Season Turned Around?

15-5-24 Standings

Central League Standings 5/24

The Hanshin Tigers were seven games out of first place on May 24. Their record was a dismal 21-25, and they were heading into the interleague mini-season, one which has never been kind to them. With the first-place Yomiuri Giants as defending interleague champs, their lead over the Tigers could have easily reached double digits in three weeks (18 games). Instead, the unthinkable happened.

The Tigers went 10-8, which was the best record by a CL team, as the rest of the league got humiliated by the PL to the tune of a 34-53-3 record. The Giants won only 7, and the second place Baystars managed just 3 wins and a tie. Just one game after league play resumed, no CL team had a record above .500, and the Tigers were tied for first. They are still undefeated (5-0-1) since the break, and hold a 2-game lead atop the standings.

15-6-28 Standings

CL Standings 6/28

The greatest factor in the team’s turnaround has been its bats. While still in the cellar for team BA (.236) they are closer to the pack than they were a few weeks ago (.225). They are also finally not the weakest team in the CL, as their 39 team HRs are two ahead of Chunichi and just two fewer than the Giants. We already paid tribute to Kosuke Fukudome a few days ago, and he proceeded to hit his 12th jack the next day. Mauro Gomez followed that up with his 9th, making the pair the first in 28 years of Tigers ball to hit back-to-back bombs in back-to-back games. (Mayumi and Bass did it in 1987.)

Murton's first HR of the year came on Saturday, June 20 in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

Murton’s first HR of the year came on Saturday, June 20 in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

Today we want to focus on the turnaround of another key player: Matt Murton. We have followed his story closely here as well (see here and here). He got benched at the end of interleague play and received plenty of bad press as he was batting .243 with no home runs through 55 games. Since league play resumed on June 20, he has gone 11-for-23 (.478) with two home runs in six games. His average now (.264) is still well below his career average in Japan (.317 heading into this season) but is steadily climbing up, thanks to 3 straight multi-hit games. This six-game stretch is the best we have seen out of Murton all year and shows promise of the return of the redheaded hitting machine we all know and love.

Just a few days later, on Thursday, June 24, he hit his second bomb. The man is on a roll!

Just a few days later, on Wednesday, June 24, he hit his second bomb. The man is on a roll!

What has helped him turn his season around? Here are some of the possible explanations:

perezmug1) His benching and the team’s acquisition of Nelson Perez. It may or may not be coincidence that Murton’s turn around started right around when the team finally found another foreign left fielder. Incidentally, Perez made an error in his first game, going hitless in four at bats. Since then he has settled in a little better, going 8-for-20 in five games. (No home runs yet, but 3 doubles despite a boatload of strikeouts.) Could Matt have felt some pressure that his job was at stake? Did that light a fire under him? Doubtful. He is a professional, and has always been known as one who strives for excellence at all times. It seems unlikely that a guy from independent ball would scare a seasoned veteran into hitting the ball more.

2) His 100-minute talk with Wada and the coaches on a rainy day before league play resumed. It sounds like he was really passionate while talking to them, reminding the staff that he just loves baseball so much. He did most of the talking while the coaches mostly listened, reports say. The rest of the team had long since left the facilities but he kept on going, perhaps releasing some much built up steam. This is definitely a factor worth considering. Coaches and management agreed that he was overthinking things. This could be true, as analysts compiled data showing that he was swinging at just 60% of the strikes he was seeing, as compared with a 69% mark last season. Maybe now he’s getting a better look at the ball and swinging more aggressively at the right pitches.

murtonhotzone2014

How he did in 2014

3) More aggressive hitting. Last season, he batted .394 (54-137) when putting the first pitch of the at-bat in play. He has done so much less this year (.154), and has gone 1 for 4 (.250) on first-pitch-in-play situations during his 6-game hitting streak. His homers this year have come in hitters’ counts (3 balls, 1 strike vs. Swallows, 1 ball, no strikes vs. Carp), which indicates to me that he is zoned in a lot more during those situations. (On the season, he is 5 for 8 when the count is 3-1 and 8 for 20 when the count is 1-0). Let’s hope he can bring back the aggressiveness that led to his league-best .338 average from a year ago!

