Thursday, January 30, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions camp outlook: Infielder

The Saitama Seibu Lions infield is mostly set, but there are some fresh faces joining the mix for 2020. Here is what lies ahead with camp beginning:


Hotaka Yamakawa: Coming off another season of 40+ home runs, his batting average dipped in the second half leading to a demotion in the lineup. He'll need to hit for average if he wants to be batting cleanup again.

Sosuke Genda: Genda's streak of consecutive games was snapped in 2019, but he still proved to be durable with a minor injury. While his hitting production isn't flashy, it is consistent and enough for an SS to hit his own weight.

Shuta Tonosaki: Tonosaki held off his competition and was the starting 2B for the whole year. Being healthy all season had him cross the 20 HR plateau where he should be a mainstay for 2020.

Ryusei Sato: Sato was the only rookie from the 2018 draft class to make the opening day ichi-gun roster and had the most days on top among the group. He was a solid defensive replacement for Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura at 3B and could be a spell 3B or can fill another position if needed.

Kakeru Yamanobe: Yamanobe came off a disappointing rookie season with only a handful of ichi-gun appearances because his bat was ineffective. He's hoping to crack more ichi-gun games in 2020 with better hitting and more consistent defense. At worst, he can be a replacement player or pinch runner.

Ernesto Mejia: Mejia returns on a low budget contract as the Lions gave him another year. Mejia's bench role will likely continue as a pinch hitter and part-time DH with no chance at starting 1B.

Yuto Morikoshi: The Lions picked up Morikoshi after he was a senryokugai from the Hanshin Tigers. Hatsuhiko Tsuji and Morikoshi were together on the Chunichi Dragons prior to the latter's stint in Kansai. He could be a top replacement player with his versatility on the infield, but shouldn't be an everyday starter.



Okawari-kun: Nakamura will start camp rehabbing an injury, but the Lions won't need to evaluate his form for the time being. He could see more games at DH given his age instead of 3B.

Daichi Mizuguchi: Mizuguchi is on the outside after being a pinch runner and part-time player in the past. At age 31, he could be a senyrokugai candidate if he can't play ichi-gun games.

Kyohei Nagae: Nagae is remembered for his defense, but inability to hit prevents him from more ichi-gun games. If others pass him on the depth chart, it could be a long season for him in ni-gun.

Nien Ting Wu: Wu saw time as a rookie in 2016, but hasn't played an ichi-gun game since 2018. He turns 27 this year and the upside is likely gone. Wu is mostly a depth option as he spent time in ni-gun as an outfielder, but he's also in danger of being a senryokugai.

Manaya Nishikawa: Nishikawa continues to develop in ni-gun being a second-round high school pick in 2017. He could try to reach the ichi-gun for the first time in 2020.

Haruka Yamada: Yamada looked to be a future infield candidate, but he's now on the outside with Sato leaping him on the depth chart. Yamada is in danger of being senryokugai if he can't reach the ichi-gun in 2020.

Ryota Kawano: The new Lions infielder was a draft pick out of high school. He'll get plenty of opportunities at the farm level to develop.

Ryusei Tsunashima: Tsunashima was also a high school draft pick like Nishikawa in his year. He's still a long term project, but time isn't running out yet.



The starting players are all but locked in barring no injuries. The question is who becomes the player to take over 3B regularly when Okawari-kun can't? On paper, Sato could be the projected guy. Depth should be alright, but the farm level has uncertainty with several unproven players.


Other positions:





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Sunday, January 26, 2020

2020 Seibu Lions camp outlook: Pitcher

The Saitama Seibu Lions camp will begin on February 1. The most open position in all areas will belong to the pitchers. Here's a look at each pitcher with the expectations or possibilities ahead:


Tatsuya Imai: The 2016 Koshien champion and first round draft pick got a full workload with 135.1 IP in 2019. Inconsistent, the Lions are hoping he can make the next step to being a possible ace. He's shown flashes at times and even threw a shutout last year.

Kona Takahashi: The Lions 2014 first round pick had the most innings pitched since 2016, but it's unlikely he'll live up to the hype as an ace. Having a 10-win season in 2019, an injury ended his season earlier than usual. Should be a rotation regular.

Tatsushi Masuda: This becomes a critical year for Masuda with 2020 as a contract year. He turned down the Lions multi-year offer to make himself a domestic free agent after this season. Masuda should be the closer on opening day, though he also had a rough 2018.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: The longtime legend and veteran returns home for one final run. This should be a similar season to when Kimiyasu Kudo ended his playing career in 2010. Could be a spot starter or even pinch hitter if he's in good condition.

Katsunori Hirai: Hirai was the most overworked pitcher setting a Pacific League record in relief innings and games appeared. He wore down as the season ended, but should be the setup man entering 2020. An argument can be made he was the glue and pitching MVP of 2019.

