|Takashi Toritani's "Ironman" streak concluded on May 29 at 1,939 consecutive games played|
The second month of NPB concluded on Thursday with the first series of Interleague play in the books. As time goes on when we post our rankings, we'll post the previous rank (in parentheses) and the team's record for that month besides their overall record.
May 2018 Power Rankings
Here's how we rank all 12 NPB teams after two months:
1 [^] (4): Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (29-21); 15-10 in May
The Fighters pitching has become an asset with Naoyuki Uwasawa looking like a possible ace and Nick Martinez continuing his strong form from April. Kensuke Kondo is healthy, Sho Nakata is hitting home runs again while Taishi Ota is on pace to hit at least 30 home runs. They also swept the Saitama Seibu Lions right before Interleague began which helped them leap to the top.
2 [v] (1): Saitama Seibu Lions (29-19); 10-14 in May
The Lions offense cooled off big-time as Hotaka Yamakawa hovered around the Mendoza line in May. Shogo Akiyama is on pace for a peak season, given his quiet pop and plate discipline. Bullpen has become the largest concern with several blown leads to end the month, but taking the series over the Carp barely keeps them in second.
3 [v] (2): Hiroshima Carp (28-19-1); 11-9-1 in May
The two-time defending Central League pennant winners are still on top of the league, but it's not by much. They were through ups and downs, where the Dragons had their number as the Carp were 2-4 against them this month. Right now, they're not in position to pull away early like 2016. Starting pitching remains solid, but the bullpen is an issue with Ryuji Ichioka being a liablity. Offensively things look good.
4 [^] (8) Orix Buffaloes (25-25-1); 15-10 in May
After a slow first two weeks of the season, Orix was hovering around .500 ball for a whole month, but the last few weeks have seen a recent surge where they finally had some winnings weeks to go 9-4 in their last 13 games. Starting pitching has kept them afloat while the offense has been up and down. Still, this team will always have a shot to do something when Masataka Yoshida is healthy. Right now, they might have the best bullpen in the Pacific League, which is saying something and the potential for them to go far is huge.
Can this team make a run in interleague play and stay on course? Or does the driver take them laterally without taking that next step?
This is officially the part of our power rankings where it's a large pack, as they'd say in a race when everyone is clumped together.. There is very little separation for now between several teams as this wasn't easy to rank.
5 [=] (5) Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (26-23); 14-12 in May
The Hawks have gone through continuous injuries in their rotation and no Kodai Senga as well as their bullpen. However, they continue to weather the storm and have gone .500 in May to continue fighting. Hitting behind Yuki Yanagita and Akira Nakamura has been a concern, but they're right in position to strike later. By sweeping the Tigers in the first series of Interleague play, they retain their spot at five when the Kansai team was threatening to make a run.
6 [^] (9) Hanshin Tigers (23-24); 12-12 in May
The Tigers offensively have what it takes to be worse than what their record is. Starting pitching has prevented them from falling in a pit behind Randy Messenger and Takumi Akiyama. Lots of players have been coming in and out, but Yusuke Oyama has been forcibly played by manager Tomoaki Kanemoto as he's his golden goose as the prized first round pick of 2016. He's only been a disappointment up to this point.
Crazy enough, the streak of Takashi Toritani was officially snapped this month at 1939 consecutive games played, a decision Kanemoto made after some poor hitting that hurt the team, going well under .200. The biggest reason for this leap by the Tigers is how they haven't faltered yet, but by no means are the Tigers good up to this point.
7 [v] (6) Yokohama DeNA Baystars (23-21-2); 10-10-2 in May
The pack continues as the Baystars barely move by default. They've dealt with injuries to the rotation, but the offense is still a concern overall. Putting up league-average numbers in a hitter's park tells how putrid they are hitting wise. Too home run dependent, but the talent is still there to make a run. Alex Ramirez's team has potential, but none of it has come together in the regular season under his watch.
8 [v] (3) Yomiuri Giants (23-25-1); 9-14-1 in May
Who is this team? Like the Baystars, they are very up and down. It's either they're winning big, or losing big with not many close games inbetween. With a group of aging veterans, they have enough to compete. However, it's unsure which direction they're going as they take the biggest fall in our rankings.
9 [^] (11) Chunichi Dragons (23-26); 13-11 in May
The Dragons have competed with some offense in May. They're even getting quality starts from the veterans where Daisuke Matsuzaka continues to revive his career, Daisuke Yamai throws a shutout and even Kazuki Yoshimi gives them a chance. For a rebuilding team, they should be happy to compete, but the bullpen is a weakness that's too glaring. The young pitchers still need to develop and grow up quickly if they want to be in A-class, something this team hasn't experienced since 2012, the longest current drought in NPB.
10 [v] (7) Chiba Lotte Marines (22-26); 10-14 in May
The good news for the Marines is how they're still right in the hunt and Ayumu Ishikawa has been rebounding well after a horrid 2017. The bad news? Pitching depth is not there behind Hideaki Wakui and Mike Bolsinger, where the latter is looking like a good signing. While closer Tatsuya Uchi is decent, the rest of the bullpen is scary to watch.
Hitting has improved from an awful 2017, but there was nowhere to go but up. The Marines need Matt Dominguez to spark them with some power, because right now, it's hard to name someone who will hit 15 HRs in 2018.
The bottom two teams are in their own league, but anywhere from 5-10 is anyone's guess on what happens next.
11 [^] (12) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (17-31-1); 11-12 in May
The Eagles put a better May together after a horrendous April, but it's still a large uphill battle. Wins are coming, but their bullpen is one of the worst in the entire league. Takayuki Kishi has been a bright spot on a bad team, while Takahiro Norimoto is great when he's not playing the Lions. Hitting is still not there as a whole and as long as Eigoro Mogi puts in a below average season, they aren't going anywhere offensively.
12 [v] (10) Tokyo Yakult Swallows (19-27-1); 10-12-1 in May
The Swallows are improved from last year, but it won't show in their record as much. Best thing for them is Tetsuto Yamada appears to be back when he had a down 2017 and Tomotaka Sakaguchi continues his consistent form from last year, the only hitting Swallows who remained solid on the worst team ever. David Buchanan remains solid while David Huff looks like an adequate signing, but this team has too many holes to stay in the hunt.
This weekend will be a fun pillow fight of last place teams when the Swallows goes up to Sendai against the Eagles. As posted by @NPB_reddit, this should be interesting
Eagles can't win at home (.250) and the Swallows can't win on the road (.261)— NPB on reddit (@NPB_Reddit) May 31, 2018
Any agreements, disagreements or opinions? Let us know!
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