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Tuesday, March 2, 2010
BayStars in need of revolution on mound
The Yokohama BayStars have a lot of pitchers, new and old.
Whether any of them will be any good, however, is anybody's guess.
The BayStars put 14 different pitchers on the mound to start games last season, yet put out one of the worst pitching staffs in Japanese baseball.
But where the BayStars had quantity, there was little quality to be found in Yokohama last season.
Which is the reason the BayStars hired Takao Obana as manager and acquired a small armada of arms over the offseason.
But while BayStars brought in seven new pitchers, it's mainstay Daisuke Miura who will again lead the charge.
Miura started 28 games last season, finishing 11-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.09 in 195 1/3 inning.
A sabermetric breakdown of his year reveals 18 quality starts among the 28.
The next highest total of quality starts on the team was Hayato Terahara's seven (out of 13 total starts) with Stephen Randolph clocking in with six (out of eight).
Having seen Miura from the opposing dugout as the Yomiuri Giants' pitching coach for the past four seasons, Obana likely knows what to expect out of the crafty veteran. But with "Hama no Bancho" carrying 414 games on his odometer, shouldering the load again may be a bit much.
Another challenge for Obana will be coaxing a solid season out of new arrival Naoyuki Shimizu and aiding young hurler Shun Yamaguchi's development.
Former Chiba Lotte Marine Shimizu, who went 6-7 with a 4.42 ERA last season, was acquired via trade and will be counted on to take some of the pressure off Miura.
Shimizu had an OK time at keeping the ball on the ground last season, which will help at Yokohama Stadium, but he's been up and down the past few years.
Miura and Shimizu will be the foundation, leaving Obana to piece together a staff that can keep the team in contention and help snap a string of four straight B-Class finishes.
Yokohama hasn't finished in the top three in the Central League since 2005, coincidentally the last time the BayStars had a pitching staff worth its salt.
That group was headed by Miura, who led the CL with a 2.62 .ERA, as the ace of a staff that finished second in the CL with a 3.68 team .ERA.
Since then, the results have been less than ideal.
In 2006 Yokohama brought up the rear in the CL with a 4.25 ERA. It was 4.01 the next season, a horrific 4.74 in 2008 and 4.36 last season.
Past BayStars teams hitched their wagons to offensive production, hoping to take advantage of their hitter-friendly home ballpark. While that worked at times in the past, the erosion of the pitching corps has left the team in a sorry state.
The challenge now is to recapture the flame and build a pitching staff that can hold its own in the NPB. That task falls to Obana, who has left decent pitching staffs in his wake after stops as pitching coach with the Daiei Hawks and Yomiuri Giants.
So far, he's has said all the right things, but it will be results, not words that will be the ultimate judge of his tenure.