Saturday, December 31, 2016

Seibu Lions hope to "Catch the ALL" for 2017


The Saitama Seibu Lions gave their new motto for 2017 with "Catch the ALL" in December. New manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji also added the kanji 気 (ki) on the top right part of the poster which refers to team spirit.

At first sight, you might be thinking of Pokémon right away with this slogan.

The "つかみ獲れ" (Tsukami tore) is referring to seizing the opportunity. In this case, it most likely refers to the Lions defense, which needs improvement for the upcoming season. In 2016, the Lions led the league in errors with 101 in total. In some ways, an underlying interpretation for this motto should be "Catch the BALL" considering the how poorly the infield defense looked.

That isn't to say the defense was the only problem for the Lions in 2016. The reason for this error number had to do with pitchers lacking strikeouts as a whole, forcing them to put the ball in play. in 2015, it was the Lions defense that carried them with the same poor strikeout numbers.

At one point in 2016, the Lions had a 10-31 stretch which was more due to the lack of hitting than any other factor. Opposing teams figured them out and the Lions would often come up short by one hit or pitch in the middle of the season.

We here at Graveyard Baseball hope to do the same with our coverage of the Lions. There will be plenty of things to write about from the ups and downs that the team will go through.

Of course we want to see winning, but in perspective, progress on the field from Tsuji is all we can hope for. A new manager, young rotation, uncertain defense and inconsistent offense are the obvious issues that come about for 2017, but this team can compete.

The offense has the talent to hit, but can it do that on a consistent basis?  Pitching will be raw with guys like Shinsaburo Tawata, Kona Takahashi and a young Tatsuya Imai, but can the imports make a difference and help the depth? Can Tsuji's coaching help the defense which was hard to watch in 2016?

Only time will tell on these questions, but even in 2017, not all of them will be answered. There is a mix of youth and veterans on this Lions squad and we expect them to at least aim for A-Class, even if its against all odds. Welcome back Tsuji, the work is cut out for you.

Ganbare Raionzu!  /  頑張れ ライオンズ!  

Happy New Year Japan / 明けましておめでとうございます 日本! (Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu Nippon!)


The Lions uploaded a video with the players saying "Happy New Year" with the goals and promises for the 2017 season.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Seibu Lions 2016 Review: Position players


The Saitama Seibu Lions had their ups and downs in 2016. This included hitting, pitching and defense with flaws at different points of the year.

Here, we will review the position players and give them a grade. For stats, we will post the slashline of Batting Average / On base Percentage / Slugging. FIP and pitchers will be examined later.

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Catchers: 

Ginjiro Sumitani: .218/.251/.269

"Gin-chan" had a rough season defensively besides at the plate. Of course he isn't known for his bat and will continue to be a hole. There was a point where he would come in as a defensive replacement in games during the second half of the season. Grade: D

Masatoshi Okada: .227/.338/.227

Okada only saw 47 games as a backup catcher, which was more than last year, but still very minor. Norio Tanabe would use him as a defensive substitution if a pinch hitter took over Sumitani's spot in a given game. He would also be a pinch bunter on occasion.  Grade: D

C/OF Tomoya Mori: .292/.367/.436

Mori started the year without a position. He had a few games in right field, but was mostly seen as a pinch hitter until the Lions sent him down to ni-gun. Mori had less pop with less games, but wasn't bad when given a chance. In the second half of the year when the Lions were all but eliminated, he was getting more catcher reps and did well progressing with time. The Lions could no longer hide him as a designated hitter and were forced to put him in the field somewhere. If Mori can impress new manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji, he could get more catcher playing time. Grade: B-

Tatsuyuki Uemoto: .305/.361/.386

Uemoto made the opening day roster and stayed on top for the year. He was the ultimate pinch hitter late in the game when needed and did a decent job of not getting out. While he wouldn't hit home runs, he could slap a single and keep the bases moving. With his flexibility at catcher, Tanabe was able to use him in the field if necessary as well.  Grade: B+

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Infielders: 

1B Ernesto Mejia: .252/.333/.509

Mejia had a much improved 2016 from a brutal 2015 season with a great first half. He started to fall off in the final two months and lacked power once the All-Star break concluded, however, it is a vast upgrade. He had a career high 35 home runs and was close to being the Pacific League's home run king. Unfortunately, Mejia only had 8 HRs total in the second half which was lacking. He would also see more time at DH than 2015. Grade: B

