Sunday, October 22, 2017

Card Of The Week October 22

The Hawks beat the Eagles 7-0 today to win the Final Stage of the Pacific League Climax Series and qualify for the Nippon Series.  The Hawks won three straight games after dropping the first two against the Eagles.  Seiichi Uchikawa was named MVP of the Climax Series after going 7-18 with four home runs and seven RBIs.  Here's his card from the "Hyper Hawks" insert set from the 2015 BBM Hawks set (#S17):

The Hawks will host the Central League Climax Series winners for Game One of the Nippon Series this coming Saturday.  The CL Series is currently tied up at two games apiece between the Carp and the Baystars.  Both of their games this weekend were rained out due to Typhoon Lan.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

2017 BBM Carp "Successful Achievement" box set

For the second year in a row the Hiroshima Toyo Carp are Central League champs* and for the second year in a row BBM has issued a box set commemorating this.  Last year the set had 55 cards and had the somewhat unwieldy title of "Realization Of A Great Ambition".  At 46 cards thus year's set is a little smaller but it has a much more succinct name - "Successful Achievement".

*Don't forget that NPB awards league championships based on the team that finished first in the regular season so the Carp are CL champs even if the Baystars beat them in the Climax Series and go on to the Nippon Series.

This year's set is organized a little differently than last year's.  Last year's base set told the story of the season in chronological order - card #1 commemorated about Opening Day while card #54 celebrated winning the pennant.  The set had no subsets.  The base set of this year's set is broken into two subsets - 36 "regular" player cards and 9 "name scene" cards (which appear to be highlight cards).

When I say "regular" player card in this case, I mean that the card clearly identifies the player (or manager Koichi Ogata) on the front.  The back of each of the cards however is highlighting a particular game from the season that the player had a contribution to and includes the line score for the game.  There's no biographical information for the player on the back.  Here's an example - Tsubasa Aizawa's card that commemorates him hitting a walk off two run home run to beat the Baystars on April 18th:


Back of #27
You can see that this photo's a little better than the run of the mill BBM batters batting and pitchers pitching shots that I'm always complaining about.  There's some other good shots in the set as well and even the routine photos look pretty good.  BBM used a horizontal format on more cards than the vertical format (about 21 horizontal to 15 vertical) and it works really well.  Here's some more examples:




The players highlighted are pretty much everyone you'd expect.  Beyond the players I've already shown there's Takahiro Arai, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Kosuke Tanaka, Kazuki Yabuta, Yoshihiro Maru, Brad Eldred, Jay Jackson, Kris Johnson and Xavier Batista (only Batista's second card that I know of). 

The "name scene" cards are really more of the same - cards highlighting a particular game.  The photo on the front of the card shows either a player or several players and the players aren't as prominently identified as they are on the "regular" cards.  The backs are nearly identical to the "regular" player cards in that they are giving details about the particular game and don't have biographical information for the player.  Here's a card of Ryosuke Kikuchi scoring against the Giants on April 13th as an example:


Back of #38
Both last year's and this year's set contained a special card as well as the base set.  Last year the special card was one of four oversized 3-D cards.  This year the special card could either be one of five normal sized "Great Heroes" 3-D cards or an autographed card.  I think the autographed cards were extremely rare (which is why the MSRP for the set was only 3000 yen).  I ended up with the "Great Heroes' card.  All the "Great Heroes' cards feature two players.  The one I got had Takehiro Arai and Brad Eldted on it:

It looks much better in person than it does in the scan.

As you might have guessed I like this set.  My only real disappointment with it (other than not getting an autographed card) is that none of the photos on the box front appear on any of the cards. 

As always you can see the whole set over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Card Of The Week October 15

The NPB playoffs (aka the Climax Series) kicked off yesterday with the second place Tigers hosting the third place Baystars in the Central League and the second place Lions hosting the third place Eagles in the Pacific League.  Both home teams won yesterday but the visiting teams came back and won today so both series are tied up at 1-1.  Since both series are a best of 3 that means there'll be two elimination games tomorrow to see who gets to go face the first place Carp and Hawks in the Final Stage of each Climax Series later in the week.

