Monday, April 29, 2019

1st Version Photos From Arizona, 2019 Edition

The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters have done the early part of their training camp in Arizona the past four seasons.  As a result there have been a number of cards in BBM's 1st Version set the past four years that have featured photographs taken in Arizona.  I've done posts in the past on the cards from the 2016, 2017 and 2018 sets so now here's a post on the 2019 cards.

Most of the photos for this year's 1st Version set were taken last year.  The only photos taken in training camp are usually for the rookies and players who switched teams over the winter, including foreign players coming to Japan for the first time.  Of the players the Fighters brought to Scottsdale, Arizona this year, only five players fall into this category - new foreign players Po-Jung Wang, Johnny Barbato and Justin Hancock along with former Buffalo Chihiro Kaneko and former Swallow Ryo Akiyoshi.

I found Barbato's photo in the Fighter's gallery from February 1st so that photo was definitely taken in Arizona:

2019 BBM 1st Version #062
Wang's photo is not in the gallery but it looks like it was taken during the exhibition game against the KBO's NC Dinos at Salt River Fields At Talking Stick on February 11th:

2019 BBM 1st Version #074
I couldn't find the photos for Hancock, Akiyoshi or Kaneko in the team's galleries at all but I'm fairly confident based on the backgrounds that they were also taken in Scottsdale:

2019 BBM 1st Version #061

2019 BBM 1st Version #063

2019 BBM 1st Version #058
I'm pretty certain that the photo on Wang's "Cross Sunrise" card was taken after the team went to Okinawa for the second part of training camp.  The complete photo on the back of the card looks like it was probably taken during the inter-squad game on February 16th:

2019 BBM 1st Version #CS09
The Fighters team card in each of the past three years has featured a photo taken in Arizona - Peoria in 2016, Mesa in 2017 and Scottsdale in 2018.  This year's photo was obviously taken in Okinawa however:

2019 BBM 1st Version #327
Calbee's Series One this year features a photo of Kaneko that I'm pretty confident was taken in Arizona.  It looks similar to one of the shots in the team's gallery for February 2nd:

2019 Calbee #016
Sadly it looks like this will be the last time I do this exercise, at least for 1st Version and the Fighters.  The team has announced that it will be doing all of training camp in Okinawa next year.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

2019 BBM 1st Version set

2019 BBM 1st Version Set Summary

Size: 372 cards numbered 1-336, CS01-CS36
Cards Per Team:  28 (team card, manager + 26 players)
Team Card Theme:  Spring Training
Number Of Leader Cards:  N/A
Checklists:  None
Subsets:  Cross Sunrise (36)
Inserts:  Japonism(12), Beginning (12), Dominator(12), 3D Cross Sunrise (12, #'d to 25)
Memorabilia Cards: Jersey cards for YukiYanagita and Seiya Suzuki.  Each jersey card is serially numbered to 200 plus a parallel patch version numbered to 20.  I think there may be a combination jersey card (and a parallel patch version) but I can't find .  There are a large number of autograph cards available as well - including ones with multiple autographs
Parallels:  12 regular player cards have a "secret" alternate photo version.  108 regular players cards (9 per team) have facsimile autograph parallels - silver, gold (#'d to 100), holograph (#'d to 50), red (#'d to 25) and green (#'d to 10) - this includes the "secret" versions of the cards as well.  (I think the 1st round picks for each team are included in the 108 players.)  80 of the rookie cards have three numbered parallel versions - "Foilboard" (numbered to 200), "Holo Foil" (numbered to 100) and "Green Foil" (numbered to 50).  The "Cross Sunrise" cards have three parallel versions - "Gold Foil" (numbered to 100), "Holo Foil" (numbered to 50) and  "1 of 1".  There are parallel versions for the "Beginning" (#'d to 100) and "Dominator" (#'d to 50) inserts but I couldn't find any evidence that there was a parallel version for the "Japonism" inserts. 
Notable Rookies: Akira Neo, Kyota Fujiwara, Kosei Yoshida, Hiroshi Kaino, Koji Chikamoto

BBM's 1st Version set is rapidly becoming like their Rookie Edition set in that it is so monotonously similar from year to year that I don't have a whole lot to say about it.  For the fifth year in a row the base set has contained 372 cards that are split between 324 player (and manager) cards, 12 team checklists and a 36 card "Cross Something" subset that will be continued in the 2nd Version set in August. 

