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02/27/2006 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball: Hanshin Tigers Preview 2006"

Japanese Baseball: Hanshin Tigers Preview 2006 by Glenn Davies-Tokyo,Japan

The last time the Tigers went to the Japan Series and lost (2003), they fell to fourth in the standings the following year as they worked to gel under then new manager Akinobu Okada. The same shouldnft be true of 2006; the team that won 87 games in f05 remains largely intact and will again be a force in f06. Prediction: 1st in Central League
Probable Line-up 2006
(2005 Stats)
Pos. Name Avg HR RBI SB
1. CF Norihiro Akahoshi .316 1 38 60
2. SS Takashi Toritani .278 9 52 5
3. 3B Makoto Imaoka .279 29 147 1
4. RF Tomoaki Kanemoto .327 40 125 3
5. LF Osamu Hamanaka .284 1 20 0
6. 1B Andy Sheets .289 19 85 1
7. C Akihiro Yano .271 19 71 1
8. 2B Atsushi Fujimoto .249 1 36 3

In f06 the Tigers will be looking to improve upon a team average of .274 and a record of 14-19 in one run games. Akahoshi will again be the catalyst at the top of the order; his dazzling speed on the bases will again give opposing pitches/catchers nightmares. Akahoshi stole 60 bases last year and 185 over the past three years.Toritani didnft suffer a sophomore slump but didnft progress as hoped either, although pre-season form hints that we may see him add some pop this year.Imaoka, Sheets and Kanemoto will again provide the punch in the middle of the order and look to replicate their combined 88 HRs in f05.Shane Spencer was largely a bust last year and expect it to be a short season for him if he doesnft hit.Fujimoto and Hamanaka donft provide much offensively, but get on base well. Team icon and catcher Akihiro Yano seems to get better with age, setting a career HR best in f05, at age 38 he remains one of the top catchers in the league.The Hanshin bench features steady hitters/fielders in Sekimoto and Hiyama. Look for elder statesman Atsushi Kataoka and former Hiroshima Carp outfielder Koujiro Machida to take the pinch hitting duties.
Probable Rotation 2006
(2005 Stats) Probable Rotation
Pos. Name W L Sv ERA
1. SP Kei Igawa 13 9 0 3.86
2. SP Tsuyoshi Shimonoyagi 15 3 0 2.99
3. SP Kazuya Andoh 11 5 0 3.39
4. SP Shinobu Fukuhara 8 14 0 3.51
5. SP Naohisa Sugiyama 9 6 0 2.94
6. CL Tomoyuki Kubota 5 4 27 2.12

Tigers pitching led the league in ERA in f05 with 3.24 and look to be as competitive in f06.Igawa anchors the rotation and should rack up 15 wins and 200 innings or so. Shimonoyagi provided the surprise last year with a career best 15-3 record, expecting a repeat may be a little tough for the 38 year old. Fukuhara is penciled in as the number three starter isnft overpowering but entices the ground ball well. Andoh and Sugiyama round out the rotation with newcomer Chris Oxspring to provide spot starts or more as needed.The bullpen was the real strength of last yearfs squad and protected leads like no other. The eJFKf combination of Jeff Williams, Fujikawa and Kubota return to hold leads and generally shut everyone down.The three combined for around a 1.90 ERA in f06.

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