Friday, May 19, 2006

NPB Roundup: My Manager Throws Bases

I could talk about yesterday's Mariners game where they lost to the A's, 6-3, completing a series sweep, but I'd inevitably end up going on and on about how awesome Nick Swisher is, and everyone would get annoyed.

I could talk about how the Phillies lost 5-4 and Ryan Madson hates Cole Hamels, but that'd also be silly. David Bell went 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI, and Ryan Franklin pitched a scoreless inning, so maybe my ex-Mariners theory was wrong.

I could talk about how we're facing our DIRE LOCAL RIVALS in the BATTLE OF I-5 this weekend, but I'd be better off deferring to one of my favorite USSM posts ever, where Derek attempted to rationalize the Padres-Mariners rivalry with a historical basis. Man, remember when Meche/Pineiro/Franklin really WAS a favored trio over Perez/Eaton/Peavy? I'll be at Sunday's game, cheering for Mike Cameron, and wondering when the hell Chan Ho Park decided to start pitching well.

I haven't done an NPB link roundup this week because I've been busy, so here's a bit of stuff:

Bobby Valentine had a birthday party last weekend, and posted some pretty funny pictures from it. In team news, the Lotte Marines decided to give Bobby a birthday present of going on a 7-game winning streak. The Marines and Fighters are tied for first place in the Pacific League now, with Seibu and Softbank right on their tails. We'll see who comes out of interleague the strongest, I suppose.

The Marines recently acquired Matt Watson from the A's. Add this to Justin Miller from a few weeks back, and it's got to be better than Val Pascucci and Kevin Beirne, that's for sure. On the other hand, Miller better wear long sleeves, or people are going to think he's a gangster, as tattoos are mostly associated with the yakuza over there.

Due to the wacky ways Japanese baseball works, Michihiro Ogasawara just qualified for free agency this week. If the Fighters do not re-sign him, there'll be seppuku in Sapporo for sure, as the team's losing Shinjo, their other big-name player, after this year as well.

On the other hand, could Shinjo return as manager in a few years? The mind *boggles*.

Shinjo also decided to wear his old Hanshin uniform before the Fighters-Tigers game on Thursday, as it'll be his last game ever played in Koshien stadium after he retires this year.

Gary Garland mentioned something I'd never considered before: Tomoaki Kanemoto's consecutive-inning streak means that he's also never been ejected from a game or been pinch-hit for or had to leave otherwise. Garland points out that pitchers are pitching Kanemoto inside, and Okada-kantoku isn't sure what to do about it -- he doesn't want Kanemoto to get injured, obviously, nor does he want him to take it into his own hands and get ejected and end his streak.

Oh yeah, and Yokohama Bay Stars closer Mark Kroon has his own website now. The really funny part about it is that the English half of it sounds like it was written in Japanese and translated into English; I'd expect his site to be the other way around, y'know? I think it's cute that it's kroon161 though, given that he's well-known for holding the record for fastest pitch thrown in an NPB game at 161 km/h (approximately 100 mph).

Speaking of throwing things, I posted the link to a video of Hiroshima Carp manager Marty Brown's imitation of Lou Piniella a week or two ago, right? Well, it gets even better -- during batting practice the other day, the team played a prank on him of sorts as they all wore warmup t-shirts that said "Danger" on the front and "My Manager Throws Bases" on the back with a logo of a flying base, and they even gave Brown a shirt that said "I Throw Bases". From japanbaseballdaily, here are pictures of the players' shirts and of the coach/manager shirts. Those are AWESOME. I really, really, really, really, REALLY want one.

And on a final note, I'm really amazed by the quality of the Fighters' pitching staff this year, considering how shaky I thought it was going into the season. The team ERA is 2.91 as of the latest stats, setup man Hisashi Takeda's been nothing short of incredible, Masaru Takeda's been no slouch himself, Micheal Nakamura is the closer we've so desperately needed for the last few years, rookie Tomoya Yagi is outstanding even beyond pitching 10 innings of a no-hitter earlier this year, 19-year-old rookie Yu Darvish is starting to break out, and Shintaro Ejiri has suddenly stopped sucking this year and would probably have a 6-0 record instead of 4-2 if the Fighters had actually scored a few runs for him. The Fighters have won 10 out of their last 13 games, and it's really come down to the pitching, because aside from Ogasawara, none of the regulars have an OPS above .800. Still, it'll be interesting to see how things shake down in the Pacific League, that's for sure.

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