Showing posts with label Japan Series 2007. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan Series 2007. Show all posts

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Foto: Information Overload

I was feeling really stupid for not going out and buying all of the sports dailies after the Fighters became the Pacific League champions, so this afternoon after lunch I stopped by a news stand and spent like 800 yen on sports papers:

Dragonbutts and beer and more,
spread out on my carpet floor.

Top: Chunichi Sports Tokyo, Nikkan Sports
Middle: Tokyo Sports, Sankei Sports
Bottom: Sports Hochi, Sponichi

Several of the papers have these neat layouts of the perfect game with shots of all 27 batters. Most have articles about Norihiro Nakamura. Some feature a lot about the beer-spraying party. Almost all have some sort of Fighters sob story too.

Tokyo Sports is weird. I'm not fully convinced it's actually a sports publication, because it seems more interested in showing players in embarrassing positions during the beer party than it does in talking about the actual series.

I'm really not sure exactly what I'll do with all of these papers once I'm done trying to read them all. Maybe I'll save them for 53 years until the NEXT Chunichi championship.

Misero Ochiai Nippon Ichi!

I don't believe it, but Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase combined for a perfect game to win the fifth and final game of the 2007 Japan Series. DAISUKE FREAKING YAMAI! Sunglasses at night!

The last time the Dragons won the Series was 53 years ago. It's kind of cool, because last year the Fighters ended their 44-year championship drought, and this year the Dragons ended an even longer one. If I'm not mistaken, the longest drought now is 23 years since the Hiroshima Carp won a championship in 1984. (I'm counting Orix as Orix, not counting the fact that the Kintetsu Buffaloes never won a championship.)

Yeah, the Fighters lost, but fortunately the Dragons are my second favorite team, so it's all good. If the Fighters had lost the Japan Series to the Giants, for example, I'd be pretty pissed off.

(picture from Mainichi Shinbun)

I only saw 15 minutes of tonight's game -- my cellphone works as a mini-TV, but I don't get reception in my workplace. Amazingly, I saw the only scoring play of the entire night. It must be something about the GPS on my cellphone which causes the opponents to score runs as soon as I switch on the TV. I really ought to get that fixed.

I left the building to grab dinner around 6:30pm, tuned in to the game, and what I saw was the Fighters going down meekly in their half of the 2nd inning. Woods singled, and then I saw Nori Nakamura hit the ball way out to right field. From what the announcers were saying and from the low-resolution screen, I almost thought it was going to be a home run, but no, it bounced off the back wall, and if it hadn't been Tyrone on first, that'd probably be an RBI double.

Runners at second and third with no outs pretty much meant that the only way nobody was going to score was if Darvish struck out the next three batters (not entirely unlikely, but not likely either) or if the Dragons ran themselves out of the inning (possible, but come on, I wouldn't bet on Shinya Tsuruoka to win a collision with Tyrone Woods). So, sure enough, he struck out Byung-Gyu Lee, but then Hirata hit a sac fly to right, and even Tyrone could score on that one. Tanishige struck out to end the inning, and I had to head back to work.

I was thinking at the time, "Man, 1-0. That might be just enough to win this game, given how dead the Fighters bats have been."

I checked in around 8pm, and it was still 1-0, in the 6th inning or so. I didn't realize that the 0 actually meant 0 runners as well.

The next time I could look was at 9pm, and that's when I saw a bunch of email messages on my phone basically saying "Holy crap! Yamai and Iwase combined for the first perfect game in Japan Series history!" I had a voicemail from my friend Jeff, who was down in Nagoya Station where it was, as he put it, "a FUCKING MADHOUSE out here".

I was torn between four emotions at that moment:
1) "Crap, the Fighters lost. And how."
2) "Cool, the Dragons won. Misero Ochiai Nippon Ichi!"
4) "...I have to teach a class now?"

