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  • Posts Tagged ‘rakuten’

    Nomo probably returning to Japan

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 May 12日 Monday

    MLB and NPB insiders say that Nomo is ready to return to Japan. This is surprising considering he’s always stated that he had no interest in playing in NPB again, and his single-minded insistence and commitment to playing in the majors. But maybe this time he finally saw the writing on the wall shortly after making a return to a major league  mount after a 1000 day absence, only to have his now below average stuff hammered away to the tune of 3 homers and 9 runs in only 4.1 innings in 3 appearances as a reliever (18.69 ERA).

    Former major leaguers returning to Japan after being deemed dispensable in the States presents a mixed bag. But Nomo wasn’t just below average dispensable, he has been downright awful since 2004, and this last surgery and rehabilitation didn’t give him back his super-arm (not surprisingly).

    The only pitcher who had been comparably terrible in the majors before moving back to Japan was Mac Suzuki, who had in fact started his pro career stateside. He followed up his meltdown seasons in 2001-02 (5-12 with 5.86 ERA, followed by 9.00 ERA in 21 IP) with equally forgettable seasons in Japan (7.06 ERA in 108.1 IP, then 8.57 ERA in 48.1 IP), before attempting a return to the majors with the Cubs (pedestrian 4.11 ERA in 15 IP in AAA). 

    It’s interesting that some former major leaguers returned to Japan after a below average MLB season and had one successful season before finally meeting their demise in their second season back in Japan (Kaz Sasaki, Shingo Takatsu, and Hideki Irabu). 

    This offer probably also means that he was got no interest from any teams outside of NPB, and that’s too bad because it would’ve been fun to see how he did in, say, Korea or Taiwan, but it’s more than a few years too late as his last effective season as a major leaguer was in 2003! (Wow, I feel old  😛  )

    Anyways, there were previous rumours linking Nomo with the Yokohama BayStars, but it seemed to be some creative works of sports writers who had no story to file that day. But this time around, his links with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles seem more assured, with various insiders chipping in information like Nomo and the club’s intents, and even specifics like a possibility of an announcement this week before the start of interleague games, and confirming with a quote from Orix Buffaloes (who hold rights to Nomo after his retirement from NPB and the Kintetsu Buffaloes before the club was merged with Orix BlueWave) representative Nakamura saying that Orix have no interest in Nomo (the club and the Mr.Tornado were unable to reach a contract agreement back in 2006) and will not block any other teams from trying to acquire him, meaning that Orix will should be releasing their rights to Nomo soon. While I expect the probability of a successful return to Japan for the pioneering former major leaguer to be very low, the pitching thin team’s partly interested in his services partly to coach the young staff, and any good pitching under Nomura, who is famous for reviving many careers under his watch, would probably be seen as a bonus.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, MLB, NPB, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    NPB Power Rankings 2008.4.28

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 28日 Monday

    I’m rather busy at the moment, so I’ll try to keep this entry short too. Previous week’s ranking in brackets.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 18-6-1 .750

    Keeps on going strong, splitting the series against the Dragons (1-1-1) and taking 2 of 3 from the Giants with a dramatic game winning bases loaded walk against Yomiuri’s closer Kroon last night.

    2. Chunichi Dragons(2) 15-8-2 .652

    Couldn’t overcome the Tigers wall, but didn’t fare badly either. Ace Kawakami returned to the top team, made a relief appearance, but gave up a solo shot in 1 inning of work. He needs to return to form… by October.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(3) 14-9-1 .609

    Dropped both games against the Marines, then feasted upon the Buffaloes weak pitching to the tune of 29 runs in 3 games! The team gets on base (.324 OBP is 2nd in PL) and far outslugs anyone else (.432 SLG and 36 HR, no other team is above .374 and 27 HR). Pitching’s just mediocre though, and Watanabe’s questionable bullpen use (bringing in historically shaky Onuma or Mitsui into high leverage situations) doesn’t bode well for October (and the team’s slugging’s gotta come back down to earth sooner or later). Hiram Bocachica made a dramatic return to the top team, hitting 3 homers in the last 2 games, after a stint in the minors following early season struggles. He adds even more on base ability and power to the lineup, and Watanabe has a happy problem of having too many hot bats to fit into the lineup. If this were the majors, trading one or two hitters for good pitching would be considered, but alas..

    4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(8 ) 16-13 .552

    Had an undefeated week to jump up to 2nd in PL, thanks to complete game shutouts thrown by Nagai, Domingo, and Tanaka!

