Slow Starts at the Plate

» 28 April 2011 » In npb »

Nobody wants to start a new season off on the wrong foot, but it happens every year. Even though most teams have only played around twelve or so games, below are some batters who haven’t gotten out of the gate quickly in 2011. Pitchers (especially starters) haven’t had that many appearances yet; we’ll track them in a separate column later on.

(Note: stats current as of April 27 games)

Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants): His early slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) reads .128/.209/.154, and Guts has struck out 11 times with only five hits in 30 at-bats. He has tallied only a single extra base hit this season (a double), scored only 2 runs, and has 1 RBI on his ledger. Is age (37) catching up to the normally consistent hitter?

Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi Dragons): Last year’s CL MVP is at .143/.326/.171 so far.  His 5-for-35 is poor, but his 10 walks are keeping his OBP respectable. He has only struck out 3 times, so he still has good pitch recognition. Like Ogasawara, he’s getting up there in years (38), so age may again be a factor. If you want to see someone move slowly in the outfield, he’s your guy. At the plate, however, I’d expect him to break out soon.

Rusty Ryal (Yomiuri Giants): Currently at .161/.188/.194. The newcomer has whiffed 13 times, gone hitless with men in scoring position, and earned a single walk. We’ll soon see if he’s just slow in adjusting to a new league, or is somewhat of a strikeout machine as his past numbers suggest (eight walks and 67 Ks in 222 plate appearances in 2010 at the MLB level).

Joel Guzman (Chunichi Dragons): Not to pick on the Dragons or the Giants, but here’s another new face who is off to a brutal start. .167/.186/.262 is Guzman’s early line. He leads the Central League in strikeouts (19), but is the only one of the players mentioned so far who has hit a home run (1). He’s only 26 years old, so could it be that he’s just not much of a hitter. The Dragons are the 5th franchise (US and Japan) Guzman has played for since 2006.

Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions): Kataoka’s team is off to as slow of a start (4-8) as he is. His .146 average (.146/.226/.188) is the lowest in the Pacific League for any regular player. After last year’s .295 batting average with 59 stolen bases, I expected he would duplicate or come close to matching those results. So far, he’s off the pace. Kataoka is hitting .091 with runners in scoring position and has only swiped two bases. Not getting on base very often will have that effect.

Seung-Yeop Lee (ORIX Buffaloes): The once-feared slugger is at .163/.229/.302 over 48 plate appearances, so far. He hit .163 last season in 108 at bats with Yomiuri. Once a productive hitter known for some prodigious blasts, talk of a jump to the major leagues has all but evaporated. His 21 strikeouts are tops in NPB, and his career appears to be in serious decline. ORIX batters haven’t performed well in general to this point in the season, but Lee has been especially poor.

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