Translation – Why Hanshin Can’t Bench Murton

The original article can be found here 元の記事はこちら

murtonbenchedpaper

Matt Murton’s recent slump could no longer be tolerated. As he had gone 20 straight at-bats without a hit, team management finally bumped him down in the batting order on the 22nd (against DeNA) to the sixth spot. Batting sixth for the first time since Opening Day 2013, Murton’s 8th inning RBI single in the 8th was his first in 24 plate appearances, but his average has meanwhile spiraled down to a pedestrian .207. He still shows no signs of returning to form.

From this season, he has developed a slight twitch in his left leg as he bats, but he still has not been able to find his timing with the new approach. Manager Wada commented, “His core is not in a ‘power position’ when he bats, and as a result he has not been able to pick up on pitches early enough.”

A former Tiger added, “He used to keep his weight off his right foot and instead make strong contact with the ball, but this year he’s lunging even farther ahead. When your stance has fallen apart that badly, there’s no way you can see the ball well up there.”

The umpires’ slight changes to the strike zone have poured more salt in the already gaping wound. Murton’s sensitivity to umpires’ calls have been the start of a vicious cycle, where he blows up at the umpires, loses his focus and plays with less fighting spirit. This is nothing new. But recent attempts by the league to speed up the game has resulted in umpires broadening the strike zone, causing Murton to be extra sensitive and easily disrupted. Says Wada, “The strike zone has changed a little this season. I can’t say that is the reason for Murton’s slump, but it is definitely to the pitchers’ advantage, so there’s no denying it plays against him.”

Newspaper headlines read, “Murton Benched” but Wada avoided making comments one way or the other.

The team plans to recall 22-year old rookie Taiga Egoshi from the farm (today) but Murton, who has faced a lot of two-seam pitchers (like today’s starter Hiroki Kuroda), so he’ll likely get the start. That, plus the one player the team has been counting on lately, Mauro Gomez, has come down with a fever, so it’s probably best to keep Murton in the lineup at least one more day. Wada did say that this is a “period of patience” for the team.

gomezsickpaper

The reason the Tigers’ management is so hesitant to remove Murton from the starting lineup is his attitude.

Despite all the bashing he has been receiving from fans, who say he has gotten apathetic, he faithfully spends an hour, even two, after games watching video footage, going over the strike zone and what his form looks like. This has made a strong impression on the organization, as it is rather uncommon among foreign athletes. If he were lackadaisical off the field, management would likely bench him immediately. However, his keenness towards improving his game, plus the fact that he is the reigning batting champ, makes it understandable that management can’t easily cut ties with him.

But in the world of sports, results are everything.

The Carp are planning on starting lefty Kris Johnson on the 26th, so it would make sense that management replace Murton with Egoshi, should there be no change in the former’s performance against veteran Kuroda, but…

Obviously we hope Murton’s hard work will be rewarded with good results in (today’s) game. Last season’s lineup, especially cleanup hitters Toritani, Gomez and Murton, fed off each other. Without Murton’s bat, there’ no RBI title for Gomez. Murton’s revival is the key to the team’s success moving forward.

Messenger, According to Andoh & Fujinami

The original Japanese article can be found here.


Let’s Ask His Teammates!

andoh1Pitcher Yuya Andoh

Q. What is Messenger really like?

Just what you see. He’s really cheerful.

Q. Fill in the blank. “Surprisingly, Messenger is actually ______.”

Hmmm… there is nothing really surprising about him (laughs).

Q. What is it about Messenger that you think is awesome?

He’s got awesome potential as a pitcher. He throws hard, has a good curve and forkball.

Q. What does Messenger like?

He’s American, so I’d have to say he probably really loves his family. That and ramen. He likes his noodles.

Q. Give us the dirt on Messenger. Has he got any secrets?

Nothing that I can say on the record (laughs).

Q. Give Messenger a score (out of 5) on these areas: 1) Keeping his locker clean; 2) Sense of fashion; 3) Japanese ability

1) Five. His locker is tidy. Nothing just laying around. It might be rude to say this, but for a man of his size he really pays close attention to details. 2) I can’t get away with giving him a 3, so we’ll just say he’s a 5 (laughs). 3) Maybe two? He speaks a few words of Japanese here and there.

