Saturday, October 27, 2007

Japan Series Preview, Part 1: Numbers

Well, the rosters are out for the Nippon Series, on the NPB official site: Fighters / Dragons. Nothing too out of the ordinary, except one wonders why Kosuke Fukudome is on the Dragons roster given that he hasn't actually played baseball since mid-July. In reality, most of the people on these rosters aren't going to see THAT much playing time in the Series, though you never know. Ochiai and Hillman were both trying to get enough playing time for various "dare aitsu?" types in the last month.

This week's Shukan Baseball has a gigantic breakdown of their previews and predictions and stats for the Japan Series, so I'm trying to go through my own thoughts and numbers about the entire thing, sort of like what I did last year.

Position Players, Fighters

Starting Lineup, without DH (in this case you platoon Inada and Koyano at 3B batting 7th; with Seguignol as DH, you just have both Koyano and Inada in there playing the corners and batting 7th and 8th, I think. To be honest, since most of Chunichi's starters are righties, and the lefty-hitting Naoto made that fantastic play in CLCS2, I'm betting he's going to get a lot more playing time than one might expect otherwise.)

1. R Hichori Morimoto #1, CF (.300/.355/.372, 31 SB, 91 RS)
2. L Kensuke Tanaka #3, 2B (.255/.321/.344, 27 SB, 58 sacrifices)
3. L Atsunori Inaba #41, RF (.334/.387/.505, 17 HR, 39 2B, 87 RBI)
4. S Fernando Seguignol #5, 1B (.249/.350/.428, 21 HR)
5. R Shinji Takahashi #30, C (.255/.306/.392, 10 HR)
6. L Takahito Kudoh #53, LF (.288/.329/.353, high socks)
7a. L Naoto Inada #54, 3B (.275/.293/.300, fears no cameraman)
7b. R Eiichi Koyano #31, 3B (.253/.289/.332)
8. R Makoto Kaneko #8, SS (.243/.296/.327, team captain)

The Fighters lineup is weird in that rather than there being one or two really big batters that everyone fears, there are just a whole bunch of mediocre batters who come up with big hits at the most bizarre times. Kaneko, for one, is extremely notorious for pulling clutch hits out of nowhere, probably because people never expect it out of him.

But, it is funny looking at our lineup and thinking "Wow, we have exactly one regular on the team this year with an OPS over .800, eh."

As an aside, Kensuke Tanaka hit .538 against Chunichi this year, including going 6-for-7 in the two games at the Nagoya Dome. Just saying. Watch him spend most of the Series bunting his life away anyway.


R Shinya Tsuruoka #64, C (starting catcher for most of the 2006 Series games but had a .463 OPS this year and Shinji stole the job back)
R Satoshi Nakajima #32, C (player-coach, probly will not play much)
R Yukio Tanaka #6, IF (hasn't played much since getting his 2000th hit, is retiring after this season, better get a few at-bats)
R Chon-so Yoh #24, IF (mediocre fielder, mediocre bat)
R Yuuji Iiyama #57, IF (decent fielder, mediocre bat, nice speed, quintessential late-inning pinch-runner or defensive replacement, which you can guess because he's been in 105 games and gotten 55 at-bats)
L Tomochika Tsuboi #7, OF (.283/.334/.322, all-around decent but has no power, wears high socks)
L Toshimasa Konta #52, OF (5th outfielder in a swarm of lefty outfielders)

I dunno who else will factor in, if anyone. Keizo Kawashima might see a few at-bats if he's lucky, maybe.

I also realized that describing someone on the Fighters as having a "mediocre bat" is actually the default, and I really ought to pick the people out who DON'T have a mediocre bat instead :)

Pitchers, Fighters

SP1: Yu Darvish #11, RHP (15-5, 1.82; 207.2 IP, 49 BB, 210 K, 9 HR)
SP2: Masaru Takeda #38, LHP (9-4, 2.54; 35 G, 149 IP, 17 BB, 101 K, 18 HR)
SP3: Ryan Glynn #14, RHP (9-8, 2.21; 155 IP, 33 BB, 111 K, 16 HR)
SP4: Brian Sweeney #42, RHP (6-8, 3.70; 109.1 IP, 36 BB, 56 K, 11 HR)

You know, I should probably worry about the fact that there was only one 10-game winner on the Fighters this year, shouldn't I. I guess it's because the starts were really spread out among a wide group, with rookies like Yoshikawa and Kinoshita getting a few starts and guys like Kanamori picking up a bunch of relief wins.

