Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tokyo Big 6 Fall 2010 Best Nine, Stats Stuff, New Captains, etc

I've been really remiss in my Big 6 posting, but the final week was kind of traumatic for me for various reasons. As I mentioned before, Keio had to sweep both games of Keisousen/Soukeisen, which they did, and then win another forced playoff game -- the first Waseda-Keio playoff game in 50 years -- on November 3rd to take the title away from Waseda.

As you can probably guess, especially since I mentioned that Waseda was playing in the Jingu Taikai, that didn't happen. Daisuke Takeuchi had a pretty tough 1st inning and Waseda took a quick 3-0 lead, which extended to 7-0; Yuki Saitoh pitched SEVEN INNINGS OF NO-HIT BALL before imploding in the 8th and Keio scored 5 runs to bring it to 7-5. Ohishi finished out the game for Waseda, and so IMO, rather than trying to win it, Etoh-kantoku put in lefty Takuya Masaki to pitch the 9th inning with Ryuta Iba as catcher. Masaki and Iba were a battery at Keio high school, YEARS ago, so it was a "last moment" for them. I'm not sure Masaki ever pitched in college, he always played 1st base when I saw him.

So Waseda won 10-5 and won the Fall 2010 Championship. The reporters and photographers had a total party with this one, of course, and so many cameramen were set up that normal people couldn't even SEE the doage where they tossed Saitoh and everyone up in the air.

There was a Fall 2010 Closing Ceremony after that where all the teams came out and lined up, they presented Best Nines and trophies for ERA and batting champ. I sat right behind home plate for that part. I should have gone outside to say a final goodbye to some players from the other colleges, and wanted to say a congrats to Kagami, but instead I ended up at the Keio retirement ceremony, held inside Jingu. At least I got to say goodbye to my favorite Keio boys afterwards (except Daisuke, who was nowhere to be found). Still, it was a really long emotional day for a lot of people; lots of players were crying, and even I was crying a few times, since it was ostensibly my last Big 6 game for a very long time, and I'm going to miss everyone a lot.

Anyway, on that note, let me post some season-summarizing stuff:

Best Nine
Pos Name College Yr. Votes Times High School

P Koji Fukutani Keio 2 12 1 Yokosuka
C Masahiro Nagasaki Keio 4 15 3 Koshi
1B Sho Nishi Meiji 4 17 1 Toho
2B Koji Udaka Waseda 4 15 1 Imabari Nishi
SS Hitoshi Fuchigami Keio 4 20 1 Keio
3B Kanji Kawai Hosei 1 20 1 Chukyodai Chukyo
OF Hayata Itoh Keio 3 17 2 Chukyodai Chukyo
OF Shohei Habu Waseda 3 19 2 Koryo
OF Toshiki Yamada Waseda 4 16 2 Waseda Jitsugyo

Full votes is 22. Oddly, nobody got full votes. It really was kind of a difficult season to call, in many ways, especially with the craziness at the end. What is odd is that usually the position players for Best Nine are the best batters at each position, but that didn't quite happen this time, because if it had, Soichiro Tanaka should have had an OF Best Nine. (And in all honesty he should have had one anyway -- my picks would have been Shohei Habu, Soichiro Tanaka, and Hayata Itoh, both for their batting AND fielding.)

I hate to say this about Masahiro Nagasaki, since I'm a huge fan of his -- he is a pretty good all-around catcher, but his arm is pretty weak. He handles pitchers well, he fields fouls really well, and he certainly bats better than most other catchers (though Hosei's Takuya Hiromoto was the best catcher both in AVG and OPS this semester). But a lot of the other catchers have stronger arms and are better at actually holding runners. (Nagasaki told me he's quitting baseball after college, so I guess it's irrelevant now anyway.) I foresee a battle between Daisuke Ichimaru (Waseda) and Kenji Kawabe (Meiji) for the Best Nines next year.

I think Hosei's Hiroshi Taki was probably robbed of a Best Nine due to starting the season at SS and playing the last few series at 1B. Meiji's 1B Sho Nishi got the Best Nine due to his huge batting average, which was COMPLETELY due to going 6-for-6 with two walks against Todai during their first series. Nishi was 9-for-13 (.692) in the first two series, and then 5-for-28 (.178) in the last 3 series. Without the Todai games, Nishi batted a pedestrian .228 for the season. However, Taki actually saw his average DROP in a two-game series against Todai where Yoshihiro Maeda was going all out for his final two games EVER, hoping for just ONE win against his 23 losses, and really threw the best games I'd ever seen him pitch in his Todai career. Taki batted .350 in games NOT involving Todai. Take that as you will. (Or more like, give him the Best Nine, dammit!)