4) He met an English Tigers blogger in the days leading up to his hitting streak. Yes, that must be it. Couldn’t be coincidence, could it. By the way, the team is 6-0-1 since that day.

Here’s a GIF of Matt making an excellent play in left. Move over, Yamato!

The Tigers go on the road to face the Swallows for three, then head to Yokohama for three more before playing a “home” game (in Okayama) next Tuesday and finally return to Koshien on July 8th to finish that series against the Dragons. It will be interesting to see what the standings look like at that point, as the next series on their plates after that is a road set against their eternal rivals, the Giants. Let’s keep things going, Tigers! We always believed in you, Matt! See you at the ‘Bucks again sometime!

By the way, I don’t want to jinx anyone but so far Murton is 13-for-19 (.684) against tonight’s Swallows starter in his career! Hope to see more fireworks!

Here’s to you, #8!

fukudomecard

It is fitting that the star of the Tigers’ eighth straight home win is number eight, Kosuke Fukudome. The 38-year old had a game for the ages on Saturday, not only reaching base every time up, but scoring on every occasion as well. The Tigers won 5-3, and we could spend some time looking at the other guys who contributed to the win (Randy Messenger‘s gutsy performance despite a costly error, questionable calls and weak hits that somehow turned into runs; Mauro Gomez‘s 2 RBIs including a late home run that piggybacked on Fukudome’s; Yamato‘s amazing catch in center that was reminiscent of his Nippon Series work last season). You can see GIFs of much of the action here. But let’s focus on what the veteran ex-Dragon, ex-Cub, ex-Indian did to essentially win the game on his own.

After two quick and easy outs to start the first, Fukudome battled his way on base, earning a walk. This gave resurgent cleanup hitter Gomez a chance to bring him home on a deep ball to right-center (video here). The crucial first run of the game went to the Tigers thanks to #8’s keen eye and strong base running.

In the fourth, Baystars pitcher blooped a ball to right, which “the Dome” charged, threw hard to second and induced the ever-so-rare “fielder’s choice to right.” It didn’t prevent a run from scoring on the play, but it helped Messenger get out of a tough inning.

He then led off the bottom of the inning with a stand-up triple (his third of the year after recording none in his first two years with the club). The two imports both grounded out to pitcher, and fans feared another leadoff triple by the PL-graduate would be wasted, until Hiroki Uemoto (a.k.a. Lethal Uepon) punched a ball through the infield (video here). The deficit was cut in half, and the Tigers needed just one more run to even things up.

fukudomehomerun

Who else should be the one to provide the bat but Dome-san? His 10th home run of the year in the sixth was a solo shot, and sent the crowd into a frenzy. (GIF here)

But not as much as his next one, which went to an even deeper part of the stadium, and put the team up a run. (GIF here) It was his first multi-home run game in 8 years, and gave him a final line of: 3 AB, 3 H, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R. Plus one outfield assist. You want clutch? Listen to this: of his 11 bombs on the year, 2 have been the first run scored in the game, 3 have tied the game, 1 broke a tie, 1 reversed the lead, and 1 was a walkoff. Since moving into third in the hitting order, he is 13-for-27 (.481) with 3 HR and 6 RBI.

fukudomehero150627

Here is a translation of the hero interview. Did I mention that I love his curtness and frankness? Curt and Frank would be proud. (video here)

ーTell us how you’re feeling right now.
“Quite frankly I’m happy. Yeah.”

ーFirst, your game-tying home run. You were the leadoff hitter that inning. Can you take us back to what you were thinking at the time?
“What was happening then? I dunno, I think I just went in hoping to get on base.”

ーAnd how did the connection feel?
“It felt great, but the ball in my previous at bat was held in the park by the head winds, so I didn’t think this one had a chance, either.”

