Monday, May 17, 2010

Tokyo Big 6 University League, Week 6: The Rant

I am not happy with the results of Week 6. I'll post game reports and photos a little bit later.

Basically, Meiji lost to Keio and Hosei lost to Waseda, so at this point, whoever wins Soukeisen (the traditional Week 8 Waseda-Keio slugfest) wins the Tokyo Big 6 League this semester. That makes most of the world happy, as Waseda and Keio are like the Giants and Tigers of the Big 6. (Or the Yankees and Red Sox to those of you less familiar with NPB.) Waseda and Keio's baseball rivalry goes back before there WAS a Meiji Jingu Stadium, and even way before there was even a Tokyo Big 6 League. Infact, it's pretty much almost as old as Waseda and Keio themselves -- Waseda officially became a university in 1902, and in 1903 the senior members of the Keio and Waseda baseball clubs challenged each other to a match. Keio won the first game and have been paying for it ever since.

But anyway, it makes Week 7 completely irrelevant, as none of the teams playing have a shot at winning the league this semester anymore. Right now, Keio and Waseda have 3 Series Points each with only Soukeisen left. Rikkio, Meiji, and Hosei all have 2 series points with only the Meiji-Hosei and Rikkio-Todai games left in Week 7. So whoever wins Soukeisen will have 4 points and the league victory. Whoever wins their match in Week 7 can, at best, tie for 2nd place, depending on who wins and by how many games.

Of course, I'm going to the Week 7 Hosei-Meiji matchup anyway. I said at the start of the semester that I was going to come to see Kagami pitch as much as possible, and I'm sticking to that. Plus, I promised several people that I'd be there, including Hosei's team captain.

But it really was so much more exciting last year. Last spring, Hosei and Meiji met up in Week 7 and were basically playing for the league victory, as either team could clinch with a 2-0 series (as Hosei did). And last fall, there was a big complicated set of conditions for the league victory -- Meiji and Hosei were both in a must-win-to-have-any-chance situation in Week 7, and then there was still the condition that Waseda had to win Soukeisen to win the league (and when they lost, Meiji won the league). It was exciting down to the very last game, where Waseda started Tatsuya Ohishi, and he got smacked around. (Seriously, it must be a mental thing. He's the world's best college reliever and world's worst college starter.)

Actually, the truth of the matter is that I don't really want to die under the avalanche of hype that will happen if Waseda wins the league with Saitoh as captain. Don't get me wrong, I actually DO like Saitoh, I just hate the hype that surrounds him. Much like many MLB fans know very little of NPB players beyond "They have some Darvish guy," even many NPB fans know very little of Big 6 baseball beyond "They have the Handkerchief Prince." In some ways I feel bad for him because he has so much more pressure on him than so many other college kids, but in other ways he's somewhat representative of Japan's tendency to need to have a face or a mascot or some sort of person or character to represent something for them.

Anyway, I will write game reports in a bit. I did want to present some stats I just ran for this season so far, on a few pitchers:

Saitoh (W) 4 2 1 29 1.24 0.76 18.69% 5.61% 14.95% 3.68
Takeuchi (K) 7 4 2 48.2 1.29 0.99 20.63% 7.94% 17.46% 3.88
Kagami (H) 6 3 1 41 1.54 0.83 18.95% 3.92% 18.30% 3.73
Nomura (M) 6 2 2 35 1.54 0.71 24.24% 2.27% 16.67% 3.77
Okabe (R) 7 2 2 40.2 3.10 1.40 19.32% 7.95% 24.43% 4.32
Ohishi (W) 7 2 1 17 3.18 0.94 39.39% 4.55% 19.70% 3.88

I have separated out Ohishi because he is a reliever, but he does have enough IP to qualify for the ERA title right now. The other 5 are the "aces" for the relevant schools, the guys you will see starting each Saturday.

