It has been some time since we’ve taken a detailed look at the NPB. Our first review will be the Central League, where they need more modashos to drive their batting averages up. A modasho is a reference to a player who gets three or more hits in a game. Currently, the Central League only has two players hitting over .300 and the player in third place is hitting less than .290. That is a paucity of offense. Check out http://yakyubaka.com/ for all your Japanese news.
Chunichi Dragons (34-21-10)
Top Offensive Players - Tony Blanco is hitting .279 with 15 homeruns and 36 RBIs. He doesn’t have enough at bats to qualify for the batting title, but his homeruns and RBI production ranks in the top five. He lost the first base job to 43 year old new comer Takeshi Yamasaki at the start of the season but has reclaimed it back. He has shown that at this point in his career he is the superior offensive player. Defense is another issue. Yohei Oshima is the top hitter (.286) and is tied with Masahiro Araki (.262) for most runs scored at 28. Kazuhiro Wada (.279, 5, 28) is second on the team in RBIs.
Top Pitchers - The top pitcher for the Dragons is their closer Hitoki Iwase. He leads the Central League in saves with 24 with a 1.76 ERA. The Japanese lack the impressive whiff to innings pitched ratio of major league pitchers (30 innings pitched 17 whiffs) so unless it is one to one or greater myworld will not mention it. Shinji Tajima has been unhittable as the set-up man (4-0, 0.50, 9 holds). Their ace appears to be Soma Yamauchi (6-3, 2.26), but they also appear to be getting good production from Daisuke Yamai (2-3, 1.60), Kazuki Yoshimi (5-2, 1.83) and Kenichi Nakata (3-6, 2.22).
Foreign Aid - Jorge Sosa has also been unhittable in a setup role (2-0, 0.00, 1 save and 6 holds). He has yet to give up an earned run in 29 innings pitched (3 unearned runs).
Yomiuri Giants (33-24-6)
Top Offensive Players - The Giants domed stadium can generate a lot of offense. The biggest bat is Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe (.318, 10, 30) who leads the Central League in hitting. He became the fourth Giant to hit ten or more homers over 12 or more consecutive seasons. Hayoto Sakamoto (.316, 7, 36) is the leader on the team in RBIs. He is also second in the Central League batting race, giving the Giants the only two players hitting over .300 in the Central League. Hisayoshi Chono (.285, 8, 29) is a young bat who will only get better with experience. He leads the team with 11 stolen bases. Shuichi Murata (.270, 4, 25) was a free agent the Giants signed away from the Bay Stars. He has been a disappointment power wise, especially when you consider he was the cleanup hitter for the WBC Japanese team.
Top Pitchers - Toshiya Sugiuchi (8-2, 1.55) has been a good free agent signing from last year’s champion Softbank Hawks. He threw a no hitter earlier this season, a rare feat in the NPB. They have also been getting good starts from Tetsuya Utsumi (6-5, 1.83). The closer is Kentaro Nishimura (1-1, 1.95, 15 saves). Tetsuya Yamaguchi (0.25, 2 saves and 19 holds) has been dominant in a setup capacity. His 19 holds are tops in the Central League.
Foreign Aid - Scott Mathieson (2-0, 1.61, 1 save and 7 holds) has been a good signing from the Phillies. The NPB is not used to 95 mile per hour fastballs that have given him a 32/28 whiff to innings pitched ratio. Dennis Houlton (5-6, 3.33) was another free agent signing from the Softbank Hawks, but he has been inconsistent this year. Injuries have restricted Dicky Gonzalez to just 19 innings pitched. John Bowker (.189, 2, 7) has been a disappointment offensively. He has gotten 162 plate appearances to get it together but has failed to provide results. Edgar Gonzalez (.261, 1, has been signed to replace him and provide depth in the infield. He is the older brother of Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez.
Yakult Swallows (30-29-4)
Top Offensive Players - The Swallows have a love/hate relationship with Wladimir Balentien (.251, 18, 43). He leads the NPB in homeruns and when he is hitting he can carry the Swallows on his shoulders. When he is not hitting he is the biggest anchor in any lineup. Fortunately when he is not hitting pitchers walk him. He has 41 walks to go with his 50 strikeouts. Lastings Milledge (.265, 8, 28) has seemed to enjoy the leadoff spot for the Swallows. He is hitting .310 since hitting from the leadoff spot and his 29 runs scored is second to Balentien at 32, but he is only 4 for 9 in stolen bases. Kazuhiro Hatakeyama (.263, 4, 25) is the top Japanese player with the bat, leading the team in doubles with 11.
