The Monday Review #4

Welcome to the Monday Review, in which we’ll look back at the week that was and look ahead to the week that will be. We hope a recurring weekly review column will help readers identify some trends that can’t be covered in a single game report. We’re still trying to work out the format, so let us know what you’d like to see in the comments.

Rain cancelled both Swallows’ games against the Chunichi Dragons, giving the Swallows a short week in which they only played 3 games against the Yokohama BayStars. The Swallows’ first trip to Yokohama this season yielded 3 wins and a widening of their Central League lead heading into Inter-League play this week. The Swallows are now 8 games over .500, for the first time since August 2009.

The Week That Was

Rotation Slippery When Wet: The two rained out games against Chunichi basically meant our team took a road trip to Kanazawa and Toyama with nothing to show for themselves baseball-wise. The rain out meant that the team had to juggle their rotation a little. Yoshinori, rather than Ishikawa, was given the first start in Yokohama to put him on track to pitch in Sendai, his hometown, next week. Ogawa has said he believes Yoshinori’s homecoming would be important for both the young pitcher and the people of Sendai, and that he would do what he could to allow the start to happen. Ishikawa and Masubuchi pitched games 2 and 3, essentially skipping Tateyama and leaving the question of our fifth pitcher’s spot still unresolved. Although Nakazawa was sent down today along with young catcher Yuhei Nakamura. Tateyama and mystery pitcher #5 will probably start against the Fighters to start the week.

 

 

How long will he mash?

 

The Continuing Exploits of Coco Balentien: It seems that the windy bandbox of Yokohama Stadium combined with the BayStars’ subpar pitching was enough to jolt Balentien’s stats even higher. Over the 3 game series Balentien went 8-for-11 with 4 HRs, 7 RBIs, 5 Rs, 1 BB, and 0 Ks. Looking at the Triple Crown stats. Balentien leads the league in BA (.386) and HRs (13), and he is 1 RBI behind league leaders Sledge and Ramirez who both have 21 RBIs. Balentien is in the top 5 in almost every meaningful offensive category including an absolutely unreal SLG of .916. His 13 HRs in 25 games still keeps him on pace to shatter the NPB homerun of 55 currently held by Alex Cabrerra and Tuffy Rhodes. But of course, past performance is not always a indicator of future returns and Balentien doesn’t get to hit against the BayStars in Yokohama every game, so we’ll hold off on handing the young slugger the Triple Crown just yet. One interesting stat I’ll throw out there is that Balentien’s BA w/ RISP is a pedestrian .267. Not that I put too much stock in this stat, but it may be an indication that Balentien is forcing himself and swinging at bad pitches with runners on base.

Quo Vadimus

Interleague Fun Time: It’s that time of the year again where every Central League team will be pitted against their Pacific league counterparts in a series short two game series. The specific mechanics of NPB Interleague can be found at last year’s Interleague Preview article. The only difference from last year is the continued enforcement of the 3 and a half hour rule. While the ultimate goal is to finish first over the 11 other teams, any games advantage that can be gained over fellow Central League teams even if we don’t win the Interleague outright, can be a big boost at the end of the season. Last year all 6 PL teams finished ahead of the CL teams with the top CL team being the Giants with a 12-12 record. The Swallows finished 11th with a 9-14-1 record despite starting the Interleague schedule with 9 straight losses, which prompted the sacking of then-manager Takada. This year, with the team on top of the CL standings the expectation will be much higher.

DH Options: One of the fun things about playing in PL parks is the availability of the designated hitter, allowing the team to add a bat to the line up, and to hide defensive liabilities. With that it mind I would guess that the team would make Whitesell the DH, move Hatakeyama to first base, and play Iihara in left field. Takeuchi, Yuichi, and Fukuchi are other bench players that may be given at bats, but I expect that Iihara would get the first opportunities.

Our Opponents: The Swallows will Kick off Interleague play in Hokkaido against Yu Darvish and the Fighters on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by games in Sendai against the Eagles on Friday and Saturday, and ending the week back at Jingu on Sunday and Monday against the Hawks. The Fighters and the Hawks currently top the PL with a good balance of offense and defense, while the Eagles are middling as they cannot find the offense to complement their pitching. If things go according to schedule the Swallows will probably face Darvish and Masaru Takeda against the Fighters. Darvish needs no introduction and he has been pitching solidly winning his last 4 games including a complete game shutout against the Eagles last Tuesday in which he recorded 15 strikeouts. Takeda has been having a good season although he has been a little unlucky, Takeda has lost his last two games despite giving up only 1 run in each game. The Eagles’ rotation is a little murkier but it appears that the Swallows have a date with Eagles’ ace Masahiro Tanaka coming up in their series in Sendai. A Tanaka vs. Yoshinori matchup would no doubt get a lot of press if it were to materialize. Rookie southpaw Takahiro Shiomi would probably pitch game 2 if things go according to plan. The Eagles also feature MLB-returnee and former Swallow Akinori Iwamura. He has been struggling mightily in his return to Japanese baseball, batting only .169 in 85 plate appearances. Finally reading far into the Hawks’ rotation it seems quite possible that the Swallows will hit Hawks’ ace Toshiya Sugiuchi or possibly Tsuyoshi Wada the Hawks’ other ace. Former BayStar Seiichi Uchikawa is a player to watch on the Hawks, as his slap hitting ways slowed only by minor injury has translated well to the Pacific League stage.

Any insights from people that actually watch/follow the Pacific league would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, before we end this column for this week, we have one final item.

Condolences to the Barnette Family: Swallows reliever Tony Barnette was taken off the active roster, and he will be returning to the US to join his family after the sudden death of his brother Randy. We here at Tsubamegun would like to offer our our heartfelt condolences to the Barnette family on the loss of their loved one.

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.

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  • Kozo

    Oops… It looks like Hoshino removed Iwamura from Rakuten’s active roster on Sunday for being overweight. Guess we won’t be seeing him in Sendai. I wonder if we’ll get to see him at Jingu.

  • Katemoor007

    Ayyyyy he is gay?