But, I am betting this is the rotation they go with for the series -- it's what they went with for the playoffs, and since Chunichi is so righty-heavy it doesn't make sense to try to put Yagi or Yoshikawa into the mix. But, you never know.

Glynn, who was the best pitcher in the Central League this year (even though he was playing on a Pacific League team) pitched twice against the Dragons and was 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 15.1 IP, with 11 strikeouts, his two runs both coming on one Nori Nakamura homer. He was even better against Hanshin (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 14 IP 15 K, his lone run coming on a... Toshihiro Noguchi homer? Are you KIDDING me?)

Bullpen: Micheal Nakamura is obviously the closer. I'm honestly not sure exactly how the rest of the bullpen will shake down, or whether Yagi and Yoshikawa will enter in as lefty relievers. I was trying to figure out exactly why Jun Hagiwara's getting so much play time, too. He's mostly been out there for mop-up, it seems.

But, we still have Hisashi Takeda, who is the best middle reliever EVER, so it can't be all that bad. Until his arm falls off, of course.

CL: Micheal Nakamura #36, RHP (1-1, 2.16, 34 SV; 58.1 IP, 14 BB, 49 K, 4 HR, two recent meltdowns in the PLCS2)
BP1: Hisashi Takeda #21, RHP (7-6, 2.42, 2 SV; 74.1 IP, 16 BB, 53 K, 2 HR, awesome)
BP2: Takayuki Kanamori #59, RHP (4-1, 2.35; 23 IP, 3 BB, 9 K, 0 HR)
BP3: Mitsuo Yoshikawa #34, LHP (4-3, 3.66; 93.1 IP, 46 BB, 52 K, 6 HR)
BP4: Takehiko Oshimoto #61, RHP (2-1, 4.60; 47 IP, 23 BB, 49 K, 7 HR)
BP5: Tomoya Yagi #29, LHP (4-6, 4.54; 85.1 IP, 20 BB, 36 K, 12 HR, was injured)
BP6: Satoru Kanemura #16, RHP (5-6, 4.73; 78 IP, 30 BB, 33 K, 9 HR, was mental)

I'm hoping our lack of a left-handed relief ace like Hideki Okajima this year doesn't come back to bite us. Fortunately, with Kosuke Fukudome injured and not playing in this series, we don't have the same need for an arch-nemesis for him like Okajima was last year. ("Runners on base and Fukudome at the plate? No problem! Just take a Hideki Okajima and call me in the next inning.") In all honesty, the only lefty bat on Chunichi that I *really* worry about is, of course, my Dragonbutt, Masahiko Morino, and he can't do that much damage all by himself. (I hope. Just watch.) I'm going to get a lot of flak for not worrying more about Tatsunami and Lee, I'm sure.

I have this great idea to get a Fighters jersey with "Takeda #2138" on the back, anyway, to cover both awesome Takedas in one jersey. It'd be sort of like having an "Arakibata #26" Chunichi jersey, I'm sure.

Position Players, Dragons

Starting lineup, without DH, assuming a vaguely depressing platoon of Hidenori and Kazuki in RF (with a DH you just throw in LH Kazuyoshi Tatsunami batting 6th or 7th to break up the righties):

1. R Masahiro Araki #2, 2B (.263/.296/.302, 31 SB)
2. R Hirokazu Ibata #6, SS (.296/.368/.393, 23 SB, awesome)
3. L Masahiko Morino #31, LF (.294/.366/.458, 18 HR, 97 RBI, Mr. 3-Run Dragonbutt)
4. R Tyrone Woods #44, 1B (.270/.418/.530, 35 HR, 102 RBI)
5. R Norihiro Nakamura #99, 3B (.293/.359/.477, 20 HR, 79 RBI)
6. R Byung-gyu Lee #7, CF (.262/.295/.370)
7a. R Hidenori Kuramoto #57, RF (.278/.321/.389)
7b. L Kazuki Inoue #9, RF (.292/.352/.427, old)
8. R Motonobu Tanishige #27, C (.236/.347/.322)

Hey, that's not fair. Even without that Kosuke kid in action, they have all of these guys who know how to hit a baseball with a bat!

