Final Preseason Preview 2015

2015logoEarlier in the spring I took time to look at the Tigers’ players in a four-part series. Click on one of the links here to see them:

Infielders

Outfielders

Starting Pitchers

Relief Pitchers

Today we take one last look at the team as we head into the regular season. What are the team’s glaring weaknesses? What do we have to look forward to? Who’s going to have a good year? Who’s in danger of regressing or even not making the roster? Most importantly, can the Tigers win the Central League pennant? Fasten your seat belts, folks. The 2015 season is upon us!

Projected Starting Lineup/Batting Order:

 

1) Takashi Toritani (SS)

2) Hiroki Uemoto (2B)

3) Tsuyoshi Nishioka (3B)

4) Mauro Gomez (1B)

5) Matt Murton (LF)

6) Kosuke Fukudome (RF)

7) Ryutaro Umeno (C)

8) Yamato (CF)

9) Randy Messenger, etc. (P)

Osaka Castle given a 3D Mapping makeover.

Osaka Castle given a 3D Mapping makeover.

Hitters

Some of the hitters have looked good this spring, others have not. As a team they are hitting .251 where last season they combined for a .264 average. Keep in mind this spring they are using a designated hitter for all games, so the pitchers’ low average is not factored into the first number. This means they are hitting below last year’s level. At this point, Toritani, Uemoto, Fukudome and Murton are hitting extremely well, and Umeno is doing better than he did last season. On the other hand, Nishioka and Yamato are really struggling to make good connection and really need to step up their games before the regular season starts. Gomez has seen limited action so far, so it is harder to make an assessment of where he is at. However, he has made some good contact with the ball in two of the last three games the team has played. Let’s hope yesterday’s Golden Sombrero is an aberration.

It appears the batting order is more or less fixed for the time being, but Fukudome and Nishioka may be swapped out for one another depending on their performances and the opposing team’s pitcher. Manager Wada says he wants to see the team run more this season, and the order seems to reflect this on first glance. For one, they are not going with the Yamato bunt too high in the lineup, and probably will not make him sacrifice bunt too often, given that the pitcher will be hitting behind him. Secondly, they have players with decent speed interspersed throughout the lineup (1, 2, 3, 8 as I have it), which could lead to more stolen base attempts. Though Wada set the bar at 30 SB for Toritani, Uemoto and Yamato, I doubt any of those will reach that plateau. I’d like to see Uemoto get at least 25, Yamato 20 and Toritani 15, though. Murton says he’s up for 10, and some of their bench players (Egoshi, Tagami, etc.) might round the total up to 80 or 90. In any case, last year’s 55 is a terrible total and needs serious improvement.

On the whole the hitters have good eyes, and strike out at a fairly low rate while taking free passes quite often. All we can hope for here is that Gomez lays off the low and outside pitches a little more, and turns some of those strikeouts into walks. His batting average might take a little dip, but his on-base percentage could improve in 2015. Young catcher Umeno also could stand to be a little more disciplined at the plate, as he struck out 78 times versus just 10 walks (and 49 hits).

I expect the team’s leaders in each category will remain the same as last season, perhaps something like this:

AVG: Murton .331

HR: Gomez 33

BB: Toritani 92

RBI: Gomez 113

SB: Uemoto 27

R: Toritani 102

The Tigers cheering squad hanging out at Tsutenkaku in Osaka.

The Tigers cheering squad hanging out at Tsutenkaku in Osaka.

Pitchers

Most of the starters are locked in and have had great springs. Despite the hiccup in Friday’s exhibition game, Messenger has been outstanding. Were it not for the smile that is always on his face you might think he was getting a little bored with the other teams’ hitters. Minoru Iwata, Shintaro Fujinami and Atsushi Nohmi look about the same as last season, though Iwata’s numbers are a little higher. I don’t see any of these guys regressing from last year. In fact, I expect an even better season out of Fujinami, better run support for Iwata, a return to normal for Nohmi and better luck for Messenger. The other two spots in the rotation look to belong to Suguru Iwazaki and Akira Iwamoto for now, but the former may not make his debut until mid-April according to some sources. Perhaps Yuta Iwasada or Daiki Enokida will fill that role for a couple of turns, then become a long reliever the rest of the way.

