Archive > 21 September 2011

Third PL Playoff Spot Still Up For Grabs

» 21 September 2011 » In npb » Comments Off on Third PL Playoff Spot Still Up For Grabs

As in motor sports, often the race to watch is not necessarily for 1st or 2nd place. Filling out the field for the 2011 Pacific League Playoffs is turning out to be one of those cases. As of this writing, Softbank has the cruise control set to a first round bye in the playoffs. Nippon Ham still needs to keep their foot on the gas, but should find themselves crossing the finish line soon enough as well. That leaves the 3rd and final spot for one of three teams separated in the standings by only 4.5 games. So, which one of Orix, Seibu and Rakuten can string together enough wins to get there? And once they do, how do they get past Yu Darvish and Nippon Ham?

Orix and Seibu have both had a September to remember to this point, and have gained ground on the Hawks and Fighters. Rakuten, still only 4.5 games behind Orix, are fading fast but not yet far enough back to rule out a stretch run to the finish. Given the way the Hawks and Fighters have dominated most of the league this year, it might be fair to say that whoever faces those two teams the least has the best shot. However, Orix has done very well against the Hawks this year and currently holds the lead for the 3rd and final playoff spot. They have also done well against last place Lotte, and will face both teams several times before the end of the season. Where they might fail would be in the match ups against Seibu, Nippon Ham, and Rakuten. Orix has not done particularly well against these teams; their best record being against Rakuten at 10-10-1. Lose too many of their remaing games with smoking hot Seibu, and the Buffaloes are at home for the playoffs.

So what happens when one of these teams gets to round one of the Climax Series? The only team not named the Softbank Hawks that has seen any success this year against Nippon Ham is the Lotte Marines, and they’re out of the running. However, as the old coach’s adage goes, “It’s not who you play, it’s when you play them.” The Lions are 14-4 thus far in September, and the Buffaloes are 12-4-1. Place that next to Nippon Ham’s 5-12-1 record in September and things look a little more interesting. However, after dropping the first two games of the season to Seibu, Nippon Ham has since gone 10-5 against them. Orix may as well have stayed home for their games against the Fighters, as Nippon Ham has beaten them 13 out of 19 chances thus far.  The cards are definitely stacked against anyone going into the first round to face the Fighters. But as they say, it’s a clean slate when you get there, and if you’re hot going in, you might catch a couple breaks. You’ll need them to get by Nippon Ham’s pitching.

Another thing to watch is the final record of the 3rd place team. Currently, of these three teams, only Orix has a record above .500. Having played well in September, we should expect them to finish strong. Seibu is another team that has fared well in September, but they are currently looking at five more losses than wins. If both of these teams cool off enough, one of them could back into the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. That’s bad enough, but imagine they catch the Fighters sleeping and the Hawks rusty. Now you’ve got a 3rd place team with a losing record with a shot at a championship. A team that a few years ago might have fired their manager and formally apologized to their fan base by that time could be hoisting a trophy instead.

If we assume that the Pacific League title comes down to Softbank or Nippon Ham, who is going to win it? The Hawks have dominated most of the league this year, Nippon Ham included. They have to like their chances in Sapporo, though. Any team that can put arguably the best pitcher in the world on the hill 2-3 times in a six-games series has a reasonable expectation to win those games. Eek out another win or two, and you’re in The Series.

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Welcome Randy

» 21 September 2011 » In NPB Tracker » Comments Off on Welcome Randy

I’m pleased to welcome our latest contributor, Randy Fuller, to NPB Tracker. Here’s a little about Randy, in his own words:

A native of San Diego and fan of the Padres since the 1970’s, Randy discovered NPB while living in Japan between 2000 and 2003. He dedicated most of his personal life to watching Giants games on TV every night and reading the sports dailies. Randy also spent much of his time in Japan traveling to several ballparks and learning the strategy and idiosyncrasies that make the Japanese game unique. He has been an enthusiast and proponent for pro yakyu for a decade and counting.

Randy has already published his first post, and needless to say, we’re happy to have him on board.

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