2B Hideto Asamura: .309/.357/.510

Will the real Asamura step up? This was the best season Asamura had since 2013, which is arguably his peak season. He had 24 home runs at 40 doubles, even earning a monthly honor as the MVP for August in the Pacific League. He's shown that he can hit, but putting it together for a full season outside of 2013 had been an issue. After a slow April, he took off and was the best hitter for the 2nd half of the Lions season.  Asamura's defense was also valuable at 2B.  Grade: A

3B/DH Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura: .238/.313/.447

This was a brutal year for Okawari-kun. He would spent about a month in ni-gun after being ineffective and possibly not conditioned well. In the past, he has been known to be injury prone and this year showed it was no different. An argument can be made that he's the player who can make or break the Lions and the offense took a large hit when he was ineffective. One silver lining in all of this is that he played in 108 games for the season, making it the first time in his career he appeared in at least 100+ games for three consecutive years. He still had 21 home runs, but it wasn't the season he hoped for as the team tried making him a DH. It's unsure whether this will continue or not under Tsuji.  Grade: C-

SS/3B Yuji Onizaki: .253/.314/.332

Onizaki was the BABIP king and his average was rather higher than usual. He would get majority of the luck on balls put in play. Results offensively were there, but defensively, he had issues at both 3B and SS when in 2015 he showed that was his strength. With his defense bring a problem, he only played in 79 games.  Grade: C

SS/3B Shuta Tonosaki: .176/.222/.294

Tonosaki was supposed to be a more promising future shortstop after getting his feet wet in 2015. Like a lot of the team, his defense was an issue and he couldn't hit his own weight, making him mostly a pinch runner in 37 games. He was also ineffective on the base paths when given the chance. Tonosaki is still young, but there's competition behind him. Grade: D-

UTIL Naoto Watanabe: .309/.352/.348

Watanabe was your utility infielder playing each position at least once. He is a decent spell player and was good in bunches where Tanabe clearly saw matchups on when to play him. I would argue Watanabe was the second best pinch hit option behind Uemoto and his defense was acceptable for 2016. Only problem for him was that he couldn't play every day.  Grade: B+ 

1B/SS/3B Shogo Kimura: .221/.262/.263

The Lions had an obsession with playing Kimura in the first half, giving him more time than Watanabe. He was versatile to play three positions on the infield, but was average at best. His bat wasn't reliable and Watanabe proved to be a better option comparing the two. In June, he would tear his ACL in practice and was brought back under an ikusei contact.  Grade: D-

SS/3B Kyohei Nagae: .162/.213/.176

Anyone who watches the Lions knows that Nagae's role is not about hitting. He's the best defensive infielder for the Lions and he proved that once again when playing SS or 3B. There was only one play that was a borderline error when he lost a flyball in the sun, but he was perfect at fielding ground balls and didn't cause problems while in the field. Tanabe continued to use him as a defensive substitute and whenever he started, there was an emphasis on defense. Grade: B+

2B/3B Daichi Mizuguchi: .500/.500/.500

Mizuguchi saw 20 games and most of them were off the bench. A former ikusei pick, he would be a helpful pinch running option when with the ichi-gun. He would remain mostly buried with other infielders in front of him on the depth chart. Sample size is too small to really have a grade, but he didn't have a base running blunder like some.  Grade: Incomplete

SS/3B Nien Ting Wu: .194/.282/.234

Wu was the Lions 7th round pick in 2015 and he started playing ichi-gun games in the second half after a good season in ni-gun. For a shortstop, his defense was rather impressive and he wasn't a liability in the field. His bat can use some work, but he had a few "big hits" that Lions fans will remember and he even experienced what a hero interview was like. For a guy who was drafted in the late rounds, playing in 43 ichi-gun games (and starting most of them) is quite an accomplishment. Grade: B-

Hotaka Yamakawa: .259/.335/.590

Yamakawa was a Spring Training star and it earned him a spot on the opening day roster. He was 0-11 and was sent down to ni-gun, where he hit 21 HRs. Yamakawa had an impressive second half, where had 14 HRs in only 49 games, including four in a three-game series against the Chiba Lotte Marines. Once he had the hang of playing at the ichi-gun level, he was fun to watch in a short time and he finished strong. Defense was acceptable, but not great.  Grade: B

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Outfielders:

Shogo Akiyama: .296/.385/.422

If Akiyama didn't spent two weeks as the No.3 hitter in the lineup, he would've hit .300 easily. Coming off a historic record-breaking season, Akiyama was still solid at getting on base and providing hits as a leadoff hitter. He was also acceptable when hitting from the No. 2 spot. Surprisingly, he had more home runs (11) than Mori (10). Akiyama was the only Lions player to play in every inning for 2016. Grade: A-

