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Pro Yakyu This Week - September 22-28

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Pro Yakyu This Week - September 22-28
I'll be going live this evening at around 8:00 pm JST. Check the world clock for time in your area.

If you can't tune in live, I'll make the archive available 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 (write me to my handle atMark if you're interested in joining to get notifications) or directly to me to be addressed during the show.

Speaking of the mailing list, I'm trying something new this week. To promote more participation, I sent a copy of what amounts to my script to the mailing list in advance in hopes to get some feedback prior to the show. At this moment, though, I have not heared from Christopher as to whether or not he'd like to participate. (Christopher, I'm game if you are.)

As always, I hope to have you tune in live.
Re: Pro Yakyu This Week - September 22-28
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Sep 29, 2008 8:57 PM | YBS Fan ]

I'm happy to report that this evening's broadcast went off without me stumbling over too many words and phrases. You can listen to the show here [32.5 minutes, 12MB MP3 file]. To download it so you can put it on a portable player, [Control]+[click] the link on Macs or [Right-click] the link on others and select "Save as..." from the context menu. Clicking on the link will open the file for playing on most systems rather than downloading and saving.

Again, I welcome anyone who would like to participate in the preparation of the weekly show, including Christopher. Submissions may be audio files of you presenting a story (a recorded interview would be fantastic!), or a story in plain text for me to read. Reports from Korea or Taiwan would also be welcome.

So, until next week, take care all.
Transcript Part I - September 22-28
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Sep 29, 2008 9:58 PM | YBS Fan ]

Pro Yakyu This Week
Week of September 22 - 28

Seibu Lions Clinch the Pacific League Pennant

The lead story this week is that the Seibu Lions, despite a recent slump, have secured the Pacific League Pennant. Sure, it's been more of a matter of when than if for quite a while, but the excitement generated by Orix's recent surge combined with the Lions' slump have certainly made things a little more interesting for Seibu (and a lot more interesting for the second and third spots in the Pacific League Climax Series).

The Lions thought that they had the Pennant clinched on Tuesday when they scored 5 in the bottom of the 8th inning against Rakuten at Seibu Dome to take a 7-5 lead. However, Graman was unable to stop the Eagles in the 9th, allowing 5 runs (3 earned) to lose 10-7. However, with Orix losing about an hour earlier in the afternoon, the Lions' Magic Number had finally reached 1.

Seibu then lost to Lotte 9-1 on Wednesday, while Orix defeated SoftBank 4-1 to keep the flashing 'M' at 1. (There was some worry about Hosokawa getting injured when Benny threw him to the ground after 3 Marines were hit by pitches by three Lions pitchers and Benny got a close one. But Hosokawa has remained with the top team, appearing in pinch hitting roles, not behind the plate. The extent of his injury is not currently known outside of the Lions' staff.)

After having the day off on Thursday, the Lions were down 2-0 when word was put on the scoreboard at Sapporo Dome that Orix lost 13-1 to Rakuten. Unable to mount any kind of offense against the Fighters, Seibu lost the game 2-0, but became the 9th team in NPB history to win the Pennant with a loss on the day they clinched.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is that the loss to Nippon Ham was their 4th in a row (now extended to 6 in a row over the weekend). For the month of September, the Saitama Seibu Lions are 9 and 14. It seems that the Lions had made it this far and just ran out of gas. Will the bye in the first round of playoffs be enough rest to have them recuperate? Or will they just be that much more rusty as most Pennant winnings teams have been since the inception of the playoffs? I have my worries.

And that leads us to Ken D.'s "Hot and Not" segment.

Hot and Not (by Ken D.)

A cold front has suddenly blown into Tokorozawa, where the hometown Saitama Seibu Lions have inexplicably lost 6 games in a row. While they did manage to secure their first Pacific League pennant in 4 years and provide manager Hisanobu Watanabe with a doage, they have been unable to put lesser teams away of late.

First there was the emotional roller coaster loss to Rakuten on Tuesday, a game that the Lions trailed 3-2 after 7 innings. Neither Chikara Onodera nor Eiji Shotsu could hold down the Eagles in the 8th, the latter allowing a Fernando Seguignol home run that put the Lions down by 3. However, the plot took an unexpected turn when the Lions rallied for 5 runs in the bottom half of the frame, only to see that exact amount frittered away in the 9th by the usually-dependable Alex Graman. The 10-7 debacle postponed what looked like a sure pennant celebration, and the Lions haven't won since.

A 9-1 crushing took place the next day, including the much talked about incident between Benny and Toru Hosokawa. The loss tally has since run to its current six, capping off with Sunday's 7-2 mauling at the hands of second place Orix.

Heating up at the right time, though, are the Chiba Lotte Marines. Bobby has gotten his squad moving together in the right direction at last, this week winning 4 of 5 and climbing into 3rd place in the PL standings, which would allow the Marines a playoff berth.

The Marines' magic number is down to 3 over a very tenacious Fighters' squad with whom they have one more game left to play this season. Just a half game separates the two teams in the standings, and the spot is up for grabs in the next few days.

