After taking a bit of a hiatus because of the All Star break and subsequent personal vacation, the Monday Review is back! A lot has happened since the last Monday Review, the team has come back down to earth despite seeing many key players return from injury. The team is 5-10-3 since the All Star break, dropping 4 of 6 series they’ve played. The drop in productivity can be attributed to some cold batting. To start the month of August the team went through a 7 game stretch in which they never scored more than 2 runs. We’ll take a look at some numbers and catch up on some player movements.
Tanaka 2010 vs. Tanaka 2011: One thing that has caught my eye this year has been the regression of Hiroyasu’s batting. While Tanaka’s still very much a very good hitter, he’s not drawing walks anymore. Tanaka had a breakthrough season on offense last year in which he drew a team leading 67 walks, while limiting his strikeouts to only 48. So far this season, Tanaka has already struck out 41 times while drawing only 28 walks. His OBP (.322) is about 60 points lower than last year’s number. The OBP dip is not unique to Tanaka, in fact with the offensive dip attributed to the new ball every Swallows regular save for Miyamoto has seen their OBP drop from last year’s number. The high OBP duo of Aoki and Tanaka setting the table for the power hitters in the 3-4 spots is not quite as effective as it was last year. I think the health of Tanaka’s bat will play a key role in the success of our offense, I hope Hiroyasu show’s signs of adjustments to the new ball and how pitchers have changed their approach.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Coco? Also of concern for Swallows’ fans is Balentien’s continued slump. Is it really a slump if you’ve been struggling for over 2 months? While Coco does occasionally pop a long ball, he still hasn’t been able to show he can hit consistently. He’s certainly failing the Tsubamegun eyeball test as he looks like he’s going to the batter’s box without a plan. That being said, Balentien did get 2 homeruns during the Tigers’ series and will be facing the BayStars next. If he can’t get some momentum going after that, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to count on any improvement.
Bullpen Shuffle: After being overused to the tune of 41 appearances in 85 games Chang-yong Lim was removed from the active roster on Saturday. Lim was taken off the active roster citing lower back/hip pains which have not been observed medically, so his expected return is up in the air. Tony Barnette has been named the interim closer, but he has also been fighting fatigue/ineffectiveness issues lately. Having already appeared in 39 games, despite missing about 2 weeks due to bereavement leave, Barnette has given up runs in his last 3 appearances. With the summer heat and the Swallows’ offense keeping games close our core relievers are getting in a position where fatigue can set in easily. While our top flight starters have been effective, without run support many games have been put in the hands of the bullpen to preserve or even to just keep hope alive. Something has got to give or else we won’t have a healthy bullpen come October.
Roster Moves: With Lim being sent down, Chikara Onodera was called up in his spot. Ryo Kawashima was called up to start Sunday’s game and was send right back down today. No word on who will be called up in the spot vacated by Kawashima, but expect it to be another arm.
Our Opponents: This week the Swallows will host the BayStars at Jingu before going to the Dome to face the Giants. The BayStars have been their usual selves, and if our offense don’t capitalize against their weak pitchers we might have reason to panic. The Giants on the other hand have started to heat up since the beginning of August going 9-3 and getting back to .500. This Dome series will be the second-to-last series against the Giants this season, so a strong showing will be key to keep the Giants at bay.