Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions weekly Digest: Kuriyama's sayonara defeats the Hawks


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The Saitama Seibu Lions had another successful week going 5-1 against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. As a result, they've won nine of their last 11 games and have a five game cushion over the Orix Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the hunt for A-class. Here is how things went....

===

Game 1 from Zozotown Marine Stadium saw Kuan-Yu Chen against Ryoma Nogami. Both sides were scoreless through four innings, but the Lions continued to knock on the door facing Chen with multiple chances.

The Lions would draw first blood in the top of the 5th as Hideto Asamura would sneak a ground ball past the infield and Jimmy Paredes' throw to home plate was off target, advancing runners to second and third. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would hit a clean single, plating both runners for a 3-0 lead.

Chiba would get a run back in the bottom of the 5th from an RBI hit by Ikuhiro Kiyota, but Nogami would do a good job of limiting the damage. Nogami would go six innings with only one earned run and four strikeouts, scattering five hits.

Kazuhisa Makita had a jam in the 7th inning allowing the first two base runners, but a bunt by Kiyota would have the pitcher make a play. Makita would throw to 3B to get Tadahito Iguchi out and retired both Kohei Shibata and Kazuya Fukuura quickly to end the threat.

Brian Schlitter took the 8th inning and allowed a run through an RBI single by Matt Duffy, but there were two outs and there was little drama. Iguchi would foul out shortly after the Marines took two outs to advance Takashi Ogino to third. Tatsushi Masuda had a clean 9th inning to secure the Lions 4th consecutive win.

Lions 3, Marines 2

Game notes:

-Naoto Watanabe would be the DH while Takumi Kuriyama would PH later in the game.

-Makita would reach 15 consecutive scoreless innings to begin 2017.

===

Game 2 would have Jason Standridge against Kona Takahashi, where both pitchers are 19 years apart in age. It would be a slow start for Takahashi, as he would give up three runs in the first inning from timely hits by Tadahito Iguchi and Paredes.

The Lions responded in the third inning, where a fluke triple by Masatoshi Okada would get things going. Paredes would misplay a ball on what should have been a single and it would bounce to the wall. Akiyama would ground out and the Lions picked up a free run. They would eventually load the bases and give Takumi Kuriyama a chance to do some damage. With two outs, Kuriyama would hit a timely single to plate two more runs and tie the game.

Standridge's day was done after three innings as Yuta Omine came in for the 4th. The Lions nearly squandered another bases loaded opportunity, but Asamura's hustle brought in a run as he would head slide to first, beating out a double play and giving the team a 4-3 lead.

Takahashi would settle in and not allow a run after the first. He would go five innings in total with four strikeouts, including one to end the 5th.

Former Marines closer Naoya Masuda would take the 6th inning and gave up a double to Okada, as the latter secured a modasho. Shogo Akiyama would score him in with a base hit. Akiyama added a two-run home run in the top of the 7th to put the game away for good. Kuriyama also added an RBI hit in the 8th inning.

Shota Takekuma and Kazuhisa Makita had clean innings for the 6th and 7th while Frank Garces got to take the 8th. Ichiro Tamura gave up a solo home run to Jimmy Paredes in the 9th, but the Lions were comfortably ahead and secured their fifth straight win.

Lions 8, Marines 4

Game notes:

-Every starting Lions player had at least one hit.  Okada and Akiyama both had a modasho with the former being a home run short of the cycle.

===

The third game in Chiba would have Ken Togame up against Chihaya Sasaki, where the latter was the Marines' first round pick last October. Seibu had first blood in the top of the third with a timely single from Mejia.

In the top of the 5th, Akiyama would walk and Sosuke Genda would put him on third with a single. Genda's smart base running would have him on second with a steal. Asamura, the team's captain would then single both of them home with Chiba's infield playing in to make it 3-0. Okawari-kun would get a "timely hit" thanks to a blooper by Ikuhiro Kiyota as it scored a running Genda from first to make it 4-0.

Togame would have his best start of the season, going eight innings and giving the bullpen complete rest heading into the next series. He would have six strikeouts and not allow a run on the day.

Ginjiro Sumitani and Paredes traded home runs in the 9th inning to end the game, preventing a Lions shutout.

Lions 5, Marines 1

Game notes:

-The Lions had only five hits, but eight walks as a team on the day. Akiyama walked three times.

===

The week would shift back to MetLife Dome as Game 1 would have the Softbank Hawks bringing Rick van den Hurk against Yusei Kikuchi. An early defensive relay from Shuta Tonosaki and Sosuke Genda would save a run as Yuki Yanagita was tagged out at home plate in the first inning.

Nobuhiro Matsuda would hit a solo HR in the top of the 2nd for the first run of the game. The Lions responded as Shuta Tonosaki would have an infield single, scoring Ernesto Mejia from third base. This would be a classic pitcher's duel with minimal scoring chances throughout the game and this being scattered.

It would be Seiji Uebayashi who would break the tie with an RBI double in the top of the 7th. The Lions had a chance to respond in the bottom of the frame, but Genda would flyout.

There was one last gasp opportunity against Dennis Sarfate in the bottom of the 9th. The tying run was on second base, but Tonosaki would strikeout while Okada hit a comebacker to end the game and snap the winning streak.

Hawks 2, Lions 1

Game note:

-Kona Takahashi was deactivated for Makoto Aiuchi. With next week being a five-game week, the Lions chose to not have Takahashi be a starter. He will be ineligible to play the game in Gunma prefecture next week.

-Okawari-kun would DH while Naoto Watanabe started at 3B.

===

Game 2 against the Hawks had Yasuo Sano up against Kenichi Nakata. The Hawks scored first from an RBI single by Alfredo Despagine in the first, but the Lions would answer quickly in the bottom of the second.

Fumikazu Kimura would hit two-run HR to give the Lions the lead while Asamura would hit a three-run shot for a five run inning. It would be Asamura's 100th career home run in NPB. The Lions added two more runs in the bottom of the third off Nakata with a timely single by Kimura and a bloop hit by Daichi Mizuguchi to make it 7-1.

Sano would allow the one run in the first to score, but allowed three more runs through the next four innings. Two would be unearned thanks to an error from Kimura. Sano finished the day with five innings and one strikeout, scattering six hits.

With the game within three runs, the Lions went to the bullpen in the 6th with Shota Takekuma having a scoreless frame. Kazuhisa Makita gave up his first earned run of the season with a solo HR by Yuki Yanagita. Brian Schlitter had a clean 8th while Tatsushi Masuda struck out the side in the 9th.

Lions 7, Hawks 5

Game notes:

-Mizuguchi would start at 2B as Mejia was the DH. Asamura played 1B for the day.

-Masatoshi Okada would be the catcher.

===

Game 3 against the Hawks featured Brian Wolfe against Hayato Terahara in the rubber game of the series. The Lions would strike first in the bottom of the first thanks to an RBI-groundout for Okawari-kun after a walk, an infield hit and a sac bunt put Shogo Akiyama in scoring position.

Hideto Asamura would open up the Lions lead with a solo home run in the third that hit the top of the wall in left-center and bounce over the wall into the Lions Oendan. The Lions would continue the scoring in the 3rd with two on for Shuta Tonosaki who would line a two-run double off the wall and give the Lions a 4-0 lead. Things would get worse for the Hawks two batters later as Terahara would plunk Ginjiro Sumitani in the earhole of his batting helmet thus resulting in an automatic ejection for Softbank's starting pitcher after 2.2 IP.

With a 4-0 lead, Brian Wolfe would cruise to five shutout innings thanks to the help of three double plays. This would all change in the top of the 6th where the Hawks would bat around and put together a five-run inning and Wolfe would come out of the game due to an apparent torso injury. The first big hit would come from Kenta Imamiya who would hit a double passed Okawari-kun at third that would easily score two and cut the Lions lead in half. Then Seiichi Uchikawa would push a single to the opposite field which would score Imamiya to make it 4-3 and Wolfe would surrender the mound for Shota Takekuma. The Hawks would then take the lead thanks to a two-run single from Nobuhiro Matsuda giving the Hawks a 5-4 lead.

The lead would be shortlived with Sosuke Genda leading off the bottom of the 6th with a leadoff triple that would be converted into a run with a Hideto Asamura sacrifice fly that would draw the two teams level at 5-5 after 6. The seventh inning would go scoreless but then in the bottom of the 8th, the tie would be broken by an unlikely source in Ginjiro Sumitani who would hit a solo home run to give the Lions a 6-5 lead heading to the top of the 9th.

With the closer Tatsushi Masuda in the game, after a strikeout to start the inning things looked good, but then Nobuhiro Matsuda would hit a solo home run to left-center to draw the game level and give Masuda his first blown save of the season and the "ATSUO!" chant rang through the MetLife Dome. Just when the Lions thought they had lost the game, Takumi Kuriyama would send the Lions home happy as he hit a walk-off home run that just cleared the right-centerfield fence. The Lions had won the game 7-6 with the Lions taking their record in one-run ballgames to 5-7 this season.

