It appears Japan has gone to a livlier ball after complaints from the players last year of a dead ball making their games from last year look more like soccer results. There are less 1-0 games and more games won by the opponent scoring double digits in the run figures. This has resulted in increased production by the foreign bats, some of the names recent additions while some of the names are familiar to Japanese fans. Who are the players enjoying All Star seasons in Japan now that more than a quarter of the season is almost complete?
Hector Luna (Chunichi Dragons) - Last year he was a back up to Ryan Howard with the Phils, eventually losing that job to Darin Ruf. This year he is in Japan, currently putting together a 19 game hitting streak to put his batting average at a Japanese high .415. Don’t know when the last time a player in Japan has hit .400, but after 42 games he has yet to hit a slump.
Tony Blanco (Yokahama DeNA Bay Stars) - Last time myworld saw him play he had trouble catching fly balls in the outfield for the Potomac Nationals. He still has trouble catching flyballs, but he can hit. In his fifth season in Japan, but his first with the Bay Stars Blanco is second in hitting with a .362 average and he clubbed homerun number 20 yesterday to lead all of Japan in homeruns. His previous high in homeruns was his first year in Japan when he hit 39. At his current pace he should have more than 60 homeruns. His 49 RBIs is also tops in the Central League and the NPB.
Matt Murton (Hanshin Tigers) - Matt broke a record for hits his first year in Japan when he ripped 214. His next two years he got progressively worse that there was talk this year not to resign him. Tiger fans are glad they did as Matt is hitting .352, which is third in the Central League. The only impediment preventing him from getting more than 214 hits this year is that he is no longer batting leadoff, but hitting fourth in the fighting Tigers lineup.
Jose Lopez (Yomiuri Giants) - He ran out of major league teams willing to sign him. His first year in Japan he has turned into a slugger, hitting .316 with 10 homeruns. His defense is still bad but the bat is hot.
Wladimir Balentien (Yakult Swallows) - Balentien has two years of 31 homeruns each, enough to lead the Central League and all of Japan in bombs. This year he was injured playing in the WBC and got off to a late start to the season. Blanco can see him in the rear view mirror now as Balentien has hit 14 homeruns in his 30 games, with a two homerun day yesterday. He is also hitting .290 with 31 RBIs.
Casey McGehee (Rakuten Golden Eagles) - Andrew Jones was the signing that got the most publicity but it has been the bat of McGehee that has made the most impact for the Eagles. He leads the Pacific League in hitting with a .353 average and has clubbed 8 homeruns with 25 RBIs in his rookie season. Milwaukee could use that kind of production at first base this year.
Michel Abreu (Nippon Ham Fighters) - Nippon gave the ex-Cuban a tryout this year. Major league teams could not find room for him even after impressive seasons in the winter league. He made the team and with his stick there should be no trouble staying on the team. Michel is hitting .269 but leading the Pacific League in homeruns with 12.
Dae-Ho Lee (Orix Buffaloes) - He was a leading homerun hitter in Korea. Those homeruns are not coming so frequently in Japan, but he is hitting .343, which is second in the Pacific League in homeruns. Last year he hit 24 and this year he’s blasted six, but more should come.
Aarom Baldiris (Orix Buffaloes) - He bats third to Lee’s fourth in the Buffaloe’s lineup. He didn’t have any kind of major league career but in Japan he is one of the killer B’s with Blanco and Balentien. He is hitting .328 with seven homeruns. His career high for homeruns is 18, which he did for Orix in 2011. In his first five seasons in Japan he has always just been a role player. This year he has added some pop to his stick and at 30 years old he is in his prime.
Bryan LaHair (Softbank Hawks) - Just like in the major leagues he started out strong, but trouble making contact has cause his average to drop like a stone. Bryan has slugged nine homeruns but his lack of contact (49 whiffs in 39 games) has resulted in his average fizzling to .255.
Esteban German (Seibu Lions) - Not much of a homerun hitter, but in his second season in Japan his .326 average is sixth in the league. He has yet to hit a homerun and his 10 for 20 success rate in stolen bases is not impressive but he has a 27/15 walk to whiff ratio, showing everyone that major leaguers can do more than swing and miss or hit the big bomb.