Takumi Kuriyama: .279/.390/.369

Kuriyama had a strong first half which carried him to his first All-Star game in 2016. He led the team in walks with 83 which explains his rather high on-base percentage. He traded spots with Akiyama for the leadoff spot and at one point was the team's hottest hitter. Defense was above average as he made a few impressive plays to save some runs.  Grade: B+

Yuji Kaneko: .265/.331/.311

Kaneko's defense was poor at SS through the first two months and Tanabe's solution was to put him in right field, where he appeared there the most. He would be a solid No. 9 hitter and even saw time as the leadoff hitter. Kaneko tied Yoshio Itoi for the NPB stolen base crown with 53 in total. If his defense didn't cost the Lions games in the first half, he did everything you want in a No. 9 hitter. It is unknown what the plans are as Tsuji takes the reigns. Grade: B+ 

Shogo Saito: .000/.077/.000

Saito saw only 45 games at the ichi-gun level after being the 4th outfielder in 2015. He failed to get a hit and had some time as a pinch runner if not defensive replacement. Saito wasn't a problem in the outfield, but he had a few base running errors that hurt the Lions.  Grade: D-

Ryo Sakata: .245/.280/.371

Sakata won the RF job out of spring training and preseason. After doing well for three weeks, he fell back to earth but racked up quite a few important RBIs when with the ichi-gun. Sakata is likely to be good in bunches, but only for a designed matchup. Grade: C

Fumikazu Kimura: .167/.219/.200

A former pitcher converted to position player, Kimura is a 5th outfielder at best.  He only played in 28 ichi-gun games and most of them were as a late defensive replacement. Grade: D

Masato Kumashiro: .167/.286/.167

Like F. Kimura, Kumashiro is a depth outfielder on the bench who is there in case of emergency. Kumashiro had better range than Kimura, but he also doesn't hit as well. Grade: D+ 

Naotaka Takehara: .200/.226/.333

Takehara was viewed as another depth option when the Lions signed him. He was good for a few pinch hits and should've had a game winning base hit in one outing. However, his contributions were minimal as he only appeared in 22 games, with all of them in the first half. Grade: F

Shotaro Tashiro: .250/.250/.250

Tashiro is mostly a pinch runner who is there as roster filler when an extended break is ahead. He appeared in only 13 games, but one of them is where he was remembered for being picked off by Shota Ono as he was supposed to be the game-tying run. This ruined momentum at the time, but the sample size isn't large enough for a grade. Grade: Incomplete

Yutaro Osaki: .000/.167/.000

As a veteran, Osaki is usually called up if the Lions like a pitching matchup they see. However, he only appeared in four games for 2016 and failed to record a hit. Last year, we saw contributions but 2016 was a sign of regression.  Grade: Incomplete

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Conclusion:

Some guys did well and others didn't. The 41-game stretch which was after the walkoff loss in Hiroshima (Uemoto blocking the plate) is what ruined the hitting. They went 10-31 including that loss and it took them too long to recover in order to compete for A-class. Asamura and Akiyama had good years, but it was disappointing as a whole when Okawari-kun couldn't stay on top while the team remained unclutch in those 41 games.

The defense was flawed, no question, but it only hurt them through April/May. It wasn't as brutal as the numbers and stats indicate. The only good news was how the Lions played their best baseball in August/September where we saw some fun games and the bats finally woke up. Defense was also improved at the time besides the pitching which is also a work in progress.  In 2017, the Lions will need the Osaka Toin trio of Asamura, Okawari-kun and Mori to all have good or great seasons if they want to make A-class.

Tsuji will put an emphasis on defense, but at what cost? Will we see more bunting? Will there be less home runs as a result? Time will tell.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Report: Hisanobu Watanabe promoted to organization director

Photo credit: Sponichi
The Saitama Seibu Lions will have a new structure for 2017 in the front office. Senior Director Hisanobu "Nabe-Q" Watanabe has been promoted to being the organizational director, the Lions announced on Monday.

General manager Haruhiko Suzuki said that there needed to be "accountability" for the last three seasons of finishing in B-class (Bottom 3 in the Pacific League). Suzuki, 65, will keep his position being in charge of the Lions personnel moves.

With this promotion for Nabe-Q, it's clear he will be in line to be the full-time general manager in the future. It's possible that both Nabe-Q and Suzuki will have to agree on making decisions together in the front office for the time being.

When Nabe-Q stepped down after 2013 as a manager, he had Tetsuya Shiozaki in line to replace him. Suzuki refused to follow through with this and hired Haruki Ihara for 2014, who would later resign in the middle of the year. Norio Tanabe would take over for the rest of the season and be in charge for both 2015 and 2016.