Top Pitchers - No real standout ace on this staff with Shohei Tateyama (5-5, 2.71), Masanori Ishikawa (5-6, 3.17) and Katsuki Akagawa (5-4, 2.74) all putting up similar performances. The closer is Tony Barnette (1-1, 2.48, 18 saves, 2 holds) who has replaced the sore armed Chang-Long Lim.
Foreign Aid - Chang-Long Lim has been the Swallows stopper for the last couple years but was going to be converted to the rotation this year. A sore arm has limited him to just seven innings, though he has yet to give up a hit in those seven innings. He is looking to pitch in the United States next year, but there is not a large market for 34 year old pitchers with sore arms. Look at the contract given to Hisashi Iwakuma for the Mariners. Orlando Roman (4-5, 2.67) is another member of the vanilla rotation. We’ve already talked about Milledge and Balentien on offense.
Hanshin Tigers (28-29-8)
Top Offensive Performers - Shortstop Takashi Toritani (.252, 2, 23) may be the next big Japanese bat to play in the United States. He was the top vote getter in the Central League voting by the fans. He needs to improve on those numbers if he wants to attract major league interest. Craig Brazell (.246, 7, 30) is the big RBI bat with Takahiro Arai (.248, 4, 29) close behind. Tomoaki Kanemoto (.255, 4, 19) is at that age where his offense is best given in small doses where he needs a lot of rest to keep the bat fresh.
Top Pitchers - Atsushi Nomi (5-5, 2.93) shares the ace responsibilities with Randy Messenger (4-6, 2.57). The closer is Kyuji Fujikawa (1-1, 1.90, 12 saves) while the set up man is Daiki Enokida (2-0, 0.65, 17 holds). His 17 holds are second in the Central League.
Foreign Aid - Jason Stanridge (4-4, 2.26) fits well in the Tigers three hole in the rotation. Matt Murton (.228, 2, 20) has struggled with an average almost 100 points lower than last year. He seems to be most comfortable in the leadoff spot.
Hiroshima Carp (26-32-6)
Top Offensive Performers - Nick Stavinoha (.238, 9, 24) is returning to the States for knee surgery. His season is done. Shota Dobayshi (.263, 7, 21) is trying to replace his power production until Brad Eldred arrives. Takahiro Iwamoto (.333, 3, 13) and Soichiro Amaya (.320, 3, 11) each have only under 120 at bats, but they are getting every day playing time now.
Top Pitcher Performers - They have the top pitcher in the Central League in Kenta Maeda (7-3, 1.51). He is the only pitcher in the Central League to throw more than 100 innings. Yusuke Nomura (4-3, 1.78) has been a nice surprise. Kan Otake (7-2, 2.34) matches Maeda in wins, but lacks the three complete games.
Foreign Aid - Kam Mickolio (1-3, 3.21, 5 saves, 14 holds) has been bounced around from closer to set up. Dennis Sarfate (0-4, 1.96, 9 saves) has had trouble staying healthy. Bryan Bullington (3-8, 4.14) has been a big disappointment. He is last in the league in ERA for all those Central League pitchers who qualify. With Stavinoha out for the year the Carp hope to replace him with Brad Eldred. Brad was recently released by the Detroit Tigers so he can sign a contract with the Carp.
DeNA Bay Stars (20-37-5)
Top Offensive Performers - Alex Ramirez (.276, 8, 33) was signed as a free agent from the Giants, but is starting to show his age. He has been playing so long in the NPB that he is no longer counted as a foreign player. Norihiro Nakamura (.276, 6, 29) is the other big bat to drive in runs. Not a lot left among the others to brag about.
Top Pitching Performances - Daisuke Miura (6-4, 2.71) would be an ace on many other pitching staffs. Shun Yamiguchi (0-1, 2.01, 10 saves) is an effective closer when he gets an opportunity. Not a lot of those playing for a last place team.
Foreign Aid - They seem to have trouble finding effective foreign players. Giancarlo Alvardo (1-6, 3.92) and Brandon Mann (1-5, 3.91) have been finding wins rare, but when you give up close to four runs per game in this offensively challenged league it will not result in a lot of wins.