Both Naoyuki Shimizu and Yoshihisa Naruse delivered big starts this past weekend, the former out-dueling Fukuoka's Tsuyoshi Wada on Saturday, and the latter coming up big against Shugo Fujii in a 4-1 Sunday win in Sapporo. Bobby will be ready to call for all hands on deck this week as his charges try to hold off Darvish and company, and attempt to hold on to a date in the Climax

Iwakuma Wins 20th

On Monday, against the front running (and now 2008 Champion) Saitama Seibu Lions, Rakuten's Iwakuma-toshu marked his 20th win of the season. Iwakuma becomes the first 20 game winner since Daiei's Saitoh and Hanshin's Igawa shared that honor 5 years ago in 2003 (the pair also sharing the Sawamura Award. With 20 wins and 3 losses (1.84 ERA) in 190 2/3rd innings, and the defeat of Seibu Iwakuma's second 8 game winning streak, I think it's fair to say that Iwakuma is the top candidate for taking the Sawamura Award away from last year's winner, Darvish (Nippon Ham). Here's how the two compare at the end of action on Monday:
    Player    ERA    G CG  SO NW    W  L   W%      IP   HR   K    BB
1. Iwakuma 1.84* 26 5 2 3* 20 3 .870* 190.2 2 147 33
2. Darvish 1.95 23 9* 2 2 15 4 .789 189.2 11 193* 43
One thing I find interesting with regards to complete games is the number of complete game losses. Let's compare the two pitchers in this category.
Mar 27 2-0 shutout victory over Orix
Apr 10 0-1 loss to Nippon Ham, Darvish getting the complete game shutout
Jun 7 5-3 victory over the BayStars
Jun 15 3-0 shutout victory of the Giants
Sep 16 6-1 victory over Nippon Ham

Mar 20 1-0 shutout victory over Lotte on opening day
Apr 10 1-0 shutout victory over Iwakuma and Rakuten
Apr 18 3-1 victory over SoftBank (Sugiuchi got complete game loss)
May 7 3-4 loss to Seibu
Jun 4 2-3 loss to Hiroshima
Jun 11 0-1 shutout loss to the Giants
Jul 11 3-2 victory over SoftBank (complete game loss for Ohtonari)
Jul 17 3-1 victory over Rakuten
Sep 15 5-4 victory over Orix (gave up 3-0 lead in 9th to win in bottom)
So in complete games, Iwakuma is 4 and 1 compared to Darvish's 6 and 3 record. (While researching this, I found that SoftBank's Ohtonari was 4 and 2 in complete games before disappearing at the end of August.)
Transcript Part II - September 22-28
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Sep 29, 2008 10:01 PM | YBS Fan ]

The Pacific League Races

I haven't been too satisfied with the way I was presenting the weekly results the past few broadcasts, so I'm going to try something new this week. I sincerely look forward to your feedback on this (positive and negative) to make this segment better in the future.

First off, the Pacific League
                   9/22                        Week Results                     9/29             GR
Seibu 1st 75 56 4 .573 M2 0 wins 6 losses ==> 1st* 75 62 4 .547 - 3
Orix 2nd 70 65 1 .519 7 2 wins 3 losses ==> 2nd 73 68 1 .518 4 2
Lotte 3rd 67 67 1 .500 9.5 4 wins 1 loss ==> 3rd 71 68 1 .511 5 4
Nippon Ham 4th 67 68 2 .496 10 4 wins 1 loss ==> 4th 71 69 2 .507 5.5 1
Rakuten 6th 57 70 3 .449 16 4 wins 1 loss ==> 5th 61 71 3 .462 11.5 9
SoftBank 5th 61 69 3 .469 13.5 1 win 4 losses ==> 6th 62 73 3 .459 12 6
SoftBank actually gained a game and a half in the standings, but dropped from 5th to 6th place as their 7 game losing streak came to a merciful end on Sunday.

The three teams in the middle, all vying for two playoff spots, are now just within 1 and a half games of each other. 2nd and 3rd are still anyone's spot in the Pacific League.

Two Races in Central League

While the battle is now for 2nd and 3rd between three teams in the Pacific League, there are actually two races going on in the Central league. The Giants and Tigers are going neck to neck for the Pennant, and Chunichi, Hiroshima, and to a lesser extent, Yakult, are going for the third playoff spot in the Central League.

Over the past week, this is how things have gone in the Central League:
                   9/22                        Week Results                     9/29             GR
Hanshin 1st 76 53 1 .589 - 3 wins 1 loss 1 tie ==> 1st 79 54 2 .594 - 9
Giants 1st 76 53 2 .589 - 3 wins 2 losses 1 tie ==> 2nd 79 55 3 .590 0.5 7
Chunichi 4th 63 64 5 .496 12 4 wins 1 loss ==> 3rd 67 65 5 .508 11.5 7
Hiroshima 3rd 64 63 4 .504 11 3 wins 2 losses 1 tie ==> 3rd 67 76 5 .508 11.5 7
Yakult 5th 58 66 3 .468 15.5 1 win 3 losses ==> 5th 59 70 3 .457 18 12
Yokohama 6th* 43 83 1 .341 31.5 0 wins 4 losses 1 tie ==> 6th* 43 87 2 .331 34.5 12
Until the Giants lost 1-0 to Chunichi last night (the only run allowed by Uehara, who threw the complete game loss, was a solo home run to left by Araki in the top of the 8th), the Giants and Tigers matched each other day to day in the results. Since Hanshin had the day off, they take a half game lead in the standings.