    5. Chiba Lotte Marines(7) 17-14 .548

    A great 4-1 week against the strong Lions and struggling Hawks, continuing its strong play.

    6. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(4) 11-12 .478

    Another 2-3 week. Though splitting the two games against the Carp, and taking 1 out of 3 against the Dragons is pretty much the expected result considering each team’s strengths.

    7. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(5) 15-15 .500

    2-4 week. The team can’t score runs to save their lives with only 8 runs scored over 6 games, 6 of those against porous Buffaloes pitching. Fighters got swept by the rising Eagles.

    8. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(6) 14-17 .452

    Continued its poor play, going 1-4 against key rivals Eagles and Marines. 

    9. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(9) 9-13-1 .409

    The same ol’ the same ol’, a 2-3 week against the Swallows and BayStars.

    10. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(10) 11-14-1 .440

    Continues to struggle. A 4-2 week sounds good, until you realize that 3 of those wins came against the worst team in NPB, the Yokohama BayStars. Kroon blew a save and lost last night’s game against the Tigers. Uehara was sent down to the minors. The team is definitely much less than what the sum of their parts should be.

    11. Orix Buffaloes(11) 11-20 .355

    Lost 2 to the Fighters who can’t score, and got absolutely bombed by the Lions and got swept.

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 6-17-1 .261

    Won 2 games against Hiroshima! But the team’s winning percentage is still barely above .250.

    Aaron Guiel Watch

    23GP 95PA 16R 8HR 21RBI .277/.358/.639 9BB 2HBP 18K

    Only 1 HR, 1 walk, and striking out 6 times in 5 games, our man may be in a mini-slump.

    Pitchers Watch:

    Koji Uehara (Giants) – sent down to the minors, there’s definitely something wrong with him physical or psychological, and he already let the team and the fans know that he intends on going to the majors next year in a major PR gaffe (not that he cares about these sorts of things) so his future is really unclear now
    5GS 29.1IP 21/8 K/BB 5HR 22RA 6.75ERA

    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons) – Returned from minors and promptly gave up a bomb, we’ll have to see how he does when he gets a start.
    4GS 17.2IP 15/3 K/BB 5HR 9RA 4.58ERA

    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles) – a shutout
    6GS 50IP 45/19 K/BB 2HR 12RA 1.80ERA

    Shota Ohba (Hawks)
    6GS 43IP 48/10 K/BB 8HR 18RA 3.77ERA

    Yu Darvish (Fighters) – 9IP 2RA, allowed his first HR, and team lost in extra innings
    6GS 52IP 51/7 K/BB 1HR 5RA 0.69ERA 3CG

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    2008.4.22 NPB Power Rankings

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 22日 Tuesday

    I’m rather busy at the moment, so I’ll try to keep this short. Previous week’s ranking in brackets.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 15-4 .789

    Continues to roll right along with yet another 4-1 week. 4 of the top 7 in CL OBP with Akahoshi (.451), Arai (.415), Kanemoto (.413), and Toritani (.395) explain their position up top.

    2. Chunichi Dragons(2) 12-6-1 .667

    Can stake a claim for the top spot in the Hanshin series starting tonight.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(3) 14-9-1 .609

    Went undefeated in 3 games (2-0-1) in a short 4 game week that got reduced to 3 games by rain. Outslugging the rest of the league with its 26 homeruns, 7 ahead of the nearest competitor.

    4. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(4) 9-9 .500

    Continues to slip with a 2-3 week. Saw the 2-1 win on Tuesday against Yokohama, but that’s not much to write home about. Lim continues to look fantastic, not allowing a run in 7 appearances while only allowing 5 baserunners. He may return to the setup role when/if Igarashi returns from injury, in which case the duo could become the Betancourt-Borowski of Japan, at the very least.

    5. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(6) 13-11 .542

    Another smallballrific week with game scores being 3-3, 2-4, 3-1, 4-2, and 2-4. I saw that last game on Sunday up in Hokkaido, great crowd and a funky dome in the great white north of Japan. Winning record but currently being outscored 69-77. Could they repeat Hanshin’s success last year as a playoff team with a negative run differential? Maybe.

    6. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(5) 13-13 .500

    Dropped 2 out of 3 against perennial playoff rivals Fighters for a 2-3 week.

    7. Chiba Lotte Marines(8 ) 13-13 .500

    Went 3-2 against the Eagles and the Buffaloes to bring the record up to .500.

