Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 NPB kwERA Leaders

The simple stat I usually use to evaluate pitchers in the NPB is usually kwERA. With the offensive environment shifting a couple times over the last few years thanks to ball changes, the walk and strikeout rates have stayed relatively the same, making it easier and more effective to use statistics that just use those numbers, not relying on the changing homer and batted ball rates. We could just use strikeout and walk percentages, but using kwERA helps visualize success (or failure) in a run based format like ERA.

The kwERA constant doesn't work the same in the NPB because of a different run environment, meaning, in this case, that NPB kwERAs are pretty consistently higher than ERAs. Therefore, it doesn't really work when trying to figure out which pitchers have been "unlucky" (in simple DIPs terminology), and may be slightly misleading without context. However, I didn't come up with a new constant (the base assumption in kwERA is that a pitcher who walks as many batters as he strikes out "earns" a 5.40 ERA) for two reasons. The first and most obvious, since this is a ranking, we are comparing pitchers to each other. It doesn't really matter what the actual numbers are, just the comparisons between pitchers in the list. Secondly, adjusting the constant might confuse a reader not familiar with the NPB run environment. The kwERA "environment" is similar in both leagues, so seeing a pitcher with a 4.00 kwERA would be a starting pitcher that is good not great, similar to what it is in the Majors.
I also included HR % because, as the name says, kwERA only looks at walks and strikeouts. Without actually factoring it into the formula, looking at how pitchers did preventing homers can be helpful contextually.

In the rankings, I separated leagues because one league has a DH and the other doesn't, which is usually going to affect pitching statistics. However, the Central, which doesn't have a DH, had a higher HR % (driven by Wladimir Balentien) and about the same kwERA, so you could combine the two.

I also labelled each pitcher by which role they occupied during the season in hopes that we could separate the relievers from the starters. Role was determined by majority of appearances. For instance Masahiro Tanaka had one relief appearance, but clearly he was a starter. I used 50 innings as the cutoff for the list.

No surprise, but Masahiro Tanaka lead the NPB in starter's kwERA, followed by Kenta Maeda, Tomoyuki Sugano, Toshiya Sugiuchi, and Chihiro Kaneko. Out of starting pitchers, the best at limiting homers was Daniel Cabrera in the Central League and Shota Takeda in the Pacific League (though Tanaka was right behind him and Takeda had the worst kwERA in the PL out of pitchers with at least 50 innings). Shinya Kayama was the only pitcher in the NPB with at least 50 innings that didn't give up a homer.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chunichi Dragons Pitcher Deliveries

Continuing the look at the deliveries of NPB pitchers, the following post are GIFs of the pitchers on the 2013 Chunichi Dragons. The Dragons were slightly below average in the Central League at preventing runs, and they were second worst at getting strikeouts and not walking batters. They led in wild pitches, but gave up the 2nd fewest amount of homers in the league.

Brad Bergesen was released late in the season by the Dragons, but I included him anyway, mainly because he is probably going back to affiliated ball but I wasn't planning on writing about him. Kenshin Kawakami also will not return, but I decided to just look at the pitchers that pitched for the Dragons for the season.

Kenshin Kawakami

Akinobu Shimizu

Hitoke Iwase

 Kenta Asakura

Ryuya Ogawa

Yudai Kawai

Junki Ito

Kazuki Yoshimi
Kenichi Nakata

Toshiya Okada

Yudai Ono

Yoshihiro Suzuki

Koji Fukutani

Yuta Muto

Soma Yamauchi

Shinji Iwata

Daisuke Yamai

Kentaro Nishikawa

Masahiro Yamamoto

Takehiko Tsuji

Koji Mise

Takuya Asao

Brad Bergesen
Tatsuro Hamada

Shinji Tajima
Kosi Inoue

Takahiro Kawasaki
Kento Yachi
Shunta Wakamatsu

Keisuke Seki
Ryosuke Oguma

Warner Madrigal

Akifumi Takahashi

Masato Kobayashi
Daniel Cabrera:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rakuten Golden Eagles' 2013 Draft Picks

Despite advancing to the Japan Series, the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the NPB landed the most high profiled player in the 2013 draft, Yuki Matsui. Rakuten's second round pick Yasuhito Uchida was someone I saw in Koshien broadcasts. In this post, I wanted to look at the other 7 picks by Rakuten, all pitchers, so I found video of the pitchers,made GIFs of their deliveries, and found what I could on each pitcher. The pitchers are in order of draft position.

