This post is a little late - we're officially in the second half of the season as the first post-All-Star games were played on Monday. The All-Star game is only a symbolic marker anyway though, as all the NPB teams have played at least 87 games out of the 144-game schedule. Still it's a good time to take stock of the season that's been played so far. Here are some thoughts conveniently split up into three categories.
A few general observations:
- The Central League is again a three-team race between Yomiuri, Hanshin, and Chunichi. This makes the playoff race somewhat uninteresting but the playoffs themselves should be good.
- The Pacific League is much more balanced, with SoftBank, Seibu, and Lotte nine or more games over .500, Orix even and Nippon Ham one game under. Rakuten is in the cellar at 40-49, but they have the second best pitching results in the league and could get into contention for a playoff spot if they start to hit.
- We're seeing a strong performances from a number of starting pitchers.
Follow up from previous posts:
- The answers to my six storylines so far: no, yes, unfortunately not, maybe, yes/not yet, probably none.
- Yokohama is again a doormat. I thought they'd be a little more competitive this year.
- My rookies to watch are either injured (Yusei, Kazuhito Futagami, Takashi Ogino), fat (Ryoji Nakata) or Hisayoshi Chono (Chono).
- A couple of the imports I put on my watch list, Matt Murton and Kim Tae-Gyun, have taken off in Japan. Gio Alvarado is getting it together as well.
- The veterans I picked to watch have mostly been duds, which isn't a surprise as I deliberately listed a bunch of guys with question marks. That said, Yoshinobu Takahashi is having a nice bounce back season, Aarom Baldiris has contributed some a performance to Orix, and Sho Nakata is showing some signs of life.
NPB Tracker mid-season awards:
- My first half MVPs: Central League – Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi), Pacific League - Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu)
- First half Sawamura Award winner: Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima)
- First half RoYs: Central League – Chono (Yomiuri), Pacific League – Ogino (Lotte) despite missing significant time on the injured list
- Breakout players: Central League – Shun Tohno (Yomiuri), Pacific League – T-Okada (Orix)