The Monday Review #5

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.

This week the Monday Review comes to you on Tuesday since there was a game on Monday. Last week saw the Swallows kick off their Interleague schedule against the Fighters, Eagles, and the Hawks. A quarter of the way through the Interleague schedule, things have not looked good. After starting off strong with a 2-0 win against the Fighters behind the strong pitching of Tateyama, the Swallows lost the next 4 before tying the Hawks at home in a rained shortened game last night. The team still holds a tenuous lead over the Central League, but how we play this week will determine whether we’ll still be there next time this column gets posted.

The Week That Was

Offensive Ineptitude: Over six games last week, the Swallows scored a grand total of 6 runs. The team has batted .204 over the last 6 games with 0 HRs. The team has not scored more than 1 run in any inning during the Interleague. Part of that can be attributed to hitting top flight pitchers like Masaru Takeda, Yu Darvish, and Masahiko Tanaka, but the team does need to figure out how to hit pitchers like Takahiro Shiomi, Tadashi Settsu, and Sho Iwasaki if they want to be at all successful. Here’s a look at the offensive stats of our key starters during this stretch.

NameGPAABH2B3BHRTBRBIRKBBHBPSAVGOBPSLGOPS
Aoki62623600061123000.2610.3460.2610.607
Tanaka62520700071201040.3500.3810.3500.731
Hatakeyama62322510062151000.2270.2610.2730.534
Balentien62322510060051000.2270.2610.2730.534
Whitesell51917430071092000.2350.3160.4120.728
Miyamoto62018400040030110.2220.2630.2220.485
Aikawa61917401061131100.2350.3160.3530.669

I think the numbers speak for themselves, not pretty. Hiroyasu was probably the most consistent batter of the bunch but with no one hitting at the right time he was only able to come around to score twice. Josh was the only hitter with multiple extra-base hits, but he also racked up strikeouts including a golden sombrero against Rakuten’s Tanaka. Also notice the freaky similarity of Hatakeyama and Balentien’s numbers.

The Other Side of the Coin: Our pitching has been good and has kept the team within striking distance in every game except in the 9-1 shellacking by the Hawks. Tateyama (0 ER over 2 games), Ishikawa (2 ER), Yoshinori (2ER, CG) , and even Yamamoto (1 ER in 4.1 IP) kept the opposition off the board. As a team, the Swallows have allowed 17 runs in 6 games. If we take out the 9 run melt down by Masubuchi and Kato, we’ve been a couple of hits away from a win in every game. The strong outings by Tateyama, Ishikawa, and Yoshinori limited the exposure of our thin bullpen. Mikinori Kato was the only relief pitcher to make multiple outings this week.

Record-Pace Bunting: As you can see in the offensive table above Hiroyasu Tanaka got 4 sacrifice bunts this week. That puts him at 23 sac bunts in 31 games this year which puts him on pace to shatter Miyamoto’s NPB record of 67, set in 2001. At this rate, Tanaka will have 107 sac bunts by the end of the season.

Roster Moves: I think I’ll make this a regular feature since a lot of the team’s roster moves go unnoticed. Joining the first team this week are Miyade, Akagawa, Hitoshi Yamamoto, Morioka, Ueda, Guiel, and Araki. Nakamura, Barnette (bereavement leave), Nakazawa, Kawabata (injury), Iihara, and Onizaki were taken off the active roster this week. Also, as reported earlier today the team acquired veteran right-handed reliever Chikara Onodera from the Saitama Seibu Lions, for fourth year infielder Onizaki. No word on whether  Onodera will actually join the active roster, or who would be sent down if he were to join.

With Kawabata out with injury and Onizaki no longer with the team, the starting shortstop position will be fought between Morioka and Araki. The two have been starting infielders in our minor league team, with Morioka starting at third and Araki at second. Morioka was leading the Eastern League with a .327 batting average in 32 games. While Araki was leading the Eastern league with a .449 slugging percentage in 38 games. Morioka is a lefty, while Araki is a righty so we’ll see if Ogawa decides to platoon them for a while. Ueda was leading the Eastern League with 20 steals when he was called up.

 

Araki and Morioka will battle it out for the shortstop position.

Guiel’s call up comes in the wake of Barnette’s return to the States freeing up an import slot on the active roster. Barnette is eligible to return to the active roster as early as the 26th, but no timetable has been set for his return. I assume either Guiel or Whitesell will be sent down upon Barnette’s return.

