Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions schedule of times and locations released

The Saitama Seibu Lions schedule for the 2016 season was released on Wednesday, January 26.  While Opening Day was already announced to be against the Orix Buffaloes on March 25, the time was announced to start at 18:00 in Japan time.

NPB will have some games away from a team's traditional home stadium in favor of a more rural area so that fans of the team can go see them and not make a significantly long trip. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters have several stadiums they use around the island and prefecture of Hokkaido. They also have multiple home games in Tokyo Dome, which was a building they used to play in prior to moving to Sapporo.  

Here's a guide and links to know how the schedule will work:

UPDATE: The NPB website has updated itself in English.

March schedule

April schedule (English)

May schedule (English)

June schedule (English)

July schedule (English)

August schedule (English)

September schedule (English) 

October schedule

-The Home team is listed on the left for a game.

Traditional Home Stadium Translations: 

Central League: 

 東京ドーム - Tokyo Dome (Tokyo) - Yomiuri Giants
マツダスタジアム - Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium (Hiroshima) - Hiroshima Toyo Carp
神 宮 - Meiji Jingu Stadim (Tokyo) - Tokyo Yakult Swallows
横 浜  - Yokohama Stadium (Yokohama) - Yokohama DeNA Baystars
ナゴヤドーム - Nagoya Dome (Nagoya) - Chunichi Dragons
甲子園  - Koshien Stadium (Nishinomiya) - Hanshin Tigers

Pacific League: 

京セラD大阪 - Kyocera Dome (Osaka) - Orix Buffaloes
Koboスタ宮城 - Kobo Stadium (Sendai) - Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
西武プリンス - Seibu Dome (Tokorozawa) - Saitama Seibu Lions
QVCマリン - QVC Marine Field (Chiba) - Chiba Lotte Marines
札幌ドーム- Sapporo Dome (Sapporo) - Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
ヤフオクドーム - Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome (Fukuoka) - Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Time Conversion:

Japan does not rotate the clock to daylight savings time, so when it is standard time, they are 17 hours in front of Pacific Time (14 hours in front of Eastern time). When the season begins, North America will be on Daylight savings time, making Japan 16 hours ahead of Pacific and 13 hours ahead of Eastern time.

The best way to convert this quickly without trying to add 16, is to use Eastern time, add 1 and change "AM" to "PM" or vice versa if it's PM, meaning it's AM in Japan after adding 1. (For China, it's even easier because they are exactly 12 hours in front of Eastern time, meaning all you have to do is change AM to PM or vice versa).

A night game that traditionally starts at 18:00 (6:00PM) in Japan time, means that it will be 2:00 a.m. in Pacific time and 5:00 a.m. in Eastern time.  Day games are usually at 13:00 (1:00 p.m.) or 14:00 (2:00 p.m.) in Japan time, making it easier for the West coast to watch at 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., respectively. It becomes Midnight and 1:00 a.m. in eastern time if a day game in Japan is at 13:00 or 14:00, local time.


Special Lions notes: 

Omiya is the alternate home of the Seibu Lions
 There are some irregularities in the Seibu Lions schedule where they will play some home games away from Seibu Dome. They will have three games in Omiya, which is deeper into Saitama prefecture.

The three games in Omiya will be on 4/13 against the Hawks, 5/26 against the Eagles and 8/26 against the Fighters. It's the only alternate stadium that the Lions regularly use each year.

-The Lions will face the Chiba Lotte Marines in a "home game" on 6/24 within Gunma Prefecture, which is north of Saitama Prefecture. It will be in Gunma's capital of Maebashi. Kona Takahashi played high school baseball in Maebashi and it wouldn't be surprising if he gets to play in front of his "home crowd" for the game.

-Interleague games will go until from May 31 until June 19. Each team will play a three-game series against each of the other teams in the opposite league. The Lions will host the Dragons, Giants and Baystars while they will play on the road against the Carp, Tigers and Swallows. June 20-23 will be a period of interleague makeup games in the event rain occurs during the month.

There is even a "champion" for who does best in interleague and teams who finish in the top four will receive a financial bonus. Whichever league wins the head to head interleague series will receive a draft bonus for the second round and beyond. (Example, the Eagles finished in last place for the Pacific League and by default, they had the first pick of the second round in the 2015 NPB Draft). Full explanation can be found here.

-The Lions will also play six games in Kobe, which is the secondary home of the Orix Buffaloes. With Orix being a merged team, they have two stadiums, but play majority of their home games in Kyocera Dome. Kobe's baseball stadium was home to the Orix BlueWave, which is where Ichiro Suzuki began his career before the Seattle Mariners.

-On August 18, the Lions will play a road game against the Hawks in Kyocera Dome. This could be a corporate party by Softbank, giving their employees a free ticket (exception being the Lions Oendan) and uniform for the game. The Hawks were originally Nankai Hawks and played in Osaka. Last year, the Lions played the Hawks in Tokyo Dome, which was a home game for the Hawks.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Your guide to adopting an NPB team part 12: Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

Note: This post was featured on the Blogathon at Baseball Continuum

Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

Update: Found this post? Here's a 2020 edition.

The Saitama (埼玉) Seibu (西武) Lions (ライオンズ) were originally in Fukuoka (Kyushu island) as the Nishitetsu Clippers in 1950 for one season. Nishitetsu is an electric railway in Fukuoka which still operates today. After a merger with another team, they became Nishitetsu Lions one year later in 1951. 

There would be a Black Mist scandal involving players fixing games from 1969-1971, similar to the Black Sox scandal from 1919. Nishitetsu would sell the team and they would be Taiheiyo Club Lions from 1973-1976, which is named after a golf course and resort developer. They would then be sold to Crown Lighter Gas, to be called the Crown Lighter Lions from 1977-1978. 