Tetsu Miyagawa: The first round pick of 2019 already has expectations to be at the ichi-gun immediately given he's a shakaijin. Miyagawa has experience in the bullpen and as a starter, so the Lions can use that flexibility to their advantage. Personally think he'll begin 2020 in relief given the thin depth.

Wataru Matsumoto: Matsumoto had a decent rookie year given all things considered. The 2020 season will be a year of wanting progress in making the next step. He still has plenty of upside and potential to be an ace.

Hiromasa Saito: The 2017 first round draft pick has been a disappointment, only appearing as a spot starter or eating a few relief innings. If nothing happens in 2020, he'll have the trajectory of being a bust. It would be best if he can earn his way into the bullpen.

Ryuya Ogawa: A situational left-handed pitcher, Ogawa was effective with inherited runners, though it made his ERA look deceiving. Should see plenty of time in the bullpen.

Ryosuke Moriwaki: Moriwaki earned some ichi-gun games in the first half of 2019, but his control faded and is most remembered for hitting batters, starting a fight with Orix as a result. He'll compete for a spot in the bullpen.

Shota Hamaya: Hamaya is one of three rookies in A-camp and it appears the ichi-gun staff wants to get a closer look at the Lions second-round draft pick. If everything goes right, his left-handed pitching could be a part of the bullpen.

Zach Neal: Neal returns and signed a two-year contract before he left Japan last fall. He carried the rotation in the second half en route to the Lions winning their second straight Pacific League pennant. While it's unlikely he has an undefeated season like his stretch from June, he will be the team's opening day starter.

Kaito Awatsu: Awatsu earned a mop up duty ichi-gun appearance during interleague play last year as a rookie. Modeling his pitching style after Tetsuya Shiozaki, he hopes to earn a bullpen role somewhere.

Sho Ito: Ito saw almost no ichi-gun time in 2019 after a decent 2018. He could be a spot starter or reliever depending on what the team wants.

Kaito Yoza: Yoza is the biggest mystery of the Lions pitchers. A submariner drafted in 2017, an injury has sidelined majority of his NPB career and he spent 2019 under an ikusei contract. Yoza played his first game in ni-gun late last year on the road to recovery. With this invite, he could be part of the bullpen.

Reed Garrett: Garrett was the final import signing by the Lions in the offseason and he'll have to compete for a bullpen role. Not only will he have to worry about relievers, but also Sean Nolin or Cory Spangenberg because of the foreigner rule. He was once a Rule 5 draft pick of the Detroit Tigers before he returned to the Texas Rangers later in the season.

Keisuke Honda: Honda had a decent 2019 as a back end starter. He'll need to do more if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation.

Sean Nolin: Nolin bounced around multiple minor league organizations and indy ball in the last two years coming off Tommy John surgery and hasn't appeared in MLB since 2015. He could be a starter or reliever depending on what the team wants, but it's likely they'll have him start give he's a lefty.

Tsubasa Kokuba: Kokuba ended 2019 at the ichi-gun and got a share of meaningful innings in middle relief. It's possible he could use that momentum towards 2020 in the bullpen.

Makoto Aiuchi: Aiuchi nearly had his first career win if it weren't for the relief pitching giving up some runs. He enters 2020 on the outside seeking a spot starter role. Could be in danger of being cut after the year if he can't crack the ichi-gun.

Kaima Taira: Taira had a decent second-half as a reliever for the Lions when Hirai was feeling fatigue. He's one of the hardest throwers on the team and hopes to expand his role at the ichi-gun level in the bullpen. In the long term, he could be a closer after Masuda leaves.



Ken Togame: Togame didn't walk in free agency and took the Lions offer to stay around for three more years through the 2022 season. Coming off a mediocre 2019, he bucked his trend of having a good year followed by a bad year and vice versa. He should be part of the opening day rotation.

Yutaro Watanabe: A high school draft pick in 2018, Watanabe still has time to grow, but would love to earn a snippet at the ichi-gun with good pitching.

Shogo Noda: Noda saw his workload decrease in 2019 for what was a down year. He starts 2020 on the outside, but should be a reliever seeing ichi-gun time as depth as the Lions still need left-handed bullpen pitchers.

Tetsuya Utsumi: Utsumi is one of the most accomplished Lions pitchers based on resume, but he failed to play an ichi-gun game in 2019 due to injuries and setbacks. He'll be starting 2020 rehabbing and hopes to be a starter when healthy. So far, this compensatory selection hasn't worked out.

Daiki Enokida: Enokida couldn't repeat his 2018 success last year, but he could be a useful spot starter in a pinch. He's looking to be a regular in the Lions rotation.

Yasuo Sano: Sano took a lot of innings last year when the Lions were trailing or in mop up duty. He could a spot starter if necessary.

