Sunday, August 7, 2016

98th Koushien - Team Analysis by Group (Day 7)

My analysis will seem a bit weird, but as Chiben Gakuen showed last year, you can't just analyze teams in a vacuum, you also have to be cognizant of where the teams are in the bracket to determine perhaps how far they will go. There are no more brackets of death per se, but 1st round teams still draw into a day for the 2nd round. So for at least the first 2 rounds, there are pseudo brackets where teams have a fixed probability of facing each other. So with that in mind, we start with the Day 7 participants:

*Note - Pitching and Batting grades are given by Strength/Depth

Favorites to advance out of Day 7 - Kisaradzu Sougou, Meitoku Gijyuku, Chiben Gakuen, Soushi Gakuen (provided Chiben Gakuen doesn't draw into their game)

Day 7
Game 1 - 2nd Round
Kisaradzu Sougou (Chiba) - Pitching B+/F, Offense C+/C+

  • def Kashiwa Minami 2-1
  • def Kemigawa 3-0
  • def Asahi Nougyou 11-0 (5)
  • def Senshuudai Matsudo 4-3
  • def Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou 1-0
  • def Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku 6-5
  • def Shiritsu Funabashi 3-2
Kisaradzu Sougou is another weird case. In the Haru Koushien, they surprisingly defeated Osaka Touin before losing at the death to Shuugakukan in the Best 8. Then they had a couple of close games to start the Chiba taikai before defeating 3 straight top level clubs in Senshuudai Matsudo, Toukaidai Ichihara Bouyou and Chiba Keizaidai Fuzoku. And that doesn't even include a Tier 3 school in Shiritsu Funabashi (you can almost throw in Kemigawa as well). So perhaps the MO of this team is that they can compete against the best, but like Chiben Gakuen, may leave you on the edge of your seat.

Ace Hayakawa Takahisa (早川 隆久) is for all intents and purposes the pitching staff of Kisaradzu Sougou. Not that that's bad mind you - his 9.78 K/9 and 1.76 BB/9 for the most part held up against the top competition. Now we probably shouldn't expect those exact rates to continue (he was 6/1 against Osaka Touin), but it's also not like they're going to fall off the map either. While they did use relievers in the game against Kemigawa, it's probably safe to say that if they're bringing in a reliever, they're in a lot of trouble.

The team's weakness in the spring was the bottom of the lineup, and it doesn't seem to have been completely fixed since then although C Oosawa Shou (大沢 翔) was the only player to get a base hit in the final 3 games. It's certainly not as big of a black hole as other teams, but they're constantly looking for that one key hit to bring in the runs.

Karatsu Shougyou (Saga) - Pitching D+/F, Batting C-/C

  • def Kishima Shougyou 3-0
  • def Kanzaki Seimei 7-3
  • def Kanzaki 5-1
  • def Ryuukoku (forfeit/disqualification)
  • def Saga Shougyou 16-5
That semifinal game (or non-game as it was) was one of the more bizare things I've seen. Ryuuoku had to forfeit because of a fire in their clubhouse due to smoking. Usually these things happen during the off-season when sanctions happen before the tournament starts. In this case it disqualified a team in the semifinals! This certainly gave Karatsu Shougyou an advantage by getting another day's rest.

It had to have helped ace Taniguchi Ryuusei (谷口 優成), who sports the 2nd worst K/9 rate of all the aces (3.53)! His walk rate is at least low as well (1.77), but it's certainly not a good sign. Not to mention the fact that Ryuukoku as the defending champs would have given them their sternest test. Now, the only real game we can go off of is the finals, and even that has some qualifiers attached to it as well.

Even more questionable is that the bottom of the lineup was the most consistent. SS Yokoyama Kaito (横山 魁人), CF Hirakawa Shouya (平川 将也) and 2B Maeda Kaisei (前田 海成) were 14-31 with 8 RBIs. But if these were your better hitters, why are they at the bottom of the lineup when the top of the lineup was struggling?

Game 2 - 2nd Round
Meitoku Gijyuku (Kochi) - Pitching C/D+, Batting C/C

  • def Sukumo Kougyou 6-0
  • def Kochi Kougyou 8x-1 (8)
  • def Kochi Shougyou 2-1
  • def Nakamura 4-2

Meitoku Gijyuku is here for the 7th straight year, and so when you think of them you think of a strong team. It didn't feel like that long ago that Kishi had brought the team to the semifinals where they lost to Osaka Touin.

And yet, that was 5 years ago...

Since then, the team has had less and less success to the point that the last two appearances they have failed to get past the first game. It kinda feels that way here too. 4 games, only 1 against a quality team where they won 2-1 while being out-hit.

Yes, ace Nakano Yasutoshi (中野 恭聖) had a K rate of 11.67 and a BB rate of just 1, and the game against Kochi Shougyou he struck out 9 while walking 2. But unless he's figured something out, he's due to repeat his Haru Koushien line of 3 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 3 K, 1 BB.

The team was offensively weak as well at Haru Koushien, and even in their victories, the bottom of the lineup is still a big weakness that will continue to glare, though maybe not in their first game.

