So how did we fare? Erm, not so well. The Swallows finished 9th out of the NPB’s 12 teams. The PL teams as a whole beat the CL teams 73 games to 71, and in fact the CL has never had a winning record since the competition’s inception in 2005.
Here’s a breakdown of the Interleague 2008 according to Yakult:
At Home: 4-8 Away: 7-5
Runs Scored: 89 Runs Allowed: 97
So there you have it. Though we split the games with the eventual Interleague champions, the Softbank Hawks, as well as PL front-runners Seibu and the resurgent Rakuten Eagles, the only team we managed to take the series off was the Orix Buffaloes. And in fact Orix were the only team we managed to outscore over the four games.
The performance of the team wasn’t helped by the absence of both Miyamoto and Aoki early on in the games, as well as Guiel later on. In fact, the whole team’s line-up was very unstable for the first half of the schedule until Aoki’s return, when a more fixed line-up saw results improve.
The team’s starting rotation also went through changes during the Interleague schedule, with both Rios and Masubuchi being dropped to ni-gun for “re-adjustment”. Luckily the return of Kawashima and a little help from Matsui helped plug the gaps somewhat. Muranaka re-discovered his early season form late-on and Tateyama (3 wins, 1 loss and 1 no-decision) and Ishikawa (2 wins, 0 losses and 3 no-decisions) continued to hold things together.
On the relief front, Matsuoka and Oshimoto continued to be good go-to guys with a lead on the board in the 7th inning or later. Oshimoto in particular seems to be a wonderful acquisition and is certainly Nippon Ham’s loss. Closer Lim kept picking up the saves on the whole when asked, but started to look worryingly vunerable in the last portion of the schedule, giving up 5 runs in his last 5 games. Hopefully normal service from Lim will be resumed with the resumption of the CL schedule.
With the bat, special mentions go to Fukuchi, Tanaka, Miyamoto and Aoki (after he returned) who have been pretty consistent throughout. But my TYS MVP of the Interleague schedule goes to Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, who has established himself as a member of the starting nine during the IL schedule, and has become the Swallows’ king of getting on base (as of today OBP .407/SLG .460) and has kept his batting average up around the .300 mark throughout. Hopefully he’ll continue to stake his claim for a starting position, even after the return of Guiel.
So overall definitely a “must do better”. But the improved form, and more stable line-up during the latter part of the schedule gives a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.
So then, farewell for 2008 to Softbank, Rakuten, Seibu, Chiba Lotte, Orix and Nippon Ham. We’ll see one of you in the Japan Series.*