The relief squad has a combination of experience and youth. Seung-hwan Oh is looking as good as ever in the closing position and could put up even better numbers than last year. Many eyes are on youngster Ryoma Matsuda to be the main set-up man, with veterans Shinobu Fukuhara and Yuya Andoh getting more rest and perhaps alternating in the seventh inning. Other long, mid- and situational relievers may include Enokida, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki, Kentaro Kuwahara, and Hiroya Shimamoto.

The relievers were a huge question mark heading into spring training, and still have not completely quelled that belief, but many enticing options have come up. The emergences of Iwamoto and Shimamoto, the steadiness of Kuwahara so far and Matsuda’s health mean that they are not the same bullpen they were last year. We do not yet know how they will fare in the regular season when the stakes are higher, but they have done well so far this spring.

Fringe players like Kazuya Takamiya, Kazuhito Futagami, Naoto Tsuru, Kazuya Tsutsui, Kazuyuki Kaneda and Ryo Watanabe may start the year in the Western League but remain available for call-up. Also, with a little more rehab and fine-tuning, first-round pick Yuya Yokoyama may get a call up to the parent club early in the year, either as a spot starter or a long reliever.

Despite Messenger’s dominance last season, I expect a slight shift in team leaders this campaign. Perhaps the end lines will look something like this:

Wins: Fujinami 15

ERA: Messenger 2.38

Strikeouts: Fujinami 201

Holds: Matsuda 33

Saves: Oh 41

Overall Prognosis

I still do not claim to know much about the other teams out there, or even about this club, but I predict the race for the Central League pennant will be a tight one between the Hiroshima Carp and our boys. Unfortunately, the realist in me sees the Carp as a stronger team that got a little unlucky last year. They also have a bit more young talent than our team, and should win the league by 2.5 games. The Giants, old as they are getting, will find a way to stay in the “A class” but will barely eke out the Yakult Swallows for 3rd, and the league will be rounded out by the emerging but not-yet-ready DeNA Baystars and the aging and hopeless Chunichi Dragons.

Will we see another headline like this later in 2015? Let's hope so!

Will we see another headline like this later in 2015? Let’s hope so!

Obviously I would love to be wrong, and hope to see the Tigers win their first pennant since 2005, and their first Nippon Series since 1985. Let’s see what happens as the season progresses. What are your predictions, everyone? Feel free to write them in the comments section – either for individual players, the team as a whole, or anything else. GO TIGERS!

Book Review – Why the Tigers’ Golden Age Will Never Come (Katsuya Nomura)

NomuraBook

Japanese Title: 阪神タイガースの黄金時代が永遠に来ない理由 – Hanshin Tigers no Ohgon Jidai ga Eien ni Konai Riyuu)

Originally I thought this was a book written specifically about this problem, but a co-worker told me that it was actually a compilation of former great catcher and manager Katsuya Nomura’s newspaper columns. So while the book does address what the title indicates, not every section of every chapter does.

Nomura played catcher for 27 seasons and managed for 16 (not counting the 8 he was a player-manager), giving him a total of 43 years directly involved with Japanese professional baseball. Three of those years as manager (1999-2001) came with the Hanshin Tigers. Clearly he has seen enough of the team to know what some of the big problems are.

Most of the general issues are dealt with in the first chapter, and include: a media that coddles the players (making them feel like superstars even if they are average players), a front office that is satisfied with winning one championship every 10 years (otherwise the fans expect too much – once in awhile just to keep their loyalty), poor drafting, too many scandals. As I read the first chapter, I definitely saw a side of the Tigers that I previously did not know of. Still, it was time to move on to what would be said in future chapters.

Every subsequent chapter seems to start with a premise that looks promising to analyze, but is also filled with digressions that do not come anywhere near addressing the main issue that the book is supposed to address. Chapter 2 is managerial incompetence (particularly incumbent manager Wada), chapter 3 talks of the need for a true ace of the pitching staff, chapter 4 of a born-and-bred cleanup hitter, chapter 5 of the need for a strong catcher, chapter 6 looks at “what-ifs” of the past generation or so, and chapter 7 gives advice on how the team can rebuild.

All sounds great, but when one section talks solely of whether or not Shohei Ohtani (of the Nippon Ham Fighters) really has the fastest fastball in the game, you’ve digressed too far. Talking about giving up 11 runs in a game when you scored 20 as being a big problem? Hardly reason that the Golden Age will never come! Ranting about the differences between your managerial days with the Swallows, Tigers and Eagles didn’t really make any of his points clearer.