Sakai (Tottori) - Pitching D/F, Batting C-/C-

  • def Kurayoshi Kita 10-8
  • def Yonago Higashi 7-6
  • def Tottori Jyouhoku 7-3
  • def Yonago Shouin 19-4

Tottori as a whole did not impress me throughout the process and while I'm happy that Sakai made it to Koushien, I'm afraid the stay is probably short-lived.

First the road only includes a win against Tottori Jyouhoku, which is a plus, but if you look at the other games, while they did win, ace Okiya Naoto's (隠家 直人) peripherals were terrible - sporting not only the lowest K rate at 2.48, but the worst walk rate at 5.9 as well.

Offensively the team relies heavily on their 2-3-4 hitters of 2B Takatsuka Koudai (高塚 孔大), RF Katsube Kouhei (勝部 浩平) and LF Shiota Kaito (塩田 海斗), but they will be relative unknowns on the big stage.

Game 3 - 2nd Round
Soushi Gakuen (Okayama) - Pitching C+/D, Batting C+/C+
  • def Tsuyama Higashi 8-0
  • def Tsuyama 10-0 (5)
  • def Okayama Higashi Shougyou 5-1
  • def Okayama Ridai Fuzoku 6-0
  • def Okayama Sanyou 7-1
  • def Tamano Kounan 4-1
Soushi Gakuen's title win almost should come with an asterisk. A poor call by the umpires that allowed their opponent Tamano Kounan to think they had won, which was subsequently reversed, changed the dynamic of the game irreparably.

Oddly, ace Takada Housei (高田 萌生) despite supposedly being able to bring the heat, has not really improved his strikeout rate (7.82), though at least he appears to be limiting the walks (1.89).

He'll need that because he has to improve on the numbers he posted at Haru Koushien to have any chance, 5 runs against Takamatsu Shougyou just won't cut it.

Offensively, we need to see the bottom of the lineup improve. They weren't there during Haru Koushien to support the top half of the lineup, and maybe if not for the miscall may not have been there for the finals either.

Day 1
Game 1 - 1st Round
Saku Chousei (Nagano) - Pitching C-/C, Batting C/C-
  • def Hotaka Shougyou 4-1
  • def Komagane Kougyou 7x-0 (8)
  • def Toukaidai Suwa 9-2 (7)
  • def Souzou Gakuen 6-1
  • def Komoro Shougyou 6-3
  • def Matsushou Gakuen 6-2
Saku Chousei got it pretty easy, the only competition they faced was Matsushou Gakuen in the finals, and while they've been to Koushien in the past, they're solidified as a Tier 3 school. Even more interesting is that the starter for that game, Shiozawa Taki (塩沢 太規) wears #10, and that the man wearing the ace number, Kobayashi Reo (小林 玲雄), struggled in his last outing against Komoro Shougyou, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits while only recording 1 out. Don't be surprised if Shiozawa will be the starter for the team.

The only problem is that Shiozawa has a K/9 rate of just 6.17 against this competition, while holding a 3.47 BB/9 rate. He did strike out 9 in the finals, but it doesn't inspire any confidence. #17 Andou Hokuto (安藤 北斗) and SS Motoyama Hiyuu (元山 飛優) saw some time on the mound, but not in meaningful situations.

Probably their most consistent hitter is 2B Suzuki Takashi (鈴木 貴士) who recorded a hit in the final 3 games, going 5-11, though he didn't have a set position in the lineup, even batting 8th in the final. The team as a whole doesn't seem all that willing to take walks, and a 6 hit performance against Komoro Shougyou isn't great either. The holes aren't apparent, but will show up.

Naruto (Tokushima) - Pitching C- or C/C, Batting C-/C-
  • def Itano 6-1
  • def Tokushima Kita 5-2
  • def Tomioka Nishi 5-3
  • def Naruto Uzushio 2-1
Just 4 games for Naruto to win the title, that's the state of affairs in rural prefectures. Ace Kawano Ryuusei (河野 竜生) has some gaudy statistics (10.29 K/9, 3.54 BB/9), but the only game you can really take any strong numbers from would be the finals. There he struck out 7 and walked 1, which wouldn't be bad if you looked at the game before and saw that he issued 8 free passes. And yes, I do set a double standard. You can't take the good, but you can most certainly take the bad, because against a weaker team, it shouldn't happen. The only other pitcher to see action is Ozaki Kaisei (尾崎 海晴) who pitched just 3 innings, giving up no runs, 1 hit, struck out 6, and walked 1.

And you wonder why Ozaki isn't the ace either, because both pitched in the 2015 Haru Koushien loss against Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku. In that game, Kawano gave up 7 runs in 5.1 IP, while Ozaki gave up 1 (unearned), and struck out more batters (though it was garbage time). It's rather boggling in my opinion. If Ozaki gets more time on the mound I think they'll have a better chance for success.

Offensively the team does get base hits, but a 0.303 in the 4 games is too low given the competition and Moriwaki-kantoku isn't shy in subbing players in and out between games. On the overall, no one player really stands out and that may lead to some non-descript ABs in the game.