    8. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(7) 11-13 .458

    A 1-3 week against the Marines and Lions. Iwakuma is in top form as he battles Darvish for the ERA lead with miniscule 0.46.

    9. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(10) 7-10-1 .412

    Won 2 of 3 against the ever slumping Giants as the teams swap spots.

    10. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(9) 7-12-1 .368

    Lost both series against the Dragons and the Carp, losing both of Uehara’s starts as the ace gave up 10 runs in 9 innings over two starts.

    11. Orix Buffaloes(11) 10-15 .400

    Hitting bombs (19 HR is 2nd in PL) but unable to get hits with any regularity (.219 BA is only 1 point better than league worst Fighters, and probably the worst once adjusted for park factors), and league worst pitching staff sporting 4.10 ERA means the team’s at the bottom of PL.

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 4-13 .235

    Going 1-3 this past week actually raised the team’s winning percentage, can’t get much lower than that.

    Aaron Guiel Watch

    Still batting over .300, expect that to come down to his more typical 260-280 range though. A relatively quiet week with 1HR and 4RBI as he gave up his CL lead in the latter category, but earned his first HBP of the season in the game I saw at Jingu last Tuesday.

    18GP 74PA 13R 7HR 19RBI .313/.392/.734 8BB 1HBP 12K

    Pitchers Watch:
    Koji Uehara (Giants) – 2 painful starts giving up 10 total runs
    4GS 25IP 19/8 K/BB 5HR 17RA 6.12ERA
    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons) – back with the big club yesterday after a short spell in the minors for an unspecified ailment, not scheduled to start in the Tigers series though
    2GS 15.2IP 13/1 K/BB 4HR 8RA 4.60ERA
    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles)
    5GS 41IP 38/15 K/BB 2HR 12RA 2.20ERA
    Shota Ohba (Hawks) – the rookie continues to serve up the long ball
    5GS 30.2IP 35/4 K/BB 8HR 10RA 3.44ERA
    Yu Darvish (Fighters) – yet another CG victory
    5GS 43IP 42/5 K/BB 0HR 3RA 0.46ERA 3CG

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008.4.14 NPB Power Rankings

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 14日 Monday

    Previous week’s ranking in brackets. Still tight as ever in the PL with the 5 teams (except Orix) within 2 games of the league leader. And thanks to westbaystars’ pitching game scores comment at EWC, we know whose been rocking early this season.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(3) 11-3 .786

    Went 4 – 1 last week, and big bro “Aniki” Kanemoto got his 2000th hit to ensure his place in the Meikyukai (the old boys club version of a hall of fame).

    2. Chunichi Dragons(1) 8-5-1 .615

    A tough week going 2 – 3 losing close fought games to Hanshin, then beating up on Hiroshima. Losses were by 2 runs or less though.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(4) 12-9 .571

    A win some, lose some 3 – 3 week. But Brazell is absolutely smokin’ right now, he already has 8 homeruns which is 3 more than anyone else in the league, smashing one of them in a 15-5 win over Chiba.

    4. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(2) 7-6 .538

    An even tougher week going 1 – 3, a loss to the Carp sandwiched by rainouts, and losing the series against the Giants. Losses here were also by 2 runs or less.

    5. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(6) 11-10 .524

    Dropped 2 games against Orix, but won 2 against Seibu. Hitting just fine, but not getting consistent pitching performance with their super staff, on paper, allowing 4.2 runs per game, the second worst in the PL.

    6. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(7) 11-9 .550

    A 4 – 2 week where 1 win was by 2 runs, and all remaining games were decided by 1 run, including a 1-0 nailbiter shutout win by Darvish over Iwakuma’s Eagles. Being a fighters fan must do bad things to your heart.

    7. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(5) 10-10 .500

    Swept Orix, but got swept by the Fighters. Two great pitching performances with a 0-1 complete game loss by Iwakuma, and a 3-0 shutout by Tanaka.

    8. Chiba Lotte Marines(8) 10-11 .476

    A Jekyll and Hyde week slugging it out in the Seibu series (18 RS – 19 RA), then a series of pitching duels against the Fighters (6 RS – 5 RA). 

    9. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(10) 5-8-1 .385

    The sleeping Giant half awoke, going 3-1-1 against the crosstown Swallows and the lowly BayStars.

    10. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(11) 5-7-1 .417

    Rain washed away 2 games, 2 gritty wins, and 2 blowout losses to Chunichi last week.

