Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Foto: Opening Day Countdown, Part N

Technically, there's two days left until Mariners Opening Day -- Saturday and Sunday, and then the game is on Monday afternoon -- but whatever, this is Friday Foto, so I'm cheating and just finishing the countdown now.

Did anyone actually enjoy this series? I thought it was an incredibly cool idea when I first started putting it together, and I think it's neat to look at the whole month's worth at once, but since I'm not psychic, I have no idea whether anybody else does. I really should figure out how to put up a poll one of these days to find out which stuff I should spend more or less effort producing here, especially going into the new season. (Marinerds, Season 3: 50 Ways To Ream Your Roster)

Wow. One more weekend, and then another six months of baseball! I'll be in section 143 at Safeco for Opening Day, or you can find me before the game with my huge camera stalking Brandon Buckley Rich Harden.

Tatsuhiko Kinjoh
I simply didn't have a good enough shot of Tsuyoshi Shinjo, so instead I went with switch-hitting Yokohama outfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjoh. It rhymes! Kinjoh was a batting champion as a rookie, and was once the future hope of Yokohama, but has gone through ups and downs since, most recently having an off year in 2006.

Kenji Johjima
Kenji Johjima is the catcher for the Seattle Mariners. I think he had a pretty solid first year in Seattle after his tenure as an all-star slugging catcher in Japan. It's just a shame I didn't stop hating the Hawks until after he left them. Alas.

Nobuhiko Matsunaka
Nobuhiko Matsunaka is the first baseman for the Softbank Hawks. He's simply an awesome baseball player. He was Japan's most recent Triple Crown winner in 2004, and even in his "down" seasons offensively he still wins batting titles.

Lou Gehrig
The greatest baseball player to ever wear #4. The Luckiest Man.

Michael Cuddyer
Michael Cuddyer is yet another one of those magical Twins players who suddenly came out of nowhere and took the AL by storm. He moved from being an iffy backup third baseman into being a simply smashing outfielder -- smashing every baseball that came his way.

Hirokazu Ibata
Hirokazu Ibata is the best shortstop in Japan and has been for several years, but people tend not to notice because he plays for Chunichi and because he doesn't pound home runs. He pretty much does everything else you could ever want a player to do, though -- get on base, score runs, turn bazillions of double plays, field everything that comes anywhere near him. His only real downside is that he uses DJ OZMA's "アゲ♂アゲ♂EVERY☆騎士" as his at-bat music.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Blessed with looks and charisma that rival those of several popular TV stars in Japan (see his recent Adidas commercials), Tsuyoshi Nishioka is also one of the most exciting young baseball players in the NPB, constantly dueling with the Hawks' Kawasaki for most stolen bases, best fielding, best smile, and most crazy screaming female fans.

Jeff Liefer
This is cheating, I'm sure, to sneak yet another NPB player in here under the guise of an MLB player. But, I happened to be sitting 9 rows back from the field during an Indians game in July 2005 where Jeff Liefer was the DH, and he had two hits and scored a run. He only got 6 more hits that year and I completely forgot about him until I was in Japan a year later and he was mashing baseballs all over the place.

(All of these were taken by me in 2005 and 2006. Years/Stadiums -- Kinjoh: 2006, Yokohama. Johjima: 2006, Safeco. Matsunaka: 2006, Miyagi Fullcast. Gehrig plaque: 2005, Yankee Stadium. Cuddyer: 2005, Metrodome. Ibata: 2006, Hiroshima. Nishioka: 2006, Chiba Marine. Liefer: 2005, Safeco.)

Padilla, Padilla, Padilla -- that's all folks! See you at Safeco!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

More on Hawks Commercials, and Masahiro Tanaka

Yesterday was officially Kids Day at the Hawks-Eagles game, but in reality, it might as well be today, given who's taking the mound.

The pitching matchup tonight features former Yakult pitcher and current Hawks pitcher Rick Guttormson facing off against Eagles rookie and Koshien hero Masahiro Tanaka, formerly of Komadai Tomakomai HS. After a mostly-uneventful top of the first inning where Teppei attempted to accomplish something and the rest of the Eagles didn't, Tanaka takes the mound, and the announcers immediately start comparing the hype over him in the draft to Matsuzaka. It's sort of funny watching him now -- he does look almost just like he did back in Koshien, throwing that lovely slider of his. Hard to believe he's not even 18 and a half years old yet and making his first pro start.

(Screenshot from 100k videofeed)

Well. Ohmura is retired on a groundball to short, by the second base bag, but Kawasaki hits a ground ball single out to left. Hitoshi Tamura gets it into his mind that he's going to foul off everything Tanaka throws to him, and after 8 pitches, including a pitchout attempt, Tamura swings at a slider which dives down into the dirt for strike three. Tamura's out -- Tanaka's first professional strikeout! -- but Kawasaki makes it to second base safely as catcher Fujii fumbles the ball. (Fujii's fumbled the ball a couple of times.) Tanaka's mostly being clocked around 142 km/h -- about 88 mph. Not too bad for an 18-year-old kid. Aaaand... Nobuhiko Matsunaka unsurprisingly hits a double to right, a sharp line drive past a diving Takasu, scoring Kawasaki. 1-0 Hawks. But after that, Tanaka strikes out Hiroki Kokubo, swinging at what looked like a shuuto right down the middle. Sweet. So there's his first professional inning -- against the most formidable lineup in his league -- 18 pitches, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts. Could be worse.

I'm not liveblogging the rest of the game, despite my amusement at things like watching Kevin Witt hit a single off Rick Guttormson, don't worry.

I didn't bother watching last night's Hawks-Eagles game with the Eagles' Shingo Mama Matsuzaki facing off against Toshiya Sugiuchi. Sugiuchi is only two years removed from winning a Sawamura award in 2005, and is the FOURTH starter on the Hawks rotation. That should give you a pretty good idea of why I fear them so much. Sugiuchi pitched a complete game shutout in 113 pitches, striking out 7, as the Hawks mauled the Eagles 9-0. I feel bad for Matsuzaki -- he was decent on the farm team last year, but it's obvious he's not really ready to pitch at ichi-gun yet.

(Oh WOW, in the time it took me to write that paragraph up, the Eagles took a 3-1 lead on the Hawks. Guttormson's pretty much getting owned by a bunch of hitters smacking a bunch of hoppers into right field. Whee. At the same time, I think Tanaka is learning that if he doesn't strike out every single batter he faces, the fielding behind him will find one way or another to screw up. Sigh.)

In theory, the reason I started writing this post was to say that the Hawks commercials for this year and last year are all really awesome. They actually have a page of the commercials on their site, if you want to see a longer and higher-quality version of the boxing ring commercial, featuring Saitoh and Matsunaka pitching/hitting at each other. What's funny is that there are various endings to it -- the normal ending has Hiroki Kokubo climb into the ring after Matsunaka's out, but for Ladies' Day they have a woman in a Hawks jersey climb into the ring instead, and for Kids' Day they have a bunch of kids climb into the ring. It's pretty cute.

What's even more awesome is the Hawks 2006 commercials, though. If you understand Japanese, I highly recommend watching through them. The "Nothing But Baseball" (野球しかない) series is pretty intense, with narrations from Arakaki, Kawasaki, Matsunaka, and Saitoh about their thoughts and experiences in baseball. ("I believe in my bat. And my teammates." "I get my strength from the fans.")

