Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rock Stars, Reverse Platoons, Random Roundup. Also, puppies

The 8am-10am "morning news" in Japan comes out on the web in general between 3pm-5pm here in America, which is great, because our workday is winding down here and I can see what's starting the next day there.

So when I got home tonight, I was reading an article in Japanese about how Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry was saying how glad he was to have Matsuzaka in Boston, and then I realized, rather than reading the Japanese translation of what Perry said, there simply had to be an English transcript of it somewhere. That made me feel awfully silly.

I was led to this "Dice-K" t-shirt via a random Google ad from that last page, and it's just terrible, though that might just be because I'm not particularly fond of the nickname. Perhaps I should make a "松馬鹿" t-shirt design.

Last week, Conor Glassey shared the super-awesome YouTube video of all of Seung-Yeop Lee's 41 home runs this year, and if you watch closely, you'll notice that numbers 38 and 39 were off Kei Igawa on September 7th. Which got me wondering about why several top players in Japan seem to end up with reverse platoon splits, and specifically both Lee and Igawa. By a platoon split, I mean how in general, we expect left-handed hitters to hit right-handed pitching better, and vice versa. A reverse platoon split is a lefty hitting lefties better, and vice versa. Righties Tadahito Iguchi and Kenji Johjima have notably hit better off righties than lefties in the MLB.

I'll admit I have limited data and I'm just playing around with what I do have, but when looking at this year's splits it was interesting that left-handed slugger Seung-Yeop Lee hit .311 with 22 homers against righties in 305 AB, and .338 with 19 homers against lefties in 219 AB. And lefty pitcher Kei "is for strikeout" Igawa gave up 17 home runs this year -- 7 to right-handed batters in 518 AB, and 10 to left-handed batters in 251 AB. Igawa struck out 25% of the righties he faced (K/BB 4.18, avg .205), but only 20% of the lefties he faced (K/BB 3.5, avg .294).

While this can probably be attributed to small sample size, and possibly to the fact that a lot of the current good hitters in Japan tend to hit lefty, it still makes me wonder why lefties were hitting him better this year. Offhand, if you take the top ten batting averages in 2006 in each league, you'll find that 14 out of those 20 guys bat lefty. Out of those, the only one besides Lee to show a reverse platoon split this was -- no joke -- Akinori Iwamura, who hit .354 with 11 HR in 178 AB off lefties, and .291 with 21 HR in 368 AB off righties.

If nothing else, it'll be interesting to see if they exhibit the same tendency in the majors next year. Imagine Iwamura being benched against stronger lefty starters, or Igawa being left in too long to face lefties, only to have the opposite of the expected outcome occur. This is probably all just a case of my overactive imagination, but I'm going to try to hunt down more data anyway.

(Also, just think, if I had chosen to go to Nagoya on 9/6 and Koshien on 9/7, instead of the other way around, I would have seen Luis Martinez get shelled by Yakult and Igawa get roughed up by Lee, rather than dealing with a rainout and seeing Kenshin Kawakami get shelled by Yakult. Man.)

Speaking of Kawakami, he didn't accompany the Dragons on their big trip to Las Vegas, but instead visited a center in the Minato-ku area of Nagoya where they train seeing-eye dogs. He made a personal donation of a million yen to the facility, and ran around playing with the dogs, despite that he was wearing a suit and got it full of dog hair. Being as he's pictured with a white labrador retriever, I bet that was plenty of fun to clean off afterwards! Kawakami said he's really fond of dogs and would love to visit the center again sometime (and bring some Chunichi teammates with him).

While in Las Vegas, apparently Morino, Asakura, and Takahashi decided to go skydiving. This in itself may not be amusing, but the picture in the article of Dragonbutt in skydiving gear is pretty funny, plus the fact that one paragraph at the bottom is about skydiving and 95% of the article text is actually about "the great Morino-Tatsunami Third Base Battle", Dragonbutt's plight in becoming the regular third baseman in place of declining veteran Kazuyoshi Tatsunami. (I didn't think it was really a rivalry, though, especially having seen Tatsu helping him out with his fielding.) Dragonbutt plans to do weight training in the offseason to become stronger for the "battle".

Fun pictures: Look! It's Andoh Claus and Fukuhara. And also Hamanaka, Fujimoto, and Nakamura in Singin' in the Rain! Okay, just kidding on that one. You can also see Trey Hillman and his family visiting the area where Lord of the Rings was filmed, as part of the current Fighters victory trip to New Zealand. Kensuke Tanaka is merely enjoying the golf there, as is Brad Thomas, apparently. (I didn't think Thomas would be on the trip since the team released him, but I guess he is from Australia and all, so it's not as far to hop over.)

Most fun mental picture was of Tomoya Yagi meeting yokozuna Asashoryu at a pro sports awards ceremony where Yagi was getting another accolade for being Rookie of the Year. The encounter made quite an impression on the young pitcher, as Yagi was caught by the aura surrounding the sumo champion.

EDIT! Yay, a real picture of Asashoryu and Yagi! I think Asashoryu looks much happier in that shot -- Yagi looks a bit frightened, if anything :) Today's pictures also include Hisashi Takeda in Christchurch and uhhh, Tateishi and Itoh learning how to shear sheep. No, I'm really not making that up.

(Subject line is sort of a tribute to Jeff Shaw.)

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