Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Seibu Lions 2015 Season Review: Position players

The Saitama Seibu Lions can only blame themselves for their shortcomings in 2015. Here we will grade each position player for his performance in 2015. The FIP study is saved for the pitchers where you can see the rotation examined here.

For stats, we will post the slashline of Batting Average / On base Percentage / Slugging. Some players will not be included if they were only playing a handful of games and Anthony Seratelli is featured in the foreign signings article here.


Ginjiro Sumitani: .211/.247/.281

"Gin-Chan" is there for his defense and his slashline doesn't tell the story. Of course he is a hole in the lineup and was initially batting around .180 until he had a decent September. Defense was fine, but his hitting is still a liability. Grade: C-

Masatoshi Okada:  .240/.283/.300

Norio Tanabe had the nerve to play him in the middle of the year when Sumitani was hitting poorly. He did well at first and then he got hurt sliding into a base. Okada is everything you want in a backup catcher with respectable defense and can get hits every now and then. He was also a good pinch hitter. Grade: B-



1B Ernesto Mejia: .235/.307/.471

Mejia battled the classic sophomore slump, where teams adjusted after his solid rookie year in Japan as the co-home run king of the Pacific League. His biggest problem was striking out too often and having a lot of ground balls. 

He was still hitting doubles and had a better second half, but the first half of hovering around .210 was brutal. We can only hope he have a stronger 2016, where it is reported he will return. Mejia finished the season with 27 home runs.  Grade: C-

2B Hideto Asamura: .270/.362/.385

Asamura had a great first half hitting as a doubles machine. However, he fell off hard in the second half where his average dipped from .326 to .270.  After having a down year in 2014 playing multiple positions on the infield, Asamura fell back to earth with a rough stretch and was batting as low as sixth in the lineup. While he may not repeat his 2013 season again, there needs to be more doubles from him and it was a disappointing finish.  His defense at 2B was top notch. Grade: C+

SS Yuji Kaneko: .224/.271/.308

Kaneko was the starting SS at the beginning of the year, but battled an injury in the middle of the season and didn't return until late September. He's a slick fielder there for his defense, but his bat was a liability which cut his playing time. Grade: D

SS Yuji Onizaki: .196/.263/.243

Like Kaneko, Onizaki is there for his defense at shortstop. Unfortunately, his hitting wasn't timely and was unreliable when batting ninth. Grade: D-

SS Shuta Tonosaki: .186/.240/.247

Tonosaki was promoted from ni-gun to the ichi-gun as a rookie. He was a third round draft pick in 2014, being the first of his class to make the ichi-gun. He provided speed like Kaneko, but was raw with the bat. Tonosaki could be a solid pinch runner, but was prone to fielding mistakes as a first year player. Grade: D

UTIL Naoto Watanabe: .272/.348/.329

Watanabe was reliable with his glove and versatility on the infield. His defense was great for 3B or SS whenever there was a breather and I wish Tanabe would have played the veteran for a few more starts. He was one of several decent pinch hitters off the bench. Watanabe is a free agent and I hope they bring him back. Grade: B-

1B/RF Ryota Wakiya: .294/.367/.396

For someone who is usually a part-time player, Wakiya was given the spot in right field after the position struggled to get production. It was an unorthodox move, but it worked and he was the only spark during the Lions 13 game losing streak. He's considered to be only a defensive replacement, but Tanabe was rewarded for his confidence in him. Wakiya is a free agent and will most likely be with another team.  Grade: A-

3B Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura: .278/.367/.559

Okawari-kun had an MVP caliber season with the Lions after having 37 home runs on the year, which made him the Pacific League home run king. He had a cold two weeks to make him short of 40, but he hit several gappers and reliable doubles. In the past he would be known as a home run or bust player, but this year he was good with making contact. Sure, he hit a career record of 172 strikeouts, but that is part of his game. The Lions wouldn't be where they were without him. One of his more underrated assets is his defense at 3B.  Grade: A

SS Kyohei Nagae: .182/.280/.273

Nagae came in midseason and Tanabe liked him as a defensive replacement player. This role would prove to be handy for the eighth and ninth innings as he would only start a handful of games. Defense was clearly his strength.  Grade: B



CF Shogo Akiyama: .359/.419/.522

Akiyama had a historic season as the leadoff hitter. In 2012, he was thought to be the breakout player for the Lions outfield and after batting sixth in the past, he lived up to the hype. He had a 31 game hitting streak in the middle of the year while also having career highs in home runs (14) and stolen bases (17). His goal was simple: To get on base and help his team. We commend him for getting the NPB single season hits record (216), beating the previous high from Matt Murton (214).  Grade: A+

LF Takumi Kuriyama: .268/.358/.371

The captain had a down year by his standards where he usually hits around the .280 mark. It was marred by a cold first month, where he was hitting well below .200. Late in the season, he was benched for a game by Tanabe, snapping a significantly long streak of consecutive games played. He was batting as low as seventh in the lineup and while he is 32, he shouldn't regress as heavy.  Grade: C+

OF Fumikazu Kimura: .195/.250/.451

Kimura is a fifth outfielder at best, but had one week of magic where he hit several home runs including a grand slam. It was a brief spark for a long season, but he was mostly on the bench only starting when the Lions saw a matchup they liked.  Grade: D-

OF Masato Kumashiro: .111/.175/.111

Kumashiro was a late inning defensive sub most of the time. Tanabe recognized this and his range saved the Lions for a few plays.  He was fine in the field. Grade: C

OF Yutaro Osaki: .219/.277/.301

Don't let the stats fool you, Osaki was a solid pinch hitter when he was called upon. After a good series in Hokkaido, the Lions buried him in ni-gin with minimal chances after that. He's good off the bench, but not an everyday starter.  Grade: C

OF Shogo Saito: .260/.324/.375

By default, Saito was the fourth outfielder who was good for his defense. Great range and a solid arm saved some runs, but the staff knew not to make him the everyday starter in RF, which was the flex position. He had good speed on the base paths. Grade: B-

Designated Hitter:  

Tomoya Mori: .287/.357/.468

Mori had a great first half showing pop, but only had three home runs in the second half where he should have had at least 20 on the season. He was a fun player to watch for someone who just turned 20 in August. Some were saying he could mash and we saw plenty of it this season despite his cold second half. There's plenty of upside to go and it will be only more interesting when he becomes mature and understanding of the game. Grade: B+  


Final Analysis:

The Lions could not get production from the catcher or shortstop position all year. While they did fine in right field, the bottom of the order remained a problem as a whole. They can only hope Shuta Tonosaki can develop into a hitter at SS for the long run. Otherwise, the catcher position will be a hole as expected assuming that Sumitani returns as he is a pending free agent. 

The lineup was just too top heavy and if one guy faltered, the rest of the team could. Asamura and Mori couldn't hide the deficiencies in the bottom of the order once they struggled and the bats weren't there. It would be nice to sign a foreign outfielder who can at least bat .260 or even .250 just to keep opposing teams honest. We are expecting better seasons from Mori, Asamura and Mejia next year. 


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