Game 2  - 1st Round
Izumo (Yamaguchi) - Pitching C-/C, Batting D/D
  • def Gotsu 5-0
  • def Masuda 2-1
  • def Hamada Shougyou 10-1 (7)
  • def Masuda Higashi 4x-3
  • def Taisha 4-3
  • def Risshoudai Shounan 6-1
Izumo did face some of the tougher teams in the final 3 games (Masuda Higashi this past 12 months seemed like a sneaky team and Izumo almost lost), but the they didn't really dominate over them. Even the final against Risshoudai Shounan, the team had 10 walks.

Their best 2 hitters sit atop the lineup in CF Hashimoto Noriyuki (橋本 典之) and 3B Morimoto Teruyasu(?) (森本 晃叶) who were a combined 12-20 with 5 RBIs. Beyond them, and it's sketchy at best, and those types of black holes are death for a team.

Ace Hara Satoru (原 暁) carries a 8.03 K/9 rate and a 3.16 BB/9 rate, but he walked 4 in the Masuda Higashi game and 5 in the Risshoudai Shounan game while striking out 6 in both. So the numbers aren't probably as good as the totals dictate.

The reliever is actually their 1B, Katou Masahiko (加藤 雅彦). In his stint in the Taisha game, he went 5.1 IP, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out (and walking) 2. Not stellar numbers, and perhaps was considered servicable in the prefecturals. Whether that translates to the big stage is another story.

Chiben Gakuen (Nara) - Pitching B- to C+/C-, Batting C+/B
  • def Takada Shougyou 8-1 (7)
  • def Shikino 5x4 (11)
  • def Nara 8-1
  • def Kooriyama 6-5 (10)
  • def Tenri 6-5
If you looked at the record here, you wouldn't have thought that they were the ones who won Haru Koushien - especially with three 1-run games. Now, at least in playing Kooriyama and Tenri you could argue that they were playing the better teams in the prefecture, but this is still a bit concerning.

Ace Murakami Shouki (村上 頌樹) had rates of 8.03 and 2.23, but in the final against Tenri he only struck out 1 and walked 3. Now, he wasn't an overpowering pitcher at Haru Koushien, so looking for strong K rates may be futile. The real question is if he can continue to utilize his control here in the summer. Given the other teams they may face in Round 2, he may be able to ease his way in.

The offense, which was doing just enough at Haru Koushien, was doing just enough here too. Two of the more consistent batters are 3B Oohashi Shunpei (大橋 駿平) and 2B Osame Daichi (納 大地). There are no real black holes in the lineup, which is good, but always toeing the line in a single elimination format is playing with fire.

Game 3 - 1st Round
Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku (Fukuoka) - Pitching D+/D, Batting C+/B
  • def Kita-Kyushu Tousen 9x-2 (7)
  • def Yamato Seiran 13-0 (5)
  • def Houkoku Gakuen 7-3
  • def Nishi-Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku 8-3
  • def Jiyuugaoka 12x-11 (10)
  • def Shinsoukan 8-0
  • def Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou 4-3
For such a long road that is required in Fukuoka, it's a wonder why teams don't do better at Koushien. Kyushu Kokusaidai Fuzoku survived the trip this time around, but there are causes for concern.

First above all is ace Fujimoto Kaito (藤本 海斗), who has K and BB rates of 4.30 and 3.99 and in fact walked more than he struck out in the final 2 games, and that is a big red flag. And there doesn't appear to be any help behind him either as the only other main reliever was Maeda Ryuusei (前田 隆誠) and he gave up 5 runs in just 1.1 inning of work in that crazy Jiyuugaoka game where they blew a 11-5 lead in the 9th.

Offensively, someone who may have played their way to a starting position is 3B Torii Ren (鳥井 蓮), who came in as a defensive replacement in the Jiyuugaoka game and went 2-4, then in the final was 2-2 with 2 RBIs as a starter. And oddly, it seems the bottom of their lineup is doing better than the top of the lineup. It's strange, but at least it shows that they have some depth in their lineup, even if it's upside down.

Moriokadai Fuzoku (Iwate) - Pitching C-(?)/C, Batting C(?)/C
  • def Morioka Nougyou 16-1 (5)
  • def Fukuoka 7-0 (8)
  • def Kozukata 6-0
  • def Takada 14-0 (5)
  • def Senshuudai Kitami 13-3 (8)
  • def Ichinoseki Gakuin 1-0
Moriokadai Fuzoku dominated pretty much all the way through until the final when of all teams Ichinoseki Gakuin gave them their toughest match.

This puts me at a quandry. Up until the final game, Moriokadai Fuzoku looked like a world beater. But against a team that has more than disappointed in recent years, they looked very beatable.

So which team is it?

Despite the domination ace Miura Mizuki (三浦 瑞樹) was not a world beater - sporting a below average K rate (7.94) and an above average BB rate (3.57). That's definitely not a plus.

Offensively, it's hard to make heads or tails of the squad. The team doesn't seem to strike out or walk a lot, but after that there's little we can glean from the results other than the last game is enough of a red flag that would make me want to have them prove that they're better than that 1-0 win.

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