The pitching matchup between Takahiro Norimoto of the Eagles and Yusei Kikuchi of the Lions yesteday was supposed to be the premier pitching match of the playoffs but Norimoto got lit up for seven runs in four innings en route to a 10-0 loss by Rakuten.  Kikuchi however lived up to his end of the pregame hype, throwing a complete game shutout with nine strikeouts while only giving up five hits and one walk.  Here's Kikuchi's 2011 Bandai Owners League card (#016 from the "04" set):

Saturday, October 14, 2017

2013 Bandai Owners League 04 Box break

Like I did about a year ago, I recently picked up an unopened box of one of Bandai's Owners League sets from (the US one, not  Jay Shelton had tipped me off a while back that the boxes could be picked up relatively cheaply so I need to thank him for the heads up.

This time around I bought the "04" set from 2013.  Just to give a little history - Bandai used to issue four sets a year called "01", "02", "03" and "04".  I don't know when during the year the cards were released but the "04" sets came out later than BBM and Calbee's final sets and would frequently feature players who had signed too late to make their flagship sets.  Since I like getting cards of as many different players as I can, the "04" sets are very appealing to me.  And as we'll see in a minute, the 2013

The 2013 "04" base set contains 144 cards - 12 per team.  I believe that some of these cards are short-printed - there are 12 "Super Star" cards, 12 "Clutch" cards, 12 "Great" cards and 24 "Star" cards.  The remaining 84 cards are split between "Black" (36 cards) and "White" (48 cards).  In addition there are at least two insert sets that are not reflected in any checklists that are included with the box - 12 "Legend" cards and 12 "New Star" cards.

The box had 20 packs containing 3 cards each.  Like the box I opened last year I got 60 unique cards.  Here's the breakdown of insert, short print and regular cards:

Legend - 1
Super Star - 1
Clutch - 1
Great - 2
Star - 5
Black - 22
White - 28

Here's examples of each type of card:

#L001 (Keishi Suzuki)






You might notice that the cards for Ginji and Yoshitomo Tani sport "bonus" team logos that reflect the Eagles winning the 2013 Nippon Series and the Giants winning the 2013 Central League pennant.  Since the 2013 Nippon Series didn't end until early November, this set probably didn't come out until December of that year.

The set contains a number of players who didn't make it into any of BBM or Calbee's main sets in 2013.  What I was most interested in was that I picked up cards of a couple foreign players who only pitched in NPB during the second half of 2013 and did not have any other Japanese cards that I'm aware of.  They are Justin Thomas of the Fighters and Tim Corcoran of the Baystars:


One thing you might of noticed - I mentioned that I thought there were two insert set - Legend and New Star.  I got a Legend card in the box but I didn't get a New Star card.  Since Bandai didn't list either set with the checklists in the box, how did I know there was a New Star set?  Not a huge mystery - I had picked up a handful of cards from this set before getting the box and one of them was this New Star card:


Thursday, October 12, 2017

2017 BBM Genesis set

For the first time ever, I picked up this year's edition of BBM's high end set Genesis.  I bought a base set which was relatively cheap (1500 yen on Yahoo! Japan Auctions before my Noppin fees) but doesn't provide any of the autograph or memorabilia cards that are the main attraction of the Genesis set.  But I had my reasons - four of them as it turned out - that I'll get into in a minute.

The base set consists of 120 cards - 108 player cards plus 12 checklist cards.  So that's 9 player cards per team plus a checklist card.  The player cards are numbered 1 to 108 and the checklists are separately numbered CL01 to CL12.

Because it's released in mid-September, a month or so after 2nd Version came out, Genesis obviously goes to press a little later than 2nd Version.  In fact the backs of the cards include statistics for the season up to June 19.  This gives BBM a chance to include in Genesis some foreign players who may not have made their debut in time to be in an earlier set.  This year there are four players who appear in Genesis but do not appear in any other BBM issue so far this year (although they may show up in the yet to be released Fusion set) - Wily Mo Pena and Roel Santos of the Marines, Xavier Batista of the Carp and Chris Marrero of the Buffaloes.  Getting cards of the four of them is why I decided to pull the trigger on the set this year.  The other players in the set are pretty much who you'd expect - Shohei Ohtani, Seiya Suzuki, Yuki Yanagita, Takehiro Arai, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, Tetsuto Yamada, Takehiro Norimoto, Tomoyuki Sugano and Hayato Sugano among others - plus several of the major rookies from this season - Sosuke Genda, Yota Kyoda, Haruhiro Hamaguchi and Chihaya Sasaki for example.  There are no manager cards in the set.

