Norichika Aoki
Pictured below: a man who can talk championships


Not sure, but each Japanese player I've ever heard comment about it, resists shortening of his name.  Daimajin used to say, What's with calling me Kazu.  It doesn't anger me, but I don't understand it.  Would a Timothy be called Timo?  Apparently Nori is an exception, the first one I've ever noticed.

Wily Peralta may be the most extreme "here it is, hit it" flamethrower in the majors right now.  Not only does he hit upper 90's, but his fastball percentage is way up there.  The first time through the lineup Saturday, it looked like 100% fastballs except to Nelson Cruz.  (Which tells you something about Nelson Cruz.)

So in this particular game, it was interesting to check out which M's looked most comfortable against "Here's your 97, meat" pitching.  Of course Seager eats that up, but our questions revolved around Zuumball, King Leonydas and especially Nori Aoki.  Half expected Peralta to knock the bat out of Aoki's hands, which shows you how much I know about baseball.


First time up, Peralta busted Aoki right on the hands, in off the plate, hand high, with 96-97 ... which Aoki cheerfully sizzled down the pull 1B line for a double.  The RF got to it real quick and if it had been Boomstick I'd have expected the camera to show him taking a wide turn around 1B and then heading back.  Aoki?  The camera got there in time to show him popping the parachute into 2B.

Which is a side subject.  You wonder what Aoki's bases gained are, 1B-to-3B on a single...  hmmmm.  Fangraphs shows him about even with the madding crowd of MLB players.


Second time up, Peralta served him about 96 ... again on the hands!   Which Aoki smoked even harder into RF for a line-shot single.  Say whaaaaa ?


Third time up, yet another long fastball and Aoki hit a frozen rope down the LEFT field line for his third hit of the day.  If it had been the first game you saw him, you'd have thought he was Ty Cobb or something.


Okay, granted, Aoki doesn't go 3-for-5 every day.  But neither does he get the bat knocked out of his hands, which in hindsight, makes sense given his two-hand backhand tennis groundstroke.  But it did get you to thinking ... is Norichika Aoki particularly good against good pitching?  Maybe JeDi didn't bring him in just because Control The Zone is contagious, but also because Aoki is good in the playoffs?

Oh yeah.  He was on that Royals team, right?  It's starting to add up here...

Well, a quick check shows Aoki 8-for-48 in the 2015 postseason.  But, he had 5 walks against 3 strikeouts and a BABIP of .177.  So maybe the insiders still like him in a playoff game despite his one season's results.

Checking further ... for his career he is a .304 hitter in high leverage situations, with a .375 OBP (!) and an EYE in excess of 1.00.  He is noticeably better against finesse pitchers, which he does come from Japan.  Was glad to see that, because there too we are used to seeing too much guesswork from old-style Mariners who swing from the wallet against fastballs.

So who knows.  Maybe Aoki will be a factor as we get later in the year.


Looking at the M's lineup from a "97 MPH Here It Is Hit It" standpoint, it strikes you that they have some guys who are comfortable against tough pitching.  Maybe Aoki?  Seth Smith for sure.  Mike Zunino is a cheat code at the plate any more, and we haven't talked about the 3-4-5 howitzers.

Just a thought.  Maybe JeDi was getting there ahead of us.  We can always hope :- )


Dr D




I've always had a soft spot for players that choke up on the bat....really, always, going back to Roy White (who even batted clean-up for the Yankees doing it), when I was a kid.  There is a natural inclination to be more controlled, which isn't necessarily slower (and may be quicker), when you choke up on a golf club (go try it) and I'm sure the same thing applies with the bat. 

Man, I've even seen Zunino choke up this year.

BTW, I didn't realize that Aoki leads the league in times caught stealing this year.  He's a career 67% guys, so his 1st to 3rd glitz doesn't translate to 1st to 2nd.  

I don't remember which Brewer it was last night, but one of them hit a little flair-up out to RF and dropped his head immediately, just knowing that was an easy play.  But---Holy Marv Throneberry---Seth Smith didn't even come close to it!!!  Heck, he barely got into the same zip code as the ball was when it nestled into the Safeco grass with out dimpling a blade.  Now maybe Smith had him played wrong or maybe the batter's dejection at contact was too doomy & gloomy, but it sure caught my attention.  Watching with my 88-year old dad, I commented on how the M's get weak in the COF's when we face RHP's.  Servais is doing his best to mitigate that, running O'Malley out to cover for Smith in the late innings (interesting that it isn't Guti, who has goine from a GG CF'er to a -0.7 dWAR COF this year), but it is a bit of an issue to me.  Then I remind myself that Aoki actually looks worse than he really is in LF, where he's "not bad" (essentially league average....even if he seems to take weird routes to balls). He isn't Alex Gordon, for sure, but he will do.   This year, he's hitting RHP just like he always does (.740) but his bread and butter has been his ability to be tough on lefties, too....this year he isn't.  Servais is handling that nicely, too.  When rosters expand I imagine Heredia will get a few of O'Malley's vL starts in LF.  

Go team.  

Hey, we're in a realy honest-to-goodness, true blue, Rock-em Sock-em Robots, Wild Card chase!  Ain't it a blast??  What was it G. Washington said about the whistle of bullets in battle being a thrilling sound?  

We're going to battle for the next 40 games.  Felix, Seager, Zunino, Cano, Cruz, Kuma et al are bringing the heavy artillery.  Even Lind is launching some howitzer shots again.  Aoki?  He's the Rangers, sneaking up on you!

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.



For the sake of the young'uns among us, here is a picture of Rock-em Sock-em Robots. Primitive earthlings used to actually play with such things.

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