Thursday, December 17, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions name translations


One of our most common gags here at Graveyard Baseball is to do a literal translation of Lions players and their family names. On Twitter, it often looks like this:


It's followed up with this as a reply.  

Here is the 2020 edition of every Seibu Lions player.  

To prevent redundancy, we have assigned 田 to paddy and 野 to field. If some guys have the same family name, we've translated their first name as a bonus. When seeing that kanji, the last name is first, first name is last.

For players with the same surname, we also translated their first name.

Italicized names are players who are not returning for 2021.

All draft picks from 2020 are not included since they won't play until 2021. 

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Pitchers:

Tatsushi Masuda 増田: More paddies

Kona Takahashi 髙橋 光成: Tall bridge, Light growing

Shinsaburo Tawata 多和田: Many harmonious paddies (Note: 和 is the same harmony character that all businesses, teams and work places uses in needing to have Wa)

Tawata will be an ikusei in 2021

Ken Togame 十亀: Ten turtles

Shota Hamaya 浜屋: Beach Roof

Shunta Nakatsuka 中塚: Center mound

Shogo Noda 野田 昇吾: Field paddy, Rising Self

Katsunori Hirai 平井: Flat well

Yasuo Sano 佐野: Assistant field

Ichiro Tamura 田村: Paddy village

Makoto Aiuchi
相内: Inside aspect

Keisuke Honda 本田: Book Paddy

Shota Takekuma 武隈: Warrior shadow

Tsubasa Kokuba 國場: Country place

Koki Fujita 藤田: Wisteria paddy

Tatsuya Imai 今井: Now well (Well as in the noun, not the adverb/adjective)

Hiromasa Saito 齊藤 大将: Adjusted Wisteria, General

Daiki Enokida 榎田: Mushroom Paddy

Sho Ito: 伊藤: Italian Wisteria

Ryuya Ogawa 小川: Small River

Kaima Taira 平良: Flat Good

Yutaro Watanabe 渡邉: Ford Edge (ford as in ferry crossing or transit, not the car).

Kaito Awatsu 粟津: Millet Harbor

Tetsuya Utsumi 内海: Inside Sea (Inlet)

Ryosuke Moriwaki 森脇: Forest Armpit (or side / flank)

Kaito Yoza 與座: Participation Seat

Tetsu Miyagawa 宮川: Shrine River

Daisuke Matsuzaka 松坂: Pine Tree Slope

Hiroki Inoue 井上: Well Top

Koki Matsuoka 松岡: Pine Tree Hill

Towa Uema 上間: Above Space

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Catchers:

Tomoya Mori 森: Forest

Masatoshi Okada 岡田: Hill paddy

Hitoto Komazuki 駒月: Horse moon (Interesting note that 駒 [koma] also refers to the knight piece when playing chess or another board game involving a horse)

Shoya Makino 牧野: Shepard Field

Masato Saito 齊藤 誠人: Adjusted Wisteria, Sincere Person

Sena Tsuge 柘植: Mulberry Plant

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Infielders:

Sosuke Genda 源田: Root paddy (源 [gen] can refer to the origin or root of something)

Hotaka Yamakawa 山川: Mountain river

Takeya Nakamura 中村: Center village

Daichi Mizuguchi 水口: Water mouth

Kyohei Nagae 永江: Long bay

Haruka Yamada 山田: Mountain paddy

Ryusei Tsunashima 綱島: Rope Island

Shuta Tonosaki 外崎: Outside cape (cape as in headland, not the cloak)

Kakeru Yamanobe 山野辺: Mountain Field Area

Ryusei Sato 佐藤: Assistant Wisteria

Ryota Kawano 川野: River Field

Yuto Morikoshi 森越: Forest Surpass

===

Outfielders:

Yuji Kaneko 金子 侑司: Gold child, Assistant director

Takumi Kuriyama 栗山: Chestnut mountain

Fumikazu Kimura 木村: Tree village

Manaya Nishikawa 西川: West River

Seiji Kawagoe 川越: River surpass

Masato Kumashiro 熊代: Bear substitute (Fun fact: Shiro is a homophone for the color white (白). Unfortunately the kanji shows he's not a polar bear.)

Shohei Suzuki 鈴木: Bell tree

Daisuke Togawa 戸川: Door river

[Aito] Takeda 武田 愛斗: Military paddy, Love Big Dipper / Ladle (Takeda has his first name registered)

Wataru Takagi 高木 渉: Tall Tree, Ford (as in fording or crossing a river)

Junichiro Kishi 岸: Beach

===

Ikusei:

Tomomi Takahashi 髙橋 朋己: Tall bridge, Companion self

Aoi Tono 東野: East Field

Toshihiro Idei 出井: Exit Well

Jiyu Okubo 大窪: Large Cavity (or cave in / depression).

Beware, 窪 has multiple meanings

Daichi Nakaguma 中熊: Center Bear


===

Manager and Coaches:

Hatsuhiko Tsuji 辻: Intersection

Toshifumi Baba 馬場: Horse Place

Kiyoshi Toyoda 豊田: Rich Paddy

Shigenobu Shima 嶋: Island

Masahiro Abe 阿部: Corner head of Yamato Group (saw Africa for Abe's name, but too confusing)

Kosaku Akimoto 秋元: Autumn Beginning

Fumiya Nishiguchi 西口: West Mouth

Tomoaki Sato 佐藤: Assistant Wisteria

Kazuo Matsui 松井: Pine Tree Well

Hiroyuki Takagi 高木 浩之: Tall Tree, This Abundance

Kento Sugiyama 杉山: Cedar Mountain

Ming-Chieh Hsu 许: Permit

Kosuke Noda 野田: Field Paddy, Abundance of help

Satoshi Kuroda 黒田: Black Paddy

Shogo Akada 赤田: Red Paddy

Hiroshi Hirao 平尾: Flat Tail

Eiji Kiyokawa 清川: Pure River

Tatsuyuki Uemoto 上本: Top Book

Tatsuya Ozeki 小関: Small Connection

Norio Tanabe 田辺: Paddy Border

Hayato Aoki 青木: Green Tree

===

Bonus: Foreigners

As a continuous gag, we reverse translate the foreigners to see what their name in Japanese would literally look like, not just katakana sounds. Here is what their names would look like in kanji. Chinese names also included, though Hsu is listed with the coaches.

Zach Neal ニール: Senshuken [選手権]. Neal's name has Gaelic origins meaning "Champion." Senshuken could also mean a title besides a championship.

Ernesto Mejia メヒア: Kyuseishu [救世主] . Mejia's name means "Messiah" or "Savior" in latin/greek origin.

Reed Garrett ギャレット: Tsuyoyari [強槍]. Garrett is a "Strong Spear" with German and French origins . 

Cory Spangenberg  スパンジェンバーグ: Tomegane [留金]. Spangenberg derives from Spange, which is a clasp or buckles in German. 

Sean Nolin ノリン: Sake [叫]. Nolin's has Irish descent which can be similar to Neal's "Champion" title, but it can also mean a shout, which is Sake. 

Nien Ting Wu 呉: Giver


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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

2021 Seibu Lions Salary List

 

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With NPB in offseason mode, it becomes a period of transition into next year with contract negotiations and salaries being reported. While foreigners have agents to deal with business, domestically, the player has a chance to make his case on his worth with a team representative before both sides come to an agreement. 

Teams will factor in whatever the player did and could give a raise, paycut or status quo depending on what happened in the season. While these reported figures are not exact, they are the universal estimates that the media uses. 

Here is what the Lions have as this list will continue to update: 

Legend: 

^ - Raise

|v| - Paycut

= - Same wages

R = Coming off their first game or season at the ichi-gun.

AVG/OBP/SLG for position players. 
 

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Pitchers: 

Tatsushi Masuda: ¥300 million ^ by ¥110 million; (5-0), 2.02 ERA, 33 SV in 48 games, 49 innings

Masuda chose to remain with the Lions after earning domestic free agent rights. He enters the first of a four-year contract. 

