Welcome to the Monday Review, in which we’ll look back at the week that was and look ahead to the week that will be. We hope a recurring weekly review column will help readers identify some trends that can’t be covered in a single game report. We’re still trying to work out the format, so let us know what you’d like to see in the comments.
After a couple of weeks of feeling like there wasn’t much to write about, we’re back with another Monday review! This week we’ll cover the major roster moves made this week, well as go over all the retirement announcements made recently, and we’ll also spend a lot of time going over the stretch run from multiple view points.
Roster Moves: Due to injury and ineffectiveness our roster has been in flux recently. Muranaka was taken off the active roster on September 28 citing tightness in his throwing shoulder after a string of ineffective starts. Shichijo took his place on the roster, but lost it a day later after an ineffective start against the Tigers. Meanwhile Ishikawa and Kyuko both reportedly had fevers. Kyuko was taken off the active roster with Shichijo to get some rest, while Ishikawa missed his scheduled start but remained on the active roster. LHP Okamoto was brought up with the Kyuko/Shichijo demotion, but lost his top team spot on the 2nd in a major roster shake up. Okamoto, Tetsuya Yamamoto, Takeuchi, and Miwa lost their spot on the active roster in favor of Hitoshi Yamamoto, Kato, Hashimoto, Fukuchi, and Yuichi. One day later, Keizo Kawashima was taken off the active roster. The Swallows’ active roster currently stands at 26 men, which means that 2 spots are open for a call up. Kyuko and Muranaka would be eligible to return this upcoming weekend. Yoshinori was rumored to be coming back during the Swallows’ 9 game stretch in September, but subsequent rumors have mentioned that he would not be able to return during the regular season. Tony Barnette was supposed to be shut down for 3 weeks at the beginning of September, so he may be coming back soon, but there is no news on Tony’s present condition.
While the moves on the offensive side are mostly cosmetic since our starting core has been fairly established, the moves on the pitching side point to a team in flux. We’re starting to run out of quality starters and we’ll have to hand the ball to a group of younger unproven relievers if the starters can’t go deep. The absence of Kyuko and Barnette also puts a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Matsuoka and Oshimoto late in the game in key situations. Our current rotation is Tateyama, Masubuchi, Akagawa, Hitoshi Yamamoto (?), and Ishikawa (assuming he returns tomorrow). Not quite the rotation that got us here.
Retirement News: We’ve already covered the retirement announcement of Aaron Guiel, but two more Swallows announced their intention to retire after the season. Hirotoshi Ishii and Osamu Hamanaka will be retiring after the season.
Hirotoshi Ishii is a life-long Swallow that was drafted in the 4th round of the 1995 draft. Starting in 1999, Ishii started getting regular playing time as a lefty arm out of the bullpen. He had a breakout season in 2002 in which he appeared in a league high 69 games, and posted a 1.51 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP, on his way to be named Most Valuable Reliever. Ishii and Ryota Igarashi made up the duo ‘Rocket Boys’ as the top lefty/righty pair out of the bullpen after the departure of Shingo Takatsu in 2004. Beyond his play with the Swallows, Ishii has played for Japan in the 2004 Olympics and the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. Ishii had always expressed a strong desire to play in the Majors, but the team would not post him. The team initially promised to post him after the 2004 season, but reneged on the promise after the team changed managers in the off-season. The team finally promised to post Ishii after the 2006 season if he pitched one more full season. Unfortunately, Ishii injured his shoulder during that season and would not pitch at the top level again. Ishii has been rehabbing his shoulder ever since and has appeared in a handful of ni-gun games over the years. Ishii announced his decision to retire on the 29th and thanked the club for giving him the opportunity to try to return to baseball.
Osamu Hamanaka joined the Swallows prior to this season as a potential right handed bat off the bench. After a hot spring, Hamanaka was the team’s opening day stater in left field but lost the job to Hatakeyama after only 3 games. Hamanaka was drafted in 1996 by the Tigers and spent 11 years with the club before moving to the Orix Buffaloes in 2008. Since 2003, Hamanaka has been bothered by a right shoulder injury which has kept him out of the line up on and off for years. Hamanaka cited the injury and his inability to give it his all on the field as reasons for retiring after the season.
The Schedule Up Ahead: The Swallows are about to start a stretch in which they will play 12 games in 12 days. Things will kick off at the Kyocera Dome tomorrow with a 3 game series against the Tigers, followed by a 3 game weekend series at Jingu. Then, the Swallows will travel to Nagoya for a critical 4 game series against the Dragons which may decide the pennant race. The marathon will cap off with a rain make up game against the Tigers at Jingu, followed by another make up game at Yokohama. After that insane stretch, the Swallows will get 2 days off before visiting Koshien for a game, and a game at Nagoya the next day. The Swallows will have 5 days rest before finally wrapping up their regular season with a home game at home.
Win Percentage Table: The final standing are calculated by winning percentage in which ties do not count, formula is W%=W/(144-T).. Therefore a team with 14 ties will have their winning percentage calculated out of 130 games, rather than 144 games. Thus, with the season winding down, you can make a table of what the team’s win percentage will be depending on their record in the remaining games. Using the table you can see how you compare with other teams depending on their records. Thus we present the win percentage tables as of October 3rd for the top 4 teams in the Central League.
The first thing you may notice is that the Swallows have already guaranteed themselves a winning season. The table also illustrates the gulf that exists between the Swallows and the Tigers, meaning the Swallows’ place in the Climax series is quite safe. You can also use the table to figure out the minimum number of wins the team will need depending on how they do in a head to head. So if the Swallows take 4 out of 5 games from the Dragons, the Dragons would finish with a .5735 winning percentage if they win all their other games. Thus, the Swallows would need to go 5-5 in their other games to finish above the Dragons. Obviously, as games get played you can eliminate possible records and narrow the list of scenarios. If any teams tie the table will need to be reworked to lower the denominator.
Retirement Ceremony Scenarios: The team has traditionally used the last home game of the year to recall the retiring players to the top team to give them one last chance to play at Jingu and give the fans a chance to say goodbye. While imports have typically not received this kind of treatment, the team has hinted that they would try to work something out with Guiel in response to the outpouring of support by the fans. However, this year, depending on where we end up in the standings the team may not be able to afford removing an active player from the roster lest we lose their services for the beginning of the playoffs. Because players removed from the active roster cannot be re-added for 10 days, the team will have to know their playoff situation at least 10 days prior to their first Climax Series game (Oct. 29 for round 1, Nov. 2 for round 2).