I'm happy to see Fukutani get the Best Nine, because he is awesome. He's tall (182cm), smart (was a top student in HS and aced the Keio entrance exam), humble and sweet ("You sure you want me to ruin this nice photo by writing my name on it?"), and can throw 95mph. It's clear that he barely got a majority of the Best Nine votes (12 of 22) and I am guessing a lot of the others went to Yusuke Nomura, with perhaps a few going to Kisho Kagami as well. These people tend to vote based on wins and ERA alone, which would give you those 3 guys tying for the league lead of 5 wins:

Nomura 5 2 1.30 55.1 8
Fukutani 5 1 1.32 61.1 9
Kagami 5 3 2.31 62.1 16

So I'm guessing that Kagami was out based on his "high" ERA, despite how he essentially carried Hosei on his back -- he had more innings pitched than anyone in Big 6. On the other hand, Kagami gave up more home runs (4) than any other pitcher in Big 6 except for his teammate Kazuki Mishima. Whoops.

Fukutani probably got a few more votes than Nomura because Keio did better than Meiji, and Fukutani pitched in some REALLY key situations and did well, including basically getting a win AND a save in the 2-game Keio-Waseda series. If Fukutani had managed one more scoreless inning, he would have had the league ERA title, actually (it's that close -- 9 runs on 62.1 innings slightly edges out 8 runs in 55.1 innings).

But, if you look at Nomura vs. Fukutani by stats that "matter", it becomes a slightly different story...

Fukutani 61.1 43 0 19 1.01 237 18.1% 8.02% 18.1%
Nomura 55.1 48 0 8 1.01 216 25.0% 3.70% 22.2%

There are only two guys in Big 6 with enough IP to qualify who beat Nomura's strikeout percentage. One is Tatsuya Ohishi, who ALWAYS posts the best K/BF rate in the league. The other is Yuya Fukui, who usually quietly has some great strikeout rates AND some lousy walk rates. And both of those guys were drafted last month.

Nomura easily has the best BB/BF percentage in the league. The next best is Kagami's 4.88%. Nomura simply does not walk batters or give up home runs to them. By the defense-independent breed of statistics, Nomura is just the best in the league, and has been for most of his college career.

On the other hand, Nomura got a lovely trophy for the ERA title anyway, so hey, give this to Fukutani. He deserves something for being awesome too, just like Daisuke did in the spring.

Batting and ERA champs

Koryo class of 2007 in the house!

Batting champion: Shohei Habu, Waseda, .386/.472/.523
ERA champion: Yusuke Nomura, Meiji, 5-2, 1.30

These guys, who were high school teammates that came two innings from winning Koshien together in 2007, are only going to get better next year. Watch out for them. I nicknamed Shohei Habu "Habunnai", a pun on the Japanese word "abunnai" which means dangerous, because when you cheer against Waseda, he's a guy you don't look forward to seeing at the plate.

Other "Relevant" Stats
I realize that 11-13 games and 50ish plate appearances are not a huge sample size, but well, that's what you get in a season here.

Top 10 Batters by OPS:

(W3) Shohei Habu .386/.472/.523 .994
(K3) Hayata Itoh .315/.406/.556 .962
(R4) Soichiro Tanaka .327/.448/.473 .920
(M4) Sho Nishi .341/.438/.463 .901
(H3) Yusuke Hasegawa .278/.395/.500 .895
(W4) Toshiki Yamada .371/.436/.457 .893
(R4) Yuki Maeda .268/.380/.488 .868
(H1) Kanji Kawai .350/.356/.500 .856
(H2) Hiroshi Taki .319/.418/.426 .844
(W4) Koji Udaka .343/.372/.457 .829
(K4) Hitoshi Fuchigami .362/.415/.414 .829

Astute readers may notice there are 11 names in this list because both Udaka and Fuchigami were tied for 10th.

This time there were no crazy guys with an OPS over 1.000, sadly, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Keio's Hayata Itoh and Rikkio's Yuki Maeda tied for the league lead for homeruns with 3 apiece. Itoh also leads the league in RBIs with 11.

Rikkio's Soichiro Tanaka and Koichiro Matsumoto tied for the league lead for walks with 12 apiece.

(Interestingly, Meiji's Katsuya Kawashima was next in walks with 10, but didn't have enough PA to qualify for the batting title lists; he walked those 10 times in 28 PA. His line for the semester is a BIZARRE .167/.464/.222; I wonder how he'll do if they give him the leadoff spot regularly next year.)

Hosei's incumbent captain Masashi Nanba is the stolen base leader with 7.