Lions 7, Hawks 6

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The Lions finish with a 5-1 week and more impressively, they have won 9 of the last 11 to retain a solid position in A-class with a 5 game lead over the Fighters and Buffaloes for the third spot in the Pacific League.

The Lions have continued to score a lot of runs in their victories but more questions will now be asked about the rotation after Wolfe's apparent injury. If he's out for the considerable future, it's anyone's guess about whether the Lions can replace his starts with ni-gun players.

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Believe it: Sosuke Genda Is Dominating As A Hitter


Yes, we knew he was going to be a defensive wizard, but in the batter's box, Genda is showing that he's more than that. The Lions' 2016 third round pick out of Toyota Motors has been turning heads for his defense as the shortstop, but what's starting to come into view is just how good he has been with the bat in his hands. Just a couple weeks ago, I didn't put much stock into it, but thanks to our friends at 1.02 Essence of Baseball, we get a closer look at what has been the key to his early success.

If you're a fan of advanced metrics, please do check out this website it will enhance your Japanese Baseball viewing and just make you a smarter baseball fan. There are three things to take away from Sosuke Genda's statistics through May 12 and here they are.

1. Genda's Batted Ball Statistics Are A Good Early Sign, Despite High BABIP

Whenever a hard hit ball is hit right at an outfielder or a soft ground ball finds the outfield grass, the term BABIP can sometimes be heard by nearby fans. Quite simply, it measures the luck that a batter has when it comes to balls that a player hits in play. Right now, Sosuke Genda's BABIP is at .355. For our MLB fans out there, we generally like to think of .300 as the median for where a hitter should be, but from what I've seen that's not entirely accurate in Japan since players in NPB put the ball in play a lot more than their MLB counterparts. We really won't know what Genda's general average BABIP is probably until his third year in NPB, but looking at his contact percentages there are good signs that his early success isn't just beginner's luck.

It may be a shock to some, but among the Lions' everyday players, Sosuke Genda has the highest line drive % on the team with 15.6%, which means he's hitting the sweet spot more than anyone. And when you add to the fact that his strikeout % is at only 11% as a rookie (compared to Fumikazu Kimura who has a 25.8%), it's clear that not only is Genda holding his own against top flight pitchers in Japan, but he's succeeding at a tremendous rate. Things look even better when you look at how hard he's hitting the ball, as Genda's batted balls are hit at medium-high contact 85.4% of the time which is also the best among Seibu's regular position players. That might be the most startling realization of all when looking at Genda's deeper numbers.

2. Genda's Base running Skills Are A Tremendous Asset

In our April podcast episode, I indicated that I wasn't a fan of having Sosuke Genda batting in the second spot in the order because I felt that Hideto Asamura was better suited for that position being the Lions' best contact hitter. At this point in time though, it looks like Hatsuhiko Tsuji is being bailed out because of not only his bat, but also his base running. Sure, we've seen Genda bunting for hits at a solid rate, but the advanced metrics confirm Genda's base path prowess goes beyond just that.

Right now, he has nine stolen bases on 11 steal attempts which hopefully will continue as the year goes on, but looking at his UBR rating which measures how much his base running helps his team, Genda has a 2.2 which is higher than any regular players with only the Carp's Yoshihiro Maru and the Hawks' Yuki Yanagita anywhere near him at 1.9 and 1.8 respectively.

That means that Genda is successfully advancing to the extra base at a rate more than anyone in all of NPB and this validates Genda as the Lions two-hole hitter because when he's on base (and right now he has a solid OBP of .354) it will be the Lions best hitters up to bat with him on base with Asamura, Okawari-kun, and Ernesto Mejia usually following him in the order. His impact base running will pay dividends when he's on first base and if any of that trio behind hits a ball in the gap, more times than not, Genda is scoring.

3. Don't Look Now But Genda's Second On The Team In WAR

You heard that right. Only Shogo Akiyama has a higher WAR than Genda at 2.3 while the latter is at 2.2. Why is this? Put simply, Genda's all-around skills in the early going of this season have propelled him to this level, while Ernesto Mejia and Okawari-kun maybe have negative defensive or base running value, Genda has positive value in those areas while also being slightly above average with the bat. You add that all together and you have a high WAR. And for those wondering, among all rookie position players, Sosuke Genda leads the pack in WAR.

Conclusion:

Hopefully, when you're watching the Lions, this piece will make you watch Genda's base running since it's often that we take it for granted since the television cameras usually just show where a ball goes rather than what's going on the basepaths unless someone's gets thrown out. It'll be interesting to see whether or not his hitting continues but the peripheral stats are good signs for continued success in the future. It's hard to see the Lions getting this much value out of lower round pick for the next several years, and I'm going to certainly enjoy watching Sosuke Genda's career path.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sano earns first win as the Lions Sweep Orix



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The Saitama Seibu Lions would have a long road trip to both Hokkaido to face the Nippon-Ham Fighters and in Kansai against the Orix Buffaloes. Against Orix, the Lions were winless heading into the weekend. Could they rebound from their bad ways?

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The first game in Sapporo would feature Kona Takahashi against Hirotoshi Takanashi, the reigning Pacific League rookie of the year. It would be another slow start for Kona as he gave up a timely base hit to Sho Nakata for the first blood. Shota Ono would then hit a solo HR to make it 2-0 in the second.

It wouldn't be long before the Lions responded in the top of the third. Sosuke Genda would steal second base and with Shogo Akiyama on third, the tying run was in scoring position for Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura. Okawari-kun didn't disappoint with a timely single scoring both runners. Takumi Kuriyama would give the Lions the lead with a two-run blast right into the Seibu Oendan to make it 4-2.

Genda would add a timely two out hit with the Fighters outfield playing in to make it 5-2. Masatoshi Okada would score from second and barely beat out Haruki Nishikawa's throw. Kona Takahashi would settle in after a slow start, going five innings with seven strikeouts before being taken out.

Shota Takekuma and Kazuhisa Makita had clean 6th and 7th innings, but the Lions put the game away in the top of the latter inning. Okada and Fumikazu Kimura would deliver timely hits off the Fighters bullpen making it 7-2, ending a two game skid.

Lions 7, Fighters 2

Game notes:

-Ichiro Tamura made his ichi-gun debut in the 9th inning. He would give up a single to Kensuke Tanaka, but not allow a run.

-Every Lions player who started had a hit and even the substitutes got on base or hit later in the game after coming in as pinch runners.

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Game 2 would have Ken Togame up against Takayuki Kato. The Lions scored first with a bases loaded single by Okawari-kun, but they failed to capitalize afterwards. Brandon Laird responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame, but like the Lions, the Fighters couldn't take advantage of more runs.

Kensuke Kondo hit a simple single, but a bobble error by Shogo Akiyama helped him get to second base. It would be Laird again with a timely hit to make it 2-1 in the third inning.

Togame was rather fortunate, giving up seven hits but only one run through five innings on the night. He would have one strikeout and two walks included. Kato went six innings, but settled in after the first and had seven strikeouts.

The Lions would have the tying run on second base in the 7th, but Kensuke Tanimoto got Kimura to flyout and Naoki Miyanishi struck out Akiyama to end the threat. Chris Martin pitched a clean 8th while Hirotoshi Masui ended the game with a double play to Shuta Tonosaki.

Fighters 2, Lions 1

Game note:

-Kuriyama would continue to play DH.

===

Game 1 against Orix would have Yusei Kikuchi against Yuki Nishi from Kobe. The Lions took advantage of a leadoff double by Akiyama and Asamura plated him on a sac fly after Sosuke Genda would bunt him to third.

With the bases loaded, Asamura would plate two more runs on a single in the top of the third.  The top of the order would produce again in the top of the 5th. with Akiyama and Genda reaching base on singles, Asamura would blast a three-run bomb off Nishi for a 6-0 lead to put the game away.

Kikuchi would go six innings with plenty of run support with six strikeouts and three hits allowed. Asamura would get a 7th RBI through a groundout in the top of the 8th inning. The Lions poured it on in the final three frames of the game with five more runs, included base hits by Okawari-kun, Genda and Naoto Watanabe. It would be the team's first win against Orix in 2017.

Lions 11, Buffaloes 0

Game notes:

-Three Lions would have Modashos in Genda, Asamura and Akiyama.

-Mejia was hit by a pitch, but stayed in the game.

===

Game 2 from Kyocera Dome would have Yasuo Sano making his 2017 debut in a spot start against Phil Coke. Ernesto Mejia starting the scoring with a no-doubt HR in the top of the second. Coke would end up leaving the game in the third inning, as Genda would reach on an E1 with a surprise bunt. With Sachiya Yamasaki coming in, he would walk both Mejia and Naoto Watanabe as the bases were loaded with the latter up, scoring another run.

