the links in Part 1 and Part 2.  The following sequence happens as follows:

-Kataoka is hit by a pitch and steals second
-Takumi Kuriyama sacrifices Kataoka to 3B.
-Kataoka scores on a ground out by Nakajima to tie the game
-Okawari-kun walks on four pitches
-Kosuke Noda walks in six pitches and on a full count
-On full count with Okawari-kun running, Hiroshi Hirao singles up the middle (with a bat flip!) and the Lions take the lead. Hirao would also have a bases clearing double and solo HR in Game 6 where Kishi went 5.2 innings in relief.

Bocachica would play one more year with the Lions, but his numbers would see a sharp decline and that would spell the end of his time in Saitama. Bocachica would often be rumored to many different NPB teams, but instead, as a 34 year old, Bocachica would end up playing in Independent ball for the Bridgeport Bluefish. For the remainder of his career, he'd have stints with several Mexican League teams, before retiring after 2011 at the age of 35.

This concludes our series, I hope you all enjoyed it, hopefully it won't be too long before we have a new member of this list.

For more information on Hiram Bocachica. Here's a link to our friend's website, where Deanna Rubin interviewed him in 2008. This was his Oendan song in 2009.

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Other players in the series:



Roger Repoz

Jim Tyrone

Esteban German

Bert Campaneris 


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Follow us on Twitter: @GraveyardBall

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Seibu Lions 2016 Spring Training position outlook: Catcher

How often will Mori play as a catcher?
The Saitama Seibu Lions catcher position is all but set. However, there could be one significant change depending how games play out and decisions Norio Tanabe makes.

The Locks: 

Ginjiro Sumitani: The starting catcher has been a hole offensively, but is one of the best defensive catchers in NPB. Tanabe isn't scared to pinch hit for him in crunch time.

Masatoshi Okada: Okada got an extended look in August when Sumitani wasn't hitting and it worked well for his bat. He has above average defense, but nowhere near the level of what Sumitani brings. An injury after sliding into a base sidelined him for a month, but he could have been the starter for more games had he been healthy.

Tomoya Mori: This is where it gets interesting. Mori's natural position is being a catcher, but the Lions haven't played him there since 2014, his rookie season. He was originally the battery mate of Shintaro Fujinami, the Hanshin Tigers starting pitcher at Osaka Toin High School. If the Lions want to play Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura at the Designated Hitter position, Mori would have to go in the field if they want his bat.

The Lions have had Mori play catcher for a handful of games at the ni-gun level last year and he is listed with the other catchers on the depth chart. With him practicing as a catcher, we can presume they will start him there from now on. In Miyazaki's spring training camp, he is working with the other catchers. They can still insert him in right field if necessary.

===

The Farm: 

These players listed are essentially roster filler to stay in ni-gun. Only injuries will have them come up to the ichi-gun.

Takanori Hoshi: Hoshi is a veteran who was previously at the back of the depth chart of the Yomiuri Giants. Unfortunately, it looks like he will remain in ni-gun as the older catcher. He got some work in Australia with the Melbourne Aces being productive, but it won't be enough.

Tatsuyuki Uemoto: Uemoto has been a backup for most of his career, but saw significant playing time mostly in 2010. He only comes up most likely if there's an injury, like we saw with Okada last season.

Shota Nakata: Nakata has been with the team since 2008, but has only seen limited time in 2012 and 2015. He has 10 career games at the ichi-gun level, including eight appearances last season.

Komei Fujisawa: Fujisawa was a former ikusei draft pick promoted to the 70-man roster.

===

Verdict: 

The Lions' catcher situation shouldn't be a problem for 2016. The only issue and controversy is if Sumitani's hitting is so poor, that it draws a reaction from management to play someone else. It's still possible that the team is grooming Mori for the long term, as he is only 20 years old.

Defense shouldn't be an issue and we would expect Mori to be fine if they ever put him behind the plate this year. While we haven't seen him catch much, the Lions will want to play him for his dangerous bat as a weapon.

===

Other positions: 

Outfield

Bullpen

Rotation

Infield

Manager Norio Tanabe


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Follow us on Twitter @Graveyardball

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Oakland A's/Seibu Lions Series: Bert Campaneris



Bert "Campy" Campaneris was an Oakland A's legend, but his short time with the Seibu Lions ended with little fanfare.
==========

Tenures: 1964-1976 with the Kansas City/Oakland A's, 1987-1988 with the Seibu Lions (First and Third Base Coach)

Statistics with the A's: 1795 games, 7895 PAs, .262/.314/.348 70 HRs, 529 RBIs, 566 SBs, 48.9 bWAR

The Cuban-born shortstop has so many interesting tidbits in his long Major League career that it's really hard to find a starting point. I will say that Bert Campaneris deserves plenty of recognition for his role in the Swingin' A's dynasty of the early 70s. His defense, leadoff ability and clutch hits seemed to always show up when it was needed.