Team batting:

Keio .264/.317/.390 .707 10 13 8
Waseda .268/.328/.341 .669 5 7 6
Hosei .262/.315/.351 .666 5 16 6
Meiji .255/.325/.323 .648 3 14 9
Rikkio .241/.307/.329 .636 8 13 12
Tokyo .169/.231/.187 .418 0 4 17

League avg .243/.304/.320 .624 5.2 11.2 9.7

Nothing weird in the patterns this semester. What's kind of sad is how truly awful Todai was at batting -- they were 55-for-326 as a team, with a whopping SIX extra-base hits. SIX. All doubles.

Team pitching:

Keio 1.96 1.13 6.70 3.05
Hosei 2.44 1.12 7.48 2.36
Waseda 2.69 1.13 8.16 3.87
Rikkio 3.12 1.32 5.86 4.12
Meiji 3.19 1.21 7.63 2.96
Todai 6.41 1.95 2.97 5.74

Hosei's pitching looks really great on paper, especially since Kazuki Mishima got his walks down a lot this semester. If only he and Kagami hadn't given up so many home runs...

Naturally, Waseda has the highest strikeout ratio, being as they've got a lot of power pitchers and 97% of their innings went to the Big Three of Saitoh, Ohishi, and Fukui anyway. (Not a joke. 103 of the 107 innings pitched by Waseda staff were by those three.)

BTW, one more run in the realm of Small Sample Size Theater:

RS RA G W/L/T Pythag W-L
Waseda 45 33 12 8-4 8-4 .638%
Keio 63 33 14 8-4-2 11-3 .766%
Hosei 57 33 13 8-4-1 9-4 .731%
Meiji 48 45 13 7-6 7-6 .529%
Rikkio 52 54 15 4-8-3 7-8 .483%
Tokyo 13 80 11 1-10 0-11 .034%

I thought this was weird because the top three teams all allowed exactly 33 runs. What's up with that? No, but seriously, it was also curious that the Pythagorean win/loss tagged a lot of teams pretty closely minus ties, except Keio; though to be fair, Hosei was the benefactor of a 23-3 weekend vs. Todai, and Keio had a 19-0 weekend against Todai; no other team had a double digit game against them, oddly.

The lesson to be learned? Slamming Todai gets you nowhere! Losing to them is the key to success! Making history by almost forcing a first-ever 6-game series due to ties and then actually forcing a 1-game playoff later on will never win you a championship, Keio!

Just kidding.

Anyway, since every team EXCEPT Waseda has decided their next captain...

2011 Team Captains!

Keio: Hayata Itoh OF, Chukyodai Chukyo HS
Meiji: Ikuhiro Takeda IF, Hotoku Gakuen HS
Hosei: Masashi Nanba IF, Chukyodai Chukyo HS
Rikkio: Keisuke Okazaki IF, PL Gakuen HS
Todai: Shuhei Iwasaki IF, Kaijo HS

What's kind of cool is that I've actually met all of these guys at least once, and even have photos with or autographs from most of them. I guarantee I have not met whoever Waseda chooses (what do you want to bet it'll be Ayuki Matsumoto?)

Also, no pitchers. I'm of the opinion that the best team captains are often middle infielders or catchers. Pitchers have more than enough to worry about without the additional responsibilities of being a team captain, honestly.

And on an outgoing note, I kept forgetting to share this, so here is as good a place as any. Seiya Ohyagi, the outgoing Hosei captain, wrote a long and touching blog entry right before Soukeisen saying how he's known the Waseda 3rd-base coach Shoji "Bob" Nozaki since they were in middle school, and for one reason or another they never got to play baseball together again after that time, but had stayed in touch through HS and college rivalries, and he was sad to learn that Nozaki had given up playing and was coaching and rookie-managing instead, but felt that his old friend still looked "cool" out there anyway, and wanted to cheer for him at Soukeisen. And at the end of the post he put a photo of himself holding a "Seiya loves Nozaki" drawing. Very cute.

So a day or two later, on the never-updated Waseda blog, Nozaki wrote a response, basically saying the same thing -- that all of these years of their supposed rivalry didn't change that they were still Best Baseball Buddies Forever.

It was just very sweet and very Seiya. I think I'm kind of being unfair to Nanba in that there's no way he can live up to the way I saw Ohyagi out there on the field and before and after games as a leader and a representative of the team.

And another one of my favorite captains, Keio's Tatsushi Yumoto, also just wrote a farewell post on the Keio blog. The last time I saw Yumoto was on his birthday... which was that final playoff game on November 3rd, that Keio lost to lose the championship. Poor guy.

On a final note, the fall issue of 大学野球 is out TODAY! and has a ton of interesting stuff in it, including the usual list of which companies players are heading to next year. I'll try to put that up sometime when I have a chance.

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