Kimura would add another run with a solo home run off Yamasaki in the top of the 4th. Sano wuold have one scare in the 4th inning, but only gave up one run from a hit by Hiroyuki Nakajima in the process. With the bases loaded, he would force one key ground out to Kenya Wakatsuki to limit the damage.  Sano would go five innings with five strikeouts on the day.

The Lions got two runs in the top of the 6th off Satoshi Oyama thanks to timely hits from Genda and Asamura. Shota Takekuma allowed a run in the 6th from an RBI single by Hikaru Ito, but avoided further damage escaping a small jam. Kimura put the game away with a 2-RBI double in the top of the 7th, securing a modasho for the day.

For the first time in 2017, the Lions took a series from Kansai.

Lions 8, Buffaloes 2

Game notes:

-Shogo Noda was sent down as the corresponding move to make room for Sano.

-Kuriyama was a pinch hitter and walked in the top of the 7th. He would be replaced by Shotaro Tashiro, who would score on Kimura's double.

-Daichi Mizuguchi came in as a defensive replacement for Ernesto Mejia and got an RBI single in the 8th.

===

Game 3 from Kyocera Dome would see Brian Wolfe try to complete the Lions sweep with Orix rookie Taisuke Yamaoka on the hill for the home team. The table would be set early for the Lions with Hideto Asamura doubling creating a second and third opportunity for Okawari-kun. He would capitalize on the opportunity by following it up with another double of his own to give the Lions an early 2-0 lead. Ernesto Mejia would then line a single up the middle to bring home Okawari-kun and just like that, Brian Wolfe would take the mound with a 3-0 lead.

Wolfe would give one run right back to the Buffaloes thanks to some opportune base running from Kyohei Iwasaki. Iwasaki would slap a one-out single and then promptly steal second base, and after a Masahiro Nishino groundout would move him over to third, a wild pitch would allow him to score. That would be the only run that Orix would score on the day.

The Lions would then tack on another run in the 5th thanks to Sosuke Genda who would drive in Shogo Akiyama who got into scoring position thanks to his fifth stolen base of the season. Genda would line one into the outfield and put the Lions back up by three.

Brian Wolfe would be pulled after six innings, where he scattered six hits and allowed one run with two strikeouts,  good enough for another quality start for Wolfe to start the year. Kazuhisa Makita and Brian Schlitter would pitch the 7th and 8th innings respectively in clean fashion.

The Lions would then tag on two runs in the 9th with Sosuke Genda providing an RBI-single which also gave Genda a modasho and that brought in Fumikazu Kimura and then Hideto Asamura would hit a chopper up the middle to bring home Ginjiro Sumitani to officially make the game into a rout.

Tatsushi Masuda would be brought in for a non-save situation in the bottom of the 9th just to get some work in and the Lions closer would get three quick outs to deliver the Lions a clean sweep of the Orix Buffaloes.

Lions 6, Buffaloes 1

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The Lions are back in A-class for now and above .500 thanks to the sweep. Of course there is still plenty of work to be done. They look competitive again, but they saw a back end of Orix's rotation.

Can they continue to hit their ways? How does the back end hold up now that Nogami has been shifted to the front end of a week? Questions will still need to be answered.

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions: How the roster was built


The Saitama Seibu Lions roster is already available in English, but the information is rather minimal. When scouring the Japanese site, you can see extra material, including where the player was drafted and / or where he played for previously. There are also several Japanese sites that show this information, including one chart that has the estimated salaries of each player.

Here is the entire Seibu Lions 70-man roster in English, where we've included when the player was taken, which round, what level he was drafted out of and the salary. We've also included the last team each player was part of, whether it was high school, university, the industrial league or another MLB organization/NPB team.

Starting Pitchers: 

Yusei Kikuchi (16) [1st round draft pick, 2009] HS; {Hanamaki Higashi}  ¥100 million
Ken Togame (21) [1st round draft pick, 2011] I; {JR East}  ¥60 million
Brian Wolfe (54) [Free agent, 2016]* {Fukuoka Softbank Hawks} ¥60 million
Ryoma Nogami (20) [2nd round draft pick, 2008] I; {Nissan Motors} ¥50 million
Chun-Lin Kuo (12) [Free agent, 2014]*  {Taiwanese National Team U23} ¥30 million
Kona Takahashi (17) [1st round draft pick, 2014] HS; {Maebashi Ikuei} ¥23 million
Shinsaburo Tawata (18) [1st round draft pick, 2015] U; {Fuji} ¥23 million
Keisuke Honda (45) [6th round draft pick, 2015] U; {Tohoku Gakuin} ¥7 million
Makoto Aiuchi (41) [2nd round draft pick, 2012] HS; {Chiba Kokusai} ¥6 million 
Isamu Sato (63) [5th round draft pick, 2012] HS; {Konan, Fukushima prefecture}¥6 million

Relief Pitchers:  

Kazuhisa Makita (35) [2nd round draft pick, 2010] I; {Nippon Express} ¥100 million
Tatsushi Masuda (14) [1st round draft pick, 2012] I; {NTT West} ¥95 million
Brian Schlitter (47) [Free agent]* {Colorado Rockies AAA} ¥80 million
Frank Garces (59) [Free agent]* {San Diego Padres} ¥60 million
Shota Takekuma (48) [4th round high school draft pick, 2007] ^; {Asahikawa Kogyo} ¥50 million 
Tomomi Takahashi (43) [4th round draft pick, 2012] I; {Seino Unyu} ¥48 million 
Alexis Candelario (68) [Free Agent]* {Estrellas, Dominican Republic} ¥25 million
Yosuke Okamoto (30) [6th round draft pick, 2009] I; {Yamaha} ¥18 million 
Tatsuya Oishi (15) [1st round draft pick, 2010] U; {Waseda} ¥15 million
Hirotaka Koishi (29) [2nd round draft pick, 2011] I; {NTT East} ¥15 million
Yasuo Sano (34) [2nd round draft pick, 2014] U; {Heisei} ¥13 million
Shogo Noda (23) [3rd round draft pick ,2015] I; {Seino Unyu} ¥13 million
Seiji Kawagoe (26) [2nd round draft pick, 2015] U; {Hokkai Gakuen} ¥12 million
Tadasuke Minamikawa (36) [5th round draft pick, 2015] I; {JR Shikoku} ¥10 million
Takuya Toyoda (19) [3rd round draft pick, 2013] I; {TDK} ¥9.5 million 
Ryohei Fujiwara (28) [3rd round university draft pick, 2007] ^; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥9.5 million
Toshihiro Iwao (31) [3rd round draft pick, 2009] U; {Beppu} ¥8.5 million
Kentaro Fukukura (50) [7th round draft pick, 2013] U; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥6 million
Tsubasa Kokuba (57) [8th round draft pick, 2015] U; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥6 million
Yusuke Tamamura (38) [4th round drafft pick, 2014] HS {Tsuruga Kehi} ¥5.5 million
Koki Fujita (67) [9th round draft pick, 2015] HS; {Hirosaki Kogyo} ¥5 million
Naoaki Matsumoto (66) [10th round draft pick, 2015] I; {Kagawa Olive Guyners} ¥5 million


Rookie Pitchers: 

Tatsuya Imai (11) [1st round draft pick, 2016] HS; {Sakushin Gakuin} ¥13 million
Shunta Nakatsuka (22) [2nd round draft pick, 2016] U; {Hakuoh} ¥12 million
Katsunori Hirai (25) [5th round draft pick, 2016] I; {Honda Suzuka} ¥10 million
Ichiro Tamura (40) [6th round draft pick, 2016] U; {Rikkyo} ¥7 million


===

Catchers:

Ginjiro Sumitani (27) [1st round high school pick, 2005] ^; {Heian} ¥100 million
Tomoya Mori (10) [1st round draft pick, 2013] HS; {Osaka Toin} ¥45 million
Masatoshi Okada (37) [6th round draft pick, 2013] I; {Osaka Gas} ¥16 million
Tatsuyuki Uemoto (49) [6th round draft pick, 2002] I; {Kyowa Hakko} ¥16 million
Shota Nakata (64) [6th round high school draft pick, 2007] ^; {Naruto} ¥5.8 million
Hitoto Komazuki (62) [3rd round draft pick, 2011] HS; {Kyoto Shiritsu Tonan} ¥5.1 million
Komei Fujisawa (78) [Ikusei pick, 2011] iU; {Matsumoto} ¥5 million

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Infielders:

Ernesto Mejia (99) [Free agent, May 2014]* {Atlanta Braves AAA}  ¥500 million
Takeya "Okawari-Kun" Nakamura (60) [2nd round draft pick, 2001] HS; {Osaka Toin} ¥410 million 
Hideto Asamura (32) [3rd round draft pick, 2008] HS; {Osaka Toin} ¥155 million
Naoto Watanabe (8) [Trade with DeNA Baystars for RP Shuichiro Osada, 2013] #; ¥50 million 
Yuji Kaneko (2) [3rd round draft pick, 2012] U; {Ritsumeikan} ¥48 million
Yuji Onizaki (5) [Trade with Yakult Swallows for RP Chikara Onodera, 2011] #; ¥23 million
Hotaka Yamakawa (33) [2nd round draft pick, 2013] U; {Fuji} ¥16 million
Shuta Tonosaki (44) [3rd round draft pick, 2014] U {Fuji} ¥13 million
Kyohei Nagae (32) [4th round draft pick, 2011] HS {Nagasaki Kaisei} ¥12.5 million
Nien Ting Wu (39) [7th round draft pick, 2015] U; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥8 million
Haruka Yamada (52) [5th round draft pick, 2014] HS; {Saga Kogyo} ¥6 million
Kazuki Kaneko (56) [4th round draft pick, 2013] HS; {Fujisawa} ¥5.5 million
Daichi Mizuguchi (00) [Ikusei draft pick, 2012] iI; {Kagawa Olive Guyners} ¥5.5 million


Rookie Infielder:

Sosuke Genda (6) [3rd round draft pick, 2016] I; {Toyota Motors} ¥12 million

===

Outfielders: 

Shogo Akiyama (55) [3rd round draft pick, 2010] U; {Hachinohe} ¥200 million
Takumi Kuriyama (1) [4th round draft pick, 2001] HS; {Ikuei} ¥190 million 
Yutaro Osaki (9) [6th round university draft pick, 2006] ^; {Aoyama Gakuin} ¥18.5 million
Ryo Sakata (88) [4th round draft pick, 2008] U; {Hakodate} ¥15 million
Shogo Saito (65) [7th round high school draft pick, 2007] ^; {Kasukabe Kyoei} ¥14 million
Fumikazu Kimura (51) [1st round high school draft pick, 2006]^; {Saitama Sakae} ¥14 million
Masato Kumashiro (58) [6th round draft pick, 2010] I; {Oji Paper} ¥13 million
Aito Otaki (53) [4th round draft pick, 2015] HS; {Hanasaki Tokuharu} ¥6 million
Shotaro Tashiro (61) [5th round draft pick, 2011] U; {Hachinohe} ¥6 million
Daisuke Togawa (71) [Ikusei pick, 2014] iHS; {Hokkai} ¥5 milllion


Rookie Outfielder: 

Shohei Suzuki (46) [4th round draft pick, 2016] HS {Shizuoka} ¥6 million

Ikusei:

Shogo Kimura (121) [Free Agent, 2016]%;  ¥7.5 million

===

Legend: 

U - Drafted out of University/College

I - Drafted out of Industrial or Independent League

HS - Drafted out of High School

^ - Drafted in a year where High School and University drafts were separate. From 2005-2007, those taken in high school were separated from those taken out Universities or Industrial/Independent League teams.
  
* - Foreign import signing  

# - Traded domestically

% - Domestic free agent (Passed a tryout and earned a roster spot) 

i - Ikusei draft pick. It's similar to how an NFL practice squad works, except they're drafted in an ikusei round after the initial NPB Draft.  For more information, you can click here. The Lions currently have no one on their ikusei roster and have three former picks promoted to the 70-man roster.

===

Lastly, here is the coaching staff of the Lions both at the ichi-gun and ni-gun level.  This is listed on the Lions website.  

Head Manager (Supervisor) 
85 Hatsuhiko Tsuji (田辺 徳雄)

Ichi-gun Coaches

73 Hideki Hashigami (橋上 秀樹) - Head Coach
80 Shigenobu Shima (嶋 重宣) – Batting
76 Masahiro Abe (阿部 真宏) - Batting
84 Kosaku Akimoto (秋元 宏作) – Battery^
72 Yoshihiro Doi (土肥 義弘) – Pitching
89 Shinji Mori (森 慎二) – Pitching
83 Toshifumi Baba (馬場 敏史) – Infield defense and Base-running (3B coach)*
70 Tomoaki Sato (佐藤 友亮) – Outfield defense and Base-running (1B coach)
92 Shinobu Sakamoto (坂本 忍) – Training
98 Takafumi Sato (里 隆文) – Training^

Ni-gun Coaches 
86 Tetsuya Shiozaki (潮崎 哲也) - Farm Manager   [v]
75 Hiroyuki Takagi (高木 浩之) – Farm Hitting and Head Coach
74 Fumiya Nishiguchi (西口 文也) – Farm Pitching*
91 Eiji Kiyokawa (清川 栄治) – Farm Pitching
82 Kosuke Noda (野田 浩輔) – Farm Battery*
87 Satoshi Kuroda (黒田 哲史) – Farm infield defense and Base-running
77 Shogo Akada (赤田 将吾) – Farm Outfield, base-running and defense
81 Takanori Hoshi (星 孝典) – Ikusei and development*
95 Haruki Kurokawa (黒川 春樹) – Farm Training
96 Kenta Kudo (工藤 建太) – Farm Training*

* New coach
^ Promoted to ichi-gun
[v] Sent down to ni-gun

===

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Slammed in Fukuoka, Kishi haunts former team


===

The Saitama Seibu Lions would spend Golden Week in Fukuoka against the Softbank Hawks before returning home for a short homestand against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Could they rebound from a brutal week last time?

===

The opener from Fukuoka would feature Alexis Candelario making his ichi-gun debut in place of Shinsaburo Tawata while facing Kodai Senga. After a strong first inning, things looked promising as Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura started the game with a two-run home run while Candelario got a shutdown frame.

Everything would go downhill in the second inning as Candelario gave up a grand slam to Takuya Kai. Seiji Uebayashi would also hit a three-run bomb off Candelario in the third inning, where the night would end for the latter.

Senga would settle in after a shaky first inning by going six innings with four strikeouts. Shogo Noda and Kentaro Fukukura would combine for the final five innings of the night and give up a combined seven runs, including two HRs allowed by the latter. Nobuhiro Matsuda hit one in the 5th inning while Uebayashi added a three-run HR in the 8th.

Shuta Tonosaki hit a HR and Okawari-kun would get a second HR late in the game, but it was already too late.

Hawks 14, Lions 4

Game notes:

-Shogo Noda was ejected for a dangerous pitch to the head level of Akira Nakamura.

-Kuriyama played DH as he continued to recover from an injury.

-Hotaka Yamakawa was the corresponding deactivation move in order to make room for Candelario and his spot start.

-Candelario was deactivated after the game for Frank Garces.

===

Game 2 in Fukuoka at the start of Golden Week would be a matinee featuring Kona Takahashi and Nao Higashihama. This was nearly a replay of the previous game as the Lions jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Sosuke Genda had an RBI triple and Asamura plated him with a single.

Things would go south in the bottom of the 4th. With two outs, Takahashi would give up a grand slam to Uebayashi and make it 4-2 Hawks. Uebayashi would add another run to make it 5-2 and end Takahashi's night after six innings. Frank Garces made his debut in the 7th inning and allowed another run on a groundout by Seiichi Uchikawa.

Higashihama mostly settled in and nearly pitched eight innings, until the Lions had a threat in the top of the 8th. With the bases loaded, Okawari-kun would ground out against reliever Sho Iwasaki to end the chance.

With this defeat, the Lions would lose their second straight and fall to .500.

Hawks 6, Lions 2

Game notes:

-Tatsuya Oishi was deactivated from the roster after reports of neck pain. Ryohei Fujiwara was called up in his place.

-The Lions would only scatter five hits on the night with chances being minimal.

===

The final matchup from the series would have Rick van Den Hurk against Ken Togame as the Lions tried avoiding a sweep. Togame would have a slow start by walking in the first run as he faced Hiroaki Takaya.  The Lions responded in the top of the 4th as Ernesto Mejia hit his 100th career home run in NPB for a two-run blast.

Togame failed to get a shutdown inning as Nobuhiro Matsuda hit his own two-run HR as the Hawks regained the lead. Asamura tied the game in the 5th with an RBI single, but the Hawks would pull away for good. Matsuda would get an RBI hit in the bottom of the frame and Alfredo Despaigne put the exclamation point on the game with a home run.

The Lions were able to score three runs in the top of the 7th to pull the team within one, but Okawari-kun would ground into a double play with the bases loaded to prevent any further damage and Ernesto Mejia struck out.

Brian Schlitter would have his first bad outing as he couldn't keep the game within one run. With runners on second and third, Kenji Akashi would pinch hit the catcher position and plate two runs with a timely hit. It would secure the second straight road sweeping of the Lions in 2017.

Hawks 9, Lions 6

===

Game 1 against the Eagles would have Yoshinao Kamata against Yusei Kikuchi. Okawari-kun would begin the scoring in the 4th with a two-run home run and the Lions never had to look back. Shuta Tonosaki and Ginjiro Sumitani would add timely hits to make it a four-run inning off Kamata.

Kikuchi would be on cruise control with the given run support, allowing only one run through seven innings with two hits and nine strikeouts. At one point, he retired 16 consecutive hitters.