Eventually, they were sold to Seibu Group and they moved to Tokorozawa in 1979, a place they still hold today. Their title would be Seibu Lions until 2008, where they added the prefecture name "Saitama" to the front. 


Ownership: Seibu Holdings

Seibu is a conglomerate which owns several businesses. The most well-known one is the Seibu Railway as it operates in greater Tokyo. The trains are one of the best ways to get to a game in Tokorozawa. Seibu also owns hotels, real estate, resorts and more.

Train stations in the area will often be decorated with Lions related colors. The name "Seibu" (西武) derives as an abbreviation from it's kanji title of west Musashi, which was the old title of where present day Saitama prefecture was located. 西 (Nishi) means West in Japanese. 


League: Pacific


Payroll rank in 2015: 9

The Lions are a team with a tight budget as they won't spend a lot. However, they will pay players who prove their worth and this ranking can go up with multiple pay raises happening. Usually they are in the "pack".

Location/Stadium: Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture

Tokorozawa is a suburb in greater Tokyo. It's quite a distance from the capital itself, but the Lions represent Saitama prefecture, which is in the North. Saitama prefecture is known for some mountains in their scenery, with plenty of room to go hiking.

The most famous spot in the area, would be Hachikokuyama, which is a park right on the border of Saitama and Tokyo prefectures.  The park was used as an inspiration as the scenery for the movie My Neighbor Totoro

A comparison can be seen here. ACTUAL PARK SHOT. ARTISTS RENDITION.

Side note: I recommend everyone sees this short movie, which is nearly 30 years old now.

Seibu Dome was originally an outdoor stadium when the Lions moved there in 1979. It was then known as Seibu Stadium. While there is a roof, you can see that in the outfield and all around the building that it can be exposed to wind and hot temperatures with the open face.  The domed roof was added in 1998. Due to one player being sold, the place underwent renovations after 2007.


Mascots: Leo (right) and Lyna (left) 

Leo is based off the character Kimba the White Lion in the Japanese Anime known as "Jungle Emperor Leo." The Lions used to have this as their main logo and still use it for flags (such as what's in centerfield near the country's flag. That flag is also seen during the NPB Draft.


Uniforms: The Lions have switched to Majestic for 2016.

Note: The Lions used to wear a bright blue design with the Kimba logo since their move to Tokorozawa. However, a scandal in the 00s by then-owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi made them want to move on from it and rebranded to a dark blue design beginning in 2009.


Cheer song:  Hoero Lions (吠えろライオンズ) "Roar Lions" 


Ōendan Songs: 2017 Player songs at 00:00, Special songs at 6:37,  Special Chance themes at 8:44, [ソリャセ] (Soryase, an equivalent of "Let's Go") at 9:55, Regular chance themes at 10:30, Songs no longer in use at 14:16


The regular chance songs have similar tunes to "Cotton Eye Joe", "Do you know the Muffin man?", but notice how Chance #4 near the end has women and men singing separate lines. You can hear a cleaner version here. (Scoring song featured too) 

The Lions are the only Oendan in Japan to wave flags as a group. They do this when scoring and well as during the [ソリャセ], which is almost like saying "We want more runs".  

The scoring song title translates into "I saw a Lion running on the Horizon".  An up close version of the song can be heard in the video below starting at 2:41.  Here is a link to a full version of the song as sung by a person. Lastly, here's an instrumental version from a commemorative 1986 Nippon Series Champions box.  


MLB Comparison: Oakland Athletics

The Lions have found ways to be competitive with a low payroll more times than not. Since their move to Tokorozawa in 1979, the Lions have finished in the Bottom 3 of the Pacific League only three times.

Even when the Lions had their share of dominance during a "Golden Era" from 1984-1992, it is sometimes an afterthought with them being a Pacific League team. They were rebels, a lot like the Charlie Finley era Oakland A's coming up with new trends and styles.

Only difference is, the Lions have won a crucial elimination game multiple times in the 21st Century, including a Game 7 of the Japan Series. They've been competitive and avoided the cellar for the most part, which is good for a team that hasn't been a high spender in recent years. Playing in what is viewed as the "ugliest" stadium in NPB also draws this comparison to the Oakland A's, who play in the Oakland Coliseum.


Notable former MiLB and MLB players to play for the Lions:

Ryan Spilborghs, Esmerling Vasquez, Matty Alou, Terry Whitfield, George Vukovich, Kazuhisa Ishii, Bert Campaneries (as a coach)


Notable players who played in MLB: 

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuo Matsui

Note: The Lions used a portion of the $51.1 million they acquired for Matsuzaka on renovations to the Seibu Dome. You can see the original look of the Dome prior to renovations here. Matsuzaka paid for restroom upgrades, an HD scoreboard, renovated field turf as well as adding bullpen box seats on the side.  



Why you root for them: 

Because you're used to being in a big market, but rooting for a team with less fans in numbers. The Lions are far from the city, which is a distant train ride away to get to the Seibu Dome. Yes, they're in greater Tokyo, but forgotten due to teams like the Yomiuri Giants controlling the market.

It could also be that you're an Oakland A's fan knowing what it's like to compete on a lower budget. The Lions have benefited from their ballpark and developed pitching over the years. Like the A's, they have a strong amount of success in their team's history with 13 Japan Series championships overall when combining their time in Fukuoka with the Seibu era.

The Lions had a "Golden Age" where they won 11 pennants from 1982-1994 and took eight Japan Series titles in that timeframe. This dynasty gets overlooked, similar to how the A's had a three-peat from 1972-1974, due to being in the Pacific League.

Here at Graveyard Baseball, we can provide exclusive coverage of the team and insight in English for anyone. At the time of this writing, we're the only blog to write about the Lions in the English language.