For the hiring process of Hatsuhiko Tsuji, Nabe-Q had more of an influence in the decision and gave his approval. Suzuki said there is a "good chance" that Nabe-Q will take the reigns when he steps down.

This move overall is just another transition for the direction of the Lions front office.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Graveyard Baseball Podcast: Lions ŌenDEN Episode 14


This is the 14th episode of our Saitama Seibu Lions OenDEN podcast. Christian and Wes return with talk about Takayuki Kishi signing with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, FIP, player salaries and more!

We apologize for any mispronunciations and errors which might have occurred. This episode was recorded before Frank Garces and Alexis Candelario.

The song featured in this podcast introduction is "Hello, Goodbye and Hello" by Anri Kumaki. This song was featured in the credits at the end of the movie Children who Chase Lost Voices by Makoto Shinkai.



Click here if the embed doesn't work.  |  Click here to download.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Candelario is an ultimate underdog story for the Lions


The Saitama Seibu Lions signed Alexis Candelario on Wednesday. However, this isn't a move to be thrilled about based on history.

Candelario will be 35 next year and there is minimal upside. He has never played under a major league organization, even in the minors. In November, he was slated to be part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization on a minor league deal.

For those who like feel-good stories of a guy rising from the ashes, this is for you. Candelario has played baseball in six countries and Japan is expected to be his 7th in his career. He previously spent time in Nicaragua, Mexico, Venezuela, USA, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

When he was stateside, Candelario was part of an independent league known as the Atlantic League Professional Baseball. In 2016 alone, he had stints in the States, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

He has racked up plenty of mileage, but very few results. His breakthrough in working up the ranks came from 2015 in Venezuela, where he had a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts through 14 games. After being decent in Italy for 2016, he moved quickly to Mexico for a 2nd career stint.

Like graduating school, it helps get to where he is today, but it all resets assuming he enters Japan. Lions fans will need to have low expectations in 2017 for him.

The Lions management made a desperate signing, hoping to get lucky. It almost feels as if they just looked at some productive baseball stats and signed Candelario based on numbers. Given the Lions rotation depth, they're going to need him to help out in the short term while some of the younger pitchers like Tatsuya Imai develop in the farm.

Base case scenario will likely be a No. 5 starter to eat up innings. In the worst case, he could start games in April but spend the rest of the season in ni-gun. If it could get worse, Candelario can make a bad impression on the Lions coaches like how C.C. Lee did in camp and not earn playing time.

Call it a cheap signing, similar to the likes of how Miguel Mejia was with the team in 2015.   Regardless, Candelario becomes an interesting story for someone as traveled as he is.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Makita and Akiyama to represent the Lions for Samurai Japan


Shogo Akiyama and Kazuhisa Makita will be the two Saitama Seibu Lions who will be representing Japan.

UPDATE: The full 28-man roster has been announced. 

Makita said that he was "honored" to play for the country and remembers being part of the team's defeat at the 20013 WBC event. Japan's national team made the finals in San Francisco, only to lose to Puerto Rico by a score of 3-1.

This will be Akiyama's first time participating in the WBC. He was part of Samurai Japan during the Premier 12 event at the end of 2015.

Makita is no stranger to the bullpen, where he was a closer in his rookie season of 2011. After spending a few years as a starter, the Lions put him back in the bullpen for 2016 after seeing how effective he was during the Premier 12. He proved to be the best middle reliever on the Lions as a setup man as well someone who can take extra innings in long relief.

Akiyama is coming off a season where he hit .296 and was still the team's leadoff hitter for most of the year. He was the only Lion to play in every inning of 2016 after having a historic 2015 season breaking Matt Murton's single-season record for hits.

Here is the full roster of players who will play for for Samurai Japan in 2017:

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Pitchers (13): 

SP Shohei Otani (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)

SP/RP Hirotoshi Masui (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)

SP Takahiro Norimoto (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles)

SP Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants)

SP Shintaro Fujinami (Hanshin Tigers)

SP Ayumu Ishikawa (Chiba Lotte Marines)

SP Kodai Senga (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks)

RP Naoki Miyanishi (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)

RP Ryo Akiyoshi (Tokyo Yakult Swallows)

RP Kazuhisa Makita (Saitama Seibu Lions)

RP Toshiya Okada (Chunichi Dragons)

RP Yuki Matsui (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles)

RP Yoshihisa Hirano (Orix Buffaloes)

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Catchers (3): 

Motohiro Shima (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles)