After I was done for the evening, I went home and basically watched sports highlights as they shifted on and off of various stations. They showed bits and pieces of the game -- the run scoring, and then random strikeouts and nice plays, mostly by Arakibata, and then they showed Iwase coming in to close out the game, and the streamers and doage and whatnot. Norihiro Nakamura was named the Japan Series MVP, and unlike his calm manager, Nori was in tears during his speech. You can't blame him. Here's a guy who started off the year as a taxi squad player, managed to make the real roster out of camp, and against all odds played most of the year at the top level and put up an 800+ OPS with 20 home runs, essentially replacing Fukudome's bat in the lineup. All this from a guy who never even got his own player cheer song -- to the end, the fans were still singing the "guy who we haven't made a cheer song for" theme during his at-bats.

They had some interviews with Ochiai-kantoku, who was -- get this -- actually smiling and laughing, and then a bunch of stations had an interview with Iwase, Kawakami, and Takashi Ogasawara, who had apparently been steam-cleaned from the postgame festivities, and were in street clothes. Ogasawara was calling Kenshin "sempai", since they were a year apart at Meiji University. It was cute. Tanishige eventually kind of wandered onto the set like "Hey guys, what's up? Oh, you're on live TV? Nice."

Then there was footage of the beer-kake party on another station. It wasn't quite as funny as the Fighters post-playoff party, but amusing nonetheless. The cameramen were trying to interview Nori Nakamura, but of course people kept pouring beer on him the whole time and he was like "AAAAAA! AAAAAAA! SAIKOOOOOU!" Asakura was wearing a fuzzy ski cap facemask, and Araki still looked freakish, and Ibata was wearing pink goggles and babbling about how cool everything was. Morino went on camera and was like "Yeah, er, 53 years IS a really long time, y'think?" before someone got him right in the face with some frothy foamy alcohol stuff which also took down the camera, and it cut to a completely soaked Tanishige yelling "YARIMASHITA!!"

Alas, the sad part is really that the season is over now. I'm looking forward to going to watch the Konami Cup finals next weekend -- maybe I'll get a little more mileage out of my Morino #31 jersey this year after all -- but it's going to be a long winter. Fortunately, I still have a lot of remnants of game reports and photos to go through from the season, which will keep me busy for a while. And, of course, there are many upcoming Fan Fests...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Japan Series Preview, Part 2: Matching it all up

Sigh. I swear I started writing this post on Friday night before the Series started, but I just got too sidetracked with everything else. At this point I could either post it, or delete all of it, and I'd rather just throw it out there even if it's coming with the series at 2-1 Dragons right now. Besides, I really don't feel like writing about Game 3, being as 1) I didn't see any of it since I was at work and 2) the Fighters got whomped 9-1 with a "patented big first inning" by the Dragons. I really didn't just make that up for humor value, see? Exploding ham.

Also, dear Kansas City fans: just because you're getting our manager next year doesn't make the Fighters "your" team. Although if you wanted to send us Mark Teahen, I certainly wouldn't object.

(I need to stop reading sites from the other side of the Pacific this time of year. The offseason just makes me want to cry.)

Fighters: Hichori Morimoto, Atsunori Inaba, Takahito Kudoh and Tomochika Tsuboi
Dragons: Byung-Gyu Lee, Masahiko Morino, Hidenori Kuramoto, Kazuki Inoue

Defense: Fighters.
Hichori gets a lot of flak for having to take over Shinjo's role on the Fighters, but he really is a genuinely good center fielder, with great speed and a decent arm and great instincts. Inaba is also a lot better than most people give him credit for; I don't consider him a liability in the field at all. (I think since he's a 35-year-old left-handed outfielder, people assume he's become just like Yokohama's Saeki or Chunichi's Inoue. They're wrong.) Kudoh and Tsuboi are about the same from all the times I've seen them play, which is to say, they're definitely at least competent.