And then the "We = Hawks" coaching ones are great too. Kawasaki getting coached by a kid, Matoba being "coached" by a hyper crazy office lady type, Saitoh getting swarmed by schoolgirl fans wanting to pitch like him, Matsunaka getting hitting coaching from salarymen, Arakaki getting pitching-from-the-heart advice from a tiny old lady, etc. いっしょうに、野球を。

I really wish I could find Fighters commercials online. I'm working on it. I wonder if the Hawks have this stuff up mostly because Softbank is such a big media/internet company.

(...and in the time it took me to write THOSE paragraphs, the Hawks went and took back that lead, scoring 4 runs off Tanaka to bring the score to 5-3, so he's getting taken out of the game, which he did NOT look happy about, but hey. Talk about being thrown into the fire.)

And in more fun things, Sadaharu Oh apparently was learning how to handle an actual hawk.

Lest you think I am totally turning this into a Hawks blog instead of a Fighters blog, I will mention that Fernando Seguignol is a goofy game hero, and as always, Hichori Morimoto is goofier. (Though I hope he didn't actually go on the field with his uniform on backwards.)

(Hmmm, 6-5 Hawks now, the Eagles are trying to catch up. Ying-Chieh Lin actually seems like a decent pitcher. Alas, my server is flaking out and I need to sleep.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Her name is Ria and she crouches on the sand

Ever since reading Pam Postema's autobiography a few years ago, I've thought it'd be really cool for a female umpire to actually make it to the major leagues. In fact, I'm fairly sure it'll happen someday, it's just a matter of when.

Ria Cortesio's taking another step towards that goal Thursday afternoon, when she'll be umpiring for a Diamondbacks-Cubs spring training game. She'll be the first female umpire to work a game between major league teams since Postema in 1989. (Yes, the Cubs still do count as a major league team.) Cortesio officiated at the Home Run Derby and the Futures Game at the all-star events last year as well.

In some ways, I feel like I shouldn't make a big deal out of this. For the most part, people don't usually write articles about random umpires out of AA working at spring training games, so to call attention to Cortesio just because of her gender seems a little unfair. Undoubtedly, she has to work under twice as much scrutiny as male counterparts in the profession because she's a special case. (Seriously, it was bad enough for me being a computer science major in college in the mid-90's. When you're one of four women in an algorithms lecture of 300 students, you can be pretty sure most people know who you are. It's really no fun.)

At the same time, though, I just wanted to say "Good for her!", and I hope she gets promoted to AAA this year -- for being a good umpire, not for being a woman, of course.

A few articles/quotes about Cortesio:

"Where I grew up, half the people are Cubs fans and half are Cardinals fans," she said. "I'm one of the smart ones." -- Ria Cortesio article/bio at from 2000

"I get paid to run around a baseball field and yell at people all day. It doesn't get any better than that." -- Cortesio article at from 2003

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Watching Like A Hawk

Or should that be "Watching, like, a Hawk"?

I really wanted to have my scripts working for translating box scores before talking about the NPB games from this past weekend, but alas. The bad news is that Yahoo is screwed up in two ways right now -- first, it's had REALLY spotty connectivity for the last day or two, making it hard to get through to it to work on translating the box scores; second, they're not broadcasting video of games outside of Japan, which is very sad.

On the other hand, on the forums, someone discovered a low quality Softbank Hawks videostream that still works outside of Japan, which you can get to from this page. So, for the next half hour before I go to sleep, I'm happily watching the Softbank-Rakuten game going on now in Japan. Hawks starter Nagisa Arakaki just struck out Daisuke Kusano (no big surprise there... huh, Teppei's batting third in the order now?) and the Rakuten starter is lefty Kanehisa Arime, who I am a vague fan of, so I'm looking forward to watching him pitch an inning too.

The upshot of the weekend is that all of the predictions I made on Friday night were totally wrong. Fumiya Nishiguchi managed to get a 5-2 win for the Lions after all, and while Kawagoe did sort of suck for Orix, Kazumi Saitoh was not as wonderful as he usually is, and then the Hawks bullpen imploded for Orix to win 8-5 (though it was a nice homecoming for Hiroki Kokubo nonetheless). And while Darvish was impeccable in the Fighters-Marines game for five innings, then the weather got bad and so did he, culminating in a Julio Zuleta grand slam which tied it at 4-4 before the game got stopped. Hichori Morimoto tried to get fans to stay through the rain, but it didn't work and thus the game ended in a tie.

So, oops.

The next night I found out about the video feed working and watched Tsuyoshi Wada and the Softbank Hawks totally kill Masato Yoshii and the Orix Buffaloes 2-0, which was somewhat satisfying. Oddly, the highlight of the evening for me, besides just getting to *see* it, was a really sweet play Nobuhiko Matsunaka made in the fourth inning, diving to snag a hard liner by Tomotaka Sakaguchi. It's been a few years since Matsunaka's been a first baseman, as he mostly played left field or DH'ed while Zuleta played first for the Hawks, so it was kind of cool seeing him making what I thought of as an Ogasawara-style play. Nikkan Sports has a picture up of Matsunaka getting a band-aid put on his nose after taking a faceful of turf making said sweet diving play.

After the Hawks game ended (the game heroes were Wada and Tamura), I loaded up the Gameday page of the Fighters-Marines game to see how it was going -- it had been a 0-0 tie last time I checked, in the fourth inning... and sure enough, it was going into the TENTH inning and was STILL a tie! Starters Ryan Glynn and Hiroyuki Kobayashi both pitched the first nine scoreless innings, Glynn throwing 118 pitches, walking 1, striking out 5, and giving up 4 hits, while Kobayashi was fantastic, throwing 117 pitches, walking none, giving up 4 hits, and striking out 11! The Marines and Fighters both put out their typical bullpens, who actually performed up to their typical excellence -- Yabuta/Fujita to Masahide Kobayashi for Lotte, and Oshimoto for the Fighters before giving way to the Takeda tandem of Masaru and Hisashi. And nobody would let up, so the gigantic BATTLE OF THE FOREIGN MANAGERS ended up resulting in TWO TIES. Yes, the Fighters and Marines faced off in an epic battle for the entire weekend and nobody won. Gotta love Japanese baseball that way. Gary Garland says that it was the first time since 1974 that two PL teams opened the season in a series with two ties, also involving Lotte.

In the meantime, Jason Johnson got handed his first loss in Japan with Seibu, though to be fair, he wasn't bad, Rakuten's Koji Aoyama was just better. Poor Kazuo Fukumori was robbed of a save opportunity when the Eagles managed to score *six runs* in the top of the 9th inning. He wasn't complaining... well, not that much, anyway, just that he was tossing for 30 minutes in the bullpen before coming out thanks to the long inning :)

(Heh, as the Hawks catcher Katsuki Yamazaki popped out to left, the announcers started going on about how the Hawks have been doomed with feeble catcher bats since Kenji Johjima left. Also, Arime just struck out Buchanan and Tsuji. He really does have a beauty of a slider, in all honesty, but he seems to be having problems with the heart of the Hawks order though. Given that it's Munenori Kawasaki, Hitoshi Tamura, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, and Hiroki Kokubo, you can't really blame him.