Q. Fill in the blank. “Messenger is the biggest ______ on the team.”

Ramen lover! (laughs)

Q. What would you compare Messenger to?

He’s kind of changed his look this year with his hairstyle. I’d say he looks like a big bear (laughs).

Q. What Chinese character (kanji) would you attribute to Messenger?

“BIG” (大)

fujinamimessenger2Pitcher Shintaro Fujinami

Q. What is Messenger really like?

He likes to mess around a lot. Like many foreigners, he’s really cheerful and energetic.

Q. Fill in the blank. “Surprisingly, Messenger is actually ______.”

He might look a little sketchy or rough around the edges but actually he’s pretty detail-oriented. He’s got a set routine when it comes to baseball, and pays close attention to small adjustments.

Q. What is Messenger’s habit?

When he gets annoyed on the mound, he’ll catch the catcher’s toss-back barehanded (laughs).

Q. What are some things Messenger often says in Japanese?

He complains a lot. When the drills at camp aren’t to his liking, he would say “jikan tsubushi” or “jikan no muda” (waste of time!) (laughs).

Q. What is it about Messenger that you think is awesome?

He’s really stoic when it comes to baseball. Well, in other aspects of life as well, but especially when it comes to baseball. I really admire that.

fujinamimessenger1Q. Anything about Messenger that you wish he’d stop doing?

He likes to muck around but he doesn’t know his own strength and sometimes it hurts! (laughs)

Q. What does Messenger like?

He watches martial arts (combat sports) a lot. Oh, and ramen.

Q. What is Messenger’s weakness?

Good question… he’s a big man but he doesn’t hate running… Oh, he said udon was kind of like rubber (laughs). I don’t know if he hates it, but when I asked if he wanted to eat some, he said, “It’s too rubbery, no thanks.” (laughs)

Q. Give us the dirt on Messenger. Has he got any secrets?

He’s got some that I can’t tell you, but there’s nothing that I *can* tell you. Oh well I guess at the start of camp, he said he had only gained 2 kilograms but obviously he gained more than that (laughs).

Q. Fill in the blank. “Messenger is the biggest ______ on the team.”

He’s just the biggest, period. Even from my perspective.

Q. What is the most charming thing about Messenger?

He’s got a real youthful personality. It might sound weird coming from me since I’m a lot younger than him (20 years old), but he is definitely rambunctious!

Q. What would you compare Messenger to?

He looks like a bear.

Q. What Chinese character (kanji) would you attribute to Messenger?

A. “Giant” (巨)

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.

Sponichi Interview 3: Kataoka on Gomez

Yano-Messenger Interview     Yano-Oh Interview

On April 15, 2014, Kataoka sat down to talk with Mauro Gomez. He was hitting 20-for-58 (.345) at the time and had reached base safely in 15 straight games from Opening Day. He pointed out that Gomez was hitting the ball to the opposite field quite well. When Kataoka told him that “as you go, so the team will go,” Gomez replied confidently that he believed he would put up numbers that the fans would be pleased with. He also talked about how he spent his days off talking with his mother and wife in the Dominican Republic via the Internet, how he doesn’t like rain, about his father who was in the military, about his first encounter with baseball at age 13, about his hobby (motorcycles), and other aspects of his private life.


Kataoka: Here’s to another great year! Hey, why are you growing out your beard like that?

Gomez: I’m planning on getting it shaved off at a local barber when I get home.

Kataoka: What was it like experiencing Japanese baseball, culture and life in that first year?

Gomez: I love this country and its culture. As for baseball, I felt like the level of play here was really high and that there are a lot of great pitchers and players in this league. I’m enjoying competing in this kind of environment. It was a really fulfilling first year.

Kataoka: A lot happened early last season. You weren’t able to play in the exhibition games and a lot of people were worried about you.