Shota Ono (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)

Seiji Kobayashi (Yomiuri Giants)

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Infielders (5): 

1B Sho Nakata (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters)

2B Ryosuke Kikuchi (Hiroshima Carp)

SS Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Giants)

2B Tetsuto Yamada (Tokyo Yakult Swallows)

3B Nobuhiro Matsuda (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks)

SS Kosuke Tanaka (Hiroshima Carp)

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Outfielders (6): 

Seiichi Uchikawa (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks)

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama DeNA Baystars)

Shogo Akiyama (Saitama Seibu Lions)

Seiya Suzuki (Hiroshima Carp)

Norichika Aoki (Houston Astros)

Ryosuke Hirata (Chunichi Dragons)


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Japan's first game will be on March 7 against Cuba at Tokyo Dome in pool play.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Report: Seibu Lions sign Alexis Candelario


The Saitama Seibu Lions made their second addition of the week. On Saturday morning, they reached an agreement with Dominican pitcher Alexis Candelario. He will make an estimated ¥25 million for 2017 and was assigned No. 68.

Candelario, who will be 35 in May, has never played under a major league organization, according to Baseball Reference. He spent the 2016 season with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (Independent league in the USA), the Italian Baseball League and the Mexican Baseball League.

"I am sincerely pleased to be a member of the Saitama Seibu Lions," Candelario said in a statement. "I have played with many teams in different countries, but I hope the Lions and Japan can be my last place. I appreciate the team for giving me an opportunity and I promise to do my best."

With Veracruz in Mexico, he had a 2.62 ERA with a 1.164 WHIP in seven starts. In Italy, his ERA was 1.88 with a 1.043 WHIP in seven starts.

He was able to boost his stock entering 2016 by playing well in the Venezuelan Winter League. With the Tiburones de La Guaira in Venezuela, he had a 2.28 ERA in 14 starts and he credits this 2015 season as to how he got to where he is.

Last month, he signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and has presumably been granted a release. He also spent time in the Dominican winter league.

Knowing his history, Candelario is projected to compete for a starting spot in the Lions rotation for 2017. He will be part of a mix including Ryoma Nogami, Ken Togame, Keisuke Honda, Makoto Aiuchi and Yasuo Sano. Candelario is the 5th import on the Lions roster which includes Ernesto Mejia, Chun-Lin Kuo, Frank Garces and Brian Wolfe.

Including Shogo Kimra on ikusei, the Lions will have 69 players under contract with two spaces available on the 70 man roster. They will most likely leave one spot open to possibly promote Kimura and have one space open for someone else.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seibu Lions take cash option as compensation for loss of Kishi


With Type A and B free agents, there will be compensation if he signs with another team in NPB. The Saitama Seibu Lions chose the cash option which would be 80% of Kishi's salary from the 2016 season.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles protected 28 players from their 70-man roster which were not eligible for a selection. As a result, the Lions will receive ¥180 million (about $1.8 million) as compensation. Kishi, 32, signed a four year contract worth ¥1.6 billion and will make ¥400 million annually.

"I viewed the player list that Rakuten sent us," Seibu Lions General Manager Haruhiko Suzuki said in a statement. "There was no player selection because there was no one matching the team's needs."

The Lions were hoping to find a pitcher who could contribute right away and couldn't find one after seeing the players eligible for selection. After the 2013 season concluded, the Lions last chose a player compensation twice with P Taiki Nakago and IF Ryota Wakiya for the losses of P Hideaki Wakui to the Chiba Lotte Marines and Yasuyuki Kataoka to the Yomiuri Giants, respectively.

With the Lions choosing cash over a player + less cash, Rakuten will be paying an ¥580 million ($5.8 million) for Kishi's services in the 2017 season. Last year, the Eagles signed Toshiaki Imae who was previously with the Marines. Chiba would also take the cash compensation option rather than choosing a player.

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In a fun exercise, I tried to create a protected 28-man list with Rakuten's roster. This was all based on logic from a productive player to someone who was a recent draft pick worth keeping. There were also some veterans who may have received special treatment from protection (i.e. Takashi Toritani was not eligible to leave the Hanshin Tigers). I also took the assumption that foreign players were not eligible.