In my opinion, he's the greatest shortstop in Oakland A's history and it's not very close. Maybe not the most dominant, but when it comes to longevity and the full body of work, no one compares.

Born in Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba during the reign of the US-backed, Fulgencio Batista's reign as President of Cuba, not much is known about Campaneris until he was signed as an amateur free agent by the Kansas City A's in 1961 for the measly sum of $500. His birth name was Dagoberto (Blanco) Campaneris, which he shortened to Bert. Initially he was signed as a catcher, but was then moved to the infield early in his minor league career.

He advanced quickly through the minor leagues and after impressing for the Birmingham Barons, he was called up to Kansas City in 1964 at the age of 22. In his first game, he put himself into the record books with one of the greatest debuts in Major League history. He became the second player in MLB history to hit two home runs in a debut, joining Bob Nieman who accomplished the same feat 13 years before. Yasmani Grandal, J.P. Arencibia and Mark Quinn have joined Campy with this feat since then.

With that debut, he wouldn't play in the minors for almost 20 years. He'd feature regularly for the hapless Kansas City A's, being one of the few bright spots for an awful second division team. Campaneris took home the AL Stolen Base crown from 1965-1968, 1970, and 1972. He would also lead the circuit in hits in 1968 during the A's first season in Oakland.

Defensively, the errors category wouldn't be very kind to him, but judging on the other data that are available, Campaneris had tremendous range and since he could get to more balls, more errors were the result.

Adding to how bad the A's were in Kansas City, to try and find creative ways to boost attendance, one of those ways was a special promotion where Bert Campaneris played all 9 positions. He'd even pitch ambidextrously when he was on the mound. This was one of the many gimmicks during Charlie Finley's reign as owner of the A's. This gimmick was honored by Will Ferrell during Spring Training last year for a promotion known as "Ferrell Takes the Field."

Will Ferrell met with Bert Campaneris during the 2015 Spring Training in Arizona. 
As the A's started to get comfortable in Oakland, Campaneris was part of a hungry championship core along with Reggie Jackson, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Vida Blue, Sal Bando and Joe Rudi. In 1970, Campaneris would put in a 20/40 season with a career high total of 22 homers to go along with 42 stolen bases. At the age of 28, this was a career year for Campy and surprisingly, he'd still do a solid job of continuing to play well into his 30s.

The A's would win the West in 1971 and Earl Weaver's Orioles would dispatch them in a sweep of the ALCS that year. This would be the last playoff series the A's would lose for four years.

In 1972, the A's would win the World Series and Campaneris would find himself in a bit of controversy during the ALCS against the Tigers. In game 2, he'd throw a bat at Tigers' pitcher, Lerrin LaGrow. He'd be suspended for the rest of the series, but the A's would win the series in one of the hottest contested playoff series that I can recall.




The A's would repeat in 1973 and along the way, Bert Campaneris would provide a big part in their playoff run. In game two, Campy would hit a "Rickey Henderson" home run (a leadoff home run) that would set the tone for their first win of the series and then in game 3, he would hit the first postseason walk-off home run in A's franchise history. He'd hit it off fellow Cuban-born pitcher,  Mike Cuellar, I chronicled the game here in what I called the 11th greatest win in Oakland A's history.

For the 1973 World Series, Campy would provide one of the two big home runs in the A's clinching Game 7. The other being from Reggie Jackson and his bat toss celebration that was known to seal it. The A's would defeat Yogi Berra's Mets in 7 games, clinching a back to back streak.


That wouldn't be it for this A's team as in 1974, they'd do it again. Campy would provide the last great season of his career, as he'd finish with a bWAR of 5.3. The A's would dominate the Walter Alston led Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1974 World Series and they cemented themselves as a dynasty. This was the last great team of the days before the end of the reserve clause in 1975.

Campy would play two more seasons with the A's and he would be granted free agency after the 1976 season, where he signed with the Texas Rangers. He was an All-Star for the Rangers, but was traded mid-way through his second season with them as the California Angels were the ones who came calling. He'd play three seasons in Anaheim, before playing a season in the Mexican League.