Katsunori Hirai: ¥80 million [v] by ¥20 million; (5-5), 4.18 ERA, 7 HLDS in 41 games, 60.1 innings

Ken Togame: ¥70 million =; (1-2), 7.50 ERA, in eight games, 24 innings

Togame is in the second of a four-year contract

Kona Takahashi: ¥67 million ^ by ¥27 million; (8-8), 3.74 ERA in 20 games, 120.1 innings

Tetsuya Utsumi: ¥56.25 million [v] by ¥18.75 million; (1-2), 4.26 ERA in four games, 19 innings

Kaima Taira: ¥42 million ^ by ¥30 million; (1-0), 1.87 ERA, 33 HLD, 1 SV in 54 games, 53 innings

Daiki Enokida: ¥37 million [v] by ¥11 million; (1-1), 5.25 ERA, in five games, 24 innings

Ryuya Ogawa: ¥36 million ^ by ¥3 million; (2-1), 2.10 ERA, 3 HLD in 38 games, 25.2 innings

Ryosuke Moriwaki: ¥33 million ^ by ¥20 million, (7-1), 16 HLD, 1.35 ERA, 1 SV in 47 games, 46.2 innings

Wataru Matsumoto: ¥30 million, ^ by ¥9 million, (6-7), 4.37 ERA in 20 games, 103 innings

Tatsuya Imai: ¥28 million, [v] by ¥7 million, (3-4), 6.13 ERA in 19 games, 61.2 innings

Tetsu Miyagawa (R): ¥23 million ^ by ¥7 million; (2-1), 3.83 ERA in 49 games, 44.2 innings

Shota Takekuma: ¥22 million [v] by ¥26 million; (0-0), 22.09 ERA in three games, 3.2 innings

Yasuo Sano: ¥18 million [v] by ¥5 million (0-0), 1.35 ERA in eight games, 6.2 innings

Shota Hamaya (R): ¥15.5 million ^ by ¥2.5 million; (3-3), 4.97 ERA, 50.2 innings

Keisuke Honda: ¥13.6 million [v] by ¥2.4 million; (1-4), 4.08 ERA, 35.1 innings

Hiromasa Saito: ¥13 million [v] by ¥1 million; (0-1), 9.90 ERA, 10 innings

Ichiro Tamura: ¥10 million ^ by ¥4 million; (0-0), 3.95 ERA in 31 games, 41 innings

Kaito Yoza (R): ¥9 million ^ by ¥2 million (2-4), 5.45 ERA in eight games, 38 innings

Sho Ito: ¥8.2 million ^ by ¥500K; (0-2), 4.08 ERA in 12 games, 28.2 innings

Koki Matsuoka (R): ¥7.5 million =; (0-0), 13.50 ERA in two games, 2 innings

Shunta Nakatsuka: ¥7.3 million ^ by ¥200K; (0-0), 5.14 ERA in six games, seven innings

Kaito Awatsu: ¥7 million [v] by ¥3 million; (1-1), 7.04 ERA in 13 ni-gun games, 15.1 innings

Yutaro Watanabe: ¥6.5 million = ; (0-1), 5.24 ERA in four ni-gun games, 22.1 innings

Hiroki Inoue: ¥6 million = (0-1), 9.00 ERA in two ni-gun games, 3 innings

Towa Uema: ¥5 million = (0-2), 5.09 ERA in nine ni-gun games, 35.1 innings

Mitsuo Yoshikawa: ¥30 million [v] by ¥5 million ; (0-0), 3.38 ERA in five games, 5.1 innings

Yoshikawa made ¥35 million with the Fighters in 2020

Reed Garrett: ¥85 million ^ by ¥35 million; (3-2), 3.10 ERA in 49 games, 49.1 innings

Zach Neal: ¥220 million =; (6-8), 5.22 ERA in 21 games, 112 innings

===

Infielders:

Takeya Nakamura: ¥220 million [v] by ¥130 million; .213/.310/.372, 9 HR in 79 games

Hotaka Yamakawa: ¥170 million [v] by ¥40 million; .205/.357/.450, 24 HR in 102 games

Sosuke Genda: ¥150 million ^ by ¥10 million; .270/.327/.330, 1 HR in 120 games

Kakeru Yamanobe: ¥14 million ^ by ¥2 million ; .233/.266/.283, 0 HR in 53 games

Nien Ting Wu: ¥8.8 million ^ by ¥2 million ; .227/.320/.295, 0 HR in 51 games

Ryota Kawano: ¥6.5 million = ; .242/.333/.349, 3 HR in 58 ni-gun games

Ryusei Sato: ¥6.4 million [v] by ¥2 million; .303/.388/.505, 5 HR in 27 ni-gun games

Sato was suspended for the 2020 season after being caught for speeding. His suspension will be lifted at the start of 2021. 

Haruka Yamada: ¥6.2 million = ; .200/.200/.200, 0 HR in 8 games

Ryusei Tsunashima: ¥5 million = ; .261/.298/.418, 2 HR in 44 ni-gun games

Ernesto Mejia: ¥100 million =; .207/.273/.409, 11 HR in 74 games

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Outfielders: 

Takumi Kuriyama: ¥170 million ^ by ¥20 million; .272/.362/.427, 12 HR in 111 games

Shuta Tonosaki: ¥130 million [v] by ¥10 million; .247/.335/.353, 8 HR in 120 games

Yuji Kaneko: ¥126 million ^ by ¥6 million; .249/.312/.302, 3 HR in 86 games

Kaneko is in the second year of a four-year contract. 

Fumikazu Kimura: ¥50 million ^ by ¥5 million; .231/.295/.383, 8 HR in games

Masato Kumashiro: ¥12 million =; .100/.182/.100, 0 HR in 38 games

Kumashiro chose to remain after having domestic FA rights

Shohei Suzuki: ¥9.6 million ^ by ¥3 million; .207/.261/.286, 1 HR in 46 games

Seiji Kawagoe (R): ¥8.8 million ^ by ¥2.4 million ; .156/.260/.281, 2 HR in 48 games

"Aito" Takeda: ¥7.4 million [v] by ¥1 million ; .154/.143/.154, 0 HR in 7 games

Manaya Nishikawa (R): ¥7.3 million ^ by ¥300K ; .250/.250/.500, 0 HR in 3 games

Wataru Takagi: ¥7 million ^ by ¥1.8 million ; .175/.175/.400, 2 HR in 12 games

Daisuke Togawa: ¥5.6 million [v] by ¥400K ; .111/.111/.111, 0 HR in 4 games

Junichiro Kishi (R): ¥5.5 million ^ by ¥500K ; .000/.333/.000, 0 HR in 5 games

Cory Spangenberg: ¥80 million =; .268/.326/.482, 15 HR in 111 games

===

Catchers: 

Tomoya Mori: ¥160 million [v] by ¥40 million; .251/.325/.380, 9 HR in 104 games

Masatoshi Okada: ¥30 million =; .107/.138/.125, 0 HR in 29 games

Sena Tsuge (R): ¥12 million ^ by ¥2 million; .184/.262/.342, 2 HR in 17 games

Shoya Makino: ¥6 million = ; ..161/.197/.210, 0 HR in 22 ni-gun games

Masato Saito: ¥5 million = ; .085/.239/.102, 0 HR in 33 ni-gun games

Hitoto Komazuki: ¥5 million [v] by ¥1 million ; .246/.338/.420 in 29 ni-gun games

===

Ikusei: 

Aoi Tono: ¥3.5 million = ; (0-1), 3.74 ERA in 11 ni-gun games

Jiyu Okubo: ¥2.8 million = ; (0-1), 9.00 ERA in six ni-gun games

Daichi Nakaguma: ¥3.5 million = ; .266/.330/.310, 3 HR in 56 ni-gun games

Toshihiro Idei: ¥4 million = ; (0-1), 3.00 ERA in two ni-gun games, six innings


===

2020 Draft picks:

IF Kento Watanabe: ¥16 million, ¥100 million signing bonus, ¥50 million incentives. (1st round draft pick) 

P Takeru Sasaki: ¥13.5 million; ¥70 million signing bonus (2nd round draft pick)

IF Takayoshi Yamamura: ¥7 million, ¥50 million signing bonus. (3rd round draft pick) 

OF Gakuto Wakabayashi: ¥10 million, ¥40 million signing bonus (4th round draft pick) 

RHP Ren Ohmagari: ¥9 million, ¥30 million signing bonus (5th round draft pick)

IF Brandon Taiga Tysinger: ¥7 million, ¥30 million signing bonus. (6th round draft pick) 

OF Yuta Nakamigawa: ¥6 million, ¥15 million signing bonus (7th round draft pick) 

RHP Yuto Akagami: ¥4 million, ¥3.5 million signing bonus (1st round ikusei pick)

OF Shinya Hasegawa: ¥2.8 million, ¥3.5 million signing bonus (2nd round ikusei pick)

OF Joseph Ken Miyamoto: ¥4 million, ¥3.5 million signing bonus (3rd round ikusei pick)

RHP Taishi Mameda: ¥2.8 million, ¥3.5 million signing bonus (4th round ikusei pick)

RHP Yoshinobu Mizukami: ¥4 million, ¥3.5 million signing bonus (5th round ikusei pick)

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This is an ongoing list and it will continue updating as more information comes. 

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Report: Tatsushi Masuda likely to remain with Lions


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The Saitama Seibu Lions will likely retain free agent Tatsushi Masuda, according to reports. For a team that is known to let players walk, this would be a huge keep if he were to stay. 