Here's how the results looked based on players I knew and what would make sense if I was doing this:

Pitchers (12):

P Takahiro Norimoto

P Tomohiro Anraku

P Yuki Matsui

P Takahiro Shiomi

P Minabu Mima

P Yudai Mori

P Wataru Karashima

P Yoshinao Kamata

P Yuri Furukawa

P Sho Miyagawa

P Kenji Tomura

P Hiroyuki Fukuyama

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Catchers (3): 

C Motohiro Shima

C Kengo Horiuchi

C Yuichi Adachi

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Infielders (6):

IF "Ginji" Akaminai

IF Eigoro Mogi

IF Toshiaki Imae

IF Yasuhito Uchida

IF Kazuya Fujita

IF Ryota Yoshimochi

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Outfielders (7):

OF Louis Okoye

OF Hiroaki Shimauchi

OF Takero Okajima

OF Kazuo Matsui

OF Akihisa Makida

OF Ryo Hijirisawa

OF Masayoshi Fukuda

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Based on what the Lions wanted, there weren't many pitching options available. Yusuke Nishimiya could've been an option, Koji Aoyama is on the decline, other pitchers I couldn't name are too inexperienced.

At best, the Lions could've selected a pinch runner among position players or a mediocre reliever. When Kishi signed with Rakuten weeks ago, I had problems coming up with this list as I only named 20 players.

By having trouble creating a protected list means that the options weren't there as this Rakuten team is still recovering from the 2013 Japan Series and parts of the roster are gutted. The pitching staff has some above average pieces, but there is no depth compared to a roster like the Softbank Hawks or Yomiuri Giants.

This list is obviously not exactly what Rakuten had for the Lions, but it's clear some guys that are likable are off the table.

Were there any disagreements or other players Rakuten would've protected? Did I miss someone? Was there a player you'd go for if you were the Lions? Let me know.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Report: Seibu Lions reach agreement with Frank Garcés


The Saitama Seibu Lions made their second foreign acquisition of the offseason. They announced they signed San Diego Padres left-handed pitcher Frank Garcés to a one year contract on Wednesday afternoon. He will make an estimated ¥60 million for the upcoming season and was assigned uniform number 59.

Garcés, who will be 27 in January, most recently signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins in November. He spent his entire career in the Padres organization and made it to the MLB level in 2014 and 2015.

In 55 games and one career spot start over the course of two seasons, he has a career ERA of 4.60 to go with a strikeout clip of 7.1 per nine innings. He spent the entire 2016 with the El Paso Chihuahua's, the Padres AAA affiliate.

In AAA for 2016, he had an ERA of 4.41 and a strikeout ratio of 7.7 per nine innings. He was used both as a starter and reliever with the Padres minor leagues.

"I am happy to be a part of the Saitama Seibu Lions," Garcés said in a statement. "I promise to do my best to help the team win. I look forward to meeting my new teammates and the fans."
He plans to visit Japan in January.Training camp in Miyazaki prefecture should occur sometime in February.

The Lions have shown in the past they've needed bullpen help and hope he can be a contributor for next season. A positive thing is that he's only in his 20s and not an aging veteran waiting for a final paycheck.

Garcés will compete with Brian Schlitter for innings most likely in the bullpen. He is only the fourth foreign import with the Lions on the roster which includes Ernesto Mejia and Chun-Lin Kuo.

With the signing of Garcés, the Lions currently have 67 roster spots filled and Shogo Kimura most likely having a space available for a midseason promotion. There are two spots that are still vacant with the Lions looking for more pitching help.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Matsuzaka's legacy: 10 years later

Matsuzaka unveiled with Theo Epstein. 
December 13, 2006 was the day the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsuzaka reached an agreement to a 6-year, $52 million contract. While posting players happened, it was the first excessive contract and posting fee among players coming from Japan.

The Saitama Seibu Lions would receive a $51.1 million posting fee as the Red Sox earned exclusive negotiating rights with Matsuzaka and the money would forever change the team.

A star out of Yokohama High School, Matsuzaka was drafted by the Lions in 1998. They would win a 3-way lottery for his rights. While he wanted to play for the Yokohama Baystars, the Lions had to convince and recruit him in order to sign with them.

He would win rookie of the year in 1999, an Eiji Sawamura Award in 2001 and a Best IX award three times. Matsuzaka led the league in ERA twice, wins three times as well as be a seven-time Golden Glove award winner.



Matsuzaka was part of the 2004 Japan Series championship team, which would be his only title in NPB. After 2006, he would take his chances to go to the majors.

An expensive acquisition, Matsuzaka would contribute for the 2007 World Series Red Sox team going through ups and downs as a rookie in the Major Leagues. He had a franchise rookie record for strikeouts in a season with 201. In Game 3 of the World Series against the Rockies, he would earn the win and have a two-out, two-RBI single to contribute as a hitter.

