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03/09/2006 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball: Chiba Lotte Marines Team Preview 2006"

Japanese Baseball: Chiba Lotte Marines Team Preview 2006
Glenn Davies, Tokyo.

Bobby Valentines Marines won it all in 2006, Asian and Japanese championships were both won emphatically with excellent pitching and timely hitting. The pitching is still there this season but the loss of a few key players will likely put extra pressure on the squad to perform at the same level. The strength of the pitching however, should see them in the playoff race again this season. 

Probable Lineup:

Pos. Name Avg. HR RBI SB
1. SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka .268 4 48 41
2. 2B Koichi Hori .305 7 46 2
3. 1B Kazuya Fukuura .300 6 72 0
4. CF Saburo .313 14 50 6
5. LF Benny Agbayani .271 13 71 1
6. 3B Toshiaki Imae .310 8 71 4
7. DH Matt Franco .300 21 78 2
8. C Tomoya Satozaki .303 10 52 1
9. RF Naotaka Takehara .000 0 0 0

Nishioka provides excellent speed at the top of the order and Hori hits well for average in the number two slot. Fukuura doesn't really provide enough power for a first baseman and for third in the lineup, he may be moved further down if his power doesn't pick up. The loss of Lee is the most serious concern with only Agbayani and Franco proven HR hitters. Takehara showed power in the minors but has yet to play much at this level. Val Pascuuci returns to the bench for the Marines and can provide some power (.284 8HR 20RBIs in 102 at bats in 2005). This season a lot will depend upon the ability of the lineup to maintain its high on base percentage and averages of last season in order to provide enough run support for the rotation. 

Probable Rotation:
Name Games W L Sv ERA
SP Naoyuki Shimizu 23 10 11 0 3.83
SP Shunsuke Watanabe 23 15 4 0 2.17
SP Hiroyuki Kobayashi 23 12 6 0 3.30
SP Tomohiro Kuroki 3 2 1 0 4.58
SP Kevin Beirne 22 4 13 0 4.69
SU Yasuhiko Yabuta 51 7 4 2 3.07
CP Masahide Kobayashi 46 2 2 29 2.58

Pitching will be the key to Marines success this season. Chiba was a PL best 3.21 ERA in 2005 and protected one run leads at a 19-12 clip. Sefarini's departure puts Beirne into the starting rotation after he suffered a horrible season with Orix. Beirne has yet to prove himself as a reliable starter in Japan (79 games 18-28) but improved run support on this team may see his fortunes change. Shimizu anchors the staff and has won 10 or more games every year for the past four years. Submariner Watanabe, who would be a number one starter on most teams, has also won 36 games over the past three seasons and looks ready to pick up where he left off in 2005 judging by his form in the WBC. Kobayashi rounds out the perfect three and has also won 31 in three seasons. Ex-ace and Lotte fan favourite Kuroki rounds out the rotation and after he returned from injury at the end of last year it was clear he had lost speed and would need to become a craftier pitcher to get wins. Should Kurkoki fail, waiting in the wings is Yasutomo Kubo who won 10 games last year as a starter. The relief corp is strong and Kobayashi looks likely to add to his 166 career saves in 2006.

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