Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tokyo Big 6: Week 7, the rest of the wrapup

As for Week 7, well, it sounds like Todai fought valiantly but fell 2-0 to Rikkio as expected, so Keio has to win Soukeisen for the league championship, which seems likely.

Meiji and Hosei were basically battling for 3rd place, as both went into the weekend with 2 Series Points, meaning they weren't going to catch Keio and probably not Rikkio.

Game 1

Saturday was Hosei's Tomoya Mikami against Meiji's Yusuke Nomura. It was broadcast on Sky A, and the usual suspect rebroadcast it on I watched it about 3 hours after the game actually happened, but kept myself from checking Big 6 scores until I got home, so it was "live" to me, which was fantastic.

The game itself was pretty good, too, for the first half at least. Meiji took first blood in the 2nd inning when Hiroki Nakashima hit a home run into the leftfield bleachers to make it 1-0. Hosei evened that up in the top of the 3rd when Mikami led off with an infield single, he moved up on a sac bunt, and then Kento Tatebe hit a double that scored him, 1-1. Meiji came back in the bottom of the 3rd when Takashi Uemoto led off with a single, stole second, moved to third when captain Ikuhiro Takeda reached base on an error by second baseman Junpei Morimoto (aww), and then Uemoto scored on a single by Hiroaki Shimauchi, 2-1. Hosei evened it up in THEIR top of the 4th inning when freshman Ryosuke Itoh hit a HUGE homer to right field, 2-2.

Itoh, for the record, hit 94 home runs as a high schooler at Shinko Gakuen, and is one of these "golden freshman" types; I saw him play at Koshien, and then when I went to Hosei's ground in the preseason, they were already making it clear he'd be cracking the real lineup ASAP.

Also, Shimauchi got injured running during the May 7th game; as a friend described it, "he ran to 1st base and when he got there, his leg kinda gave out and he stumbled." After the game they saw him going to the hospital in a taxi, and he sat out the rest of the Todai series. But I guess it wasn't too bad, because he played the weekend after that.

Anyway, the tie game didn't last long; in the bottom of the 4th, Yusuke Nomura led off with a single (BOTH pitchers got singles in their first 2 at-bats!), Yosuke Kobayashi bunted him up, he went to 3rd on a single by Masataka Nakamura, and then scored on an RBI single by Takeda. 3-2.

Hosei would never actually score any more for the rest of the game. Mikami only pitched 4 innings before sophomore Hirohisa Umeda took the mound in the 5th. Umeda pitched one decent inning, but then gave up 2 runs in the 6th, hitting Kobayashi with a pitch and walking Nakamura; Uemoto sac bunted them up and then Takeda got two more RBIs on a blooper fly kind of single to the infield which landed behind second base. 5-2. Kazuki Mishima finished out the last 2 innings with 3 strikeouts and no runs, though, so that was good.

Nomura only pitched the first 7 innings, while Takayuki Morita pitched the last 2 for Meiji, and he also got 3 strikeouts and no runs.

Game 2

Amidst a bunch of light rain, Hosei and Meiji met for their second game, with Kazuki Mishima taking the mound for Hosei and Gota Nanba for Meiji. All was normal through 7 innings; Meiji was up 1-0 on an RBI single by Nakamura. Kazuki Funamoto took over to pitch in the top of the 8th, and THEN in the bottom of the 8th, suddenly Hosei surged for 3 runs. Junpei Morimoto singled, and Taki hit a popout, but then Hasegawa got a single to center that put runners at the corners. During Naoki Harada's at-bat, a wild pitch scored Morimoto to make it 1-1, and Harada struck out. It was, of course, at that moment that Ryosuke Itoh hit his second homerun against Meiji, a 2-run shot to right, that scored Hasegawa and him, and made it 3-1. Shogo Shibata and Tomoya Kumabe (!) got the next 3 batters out to end the threat.

But they couldn't account for the WEATHER.

Meiji had 2 on and 2 out in the top of the 9th and the game got called due to rain, with Hosei winning 3-1.