Ichiro Tamura: Tamura has seen minimal ichi-gun time in the last two years while mostly in mop up duty. This could be a make or break season for him as a repeat year may result in being cut (senryokugai) after it.

Hiroki Inoue: The Lions sixth-round draft pick will spend 2020 developing for the long term. Drafted out of high school, Inoue has the raw tools to be a starting pitcher, but it will take time.

Shunta Nakatsuka: Nakatsuka has been a disappointment, playing a combined three ichi-gun games over the last three years with zero in 2019. A hard thrower, Nakatsuka lacks control to take his game to the next level. He's in danger of being cut after the season if things don't improve.

Towa Uema: Uema was the Lions 7th round draft pick out of Indy ball, only one year removed from high school. The Lions like his fastball and feel he can be an intriguing long term project.

Koki Fujita: Fujita has been on the outside ever since he joined the Lions in 2015. Sidelined by an injury to begin his career, he has stayed in ni-gun the entire time. Time could be running out if he doesn't make an impact in 2020.

Koki Matsuoka: Like the other rookies in the class, Matsuoka has hope for the future being a 19-year old out of Indy ball. Earning a brief ichi-gun stint would be a victory.

Shota Takekuma: Once a bullpen regular, Takekuma has come off two bad seasons in a row where he only had use as a spot starter. If things don't get better, he's on pace for a seryokugai at the end of the year.



Toshihiro Idei: The Lions ikusei draft pick from last fall will hope to make an impression on the staff, eventually wanting to earn a 70-man roster spot.

Tomomi Takahashi: Takahashi was once an all-star and former closer, but is currently in his second year under an ikusei contract looking to regain his form. He hasn't pitched well since parts of 2015. 

Jiyu Okubo: The tall and lanky pitcher saw only two ni-gun games from 2019 and needs more time to develop. The 2020 season should be a similar year for his growth.

Aoi Tono: Tono appeared in eight ni-gun games for 2019. Unlike Okubo, he's out of college and has less time on his side to do something.



Shinsaburo Tawata: The 2019 Opening Day starter isn't in proper condition. With his inability to throw and injury taking a toll, the Lions did not reach a contractual agreement during the normal negotiations period. He's currently under club control, but now in a waiting game for his health to return to normal.



The Lions are far from loaded when it comes to pitchers, but there is potential for some of these guys to get better. They drafted plenty of options in recent years. It will be a matter of who can rise up and help fill the voids and lack of an ace that this team hasn't truly had since Yusei Kikuchi.


Other positions:





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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Lions want to start a Leolution for 2020

The Saitama Seibu Lions announced earlier this week their new slogan for 2020: Leolution. In a very direct point, this new line represents the 70th anniversary in franchise history.

This is the first time in the Hatsuhiko Tsuji era where the Lions do not use "Catch" in their slogan with Catch the All, Catch the Flag and Catch the Glory happening from 2017-2019.

Tsuji is hoping for a change in pitching, where the team ERA was the highest in NPB, though the offense was also at the top of the league. "Leo" is the name of the primary Lions mascot while Lina is the female one. Of course when pronouncing Leo in Japanese, it can be spelled as れお with an "Reo" sound to it, making the Leolution title fit. The "L" and "R" sounds are merged, using the front of your tongue when saying it, rather than the back when traditionally saying "R" in English.

In 1950, the Nishitetsu Clippers and the NPB we know today were formed. After one season, the Clippers were merged with the Nishi-Nippon Pirates to form the Nishitetsu Lions, making 2020 the 70th season with Lions as the mascot.

With some glory years in Fukuoka, the Black Mist scandal took place in the 1960s, which crippled the team where it took years to recover from. Eventually, the team had no identity in the 1970s with the name changes to Taiheyo Club Lions and Crown Lighter Lions until Seibu took the team and moved them to present-day Tokorozawa in 1979.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Three Lions rookies to participate in A-camp

The Saitama Seibu Lions training camp begins on February 1, where all positions and coach will report on the same day. There are two camps to take place, with A-camp being for mostly ichi-gun players and B-camp for ni-gun.

Here are the full lists for both camps:

* Indicates rookie

# Indicates new import

A-Camp (Nichinan, Miyazaki): February 1-19

Rest days will be on 2/5, 2/10 and 2/15.

