The postseason field is set in Japan and it’s promising to be a fun ride.
Let’s make this short: in the Central League the Hiroshima Carp, who came in 3rd, will play the Hanshin Tigers, who finished 2nd. The eventual winner will then face the division winner Yomiuri Giants. And in the Pacific League the Chiba Lotte Marines (3rd) and the Seibu Lions (2nd) will decide who gets the right to face the division winner Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
That’s the setting and I have to admit I have absolutely no idea how things will play out. Let’s start with the Central League.
The Giants (83-53-7) took the division rather comfortably, 11.5 games ahead of the Tigers (73-66-4), with the Carp (69-72-3) another 5 games back. Still I had the feeling, especially at the beginning of the season, that Hanshin had the Kyojin’s number. They have lost the season series to their eternal rivals by only one game (11-12), but they were also tied with the Carp (12-12). So this is really promising to be a great postseason in the Central League. Hanshin will be able to throw three of the top 4 pitchers in ERA at their opponents. Jason Standridge (2.54), Atsushi Nohmi (2.69) and Randy Messenger (2.89) are only trailing, you might have guessed it, Hiroshima’s Kenta Meada (2.10). Which doesn’t make things easier for the Tigers. Still pitching is the strong point for Hanshin, as the Giants best duo only ranks 6th (Hirokazu Sawamura, 3.15) and 7th (Tomoyuki Sugano, 3.19).
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it’s the first stage of the Climax Series first. And there those three Tigers pitchers are looking good with all their ERAs under 3 against the Carp. So one has to guess that the offense needs to click. You bet it has to. The Tigers were hitting nothing off of Mae-Ken during the season, he’s got a miniscule 0.40 ERA against Hanshin this year! And that’s over the course of six games!!! Terrifying!
The first stage of the CS is a three game series, so everything has to work out. It’ll be hard to get to Maeda, but I can see the Tigers sneak through here. Just for the record (and I hope I’ve translated this correctly): in case the series is tied after three games (because they have draws in Japanese baseball) meaning each team has einter 1 win, 1 loss, 1 draw or 3 draws, the 2nd place team – in this case the Tigers – will move to the next round.
And there will wait the Giants.
Moving on to the Pacific League. I have to admit I didn’t pay that much attention apart from Masahiro Tanaka’s historic achievement (who finished the season 23-0 with an ERA of 1.27 and a WHIP of 0.90). Glancing over the numbers it looks as if that could be one of the Golden Eagles problems, as there isn’t a lot coming after Tanaka, with Takahiro Norimoto being their next best pitcher (14-8, 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). But first the Lions and the Marines have to battle it out. Both teams don’t look that dominant and Seibu might have a slight advantage because they can start former Koshien phenom Yuusei Kikuchi and his 1.92 ERA (9-4 over 108. IP). Seibu also won the season series against Lotte 13-10, so there you go.
Both leagues are very tough to predict and each series can go one way or the other. This is going to be a lot of fun!