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SoftBank Preview 2011: Defense, Managing, and Predictions

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SoftBank Preview 2011: Defense, Managing, and Predictions

3 replies. Most recent reply: Feb 27, 2011 9:56 AM by Guest

Defense
This is a team that does not commit many errors. The Hawks can field quite well, but still aren't the best team in the league. Speed is the team's primary asset, just as it is on the bases. Kawasaki and Honda seem to be able to track down anything, and there is athleticism in Tamura and Hasegawa in the outfield. Uchikawa should man left field, and I haven't heard many complaints about his defense.

X-Factors
The corner infield spots and catcher are the primary concern for the Hawks. The team is loaded with 1B/DH types on the roster, but the two guys who will likely split that position will be Kokubo and Cabrera. Neither is a Gold Glover defensively, but they are steady at first. Another guy who can play first is Uchikawa, but his defensive ability there is unknown to this writer.

Nobuhiro Matsuda is the team's 3rd baseman and no longer has to worry about competition from Lee Bum-ho, as he was released back to Korea. However, Matsuda has been prone to errors at third and while he's not an adventure at the hot corner, he can be a problem at times.

This is the least of the team's defensive problems, though. Catcher has been a mess since Johjima left, and from what I have heard about Toru Hosokawa, his defense is not much better than Yamazaki or Tanoue's (although beating Tanoue's defense is not hard). Hosokawa has said that his primary goal is to learn the pitching staff and call good games. Admirable, but it doesn't mean anything if the team doesn't have a catcher who can throw base stealers out. Teams ran at will on the Hawks last year, especially with Tanoue behind the plate. If the team runs into an opponent who likes to run as much as they do, then it could mean a lot of trouble.

Waiting in the Wings
Admittedly, this is a subject I am ill-equipped to talk about. Regarding catcher, the only guys on the farm to keep an eye on are Hiroaki Takaya and the rookie Yamashita, and who knows how these youngsters' defense is?

Managing
In the regular season, Akiyama-kantoku seemingly made all the right moves. He masterfully managed the pitching staff, getting around injuries, having no real 6th starter, underperformance, and fatigue in the bullpen to guide the team to the Pacific League regular season title. He also did his best with managing the 3rd base position controversy between Lee Bum-ho and Matsuda (although Lee kind of made the decision for him with his awful play).

In the post-season, he made a lot of questionable moves that puzzled and mystified. He insisted on starting noted postseason choker Matsunaka in every game of the Pacific League Climax Series. He used the quick hook on Ohtonari in Game 5 when the lefty was on cruise control. Finally, the move to start Sugiuchi in Game 6 despite his awful performances against the Marines in every start last season was the nail in the coffin.

While Akiyama can't be blamed for all of the Hawks' failures in the postseason last year, he is certainly one of the main reasons why. However, he has proved that he has good managing ability. This year will be his biggest challenge, as he has not had a team of superstars like this before. There will be some position battles and controversies in the outfield with Uchikawa, Ortiz and Matsunaka and at first base between Cabrera and Kokubo, and possibly Uchikawa. These are all veterans that will demand playing time, and if they don't get it could see their performance suffer. These players could see their performance suffer if their positions in the lineup and in the field shuffle around a lot, too.

Needless to say, Akiyama-kantoku has his work cut out for him. This team will be a true test of his managerial aptitude with all the egos and veterans he has to manage. Also, when this team makes the playoffs, he also has to

Final Predictions
This is a team that, while loaded, will not run away with the Pacific League title. I expect this race to go down to the wire like last year, and it will be a very competitive league with the Lions and Marines all nipping at each others' heels all season long.

I wrote at the close of last season that this was a team that was not Japan Series caliber. This team is Japan Series-caliber now. They can hang with any team in the league and they can win the Pacific League again, but not just the regular season title. I believe in my heart of baseball hearts that they can win the Japan Series and will. And, just like in 2003, they will defeat the Hanshin Tigers in seven games.

Let's hope that this does come to pass come November. Fight Hawks, fight.
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Comments

Re: SoftBank Preview 2011: Defense, Managing, and Predictions

[ Author: Guest: Shin | Posted: Feb 12, 2011 2:17 PM ]
One of the things you will need to worry least about will probably be Hosokawa's defense. According to most people he's the best defensive catcher in the whole Pacific League, even Nomura Katsuya said he's "the catcher who looks most like a catcher". He's led the league in throwing out basestealers 2 of the last 3 years.

So far into the spring camp Sugiuchi's already mentioned how he likes what he sees with Hosokawa catching him.

His hitting is quite inconsistent, hovering around the mendoza line with his BA. But he has some decent power, and could give u 8-10 homeruns when he connects. But he will be batting in the 9-hole, and it's wise not to expect too much from him offensively.

He will definitely be an upgrade to both Yamazaki and Tanoue, but we will have to wait for the season to start to see how well he will really adjust and do with the team.

Re: SoftBank Preview 2011: Defense, Managing, and Predictions

[ Author: NipponHam11 | Posted: Feb 13, 2011 9:10 AM | Posts: 532 | From: Boston, MA | SFT Fan | Registered: May, 2007 ]
I've heard differing things on Hosokawa's defense, and I also heard that he was benched last season for his inability to throw base stealers out.

However, the pitchers already love throwing to him. Sugiuchi and Settsu have both mentioned how big a target he is, meaning he can probably get some closer called strikes than Yamazaki and Tanoue.

I'm not expecting much from Hosokawa's offense. Like I said the day before, he's the only weak link in the offensive lineup, but if he hits .230 I'll be pleased. He's a career .219 hitter, so expecting him to hit like Johjima is unrealistic.

Re: SoftBank Preview 2011: Defense, Managing, and Predictions

[ Author: Guest: matt | Posted: Feb 27, 2011 9:56 AM ]
Akiyama still seems committed to Matsunaka. He was starting in left at the preseason game I went to yesterday. I think he will get plenty of playing time. Uchikawa was in center and seemed at ease there.
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