Reports indicated the Lions offered a four year contract worth more than ¥1.2 billion ($12 million) for the veteran closer. Masuda, who turns 33 this April, came off his best career season in a short year. In 48 games, he racked up a career-high 33 saves, 49 innings and a 2.02 ERA in 2020. He also became the all-time franchise leader in saves. 

Previously, the Lions have lost a total of 19 players domestically once they have exercised their free agent option. This includes Kimiyasu Kudo, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Takayuki Kishi, Hideto Asamura and many more. 

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Lions add Yoshikawa 

The Lions signed veteran Mitsuo Yoshikawa to a contract with ¥30 million this past week. Yoshikawa, who turns 33 in April, was a Pacific League MVP in 2012. After being a rotation starter for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters for several years, he was traded to the Yomiuri Giants and became depth for them. His last season of reaching 100 innings pitched was 2018, where he had a 6-7 record and 4.26 ERA. 

Yoshikawa was traded back to the Fighters in a cash trade and saw minimal ichi-gun innings. The Lions hope his left arm will be depth for the pitching staff and it's unsure whether he'll be a reliever or starter. He will join a mix including Daiki Enokida, Shota Takekuma, Shota Hamaya, Ryuya Ogawa, Hiromasa Saito, Tetsuya Utsumi and Yasuo Sano. 

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Nolin will not return

It was announced on the sidebar that Sean Nolin will not be returning with thee Lions in 2021. An injury sidelined him for much of 2020 and he didn't appear for the ichi-gun until the second half. In five games, he had 21.1 innings with a 6.75 ERA where he only won his debut in Sendai.  

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ohtani could be on a path to MLB obscurity

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The Los Angeles Angels signed Shohei Ohtani after the 2017 season and understandably, it received much fanfare from both Asia and North America. Fast forward three years later and things aren't looking the way all parties have hoped for. 

Ohtani was a conversational buzz topic for years, arguably since he was in high school at Hanamaki Higashi. From the two-way player talk and Babe Ruth comparisons to being the first player to go to North America straight out of high school, the possibilities were endless. 

Eventually, the Fighters stepped in and drafted Ohtani with no fear and successfully recruited to sign with the team. It's fun to think how much of a risk it was when they already failed to convince Tomoyuki Sugano to sign the year before, but that's another story. 

After winning a Japan Series championship with the Fighters, speculation on Ohtani's choice of MLB team after his posting remained interesting. Money didn't matter as an amateur signing, teams would need to be creative with their offers and recruiting pitches to have him join. 

The Angels were the big winners when then-GM Billy Eppler admitted some shock. We'll never truly the reason behind this, though the easiest speculation is being paired with an MVP in Mike Trout combined with not being in the shadow of another Japanese-born player. 

However, when Ohtani initially signed with the Angels, then-manager Mike Scioscia originally spoke about how the team needed pitching, a big flaw after the 2017 season. There were doubts if he would be stubborn with decisions on playing Ohtani at both positions, but he gave his word as a nod to the organization adding him. 

Unfortunately, despite winning the 2018 American League rookie of the year and having a productive 2019, Scioscia's emphasis on pitching needed was validated with how poor they've been in the Trout era. None of these offensive numbers Ohtani, Trout, David Fletcher and others put up won't mean anything if the Angels can't hold a lead. 

Since signing Ohtani, the Angels have been dependent on trades or finding pitchers from within when it comes to the rotation or bullpen. Otherwise, their free agents have been forgettable short term signings which have all ended in failure or roster filler. 

Excluding insignificant minor league deals. here are the notable pitchers who signed in free agency after December 2017: 

Junichi Tazawa (Middle of 2018, Minor League)

Matt Harvey (One year, 2019 season, $11 million)

Trevor Cahill (One year, 2019 season, $9 million)

Cody Allen (One year, 2019 season, $8.5 million) 

Julio Teheran (One year, 2020 season, $9 million)

None of these signings worked out and all were either demoted, or saw a forgettable stint with the Angels. On the other hand, they've been depending waiver pickups and finding a lottery ticket with minor signings from Felix Pena and Mike Mayers. 

Their most significant signings in regards to position players were Jason Castro and Anthony Rendon after the 2019 season. While Rendon was a highly prized free agent, it was in reality a consolation after losing to the Yankees in the bidding war for Gerrit Cole. 

Billy Eppler was fired at the end of the 2020 season for coming up short of an expanded postseason year and the Angels had a total of three different manager in three seasons from 2018-2020 with Scioscia, Brad Ausmus and Joe Maddon all being skippers. 

Perry Minasian was hired earlier this month from the Atlanta Braves organization thinking they're not far off. They had a stronger second half if anyone wants to think the glass is half full. Will the pitching improve or go at status quo? 

Dylan Bundy, a former first round bust of the Baltimore Orioles had a surprise 2020. Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning are both players who did well in the last month with the latter bring homegrown. Then there's Cam Bedrosian who was good when healthy, but it's possible this is all a mirage without a true ace or top line pitcher. 

Their 2020 season was also hurt by the three-batter minimum rule that relievers were forced to adjust to. Maddon was known to micromanage his decisions in the bullpen, but that could no longer be the case. 

There's no question the Angels would want to sign Trevor Bauer, who is the highest touted free agent on the market. Their payroll for 2021 is already locked up a combined $118 million to Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, Trout and Rendon. Pujols is in the final year of his backloaded albatross contract signed back in 2012. They're remained top heavy on offense and it's still one-dimensional for a team trying to win sooner than later. 

The common narrative of the Angels is thought to be Arte Moreno controlling the baseball operations over his general manager, whether it was Eppler or Jetty Dipoto in the past. Infamously, Moreno forced a trade for Vernon Wells many years ago. There is no chance Moreno will sell the team after purchasing land from Orange County. Time will tell if Minasian will be given the reins to run the Angels. 

Going back to Ohtani, who turns 27 in 2021, he had a forgettable 2020. While some of the blame can go to the pandemic, he failed to record an out in his first start and hit below the Mendoza Line in 44 games as a batter. 

Call it an outlier year as he's aware of the struggles, but his ceiling could soon cave in as time goes on. He's another injury away from a decision needing to be made on choosing a position in baseball. Durability for a full year was a question mark coming into MLB as he even had injuries with the Fighters under his two-way schedule. 

The Angels are committed in the short term to have Ohtani remain a two-way player, but will be shut down again on the mound like 2020 if things go wrong? 

Even if things are put together, it's possible the Angels failing to have team success puts Ohtani in a boat with Trout and even Felix Hernandez on playing without a meaningful game. The Angels have only made the postseason once in the Trout era back in 2014 when they won the division, but were swept by the Kansas City Royals. Like Hernandez, Ohtani has yet to see baseball that matters as the Angels have dug themselves a hole in the regular season to not make the playoffs. 

In NCAA football, the Heisman award is given to the greatest player of the season, symbolizing someone carrying their team to greatness. No one can win this award unless there is team success as a whole, which puts them on the national radar. 

There's no issues of Ohtani finding news and attention in Japan, but in the west, he could be remembered as just a speck of Angels history by being forgotten everywhere outside of the AL West. If Trout wasn't playing for the Angels, they would have zero headlines nationally and he has been the reason they're mediocre instead of a bottom feeder within the division. 

As aforementioned, Ohtani was given an opportunity to write his own story when choosing the Angels. His story playing with the baseball team of Orange County needs to improve as a whole, or else his career won't amount to anything outside of some individual accomplishments. Especially when the Los Dodgers own the Southern California market coming off a World Series win. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

2020 NPB Draft: A summary of each Seibu Lions pick



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The Saitama Seibu Lions took a total of seven players and five ikusei during the 2020 NPB Draft. In an irregular year, fewer high school players made themselves eligible. Team representatives were in separate rooms until the drawing and more. It was just another day at the office for Hisanobu "Nabe-Q" Watanabe and the others who put this draft board together.

Here is a look at every draft pick the Lions took in 2020:

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First Round: IF Kento Watanabe (渡部健人)




College: Toin University (Kanagawa)

High School: Nihon Wellness (Tokyo), Yokohama Shodai (Kanagawa)

Date of Birth: December 26, 1998

Height: 176 cm (5' 9")

Weight: 112 kg (247 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

In the first round, the Lions tried to draft P Takahisa Hayakawa with three other teams. This drawing went to the Rakuten Eagles when Kazuhisa Ishii pulled out the winning ticket before Hatsuhiko Tsuji could put his hand in the box. They settled on Kento Watanabe as their plan B with no opposition.

Watanabe is a slugging infielder who can play first and third base. If his build didn't already describe him, he's likely to have an "Okawari" nickname and there are already comparisons to Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura with Okawari-Nisei (2nd generation) titles floating around.

