Saturday, January 30, 2016

Whoops. Field already announced (I thought it was February!)

So the teams invited are:
  • Hokkaido (1) - Sapporo Dai-ichi
  • Tohoku (2) - Aomori Yamada (Aomori), Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei (Aomori)
  • Kanto (4) - Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba), Jyousou Gakuin (Ibaraki), Toukaidai Koufu (Yamanashi), Kiryuu Dai-ichi (Gunma), Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)
  • Tokyo (1) - Kanto Dai-ichi
  • Hokushinetsu (2) - Tsuruga Kehi (Fukui), Fukui Koudai Fukui (Fukui)
  • Tokai (2) - Touhou (Aichi), Inabe Sougou Gakuen (Mie)
  • Kinki (6) - Osaka Touin (Osaka), Shiga Gakuen (Shiga), Akashi Shougyou (Hyogo), Ryuukokudai Heian (Kyoto), Houtoku Gakuen (Hyogo), Chiben Gakuen (Nara), Shiritsu Wakayama (Wakayama)
  • Chuugoku (3) - Soushi Gakuen (Okayama), Nanyou Kougyou (Yamaguchi), Kaisei (Shimane)
  • Shikoku (3) - Takamatsu Shougyou (Kagawa), Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi), Saibi (Ehime), Tosa (Kochi)
  • Kyushu (4) - Shuugakukan (Kumamoto), Kaisei (Nagasaki), Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima), Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki)
  • 21st Century Teams
    • Eastern - Kamaishi (Iwate)
    • Western - Nagata (Hyogo)
    • Wild Card - Yaeyama (Okinawa), Shoudoshima (Kagawa)
So here's my thoughts:

First, Nishogakushadai Fuzoku did have to win the Tokyo title game to get a bid. If they had done so, it's possible that floating bid goes to Kanto Dai-ichi.

I'm a bit surprised Shiritsu Wakayama got the nod over Houtoku Gakuen. It's clear now that these two teams were the last team in for the region, but the only reason why I can figure Shiritsu Wakayama got the nod is that (a) they're not Chiben Wakayama and they're getting a boost for being different and (b) the JHBF did not value at all Houtoku's narrow loss to Shiga Gakuen - maybe because it was Shiga Gakuen (despite them winning the super-region).

The Tosa and Shoudoshima invites are intertwined. If the committee was planning on inviting Shoudoshima, then Tosa had to be invited. What a better way to fix that whole bid issue than to leave out the team I thought was a shoe-in for the 3rd slot (Saibi) and give it to Tosa, thus killing 2 birds with one stone and making it a reasonable 3-4 split in the Chuugoku-Shikoku regions?

Also, the JHBF went slightly lazy again giving the eastern bid to a Tohoku earthquake ravaged region. It's nice they're still thinking of them, but all the other eastern region's nominees have to wonder how many years it will be before they get a 21st century team.

21st Century Nominees & Projections

So here are the 9 super-regional nominees:

Eastern
  • Hokkaido - Sapporo Kiyota
  • Tohoku - Kamaishi (Iwate)
  • Kanto/Tokyo - Ageo (Saitama)
  • Hokushinetsu - Nagano (Nagano)
  • Tokai - Uji-Yamada (Mie)
Western
  • Kinki - Nagata (Hyogo)
  • Chuugoku - Izumo (Shimane)
  • Shikoku - Shoudoshima (Kagawa)
  • Kyushu - Yaeyama (Okinawa)
The easiest place to start is in the western region (remember, there is an eastern bid, western bid, and a wild card). And that is because of the issue between Izumo and Shoudoshima and the floating bid between them.

With Takamatsu Shougyou winning the Meiji Jingu bid, it is a 2-3 distribution between Chuugoku and Shikoku with the floating bid pending. The best candidate for both sides is Kaisei (Shimane) and Tosa (Kochi).