ーHow would you rate your condition these days?
“Well, better than usual, I reckon.”

ーHow did you prepare for your at-bat when you hit the go-ahead home run?
“We already had two outs on us that inning, and I might be overstating things but I went in thinking home run.”

ーHow did that one feel?
“Better than the first one.”

ーIt’s your first double-digit home run season since joining the Tigers, and your first in a long time. How does that sound to you?
“Yeah, it took me awhile to get back there.”

ーYou’ve been on a real roll since batting third in the order. How do you like that slot?
“It’s good.”

ーYou scored four runs today, meaning you ran a lot as well.
“I’m ready for a good leg massage tonight.”

ーOn defense you made a great play on (DeNA pitcher) Inoh’s hit, showing great focus in right as well.
“One of the team’s defining characteristics is creating momentum with sound fielding. It all starts there.”

ーThe team is now undefeated in six. How do you feel about the momentum the team has built?
“I think we’ve got some good flow going.”

ーThe team sits atop the standings. How does it feel to play good ball while on top?
“It’s fun!”

ーAbout tomorrow’s game…
“We had some great support from all you fans today, and we’ll do our best to keep things going in tomorrow’s game.”

Book Review – Hanshin Tigers: Actually Strong

torigoebookThe original title of this book is 本当は強い 阪神タイガース (Honto wa Tsuyoi Hanshin Tigers) and its author is Norio Torigoe. It was published in April 2013, so its contents reflect the team up to the end of the 2012 season. What interested me in this book before I even started reading it was its analysis of the team based on sabermetrics. I wish I had known more about these “new age stats” before I picked up this book, although the author does a good job of explaining most of them in layman’s terms. In fact, he not only explains what they measure, but also why they are important in judging a player’s talent, and how they are calculated as well. The mathematician in me loved that aspect of the book.

Torigoe uses all sorts of data to determine the greatest manager in team history, as well as its best hitter, pitcher and pinch hitter. He then looks at whether or not the team has been successful at training its players. This section includes analyses of drafting strategies and picks, trades, and free agent signings (particular foreigners). The third section examines how the Tigers can become a winning franchise again, It focuses primarily on ideal hitting order (based largely on OBP), defensive placement (using UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating), using Koshien Stadium’s uniqueness to the team’s advantage, and how to win in a stadium where the Tigers have always struggled – Nagoya Dome. The book concludes with a lengthy interview between the author and former Tigers owner Katsuyoshi Nozaki, who is credited with bringing the team out of its “Dark Ages”. While this section dragged on at times, it also was a good eye-opener. Nozaki reveals how teams rate players and determine their salaries, as well as many aspects of the Tigers management and front office that have hindered the team from being successful.

The book was a fairly quick read, despite its meaty content. One thing the author does well is to boldface the main point of each subsection, allowing the reader to focus exactly on what he wants to get across. I enjoyed learning more about sabermetrics and how they are calculated, although I am not sure I will ever calculate these stats on my own. Still, Mr. Torigoe showed empirically that the Hanshin Tigers are not as weak as people have made them out to be, and gives great suggestions on how the team can prosper in the future to truly become strong.

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Mini-Series Recap – June 23-24, 2015

The Tigers played their second of two 2-game sets to open up the post-interleague schedule. This time, they traveled to the “Hokuriku” region to play a couple of true road games: the first in Nagano, the second in Toyama. With just 0.5 games separating them from the Giants for the league lead, but also with a mere 3 game lead on the last place team, they needed to continue their strong play before coming home for a three-game series on the weekend. It was a wild mini-series, so fasten your seatbelt and join me as we go over the action.

Gomez got all of this pitch, and everyone knew the instant it left his bat that we were 20 seconds from celebrating with Imanari. Komanechi!

Gomez got all of this pitch, and everyone knew the instant it left his bat that we were 20 seconds from celebrating with Imanari. Komanechi!