So the series was tied at 1 game each.

Game 3

As mentioned in the short post before this one, Game 3 was where Mikami and Nomura had a rematch against each other. Meiji couldn't do anything against Mikami, amazingly, and Nomura gave up 2 runs in the 7th to Shohei Doi, a 2-RBI single. So Hosei won 2-0, and Nomura didn't get his 6th win of the year, but he DID get his 301th college career strikeout!

It's possible that he could get 6 wins in the spring and get to 30 wins, but kind of unlikely as he's never gotten that many in a semester before.

(BTW, in the time it took me to write up Week 7, Week 8 happened, and Keio did infact win the league! Hooray for Daisuke and Fukutani and Itoh!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yusuke Nomura - 300 K's!

Despite that Nomu-chan always seems to be avoiding me on purpose, I still have a great amount of respect for the kid. Hard to believe I've been watching him pitch for almost 4 years now, since he was a senior at Koryo high school and came within 2 innings of winning Koshien 2007 before running out of steam.

Meiji played their final series against Hosei this past weekend, and lost it under bizarre circumstances (more on that in another post). Nomura pitched and won Saturday, and pitched and lost Monday. But despite losing the game on Monday the 23rd, he struck out 9 Hosei batters, which put him at 68 strikeouts for the semester. He'd had 233 strikeouts before this semester, so it means he ends the season with 301. (Nikkan Sports)

He's averaged around 40-50 strikeouts per semester, so if he continues that in the fall, he'll probably be able to make it into the Big 6 career strikeout records between Mikinori Katoh's 5th-place position at 371 and the 6th-place tie between Noboru Akiyama and Kazuhito Tadano at 334. (From here.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tokyo Big 6: Rikkio-Keio?!

Weeks 5 and 6 saw all kinds of turns that I wasn't expecting. Keio beat Meiji in a 4-game slugfest of a series, which gives them 4 Series Points. Each team has one matchup left to play out, and the standings after Week 6 are...

1 Keio 11 8 2 1 4 .800
2 Rikkio 12 7 4 1 3 .636
3 Meiji 11 6 4 1 2 .600
4 Hosei 10 4 4 1 2 .444
5 Waseda 11 4 5 1 1 .400
6 Tokyo 9 0 8 1 0 .000

Rikkio kind of lucks out in that their final match is Todai, which is almost a guaranteed Series Point, even against this New And Improved Todai.

Keio's last match, on the other hand, is Soukeisen, against Waseda. But it's against a Waseda that has been sucking it up after leaning on Saitoh, Ohishi, and Fukui for several years, and not developing other players.

Anyway, here's what's up:
If Rikkio loses 1 or more games during Week 7, Keio wins the league championship regardless.

If Rikkio goes 2-0 in Week 7 against Todai, then...

...if Keio wins Soukeisen, they win the league championship (they'll have 5 Series Points as they are the only team to beat Rikkio).

...if Keio goes 1-2 at Soukeisen, there'll be another League Playoff Game between the two of them, just like the one last fall. This is actually a very rare thing and to have it happen 2 semesters in a row would be crazy.

...if Keio goes 0-2 at Soukeisen, Rikkio wins the league.

I doubt Waseda has any shot at all of beating Keio, but who knows.

Also, Junpei Morimoto, the Chukyodai Chukyo pitcher I liked, made his freshman debut for Hosei at... second base? Kinda replacing Chukyodai alum and captain Masashi Nanba? And speaking of other Chukyo->Hosei kids, Kawai Kanji has 4 hits for the season. 4. But they're all extra-base hits -- 3 homers and a double. WTF?

BTW, I started a new job, and it's not only as a programmer/writer, but it's in San Francisco for the next 2 months, which means I'm commuting to the Bay Area from Seattle for now, so I'm probably too busy to write much here, despite that I am still following Japanese baseball as much as possible and going to a few MLB games here and there, though I'm still largely feeling bored when I do.

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.