Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reviewing the field - 21st Century Teams

It seems a bit unfair to lump these schools into 1 post, but in general most 21st century teams are there for their cup of coffee and not much else. It's kinda the reason why these bids were created for the most part. There have been some exceptions, the most recent in 2009 when Rifu went to the semifinals defeating both Narashino and Waseda Jitsugyou before losing to Hanamaki Higashi, but in general these teams either are one-and-done or two-and-done.


Kamaishi (Iwate) - lost in 2nd round of Tohoku Super-Regionals

Certainly selected because they were devastated by the tsunami back in 2011, Kamaishi was on life-support right off the bat after being blown out by Takada in their first game 10-1. They fought back through the repechage (note that in the fall tournaments it isn't necessarily a single elimination tournament in the prefecturals. Some have round-robins, other like here in Iwate have repechages in the regionals) to reach the prefecturals. And while they struggled at times against no-name competition, they reached the finals where they tried to hold firm against Moriokadai Fuzoku, but fell 6-3. They did the same against Tohoku tying the game at 2 with a squeeze in the top of the 9th and held on for 2 more inning before being sent off 3-2 in the 12th.

Iwama Dai (岩間 大) is the team's ace, but I don't have any info on his pitching. The stats from the two losses don't inspire confidence though. In 19.2 IP he had given up 18 H, 5 ER, 3 K, 6 BB.

Offensively, again with small sample size, there were some batters that did have success in their two losses to known squads. Not surprisingly, 2 of them are their 3-4 hitters, 3B Kikuchi Yuunosuke (菊池 勇之介) and 1B Aranuma Yasuhiro (新沼 康大). At the bottom of the order is 2B Ishizaki Masutomo (石崎 仁鵬) who laid down that squeeze.

But while they were able to at least hang tough against better competition, it's still not against strong competition relatively speaking and as a result I don't think their prospects are that good.


Nagata (Hyogo) - lost in quarterfinals of Hyogo prefecturals

Nagata performed adequately during their fall run, reaching the

Nagata may have the best prospects of all the 21st century teams if only for one thing - their ace Sonoda Ryousuke (園田 涼輔) who is garnering attention from pro scouts. Discounting for local stadiums' radar guns he probably throws in the mid-to-upper 130s with a changeup to go with the standard slider-curve combo. In every game he pitched in he averaged at least a K/IP including 9 in their loss to Shinkou Gakuen.

The only problem is that he has to be on point all the time. There is no mention of anyone on offense for the team, and worse yet, in 5 of their 7 games they scored just 2 runs, and in another they scored just 3. This against lesser competition raises a red flag because you can't win if you can't score.


Shoudoshima (Kagawa) - lost in 1st round (quarterfinals) of Shikoku Super-Regionals

Tosa has Shoudoshima to thank for getting invited because if the JHBF was going to take Shoudoshima as a 21st century team, Tosa had to be included.

Shoudoshima also won the Kagawa prefecturals, defeating upper-average teams such as Marugame and Jinsei Gakuen, and actually handed Takamatsu Shougyou their only loss in the fall (in 12 innings!!). However, that success did not translate as they lost their opening game of the super-regionals 4-3 to the aforementioned Tosa.

Their ace, and only pitcher, is Hasegawa Taiku (長谷川 大矩). There is no info on him, but the stats against Takamatsu Shougyou and Tosa have him at 20 innings, with 10 Ks and 0 walks.

That's right, zero, zip, zilch, nada. To quote Michio Kaku, "it means nothing".

Okay, enough commercial references...

A 0 walk performance means that he has to be around the zone a lot. So much so that the defense will surely be busy all the time. And with poorer K numbers than his counterpart Sonoda at Nagata, the margin of error certainly is smaller. Though with 16 hits in that same 20 innings, he seems to avoid getting batted around at least

Offensively they seem to be as potent as Nagata, scoring 2 or 3 runs in 4 of their 6 games. Furthermore, Hasegawa is their #3 hitter and along with C Uematsu Hiroki (植松 弘樹) and 1B Ishikawa Susumu (石川 生強) consist the heart of the lineup, and of course where they have any success (the other members in the lineup were a combined 3-47 in those 2 games!!).

With black holes surrounding the lineup and a pitcher who goes mainly to contact, Shoudoshima is skating on about the thinnest of ice.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Reviewing the field - Tosa (Kochi)

Tosa got the 3rd bid as the Meiji Jingu bid thanks to Takashima Shougyou's victory. And even though Saibi seemed to be more likely to receive that bid, because if Shoudoushima would receive a 21st century bid, Tosa needed to get in somehow.

Now, to be fair, Tosa's 2 losses both were against Meitoku Gijyuku. Once in the prefectural semifinal where they were shutout 5-0, and then again in the super-regional semifinal 4x-3 in 10 innings. That's a marked improvement in just 3 weeks time.