Game 1: Though rain threatened to drown this one out, this one was played in full. Including a 33-minute rain delay, the game went all the way into the dark hours of the night, as each team took leads, lost leads, tied the game, and repeated the process all over again. The Tigers drew first blood on a Ryota Imanari solo shot (his first of the year) in the second. The rains chased players from the field and when the game resumed, it was the Carp who responded to the soggy conditions much better than the Tigers. In fact, they chased starter Minoru Iwata after just four innings of work, taking a 3-1 lead into the fifth. That was when the Tigers roared back against ex-MLB pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. Kohei Shibata took a two-out pitch to right-center, cashing in Imanari and Takashi Toritani, tying the game at 3. The score remained knotted through Ryoma Matsuda‘s two innings of relief, but then took a turn for the worst when Yuya Andoh came in and fell apart in the seventh. Two hits were followed by a wild pitch, and the winning run crossed the plate for the fish. However, the game was not over yet. With runners on first and third, Mauro Gomez took the first pitch he saw to deeeeeep left, reversing the teams’ fortunes and putting the Tigers up 2 with just six outs to go. With Shinobu Fukuhara and Seung-hwan Oh due up to pitch those innings, this one was over, right? Think again. Once again, the ex-Arai came back to bite the Tigers, hitting a solo shot to left and narrowing the lead to one. Still, our closer only had to shut down their 8th, 9th and 1st hitters to end the game. No problem, right? Think again, again! A walk, a hit batsman, and a hit later, the game was tied. Runners were on second and third with no outs. All the Carp needed was a hit, a deep fly or a squeeze play, and they had three chances to do it. But a sharp grounder, a shallow fly and a strikeout later, this one was headed to extras. Nothing was decided in three frames, despite chances on both sides, and youngster Hiroaki Saiuchi pitched 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball to help the Tigers preserve the tie. With the Giants’ loss, this put them in a tie for first, but it also meant that for the first time in Central League history, no team had a winning record after sixty-plus games. Final Score: Tigers 6, Carp 6.

Nohmi

Nohmi “helped his own cause” by driving in two runs in the fourth, giving his team a huge lead.

Game 2: If both the Tigers and Giants lost here, every CL team would be UNDER .500 for the first time in history. But this one was never in question. Kosuke Fukudome knocked in Toritani in the first, and then the offense padded their lead nicely in the 4th with an Imanari double (2 RBI) followed by an Atsushi Nohmi single (2 more), making the score 5-0. Matt Murton also smashed one to left in the fifth (see it here), his second home run in 4 games, and despite a couple runs along the way by the Carp, the Tigers cruised to victory in fashion. Gomez added an insurance run late, and yesterday’s goats (Fukuhara and Oh) pitched strongly in the last two frames. The Tigers were once again over .500, and awaited the Giants result to see where they would sit in the standings. Final Score: Tigers 7, Carp 2.

The team finds itself in sole possession of first (by a game) after the Giants were toppled for the second straight night. The Baystars have won 2 straight after dropping 12 in a row. These are the most recent standings in the Central:

15-6-24 Standings

The Tigers host the DeNA Baystars for three at Koshien this weekend and will finish the month of June with their first of three straight at Jingu Stadium to face the Swallows. Let’s hope they can keep this little hot streak going to end the month strong. Go TIGERS!

Coming Soon to a Stadium Near You…

I know these are far from perfect but I’m thinking of doing a cleaner copy of these and turning them into a T-shirt. Any buyers if I make them?

Sorry Gomez looks like the Hulk and I couldn't quite get the yellow color just right. I'll work on it...

Sorry Gomez looks like the Hulk and I couldn’t quite get the yellow color just right. I’ll work on it…

UeponBack

I might make Uemoto’s name bigger and possibly just in English. Should I add profile information (b-day, etc.)?