He was a cleanup hitter since high school and kept this position in college at Toin University. With his power hitting, the Lions hope he is the next slugger to join the team. His scouting report also has adequate fielding for a corner infielder.

On a fun trivial note, he was born to a Japanese father and Filipino mother.

Team Quote:
"A strong hitter who has a triple digit weight. His physique and power is reminiscent of Takeya Nakamura."

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Second round: P Takeru Sasaki (佐々木健)




Industrial League Team: NTT East (Tokyo)

College: Fuji University (Iwate)

High School: Kizukuri (Aomori)

Date of Birth: May 13, 1996

Height: 179 cm (5' 10")

Weight: 87 kg (192 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Left/Left

Sasaki's maximum velocity is 152 km/H (94 mph) while he can throw a fastball, curve, changeup and slider. As a shakaijin pitcher, he was mostly a rotation starter, but struggled with control and didn't have great stats. However, this final year (and spring) is what drew scout attention with a high strikeout rate.

At Fuji University, he was the team's ace and was also teammates with Ryusei Sato.

With the Lions needing left handed pitching depth, it's possible Sasaki can play sooner than later at the ichi-gun level. His decent velocity for a left-handed pitcher could be good enough for a rotation spot or in relief. Nabe-Q was impressed with his fastball for a lefty.

Team Quote: "Immediate left arm help with attractive fastball power. [He could be in the] starting lineup. Relief innings are also possible."

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Third Round: IF Takayoshi Yamamura (山村崇嘉)




High School: Tokaidai Sagami (Kanagawa)

Date of Birth: September 28, 2002

Height: 180 cm (5' 11")

Weight: 85 kg (187 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Left

Yamamura is supposed to follow a trend in a third round position player taken in an even numbered draft year finding success. Previously Hideto Asamura (2008), Shogo Akiyama (2010), Yuji Kaneko (2012), Shuta Tonosaki (2014) and Sosuke Genda (2016) all had significant ichi-gun impact, though Kakeru Yamanobe (2018) must develop to continue the trend.

The Lions see Yamamura as a leadoff hitter who can hit for average, power as well as smart hitting for gappers. He entered his final year as a 1B, but was shifted to 3B and SS. They like his defense too, hoping his bat develops for the long run. Yamamura was also a pitcher and his fastball indicates this could be a fallback option.

Team Quote: "A well-balanced left-handed hitter who can be a triple threat. He could be a centerpiece of the future"

===

Fourth Round: OF Gakuto Wakabayashi (若林楽人)



College: Komazawa University (Tokyo)

High School: Komadai Tomakomai (Hokkaido)

Date of Birth: April 13, 1998

Height: 177 cm (5' 10")

Weight: 75 kg (165 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Wakabayashi was a college player who didn't excel until his senior year at Komazawa University. Mostly batting in the bottom third of the lineup, he worked his way up in his final season and was the starting center fielder while serving as the team's captain. He's athletic enough to excel as a five-tool player, but must develop his skills and production.

If Wakabayashi can hit, there's a chance he could be an outfield regular sooner than later. At worst, he can be a pinch runner. Tetsuya Shiozaki also compared him to Shuta Tonosaki, though he is lanky and thin.

On a past trivial note, he was a Lions fan growing up and his father is a priest of Jōdo Shinshū. His name Gakuto refers to Gagaku music, a classical style in Japan. The 楽人 indicates he's a "Gaku person".

Team Quote: "A right outfielder with high power at all levels of offense and defense. His base running is also decent."

===

Fifth Round: P Ren Ohmagari (大曲錬)


Ohmagari's family name could be romanized as Oomagari or Omagari given the information obtained. It will be up to him when his uniform comes out to determine this question mark.

College: Fukuoka University (Fukuoka)

High School: Nippon Nishi (Fukuoka)

Date of Birth: May 21, 1998

Height: 179 cm (5' 10")

Weight: 78 kg (172 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Ohmagari can hit 154 km/h (96 mph) and can throw a fastball, cutter, changeup, slider and splitter. What makes this pick unique is how he was semi-rigid (Rubber/Soft?) ball player. The Lions went of his stock during his junior year where he achieved a Best IX and MVP award during the spring season.

His senior year was mostly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was a regular starting pitcher at Fukuoka University. He'll need to improve location of off-speed pitches, though his fastball was attractive. They liked the potential in his cutter and splitter.

Team Quote: "A pitcher who throws a well-balanced and well-spun breaking ball. The splitter is also good with the ability to strikeout batters."

===

Sixth Round: IF Brandon Taiga Tysinger (タイシンガー ブランドン 大河)



College: Hokkaido Nogyo Okhotsk (Hokkaido)

High School: Ishikawa (Okinawa)

Date of Birth: June 15, 1998

Height: 179 cm (5' 10")

Weight: 84 kg (185 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Don't let that name fool you, Tysinger is an Okinawan born to an American father and Taiga is his middle name. While it was an initial Twitter controversy on figuring out his name, he would rather be called "Brandon" over Taiga. Primarily a third baseman, he also has experience at shortstop and outfield.

His physical tools are what made scouts interested, saying he's fast and can hit for power. The Lions also liked his defense. In college, he was able to hit for average and his home run ability has potential while also being fast on the base paths. When it comes to his defense, his shoulder strength is impressive with a pitcher's velocity.

Team Quote: "A long-range hitter that sells both shoulder strength and power."

===

Seventh Round: OF Yuta Nakamigawa (仲三河優太)



High School: Osaka Toin (Osaka)

Date of Birth: October 22, 2002

Height: 180 cm (5' 11")

Weight: 94 kg (207 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Left

Born and raised in Tochigi, Nakamigawa has been a starting outfielder since his junior year where he showed he can hit for average and power. He would have been hitting in the heart of the order had Osaka Toin played in a Koshien tournament this year as he spent time as a cleanup, 5th and 6th hitter in the lineup.

He was also a pitcher in his first year before becoming a full-time position player. With his fallback option, his max velocity clocked in at 139 km/h (86 mph).

This has potential to become a sleeper pick given he's from Osaka Toin, a school already with a Lions pipeline (see Takeya Nakamura, Tomoya Mori, Masatoshi Okada and Hideto Asamura before him). He could have been a higher draft pick had their been Koshien tournaments or any place to showcase his talents, but he fell deep as a result of 2020.

With his large build, the Lions hope he can be a future cleanup hitter, but it wouldn't hurt if he can hit for average and gappers too.

Team Quote: "An outfielder with a strong body and shoulders who has power to hit and can be a future core player."

===

Ikusei

First Round: P Yuto Akagami (赤上優人)



College: Tohoku Koeki University (Yamagata)

High School: Kakunodate (Akita)

Date of Birth: February 10, 1999

Height: 177 cm (5' 10")

Weight: 80 kg (176 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Akagami can hit 153 km/h (95 mph) on the gun, but his control is why he fell to ikusei status. He can throw a fastball, slider, cutter, forkball and changeup.

He was a shortstop in high school and converted to full-time pitcher in his first year at university. Akagami contributed both as a reliever and starter, playing in several top games. In 39 games through his four years, he racked up 162 innings pitched with a 2.00 ERA.

When meeting the Lions representative, Akagami was encouraged with the past Tohoku history of Yusei Kikuchi. They saw enough in his fastball, but he's too raw and will take time to develop. In the long run, they hope he can be a relief pitcher.

Team Quote: "A powerful fastball and a variety of breaking balls are his pitching weapons. Since the pitcher is inexperienced, he has time to grow."

===

Second Round: OF Shinya Hasegawa (長谷川信哉)



High School: Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui)

Date of Birth: May 17, 2002

Height: 183 cm (6')

Weight: 80 kg (176 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

A Kyoto native, Hasegawa is an athlete who can play 3B as well as any outfield position. The Lions liked his speed and arm strength as a fielder and was impressed with his tournament games through Koshien qualification in the past. With his versatility and athletic measurements, the Lions hope Koji Akiyama is his inspiration. 

Team Quote: "Shoulder strength and foot speed are his weapons. He's a player who can be in various places such as the third base and outfield."

===

Third Round: OF Joseph Ken Miyamoto (宮本ジョセフ拳)


College: Nagoya Gakuin University (Aichi)

High School: Toyokawa (Aichi)

Date of Birth: March 24, 1999

Height: 175 cm (5' 9")

Weight: 86 kg (190 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Born in Mie Prefecture to a Ghanaian father and Japanese mother, Miyamoto played in the second tier division of baseball at Nagoya Gakuin University. He has traits of a power hitter, but the lack of competition faced is what drew his stock to be low. Miyamoto also holds a college track record for the 100 meter dash and was batting leadoff. 

Both the Lions and Hanshin Tigers were seen scouting him. Miyamoto's mother passed away three years ago and it is said he picked up a bright personality from his father with a motto of "enjoy life." If his production can translate to NPB, he could find a way up with his physical tools. 

