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Interleague champions again!

Baseball news from Japan and Asia

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Featuring Jim (a.k.a. NipponHam11)

The title defense begins! Welcome to 2012, Hawks fans!

Interleague champions again!

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Despite splitting the last four interleague games with the Dragons and BayStars, the Hawks dominated interleague this season, leading from wire-to-wire and notching their third championship in four years. Since the current interleague system was implemented in 2007, the record for wins for both the campaign and the club was 18, a mark the Hawks matched this year.

History is not on SoftBank's side, however. The team that won interleague has finished no higher than third place since 2008, and twice in the last three years the interleague winner has finished out of the playoffs, with the Hawks finishing last in 2008 and Orix finishing fifth last year.

However, the Hawks are a much better-constructed team than they were in 2008. This year, SoftBank finished either first or second in every major statistic in interleague. They finished first in runs scored and team batting average, tied for first in home runs and stolen bases, and second in team ERA and runs allowed.

Attendance has also been kind to the Hawks not only though interleague but also through the first two months of the season. SoftBank leads the Pacific League in attendance, fourth overall in the league behind Hanshin, Yomiuri, and Chunichi. The average attendance at Yahoo! Dome is just shy of 30,000, with a healthy increase of 4.8% over last year (but keep in mind that SoftBank also leads the league in home games with 29). For the interleague competition, the Hawks drew just under 33,000 for a league-high increase of 14%.

For post-interleague, the Hawks are still in first place, three games ahead of Nippon Ham. Incidentally, the Hawks and Fighters are the only two teams over .500 in the Pacific League, and both are playing over .650 ball.

Just when you, dear reader, thought that there wasn't enough irony, the Hawks first game back from interleague is against those same Fighters on Friday. It is a series SoftBank has to win to assert themselves as the dominant power in the Pacific League.
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