The Monday Review #12

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 had another good week by sweeping the Giants at Jingu and splitting a 2 game set at Akita against the Tigers. Even when not firing on all cylinders the teams has managed to find ways to win. The Tigers did, however, show a lot of good pitching against the Birds and it remains to see how the team would fare in a 3 game series.

The Week That Was

Good Teams Will Lose But… Baseball has always been a game of attrition and losses are inevitable. That be said, one of the major hallmarks of a good team is that they don’t lose consecutive games. Even when things aren’t going too smoothly, they play at .500 and don’t lose ground in the standings. To that end, the Swallows have not lost consecutive games since losing two games in a row against the Seibu Lions in Saitama on May 28-29. The team managed to go the entire month of June without losing consecutive games, although they did go on a 3 game winless streak in which they sandwiched a tie in between 2 losses in early June. While it hasn’t always been pretty and commanding, the team has managed to get wins and bounce back from losses.

Strikeout King: I’m sure many readers of our game reports have no doubt noticed the number of strikeouts Josh Whitesell has been accumulating. But due to some missed time earlier in the season, he had managed to avoid the title of Central League Strikeout King. But after striking out 3 times on Sunday, Josh has taken his rightful place at the top of the CL strikeout board with 62 in 195 plate appearances. In second is Termel Sledge of the BayStars with 61 even though he has 61 fewer plate appearances, and Takehiro Ishikawa also of the BayStars comes in a close third with 60 Ks in 97 fewer plate appearances. But we can poke fun at Josh a little because he’s still very productive at the plate with a .354 OBP (7th in the CL) and a .494 SLG% (3rd in the CL). Also, to be perfectly honest the true Central League Strikeout King would have to be Joel Guzman of the Chunichi Dragons who is fourth in the CL Ks race with 59 despite having 32 less plate appearances than Josh. For those calculating at home that’s one strikeout every 2.76 PAs! The man really does nothing more than strikeout as evidenced by his .209 OBP (not AVG) and .294 SLG%. So while we may complain about Whitesell’s strikeouts, just remember that it could be a lot worse.

RISP Weirdness: Last week we looked at how the heart of our order hadn’t been doing to much to knock runs in, at least that week. If you look at the batting averages of Balentien and Whitesell with runners in scoring position, you’d see that they are similarly very underwhelming at .200 (10/50) and .194 (9/47) respectively. But a closer look at their numbers with runners in scoring position shows these numbers are very deceiving. Obviously opposing pitchers aren’t willing to give these beefy power hitters anything to hit in a RISP situation. Especially Balentien, since the batters who hit behind Coco may be good hitters but won’t make pitchers look silly with the long bomb. So despite all this junk being thrown his way Balentien has managed to remain relatively patient and has drawn 17 walks with RISP to only 9 strikeouts. Thus, Balentien has an OBP of .391 with RISP. While not cashing in, certainly not hurting the team. Whitesell on the other hand, does seem to chase the junk, striking out 19 times and drawing just 7 walks for a OBP w/ RISP of .281.

What’s interesting is that high AVG w/ RISP guys like Miyamoto (.375), Aoki (.373), and Tanaka (.283) get most of their RBIs from those RISP at bats, 100% for Miyamoto and Aoki, and 96% for Tanaka. On the other hand, for Balentien and Whitesell only 38% and 55% of their RBIs come from at bats with runners in scoring position. Fairly obvious when you think about the anatomy of power hitters versus contact hitters, but interesting nonetheless.

A final random RISPy stat to throw your way. Whitesell actually bats best with a man on first, batting .448 (13/29), perhaps the hole left with the first baseman holding the runner is to Mr. Whitesell’s liking?

Whitesell got a key RBI with a man on 2nd on Thursday.

Injury Reports: Muranaka made another rehab start at Toda on Friday pitching 7 innings on 98 pitches, giving up 4 runs, all earned, on 4 hits including 2 homeruns, 2 walks, and getting 5 strikeouts. He is expected to be recalled and start Friday’s game against the Giants.

Yoshinori made his first rehab appearance at Toda in relief of Muranaka in Friday’s game. He pitched 2 shutout innings despite giving up 3 hits and a walk with no strikeouts. Game 3 of the All Star game, to be played in Sendai, is still Yoshinori’s target return date.

Finally, Keizo Kawashima (remember him?) is taking BP again. No word on when he may return, but according to his initial prognosis his return would be around late July.

Roster Move: After a horrible inning on Saturday in which he gave up a hit, 3 walks, and a hit batsman for good measure, Koki Watanabe was sent down to Toda on Sunday. In his place, the team called up lefty pitcher Masaru Sato, the reason why Yoshinori Sato goes by Yoshinori. Nothing to see here folks.

Quo Vadimus

Our Opponents: This week the Birds will face off against the second place Dragons for the first time since Central League action restarted. After the restart of Central League action the Dragons managed to lose series to the Carp and BayStars, but they  bounced back with series wins against the Giants, Tigers, and the BayStars. The Swallows will probably face Iwata, Nelson, and Yoshimi who all had pretty decent outings against the Tigers last week. Iwata and Yoshimi both pitched shutout ball but due to the lack of offensive support didn’t get a decision in their games.The games will be played at Jingu and the Swallows will look to extend their 5-1 record over the Dragons.

After the Dragons, the Swallows will take the subway to the Tokyo Dome to face the Giants for a 3 game series. After being swept by the Swallows, the Giants bounced back to sweep the Carp at the Dome last week. Based on last week’s pitchers the Swallows will face Tono, Sawamura, and Nishimura. However it seems that Hara will be giving Tono a shot at the closer role, and it’s not entirely clear who the Giants would start in his place. The Swallows may also get to see new acquisition Josh Fields in person.

The teams will finally head off to Yokohama and play arare Monday to Wednesday series in Yokohama against the BayStars to complete the 9 day 9 game series prior to the All Star break.

Our Rotation: With the announcement of Muranaka’s return, it looks like our rotation this week will go Shichijo, Tateyama, Ishikawa, Muranaka, Yamamoto, and Masubuchi.

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.