Team Quote: "A good player with the abilities of running on offense and defense. His power hitting is also attractive."

===

Fourth Round: P Taishi Mameda (豆田泰志)



High School: Urawa Jitsugyo Gakuen (Saitama)

Date of Birth: January 15, 2003

Height: 173 cm (5' 8")

Weight: 80 kg (176 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Mameda can top out at 147 km/h (91 mph) while able to throw a fastball, fork, cutter, slider, curve and changeup. Specifically, his cutter drew attention of scouts. 

A Saitama prefecture native, in 40 career high school innings, he reached 55 strikeouts and threw multiple quality starts in the Koshien qualifiers, where most success came as a junior. This is a simple flyer pickup with the hopes of being a control pitcher, where the Lions liked the movement on his fastball. 

Team Quote: "He's small, but with horsepower. His fastball has outstanding sharpness and he can be a local Saitama star."

===

Fifth Round: P Yoshinobu Mizukami (水上由伸)


College: Shikoku Gakuin University (Kagawa)

High School: Teikyo Daisan (Yamanashi)

Date of Birth: July 13, 1998

Height: 176 cm (5' 9")

Weight: 81 kg (179 lbs)

Throws/Bats: Right/Right

Mizukami tops out at 150 km/h (93 mph) with the ability to throw a fastball, cutter, fork, slider and curve. He converted to pitcher full time in his junior year of college and won Best IX once at that position. Originally an outfielder, he also had two Best IX titles as a position player. 

A Lions scout said he needs to bulk up and work on his control as a pitcher to make the next leap. If his fastball location can be fixed, he will get a promotion. 

On a trivial note, his father was a Yomiuri Giants fan and he was named after former player/manager Yoshinobu Takahashi. His father has since told the media he will be a Lions fan.  

Team Quote: "A player who has fastball potential and can reach the 70-man roster as soon as possible if his accuracy and control improves."

===

Reaction: 

So the Lions didn't address much pitching in this class and took mostly position players in the main draft?  It's a vote of confidence in previous classes. It would be huge if both Sasaki and Watanabe can make an ichi-gun impact sooner than later, with Sasaki hoping to fill a void in left-handed pitching help. 

There's potential for more immediate help with college players in this class, but they still have lots to prove. What is interesting is seeing two powerhouse high schools in Tokaidai Sagami and Osaka Toin taken by the Lions with the latter drawing lots of thrills for the fans given the pipeline connections. Could there be a steal there? Time will tell. 

It's also noteworthy to see five ikusei taken in this class, showing more commitment to finding a diamond in the rough. An ikusei staff started recently and now they'll have their hands full with several players coming in. 

We took to Twitter your reactions to this class: 

This will be interesting to look at given the circumstances and information available on all draft prospects. It's a larger crapshoot than previous years. 

===

Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Friday, November 13, 2020

Lions announce multiple players not returning in 2021

 


One of the hardest news times in sports is ongoing in NPB. It's the annual time of the year where several players are senryokugai, meaning they won't be offered a contract for next season and will become free agents. Majority of these names will not be in baseball much longer after a formal tryout. 

The Saitama Seibu Lions made the final cuts of players not returning for 2021 on Friday. Here is the full list of players who won't be on the 70-man roster for next season: 

Shinsaburo Tawata, 27, is the most significant name of this list given he was a first round draft pick in 2015 and was the Pacific League wins leader of 2018. An injury and poor performance led to an awful 2019 and he wasn't physically fit for majority of 2020 to be under contract. Unlike everyone else listed, Tawata will return to the Lions organization under a ikusei contract, hoping to recover and reach full condition. 

Kyohei Nagae, 27, was known as one of the best defensive infielders on the team. He appeared in 99 ichi-gun games for 2013, but his bat held him back from being a starter. Once Sosuke Genda emerged as a regular infielder in 2017, Nagae became expendable and he didn't appear in an ichi-gun game in 2020. He was originally a 2011 fourth round draft pick out of high school. 

Daichi Mizuguchi, 31, was the first ikusei in Lions history to play in an ichi-gun game. Initially taken in the ikusei draft of 2012 out of the Shikoku Island League, he earned promotion to the 70-man roster in the middle of the 2015 season and made his debut in 2016. He was a decent part-time player in 2017, but fell out of favor when the infield was stable and other bench players took his spot. Mizuguchi was mostly a pinch runner. 

Shogo Noda, 27, was a shakaijin third round draft pick in 2015. He initially had success in middle relief as a lefty specialist, but his innings went down in 2019 in favor of Ryuya Ogawa. In 2020, he had an inherited runner situation where he walked multiple batters and failed to record an out. His ERA wasn't hit, but he couldn't stay at the ichi-gun for long as other passed him on the depth chart. Noda was also a productive middle reliever in the during the 2016 Melbourne Aces season.  

Makoto Aiuchi, 26, was suspended for being involved with breaking COVID-19 team rules when going golfing. He had several law breaking incidents, including drinking underage and driving without a license. In 21 ichi-gun games from 2014; 2016-2019, he recorded only 43 innings where he had low leverage and spot start outings. He had a career 10.45 ERA and plans to become a fighter. Aiuchi was initially a second round pick in 2012 and spent two stints with the Melbourne Aces. 

Koki Fujita, 22, was a ninth round draft pick out of high school in 2015. He had an injury early on in his career and couldn't impress coaches in ni-gun. Fujita had zero ichi-gun appearances through five seasons with the Lions organization. 

Yuto Morikoshi, 32, was signed by the Lions last offseason after the Hanshin Tigers let him go. He was initially on the Chunichi Dragons for four years and this is his third time becoming senryokugai. Morikoshi stayed in ni-gun the entire time with the Lions as others ended up being defensive replacements in front of him on the depth chart. 

Tsubasa Kokuba, 26, was drafted by the Lions in the eighth round of 2015. He saw several meaningful innings in 2019 with a bullpen shortage and ended the year on a high note, including his only career win. Kokuba couldn't keep that momentum in 2020 as he saw low leverage outings and couldn't keep his status at the ichi-gun. 

===

With these recent players not returning, it's reflective of how poorly the 2015 draft class has aged. Going pick by pick, here's how it looks: 

Round 1: P Shinsaburo Tawata: Now an Ikusei

Round 2: P Seiji Kawagoe: Converted to outfielder and has been below average with his bat. 

Round 3: P Shogo Noda: Senryokugai after 2020

Round 4: OF Aito Takeda: Part-time outfielder who saw very little time due to poor hitting in 2020. 

Round 5: P Tadasuke Minamikawa: Senryokugai after 2019

Round 6: P Keisuke Honda: Rotation starter 

Round 7: IF Nien Ting Wu: Part-time infielder, started games to end 2020. 

Round 8: P Tsubasa Kokuba: Senryokugai after 2020

Round 9: P Koki Fujita: Senryokugai after 2020

Round 10: P Naoaki Matsumoto: Senryokugai after 2019

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Monday, November 9, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Coach dismissed, coming up short


 ===

The Saitama Seibu Lions came up short of a Climax Series spot in the final week of the season, going 3-3-1 in the last seven games played. They finished with a .500 record and a third place standing in the Pacific League as a result. 

===

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

Daiki Enokida helped take Game 1 with six no-hit innings. It wasn't until the seventh with one out where he gave up a double to Haruki Nishikawa. Takumi Kuriyama's timely hit was all the offense the Lions needed to take this game. 

Kona Takahashi was pulled in the 5th after giving up three runs and Tetsu Miyagawa walked in another. however, the Lions came back from a 2-0 and 4-3 deficit when Kuriyama hit a two-run HR while Cory Spangenberg had two RBIs, including a solo HR. 

The deciding run in Game 2 was a timely hit by Shuta Tonosaki in the 7th inning. The bullpen did its job keeping zeroes on the board for the opposition as Tatsushi Masuda broke the franchise record with his 136th career save, passing Kiyoshi Toyoda. 

The final home game of the 2020 season had the Lions taking advantage of a raw pitcher in Kosei Yoshida. Cory Spangenberg had four RBIs including a three-run HR and Shuta Tonosaki had two key hits as well. Zach Neal ended his season with a five inning win, allowing only three runs in the process. 

With this being the last home game, the Lions had the usual closing ceremony, but it also included a retirement recognition of Tomomi Takahashi. 

===

Rakuten Eagles

The Lions had issues against former players in the opening makeup game. The retiring Naoto Watanabe played his final game and dazzled with two hits, a run and a key double play to hurt his previous team. Takayuki Kishi allowed only one run for a complete game as the Lions bats went back to poor situational hitting. Shota Hamaya allowed four runs, all with two outs. This game tied thee standings up with the Marines with three remaining. 