Of course, to get back at Arime, Arakaki went and struck out the side. Infact, he's pitched three perfect innings so far. But I really, really, really can't stay up all night to watch this, sadly. EDIT: okay, I admit it, I stayed up until Koichi Isobe broke up Arakaki's perfect game in the 5th with a double that barely went past centerfielder Naoyuki Ohmura's glove.)

Oh, and in other Hawks news, if you're a big Saitoh fan, Kazumi Saitoh Day is May 19th. The game going on right now is actually Hiroki Kokubo Day, which may explain all of the Kokubo signs people are holding up. Or maybe they're seriously happy to see him back. If your third baseman last year was Jolbert Cabrera, you'd probably be happy to see Hiroki Kokubo too.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll hopefully do some more work on the boxscore translation stuff, and maybe the internet will cooperate with me there, too.

EDIT> From the forums -- check out the awesomeness of this Hawks commercial, with Saitoh and Matsunaka baseball-boxing each other. It's fantastic! (There are a few others on there as well.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Fantasy" Baseball, part 2

Well, in accordance with my super-sekrit talent evaluation which I used last year, this afternoon I went through yet another fantasy draft. (I placed 3rd last year in a league of Phillies bloggers; this year I'm in a league of Bay Area baseball geeks)

Sadly, I had pick #2 out of 18 total teams, which meant that I was choosing in clusters, which made it pretty frustrating for me because I'd have a LOT of downtime to try to plan my next two picks, and by the time I got there, they'd both be gone and I'd have to rethink everything again. I got sniped on a LOT of players, notably Mike Cameron, Austin Kearns, and Conor Jackson -- so this is what I ended up with:

The 2007 Red Swinglines*

1. Johan Santana, SP, Min
2. Michael Young, SS, Tex
3. Brian McCann, C, Atl
4. Huston Street, RP, Oak
5. Nick Swisher, LF/1B, Oak
6. Erik Bedard, SP, Bal
7. Cole Hamels, SP, Phi
8. Eric Chavez, 3B, Oak
9. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tex
10. Eric Byrnes, CF, Ari
11. Andy Pettitte, SP, NYY
12. Geoff Jenkins, RF, Mil
13. Scot Shields, RP, LAA
14. Ryan Shealy, 1B, KC
15. Ian Snell, SP, Pit
16. Boof Bonser, SP, Min
17. Jose Lopez, 2B, Sea
18. Joe Blanton, SP, Oak
19. Xavier Nady, RF, Pit
20. David Ross, C, Cin
21. Chris Duncan, OF, StL
22. Chris Snelling, OF, Was
23. Craig Wilson, 1B, Atl
24. Ben Zobrist, SS, TB
25. Ryan Madson, SP, Phi

My team is overly heavy on A's, cute lefty pitchers, Erics, and ex-Pirates.

However, I just noticed that I don't have a backup 3B for when Eric Chavez inevitably gets injured this season, so I guess I'm going to have to start looking at the waiver wire. Oops.

Sadly, I am proudest of my bench picks. Chris Duncan, Chris Snelling, and Ben Zobrist could work out pretty well for me.

Also, yeah, I didn't get King Felix this year but instead I got King Cole, who goes a lot better with my theme (cute lefty pitchers) anyway. I'd considered overdrafting for King Richard The Brokenharden but didn't want to go through any more heartbreak.

I'll write something about the glorious weekend of NPB baseball later tonight, hopefully.

* clever team name credit goes to Josh Buergel, who came up with it for our softball team, I used it for my fantasy team last year too

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pacific League Games Start Today!

You have no idea how awesome it is to go look at the page of today's starters on the Pacific League site and FINALLY SEE SOME NAMES!

In about 4 hours, the baseball season will officially be underway in Japan. I may or may not be home for the games, so I won't be liveblogging them; also I still don't know what the deal with video/audio feeds and whether they'll work outside Japan (see below). The good part is that I'll get to test some of my translation Perl scripts from last year on the box score pages afterwards and see whether they still work.

The pitching matchups for the Opening Day games are as follows, with their 2006 stats, and some notes from the bottom of the page:

Eagles vs. Lions @ Goodwill Dome
Hisashi Iwakuma (1-2, 3.72) vs. Fumiya Nishiguchi (9-9. 3.55)

Fumiya Nishiguchi, in his 13th season as a pro, is the Lions Opening Day starter for the 5th time, and the second time in a row, after starting from 97-99. For the Lions, only Osamu Higashio (ten times) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (6 times) have been the Opening Day starter more times. Unfortunately for the Lions, Nishiguchi has only ever won on opening day once, in 1999. His opening day record is 1-3, 4.23.

Hisashi Iwakuma was Opening Day starter for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2004 (before the Orix merger and Rakuten expansion) and for the Eagles in 2005 and won both games (2-0, 1.69). So the odds actually seem to be in favor of the Eagles, strangely enough.

Fighters vs. Marines @ Chiba Marine Stadium
Yu Darvish (12-5, 2.89) vs. Naoyuki Shimizu (10-8, 3.42)

Naoyuki Shimizu was Opening Day starter for the Marines in 2004 and 2005, and he is 1-1 with a 3.45 ERA on opening days. If I understand correctly, though, the Marines have won every time they have started the season at home, since Choji Murata in 1982 at Kawasaki stadium. Like many other top Japanese players, Shimizu was off in the WBC last spring and that's why he wasn't ready for Opening Day 2006.

Yu Darvish, who is barely 20 years old and starting his 3rd season as a pro, is Opening Day pitcher for the first time. With any luck, he'll be the Opening Day pitcher for the Fighters for at least the next five or six years as well.

Now, there's some GREAT trivia to be had here. First off, I had thought that Satoru Kanemura had started most of the last couple Opening Day games for the Fighters, but no -- actually, from 2001-2006 he only started three (01, 04, 06). Carlos Mirabal (!) was opening day starter in 03 and 05.

Second, the trivia mentioned on the page is that Darvish is the fourth player in club history -- counting all the way back to the Tokyu Flyers -- to be Opening Day starter within 3 years of graduating high school. What it doesn't mention is that the other three were all Opening Day starters as rookies! Hiroshi Tsuno was 4 months short of turning 20 when he started the 1985 Opening Day game for the Fighters (and won). Toshiaki Moriyasu did that one better -- selected by the Toei Flyers in the first round of the very first draft in Japan in 1965, his first professional game was Opening Day 1966, where at the age of 18 he pitched a complete game shutout against the Nankai Hawks for the win. Sadly, 5 years later he was banned for life from baseball for fixing games in the Black Mist Scandal. The earliest of the young openers was Noboru Makino, who pitched the Opening Day game for the Flyers in 1956 also at the age of 18.

(credit goes to Wikipedia and to Japan Baseball Daily for the historical data)

Buffaloes vs. Hawks @ Yahoo! Dome
Hidetaka Kawagoe (9-9, 3.14) vs. Kazumi Saitoh (18-5, 1.75)

I know this isn't a very nice thing to say, but man, when your opening day starter choices are between Kawagoe and Masato Yoshii (who'll be 42 in a few weeks), that's just plain bad. Unless I've missed some major reason why Yoshihisa Hirano isn't starting, of course -- to be fair, I haven't really been paying attention to Orix, but Hirano's looked great in spring camp from what I've seen. Anyway, Kawagoe has started 2 opening day games, and is 1-0 in them with a 2.63 ERA.