Mini-Series Recap – June 20-21, 2015

TigersSwallowsJune2015“Forget interleague play. Move on and play better,” they said. Despite the harsh words spoken by coaches, players and fans alike, the Tigers finished the mini-season with a 10-8 record, good for best among Central League teams, and putting them close enough to the top of the CL standings despite being 2 games over par (under .500, that is). As league play resumed with a two-game set against the Yakult Swallows, and then two more on the road against the Hiroshima Carp, the Tigers shortened their rotation and hoped to take at least 3 of 4. At the halfway point, how have they fared?

Messenger lifts Uemoto (maybe half Randy's weight dripping wet) as they celebrate the team's win. The two were named co-heroes of the game.

Messenger lifts Uemoto (maybe half Randy’s weight dripping wet) as they celebrate the team’s win. The two were named co-heroes of the game.

Game 1: This was the day many have been waiting for. At long last, 254 at bats into his season, Matt Murton has finally hit his first home run. (Video of his bomb here.) It came in the bottom of the second, and he followed it up with another hit in the fourth, giving many hope that his extra practice sessions on days off has helped him find his groove. He was not the only foreigner to come up big on this day, as Mauro Gomez also hit a pair of RBI singles. Starter Randy Messenger fought off the Swallows despite not bringing his A+ game (it was, say, A- on this day), allowing just a run in seven innings pitched (six hits, five walks, seven strikeouts). Seung-hwan Oh shut the door and set the fat lady singing after his 10-pitch shutout ninth inning. Final Score: Tigers 4, Swallows 1.

Is it just me, or are most of Fukudome's home runs solo shots? Still, happy to see him hit his 9th of the year in Sunday's game.

Is it just me, or are most of Fukudome’s home runs solo shots? Still, happy to see him hit his 9th of the year in Sunday’s game.

Game 2: If Saturday was a party for the foreigners, Sunday was one for the natives. Ryota Imanari opened the scoring with a seeing-eye single to right. After a couple of runs against starter Shintaro Fujinami in the fourth, the Tigers roared back in the sixth, with a Kosuke Fukudome solo shot (his 9th on the year) and then a bases-loaded 2-RBI double by pinch hitter Keisuke Kanoh. The Tigers never looked back, and their Korean closer once again sent the visitors packing on just 12 pitches. Lotsa game highlights here. Final Score: Tigers 4, Swallows 2.

Series Notes: Murton’s home run came on a 3-1 count and landed somewhat deep in the left field stands. Said the man, “At last I got it. I’m glad I was able to put us on the board so early in the first game back after interleague play.” Indeed, fans welcomed the long ball… Hiroki Uemoto had a great series, driving in one, stealing a base and plating twice in the opener, and getting three hits in the second game… “Sixth foreigner” Nelson Perez made his farm debut on Saturday, committing an error in the first inning before going 0-for-4 (2 strikeouts) in a less-than-stellar debut. “I’m still not in 100% game shape,” the Dominican explained, “I didn’t get any rest all week”… Messenger’s shutout streak ended at 27 in the 4th inning of Saturday’s game. It is the second longest of the year by a Tigers pitcher (Fujinami went 32) and left him just short of the club record by a foreign pitcher. That mark still belongs to legend Gene Bacque at 34. Still, Messenger has lowered his ERA from 5.88 when he got shipped down to the farm, to 3.71 now… The Tigers now find themselves in second place, just a half game out of first, thanks to a prolonged slump by the Giants and Baystars. However, just 3.5 games separate the top from the bottom in the Central, leaving everyone in contention. Here are the standings as of the end of play on June 21:

15-6-21 Standings

Book Review – Slugging it Out in Japan

sluggingTo purchase and read this book, I had to put away my dislike of the Yomiuri Giants. After all, the subject and co-author starred for them during the most interesting years of my Hanshin Tigers’ history. He was a perfect foil to then-star Tiger Randy Bass, who enamored the fanatics at Koshien from the time he arrived in Japan.

Contrary to Ba-su sama, Warren Cromartie spent many turbulent, inconsistent years with the club before he finally accepted his fate and position within the team, thriving at last only when he started to genuinely like Japan. While other Robert Whiting (co-author) books are chalk full of anecdotes about the lives of several players, this one focuses exclusively on the man they called ‘Cro. This allows for a much deeper, personal and gripping read than the others Whiting penned, which technically could be enjoyed a chapter at a time, and put away for weeks or months without fear of breaking the flow of the story.

