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Pro Yakyu This Week - October 6, 2008

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Pro Yakyu This Week - October 6, 2008
I'll be going live this evening (October 6, 2008) at around 8:00 pm JST, like last week. Please check the world clock for time and date in your area.

If you can't tune in live, I'll make the archive available in the audio archives for downloading to your favorite MP3 player after the show.

As always, you can call in during the show with questions and comments. You're also welcome to send in submissions to the mailing list (reply to this with your e-mail address if interested in joining - such posts will not be displayed) or directly to me to be address during the show.

As always, I hope to have you tune in live.
Comments
Re: Pro Yakyu This Week - October 6, 2008
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 6, 2008 10:18 PM | YBS Fan ]

Just one minor hiccup during the broadcast this evening, but overall, a good one, I think. You can download the archive here [approx 32 minutes, 11MB MP3]. To save locally and copy to your portable device, [Control]+[Click] on Macs (or [Right-click] on other systems) then select "Save as..." from the context menu. Remember where you saved the file, then copy over to your portable device as specified by your MP3 player maker.

Hope you enjoy the week's recap.
Transcript Part 1
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 6, 2008 10:21 PM | YBS Fan ]

Pro Yakyu This Week
Week of September 29 - October 5


Hot and Not (by Ken D.)

This week's "Hot and Not" segment leads off Pro Yakyu This Week and focuses on the battle for the 3rd and final playoff spot in the Central League. With the first two Climax Series participants (but not the order of finish) having already been decided, it was left to Chunichi and Hiroshima to fight it out for the final spot. At the beginning of the week, the teams were tied in the standings with identical 67-65-5 records. The schedule seemed to favor the Nagoya squad, at least over the first 4 games, since
they would be taking on the Hanshin Tigers once and then meeting the hapless Yokohama BayStars for 3, while the Carp also had one against Hanshin followed by 3 against the tougher Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

On September 29th, while the Dragons were idle, Hiroshima went to Koshien and fell behind 1-0 early, on a Makoto Imaoka home run. The Tigers added two more runs in the 4th, but the Carp did not fold as they evetually answered with 3 runs of their own in the 6th and 7th to tie the game. However, Tomoaki Kanemoto powered out his 25th home run of the year in the bottom of the 8th, and Hiroshima's fate was sealed, a 5-3 loss.

The next day was Chunichi's turn to do battle at Koshien, but they were rained out while Hiroshima was getting blanked 8-0 at Meiji Jingu. Hiroshima found themselves a full game behind Chunichi in the standings as September came to a close.

The next day at Jingu, October 1st, Hiroshima started young Yuki Saitoh, who only lasted 3+ innings. Hiroshima's relief was no help at all, and by the time the dust settled after a 9 run 4th inning by the Swallows, the Carp trailed 10-1. Norichika Aoki had 4 of Yakult's 15 hits in a 13-3 drubbing, all while Chunichi was blanking the BayStars 3-0 behind Kenshin Kawakami in Yokohama. Now 2 games behind, time was running out on the Carp.

With some breathing room now, the Dragons looked to crush the Carp's post-season hopes once and for all. However, Thursday didn't start off well for Chunichi, falling behind 3-0 in the first frame. But they had some rally in them and they would need it, since Hiroshima's Kan Ohtake was tossing a gem which turned into an eventual 1-0 win. The Dragons rode home runs from Tyrone Woods and Byung-Gyu Lee into extra innings, with Lee supplying a second homer of the game in the 10th inning to propel Chunichi to victory. The win, while not opening their lead another game, ticked another digit off of their magic number.

The death blow was inevitable now. After a 7-2 victory over Yokohama on Friday, the Dragons had a 2.5 game lead over the ice cold Carp, and needed to just one win or a Hiroshima loss to settle the matter. The decision came in the form of a Hiroshima loss when Colby Lewis was pounded for 8 earned runs early on Saturday afternoon. The final was a surprising 14-5 loss at the hands of Yokohama. Minutes later, Chunichi came back to defeat Marc Kroon to leave no doubt about their securing a Climax Series berth.

With the remaining games rendered meaningless, the final totals on the week were as follows:

Chunichi: 4 wins and 1 loss (1 rained out) for a record of 71-66-5 (.518) with 2 games remaining.
Hiroshima: 2 wins and 4 losses for a record of 69-69-5 (.500) with 1 game remaining.


Brown-Kantoku's Fate?

