7/30/09 — Hiroshima (Home)

July 30th, 2009

Hiroshima Carp logoTokyo Yakult Swallows cap

Hiroshima Toyo Carp 8

Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3

Streak: Lost 2     Last : WWWLL

(Jingu Stadium)

There's not quite enough competition for the slots on the back end of the Tokyo rotation.

OK, here’s the deal: we need to buy a second farm team right now because there’s not enough competition for slots on the rotation, and the guys aren’t getting the game time that they need on the phenomenally overcrowded minor league team that bedevils the Swallows’ youngsters and retreads.

Sending a pitcher, such as tonight’s still-shaky Muranaka, down to the farm team for ‘readjustment’ doesn’t really do anything productive. He’s obviously already better than most of the other arms down there, which is  why he’s up on the first team in the first place, and if he gets sent down, he’ll neither see the playing time he really needs nor will he pitch against a large number of other players who are on the cusp of being called up. Muranaka clearly needs a lot more work against competent hitters, and the only place he can get that is at the ichi-gun level, so unfortunately that’s where he should stay for the time being.

Like all the other teams in NPB, Tokyo needs at least one more minor league affiliate, and having a second farm team would allow for the separation of players into different ability levels and partial attainment of the goal of actually developing talent.

The way that things are set up right now, sending someone like Kawashima or Muranaka down to the minors to sort some things out is more akin to a punishment than anything else. Instead, young guys like Muranaka have to survive the weekly shellings until their confidence and control catches up with their natural talent.

But I digress. On to the game report:

With Tokyo fielding an unchanged starting lineup, Muranaka (0-3, 7.63) started and pitched reasonably well against Hiroshima for the first four innings. Hiroshima scored a single run in the first when the increasingly dangerous Kurihara brought Akamatsu around to score from second. 1-0 Carp.

Tokyo came right back in the bottom of that inning when Aoki scored on a It was another one of those games for Tokyo.D’Antona single. The go-ahead run came in the bottom of the second when Miyamoto scored on a Kawashima single through the gap between third and short. 2-1 Swallows.

Muranaka didn’t exactly keep the runners off the bases, but he didn’t allow any more run in the first four innings. He dodged a bit of a bullet in the third with the leadoff batter walking and then Hiroshima Carp manager, Marty Brown, calling for a bunt. That basically assured that no runs would score because pitcher Colby Lewis was only a couple batters away in the lineup. [Sometimes I think that Brown bunts just to help illustrate how stupid the idea is.]

But our starter got pummeled in the fifth, and he would be pulled after recording only a single out. He ended up allowing three runs off of three hits while also giving up his third walk of the afternoon. Hashimoto (2.08 ERA) came in to handle the rest of that inning and didn’t allow any more runs to score, but two crossed home plate in the sixth following an uncharacteristic fielding error by Mr. Tanaka at second base. 6-2 Hiroshima.

Tokyo would get one run back in the seventh when Kawashima hit his 9th home run of  the season over the wall in left. Even with the wind blowing in, this one was never really in doubt and underscores the power that our wee shortstop developed during the offseason. 6-3 guys in red.

But after Oshimoto’s (2.90) scoreless sevnth, Hiroshima found a way to score off of the improving Lee (3.38) when Amaya tripled and brought Higashide home in the process. The final insult was exacted with Kida (5.67) on the mound again for the home side. [Someone please remind me why it was a good idea to use him again after the embarrassment of Wednesday night’s game…there are at least five other middle inning relievers in the bullpen right now that need to get some game time.] Kida gave up a two out line drive over the fence in left for a final score of 8-3 in Hiroshima’s favor.

Against the dialed in Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.32), the only bird who had a game worth writing home about was Kawashima who went 3-3 with a home run and two rbi’s.

The Swallows now have the pleasure of hosting the red-hot Chunichi Dragons for a three game series starting tomorrow night at 6pm.

The Swallows are now three games behind the Chunichi Dragons in the battle for second place in the Central League.

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

  • Forgot to mention that Guiel had a sensational sliding catch at the wall in foul territory! Definitely one of the best defensive plays I’ve ever seen him make.

  • Rob

    Spot on! That was almost exactly what I was thinking watching the replay on TV this morning (Fuji TV One – yay!).

    In MLB, Muranaka might have a few years in the minors to get a grip on his control and get some experience. He seems to have good stuff, aside from the control thing.
    It would be nice to have a place to develop players instead of just a holding tank. Sad.

    I am less upbeat on Kawashima. I don’t think he has it this year, and “this year” might be too nice.
    Yuuki has been hot and cold – not sure which is the real one yet.
    I’d rather see Lee start than relieve, but I think that would mean no left-handed relief.

    Have we been going with a six-man rotation? Would a five-man format be thinkable? Tateyama, Ishihara, Yoshinori, Yuuki, and Some Other Guy?

  • We’ve kind of been going with a five-and-a-half man rotation due to all the instability at the back end.

    Tateyama and Ishikawa have been starting regularly, but Yoshinori’s blister-prone hands have helped necessitate some juggling of Yuuki, Kawashima, and Muranaka.

    The result is that Tateyama and Ishikawa are generally given a start every five to seven days, and then everyone else just sort of fills in around them.

    As for the whole minor league in NPB thing, I know that teams have relationships with clubs from the various independent leagues, but I haven’t heard about anything being contractual.

    I would love to see Tokyo give some financial backing to at least two clubs (in two separate independent leagues) and sign all of the players to some sort of contract with Tokyo Yakult.

    The team with the shortest season would naturally take on a single-A role within the Tokyo minor league system. The team with the longer schedule would be our double-A team, and then Tokyo’s farm team would become the AAA club.

    If such a system were in place, then true competition could be developed within the club for places on the top team. Kawashima and Muranaka would be splitting playing time with other young guys who are only one step from the top, and guys that are developmentally further away would be spending time on the AA team. However, the value of such a system only reaches its full potential when other NPB teams have adopted a similar player development strategy.

    I have no idea if there are any rules preventing this type of player development system, but I’m sure that there would be some rather easy ways around them.

    I’ve simplified the process quite a bit, and I’m also making the fatal assumption that the parent company, Yakult, even cares about the development of talent, so I’ve obviously overlooked some very important obstacles to the creation of a tangible minor league feeder program for the top team.

    Anyone out there have any thoughts on this?