This was the first Hanshin Tigers book I read, and as a true greenhorn, no less. A lot of what Nomura said shocked me, but much of it also had me shaking my head, wondering how this could be acceptable sports journalism, especially from someone who has spent 43 years on one team or another’s payroll. We get it, Mr. Nomura. You don’t like the Tigers. You didn’t enjoy your tenure with the team. You aren’t trying to endear yourself to the team’s fans. But this compilation of articles does not adequately answer the question you said you would address in the book’s title.

Some sections of the book were interesting reads when isolated from the rest, and if I get time to do so, I will try to translate some of the interesting ones. (Example: Fujinami at this stage of his career is better than Masahiro Tanaka was at the same stage; Is Murton a Selfish Player?, etc.)

Return to Book Review List

Murton – Nihongo Sugoi!

Here’s a fun interview done earlier this month with Matt Murton. I love his answers to the questions. He knows the game well, knows himself well, and knows what he wants out of the upcoming season. He also seems to be picking up on the Japanese language a little, too!

What are your predictions for Mr. Murton this season? Drop a hitting line in the comments section (average, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases)!

A Fifth Foreigner?

Santiago SigningSanspo and other sources are reporting that the Tigers have officially signed a fifth foreigner to a contract. Mario Santiago of Puerto Rico has agreed to a one-year, 15-million yen contract with the team. Those who watched the 2013 World Baseball Classic closely remember that Santiago was the starting pitcher on the team that defeated Japan in the semifinals. Here are some highlights:

Santiago is 188cm (6’2″) tall, weighs 95 kg (209 lb) and is 30 years old. He throws and bats right. He says he signed with the intention of playing out his baseball career in Japan. Tigers GM Nakamura says he has a variety of pitches and pretty good control.

As many of you know, NPB teams are allowed a maximum of just 4 foreigners on their active rosters, with no more than 3 pitchers or 3 hitters at any time. The Tigers already have 4 excellent foreigners, all title holders last season. Randy Messenger recorded more wins (13) and strikeouts (226) than any other Central League pitcher, Seung-hwan Oh led the league in saves (39), Matt Murton had the highest batting average (.338) and Mauro Gomez batted in more runs (109) than anyone else. So for Santiago to be called up, either one of these men would have to slump badly or get injured. Obviously no one wants that to happen.

So what are the Tigers thinking? Clearly this signing was done with 2016 and beyond in mind. Messenger is signed through the 2016 season, but none of the others are. Oh is rumored to be interested in trying out the major leagues, but I have heard nothing about the two hitters. In any case, I hope Mr. Santiago can adjust well to Japan and stay injury-free. He actually left the WBC semi-final game in the fifth inning with a sore arm and then sat out the entire season recovering. He played Korean ball in 2012 with the SK Wyverns.

Welcome to Japan and the best baseball club in the land, Mr. Santiago!

Book Review – The Chrysanthemum and the Bat

chrysanthemumcover“I was a big baseball fan in Japan and found that looking at the different way the Japanese approached the game provided a window into the Japanese culture as a whole. Friends encouraged me to write a book about it and so I did. Took a year to write 100,000 words. The result was The Chrysanthemum and the Bat. It was the first thing I’d ever written and it showed.” — Whiting on how he started writing

Written a full generation ago (1977) and covering players I had no clue about, this book was both entertaining and educational. Robert Whiting is now a renowned author most famously known for his late-80s masterpiece and follow-up to this book, You Gotta Have Wa. It really is not fair to compare the two books, but this one has a lot more direct quotes and long excerpts from other sources, and sounds a lot more like someone reporting what he has read or heard. ‘Wa’ sounds much more like a baseball guru telling the world what he already knows and has processed in his mind clearly.

That does not make this book less worthy or uninteresting, though. It takes me back to a time before I was even born and fills me in on the beautiful and quirky history of the game here in Japan, filled with colorful characters such as Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Isao Harimoto, Katsuya Nomura, and more. It also looks closely at the life of a fan, the external expectations placed on the players, and the struggles that some foreign players (almost exclusively Americans in those days) had adjusting to life in Japan.

chrysanthemuminsideInterestingly, the book ends with a chapter speculating on how the Japanese would fare should there be a “real World Series”. Obviously this has, in a way, come to fruition with the World Baseball Classic having been played three times in the past decade, but it is interesting to read thoughts about it written nearly 40 years ago. All in all this book is a splendid read and a must-add to the library of any Japanese baseball fan who wants to know more about the game before they started following it.