Gomez: I believed I would be able to come over here to Japan and contribute well, but you can’t predict things like injuries. I wasn’t able to prepare as I had hoped to, but when the season started, my condition got better and I was able to contribute early on. Getting hurt was kind of stressful but I just kept believing in myself and I was able to get the job done.

Kataoka: I was able to interview you at this time last year as well, and I remember your first game at Tokyo Dome when you dropped that fly ball at first base. But you came right back with an RBI later in the game. I was relieved! You’re a good guy after all! After the dropped pop-up I was thinking, “He’s dropping fly balls in Tokyo Dome where there’s no wind… is this Gomez guy going to be alright?”

Gomez: Hahahaha.

Kataoka: Do you think that RBI propelled your great start?

Gomez: To tell you the truth, I was pretty nervous that first game. When I was in America, I didn’t play in domes that much. I think I had problems adjusting to the lighting. But when I got that first RBI, I feel like I got on a roll. On the other hand if I hadn’t gotten that hit, things would have been a lot harder. I think getting that first RBI helped me relax.

Kataoka: Talking to some of the Japanese pitchers you faced while in America and other people you knew, they all say, “Gomez has changed!” I heard you were purely a pull hitter back then, and you swung at a lot of bad pitches. Were you aware of that tendency and did you purposely make a change to your batting approach?

Gomez: Well in America, I think a lot more pitchers rely heavily on their fastball, so I kind of waited on that pitch and swung hard at them. Coming to Japan, I noticed that a lot of pitchers threw a variety of different pitches, regardless of the count. Of course I still pay close attention to the fastball, but I am also trying to be ready for any offspeed pitch they will throw. I also got good advice from Matt (Murton). I knew I had to relax more at the plate and be a little more flexible. I guess in that respect, I have changed.

Kataoka: From what I observed last year, you never really had a bad slump. There were times you didn’t get many hits, but you never lost that hitting form you had all year, and I think that contributed to you winning the RBI title. Looking back on your numbers, are you satisfied?

Gomez: As far as the numbers go, I’m satisfied with them in some ways, but I feel like I could have done more in other ways. I wish I could have hit a few more home runs. The RBIs came because the guys in front of me got on base a lot, so in a way there is luck involved in that one.

Kataoka: Is there anything you are thinking about changing for the upcoming season?

Gomez: I was able to put up decent numbers last season so I don’t want to make any major changes. I hope to keep the same form I had last season as far as batting goes. But I really want to contribute to the team’s success in all areas: batting, defence, even base running.

Kataoka: I heard a rumor that you’re changing your bat.

Gomez: Yeah, I’m gonna use my favorite bat from when I was in America.

Kataoka: So you ARE changing things from last year then!!! (laughs)

Gomez: Hahahaha. Yeah, I’m making a change or two (laughs). I guess I want to hit a few more home runs this season.

Kataoka: When you came last season you had heard that the Tigers fans were pretty passionate. Did they live up to their reputation last year?

Gomez: They were amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. They cheer right until the last out, no matter what the score is, even if we’re losing badly. The fans here are amazing, like none other anywhere.

Kataoka: Got any favorite foods?

Gomez: Yakiniku (grilled beef).

Kataoka: Yakiniku! How about sushi? Got any sushi stories?

Gomez: I love yakiniku but a few times we went out for sushi, too.

Kataoka: What’d you eat?

Gomez: I don’t remember exactly, but I did have sushi a few times… (laughs)

Kataoka: How about yakitori (BBQ chicken skewers) or Chinese? You like them too?

Gomez: Yeah, I like yakitori, teppanyaki…

Kataoka: You down with Kobe beef?

Gomez: Of course!

Kataoka: Hope you can please the fans again this season with your resilience and power at the plate!

Gomez: Thank you! I’ll do my best!

How to Purchase Tickets – on sale today!!!

Almost all tickets to home games at Koshien go on sale today. I’m going to take you through the process of getting your tickets through the Internet via Tora Chike (the club’s site). There are other ways (other sites, by phone, etc.) but I can’t cover them all here. By the way, tickets to the Tigers’ home games against the Giants in July and September are not yet on sale. Those will open up on April 23 (July series) and July 2 (September series).