Cromartie was born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida. His rough childhood seems to have shaped his stoic, rebellious demeanor right through to this day. He played several years in the Montreal Expos organization before taking up the Yomiuri Giants on their generous offer, but only after the Expos shafted him and the American (SF) Giants reneged on an offer they had informally made him.

This book takes us through Cromartie’s dislike of camp, struggles with living arrangements, disgust with Korakuen Stadium locker rooms, beefs with coaches and teammates (he particularly mocks then-pretty boy Tatsunori Hara), and his love and respect for Sadaharu Oh, who actually gave him private hitting lessons when he was struggling early on. It also opens many readers’ eyes to the racism he faced as a black man in Tokyo as well as on a team whose ownership and upper management refused to acknowledge his contributions to championship teams.

It also pointed out to me that Cro was (is?) a skilled musician who had a band in Japan, appeared on TV, and even practiced drums and recorded an album while sitting out an injury late in his Japanese baseball career.

Most of all, reading this book endeared me to this fireball of a man, who holds back no punches (literally), criticizing even himself at times. It gave me a clearer look into what American baseball players in Japan experienced and thought back in the 80s. I recommend this book to everyone, even my fellow Tigers fans. Trust me, there’s lots of good in this book, and Randy Bass makes a few appearances as well.

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By the Numbers: Interleague & Beyond

Let’s look back on the past 3 weeks, in which we played against the six Pacific League teams. We’ll go through the numbers, starting with…

0 – The number of runs allowed in 24 innings pitched by Randy Messenger. He shut out the Saitama Seibu Lions for 7 innings, then the Nippon Ham Fighters for 8, and finally the Orix Buffaloes for 9. He came out with just a 2-0 record, getting a no-decision last Friday as the cross-town rival Buffaloes managed to push…

1 run across the plate against reliever Shinobu Fukuhara in the 10th inning of that game. He allowed three straight singles and looked to still be in a position to get out of the jam until Kohei Shibata bobbled the ball in center field. Still, instead of lamenting the Tigers’ loss here, we should be glad that they also won…

2 games by that same 1-0 score. Both of these were with Messenger on the mound, including the second one which came against NPB poster boy Shohei Ohtani. Look for him to eventually find his way to the major leagues. Another player who just acquired international free agency rights is Nobuhiro Matsuda, who hit…

3 home runs in the series against the Tigers, including a walkoff against reliever Yuya Andoh in extras in the rubber match. Fukuoka’s converted bandbox, Yafuoku Dome, had its outfield walls brought in after averaging just 1.03 home runs per game last season. This year, heading into interleague play, the average was up to over 2.5 per game! Anyways, the Hawks absolutely dominated the Tigers and won the interleague title with a 12-6 record. They hit a whopping 23 home runs (1st) and stole 13 bases (T-3rd), while the Tigers managed to swipe just…

4 bases in 18 games. So much for Wada’s goal of stealing 100 on the season. In order to do that, they would need to steal 7 every 10 games. At this stage of the season (64 games in) they have just 22, which puts them on pace for just 49 all year. Just half of Wada’s goal! Brutal, wouldn’t you say? Speaking of brutal, the Tigers’ batting average in interleague (.235) was the lowest among the 12 teams, and the team had…

5 of their 6 qualified hitters (who got enough at bats) in the bottom third of league standings. Only Takashi Toritani (.296) was able to finish in the top half (31st out of 68 hitters), and while everyone has been so worried about Matt Murton (.230), our slugger Mauro Gomez hit a skinny .209 and “healthy” Ryota Imanari singled his way to a .204 average. He did not have a single extra-base hit in 49 at bats. The Tigers bats really only showed life in two games: their 9-8 nail-biter against Lotte and the final game, an 11-4 blowout. In fact, the Tigers played in…

