Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tokyo Big 6: Halfway Through

Well, first, Sanko won the Spring Tourney though it was much closer than anyone would have expected -- it went into extra innings and catcher Takahiro Suzuki ended up hitting a walkoff sayonara grand slam. I'm still trying to finish out my Sanko photopost series, if anyone cares.

But besides that, I ended up spending a bunch of time this weekend hooked on the text updates of the Rikkio-Waseda series, which, wonderfully, Rikkio won. I didn't write about opening weekend here (was too busy moving back to the US), but I stalked Rikkio players after one of the game and managed to catch Masato Komuro, who signed a photo for me and chatted a bit. He's really nice, and I told him I hoped he'd have a good year. Seems that I've cursed him like I did Kagami last spring -- now he has to pitch until his arm falls off because his team needs him. On the one hand, he's having an ace-like season, and got the 2 wins against Waseda, to now be 4-2, 1.63 for the season. On the other hand, he's been pitching like 17 innings per weekend on average.

It's not that I'm cheering for Rikkio in particular. I'm still kind of anti-Waseda out of habit, and besides that, last year everyone had been saying how Ohtake-kantoku was pretty much screwing over the team by only playing seniors, having The Big Three of Saitoh and Fukui and Ohishi pitch all the innings, and ignoring the underclassmen because Ohtake was quitting and didn't have to care about the next generation -- so seeing them lose now is sort of an "I told you so" feeling. And whoa boy are they losing -- if they hadn't beaten Todai (and they DID nearly lose a game to them!) they wouldn't have any Series Points this season.

I think if I was still at Jingu every weekend I'd be cheering largely Hosei-Meiji, but that's just because they've been often playing on the same side of the field, and I know the most players on their teams. I think Keio's going to win the league, though -- they're simply out-batting, out-pitching, and mostly out-fielding their opposition, for the most part.

I think the keys for Keio have been
1) captain Hayata "Clutchy McClutchitude" Itoh pretty much dominating the league with his bat moreso than he ever has before
2) Koji Fukutani being converted into a closer who rocks the 8th and 9th innings even harder than Tatsuya Ohishi did
3) Akihiro Hakumura and Kei Tamura stepping up to essentially be the #2 starter
4) the emergence of Masaki Miyamoto as another bat to be reckoned with

In other interesting things that are largely irrelevant to the standings, Todai's claim that they are going to suck less this season has actually happened, to an extent. Last fall, they had a legitimate former big-leaguer -- 16-year Chunichi Dragons veteran and Meikyukai member Kenichi Yazawa -- come in and act as a batting coach in the offseason for them. Something MUST have helped, because they already in 3 weeks have almost twice as many extra-base hits as they had all season last year, and almost as many hits period, as well as walks. Last season Todai scored 13 runs total; this season they've already scored 14. Small steps, you know?

What struck me most about this is -- well, opening weekend I thought Todai first baseman Yohei Tachi was batting pretty well and even told him so after one of the games. Since then he has continued on this tear of his and, bizarrely, is NUMBER FOUR IN THE LEAGUE IN OPS right now.

No, really:
                        AVG  OBP  SLG     OPS
Hayata Itoh (K) .522/.613/1.130 1.743
Hiroaki Shimauchi (M) .632/.682/.842 1.524
Kento Tatebe (H) .412/.444/.941 1.386
Yohei Tachi (T) .391/.500/.565 1.065
Naoki Harada (H) .500/.500/.563 1.063
Yusuke Hasegawa (H) .308/.500/.462 0.962
Yuji Naka (R) .412/.432/.500 0.932
Masaki Miyamoto (K) .304/.429/.478 0.907
Ren Yamasaki (K) .310/.394/.483 0.877
Takashi Uemoto (M) .278/.417/.444 0.861

Itoh's just a force to be reckoned with. 31 PA, 23 AB, 12 hits, 2 doubles and 4 homers, and 7 walks, 13 RBI. Nobody wants to pitch to this man.

Tachi, for a Todai guy, though... 28 PA, 23 AB, 9 hits, 4 doubles, and 5 walks. Believe it or not, Tachi is leading Big 6 batters in doubles right now.

Keio's Hayata Itoh, now sporting the captain's #10.

Meiji's Hiroaki Shimauchi during a preseason game.

Todai's Most Improved Bat, Yohei Tachi.

Pitching-wise, I don't have a lot to say so far. I will say that Komuro is clearly pitching more than ANYONE in the league this semester, at his 49.2 innings when the next-most is 27 innings. He also has 4 wins when nobody else has more than 2. This is because he is carrying Rikkio on his back.

What's kind of cool is how Koji Fukutani is doing as a closer. When Tatsuya Ohishi was doing that for Waseda, he posted some ridiculous numbers; always a WHIP below 1, ridiculous K/BF ratios around 30%, just these totally gaudy numbers. Well, I can delightfully report that after 3/5 of the matches this semester, Fukutani is managing to out-Ohishi those numbers.

These are a few stats for this semester so far. I sorted the pitchers with enough innings to count (varies by college, but there were 12 guys) by WHIP. The top 3 are the guys under 1.0. The bottom 2 are just for kicks:

1. Fukutani (K) 16 52 7 1 26 0 0.00 0.50 14.63 0.56 50.0% 1.9%
2. Hakumura (K) 15.1 55 7 4 13 1 0.59 0.72 7.63 2.35 23.6% 7.3%
3. Nomura (M) 25 94 17 4 28 6 2.16 0.84 10.08 1.44 29.8% 4.3%

6. Komuro (R) 49.2 201 40 16 34 9 1.63 1.13 6.16 2.90 16.9% 7.9%
10. Takeuchi (K) 18 82 24 5 18 8 4.00 1.61 9.00 2.50 22.0% 6.1%

Daisuke got REALLY unlucky in opening weekend, I think -- LOTS of hits off him by the Rikkio batters. However, he didn't give up any home runs, and his strikeouts and walk rates are still fine. If the semesters were only longer here, I'm sure it'd all sort itself out eventually.

But oh MAN, look at Fukutani. He hasn't actually walked a batter yet this semester -- that "1" in the BBH column is from when he hit Hosei's Yusuke Hasegawa with a pitch. He's struck out half the batters he's faced. THAT is NUTS. To be fair, he was aided by an insane opening weekend the way Daisuke got unlucky, but still. Fukutani pitches basically 2 innings of every Keio game, which keeps him in the running to qualify for league titles. It'd be great if he could keep this up and get a bunch of awards and make the national team and so on :)

Akihiro Hakumura high-fiving Koji Fukutani.

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