As for Kazumi Saitoh, do I even need to explain who he is? Not only is he pretty much the undisputed best pitcher in Japan now that Matsu-nantoka is in the MLB, but this is his fourth opening day assignment and he's won all of the other ones (3-0, 2.19). Outcome: doesn't look so great for Orix unless Saitoh's shoulder suddenly explodes.

Deanna's 2007 PL Predictions?

1. Hawks
2. Marines
3. Fighters
4. Lions
5. Eagles
6. Buffaloes

(but in reality, my prediction is just "Hawks #1, Eagles not #6, "Buffaloes suck".)


I'm not sure what the deal is this year with online broadcasts, though it appears that the Yahoo video streams are theoretically going to be IP blocked to only play in Japan, which sort of sucks, since from the teams page it appears they are going to stream Hawks, Marines, Fighters and Eagles games on there. I suppose I won't know for sure until tonight when I try to load up the broadcasts, but I'm not counting on it.

On the other hand, I expect to still be able to at least listen to the Lions-Eagles game on internet radio on Lions Nighter. Shame I don't particularly like the Lions.

I guess there'll at least be some highlights of the Marines games up on afterwards, but that doesn't make it any better... hey, Satozaki team captain interview video is up, I think I'll go watch that!

Friday Foto: Opening Day Countdown, Part 4

I actually have tickets to Mariners Opening Day at Safeco Field on April 2 now. I wonder if it will sell out? Never underestimate the power of 50,000 Bremertonians.

Anyway, in our last segment of the countdown, we had counted down to 16. So here's another week worth of numbers, as we're down to about 9 days until Opening Day. Woohoo!

Koichi Ogata
Koichi Ogata is a veteran outfielder for the Hiroshima Carp. In the grand history of Carp players having ambiguous names, he used to share his name with a Giants outfielder, which is not nearly as bad as former Carp outfielder Takuya Kimura sharing his name with a SMAP member, or current Carp rookie pitcher Yuki Saitoh sharing his name with the Handkerchief Prince.

Michael Young
Michael Young is a very rich man. Er, I mean, he's a shortstop for the Texas Rangers.

Yasuhiro Ichiba
Yasuhiro Ichiba is a pitcher for the Tohoku Rakuten Kansas City Royals Golden Eagles. He was a highly bribed prized college prospect back in the day, but sadly has still not lived up to his hype potential, and with an FIP of 4.68 to go with his real-life 4.78 and 9-23 record in the last two years, it's unclear whether one can really blame it on Rakuten.

Michael Morse
Mike Morse is a bench bat for the Seattle Mariners, as I'm not really sure where he'd fit in with the team right now otherwise. He hit a home run on his birthday yesterday, though. May the Morse be with you!

Fasano Fan
Okay, so this isn't really Sal Fasano. But back at the start of 2006, when Fasano was extremely popular in Philadelphia, and Billy Wagner had decided to go sign with the Mets, there was quite a bit of animosity towards His Lowness. One of Sal's Pals got creative in recycling his Wagner #13 jersey, and I just thought it was too funny.

Gary Matthews Jr
Gary Matthews is also a rich guy. Unlike Michael Young, he no longer plays for the Texas Rangers, but instead for our other dire divisional rivals, the Anaheim Angels.

Kevin Millar
Kevin Millar's a dork, but for some reason I've always sort of liked him. For one, his career's a great story in itself. For two, ever since I saw him on Queer Eye For The Red Sox, I can't see him without thinking of funny scenes from that show. Not many ballplayers could get their back waxed on national TV and get hit on by Carson Kressley and still have a good laugh over it.

(All of these were taken by me in 2006. Young, Morse, Matthews, and Millar were taken at Safeco; Ichiba was taken at Miyagi Fullcast, Ogata at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, and the Fasano fan was at Citizens Bank Park.)

By the way, I already have #1 - #8 pretty much picked out, so if anyone wants to try to take a guess at them before I post them, feel free. Keep in mind that it has to be someone I was actually able to get a decent shot of their uniform number, which should rule out a few "obvious" choices.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

When Worlds Collide

The Mariners played the White Sox today in Spring Training and won, 11-6. I know that if you look at the box score, the strangest thing to you might be that Willie Bloomquist is ON FIRE, but there's actually three other cool things to note:

1) Mike Morse hit a home run and today's his birthday. I guess he got the memo!

2) The Mariners actually won a game! Whee!

3) The winning pitcher for the Mariners was a guy named Brad Thomas. (Yeah, he got the win despite the 13.50 ERA for giving up 4 runs in 2.2 innings.)

That is, Brad Thomas. Big lefty who'd been pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Before you ask, as some already have, no, I don't really know what to constructively say about him, because I'm not a scout and I only saw him pitch in one game when I was in Japan last year. Of course, it was sort of impressive -- he struck out 5 guys in 2 innings, including striking out the side in the 7th, but he also gave up a run on an RBI ground rule double to Jeff Liefer that landed 5 feet away from me in the leftfield bleachers. (Yes, I took a picture of that ball, which was caught by the guy sitting next to me. But anyway.)

What's sort of funny about this move is that I'm not so much curious whether Brad Thomas will help the Mariners, but I'm actually more thinking about what a disaster the Fighters bullpen may be this year. I knew that Brad wasn't coming back to Japan since the Fighters didn't offer him another contract, but with their other big lefty relief guy Hideki Okajima coming to the MLB, and Masaru Takeda taking a place in the rotation, there's really not much left in the Fighters bullpen in terms of lefties. Top draft pick Ken Miyamoto's sort of gotten beaten around in spring training, the other Waseda lefty Yamamoto isn't doing much better, neither is Sunaga, and they just traded Shoda to the Hanshin Tigers.

Either way, maybe I'll try to corner Brad Thomas at a Rainiers (or Mariners?) game sometime this season and get him to sign my Fighters book from last year. Of course, I tried that when Ryan Rupe was in Tacoma with the Las Vegas team in 2005 (I saw him pitch for the Fighters in 2004) and that didn't work so well, so who knows.

NPB Schedule page, and other hacks

Sorry for the lack of substantial posts here lately, but I've been busy with a whole lot of stuff in Real Life (such as rocking out, Okinawa-style, among other things) and then when I've been doing baseball stuff it's mostly been trying to turn a few minutes of spare time towards projects I really wanted to have finished before the NPB season started, but apparently won't have them as finished as I wanted them to be.

Anyway, the two main projects I've been working on are:
  • Automating translated Yahoo box scores -- hopefully when the season starts (Saturday at 1pm if you're in Japan, Friday at 9pm if you're in Seattle) I'll get to see if my Perl scripts that I wrote to work with the 2006 games work for the 2007 games. They still don't even have all of the new players for this year entered there, which is making me nervous.

  • NPB Game Schedules complete with Google Maps to all the stadiums, and schedules of games by region, prefecture, and metro area. This is still sort of a prototype, though all of the schedules work and it should be at least marginally useful to some people. I've been working on a better web app along the lines of the baseball-reference "travel" thingy though. Hopefully I'll have it up before too long.

    The idea was basically for all of the people who post to saying "I'm going to Osaka in late May, what games can I see?" and such, there'd be a way they could call up that information. But I want it to be more specific -- like for myself, I've printed up a list of all the Fighters and Hawks games in Tokyo, for example.