Now, Izumo played Kaisei twice losing 0-3 (prefectural final) and 4-5x (super-regional semifinal). Shoudoshima lost 3-4 to Tosa. This is the beauty of the JHBF in manipulating things. Both of the nominees lost to the potential candidate for the floating bid. This would mean that if the western bid was to go to this region, the committee's hand is forced - all because of the Meiji Jingu bid.

For instance, if Shoudoshima gets the western bid, and Kaisei were to get the floating bid, Tosa is left wondering why they were left out. After all, they beat Shoudoshima. Conversely if Izumo gets the western bid and Tosa is invited in, Kaisei would be the team throwing their hands in the air. So if you plan to give the western bid to one of them, it would follow that the floating bid goes there too. That' leaves us with either a 4-3 split (possible), or a 2-5 split (no way). That eliminates Shoudoshima from consideration then probably from either the western or the wild-card.

That leaves Izumo and the Kinki/Kyushu representative. Nagata's resume is very poor, having lost in the regional block play to Rokko Island 15-2, then losing in the prefectural quarterfinals 3-2 to Shinkou Gakuen. Yaeyama actually won the Okinawa prefecturals, defeating Ginowan and Kounan in the process and tallied a win in the super-regionals against Kagoshima Jyousai before being routed by Shuugakukan in the quarterfinals.

So it's all dependent upon what the JHBF wants. The best team in the western region is by far Yaeyama. The worst team (and perhaps the main intention of the JHBF in letting in teams that wouldn't get in otherwise) would be Nagata. This would probably lock out Izumo unless they get a wild card bid.

Onto the eastern region, and we start with Sapporo Kiyota who does not sport a quality win, but reached the semifinals, losing to Hokkaido Sakae 7-2. Next up is Kamaishi, who does not have a quality win, struggled against Moriokadai Fuzoku in the prefectural final, but went 12 innings versus Tohoku in a super-regional loss, and gets the Tohoku earthquake angle. Ageo played just 3 games, reaching the Saitama quarterfinals, getting shutout by Hanasaki Tokuharu 6-0. Nagano's time may have come and gone (which may mean they get a bid, confusingly) reaching the semifinals, before losing to Nagano Shougyou and Matsushou Gakuen in consecutive games. And finally, Uji-Yamada survived an early round loss to Uji-Yamada Shougyou in the Nansei regionals before working their way to win the 1st repechage (they have 2 in this region), only to lose to Akeno in the 2nd place game. They then defeated Tsu Nishi and revenged their loss to Akeno before narrowly falling to Mie.

Given these candidates, the committee appears to be focusing more on schools who would not have the opportunity to go to Koushien otherwise. But if that's the case, there is not much ways to project teams who will go because it's a matter of the other activities the school does that got them the nominations in the first place which is even more subjective.

But if I were to project, the easiest way out is Kamaishi as they suffered from the Tohoku earthquake - even though they've mentioned the earthquake before and added bids to the region following the event. Nagano would be a perfect invitation given that they always seem late inviting teams that deserved it. And none of the other teams did all that well, save for Sapporo Kiyota.

So I figure the three teams they invite are:

  • Eastern - Kamaishi (because they still continue to stress the Tohoku angle)
  • Western - Nagata (because they appear to be stressing inviting weaker teams)
  • Wild Card - Yaeyama (because this allows them to still invite a strong tea,)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Reviewing the projected field - Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)/Nishogakushadai Fuzoku (Tokyo)

I forgot to cover the Tokyo/Kanto flex bid which seemingly will go to Hanasaki Tokuharu instead of Nishogakushadai Fuzoku because I just can't see the JHBF choosing a team to go for the 2nd straight year on a floating bid - even though their resume is much stronger:

Hanasaki Tokuharu

  • Quality wins - Kasukabe Kyouei
  • Quality losses(?) - Urawa Gakuin, Kisaradzu Sougou
  • Questionable games - Waseda Honjyou (won 5-3), Kitoku (won 4-2)
Nishogakushadai Fuzoku
  • Quality wins - Waseda Jitsugyou, Nichidai-san, Toukaidai Takanawadai (to a lesser extent)
  • Quality losses - Kanto Dai-ichi (again)
  • Questionable games - None

But I'll cover both just in case. Hopefully the JHBF proves me wrong and chooses the better team (in my opinion).

