The Japanese Baseball Report

by Bill Chuck on August 29, 2013

These are sad days in Flushing these days.

Matt Harvey. I don’t even like to talk about his forearm pain and the possibility we won’t see him pitch again until 2015 because of Tommy John surgery.

It was just Marlon Byrd T-Shirt Night at Citi Field and last night he and teammate John Buck celebrated Byrd’s three-run home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the Bucs 7-1 victory over the Brewers last night.

But the most depressing news remains in Queens.

I used to joke that the two ways you know that your neighborhood is going to hell are if a check-cashing place opens up or if the Gap opens.

I can also say, with even more certainty, that you know your team has gone to hell if you have Daisuke Matsuzaka as your starter.

Ticket holders check the schedule and if its Dice-K’s turn on the mound try and sell your tickets now.

Seriously.

The AP described the Phils 7-2 victory over the Mets and Matsuzaka with phrases like this:

This was no masterpiece….

Mets starter Daisuke Matsuzaka took an interminable amount of time between pitches and threw 82 over the first three innings.

Matsuzaka (0-2) labored through 4 1/3 innings on Japanese Heritage Night in his second start for the new-look Mets, who have dropped six of seven. Depleted by key injuries and Tuesday’s trade that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh, New York fell to 2-6 on a nine-game homestand.

“Today’s game was pretty self-explanatory, I think,” Matsuzaka said through a translator. “I was all over the place today, all over the zone.”

The Mets made three errors after going six games without one, which matched a season high.

Teams behind Dice-K make errors, often out of boredom.

But in honor of Japanese Heritage Night, and since I’ve already addressed Hiroki Kuroda, let’s talk about two major events going on in Japan Professional Baseball.

Hey Seattle Mariner fans, do you remember Wladimir Balentien from The Netherlands?

Tuesday night, Balentien hit two home runs and Wednesday he hit another to give him 51 on the season and move within five of breaking Japanese baseball’s single-season record of 55 set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and matched by former major leaguers Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002.

Balentien’s Yakult Swallows have 32 games remaining in the regular season but it may not be that easy for Balentien to break the record as Japanese pitchers are very protective of Oh’s place in the record books.

Balentien played for the  Mariners and Cincinnati Reds before signing with the Swallows in 2011 and he hit 31 homers in each of his first two Japanese seasons.

Then there is Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander Masahiro Tanaka who is now 18-0 on the season.

The 24-year old won his 22nd consecutive decision Friday, extending his own Japanese pro baseball record dating back to Aug. 26, 2012. Tanaka is chasing the major league mark of 24 straight wins held by Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants during the 1936 and 1937 seasons.

In  21 starts, he has a 1.15 ERA with 138 whiffs in  165 innings pitched. He has a 0.915 WHIP.

If the posting rules remain the same, expect the Eagles post Tanaka, allowing a major league team to sign him. He has been scouted by the Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees and Twins vice president of personnel Mike Radcliff will be scouting in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in the coming weeks with the intention of seeing Tanaka.

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