Anyway, I've been an utter failure at getting things done the last few weeks on this -- and now I'm suddenly realizing how close the MLB season is. While I look forward to getting to go to real baseball games again, and take cool pictures of players, and write funny game reports, I'm terrified at the implications for what'll happen to my free time :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Short Shameful Confession

For various reasons, I just renewed my Mariners 16-game season ticket plan for the fourth year running.

This year I just got a single seat in the lower deck, though, for photography purposes. I'm sure I'll end up hanging out with people in the upper deck at plenty of BECU Cheap Seats Night games too, don't worry.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oh Captain, My Captain

In his most recent blog entry, Bobby Valentine mentioned something extraordinarily cool:
After the game many things were developed; one was that I had a final meeting with Satozaki, a fabulous catcher who was elected for the WBC team. Satozaki and I talked for a while and he understood a lot of the messages that I was trying to deliver. Every team needs a great leader, and the leader is usually called a captain, and I was ready to appoint him as the captain of 2007 Chiba Lotte Marines. He took this designation with honor. He had many of the right questions and the answers. I’m sure that he is going to become what I want him to become: the best captain of any team which has ever assembled.

You all know what a huge Tomoya Satozaki fan I am, so this news made me pretty happy. Ganbatte Satozaki!

While I'm at it, I should mention that there have been some neat video shorts on Michael Nakamura's blog. What's awesome about them are that he's interviewed in English -- speaking in his kickass Australian accent -- with Japanese subtitles.

Kazumi Saitoh's finally updating his blog again after a month-and-a-half hiatus, mostly to say "I'm sorry, guys! Spring Training is busy!" At least he posted his Arizona pictures. My gosh, Yoshimi is almost as tall as he is. They both tower over Egawa and Kokubo.

(In case you are wondering, I'm quite aware of the recent Seibu scandal, I just don't particularly feel like talking about it.)

Takuro Ishii wrote about how Shinji Mizushima visited a Yokohama-Softbank game the other day, complete with an awesome picture of a ball he signed. Mizushima is not only the author of Dokaben (a long-running baseball manga which I've mentioned before), but he's also one of the backers of the recently-formed independent Hokushinetsu League. Very cool stuff.

Not to be outdone, Akinori Otsuka makes fun of interns. No, just kidding.

But the real player blogger of the week that takes the cake is lefty pitcher and crazy-creative man CJ Wilson, who posts a "Rangers 911" video that he directed (and acted in). It's pretty disturbing -- Josh Rupe in a Speedo and all -- but nonetheless awesomely funny. Check it out. CJ Wilson is officially my favorite Rangers player ever.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Book Review - Veterans Stadium: Field Of Memories, by Rich Westcott

Veterans Stadium: Field Of Memories, by Rich Westcott

This book recounts the history of Veterans Stadium, the Philadelphia multi-purpose concrete sports venue that stood from 1971 to 2004. There's background on how the stadium came to exist in the first place, stories about the opening and transition to the new park, recounting of various great moments in Phillies and Eagles history that took place in the new park, lists of great football/baseball players and their best moments in the Vet, stories of various promotions and other crazy events in the park, about the birth of the Philly Phanatic, stories about the South Philly residents, and eventually, of course, stories about moving the teams out and blowing the place up.

Just like any other Rich Westcott book, it reads a lot more like an extended newspaper article rather than like a great novel, but to be honest, for once, I didn't mind all that much. I grew up in Veterans Stadium, pretty much, so there were times where I almost had tears in my eyes remembering some players/moments/games/etc. I actually mostly skimmed through the Eagles chapters because they're not as interesting to me -- and to be fair, most of the time the Eagles were complaining about the stadium anyway. The book is a lot more Phillies-heavy than Eagles-heavy in general.

Basically, if you live or lived in Philadelphia and spent way too much of your life in Veterans Stadium, this is a good book to read through, and you'll remember many fond memories. Also, if you're like me and it opened before you were born, it'll be pretty neat to hear about some of the stories from the early years of the park that your parents never told you (like in my case, I don't remember ever hearing about Karl Wallenda walking a tightrope across the field between the foul poles without a net). It even makes a pretty decent bus book -- the writing's pretty pleasant, not too dense, at times humorous, and it splits well into chapters to read one or two per ride.

Plus, the book won me over when it said "Traded to the Phillies from the Cleveland Indians for five players, Von Hayes never quite won the hearts of Phillies fans. He should have."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Foto: Opening Day Countdown, Part 3

Opening Day at Safeco Field is on April 2, 2007. In our last segment of the countdown, we had counted down to 23. So here's another week worth of numbers, as we're down to about 16 days until Opening Day. Woohoo!

(I had several choices for each of these numbers, but tried to go for a nice variety of teams.)

David Wells
I bet I know who you all thought would be here for #16, but alas, I think he was eaten by David Wells, who has been known to devour the Mariners batting order from time to time.

Darin Erstad
Since we won't have Darin Erstad to kick around in the AL West anymore, I figured it was worth putting him and his gritty knee brace in here to make up for the lack of a proper #16. Though, who knows, he seems to be taking pretty well to the White Sox so far, eh. Maybe this is all a complex plot to get revenge on AJ Pierzynski.

Ben Zobrist
Ben Zobrist is one of those scrappy guys that for some reason I decided to like, even if the rest of the M's blogosphere hates him for making a beautiful diving catch of an Ichiro liner that should have given Felix a win at a Devil Rays game last year instead of having Richie Sexson clobber Seth "Closer to Fine" McClung in extra innings.

Marco Scutaro
Just say the word, oh! Scu-scu-scutaro!

(No, the theme for this week is not scrappy white guys. Shut up.)

JJ Putz
In all fairness, I wanted to put another shot from the Huston Street Dummy Incident here, but then I wouldn't have any Mariners in the mix this week, and that wouldn't be fair to our super-intellectual closer JJ Putz.

Andy Pettitte
Lefty slugger pitcher Andy Pettitte, shown here taking batting practice, did manage to have a higher batting average than Scott Spiezio in 2005.

Tomoya Satozaki
Tomoya Satozaki is the catcher for the Chiba Lotte Marines and is also one of my favorite baseball players in the entire world. If I'm a Marinerd, he's a Marinedork.

(All of these were taken by me in the last two years. Wells, Zobrist, Scutaro, and Putz were all taken at Safeco in 2006; Erstad at Safeco in 2005; Pettitte at Citizens Bank Park in 2005, and Satozaki at Chiba Marine Stadium in 2006.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dave Hansen and the Ides of March

People who actually went to Mariners games in 2004 and 2005 -- and I realize there aren't many of them -- may remember how we had Dave Hansen as a lefty bench bat for a while there.

Dave Hansen spent most of his career as a backup 3B-1B type, and one of the best pinch-hitters in the history of baseball, but by the time he got to the Mariners he was mostly done for, and in 2005 we saw him strike out a lot more often than we saw him pinch-hit home runs.

However, his legacy to me was that his at-bat music was "Vehicle", by the Ides of March, which I thought was super-cool. Today, being as it is the Ides of March, I was thinking about Dave Hansen and wondering where he is now.

It appears that he actually retired after the 2005 season when he couldn't get a contract for the 2006 season, but I'm not sure anybody actually noticed. For the 2007 season, he's signed on with the Mobile Bay Bears as a hitting coach. The Bears are the new Diamondbacks AA affiliate, as part of the Southern League Shuffle this year; ironically, they used to be a Padres affiliate, which would have been a lot more appropriate for a former Padres and Mariners player to be coaching with.