Step one, follow this link to the main ticket sales page.

Next, click on the “Tora Chike” banner you see below (not here, but on the ticket site).

torachike

Then, click on the red kanji (which say “Purchase”).

purchasetickets

Step four, click on the red letters you see in the picture below to register (you must do this to buy tickets through Tora Chike).

Register

Follow this guideline for what to fill in where.

TorachikeSignup

If you do not know how to write your name in katakana, send me a message with your name, and I will do what I can to write you back with the katakana for your name! Options for security questions are: favorite artist / favorite play / favorite movie. Choose one and then write down your own answer (English is fine here). For the address part, the prefectures are listed in order from north to south. If you don’t have a Japanese address, I’m afraid you might not be able to register.

Click on the red banner at the bottom of the page, which will allow you to choose your tickets while looking at the calendar.

gotocalendar

Find the date of the game you want to buy tickets for, and click on the blue letters 詳細へ meaning “details.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.24.46 PM

Once again, click on the same kanji at the right hand side of the banner (in blue).

ticketdetails

Click on the date of the game you want to buy tickets for.

01

Choose the type of seats you want. The options in order are: Ivy seats (4,500 yen), Breeze seats (4,500 yen), 1B Alps (2,500 yen for adults, 1,000 yen for kids), 3B Alps (same prices as 1B), 3B Alps Raku-raku seats (same prices as 1B), Right outfield seats (1,900 yen for adults, 600 yen for kids), and Left outfield seats (same prices as right OF). Here’s a stadium map so you can see where all these seats are:

Koshien

02

You will see a popup to the right of the picture above when you choose your section, and it will look like this. Use the drop-down menu to choose how many adult tickets and how many children’s tickets you want.

03

Finally, you will get to see a summary of the tickets you’re about to purchase, the cost, your information, credit card information, etc. Follow the “red” instructions I have put on here, and click the button at the bottom to complete your purchase.

04

That should be it. You will get a confirmation e-mail letting you know how/when you can pick up your tickets. I’m sorry if this is not the most thorough or best way to buy tickets. Once I get a little more clout (or make more contacts) I will pester the organization to at least make this part of their website available in English. Hope to see you all at a game or two this year! If you have any questions, leave a comment or drop me a line (FB, Twitter, or e-mail me at raichura328 @ hotmail . com). GO TIGERS!

The Battle for 2B: Why Other Teams Want Uemoto

The original article can be found here 元の記事はこちら

It seems other teams want Uemoto to get more playing time over Nishioka at 2B. Why?

It seems other teams want Uemoto to get more playing time over Nishioka at 2B. Why?

Spies from other clubs are pulling for Hiroki Uemoto to win the battle for second base – the biggest position battle in the Tigers camp – over Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Tigers handily beat the Chunichi Dragons 6-1 in their exhibition match on the 22nd (in Chatan). Said manager Wada, who recorded his first win in the club’s sixth intersquad game of the year, “We face them in our opening season series, so we put a little more emphasis on winning this one,” with a relieved look on his face.

The talk behind the backstop overheard from other clubs’ “scorers” (scouts/data analysts) was all about the battle for second base between Uemoto and Nishioka. So why are the majority of them not cheering for the thus far unspectacular Nishioka, and instead rooting for the man who stole his position last season, Uemoto? One scorer had this to say: “Of course we don’t like Uemoto. He’s got greater range at 2nd than Nishioka does. But if Uemoto gets second base, then there’s a good chance Nishioka will be moved to third. We’ll be happy if that happens because it means (Ryota) Imanari gets forced to sit on the bench. So we want Uemoto to win the battle.”

On this day, Nishioka was also in the starting lineup at DH, posting two walks and hitting a sacrifice fly, earning him an RBI. At second base, Uemoto went one-for-four with an RBI himself, making today’s match a “draw.” So why the precaution about the popular impersonator (and secret weapon) that is Imanari?