6 blowouts, winning just that one. They lost 2-9 and 4-9 to the Lions, 0-5 to the Hawks, and 1-15 and 1-10 to the Buffaloes. In the 6 blowout games, the team’s run differential was -33. They went 1-5 in those ones. In the other 12 games, the team went 9-3, but the run differential was just +10. Interestingly, all of their blowout losses came on the road, where they lost…

7 of their 9 games. Was it the DH-rule that threw them off? Possibly. Well, it at least accounts for their meagre 17 runs (1.89 per game) versus 42 at Koshien (4.67 per). It could also account for the ridiculous amount of runs they gave up. The starters were worse on the road, without a doubt. The lone road wins came in Messenger’s shutdown of the Lions and Shintaro Fujinami‘s relative containing of the Hawks. Awful starts by the youngens (Yuya Yokoyama and Yuta Iwasada) aside, Atsushi Nohmi was a mess on the road, and Minoru Iwata was much less effective away from Koshien, where the team recorded…

8 home wins in 9 games. The lone loss was a blip on closer Seung-hwan Oh‘s record, and despite what his critics say, he is an elite closer. He allowed 4 runs in one inning to blow the opener against the Lotte Marines on June 2nd, but after that he threw six innings of shutout ball, striking out 9 and allowing just 2 baserunners. Before the meltdown, he also had 4 shutout innings (5 baserunners) and 6 strikeouts. That makes 10 innings, 7 baserunners (0.70 WHIP), no runs allowed, 15 strikeouts in 8 appearances. I’ll take one bad outing to go along with those incredible numbers any day. His home run to Kakunaka was one of 18 the team gave up in 18 games, as opposed to just…

9 hit by their own players. Of those, Gomez hit 3, Kosuke Fukudome hit 3, and one each was hit by Hiroki Uemoto, Toritani and Keisuke Kanoh. That’s it. Nothing for Murton, Imanari, the center field platoon, or the catchers. Cause for alarm? I would say so, especially in light of the 5 straight games in which the hitters got…

10 or more strikeouts (June 10-14). Last season one of the Tigers’ strengths was its walks-to-strikeouts ratio. This year it seems like everyone is swinging and missing (or just looking at strike 3) a lot more than in years past. Gomez is second in the league in K’s, Murton has more than usual, keen-eyed Fukudome has been seen frowning at umps more than ever as well. This does not take into account Imanari’s strikeout spree, either!


The team now has 79 games left to figure out how to start winning consistently, or at least how to get on a roll. They have signed Nelson Perez in hopes of either waking Murton up or getting more power and production out of left field. They have also announced that “Sunday Shin-chan” Fujinami will pitch Sundays from now on, as his 2013 Sunday record (9-3) could help improve the 2015 Tigers’ Sunday blues (4-8). The overall record has hovered near the .500 mark for over 2 weeks and has not been 2 games over water since April 4, when they were 5-3. Fans can talk all they want about how they are “just 2 games out of first” but we all know the Giants will pick themselves up by their bootstraps, and even if DeNA continues its plummet (3-14-1 in interleague, worst since the mini-series started in 2005) , you know the Hiroshima Carp are primed to make a charge. Starters Kenta Maeda, Kris Johnson and Hiroki Kuroda give them a chance on most nights, and their bats are starting to show signs of life, too. The Swallows have also had spells of great pitching and great hitting, just not at the same time. If they do, they will also contend for the playoffs.

There are only three teams allowed to the dance, and the Tigers have paid enough lip service to fans about winning the pennant in the team’s 80th anniversary season. It’s time to start winning and make a move, men!

Can the team live up to the slogan at last?

Can the team live up to the slogan at last?

A Sixth Foreigner!

Original article can be seen here 元の記事はこちら

perezmugThe Hanshin Tigers announced on the 17th that they have reached an agreement with and signed BC League Ishikawa’s Nelson Perez (27) to a contract.