And speaking of the Padres, one might also recall that Dave Hansen was not only part of the trade that sent Jeff Cirillo *out* of Seattle, but was later traded back to the Padres for Jon Huber. We like Jon Huber. We dislike Jeff Cirillo. We won't bring up the fact that the Cirillo trade also brought us The Laziest Man In Baseball and Kevin Jarvis, and we sent Brian Sweeney to the Padres.

In semi-related news, Brian Sweeney is now pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters, which is good, except he also just got owned by Lotte to the tune of 8 runs in 4 1/3 innings yesterday (on their Ides of March). Alas. However, last time he faced Lotte on March 3rd he threw 4 innings of one-hit ball, and he shut out Hanshin for 5 innings on March 9th. In general he's been doing pretty well over there, though.

In completely unrelated news, CJ Nitkowski, who's been keeping a really good daily blog of his experiences in Japan, mentioned that Adam Hyzdu got sent down to the Hawks' minor league team. That's kind of harsh, but not entirely unexpected, I guess.

I don't feel like talking about the Seibu prospect-bribing scandal, by the way, which is why I haven't. The only good part about it all is that maybe the already-retardedly-complex-and-flawed draft system will get reworked this year.

(EDIT> Also, Bowie Kuhn died.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2007 Mariners Commercials

Well, among other things (such that today is Pi Day!), the Mariners also have their 2007 commercials up on the official site. Check them out:

Mariners 2007 Commercials

Overall, these are better than the 2005 ones -- anything would beat the Lame Shopping Network -- but compared to the ones in the past, they're not that outstanding, and they're probably a shade worse than last year's, but I'm mostly only saying that because none of them are better than the Legend of Big Richie.

So, a brief summary in the order I liked them, worst to best:

7. Map
This one mostly features the Mariner Moose having a flashback to when he was a "kid". It's pretty dumb. Also features Miguel Batista, Jose Vidro, John McLaren and a map. Yawn.

6. Rauuuuuul
So this one shows a bunch of people going through their work days with a big U painted on them, before embarking on their evenings at Safeco Field as part of a "RAUUUUUL" line. However, I've never really been a fan of people with letters painted on their bodies, plus I think this commercial will actually look pretty dumb on TV if you don't already know what it is.

4.5. Serious Heat
4.5. Working the Zone
These two are about equivalent to me. In "Serious Heat", Rene Rivera and an umpire put on welding masks to deal with Felix's Flaming Fastball. Highlight of commercial is Felix saying "Muy caliente!" In "Working the Zone", JJ Putz is showing off the accuracy of some pitcher to Chris Reitsma, only it turns out the "pitcher" is actually Ichiro throwing the ball in from right field. Highlight of commercial is Ichiro saying "Just a bit outside". Also, high socks.

3. Thinking Man's Game
Also known as "Deep Thoughts by JJ Putz", he shoulders the load of being the star of TWO commercials this season, as this one features him and George Sherrill sitting around in the bullpen. It's mostly funny if you already think JJ is sort of dumb. In all honesty, though, it was much funnier ten years ago when they did "A thinking team is a winning team."

2. Rosin Bag
J-Rod the Washburninator isn't the world's greatest actor or anything, but I think the idea behind this one is pretty funny -- Washburn's basically turned the rosin bag into a man-purse, so he's got nail clippers in there for Johjima, sun glare smudge for Bloomquist, and even family photos and his cellphone. I have a feeling this commercial will mostly go forgotten until some opportune time during the season when J-Rod's having a bad game, and someone yells "Hey, did you leave your glasses in your rosin bag, Washburn?"

1. Double Play Twins
This was the only one to make me laugh out loud, and thus win the Marinerds Seal of Approval as The Best Commercial of the 2007 Batch. Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt star as the "double play twins", basically to a tune that's somewhere between The Turtles' "So Happy Together" and the Doublemint Gum commercial theme:
You're seeing double, yes -- it's true.
See what the Double Play Twins can do.
Watch 'em throw, watch 'em catch,
Jose and Yuni, what a match!
The double play, double play, Double Play Twins!
They play games together, brush teeth together, play the accordion together (!?), and even ride a tandem bike across the field wearing the same ridiculous outfit, at which point they see Adrian Beltre, ask "Too much?" and he just gives them a look of "OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO? YOU LOOK ABSOLUTELY RETARDED."

It's pretty overboard, but in a good way.

You know what I miss? Silly Jamie Moyer commercials. Or maybe I just miss Jamie Moyer. I'm not sure which.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Horacio Ramirez, you're grounded

No, seriously. So far in Spring Training, the Mariners have proven to be pretty good at losing games to everyone except the AL West, thus ensuring that they will lose every regular-season game they play against the AL West.

But that's not why I'm writing an entry. See, the important game of this weekend was the White Sox one, where yet again, Horacio Ramirez went out and was a groundball machine once again. Infact, if you're counting, here are his stats for the three preseason games he's pitched in:
             IP   BF   GB   AO    K   BB   LD        H   R 
Mar 11: 4 14 10 2 1 1 0 1 0
Mar 06: 3 11 6 1 1 2 1 0 0
Mar 01: 2 7 3 1 1 1 1 1 0
Total: 9 32 19 4 3 4 2 2 0

So 32 batters have come to the plate against him. 59% of them have hit ground balls, 13% have hit fly balls, 9% have struck out, 13% have walked, and 6% have hit line drives. Only two of them have gotten hits, and nobody's scored a run with him on the mound.

This actually doesn't look that much out of line with his general career numbers, though. He seems to have had a problem walking too many batters and not striking out enough of them -- but he's always been a groundball guy. As a lefty pitcher in Safeco with Beltre, Betancourt, and Lopez behind him on the left side of the infield, if he can keep up these insane groundball rates, I'd say that he may be in for a fairly surprisingly good year.

Or this might all be spring training and worth absolutely nothing. After all, the other day the Hiroshima Carp managed to beat the Softbank Hawks 2-1, having only one hit in doing so (which was actually a sac bunt to begin with, but which loaded the bases following two walks), the two runs scoring on a groundout and a sac fly. Crazy things are afoot all over the place.

(Though for the record, Kazumi Saitoh started said game for the Hawks, pitched 5 innings, threw 77 pitches, struck out 8, walked 3, and gave up no hits. So I guess things aren't that weird after all.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Foto: Opening Day Countdown, Part 2

Opening Day is on April 2, 2007. As of last Friday's entry there were 30 days left or so. Now there's only 23! Where did the last 7 days go? Time flies like a baseball!

(Couldn't keep up with the ex-Mariners theme, so here's just some random pictures I've taken of numbers.)

Ben Broussard
Ben Broussard is the current Mariners 1B/OF/DH/guitarist. He's a vast improvement over the last rockstar to wear #23 for the team.

Danny Haren
Danny Haren is a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. He never has a bad hair day, even when pitching in Seattle.

Shuuichi Murata
Shuuichi Murata is the third baseman for the Yokohama Bay Stars. He can really smash the tar out of a baseball, but he needs to someday have less strikeouts than hits in a season.