Pitchers (21): Tatsuya Imai, Kona Takahashi, Tatsushi Masuda, Tetsu Miyagawa*, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wataru Matsumoto, Hiromasa Saito, Shota Hayama*, Katsunori Hirai, Kaito Awatsu, Ryosuke Moriwaki, Ryuya Ogawa, Reed Garrett#, Sho Ito, Kaito Yoza, Keisuke Honda, Sean Nolin#, Zach Neal, Tsubasa Kokuba, Makoto Aiuchi, Kaima Taira

Infielders (7): Hotaka Yamakawa, Kakeru Yamanobe, Shuta Tonosaki, Sosuke Genda, Ryusei Sato, Yuto Morikoshi, Ernesto Mejia

Outfielders (7): Takumi Kuriyama, Yuji Kaneko, Fumikazu Kimura, Cory Spangenberg#, Shohei Suzuki, "Aito" Takeda, Seiji Kawagoe

Catchers: (4): Tomoya Mori, Hitoto Komazuki, Masato Saito, Sena Tsuge*

When ichi-gun camp ends on 2/19, all players will be sent to B-camp to conclude spring training.


B-Camp (Haruno, Kochi): February 1 - March 8

Rest days will be 2/5, 2/10, 2/15, 2/20, 2/25, 3/1, 3/6

The team will occupy a Tennis facility from  2/21-2/23

Pitchers (17): Ken Togame, Yutaro Watanabe, Shogo Noda, Tetsuya Utsumi, Daiki Enokida, Yasuo Sano, Ichiro Tamura, Hiroki Inoue*, Koki Matsuoka*, Shota Takekuma, Shunta Nakatsuka, Towa Uema*, Koki Fujita, Toshihiro Idei*, Tomomi Takahashi, Aoi Tono, Jiyu Okubo

Catchers (3): Shoya Makino, Masatoshi Okada, Daichi Nakaguma

Infielders (8): Daichi Mizuguchi, Kyohei Nagae, Nien Ting Wu, Manaya Nishikawa, Haruka Yamada, Ryota Kawano*, Takeya Nakamura, Ryusei Tsunashima

Outfielders (4): Masato Kumashiro, Daisuke Togawa, Junichiro Kishi*, Wataru Takagi

Utsumi and Nakamura are both rehabbing injuries. 


Most of these lists are chalk, but there are a few surprises that are worth mentioning besides the rookies. A few B-camp players listed (Togame and Okada) likely don't need an evaluation and it gives Hatsuhiko Tsuji as well as the rest of the ichi-gun staff a closer look at a few individuals. Here's the few that stand out:

Kawagoe: A converted pitcher, this could be his last chance at relevance given he has yet to play an ichi-gun game. This is his second year at being an outfielder.

Tsuge: This decision among the rookies is more interesting given he was a shakaijin when drafted. You have to wonder if he can shoot up the depth chart in a short span given this opportunity. He could bump out Komazuki if he can hit.

Morikoshi: The recent domestic free agent signing from the Hanshin Tigers will be reunited with Tsuji, who was once his coach with the Chunichi Dragons. An A-camp emphasis tells that they have a plan for him, likely on the bench. Don't be surprised if he's a defensive substitute in late game situations.

Yoza: Coming off an injury and rehabbing, Yoza couldn't participate in a single game for his rookie year of 2018. He was under an ikusei contract for the entire 2019 season and made his first appearance in ni-gun late in the year. A submarine pitcher, Yoza is the most unique of the bunch and could try to find a bullpen role if he impresses the staff.


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Monday, January 20, 2020

NPB Stadium Review: Nagoya Dome

 Believe it or not, my first trip to Japan was partially centered around visiting Nagoya of all places given the Saitama Seibu Lions don't go there every season. As a result, I got to view Nagoya Dome for three games as part of an interleague road trip.

Here is my review of the second NPB ballpark I've seen:


The Chunichi Dragons have been around since 1936 and majority of their history taking place at Nagoya Stadium, which was outdoors. It wasn't until 1997 when Nagoya Dome opened up and has been home home the Dragons ever since.


Pros and Cons: 

Pro: The scoreboard is detailed 

Nagoya Dome expanded their scoreboard to make a longer stream across the outfield. If you're seated behind home plate, you can find all the statistics on a player for both the pitcher and hitter. Best yet, the Dragons Oendan lyrics are also listed on the right side for anyone to sing along to.  

Con: The walkways are narrow

In the games I attended, it was well-below capacity leaving plenty of room for people traffic. A sold out game could lead to long concession lines or an inability to take a lap around. 

Pro: An exhibit of memorabilia exists on the top floor 

A Dragons museum is free to walk into once you have a game ticket. While explanations are in Japanese, it doesn't hurt to see things from the 1954 and 2007 Japan Series besides other great moments in team history.  

Con: The players are farther from the action

The high OF walls in Nagoya Dome make the ballpark a notorious pitcher's park traditionally. For the fans, this view is elevated and somewhat of a distance from what's happening. The nets also extend from foul pole to foul pole and while it doesn't obstruct the view, it can feel non-traditional to what a stateside fan is used to. 

Pro: Food is not price-gouging

Nagoya Dome has specialties from the Tokai region where majority of food available is under ¥900. A few snacks and other dessert items are as low as ¥300. Getting food at a reasonable price is fair compared to the usual markup you'd see in North America.  

