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Yes, that time is here again! After 2008’s tragic missing out on 1st place, and last seasons disappointing 4th place finish, we go into 2010 with a slightly reshaped team, and a sense of excitement, albeit tempered with a healthy dose of realism. Remember though, it is the Year of the Tiger…first, let’s look at the changes to the team…

OUT

53. NORIHIRO AKAHOSHI

The greatest loss to the Tigers was the shock news that, following a spell out with injury, long-time lead off batter Norihiro Akahoshi would be hanging up his jersey

54. JEFF WILLIAMS

The J of the famous JFK trio, Williams waned last season and became a periphery member of the squad, ending the season with an ERA double that of other gaijin reliever Scott Atchison.

27. SCOTT ATCHISON

Atchison has returned to the States for family reasons, and will be sorely missed. His 1.70 ERA from 75 starts included 5 wins and 3 losses, and he was a stalwart of the Tigers’ relief.

IN

KENJI JOHJIMA

2010s marquis signing, Johjima signed with the Tigers from the Seattle Mariners just after the end of the 2009 season. He has quality stats, and is a good catcher- undoubtedly a great player for any team to sign, and while his MLB stats dipped in the last two years in Seattle, one hopes a return to Japan will give him a chance to get back to his old, slugging ways. Yet excitement about his signing was tempered by the fact that the Tigers already have a quality catcher- 2009’s star player, Keisuke Kanoh, who received a large pay rise and the Mayumi award in the close season. Whether they will rotate, or Kanoh will be converted into a outfielder, who knows- let’s just hope he doesn’t lose out.

RANDY MESSENGER

Another Mariners player, Messenger is in effect the replacement for Atchison. His is a right-handed relief pitcher. As always with foreign players, it’s hard to predict how well he will do- but the Johjima link is promising- presumably Johjima approves of the signing.

CASEY FOSSOM

Starting his career with the Red Sox, Fossom has spent the last few years in the Minors. He is a left-handed reliever.

MATT MURTON

Outfielder.

TEAM PREDICTIONS

BATTING

The big loss is Akahoshi’s retirement- the man will be missed. Expect Johjima to contribute the runs, although he can’t be expected to be the big hitter of the team. Instead, Brazell could be the leading man, hopefully adapting further to NPB in his second season at the Tigers. We need Kanemoto to return to form after his worrying tailing off at the end of last season- I think the old man has one more season in him. Toritani needs to continue to put in strong performances, and Arai needs to improve on last seasons stats- his best (should) be yet to come. Hopefully there’ll be more room for Lin, Sakurai and Asai to shine too. And of course Kanoh– he showed good signs in batting last season, hopefully he can improve on this, and maybe Mayumi will rotate the catcher spot too to give him some game time that way (certainly he should be the 2nd catcher rather than Yano- we’ll see what Mayumi kantoku decides)

PITCHING

STARTERS

Here we have a mixed bag of old timers and new guns. Shimoyanagi should clearly have retired, and his inclusion in the rotation is worrying. As with last season, expect Iwata, Nohmi and Kubo. New guns? Well, Kojima could get more games, and Hanshin’s number 1 draft pick Futagami could see some action.

RELIEF

The relief. Here we have good old Egusa, improved Tsutsui, and, of course, Fujikawa. What we lost in Atchison hopefully we will make up for in our new foreign signings- of the two, Messenger seems the more likely to shine. An in form Kubota would also make a big difference.

LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

You read them here first. 1. Giants, 2. Tigers, 3. Swallows, 4. Dragons, 5. Carp, 6. Baystars

As with last season, we look capable on paper but may flatter to deceive on the park. We have talent in all areas, even in starters, although that is obviously the most deficient area. Team performances are needed- all need to play to the best of their abilities- and this requires stronger management, from the coaches up to the kantoku himself. There are no more second chances for Mayumi now- he needs to prove he’s got what it takes to get this team back to the top.

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