On that note, what will be the fate of Hiroshima's Brown-kantoku? Matsuda-owner, earlier in the year, stated that Marty Brown would be retained on one of two conditions:
  1. The Carp finish 3rd or higher, qualifying for the Climax Series.
  2. The Carp finish with a .500 winning percentage or higher.
Well, #1 is out of the running now. And with one game to go, the Carp are at an even 69 and 69. That means that Brown-kantoku's fate rests in the outcome of tonight's final Carp game of the season, facing the Yokohama BayStars in Yokohama. They've split the current three game series which started on that fateful Saturday when the normally reliable Colby Lewis self-destructed. (Lewis struggled against the BayStars (0 and 3, 7.00 ERA) and Chunichi (0 and 2, 4.50 ERA), but dominated the rest of the league with a combined 10 and 2 record against the Giants, Tigers, and Swallows with ERAs of 2.31, 1.33, and 1.22 respectively. Lewis is still top in the Central League with a 2.68 ERA, 3 complete games (shared with 2 others), 2 shut outs, 183 strike outs, and a 9.25 strike outs per 9 innings ratio.

Nonetheless, rookie Junpei Shinoda (3 and 4, 4.53 ERA) is starting this evening against Yoshikawa. (Insert current score here.) Against the BayStars this season, Shinoda is 1 and 0 in 2 games, having thrown 9 innings allowing 3 earned runs on 7 hits (1 a home run), 1 walk, and striking out 3 for a 3.00 ERA.

During Hiroshima's 7-2 win over Yokohama on Sunday, one fan in the left field stands had a sign saying "Road to CLIMAX 2009 with Marty." Brown-kantoku said after the game, "Yeah, I saw that message. It made me very happy! I want to continue to be Hiroshima's manager." (Warning: Translation of translation - his actual words may vary.) Well, it all comes down to tonight.


Competition for the Sawamura Award

I know I did it last week, and came to the conclusion that Iwakuma deserved the award over Darvish (and Lewis above wouldn't even finish in the top three in the Pacific League). But another week has gone by, with both pitchers having thrown. Does this past week make a difference? I'd say "yes and no."

Both hurlers threw on Monday, Darvish just a couple innings of shutout ball to better his ERA to 1.88; and Iwakuma getting tagged for the loss, allowing 3 runs in 5 innings to "balloon" his ERA to a whopping 1.93.

Patric Newman (aka PLNara) made his comparisons and assessments after that fateful Monday, and these were his concluding words:

With the exception of Iwakuma's CG total (5), both pitchers meet all the criteria, or come so close that it doesn't matter. So it'll come down to what the selection committee values more highly: Iwakuma's win total for his also-ran team, or Darvish's general unhittable-ness.

Personally, my head says it's Darvish but my gut says it's Iwakuma. This would be an easier choice if the Fighters had scored a few more runs behind Darvish early in the season, but they didn't. Iwakuma was consistent throughout the whole year and helped give Rakuten's fans their first year of competitive baseball to cheer for. In the end, I think I'd go for Iwakuma.
On Sunday night, though, Iwakuma threw 6 innings of shutout ball for the win against the Hawks, lowering his ERA to 1.87, 1/100th of a run per 9 innings lower than Darvish, taking the Triple Crown of most wins (21), highest winning percentage (.840), and best ERA (1.87). 0f the 18 Triple Crown winners since the inception of the Sawamura Award in 1947, only 10 of them have won the award. (There were 4 Triple Crown winners before the Sawamura Award came to be, including Sawamura Eiji himself in the Spring of 1937 when he won 24 out of 30 games with a .857 winning percentage and a 0.81 ERA.)

So, what sets Iwakuma apart from the 8 that failed to win the coveted award?
  • 20 wins or more (21)
  • An ERA in the 1s (1.87)
  • A winning percentage better than .800 (.840)
The last pitcher to have Triple Crown numbers like that was Hall of Famer Sugiura Tadashi (playerid=1731) of the Nankai Hawks in 1959 - 49 years ago. Sugiura won 38, lost 4 for a .905 winning percentage while maintaining a 1.40 ERA. Other than Sugiura, Iwakuma also joins the company of Sawamura Eiji, Wakabayashi Tadashi (twice), Ohtomo Koji (twice - but not in HoF), Nishimura Sadaaki (not in HoF), and Inao Kazuhisa. These are some of the biggest names in Japanese baseball's Golden Age, so he's in with some very good company.