For the last makeup game in Sendai, the Lions overcame a 6-1 deficit where Tatsuya Imai allowed all those runs in the first inning. They chipped away at the leads with sacrifice flies and an RBI fielder's choice. It wasn't until Shuta Tonosaki hit a solo HR and Cory Spangenberg added a timely to tie it at 6-6. 

The Eagles threatened in the 7th and 8th, but Kaima Taira got the key strikeouts when necessary to prevent any further damage. Lions bats remained dead and it was a 6-6 stalemate. 

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Chiba Lotte Marines

A 2-0 lead was vanquished quickly after Cory Spangenberg couldn't field a liner and the ball was stuck at his feet. Yudai Fujioka hit a solo HR off Wataru Matsumoto which was enough for the Marines to hang on. The Lions loaded the bases with one out, but Aito Takeda and Nien Ting Wu struck out with both of them batting in the bottom of the order. 

The wheels came off in the bottom of the 6th, when two errors on one play resulted in two more runs and Chiba pulled away for good, mathematically eliminating the Lions. 

===

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

In what was a meaningless makeup game, Kona Takahashi threw two scoreless innings before he was yanked as he qualified for the league ERA leaders with that work. Hiromasa Saito gave up two HRs and that was all the Hawks needed in this easy finale. It put the Lions at .500 for the year, it's their first time finishing at this win percentage since 2015. 

===

Coach dismissed, others not returning

The Lions announced they terminated the contract of ni-gun hitting coach Hiroshi Hirao after he was caught stealing possessions of two players. It became effective on October 31 after the initial reports on October 16. 

Ni-gun pitching coach Ming-Chieh Hsu will also not return for 2021 while defense/base running coach Hiroyuki Takagi will remain with the organization under a different title. 

===

Suspended Aiuchi to be a Fighter

Makoto Aiuchi plans to retire and become a fighter, as reported by the Japanese media. He has been in trouble with the law multiple times, most recently breaking a team violation of golfing with Ryusei Sato while under COVID-19 rules.  

===

Matsuzaka will return in 2021

The Lions reached an agreement to keep veteran pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka under team control this week. The 40-year old veteran has yet to pitch an ichi-gun game in his second stint with the Lions after being remembered as a high school / Lions legend. Like Utsumi, he will be a spot start option for next year. 

===

Early roster cuts announced

The Lions informed three players who will not be under contract in 2021. Besides Aiuchi, Koki Fujita and Shinsaburo Tawata were announced as senryokugai. Fujita was a 9th round draft pick in 2015 while Tawata was taken in the first round. 

Tawata, 27, will likely return under an ikusei contract. Due to health reasons, he wasn't under contract in 2020 until the middle of the season and he failed to play an ichi-gun game. He was the opening day starter in 2019, but continued to fall out of favor. 

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Tsuji will return in 2021

The Lions announced Hatsuhiko Tsuji will be back for his fifth season as manager in 2021. This will be his first season without any postseason games, but the team finished in A-class for the fourth consecutive year and never had a losing record. 

===

Unfortunately the Lions dug themselves a huge hole in the middle and had too much to overcome. A longer piece analyzing this season will come later, but it's clear the offense didn't have it in 2020 besides a ugly season from Zach Neal. 

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Sunday, November 1, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Drafting and stalemate games

 


The Saitama Seibu Lions went 3-3 against the Rakuten Eagles and Softbank Hawks in a split homestand. They sit in third place, 1.5 games out of a postseason spot behind the Chiba Lotte Marines with seven games to go. 

They also had draft take place and made a decision for 2021 and beyond. 

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Lions take large class, future infielder


The Saitama Seibu Lions drafted a total of seven roster players and five ikusei for 12 total at the 2020 NPB Draft on Monday. They attempted to go for top pitcher Takahisa Hayakawa out of Waseda University, but ended up losing a four-team drawing. The Rakuten Eagles landed his rights as Kazuhisa Ishii drew the winning ticket before Hatsuhiko Tsuji had a chance to put his hand in the box. 

Instead of going to another drawing, the Lions plan B pick was IF Kento Watanabe out of Toin University in Kanagawa. It's likely he'll be a new Okawari-kun as he can play 3B and 1B. 

Below is the full list of players taken by the Lions:

Regular Draft: 

1. IF Kento Watanabe 渡部健人 (Toin University, Kanagawa)

2. LHP Takeru Sasaki  佐々木健 (NTT East, Tokyo)

3. IF Takayoshi Yamamura  山村崇嘉 (Tokaidai Sagami HS, Kanagawa)

4. OF Gakuto Wakabayashi 若林楽人 (Komazawa University, Tokyo)

5. RHP Ren Omagari 大曲錬 (Fukuoka University, Fukuoka)

6. IF Brandon Taiga Tysinger タイシンガー ブランドン 大河 (Nogai Okhotsk University, Hokkaido)

7. OF Yuta Nakamigawa 仲三河優太 (Osaka Toin HS, Osaka)

==

Ikusei Draft: 

1. RHP Yuto Akagami  赤上優人 (Tohoku Koeki University, Yamagata) 

2. OF Shinya Hasegawa 長谷川信哉 (Tsuruga Kehi HS, Fukui)

3. OF Joseph Ken Miyamoto  宮本ジョセフ拳 (Nagoya Gakuin University, Aichi)

4. RHP Taishi Mameda 豆田泰志 (Urawa Jitsugo Gakuen HS, Saitama)

5. RHP Yoshinobu Mizukami 水上由伸 (Shikoku Gakuin University, Kagawa)

===

A full writeup with more details will likely come when the Lions season ends. Further research required to have a better grasp of this class. 

===

Rakuten Eagles

The Lions won a pair of one-run games by a score of 4-3. A three-run HR by Tomoya Mori was a game winner off Takahiro Norimoto while Fumikazu Kimura hit a two-run HR the next day. Both games involved strong starts by Kona Takahashi and Shota Hamaya. Hatsuhiko Tsuji also earned his 300th career win as Lions manager on Tuesday. 

They weren't able to pull off a sweep when Zach Neal gave up five runs in two innings. 

===

Softbank Hawks

Nao Higashihama shut down the Lions again and the bats stayed cold. A two-run HR from Takeya Nakamura made it a one run game in the 9th inning, but it wasn't enough as Katsunori Hirai gave up three runs early on. Ken Togame also laid an egg in the second game where Cory Spangenberg misread a fly ball leading to a bases-clearing hit. The Lions had no chance off Shunta Ishikawa in a blowout to lose the series, but salvaged one game with good pitching by Wataru Matsumoto. 

===

Utsumi staying through 2021

The Lions renewed the contract of veteran Tetsuya Utsumi citing they like his veteran presence in the clubhouse. He had one ichi-gun win in 2020, his first in 743 days after skipping the entire 2019 season due to injury. While things on the field didn't go as planned, the Lions feel he will be a role model for all the young pitchers and decided to retain him through the 2021 season. 

===

With seven games to go, the expectations are high given how close the Lions are to a postseason spot. However, try not to think about it with only half the pitching being good, the others not delivering when needed. Offense is still a mess as we know.  If anything, Matsumoto, Hamaya and Kona Takahashi are all positive steps towards 2021. 

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Takahashi retires, Lions move up

 


===

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 4-2 against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Softbank Hawks. They moved up to third place in the Pacific League and have an outside shot at a postseason berth as they trail the former by three games. 

===

Tomomi Takahashi announces retirement

Former All-Star closer Tomomi Takahashi announced he will retire from baseball at the end of the season. He hadn't played an ichi-gun game since 2018, once recovering from Tommy John surgery. Takahashi looked like one of the biggest steals of the 2012 NPB Draft with a strong 2014 season, but things went south when the second half of 2015 came along as he struggled. 

He was last under an ikusei contract at the beginning of 2019 and failed to earn a promotion. His older sister, who is a media member in Fukuoka released a very thankful statement to Lions fans on her brother's retirement. 



===

Chiba Lotte Marines: 

Kakeru Yamanobe was responsible for two sayonara wins with the first being an error on Leonys Martin and the second a timely hit. Both of them had a 2-1 score thanks to great pitching from Kona Takahashi and Shota Hamaya, who didn't earn wins. 

In Game 3, the Lions were able to get to Kazuya Ojima with home runs from Cory Spangenberg and Shuta Tonosaki to put it away early for a sweep. It was the first time the Lions were alone in A-class and above .500 since August. 

===

Softbank Hawks:

Tatsuya Imai had one run allowed through five innings, but struggled in the 6th with his pitch count high and seeing the order for a third time. Tetsu Miyagawa couldn't clean up the mess while the Lions offense only scored off a double play in Game 1. 