Overall, it was a clean outing by both the bats and pitching with little to worry about.

Lions 7, Eagles 1

===

Game 2 against the Eagles would have Manabu Mima against Ryoma Nogami. This would be a laugher from the beginning as Hiroaki Shimauchi, Ryo Hijirisawa and Takero Okajima had timely hits for a combined five runs in the top of the 1st.

The only positive moment for the Lions was Shuta Tonosaki hitting two solo home runs in a losing effort. Five Eagles would have a modasho in this game and the team would combine for 20 hits. The Eagles pounded five more runs off the Lions bullpen which included Frank Garces, Shogo Noda, Ryohei Fujiwara and Kentaro Fukukura.

Having plenty of run support from the beginning, Mima would go eight innings and allow only two runs with four strikeouts, scattering four hits.

Eagles 10, Lions 2

===

Game 3 had Takayuki Kishi's awaited return to MetLife Dome as he started against Brian Wolfe. The Eagles struck first on a safety squeeze by Yuichi Adachi in the third inning. Carlos Peguero would send a two-run home run into the Lions Oendan to make it 3-0.

Kishi would shut down the Lions offense until the 7th inning, where he would allow back-to-back solo home runs to Okawari-kun and Mejia, but that would be the only scamper in a solid outing. He would finish the day scattering six hits and getting four strikeouts through seven innings.

The last threat against Kishi would have Daichi Mizuguchi on third base with two outs, but Fumikazu Kimura would hit an infield fly and end the chance. Wolfe would have the one bad frame in the third, but go seven innings total with four strikeouts and three hits.

Yuki Matsui would secure an Eagles victory with a clean 9th inning and the Lions would once again have a one-win week.

Eagles 3, Lions 2

Game notes:

-Kentaro Fukukura was deactivated with Ichiro Tamura called up and taking his place.

-This was the first time the Lions have lost a game when Brian Wolfe starts. They were 9-0 initially dating back to the second half of 2016.

-Kishi would be greeted with boos from the Lions Oendan, but also earned the hero interview for winning.

===

Winning one game a week will not get things done. Unfortunately the rotation is falling apart and the depth is being exposed. Let alone, the Lions look dependent on living and dying by the home run.

Too many question marks surround this team and we can only hope it gets better. The defense is still improved, but the pitching is not.

===

Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rotation Conundrum: Lions don't have a pitcher who can eat innings



On Thursday, May 4, Ken Togame was tagged with seven earned runs over 4.2 IP in a 9-6 Lions loss that gave the Hawks a sweep over the boys from Tokorozawa. The start is the latest in another poor performance from the back end of the Lions rotation and it got me thinking about a point I brought up during our season preview podcast where I questioned where the innings were going to come from in the Lions rotation?

So I decided to go back and see what was the lowest innings pitched leader from a Pacific League playoff team since the year 2010. The results were for the most part, exactly what I expected.

Kohei Arihara 156.0 IP, 2016, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Shohei Otani 160.2 IP, 2015, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Luis Mendoza 162.0 IP, 2014, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

It's quite interesting that all three players are from the Fighters over the last three seasons. Before I discuss Arihara, I'll add that the 2015 Fighters also had Mitsuo Yoshikawa put in 159.1 IP and Luis Mendoza putting in 148.2 IP to give three strong innings eaters to Hideki Kuriyama in 2015. In 2014, a 19-year-old Otani put in 155.1 IP in support of Mendoza while Naoyuki Uwasawa tossed 135.1 and Hiroshi Urano logged 115.0 IP.

The most interesting case is that of Arihara last season because the Fighters in 2016 were the only Pacific League playoff team to not have at least one pitcher reach 160 IP. Instead, in addition to Arihara, the Fighters got five different pitchers over 100 IP to make up for this extreme outlier. All this just adds to the resiliency of last year's Fighters run to a Japan Series title and it also says a lot about the ability of manager Hideki Kuriyama to get the most out of his pitching staff.

With all this information that's been presented, it seems pretty clear that in order to be a Pacific League playoff team, you need at least one starter on your team to make the 160 IP plateau and preferably you need two pitchers to at least break the 150 IP level. Run prevention is another matter, but this is the problem that the Lions rotation in 2017 must deal with. Now let's take a look at the Lions pitchers on their roster and see the who has the highest single-season innings total at the ichi-gun level.

Kazuhisa Makita 178.0 IP 2012
Ken Togame 164.1 IP 2013
Ryoma Nogami 152.2 IP 2013
Brian Wolfe 150.0 IP 2011
Yusei Kikuchi 143.0 IP 2016

Makita's strictly a bullpen arm in 2017, so he's eliminated from contention. Ken Togame now looks like he's nothing more than a ni-gun pitcher at this point while Ryoma Nogami has looked good in the early going, but whether he can keep up this form is unlikely and the Lions would probably be happy if he reached 130 IP. Then there's Brian Wolfe, who hasn't thrown over 130 IP since 2013, so that's probably an unlikely occurrence given his injury history.

Then we get to Yusei Kikuchi where he certainly would've hit at least 160 last season if he hadn't gotten hurt in June and missed a few weeks, so he's the most likely guy to carry the load with innings. Kikuchi can certainly get to 170 IP, let alone 160 IP if he stays healthy, but that's the question, will he stay healthy? I think it's fair to say that last year's injury might've been a freak accident, but until he hits 160 IP, I have my doubts.

I will add that the Lions do have a strength in their bullpen of having 5 pitchers in the bullpen who logged 50+ IP last season, which can help ease the gap in theory, but history says otherwise.

Looking outside of the Lions, the three teams that I expect to be competing with the Lions for an A-class spot don't really have to worry about this particular problem. The Eagles for example have Takahiro Norimoto who's thrown 190+ IP the last three seasons and they have Takayuki Kishi who if healthy, can easily toss 160 IP.

The Orix Buffaloes have Chihiro Kaneko who threw 160+ IP last year and has a large track record of doing more of the same. They also have Yuki Nishi who has thrown 150+ IP in the last four seasons as well as Brandon Dickson who threw 170+ IP last season. If Takahiro Matsuba is healthy and stays in the rotation all season, he could easily be a fourth.

The Marines have Ayumu Ishikawa and Hideaki Wakui who eat innings year in and year out, though the former has been struggling and went to ni-gun. Sure, those teams all have questions about whether they'll score enough runs to make the playoffs, but they all will surely make the prerequisite of having at least one pitcher throw 160 IP in 2017.

Let me know if there are any Pacific League teams who have made the playoffs without a pitcher throwing 150 IP prior to 2010, I doubt that there are any considering the larger workloads for NPB pitchers in the past. This will be an issue that I'll definitely be revisiting as the season goes on.

===

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Wolfe prevents a winless end to April



===

The Saitama Seibu Lions would have their first six game week of the 2017 season. They would start in Kansai against the Orix Buffaloes then come home to face the Chiba Lotte Marines.

===

Game 1 against Orix in Kobe featured Brandon Dickson facing Shinsaburo Tawata. It would be another slow start for the second-year Lions pitcher as Orix smashed three runs off him in the first inning. Takahiro Okada and Brent Morel would have timely hits to give the early lead to the Buffaloes. Okada drove in another run during the third inning as Eiichi Koyano scored from first.

The Lions wouldn't go down without a fight. They were able to tie the game with four runs in the top of the 5th. Shogo Akiyama, Sosuke Genda and Ernesto Mejia would deliver timely hits with Genda having a double scoring two.

Unfortunately, the downward spiral for Tawata continued as he gave up a solo HR to Okada in the bottom of the 5th, giving Orix the lead for good. The Lions had two chances late in the game to tie it. The top of the 7th had two runners on base against Kazumasa Yoshida. but Mejia would strikeout to end the threat.

Ginjiro Sumitani would fail on a bunt attempt resulting in a double play in the 9th inning. However, Akiyama was on second for one last gasp. Genda would ground out and come up short with a head slide as Orix snapped the Lions' four game win streak.

Buffaloes 5, Lions 4

Game notes:

-Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would sit out as a healthy scratch due to ankle inflammation.  Shuta Tonosaki would play 3B as a result.

-Takumi Kuriyama would pinch hit for Hotaka Yamkawa in the 8th inning.

===

Game 2 at Kyocera Dome had Kona Takahashi against Chihiro Kaneko. The game would be scoreless until the 5th inning, where Takahashi saw the order for the third time of the night. Yuki Miyazaki would draw first blood with a two-RBI single past a diving Shuta Tonosaki. Masahiro Nishino followed that up with an RBI triple down the RF line. Ryoichi Adachi added a fourth run with an RBI single with the Lions infield playing in.

The Lions responded in the top of the 6th as Genda had an RBI triple and Asamura plated him with an RBI groundout, but it wasn't enough. Kaneko would go the distance for a complete game, scattering four hits with two walks. The Lions final chance came in the top of the 9th with Asamura on base, but Okawari-kun would hit into a double play and end the game.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 3

Game notes:

-Okawari-kun returned to the lineup as a DH with Tonosaki playing 3B.

