A slightly overdue look at the first month of Central League action, and in particular Hanshin Tigers. Standings as of 6th May 2009.
Yomiuri Giants: Damn Giants. This season they’ve got going a lot quicker than last, and look strong both offensively and defensively. In the bullpen Tono has been the big surprise, although Greisinger’s also performing. Michael Nakamura hasn’t yet looked the part though. Offensively Rami-chan is performing to his usual high standards, as are Tani, Kamei and Ogasawara. The standout player though is young Sakamoto- a quality short-stop who’s proficiency with the glove has now been complemented by some keen batting- 0.385 and 5 homers. From a Korean perspective Yi Seung Yeop hasn’t been performing well though.
Chasers: The Yakult Swallows have been doing rather well- fairly decent offense and defense, although Aoki hasn’t been performing as expected. Hiroshima have also looked fairly good, although a bit off the pace compared to Yakult, who haven’t made the most of home advantage at the Mazda Zoom Zoom stadium, albeit with Higashide and Akamatsu looking characterisitcally strong.
The Falterers: Let’s skip Hanshin, and look at the bottom two. Chunichi aren’t looking the force that they were- despite leading the home run charts with 30 (compared to Hanshin’s 19), they’ve arguably faltered due to a general lack of confidence- poor fielding and a generally weak defence. And finally Yokohama- no as bad as last season!
So, Hanshin. I’ll keep this brief as I could go on for a while, but generally there have been a number of pros and cons so far.
Offensively Kanemoto has been the standout star. With an average of 0.364, 8 home runs and 9 doubles, Kanemoto has been playing to such a high standars that the younger players should be ashamed. Without him we’d be right down- he carries the team at times. Kanemoto’s performance, however, shouldn’t cast a shadow over how well Toritani has played this year. A very decent average of 0.314. Kano (more of whom later) and Sekimoto have also looked good. Disappointments have been Akahoshi’s average- although his steals are still great we need him to get on base more- Arai, who’s perked up a bit recently but who’s average and home run count are both still below what we want. And then, finally, Mench– the less said about him the better.
Defensively Kano has been a revelation this season, taking over from the injured Yano and looking like a quality player, and long-term replacement for the 40-year old. In the bullpen Egusa has performed well, Atchison has been preferred to Williams a lot due to Mayumi’s penchent for matching left and right handers, and Fujikawa has been ok. It will be nice to get Kubota back though. Our real problem is a lack of quality starters- Nohmi is the best, with an ERA of 2.43, while Andoh, Shimoyanagi and Kuboh all perform adequately, if not spectacularly. Cheng has come in and looked ok, and should replace Fukuhara in the regular line-up. Also look for Iwata once he’s back from injury.
Hanshin Highs and Lows:
Starting from the start, Hanshin recorded a dissapointing 2-1 loss to the Swallows in the first series of the season. They then hosted the Carp, and we saw 2 of the seasons best games- a magnificent comeback victory 11-10, then two 3-run homers from Kanemoto in the next game- won 8-2. He then repeated the feat at Tokyo Dome, but we were to lose 2 and draw 1 of our first series against the Auld Enemy Kyojin. Next up a 1-1 series draw at home to Chunichi, a 2-1 defeat of Yokohama in Yokohama, then more faltering away to Chunichi (2-1 loss). Nohmi got a shuout in the first game at the ZoomZoom against the Carp, and we blew away the Carp in the next game, but were once against denied a 3-0 series victory by the Carp taking a tightly contested third game. We then came back again to complete a 2-1 home series victory against the Baystars with an unlikely 4-3 victory in the ninth with two out and no runners. Then, the start of May – very close against the Giants, with one narrow defeat, and then well deserved defeat and victory apiece in the following two games.