Why you don't root for them:

Like the A's, the Lions have had their share of disappointing postseason exits. They were a strong team in both 2012 and 2013, but lost in the opening round when they were favored. You also dislike ugly stadiums if not teams from a suburb away from the city.

Crowds are also half empty on week nights due to the proximity from the heart of Tokyo. The average person who works in the city would not be able to attend a game on a week night at first pitch as it takes 30+ minutes by train to arrive at the Seibu Dome. The problem is that the games start at 6:00 p.m. local time, so an average salary man wouldn't be able to see a game if he or she got off work after 7:00 p.m.


Other NPB Teams in the series: 

Yomiuri Giants (巨人)


Follow us on Twitter: @GraveyardBall 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Graveyard Baseball Podcast: Lions ŌenDEN Episode 5

This is the Fifth episode of our Seibu Lions Podcast.

In this episode, we talk about the Saitama Seibu Lions entering training camps in Miyazaki and Kochi. We also discuss a few position battles, the reduced role of Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura, Kenta Maeda and a short preview on the Central League!

The sound in the background is a refrigerator and heater coming from Topeka, Kansas. Thanks again for listening.

Be sure to provide feedback with anything we talk about. Click here if the embedding isn't visible.


Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Seibu Lions Training camp: Paradise or work?

A view from the Miyazaki hotel, photo credit to Anthony Seratelli.
The Saitama Seibu Lions will be in training camp starting on February 1. There is both an ichi-gun and ni-gun camp separating the teams into two locations.

For the ichi-gun, they will be in Miyazaki Prefecture (southern part of Kyushu island) in Nichinan, (better known as Nango). They will occupy a Prince hotel, which is owned by Seibu. Other teams will spend their time in various places, including Okinawa, which is off the map. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters ichi-gin will be in Peoria, Arizona and occupying the San Diego Padres facility from February 1-15.

The ni-gun will be in Kochi city, which is in the prefecture of the same name within Shikoku island. For a full list of both camps, you can click here.

Photo credit to Anthony Seratelli
Miyazaki has a load of sights, which includes a shrine and a beautiful view from the hotel dining room. Last year, all foreign players including Ernesto Mejia got to take part in picking Kinkan (tiny oranges) as well as sight seeing the area. A short video on their adventures can be seen here.

Training will be rather intense and it will be advised for foreigners to not partake in the full conditioning process. Anthony Seratelli injured himself trying to do all the exercises that the Lions will have and wasn't available until late May.

All six foreign players on the Lions were given an orientation in Miyazaki for 2015. Photo credit: Wade LeBlanc
This is a time for both team bonding as well as preparation for the upcoming 2016 season. It can easily be a distraction for a visitor being in the country. Several foreign imports will have made the trip setting foot in the land of the rising sun for the first time.

Andy Van Hekken and C.C. Lee will be the only two newcomers on the Lions who've never played baseball in NPB. They should have a similar tour of Miyazaki like the others experienced last year.

For many foreign players, it should be their time to embrace their new job in Japan if this is their first time. It will be a lot of work coming ahead, but they should enjoy this new chapter of their careers and be open minded to playing in a new country. It will be a learning experience.

For Van Hekken, he has already spent the last four years in South Korea, where he is already familiar with playing overseas. C.C. Lee is from Taiwan, but has not played professional baseball in Asia, outside of the 2009 World Baseball Classic for his country. Lee spent his entire professional career with the Cleveland Indians organization up until this point.

Competition will be big, among the closer, 3B and outfield positions in the ichi-gun.

For the rookies in Kochi, they will hope to crack time with the first team and possible be sent over there in the middle of the camp.

Kochi is part of the scenic island of Shikoku, which features four prefectures total. It's most well-known for a seared tuna dish as pictured above.

The presumed facility the Lions ni-gun will be using. 
Spring training officially starts the new season for baseball, even though opening day is less than two months away. Teams are preparing their rosters and hoping to answer any questions among players with uncertainty.

We hope to see the growth of the rookies as well as other positions being established for the new year. They should be living by the motto of BEAST! in 2016.

Ganbarre Raionzu / 頑張れ ライオンズ!


Follow us on Twitter: @GraveyardBall 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kimiyasu Kudo: The Journey To the Hall of Fame

Kimiyasu Kudo is one of the greatest pitchers to ever put on a Seibu Lions jersey, if not the greatest. He will now be immortalized inside the Tokyo Dome at the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kudo's story is one that you just can't leave out when you talk about the Lions and their golden age in the 1980s and early 90s. The team of Kudo, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Koji Akiyama, Hiromichi Ishige, and co. were called "The New Breed" because of some of their non-Japanese antics. This in turn, makes the 1980s Lions quite similar to the Oakland A's teams of the early-70s who were known for their counter-culture facial hair among other things. The A's wore bright green and gold jerseys while the Lions went with clean white home jerseys and didn't wear the traditional gray that all the other teams wore. They instead went with an all-sky blue arrangement.

The Lions were the aggressive team that looked for every loophole in galvanizing all the overlooked talent in the country. They would hide players on their Prince Hotels amateur baseball team and when they became eligible for the draft, no team would select them. The Lions would capitalize by signing them as a result. Ishige was a product of this system, and in fact, Kudo was signed because his father got a job working with Prince Hotels.

At the age of 19, Kudo made his debut out of the bullpen. He showed tremendous strikeout ability to go along with poor control in 28.2 IP. Kudo would even start a couple games, but he mostly appeared out of the bullpen. 