Kodai Hamaya: 6'1, 172

The 20 year old was in the Industrial League and gets up to 91 MPH with a curve, slider, and forkball (about 81 MPH). A former 1st baseman and outfielder, he was throwing 86 MPH when he first started pitching, before he added weight. He is still skinny and could perhaps add a little more weight.

Yuri Furukawa: 5'10, 172

An 18 year old out of high school, he gets up to 92 MPH on his fastball, and actually hit that at the end of an outing, showing some strength. He also throws a 71 MPH soft slider (or non loopy curve) and a 76 MPH change. Evidently, he has some power as a hitter, which means nothing for a Pacific League team (since they have the DH), but may speak to his strength.

Yusuke Nishimiya: 5'11, 176

22 year old out of college, a fastball/slider pitcher, that gets up to 92 MPH, with the slider at about 74 MPH. He'll also throw a splitter at 80 MPH, and a curve at 68 MPH. He's got quite a bit of college/tournament success with high strikeout outings. Control may be a problem as it came with a lot of walks as well. In video I saw of him, he was an extreme arm side pitcher.

Takaaki Yokoyama: 5'11, 174

22 year old out of college that gets up to 91-92 MPH (mainly around 87), with a wide array of pitches, evidently throwing a 2-seam, change (74 MPH), fork, curve (62), and slider (74). 

Kazutomo Aihara: 6'2, 159
He will turn 24 in a couple days, coming out of the industrial league. He gets up to 87 MPH with a slider (74), curve (62), and change (74)

Susumu Aizawa: 5'8, 154

26 years old industrial league pitcher that gets up to about 91 MPH with a moving fastball/cutter, curve (62 MPH), and slider (74).

I couldn't find any video of Rakuten's final pick, Ryuta Konno (20 year old out of high school, about 5'9 154), but I did find that he can get his fastball up to at least 89 MPH.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

NC Dinos Instructional League Notes

The NC Dinos participated in instructional league games in Arizona against players with affiliation with MLB clubs with mainly players from their Futures League squad. While I wasn't able to go, Jason Cole was, and took some video that he posted online here, here, and here. So below are some of my observations on the Dino players in the videos. The videos are from Jason Cole's live look, so I didn't reproduce any screenshots or GIFs. Rosters and basic stats courtesy of Baseball in Korea.

Keum-Kang Choi is a RHP with impressive size at 6-5 209. The 24 year old appeared in 30 games as a reliever in the KBO, and wasn't impressive on a whole, but held his own and struck out a batter an inning.
In the video linked to above, he showed two pitches:
86-89 MPH fastball
79-81 Slider

The fastball had some two seam movement on it, and the slowest one looked more like some kind of sinker. The movement of his slider isn't exactly "tight" or crisp, but there is some good movement there, getting horizontal and then falling off vertically.

His delivery is pretty standard, he comes up with his leg but doesn't have a long pause before coming forward. His head isn't consistent from pitch to pitch and sometimes looks ugly, working against his body. He was the only pitcher in the videos, the rest are hitters:

Oh Jeong-bok is a right-handed outfielder who just returned from military service. He was sort of bullied by a 95 MPH fastball inside by a fellow right-hander. Sort of short (about 5'8), he has no real room to fill out. The swing is a little long, violent, and jerks heavily with an aggressive finish. He didn't adjust well to an outside slider, and was set up by it just like the pitcher wanted. Oh seemed pretty aggressive, but when he was looking for a breaking ball, he was able to reach it and put it in play.

 Min-woo Park is a small (relatively, 6-1 but 176 pounds) lefty hitter that seems to be able to take pitches. His swing isn't long, but doesn't appear to be too quick. Park sometimes falls out of the box in the middle of his swing and gets on top of the ball, so probably a groundball hitter. Park walked twice as much as he struck out in the KBO Futures league, but he didn't hit any home runs.

Cha Hwa-Jun is a lefty hitter with a little better set of shoulders on him, but he is just 5-7. He has an other way swing, with perhaps a little run out of the box. He can pull the ball, but probably has no real power (the 23 year old had just 6 Futures League plate appearances in 2013).