On the other hand, Lee is no Fukudome, and Morino gets moved around so much that it's hard to really call him any particular position; he's decent in the outfield but no superstar at defense (though all things considered, he's really flexible; how many LF/3B/2B/SS types do YOU know?). And Kazuki is slow as rocks. Hidenori's not bad, but not particularly amazing either.

Offense: Neither.
I know that sounds insane, but in all honesty, there's no clear winner to me. Inaba more than cancels out Morino, see, and nobody else is particularly great.

Cuteness factor: Fighters.
Tsuboi and Kudoh rock the high socks and both have cute smiles. Tsuboi's even a former member of the "Hanshin pretty-boy outfield" with Shinjo. Inaba's really handsome when he smiles, and even if Hichori looks like an alien, his personality gives him inherent cuteness.

I love Morino (Dragonbutt!!), even if several Dragons fans and players and reporters think he looks like the Chunichi mascot Doala. (I also love Doala.) Hidenori's really good-looking -- when he lets his hair grow long, at least. But that's about it. Kazuki sucks.

Middle Infield
Fighters: Makoto Kaneko, Kensuke Tanaka
Dragons: Hirokazu Ibata, Masahiro Araki

Defense: Dragons.
Kensuke and Kaneko are fantastic, don't get me wrong. They're a great middle infield. But they can't compete with the Two-Headed Double Play monster that is Arakibata (or sometimes Ibataraki). I would actually say that it's possible Kensuke is as good as Araki, but Ibata is just the best shortstop in Japan, hands down. He's amazing and intelligent and agile and... just watch him play, you'll see what I mean. He's so good at playing each batter that he makes it look easy, because he's always already where he needs to be to make each play. Two-thirds of the field is covered by artificial turf and the other third is covered by Ibata. (Yeah, I stole the Garry Maddox quote. It's so accurate here.)

Offense: Dragons.
This isn't even a difficult one to talk about. Remember, Kaneko bats 9th and Kensuke's best known for being the King of Bunts.

Cuteness factor: Fighters.
Ibata's kinda cute, but Araki is REALLY astoundingly freakish-looking. Seriously, it's a good thing he's a baseball player because otherwise he could have a nice career frightening children for Halloween. The Fighters, on the other hand, have the adorable Kaneko, who has a fantastic smile and nice eyes and is just plain good-looking. Kensuke is pretty cute too, like an adorable little teddy bear.

Fighters: Eiichi Koyano, Naoto Inada
Dragons: Tyrone Woods, Norihiro Nakamura

Defense: Fighters.
Nori's not a horrible third baseman but he's really not that great either. I've seen him boot way too many plays and miss too many close grounders to really trust him. Tyrone Woods is basically a homerun-pounding DH stuck in a Central League team. I make fun of Tyrone's defense a lot more than I should, but "T is for Tree" isn't entirely inaccurate. Whereas Koyano and Inada are both pretty reasonable at defense. Naoto is a little worse, which is why he ends up at first more often and Koyano at third, but people will be talking about Naoto vs. The Cameraman for quite a while, I'm sure.

Offense: Dragons.

Cuteness factor: Fighters.
Tyrone Woods is actually a really good-looking guy, which I didn't realize until I saw him close up in Yokohama a few weeks ago. He has a really nice smile and surprisingly friendly demeanor. But, Norihiro? Ugh, he's always looked kind of like a troll to me. Whereas, I'm not going to say that either Inada or Koyano completely flattens me with good looks, but they're both cute in their own way. Inada always smiles, and is apparently becoming part of the Hichori "mood maker" faction, and his line about "running like a wild boar thinking the ball was my food" was pretty priceless.

Fighters: Fernando Seguignol
Dragons: Kazuyoshi Tatsunami

Offense: Fighters.
Tatsunami is one of the best hitters ever in Japan, but he's also getting old and has mostly been limited to pinch-hitting this year, and I'm really not worried about his bat all that much. Seguignol, on the other hand, can hit the ball a fairly long distance. And so far in the postseason he's been doing exactly that, quite often.