R Kouhei Oda #26, C (Tanishige caught in 133 games out of 144 for a reason. Oda batted .194/.231/.222 in 27 games. Chunichi essentially has no backup catcher.)
L Kazuyoshi Tatsunami #3, DH (Current active Japanese hits leader, .275/.364/.367 as a pinch-hitter all year. Is awesome.)
R Hiroyuki Watanabe #5, IF (Sometimes comes in as a late-inning 1B because Tyrone is slow. Has an annoyingly difficult last name to write. Batted .130 this year.)
R Ryota Arai #25, IF (Little brother! Is adorable. Had a solid year on the farm and did okay in the top league too.)
R Ryousuke Hirata #8, OF (19-year-old kid from Osaka Toin. Still not sure what to think of him.)
R Atsushi Fujii #22, OF (900+ OPS on the farm, sucky in the top league.)
L Yoshinori Ueda #35, OF (Former Fighter)

You know, the Dragons' bench kind of sucks. Yeah, Tatsunami is FANTASTIC but I really don't know what to expect out of the rest of these guys. And god forbid anything happen to Tanishige, or the team's pretty much completely hosed.

Pitchers, Dragons

Rotation: The Chunichi rotation is actually the alternate identities of the Crazy Ken Band. Only guys named Ken (Kenshin, Kenichi, Kenta) are allowed in, along with some dude named Daisuke.

SP1: Kenshin Kawakami #11, RHP (12-8, 3.55; 167.1 IP, 23 BB, 145 K, 18 HR)
SP2: Kenichi Nakata #20, RHP (14-8, 3.59; 170.1 IP, 81 BB, 177 K, 14 HR)
SP3: Kenta Asakura #14, RHP (12-7, 3.36; 171.2 IP, 50 BB, 105 K, 9 HR)
SP4: Daisuke Yamai #29, RHP (6-4, 3.36; 83 IP, 32 BB, 56 K, 6 HR)
SP5: Takashi Ogasawara #43, LHP (6-6, 2.99; 120.1 IP, 33 BB, 97 K, 10 HR)

I don't actually think Takashi Ogasawara will get a start, but I guess it all depends on how the series is going. Since the Fighters have a relatively balanced standard lineup, it's unclear whether throwing a lefty at them will really make a difference. It was pretty crafty of Ochiai to throw Ogasawara at the Giants when they were expecting Kenshin, though, but that's the Central League for you.

And sadly, as my friend Jeff made the pun: "If you see Yamamoto coming out to the mound, you're going to say 'Masaka?!'"

(Hence, I am not even counting the 42-year-old lefty Masa Yamamoto (2-10, 5.07) in the mix. I feel TERRIBLE about that, since at this time last year he was still kicking butt for the Dragons, but that's just what happens.)

But at least the Dragons had three guys who won 10+ games, unlike the Fighters. Though it's funny to note that Kenichi Nakata had the second-highest strikeout total in the CL (177 to the 180 by Yomiuri's Utsumi), but he by far and away had the highest walk total in the CL (after his 81 the next highest is Hiroshima's Kan Ohtake with 59, which should tell you something). I would also guess that he had more full counts than any baseball player on the planet Earth this year, but I don't have a quick way to check that.

Bullpen: Hitoki Iwase is amazing. Did you know he's pitched in 10 Japan Series games in his career and never gave up a run in any of them?

CL: Hitoki Iwase #13, LHP (2-4, 2.44, 43 SV; 59 IP, 9 BB, 50 K, 3 HR)
BP1: Shinya Okamoto #12, RHP (5-2, 2.89; 56 IP, 21 BB, 44 K, 3 HR)
BP2: Yuuichi Hisamoto #61, LHP (2-1, 3.38; 45.1 IP, 20 BB, 31 K, 2 HR)
BP3: Masafumi Hirai #36, RHP (4-2, 3.29; 41 IP, 10 BB, 30 K, 5 HR)
BP4: Yoshihiro Suzuki #23, RHP (1-1, 3.52; 30.2 IP, 14 BB, 31 K, 3 HR)
BP5: Yuuya Ishii #30, LHP (2-2, 2.95; 18.1 IP, 11 BB, 14 K, 1 HR)

Wow. This is nowhere near the formidable bullpen Chunichi had last year. If nothing else, their walk rates have been ridiculously high.

Okay. Analysis next... we'll see how much I can think of before I fall asleep. I wanted to get this all done before the series but it just might not work out that way, sadly.

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