The most interesting tidbit for stateside fans is that, in 1984, Kudo, along with many other Lions youngsters were sent to San Jose Municipal Stadium to play with the San Jose Bees of the California League in class-A ball. This was allowed because the San Jose Bees were one of the few minor league baseball teams at that time who where un-affiliated independent teams. 

Kudo, current Lions manager, Norio Tanabe and fellow Hall of Famer Koji Akiyama were all players who spent time with the San Jose Bees. Tanabe played 140 games for the Bees in 1986 at the age of 20. Kudo dominated the California League out of the bullpen, striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. He returned to Japan during that season.

By 1985, Kudo had locked down a place in the Lions rotation. With his deceptive, twirling, three quarter delivery, he became a master of the slight of hand. Batters had trouble picking up his pitches because of the way he hid the ball. And in 1986, Kudo had a breakout season, starting 20 games for the Lions and edging a 3.22 ERA. With that tremendous Lions team, he'd be a big part in their winning of the 1986 Japan Series crown against the Hiroshima Carp and Kudo would take home Japan Series MVP honors.

In 1987, Kudo and the Lions did it again. They'd win another Japan Series title, and this one it would be the Yomiuri Giants who would take it on the chin. Kudo would pitch a complete game in the clincher.

That performance is found here:

In this video, you'll see Warren Cromartie, a former Expo who was one of the most successful foreign players in NPB history. With one out away from the title, Kiyohara is seen weeping on camera, because the Giants were the team he wanted to be drafted by. This was a big deal in Japan and was one of the moments that defined the "New Breed" Lions.

After that game, Kudo kissed his teammate Hiromiche Ishige and told him, "I rub you." and Ishige kissed him back and said, "I need you." this was chronicled in Robert Whiting's book, You Gotta Have Wa. Following the 1987 season, Kudo took home the Matsutaro Shoriki Award, an award given to someone who has greatly contributed to the development of baseball in Japan. He'd win it again in 2015 as a manager.

That moment sent Kudo into cult-hero status. His personality was just as large as his skill on the mound. He'd be apart of the Japan Series titles in 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1992 before leaving the team after the 1994 season. Kudo joined the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and win a title with them in 1999, a year where he'd win the ERA title at the age of 36.

Kudo would show no signs of slowing down in his later years. He'd join the team that he tortured the most during his time with the Lions, which was the Yomiuri Giants. With Kyojin, he reinvented himself and would win two more Japan Series titles with them, even being named to the Japan Best IX in 2000 at the age of 37.

Deep into his 40s, he'd pitch with the Yokohama Baystars and injuries finally caught up to the ironman pitcher. Kudo would be forced to come out of the bullpen.

In 2010, he'd return to the team where it all started in the Saitama Seibu Lions. It was in that season that he set the record for the longest career in NPB history at 29 seasons. This would be his last season, due to more injuries and Kudo would retire at the age of 48 years old.

Kudo has some incredible statistics, he has a career record of 224-142 and a career 3.45 ERA. He has 116 career complete games, the last one he threw was at the age of 42. He threw 3336.2 IP and has a career WHIP of 1.254.

Longevity. That was Kimiyasu Kudo's career. He served as a TV analyst after he retired, before being hired as the manager of the SoftBank Hawks in 2015. His team would win it all in his first season in charge.

This year, he became a first ballot Hall of Famer, a tremendous honor for a tremendous pitcher and a Lions legend.

I found a video package that includes Kudo facing the recently deceased, Dave Henderson. Henderson would single off Kudo in a game where the Lions playing a group of MLB All-Stars.


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Friday, January 22, 2016

Your guide to adopting an NPB team part 11: Tokyo Yakult Swallows (東京ヤクルトスワローズ)

Tokyo Yakult Swallows (東京ヤクルトスワローズ)

Update: Found this post? Here's a 2020 revised edition 

The Tokyo Yakult (ヤクルトス) Swallows were originally Kokutetsu Swallows from 1950-1965, which was a Japanese railway company. After being Sankei Atoms and Sankei Swallows, they became Yakult Swallows in 1974. Tokyo was added to the team's name in 2006 and the name has stuck ever since. 


Ownership: Yakult

Yakult is a probiotic yogurt drink which is supposed to be consumed after a meal. At one point, the owners of Yakult didn't care about winning, because the sales of the product would decrease in the region of the losing team if the Swallows would beat them. It would take a larger hit financially if the Swallows would defeat the Yomiuri Giants, who are Japan's most famous team.

Here is a video on how Yakult is made. A recent factory was constructed in Fountain Valley, California which is near the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Language note: Yakult is pronounced "Yakuruto" in Japanese, but the "R" has little emphasis.


League: Central


Payroll rank in 2015: 5

The Swallows are usually near the bottom of payroll, but recent talent and raises has put them at the top of the pack. They still don't spend significantly compared to the Giants or Softbank Hawks.

Location/Stadium: Meiji Jingu Stadium, in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Shinjuku is a large economic hub of Japan within Tokyo. Several corporate companies have their headquarters in Shinjuku including Nissin foods (one of several companies that makes instant ramen noodles/soup), Subaru, Japan's branch of McDonalds and more. There are several major universities in the area as well.

Meiji Jingu Stadium (Jingu) is not only home to the Swallows, but an important league in Japanese baseball known as Tokyo Big6. The Tokyo Big6 is a college baseball league featuring six universities. The oldest baseball rivalry in all of Japan is in Tokyo Big6. (Amateur baseball came before professional baseball).

The Stadium itself is a bandbox, with only 97.5 meters (320 ft) at both right and left field, it becomes easier to hit a home run. The outfield fence is only 3.5 meters (11.5 ft) tall. It's also the second oldest stadium in Japan among the professional teams, dating back to 1925, which is only behind Koshien.