Cuteness factor: Neither.
In my honest opinion, both guys are what I'd call "classically handsome", and thus disqualify from the cuteness factor.

Fighters: Shinji Takahashi, Shinya Tsuruoka
Dragons: Motonobu Tanishige, some scrubs

Defense: Dragons.
Tanishige is freaking awesome. I have no idea how he manages to go out there every single day and be as awesome as he is, given that he's like 37 and literally plays in EVERY Dragons game and has done so for like 3 years. I think he's secretly a robot. The Fighters' catchers aren't bad, certainly, but they're no Tanishige.

Offense: Fighters.
Tsuruoka sucked this year, but Shinji made up for it. Tanishige, on the other hand, bats like an old man. I think his OBP is aided partially by the fact that he's usually batting before the pitcher and thus gets a lot of intentional walks.

Cuteness factor: Fighters.
Tanishige is another one for the "classically handsome" club. I think he's incredibly good-looking, but not "cute" per se. Shinji, on the other hand, is freaking adorable. Tsuruoka is not so adorable but he also plays not so often, so it's okay.

Fighters: Yu Darvish, Masaru Takeda, Ryan Glynn, Brian Sweeney
Dragons: Kenshin Kawakami, Kenichi Nakata, Kenta Asakura, Daisuke Yamai

Pitching: Dragons.
I won't say the Fighters starters are bad, because they're not. They are, infact, rather good, and in most cases their win totals are skewed by their team's inability to score runs, so a lot of bullpen guys often pick up the wins. And yes, we have the Sawamura-award-winning Darvish on our side, as well as the best pitcher in the Central League, Ryan Glynn. But, aside from Darvish, all of them have weaknesses. Masaru gives up over one home run per game. Sweeney walks nearly 3 guys per game.

The one big thing that all of the Chunichi starters can really do is stay in there for a good long time and be effective, or at least long enough for their team to score them some runs. The only question is whether or not Ochiai will leave them in for too long, I think. Firearm's always complaining about Nakata blowing games in the 8th inning, but my modern-baseball-brainwashing says that it should be the manager's fault, not his. One thing to note about Asakura and Nakata, also, is that they barely ever lose games at the Nagoya Dome (Asakura was 6-1, 2.11 there in 10 games this year and Nakata was 8-1, 3.20 there in 13 games).

The Chunichi guys do tend to walk slightly more batters per game, although I think that number is being skewed slightly by being in the Central League, which does a lot more intentional walks. In Nakata's case, he's just crazy (and I swear he gets more full counts than any other pitcher in the world). Nakata also led the Central league in wild pitches this year, for that matter.

I should have posted this somewhere else, but what the hell, here are the Saber-numbers on these guys:


Yu Darvish 0.83 2.13 4.29 9.12 0.39 2.64 1.82
Ryan Glynn 1.05 1.92 3.36 6.45 0.93 3.86 2.21
Masaru Takeda 0.87 1.03 5.94 6.10 1.09 3.88 2.54
Brian Sweeney 1.33 2.97 1.56 4.62 0.91 4.53 3.70

Kenta Asakura 1.30 2.63 2.10 5.52 0.47 3.60 3.36
Kenichi Nakata 1.41 4.29 2.19 9.37 0.74 3.72 3.59
Kenshin Kawakami 1.18 1.24 6.30 7.81 0.97 3.39 3.55
Takashi Ogasawara 1.19 2.47 2.94 7.27 0.75 3.59 2.99
Daisuke Yamai 1.29 3.47 1.75 6.07 0.65 3.98 3.36

You know, there's got to be a league equalizer somewhere, but either way, despite the awesome control and reputation of the Fighters pitchers, I still think the Chunichi rotation is better.

Cuteness factor: Fighters (but it's close).
Darvish is really adorable, Glynn and Sweeney aren't bad, and while I think Hisashi is the cuter of the Takeda tandem, Masaru's kind of cute too.