Things I noticed:

- Daisuke Takeuchi is carrying Keio on his back, just like Nakabayashi used to. Ugh. This weekend he actually started on Saturday AND Sunday. Against Meiji. WTF.

- Yusuke Nomura has SCARY control this semester. In Fall 2009 his BB/BF was 4.19%, and in Spring 2009 it was 7.40%. Actually, watching him pitch this year, it's clear he's matured a lot as a pitcher, period, and next year you're going to be seeing a lot of him in all the college baseball magazines once they stop crying over the fact that Saitoh graduated and they won't sell as many issues anymore.

- Kisho Kagami and Yuki Saitoh are almost identical pitchers when you look at the percentages. They face about the same number of batters per inning, strike out about the same percentage of the batters they do face, and allow about the same number of runners. Kagami has the advantage in that he walks less guys, but gives up more hits (which people sometimes argue is not really under a pitcher's control, although I think that Waseda's infield defense might be slightly better only because they have more dependable players; Hosei has been a revolving door at the hot corner). I guess there's one stat not here: HR allowed. Saitoh has only allowed 1, to Rikkio's Keisuke Okazaki. Kagami has allowed 2... one to Rikkio's Keisuke Okazaki... and one to Waseda's Yuki Saitoh. Whoops.

(Contrariwise, though, if you actually look at them, Saitoh is 5'9" and 165 pounds. Kagami is 6'1", 195 pounds. I've seen Kagami top out at 95 mph; I've only seen Saitoh hit 92mph.)

- Kenya Okabe walks too many guys. Wait, I knew that already.

- Tatsuya Ohishi is a SCARY SCARY MAN when it comes to strikeouts. Nevermind that everything he throws goes across the plate at 95mph; when he's on, he's unhittable, at least by college players. Like, they know the slider is coming and they still can't do a damn thing about it. Seriously, he strikes out almost 40% of the batters he faces. His K/9 is 13.76. Yikes. While he has fallen to being #2 in my heart as far as college pitchers go, I still think he is ridiculous to watch when he is really on, and wonder what'll happen when he starts facing real batters in the real NPB.

On another note, Team ERAs and Batting Averages as of Week 6 (sorted by team OPS)

Keio 2.22 .270 .323 .393 .716
Meiji 1.67 .266 .343 .371 .714
Rikkio 4.07 .266 .300 .411 .710
Waseda 1.52 .250 .313 .324 .638
Hosei 1.35 .225 .292 .299 .591
Tokyo 7.01 .152 .205 .181 .387

That's really a sad story right there about Hosei's state of the lineup. Last spring, when they won the championship, they had a team ERA of 1.41, which isn't far off from this year... and a .300 team BA and .779 OPS. Ouch.

Meanwhile, one really wonders why Meiji didn't win the league again this year. I blame Shogo Shashiki.

One last list, before I go:

Top 10 Batters by OPS (with a minimum of 24 PA), as of Week 6:

R.Maeda (R) 1.032
Nagasaki (K) .994
Okazaki (R) .967
Sasaki (H) .965
Araki (M) .943
Matsuo (K) .915
Watanabe (W) .910
S.Tanaka (R) .897
H.Saitoh (R) .875
Itoh (K) .859

Dang! Rikkio has a couple of sluggers on their hands -- and most of them aren't graduating for another year or two! If Okabe matures into a better pitcher and they get a good #2 starter -- maybe if Teikyo's Hirahara steps up? -- you could see some scary stuff out of them in a couple of semesters. They haven't won a title in 10 years at this point, so they're due, you could say.

On another note, and this will come out in the game reports, but the only awesome thing to come out of Week 6, as far as I was concerned, was that I got to see Hosei freshman Kanji Kawai's college debut. He was the slugger kid from Chukyodai Chukyo that I was so psyched about before the season started. Apparently he was injured for a few weeks, which is why it took this long for them to work him into the game. And for the record -- his very first official at-bat was leading off against Yuki Saitoh -- and he got a hit. The kid has guts.

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