Hanasaki Tokuharu's ace Takahashi Kouya (高橋 昂也) pitched at Koushien last summer with a good level of success giving up just 1 run in 8 innings of work, striking out 8 and walking just 2. He appears to be able to hold his own against better competition, but it would help if he had good defense behind him. He throws in the low 140s with a slider/curve/fork combo.

The counterpart, Nishogakushadai Fuzoku's Ooe Ryuusei (大江 竜聖) has put up strong numbers at Koushien and has a repertoire similar to Takahashi. He also seems to have gained a couple ticks on the fastball though his numbers are not as strong as at Koushien.

In terms of offense, I'm searching for more detailed game info from Tokyo as box scores are hard to come by (for some reason), but it's certainly promising that against Kanto Dai-ichi (for the umpteenth time), down the lineup almost everyone collected a hit - this compared with Hanasaki Tokuharu and their main guy Okazaki Daisuke (岡崎 大輔).

I'll need to do some extra research (when I'm not at work) to find more batting/pitching details, but pitching being equal the results for Nishogakushadai Fuzoku look much better.

Reviewing the projected field - Kagoshima Jitsugyou (Kagoshima)

Kagoshima Jitsugyou (aka Kajitsu) seems to back on the upswing, and when they usually appear they have some success. Plus, their schedule was a bit more difficult than Nichinan Gakuen, facing Shounan and Kagoshima Jyousai in the prefecturals. And while Kyushu Sangyoudai Kyushu should have given them a bit of a shakedown, it was Kajitsu who was doing the shaking down before inexplicably falling to Kaisei.

It seems like in that loss to Kaisei, ace Maruyama Takuya (丸山 拓也) seemed to start off well, but was relieved when his pitching collapsed in the 3rd. Tanimura Takuya (谷村 拓哉) is a submarine reliever though how I have video of him and not their ace is baffling other than just because of his delivery. Outside of the Kagoshima Jyousai game, neither pitcher puts up strong K numbers.

Offensively, it's the heart of the lineup that consistently produces. Specifially, 1B Wataya Itsuki (綿屋 樹) and 3B Itagoe Yuuki (板越 夕桂) (who has actual Koushien experience against Hokkai) who pounds out hit after hit and drives in runs. But the other team members need to get on base, and while they may not hit at the same clip, they do seem to draw walks which can help, but needs help from the other side too, and you can't expect that.

The thing is, there is enough offense out there it seems to make some kind of run. I don't think it's a championship run, and the pitching staff would limit that further.

Previewing the projected field - Nichinan Gakuen (Miyazaki)

Nichinan Gakuen is no stranger to Koshien, but they tend to go years between appearances and it's been a while since they've had a modicum of success. Furthermore, the resume is rather light as they didn't face any of the familiar teams out of Miyazaki, and then also got a favorable schedule in the super-regionals before finally running into Shounan in the quarterfinals, just eking that one out before getting routed by Shuugakukan.

With such a soft schedule it is hard to make any good analysis on their prospects. Ace Moriyama Genki (森山 弦暉) seems to be the guy they realistically trust in their big games, but I don't have any info on him (natch). His big problem seems to be getting out of the gate, having given up 7 runs in the first 2 innings of the semis and finals. Minoo Yuuki (蓑尾 優希), Ueno and Kurihara were used in relief, but again, not when they faced Koushien-level competition.

Offenseively, cleanup hitter LF Masuda Kaisei (益田 海成) was by far their most consistent hitter on the team, but you couldn't say look at the top of the lineup and see a decent set of hitters, and that is also concerning. This may mean that they only way they got a bit was because of their soft schedule.

Expect a one-and-done performance barring an easy pairing, and that's no gimme either.

Previewing the projected field - Kaisei (Nagasaki)

So once again both Kaisei's are in, so you can either differentiate it by their kanji (開星 from Shimane, 海星 from Nagasaki), or just make that delineation beforehand.

