Taiwan Winter League 2016 – Three Tigers Shine

Action at the Taiwan Winter League has come to an end, and the five Hanshin players who went down there to work on their stuff have returned to Japan. The results for some players were great, while for others it was not so encouraging. Check the stats below for all the figures you need:

Name GP W L SV IP K ER ERA
Koyo Aoyagi 6 3 0 1 18.2 20 3 1.45
Tsuyoshi Ishizaki 12 0 0 5 12.1 20 0 0.00
Yuya Yokoyama 5 1 1 0 16.1 14 10 5.51
Name GP AVG AB H HR RBI SB K
Seishiro Sakamoto 13 .174 23 4 1 8 0 5
Shintaro Yokota 18 .379 66 25 1 8 10 8

For the second straight year, a Hanshin pitcher has been named league MVP. Last offseason, a certain Yuta Iwasada (he of the 2 career wins) came back a new man, and ended up with the best ERA among starting pitchers in 2016. Expectations on Aoyagi are now sky-high. (Note: there is no mention of how many batters he walked or hit in the stat line!) He was told by the fans in Taiwan that Iwasada parlayed his experience into 10 wins, and so should he. When asked what the best thing about being home was, he said, “Just being able to read manga again is a great joy.”

Ishizaki recorded more saves than any other pitcher in the tournament, and his K/9 rate (14.9) rivals the numbers Kyuji Fujikawa put up in his prime. Word has it that Orix farm pitching coach Hirai told him to stop exerting himself so much when he got ahead in counts. Let’s hope he can carry some of this momentum into next year.

Unfortunately, Yokoyama got off to a bad start as a newlywed. He got tattooed for 5 runs in 4 innings against a Korean team, but says the biggest thing he could take out of this tournament was the successful relief appearance he had against the NPB Eastern (Farm) League, in which he says he gutted out the bases loaded situation he was given.

Yokota took some advice from the league’s hitting MVP, Orix’s Masataka Yoshida (just 23 himself) to stand back and keep his weight on his back foot a little more while swinging. It only led to Yokota getting 25 hits in just 66 at bats, so it obviously wasn’t bad advice! Yokota, who went to Taiwan for the second December in a row, led the league with his 10 stolen bases.

Sakamoto missed 8 days of action due to an injury to his foot. He never really got his bat going (although 8 RBIs in 13 games despite that low average isn’t bad) and says he is disgusted with his own performance. He says he won’t forget this experience and will use it as motivation for next year.

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.