Tokyo Swallows Snapshot: April 16, 2012

Nakamura has some nerves to steady, and some big shoes to fill, but he's doing well so far.

Something for you to read while fielding offers for a more appropriate gig.

Swallows of the Week

Week 2

Ishikawa was the week one MVP, but he tanked after that. Hopefully the same fate does not await the winner of the week two polling.

31 people voted this time around, and they had five choices:

Shingo Kawabata (SS)
Orlando Roman (P)
Wladimir Balentien (RF)
Tony Barnette (P)
Takehiko Oshimoto (P)

And here’s how the community voted:

PlayersVotes%
Tony Barnette1858
Wladimir Balentien826
Shingo Kawabata26.5
Takehiko Oshimoto26.5
Orlando Roman13

Congratulations to Mr. Barnette! Hopefully the Tokyo bats continue to churn out enough runs that his services won’t be necessary more than a few times a week. It sure would be nice to have him with us for the pennant race this time around.

I must say that I actually didn’t expect a closer to win the community voting on this one so early in the season. I didn’t expect it, but I like it. Any time a closer wins the voting, it means that the team is winning, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate that.

Week 3

Tokyo played five games this past week, three at Jingu and two in Matsuyama. In case you missed them, here are the game reports:

April 10th vs Yokohama (Home)
April 11th vs Yokohama (Home)
April 12th vs Yokohama (Home)
April 14th vs Hiroshima (“Home”)
April 15th vs Hiroshima (“Home”)

The series against Yokohama started OK, but was pretty dreary for the last two games. Please don’t tell me that we’re going to revert to our old ways against Yokohama. Remember how they always used to piss on our collective pillow, at least through the 2010 season, even though they generally didn’t know how to play baseball? Ugh. Hopefully 2011 wasn’t an anomally.

Saturday’s game versus Hiroshima was an enjoyable one to watch for Tokyo fans. Sunday’s was a good one, too, although not nearly as easy on the heart.

And here’s the compiled data for the top five performers from week 3:

Hiroyasu Tanaka (2B) – Beavis scored two hero interviews this week, one on Tuesday and another yesterday evening (shared with Akagawa). His game winning hit against Yokohama and decisive RBI single against Hiroshima on Sunday were just two of his team-high six hits last week. He was 6-17 at the plate with three RBI and three walks.

Lastings Milledge (LF) – Despite spending another week in the batter’s box against pitchers he’d never seen before, Milledge was one of Tokyo’s biggest contributors this week. His quick feet and arm in left kept opposing base runners honest while he also presented himself as a constant nuisance when it was his turn to to start targeting extra bases. In addition to his heads-up base-running, Milledge was 5-19 at the plate. Two doubles and a home run helped lead to three RBI this week, and he added a walk just for good measure. Oh, and get this–he’s actually been seen running hard to first base even on routine grounders. Weird.

Kyohei Muranaka (P) – Tokyo’s socially-awkward southpaw from Kanagawa Prefecture earned his first win of the year with a very solid eight-inning performance on Saturday against Hiroshima. He threw 116 pitches and allowed just one run off of eight hits and two walks. He also struck out five while lowering his ERA to 2.25. He leads the team in winning percentage (100%), innings pitched (20), hits allowed (18), HBP (2), and strikeouts (13).

Katsuki Akagawa (P) – Like Muranaka above, Akagawa earned his first win of the year this past weekend. He threw 105 pitches in seven innings of very solid work. He didn’t strike anyone out, but he kept his pitches down and allowed just four hits (all singles), three walks, and one beaned batter. He’s now 1-1 with an impressive 1.40 ERA through three starts and 19.1 innings.

So let’s hear it, Tsubamegun. Who was your MVP? Cast your vote below. Please vote only once.

This poll is closed. To see who won the voting, please check next week’s Snapshot.

 

Roster Updates

With Aikawa and Kawamoto both out with injuries, we’re down to our 3rd, 4th, and 5th string catchers now. Hopefully Nakamura shows us that he’s up for the challenge. He’s been playing pretty well so far.

