Unveiling Contenders for the Shocking Prediction of the 2024 Championship Showdown | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Unveiling Contenders for the Shocking Prediction of the 2024 Championship Showdown

The latest scientific analysis of baseball, "Sabermetrics," has come to a surprising conclusion: Will Okada Hanshin win the championship again? What about the Giants with new manager Abe? Will Softbank's major reinforcement prove to be a good thing?

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Can Shinnosuke Abe, 44, the new manager of the Giants, play a great game with Hanshin Okada?

The baseball spring has arrived!

It has already been three months since the Hanshin team led by manager Akifu Okada (66) won its first Japan championship in 38 years, and the 12 professional baseball teams have started their camps this year with the aim of becoming the number one team in Japan again.

Every year, as the season opener approaches after the camps and open games, baseball pundits on TV and in the newspapers make their predictions for the standings, but this year, with the cooperation of DELTA Corporation, a data analysis and operation company, we focused on a thorough analysis of the past three years’ data. We have succeeded in forecasting the pennant without subjectivity.

Will Hanshin’s Allen Pa. and Orix win their fourth consecutive championship, or will the Giants and Softbank, with their new managers and new competitive forces, succeed in regaining the V? The conclusion drawn from the data, however, is one that greatly contradicts the predictions of most fans.

Sabermetrics experts, who statistically analyze baseball data, use an indicator called “WAR (Wins Above Replacement)” to predict team wins and losses, DELTA analyst Hiroshi Miyashita explained.

WAR is a number that indicates how many more wins a player has brought in for a team compared to a reserve player. For example, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25), who will play with Shohei Ohtani (29) for the Major League Dodgers this season, had a WAR of 7.0 last season, which means that he alone added seven more wins for the Orix.
The total of these individual WARs plus the base 35 wins is the projected win total for that team. A team with a total WAR of 45 would have 80 wins.”

A pitcher’s individual WAR is calculated based on the number of outs struck out, strikeouts, home runs allowed, and walks, while a fielder’s WAR is calculated based on the total value of his defense, baserunning, and hitting. A 1.0 rating is worth 100 million yen per year.

This time, the calculation is based on data from the most recent three years (’21-’23). Therefore, it should be noted that the WAR of players who made their big breakthrough last year is calculated a little lower. For example, Odeki Murakami (25), the rookie of the year, who won the titles of Best Defensive Ratio and League MVP and was the ace of the Hanshin team, had a WAR of 5.3 last season, but since he had zero wins in ’21 and ’22, his “chances of doing better than last year The forecast is “not that high.

Let’s start with the Central League.

Under the leadership of “Wise General” Okada, Hanshin is highly rated as a team aiming for back-to-back league championships.

The team has a very young lineup that won the Japan championship last year and has also grown mentally from the experience of winning the championship. Murakami, the ace of the team, and Kotaro Otake (28), who won 12 games last year, are practically in their second year. The key will be whether they can continue the same success. The team also has a full complement of fielders, including Koji Chikamoto (29) and Yusuke Oyama (29), and there are no positions that are thin on the ground. We can expect back-to-back championships,” said baseball critic Keiichi Yabu.

The strength of the competition also appears in the data.

Hanshin is now in third place, two places down, according to the data.

Mr. Miyashita explains.

Hanshin has the image of having won with its overwhelming pitching power, but looking at the data, last year’s pitching WAR was 23.6, only 0.6 behind that of second-place DeNA. On the other hand, the fielder’s WAR was 24.2, more than 4 ahead of the second-place Giants, and although no player hit more than 30 homers, the team was actually strong in the field. In particular, Chikamoto led the league with a WAR of 7.2, and Oyama was third with a WAR of 7.2, much better than in previous years. All the other regulars, including Teruaki Sato (24), were also above average, but it is statistically unlikely that this performance will be maintained this year, and the fielder’s WAR this season is expected to settle at around 16.1. Pitchers’ WAR increased slightly to 25.1, still the highest among the 12 teams, but the total WAR will be 41.2, a drop of more than 6 from last season.

Hiroshima, which finished second in the league in manager Takahiro Arai’s first year in charge, will also drop down the rankings.

The main reason is that Ryoma Nishikawa (29), the team’s main gun, has left for the Orix in an FA deal. It will be interesting to see if players such as Shoudai Suekuma (27), whose long-ball ability is a big selling point, can become a starter, but I feel that last year was too much.

This “too good” suggestion is also reflected in the data. Mr. Miyashita said, “Last year, Hiroshima had a lot of runs scored and a lot of runs lost.

