2011 Season Predictions: Central League

» 11 April 2011 » In npb »

Like the Pacific League, picking a winner in the Central League is tough. But for me it’s tough for the opposite reason — it’s easier to think of reasons why each of these teams won’t win. So like my PL post, I’ve ranked the teams in order of likelihood of finishing first, and listed them in reverse order.

6. Yokohama BayStars (offseason summary)

Lots of holes in lineup; loss of Seiichi Uchikawa and Hayato Terahara; thin rotation; bargain-bin foreign players; no depth

5. Hiroshima Carp (offseason summary)

Questionable rotation depth behind Kenta Maeda; great outfield defense; bullpen question marks; little established power even with the addition of Chad Tracy; but lineup could surprise us

4. Chunichi Dragons (offseason summary)

Kazuki Yoshimi injured; dominant bullpen; efficient defense; Wei-Yin Chen’s farewell season; aging lineup though with some emerging players

3. Yakult Swallows (offseason summary)

Norichika Aoki; four good starters, assuming Yoshinori’s 2010 season wasn’t a fluke; mid-lineup question marks; good bullpen; played well after firing Shigeru Takada last year

2. Hanshin Tigers (offseason summary)

Strong lineup top to bottom, despite a few regression candidates (Keiichi Hirano, Matt Murton); lots of untested/rehabbing guys in the mix for rotation spots; great closer

1. Yomiuri Giants (offseason summary)

High-powered lineup; plenty of rotation depth but no  ace; some good bullpen arms but no established post-Kroon closer; nice x-factor in Hirokazu Sawamura

Other thoughts: Yokohama finishing last is the one sure thing for me. A good season for them would be more about getting meaningful development from guys like Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Keijiro Matsumoto than finishing one place higher in the standings. Hiroshima’s rotation should be better 2-5 this year, but still not on par with the teams I have ahead of them. Every year I predict a tumble for Chunichi, and every year I’m wrong. We’ll see if anything changes this year. I’ve changed my mind about Yakult a bit this offseason. They’re still under the radar but they have some talent. Hanshin and Yomiuri have a lot in common, but I like the Giants’ rotation depth better.

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  1. Patrick
    11/04/2011 at 10:16 pm Permalink

    Yakult has a great set-up man (Matsuoka) and an outstanding closer (Lim), but I’m not too sure about the bullpen depth though. Last year Masubuchi and Oshimoto were too unstable. And with Igarashi gone, there weren’t any other relievers that seemed trustworthy. If that happens again this year, Yakult will have to slave Matsuoka again since Lim isn’t really the type for multiple innings. We all know how that turned out for Matsuoka at the end of the season….

    Oh, and how’s Albaladejo shaping up? Judging from this post, it seems he’s not showing the brilliance he once displayed with Scranton?

  2. Patrick
    11/04/2011 at 11:05 pm Permalink

    Oshimoto had a 56:12 K:BB in 61 IP last year. I don’t know how he did on inherited runners off the top of my head. Masubuchi is 22 years old and took a step forward last year. They could use a lefty though… maybe rookie Shichijo?

    Albaladejo failed to win the closer’s job in spring, and the Giants are going with Tetsuya Yamaguchi. I think he’ll be fine, but he lacks 9th inning experience. Also he leaves a hole in middle relief that someone will have to fill.

  3. Patrick
    12/04/2011 at 10:32 am Permalink

    Oshimoto sure got tagged last night. Terrible. The Swallows had just gotten back into the game, and boom, he promptly gives up three runs the next inning.