Tuesday, June 16, 2015

NPB All Stars Series: Seibu Lions who should be in

Tomomi Takahashi has been a great closer through the first half of the season
The 2015 NPB All-Star Series will take place on July 17th from the Tokyo Dome and July 18th from Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima. Fans have been voting since the end of May for players they want to see.

With Saturday, June 20th being the deadline to vote for NPB All-Stars, here we will take a look at any Saitama Seibu Lions who deserve to be in the All Star game. It will factor who should be guaranteed versus who has an outside shot of getting in.

Note: I (Christian) keep a very tight handle on picking All-Stars factoring in work as a whole. No previous track record plays a role in my opinion, it's all based on 2015, as it should be for the 2015 All Star series. Stats are based on the completion of games through June 14, 2015.

For pitchers, we will post their slashline of ERA/FIP/WHIP, along with their win-loss record in parentheses.  Here's our previous post explaining FIP.
For batters, we will post their slashline of BA/OBP/SLG

We start with the Lions players who are on the cusp of All-Star status. Some stats look alright, but not completely guaranteed compared to the other competition around them.

SP Kazuhisa Makita: (4-4), 2.89/3.41/1.299

Makita had a bad outing on Friday against the Swallows where he was tagged for seven runs. However, he has been good at avoiding the home runs for the most part keeping the ball down and letting his defense do the work. He might have had a better argument prior to Friday's game, but his work as a whole could give him a spot.

A former closer, some experts thought he was a No. 5 pitcher at best who is inconsistent, but this season he has been solid with only two bad starts in 12 games. The submariner should at least be in the conversation for the All Star game, as he played for Samurai Japan last fall.

SP Ken Togame: (4-3), 2.84/4.36/1.140

Togame is prone to giving up the home run, which is hurting his FIP stats (allowed 11 total this season). While he has coughed up the long ball, he limits the damage and has put in several quality starts which includes Tuesday's win against the Carp. He went seven innings with only three hits allows, but two of them were solo home runs which knocked down the FIP.

Coming in as a starter in the third week of the season, he has been solid for the Lions as a middle of the rotation starter. He does a good job at settling in and isn't scared when there are base runners and has a reasonable strikeout rate (7.8 Ks per nine innings). The only scar is how he allows home runs.

SP Ryoma Nogami: (6-3), 2.80/3.74/0.984

Nogami is a pitcher who lacks strikeouts, but like Makita, he asks his defense to do the work with ground balls and fly balls. He came off a down season in 2014, but based on results, he has the lowest WHIP among Lions' starting pitchers.

He had two stints of being injured and out of the rotation, which doesn't give him a full sample size, but Nogami keeps the ball down and allows weak contact. With his WHIP being below 1.00, he should be in consideration. 

C Ginjiro Sumitani: .203/.242/.232

Sumitani's bat is far from attractive as it's at the Mendoza line. However, his defense and ability to throw runners out behind the plate is why he's even in the conversation. Sumitani is currently second in the fan vote among Pacific League catchers. While we here at Graveyard Baseball prefer more offensive production than what Sumitani brings, the culture in Japan most likely values defense over offense for a catcher.

Setup man Tatsushi Masuda: (1-3), 3.31/1.50/1.163

Masuda has avoided allowing a home run so far in 2015, but his ERA has gone up with several gappers and allowing runs in recent times. He went through a rough patch last week, but recovered at the end of the series against the Carp and did his job against the Swallows to save face. Masuda also leads the league in holds with 23 total.  


Should Be In: 
This section has players who are deserving to make the All-Star game. However, they are not 100% locks based on others in the Pacific League.

Closer: Tomomi Takahashi: (1-0), 0.93/1.74/0.828

While Masuda has had the lower FIP, Takahashi has shown to us why he is the Lions' closer as he is confident while runners are on base. The lefty makes pitches on the corners and still has yet to blow a save this season.

He leads the Pacific League with 19 saves, which is tied for the NPB lead (Yasuaki Yamasaki for DeNA also has 19).  Takahashi is best at getting the ground ball, but doesn't walk many batters and strikes out a reasonable amount. Unfortunately he doesn't lead the Pacific League lead in voting, as Rakuten Eagles closer Yuki Matsui is the current leader. 


Locks (Shoo-ins): 
In this area, we talk about players who are 100% guaranteed to make the All-Star game at the rate they're going and how the All-Star voting indicates. 

2B Hideto Asamura: .313/.404/.454

Asamura is leading all 2B in each batting category while still displaying occasional pop with seven home runs. With an .858 OPS for a second baseman, he is all but guaranteed to be playing this July.

OF Shogo Akiyama: .370/.414/.522

Akiyama won the batting player of the month award for April and has continued his hot run through May. He is second in the league's batting average while was the third fastest player to 100 hits through 61 games. Like Asamura, he had a down season in 2014 but has been on fire through 2015 as the leadoff hitter.

DH Tomoya Mori: .291/.355/.533

A first round pick out of high school in 2013, Mori has continued to mash while being the designated hitter. He was originally a catcher by trade, but the Lions correctly insert him into the lineup as the DH and he has done nothing but impress. For a 19-year old, he is second on the team in home runs with 12. Currently, he is blowing out his competition in the fan vote for the All-Star Series at DH.

3B Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura: .270/.341/.573

Okawari-kun is second in the Pacific League in home runs with 19 on the year, only behind Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 1B Sho Nakata. With the pop that he displays for a 3B combined with being the Pacific RBI leader (61 total), he should be guaranteed to make the All-Star Series and leads the fan vote for the 3B position.


Overall, there are four players who will make the All-Star series barring no injuries, but we think as many as three more should be considered in Takahashi, Makita and Nogami which would total seven at the most. Before the year started, we have been relieved to see multiple starting pitchers not named Takayuki Kishi who have a case for the All-Star game. 

Hitting has mostly been on point with only Ernesto Mejia off to a slow start. Earlier, Takumi Kuriyama was hitting below .200, but he recently got his average up to the .260 mark.

We will have our full All-Star ballot later this week. With this being an off week until Friday, stay tuned. Until then, Ganbarre Raionzu!


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