Offseason Changes: Orix Buffaloes

» 05 February 2011 » In npb »

Coming: Hayato Terahara, Chan Ho Park, Seung Yeop Lee, Mike Hessman, Alfredo Figaro, Evan MacLane, Kazuya Takamiya, Shinjiro Koyama, Tomochika Tsuboi, Kentaro Kuwabara, Shingo Nonaka, Masahide Kobayashi, Toshio Saito

Going: Alex Cabrera, Shogo Yamamoto, Go Kida, Jon Leicester, Greg LaRocca, Fernando Seguignol, Freddie Bynum, Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara, Naoyuki Ohmura, Osamu Hamanaka, Masahiro Nagata, Ikki, Mitsuhiro Mitsuhara

Staying: Aarom Baldiris, Mitsutaka Gotoh, Francisco Caraballo, So Taguchi, Freddy Ballestas

Summary: Last season, Orix posted a surprisingly competitive fifth-place, 69-71-4 season. I’ve written plenty about my admiration for Orix’s personnel moves, and nothing has happened this offseason to change my mind. Well, the new uniforms are underwhelming, but I’ll let that slide.

On the mound, Orix has added four rotation candidates, while subtracting Yamamoto, who was ineffective in 2010. Each of the four new starters has blemishes: age (Park), health (Terahara), unproven-ness (Figaro, MacLane). But they all have upside as well, particularly Terahara, and if any one of them does well, Orix will have a very solid front rotation.

At the plate, Orix’s most notable transaction is the loss of slugger Cabrera, who wanted a two-year deal and found one in Fukuoka. Despite his age (39), Cabrera remains an elite NPB slugger when he is in the lineup — he posted a Pacific League-best .997 OPS last year, but missed 32 games. The hope is obviously for some combination of at-bats from Lee and Hessman to make up for Cabrera’s contribution, but I have my doubts. Lee hasn’t had a good year since 2007 and is a shadow of his former self, and Hessman has great power but is also known for piling up strikeouts. I’ve been bullish on Hessman though, and I’m standing by that.

Another key point to make is that last year the Buffaloes got breakthrough performances from Gotoh, T-Okada, Aarom Baldiris and to a lesser extent, Makoto Moriyama. Orix will need them to post strong follow up seasons in order to remain competitive.

Overall I think Orix has done enough to take a step forward in 2011. The rub is that even if they do, the Pacific League is so balanced that they still might not make the playoffs.

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  1. Patrick
    05/02/2011 at 9:00 am Permalink
  2. Patrick
    05/02/2011 at 9:10 am Permalink

    Ouch indeed. But this gives me a chance to say again that KItagawa was responsible for maybe the greatest moment in Kintetsu Buffaloes history:

  3. Patrick
    05/02/2011 at 9:42 am Permalink

    I have to go with Kintetsu’s 1989 win considering what happened in 1988.

    Pretty big names like Oglivie and Madlock were there too.

  4. Patrick
    05/02/2011 at 11:40 am Permalink

    I’m very curious about Park. Any guesses on performance?

    I’ll go with 4.10, 160ish innings.

  5. Patrick
    05/02/2011 at 7:42 pm Permalink

    I only rarely tune in to watch Pa-League (almost never for Orix) since I focus my attention on Ce-League and the Swallows in particular. But I think it’ll be worth even missing Ishikawa start just to see how Park does.

    From what I recall for the past few years, he’s usually fantastic in spring traing but always ends up getting injured (usually his hamstring or back) someway in the beginning of the season. If he can stay away from injuries early in the season, I think he’ll do just fine.

    I remember when he was in his worst with all his stuff gone, he still took on Team Japan quite effectively (5 innings with no runs allowed) in the – if my memory serves me right – WBC 2006, and all he threw was this two-seamer that barely reached 90 miles. I actually expected Japan to slaugter Park, so that was a big surprise. I think we can hope for surprises like that this year too, since he seems to be in better shape than back then.

    But of course, with his age he ain’t gonna be no inning-eater.

  6. Patrick
    06/02/2011 at 1:31 am Permalink

    I was glad that Tomochika Tsuboi (get the name right :P) found a place to land — and he’s even kind of already an Osaka guy, he went to PL Gakuen (like his dad who was also a pro yakyu player) and he spent the first part of his career with Hanshin before going to the Fighters and all… but much as Tsuboi was a super-exciting player several years ago and still has many diehard fans, I just don’t see him contributing to Orix any more than someone like, say, Hamanaka did. I bet he’ll have plenty of fans there too, though.

  7. Patrick
    06/02/2011 at 10:26 am Permalink

    Foiled by the 哉 character. Duly corrected. Orix managed to get useful at-bats from guys like Taguchi and Arakane last year, so I’ll trust their judgment in bringing Tsuboi on board.