Tag Archives: Japanese baseball

How might Phillies be affected if the DH comes to the National League?

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Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton homers in Game Four of the 2008 World Series

It’s an idea that has been discussed for at least the last four-and-a-half decades in Major League Baseball. And yesterday that idea of a “universal DH” again arose and spread quickly in discussions across the baseball landscape.

The DH or “Designated Hitter” is not a new concept, nor did the idea begin with its official introduction to the rules of the American League for the 1973 season. The idea of allowing the pitcher to have someone more proficient take their place in the batting order traces back to the earliest days of organized baseball.
As far back as February 3, 1906 the weekly newspaper “Sporting Life” printed the following: “The suggestion, often made, that the pitcher be denied a chance to bat, and a substitute player sent up to hit every time, has been brought to life again, and will come up for consideration when the American and National League Committees on rules get together. This time Connie Mack is credited with having made the suggestion.
Mack’s suggestion did not gain traction with that rules committee, the press who covered the game, or the general public at that time. But it was an idea that cropped up from time to time. Finally, the pitching dominance experienced in the game as the 1960’s unfolded became impetus for conversations regarding the idea to spark once again.
For the 1969 season, Minor League Baseball began a four-year trial usage of the DH for their games. This led to the American League owners approving in an 8-4 vote the trial use of the DH for three years starting with the 1973 season. It has remained a part of the AL game ever since.
On August 13, 1980 the National League owners held a vote to consider adopting the DH, a measure that was actually expected to pass. With a majority of the 12 NL owners at the time needed to approve, the final vote tally went five against, four in favor, and three abstentions. There has not been another vote for a National League DH since that attempt.

Though the Designated Hitter is used by most other professional leagues around the world, Major League Baseball is not the only place that you will find such a split usage. Japan’s two largest leagues also have a split. The Central League does not utilize the DH, while the Pacific League has used it since the 1975 season.
Yesterday, the issue of a National League DH in Major League Baseball again exploded across social media following the release of an article by MLB insider Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
In his piece on negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA, the player’s union, regarding possible rules changes, Rosenthal wrote:

“A universal designated hitter — something the players have sought for more than three decades, according to commissioner Rob Manfred — also was part of the union’s proposal. Under the plan, the National League would adopt the DH for the 2019 season.“

Rosenthal went on to report that the head of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, had stated that the universal DH idea was “gaining momentum” from his perspective. However, Rosenthal went on to quote Manfred on such a change:
I think the most likely outcome at this point remains status quo…If you get rid of the DH in the National League, there is a brand of baseball — the non-DH brand — that is done…I think there’s going to be hesitation with respect to that.”

Should it turn out that baseball does indeed adopt the DH for both leagues, how might that impact the Philadelphia Phillies in both the short and long-terms?
For one thing, it would mean what is pretty much a dead spot in the batting order would have a far greater chance at success. Five pitchers received more than seven plate appearances in the 2018 season for the Phillies. Those were the team’s main starting pitchers: Aaron Nola (70), Jake Arrieta (50), Zach Eflin (50), Nick Pivetta (45) and Vince Velasquez (45), and none had any success.

Rookie Ranger Suarez legged out the lone triple among Phillies pitchers in 2018 (Ian D’Andrea/Flickr)
Velasquez fared best, slashing .225/.225/.250, with the next-highest batting average the .133 mark put up by Arrieta. Of the 18 different Phillies pitchers who stepped to the plate only Arrieta and Eflin homered. Nola, Pivetta, and Velasquez each had one double. Rookie Ranger Suarez legged out the lone triple from the pitching staff.
How the Phillies might handle a sudden move to the DH would depend largely on any further roster moves the team might make between now and the start of the regular season. Free agent signings and trades would still appear likely, additions and subtractions that would shake up the DH options.
The most logical beneficiary of a Designated Hitter might be Rhys Hoskins. The move back to first base from left field is certainly going to help him already. However, even at first base, Hoskins is never going to be confused with a Gold Glover.
Assuming that Hoskins plays mostly at first base this coming season, the real short-term beneficiaries would likely come from the current outfielders. As things stand today, Andrew McCutchen is the everyday left fielder.
The lefty-hitting Odubel Herrera and switch-hitting Roman Quinn are competing in center field. In right field you have the lefty-hitting Nick Williams and right-handed bat of Aaron Altherr.
If you assume that Scott Kingery is going to be utilized as a super-sub in 2019 by manager Gabe Kapler, then he is not likely to see much DH action. The club would need to have him available to plug in defensively at up to five positions.
This mixture would probably result in Quinn and Altherr seeing an increase in their at-bats thanks to a Designated Hitter being used in the NL.
Of course, free agent deals involved Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, a trade involving J.T. Realmuto that would ship out any of the above options, and other similar moves would completely shake up the options, the depth, and the dynamics.