Nakata's really adorable and Kenshin's sort of a stoic samurai type, but the jury's out on the rest of these guys.

Dragons: Hitoki Iwase, Shinya Okamoto, Yuuichi Hisamoto
Fighters: Micheal Nakamura, Hisashi Takeda, Mitsuo Yoshikawa

Pitching: Dragons.
I hate to say it, but right now I'd rather have Iwase in the 9th than Micheal. Hopefully I'll end up being proven wrong about that. As for the rest of the bullpen, they're both good, but neither one is as good as it was last year.

Cuteness factor: Neither.
I'm just rushing to finish this post and lamenting the fact that Shintaro Ejiri got injured, because he was really adorable, I liked the Ejiri-Hisashi-Micheal tandem we were carrying in the late games. Alas.

I was going to try to justify a cute-off between Keizo Kawashima and Ryota Arai, but it seems kind of pointless now.

Either way, the Fighters completely win on cuteness if nothing else! Whether that can get them to another Japan Series victory is another story, though.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Japan Series, Game 2: Yakiniku Erika

Dragons 8, Fighters 1

Glynn had a disastrous 4th inning, getting a lot of questionable ball-strike calls, and then Nori Nakamura doubled in a few runs, and then Yoshikawa walked in a run, and... we were hurt by the lefty batters on Chunichi, with both Morino and Lee getting home runs, and all the Fighters really did about it was another Seguignol home run. Kenichi Nakata did a pretty good job out there, although I had expected him to get more strikeouts than he did.

I'm going to be honest and tell you that I don't really remember about half of last night's game. But, on the other hand, I watched it in Fighters heaven, eating and drinking way too much with a bunch of other Fighters fans.

I went to Yakiniku Erika, which is the restaurant owned and operated by Fighters centerfielder Hichori Morimoto's parents. Basically, Hichori's old fanfare went: "焼き肉エリカ 日暮里駅前 歩いて5分の一等地", which essentially means "Yakiniku Erika, a five-minute walk from Nippori Station, the best place in town". I finally hunted it down last weekend, and this weekend actually went there to eat dinner and watch the Series game. My friend Pau came with me; I was really nervous about going there alone.

(Actually, Pau took me to the Keio-Waseda Soukeisen big rivalry college baseball game earlier in the afternoon, but that's a completely different story. Keio's Mikinori Katoh won in 12 innings, and yes, I saw Saitoh Yuki pitch, among other things.)

We arrived around 5:30 and it was pretty empty. We were greeted by Hichori's father -- I recognized him immediately -- and were told that yeah, we could watch the game there, but the first few tables were reserved. And then I looked around and OH MY GOD the place was just FILLED with Fighters stuff and it was SO AWESOME you have NO IDEA! I asked Morimoto-san if I could go around and take pictures, and he just laughed like "Of course you can!", so I did. There's only about 8 tables there, it's pretty small:

The "Hichori #1" seats are where Hichori's parents sit to watch the games.

I had to try really hard not to be bitter about the Ogasawara poster.

During the game.

I should probably clarify right now that the only times I was speaking in English was when I was talking to Pau (who is fluent in Spanish, English, Japanese, and some other languages); all other conversations were in Japanese. I really do speak Baseball Japanese a lot better than I speak normal Japanese. Funny how that works.

Another guy showed up shortly after us and had to sit at the table behind us. Turns out he was from Sapporo, in Tokyo on a business trip, so he brought the Sapporo sports dailies for the Morimoto family. And then ANOTHER guy showed up from Sapporo and also sat at the table behind us -- he had brought a Hichori inflatable microphone from the Sapporo dome for them. And a woman showed up who was ALSO from Sapporo! And then two more younger women showed up who we also later discovered were from Sapporo! It was crazy! None of them actually knew each other beforehand, either, which was probably the craziest part.