Ken Togame and the Lions bullpen spaced out the innings in Game 2 where it looked like Nao Higashihama would dominate the team in a 1-0 loss. Taisei Makihara had a solo HR, but the Lions pitchers stranded runners for the rest of the game including jams from Togame and Reed Garrett. 

The top of the 8th was the primary chance for the Lions bats and with a struggling Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura up, Livan Moinelo loaded the bases thanks to some walks. Sho Iwasaki came in and he gave up a grand slam, the 21st in Okawari-kun's career which is already an NPB record. With the bullpen shutting down the Hawks, it prevented any chance of a Pacific League pennant clinch party for the weekend. 

This magic disappeared in Game 3 when Wataru Matsumoto gave up six runs in two innings, including a two-run gapper from Yurisbel Gracial. Offensively, the Lions couldn't solve Kotaro Otake either, who went five innings with only three singles allowed. Ukyo Shuto's speed was also something that gave the Lions plenty of trouble. 

===

In perspective, this was a productive week for the Lions despite losing in Fukuoka. After trailing by as many as 10 games, the Lions are only three behind and sit at .500. Chiba has reeled a bit too, losing six of their last seven. There are no head-to-head games until the last regular season scheduled outing, but the Lions have their work cut out for them with Rakuten and Softbank coming to MetLife Dome this week.  There's no cupcakes and the Lions need to prove they want to be part of the Climax Series. 

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Friday, October 23, 2020

2020 NPB Draft Preview: Where do the Lions go from here?


 ===

The 2020 NPB Draft takes place on Monday, October 26. This year, it will happen during the regular season, as opposed to the traditional break right before the Japan Series. 

Every year is different, but this year, the information becomes even more slim with limited tournaments, games and no Koshien for the Spring and Summer available in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's possible that less high school prospects have submitted paperwork for this draft and opted to go to a shakaijin league or university if they want to continue their baseball careers. 

Here is a look at each position and where the Lions stand in the long run: 

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Catcher: 

This position appears to be set for a few years with Tomoya Mori, Masatoshi Okada and the recently drafted Sena Tsuge at the ichi-gun. They also have Shoya Makino and Masato Saito downstairs while they can choose to promote Daichi Nakaguma from ikusei. This position shouldn't be an issue now that Tsuge, a shakaijin, helped bring early impact and should remain a keeper as a reserve. There are currently no catchers listed on the Lions scouting sheet. 

===

Infield:

The Lions had Takeya Nakamura playing 3B on occasion, but Cory Spangenberg has been the band aid fix with foreign help. There was thoughts that Ryusei Sato would be the long term replacement, but he recently got into trouble with the law and remains suspended indefinitely. Kakeru Yamanobe is at 2B with Shuta Tonosaki while Sosuke Genda and Hotaka Yamakawa should remain on the infield. 

There are also multiple high school projects from Ryusei Tsunashima and Ryota Kawano who are there for the long run. It wouldn't hurt to add an infielder for depth.  

Early options could be Shugo Maki (Chuo University) as a fall back first round choice. Long term high school choices include Tomoya Inoue (Hansaki Tokuharu), Kendai Gen (Chukyo) and Yuki Watarai (Yokohama). Teruaki Sato (Kindai Univrsity) can also play 3B, but more on him in the next section. 

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Outfield: 

This is where things get interesting. The Lions had plenty of high school projects who have been unable to make the ichi-gun as regulars. Currently, they've used Fumikazu Kimura, Yuji Kaneko, Cory Spangenberg and Tonosaki. Everyone else has been a flash in the pan, but no mainstays resulting in possible expendable cuts or glorified bench players. Takumi Kuriyama can't be here forever. 

The aforementioned Teruaki Sato out of university is considered to be the best position player in the draft. If he could make instant impact, it wouldn't hurt to have his bat, barring it lives up to the hype. His bat has drawn comparisons to Yuki Yanagita and can hit opposite field. Having him as a part-time 3B would also be a great fit for the Lions if they won his rights. 

Other first round university options include Ryota Isobata (Chuo) and Ryosuke Nishikawa (Tokaidai Sagami). Ryoto Kita (Akashi Shiritsu) is a high school option who is a fast runner and possible leadoff hitter candidate. The already mentioned Tomoya Inoue can also play outfield. 

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Pitcher: 

The Lions pitching can always be better. Currently, they're looking for starters, but having someone in relief doesn't hurt either. LHP Takahisa Hayakawa (Waseda University) is the main prize among pitchers in this class. On paper, he could be inserted into the Lions rotation. Another top alternative is Hiroto Takahashi (Chukyo University).

Other short term options include Naofumi Kizawa (Keio University), Hiroki Ito (Tomakomai Komazawa University) and shakaijin Ryoji Kuribayashi (Toyota Motors). Shunpeita Yamashita (Fukuoka Ohori) is one of the top high school options.  

When it comes to fallback choices, the options are endless with plenty of university and high school pitchers that the Lions have looked at. 

High school choices: 

Shunsuke Nakamori (Akashi Shiritsu)

Tatsuto Kobayashi (Chiben Wakayama)

Takuto Takada (Shizuoka Kenritsu)

Ryonosuke Matsumoto (Yokohama) 

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University options: 

Shota Suzuki (Hosei)

Taisei Irie (Meiji) 

Hiroto Mori (Nittadai) 

Haruki Ohmichi (Hachinohe Gakuin)

Ryota Heinai (Asia) 

Kento Ogo (Tokai) 

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The list is much larger and there is no time to include them all, but majority of the Lions scouting page has indicated they're looking at pitchers. Expect at least four or five taken in this draft. Even an independent league pitcher from the Hyogo Blue Thunders is listed. 

Of course the big subplot is Junichi Tazawa being eligible for this draft after his initial ineligible ruling took place when he left for North America as a shakaijin pitcher. Someone should take him in this draft if they want a reliever who can help immediately. 

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Outlook:

The Lions have shown that they'll announce their draft pick publicly if it's an obvious player like Hayakawa or Sato. However, if they conceal their pick until draft day, it indicates they want somebody and hope he goes unopposed or few teams go for him. 

An announcement could be made any moment if they announce their pick. Previous first round pick attempts and announcements since we've been following the Lions are shown as followed: 

2015: Shinsaburo Tawata: Announced

2016: Tatsuya Imai: Hidden

2017: Daiki Tajima: Announced, lost, drafted Hiromasa Saito

2018: Wataru Matsumoto: Hidden, but most media members speculated this was happening. 

2019: Roki Sasaki: Announced, lost, drafted Tetsu Miyagawa 

Most mocks have the Lions going Hayakawa or Sato, but if there is no team announcement, expect something else. 

When polling Lions twitter, early results showed a near split on Sato and Hayakawa. However, our latest poll was leaning towards Hayakawa as shown below. 


One last second poll may be conducted unless the team makes an announcement soon. As earlier mentioned, expected a load of pitchers to be taken by the Lions based on needs, but it's possible they attempt to take Teruaki Sato given his talent evaluation and the need for short term help in the outfield. 

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Another stalemate

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions went 3-3 against the Fighters and Buffaloes for the week. They retained their fourth place standing in the Pacific League with only 1/2 game behind the Rakuten Eagles for third. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Naoyuki Uwasawa

Kona Takahashi pitched eight shutout innings and a mixture of timely hits made this game a laugher. The Lions scattered nine hits off Uwasawa through six innings, which was good for five runs. Timely hits came from everyone including Sosuke Genda, Ernesto Mejia and Tomoya Mori. Shuta Tonosaki also reached a new milestone for his 100th career stolen base in this 7-0 win. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Drew VerHagen

The Lions walked eight batters and Taishi Ota hit a two-run HR off Hamaya to set the tone of this game. Drew VerHagen threw eight shutout innings and the Lions didn't score until the 9th off a reliever. Seiji Kawagoe had RBIs late while Ichiro Tamura struck out a few as a consolation in this 7-2 defeat. 

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Game 3: Zach Neal vs. Nick Martinez

The Lions couldn't solve Kensuke Kondo early on and Neal gave up five runs through two innings. Tomoya Mori hit a three-run HR, but the Fighters pulled away as the Lions lose 8-3. 

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Game 4: Tatsuya Imai vs. Taisuke Yamaoka

Imai lasted 5.1 innings with his best outing in months. After leaving two runners on base, Steven Moya had a timely hit to break the deadlock in the 6th. The bottom of the 6th is where the magic came as Takumi Kuriyama had a gapper with two runners on, giving the Lions the 2-1 lead they wouldn't give up. Their bullpen did the usual 7-8-9 work with Ryosuke Moriwaki, Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda though there was drama in the 9th. Masuda loaded the bases, but got a ground ball to end it, snapping a 2 game skid. 