On the plus side it's a nice looking set (as usual).  I don't think BBM's done a design I didn't find attractive for a 1st Version set since maybe 2005.  On the minus side I have my usual complaints. The first one is that limiting each team to only 26 players and insisting on having cards of each non-ikusei draft pick means that deserving players don't show up in the set.  I complain about this every year but then struggle to pick an example.  This year I'll go with Dennis Sarfate, Tsuyoshi Wada and Louis Okoye although in fairness to BBM - Wada's only played with the Hawks' farm team, Sarfate hasn't played in ANY games yet and Okoye has been less than effective.  On the other hand last year they didn't have a card of the eventual Pacific League Rookie Of The Year Kazuki Tanaka in either the 1st or 2nd Version sets so it may be that a major omission will eventually present itself.

My second and bigger usual complaint with the set is the mind-numbing repetition of the same poses.  There's way too many photos of pitchers pitching and batters batting.  The Lions cards are the worst offenders in the set - every single non-rookie pitcher is depicted in pretty much the same pose - in the middle of their motion with the ball cocked in their throwing arm behind their head:

Most of the photos were taken last season.  The exceptions of course are the newcomers for each team - the cards for the rookies, free agents and newly signed foreign players were taken in the early part of spring training in February.  The other exception to this is the Dragons - because they have new uniforms this year all of their photos were taken this February.  As a result they have the most interesting photographs.

Here's some example cards - for the most part I tried to get some of the better photos:






I'm pretty sure Tomoyuki Sugano's photo is from his no-hitter in the First Stage of the Climax Series last October - in fact it looks like this photo and the one on his Epoch One card were taken at the same moment from different angles:

Last year I beat BBM up for using a photo of Norichika Aoki at his press conference when he returned to the Swallows instead of an on-field photo.  They did a similar thing this year with Josh Ravin of the Marines - I have no idea why they didn't use an on-field photo of him like they did in their Marines team set that came out a week or so before this set came out.

The backs are the standard BBM flagship backs - just the rearranging of the usual ingredients:

#100 (Masataka Yoshida)
The team checklists show scenes from early spring training again.  This was getting a bit stale but this year BBM included several more silly photos than they've done in the past.  Here's a couple:


I don't have much to say about the "Cross Sunrise" cards - as I said last year, if you've seen one of BBM's previous "Cross Something" cards, you pretty much seen these:

I splurged a little this year when I picked up this set off of Yahoo! Japan Auctions.  The set I bought included half of the "secret" version cards, the entire "Beginning" insert set and eight of the twelve "Dominator" inserts. 

This is the third year BBM has done "secret" versions of 12 1st Version cards - these are photo variant parallel cards.  Generally the photo is a little more interesting than the regular card.  Here's Tetsuto Yamada's regular card and his "secret" version - the regular card is on the left:

The "Beginning" insert set features one young player for each of the 12 teams.  Half of the cards are for rookies and the other six were drafted in the previous two years (2016 or 2017).

The "Dominator" insert set features one "dominating" player from each team.

As always you can see all the cards (including the inserts, parallels and "secret" versions) over at Jambalaya (the rarer parallels are here).

Card Of The Week April 28

With this being my final "Card Of The Week" post for the Heisei Era I thought it would be appropriate to honor the player who both John E. Gibson and Jim Allen picked as the Heisei Era NPB MVP on last week's Japan Baseball Weekly podcast:  Tomoaki Kanemoto.  This is card #20 from the box set BBM issued when he retired in 2012:

New Team Sets

I wanted to do a quick post about some recently announced "comprehensive" team sets from Epoch and BBM as well as a couple team issued sets that were released earlier this month.

- Epoch has announced four new team sets (titled "Rookies & Stars") to go with the three previously announced sets (two of which have been released already) - the Buffaloes, the Dragons, the Fighters and the Swallows.  The Buffloes set has a 67 card base set with two different serially numbered parallels of the rookie cards (I think).  It will be out on May 25th.  The Dragons set has a 70 card base set (14 cards of which have a photo variant) and two insert sets - Rookie Sensation and Force Of The Dragon.  Its release date is June 8th.  The base set for the Fighters set has 70 cards.  There are also two insert sets - Seven Rookies and Newest Member.  The set will hit the stores on June 15th.  The Swallows base set has 69 cards and what appear to be the same kind of parallels for the rookie cards that the Buffaloes set has.  All four sets (like the three previous sets) have three serially numbered insert sets - Masqued Black, Masqued Red and Gem - these appear to be Epoch's version of BBM's "Phantom" inserts that are common for all their team sets.  All four sets also have a plethora of autograph cards available but the Fighters set is the only one with memorabilia cards available.  With seven team sets announced Epoch has matched the number of "comprehensive" team sets they did last year although they switched out the Carp for the Fighters.  I will be curious if they will do the other five teams or not.