    11. Orix Buffaloes(9) 8-13 .381

    Starting to slip from the PL pack with a 2-4 week. Getting swept by the Eagles, including a brilliant 10K shutout performance by Tanaka, is not a good sign. 

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 3-10 .231

    A 1-3 week where they offered a helping hand in reviving the Giants, and they also played the Tigers. You can’t win games when you score 2.8 runs per game in a hitters park (and allow 5.3 runs per game). 

    Aaron Guiel Watch

    The man keeps on slugging, in fact he managed to raise his slugging percentage over the past week, amazingly enough.

    13GP 54PA 11R 6HR 15RBI .340/.426/.830 7BB 0HBP

    (CL leader in HR, RBI, SLG) 
     
    For good measure, let’s keep an eye on some pitchers: 
    Koji Uehara (Giants)
    2GS 16IP 17/2 K/BB 4HR 7RA 3.94ERA
    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons)
    2GS 15.2IP 13/1 K/BB 4HR 8RA 4.60ERA
    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles)
    4GS 32IP 30/12 K/BB 1HR 9RA 1.97ERA
    Shota Ohba (Hawks)
    4GS 30.2IP 35/4 K/BB 6HR 10RA 2.93ERA
    Yu Darvish (Fighters)
    4GS 34IP 32/5 K/BB 0HR 2RA 0.53ERA
    Granted, he plays in the pitchers park of NPB, Darvish continues to dazzle, all this only in his 4th year and as a 22 year old.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    2008 Pacific League preview (NPB)

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 19日 Wednesday

    Since Japanese baseball sites lack in depth statistical data and analysis, and because I don’t have much time, this is more or less just a poorly written cursory glance at the upcoming 2008 Pacific League season in NPB.

    Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
    2007 Record: 79 – 60 – 5 (.568)
    2007 RS – RA: 526 – 489
    Coming: Shugo Fujii, Hajime Miki, Terrmel Sledge
    Going: Satoru Kanemura, Yoshitaka Hashimoto, Takehiko Oshimoto, Keizoh Kawashima

    Unlike last year when the team faced the great unknown with the departure of their best hitter (Michihiro “Guts” Ogasawara to the Giants) and their wacky team leader Shinjo (retirement), the Fighters go into 2008 defending their second consecutive PL crown without losing any significant pieces from their roster. In fact, the team has added a major league calibre bat in the terrifically named Terrmel Sledge. But it looks like he has a thing for pitchers parks, as he has gone from Washington’s JFK to San Diego’s Petco to now the Fighters’ cavernous Sapporo Dome. He has hit significantly better on the road than at his pitchers park homes in each of his past 3 seasons (a difference of at least .180 in OPS), but his move to the pitcher friendly PL instead of the hitter friendly CL may do him in. It will be interesting to see.

    The Fighters can still finish in 1st without significant contribution from Sledge, as long as he’s not dragging the team down, as shown in last year’s championship run thanks to its superior pitching (and probably defence), despite being the lowest scoring team in the league. The value of airtight pitching and defence surely increases in the postseason, though at the same time it can be easy to see difficulties for the Fighters if the offence remains last in the league, even though pitching and defence can repeat its success of allowing the fewest runs in the league two seasons running. The team outperformed its Pythagorean expectation of .536 (77-67) but that is not a surprise with its strong tactical, pitching, and defensive games in a pitchers park. This is a team that won the league while scoring the fewest runs, after all.

    Chiba Lotte Marines
    2007 Record: 76 – 61 – 7 (.555)
    2007 RS – RA: 629 – 525
    Coming: Brian Sikorski, Winston Abreu
    Going: Yasuhiko Yabuta, Masahide Kobayashi, Soichi Fujita

    2 seasons removed from the glorious 2005 Japan Series championship under the guidance of Bobby Valentine, the Marines have dismantled their famed YFK relief corps of Yabuta, Fujita, and Kobayashi with the first man going to the Kansas City Royals via free agency and the second going to the Yomiuri Giants via untendered contract and the last man going to the Cleveland Indians also via FA. Out of the 3, Yabuta may be missed the most as Kobayashi had become known for creating unnecessary drama in the 9th and his ERA climbed to 3.61 after 2 seasons of about 2.5, and Fujita completely lost it last season with a 12.64 ERA over 31 appearances (logging only 15.2 IP) and reports out of Giants camp this season indicates that he still hasn’t found it.

