The Saitama Seibu Lions are all but eliminated from any chance at the postseason with a recent series loss to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters over the weekend.
This hasn't been a fun year from an offensive standpoint aside from Tomoya Mori.
At this rate, it's a about Takumi Kuriyama reaching 2,000 career hits.
It was great enjoying Kaima Taira's run of scoreless outings before it ended, but the bullpen before him just isn't there. Other problems include Zach Neal's regression to a lack of home runs and hitting for average.
Despite all of this, it could be worse. You could be an Oakland Athletics fan.
The A's are currently in the midst of a playoff race with other top opponents in the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees for the wildcard and possibly the Houston Astros for the AL West division, yet there is a sense of doubt.
They could win out yet find a way to lay an egg in the postseason even if they get hot.
Worst part about it? They're in their window of contention, no rebuilding allowed. Some players underperformed while at other times, they can look defeated and flat against contenders.
It's also likely manager Bob Melvin is a puppet just following orders from the front office, presumably Billy Beane. There's no heart or passion on the field when it matters most.
The common story is an offense swinging for the fences and hoping to "luck" into a championship instead of actually addressing some glaring needs, besides peaking at the wrong time.
While it isn't the most fun watching the Lions in the midst of this year, at least they're rebuilding with several inexperienced players in all positions at the ichi-gun level.
It wasn't good hearing about Takeru Sasaki's suspension for being with his girlfriend, however, we can only hope it's a short term bump in his career to learn from.
Kona Takahashi, Tatsuya Imai and Wataru Matsumoto have been positives in this season, though the bullpen problems have forced them to stretch their outings to 7-8 innings if possible.
Relievers are a strange bunch, where a pitcher can look great one year and bad the next. In this case, keeping Tatsushi Masuda has backfired for 2021 when he was about to enter free agency. Can only hope he rebounds.
It didn't help to give Yuji Kaneko an extension either, who is under contract with the team through 2023. This goes same for Ken Togame, who is mostly a reliever.
It's harder even for the foreigners in 2021 with no one showing a case to get a contract for 2022. Reed Garrett is too inconsistent to be a setup man, Matt Dermody gave up too many hits even in mop up duty, Neal's aforementioned regression continues and Cory Spangenberg has also taken a step back. Not mention Ernesto Mejia requesting a release, where it wasn't necessary to bring him back.
At least the younger position players are getting experience. From Junichiro Kishi to Aito (Takeda), Sena Tsuge and even Gakuto Wakabayashi.
There's an ugly amount of growing pains for now and if the offense stays bad, it may be time to Hatsuhiko Tsuji to step down. Let's enjoy the ride for what it is and hope there won't be a pennant celebration in front of the Lions.
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