In just one day, the Giants fell back to the bottom of the standings.
After losing 5-7 against Chunichi on April 16, the Giants had lost four consecutive games and were now five in debt, the fastest losing streak in the league at 10 games. The 10 losses in their opening 15 games is the worst record for a baseball team since the two-league system was introduced.
The biggest reason for our poor performance is our batting lineup. Even if we get a hit, it doesn’t lead to a run, so we have to rely on home runs. One player who has become a bottleneck is Yoshihiro Maru.
While Kazuma Okamoto and Sho Nakata, who play in the middle of the order, have maintained a batting average of around 30%, Maru’s has been slumping in the 10% range, and although he had multiple hits in the game on April 15, his batting average is still only .154 (as of April 17). The focus has been on the poor performance of Hayato Sakamoto, but Maru’s lack of improvement can be said to be a major reason for the Giants’ poor performance,” said a source close to the baseball team.
Maru is in the final year of a five-year contract, and he is getting anxious.
Maru dropped out of the starting lineup on April 9 against Hiroshima, and on April 11 against Hanshin, he suffered the humiliation of being told to bat in his place despite the fact that it was his 34th birthday. Maru’s attitude seems to have played a role in his serious slump.
Maru is a serious player with a strong sense of responsibility. When he doesn’t get results, he tends to feel that he has to do something, and his slump tends to be prolonged. In 2009, he also experienced a slump of 25 consecutive at-bats without a hit. In the same year, he was dropped by the second team for the first time for reasons other than injury.
Maru has batted in the high .200s and hit around 25 home runs every year for the Giants. However, considering his salary of over 400 million yen, the required hurdles are high. It is true that he has led the Giants to three consecutive league championships, and compared to the overwhelming batting average of 30% and nearly 40 home runs he left behind during his time in Hiroshima, he feels inadequate. He may be feeling a sense of impatience because this is the final year of his five-year contract with the Giants.
There is one player who seems to be contributing to Maru’s impatience.
Rui Okoye, a member of the current draft from Rakuten. He played only six games for the first team last year and thought about retiring, but since coming to the Giants, he’s been playing with a great enthusiasm. On April 11 against Hanshin, he recorded his first at-bat in five years, and smiled on the podium and said, “I enjoy every day because they are all great players.
Okoye’s success may have increased Maru’s sense of urgency. Maru may be feeling more threatened by Okoye’s success, as they are rivals in the outfield as well. Besides Okoye, there are many competitors, including Takayuki Kajitani, Brinson, Hisayoshi Nagano, who was transferred from Hiroshima, and Walker, who came up from the second team. Even though Maru has a proven track record, if he continues to perform poorly, there is a possibility that he will lose his regular spot.
Manager Tatsunori Hara has continued to use Maru, but there may be a limit to his patience. It seems that he cannot wait too long for Maru to get back on his feet.
PHOTO： Kyodo News