9/13/08 – Yomiuri (Away)

September 13th, 2008

Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 8

Yomiuri Giants 9

Streak: Lost 5 Last 5: LLLLL

(Tokyo Dome)

A bunch of close-scoring games recently, and Tokyo just keeps finding itself on the losing end of the stick. This game was no different.

Tokyo did a lot of things right this afternoon. But then they also did a lot of things wrong. More often than not, the right and wrong happened in the same inning with the latter nullifying the former.

Take the top of the ninth inning, for example. Yomiuri up 9-8 with Kroon on the mound. What is Kroon good at doing? Throwing hard. What happens if you don’t swing? The count quickly tilts in the batters favor. Many people know this. And it seemed like someone had clued our hitters in as well.

Kroon walked the first two batters he faced, Tanaka and Kawashima, on nine pitches, and then gave Fukukawa a free trip to first promptly thereafter. He was getting flustered, and Tokyo was doing a good job of just letting him screw himself into the ground.

Don’t swing. Simple.

Bases loaded, no outs. Kroon sweating buckets.

So what happens next? Our veterans start swinging. Yuuichi grounds out. Fukuchi strikes out. Miyamoto grounds out. Game over.

After being so patient and allowing an opposing pitcher to nearly give us the game (like we did for Hanshin a couple times earlier this week), guys who should know better go out and let Kroon out of an enormous jam so that he can do a little fist-pumping toward the heavens.

Tokyo starter Ryo Kawashima had another rocky outing. Five innings, eight earned runs off of nine hits (three solo home runs included), two walks and two K’s. His ERA took a beating and now sits at 4.89 while his record remained at 6-6. Igarashi took the loss, his first of the season, when he gave up the go ahead run on a solo home run in the bottom of the eigth.

Bright spots included Hatakeyama who went 3-4 and drew one walk. Fukuchi had home runs in both the fifth (solo shot) and sixth (three runs scored) innings, and Tanaka hit a solo homer in the sixth as well (2-3, reached base four times). Kawamoto, our second string catcher, had another decent night at the plate with an RBI sac fly in the second, an rbi double in the fourth, and what looked like a very painful beaning in the sixth (he left the game.)

But back to the negative, Iihara managed to get out on the first pitch he saw three times during the game. I appreciate agressiveness at the plate as much as the next guy, but some of our players definitely need to learn how to take a pitch (and not just on a 3-0 count.)

Tokyo has now lost five in a row and will try to avoid back-to-back sweeps tomorrow when they play game three of the series at Tokyo Dome.

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

  • Tokyo did a lot of things right this afternoon. But then they also did a lot of things wrong. More often than not, the right and wrong happened in the same inning with the latter nullifying the former.

    This really does sum up our season very well.

  • Argh, what a frustrating loss! Loading the bases with no outs on the top of the 9th and coming up empty! It was the first Swallows game I caught on TV in a while.

  • Indeed it was Simon. We were there in leftfield and it was quite the frustrator I can tell you………

  • When those bases got loaded, Pellegrini turned to me and said, “You know they’re not gonna score, right?”

    Sadly, rather than odd prescience, that remark shows observation.

    Even if Tokyo goes on a remarkable tear and grabs 15 of their last 19 games, thus making the Climax Series, it will be time to look for a different skipper.

    According to Wayne Graczyk’s 2008 Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide, Takada is “[r]egarded as one of the most knowledgeable people in Japanese baseball.” That may well be true.

    Heck of a player, too. Rookie of the Year and Japan Series MVP in 1968, Best Nine from ’69 to ’72, Gold Glove from ’72 to ’77, a handful of Japan Series titles because he played for Yomiuri.

    He was also, arguably, a pretty succesful GM in Hokkaido. The Fighters certainly became a better team after they moved up there, which roughly coincides with Takada’s becoming GM.

    But that doesn’t add up to being a good field manager, to having a good head for strategy, to being able to lead a team. Takada managed the Fighters, when the team finished in 5th twice and 3rd twice, and with a win percentage over .500 only in 1987, when they finished .512. His combined record was 235- 255-30, for a career win percentage of .480 – not abominable, but certainly nothing to be proud of, nothing to pay for.

    Much like the Swallows, the 1984 Fighters were in last place. Takada led them up to 5th for a couple of years, then to third for a couple of years – never seriously threatening the pennant-winners (there was no Climax Series back then, of course), then left, after which the team performed much the same for the next couple of years.

    Past performance is generally a pretty good indicator of future performance and, given that Takada’s Fighters had very similar records throughout his tenure – a record similar to Tokyo’s right now – and were neither noticeably better nor worse before or after his time there, it shows that Takada has a track record of taking over a mediocre team and fiddling around with them in mediocrity.

    The difference, though, is that the players on the 2008 Swallows are more competitive, in terms of production, than the Fighters of the mid-to-late ’80s, especially at the plate.

    The guy is just not a good manager.

    This year in Tokyo, he has steadfastly refused to play to win, going for one run against teams he knows are good scorers and without the pitching to hold on to a slim lead. To make it even worse, he doesn’t always get his run – this team has left enough runners stranded to fill up the Honolulu Marathon. He’s taken a pitching staff that needs help, left his young guys with not many innings under their belts at the end of the season, and ridden his relievers into the ground.

    To win games, to say nothing of championships, you have to want to win, you have to try to win, you have to develop a strategy to win, and you have to respond to what’s happening on the field and learn to use your players’ strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. Takada has shown none of those traits this year and, given his record, there’s not much reason to believe he’ll start next year.

    Time to get a new boss out there, no matter how this season ends.