===

For the final game of the series, Ken Togame would make his first start of 2017 against Takahiro Matsuba. Hiroyuki Nakajima would plate the first run of the game in the 1st inning as he would walk with the bases loaded.

Orix picked up a second run on an RBI double by Shunta Goto in the bottom of the 4th. Togame didn't have a brilliant outing, but it was good enough to give the Lions a chance with 6.2 innings and only two runs allowed on six hits.

The Lions tied the game in the top of the 6th with a two-run RBI double by Okawari-kun. Orix loaded the bases in the top of the 7th adn Shota Takekuma was brought in for the jam. Adachi would end up flying out to LF and end the threat.

In the top of the 9th, Takumi Kuriyama would get a walk as a pinch hitter and Kyohei Nagae would be on second as a pinch runner. Unfortunately, Fumikazu Kimura and Tonosaki would strikeout to squander a chance.

The bottom of the 9th featured Goto securing a modasho with a double down the RF line. With two outs, Koyano would pinch hit and hit a chopper to the infield. Okawari-kun forced an ill-advised throw to 1B and threw it away, having Goto score from second base and ending the game in Sayonara fashion. It was the first walkoff loss of the season.

Buffaloes 3, Lions 2

Game note:

-Yamakawa would go 0-3 as the DH, lowering his average to .115.

-To make room for Togame, Shogo Saito was deactivated as the corresponding move.

-This is the first time the Lions have gone 0-5 against Orix since 1980 (Blue Wave).

===

The opening game against Chiba from MetLife Dome featured Hideaki Wakui against Yusei Kikuchi. It would be a classic pitcher's duel, with both players going seven innings. Asamura grounded into a double play for the first run of the game, but the Marines would answer with two runs in the top of the 6th.

Takashi Ogino would get a timely hit down the RF line to plate one and an error from Ernesto Mejia made it 2-1 Marines. The Lions would answer quickly with a chance, but Shuta Tonosaki made the least of it with a fielder's choice, beating out a double play and scoring a runner from third.

Both teams would be in a dead lock as both bullpens entered in the 8th. The Lions bullpen only gave up one hit in five innings, while the Marines scattered several. Naoya Masuda left the door open for a walkoff, but Asamura hit into a 5-3 double play.

In the bottom of the 12th, the Lions had two runners on with one out. However, Hotaka Yamakawa would strikeout and Takumi Kuriyama flied out to end the game as pinch hitters. It would be the first tie in the Pacific League for the 2017 season and the Lions ended a three game losing streak.

Lions 2, Marines 2

Game note:

-Kikuchi had 10 strikeouts and Genda would have a modasho.

-Naoto Watanabe was the starting DH and went 2-3 before leaving the game and Kyohei Nagae entering as a pinch runner.

===

For the second game against the Marines, it would be Kota Futaki against Ryoma Nogami. It would be an awful start from the beginning for Nogami as Seiya Inoue would clear the bases on a gapper in the bottom of the first to make it 3-0. Daichi Suzuki hit a solo home run in the top of the 3rd to make it 4-0.

Kota Futaki shut down the Lions for the most part, but a chance came in the bottom of the 8th as our old friend Tsutomu Ito left him in. Asamura would get an RBI single, forcing Tatsuya Uchi to come in. Mejia would get a base hit with the bases loaded and plate two more runs, but as he tried to get in a rundown, the Marines saw Okawari-kun trying to score and tagged him out at the plate.

With the game within one run, Shota Takekuma would ruin any chance of a comeback as Ryo Miki hit a two run blast, securing another Lions defeat.

Marines 6, Lions 3

Game notes:

-Daichi Mizuguchi was called up and started at 2B with Asamura playing 1B. Ernesto Mejia would be the DH. Mizuguchi would go 1-4 with a stolen base.

-Shinsaburo Tawata was the corresponding deactivation move to make room for Mizuguchi.

==

For the final game of the week, month and series, Brian Wolfe would hope to salvage something against Yuki Karakawa. Shogo Akiyama would start the scoring with a solo HR in the bottom of the third into the Marines Oendan. Okawari-kun would also get a timely hit to centerfield to plate Sosuke Genda, making it 2-0.

Wolfe would be efficient and stay on cruise control throughout the day. It would only take 69 pitches to get through seven scoreless innings as he allowed two hits and had two strikeouts. Karakawa had better results against the Lions compared to his last outing, but allowed 10 hits as Seibu couldn't capitalize on all the chances available.

Brian Schlitter had a clean 8th inning while Tatsushi Masuda gave up a solo HR to Kei Hosoya in the top of the 9th. That run would be the only blemish in what was a solid pitching outing by the Lions staff. It would snap a streak of five games without a win.

Lions 2, Marines 1

Game notes:

-The Lions are 9-0 in games when Brian Wolfe starts dating back to last season.

-Naoto Watanabe would start at 3B as Okawari-kun was the DH. He would go 0-4.

===

This was a brutal week where the Lions were coming up short by one run in three of the four losses with the other being decided late in the 9th inning. The starting pitching hasn't been bad and we can only hope it was an exception in the bats being cold.

It will be the first series in Fukuoka for 2017 coming up for the Lions and it won't be easy. The Hawks look to get into A-class, while the Buffaloes and Eagles are both on top for now.

Tawata is also taking a break from ichi-gun baseball for at least a week. We can only hope he can regain his form from the second half of 2016/ There's plenty of work to be done.

===

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Graveyard Baseball Podcast: Lions ŌenDEN Episode 17



This is the 17th episode of the Saitama Seibu Lions OenDEN podcast. Christian and Wes return with another monthly episode discussing all things Lions in English.

Graveyard Baseball goes over the Lions offense, defense, Manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji and the pitching staff. Other topics include the marketing, Pacific League observations and other tidbits regarding NPB news.

R.I.P. Wayne Graczyk.

We apologize in advanced for any mispronunciations or possible errors in this show. Episode 17 was recorded on April 22.

Seibu Lions profile, as featured on The Hanshin Tigers website.

===



Click here if the embed doesn't work. Click here to download.

===

Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Asamura hits the first Sayonara of the season



===

For the first game in Omiya, It would be Wataru Karashima against Kona Takahashi. The Eagles struck first on a base hit by Takero Okajima as the team was able to hang on to that lead the rest of the way from the second inning.

Takahashi would go seven innings with only two runs allows, including another on a fielder's choice. However, he scattered eight hits and only had three strikeouts on the night. The Lions bats would remain dead with a handful of chances having a runners on second base in three different innings.

Karashima went six innings with eight strikeouts and three hits allowed. Frank Herrmann allowed an early hit, but the Lions bats couldn't come through. Yuki Matsui then shut the door in the 9th inning with an easy frame. It would be the third time in 2017 that the Lions have been shutout and second in the last three games.

Eagles 2, Lions 0

Game notes:

-Shogo Noda was called up and Hirotaka Koishi was deactivated as a corresponding move. Noda would pitch the ninth inning striking out one and allowing one hit.

-Hotaka Yamkawa would be used as a pinch hitter as Naoto Watanabe was the DH. He would ground into a double play.

-Sosuke Genda recorded his first error of the season.

===

Game 2 from Metlife Dome would featured a matchup from the previous week with Shinsaburo Tawata against Takahiro Norimoto. Tawata would concede the first run on leadoff HR to Eigoro Mogi. It looked like another bad outing for Tawata to come, but he only gave up two runs in the first two innings. Carlos Peguero would smash another home run in the second inning for a 3-0 Eagles lead in the 5th.

The Lions answered back in the bottom of the 6th with a sacrifice fly by Asamura. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would then hit a no-doubt HR to bring the game within one.

Tawata would go six innings with three earned runs and three strikeouts. Zelous Wheeler would give the Eagles a run back in the top of the 7th with an RBI double off Tatsuya Oishi as Noda gave him inherited runners.

It would take the bottom of the 8th to create a chance. Shotaro Tashiro reached base on an infield single that bounced off the mound and Norimoto's foot. Asamura would get a bloop single to fall just out of Mogi's reach to bring the game within one run again. Mejia would hit one on the button right to Wheeler at 3B, but a short bobble gave him just enough time to beat out a throw and tie the game, scoring Shogo Akiyama from third. The Eagles arguably left Norimoto in too long as he stayed through the 8th inning.

The Lions blew two chances in both the bottom of the 9th and 10th with a runner in scoring position. Kazuhisa Makita would have two scoreless innings in extras while Shota Takekuma took the 12th inning with no fanfare. Needing only one run, the Lions would face Kohei Morihara in the bottom of the 12th knowing they couldn't lose.

Akiyama would get a leadoff single before Sosuke Genda struck out. As a result, he wouldn't ground into a double play after initially showing bunt. Asamura would battle Morihara for multiple pitches until it was full count and he would hit a gapper to plate Akiyama from 1B for the first sayonara win of the 2017 season.