Return to Book Review List

Stars Simply Get Closer…

On Sunday afternoon, I went to my first ever sumo basho in Osaka. It was Day 1 of the spring tournament, and I stood outside the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium hoping to get close to the rikishi as they strode in. I was thrilled to be standing just a few meters from these colossal grapplers, snapping pictures of one and all, regardless of whether or not I knew their names. Of course the most exciting moment was when yokozuna and all-time tournament wins leader Hakuho came through. If I had been crazy, I could have climbed the little barrier, run up to him and touched him before being escorted away, but I wanted to watch the actual match, so I behaved. My best shot looked like this:

HakuhoDay1

As I got escorted up to my seat, I looked around. WOW, so this is what it was like to watch it somewhere other than my living room! The wrestlers look so… tiny! That’s what happens when you sit in the “cheap” (¥6,000, mind you) seats! The view from my seat was fine but far.

IMG_4283

The view from my seats at Day 1 of the Spring Basho in Osaka.

Then I check the news and see that just a day later, my favorite Hanshin Tigers player, Matt Murton, attended Day 2. Missed him by a day! Of course, when you’re a star you get to see everything from just a little closer. While I would have been arrested for trying to touch Hakuho, Matt got to do this:

Murton: "Congratulations." Hakuho: "Thanks."

Murton: “Congratulations.”
Hakuho: “Thanks.”

And while his seats may not have been a LOT better than mine, still his view of the dohyo (ring) was closer than mine:

MurtonSumo

Apparently Mr. Murton’s children love sumo as well, and his oldest, Micah (5) was saying “Ima sumo, ima sumo!” when his parents tried talking to him during the bouts. It was apparently Murton’s second trip to a basho, the first coming in 2010 when he went on to break Ichiro’s hitting record. Let’s hope this year brings him another 214 hits, or better yet, a Nippon Series championship for the team!

Great Tiger Moments 4: August 30, 1973

As the season was heading into its final month and the Tigers fighting to catch the Yomiuri Giants (who had won 8 straight Nippon Series at this point), the Tigers faced the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium. Young ace Yutaka Enatsu (25) was on the mound, and he pitched a game for the ages. In fact, through nine innings he was holding onto a no-hitter. Unfortunately for him, the nine Tigers hitters (himself included) could not plate a single base runner, and the game went into extra innings. Enatsu trotted out to the mound in the 10th, shut out the Dragons, and sat in the dugout as the home team again got shut out in the bottom half. Once again, the ace mowed down the Dragons, completing an unthinkable 11 innings of no-hit ball.

The bottom of inning saw Enatsu slated to lead off. Pitchers are rarely good hitters, and Enatsu was no exception (he finished the year batting .133). Rather than subbing in a pinch hitter, manager Masayasu Kaneda let him step into the batter’s box. The result:

Unbelievable. After the game, an elated Enatsu was quoted as saying, “I guess one person can win a baseball game on his own!” Truly on this night, he was right. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they finished the year just 0.5 games out of first place, and just 1.0 ahead of third-place Chunichi. The Giants went on to win their ninth straight Nippon Series, but the streak ended the following year when the Chunichi Dragons ousted them, led by manager Wally Yonamine.

Upcoming Event – Murton & Whiting Talk Baseball!

whiting

Author Robert Whiting

Here’s an event you won’t want to miss out on if you are passionate about baseball, particularly in Japan! On Tuesday, March 24, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (Kansai Chapter) will be hosting an evening with Hanshin Tigers all-star left fielder Matt Murton and renowned author Robert Whiting (writer of The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, You Gotta Have Wa, The Meaning of Ichiro, and other titles). They will be discussing playing and following baseball in Japan.

More event details can be found here.

In case you were unaware, Matt is my favorite baseball player on the team, and Robert Whiting has quickly become my favorite author on the subject of baseball, as I tore through his three books over the past 3 months. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend this exciting event due to family commitments. I hope some of you will be able to go, and tell me more about it when it’s done!

murtonwebsite

“I’ll see you on the 24th!”

Sponichi Interview 4: Hirosawa on Murton

Part 4 of Sponichi’s series of interviews with the “BIG 4” title holders sees Katsumi Hirosawa interviewing batting title holder Matt Murton. They discuss Murton’s elite hitting techniques as well as his strong desire to contribute to the team’s first championship in 30 years.

MurtonInterview

Hirosawa: How are you doing physically these days?

Murton: Well I hurt my leg but other than that, I’m exactly where I think I should be.

