Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Report: Takayuki Kishi to start on April 24; on four days of rest

Baseball in Japan has its differences from its MLB counterparts. One thing notable is how teams will often have a six-man rotation in contrast to a five-man rotation, which is seen in North America.

The reason for this is how teams will play six games a week more times than not, making it simple for pitchers to play once a week compared to every 4-5 days in the major leagues.

For the Saitama Seibu Lions, they will do something similar to MLB this week with the first six-game week of the season. They've had the benefit of the schedule up to this point, where there were only five games each week, making only a five-man rotation to begin the year.

The options were simple, either call up a potential sixth starter to take the extra game or simply have your rotation continue to start on less rest than usual. Seibu is choosing the latter as Yusei Kikuchi was announced as Thursday's starter for a game against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. He last pitched on Friday, April 15 and it means he will start on five days of rest.

This chain will continue presumably with Ken Togame starting on Friday, Andy Van Hekken taking Saturday and Takayuki Kishi starting on Sunday against the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the upcoming series. Kishi started on Tuesday and lost in a 1-0 defeat. He had 90 pitches in a losing effort after being yanked through six innings.

Logically speaking, the Lions are only making this decision for two possible reasons. The first would be to get Kishi multiple starts in a given week, having him take the first and sixth game where the schedule favors it. (He started Game of the 2016 season against the Softbank Hawks on purpose in contrast to Opening Day). The other would be the feeling that no farm pitcher is ready to take the sixth rotation slot and the team doesn't trust a spot starter in the short term.

There are plenty of options in ni-gun from Kona Takahashi, Isamu Sato and even having Kazuhisa Makita take over as a starter if they chose to. However, this week becomes more hectic on pitchers with this plan.

It goes against NPB by playing more than once a week and bucks tradition, but this is a call where the Lions probably have both reasons as to why they are taking this path for the week. We don't think this trend will continue, but having Kishi take the front and back end of this week, knowing he's the best pitcher on the team, makes some sense.

With this move, the Lions made themselves more flexible and can still wait out a decision on who becomes the sixth starter. They have a five-game week the following week from April 26-May 1. Two weeks from now should determine who can be the sixth starter after some extra evaluation time in ni-gun.


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