Archive > 10 April 2011

2011 Season Predictions: Pacific League

» 10 April 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

The Pacific League is balanced. In fact, this is probably the first time I can say that I think that every team in the league has a chance to finish first. That makes it difficult to pick winners this year, so I’m going to try something different. I’ve got the teams ranked not by where I think they’ll finish, but by how likely I think they are to finish first.

6. Orix Buffaloes (offseason summary)

High-risk, high-reward rotation; new suketto question marks; counting on lots of guys who had their first success in 2010; thin bullpen; Chihiro Kaneko injured

5. Chiba Lotte Marines (offseason summary)

Absence of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Hiroyuki Kobayashi; lineup is due for some regression; not quite sold on starters not named Naruse or Karakawa

4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (offseason summary)

Strong front rotation; better lineup with the additions of Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura; lots of righty bullpen options; new manager

3. Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (offseason summary)

Yu Darvish; steady rotation; great defense; a few break-out candidates; good 2nd half in 2010; Darvish

2. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (offseason summary)

Additions of Alex Cabrera and Seiichi Uchikawa; strong lineup 1-9; good 1-2 starters; lights-out bullpen; backed into 2010 title; emerging starters; lots of injury-prone players

1. Saitama Seibu Lions (offseason summary)

Productive lineup; talented core; interesting young pitchers — Yusei Kikuchi, Tatsuya Oishi, Kazuhisa Makita; stalwart ace in Hideaki Wakui

It was tough putting Orix last, since I’m such a big fan of their approach, but everything needs to go right for them to win. Similarly it’s hard having Lotte fifth after a Nippon Series win, but I think their lineup is likely to fall back to earth in 2011. Rakuten in fourth is a bit of a leap of faith for me; last year Chunichi won with four good hitters and a good group of pitchers. Rakuten has the starters (but not the bullpen) and with their additions they might have the offense they need to contend. As for the other three… well, it came down to a toss up between Softbank and Seibu for first. I think I just have a preference for Seibu’s lineup, and more confidence in their ability to remain healthy.

The point is, any one of these teams can win in 2011. It should be a great season.

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NPB Bullet Points: Shoda, Kikuchi’s Velocity, Darvish’s One-Seam

» 10 April 2011 » In npb, NPB Tracker » 4 Comments

It’s been a while. Here is a random collection of news articles I’ve read recently and found interesting enough to share.

  • Fresh off his release from the Red Sox, Itsuki Shoda is headed to Niigata of the independent BC League.
  • Yusei Kikuchi has made Seibu’s opening day roster, and will start the year in middle relief. He’s also working on a two-seam fastball and a changeup, and hit 155 km/h on the gun in a bullpen session.
  • Hanshin’s opening day starter? Hasn’t been announced, but lefty Atsushi Nohmi is reportedly in the mix. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be Yasutomo Kubo.
  • Osamu Hamanaka is surprisingly a candidate to hit third for Yakult. Hamanka was a good hitter early in his career with Hanshin, but he’s been badly derailed by injuries. Perhaps he’ll experience a Ken Suzuki-style resurgence with Yakult; it is the time of year for optimism.
  • Yu Darvish has been experimenting again with a one-seam fastball, and broke Seiichi Uchikawa’s bat with one in a full count on the 6th. I had thought the one-seam was something new that Darvish invented, but the Nikkan Sports article I linked to says that Tim Hudson and Joel Pineiro throw it. Daigo Fujiwara posted a great summary of the pitch last August.
  • As of the 8th, the parking lot at Chiba’s newly-renamed QVC Marine Field had not been cleared for usage.
  • Seibu has announced that closer Brian Sikorski has returned to Japan after a temporary post-quake visit to the US. All five of Seibu’s players are now back in Japan. Jose Fernandezadmitted to taking it easy while he was away, and since it took a long time to get Sikorski back, the Lions had been looking at using rookie Tatsuya Oishi as their closer.
  • Yokohama’s Brent Leach has decided not to return to Japan, and the BayStars have classified him as a “restricted player” (seigen senshu). According to Nikkan Sports, the restricted player designation was established in 1998, and is intended for players who are taking a personal break from baseball activities. Leach is the first player classified as restricted since the rule’s inception.
  • Former Chiba Lotte Marines pitchers Tomohiro “Johnny” Kuroki and Satoru Komiyama will be raising a rice field with fans in Sodegaura, Chiba this year.
  • iPhone users: magazine Yakyu Kozo has released an app called Makyu Kozo, a cartoon-ish pitching simulation. It looks like it is available in the US app store as well.

And in a site announcement, I’d like to officially welcome our newest writer to NPB Tracker, Adam Burton. Adam is a translator based in the Kansai region of Japan, and has kicked off his NPB Tracker career with a couple MLB updates. Needless to say, we’re happy to have him on board.

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