Billy Martin wanted him to return to the Big Leagues and play for the Yankees in 1983, which would be his last season as a professional baseball player.

He wanted to coach in the Major Leagues, but no one gave him a chance. He landed a few minor league jobs and the Seibu Lions offered him a job to coach defense and base running with them in 1987.

Campaneris was one of many coaches on the Seibu Lions in 1987
Coming off of a Japan Series title, the New Breed Lions were in full force and Bert Campaneris added a Japan Series championship to his resumé with the team winning it all the following season.

Campaneris saw legends from the golden age for a year including Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Kimiyasu Kudo, George Vukovich and Koji Akiyama. Kiyohara, Akiyama and Vukovich combined for 86 home runs in that season.

It wasn't all good for Campy in Japan though. The very next year, he left in the middle of the season because of the way he felt he was treated. There is an indication that he was the only foreign coach in NPB during the 1987 season.

In the video below, this shows the clinching game of the 1987 Japan Series, where Campaneris celebrated with the team.


In Robert Whiting's book You Gotta Have Wa, Whiting seemed to allude that Campaneris was either trying to do things his way, or he wanted the players to get more rest, since the Lions practiced harder than any other NPB team.

SFGate asked him about the coaching gigs he was offered, and Campy mentioned how the Seibu Lions won the whole thing when he was there, nothing more was said. This mystery will have to be answered by those involved.

I was fortunate enough to meet Campaneris last season at A's Spring Training, it was a real thrill for me with all the great history that he was apart of. Everyone who has met with Campy have said how nice a guy he is. He's now in his 70s and living in Scottsdale, Arizona. When I asked him about his time in Japan he said he "really enjoyed it."

Baseball Reference's database has found that the best comparisons to Campaneris include Christian Guzman, Dave Concepcion, Luis Aparacio, and Willie Randolph to name a few.

Even with what seemed to have happened with the Lions, it's an honor that Campy has donned the uniforms of both the A's and Lions.

===


Roger Repoz

Jim Tyrone

Esteban German

Hiram Bocachica

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Follow us on Twitter @Graveyardball

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Translation: Seibu Lions rookies speak about rookie camp


The Saitama Seibu Lions held a special rookie camp for the month of January. All 10 draft picks were required to move into the team's dormitories, which was near Seibu II, the farm stadium of the Lions. Seibu II is next door to the Seibu Dome. 



Here were some early comments from the rookies on their experience from last month. The order goes from the first round draft pick (Tawata) to the 10th round pick (Matsumoto):

Two weeks have passed since you moved into the Seibu Lions dormitory, how have things been since the move? 

P Shinsaburo Tawata: "I'm getting used to this training and we get along with our elder coaches and players. Now I live a full life!"

P Seiji Kawagoe: "I've gotten quite used to the new surroundings and things are going well. I'd like to join training camp at this condition without injury."

P Shogo Noda: "I'm living a full life everyday and now I'm understanding baseball as the professional level. Soon, I'll move to the [ni-gun training camp] and I think I need to improve my body for the best condition possible."

OF Aito Otaki: "When watching our [veteran] players training, I began to notice their strengths. I've done new training techniques that I never did in high school. I'm still a high school student, so I have to build up my body. I will do my best to be an ichi-gun team member as soon as possible."

P Tadasuke Minamikawa: "[I'm two weeks in] to being a professional baseball player and I've adapted to these new surroundings. I'll continue to condition [my body] and will be ready to face [ni-gun camp]."

P Keisuke Honda: "Since gradually getting used to the training and the life in the dorm, I can feel more relaxed and lead a fulfilled life compared to Day 1."

IF Nien Ting Wu: "I'm more accustomed to these surroundings and training with a sense of fulfillment. Those feelings have given me with the [incentive] to do my best from now on."

P Tsubasa Kokuba: "I'm more and more getting used to this new environment and meeting our veteran players/coaches. Training camp begins soon and my professional baseball life has begun."

P Koki Fujita: "[This is] my first experience living in a dormitory and I'm being and more and more accustomed to it. For the first time, I could not sleep well. But now, I'm [doing fine]."

(Fujita was drafted straight out of high school, along with Otaki)

P Naoaki Matsumoto: "During these two weeks, I did what I could as far as training goes. As far as preparing for training camp, I've been working hard. So when I begin training camp, I will go along with the schedule well. I think that [taking care] of one's body is one of the most important [responsibilities] of the professional baseball players. Therefore I will master it."