Now, they did struggle out of the gate against Sasebo Kougyou, but otherwise breezed through the prefecturals and included a win against Nagasaki Nichidai. They then proceeded to blow out former Koushien participants Kounan and Kitsuki before holding on against Kagoshima Jitsugyou (another Koushien regular) to reach the finals... where they were then promptly blown out.

So, they racked up some quality wins there, but the blowout might hurt if they were actually trying (remember by the finals they should have earned an invitation, so more work isn't necessary). And after ace Harada was relieved early in the game, they sent in other pitchers instead and probably just made sure to finish the game without injury or giving away scouting info.

So, about ace Haruta Tsuyoshi (春田 剛志), I don't have any info on him - despite this team being the runner-up in the Kyushu Super-Regionals. There might be a reason though. In his last 2 games he worked 0.2 IP against Kagoshima Jitsugyou and gave up 2 runs. Then against Shuugakukan, he gave up 3 runs in 3.2 IP. If he's the ace, this is concerning.

And none of the other pitchers fared better either. The next man up looks to be Tsuchiya Kazushi (土谷 一志), who fared much better against Kajitsu (1 run after relieving Haruta), but then gave up 2 as the last reliever against Shuugakukan. Kan Yuusuke (間 悠亮) and Hiromori Yuuto (広森 悠透) did not fare much better in the finals.

This means the offense is under a lot of pressure to make up for the apparent average pitching. CF Hattori Takahiro (服部 貴大) leads off a top-heavy lineup along with 3B Shimabara Yuuki (島原 勇樹), and C Tagawa Kenta (田川 賢汰). But the power outages against some of the well-known schools is a big concern and will present challenges right off the bat - especially with even a worse-than-average draw.

Which means their prospects are much reduced in my opinion.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Previewing the projected field - Shuugakukan (Kumamoto)

Shuugakukan gets their second Senbatsu appearance in spectacular fashion by winning the super-regionals. Now, they had some hiccups, starting with a struggle against Kaishin in the prefectural quarterfinals, then having to come back against Kyushu Gakuin in the finals. But after the first game of the super-regionals where they had to come back late against Meihou, they breezed their way to the title. Despite that they were ousted in their first game of the Meiji Jingu tournament, losing 4-2 to Touhou.

Now, what has helped this team make such a run?

Perhaps it's pitching because while ace Arimura Taisei (有村 大誠) seems to be a solid ace - high 130s fastball along with a slider and curve, he actually was used less in the last couple of games, instead turning the ball over to 2B Horie Kouhei (堀江 航平) who actually was slated to be the ace until an injury prevented him from doing so, though it seems to not prevent him from pitching altogether. Weird bit is that he can still throw in the mid 130s with a slider in the 120s and a curve/changeup combo in the 110s. Even weirder, his numbers were better than Arimura's in the games where they pitched together. Also used, but not as effective were Nakai Yuusuke (中井 雄亮), who appears to be the left-handed version of Horie but worse, and to a lesser extent Taura Fumimaru (田浦 文丸) and Kawabata Kento (川端 健斗) who didn't give up a run in their stints in the super-regionals. It's weird unless Horie is coming back from injury and is finally back up to speed, which would mean they could be getting better at the position at the right time.

Offensively, there are several players who can appear to go off in a given game. They include 1B Kimoto Ryuuga (木本 凌雅), C Kuki Ryuuhei (九鬼 隆平) and especially LF Amamoto Kousuke (天本 昂佑). They aren't necessarily starved for offense per se, though 2 runs against Touhou isn't very good.

So it looks like the team should be able to hold its own against weaker competition, but may struggle once they run into established Koushien powerhouses. Barring a bad draw, expect them to finish in the middle somewhere.