I wore my old Fighters jersey from when they played in Tokyo, which resulted in the Sapporo crowd all calling me "Sempai", which totally cracked up Pau. I had a picture of me with the old Fighters mascot from several years ago on my cellphone, so when we were all getting out our cellphones and showing pictures -- like, one guy had an Inaba signed ball, and so I showed him my picture of catching an Inaba home run ball, and someone else had all these awesome pictures of the Sapporo Dome, and of BB, and various stuff, so I was like "Uhh... well... here's me with Fighty?" and they all said "WOW!!!" They all became Fighters fans since the team moved to Sapporo, so they never saw them in Tokyo. But I said that I'd never been to Sapporo, so I was very jealous of them! The one guy had been to about 50 Fighters games in the Sapporo Dome this year! How awesome is that?

A few innings into the game, when the Fighters were down about 3-0, Hichori's mother came to every table and gave us each a bottle of Jinro, which is some sort of Korean liquor, about 25% alcohol. I'm not sure whether it was for the "if we're drunk the game won't be as depressing" factor or the "let's drink and cheer for the Fighters!!" factor:

Honestly, this stuff tasted terrible, but it was REALLY potent.

It had the latter effect, anyway... somewhere in the midst of the 4th or 5th inning, our gang in the back of the restaurant all started singing all of the Fighters ouenka. It was great. I think it had to be the 4th because it started with us doing a rousing "Oi, Oi, Hokkaido" and a Banzai after Seguignol's home run... and since the Sapporo woman's favorite player was Shinji Takahashi, I started singing his ouenka, and it just exploded from there, I guess.

In the 6th, Hichori led off with a single, and was moved to second, and so Hichori's mother, who had gotten up a bit before to say "You guys are amazing!" while we were all doing the Hichori ouenka, also got up to make sure we weren't going to do the Inaba jump, since the restaurant is on the second floor of the building :)

Oh, incidentally, I finally got the story on that. The Inaba Jump is ONLY done in Sapporo, apparently, which is why I had never, never, ever EVER seen it. I knew there was a jump for Naoto Inada, so I had thought people were just confusing Inaba and Inada, which happens often, but no, the Inaba Jump is a Sapporo oendan thing. See, this is why I have to go to Sapporo for a game someday so I can learn all of the current customs there.

Anyway, the Fighters were down by a whole lot of runs and we were all getting pretty drunk off the Jinro, so I think I spent the last 3-4 innings of the game mostly chatting with the Sapporo people, and trading some baseball cards with them and with Pau (whose idea it was to bring cards in the first place), and taking pictures of all of us being silly. I had been saying how I used to love Ogasawara, he was my favorite player, then he went to the Giants and I hate him now, and the woman from Sapporo was like "ME TOO!! I FEEL THE SAME WAY!!!" and I said "Yeah, that's why I really, really, really hate the Giants!" and she said "YEAH! ANTI-GIANTS PEOPLE UNITE!!!" and so we all took a picture together, and then switched around, and... yeah.

Me with the Sapporo gang.

We hate the Giants!!!!!

This guy went to 50 Fighters games this year. He was really funny.

I had to remember not to sing Dragons cheers. That was pretty funny, though I kept saying "T!" at Pau just to annoy him, since he's a Hanshin fan and Tyrone Woods really killed the Tigers this year. But since the ones like Morino and Ibata and all are deeply ingrained in my head, I'd just start humming and be like "Wait, no, Dragons bad, not today." And then Morino got a 2-run homer and I'm thinking "MORINOOOOOOO!" but outwardly saying "Dammit!"

I also spent some time investigating the pictures on the walls, which were just amazing, things like a picture of Hichori with the other Fighters draftees from his year, or pictures of various fans with Hichori, or Hichori in various games and stuff, and even a plaque from when he went to Koshien with Teikyo HS. And there were pictures of other Fighters players, and just all of this crazy awesome stuff. It was like Fighters heaven, seriously.