 Jun Heo is a right-handed hitting catcher with some size (214), but is not extremely tall (6-0). With that said, he doesn't appear to be hefty, but the body may give him a little power (he really struggled offensively in the Futures League). I didn't like the way he swung at the low fastball and he fell for a bad slider and couldn't stop his swing. His swing has a hitch, and he doesn't have great bat control.

Jae-won Choi has some height (6-0) but is thin (179), which may just be part of his frame, as there is not a lot to suggest he will "fill out" other than he is just currently skinny. Slight crouch, bit of a leg kick at the plate, seemed to get down to low pitch well. Choi hit for a high average with a few walks to go along with it in the Futures League in 2013.

Eu-tteum Park, a 23 year old lefty, has a small frame (154 pounds). He was
way ahead of changeup, with a violent swing, and not a lot of control. Did take a couple of fastballs just out of the zone, but was late when he got one he wanted to swing at. Also had a rough swing on a slider even though he had the platoon advantage. Hit .265 in the Futures League.

Chang-seob Lee is a right-handed batting infielder who had a very good year in the Futures League, though he was a little old. He has decent size, not too heavy for his body size (listed at 5-11 163). He struggled with fastballs without the platoon advantage.

Kim Seong-wook has some decent bat control, and can get to outside pitches without sacrificing his whole body, but it seems he will chase. A decent looking athlete, Kim is under 6 feet with probably no room to fill out. The 20 year old showed flashes of power and speed in the Futures League but had a mediocre K/BB and batting average. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Masahiko Morino Scouting Report

Masahiko Morino is an infielder for the Chunichi Dragons that has an international free agent option, which would allow him to play in the Majors if he and a MLB team are interested.

Previously has said he has no interest in playing the Majors, but since then, the Dragons have forced him to play all around the diamond, giving his normal 3rd base position to Hector Luna and blocking 1st base with Matt Clark. To be fair, Luna outhit Morino, and Morino's 2012 was a down year, with a 104 OPS +. At age 35 now, the Dragons could have been seeing a decline. However, Morino had a bounce back year in 2013, with a 120 OPS +, which is generally about the level you start looking at NPB bats as possible MLB prospects (for instance, Andruw Jones had a 119 OPS +, and Casey McGehee had a 125 OPS + in their first year in Japan). The Dragons also actively had a meeting with Morino, asking him to come back, which suggests that they do fear that he might leave (though whether domestically or internationally is not clear). Before the ball change of 2011, Morino was one of the best hitters in the Central League statistically, in the same range as Shinnosuke Abe, Norichika Aoki, and Alex Ramirez, better than Craig Brazell, Tony Blanco, and Matt Murton. Morino declined more than league normal when the ball changed in 2011-2012, but when offense came back a little bit in 2013, he improved more than average. In 2013, he had a 111 BA+/114 OBP +/125 SLG+, so maybe one of the reasons he seemed to be a slave to the ball changes was because he relies on power more than average or walks (though he walks more than league average). With that said, Morino really cut down on his strikeout rate in 2013, knocking it down to 13 % from his career 14.86 %. Whether this is a fluke or not remains to be seen, but it shows that he isn't losing bat speed or becoming easier to strikeout.

For the most part, it seems that Morino is an other way hitter, or at the very least, can go the other way on outside pitches very easily. 

This makes his power so surprising, as he has a pretty level swing without the classic pull or uppercut nature that many power hitters have:
This is probably a big reason that he doesn't have big strikeout numbers. It is tough to throw the ball away from him. With that swing, you have to come inside, and it isn't uppercutty enough to suggest that he struggles with high pitches. He isn't a large player (5-11 187, much smaller than either Clark or Luna), so the power is even more surprising, and yet perhaps concerning for a MLB team. His game is power, but from a scouting perspective, it is a little tough to see where it comes from.

