Japan Baseball Weekly released their Podcast episode previewing the Pacific League for the 2018 season on Sunday. You can listen to the full episode here by clicking on the link. The episode is also available on iTunes.
After a portion of the episode discusses some milestones and answers a question, John E. Gibson of the Japan News and Yomiuri Shimbun, Jim Allen of Kyodo News, Claudio Rodriguez of Béisbol Japonés and Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times discussed everything regarding the Pacific League with projections in the standings.
Where did they have the Lions? We'll show you where they have them finishing in the Pacific League with a few notes of what they said.
John E. Gibson (@JBWPodcast): 4th
"This team I'm equating to the [TV Show known as Grey's Anatomy.] It's a team that's more about the drama that I think is going to be the feature of this team rather than the game."-Thinks the team has too many designated hitters (Hotaka Yamakawa, Ernesto Mejia, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura, Tomoya Mori). Very unsure how Mori does as a catcher.
-The losses of Ryoma Nogami, Brian Schlitter and Kazuhisa Makita are large holes created. Feels the players coming in are unproven, which include Kona Takahashi and Shinsaburo Tawata.
-Lions have more question marks than answers with the production, rotation, bullpen and who starts in the field.
Jim Allen (@JballAllen): 3rd
"I like the Lions and I'll tell you why, it's because of the defense."-Lions drew comparisons to the Chunichi Dragons from the 2000s, where the pitching looked good, but it was really the hitting and fielding. Only difference is how Nagoya Dome was an ultimate pitching park advantage, were MetLife Dome isn't that extreme.
-Really likes how manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji utilized the Lions roster in 2017.
-Thinks Hideto Asamura, Hotaka Yamakawa and Shogo Akiyama could be the most potent trio of players in the Pacific League. Brought up how they're all younger than some of the Softbank Hawks players who are older than 30.
-Likes the addition of Kazuo Matsui as a player/coach.
"Pitching could drag them down, but I like the defense. I'm not convinced Tomoya Mori will be a bad catcher as he's still taking it very seriously."===
Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey): 4th
"The Lions offense is going to be great. They can run, they can hit and have pop. I look at the Yakult teams at 4-5 years ago where they can hit, but the pitching takes them down.
-Questions include Tomoya Mori at catcher, Hotaka Yamakawa being able to play a full season, Sosuke Genda having a potential sophomore slump.
-Likes Shogo Akiyama and said the offense won't have trouble scoring runs.
"I'm sort of with John. I have more questions than answers about Seibu. If Tawata and [Hayato] Takagi show up, then they're going to be able to do some damage. but I have a lot of questions."
Claudio Rodriguez (@BeisbolJapones): 3rd
"From my point of view, they went beyond what I was expecting from them. They have a good team, good offense, pitching is the same, but it went really well last year."-Feels the pitching overachieved in 2017, but says they're an A-class group with their strong offense.
-Thinks Lions are still a playoff team in 2018, just not to the same level of success as last year.
Consensus Pacific League thoughts:
-Softbank Hawks are still the favorites, it's possible age could affect a few veteran players this year.
-Rakuten Eagles are favored to finish in front of the Lions, continuing the upward trend under manager Masataka Nashida.
-Orix Buffaloes have potential to compete for A-class with Stefen Romero and Chris Marrero. Only thing holding them back is being Orix.
-Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters are rebuilding, but could surprise with some strong individual performances. The group agreed they don't have an ace-caliber pitcher.
-Chiba Lotte Marines are viewed as the cellar team, though their younger players could develop and sprout early.
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