Further down the road the existence of a National League DH might benefit someone like 2018 top draft pick Alec Bohm. Currently a third baseman, there are many who see him as a future first baseman.
It may turn out a couple of years down the road that the Phillies have to weigh which hitter between Bohm and Hoskins is the better defensive player at first base, with the other becoming the primary Designated Hitter.
One thing is certain, the move to a universal DH would mean that offense in the National League would increase, just as it did in the American League immediately following implementation there.
Now, would such a change necessarily be a good change? There is much to be said for the strategy to be found within the National League brand of baseball. It appears that Major League Baseball is going to be making some big changes in the next few years. Don’t be surprised if we see the NL actually adopt the DH at some point as one of those changes.

MLB Japan Series roster will include two members of the Philadelphia Phillies

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Hoskins will likely play the outfield and first base in Japan

The roster for the team representing Major League Baseball in the 2018 Japan All-Star Series against stars from Nippon Professional Baseball was announced today.

Two Phillies players, Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana, were named as members of the MLB squad. They will take part in a series of seven games to be played between the MLB and NPB stars from November 8-15 at various ball parks across Japan.
Santana was named as an infielder, with Hoskins listed as an outfielder. Other infielders named to the MLB roster were Whit MerrifieldChris TaylorEugenio Suarez, and Amed Rosario. With none of those as natural first basemen, you could see both Santana and Hoskins man the position in a platoon.
Others listed as outfielders on the roster were Mitch HanigerKevin PillarEnrique Hernandez, and a pair of exciting young players from Phillies division rivals, Ronald Acuna of the Braves and Juan Soto of the Nationals. The catchers for the MLB squad will be Yadier MolinaRobinson Chirinos, and J.T. Realmuto.
The MLB pitching staff will feature two members of the World Series-champion Boston Red Sox, left-hander Brian Johnson and righty Hector Velazquez.
The only southpaws on the MLB staff will be Daniel Norris and Vidal Nuno.
Also on the MLB staff will be right-hander Kenta Maeda of the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Maeda hails from Senboku-gun, Japan, which is in the northern part of the main island, about 350 miles north of Tokyo.
MLB will be sending an experienced coaching staff under manager Don Mattingly. The staff will include former playing greats Edgar Martinez and Hideki Matsui, the latter of whom was the 2009 World Series MVP in the New York Yankees six-game victory over the Phillies.
This will be the 37th time that MLB stars have toured Japan dating back to 1908. MLB Network will provide live coverage of most of the games and many events. The games will take place in the Tokyo Dome, at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima, and at the Nagoya Dome in Nagoya.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Two Phillies named to MLB Japan All-Star Series roster

Japanese lefty pitcher Yusei Kikuchi may be on Phillies radar

Yusei Kikuchi with Seibu Lions in Japan
(Photo: えすぱにぃ  via Wiki Commons)
This will be a big off-season for the Philadelphia Phillies as the club tries to take the next step forward in their return to contending status.
While controlling owner John Middleton and GM Matt Klentak will certainly be trying to woo familiar big names such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, they will also be exploring any other option possible to improve the roster.
One of the less conventional options will be the international market. There will be no Shohei Ohtani available this winter. However, there may be another Japanese player available who could help the Phillies step forward in the 2019 season.
Yusei Kikuchi is a 27-year-old left-hander who is an eight-year veteran of the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League. Kikuchi has a career 73-48 mark with a 2.82 ERA and 1.176 WHIP, allowing just 830 hits over 1,028.1 innings across 162 games, 157 of those as starts. The southpaw also carries a 919/379 K:BB ratio.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported today that he “is expected to make the leap to the majors next year, and he should draw extensive interest. Most teams have been to Japan to see him this year.” Heyman listed the Phillies among those MLB teams with interest.
Heyman quoted a scout on Kikuchi’s repertoire and his potential fit in a big-league rotation:

“…he’s a good lefty who throws at 92-93 mph with a cutter, a slider and good straight change. He’s a solid three (third starter), maybe better than that.”

In a piece on the Arizona Diamondbacks attempt to sign Japanese high school pitcher Shumpei Yoshikawa back in late August, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic for USA Today wrote that Kikuchi “was said to be close to signing with a major league club out of high school in 2009 but ultimately decided not to, in part because of advice from his high school coach.”

The Phillies could use at least one quality addition to their starting rotation next year to slot in between Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. That would theoretically leave Vince VelasquezNick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin to battle for the fourth-fifth starter roles.
Whether Kikuchi fits the profile of a #2 starter, which is what the Phillies could really use, is debatable. However, he could be expected to at least give them another #3 level arm, which would still be valuable.
Expect this to be a busy off-season for the Phillies management group. The team was in legitimate contention for most of the season before collapsing over the last seven weeks. That collapse should leave the club’s decision-makers eyes wide open to options such as Kikuchi, Harper, Machado, and a number of other new additions.

