Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Other teams... err... pitchers to watch out for

What seems to compliment any championship wining team at Koushien is a great pitcher.  They do not necessarily have to be Shimabukuro-esque, but they do generally have to throw harder than the average pitcher and/or exhibit excellent control throughout the grueling tournament.

Now, a pitcher is only part of it.  You can't win a game if you don't score.  But a good pitcher can get you pretty far (as long as your offense isn't like the 2011 Mariners - sorry).

So, which teams might have a pitcher that can give them such a chance?

Memanbetsu (Hokkaido) - 21st Century Team - Nikaidou Seiji (二階堂 誠治)
Despite coming into the tournament via a 21st Century bid, Memanbetsu's Nikaidou Seiji more than held his own in their 2nd round loss to Hokkai.  He had limited them to 3 runs in 8 innings while striking out 9.  And while Hokkaido's record outside of home field seems to be wanting, it's not a bad outing.

Nikaidou is said to have 4 pitches - a fork and shuuto to go with the obligatory curve and slider.  His fastball can hit 145, but probably sits around 140.

Mie (Mie) - Miura Koutarou (三浦 浩太郎)
Much like Nikaidou, Miura also has a fastball that sits generally around the 140 mark (though he has hit 145).  Outside of the slider, he is purported to have a change, shuuto and splitter.  However, in his 3rd game of work in the Super-Regional where they faced Aikoudai Meiden, it was a total mixed bag, giving up 3 runs in a complete game effort while striking out 9, but he gave up 11 hits and issued 4 walks.

Osaka Touin (Osaka) - Fujinami Shintarou (2) (藤浪 晋太郎)
When I think of Osaka Touin, I generally think offense.  More recently, Nakata Shou comes to mind.  Yes, he became a pitcher, but that was generally because he threw hard.

So when they come up on a search for pitchers, it definitely has my attention.

Fujinami Shintarou gets your attention right when you first see him.  He stands a towering 197 cm (6'5"), and can already hit 150 on the radar gun though he generally sits in the low-mid 140's.  To add to his height, he has an overhead delivery, which helps when he throws his 12-6 slow curve in at 100 kph.  There's question as to what his other pitches are, as he has at least another pitch that sits in the 120's.  Consensus is that he has a slider and recently picked up a forkball.

If his secondary pitches are the real thing and he's not predictable, there is a chance that Osaka Touin shouldn't be written off after all.

Tenri (Nara) - Yamanoto Tatsuya (山本 竜也)
Tenri in my opinion has fallen far.  Given Nara is a 2-team prefecture, but it has failed to progress deep at Koushien in recent years, though not necessarily because of it's pitching.  Rather, it has generally been a lack of offense on the big stage that has been their nemesis.

Still, you can't win without pitching.  The focus though has been on relief pitcher Yamamoto Tatsuya.  He throws slightly harder than staff ace Nakatani Keita (he has hit a max of 145, though he probably sits in the mid-high 130s).  He only sports a slider and slow curve, which would explain his low K rates (~5 K/9 in the Kinki Fall Super-Regionals).  He throws in the strike zone, which explains his high hit rates and low walk rates.

In contrast, Nakatani throws in the low 130's with a slider, curve and possible two-seam.

Tottori Jyouhoku (Tottori) - Nishisaka Ryou (西坂 凌)
Normally a team like Tottori Jyouhoku would be passed on when talking about contenders for the title, but when a team manages to limit the eventual Meiji Jingu Champions to just 2 runs in 7 innings, you have to take some notice.  But something doesn't add up.

Nishisaka throws in the high 130's, which is not really that good.  His speed also means that he doesn't strike out that many batters, which is also not a good sign.  He had two great games against Tsuruga Kehi and Chiben Gakuen, but labored against Kousei Gakuin (8 H, 5 BB) while giving up just 2 R over 7 innings.  Apparently he has a big curve that possibly explains all this.  The question that will be asked of them is will the get the good Nishisaka all tournament?  Because any game like the one against Kousei Gakuin could take a toll later on.

Hayatomo (Yamaguchi) - Aidzu Yuusa (間津 裕瑳)
I discounted Hayatomo because, well... It's Chuugoku, and outside of teams from Hiroshima (Kouryou/Jyosuikan) and Okayama (Kanzei), there are few teams that can be considered for title contenders.

But, Hayatomo ace Aidzu Yuusa has apparently gotten some notice.  He's gotten more than his fair share of K's during the fall tournament, the only question is - how tough really was his competition?  He did after all give up 6 runs in a CG loss to Kurashiki Shougyou in the semifinals.

Aidzu has a max of 144, though probably sits more in the high-130 range.  He has a slider, curve and change, which probably puts him in the above average category.  However, there is some question regarding his control - not necessarily in that he can't find the zone (2 BB/9), but perhaps around the zone.  And you don't want a mistake in the strike zone (which may explain the game against Kurashiki Shougyou).

So, there are some aces to watch at Koushien this time around.  If one of these teams takes the flag at the end, their aces will definitely be part of the reason why.

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