The cards themselves are pretty attractive (although they don't scan well at all).  I generally prefer borderless cards but that's not what these are.  They have a small photo taking up maybe 75% of the front of the card floating in a sea of white and bordered by gold curlicues.  Somehow I still like them.  Here's some examples (again - they don't scan well):










 Here's what the back of the cards looks like:

Here's what the checklist cards look like - this is obviously one of the least imaginative things BBM has ever done.  And I think this is pretty much what the checklist cards have looked like every year that Genesis has been published (since 2012):

One odd thing about the checklist cards is that they are much thicker than the player cards.  I suspect that this is to make it harder to figure out if a pack holds a memorabilia card or not but I could be mistaken.

I'm not sorry I picked this set up but I'm not going to commit to getting it next year.  It'll be interesting to see if the four players that drove me to pick up the set show up in the Fusion set in November - if I'd known BBM was going to do that set again this year I might have skipped this one until I saw who was in Fusion.

UPDATE - forgot to mention that you can see all the cards (in much better scans than mine) at Jambalaya.

New BBM and Epoch releases

Just wanted to take a minute to cover some recent announcements of new sets by both BBM and Epoch...

- BBM's annual Rookie Edition Premium box set will be released in late October (Jambalaya says it'll be out on October 26th).  Each box contains 38 cards - the 36 card base set plus 2 "premium" cards.  The base set highlights the top three rookies for each team.  The "premium" cards can possibly be autographed cards, memorabilia cards or "booklet' cards.  Some of the cards could have more than one autograph on them - there's one both of the likely Rookies Of Year - Yota Kyoda of the Dragons and Sosuke Genda of the Lions - has signed.  MSRP for the set is 15,000 yen (roughly $135).

- Last year BBM released a mult-sport set called "Masterpiece" to celebrate their 70th Anniversary as a magazine published.  It apparently was popular enough that they are releasing another multi-sport called "Infinity".  There aren't actually a whole lot of details about the set on BBM's website - it's a pack-based set but I can't tell you how big the base set is or what the insert sets are for sure.  There are both active and OB baseball players in the set including Yuki Yanagita, Shinnosuke Abe, Takahiro Arai, Kosuke Fukudome, Shunsuke Watanabe, Norihiro Nakamura and Daisuke Miura.  Other sports include sumo, soccer, rugby, track and field, wrestling, tennis, gymnastics, boxing, curling and softball.  There will be autographed cards available which will include Shohei Ohtani.  The set will be out in late October (Jambalaya says the 29th).

- Another set BBM did for the first time last year that they are apparently turning into an annual issue is the Fusion set.  The breakdown of this set looks pretty much the same as last year's set - the base set is split into four subsets - "1st Version Update" (9 cards), "Ceremonial First Pitch" (BBM doesn't list the number of cards here but I'm betting there will be 9), "Hall Of Fame" (102 cards that include both active and OB players who aren't necessarily Hall Of Famers) and "Title Holders" (24 cards for the leaders of 12 different statistical categories for each league).  The total number of cards in the base set will probably be 144 depending on how many cards are in the "Ceremonial First Pitch" set.  BBM will once again be doing "secret" versions of one or more of the "Hall Of Fame" cards and Ami Imamura will once again be appearing in the "Ceremonial First Pitch" set.  There will be two insert sets - "Great Records" (24 cards) and "Legendary Players" (12 cards) and assorted autograph cards available.  The set will be released in late November.

- Epoch is releasing two high-end team based sets in November.  On November 4th the Hawks Stars & Legends set will hit the streets.  Each box has an MSRP of 12,960 yen and I think contains two packs of three cards each (6 cards total).  But the box is guaranteed to include two "special insert" cards including one autographed card.  The other possible "special insert" cards include jersey and jersey letter cards.  The base set itself is only 24 cards and includes both active and OB Hawks players.  The other set is the Carp Stars & Legends set and it will be out on November 18th.  Each box of this set also has an MSRP of 12,960 yen but I think it contains two packs of FOUR cards each (8 cards total).  As with the Hawks set, each box is guaranteed to contain two "special insert" cards which includes one autographed card.  Other possible "special insert" cards include jersey, jersey letter and patch cards.  The base set contains 55 cards which I assume include both active and OB Carp players.

