With the Hanshin-Yakult game fast appraoching, its interesting to look at this season’s stats so far(courtesy of japanesebaseball.com).
The Central League (teams previously explained) and the Pacific League make up Japan’s baseball scene, with there also being bi-annual High School baseball tournaments that take place at Hanshin’s Koshien stadium, the oldest baseball park in Japan. The general charicature of the two leagues is that, while the Central League is more popular (containing the three biggest population zones of Tokyo/Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka), it’s also more showbiz, with the Pacific League having a higher standard of play and more exciting title chases. This is certainly borne out by the games so far- while the Central League stretches from Hanshin with a .762 average right down to Yokohama, with .211, the Pacific League varies from .56 to .407, with the top four teams separated by a mere .06 gap. Two of the biggest exports from Japan in recent history- Daisuke Matsuzaka and Ichiro Suzuki- also plyed their trade in the Pa League before moving across the pond.
Teams in the Pa League
Let’s take a brief look at the teams that make up the Pacific League, before moving our sights firmly back into Hanshin Territory.
Chiba Lotte Marines ロッテ （Chiba, near Tokyo)
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks ソフトバンク (Fukuoka)
Nippon Ham Fighters 日本ハム (Sapporo)
Orix Buffaloes オリックス (Hyogo)
Saitama Seibu Lions 西武 (Saitama)
Rakuten Eagles 楽天 (Sendai)
Seibu and Lotte are both teams close to Tokyo, although with distinct population zones of their own. Nippon Ham have won the last two Pa League titles, and have performed well since their move up to Sapporo, Hokkaido, from Tokyo. Fukuoka, like Nippon Ham, have a dedicated support in the large city of Fukuoka, on Kyushu island. Rakuten are based in Northern Honshu, while the Orix are based in Kobe, and are somewhat overshadowed by Hanshin.
It should be clear that the two league are not particularly defined by geography, although the Central League does have a more “central” Japan look to it, with the Pacific League taking in teams in the “outskirts”. Its also clear that teams are predominantly franchises- named after the companies that sponsor them (Hanshin, Yomiuri, Chuunich, Softbank, Rakuten etc), and can be as such even be uprooted as the Nippon Ham Fighters were, when they were relocated from Tokyo to Sapporo!
Ok I’ve rambled on long enough about the Pa League. Let’s get back to the Se League, where Hanshin secured an important 3-2 win last night against the Dragons. Check out the stats and match report here
The key is Hanshin’s unbeaten record at home- a good omen for next Wedneday! Yakult have been performing above expectations so far, and are essentially a weak team, although they do have a 0.5 record on the road. So far this season we have a 2-1 record over them.
Check back soon for an introduction to Hanshin’s players and history, and read their Wikipedia entry here!