Lions 5, Eagles 4 (12 innings)

Game notes:

-Akiyama and Asamura would have modashos with their third hits coming in the 12th inning.

-Brian Schlitter and Tatsushi Masuda would take the 8th and 9th innings, respectively to keep the game within reach.

-Naoto Watanabe would DH with Hotaka Yamakawa coming in to PH in the 10th inning. Yamkawa would line out with a runner on second.

-Shuta Tonosaki would play LF with Kuriyama still missing. He went 2-5.

===

In Game 1 against the Fighters, Yusei Kikuchi would face Naoyuki Uwasawa. The Lions bats were on fire from the start as Akiyama smashed an opposite field leadoff home run to begin the game. A sacrifice fly from Okawari-kun would double the lead at 2-0.

Okawari-kun doubled the lead again with a two-run home run in the bottom of the third and put this game away early. Sosuke Genda would also hit an RBI triple in the fifth inning. Asamura would plate him to make it 6-0.

Akiyama hit a second home run in the 6th inning to put icing on the cake and the Lions took advantage of a Fighters error in the outfield for two more runs in the 8th, making the lead insurmountable.

Kikuchi was as productive as the Lions bats were. He would give up a leadoff single to Haruki Nishikawa, but that was the only hit he gave up on the night. Kikuchi took 144 pitches to earn the shutout with only two walks and 12 strikeouts. It would be his first shutout since 2013 and the fourth in his career.

Lions 9, Fighters 0

Game notes:

-Akiyama picked up another modasho in the 8th inning with a single.

-Ernesto Mejia went down after a foul tip hit his knee. He would stay in the game, but leave early.

-Asamura took a pitch to the ribs from Uwasawa, but remained in the game.

-Tonosaki once again started in LF.

===

Game 2 would feature Ryoma Nogami against Kohei Arihara. The Lions would once again jump out to an early 1-0 lead as Akiyama dropped a bloop single in the third inning.

The fifth inning is where things were broken wide open. Tonosaki would start it with a four pitch walk to get the party started. Ginjiro Sumitani would then plate him on a gapper after Tonosaki advanced on a groundout by Shotaro Tashiro.

Genda plated Sumitani on a single and things would only get worse. A wild pitch on a ball four to Asamura added another. Okawari-kun ripped an RBI single and that ended Arihara's day after 4.1 innings. Mejia would single off Yuya Ishii and then Hotaka Yamakawa erased any doubt once again. This time he would hit a three-run home run to cap off an 8-run 5th inning.

Nogami had all the run support in the world, but he himself had a brilliant outing of seven scoreless innings and five strikeouts, limited the Fighters to only one walk and three hits. Kentaro Fukukura would pitch the final two innings allowing one run, but it was a strong outing by everyone once again for the third straight game.

Lions 9, Fighters 1

Game notes:

-Sosuke Genda had two errors again.

-Yamakawa started at 1B with Mejia as the DH. Kuriyama sat out once again as Tonosaki played LF.

===

In Game 3, it would be a battle of foreign pitchers with Luis Mendoza against Brian Wolfe. It would once again be the Lions to get an early lead thanks to a leadoff HR by Shogo Akiyama.  Okawari-kun grounded into a double play to pickup a second run.

After scoring a run in the second, the Fighters tied the game in the third with an RBI double from Kensuke Kondo. The game would remain tied until the top of the 5th inning. Akiyama couldn't catch a ball from Haruki Nishikawa and the ball would skid past him. Fumikazu Kimura didn't get to the ball fast enough and it would allow Nishikawa to go to third base. The Fighters would take the lead as Go Matsumoto sneaked a single past Genda as the infield was playing in.

Wolfe would limit the damage with an important double play on Sho Nakata, who returned in his first game from injury. It wasn't his greatest outing, but Wolfe was able to go five innings and give the Lions a chance.

In the bottom of the 6th with Mendoza facing the order for the third time, the Lions responded as Genda picked up a leadoff single by a bunt. Asamura reached base and Mejia plated them both with a double down the left field line. Tonosaki added another with a bloop single making it 5-3.

In the bottom of the 7th, it nearly looked like the Lions would squander a chance with runners on second and no outs. However, with Okawari-kun up against Keisuke Tanimoto, the outcome would be perfect. Okawari-kun hit one off the wall in the gap scoring both runners to make it 7-3. After a walk to Mejia, Shotaro Tashiro would come in to pinch hit and hit his first career home run for three runs into the Fighters Oendan putting the game away.

As a bonus, Shogo Akiyama hit a two-run home run to secure a modasho and a second HR of the game in the 9th.

Lions 12, Fighters 3

Game notes:

-Tonosaki started in LF once again with Yamakawa at 1B and Mejia at DH.

-Noda and Kentaro Fukukura took the late innings in a mop up role.

===

The Lions are red hot ending the week with a four game win streak. Like anything, it's nice to beat the Fighters after all the struggling they've had against them in the past. The bats were on fire, the pitching was mostly good and there's some life in these guys.

Each week ahead will be tough, but so far, so good. The errors were strange as the one negative, but it nicely gets covered up when the team wins.

===

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sixth Man: Who is the Lions sixth starter?


The Saitama Seibu Lions have gotten away with having no six-game week until the end of April. for the first four weeks of the season (counting Opening Day Weekend), the Lions were able to roll with five starters with Yusei Kikuchi, Ryoma Nogami, Brian Wolfe, Shinsaburo Tawata and Kona Takahashi.

The final week of April is finally here, meaning a decision has to be made. Who takes the sixth spot? Here is a logical look at who could be there as the best candidates possible. For the record, there is one foreign spot available with only Wolfe, Ernesto Mejia and Brian Schlitter taking the roster spaces.

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Frank Garces: Garces has been used as both a reliever and starter when in MiLB and MLB. The Lions had him start a handful of games in the preseason, However, it's likely that the Lions like him as a reliever for this season.

Alexis Candelario: Candelario was a low-risk signing by the Lions, but things do not look encouraging at the ni-gun level where he has struggled. At best, Candelario will probably be a spot starter for one or two opportunities he needs to make the most of in 2017.

Keisuke Honda: Honda received a spot start at the end of the 2016 season and had a strong offseason with both the U23 Samurai Japan team and the Melbourne Aces in ABL. He is likely to come up at some time this season, but he might not be ready yet for the ichi-gun level. So far, he has been productive down in ni-gun as a starter.

Chun-Lin Kuo: A forgotten import from Taiwan, Kuo spent the entire spring training session with the national team in preparation for the WBC. Unfortunately, Kuo didn't impress in his outing against Israel and it's likely the negative momentum carries over to the Lions management. Like Garces, Kuo could be seen as a reliever or spot starter, but not likely to be in the rotation full-time.

Yasuo Sano: A second-round pick from 2014, Sano has been a spot starter in the past, but is more likely to be a reliever.

Isamu Sato: Sato started a handful of games in 2016 after a strong ni-gun. However, he is likely serving a suspension by the team after getting into an auto accident in the offseason. He has not appeared in a single ni-gun game for 2017.

Ken Togame: The Lions have seen ups and downs with Togame in the rotation. He had an awful 2016 season, but has a chance to rebound after a strong start in ni-gun for 2017. He is the most experienced NPB starter among the group of Lions.

Ichiro Tamura: The Lions' 6th round pick from 2016 has starting experience, but is likely seen as a reliever with the team and is too raw for an immediate ichi-gun start.

Tatsuya Imai: This would be extreme to play a first round pick drafted out of high school this early. Imai will likely get his feet wet sometime in 2017, but he is still recovering from an injury he suffered in spring training and has taken it slow in ni-gun with only one inning pitched at the time of this writing.

Start the Tuesday starter on short rest and play him on Sunday: This is the extreme option which happened last year with Takayuki Kishi. A controversial choice, Kishi would end up tearing his adductor muscle and miss a significant amount of time before it was too late. If the trend continued based on starts, Kona Takahashi would be the pitcher for this option.

===

Outlook:

It's likely that Ken Togame probably starts the sixth game in the week starting on Tuesday, April 25. Togame is the most experienced and has the endurance to last for a whole season. The question is, which Togame shows up? He has not had two consistent seasons in his NPB career, good or bad. By trends, he would have a productive season in 2017 as it is an "odd-numbered year".

An announcement will come sooner or later, but right now, the Lions rotation has shown there's ups and downs with this unit. There's plenty of reasons to be optimistic, especially with the bullpen depth and offensive flare, but this season is a marathon, not a sprint.

===

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Mejia's HR steals series in winning road week


In their first road week of the season, the Saitama Seibu Lions would have to play exclusively on the road against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and the Chiba Lotte Marines.  How did they do?

= = =

After the first game of the series that was scheduled to be played in Koriyama, Fukushima was washed out, the two teams would start their series in Sendai on Wednesday with Shinsaburo Tawata making his second start of the series against Rakuten's ace, Takahiro Norimoto.

