Sometimes I write about serious things. Today, for instance, I wrote about umpires. Umpires are usually pretty serious, because they know that if they smile they might look vulnerable, and then someone might throw a helmet at them. And yesterday, I wrote about the Astros, who are more serious than we thought they’d be.
With some of the NPB's best young talent and some of its all-time greats, this is Japan's best baseball entertainment value.
A little late on the start to the season, this Pacific League preview reflects the circuit's intriguing storylines and a much more competitive race for its three playoff spots than the Central League will offer in 2008. Last season, I wrote about the Pacific:
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Yu Darvish meets Don Larsen? History was made on the other side of the Pacific, but not quite the way you expect.
A lot has happened in the NPB over the last month. The high school amateur draft was held-a topic for another day-and the exciting race for the Japan Series crown has now come and gone. We're also already considering the future names and faces from the Japanese leagues who might grace the rosters of your favorite MLB club next season. However, before we get to those topics in future articles, let's talk about the Japan Series. The Chunichi Dragons, second-place finishers in the Central League, took on the defending champion Nippon Ham Fighters, who'd repeated as the Pacific League's top club in 2007. How did they get there, and what went down?
As I wrote in my playoff preview, the Dragons were very good down the stretch and dominated every team other than Yomiuri during the season's last two months. The absence of Kosuke Fukudome was damaging to the Dragons' run at first place, but a well-balanced lineup anchored by Tyrone Woods in the cleanup spot kept the offense moving. The Dragons opened the playoffs in a best-of-three matchup with the light-hitting Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers are regulars in the Central field, but haven't shown anything resembling championship form in recent years. Chunichi sent ace Kenshin Kawakami, a potential 2008 free agent, to the mound to start Game One, and he set up a short series by going seven strong innings of two-hit, no-walk, nine-strikeout baseball. Chunichi took the contest easily, 7-0. In my playoff preview, I'd noted that the key pitcher for Chunichi was Kawakami, and he lived up to the challenge. The key player I identified was Masahiko Morino, and he was the offense for Chunichi in Game One, going 3-for-4 with two runs and four RBI, three of which came on a game-breaking three-run homer in the sixth inning. The series was as good as over in the first inning of Game Two, when 23-year-old Hanshin starter Keiji Uezono gave up five runs, essentially handing the Dragons a berth in the League Championship series against Yomiuri.
The Marines are up and the Lions down since our last report from across the Pacific.
The Pacific League has been tumultuous this season, as several teams have spent time in first place, and more than one club has seen a dramatic turn in fortunes. If you like drama and excitement, the Pacific is full of fascinating story lines, characters, and winning and losing streaks that keep the highlight reels full every night.
I present you the Pacific League as of June 16th, 2007. Teams are listed in their current order in the standings with both runs scored and allowed.
The Central League may have the star quality position players, but the Pacific League has arms galore.
I recently recapped the first month of action in Japan's Central League. While the two best hitters in Japan--Kosuke Fukudome and Norichika Aoki play in the Central, some of the game's best pitchers play for Pacific League teams. Yu Darvish, Hideaki Wakui, Kazumi Saito, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Masahiro Tanaka are just a few of the big-name pitchers who work in this circuit. Without further ado, I bring you month one of the Pacific League, with teams listed according to their standings as of Friday, May 4th: