Kozo’s Monthly Roundup: May

Monthly Roundup is a new series in which I hope to look back on a month of Swallows baseball and make various observations and comments.

How We Got There: The Swallows came into the month of May on a 5 game losing streak, with an overall record of 11-17-1. Things weren’t looking good, but we still had memories of our early season surge to give us hope.

Takada Out: May 2010 for the Swallows will probably be remembered for the team’s futility and subsequent stepping aside of Manager Shigeru Takada. Despite team president Tadashi Suzuki’s statements promising to keep Takada for the season, he finally stepped aside on the 26th. Takada’s decision seems to have been a reaction to rumors published earlier in the day which had strongly suggested that he was going to resign.

Interleague Nightmare: May also saw the beginning of interleague play. There was some hope that the change of scenery would let the Swallows come out of their funk. This sense of hope was buoyed by the 9-0 thrashing the Swallows gave Chunichi in the game prior to the start of interleague play, and the fact that the first team on the schedule were the (at the time) lowly Orix Buffaloes. Those hopes were quickly dashed when the Birds dropped both of their games against the Buffaloes, and proceeded to lose their first 10 games of interleague play. At the end of May, the Swallows hold a 1-10-1 record in interleague play, and have managed to bat a lowly .210 in those games. The Swallows have yet to play the Nippon Ham Fighters, as the two games between the teams this month were canceled due to rain.

Low Scores: The Swallows of May had trouble scoring, being held to 3 runs or less in 14 games out of 20, being shutout 4 times. Not surprisingly, the Birds were 0-13-1 in those games. On the other hand, the Swallows managed to hold opponents to 3 runs or under in 10 games, yet they managed to only go 2-7-1.

Shellackings: It wasn’t all close games though, as the Swallows’ won big 9-0 against Chunichi, and 11-4 against Orix. On the other hand, the Swallows were on the receiving end of a ridiculous 20-4 beating at the hands of the Marines, an embarrassing 12-0 blanking by the Giants, and a 9-2 loss to the Buffaloes. It’s nice that 2 of our 3 wins in May were very decisive, but the fact we haven’t managed to win close games is frustrating. It can’t be good for a player’s confidence to keep losing close games, it certainly isn’t doing my confidence in my team any good.

More Proof of Offensive Impotence: I think the above already demonstrated our offensive ineptness in May. But for more depressing numbers go read Chris’ analysis of Aoki’s May numbers.

Play of the Month: In a month marked by futility and many games I’d rather forget, there is only one play that really sticks in my mind. The play occurs during the first game of the month, in the bottom of the fifth inning at Jingu. The Swallows hold a comfortable 5-1 lead and are threatening to score more with men on second and third, with one out. Miyamoto comes up to bat and grounds to first, the first baseman throws to home to try to get a charging Fujimoto out. While the throw makes it in on time, and the catcher has the plate well blocked, Fujimoto manages to touch home plate without being tagged. However, the umpire calls Fujimoto out, and Fujimoto immediately pushes the ump and gets in his face. While the run didn’t really matter in the end, we won 5-3, this play sticks in my mind because it’s the last time I really saw any Swallows player show some passion on the field.

My Player of the Month for May

Player of the Month: With none of our batters playing with any kind of consistency, it became pretty obvious that the first Kozo’s Monthly Roundup Player of the Month Award would have to go to one of our starting pitchers. Masato Nakazawa was on his way to winning this award, giving up only 5 runs in his first 3 starts of the month, but he dropped out of the running after he gave up 8 earned runs on 2 and 2/3 innings against the Marines. Rain cancellations and extra days off during Interleague play conspired to keep Nakazawa off the starting mound since that loss. Shohei Tateyama bounced back nicely from injury in his May starts, but since he only made 2 starts he got disqualified. Tony Barnette pitched himself out of the rotation in May, and was never in contention. So we’re left with lefty ace Masanori Ishikawa and Kyohei Muranaka the young southpaw. Both pitchers went 1-1 in 4 starts in May. Comparing both pitchers’ May stats reveals many similarities.

Ishikawa 27 2/3 26 5 1 10 3.25 1.16 9
Muranaka 24 20 14 1 8 3.00 1.46 19

Both pitchers had a good May, but you have to give credit to Ishikawa for pitching with the mounting pressure of not getting a W this season, a win he finally got in his 10th start. So the my first Player of the Month Award goes to Masanori Ishikawa!

Quo Vadimus: In May we ended up with a record of 3-16-1, Yakyu Baka tells us that the last time the Swallows finished out a month with just three wins (in a month where they played at least 20 games) was in 1970. So really, the only place we can go is up. Right? June will see the wrapping up of Interleague play before we go back to regular Central League play. We’ll be closing out the month with back-to-back series against the Giants and the Tigers. You can also expect a few more rain outs, as we head into the rainy season. With a seemingly solid rotation with Ishikawa, Tateyama, Nakazawa, Muranaka, and Yoshinori, it would only take a couple of bats coming alive with the summer heat to get us winning again. Hopefully we’ll be in enough close games with leads that we’ll get to see who steps up to fill Lim Chang-Yong’s shoes as closer. All we can do is hope!

BTW imaginary bonus points for anyone who gets the Quo Vadimus reference.

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.

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  • Great article and great new feature for this great site.

    Does anyone know why we barely ever see Hiromitsu Takagi, our “savior” from last year, on the ichi-gun team this year?
    Was last year's record a fluke?

  • Kozo

    I think the short answer is that Takagi was largely ineffective when he was with the first team earlier in the year. The injured players that gave Takagi the opportunity to play last year are back, and while Takagi hasn't been horrible but he's not done enough to justify a slot on the roster. Plus pitching has not been our biggest problem.

    Last year may have been a fluke, I don't think we're as bad as our record currently indicates.

  • Thanks for the reply.
    But why did they “demote” him back to reliever again? I don't recall him starting at all this year.

    BTW, great win!

  • Kozo

    He hasn't. Like I said, the injuries that pressed him into service last year have healed, and our rotation was pretty much already set based on seniority (Ishikawa/Tateyama), money invested (Barnette) and future potential (Nakazawa/Muranaka). Our starting pitching hasn't suffered to the point that we need to try different options, and Takagi hasn't done anything with either the first team or the farm team to merit putting him in the lineup this year. Also, coaches might have seen something in camp they didn't like. :shrug:

    Based on the sheer size of team rosters compared to the number of playing spots, Japanese baseball is filled with players that show flashes of talent but are not given enough playing time to establish themselves and ultimately end up in a sort of limbo. I've been meaning to write a post on how roster dynamics work in Japan.