Back at NPBTracker.com, Newman-san revised he evaluation based on Iwakuma's win and 0.01 lead in ERA like this: "I think that will seal the award for him." I fully agree.
Transcript Part 2
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 6, 2008 10:25 PM | YBS Fan ]

The Races

The Central League
                   9/30                       Week Results                           10/05              GR
Hanshin 1st 79 54 2 .594 - 9 == 2 wins 1 loss 1 tie (1R) ==> 1st 81 55 3 .596 - 5
Giants 2nd 79 55 3 .590 0.5 7 == 2 wins 1 loss ==> 2nd 81 56 3 .591 0.5 4
Chunichi 3rd 67 65 5 .508 11.5 7 == 4 wins 1 loss (1R) ==> 3rd* 71 66 5 .518 10.5 2
Hiroshima 3rd 67 65 5 .508 11.5 7 == 2 wins 4 losses ==> 4th 69 69 5 .500 13 1
Yakult 5th 59 70 3 .457 18 12 == 3 wins 2 losses 1 tie ==> 5th 62 72 4 .463 18 6
Yokohama 6th* 43 87 2 .331 34.5 12 == 1 win 5 losses ==> 6th* 44 92 2 .324 37 6
It really looks like it'll be Hanshin and Kyojin down to the wire as the two teams continue to match each other game to game. They'll be facing each other for the last time this season at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, October 8. A friend of mine got tickets (to the nose bleed seats), so I'll be there. I think I'll cheer for the Giants, in hopes that they'll win another meaningless pennant and lose to Chunichi in the Climax Series for the second year in a row.

Speaking of which, Ochiai-kantoku's reaction to making the playoffs was a bit more subdued than that of most teams' managers. As he did not get thrown into the air after defeating the Giants in the playoffs last year to win the right to go onto the Nippon Series, Ochiai-kantoku says that in his mind the season is all about winning the pennant then moving on to become number one in Japan. His goal was not to reach the Climax Series, that's just a consequence of the rules agreed upon by others. Interestingly, Ochiai-kantoku then went into a public service announcement, explaining how it's similar to wearing a seat belt (if I understand what I read in Nikkan Sports correctly. You see, in June the law was put into effect that everyone in a vehicle must wear a seat belt, even the passengers in back. (Only those in the front seat were required to up until then.) So now when Ochiai gets into a taxi, the first thing he does is put on his seat belt. Not to do so would cause trouble for the driver, possibly even costing the driver a fine. So he wears his seat belt without complaint. The same with the Climax Series. Ochiai-kantoku doesn't necessarily like the format, but it's the rules that have been put upon him (and his team) by others, so he's got to abide by them. (And if necessary, go on to win the right to head to the Nippon Series.)

The Pacific League
                   9/30                        Week Results                          10/05              GR
Seibu 1st* 75 62 4 .547 - 3 == 1 win 2 losses ==> 1st* 76 64 4 .543 - 0
Orix 2nd 73 68 1 .518 4 2 == 2 wins ==> 2nd* 75 68 1 .524 2.5 0
Nippon Ham 4th 71 69 2 .507 5.5 2 == 2 wins ==> 3rd* 73 69 2 .514 4 0
Lotte 3rd 71 68 1 .511 5 4 == 2 wins 2 losses ==> 4th* 73 70 1 .510 4.5 0
Rakuten 5th 61 71 3 .462 11.5 9 == 3 wins 4 losses ==> 5th 64 75 3 .460 11.5 2
SoftBank 6th 62 73 3 .459 12 6 == 1 win 3 losses ==> 6th 63 76 3 .453 12.5 2
Well, the only two teams with games remaining are the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. The two meet tonight and tomorrow night at K-Stadium Miyagi to finish the season, battling for last place. Nomura-kantoku only needs one more win to guarantee a fifth place finish, whereas Oh-kantoku needs to win them both to save his Hawks from the cellar.


Sayonara Kiyohara

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 was Kiyohara Day at Kyocera Dome in Osaka. Pages 1 through 4 of Nikkan Sports were dedicated to this Koshien hero from the mid-1980s who wanted nothing more than to be a Yomiuri Giant. Unfortunately, his best friend at PL Gakuen, Kuwata, was drafted by the Giants while Kiyohara was drafted by the Seibu Lions in "that other league." Reluctantly, Kiyohara went to the Lions where he performed well and was a fan favorite, despite not winning any home run titles (although he was the Strike Out King his first year of 1986). Once a free agent, Kiyohara bolted straight to the Giants, turning down the offer to name the just completed dome over Seibu Kyujyo to Kiyohara Dome if he stayed.