    The two newcomers of significance are Brian Sikorski and Winston Abreu. The former is a known commodity in Japan and is expected to be productive providing about a 3.00 ERA in relief, and Winston Abreu figures to be similarly effective if he can successfully translate his recent AAA game that gave him 2.48 and 1.20 ERA in the last two seasons (and not the his 6.81 ERA in limited major league service).

    Solid pitching is led by Yoshihisa Naruse (an amazing 16-1 and 1.82 ERA) and Hiroyuki Kobayashi (2 consecutive seasons of 10+ wins and ~2.7 ERA). The offense is forced to rely on Julio Zuleta, Jose Ortiz, and Benny Agbayani for power. Ortiz came was signed in June last season to cover for Zuleta’s injury and it will be beneficial to the team to have them both in the lineup, even if all 3 players are only good for about .800 OPS.

    The Pythagorean expectation of the 2007 club was .589 (85-59) so the team underperformed their expectations slightly and is fully capable of making a repeat visit to the playoffs, the question is, are they capable of winning the pennant?

    Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
    2007 Record: 73 – 66 – 5 (.525)
    2007 RS – RA: 575 – 508
    Coming: Shota Ohba, Tetsuya Matoyama, Jeremy Powell, Dennis Houlton, Michael Restovich
    Going:

    This is another team that underperformed their Pythagorean expectation in 2007 (.562, 81-63) and is fully capable of winning it all this year. The Hawks have a slew of arms and Ohba, the coveted first round draft pick won out of 6 teams, and Powell, somehow being punished for the continued incompetence of the Orix front office by being banned until June, will only add to their depth. Houlton (3.83 minor league ERA) and Restovich (.862 minor league OPS) are rather uninspiring, but the team is capable of advancing far in the postseason without them.

    The parade of arms continues with ace materials Nagisa Aragaki (7-10 and 3.60 ERA after a 13-5 and 3.01 ERA in 2006 from this 2003 second round pick), Tsuyoshi Wada (12+ wins each in the past 3 seasons, along with sub-3.00 ERAs in the last 2 seasons, 1st round pick in 2003), Kazumi Saitoh (fantastic 2006 with 18-5 and 1.75 ERA, battled injuries but still posted 2.74 ERA in 72.1 IP last season, had off season shoulder surgery) and Toshiya Sugiuchi (recently had 2 sub-2.5 ERA 15+ win seasons sandwiched by a 7-5 and 3.53 ERA season). Though, Saitoh and Wada are coming off surgeries so whether they’ll return to form and when that’ll be are some questions.

    The offense has some definite question marks. The fragile Hitoshi Tamura lost his power stroke somewhere along the way from Yokohama to Fukuoka. But this should not come as a surprise when a player moves from one of the most extreme hitters parks to one of the most pitcher friendly stadiums. Nobuhiko Matsunaka saw a huge drop off in his power numbers (his OPS since 2004 are 1.179, 1.075, .981, .798) he’ll need a rebound to be a useful useful on firstbase. But having registered his lowest BA/OBP/SLG since his rookie season, pitchers may have figured out that they can now challenge him without paying too high a price. Hiroki Kokubo had a revival season hitting .277/.338/.494 in 2007 after returning home to the Hawks from the Giants where he hit .256/.325/.458 in his last season in hitter friendly Tokyo Dome and CL. But his numbers still can’t hide the decline that comes with his age, 36.

    Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
    2007 Record: 67 – 75 – 2 (.472)
    2007 RS – RA: 575 – 676
    Coming:
    Going: Kazuo Fukumori

    The Eagles have been making steady improvements ever since joining the league in 2005, being forced to construct their roster out of the Kintetsu-Orix merger scrapheap (winning percentage over the last 3 seasons are .281, .356, and .472 and the team finished out of the cellar in respectable 4th place in only its 3rd season). The team should get better as sophomores Masahiro Tanaka (11-7, 3.82ERA, 9.47 K/9, and 3.28 BB/9 in 186.1 IP) and Satoshi Nagai (7-7, 3.61ERA, 6.94 K/9, and 3.61 BB/9 in 127 IP) both had solid rookie seasons in 2007. If former aces Hisashi Iwakuma (5-5, 3.40ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 90 IP) and Yasuhiro Ichiba (5.37 ERA in 2007 in 58.2 IP after 4.37 ERA in 193.2 IP the year before) can regain their health, along with the growth of former Kintetsu 1st round high school pick Hideaki Asai (8-8, 3.12 ERA, 6.67 K/9, and 2.49 BB/9 in 144.1 IP, his first 100+ IP season), the Eagles should have a solid rotation.