The removal of Nakamura from the active roster means that the Swallows are only carrying 2 catchers at the moment. So don’t expect Kawamoto to be making pinch hit appearances too early in the game. I wonder who could play emergency catcher in both were to go down. I seem to remember reading  Jamie D’Antona volunteering for the job when he was on the team.

Fernandes Promotion? Finally, Brazilian ikusei pitcher Rafael Fernandes was rumored to be in consideration for a regular contract earlier this week. Some reports had said the team would make their decision based on his performance on the 21st. In that game against the Carp’s farm team Fernandes only pitched 1.0 innings facing 6 batters, 4 in the first and 2 in the second. He gave up a hit, a walk, and a dead ball, but no runs. It’s not entirely clear if he left due to injury or just because he gave up consecutive runners to start the second inning. Fernandes is a graduate of Hakuoh University (the same university as Iihara BTW) and would not be subject to import restrictions should he ever make the first team.

Quo Vadimus

Our Opponents: This week we’ll face the Orix Buffaloes at home and then hop on the train to face the Saitama Seibu Lions at the Seibu Dome. Both teams have gone 4-2 through the first 6 games of interleague play. Neither team has had a particularly hot season so far. The Buffaloes sit in the bottom of the Pacific League standings and are last in the league in both team batting average (.215) and team ERA (3.62). That being said, they do have the second lowest Interleague team ERA (1.98). The only truly notable player right now is former major league utility man So Taguchi, who just made his 2011 debut just prior to the Interleague and is hitting a solid .385 in his first 9 games. Other names to remember are Sakaguchi and T-Okada. If we can’t beat the Buffaloes, we’re gonna have problems.

Seibu on the other hand have not quite been the same after flaming out of the Pacific League Climax Series last year. They still have all the pieces to be good, but they haven’t quite gotten it together yet. The Swallows will probably face the solid duo of Kishi and Hoashi. Kishi will only be making his 3rd start after he sat out the first month with an injury. All Star shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima is having a bit of an off year but he’s still plenty dangerous. Last week the Lions did not worry me too much, but this week I’m not sure if we can take them.

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.

  • Great review as always Kozo.

    This is truly a key week, and one that after which we will have a better idea of where the Swallows may end up come October.

  • Guest

    I see that 6/3 is Matsuyama day at Jingu. I’m planning to go that day. Anyone know what that is?

    • Rob

      Promoting tourism in/to Matsuyama. Some Matsuyama-themed giveaways.
      First 1,000 people in get a washcloth from a local onsen. Got one a year or two ago. Took it home, tossed it on in the pile. Then my wife found it a few weeks later and “Who went to Nantoka Onsen?” “Um, I can explain that.”

      • Dogo Onsen, most likely – it’s a nationally-owned historical onsen in Matsuyama – Japan’s oldest and, possibly, most famous. Nice place, but think sento, not romantic getaway. Right across the street from Dogo Beer’s brewpub, though. Certainly worth a visit.

  • nepal

    just wanted to say keep up the good work! I am from Europe, I love baseball and getting good information and insight on the Japanese pro leagues would be impossible if not for a few websites such as this one. Have a nice day!

  • Thanks, Nepal. We’re always happy to hear about baseball fans in places where it’s a minor sport. Keep spreading the love.

    What country are you in? Do you know many other baseball fans there?

  • nepal

    I am from Romania and baseball is barely noticed in the eyes of people here – football is king. Oddly enough, the old Romanian traditional sport is a bat-and-ball game (called Oina). 

    I follow MLB closely, with the help of their live internet subscriptions. I’d love to buy one for the Nippon pro league, if it is available.I don’t speak Japanese, and can only read kana – slowly 🙂

  • nepal

    oh, and there are some fans of baseball in Romania, I’ve met them on forums and talked to them in person. All of them, without exception, follow MLB. I don’t know anyone interested in japanese ball.

    • I agree with you. Although I’m here in Japan, I’d still like to see NPB do something like MLB’s Internet subscriptions. It’s a lost opportunity to make contact with (and make a little money from) fans such as yourself.

  • Pacific League has an internet subscription broadcast service (with some free games):
    http://pl.tv-live.jp/

    Not sure about accessibility from overseas though.