Another spy had this to say: “He’s their mood maker and is a great fielder. Plus most of the Tigers hitters gamble on what pitch is coming their way, but not Imanari. He is able to adjust to what is thrown at him. Even when there’s one hitter in the lineup like that, the pitcher’s got to go out of his way to pitch carefully to him. He’s more of a threat than his numbers indicate, and we’d rather he stay on the bench against us.” And just as the man pointed out, Imanari, who played third on this day, went 3-for-5 and proved to be a hard out.

If Uemoto can stay on at second, the team may follow last year’s strategy and use Nishioka at third quite often. In doing so, the pesky Imanari would sit on the bench, a gold mine unharvested. One can’t help but wonder if other teams aren’t taking Nishioka too lightly…

Sponichi Interview 2: Yano on Oh

The original article can be found here 元の記事はこちら

OhYanoInterview

Former Tigers catcher and current sports analyst Akihiro Yano caught up with Korean closer Seung-hwan Oh, winner of last year’s Most Saves title.


Yano: So this is your second year in Japan. Is camp going well for you?

Oh: Compared with last year, much better. I’m in better shape and I’m able to approach practice in a better frame of mind.

Yano: You’ve fit in well with your teammates, too, it seems?

Oh: Yeah, my teammates are really looking out for me.

Yano: That’s because you’re such a good guy! And on the field you met everyone’s expectations with that title (most saves, with 39). Speaking of which, your first year seemed to go extremely well, but what did you think of your performance?

Oh: To me, the title means very little. I’m looking to reduce the number of saves I blow this year*. I wasted too many chances last year.

Yano: We can see how serious you are about that in your workouts. What are you doing differently this year?

Oh: Compared to last year I’m doing a lot more weight lifting. I want to put on more muscle. I lost too much last year.

Yano: For baseball? Not to punch anyone out, right?

Oh: Hahaha, last year was my first in Japan, and I think nerves and worrying about everyone around me caused me to drop too much weight.

Yano: OK, we know about Seung-hwan the pitcher – his game, his pitching style, and so on. How about off the field… have you seen anything moving on TV, in movies or anything?

Oh: I’ve kind of gotten hooked on Korean dramas recently. I download them and watch them. It’s a story of a businessman working for a regular company. All I’ve done is play baseball so for me it’s interesting to watch stories about the lives of “regular business people.”

Yano: It’s a hard life! It’s what I do now. By the way, it seems like you’re starting to understand more and more Japanese.

Oh: (Last year) I didn’t study at all but this year I would like to. When I have time I think I’ll hire a private (Japanese language) tutor and get lessons.

Yano: A girlfriend?

Oh: Hahaha, no.

Yano: Not that you have many, but what do you do when you get a day off?

Oh: I love going out and finding good restaurants to eat at.

Yano: Japanese restaurants?

Oh: I like Japanese food, like sushi. There’s nothing I won’t eat.

Yano: By the way, what is your favorite Korean food?

Oh: That would be my mom’s home cooking.

Yano: Not your girlfriend’s?

Oh: Hahaha.

Yano: (Relievers) Fukuhara and Andoh are getting up there in age, so the team will be depending on you even more! Have a great year!

Oh: We’re all part of the same team.

Yano: Fukuhara is already saying his back hurts…

Oh: I believe it (laughs).

* Seung-hwan Oh had six blown saves last season. Including three walk-off losses he had 4 defeats on the season, and twice left the mound after giving up the tying run.

Sponichi Interview: Yano on Messenger

akihiroyanorandymessenger

Messenger’s 3 goals for the season: a championship, three pitching titles (ERA, wins, strikeouts), and his first career home run.

Tuesday’s “Sports Nippon” paper featured part 1 of 4 interviews that will be conducted with the Tigers’ foreign players. In this one, former catcher great Akihiro Yano interviews ace pitcher Randy Messenger.

Yano: This is your sixth year in Japan. I guess you know what to expect out of spring camp by now?

Messenger: Yeah, at practice I concentrate on what I am supposed to be doing. But when I get back to the hotel I do what I can to clear my mind, relax and forget about baseball.

Yano: How’s the food? Speaking of food, you are known as a ramen aficionado*. You could probably put out a book about all your favorite ramen shops, no?

