NPB 2020

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Well, we've got live baseball here in Japan so, welcome to the Nippon Pro Baseball 2020 thread! After a couple months of delay the season started last Friday. A week in, players are trying (and sometimes failing) to limit contact, and coaches are all masked up. No fans yet but the hope is to allow them in limited #'s starting July 10th.

For a brief intro to NPB, here's a breakdown of the two leagues: Central League and Pacific League. A few good Twitter follows for English info on NPB are @NPB_Reddit @tokyoswallows and @tom_mussa.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A few young players I'll be following this year:
Carter Stewart - the pitcher who bypassed the US minors to go straight to the SoftBank Hawks. He spent last year on the AA-equivalent team (san-gun) but is starting in AAA-equiv (ni-gun) this year, and is expected to see some time with the big club if all goes well.

Rohki Sasaki - this kid was throwing 102mph as a 16-yo and attracted MLB scouts, one of whom told me at the time that if you needed him to get 6 outs in the bigs right now, he could do it. He's 18 now and with the first team of the Chiba Lotte Marines, though he hasn't appeared yet this season.

And a couple of my local Tokyo Yakult Swallows youngsters, 20yo 3B/1B Munetaka Murakami who hit 36 HR last year as a 19-year old and who I think will be Stateside in 4-5 years, and 19yo RHP Yasunobu Okugawa who was a Koshien star. He struck out 23 in a 14 inning CG in Koshien, and also notably K'd 18 Canadians in 7 IP in last year's U18 World Cup. Here is a clip of that performance:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3oc60ewIIc
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
If @SeoulSoxFan @SydneySox or anyone else wants to add KBO or ABL content here, or if we've got anyone following Taiwanese ball closely, I'm happy to change this to the "Asia Pac Baseball 2020" thread.
 

cardiacs

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
1,239
Milford, CT
I plan to follow more closely this year. When I was working in Japan, you could see inside the Chiba Marine Stadium from my office window and would go down to the games from time to time after work. They prorate the seating costs based on the inning which is nice. However, Meiji Jingu Stadium is my favorite place to watch a game anywhere outside Fenway (haven't made it to Koshien yet).
Bobby V lived in my neighborhood and was genuinely nice to me, as well as a few of his analysts who would gift me nice tickets from time to time.
 

DJnVa

Dorito Dawg
SoSH Member
Dec 16, 2010
41,985
Rohki Sasaki - this kid was throwing 102mph as a 16-yo and attracted MLB scouts, one of whom told me at the time that if you needed him to get 6 outs in the bigs right now, he could do it. He's 18 now and with the first team of the Chiba Lotte Marines, though he hasn't appeared yet this season.


Article about this kid. He's thrown a lot of pitches.

Never mind that Sasaki had thrown 435 pitches from July 16-24. Or that he would’ve pitched in the final on no rest after throwing 129 pitches in the semifinals and 194 — with 21 strikeouts and a game-winning two-run homer — over 12 innings three days before that.
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Thanks for this! I've been meaning to do a better job of following NPB - the Tigers, specifically.
The Tigers are off to a slow start - bottom of the CL in both team batting (.204) and team pitching (5.42 ERA) to find themselves 2-7. New import Justin Bour started 0-18, but had a few hits over the weekend so hopefully is finding his groove. Hanshin fans are hoping he's the second coming of Randy Bass, who was the CL MVP in 1985, the only year the Tigers have ever won the Japan Series.
 

edoug

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
3,511
The Tigers are off to a slow start - bottom of the CL in both team batting (.204) and team pitching (5.42 ERA) to find themselves 2-7. New import Justin Bour started 0-18, but had a few hits over the weekend so hopefully is finding his groove. Hanshin fans are hoping he's the second coming of Randy Bass, who was the CL MVP in 1985, the only year the Tigers have ever won the Japan Series.
One of his nicknames is "Bourtobello Crushroom."
He really sounds like a fun guy.
 

Bozo Texino

still hates Dave Kerpen
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
6,923
Austin, Texas
The Tigers are off to a slow start - bottom of the CL in both team batting (.204) and team pitching (5.42 ERA) to find themselves 2-7. New import Justin Bour started 0-18, but had a few hits over the weekend so hopefully is finding his groove. Hanshin fans are hoping he's the second coming of Randy Bass, who was the CL MVP in 1985, the only year the Tigers have ever won the Japan Series.
Randy bass? You mean this guy?

32161
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Softbank Hawks' RHP Kodai Senga is considered MLB-caliber but has been dinged up here and there. He'll be making his first start of the season tonight vs Rakuten, which Jim Allen will be live blogging (I guess on his blog):

View: https://twitter.com/JballAllen/status/1280342094251360256?s=20


He also occasionally hosts viewing parties if anyone has the PL TV feed and wants to follow along with an English commentary, keep an eye out for those.
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
A few young players I'll be following this year:
Carter Stewart - the pitcher who bypassed the US minors to go straight to the SoftBank Hawks. He spent last year on the AA-equivalent team (san-gun) but is starting in AAA-equiv (ni-gun) this year, and is expected to see some time with the big club if all goes well.

Rohki Sasaki - this kid was throwing 102mph as a 16-yo and attracted MLB scouts, one of whom told me at the time that if you needed him to get 6 outs in the bigs right now, he could do it. He's 18 now and with the first team of the Chiba Lotte Marines, though he hasn't appeared yet this season.

