Japan Update - Pacific League

The Nippon Ham Fighters have lost Yu Darvish, but that hasn’t prevented them from taking an early lead in the Pacific Division.  The defending champion Softbank Hawks lost three starting pitchers to free agency.  They are still playing well, finding themselves in third place.

Nippon Ham Fighters (16-8-0)

Top Hitters: Atsunori Inaba is leading the Pacific League in batting with a .384 average and RBIs with 22.  He is also showing some power with four homeruns and five doubles that gives him a .628 slugging percentage.  He is also one hit shy of 2,000 for his career.  Kensuke Tanake is hitting .348 with nine walks and five whiffs.  That puts his OBA at .398.  Dai-Kang Yang (.326, 1, 10) is a third player hitting over .300.  He has yet to walk in 96 plate appearances and has struck out 23 times, so he comes to the plate hacking.  The 25 year old Taiwanese outfielder has played five seasons but has yet to hit over .274 so this average may be a mirage.

Top Pitchers: They have been getting consistent starts from their five starters.  In four starts Mitsuo Yoshikawa (2-1, 0.64) has only given up three runs, two of them earned to put him second in the ERA race.  He has struck out (15) more hitters than he has given up hits to (14).  Yuki Saito (3-1, 1.16) is the replacement for Darvish as far as fan adulation.  He is living up to his hype with two complete games and one shutout.  Masaru Takeda (3-0, 1.59) has yet to take a loss.  Brian Wolfe (2-1, 1.69) and Tomoya Yagi (2-2, 2.52) also have shown no problems getting hitters out.  There hasn’t been much need for a bullpen but when they need a closer they have been calling on Hisashi Takeda (1-0, 4.50, six saves).  Despite pitching in relief he is tied for the team lead in homers given up with two.  Hirotoshi Masui (1-0, 0.00, 7 holds) is the team’s top setup man, but Keisuke Tanimoto (0.00, 5 holds) has also not given up a run.

Foreign Relations: While Wolfe has been effective Bobby Keppel (0-1, 9.00) has the team’s highest ERA.  He has been dealing with a balky shoulder.  Terrmel Sledge (.224, 3, 9) is second on the team in homeruns but his 27 strikeouts is tops on the team.  Micah Hoffpauir recently got some playing time and went deep for his first homerun.  He has only played three games, getting five at bats.  The homerun is his only hit.

Top Performer Under 22 Years: Takuya Nakashima (21) is hitting just .067 but he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities with just 15 at bats.  Haruki Nishikawa (20) struck out in his only at bat.  He has been used primarily as a pinch runner and has stolen one base.

Lotte Marines (11-8-1)

Top Hitters: Tadahito Iguchi (.333, 2, 7) has found his return to the NPB rewarding.  No Pacific League player has more than his seven doubles which has given him a .507 slugging percentage.  Saburo Omura (.319, 1, 5) is the other player on the team that has hitten over .300.  Though he only has 42 plate appearances, half of some of the other players, Kazuya Fukuura (.308, 0, 8) still leads the team in RBIs, despite having only one extra base hit.  Yoshifumi Okada (.269) is second on the team in runs scored with 11.

Top Pitchers: Seth Greisinger (3-0, 0.40) leads the Pacific League in ERAs after three starts.  He has only allowed one runner to cross the plate.  Yoshihisa Naruse (1-2, 1.76) has not been getting a lot of run support in the games he has started.  Yasuhiko Yabuta (2.00, 7 saves) is the closer while Naoya Masuda (0.96) handles setup responsibilities.

Foreign Relations: Josh Whitesell (.237) made better contact with the catchers behind the plate rather than with the ball.  After hitting two catchers with his bat on the back swing he was sent down to the minor leagues to work on his hitting.  Seth is pitching well but Hayden Penn (1-2, 3.86) has been inconsistent.  Carlos Rosa (6.75) has only appeared in four games of relief.

Top Performer Under 22 Years: They only have three on their 70 man roster and none of them has appeared with the big club.  Takahiro Fujioka (2-1, 2.40) is a rookie at 23 years of age and wears the number 18, a number often reserved for the ace of a rotation.  That should count for something.

Softbank Hawks (12-10-1)

Top Hitters: Seiichi Uchikawa (.360, 0, 6) is third in the Pacific League in hitting.  Wily Mo Pena (.311, 4, 18) and Nobuhiro Matsuda (.318, 3, 20) provide the power bats that are second and third in the league in RBIs.  The Hawks also rely on the stolen base and Matsuda leads the team with nine.

Top Pitchers: The Hawks lost their top three starters to free agency but they haven’t had any problems finding replacement.  Hiroki Yamada (3-1, 1.01) has been their top starter but they also have been getting some sterling outings from Tadashi Settsu (3-0, 1.24) and Sho Iwasaki (2-2, 2.10).  Kenji Otonari (1-2, 2.01) has their only complete game shutout.  Brian Falkenberg (0-1, 4.00, 8 saves) is the closer with 15 whiffs in nine innings of work.  Masahiko Morifuku (8 holds) has yet to give up a run in 10 innings of work.  He is their top setup man.