Messenger: (laughs) You’re probably right, I’ve been to enough ramen joints to put a whole book out.

Yano: I’m not sure if we’ll be able to publish the name in the paper, but what’s your favorite place?

Messenger: It’s a place called Yoshimuraya**. Ichiban! (It’s number one!) Their “tokudai” (extra large) is amazing!

Yano: So you’ve got 5 seasons under your belt in Japan. You’ve won the strikeout title two years in a row. If you can win it again this year, it’ll be three. You also took the wins title last year. You’ve become an indispensable pitcher for the Tigers. What are your goals for the upcoming campaign?

Messenger: The biggest is obviously winning the pennant. I came here at the same time as Matt Murton, but we still haven’t been able to accomplish that goal. We always say to each other, “Let’s win a championship together.” As for personal goals, I want the ERA title this year. I’ve never won it before, so I want to aim for that title as well.

Yano: When I was active with the team, I didn’t get a lot of chances to catch your pitches. That first season, you really hung in there at ni-gun (Japan equivalent of Triple-A). To be honest with you, there were worse pitcher than you playing with the big team, and you could have complained but you didn’t.

Messenger: All I was doing was following orders. If they said, “You gotta do this to make the big club,” then I did it.

Yano: That’s pretty amazing. Rather, I think that probably helped your development. So you said you want the ERA title this year. Does that mean you’re going for the Sawamura Award, too?

Messenger: Of course I want to defend my two titles from last season as well, and if I can take the ERA title on top of that, it’d be great. I’ll do what I can to achieve my goals.

Yano: So what do you need to do (to achieve them)?

Messenger: When they call on me, I’ve got to throw well and go deep into every game that I start. That’s the most important thing.

Yano: Then there’s batting, home runs, right? Last season you told us you would hit two home runs but didn’t get any. How many will you hit this year?

Messenger: I’ve played six years now, maybe I should just try to get my first one. Tokyo Dome, big chance! Yokohama, big chance! Jinguu, big chance!

Yano: You’ve really become more than just a hired gun; you are the core of the pitching staff. As such a key player in the organization, as a former Tiger myself I hope you can help carry the team again this year.

Messenger: Every year I try to help the newcomers relax when they get here. I think players perform better then they feel relaxed.

Yano: By the way, pitcher (Hiroki) Kuroda has signed on with the Carp this year. Would you like to face him?

Messenger: I’d love to! He’s a great addition to Hiroshima. I thought he could have played at least 2-3 more years in America. If I get the chance to face him, it would be great.

Yano: And hit a home run off him, right?

Messenger: Sounds good! OK, I’ll hit one at Mazda (Stadium)!


* Since Messenger came to Japan in 2010, he has really come to love ramen. His favorite is tonkotsu (pork rib broth). Since he had success on days after eating ramen, he has made a habit of eating ramen the day before his starts, even finding good shops on the road.

** Yoshimuraya is located in Minamisaiwai, Nishi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa. It opened in 1974. Their ramen is characterized by a pork-soy broth that also uses chicken stock, as well as thick, flat noodles. They are said to be the originators of the “Iekei Ramen” and are also called the “Best Iekei Ramen.”

2014 Tigers Data Analysis – Hitters

I’ve decided to go ahead and post this one without any requests for it. I love seeing what the Japanese data analysts have to say! This one comes with a few comments from yours truly as well. I’m going to limit it to the “typical top 6” batters in the order from last season. With all due respect to Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Ryota Arai, Ryota Imanari, Ryutaro Umeno and Kentaro Sekimoto (whose data analysis is also in the magazine), I think it’s best to keep things a little more concise. Here they are, from 1-6 in the lineup:

uemotoHiroki Uemoto

Uemoto started the season on fire, but cooled off quickly as the weather heated up. Still, the fact that he averaged over four pitches per plate appearance (showing patience and selection) gives promise for better results in the future.