His best season in MLB would be 2008, where he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA as well as a quality start in the 2008 ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Things began to fall off in 2009 where he would fall to AAA Pawtucket and wouldn't be the same again.

An argument can be made that his change of training regimen with Boston made it tough on him. It was a style different than what he used to do while in Japan.

After briefly spending time in the minor leagues with the Cleveland Indians, he would spend his last two years in North America with the New York Mets. He was part of a rotation in 2013, but mostly spent time in the bullpen for 2014.

Today, Matsuzaka is with the Softbank Hawks after spending majority of the 2015 season injured and in the farm. The Hawks would win the Japan Series in 2015, but Matsuzaka never played with the team's ichi-gun.

He is only a name to garner headlines, as he made his first ichi-gun appearance in Sendai against the Rakuten Eagles in September. In his only outing for one inning, he gave up five runs, two of the earned, two walks and two strikeouts to go with a wild pitch. It was more of a novelty outing with the postseason standings locked up at the time.

Matsuzaka's leaving would hurt the Lions in the short term, as they would be caught with a bribery scandal and be forced to forfeit their first three high school draft picks in 2007. They also finished in the Bottom 3 for the first time in 26 years as part of the fallout.

However, they would go on to win the 2008 Japan Series in what was an interesting comeback with a young Hideaki Wakui and Takayuki Kishi carrying the rotation.



Matsuzaka's impact would help financially in renovated Seibu Dome with permanent changes. It would no longer be called  "Goodwill Dome" and the turf would change. There would also be an addition of bullpen box seats, a high definition scoreboard and interior upgrades including restrooms.

Seibu Dome would undergo two different turf renovations. Today, there is brown turf to make the building look like it has a dirt infield diamond. 
No matter how rough of a career Matsuzaka had in Boston after an early success in the Majors, he will forever be remembered as a someone who helped the Lions both on the field and literally the stadium itself. He did a lot for the team both during and after his time in Tokorozawa and we'll always be grateful for it.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

2016 Lions draft picks receive their numbers in unveiling

Seibu Lions rookies were revealed on 12/9. Photo via Midori Suzuki.
The Saitama Seibu Lions revealed their 2016 draft picks as they will be rookies in 2017 on Friday night. Each player marched out in a formal introduction, which can be seen here.

They would walk out in uniform with a jersey number, knowing what they will be wearing next year. Most notably, first round draft pick Tatsuya Imai will wear No. 11, shortly after Takayuki Kishi left the team for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

After giving a few speeches and answering some questions from selected individuals, they signed an autograph on a piece of paper which would later be sold. On the right of each card displayed an immediate goal for each player. Like when players sign contracts for the next year, rookies will have short term hopes and dreams, even if some are unrealistic.



Here is what each Lions player wrote on the card as well as their opening statement about themselves on what they can bring to the table:

1. P Tatsuya Imai 今井 達也 (11): "Grow up" (He's only 18)

"It's honor to take over [Takayuki] Kishi's number. I'll start [from working out and building up my body."
2. P Shunta Nakatsuka 中塚 駿太 (22): Opening Day roster

"My [strengths] are my big [strong] body and fastball."

3. IF Sosuke Genda 源田 壮亮 (6): Opening Day starter

"My strengths are a large fielding range and running. I have to contribute to the [first] team [in my] first year."

4. OF Shohei Suzuki 鈴木 将平 (46): Hit .300 with 35 stolen bases

"My [goal is to have a batting average of] .300 and [have] 35 stolen bases in the future. I'll show you [my]  aggressive play."

5. Katsunori Hirai 平井 克典 (25): Opening Day roster

"I have to be on the [ichi-gun] roster at the beginning of the season as the oldest rookie [on the] team this year." (Hirai will turn 25 years old at the end of December)

6. Ichiro Tamura 田村 伊知郎 (40): Opening Day roster

"Look [for] my hopping-up fast ball. I never back down from any batters"

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We personally have higher short term expectations for Genda and Nakatsuka. It's possible that Hirai and Tamura can be bullpen contributors who can rise up. Imai and Tamura are both long term picks since they're both out of high school.

Personally, I really like it that Imai has 11 not only for how it is lately representing aces, but his name of IMAI works perfectly having two "I" in it with the 11 to bring symmetrical balance.  Other numbers replace what recent players who left once wore, including Atsushi Okamoto (22), Anthony Seratelli (6), Yuta Nakazaki (46) and Takanori Hoshi (25).

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Other notes:

-All Seibu Lions players are under contract with the exception of Shogo Noda, Keisuke Honda and Hitoto Komazuki, who are all currently in Australia.