Even the bathroom at this place is decorated with Fighters stuff. They had a whole ton of stickers of team logos of every team EXCEPT THE GIANTS. It was just too funny.

The Fighters did manage to load the bases in the 9th inning -- and Yukio Tanaka even pinch-hit! YUKIO!!! WHEEEE! We did the Yukio cheer, and then after when Shinji Takahashi got a double, we did the Shinji song several times too. And we sang the chance music too, and were still singing it when a pinch-hitting Tsuruoka grounded out to end the game a few at-bats later.

We settled up our bills and left the restaurant. I asked if I could get a picture with the Morimotos, but Hichori's mother said "I don't like being in pictures, but I'll take your picture together!" So, I have a picture of me with Hichori Senior :)

Thanks so much, Morimoto-san!

He gave us his business card and said "Next time you come here, call in advance and make a reservation," so maybe I will go there to watch some Fighters games next year too! The food was really good and the place was really friendly and you can't beat being surrounded by Fighters stuff. It's not a sports bar by any means, but still pretty awesome. I was worried that it'd be packed and that they wouldn't want random people coming there during the Series, but I guess I was completely wrong on both counts. So, yay!

Nippori is only a few stops away from me on the Keihin-Tohoku line, so it didn't even take me that long to get home. It wasn't until I tried to ride my bike home from the station that I realized how much alcohol I'd had, though; I couldn't actually ride in a straight line, so I took side streets home to minimize the chances of getting hit by a car. I watched the sports shows that evening to see the highlights, and I swear I didn't even remember half of the game. I mean, I sort of remembered that the Fighters lost, but that's about as far as it went. Good times.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Japan Series, Game 1: Exploding Ham

[The scene: Sapporo Dome, Saturday Oct 27th, afternoon. Chunichi Dragons players are taking batting/fielding practice. Masahiko Morino walks up to Hiromitsu Ochiai by the third-base bag.]

Morino: Uh, hey, Ochiai-kantoku, I was wondering...
Ochiai: Hmmm?
Morino: You know, this Japan Series thing. We're gonna win this time, right?
Ochiai: I really like tofu.
Morino: I'm serious. The Dragons haven't won a series since you were born.
Ochiai: I fail to see your point.
Morino: You're old.

(I took this on October 7th in Yokohama. It begged a caption.)

Ochiai: I'm just going to throw Ogasawara into the lions' den and everything will work out okay.
Morino: Actually, boss, it was the Giants' den...
Ochiai: They'll be expecting Kenshin and boy will they be surprised!
Morino: ...and you did it last week.
Ochiai: It'll nullify all of their big lefty bats.
Morino: This is the Fighters we're playing this week. They don't have any big lefty bats. I'm not actually sure they HAVE any bats.
Ochiai: That could be a problem. What about righty bats?
Morino: No, I mean, I don't think they own bats. I think they go out there and hit the ball with sausages. Isn't that why they're called Nippon Ham?
Ochiai: I'm not worried. I'll just play Kenshin. They'll be expecting Ogasawara and boy will they be surprised!
Morino: Uh-huh.

[They look around the stadium for a minute. Kawakami's doing long tosses with Tanishige over by the foul line.]

Morino: Kenshin vs. Darvish for the first game of the Japan Series? I feel like I've seen this somewhere before.
Ochiai: If there's another rerun on Japan Series tonight, maybe we can all go get some crab cakes instead of watching it? Find a good izakaya?
Morino: No, I think this one is a new episode, actually.
Ochiai: Apparently Masa's already down in Susukino drinking his sorrows away.
Morino: Anyway, I had this great idea for what we should do in the game tonight.
Ochiai: And there's this one sushi restaurant with the most astoundingly tasty sashimi, you'd have to taste it to believe it.
Morino: You know how we always have these patented "big first innings?" Where we score a whole bunch of runs in the first inning and the other team can never catch up?
Ochiai: The northern parts of Japan can be really boring, but damn the food is good.
Morino: I think we need to do that. Explode on the Fighters in the first inning and then just rely on Kenshin to keep it scoreless the rest of the time. It's worked for us many times this season.
Ochiai: Hmm... exploding ham...
Morino: Are you listening to me?
Ochiai: Big first inning and then a scoreless game? Yeah, I like that idea.
Morino: I'll hit a 3-run homer if you can just get Arakibata on base.
Ochiai: And then we can go drinking?
Morino: Sure thing, boss.