Month AB H HR AVG PPAB
March/April 108 36 1 .333 4.69
May 43 15 0 .349 3.98
June 73 17 0 .233 4.30
July 87 23 5 .264 4.76
August 104 26 1 .250 4.64
September 96 25 0 .260 3.86
October 4 0 0 .000 4.40

YamatoYamato

Yamato led the league in sacrifice bunts, but his ability to advance the runner went beyond laying down the sacrifice. He topped the team in “advanced runner rate” — a number that does not factor in his incredible bunting success.

Year Attempts Success Success %
2010 3 1 .333
2011 5 5 1.000
2012 22 19 .864
2013 45 36 .800
2014 55 52 .945
Rank Batter Chances Hits Grounders Advance AVG
1 Yamato 66 16 15 .470
2 Matt Murton 112 41 9 .446
3 Toritani 149 44 20 .430

ToritaniTakashi Toritani

Two seasons ago he set the pace with a high average in his first at bat of the game. This past season, however, he had much greater success in his second at bat and beyond, averaging over .300 AFTER his first plate appearance.

AB # (2014) AB H AVG AB # (2013) AB H AVG
1 126 34 .270 1 120 42 .350
2 125 38 .304 2 121 31 .256
3 128 45 .352 3 118 32 .271
4~ 171 55 .322 4~ 173 45 .260

GomezMauro Gomez

What can be said except, WOW. What a first-year for the big Dominican. He absolutely crushed the Swallows (who didn’t, mind you?) and the Giants. He also showed the consistent ability to produce the team’s tying or leading runs in games, as evidenced by his “clutch hit” numbers.

Opponent AB H HR RBI AVG RiSP AVG Clutch Hits
Swallows 85 32 4 24 .376 .538 5
Giants 88 28 6 19 .318 .280 6
Dragons 91 28 2 13 .308 .391 7
Baystars 92 24 4 15 .261 .269 6
Carp 91 21 5 18 .231 .257 2
Interleague 90 21 5 20 .233 .242 6

MurtonMatt Murton

Just when you thought the man couldn’t improve, he went ahead and produced a career best .355 average against breaking pitches (curves, sliders, etc.). If Murton is aware of these numbers, I am sure he will work on getting that “sinking pitch” average a little higher in 2015.

Year Pitch Type AVG HR RBI
2010 Straight .383 14 19
Breaking .349 3 20
Sinking .275 0 31
2011 Straight .357 8 22
Breaking .292 4 30
Sinking .246 1 24
2012 Straight .267 3 16
Breaking .264 1 23
Sinking .242 1 17
2013 Straight .394 11 23
Breaking .293 7 32
Sinking .185 1 26
2014 Straight .366 8 22
Breaking .355 2 21
Sinking .240 4 21

FukudomeKosuke Fukudome

His overall numbers were not impressive, but he continues to give opposing pitchers fits with his keen eye. A little better wood on the pitches in the zone and “Dome-san” will be right back where he belongs in the upper echelon.

Year Rank Batter Balls Thrown Balls Left Good Eye %
2014 1 Toritani 1263 1076 .852
2 Uemoto 1266 1065 .841
3 Fukudome 818 621 .759
4 Yamato 895 632 .706
5 Imanari 708 483 .682
2013 1 Toritani 1357 1176 .867
2 Fukudome 524 405 .773
3 T. Arai 1206 911 .755
4 Nishioka 1115 828 .743
5 R. Arai 889 647 .728

2014 Tigers Data Analysis – Pitchers

IMG_3777As a numbers guy, statistics fascinate me to no end. The January “Monthly Tigers” Magazine (not the fan club one, but the one below – it sells at bookstores for ¥410) had a piece on the Tigers’ main pitchers and their numbers in 2014. Some interesting things came out of them and I thought I would share. It’s too much to share it all, but here is the interesting stuff.

NohmiAtsushi Nohmi

How hitters fared against his different pitches

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How hitters fared against him based on the number of strikes against

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MessengerRandy Messenger

How hitters fared against his different pitches

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Day game vs. night game records

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fujinamiShintaro Fujinami

How hitters fared against his different pitches

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Runs allowed by inning

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IwataMinoru Iwata

How hitters fared against his different pitches

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Run support ranking (starters)

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OhSeung-hwan Oh

How Batters fared against the fastball: NPB Rankings

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