Mascots: Tsubakuro

Tsubakuro can be pronounced as "Supa Crow". He is an infamous mascot known for stirring up trouble, but the Swallows announced they extended him as he got a raise


Uniforms: Made by Majestic, unveiled for the 2016 season

Home design, red pinstripes has been their tradition

Road design
Alternate design


Cheer song:  Tokyo Ondo (東京音頭) (Tokyo Folk)

Tokyo Ondo is a famous song where being a baseball fan isn't required to know it. The more unique part about the Swallows and their Lucky 7, is that they bring out umbrellas. (Balloons are not allowed in Jingu Stadium).

Swallows fans will also sing a condensed version when they score, but the umbrellas are also a message to the opposing pitcher to hit the showers.

Here's a visual of what it looks like.


Ōendan Songs: Theme song and 2015 player songs at 00:00, Tokyo Ondo at 5:40, Theme songs at 6:50, Chance song at 9:25, special theme at 13:04


MLB Comparison: New York Mets

The Swallows are in Tokyo, but forgotten in comparison to another team that isn't far away known as the Yomiuri Giants. This comparison makes it easy to the Mets, who are always behind the New York Yankees in terms of popularity. Jingu Stadium and Tokyo Dome are the two closest stadiums when it comes to distance from each other in Japan.

Yakult has had their success from the 1990s, but coincidentally they made the Japan Series in 2015, like the Mets being in the World Series.


Notable former MiLB and MLB players to play for the Swallows:

Tony Barnette, Charlie Manuel (as a player), Bob Horner, Rex Hudler, Floyd Bannister, Logan Ondrusek, Lastings Milledge, Wladimir Balentien


Notable Swallows who played in MLB: 

Tony Barnette (expected in 2016), Norichika Aoki, Akinori Iwamura, Ryota Igarashi, Kazuhisa Ishii



Why you root for them: 

Because you like a big market (Tokyo), but a team who doesn't receive the same attention as another. The Swallows have had their dark years more times than not, but they play in a classic stadium with great songs, chants and are prone to home runs. Jingu Stadium always gives a chance for offense.

The Swallows have a "little brother" feel to the Giants, but when they win, it's rewarding. In recent news, they have a young manager who gave them new life as they made the Japan Series. A foundation is there for the Swallows to remain competitive.

Best yet, you can get coverage of the Swallows in English @TokyoSwallows. At their website, TokyoSwallows covers them in a game-by-game format. A team of four people, they do a tremendous job at getting Swallows information out there and even do a podcast of their own. 


Why you don't root for them:

Because they've lost more times than not. When an owner wants to lose because of the Yakult product sales going down, the on-field product could be troubling. The Swallows have had their share of bad luck, with injuries and poor pitching due to their ballpark. No lead is safe in Jingu as the ball can fly.


Other NPB Teams in the series: 

Yomiuri Giants (巨人)

Softbank Hawks (ソフトバンク) 

Yokohama (DeNA) Baystars

Chiba Lotte Marines (ロッテ)

Saitama Seibu Lions (西武)


Follow us on Twitter: @GraveyardBall 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Your guide to adopting an NPB team part 10: Chiba Lotte Marines (千葉ロッテマリーンズ)

Chiba Lotte Marines (千葉ロッテマリーンズ)

Update: Found this post? Here's a 2020 edition.

The Chiba Lotte (ロッテ) Marines were originally called the Mainichi Orions in 1950 as one of the early Pacific League teams. After a merger with Daiei (and another team), they were Daimai Orions and later Tokyo Orions. Lotte eventually owned the team in 1969 and they were Lotte Orions from 1969-1991. 

Their geographic location has varied from the ancient Korkuen Stadium in Tokyo to even spending years in present day Kobo Stadium up in Sendai from 1973-1977, which is the current home of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The last years as Lotte Orions were in Kawasaki Stadium, once home of the Taiyo Whales, which was in Kanagawa prefecture (near Yokohama). The Orions would become Marines and move to Chiba in 1992, keeping the present name Chiba Lotte Marines.  


Ownership: Lotte Co.

Lotte (pronounced like Rotte with a soft "r"), is a conglomerate that owns several things where it would be hard to list them all. They are one of the top confectionery companies of the world. It ranks No. 1 in South Korea and No. 3 in Japan. Their business goes beyond food, as they own shopping malls, movie theaters, hotels, amusement parks, housing, finance and more.

The most famous product that you can find in the States is Choco Pie. However, they make plenty of other desserts from ice cream to candy, to chewing come and more. Even the Lotte television ads feature the Marines. (Beware, it's different). Lotte also owns a KBO (Korean Baseball) team known as the Lotte Giants. 


League: Pacific


Payroll rank in 2015: 8

Chiba has been in the pack among NPB teams. It would not be surprising if this number went down with the team getting younger. 


Location/Stadium: QVC Marine Field in Chiba City, Chiba prefecture.

Chiba prefecture is East of Tokyo and it is home to Tokyo Disney Resort park in Japan. It's right on the coast and has plenty of agriculture away from the big city which can be seen as a country side. There are also multiple national parks in Chiba prefecture.

As seen from the photo above, QVC is right next to the ocean, meaning it will be cold at night. It's a pitcher's park with a cookie cutter appearance, with the stadium being round and covered. If there were no walls behind, it would even colder for fans who show up. It's one of two outdoor stadiums in the Pacific League.


Primary Uniforms: Made by Descente

Home design

Road design


Mascot: With the Marines being right on the coast, their mascot is a seagull named Mar-kun.


Cheer song: We Love Marines


Ōendan Songs: 2015 Player songs at 00:00, Theme songs at 11:51, Chance songs at 12:51, Scoring and victory songs at 14:38

You might notice, these are some of the loudest fans in NPB. They do a tremendous job of clapping in unison if not the energy in jumping.