Con: The surroundings are mostly dull

The Nagoya Dome entrance is an elevated platform where the cars and other things are beneath it. A few restaurants are there besides vending machines, but there's nothing to see minus a mascot presentation stage. Its location is in a suburb of Nagoya and there is a mall if you leave the platform, but nothing in the vicinity is exciting compared to other parks.

Pro/Con: Drink holders are placed in a seat area that prevent spilling, but it's short

The cup holder is below the seat and behind your calves locked in, so there's a small chance you'd ended up kicking it or moving the drink on accident. However, this is not a good situation if you're a taller person trying to bend down to get your drink. It's an advantage for the vertically challenged and the chances of a mess are slimmer, but depending on your height, you might complain.

Con: Leg space from the seating is minimal

The seats in the upper deck are tight packed if you end up purchasing a ticket there. This doesn't help anyone who is 6-foot tall. The lower bowl has more room, but it could be a squeeze depending on who you are.

Pro: The foul pole goes all the way to the roof

With a tall foul pole, there's no disputing if there is a foul or fair ball when determining a home run. While the roof itself is different, the foul pole going that high is likely the most unique piece of construction I've seen among ballparks.

Con: The seats are numbered individually rather than by row

Finding your seat might be a hassle because each one is numbered for every section. You'll find the gate to go to, but you may not know exactly what row you're sitting in when a triple digit number is shown on your ticket. Guest service people nearby should help no problem, let alone you can follow the signs, but it is an inconvenience for a few moments looking for your assigned seat than a normal row/seat layout.

Pro/Con: Tourism is mostly gone

Like in MetLife Dome, Nagoya doesn't draw much tourism compared to other cities, even domestically. By going to a Dragons game, you're getting an authentic experience with locals, but the services in English may not be available. If you like convenience, it may not be good for you. However, being surrounded by locals is always a plus in my book and the Dragons experience showed it.



Selection is very solid and has plenty of Nagoya ties from chicken wings to something miso-katsu related. There's good emphasis on regional food if you make the lap around and as said before, it's not price gouging. While the full meals might be pricey, the basic snacks show here are all reasonable. In one case, I got two dorayaki cakes for ¥300.


Fan Atmosphere: 

The Dragons fanbase in the three-games I was at felt very apathetic given how the team was doing. Crowd was half empty compared to stadium capacity, but those who stayed made the usual noise. Their Oendan songs have a traditional sound to it while also having a few updates, but it's not over the top.

Unfortunately this is a sign things in Japan can be fair weather to winning like anywhere else. Depending on some opponents, the visitors can make their presence known, especially when Chunichi isn't doing so well.



Fans have multiple paths they can take by train to Nagoya Dome. The circular Meijo Line on the Nagoya Municipal Subway is the most direct path which takes you through a decorated Nagoya Dome-mae Yada Station. It may be a rush if you're with others, but stopping by to see a lot of posters including a picture of every player is a nice touch. It's a 8-10 minute walk with a roof over your head until you reach the elevated platform towards the dome. 

There are plenty of decorations for the team as you can see here. Even Moeyo Dragons is playing as you walk outside in the vicinity of the dome. If you have a JR Rail pass, you can take the Chuo Main line to Ozone Station and walk in the streets for a short walk until you reach the stairs to go up. Another option is by bus using the Yutorito Line which can take you to both Ozone and Nagoya Dome-Mae Yada Station.  


An AEON Mall is not far from Nagoya Dome and is a stone's throw away. However, Nagoya is an area of Japan with minimal tourism as said before. This is a city with plenty of food ad culture outside of the Dome surroundings worth seeing.

It's worth going out of your way to Otobashi Station to the old Nagoya Stadium, given that's where Mr. Baseball was filmed and it serves today as a farm stadium/training facility for the team. Nagoya Castle is the main tourist attraction to see and the crowds won't be huge. Sakae would be the best area for night life after the an evening game. To those who really want to go out of the way, Ichiro Suzuki's hometown of Toyoyama and high school of Akiodai Meiden are in the area.

From Tebasaki, Tenmusu, Miso Nokomi Udon, Nagoya Chicken, Red Miso, Ogura Toast, Kishimen, Hitsumabushi and specifically Miso Katsu, it's worth exploring for the food in Nagoya and with minimal crowds, there is no intimidating atmosphere compared to Tokyo.


Overall: B

Despite being indoors and baseball being designed for the outdoors, Nagoya Dome is a solid venue and the access to the area isn't one-sided. It's clean, simple and well-organized with a staff making it easy to get around, even if there could be a language barrier. As a venue, the Dome is impressive for events and I'm sure even better for concerts as it doesn't look like something built in the 90s.

Nagoya is not the place for normal tourism both internationally and domestically, but it can be a hidden gem if you're into doing things outside the box. The people who hosted me were in utter shock that myself, coming as a stateside foreigner to Nagoya to watch baseball and be a tourist.


