The Monday Review #9

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.

The Swallows finished off their Interleague adventure by splitting series with the Lions and Marines. The Swallows ended the Interleague with a 10-12-2 record, good enough for a sixth place finish. They were 3 games back of the top CL team, the Chunichi Dragons, who finished in 4th with a 14-10 record. Hopefully the Swallows will be able to regain their form against more familiar CL teams once the season restarts this Friday.

The Week That Was

A Totally Random Observation: I don’t want to try to parrot Dave’s great recap about Tuesday’s great comeback against Seibu. It was truly a magical and thrilling to watch the game at Jingu, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t toot my horn a little. Last week I noted that the Swallows were undefeated this season in Interleague games in which they score at least 3 runs. So when Balentien pounded a homerun to left field to make it 5-3 Seibu, I sarcastically noted that we were going to win. Little did I realize that it would actually come true. That totally random held through the rest of Interleague and the Swallows went 9-0 in games in which they managed to score at least 3 runs. However, another way to put that observation is that the Swallows failed to score at least 3 runs in 15 Interleague games.

The Story of the Run Differential: Run differential is seen as a very basic look at a team’s overall strength as a team. Going into Interleague the Swallows had a +17 run differential through 25 games (102 runs scored – 85 runs allowed). In 24 games of Inerleague the Swallows recorded a -33 differential (57 RS- 90 RA). For comparison, the Hawks, the Interleague winners, came away with a +71. The Dragons finished with a +11, and the Giants, who finished a half game behind the Swallows, had a -2. If these kinds of performances continue against the Central League teams we’ll quickly be saying goodbye to our status as league leaders. As injuries begin to pile up (see more below) it’s not a gimme that we can start back where we left off against CL teams.

Tateyama the Ace: Tateyama was on fire throughout the Interleague, giving up only 2 earned runs in 6 games started. The Swallows went 5-0-1 in games started by Tateyama. In other words, tateyama played a hand in half of our Interleague wins this year. Tateyama pitched 41.0 innings, recorded an ERA of 0.44, a WHIP of 0.73, and 26 Ks. By the numbers, Tateyama was probably the second best pitcher during the Interleague, behind Yu Darvish who had an absolutely sick Interleague.

A Not So Good Interleague Leader: Josh Whitesell lead the Interleague with 31 strikeouts, 4 Ks ahead of Seibu’s Nakamura despite getting 21 fewer plate appearances. For the season, Whitesell is striking out once every 3.0 plate appearances.

Injury Update: Both Kawabata and Muranaka have not been heard from since their injuries. Looking back on the initial injury reports they were expect back around this time. A check of Kawabata’s blog shows that he only started taking fielding practice last week. As for Muranaka, according to media reports he has pitched in the bullpen and is expected to make some Toda appearances this month before rejoining the team. Ogawa mentioned to the press this week that he expects to get Kawabata, Muranaka, and Yoshinori, back in time for the start of a 9 game stretch that starts on July 12. No clue as to when Fukuchi is expected to return.

Fukuchi Hurt

All Star Vote Update: According to the latest numbers released earlier today all the Swallows mentioned last week have solidified their positions except Hatakeyama, who trails Ogasawara by a scant 346 votes at first base. Ogasawara is currently hitting under .200 and has no business starting, let alone playing, in the All Star game this year. Hatakeyama may be losing votes to voters who are trying to vote him in as an outfielder, but either way losing to Ogasawara would be unacceptable.

Roster Moves: Young outfielder Jun Matsui made his first team debut prior to Tuesday’s game. Yamagishi was sent down after Tuesday’s game and was replaced on the roster by Kosuke Matsui. Hitoshi Yamamoto was removed from the roster after his ineffective start on Wednesday. Fukuchi was also removed from the active roster after dislocating his left shoulder in Saturday’s game. Yamamoto and Fukuchi have not been replaced, don’t expect any moves until Friday before the Yokohama game. The biggest roster move this week was the addition of ikusei pitcher Rafael Fernandes to the 70-man roster. We speculated on this move a few weeks ago, and with Fernandes pitching reasonably well at Toda, expect him to get some time with the big team some time soon.

Fernandes signed his first Standard Player Contract.

Quo Vadimus

Our Opponents: The Central League schedule will restart with a 3 game set against Yokohama at Jingu. With 4 days off, it’s not entirely clear how the BayStars will readjust their rotation. Although seeing Takasaki and rookie Suda, seems like a strong possibility. Yokohama was in their usual low form throughout the Interleague, so how our offense does against Yokohama will be a good barometer as to whether our offensive woes are part of a bigger problem.

Potential Rotation: With the beginning of CL play it is expected that the Swallows will go to a 6 man rotation. However, with only Tateyama and Ishikawa as established starters, and Yoshinori and Muranaka a few weeks away, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the call to start. The long anticipated debut of rookie Shichijo will probably happen during the Yokohama, as he has been pitching on Saturdays at Toda. Also, expect Yamamoto to be recalled at the earliest opportunity just as he was recalled fairly soon after his previous bad outing with the first team. Other Toda starters that have put up decent numbers recently are Mikinori Kato and Rafael Fernandes. Nakazawa and Masubuchi may also make their way into the rotation as well.

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.

  • Jun

    Do you know of any site that streams or gives live updates of the nigun games? Do they even have television coverage in Japan? I like seeing the players that will play key roles in the future. It’d be nice if you guys could update every once in a while how our top prospects are doing. Definitely excited to see Shichijo take the mound.

    • Kozo

      I am not aware of any such coverage. Ni-gun game box scores get published the day after the game, and you can piece together some stats and coverage from the NPB website and through individual team sites. I obviously can’t speak for every team, but I doubt any team has anything beyond local cable access-type coverage (if that).

      I’ll continue to include snippets on players’ ni-gun performances, but given that the best I can do is skim box scores I can’t really give much insight.

      To give you an idea about life in the Swallows’ minor league team, go check out this nice article on Asahi English.

      • Jun

        Thanks for that link, very cool insights by Guiel, always liked him even though he hasn’t been that productive recently. Last thing, are you aware of any Japanese blogs for nigun or anything like that? Thank you and keep up the great blogging.

        • Kozo

          I am not aware of any such blog. Player’s blogs/Twitters can give you some insights. But aside from those, the commitment necessary to properly cover ni-gun (i.e. regularly attending day games in inconvenient locations) poses a fairly high barrier of entry.