MLB Comparison: None

There are similarities that fit what Chiba has done on the field. In 2005 they won the Japan Series and broke a significant championship drought (1974 was the previous title). They would win again in 2010 as a third-place team, going all the way against all odds. With this information, it's easy to label them as San Francisco Giants of Japan. Maybe that would be the case if they were still in Candlestick Park.

However, that's an unfair comparison of fans, as they have a passion and show up in numbers on the road. We can also draw a Boston Red Sox comparison because they've won multiple titles after a long drought, but that too is wrong with the attention they don't get as a Pacific League team and it's nowhere close to the MLB team in Fenway Park.

Chiba's fans are as unique as it gets, because they don't always show up at home, as seen by yours truly on multiple week night games, but they show up on the road and make their presence known away from Chiba. You can make an argument they have the passion of Oakland A's fans and they take it with them away from their home stadium. They even honor the No. 26, which is retired for the fans as there are 25 players on an active game roster.


Notable MiLB and MLB Players who played for the Marines:

As Orions: Leon Lee, Leron Lee, Jim Lefebvre, Darryl Motley

As Marines: Luis Cruz, Benny Agbayani, Julio Franco, Dan Serafini, Bobby Valentine (as a manager)


Notable Orions/Marines who played in MLB

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Hideki Irabu, Masahide Kobayashi



Why you root for them:  

Because they have some of the most passionate fans in baseball. They bring the noise on an every game basis, even if the home crowd isn't there in numbers, their Ōendan remains active. Who doesn't like clapping in unison and making your presence known in an away atmosphere?

The Marines have also been a competitive group since Bobby Valentine injected life into the team after a Japan Series victory in 2005. For a team with a middle of the road budget, they can still make noise in the postseason and their fans are as active as it gets. As earlier mentioned, they have won recent Japan Series championships in 2005 and 2010. Chiba knows how to make the most of their playoff appearances, advancing in the climax series in 2013 and 2015 as the No. 3 seed. With a lack of talent compared to other teams, they are a scrappy bunch.

You can also receive English writings of the Chiba Lotte Marines from WeLoveMarines. Steve, the main author is always active on Twitter @LoveLoveMarines.


Why you don't root for them:

The Marines play in a stadium that doesn't draw the largest crowds due to a poor location. It's freezing cold and on the edge (literally), making it an unattractive place to see a game, as it resembles a standard boring appearance.

Chiba has had their share of mediocre seasons over the years, which can be frustrating knowing the decisions for the front office become more difficult. They've been an inconsistent bunch, making them unpredictable with talent that is above average, but nothing as flashy compared to the rest of the league. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Seibu Lions announce training camp lists

Seibu Lions participate in rookie camp. All 10 draft picks were present. 
The Saitama Seibu Lions released the lists of players who will participate in the ichi-gun (first team) training camp in Nango, Miyazaki as well as the ni-gun (second-team) camp in Kochi, Kochi. Earlier in January, the Lions had a rookie camp for all ten draft picks.

Majority of this list should not be surprising, but here is the list of players below with jersey numbers in parenthesis as its in numerical order:


Takayuki Kishi (11)*
Chun-Lin "Kaku" Kuo (12)*
Tatsushi Masuda (14)*
Yusei Kikuchi (16)*
Kona Takahashi (17)
Ryoma Nogami (20)*
Ryohei Fujiwara (28)
Hirotaka Koishi (29)
Yosuke Okamoto (30)*
Yasuo Sano (34)
Kazuhisa Makita (35)*
Makoto Aiuchi (41)
Esmerling Vasquez (42)*
Tomomi Takahashi (43)*
Andy Van Hekken (47)
Shota Takekuma (48)*
C.C. Lee (54)
Isamu Sato (63)



Tomoya Mori (10)*
Takanori Hoshi (25)
Ginjiro Sumitani (27)*
Masatoshi Okada (37)



Daichi Mizuguchi (00)i
Yuji Kaneko (2)*
Yuji Onizaki (5)*
Hideto Asamura (32)*
Hotaka Yamakawa (33)
Shuta Tonosaki (44)
Kyohei Nagae (59)*
Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura (60)*
Ernesto Mejia (99)*



Takumi Kuriyama (1)*
Naotaka Takehara (6)
Fumikazu Kimura (51)
Shogo Akiyama (55)*
Shotaro Tashiro (61)
Hitoto Komazuki (62)
Shogo Saito (65)*
Ryo Sakata (88)

*Denotes someone who had significant playing time in 2015.

Italics indicates new comer. 


Here is also the B team camp, or what we're presuming as the ni-gun at the start:


Tatsuya Oishi (15)
Shinsaburo Tawata (18)#
Takuya Toyoda (19)
Ken Togame (21)*
Atsushi Okamoto (22)
Shogo Noda (23)#
Seiji Kawagoe (26)#
Toshihiro Iwao (31)
Tadasuke Minamikawa (36)#
Yusuke Tamamura (38)
Takayuki Yamaguchi (40)
Keisuke Honda (45)#
Yuta Nakazaki (46)
Kentaro Fukukura (50)
Tsubasa Kokuba (57)#
Naoaki Matsumoto (66)#
Koki Fujita (67)#
Kazuki Miyata (68)



Tatsuyuki Uemoto (49)
Shota Nakata (64)
Komei Fujisawa (78)i



Naoto Watanabe (8)*
Nien Ting Wu (39)#
Haruka Yamada (52)
Kazuki Kaneko (56)



Yutaro Osaki (9)
Aito Otaki (53)#
Masato Kumashiro (58)
Daisuke Togawa (78)i

# - Denotes Rookie
i - Denotes former ikusei draft pick


A few takeaways to note from these lists of ichi-gun camp at the start:

-There are 39 players total listed in the ichi-gun camp.