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Thursday, January 9, 2020

NPB to MLB: A full list of Japanese-born players in the Major Leagues

The Cincinnati Reds signed Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million contract on Monday. As a result, Akiyama will be the first Japanese-born player in franchise history as they were the only team in MLB without one.

Nikkan Sports put a full list of every Japanese-born player to appear in MLB for each team. One strict rule is only including MLB (ichi-gun) on their resume, as no minor leaguers (ni-gun) are included. For reference sake, I've translated the whole thing just to see where players have gone.

Keep in mind, some players will be listed more than once as they appeared for several MLB teams. As a bonus, I highlighted the most productive player for that MLB team, factoring only his stats with that respective club.

# - Player had no NPB experience

American League:


Boston Red Sox (7): 

Daisuke Matsuzaka (2007-2012), Takashi Saito (2009), Hideki Okajima (2007-2011), Tomokazu Ohka (1999-2001), Hideo Nomo (2001), Koji Uehara (2013-2016), Junichi Tazawa (2009-2016)#
Uehara in four seasons: (14-13), 226 IP, 2.19 ERA, 192 ERA+, 79 SV, 2013 ALCS MVP, 2014 All-Star, Lowest WHIP in 2013 (.565), 230 games, Won World Series (2013), 7.4 WAR


New York Yankees (7): 

Hideki Irabu (1997-1999), Hideki Matsui (2003-2009), Ichiro Suzuki (2012-2014), Kei Igawa (2007-2008), Hiroki Kuroda (2012-2014), Ryota Igarashi (2012), Masahiro Tanaka (2014-Present)

Matsui in seven seasons: .292/.370/.482 in 916 games. 123 OPS+, 2003-2004 All-star, 2009 World Series MVP, 20.4 WAR

Tanaka could pass Matsui with more time. 


Toronto Blue Jays (5): 

Tomokazu Ohka (2007), Ryota Igarashi (2012), Nori Aoki (2017), Munenori Kawasaki (2013-2015), Shun Yamaguchi (2020-present)

Kawasaki in three seasons: .242/.326/.301 in 201 games, 77 OPS+, 2.2 WAR

Baltimore Orioles (1): 

Koji Uehara (2009-2011)

Uehara in three seasons: (4-7), 3.03 ERA, 157.2 IP, 13 SV, 144 ERA+, 4.6 WAR

Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays: 

Hideo Nomo (2005), Hideki Matsui (2012), Akinori Iwamura (2007-2009), Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (2020-present)**

**Expected to play

Iwamura in three seasons: .281/.354/.393 in 344 games. 98 OPS+, 6.6 WAR


Detroit Tigers (2): 

Masao Kida (1999-2000), Hideo Nomo (2000)

Nomo in one season: (8-12), 4.74 ERA, 99 ERA+ in 32 games, 190 IP, 2.6 WAR

Chicago White Sox (3):

Tadahito Iguchi (2005-2007), Shingo Takatsu (2004-2005), Kosuke Fukudome (2012)

Iguchi in three seasons: .273/.346/.419, 97 OPS+ in 363 games, 5.3 WAR. Won World Series (2005)

Minnesota Twins (2):

Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2011-2012), Kenta Maeda (2020-Present)

Nishioka in two seasons: .215/.267/.236, 41 OPS+  in 71 games, -2.3 WAR. 

Cleveland Indians (6):

Tomokazu Ohka (2009), Kazuhito Tadano (2004-2005)#, Kosuke Fukudome (2011), Masahide Kobayashi (2008-2009), Toru Murata (2015)

Tadano in two seasons: (1-1), 4.47 ERA, 98 ERA+ in 54.1 IP, 15 games, 0.2 WAR. 

Kansas City Royals (4):

Hideo Nomo (2008), Mac Suzuki (1999-2001, 2002)#, Yasuhiko Yabuta (2008-2009), Nori Aoki (2014)

Suzuki in four seasons: (12-20), 4.96 ERA, 101 ERA+ in 333.2 IP, 76 games, 2.5 WAR

Seattle Mariners (11):

Mac Suzuki (1996, 1998-1999)#, Shigetoshi Hasegawa (2002-2005), Masao Kida (2004-2005), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000-2003), Ichiro Suzuki (2001-2012, 2018-2019), Kenji Johjima (2006-2009), Nori Aoki (2016), Munenori Kawasaki (2012), Hisashi Iwakuma (2012-2017), Yusei Kikuchi (2019-Present), Yoshihisa Hirano (2020-present)

Ichiro in 14 seasons: .321/.365/.416, 113 OPS+ in 1,861 games, 3,089 career hits, 2001 AL MVP, 2001 Rookie of the Year, 2001-2010 Gold Glove, Silver Slugger (2001, 2007, 2009), Batting champion (2001, 2004), Most hits in a single season (262 in 2004), Stolen Base champion (56 in 2001), 56.3 WAR