With the Giants, other than being the Strike Out King in 1997 and 2001, Kiyohara reached the 2,000 hit milestone on June 4, 2004 and the 500 home run milestone on April 29, 2005 (8th player to reach 500 home runs in NPB history). Soon after reaching that milestone, though, Kiyohara faded from view for the most part. It was as though the Giants played him to reach that milestone, then were ready to discard him, as they'd done with Ochiai and numerous other free agents before.

Having his heart broken by the Giants dumping him, Kiyohara reluctantly joined the Orix Buffaloes in December of 2005, soon after Ohgi-kantoku's death. (Actually, Ohgi was the Special Director for Orix at the time and had wanted Kiyohara to join them.) Joining Orix was to honor Ohgi's memory.

With the Buffs, perhaps Kiyohara's biggest moment was hitting a gyakuten sayonara home run off of Yokohama's Marc Kroon on May 27, 2006. Unfortunately, Kiyohara's knees gave out soon after that, Kiyohara mounting a short comeback in August of 2006 before all but fading away for a couple of seasons, having surgery on February 28, 2007.

Kiyohara Day at Kyocera Dome saw the slugger batting in the #4 spot and going 1 for 4, including an RBI double. He did an Ichiro impersonation in the batters box, with Ichiro in attendance. And in Kiyohara's final at bat, like the mighty Casey, he struck out. The final strike out of Kiyohara's career was #1,955, over 200 more than former team mate Akiyama's 1,712 which is the Pacific League record. (Kiyohara's record is combined between the Pacific and Central Leagues.)


Pacific League Climax Series

The final participant of the Pacific League Climax Series was decided on Kiyohara Day. Whereas first and second had already been decided before the week, Lotte and Nippon Ham were running neck and neck for the final Climax Series spot in the Pacific League. Lotte was in control of their destiny as they could win all of their last three games and take third place. A Nippon Ham loss would mean they only needed two out of three.

However, Nippon Ham put the pressure on with a 17-0 Eagle kill in Sendai.

Meanwhile, at Chiba Marine Stadium, Watanabe Shunsuke gave up 7 runs in the second inning to the Lions and the Marines were unable to mount a big enough come back. They ended up losing 9-5, and just like that, eliminated from contention. Defeating Rakuten the next two days was of little consolation as Bobby's Marines finished 1/2 game behind the Fighters in 4th place. No post season this year.

The Pacific League Climax Series schedule is now set:

Stage 1
October 11, 12, and 13 - all games at Kyocera Dome

Stage 2
October 17 - Ken-Omiya
October 18-23 - Seibu Dome


14 Losses in a Row

Of course nobody really wants to hear that the BayStars tied their franchise record of 14 losses in a row this week, just two losses shy of the Central League record. Nobody? Right. Well, in that case, ...

That's a Wrap

... I'd like to thank you all for joining me this evening, live or via podcast.

Pro Yakyu This Week is a production of JapaneseBaseball.com and is distributed under the Creative Commons License. You may copy, redistribute, and/or rebroadcast in whole or in part in any way you wish provided that you give credit to JapaneseBaseball.com. The segment with an extract from NPB Tracker is similarly re-distributable under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Please see www.npbtracker.com for the full article.
Kiyohara's Career Highlights
[ Author: Rocksfan | Posted: Oct 8, 2008 12:34 AM | CHU Fan ]

Not to get too picky here, Michael, but couldn't you have come up with some better highlights for Kiyohara's career than bringing up that he never won a home run title (although he was only one short of the title in 1996), he lead the league in strike outs three times, and that he has the all time record for strikeouts? He's fifth all time in home runs (first in walk off home runs), and sixth all time in RBIs. He played in 10 Nippon Series, hitting .301 with 15 home runs in 60 games. He won "Outstanding Player" or "Fighting Spirit" awards in 5 of the 10 Series he was in. He was named to 17 All Star games, and was named MVP of a game 7 times. He lead the league in walks four times, On Base Percentage twice and Slugging Percentage once.

I realize that Kiyohara was overrated to some degree, but I think your summary of his career doesn't really do him justice.
Re: Kiyohara's Career Highlights
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 8, 2008 2:18 PM | YBS Fan ]

That's probably the best summary of Kiyohara's career that I've read. And Nikkan Sports spent over half a page listing every home run that he hit and against whom.

I must admit, I did find myself getting kind of down on Kiyohara, something I often do when the hype level for someone gets too high. (I had defended Kiyo in past attacks on his character.) I guess I compensate for the hype by trying to bring it down notch.

