Roll up, roll up for more on Japan’s inter-league baseball series! As previously explained, the Inter-league session lasts from May 20th until June 22nd, and involves all six teams in each league playing the six teams in the other league four times each, twice at home and twice away, for a total of 24 games per team.

Baseball is certainly a game that lends itself to stats- periods of “no-play”, followed by clearly defined sessions of play that can be recorded precisely. In this spirit lets look at some of the Inter-League stats so far!

Effect On The Central League

So far the Inter-League’s biggest winner, in terms of Ce-League action, is the Yomiuri Giants. They’ve knocked up an impressive 5-2 record, although its hard to compare stats at this stage as some teams have played the stronger Pa-League teams- Seibu, and the Nippon Ham, while others have only had the weaker ones- Lotte, and the Orlicks. Nonetheless the Giants have beaten Nippon Ham twice at home, as well as defeating Lotte twice on the road.  Hanshin have a 4-3 record, equalling Hiroshima’s and importantly bettering Chunichi’s, who traditionally perform badly in the Inter-League period.

Hanshin’s four wins crucially include two victories at home over Seibu, the Pa-League leaders. The other results are 1-1 with Softbank, 1-1 with the Orlicks (local Kansai rivalry perhaps spurring on the lowly Pa-League team there), and a disappointing defeat 5-4 to Lotte last night, Vogelsong throwing away a commanding 4-0 lead with poor pitching in the middle three innings.

Coming up are the second game against Lotte at home tonight (a must win game really), and then a very interesting pair of games over the weekend as Hanshin take on the Nippon Ham in Sapporo. After that its two away at Rakuten to complete the first half of Inter-League games.

Fure, Fure Fure Fure!

In what seems like a reversal of last season, Hanshin’s batting line up seems increasingly strong, while their pitching is letting them down a bit. Vogelsong and Andoh have both disappointed, and Kubota, part of the famed J-F-K, has not been at his best, while Williams is still finding his feet after a spell on the sidelines injured. Having said that there are still strong performers- Iwata and Shimoyanagi in particular, while Fujikawa is still the top closer with the most saves in the league. In attack there is a strong line up, with four of the top 7 best averages coming from Hanshin players. The full list is…

1. Arai (Hanshin), 0.339 (38, 5)

2. Ramirez (Giants), 0.337 with an amazing 44 and 17 Home Runs!

3. Higashide (Hiroshima), 0.336 (11,0)

4. Tanaka (Yakult), 0.333 (14,1)

5. Akahoshi (Hanshin), 0.332 (10,0)

6. Toritani (Hanshin), 0.324 (27,4)

7. Kanemoto (Hanshin), 0.313 (39,7)

The pitching problem is bourne out by the leader stats…Fujikawa comes up number 1 in saves, with 17, while horse-faced Kroon of the Giants comes in second with 16. In the holdpoint tables Kubota also performs strongly, as does Watanabe. But in both lists these are the only present Hanshin players- a lack of strength in depth is not necessarily a problem with closers, unless of course a key man should get injured… In the full pitching stats, Iwata and Shimonoyagi come in second and third, with Takahashi of the Carp in first place. Again though, in a table of 16, Hanshin only have three pitchers- more of a problem as you rotate starters every game. Que the problems with Vogelsong et al.