Oakland Athletics (4):

Hideki Matsui (2011), Keiichi Yabu (2005), Akinori Iwamura (2010), Hideki Okajima (2013)

Matsui in one season: .251/.321/.375, 93 OPS+, 0.5 WAR in 141 games

Los Angeles Angels (5): 

Shigetoshi Hasegawa (1997-2001), Hideki Matsui (2010), Junichi Tazawa (2018)#, Hisanori Takahashi (2011-2012), Shohei Ohtani (2018-Present)

Hasegawa in five seasons: (30-27), 3.85 ERA, 124 ERA+ in 442.1 IP, 287 games, 6.7 WAR

Ohtani will likely pass this distinction once he has more years in MLB. 

Texas Rangers (7): 

Yu Darvish (2012-2017), Hideki Irabu (2002), Akinori Otsuka (2006-2007), Kazuo Fukumori (2008), Koji Uehara (2011-2012), Yoshinori Tateyama (2011-2012), Kyuji Fujikawa (2015)

Darvish in five seasons: (52-39), 3.42 ERA, 127 ERA+, 782.2 IP, 122 games, 18.3 WAR, 4x All-Star (2012-2014, 2017)

Houston Astros (2):

Kazuo Matsui (2008-2010), Nori Aoki (2017)

Matsui in three seasons: .259/.315/.370, 83 OPS+ in 255 games, 0.9 WAR


National League

New York Mets (13):

Hideo Nomo (1998), Takashi Kashiwada (1997), Masato Yoshii (1998-1999), Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2001, 2003), Satoru Komiyama (2002), Kazuhisa Ishii (2005), Kazuo Matsui (2004-2006), Shingo Takatsu (2005), Daisuke Matsuzaka (2013-2014), Ken Takahashi (2009), Hisanori Takahashi (2010), Ryota Igarashi (2010-2011), Nori Aoki (2017)

Yoshii in two seasons: (18-16), 4.17 ERA, 104 ERA+, 345.2 IP in 60 games, 4.5 WAR

Philadelphia Phillies (2): 

So Taguchi (2008), Tadahito Iguchi (2007-2008)

Iguchi in two seasons: .303/.358/.441, 103 OPS+ in 49 games, 1.0 WAR, Won World Series ring in 2008, but appeared in no postseason games

Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (3): 

Hideki Irabu (2000-2001), Masato Yoshii (2001-2002), Tomokazu Ohka (2001-2005)

Ohka in five seasons: (31-34), 3.71 ERA, 118 ERA+ in 585 IP, 101 games, 9.3 WAR

Miami Marlins (2):

Ichiro Suzuki (2015-2017), Junichi Tazawa (2017-2018)#

Ichiro in three seasons: .256/.315/.325, 78 OPS+ in 432 games, 0.3 WAR

Atlanta Braves (2):

Kenshin Kawakami (2009-2010), Takashi Saito (2010)

Kawakami in two seasons: (8-22), 4.32 ERA, 94 ERA+ in 243.2 IP, 50 games, 1.2 WAR


Chicago Cubs (8):

Kosuke Fukudome (2008-2011), So Taguchi (2009), Yu Darvish (2018-present), Koji Uehara (2017), Hisanori Takahashi (2013), Munenori Kawasaki (2016), Kyuji Fujikawa (2013-2014), Tsuyoshi Wada (2014-2015)

Fukudome in four seasons: .262/.369/.403, 102 OPS+ in 513 games, 5.1 WAR, 2008 All-Star

Pittsburgh Pirates (3):

Masumi Kuwata (2007), Akinori Iwamura (2010), Hisanori Takahashi (2012)

Iwamura in one season: .182/.292/.267, 54 OPS+ in 54 games, -1.6 WAR

St. Louis Cardinals (1):

So Taguchi (2002-2007)

Taguchi in six seasons: .283/.336/.391, 89 OPS+ in 578 games, 2.5 WAR, World Series champion (2006)

Cincinnati Reds (1):

Shogo Akiyama (2020-Present)

Milwaukee Brewers (6): 

Hideo Nomo (1999), Mac Suzuki (2001)#, Tomokazu Ohka (2005-2006), Takahito Nomura (2002), Takashi Saito (2011), Nori Aoki (2012-2013)

Aoki in two seasons: .287/.355/.399, 104 ERA+ in 306 games, 6.1 WAR


Los Angeles Dodgers (8):

Hideo Nomo (1995-1998, 2002-2004), Masao Kida (2003-2004), Kazuhisa Ishii (2002-2004), Norihiro Nakamura (2005), Takashi Saito (2006-2008), Hiroki Kuroda (2008-2011), Yu Darvish (2017), Kenta Maeda (2016-2019)