    Closer Fukumori was signed away by the Texas Rangers, but the 31 year old struggled to a 4.75 ERA 17 save season in 2007, so he may not be missed. It will be interesting to see how much the 39 year old Takeshi Yamasaki will see a drop off in his numbers after his best season in 11 years with .261/.359/.577 and 43 HR 108 RBI in 2007 (his best year since 1996 performance of 39 HR 107 RBI and .322/.382/.625), a realistic expectation might be something north of .800 OPS as he has fluctuated .784, .690, .867, .764, and .936 over the last 5 seasons in the PL (last 3 with the Eagles).

    Saitama Seibu Lions
    2007 Record: 66 – 76 – 2 (.465)
    2007 RS – RA: 564 – 585
    Coming: Kazuhisa Ishii, Shinya Okamoto, Hitoshi Taneda, Mattew Kinney, Craig Brazell, Hiram Bocachica
    Going: Kazuki Fukuchi, Alex Cabrera, Kazuhiro Wada

    The club has added the prefectural name of Saitama to their name starting this season, along with other local activities, in an effort to lay better roots down in the local community.

    Lions lost the big bats of Cabrera and Wada, even though they’re power numbers have been declining as the greybeards aged in their late 30s, their bats were most productive ones in the lineup and their .370+ OBP and near .500 SLG will be missed. The team has attempted to plug these holes with the signings of Brazell and Bocachica. The former is absolutely crushed AAA pitching to the tune of .307/.337/.605 but he lacks plate discipline and will get into deep funks during the PL seasons while adjusting to Japanese pitching. Bocachica OPSed at over 1.000 in his last 2 AAA seasons, and knows how to get on base, so he carries more hope of becoming the next Cabrera. But of course, this depends on if they manage to adjust to Japanese baseball, and that remains to be seen.

    Seibu also added a serviceable league average arm and veteran presence in Ishii who will dependably eat up innings. And depending on the performance of the imports, a breakout season by Takeya “Okawari” Nakamura (22 HR and .603 SLG in 2005, .359 OBP in 2006) will be required if the team wants to contend for a playoff spot.

    Orix Buffaloes
    2007 Record: 62 – 77 – 5 (.446)
    2007 RS – RA: 536 – 585
    Coming: Osamu Hamanaka, Katsuaki Furuki, Alex Cabrera, Eric Junge
    Going: Tetsuya Matoyama, Hiroaki Ohnishi

    The Buffaloes remain the sole truly corporate team in the league, not embracing the local hometown spirits displayed by the remaining PL teams. However, this befits the owner Miyauchi, who is responsible, along with reviled Giants owner Watanabe, for trying to contract NPB down to 10 teams in an effort of cost cutting without putting in significant efforts to better market the product first to increase revenue, a small minded man.

    The aging squad added oft-injured Hamanaka (collapsed to .598 OPS after .845 in 2006) and Cabrera (steady decline in OPS over the last three seasons with 1.013, .968, .889, but he should still be useful). The club signed Junge, who is totally uninspiring with a career minor league line of 4.11 ERA, 6.86 K/9, and 3.24 BB/9, but he is a true band-aid late signing after the team had botched the Powell contract and lost him to the Hawks.

    Mamoru Kishida, Yoshihisa Hirano, Chihiro Kaneko, and Tom Davey provide a pretty solid pitching core, and the cleanup of Greg LaRocca (29 doubles, 27 HR, and .891 OPS last season), Dusty Rhodes (42 HR and 1.006 OPS after being out of NPB for a year), and Cabrera will instil fear into any pitcher. Come to think of it, this team can improve this season.

    With no significant additions or subtractions to their lineups, we’ll probably see the same 3 teams in the playoffs again in 2008. That’ll be the Fighters, Hawks, and Marines, though the order in which they finish will probably depend a lot more on injuries, breakout performances, and the number of players over- or underperforming their expectations, than the strength of these teams on paper. The growth of the Eagles is intriguing, but now that they have a good arsenal of arms, they’ll need to start acquiring quality bats to compete with the big boys. The Lions and Buffaloes are relying on stop gap veterans, both domestic and imports, to bolster their teams, not very encouraging, but it looks like the Buffaloes improved more and might battle the Eagles for 4th. In retrospect, since this is a pitchers league, using ERA+ probably would’ve been a better indicator than being caught up with all the ERAs around or below 3.00, oh well, too late now, I don’t have time to re-research and rewrite 😛

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