Naoki Matoba
Naoki Matoba is a catcher for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. He has the unlucky fortune to be an extremely good catcher and an extremely bad hitter, who had to replace an extremely good hitting catcher named Kenji Johjima.

Motonobu Tanishige
Motonobu Tanishige is the catcher for the Chunichi Dragons. He has quietly been one of the best catchers in the history of Japanese baseball. Someday people might even actually notice.

Raul Ibanez
Raul Ibanez is the left fielder for the Mariners. Raul enjoys hitting home runs, throwing people out at home plate, and making statheads who thought his contract extension was a bad idea eat their words.

Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter is a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. He spends most of his time mowing down National League hitters and making Gil Meche wonder what's wrong with his labrum.

(All of these were taken by me in 2006. Broussard, Haren, and Ibanez pictures were taken at Safeco Field; Carpenter picture was taken at PNC Park, Murata was taken at Yokohama Stadium, Matoba at Miyagi Fullcast Stadium, and Tanishige at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

RIP John Vukovich, 1947-2007

Man, I don't even really know what to say. John Vukovich was a player on the Phillies when I was born, came back to them as a coach when I was in elementary school, and has been there ever since. I didn't even know he had a relapse of the brain tumor, and now he's, well, gone.

Jayson Stark, on the other hand, knows what to say. So read his eulogy, because it is good.

The official Phillies site has an announcement of his death, a reprint of a article on Vuke from 2004, and a whole bunch of quotes from baseball people remembering him. They point out that there are only two men in history to wear a Phillies uniform in Connie Mack Stadium, Veterans Stadium, and Citizens Bank Park -- and that'd be Vuke and Bowa. Now *there's* a lifetime with the Phillies.


(EDIT> This might be a good time to join the "Curt Schilling is blogging!" wave by mentioning that he wrote a great entry about Vukovich.)

Book Review - The Catcher Was A Spy, by Nicholas Dawidoff

The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg

This is going to sound like an odd way to start a book review, but I think this book would have been a lot better to read when it first came out thirteen years ago than it is now, because of the internet. See, ten years ago if I'd wanted to find out more about Moe Berg, I would have pretty much had to go to the library, find books like this one, look up old articles on microfilm, etc. But nowadays, you type "Moe Berg" into Google, and you'll come up with plenty of information on him -- stats, stories, images, etc -- probably enough to sate your curiosity, at least.

If you don't know who Moe Berg was, he was a major league baseball player -- and not a particularly great one, but good enough to stick around for almost 20 years -- who also happened to graduate from Princeton, get a law degree from Columbia, learn to speak several foreign languages, work in the OSS and CIA, and served as a spy for the US in World War II in Europe. Legend also says that he learned to speak Japanese fluently while on the boat to Japan in 1932, and that during the infamous MLB all-star baseball tour of Japan in 1934 he shot videos of Tokyo that were used for air raids in WWII. (But the research in this book indicates that neither of those were actually the exact truth.) And after WWII, he was basically a freeloader for the rest of his life, wandering all over the place.

The problem with this book is that it's basically one big research project on a guy who tried to make sure nobody would ever find out what the hell he was doing with his life -- and who didn't really DO anything with his life after World War II -- so, at least for me, I found the first half of it pretty fascinating, with the baseball and the trips to Japan and the war stuff. Once Moe Berg's life became aimless, so did my attention span for the book. So many people wander in and out of the pages, and there were so many people whose lives Moe Berg wandered in and out of, that it's just hard to keep track of all the fragments. I actually had stopped reading it for a few days' worth of bus commutes, but then Berg's birthday last week (on March 2nd) reminded me that I should finish it.

This book is the reverse of your typical baseball biography that mostly involves baseball and then a little bit of other stuff. It's definitely about one of the most unique people in the history of baseball, and full of anecdotes, but yet, maybe it's TOO comprehensive a volume on "what the hell was the deal with Moe Berg?". It's just that it doesn't work very well as a bus book, and my guess is that someone who doesn't have a deep curiosity about Moe Berg is probably also going to lose momentum reading it halfway through. The latter half of the book is arranged by geography rather than chronologically, too, which gets a little confusing at times -- I kept finding myself mentally doing math to try to remember how old Berg was at any point in which he was wandering around some location or another.

Oh yeah, and there were a bazillion typos in the spelling of Japanese names and places, but my guess is that most people reading this wouldn't even notice or care about most of them, and I'm just picky.

I'm glad that Dawidoff did the research to put this book together, and I think it's a pretty useful historical source, but my recommendation on this book for the typical baseball book fan is to check it out from the library and really read the first half, and then skim the rest for interesting people and places that jump out at you on the pages. It's probably a little bit too much to get through for someone who just has a casual curiosity about Berg.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mariners finally win!

Mariners 10, Rangers 3

If you're keeping track, by the way, that means the Mariners have scored 28 runs and allowed 28 runs in 7 spring training games, but have a 1-6 record. Five out of those six losses are by one run.

Also, I feel partially responsible for this win, as I went over Jeff's head and created a front page game thread for it at Lookout Landing. Obviously, the team needed the karma!

Now there's only one team in the MLB left which hasn't won any games at all in spring training, and that's the Pirates (who tied yesterday, and lost 11-10 to the Phillies today). Ouch.

Out of nowhere, today is the birthday of Pete Gray, the only one-armed guy to play in the major leagues. (One-armed, not one-handed, as it was pointed out about Hugh Daly and Jim Abbott in the LL game thread).

Sadly, it is also the one-year anniversary of the death of Kirby Puckett.

Anyway, the best thing about today's game:

Horacio Ramirez, Julio Mateo, and Arthur Rhodes combined for 5 no-hit, no-run innings.

More importantly, Horacio Ramirez faced 11 batters, walked 2, struck out 1, and got 6 groundball outs and 2 fly outs (one of which was actually a liner to shortstop). I can be pretty happy about that. His first outing on March 1st was also somewhat like that -- 7 batters in 2 innings, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 hit, 4 ground outs, 1 fly out. Rafael Soriano has yet to throw a pitch in spring training -- maybe this trade's going to work out for us after all.

We all know Spring Training is sort of like an alternate dimension, but it's nice to see some encouraging things going on.

Player Blogs and other fun

You may or may not have noticed, but I have a link at the bottom of my "Other Baseblogs" part of the sidebar that says "Player Blogs" -- for a while, I actually had links to player blogs along with fan/etc blogs, and then I realized that it was impractical to have them all over there, so I moved them off to a separate page (except for Bobby Valentine and Pat Neshek, because they are Special).

Well, I kept forgetting to update that page as I found more Japanese player blogs, and in addition, all the MLB players who blogged on pretty much stopped in the offseason, and I don't know how many will be restarting, so I needed to change the status of a few of those too. This year so far I see blogs from CJ Wilson (of the Rangers, who just linked to Akinori Otsuka's blog, which is worth checking out for the cartoon banner alone) seems to have one for this year, and Curtis Granderson of the Tigers, and... it looks like John Rodriguez of the Cardinals might take his up again from last year, but that's about it. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

So I went ahead and added the whole plethora of Japanese player blogs (and a few NPB ones in English, such as Jeff Williams and CJ Nitkowski) that I'd pretty much bookmarked and never added, even though that means I definitely won't have time to read them all now. If nothing else, though, it was fun finding a few new ones, and catching up on the Tigers player blogs from around Valentine's Day thanking all their fans for chocolates. Tsuyoshi Nishioka actually writes in Osaka-ben. I'm fairly amazed that Takuro Ishii writes stuff daily, which is cool. A lot of players have some pretty fun stories from spring training, too.

