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03/09/2006 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball: Yakult Swallows Team Preview 2006"

Japanese Baseball: Yakult Swallows Team Preview 2006
Glenn Davies, Tokyo

The Swallows enter 2006 with perhaps the most talented team they have had in some years. Player/Manager Furuta and the Swallows Management were able to lure Ishii and Kida back from the majors and productive Greg LaRocca from the Carp. How Furuta handles the dual role may be the key to Swallows success in 2006 along with the learning curve of the top three starters after last years experience. The lineup looks strong enough to see them vie for the pennant but much will depend upon the pitching.

Probable Lineup:
Pos. Name Avg. HR RBI SB
1. CF Norichika Aoki .344 3 28 29
2. SS Shinya Miyamoto .265 7 47 5
3. 3B Akinori Iwamura .319 30 102 6
4. LF Alex Ramirez .282 32 104 5
5. 2B Greg LaRocca .303 18 56 0
6. 1B Adam Riggs .306 14 44 4
7. RF Ryuji Miyade .320 8 46 5
8. C Atsuya Furuta .258 3 31 5
PH IF Ken Suzuki .252 6 32 0

A league best .276 team average in 2005 but a league worst 128Hrs. The Addition of LaRocca should bump up the power production as he hit 58Hrs over two years with Hiroshima. Ramirez and Iwamura provide the real firepower for the team and Riggs looked good in only 310 at bats last year, being in the line-up full time should see his power numbers increase also.Aoki provides the speed Miyamoto and Miyade generally hit well for average. Furuta, the first player/manager since 1971, has lost bat speed but still calls an excellent game. His likely catching successor is Kosei Ono who went .201 with 7Hrs and 18 RBIs in 2005. Ono needs to make better contact and improve his defense to get more playing time. That said, no minor league Swallows catcher hit better than .209 in 2005 so Ono's backup job is fairly safe for now. Ken Suzuki will most likely get 200 at bats from the bench and as infield replacement. He will be hoping to regain his stroke and get back to 2004 form where he hit .289 with 15Hrs and 65RBIs.

Probable Rotation:

SP Shugo Fuji 28 10 12 0 3.13
SP Ryo Kawashima 20 9 10 0 2.81
SP Masami Ishikawa 26 10 8 0 4.87
SP Shohei Tateyama 25 10 6 0 3.95
SP Kazuhisa Ishii 19 3 9 0 5.14
SU Ryota Igarashi 49 3 2 4 3.49
CP Hirotoshi Ishii 61 4 3 37 1.95

 Fuji had an excellent come-back year after injures had limited him in '03 and '04. In 2001 Fuji went 14-8 with a 3.17 ERA and if healthy he could match those totals again. Kawashima, Tateyama and Ishikawa all have young/live arms and may well improve on their '05 numbers with another year of experience under their belts. Ishii went 12-6 3.39 in his last year with the Swallows and went 39-34 in the majors, no doubt he will be looking to re-establish himself this season. Mid relief options are plentiful for the Swallows and Igarashi or H.Ishii can close. Rick Guttormson looks likely to spot start after arriving from the Mariners in the off season. Guttormson went 8-5 4.18 in 16 games last year. 

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