Prediction: Pacific League

» 29 March 2009 » In npb »

It’s much harder to predict the standings for the Pacific League as the teams are so evenly matched. But I’ll give it a shot.

1. Seibu Lions: I think we’ll see a little regression from Okawari Nakamura and Kazuyuki Hoashi, but a better performance from Hideaki Wakui. Overall it looks like the Lions have enough to repeat.
Key Players: Wakui, Hoashi, whoever gets the most at-bats at 1st base

2. Nippon Ham Fighters: Nippon Ham was actually outscored by their opponents last year. I’m putting them here because I believe that they have the pitching and defense to win close games, and that Sho Nakata will turn up at some point during the season and provide a little offense.The new additions to the bullpen have the task of replacing Michael Nakamura as well.
Key Players: Nakata, Ryan Wing, Masanori Hayashi

3. Chiba Lotte Marines: I didn’t think I’d have the Marines making the playoffs, but I’m putting them in third because they have a solid front four in their rotation, and no real holes in their lineup. Hopefully Bobby V can find a way to keep Tadahito Iguchi and Shunichi Nemoto both in the lineup, as Nemoto broke out last year with a .296/.369/.430 line.
Key Players: Bobby V, Yoshihisa Naruse, Yuuki Karakawa

4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: The Eagles have two WBC heroes at the top of their rotation (Hisashi Iwakuma, Masahiro Tanaka), a couple of solid mid-rotation guys (Darrell Rasner, Hideaki Asai), and some power in the middle of their lineup (Norihiro Nakamura, Fernando Seguignol, Takeshi Yamasaki). But on the other hand they have some holes in their lineup and bullpen.
Key Players: the bullpen

5. Orix Buffaloes: Manager Daijiro Ohishi took over in May of last year and lead the Buffaloes to a seemingly improbable playoff run. Looking back, the Buffaloes pitched better than I realized, with a 3.93 team era and four starters with sub-4:00 eras and at least 10 wins. If the pitching staff can repeat that performance, and the aging lineup of foreign sluggers holds up, they’ll be competitive. If not, look for a B-class finish.
Key Players: Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca

6. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: It’s hard to pick the Hawks to finish this low with the amazing rotation depth they have — Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Nagisa Arakaki, Shota Ohba, Kenji Ohtonari, Kameron Loe, Kazumi Saito (if he can come back from his injuries) and rookie Shingo Tatsumi. But on the flipside, their lineup just isn’t what it used to be. The Hawks hit just 99 home runs last year and haven’t added any significant bats. They’re hoping for a return to form from aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Hitoshi Tamura, who have been shells of their former selves in recent years.
Key Players: Kokubo, Tamura

It was tough to pick any of these teams to finish last, because the league is so balanced and all the teams have strengths. It seems likely that Seibu will finish in the top 3 and SoftBank will finish in the bottom 3, but everything else is up for grabs. What are your thoughts?

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  1. Patrick
    29/03/2009 at 1:25 pm Permalink

    I think the Pacific League is open but with Seibu as the big favorites. My prediction is that it is going to be very close from number 2 to number 6 unlike the Central League.

  2. Patrick
    29/03/2009 at 6:14 pm Permalink

    Ham has almost no offense, so they have little hope on days Darvish doesn’t pitch. Also, with a manager of Nashida’s “quality”, this team is sure to underachieve. Also, I think Rakuten is going to be better than last year. Lotte looks to be a bit better than last season, too, when they just missed the playoffs. Orix’s pitchers are for real, but their offense depends on two aging, steroid-filled power hitters. Based on all of this, I predict the following:

    1. Seibu
    2. Lotte
    3. Rakuten
    4. Ham
    5. Orix
    6. SoftBank

    As a Ham fan (kinda), I will looking forward to those rare days that Nashida decides to use Darvish.

  3. Patrick
    31/03/2009 at 6:15 am Permalink

    WTF? The Fighters have plenty of pitching that isn’t Darvish, AND one of the best defenses in Japan, period (which is why Sho Nakata hasn’t been able to play much at ichi-gun… he’s basically been told that he’s not coming up until his fielding stops sucking). We have plenty of hope on most days Darvish isn’t pitching… particularly on days where either Brian Sweeney or Masaru Takeda are starting, and to a lesser extent Kazuhito Tadano and Shaggy Shugo Fujii. I almost sometimes wish we didn’t have Darvish so people wouldn’t assume he IS the entire team.

    As an ACTUAL diehard Fighters fan, and just as I have said every year for the last several years, we’re finishing 5th! Whee! We don’t have the bats and we don’t have anything else, and we can’t cast Raise Dead on Yukio Tanaka! Which means that in reality we ARE going to finish 2nd. Yeah. I hope Ichikawa gets to make an impact this year. I also wish Imanari could, but with Ohno drafted it seems even less likely than before.

    But if Jason Botts can continue what he was developing towards the end of last season, along with Sledge and Inaba, Kensuke Tanaka, and maybe Shinji Takahashi, the Fighters *could* actually dredge up enough offense to surprise people, assuming the Sapporo Dome doesn’t kill it all. Also look for a rebound year from Makoto Kaneko and a slow year from Hichori Morimoto (sadly).