-All foreign imports are on the list, including new comers C.C. Lee and Andy Van Hekken. Esmerling Vasquez will battle Lee for a roster spot among the five foreign players. Kuo, Van Hekken and Mejia appear to be locks barring injury.

-There are no rookies on this list, as they are part of the ni-gun camp. As earlier stated, they took part in a rookie camp at Seibu II (ni-gun stadium adjacent to the Seibu Dome).

-Multiple draft picks from 2013 and 2014 are here, including Makoto Aiuchi, Yasuo Sano (spot starter for one game) as well as Hotaka Yamakawa.

-Daichi Mizuguchi will be taking part in this. He was promoted from the ikusei last summer and now dons a double digit number in 00, compared to wearing a triple digit number.

-Ken Togame and Naoto Watanabe were part of the second-team camp. For all we know, we can just take this with a grain of salt.

-Training camp in Miyazaki begins on February 1 and goes until February 25. There will be two days from February 20-21 where they will practice with the Lotte Giants of the KBO league from Korea.

-IF Shogo Kimura will also have a tryout at the beginning of camp. The Lions will have 10 days to decide whether to sign him or not. He is a type C free agent, meaning no compensation is necessary for his previous team in the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. The Lions currently have 68 players under contract with no ikusei, leaving two potential roster spots open.

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Oakland A's/Seibu Lions Series: Jim Tyrone

Japan has a habit of giving guys who never made it in MLB, a real shot at making a name for yourself.


Tenures: 1978 with the Oakland A's, 1979-1980 with the Seibu Lions

Statistics with the A's: 96 games, 328 PAs, .245/.300/.340 5 HRs, 26 RBIs, 0.3 bWAR

Statistics with the Lions

1979: 58 games, 236 PAs, .291/.332/.441 8 HRs, 24 RBIs
1980: 128 games, 529 PAs, .276/.314/.505 35 HRs, 68 RBIs

Not much is written about Jim Tyrone, and that's probably because he was part of some bad teams where he didn't have any real extended stays.

Tyrone grew up deep in the heart of Texas. Alice, Texas to be exact. Alice is 45 miles away from Corpus Christi and that's the closest metropolitan area to that small town. Jim Tyrone played high school baseball at Wm Adams-Alice HS, he'd then go onto play at University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas which is a stone's throw away from Alice. He played there with his brother, Wayne and both brothers would be drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1972 Amateur Draft in the 7th and 20th rounds respectively.

Jim Tyrone would make his debut for the Cubs later that year, playing in 13 games in limited action. He would see stints in 1974 and 1975 in Chicago before being traded to the A's in a nothing for nothing trade with Gaylen Pitts in 1977.

In Oakland, Tyrone got a real opportunity to stick around, or so it seemed at first. He started the season in AAA San Jose (back when San Jose was A's territory) and was soon called up to Oakland in early May.

For two months, Tyrone received every day duty for the A's and he put up some decent numbers, getting over .300 at some points of his run. Once it was mid-July, Charlie Finley mysteriously benched Tyrone for no reason given. Looking at his game logs, there's nothing that really gives a reason for why this took place, and for a whole month, Tyrone was put into pinch hit duty where he struggled.

He then got back his starting position in August, but then he finished the year in a large slump. Tyrone also was second in the American League in errors among right fielders with 9 and with all that happened, he was sent back to the minors in 1978.

Tyrone never played a game in the majors after the 1977 season and he'd play in AAA Vancouver the very next year, where his numbers weren't good enough to warrant a call up to Oakland. He was given his release by the A's after the 1978 season. His journey to Tokorozawa began immediately point.

Tyrone needed a fresh start and it was the newly formed Inter-American League that was willing to give him one. It was a new league that was given AAA classification by the Commissioner's office, but not given any MLB affiliations (much like the Mexican League today). The league's vision was to try and strengthen ties between the United States and Latin America, which at that time were at an all-time low. The league also wanted to give players a second chance.

It was a six-team league where each team was spread out all throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. There were teams in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Panama, Miami, and Puerto Rico. Jim and his brother Wayne would reunite with the Miami Amigos for the first time since high school, since they were never teammates in the Cubs organization.

The Miami Amigos were the one team in the league that was given enough time to put together a front office, not to mention, Miami was the only team based in the United States and therefore the team that most former Major Leagues preferred to play for.

Davey Johnson would get first opportunity to manage with the Miami Amigos, as a 36 year old player-manager. The Miami Amigos had all the advantages one could imagine (including sweet jerseys) and they proceeded to dominate the competition in the hastily put together league. The league as a whole would be short-lived as it all folded before the end of their first season. They would only play 72 games, thanks to tropical storms, disorganization, and poor flight schedules.

The Miami Amigos would be the ones who would dominate the league going 51-21 behind Johnson as the skipper. They were running away with a league title and Jim Tyrone took home the league's only batting title, as he hit .364.

With the IAL folding, Tyrone was left without a job in the middle of the year. And it was the new Seibu Lions who would pick him up in the middle of the first season for the team in Tokorozawa. The Lions were purchased by Seibu Group, which moved them from Fukuoka to Tokorozawa in 1979. They inherited a team that underwent multiple ownership changes and struggles after a Black Mist scandal.

In the 1980 season, Tyrone would dominate the league hitting 35 home runs for a mediocre Lions team that saw the team finish 62-64-4. No reason is given as to why Tyrone did not return to the Lions in 1981, but he'd take his talents to the Nankai Hawks in Osaka where OPS-wise, Tyrone had a better season with a slash line of .311/.353/.467. He'd return to the team in 1982, where his numbers fell back down to league average numbers. That would be the last time that Tyrone would suit up.