Another neat thing is that while looking through official player pages and sites, I noticed that the Fighters, Carp, and Giants actually bother putting players' farm team statistics as well as their top-level statistics on their official pages. That's pretty cool. Aside from the last two seasons, I hadn't really been able to get my hands on much farm data at all, though I also haven't looked that hard, I guess.

Anyway, I'm betting a few more MLB player blogs will start up once the season starts, though who knows. I wish Nate Robertson would write one again -- I thought he was really entertaining last year. If I've missed any MLB player blogs in particular, feel free to let me know (there are probably some I've just forgotten that I never bookmarked). I left out listing a whole lot of NPB player blogs on purpose simply because there's just too many, so I tried to limit it to people I find interesting, since I actually try to regularly check in on the sites I link to.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Cactus League Crap, and Softbank's Almost-Perfecto

Well, if you're a Mariners fan, there's not a lot of joy to be had in Mudville yet, or in the Cactus League, as the case may be. The Mariners have lost all of the games they've played this preseason so far -- counting the exhibition on March 1, they're a collective 0-5. The good news, on the other hand, is that they lost four out of those five games by only one run, and the other game by two runs. The Pythagorean Runs equation suggests that a team that's been outscored 13-19 in five games usually will not have lost all five of those games as well, so things should hopefully regress to the mean soon. Maybe even in today's game against the Cubs.

Or not. It's spring training, after all. I mean, who would predict something like Greg Dobbs leading the Phillies in home runs at this point (and getting his second one off of now-RedSox-player Joel Pineiro)?

Here's an actual good article on Masumi Kuwata, which even mentions his indentured servitude to Yomiuri. Kuwata finally made his spring training debut for the Pirates on Sunday, pitching one inning, giving up no hits and striking out 2. The Pirates have also not yet won a preseason game.

Of course, in my opinion, the most interesting game this weekend -- possibly even of the entire preseason -- was the Softbank Hawks vs. Yomiuri Giants game on Sunday, where the Softbank Hawks pitchers Tsuyoshi Wada, Keisuke Kattoh, CJ Nitkowski, Kazuhiro Takeoka, and Yoshiaki Fujioka combined to retire the first 26 batters of the game before Ryota Wakiya, the 27th Giants batter of the game, hit a single up the middle to break up the perfect game, making it a one-hitter instead.

More discussion of the game in English is here and the Japan Baseball Daily recounting of it is here. The Hawks pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts, Wada striking out the side in the first and eventually notching 5 in 4 innings, and Takeoka striking out the side in the 8th inning. Also, and I know this is petty, but Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger struck out in all three of his at-bats. Nyah. Seung-Yeop Lee also fanned twice and Yoshitomo Tani grounded out weakly to second to end the game. If the rest of the season goes this way for the Giants, it'll be pretty funny.

Ironically, Wakiya was the only base runner in Kazumi Saitoh's almost-perfect-game last year on Kenji Johjima's birthday, also against the Giants during interleague play. In that game, Wakiya beat out an infield hit in the 6th inning but was picked off, so Saitoh finished the game having faced 27 batters, throwing 115 pitches, walking none and striking out 12.

At any rate, the Hawks scare me. A lot. What sucks even more is that now that the Fighters and Marines have won Japan Series championships recently, I have no real reason to hate the Hawks so much anymore, and may even have to stop pretending not to be a closet fan. Well, aside from the fact that it looks like their internet broadcasts are only going to work in Japan this year as opposed to everywhere as they did in the past, of course.

Fighters pictures of the week: グリンとグリーン ("Glynn and Green"), and er, Hichori is home!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Foto: I Can't Count

Every day on the Rattler Radio blog, he has a "countdown to opening day" and a number and a player that represents that number.

I thought it'd be funny to do something like that here today, except as I started to search through my hard drive for not-yet-uploaded pictures I'd taken of guys wearing the number of days left, I realized I wasn't actually sure which way is the proper way for counting this sort of interval.

Mariners Opening Day at Safeco Field is April 2, 2007.

Today is March 2, 2007.

How many days are there until Opening Day?

If you count from tomorrow until the day before Opening Day, there are 30 full days in between now and Opening Day. The most recent ex-Mariner to wear #30 was Aaron Sele.

Aaron Sele

Aaron Sele is now in spring training camp with the Mets as an NRI, where he just watched his former Mariners teammate Clint Nageotte ninja the win in a Grapefruit League game today.

Now, isn't it sort of cheating to say "days until Opening Day" and not count today, since today has barely started? Therefore, I can see an argument saying that there are 31 days until Opening Day. The most recent ex-Mariner to wear #31 was Francisco Cruceta.

Francisco Cruceta

Francisco Cruceta was claimed off waivers by Texas back in October, and is now probably in the Rangers camp trying to get Mike Young to buy everyone a round of tequila.

Theoretically, if you're just going by 24-hour chunks of time, though, one could come up with an argument for having to count both today AND April 2nd towards the count, because it's actually slightly more than 31 days from right now until the time the first pitch will be thrown at Safeco Field. And well, we all know who the most recent ex-Mariner to wear #32 was...

Chris Snelling

Chris Snelling was traded to the Washington Nationals with Emiliano Fruto for Jose Vidro in December, and is now in spring training camp with them, hoping to win out in the Battle of the Outfielders, and in the meantime still providing great one-liners when writers interview him:
Q: Do you surf?
A: I've tried. I'm not really good at it, especially after seven knee surgeries.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yomiuri Online Survey

Saw this posted on the forums:

Speak out! Baseball opinions welcome [Yomiuri News, in English]

I'm going to send them email with my thoughts on the upcoming NPB season (and so should you, if you have an opinion on these sorts of things), but the questions they ask in particular are:
  • Will scrappy manager Terry Collins be able to pull the Orix BlueWave out of its seven-year skid in the Pacific League's lower division?

  • With the introduction of the Central League playoffs, which surprise team do you think will reach the postseason this autumn?

  • Do you think the playoff competition will help the CL break the PL's four-year lock on the Japan Series?

  • Will the acquisition of Michihiro Ogasawara be the key to the Giants regaining their winning form?

  • In case you're wondering, my answers offhand:

    1. No. Orix sucks, and will continue to suck. They're the only team in the PL I see as hopeless this year. You heard me right -- I don't even entirely think RAKUTEN is hopeless, I think they've got as much chance as Kansas City of actually pulling together a decent season this year (which, if you listen to Jason Churchill, is a lot higher of a chance than you'd think offhand).

    Besides, the Orix BlueWave ceased to exist over two years ago, when they got their post-Ichiro slumping selves merged in with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. So, in reality, if Terry Collins could make the BlueWave reach the playoffs this year, it'd definitely be a major work of prestidigitation.

    2. Hiroshima Carp! All-in! Brown-go-go-fight-oh-oh!

    3. Doubtful. Whoever gets past the Softbank Hawks in the Pacific League, if anyone does, is going to decimate their Central League opponent in the Japan Series, I think.

    4. No, because I have placed a curse on their heads for signing Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger. So far, the curse has also spread to Uehara's legs and Takahashi's groin. Take THAT, Kyojin!