Hirosawa: Well you still have a month until opening day so I hope you take your time and get back to 100%. As I look back on last season (and I was able to watch all 144 games, some after the fact), the most surprising moment was Game 2 when you hit a home run off (Giants’ reliever Scott) Mathieson in the 8th inning*. From that moment on, Mathieson really was not able to bounce back all season. I was surprised though because I have never seen you hit that kind of home run before. Were you sitting back waiting on his fastball?

Murton: He’s got the fastball but also a slider and forkball. But in that situation I thought he’d bring the heat, so I was ready for it. Still, just in case he threw something offspeed, I was ready to adjust my swing accordingly. The pitch before, I swung a little too hard and knew I needed to relax and make an adjustment just to make good contact with his fastball. He got better in the second half, but I was able to get a good hit off him before he turned things around.

Hirosawa: Since coming to Japan, you’ve set the record for hits in a season and are seen as one of the most clever batters in the game. But as I’ve been watching you all these years, the most amazing thing to me is your bat speed. Any thoughts on that?

Murton: I just want to effectively maximize the power I have, and the byproduct of that is a fast swing.

Hirosawa: I’ve seen a lot of foreign players come and go, but Japanese baseball has never seen the likes of you, Matt. What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to hitting.

Murton: Again, probably the most important thing is getting the most of the power you have. Some of it comes down to adjusting to what you’re thrown or “trying to get hits” but really just doing what you can to get the most of your abilities up there. Of course it’s not going to result in a hit every time, though.

Hirosawa: Actually, not many batters that most their back foot early get a lot of hits. You are an exception to that rule, which is pretty amazing. Looking at former greats like Sammy Sosa (Cubs), Mark McGwire (Cardinals), Barry Bonds (Giants) or Derek Jeter (Yankees), none of them moved that back foot. Only one great hitter who does that comes to mind: Ichiro (Marlins). You’re like a right-handed hitting version of Ichiro. I call that genius.

Murton: I’m not sure if it’s the best way to hit the ball, but getting your butt facing the pitcher a little, and using that built up power against the momentum of the pitch seems to work. Maybe that causes it to look as though my back foot is moving forward.

Hirosawa: From your amateur days right through to the pros, you were pretty good at hitting the inside pitch. Did you have problems with outside pitches?

Murton: Inside pitches were tough but pitches towards the outside were easier. The reason is that I made the effort to avoid opening up my stance too much by keeping my left shoulder in place. So it was hard to get to the inside pitch. To remedy that problem, I started to focus on using my butt muscles a little more, which enabled me to handle inside pitches a little better.

Hirosawa: Last season you were quite aggressive with your base running whenever the catcher had problems handling one-hoppers from the pitcher. How much of that was premeditated?

Murton: I was always told from a young age that getting to the next base was crucial, so I’d watch for what angle the ball would bounce away from the catcher. In America coaches will always tell you, “If you think you can make it, go!” So I was just trying to do what I’ve been taught all along.

Hirosawa: So not just “quite aggressive” but extremely aggressive! As we watch you on the base paths, we can really see how you’re trying hard to contribute to the team.

Murton: If I can get to the next base, it gives us a better chance of scoring runs. I hope to keep doing it this season, too.

Hirosawa: Let’s talk about batting order. I’m sure you’ll say “I’ll hit anywhere in the lineup” but do you think you’re going to end up hitting 5th again this year?

Murton: The manager is the one who looks at each player and decides what order will produce the best results for everyone. I can’t really say anything here. I just put on the uniform and compete. It’s the manager’s job to decide what batting order will get us the most runs. Of course the guys who are getting more hits should be closer to the top of the order so you get more baserunners and more scoring chances.

Hirosawa: What players did you look up to growing up?

Murton: I think pretty much everyone in my generation looked up to Ken Griffey Jr (Mariners)**. I’m from Florida so I liked Jeff Conine, but I also had cable so I watched a lot of Braves games and saw a lot of Chipper Jones and (former Rakuten Eagles) Andrew Jones.

Hirosawa: These days in Japanese baseball, no one measures up to you as a hitter. This coming year are you looking to do anything different, like increase your RBI or home run totals?