Previewing the projected field - Kaisei (Shimane)

This post is under the assumption that the JHBF will not go to a 2-4 distribution between Chuugoku and Shikoku. This isn't a guarantee, as neither Kaisei nor Jyosuikan has a strong resume. The problem becomes that if Shoudoshima gets invited as the West 21st century team, leaving Tosa out becomes problematic as they defeated Shoudoshima. In fact, at this point I believe Shoudoshima's finalist status becomes invalidated because of this issue. Even more bizarre, the Chuugoku finalist for the 21st century team is Izumo, who had to face Kaisei twice. Include Izumo and Kaisei throws up their hands wondering what's up. So it seems more likely now that Kaisei gets in. Man, the JHBF knows how to manipulate things.

(Though in the end Yaeyama will probably get the bid - but that article will come later)

Kaisei, seemed to fall short in both attempts to win their taikais. First was the Shimane prefecturals where Taisha routed them 12-0 (though that could also be because they already qualified), then were shutout again in the semifinals against Soushi Gakuen in the super-regionals. But they were also able to beat Izumo twice (beating a team twice is never easy), held on to defeat Risshoudai Shounan, as well as shutting out Hiroshima Shinjyou.

Kaisei rides on ace Yoshikawa Takahiro (吉川 貴大), who reportedly can hit the low 140s, but probably lies in the upper 130s at best, with a slider/forkball combo. He only went 18K/10BB in his 25 innings of work during the super-regionals.

Offensively, there is literally no batter who stands out, everyone seems equally capable of getting a base hit, with perhaps the exception of RF Hosoda Yuuta. It's just that everyone is also average as well - which may mean no black holes in the lineup (good), but nobody to be scared about (bad).

So, with average pitching and average hitting, you have an average team - which just won't fly at Koushien. Here's your participation medal, thanks for playing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Previewing the projected field - Saibi (Ehime)

Saibi is the benefactor of Takamatsu Shougyou's win at Meiji Jingu. Their record was just 5-2 during that time, but should be sufficient enough to get the bid. You can't necessarily fault their record either, falling short in extras against Imabari Nishi in the semifinals, then after winning the 3rd place game, beating Kochi Shougyou and Naruto before falling in a close one to Takamatsu Shougyou in the semifinals.

Predominantly the team used ace Kikuchi Satoo (菊池 怜雄) when they needed the game. There is very little information on him that I can find, but in his numbers during the super-regionals, it's not promising. His K/BB tallies was 9/7, 5/6, 5/2, 3/7. 2 of his games he had more free passes than strikeouts, and that's never good.

Offensively, the team does collect hits down the line, though if you wanted me to highlight a batter or two, I could point out leadoff hitter SS Wada Renjirou (和田 蓮次郎) which I have a defensive video for instead of one at the plate, and CF Miura Shunya (三浦 俊哉) though he hits in the 7-hole.

With the pitching apparently on very shaky ground, it is no wonder then that Takamatsu Shougyou didn't mind winning - or maybe that the other teams didn't mind either. Sadly, the team may have reached their peak when they had Jyoukou-kantoku and ace Anraku because it really doesn't look like they have a chance here.

Previewing the projected field - Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi)

So Meitoku Gijyuku this time around avoids any controversy regarding their bid by finishing as the runner-up in the Shikoku super-regionals.

After 2 blowout wins, they settled down to defeat Tosa and Kochi Shougyou to take the prefectural title. Once super-regional play started, they struggled to hold on against Nitta, and then had to face Tosa again, eking out a 4-3 win in 10 innings before ace Nakano finally fell flat in the final.

Speaking of which, Nakano Takashi (中野 恭聖) appears just removed from his stint at Ehime Nishi Senior Little League. Reports have him at 136, though if we take into account regional guns (outside of main stadiums) are generally fast, we would be better to assume that he's in the low 130s. The K numbers are a far cry from the time of Kishi, averaging 2-3 Ks per 9 and has a BB/K rate that looks like a K/BB rate - which is why there might be little data on him.

Worse yet, their final 3 games the managed jut 6 hits in each of them. and their most consistent hitters have been their leadoff hitter, CF Tachibana Koutarou (立花 虎太郎), and their #9 hitter, Nakano himself. That's not all that good.

As a result, while they are returning to Koushien, it's hard to envisage a deep run. Instead it's a fortunate bid in a rebuilding process.