Morino is making the equivalent of 1.6 million dollars, enough that a non guaranteed deal would probably not be good enough for him (especially since he doesn't appear to the type that really wants to come to the Majors), but he could be a cheaper alternative to Casey McGehee, who wants to come back to the Majors. Morino hasn't played shortstop in over a decade so I think that is out of the question, but he can play a few different corner positions, which can be useful as a bench bat, especially as a pinch hitter in the National League. He's a left-handed batter has large platoon splits, considerably better in both average and power against right-handers, which I think could make it useful off the bench. He obviously isn't an every day player, which defense and baserunning shortcomings already suggested anyway, but the ability to hit right-handed pitching, if you believe the power is legitimate is something that could play very well off an MLB bench. Whether or not MLB teams will show interest in him, and he will show interest back, is a completely different question.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NC Dinos sign Hong Seong-Yong: Scouting Report

Hong Seong-Yong is a 26 years old 5-11, 176 pounds LHP that won a Korean pitcher reality show and a contract with the NC Dinos this month. Hong was a 5th round pick by the LG Twins in 2005, but it doesn't appear that he ever pitched for them. Since 2009, has been in the Japanese independent leagues (pitching at least recently for the 06 Bulls of the Kansai Independent League), where it is hard to find stats (but evidently he did have good numbers), though  Baseball in Korea helped find me some video of his time there. First, let's take a look at his delivery from the show:

The leg kick and turn is more dramatic looking from the front. It is obvious that he turns his hip slightly away from the hitter, while keeping the top half of his body facing the hitter. The head has a lot of movement in the delivery, especially when he was with in Japan. He seems to have cleaned up a lot of it now, and especially at the moment of release, his head is in a pretty good position:

His posture is relatively good, and he uses a high 3/4ths arm angle that seems pretty traditional. He doesn't seem to have a large stride, which keeps him upright. There seems to be somewhat of an arm sling, perhaps a motion that is a little more violent than normal.

Hong features two pitches (I saw what looked like a slider in some video of him, but it didn't have great break and it wasn't used a lot. He also might have a curve). His fastball sat about 86-87 MPH on the show, and in Japan it appeared he could get it glove side, pitching away from fellow lefties, and worked high with it.

His main off-speed weapon is his splitter at 72 MPH. This is the grip he showed on the reality show:

It does break like a splitter, but this grip doesn't seem to be as wide as most splitter grips I have seen where the fingers are obviously outside of the seams. This may just be because of hand size. Hong is not a big person, so he may not have hands large enough to grip the splitter as wide as other pitchers. This isn't a great camera angle, but this video from the independent leagues does give you an idea of how it breaks:

It has some decent drop, but the main concern is that the pitch isn't very hard, again maybe because of hand size and grip.

Whether or not he will be able to get KBO batters out or not will depend on the splitter. I am especially interested in how the pitch will play against left-handed batters since it is normally a opposite-handed batter pitch. Will the pitch have enough speed and deception to get misses, even when he hangs it? While his delivery seems mostly fine, it is hard to tell what his control will be like, and without plus stuff, it will need to be really good to get hitters out.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yomiuri Giants Pitcher Deliveries

The Yomiuri Giants are heading to the Japan Series to defend their 2012 title, easily winning the regular season title, and defeating the Hiroshima Carp in the playoffs. They did this with both their bats and their pitching, but they lead the Central League in strikeouts and strikeout to walk ratio. Here are looks at their pitchers' deliveries, along with each pitcher's 2013 ERA -.

Yuya Koba

Yasunari Takagi: 0

Hirokazu Sawamura: 84

Ryota Katsuki: 165

Toshiya Sugiuchi:90

Tomoyuki Sugano: 83

Scott Mathieson: 28

Daisuke Ochi

Tetsuya Utsumi: 89

Kyosuke Takagi: 116

Satoshi Fukuda: 134

 Ryosuke Miyaguni: 132

Kentaro Nishimura: 30

Seiji Tahara: 160

Ryuya Matsumoto

Takahiro Aoki: 77

Takahiko Nomaguchi

Ryuji Ichioka: 140

Tetsuya Yamaguchi: 33

Manny Acosta: 148

Dennis Houlton: 100
Katsuhiko Kumon: 0

Yuki Koyama: 103

Masumi Hoshino

Yuki Egarashi: 120

Shoki Kasahara: 89

Nobutaka Imamura: 57

Hideki Sunaga

Taichi Tanaka

Keisuke Kishi

Yi-Hao Lin

Takanobu Tsujiuchi
Toru Anan: 69