It's good to know that I have good fielders behind me to back me up when I throw out a bad pitch. Nice play, Rocksfan.
Re: Kiyohara's Career Highlights
[ Author: Rocksfan | Posted: Oct 8, 2008 11:33 PM | CHU Fan ]

Thanks Michael. I had done a retrospective on Kiyohara when he announced his retirement at Japanese Baseball Cards BlogSpot.
Brown-kantoku to Stay Another Year
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 7, 2008 12:16 AM | YBS Fan ]

As I mentioned Brown-kantoku's future depending on the game this past evening, I thought it fair to point out that Matsuda-owner has decided to keep Marty on despite his not reaching the team goals.

For more information, please have a look at this Kyodo News article.

I had kind of had a feeling that Matsuda-owner was leaning toward having Brown-kantoku stay regardless of the outcome, but it's still good to have goals.
Re: Brown-kantoku to Stay Another Year
[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Oct 7, 2008 7:42 AM | HAN Fan ]

You will cheer for the Giants? Michael - are you feeling OK? No self respecting fan of another team cheers for the Giants.
Re: Brown-kantoku to Stay Another Year
[ Author: Guest: zman | Posted: Oct 7, 2008 2:55 PM ]

I always suspected Westbay of being a closet Youmuri fan. Guess that's been proven true now. The BayStars devotion is just a cover - right?
Re: Brown-kantoku to Stay Another Year
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Oct 7, 2008 4:41 PM | YBS Fan ]

Come now. Would a Giants fan cheer for them to win the pennant just to lose the chance to go to the Nippon Series, rendering the pennant victory completely meaningless? And for the second year in a row? If anything that's overly crewel to the Giants. (And perhaps it will drive the Giants to find a way to bring back meaning to the word Pennant, something I'm sure Larryo would like to see.)

For those of you who don't know, I started off a Giants fan. I worked close to Tokyo Dome from 1991 to 1993, so I could walk down the hill from Ochanomizu after work and catch a game. They were the only team regularly on TV, which made them easy to follow. And, of course, growing up a San Francisco Giants fan meant that I had goods the right colors. It was just natural to be a Giants fan then.

However, I started subscribing to Nikkan Sports in 1994 which helped information about other teams to reach my eyes. Then when I started writing about Japanese baseball on my personal home page in 1995, I started actively learning about other teams. The more I learned about other teams, the less I liked about the Giants. The turning point was when they just dumped Ochiai without so much as a "thank you" and grabbed Kiyohara. Sure, Kiyohara had wanted to play for the Giants his whole life, but there was just something in the way that the Giants treated people that bothered me. (There were more incidents than this, like Watanabe-owner basically telling Kuwata that he owned him for life, so don't even talk about going to the Majors.)

I had since moved to Yokohama, got Yokohama games on TVK (the local UHF channel), and my favorite player had been Haru for a while, so it was natural to turn to the BayStars as my team.

Now that I have cable TV (and continue to write about Japanese baseball), it's the Pacific league that really has my attention as they've got it together when it comes to broadcasting more games, and all of them from start to finish. It frustrates me to no end to watch the BayStars play the Giants on terrestrial TV where they start the game an hour into it, come back from commercials after one out, and end the broadcast at 9:24 (although that's been enough time to complete games quite often this year). I followed the SF Giants through the 1970s, losing is nothing to me.

I think that age is an interesting thing. As I've gotten older, I've become much more tolerant of all of the teams than I was in my youth. So, no, I'm not as anti-Kyojin now as I was anti-Dodger in my youth.
The Pennant, Kiyohara, and Youthful Extravagances
[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Oct 7, 2008 7:44 PM | HAN Fan ]

It's not guaranteed that the winner of the pennant series will fail to go to the Japan Series. Despite Watanabe's comments, the pennant matters a lot to the fans and the teams. Your quote from Ochiai illustrated this perfectly. The pennant is still important, and if the Tigers win the victory sales will rake in a lot of money. Even if the team fails to make the Japan Series, it will still have the pennant or league championship (the cup/league separation).

Interestingly Kiyohara was very tempted to return to Kansai and finish his playing career with the Tigers. Watanabe persuaded him that it was his duty to go to the Giants, and by the time the Giants no longer needed him, the Tigers didn't want him either. He took the Buffaloes job because at least he would finish his career in Osaka.

Anyway Michael we can forgive these youthful extravagances. I might acknowledge the Giants good points, but I will never cheer for them.
About

This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.

It is my sincere hope that once you learn a bit about what we're about here that you will join the community of contributors.

Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)
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