- The announcements of the Lions and Tigers team sets from BBM brings their total announced team sets to seven also.  As has been the standard for BBM's "comprehensive" team sets the past few years, both sets have an 81 card base set that's broken into a variety of subsets.  The Lions base set has 68 cards for the players and manager plus three subsets - "College Connection" (4 cards), "New Blue Blood" (4 cards) and "Pole Position" (5 cards).  The set also has 30 insert cards split between four sets - "No Way Back" (9 cards), "Overture" (6 cards), "Power Plant" (3 cards) and "Phantom" (12 cards).  The set will be out in late-May.  The details are a little sketchier on the Tigers set - the base set has 68 cards for the players and three subsets - a three card one featuring young players, a five card one featuring the starting rotation and a five card on featuring position players.  There's four insert sets - a nine card on featuring main players, a six card one that I'm not sure what is, a three card one for veterans and 18 "Phantom" cards.  The set's release date is in mid-June.  Both sets feature various autograph cards.

- Jambalaya had information up about a couple team issued sets that were released April.  There's a 78 card set for the Orix Buffaloes that features cards of all the players on the roster plus two of their mascots (but oddly enough not manager Norifumi Nishimura).  The Eagles have been issuing an annual set for at least seven years now.  This year's edition includes a 91 card base set (82 player cards which do not include mascots or manager Yusuke Hiraishi but does include the Eagles ikusei players plus nine cards highlighting milestones and titles Eagles players earned in 2018) which has a signature parallel version.  There's also a couple insert sets available including one that's die-cut.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

2019 Calbee Series One

The first of what is expected to be three Series from Calbee was released a few weeks back.  There's no big surprises in Series One - the base set contains 98 cards which break down into 72 player cards (6 per team), 22 "Title Holder" cards and four checklist cards.

The English names are back on the front of the player cards again this year after being replaced by Japanese names last year.  The fronts otherwise look pretty much the same as Calbee fronts always look - borderless cards with the player's number, team name and team logo positioned above his name.

The player cards in Series One always seem kind of light on the big name players and this year is no exception.  None of the biggest names in Japanese baseball - Tomoyuki Sugano, Tetsuto Yamada, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, Takehiro Norimoto, Yuki Yanagita, Shogo Akiyama, Seiya Suzuki or Hayato Sakamoto - appear in the set.  It's not a big deal because this is really only one third of Calbee's set this year but it is something to keep in mind.  Probably the biggest names in the player cards in this Series are Shinnosuke Abe, Koji Uehara, Nobuhiro Matsuda, T-Okada and Takeya Nakamura.  As far as I can tell there's only two players in the set who changed teams over the winter and they're a pair of ex-Orix pitchers - Yuki Nishi (Tigers) and Chihiro Kaneko (Fighters).  There are two rookies in the set which is a bit unusual - Kyota Fujiwara of the Marines and Akira Neo of the Dragons, the pair of former Osaka Toin teammates who went in the first round of last fall's draft.

Photo selection in the set is a little better than usual.  There's still way too many photos of pitchers pitching and hitters hitting but there's a pretty good selection of fielders and baserunners as well.  There's only a couple cards in the Series that use a horizontal format.  It looks to me that all the photos in the set were taken last season with the exception of the Nishi, Kaneko, Fujiwara and Neo cards (obviously).  Here's some example cards:






The 22 card "Title Holder" subset features players who either won an award or lead either league in a major statistical category last season.  This subset includes a couple of those big names that I mentioned earlier including Sugano, Yamada, Norimoto, Akiyama and Yanagita as well as Hotaka Yamakawa and Wladimir Balentien.  Hideto Asamura and Yoshihiro Maru are included in the subset in the uniforms of their 2019 teams (the Eagles and Giants respectively) despite having earned their titles with a different team (the Lions and Carp respectively).  Each player only has one card regardless of how many titles they won - Maru for example won the Central League MVP and lead the league in OBP last year.  His card indicates both titles:

As usual the four checklist cards feature events from late last season - the Lions and Carp celebrating their league championships on September 30th and 26th respectively, the Hawks' Nippon Series Victory Parade in Fukuoka on November 25th and Tetsuto Yamada getting his 30th home run of the season on August 24th.  Here's the Hawk's parade card:

As always you can see all the cards over at Jambalaya including the two insert sets ("Star" and "Legend")  and the special box set ("Strikeout Leader") that's available by redeeming "Lucky Cards".