There isn't much more written about Tyrone and his career but he spent some time living in Pasadena before moving back to Texas where now resides in Arlington, Texas where he runs hitting clinics.

Thanks to baseball-reference, SABR, and Hardball Times for the information.


Others in the series: 

Roger Repoz

Esteban German

Bert Campaneris  

Hiram Bocachica

Sean Nolin


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Monday, January 18, 2016

Your guide to adopting an NPB team part 9: Yokohama DeNA Baystars (横浜DeNAベイスターズ)

Yokohama DeNA Baystars (横浜DeNAベイスターズ)

Update: Found this post? Here's a 2020 revised edition  

The Yokohama (DeNA) Baystars were originally owned by the Taiyo since the 1930s as an amateur team. They became a professional team in 1950 and had their longstanding name of Taiyo Whales for only three seasons from 1950-1952. After having different mascot names from Robins and Shochiku Robins, they went back to being Taiyo Whale from 1955-1977. 

The location of Yokohama was added in 1978 before they became Yokohama Baystars in 1993 with ownership changes prior to that year. Eventually, DeNA purchased the team in 2011 and they've been called Yokohama DeNA Baystars ever since. The Baystars name comes from the Yokohama Bay Bridge


Ownership: DeNA 

DeNA (pronounced like DNA) is most well-known for making games on any mobile devices. They are also partnered with Nintendo and many more. Other services include internet shopping, e-commerce, advertising and global business.  


League: Central


Payroll rank: 12

The Baystars have historically been the bottom of the barrel among NPB teams in payroll, if not being dead last. However, they have learned to sign free agents recently, as reflected in their pickup of Jose Lopez.


Location/Stadium: Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. 

Yokohama is south of Tokyo, but still in the Kanto region. It's the second largest city in Japan behind Tokyo itself. With Yokohama being on the coast, it was a port for trade and foreign ships would come in all the time. In many ways, it was a gate to open things up for the USA and Japan. Yokohama was also the site of the final game in the 2002 World Cup between Brazil and Germany.  It's home to Nissan's headquarters.  

Yokohama Stadium is in the heart of the city and there are plenty of things to do in the area. The field was initially made out of turf, but DeNA recently purchased the stadium and grass will be installed for the 2016 season and beyond. The infield dirt was only on the bases, home plate and the mound while everything else was brown or green colored turf. 

The seats will change from orange to blue for 2016 with a renovation happening. Yokohama Stadium is a huge bandbox ballpark in NPB, making it easy to hit a home run. With 94 meters (308.4 ft) at the edge of left and right field, the ball can easily reach the crowd.  It's a hitter's heaven, or a pitcher's nightmare. 


Primary Uniforms: Made by Descente 

Home design
New road design for 2016


Mascot: "DB Starman"

DB Starman might look like a cat with a star face, but it's a hamster, with the title being a play on words. “Hamster” is pronounced hamasutaa in Japanese. "Hama" comes from YokoHAMA, and "sutaa" is from STAR, with the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "star" being sutaa. When combined, this sounds very similar to the Japanese pronunciation of hamster, although the spelling in Japanese is different.


Cheer Song:

"Atsuki hoshi-tachi yo" (熱き星たちよ) "Passionate Star"


 The Baystars themesong had copyright issues in the USA on youtube, but here's the older version where it says "Yokohama" instead of "DeNA" if the above video doesn't work.  Same tune, just different instrumentals besides DeNA's name not in there. 


If you're really looking for the current version, here's the most recent.  


Ōendan Songs: (Theme song at 00:00, 2015 Player songs at 0:20, Other theme songs at 5:38, Lucky 7 Atsuki hoshi-tachi yo at 7:05, Chance songs at 8:02, Other themes songs at 10:45.


 MLB Comparison: Toronto Blue Jays

Prior to 2015, the Blue Jays and Baystars both shared the longest playoff droughts among their respective leagues of MLB and NPB. Both teams broke their droughts in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Even with the Blue Jays being in the postseason for 2015, it's still worthy of a comparison because of how the ballpark is built. It's easy to hit a home run in Yokohama combined with the same difficulty of giving one up. Like Toronto, power numbers become inflated.  


Notable former MiLB and MLB players who played for the Baystars: 

As Taiyo Whale: Jim Tracy, Leon Lee

As Yokohama Baystars: Jose Lopez, Guillermo Moscoso, Glenn Braggs, Hideki Okajima


Notable former Whale and Baystars to played in MLB:

Takashi Saito, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Tomo Ohka

Note: Takashi Saito was declining when he left the Baystars in 2006, but revived his career in MLB with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  



Why you root for them: Because you like one of the best kept secrets in Japan. Yokohama is most likely forgotten among the average Joe. There are plenty of things to do in Yokohama besides watch baseball, with plenty of tourist attractions and places to shop. The Baystars also have a very nice stadium for a team that is sometimes an afterthought. 

You also sympathize with teams that haven't been good in a long time, hoping they can be great again.  Lastly, you love offense because home runs can soar and even leave the ballpark


Why you don't root for them: As mentioned earlier, the Baystars have the longest postseason drought in NPB, with their last year being in 1998 when winning the Japan Series. They have not appeared in a playoff game since and their last third place finish was in 2005. However, the playoffs in the Central League used to only have two teams, so their four 3rd place finishes from 1999-2001 and 2005 have all been for naught.  

Opposing teams will often outnumber the home crowd when Yokohama plays a game. While some teams have a limited visitor's section, Yokohama lets anyone in and it leaves room for others to take over. In contrast to the top, if you dislike high scoring affairs, this team isn't for you for the stadium reasons mentioned above.  


Other teams in the series: 


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