The 191 cm (6’4″) 98 kg (215 lb) Dominican Republic native played on the (Chicago) Cubs’ minor league affiliate teams and in the Mexican league before joining Ishikawa this season.

perezcardPerez had this to say through the club. “I’m so happy and thankful that the Ishikawa Million Stars called me and gave me a chance to play ball in Japan. Thank you very much. I’m so happy that the Hanshin Tigers are giving me a chance as well! I’m going to give it my all to contribute to getting the team a pennant for the best fans in Japan.”

News, Rumors and More…

sanspo

I honestly wish I could do more than just read articles and translate / summarize them. I wish I could witness events firsthand, interview people myself, and dig for stories that people would want to read. Instead, I scour the headlines for interesting stuff and translate the ones I really think people will want to read, and the ones that sound legitimate. But today there were a few that I think will rock the boat a little, no matter their validity. The following stories were taken from Sanspo.com and paraphrased or translated by me. Nothing of my own added in, no check into their truthfulness or accuracy. Take them for what they’re worth, folks.


1) Hankyu-Hanshin Electric General Shareholders’ Meeting

At the shareholders’ meeting on the 16th in Umeda, amidst general questions about railroad companies, a few questions were asked about the baseball club as well. One older man said, “It’s the team’s 80th anniversary and they are awful. I don’t think fans will keep coming to games. I think you should hire Okada as manager next year, what do you think?” referring, of course, to former manager Akinobu Okada.

The reply was: “There have been a lot of painful games up to this point, and we have caused concern to many people. But Wada brought the team through the Climax Series last season and has a track record. The team is 30-33 and just 2.5 games out of first with a full 80 games to go, so we are not even thinking of replacing the manager at this point.”

Another guy wearing a Tigers jersey said, “I wish they would do better. The worst part about the team is that we keep bringing in players from the outside. Why not raise up better players from within the organization? I want to see them win by drafting and training players well, not by purchasing good free agents.”

Yet another talked about the draft as well, specifically saying he wanted the team to draft Tomoya Mori (now with the Saitama Seibu Lions) two years ago, and what the GM was thinking. No answer was printed in the press.


2) The Post-Murton Years Will Start in 2016

The club revealed on June 15 that it will not plan to re-sign Matt Murton next season. GM Nakamura will make a trip to the US in July in search of a new foreigner who could replace him for next year. The current slump combined with his $3.9 US salary are the breaking points. Should the manager find an outfielder that he likes on this trip, it would mean the team is cutting its ties with Murton.

As he continues to struggle through this slump (batting .248 and 0 HRs through 63 games), the team is exploring other options but trying to care for Murton at the same time. It seems they are looking beyond this season and ahead to 2016.

A team executive commented, “Obviously his numbers at this point do not live up to the salary he is being paid.”

The plan is for GM Nakamura and Manager Wada to meet after Interleague play ends and discuss the team’s current state of affairs. The GM was planning to leave for the US at the end of July, but now chances are it will come a little earlier in the month, a team representative said. Whether or not Nakamura will be able to find someone better than Murton, who has a strong track record already, will be a true test of his scouting eye.

Murton returned to the starting lineup in Game 3 of the Orix series, getting two hits, but that did not put anyone at ease. Obviously with 80 games to go this year, his fate is not yet sealed, but he will have to go on an impressive hitting spree in order to convince the team to keep him on beyond this season.


3) Team Will Try to Keep Messenger, Oh

While the team made its intentions clear about Murton, the contracts of Randy Messenger and Seung-hwan Oh also run out at the end of this year.

Messenger is in the second year of his 2 year 500-million yen contract, which is significantly lower than Murton’s. He struggled earlier this year and was dispatched to the farm team, but has since thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings, and it appears the team is looking to sign him on for next season.

Meanwhile, the team seems interested in bringing back second-year closer Oh, but if he demands a huge raise on his two year 600-million yen deal, it will leave the team with a difficult decision to make.

First baseman Mauro Gomez signed a two year 200-million yen contract last offseason with 2016 being the club’s option.