1999 Version of Machine Gun Offense

Last week I talked a little bit about the status of Yokohama's Machine Gun Offense in July of that championship year of 1998. This week I'd like to share a feat that the BayStars managed to accomplish in August of 1999 - a team batting average of .300. Here's a short exerpt from the August 9, 1999 issue of Nikkan Sports:

First Time in History in Second Half

Yokohama entered the .300s in batting, riding the third time this season that they've hit 20 hits or more. On May 11 they reached the .291 mark, within 1/100th reaching .300 after 62 games into the season. After entering the second half of the season, though, there isn't a single previous instance of a team hitting .300. The record for highest team batting average for a season was set by the 1952 Giants at .292. Can the BayStars overturn this 47 year old record?
The answer to that questions is "Yes." Yokohama went on to hit .294 for the 1999 season. Despite all the hits, though, they finished in 3rd place, 10 games behind the Chunichi Dragons and 4 games under the Yomiuri Giants. Please keep in mind that the BayStars did this in the Central League, where pitchers hit for themselves. Nonetheless, the BayStars offensively led the Central league in not only batting average, but also plate appearances, at bats, hits, doubles, total bases, runs scored, runs batted in, sacrifice flies, runners left on, slugging percentage, and on base percentage.

Unfortunately, that was the year that Yokohama's pitchers contracted ippatsu-byo (an illness whereby pitchers vomit up profuse numbers of home runs), something that has been making its rounds in our pitching staff ever since. Also, it's been pitching that's been winning Pennants pretty much every year since as well.

Ah, but that offense. That was really something exciting to behold. No game was over until the final rally was done.

Sayonara Hiroshima Shimin Kyujyo (Again)

I know I talked about all the commentators on TV saying sayonara to Hiroshima Municipal Stadium last week, but for 2 hours and 46 minutes on Sunday, September 28, 2008, the final game (of the season) was played at Hiroshima Shimin Kyujyo, with a big closing ceremony after the game. There are a number of tributes out there in English like the week's Baseball Bullet-In in the Japan Times which talks about many of the players who played there, and a Tsubamegun tribute to Hiroshima Municipal Stadium on the Tokyo Yakult Swallows' WordPress site - on the losing end of Shimin's final game, they found a YouTube video of Hiroshima's oendan.

According to the Japanese Wikipedia, they broke ground on Hiroshima Shimin Kyujyo in February of 1957 to build a new ball park rather than install lights at the Carp's current stadium at the time, Hiroshima Sogo Kyujyo. Just five months later they opened, officially on July 20, 1957, with the first game held on July 24 - Hiroshima taking a 1-15 whipping at the hand of the Hanshin Tigers.

The second game of the 1958 All Star Series was held at Hiroshima Shimin Kyujyo the following year on July 29.

51 years saw a number of superstars play for the Carp at Hiroshima Shimin Kyujyo. Perhaps the two biggest were "Mr. Akaheru" Yamamoto Koji and "Ironman" Kinugasa Sachio. But in its final regular season game yesterday there was some fresh history being made. Rookie pitcher Maeken (Maeda Kenta) hit his first professional home run, a solo shot to put the Carp up 3-0 in the 4th inning of his 8th win of the season.

While Hiroshima has finished their home schedule, the season isn't over yet. And Brown-kantoku has vowed to return to Hiroshima Shimin Kyujyo for the Nippon Series in October.
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Sep 30, 2008 1:20 PM | YBS Fan ]

There are two mistakes on the races tables above.

First of all, Nippon Ham had 2 games remaining at the end of Sunday, not 1. I also made reference to this during the broadcast outside the scope of the transcript. That was their final regular season game at Sappro Dome for the year, not Nippon Ham's final game of the season.

Secondly, Hiroshima had 65 losses at the end of play on Sunday, not 76. That was a typo, but I believe that I corrected it during the broadcast as I stated that Hiroshima was tied with Chunichi with the same record.

Sorry for the inconvenience.
Re: Transcript Part II - September 22-28
[ Author: Rocksfan | Posted: Oct 1, 2008 8:31 PM | CHU Fan ]

Why is there so much variability in the number of games remaining? Starting this week, Nippon Ham only had one (correction: 2) game(s) left, but Rakuten had 9. Are these rain outs being made up or was this how the schedule was originally?
Re: Transcript Part II - September 22-28
[ Author: Guest: Number 26 | Posted: Oct 2, 2008 5:49 PM ]

It could be because Nippon Ham plays in a Dome whereas Rakuten plays outside. Lotte plays outside, too, but they play on artificial turf unlike Rakuten who plays on natural turf. Artificial turf is said to handle rain better than natural turf.

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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