And a couple of my local Tokyo Yakult Swallows youngsters, 20yo 3B/1B Munetaka Murakami who hit 36 HR last year as a 19-year old and who I think will be Stateside in 4-5 years, and 19yo RHP Yasunobu Okugawa who was a Koshien star. He struck out 23 in a 14 inning CG in Koshien, and also notably K'd 18 Canadians in 7 IP in last year's U18 World Cup. Here is a clip of that performance:
Update on my youngsters:

- Carter Stewart Jr (20) is having an uneven start, with a 3.95 ERA/1.25 WHIP through 13.2 IP in 4 outings on the Hawks' ni-gun (AAA) club.
- Rohki Sasaki (18) is up with the big league club but has yet to appear in a game with the Marines this season.
- Munetaka Murakami (20) is crushing it. He's hitting .367/.457/.582, good for 2nd in the CL in batting and 4th in OPS. He leads the league in RBI, and is a huge reason the Swallows are quite unexpectedly only a half game out of first in the early going here. I love this kid.
- Yasunobu Okugawa (20) is on the ni-gun squad. He's appeared in three games so far with the following line: 4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 13 batters faced, 6 K/0 BB.

In other news, Justin Bour has rebounded from his dreadful 0-19 start which had my daughter feeling very bad for him; she is now a full-fledged Bour fan "even though he plays for the other team". He's up to .309/.368/.544 and hit his 5th HR of the season against our hometown Swallows last night.

edit: Murakami had three hits tonight and is up to .390.
 
Last edited:

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
I went to the Swallows game last night — it felt like such a novelty to be there. We left after 6 innings because it was raining pretty good the whole time and I was with my 10yo. The Swallows were down 19-3 at the time but honestly I don’t think too many people cared, it was just awesome to be there.

The new rules for fans are: max 5k per stadium per game, no more than 2 people per group, temperature check on the way in, masks required, yelling/cheering not allowed, and tix are sold so there’s space between pairs of fans. Vendors all had masks and gloves, and the only beer girl I saw also had a face shield:

31C21DE5-8DCD-4882-8092-ACFEFE47FDA1.jpeg05A94072-CF69-4229-8213-6CF3AE1388D1.jpeg
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
A couple pretty good pitchers going tonight:

21yo Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix) in 6 starts so far has thrown 42.2 IP, 2.74 ERA/0.87 WHIP, 45:6 K:BB.
Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri) in 6 starts has also thrown 42.2 IP, but is leading all of NPB with a 1.69 ERA. He's let up 2 or fewer runs in 5 of his 6 starts, including 2 CG SHO.

Kodai Senga, mentioned upthread, is also on the hill tonight. He's been a bit erratic in his 4 starts so far, hopefully he can sort it out.
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Here's a profile of Tomoyuki Sugano, Yomiuri Giants 30yo RHP who is crushing it this year. I saw him no hit the Swallows in the playoffs a few years ago. In 12 starts this year he's 10-0, 1.44 ERA, 0.82 WHIP. He doesn't K a ton of guys and has only had a K/9 above 9.00 once in his eight year career; of course neither did Maeda until he went Stateside. Sugano's FB isn't dominant but his offspeed stuff can be pretty filthy.


The Giants historically never posted players but then posted Yamaguchi to the Blue Jays last year so, who knows what will happen with Sugano. Maeda is the best current comp I think.

In other news, the Swallows still stink.
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Chiba Lotte Marines manager (and ex-White Sox 2B) Tadahito Iguchi has said he will try to have Rohki Sasaki make his debut this season, which is exciting. The Marines are 2 games behind SoftBank for the pennant and Iguchi said if Sasaki can help them win games, he'll pitch. Sasaki turns 19 in November.

Article in Japanese
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Several NPB vets have announced their retirements, including ex-MLB pitchers Ryota Igarashi, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Hisashi Iwakuma. The first two were lights out closers before leaving NPB for MLB, but both threw very straight gas and got knocked around pretty good when they got Stateside. Iwakuma had a short but fairly successful MLB career, finishing 3rd in the AL CY voting in 2013:
Giants pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma joined the party Monday, with the team announcing that the 39-year-old will step away at the end of the year. Iwakuma won the Sawamura Award with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2008 and threw a no-hitter for the Seattle Mariners in 2015. In 2009, he was part of the Japan team that won the World Baseball Classic.
Japan Times link

Old friend Daisuke Matsuzaka is now 40, and while technically back on the Seibu Lions, hasn't thrown a pitch all year. He threw 6 IP in Spring Training, but I have to think he can't be too far behind on his own retirement announcement.

---------------------------------

In other news, Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami threw a pitch at 162kph (100.6 mph) the other day, becoming only the 2nd ever Japanese pitcher to hit that mark, after Ohtani. A clever Twitter user noted it was no big deal since in his 2nd year Fujinami hit 184kph on a (obviously malfunctioning) stadium gun:
View: https://twitter.com/gumtapepants/status/1318151140660310016?s=20
 

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
The 2020 NPB draft is about to kick off. Live link if you want to follow along in Japanese:


EDIT: for anyone unfamiliar with the wacky NPB draft - every team submits the name of their preferred pick each round. If more than one team puts in for a guy, they draw straws to see who actually gets the player. Or rather, they pull out envelopes, only one of which has the player's name in it. In the first round just now, 4 teams put in for Hayakawa (consensus best LHP), and 4 put in for Satoh (consensus best hitter). The remaining 4 of 12 put in for various players without duplicating anyone else's pick, so they just get their guys. The 6 teams that didn't get either Hayakawa or Satoh had to go back and re-submit new picks; of those 4 were unique picks but the Swallows matched with the Marines, so they drew envelopes, and of course the Swallows lost, again.

So in what you or I might consider a "normal" draft they'd have been picking second overall, but in this format have ended up with something like their 10th~12th highest rated guy.
 
Last edited:

Tokyo Sox

Baka Gaijin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Feb 16, 2006
4,639
There
Deanna Rubin at Marinerds is keeping a running blog of the draft in English:


She's a great follow on Twitter for NPB stuff.