Murton: I just want to contribute to the team winning. If I can do that, the numbers will follow. Rather than focusing on numbers, I want to think about what I have to do each at bat in order to help the team win. I might have won the batting title last season, but there are a lot of great hitters in the Central League. I can’t win that title on my own. I just want to concentrate on that things that are within my control, focus on every game and compete hard. Maybe it’s important to look at the big picture and have goals, but I think focusing too much on those goals throws you off, too. The numbers are a result of concentrating on that one at bat, that one pitch, that one moment. If you set the goal of batting .300 but only end up with a .260 average at the end of a month of play, you missed your mark by 40 points and you start to get out of sorts. You can’t raise your average to .300 in one at bat. Whether you’re hitting .320 or .260, your job doesn’t change.

Hirosawa: If you could keep up the hot streak you had going last April*** for three months or so, you could probably set a ridiculous record in hitting, and maybe even lead the team to the pennant and Nippon Series title.

Murton: Yeah, if Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) played at his peak for the whole season, he could easily hit 70-80 home runs, too. It’s impossible to play at that kind of pace for a whole year in baseball, though, but baseball is all about the pursuit of getting the most of your ability for as long as you can. I play with that kind of mentality, and when you’re on your game, baseball is a lot of fun. Some players are naturally gifted, but really the difference between great athletes and not-so-great athletes comes down to whether or not you can stay consistent all year. The difference between a .300 hitter and a .250 hitter over the course of a 500 at-bat season is only around 20-25 hits. Some players put up crazy good numbers over a short period, but the greats can put them up for just a little longer.

Hirosawa: You’re exactly right. The difference between “Good job” and “Better luck next year” is 24 or 25 hits a season.

Murton: So if you calculate that out over a month, it’s 4-5 hits, which means one extra hit per week. It adds up.

Hirosawa: I only realized that after I retired (laughs). You know your stuff, Matt!

Murton: Four hits a month seems like a small number but it’s huge. If I go 0-for-4 in a game, I don’t want it to end there. I want that fifth plate appearance. That one chance is so important to me, especially if it can help contribute to the team winning. Each hit, each at-bat becomes that much more important.

Hirosawa: Hanshin made it to the Nippon Series last season but the team’s lone title came in 1985. The fans are hungry for another title, and are looking to you to lead the team to victory. What are your final comments to the fans?

Murton: I’m sure you all know just how hard we worked just to get to the Nippon Series, but still we were unable to win. I’ve put in a lot of work training this offseason, hoping to somehow finish what we started last year. Because you guys are such great, supportive fans. I’m going to do my best this year again. Playing in the Nippon Series was a lot of fun, really exciting. We’ve finished in 2nd place three of my 5 years with the team. We haven’t won the pennant, but it’s not easy because there are lots of good teams out there. Still, I want to win it all. It doesn’t matter if it’s Ichi-gun or Ni-gun, winning the championship only happens when every player is contributing. The fans and players all feel the same way about winning. I hope this team can come together as one and win it all this year.


* On March 29 with the Tigers down 3-2 in the 8th, Murton took the second pitch of his 4th at bat, a 146 km/h high inside fastball for a ride to the left field stands, tying the score. The Tigers got 2 more off of Mathieson in the 9th, coming from behind to win 5-3. Mathieson finished 2014, his 3rd season, with a personal worst 3.58 ERA, a 6-6 record and 30 saves.

** Griffey was chosen first overall by the Mariners in the 1987 draft. He was a 5-tool player who finished his career in 2010 with 2,781 career hits and 630 home runs. He is also known in Japan as the player Ichiro idolized.

*** Murton finished March and April 2014 with a .365 average, 6 home runs and 32 RBIs. The monthly MVP award, though, was given to Eldred (Hiroshima) who hit .373 and had 8 home runs. Though Murton is entering his sixth season in Japan, he has surprisingly still never won the Player of the Month Award.

Monthly Hanshin Tigers – March Edition

monthlytigers2015-3It came out today, I got it today – the March edition of the monthly Hanshin Tigers magazine. This month’s cover features veteran pitcher Atsushi Nohmi. The table of contents looks like this:

  • Close-up Interview – Atsushi Nohmi
  • Another Side View – Atsushi Nohmi
  • Current Observations – Expectations and Uncertainties this spring
  • Introducing… Travis Mikihisa Samura
  • Players’ Note: Daiki Enokida
  • Tigers’ Diary – Yoshio Yoshida
  • Tigers Photo Topics (Spring Camp pics)
  • Special Interview – Yutaka Enatsu
  • Ticket Information
  • Farm Report
  • Teammates Sound Off – Kazuya Takamiya

If any of these articles/topics interest you and you’d like to see an English translation/summary, let me know in the comments section!