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Game 5: Ken Togame vs. Yaku Cho

Yaku Cho had six scoreless innings against the Lions with eight strikeouts, on what was a fitting Taiwan day at MetLife Dome. Seiichiro Oshita and Steven Moya each had a home run as the Lions bats were near silent. Nien Ting Wu recorded a consolation RBI in the 7th, but it wasn't enough.  

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Game 6: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Hiroya Miyagi

In a battle of first round picks and the opposition being a rookie, the Lions scored just enough offense in a tough battle. A three-run inning for the Lions including timely hits from Yuji Kaneko and Sosuke Genda were key to this win. Matsumoto went six innings with only one run allowed while there was drama in the 9th. Tatsushi Masuda gave up one run and had the tying run on third base, but two outs were recorded to preserve the win and a split for the week. 

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Even with the game results being in the middle, having Takahashi, Imai and Matsumoto with solid starts is progress for the long run. Fans should enjoy the growth of the youth while Takumi Kuriyama sets himself up for 2,000 career hits in 2021. 

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Monday, October 12, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Rain cuts series short

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions had a 3-1-1 week against the Softbank Hawks and Rakuten Eagles. They sit in fourth place and were nearly in third, but some games were called off due to rain. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Kodai Senga

Tomoya Mori had all three RBIs for the Lions with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and a timely double. Kona Takahashi went 6.1 innings without allowing a run and walking one batter while striking out eight. Kaima Taira came in for the 7th with inherited runners and got a key double play to keep the Hawks off the board. Tatsushi Masuda denied the shutout, but the Lions broke a small skid to start the week with a win. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Shunsuke Kasaya

Hamaya allowed three runs including a HR to Yuki Yanagita and that looked like it could be over. However, the Lions chipped away at the lead slowly with timely hits by Takumi Kuriyama and a solo HR when the game was eventually tied in the 7th. For the bottom of the 8th, Fumikazu Kimura had a gapper with a runner in scoring position to give the team their first lead of the night. 

The bullpen was also key as Reed Garrett, Kaima Taira and Katsunori Hirai continued to strand runners. As a result of this win, the Lions took the series. 

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Game 3: Tatsuya Imai vs. Shunta Ishikawa

Imai gave up four runs on eight hits in a span of only three innings, however, the Lions bullpen held their ground. Ishikawa gave up a three-run HR to Hotaka Yamakawa which tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the 7th. There was a chance for a win in the bottom of the 9th when the Lions had a leadoff double off Yuito Mori. They failed to cash in and had to settle for a draw. 

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Game 4: Zach Neal vs. Takahiro Shiomi

Neal escaped an early jam only giving up one run in the bottom of the 1st and the Lions were able to score from there on out. Yuji Kaneko cleared the bases with a timely base hit and some strong base running brought a third runner home. Neal went six innings and allowed only two runs. Cory Spangenberg and Hotaka Yamakawa added runs through a sacrifice fly and timely hit in the top of the 8th for insurance as the Lions won their third game of the week. 

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Game 5: Ryota Ishibashi vs Daiki Enokida

Both teams played for three innings after a rain delay, but the game was called after another storm hit Sendai. 

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Game 5: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Ryota Takinaka

Takinaka nearly shutout the Lions until the 9th inning as the Eagles cruised to an easy 8-2 win. Matsumoto coughed up five runs in four innings with a makeup game being forced the following day. 

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Game 6: Katsunori Hirai vs. Yuya Fukui

This game was called due to the rain in Sendai nearly four hours before scheduled first pitch. 

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It was a good week overall with no loss to Softbank. Unfortunately the Lions still showed they can't hit, but the pitching has remained promising. 

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Series Digest: Fate not in their own hands

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions lost the series against the Chiba Lotte Marines over the weekend. They currently sit in 4th place of the Pacific League. 

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Game 1: Zach Neal vs. Kota Futaki

Neal went seven innings without allowing a run. Both sides were pitching well and got double plays when necessary to escape the jams. It wasn't until the 10th inning when Ernesto Mejia broke the deadlock with a solo HR to left field. The 1-0 lead was enough for the Lions to win this as Ryosuke Moriwaki got a double play in the bottom of the frame for his first career save. 

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Game 2: Reed Garrett vs. Toshiya Nakamura

Garrett was a short starter and this bullpen game for the Lions started out well with HRs by Fumikazu Kimura and Takumi Kuriyama. however, things went south when Tetsu Miyagawa came in for the 6th inning and gave up a three-run HR to Shuhei Fukuda. With the Marines getting another chance in the 7th of Ryosuke Moriwaki, Hisanori Yasuda went yard for a game-losing three-run HR. 

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Game 3: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Minabu Mima

Mima had a near perfect game with only a solo leadoff HR given up to Yuji Kaneko in the first. The Lions next 20 batters were retired in an easy win for Chiba. Matsumoto gave up four runs in five innings, including a HR to Fukuda in the 5th. This marked the Lions first losing week since mid-August. 

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This season is still a mess. Offense isn't there, pitching has been mediocre, but the bullpen is still a strength though Saturday was a stinker. Hatsuhiko Tsuji was asked about how the postseason is no longer in the Lions hands as they need help to win, but he said to the media how they're not thinking about it. 

Nobody should be thinking about postseason with this squad. This isn't giving up, but not paying attention to the standings. It's about progress and growth of the current progress more than wins and losses in the standings. 

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Franchise reaches 3,000 wins in Seibu era

 


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The Saitama Seibu Lions went 5-4 in their last nine games against the Fighters, Eagles and Buffaloes. 

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Game 1: Kona Takahashi vs. Naoyuki Uwasawa

The Lions bats had no answer for Uwasawa, who drew two double plays and went seven innings with only one run allowed. Sho Nakata and Yushi Shimizu both hit home runs off Takahashi, which was all the offense the Fighters needed. Takumi Kuriyama had two hits to boost his totals including a timely in the 6th, but it was too late. Yuji Kaneko recorded his 200th career stolen base as a consolation. 

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Game 2: Shota Hamaya vs. Drew VerHagen

Hamaya allowed three runs in the second inning from a timely hit by Shimizu and a sacrifice fly from Go Matsumoto to start. The offense responded in the 4th when Fumikazu Kimura, returning from an injury, hit a three-run HR to tie it. Rookie Sena Tsuge also had a timely hit to make it 4-3. Two more timely hits from Takumi Kuriyama and Kimura gave the team enough runs to hang on. Sho Nakata hit a HR and Hamaya went 5.1 innings, but the bullpen stopped the team in its tracks with the tying run on base in the 6th and 9th innings. Ryosuke Moriwaki and Tatsushi Masuda got key strikeouts with two outs. 

With the Lions winning, it was their 3,000th win in franchise history since 1979, the first season since moving to Tokorozawa and being in the Seibu era. 

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Game 3: Sho Ito vs. Kenta Uehara

Ito could't escape the Fighters bats and was lit up for four runs over 3.1 innings. The Lions allowed at least one run for seven consecutive innings, including a HR from Haruki Nishikawa. With the mop up duty team destroyed by the Fighters bats, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura hit a consolation HR which was his 200th at MetLife Dome.  

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Game 4: Zach Neal vs. Takahiro Shiomi

Ernesto Mejia had three RBIs with two timely hits as well as a smart slide on a double to score a run. Cory Spangenberg was the hero in the top of the 7th inning with the go-ahead run when the game was tied 4-4.  Neal, gave up four runs and couldn't record an out in the sixth, but the game remained tied when Tetsu Miyagawa was able to cover up any further damage. This game snapped an EAgles five game losing streak. 

Mejia also announced his uncle passed away that day during his hero interview, having a "CM" written on his cap.  

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Game 5: Sean Nolin vs. Ryota Ishibashi 

Nolin left after one inning due to shoulder tightness, forcing the bullpen to take majority of the game in relief. When the game was tied 1-1 in the 5th, Fumikazu Kimura was in CF and threw out a runner trying to score. It proved to be vital as the Lions bullpen stranded runners nearly each inning. Sosuke Genda broke the tie with a two-run triple in the bottom of the 7th and earned a modasho for his efforts. it was his first hero interview of the 2020 for the new Lions captain. 

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Game 6: Wataru Matsumoto vs. Ryota Takinaka

Matsumoto went seven innings and Mejia had two key doubles to bring in three runs. It resulted in a sweep of the Eagles as Matsumoto had another promising performance. 

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Orix Buffaloes

For those who have been following on Twitter, I took a recent vacation. From hearing the blunders of two shutouts and Takumi Kuriyama reaching 1,900 career hits, this series was a mess on offense with the pitching being subpar. 

At least it ended on a good note, when the Lions came back from trailing late as Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-run game winning HR. By pitching a scoreless 7th inning, Tetsu Miyagawa earned his first career win. 

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This season has already been over and the series in Osaka already forced the issue that this team isn't good enough. Can only enjoy the good things in these dark times of no offense. 

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