[The game starts.]

Morino: Hmm, Araki struck out.
Morino: Hmm, Ibata grounded out.
Morino: I can't hit a 3-run home run. Curses! [strikes out]
Ochiai: This plan of yours is not working so well.

Hillman: Okay, so I got ahold of Chunichi's secret plan to win the game! Seggy, can I talk to you a second?
Seguignol: Ok. How'd you get it?
Hillman: Some sushi chef gave it to me. Said it was foolproof.
Hichori: [walks]
Kensuke: [bunts]
Inaba: [walks]
Hillman: Heh, heh, heh. Now that Hichorinaba is on base...
Seguignol: Here I go! Watch this!
Darvish: I'm watching, I'm watching.
Ball: Wheeeeeee! I didn't like being inside the park anyway. [lands in stands]
Fighters fans: Woohoo! 3-0!
Ochiai: This plan worked really well!
Ochiai: Wait a minute, my team isn't at bat.
Morino: Ummm...
Ochiai: Exploding ham?
Morino: No, bananas.

Kawakami: If I can retire every other batter for the rest of the night, can you guys scrape up a few runs to help me out here?
Dragons: No.
Araki: Maybe.
Morino: We got one. Is that good enough?
Kawakami: [facepalm]

Darvish: Strikeout! Strikeout! Strikeout!
Tatsunami: Uh, could you please stop doing that?
Darvish: No. Strikeout! Strikeout!
Woods: Dammit!
Darvish: Strikeout! Strikeout!
Norihiro: Arrrrgh!!
Darvish: Strikeout! Strikeout!
Morino: I'm beginning to feel like I'm in one of those bug spray commercials, and we're the bugs.
Kawakami: May I remind you that my batting average in the postseason is better than yours?
Morino: May I remind you that I have a bat today and you don't?
Kawakami: Dude, we even put Arakibata on base for you in the 6th and all you could do was deliver a sac fly. I don't want to hear it.
Ochiai: Delivery? Maybe I can get some pizza.
Morino: I tried, didn't you see? If it'd had a little less top spin that would have been a 3-run homer.
Ochiai: Toppings? How about exploding ham?
Morino: You keep saying that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

[Kawakami and Darvish continue to face off against each other until the bitter end. The ninth inning starts and Darvish is still on the mound!]

Morino: Argh! [grounds out]
Woods: Crap! [strikes out]
Tatsunami: Finally. [walks]
Hillman: Uhoh. [goes to mound]
Norihiro: A chance? Maybe?
Darvish: No. [strikes him out]
Norihiro: I really don't like that kid.

[The Fighters win the first game of the Series, 3-1!]

Deanna: Hey, I actually inhaled the data section of Shube last night.
Deanna: Did you know that Darvish's 13 strikeouts tied a Japan Series record?
Deanna: It was set by Kimiyasu Kudoh in 1999. Ironically, it was also the first game of the Japan Series, and he beat the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 in doing so.
Deanna: There was also a Hiroshima Carp pitcher named Yoshiro Sotokoba who won the Sawamura Award in 1975, who struck out 13 in the 4th game of the 1975 Japan Series. But, it was a 13-inning tie game. He only struck out 10 in the first 9 innings.
Fans: Uh, Deanna? We really don't care. Darvish is cool. Huh huh.
Deanna: Err... right. Exploding ham?
Ochiai: Exploding ham!
Morino: This must be why she calls me Dragonbutt.

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.