-The Lions currently have 66 players on their 70-man roster with Shogo Kimura as an ikusei. They will most likely have 69 players at most by opening day, leaving room for Kimura to earn promotion if he appears to be healthy and impress the Lions coaching staff. They can still sign up to three foreigners.

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Special Thanks to @cossy0223 for making this possible with translation help.  

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Seibu Lions 2017 salary chart

Okawari-kun writes "Ganbaru" for "working hard" as his motto for 2017
December is the month of contract negotiations for all NPB teams. Rather than sign the dotted line on a multi-year deal, salaries can go up or down depending on how a player's performance was the previous season. Some will take paycuts for a poor year, while a great year will bring a raise.

Here is a collection of all the Saitama Seibu Lions reported salaries for 2017. All figures are estimates and not exact based on reports.

^ - Raise

|v| - Paycut

= - Same wages

N = New player
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Pitchers:

Yusei Kikuchi: ¥100 million  ^
Hirotaka Koishi: ¥15 million ^
Koki Fujita: ¥5 million =
Kentaro Fukukura ¥6 million |v|
Naoaki Matsumoto: ¥5 million =
Chun-Lin Kuo: ¥30 million =
Brian Wolfe: ¥60 million ^
Brian Schlitter: ¥80 million N
Tadasuke Minamikawa: ¥10 million =
Ryohei Fujiwara: ¥9.5 million |v|
Toshihiro Iwao: ¥8.5 million |v|
Tsubasa Kokuba: ¥6 million
Isamu Sato: ¥6 million ^
Tatsuya Oishi: ¥15 million ^
Kona Takahashi: ¥23 million ^
Tomomi Takahashi: ¥48 million |v|
Tatsushi Masuda: ¥95 million ^
Ken Togame: ¥60 million |v|
Kazuhisa Makita: ¥100 million ^ (Turned down two-year contract, expected free agent after 2017)
Shinsaburo Tawata: ¥23 million ^
Yasuo Sano: ¥13 million ^
Ryoma Nogami: ¥50 million |v|
Yusuke Tamamura: ¥5.5 million |v|
Makoto Aiuchi: ¥6 million |v|
Takuya Toyoda: ¥9.5 millions |v|
Shota Takekuma: ¥50 million ^
Yosuke Okamoto: ¥18 million |v|
Seiji Kawagoe: ¥12 million =
Frank Garcés: ¥60 million N
Alexis Candelario: ¥25 million N
Shogo Noda: ¥13 million ^
Keisuke Honda: ¥7 million =

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Catchers:

Ginjiro Sumitani: ¥100 million =
Tatsuyuki Uemoto: ¥16 million ^
Shota Nakata: ¥5.8 million |v|
Komei Fujisawa: ¥5 million =
Masatoshi Okada: ¥16 million ^
Tomoya Mori: ¥45 million ^
Hitoto Komazuki: ¥5.1 million |v|

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Infielders:

Takeya Nakamura: ¥410 million  = (Slated to be a free agent after 2017)
Yuji Onizaki: ¥23 million =
Nien Ting Wu: ¥8 million ^
Kazuki Kaneko: ¥5.5 million |v|
Ernesto Mejia: ¥350 million ^
Haruka Yamada: ¥6 million =
Yuji Kaneko: ¥48 million ^
Hotaka Yamakawa: ¥16 million ^
Daichi Mizuguchi: ¥5.5 million ^
Naoto Watanabe: ¥50 million |v|
Kyohei Nagae: ¥12.5 million ^
Hideto Asamura: ¥155 million ^



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Outfielders:

Shogo Saito: ¥14 million |v|
Masato Kumashiro: ¥13 million |v|
Yutaro Osaki: ¥18.5 million |v|
Ryo Sakata: ¥15 million ^
Shogo Akiyama: ¥200 million ^ (3-year contract through 2019)
Daisuke Togawa: ¥5 million =
Takumi Kuriyama: ¥190 million |v|
Fumikazu Kimura: ¥14 million |v|
Shuta Tonosaki: ¥13 million |v|
Aito Otaki: ¥6 million =
Shotaro Tashiro ¥6 million |v|

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Rookies:

P Tatsuya Imai: ¥13 million
P Shunta Nakatsuka: ¥12 million
IF Sosuke Genda: ¥12 million
OF Shohei Suzuki: ¥6 million
P Katsunori Hirai: ¥10 million
P Ichiro Tamura: ¥7 million

Note: Signing bonuses are not included in this listing. Some have a higher bonus than others and it isn't listed here. 

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Ikusei:

IF Shogo Kimura: ¥7.5 million ^

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