Saturday, September 5, 2009

More Updates

Just a quick post to update you on some of the goings on that I've discussed in the past few months.

Japanese Baseball Game Times

I mentioned that the NPB is trying to speed up the game here in Japan, but it turns out that they're failing miserably. The average 9-inning game is now 3:08 (up 3 minutes from May) and 3:14 if all games are included (a 2-minute increase).

I checked the time for some recent games and was amazed to find out that a 3-3 tie (tied Japanese games are stopped after 12 innings) between Yakult and Yomiuri took 5:27! That's nearly 30 minutes for every inning - but only 6 runs were scored! OK, there were 24 hits but only 3 walks, so I can't imagine what took so long. (Edit: turns out this was the Central League record for game time.) I stand by my contention that the snail's pace of NPB games is what makes attending the games so difficult. The minor league games don't suffer from this - one game yesterday took 2:14 - why can't the big boys follow suit?

Playoff Races in Japan

A couple of weeks ago I said that there were no pennant races in Japan - mainly because 3 teams in each league make the playoffs and there was a 10-game gap between 3rd and 4th in the Central League. Well, in that time Yakult has fallen apart and Hanshin has become hot, so the gap is suddenly just 3.5 games. With 30 or so games left, there actually might be a race to see who makes the Climax Series in the CL.

Meanwhile in the Pacific League, Rakuten has come on strong while Seibu has faltered. A month ago Rakuten trailed the Lions by 4.5 games, but now they have a 2-game lead for the 3rd and final playoff spot. So it looks like both leagues have reasonably interesting races - just not for first place. I guess the term pennant race is not really accurate, so I'll use playoff races.

As an aside, there's little pennant race excitement in MLB right now. The closest pennant race is in the AL West where Anaheim leads Texas by 3.5 games. The two wild card races are much more interesting, particularly in the NL where Colorado is up on San Francisco by just a game with Florida 4 back and Atlanta 5. Still, there's not a lot of compelling action right now, here's hoping that one or two teams suffer a Mets-like collapse to add a little spice to September.

Kawasaki Frontale in two tournaments

I try to follow J League side Kawasaki Frontale and watched them in an AFC Champions League game back in April. They've now advanced to the quarterfinals where they take on Nagoya Grampus. The first game is on September 23rd at National Stadium in Tokyo, but I'll be watching a Futures game in Kanagawa that afternoon. The 2nd leg is in Nagoya on September 30th, so I'm thinking about heading down there as the Chunichi Dragons are at home that week as well.

Frontale is also into the semi-finals of the Nabisco Cup, Japan's equivalent of the League Cup. They are playing Yokohama F. Marinos and have already taken the home leg 2-0. They visit Yokohama tomorrow and just need to avoid losing by 3 goals or more in order to advance to the final. I've already seen them play in Yokohama this year, so I won't go tomorrow, but if they advance to the final, I'll make sure to watch that on November 3rd.

U.S. Open Cup

After watching the Ottawa Fury in June and studying up on the USL, I found out about the U.S. Open Cup. The final was played a couple of days ago and the Seattle Sounders, an MLS expansion team, defeated D.C. United 2-1 to take the trophy. It's amazing that a first-year club can win such a competition; I'm not sure what this says about soccer, the Cup itself, or MLS's expansion when compared to other leagues, which force new clubs to suffer through seasons of failure by preventing them from acquiring good players early on. Turns out that the Chicago Fire also won the U.S. Open Cup in their inaugural season, so I'm guessing that MLS does try to give expansion teams a chance to be competitive immediately.

World Cup Qualifying

In one of the first posts, I talked about a potential trip to Denmark to see some World Cup Qualifying games. With the work visa situation still unresolved, I don't think this trip is going to happen unfortunately. Today (September 5) and September 9th are both match days, so I'll be following those games as we should have some more teams qualifying or being eliminated.

Design Changes

If you a regular reader, you have noticed that I changed the layout of the blog - the original format used only about half of the screen, which was OK for the small laptop I use. But when viewed on a big screen like the Imac, much of the available space was empty and it looked crappy. I switched to a full-screen format with a white background, which is what you see here. It looks much cleaner, but I realized that all the old posts with pictures were no longer properly displaying. So I've gone back and edited all the existing posts by moving the pictures around so that it's all much neater now. I've also corrected spelling errors and tried to make the writing a bit tighter, so if you notice changes to older posts, that's what happened.

That should put us all up-to-date on the comings and goings from the past few months. I'll be going to a couple of minor league games next week and will have some brief reports on those. As well, the US minor league regular season ends, so I'll be putting together a road trip plan for that. Of course, I won't be taking the trip itself, but it's one of my favourite planning activities, and I'll tell you all how I go about it next week.



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