Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 NPB All Star Series: Which Lions should qualify?

Kazuhisa Makita has been an asset for the Lions
The 2016 NPB All Star Series will take place with two games. The first will be in Fukuoka on July 15 while the second is in Yokohama for July 16.

Rosters for the NPB All Star game will be announced soon and the fan vote was recently completed. Fans had the right to vote for all positions including starting, relief and closing pitchers and whoever leads the vote for each position is an automatic all star no matter the numbers.

Managers who won the pennant (regular season title) for both leagues decide the remaining roster spots. For the Pacific League, it's Fukuoka Softbank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo who will decide this.

The question for is, who becomes the Lions all stars? We'll decipher who could make the All Star game.

Stats are reflective of games completed after 6/19.  
For pitchers, we'll list (Win-Loss) / ERA / WHIP
For Position players, the slashline will be AVG/OBP/SLG


People listed here go in the 50-50 range. For the most part, we will write off all the long shots.

SP Kona Takahashi: (3-2) / 2.38 / 1.340

The problem for Kona Takahashi keeping him back, is how he only has eight games under his belt. It's possible that he could be a late addition if an injury piles up. He has impressive strikeout numbers in a small sample size, but he didn't start games until the middle of April with an injury to begin the season.

C Ginjiro Sumitani: .218/.243/.251

"Gin-chan" was leading the fan vote among who was left. He has no hitting in him, but is well-known for his defense. Motohiro Shima would've won the fan vote, but an injury reduced his number of games played and he has missed nearly half the season.

CL Tatsushi Masuda: (3-3) / 1.75 / 1.364 (12 saves)

Masuda was named the team's closer since opening day and after an early struggle, he has established himself as the best reliever on the Lions staff. Last year, we liked his FIP metrics due to a high strikeout total and reduced walk number. He hasn't been dominant, but solid compared to other closer situations.


Should be in (but not guaranteed)

This is where we consider who else can take a roster spot for the Pacific League. Sometimes the odds and comparisons to others around the league are why a player is here instead of "maybe."

2B Hideto Asamura: .277/.328/.424

Asamura has been a streaky 2B, showing signs of greatness for one month (May) but being cold in other months (April and June). He hits home runs and doubles, but isn't consistent enough overall. However, among the 2B available, he could be the most talented and Kudo should consider him.

SP Yusei Kikuchi: (6-5) / 2.47 / 1.255

After a slow start to the season, Kikuchi has been nothing but impressive since Shinji Mori became the pitching coach in May. He has put in six consecutive quality starts and the strikeout numbers have been solid. Kikuchi isn't an ace pitcher yet, but he's on a great run and has been the team's best starting pitcher due to Kishi being out with an injury for two months.


Locks (Shoo-ins)

These are players who are all but guaranteed to make the Pacific League All Star team. There's no doubt for those listed here.

RP Kazuhisa Makita: (6-0) / 1.50 / 0.958

Makita has been revived since being named the team's long reliever/swingman in the bullpen. This is a call both of us here at Graveyard Baseball have advocated for and clearly the Lions listened to us! (Okay, they most likely saw the national team use him in middle relief and wanted to match it). Makita's submarine arm is a perfect change of pace out of the bullpen against hitters. The only way he won't make it is if his leg injury keeps him out.

OF Shogo Akiyama: .315/.421 /.440

Akiyama continues to have a strong season even if it isn't up to the standards of 2015. He continues to get on base and does everything you would want in a leadoff hitter. If anything, last year was not a complete fluke as he hasn't fallen off this year.

1B Ernesto Mejia: .265/.342/.564

Mejia is tied for the Pacific League lead in home runs with 22. This should be his first all star series in Japan, after being an all star at the AAA level within the Atlanta Braves organization for many years. In 2014, he came too late as a midseason signing and last year, he had a rough season. This time, we're seeing better adjustments and even though his average has dipped recently, his pitch recognition is much stronger than in the past.

OF Takumi Kuriyama: .311/.429/.430

Kuriyama was demoted from the lineup last season, but the Lions captain has been nothing but amazing for 2016. He continuously gets on base like Akiyama and is tied for the team lead in walks. The Lions bat him second in the lineup and with this revival, he should be guaranteed to make the team.  


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