Japanese Star Ohtani Wants to Play in MLB by 2018

The top star player in Japanese baseball, Shohei Otani, has announced publicly that he wishes to perform for one more season in his homeland before making the move to Major League Baseball.
Otani will turn 23 years old in July of 2017. He would likely be directly affected by terms of the new Collective Bargaining Unit between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Under the newly negotiated terms, MLB teams may not sign a player for more than $5 million until they reach age 25. It has been estimated that a player of Otani’s talents would fetch upwards of $250-300 million if he were an unfettered free agent.


Just one month ago in the New York Post, MLB insider Joel Sherman quoted an unnamed scout on Otani.:
“I actually think the guy might get a $300 million deal. That is how special a talent he is. He has power No. 1 starter stuff…throwing 99 [mph] in the eighth inning. His secondary stuff is unhittable. He is big and loose. His fastball is electric and his curve, cutter and split are all 70s [on the 20-80 scouting scale].
“And I think he is getting better as a hitter. I think an American hitting coach teaches him to turn on the ball more and he can be a 45-homer guy. He has Darryl Strawberry power…the face of a franchise. He is a big, handsome guy and when he plays baseball you cannot take your eyes off of him.”
Because of the new CBA terms, speculation was running rampant last week that Otani would likely remain in Japan at least through the 2018 season.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was the first to speculate that there could be ways around this situation for a player of Otani’s caliber.
So what’s all the excitement, you might ask? Well, I’m assuming that if you have read this far, you already have heard of Otani. But let’s not assume. You know what Felix Unger said about assuming. (If you don’t, maybe never heard of Felix, check out the following video.)


Otani is only the most exciting Japanese ballplayer in years. He is considered at least as talented as the great Yu Darvish, only Otani has another element to his game.
Considered the best pitcher on the planet who was not performing in MLB, Otani was given an opportunity in this past season to use a bat on a regular basis.
During the 2016 season, Otani served not only as a pitcher, but also as a Designated Hitter with Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the NPB Pacific League.
In 382 plate appearances, Otani hit for a .322/.416/.588 slash line with 22 homers and 18 doubles. He produced 67 RBI and scored 65 runs.
In addition to those DH duties, Otani has also appeared in 62 games as an outfielder during his professional career.


On the mound, the 6’4″ right-hander (he bats lefty) went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and 0.957 WHIP this past season. He allowed just 89 hits over 140 innings with a 174/45 K:BB ratio.
Since making his pro debut at age 18 in 2013, Otani has appeared in 80 games on the mound, 77 of those as a starter. He has allowed just 371 hits over 517.2 innings with 595 strikeouts.
Raw numbers don’t impress you enough? This past summer, Otani won the Home Run Derby at the Japanese All-Star Game, and then threw the fastest pitch in league history.
For his performances this year, Otani was named as a “Best Nine”, the Japan baseball version of a season-ending all-star, at both the pitcher and DH spots. He was also named the Most Valuable Player of the Pacific League, and led Nippon-Ham to the Japan Series championship. He is a 3x NPB All-Star.
Otani throws a four-seam fastball that sits regularly in the mid-upper 90’s, but which has topped out at 102 mph. He has a strong slider as well, throws a forkball, and mixes in a developing curve.


Now comes word that Nippon is considering posting him early, possibly in anticipation of such an “Otani waiver” or change to those posting rules. The player has made no bones about his desire to test himself in MLB sooner rather than later.
“There’s no change in my longtime desire to go there,” he said to the Japan Times, per a recent piece by Anthony McCarron for the New York Daily News“I’m playing now with thoughts of wanting to do it someday and produce results.”
Otani would become an outright free agent following the 2021 season. At that point he would be 27 years old. However, he can become a free agent at any point moving forward should Nippon post him.
“We discussed the possibility of me going,” he said per a report at ESPN. “… The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go.”
That same ESPN report includes a Otani quote from the Japan Times: “First I will give 100 percent for the Fighters next year to be Japan’s best again. I’ll put my soul into it.”
Fans of Major League Baseball will not have to wait until 2018 or beyond to watch him perform against big leaguers, however. Otani is expected to lead the Japanese team in next spring’s World Baseball Classic.


If the 2017 season is indeed the final one for the Japanese phenom, you can expect a number of MLB clubs to be involved in bidding for his services.
Included among those bidding teams would be some of the game’s biggest traditional spenders, and those in the best financial positions. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox would certainly be involved.
Other teams expected to become involved in bidding on Otani would include the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco Giants. Every big league club is going to have to evaluate the possibility of getting involved.
Whoever lands Otani is likely going to have to offer him the opportunity to hit and possibly play the field. In the AL, the DH spot could be used. In the NL, playing the outfielder part-time or in a platoon would work.
Watching how this situation involving the posting of Shohei Otani develops over the next year is going to be fascinating. And when he does finally arrive in America, how will he actually perform? It appears that we are going to find out, well before this decade is out.