Nomo in seven seasons: (81-66), 3.74 ERA, 104 ERA+ in 1,217.2 IP, 191 games, 15.2 WAR, Rookie of the Year (1995), No-hitter (1996), All-star (1995), Strikeout leader (1995)

San Francisco Giants (5):

Masanori Murakami (1964-1965), Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2002), Keiichi Yabu (2008), Nori Aoki (2015), Kensuke Tanaka (2013)

Murakami in two seasons: 3.43 ERA, 106 ERA+, 9 SV in 89.1 IP, 54 games, 1.6 WAR, First Japanese-born player to play in MLB

Colorado Rockies (3):

Mac Suzuki (2001)#, Kazuo Matsui (2006-2007), Masato Yoshii (2000)

Matsui in two seasons: .300/.353/.426, 95 OPS+ in 136 games, 3.9 WAR

San Diego Padres (3):

Akinori Otsuka (2004-2005), Tadahito Iguchi (2008), Kazuhisa Makita (2018)

Otsuka in two seasons: (9-10), 2.57 ERA, 151 ERA+ in 140 IP, 139 games, 3.3 WAR

Arizona Diamondbacks (2): 

Takashi Saito (2012), Yoshihisa Hirano (2018-2019)

Hirano in two seasons: (9-8), 3.47 ERA, 125 ERA+ in 119.1 IP, 137 games, 1.0 WAR


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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Akiyama enters a crowded situation in Cincinnati

Shogo Akiyama was officially introduced by the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday morning in a press conference. In the interview, Akiyama revealed he liked the challenge of being in a new atmosphere while also being the first Japanese-born player in Reds history.

Dick Williams, president of baseball operations for the Reds, revealed they were the first team to make an offer to Akiyama when he was available. Akiyama himself made the trip to San Diego for the winter meetings to talk with several MLB teams face to face, a common working practice in Japan.

This aggressive offer combined with the opportunity made perfect sense for all parties involved. The Reds do not have an established outfield while having a short term need in centerfield. Akiyama will provide a bridge or stop-gap as a short term solution while the Reds can determine which prospects are worth keeping for the long run.

Currently, the Reds have four touted outfielders with two of them as highly touted who are thought to be part of the long-term plans, but Akiyama could put a dent into someone's path. They already designated Nick Martini for assignment to make room for him on the 40-man roster.

Phillip Ervin, 27, was a first-round draft pick by the Reds (27th overall) in 2013 and made his MLB (ichi-gun) debut in 2017. Nick Senzel, 24, was the second overall draft pick in 2016 and saw his first ichi-gun action last year until a torn labrum ended his season.

Aristides Aquino, 25, was a significant international free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic who showed flashes in 2019 and also made his ichi-gun debut in 2018. Lastly, Jesse Winkler, 26, was a compensatory first round pick (49th overall) in 2012 who has also shown promise but had injuries.

On paper, the addition of Akiyama gives uncertainty on who will play everyday. They can platoon easily with Akiyama having extreme splits against right-handed pitching and he himself said he is fine with any position that the Reds need him.

In his press conference, Akiyama admitted he isn't a power hitter, but focuses on getting on base and hitting for average to help the team, something he did in 2015 where he set a single-season NPB record for hits (216) and nearly reached a record hitting streak in consecutive games. He said his always inspired to be like Ichiro Suzuki.

Nothing will be guaranteed until he steps on the field. as ZiPS projects. Great American Ballpark is hitter-friendly and it's possible he could have more power if the wind goes his way. Defensively, his range will likely decline given his age and how he won't be the same like with the Saitama Seibu Lions.

In a best-case scenario, Akiyama becomes an everyday starting outfielder. On the flip side, he could be a situational hitter if others leap him on the depth chart, but he will be a bridge to the future outfielders who are already on the team.

With the Reds already having the aforementioned distinction of no Japanese-born player in their history, we learned about their full approach when trying to sign Shohei Ohtani in 2017. Even with the underdog odds, their aggressive tactics from back then paid off two years later for Akiyama.

Normally, the Reds are a small market team who has had their share of struggles in a division containing the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and an upstart Milwaukee Brewers group. They don't sign high-profile free agents, which led to Akiyama's signing being a welcome addition for fans, the front office and the media. They gave his signing a larger play, compared to how the Toronto Blue Jays made a minimal announcement for Shun Yamaguchi.

Earlier this offseason, they signed Wade Miley and Mike Moustakas when they're in a transition on wanting to contend. Last year, they traded prospects in hopes to win in 2019, only to come up short as a fourth place team. Team success could very well hinge on Akiyama's production if it can get them to compete in a tough division.

If anything, the Japanese community in Cincinnati has already welcomed him and there could be a boost in some tourism to south Ohio. Good luck, Shogo.


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