Foreign Relations: Wily Mo Pena has provided a power bat that also comes with swings and misses (24).  Falkenborg has picked up a number of saves as the closer.  Brad Penny (10.80) only got one start before shoulder problems put a halt to his season.  He is currently in rehab.  Renyel Pinto (1-1, 7.36) has had trouble getting hitters out.  Mu-Young Kim (0.00) has yet to give up a run in seven relief appearances.

Top Performer Under 22 Years: Kenta Imamiya (21) has scored more runs (3) than plate appearances (2) so that means a lot of pinchrunning.  He grounded into a double play in one of his two at bats.  Koda Senga is expected to make his debut in a couple days.

Rakuten Golden Eagles (8-11-1)

Top Hitters: Motohiro Shima (.355, 0, 3) is fourth in the Pacific League in hitting.  Ryo Hijirisawa (.320, 0, 9) and Akihisa Makida (.308, 2, 5).  In a lineup absent of power Makida leads the team in homeruns.  Jose Fernandez (.256, 1, 11) leads the team in RBIs, but the Eagles expect a little more power in his bat.  A .333 slugging percentage is not what they were expecting.  Teppei Tsuchiya (.147) and Luis Terrero (.131) are two players this Eagles were expecting to provide them with more offense.  Terrero won the MVP last year in the Mexican League, but the Japanese style of pitching has not been to his liking.

Top Pitching: Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 1.97) is their ace but he may miss a couple starts because of back injuries.  With the departure of Yu Darvish he is now the top pitcher in the NPB.  Kelvin Jimenez (1-3, 2.25) has given up five unearned runs, which may be why his loss record is so high. Darrell Rasner (1.29, 5 saves) is their closer but getting to Rasner has been a challenge. Shinichiro Koyama (3 holds) has been the most effective in the setup role and has yet to give up a run, but he has walked five in eight plus innings.

Foreign relations: Disappointing results from their foreign players.  Luis Terrero was supposed to be a run producer but he has been flustered by the Japanese pitching.  Jose Fernandez and Luis Garcia (.235, 1, 7) are also providing little offense.  Darrell Rasner (1.29, 5 saves) has been their closer so when Kelvin Jimenez starts an offensive player must sit with only four foreigners allowed on the playing roster.  Jim Heuser (8.31) has not taken advantage of his opportunities.

Top Performer Under 22 Years of Age: Hiroaki Shimauchi has only appeared in two games but has yet to get an at bat.

Orix Buffaloes (8-12-1)

Top Hitters: Takahiro Okada (.365, 1, 7) is the only hitter on the team that is batting over .300. As a team the Buffaloes have only hit three homeruns. Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee (.231, 1, 8) has hit one of them but management is expecting much more. Mitsutaka Goto (.238, 1, 6) has the third homerun among the trio.

Top Pitchers: Hiroshi Kisanuki (2-1, 0.75) has been the only stellar pitcher in the starting rotation. He has two complete games, including one shutout. Mamoru Kishida (2.00, 5 saves) is the closer. They are still looking for the bridge that gets to him.  Kei Igawa is shaky off the rust in the minor leagues and should get a NPB start in May.

Foreign Relations: They expected more power from Dae-Ho Lee, but he still has one more homerun than Albert Pujols. Aarom Baldiris (.264) has yet to provide a lot of production for the offense. Alfredo Figaro (0-4, 3.42) would like to win his first game. Ming-Chieh Hsu (0-1, 11.18) has three holds despite the ghastly ERA.  Evan MacLane (2-1, 3.60) has struggled in the starting rotation.

Top Performers Under 22 Years of Age: Shunta Gota (19) is still a teenager and his .071 average shows it.  He has struck out six times in his 14 at bats.  Yuki Nishi (22) has made the starting rotation (2-1, 5.03) and is one of two pitchers to throw a complete game for the Buffaloes.  Shohei Tsukahara has appeared in two games and only given up one hit in three innngs.  He has yet to give up a run.

Seibu Lions (6-12)

Top Hitters: Takumi Kuriyama (.353) finds himself far north of .300.  Hiroyuki Nakajima (.308, 1, 6) is not letting his failure in signing with the Yankees prevent him from raking NPB pitchers.  The Lions have had trouble scoring runs which makes the paltry seven RBIs from Takeya Nakamura (.180, 1, 7) the team leader.  He also has 12 walks.

Top Pitchers: Their ace Hideaki Wakui (0-3, 7.71) has really been struggling.  The Lions most consistent starters have been Takayuki Kishi (3-1, 0.84) and Kazuhisa Makita (1-2, 1.69).  Kishi has picked up half of the Lions wins. With only six wins there are not a lot of save opportunities, but Enrique Gonzalez (0-2, 10.80, 2 saves) has two of them, an amount that equals his losses. Hironori Matsunaga (1-0, 1.29, 3 holds) is the most effective setup man.

Foreign Relations: Esteban German (.183) has been a huge disappointment. He does have ten walks. Enrique Gonzalez has also been a huge disappointment as their closer. Those are the only two foreigners on their roster.

Top Performers Under 22 Years of Age: Hideto Asamura (22) has been getting a number of at bats, but has been struggling in those at bats (.177). Mitsugu Ishikawa (21) has yet to get a hit in his four at bats.

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