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Card Of The Week April 21

Having let Craig Kimbrel leave as a free agent, the defending World Champion Red Sox have turned to former Carp pitcher Ryan Braiser to be their closer this year.  Brasier was originally drafted by the Angels and made his MLB debut with them in 2013.  He missed the entire 2014 season due to an elbow strain and was released by the Angels at the end of the year.  The Athletics picked him up and he spent two seasons in their organization before he headed to Japan.  He spent 2017 with Hiroshima, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 26 games with the ichi-gun team and going 0-0 with an ERA of 1.35 in 19 games with the Carp's farm team.  He returned to the US late last winter, signing with the Red Sox on March 4th and split last year evenly between Triple-A Pawtucket and the major league team, appearing in 34 games for each team.  He also pitched for the Red Sox in each round of the post-season last year.  Here's Brasier's card from the 2017 BBM Carp "Successful Achievement" set (#17) celebrating the team's second consecutive Central League pennant:

This season has not been kind so far to either the Red Sox or the Carp.  They both have nearly identical records - the Red Sox are 8-13 while the Carp are 8-12.  They have both moved out of last place lately but part of that has been because of more hapless teams (the Baltimore Orioles and the Hanshin Tigers) although both teams won their first series this weekend.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Card Of The Week April 14

Last Tuesday night Ernesto Mejia hit a solo home run for the Lions in the ninth inning of their game against the Eagles.  The home run itself was unremarkable - it made the score a little closer but the Eagles still won the game 7-5 - but it was notable in that it was the 9000th home run in Lions history.  They are only the second team to reach this milestone - the Giants were the first and are actually the only team to reach 10,000 home runs.  I find it odd that the Lions, a team that has "only" been around since 1950, has out-homered several teams that started out in the 1930's, including the Tigers, Dragons and Hawks.  It's really a meaningless milestone but I have no idea why the Lions reached it before these other teams.

Here's Mejia's 2017 Epoch Lions card (#27):

Friday, April 12, 2019

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version Set - Where Are They Now?

BBM's fourth collegiate set was released in April of 2009.  The Tokyo Big Six Spring Version set was a box set containing 60 total cards - 54 player cards (nine from each team) and six team cards.  Eleven of those 54 players would go on to play in NPB.  Five of those eleven have their first cards ever in this set - Toshiki Abe, Fumiya Araki, Yuya Fukui, Kisho Kagami and Kenta Matsushita. 

Here's a summary of the future NPB players in the set.  Seven of them are still active.

Player College Year Drafted Notes
Toshiki Abe Meiji 2 2015 Dragons 5th Played for Honda after graduating before being drafted by Chunichi.  Played for Dragons 2016-present
Fumiya Araki Meiji 3 2010 Tigers 5th Played for Tigers 2011-present
Yuya Fukui Waseda 3 2010 Carp 1st Played for Carp 2011-2018, Eagles 2019-present.
Kazuhito Futagami Hosei 4 2009 Tigers 1st Played for Tigers 2010-2016
Kisho Kagami Hosei 3 2010 Baystars 2nd Played for Baystars 2011-15.  Played for JR West after leaving Baystars
Kenta Matsushita Waseda 4 2009 Lions 5th Played for Lions 2010-15
Yusuke Nomura Meiji 2 2011 Carp 1st Played for Carp 2012-present, 2012 Rookie Of The Year.  Lead Central League in wins in 2016.  All Star in 2012 & 2016.  Named to Best 9 team in 2016
Tatsuya Ohishi Waseda 3 2010 Lions 1st Played for Lions 2011-present
Yuki Saitoh Waseda 3 2010 Fighters 1st Played for Fighters 2011-present.  All Star in 2011-12
Hisashi Takeuchi Hosei 4 2009 Carp 3rd Played for Carp 2010-15
Kenji Tomura Rikkio 4 2009 Eagles 1st Played for Eagles 2010-present

Here's each player's card from the set plus a card of them from NPB.  I've tried to get one of the most recent cards I have for the player although I'm also trying not to repeat cards for players who've been in the previous sets.

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #25

2018 BBM Dragons #D45

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #24

2018 BBM Tigers #T56

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #07

2018 BBM Carp #C02

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #30

2015 BBM Tigers #T29

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #31

2015 BBM Baystars #DB34

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #04

2015 Lions Fan Club #57

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #20

2018 Epoch NPB #222

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #05

2018 BBM Lions #L05

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #06

2018 BBM Fighters #F02

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #29

2010 BBM 2nd Version #600

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #38

2018 BBM Eagles #E12
Of the remaining 43 players in the set, fifteen had the only card ever in this set: Yudai Kajiya (Hosei), Shingo Kamegai (Hosei), Nagomu Kasai (Toyko), Takuma Kobayashi (Meiji), Hiroki Kojima (Waseda), Yusuke Kusada (Waseda), Yuki Maeda (Rikkio), Takayuki Morita (Meiji), Yuki Murayama (Keio), Msashi Nanba (Hosei), Yusuke Ohmae (Waseda), Kazuya Onodera (Keio), Tetsuya Urushibata (Keio), Yosuke Yamakawa (Waseda) and Ryota Yasuda (Meiji).  The other 28 players also appeared in one or more of BBM's previous three collegiate sets and/or one or more of their seven later sets.