It would be the Eagles who would tee off early on Tawata with Carlos Peguero crushing a 2-2 breaking ball from Tawata that caught too much of the plate as it would be his fourth home run of the season to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead two batters in. After retiring the struggling Zelous Wheeler and Japhet Amador, Tawata would then give up three straight singles with Takero Okajima getting an RBI-single to make it 3-0. Then Hideto Asamura would make a fielding error on a ball up the middle which would load the bases for Motohiro Shima, and Tawata would get him to fly out and end the disastrous inning with only three runs given up.

With three early runs, the Eagles probably felt pretty good about the prospects of this game with Norimoto on the mound for them. However, as early as the third inning, it was clear that Norimoto didn't have his best stuff in this game, as he'd give two runs right back to the Lions. Fumikazu Kimura out of the 9-spot in the order would leadoff the inning with a single up the middle. He'd hustle his way to third after Norimoto bounced a pitch to the next batter and the ball bounced far enough away from Rakuten catcher, Motohiro Shima to allow him to go to third. From there, Shogo Akiyama would grind a walk, one of four on the day. Norimoto would strikeout Sosuke Genda, but Hideto Asamura would line a single the other way to bring home Kimura and make it 3-1. Norimoto would then walk Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura to load the bases, and Takumi Kuriyama would bring home Akiyama with a sac fly to cut the score to 3-2.

In the top of the fourth, the Lions would take the lead for good with Naoto Watanabe grinding Norimoto for a nine-pitch at-bat that would result in a double after Rakuten's outfield misplayed the sure hit and allowed Watanabe to race to second. Masatoshi Okada would bunt Watanabe over to third, and then Kimura would drop one in for an RBI-single to tie the game at 3-3. Both of the early rallies for the Lions were created out of the bottom of the order. Shogo Akiyama would then walk, and Sosuke Genda would single to load the bases for Hideto Asamura. Asamura would single home Kimura and that would give the Lions a 4-3 lead.

With the Lions in front, Shinsaburo Tawata would go into the fourth but would fail to record any more outs. Shima would start the bottom of the fourth off with a single and Eigoro Mogi would walk and with Carlos Peguero coming to the plate Tawata would be pulled in favor of Tatsuya Oishi. Oishi would get Peguero to ground into a 4-6-3 double play and that would give the Lions a huge lifeline out of the inning as the Eagles would fail to score.

The Lions would tag two more runs on the board in Norimoto's final inning with Watanabe getting on thanks to a throwing error from Zelous Wheeler. Norimoto would walk Fumikazu Kimura to make it two on and two outs and set up the big hit from Shogo Akiyama. Akiyama would hit a swerving ball into the corner that would direct off the wall and score both baserunners to give the Lions a 6-3 lead off Akiyama's 2-run double.

This would effectively KO Norimoto as he was pulled after the completion of the fifth. From there, Oishi would pitch one more inning of relief for the Lions and from then on, it would be Okawari-kun who would own the latter part of the game with two home runs to turn the game into a rout. Okawari-kun would hit a solo shot in the sixth to make it 7-3, and then in the 9th, he'd sneak one just over the right field wall for a 3-run homer in the 9th to make the score 10-3. Japhet Amador would hit his first home run of the season for Rakuten in the bottom of the 9th to complete the final score of 10-5 Lions.

Shuta Takekuma, Kazuhisa Makita, Brian Schlitter, and Hirotaka Koishi would each toss an inning of relief with Koishi the only pitcher to surrender any runs.

Lions 10, Eagles 5

Game Notes:

-Okawari-kun hit career home runs number 331, and 332 which stands as the franchise record for home runs in a Lions jersey with Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Koji Akiyama behind him at 329 and 328 respectively

-Takahiro Norimoto threw 71 of his 116 pitches for strikes but the Lions still grinded four walks off him thanks to long at-bats from Naoto Watanabe and Shogo Akiyama. In total, the Lions drew seven walks in this game.

-Naoto Watanabe started at DH for his first game of 2017 and went 3-5.

-The makeup game from the rain out in Fukushima prefecture will unfortunately be in Sendai on September 14.

===

The week would then shift to the new name Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba to face the Marines. It would be Kota Futaki vs Yusei Kikuchi in the series opener.

It would be a slow start, but Kikuchi showed off some impressive fielding with an early 1-3 double play. The game would remain scoreless as the Lions squandered a leadoff triple by Sosuke Genda in the top of the 4th. Asamura would flyout, Okawari-kun struck out and Kuriyama would flyout to ruin the chance.

Kikuchi got a Houdini of his own by allowing the first two batters on base on the bottom of the inning. He would then strike out Kei Hosoya and Matt Duffy while getting Tatsuhiro Tamura to groundout and end the threat.

There wouldn't be any scoring until the 6th inning, where Hosoya picked up an RBI fielder's choice beating a double play attempt by the Lions. Futaki would finally budge as Okawari-kun took one deep for a solo HR in the top of the 7th.

It would be another jam for Kikuchi for the bottom of the 7th as Tamura would earn a leadoff single and they Marines would bunt him over to second base. Shota Ishimine would get a bloop single to fall and Chiba retook the lead at 2-1.

Kikuchi would end the day with eight strikeouts and four walks while giving up six hits over the course of seven innings. Futaki would also go seven innings as he scattered four hits and had nine strikeouts.

They Lions would have their best chance of the night in the 8th inning as Akiyama got an infield-single and stole second base with two outs. However, Genda would hit a weak flyball to end any chance to score against Tatsuya Uchi.

There would be one final gasp for something to happen in the top of the 9th with Naoya Masuda pitching for the Marines. Asamura hit a leadoff single, but Okawari-kun and Shogo Saito (who came in as a sub for Kuriyama) would strikeout. With a full count, Mejia would hit an improbable two-run home run to deep left-center field as the Lions were one strike away from losing the game to give the team a 3-2 lead.

Despite the home run, the game was far from over as Tatsushi Masuda took the bottom of the 9th. Duffy created some early trouble with a leadoff double and Taiga Hirasawa would be pinch running for him. Even with Tamura showing bunt, Masuda would walk him on 5 pitches. Ikuhiro Kiyota would move both runners by 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt of his own to put the winning run in scoring position.

T. Masuda and the Lions would choose to intentionally walk substitute Ryo Miki and load the bases with one out. On a full count Masuda would get the ground ball needed from Kazuya Fukuura to force a 4-3 double play and create the ultimate Houdini and end the game. The Lions would win their fourth consecutive game.

Lions 3, Marines 2

Game note:

-Hotaka Yamakawa would start at DH. He went 1-4.

-Oishi would pitch a clean 8th inning and earn a win as a result. His second consecutive victory.

===

Game 2 would feature our old friend Hideaki Wakui facing Ryoma Nogami. Both sides would bring a classic pitcher's duel as Nogami had only one blemish. He would give up a double Seiya Inoue and a single from Hosoya in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Wakui would scatter four hits through seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts on the day. Nogami went eight innings with only three hits allowed and five strikeouts.

The best chance came for the Lions in the top of the 7th with two runners on. However, Hotaka Yamkawa would ground into a fielder's choice and end the threat. Like the previous night, there was one final chance in the top of the 9th against N. Masuda and Asamura on first base, but Okawari-kun would also ground into a fielder's choice and the Marines snapped the Lions four-game winning streak.

Marines 1, Lions 0

Game note:

-Shogo Saito started in LF in place of Kuriyama, who was resting from exiting on Friday with inflammation in the right calf.

-Nogami would earn a complete game in a losing effort.

===

The rubber match would have Yuki Karakawa against Brian Wolfe. This one would be a laugher from the beginning as the Lions jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to back-to-back RBI singles from Asamura and Okawari-kun. With two outs in the 2nd, Genda would score from first on a gaffe read by Shota Ishimine for the third run.

Hotaka Yamakawa put the exclamation point on this game from a two-run blast in the third inning, where it ended Karakawa's day. Karakawa would give up eight hits and five walks in 2.2 innings pitched.

Wolfe would go on to win his 7th straight start dating back to last season. He pitched six scoreless innings and scattered four hits with an early Houdini in the first.

Asamura would be the player of the game with four hits and five RBIs and the Lions took the series with a big win.

Lions 10, Marines 2

Game notes:

-Kuriyama sat out again resting the calf muscle. Shuta Tonosaki would start in LF in his place.

-Mejia, Genda and Sumitani had modashos and the Lions had 16 hits total. It would be Genda's first career three-hit game.

-Besides the home run, Yamkawa would walk three times.

===

While this is officially the first time through the order for the Pacific League, the Lions have only seen the Eagles once. That will change as they face them next on the schedule, but the bats did just enough to steal one from the Marines on Friday.

Like anything, this team is competing despite Tawata's struggles. It's early, but the bats continue to be alive for the most part and Genda is living up to the hype as a defensive whiz.

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