Monday, October 9, 2017

2017 Epoch Tigers "Master" set

Ryan somehow picked me up a "master" set for the 2017 Epoch Tigers set.  Well, I guess it's really not a "master" set as it doesn't include any signature parallels or inserts but it does include all of the variants of the base cards.  This is somewhat less complicated than some of the other Epoch team sets as there are only two sets of variants rather than five(!).

My post here is going to kind of echo what Ryan's already written about the set but hopefully I've got some new things to say about the set.  The base set has 36 cards - 8 of which are the Tigers' 2016 draft class.  The base set also includes cards for manager Tomoaki Kanemoto and ni-gun manager Masayuki Kakefu (aka Mr Tigers).  The set pretty much has everyone you'd expect - Kosuke Fukudome, Takeshi Toritani, Randy Messenger, Yoshio Itoi, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Shintaro Fujinami, etc.

There are 36 "1 *" variants for the set so (obviously) one for each card in the set.  Ryan says that these are all photo variants but I have to disagree with him - the majority of them are actually crop variants.  There are only four actual photo variants among the "1 *"s - Fujinami, Fumiya
Hojoh, Itoi and Toritani.  There are 18 "2 *" variants for the set that are all photo variants.  So the total number of cards that I have for this set is 90.

Here's some examples of the variants - first all three of the Itoi cards (base card on the left, then "1 *" variant, then "2 *" variant:

As Ryan points out the backs for all three cards are identical except for the "*" or "**" on the bottom left of the cards.  This is obviously how you tell if the card is a one or two star variant.  Note that the photo on the back is still the one from the base card:

Backs of #31
Just for comparison, here are the base card and "1 *" variant for Kosuke Fukudome so you can see what a cropped variant looks like:

I've probably beaten the variant stuff to death now so I'll just show off a couple more cards from the set.  (As always you can see them all at Jambalaya.)



#24 (1 * variant)

#27 (2 * variant)

One other thing Ryan included with the set is the promo card of Kento Itohara.  As he points out in his post, this is a very odd promo card in that it doesn't look much like the regular cards in the set.  Really the only thing the promo card and the regular card of Itohara have in common is the photo on the card.  Here's the promo card:

 Here's the regular card:

Weird, huh?  I wonder if the promo was a design Epoch thought of using and decided against after they already printing the promo.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Card Of The Week October 8

Shohei Ohtani made what is very probably his last pitching appearance in Japan on Wednesday, throwing a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts in the Fighters' 3-0 win over Orix (he also hit cleanup in the game.  He is expected to play in the Fighters game against the Eagles tomorrow which is likely the last time he plays in a game in Japan as it is the Fighters' last game of the season.

All of this is with the expectation that he will head to MLB this offseason in some manner - whether it be via the posting system (which is up in the air at the moment) or by Nippon-Ham making him a free agent.  We shall see what happens over the next few months.

In the meantime, here's a card of Ohtani from last year's Epoch Fighters Season Summary set (#01):

Here are the highlights of Wednesday's game:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

2017 Epoch Team Sets

Getting back to the stuff Ryan sent me last week...

Epoch released reasonably priced team sets for eight of the twelve NPB teams this past summer (basically between mid-June and the end of August).  When I say reasonably priced, I mean that a box of 20 packs containing 4 cards each had an MSRP of 5000 yen ($45-ish).  Autographed cards were not included in the product but there was some sort of scratch off card included in every pack that allowed you to accumulate points to redeem for autographed cards.

Epoch did sets for the Dragons, Hawks, Tigers, Carp, Lions, Swallows, Baystars, and Giants (or in other words all the Central League teams plus the Hawks and Lions).  Each set had between 27 and 36 cards in the base set and most sets had parallel issues and insert cards.  And variants.  Oh God are there variants.  Epoch took BBM's "secret" version idea from their 1st and 2nd Version sets and went completely overboard with it.  Many of the cards in the sets have variants that may be a recropping of the photo on the original card, a new photo altogether or a recropping of the new photo.  It's bewildering trying to keep track of it all.