It looks like ace Ozaki Genshou(?) (尾崎 玄唱) is their primary pitcher, with the only reliever being LF Yoshikawa Shuusuke (吉川 周佑)?! Furthermore, he wasn't trusted in the big games versus Meitoku Gijyuku - probably needs to stick to his day job as the only solid hitter out of the 3-hole.

The problem is that Meitoku Gijyuku would appear to be in a rebuilding phase and has managed to work their way to senbatsu. So while Tosa has moved on level terms, it's not as impressive as it might have been in prior years - which means that their prospects are no better sadly.

Reviewing the field - Shiritsu Wakayama (Wakayama)

This is what I don't understand about Shiritsu Wakayama getting the bid. Somehow they got a direct path to the 2nd stage of the Wakayama fall prefecturals - which I don't understand because they didn't do all that well prior. Yet they won their 3 games against below-average competition to win the Wakayama prefecturals, defeated a Heijyou squad that was less than spectacular, and was run over by Akashi Shougyou once they had to relieve Akaba Riku (赤羽 陸).

And that's a problem, because in all their games, Akaba never went the full 9. Instead Kurisu Takumi (栗栖 拓巳), who had been the ace, would enter the game.

Even weirder, it's Akaba that has more information than Kurisu (though it's still very little). Reports have him hitting 140, but it's probably more like mid 130s. I know he has a slider, but not much else. Neither he nor Kurisu strikes out a lot of batters, and both are prone to give up walks. This does not make for a good combination.

Offensively the team is even harder to project. They didn't face a quality team at all in their 5 games in the fall, most ended in blowouts, but in their final game they were limited to just 3 hits against an Akashi Shougyou team whose pitching doesn't grade out well - all of which proves to be problematic. You could point to the middle of the order, as the 3-4-5 hitters of CF Shichino Ryou(?) (七野 怜), 1B Kitajima Ryou (北嶋 稜), and RF Kinoshita Kouji (木下 康司). But on the overall, the prospects for Shiritsu Wakayama to make a run of any kind seems rather dim.

88th Senbatsu Team Rankings

So since I have a bit of time before Koushien, I can give an overall rank to teams. Of course, this still tends to turn out badly as most prognostications do, but what the hey.

Sapporo Dai-ichi - Pitching C+, Offense D
Aomori Yamada - Pitching D+, Offense C
Hachinohe Gakuin Kousei - Pitching D, Offense C+
Kisaradzu Sougou - Pitching B+ (extra points for better depth), Offense C
Jyousou Gakuin - Pitching B (points for experience negated due to lack of control), Offense C
Toukaidai Koufu - Pitching C-, Offense C+
Kiryuu Dai-ichi - Pitching C+, Offense C+
Hanasaki Tokuharu - Pitching B+, Offense C
Kanto Dai-ichi - Pitching B-, Offense B-
Tsuruga Kehi - Pitching B+, Offense A-
Fukui Koudai Fukui - Pitching C, Offense C
Touhou - Pitching C+, Offense D+
Inabe Sougou Gakuen - Pitching C, Offense D+
Osaka Touin - Pitching B-, Offense A-
Shiga Gakuen - Pitching B-, Offense B-
Akashi Shougyou - Pitching C+, Offense C+
Ryuukokudai Heian - Pitching C, Offense C
Chiben Gakuen - Pitching C+, Offense C
Shiritsu Wakayama - Pitching C-, Offense C- (Review upcoming)
Soushi Gakuen - Pitching B+, Offense C+
Nanyou Kougyou - Pitching C-, Offense C (grade up for clutch in close games)
Kaisei (Shimane) - Pitching C-, Offense C-
Takamatsu Shougyou - Pitching B+, Offense B+
Meitoku Gijyuku - Pitching C-, Offense C-
Tosa - Pitching C-, Offense C- (Review upcoming)
Shuugakukan - Pitching B, Offense B
Kaisei (Nagasaki) - Pitching C+, Offense C+
Kagoshima Jitsugyou - Pitching C-, Offense C
Nichinan Gakuen - Pitching C, Offense C-
Kamaishi - Pitching D+, Offense D+ (Review upcoming)
Nagata - Pitching B-, Offense C- (Review upcoming)
Shoudoshima - Pitching C, Offense D+ (Review upcoming)

As you can see, it's a lot of the same teams that have strong squads all around (Tsuruga Kehi, Osaka Touin can easily carry A ratings in offense). Of course as I've stated, all it takes is a good pitching performance and an offense can go silent. That's where the B pitching staffs can come in (Kisaradzu Sougou, Jyousou Gakuin, Hanasaki Tokuaru, Kanto Dai-ichi, Shiga Gakuen, Soushi Gakuen, Takamatsu Shougyou, Shuugakukan and maybe even the 21st century team Nagata). Again though, these are well-known names. Which means a lot of teams will either be playing for the honor of being there or at best looking for a win, maybe 2 if the draw falls their way. It's what the world of Kokoyakyu is for the most part.