The Monday Review #8

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.

Despite playing a short week, the Swallows gave us much to talk about this week. The Swallows went 1-2-1 against the Buffaloes and the Hawks, arguably the two hottest teams coming into this weeks games. The Swallows were again plagued with a scoring drought, but the pitching showed us some bright spots.

The Week That Was

Emergency Call to the Bullpen: Twice last week the bullpen suddenly found themselves in the game after the Swallows’ starter took an early exit with the game still very much on the line. On Thursday, Yoshinori left the game with an injury after 4 innings with the game tied 1-1. On Sunday, Tateyama was ejected after 3 and 2/3 innings with the score tied 0-0. With the games still on the line the bullpen quintet of Matsuoka, Kyuko, Oshimoto, Barnette, and Lim, did it’s job to the tune of 11 and 1/3 innings pitched, with only 1 ER allowed, 5 hits allowed, 1 walk allowed, and 1 hits batsmen. The quintet combined with the solid, but abbreviated starts by Yoshinori and Tateyama, contributed to the Swallows’ 1-0-1 record in those games. Matsuoka did give up a run in Wednesday’s game and pitched in 5 and 1/3 inning in 3 games last week. Hopefully this isn’t the start of another cycle of Matsuoka abuse.








The lack of offense has the coaches concerned...







Offensive Power Outage: It seems to be a running theme in these commentaries ever since we’ve gone into the Interleague but our offense was once again having a hard time getting runs. Whatever momentum we had gained from beating on the Eagles quickly dissipated, and the Swallows only managed to score 5 runs in their 4 games. In 20 games of Interleague ball played by the Swallows, the team has scored fewer than 1 run in 10 of those games. Not surprisingly, besides 2 ties the Swallows haven’t won any of those games. In the 25 games played prior to Interleague, the Swallows were held to fewer than 1 run only twice. On the flip side, the Swallows have won all 7 of their Interleague games in which they have scored 3 or more runs.

The Curious Effectiveness (?) of Hitoshi Yamamoto: The Swallows’ fifth, now fourth, starting pitcher has been the model of a back-end rotation guy so far. The young pitcher who was drafted out of high school a year after Masubuchi, has generally manage to pitch 4-5 innings while only giving up 1-2 runs on those short innings. While certainly far from being a top of the rotation guy, he has managed to keep the team in games. In his 6 starts this season Yamamoto has given up more than 2 runs only once. Although he has only pitched more than 5 innings 3 times. The sample size is too small to conclude anything, but his contribution has been somewhat overlooked as the offense has struggled to help him and his record is 1-3. But he’s managed to be a serviceable arm in the rotation.

All Star Voting: The early results for the All Star fan vote were released, and a number of Swallows have comfortable leads in their position groups. Yoshinori leads all Central League starting pitchers with 7069 votes. Hatakeyama leads first basemen with 10,076 votes. Aoki and Balentien top the outfielders with 16373 and 10473 votes, respectively. Lim is second among closers but Hanshin’s Fujikawa has a pretty health lead, while Miyamoto comes in second amond third basemen behind Yokohama’s Murata. The fan vote will determine the starters, while the rest of the roster will be determined by the results of a player vote and the decision of the All Star team manager. Compared to last year’s votes it looks like the Swallows will fare better this year.

Roster Moves: This week was a relatively quiet week for roster moves. Hashimoto and Onodera were sent down on Thursday after their ineffective performances on Wednesday, and were replaced by Yamagishi and Watanabe. Coincidentally both Yamagishi and Watanebe where mid-season trade acquisitions last year. The only other move made by the team was Yoshinori’s removal from the active roster on Friday. That means the earliest he could rejoin the team would be on the 20th.

Quo Vadimus

Our Opponents: The Swallows will close out their Interleague schedule against the Lions and Marines at home. The Lions spanked the Swallows when they visited the Seibu Dome earlier in the Interleague but have struggled somewhat since. However the Lions will probably send out Kishi and ace Wakui to face Yamamoto and the rotation hole left by Yoshinori (see below for more details). It seem key for the Swallows to get their offense in gear if they want to get the win. Both Kishi and Wakui had rough starts the last time they pitched as Kishi gave up 4 runs in 6 innings to the BayStars, while Wakui gave up 5 runs in 5 innings to the Carp. The Marines will probably send out submariner Shusuke Watanabe, and their best pitcher Karakawa who is among the ERA leaders in the PL with a 1.45 ERA. Watanabe’s pitching-style leads to very inconsistent results, some days he seems unhittable while other days he gets shelled. If the Swallows manage to win one game against the Marines it will be the team’s only Interleague series win.

Rotation Hole: After Masubuchi’s poor series of starts it seems he’s been taken out of the rotation and is back to bullpen duty. With the short week, the Swallows wouldn’t have needed to cover for Masubuchi’s slot in the rotation, had Yoshinori not gone down. I would have liked to seen Shichijo be called up to take Yoshinori’s spot in the rotation. In his last start with the farm team, Shichijo pitched a 105 pitch complete game shutout against the Giants farm team. He gave up only 5 hits and no walks, while striking out 5. However, that performance came on Saturday, which makes it difficult to plug him in to pitch on the 15th. Ishikawa also last pitched on Saturday meaning moving his start up is not a viable option. As such, my best guess would be that recently recalled righty Yamagishi will get the start in Yoshinori’s place on the 15th. But expect to see Shichijo join the first team once CL play resumes and the team expands its rotation.

Interleague Record: Last year, the team ended up in 11th place in the Interleague with a 9-14-1 record. Going into this week the Swallows are in 6th place with a record of 8-10-2. We need 3 wins to at least end where we started before Interleague play. Hopefully we can do better and go back into Central League play with some confidence.

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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  • Guest

    Could you guys educate me on why Yoshinori is so popular? He has potential, but his numbers before this year were very good, but not superstar level. I have to assume he was amazing in High School or something.

    • He was much-hyped, we got him, and he’s cute. That’s it.

    • Kozo

      Yoshinori, Sho Nakata (Nippon Ham), and Yuki Karakawa (Lotte) were hyped as the High School Big 3 in the 2007 High School draft. Much of Yoshinori’s popularity/notoriety came from his ability to light up a speed gun even as a high schooler. He set the Koshien speed record as a senior hitting 155 km/h and threw a 157 km/h in a US-Japan exhibition game. The speed obviously helped advance his school fairly far into the Koshien tournaments. His Sendai Ikue teams appeared in 3 consecutive Koshien (Summer ’02 and spring and summer ’03) which is pretty good exposure.

      • Kozo

        As for why he’s leading the All Star vote, I think the fact he’s from Sendai is helping him get some votes since one of the games was moved to Sendai. In the absence of a dominating pitcher a la Kenta Maeda last year, his record and story are as good as any.

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