A special thank you goes out to our friends known as "Maple Ash" and Mizuho Miyazaki for interpreting help. 

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Friday, February 5, 2016

Report: Seibu Lions sign Shogo Kimura

Photo Credit: Seibu Lions
The Saitama Seibu Lions announced they signed IF Shogo Kimura on Friday afternoon. After five days of trying out with the team, the Lions chose to sign him well-before the deadline of his tryout window.

Kimura, who will turn 36 in April, is an infielder mostly at SS and 3B. He will make about ¥200 million yen and wearing No. 0, according to a report by Daily Sports. 

The Lions have been playing him at SS in spring training camp as this chart shows (See the 木 [Ki] in Kimura's name). He could be part of a rotation at SS with Yuji Kaneko, Yuji Onizaki and Kyohei Nagae. It's also possible to play him as a defensive replacement at 3B for Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura. Manager Norio Tanabe is known to put an all-defense lineup in the late innings to secure a win when the closer in on the mound.

Kimura gives the Lions another option with more flexibility on the infield. He also has 41 career games at 1B and 62 at 2B.  He even played 32 games in the outfield, which could give Tanabe another fall back option, similar to how he did with Ryota Wakiya last year.

Previously, he played for the Hiroshima Carp for the last eight years where he was a serviceable reserve. He was originally part of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars from 2003-2007. He has a lifetime .269 batting average over his 13 year career at the ichi-gun level.

With Kimura on the 70-man roster, the Lions officially have 69 players under contract with no one on the ikusei roster. It's possible they could sign someone if necessary, but there is a good chance they are done with additions for the 2016 season. He is the second domestic free agent to sign after a tryout, with the other being OF Naotaka Takehara.

I'd like to see Kaneko and Kimura rotate at SS with Onizaki buried in ni-gun. I don't have issues with Nagae on the first-team as a defensive sub. Kimura can also be a pinch hit option in the event the catcher or RF position is batting late in the game. 

Welcome to the Lions, Kimura.  Good luck for 2016. 

Photo credit: Seibu Lions Twitter

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Report: Anthony Seratelli retires from playing baseball

Photo from Seratelli himself
Anthony Seratelli announced on social media that he has decided to retire from playing baseball.  This decision comes weeks before spring training, where pitchers, catchers and position players report to Florida or Arizona.

Seratelli, who will turn 33 later this month, was a career minor leaguer who came from Seton Hall. A New Jersey native, \he was initially too small to play basketball and football, so baseball became his career decision. He was a utility player who was capable of playing any position on the infield or outfield.

After spending 2006 in an independent league, he signed with the Kansas City Royals organization and spent seven years in their minor league system through 2013. In 2014, he spent the year in AAA Las Vegas with the New York Mets organization as a training camp invitee.

He was never able to make it to the big leagues, but had an opportunity with the Saitama Seibu Lions signing him in December of 2014. Unfortunately, he injured himself in training camp trying to do the conditioning drills in Japan. His nickname would be "Terry" among the Lions community with "L's" being merged with "R's" in Japanese. With a Japanese accent, Terry would sound more like "teddy" as the "R" sound does not have heavy emphasis.

Seratelli was sidelined for two months before he made his ichi-gun NPB debut in late May. His most well-known contribution was a two-RBI single against the Yomiuri Giants on May 27. The video of it below can be found here.


Also, here is the fan camera version of Seratelli's big hit.  (Go to 5:14)


Seratelli was given a chance to start in right field, with that area being the flex position on the team, but he would only last two months on the ichi-gun. Sever 0-fers led to his deactivation from the first-team and he remained in ni-gun for the rest of 2015. He would finish his NPB career hitting .183 for the Lions with only one double and one triple as extra base hits.

After the Lions announced they would not bring him back for 2016, he signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, his career would end as he announced retirement on February 3.

Off the field, Seratelli made the most of his time in Japan, taking several photos and videos clips throughout the year. He saw a sumo match, wanted to embrace the Shibuya crossing and even the season of Cherry Blossoms as shown from his Instagram account.

It didn't work out on the field, but he was given an experience of a lifetime to be in Japan and see things that aren't on television or the media. With video and photo production being his side project, he would show his followers some other quirks.

Here's a video he made from his Youtube Channel, where he showed views of Tokyo from a high quality camera.


With Seratelli's playing career now over, we wish nothing but the best for him in the next chapter of his career. Good Seratelli in your future endeavors.

Photo credit: Anthony Seratelli's IG


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