Here’s what the roster looks like as of game time on Sunday April 15th:

Pitchers
Muranaka, Ishikawa, Masubuchi, Tateyama, Barnette, Hidaka, Akagawa, Watanabe, Roman, Abe, Oshimoto, Hirai

Catchers
Nitta, Fukukawa, Nakamura

Infielders
Kawabata, Miyamoto, Tanaka, Takeuchi, Yamada, Hatakeyama, Morioka

Outfielders
Hiyane, Balentien, Iihara, Yuhei, Ueda, Milledge

(28 players total)

From the Farm

Yoshinori got some work in during an exhibition game on Friday (4/13) against Fuji Heavy Industries. Final line: 8 IP, 8 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 3 R (all earned). Fernandez gave up one unearned run in the ninth to allow Fuji Heavy Industries to come back and tie the game for a 4-4 final score. (The team’s official Japanese write-up is here.)

Saturday’s game against the Futures was rained out.

The Week Ahead

Beavis isn't hitting the cover off the ball, but he's been pretty clutch recently.

Tokyo will next head to Koshien Stadium to take on the Hanshin Tigers for the second time this year. All three of the games start at 6PM from Tuesday – Thursday, and it seems likely that the pitching matchups will look a little something like this:

Tuesday
Messenger 1-0, 5.40 ERA (Hanshin) vs Tateyama 0-0, 2.08 ERA (Tokyo)

Wednesday
Kubo 1-0, 1.17 (Hanshin) vs Ishikawa 1-2, 5.19 (Tokyo)

Thursday
Ando 1-0, 0.69 (Hanshin) vs Roman 0-2, 3.97 (Tokyo)

Hanshin currently lead the season series 1 W, 0 L, 1 T against Tokyo.

And then Tokyo play host to crosstown rivals, Yomiuri, next weekend. Again, all three games start at 6PM, but I’m going to hold off on making predictions about starters at this point since things can so easily change in these parts.

Tokyo currently lead the season series 2-1 against Yomiuiri.

Around the Central League

Chunichi has opted to send slugger Tony Blanco down to the farm for some extra practice since he’s striking out a bit too much these days. Victor Diaz was sent down with him.

In other Chunichi news, starter Kenshin Kawakami is still out of action after tweaking his back on a high bouncer back to the mound  early in his April 7th start against Tokyo.

Elsewhere, NPB umpires have expressed concerns about showing replays of close calls on the big screens at various stadia. (Read: they are worried about their horrid decisions being advertised to the entire audience.)

First placed Hanshin finished the week with 3 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie. They will play host to Tokyo in a three-game series starting on Tuesday. They were 2-0-1 against Hiroshima early in the week, but then dropped both weekend games against Chunichi. Their record of 7-4-3 puts them half a game clear of Chunichi and Tokyo in second place.

Tied with Tokyo for second place in the Central, Chunichi followed two losses to the Swallows at Nagoya Dome the weekend prior (Saturday’s game report; Sunday’s game report) with a tie and two losses away to Yomiuri, and an opening game loss at Koshien on Friday. However, they prevailed over the weekend by outscoring the Tigers 10-4. Their record of 7-5-2 is good enough for a tie with Tokyo for second place in the Central.

Hiroshima slid into sole possession of fourth place in the Central League after dropping both of its “away” games to the Swallows. They were outscored 11-1 in the two weekend games (Saturday and Sunday), and this followed two losses and a draw against Hanshin on Hiroshima’s home soil. The Carp are now 6-6-2 so far this season.

Yomiuri is starting to show some life, but they’re not nearly as good as they likely will be this summer. They lost to Yokohama in walk-off style yesterday afternoon, but that was the only real blemish during a week that the team posted a 3-1-1 record. Their 5-8-1 record leaves them a game and a game and a half behind fourth place Hiroshima, and half of a game ahead of last place Yokohama.

Yokohama had its best week of the season by taking two of three from the Swallows and one of two from the Giants. At 4-8-1, and once again gurgling in the CL cellar, Yokohama’s start hasn’t yet met many people’s expectations, but nobody’s particularly surprised by that nugget of reality either.

Former Swallows

It seems that catchers in the Pacific League squat a bit closer to home plate than we’re used to here in the Central. Former Tokyo first baseman, Josh Whitesell, took out a catcher with his backswing on both Thursday and Friday evenings. Call it whatever you want, a slump or unfair treatment of a foreign player, but Josh was removed from the active roster following Friday’s game.

Norichika Aoki has only seven at-bats so far this season, but he’s not embarrassing himself. He’s currently hitting .429/.556/.429 and is generally one of the first bats off the bench plus a pretty consistent late game replacement on defense. Here’s video of Aoki’s first big league hit.

 

Alright, that’s all for this edition of the snapshot. Please excuse me while I cut off a media outlet or two.

Drink up!

 

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini