Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena among league leaders in Japan

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Here’s a quick look at how some major leaguers are faring in Japan. Remember, the Japanese leagues started strongly favoring pitchers with the switch to a new baseball last year. In the six-team Pacific League, 13 pitchers currently qualify for the ERA title and the worst of the bunch has a 2.91 ERA. Three of the 13 have ERAs under 2.00. The Central League has 21 ERA qualifiers. Included there are eight guys over 3.00, but also five guys under 2.00.

I’ll be listing all of the ex-major leaguers currently qualifying for batting and ERA titles, as well as a few other notable names.

Central League hitters
Lastings Milledge: .307/.376/.491, 19 HR, 55 RBI in 430 AB
Alex Ramirez: .300/.325/.479, 16 HR, 63 RBI in 380 AB
Matt Murton: .248/.279/.333, 4 HR, 27 RBI in 375 AB
Wladimir Balentien: .264/.397/.622, 26 HR, 63 RBI in 246 AB
John Bowker: .182/.258/.284, 3 HR, 9 RBI in 176 AB

Milledge is second in the CL in average and third in homers, ranking behind Shinnosuke Abe in both categories. Balentien is the leader in homers despite being 120-200 at-bats behind most of the regulars.

Murton, on the other hand, is having a second straight difficult year after setting the Central League record for hits with 211 as a “rookie” in 2009.

Pacific League hitters
Aarom Baldiris: .271/.358/.414, 9 HR, 47 RBI in 401 AB
Tadahito Iguchi: .265/.347/.398, 9 HR, 52 RBI in 407 AB
Wily Mo Pena: .263/.321/.486, 18 HR, 61 RBI in 358 AB
Esteban German: .258/.335/.330, 3 HR, 52 RBI in 400 AB
Jose Fernandez: .241/.309/.305, 2 HR, 30 RBI in 344 AB
Josh Whitesell: .331/.418/.494, 5 HR, 30 RBI in 154 AB
Chris Carter: .297/.354/.465, 3 HR, 19 RBI in 91 AB

Pena has quieted down a bit since I previously checked in on him, but he’s third in the Pacific League in both homers and slugging. And, frankly. a .321 OBP is pretty good in which the average game result seems to be 3-2.

German is second in the league in steals with 33.

The Pacific League’s best hitter this year has been Korean import Dae-Ho Lee. He’s batting .294/.382/.502 with 21 homers.

Leading the league in average is shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima at .324. He also has 12 homers and 61 RBI in 411 at-bats. He’ll probably make his way to MLB next year as a free agent. The Yankees gained his rights through the posting system last winter, but he opted to return to Japan rather than sign as a utilityman in New York.

Central League pitchers
D.J. Houlton: 9-6, 2.75 ERA, 103/34 K/BB in 118 IP
Jason Standridge: 6-9, 2.86 ERA, 81/34 K/BB in 116 1/3 IP
Randy Messenger: 6-10, 3.05 ERA, 125/54 K/BB in 150 2/3 IP
Bryan Bullington: 6-10, 3.47 ERA, 112/37 K/BB in 137 1/3 IP
Kam Mickolio: 2-4, 18 Sv, 2.52 ERA, 50/12 K/BB in 50 IP
Scott Mathieson: 2-0, 10 Sv, 1.80 ERA, 46/11 K/BB in 40 IP
Dennis Sarfate: 2-4, 9 Sv, 2.51 ERA, 40/20 K/BB in 43 IP

I still believe both Mickolio and Mathieson would have turned into quality MLB relievers. Of course, they’re young enough that they still could someday.

Houlton’s 2.75 ERA puts him 11th of the 21 qualifiers. Kenta Maeda leads the Central League with a 1.56 ERA in 162 innings.

Pacific League pitchers
Brian Wolfe: 8-9, 2.55 ERA, 67/.34 K/BB in 123 1/3 IP
Seth Greisinger: 9-6, 2.67 ERA, 88/19 K/BB in 124 2/3 IP
Hideki Okajima: 0-1, 2 Sv, 0.69 ERA, 32/5 K/BB in 39 1/3 IP
Brian Falkenborg: 0-1, 13 Sv, 1.89 ERA, 24/8 K/BB in 19 IP
Darrell Rasner: 1-2, 6 Sv, 4.13 ERA, 21/8 K/BB in 28 1/3 IP
Randy Williams: 1-2, 4 Sv, 1.53 ERA, 32/16 K/BB in 29 1/3 IP

Greisinger got off to a great start, but he’s now just 11th of the 13 ERA qualifiers. Okajima leads the way in relief ERA. You may remember that he signed with the Yankees last winter, only to have his contract voided after he failed his physical.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.