I put together a table trying to summarize what's in each set and to make an attempt to organize the information on the variants.  Ryan has already done some of this in his posts on the Dragons, Hawks, Tigers, Carp, Lions, Swallows and Baystars sets (he hasn't done a post on the Giants set yet) so I'm summarizing some of what he's deciphered (as well as checking out what Jambalaya has on-line).

Set Size Rookie Cards 1 * Variants 2 * Variants 3 * Variants 4 * Variants 5 * Variants
Dragons 30 6 ? HDR ? crop of regular ? photo ? crop of 3 *
Hawks 27 4 24 crop of regular 22 photo 14 crop of regular 9 crop of 2 * 6 crop of 2*
Tigers 36 8 36 crop/photo 18 photo
Carp 35 6 29 HDR 12 crop of regular 12 photo 6 crop of 3 *
Lions 27 6 ? crop of regular ? crop of regular ? photo ? crop of 3* ? crop of 3 *
Swallows 30 6 24 crop of regular 12 crop of regular 6 photo 6 crop of 3*?
Baystars 27 9 27 crop of regular 11 photo 22 crop of regular 8 crop of 2 * 6 crop of 2 *
Giants 36 3 36 crop/photo ? crop/photo ? photo? ? HDR

The type of each variant is indicated by the number of stars on the back of the card.  What I tried to do was put the identify the number of variants and what they were.  "Photo" means it's a different photo than the regular card, "crop" means it's a recropping of either the regular card or a photo variant and HDR means it's a "High Dynamic Range" image - it's had some fancy image processing done on it to make it look sharper.

OK, so after all that talk about the variants...I don't have any except for the Tigers set.  I had asked Ryan to pick up just the base sets for these sets as the base sets could be had for 500 yen each while the sets with all the variants were much more.  He picked me up a "master" set for the Tigers but the rest of the sets were just the base sets.  I assume he got some good deal on the Tigers set but I haven't gotten the details from him yet.  

I'm going to deal with the Tigers set in a separate post so let's talk about the other seven sets.  They're...ok.  Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I got them.  But they won't make me stop getting BBM or Calbee.  All the sets have a different design and the designs range from somewhat attractive (the Carp and Tigers sets) to functional (the Hawks, Lions and Baystars sets) to kind of dark and ugly (the Dragons and Giants sets).  The Swallows set is in a different category - the design is nice but I don't like the "diagonal line filter" they added to the background of every photo.

As for the content of each set - all the sets except for the Swallows includes a card of the team's manager.  The Carp and Swallows sets also include a card for their mascot (and there are variants for those cards as well).  The Swallows set also includes an additional card for Tetsuto Yamada celebrating his "Triple Three" from last year - .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs and 30 steals.  The sets pretty much have the big stars from each team as well as a bunch of fan favorites - the Hawks set has Daisuke Matsuzaka in it for example.  

Each team set except the Giants includes the team's entire 2016 draft class.  The Giants for some reason only have half of their class of six players included and it's picks #1, #2 and #4.  One of my gripes about a couple of the sets (other than my usual complaint about the number of rookies crowding out other players from being in the set) is that the photos for the rookies are either headshots or photos like the ones in BBM's Rookie Edition sets rather than game or training shots.

OK, enough talk - here's some sample cards:

 2017 Epoch Dragons #24

2017 Epoch Dragons #21

2017 Epoch Hawks #16

2017 Epoch Hawks #04

2017 Epoch Carp #02

2017 Epoch Carp #08

2017 Epoch Lions #22

2017 Epoch Lions #4

2017 Epoch Swallows #24

2017 Epoch Swallows #15

2017 Epoch Baystars #07

2017 Epoch Baystars #19

2017 Epoch Giants #33

2017 Epoch Giants #22
Ultimately I think these sets by Epoch are a nice attempt that fall a bit short.  They kind of feel like bad minor league team sets, especially the Dragons and Giants sets.  I think what I'd really like to see is Epoch try their hand at a full 300+ card "flagship" set like BBM and Calbee does rather than these team specific sets.  But I'm quite happy that Epoch did some sets that were affordable this year.

You can see the Dragons, Hawks, Carp, Lions, Swallows, Baystars and Giants sets (including parallels and variants) over at Jambalaya.