Last year, Hiroshima had a very good record in scoring position and in important situations. Fans may look at this as a “competitive edge” or “good leadership,” but the data shows that it was a coincidence that the team performed well in key situations. ‘ What went right last year likely won’t go right this season.”

DeNA, which lost ace Shota Imanaga (30) and Trevor Bauer (33), is projected to drop one spot to fourth place.

Katsuki Higashi (28), who won the most games with 16 victories, is expected to drop a little after his outstanding performance last year. As for the fielders, the WAR of starters such as Shugo Maki (25), who won the batting title last season, is not bad, but the numbers of reserve players are not good. However, if DRA1 rookie Takateru Tokai (21) can get into the right side, which is currently thin, he will be a big addition to the lineup.

Chunichi, led by manager Kazuyoshi Tachinami (54), who is looking for revenge after finishing in last place for two consecutive years, is projected to finish last again this year with a total WAR of 34.7.

Last season’s pitching WAR of 22.7 was not bad, ranking third in the league. However, their fielder WAR was 9.2, more than 15 away from the first-place Hanshin. This year, they reinforced their fielders by acquiring Makoto Uebayashi (28) from SoftBank and Sho Nakata (34) from the Giants, but even so, their fielder WAR only went up by about 1.”

The Giants, Nakata’s old team, jump up to second place with a fielder WAR of 20.4 and a pitcher WAR of 21.4.

The Giants have solidified their position with third baseman Hayato Sakamoto (35), first baseman Kazuma Okamoto (27), and shortstop Makoto Kadowaki (23). It is also predicted that young pitchers such as Yuji Akahoshi (24), who had a breakout season in the second half of last season, will make a breakthrough. Last year, the Giants were the opposite of Hiroshima, ‘too good to be true. It is seen that they did not show good performances in important situations, and there is a high probability that they will be a little more ‘competitive’ this season.”

The team predicted to finish ahead of the Giants in first place is the Yakult team, which finished fifth last year.

Munetaka Murakami (24)’s WAR, which was over 10 in 2010, dropped to 3.5 last season. It is expected to recover to 7.8 this season. Yasutaka Shiomi (30), who had few opportunities to pitch last season due to injury, and Tetsuto Yamada (31), who was in a slump, are also likely to recover this year if past data is averaged. Pitching has been a concern, but there were no pitchers with double-digit wins in the two years before last and in 2009, when the team won the championship. The key to winning the championship is still the fielders.”

With the return of Murakami, the champions, who had spent their time in obscurity, will be revived. The mechanically calculated data led to such a dramatic conclusion.

Manager Tatsunami of Nakata’s new team, Chunichi, is also aiming for a comeback.
Murakami cleared the 30-homer mark last season despite a slump. This year, we expect him to have a big year, similar to the year before last, when he hit 56.
DeNA Dora 1 player Tadai is expected to start the season opener as an immediate starter. Expect him and Maki, who is close in age, to form a cleanup lineup.

Orix in B Class?

Turning to the Pacific League, the data shows that Softbank, with new manager Hiroki Kokubo (52) and the acquisition of the “controversial” cannon Hotaka Yamakawa (32) from Seibu, will win the Pacific League championship over the Orix, who have won three consecutive titles. Yamakawa’s fielding WAR of 22.3 is strong, ranking first in the Pacific League.

Yamakawa didn’t play much last year, but his WAR was 4.7 the year before last, when he won the double crown for home runs and runs batted in, so it is expected to be 2.2 this season. In fact, it will probably be higher than this. Kensuke Kondo (30), who almost won the Triple Crown last year, will probably record a WAR of 5 or higher.

However, there is a condition for SoftBank to win the championship.

However, there is a condition for Softbank to win the championship: the way manager Kokubo uses pitchers. Last year, SoftBank’s relievers had the highest WAR in the league, but their starters ranked fifth. He should reassign some of the relievers from his ample lineup to starters. For example, Livan Moinello (28) has a WAR of about 2.5 when used as a reliever, but if he is used as a starter, we can expect a WAR of 6 or more.

Rakuten, led by new manager Toshiaki Imae (40), is projected to finish second behind Softbank. Led by new manager Toshiaki Imae (40), Rakuten is projected to finish second, behind SoftBank, with a 19.1 WAR, the second highest in the league.

Lotte, in third place, has the second highest projected pitching WAR in the league. Of course, that number will change dramatically depending on the success of that man.

The team’s pitching WAR is expected to be around 100 innings this year, considering the number of innings pitched by Akinori Sasaki (22) in previous years, but his WAR of 4.1 is still one of the highest in the league. If he pitches 150 innings like other starting pitchers, we can expect a WAR of 6 or more, and if he pitches a full 180 innings, we can expect a WAR of 10 or more. If you look at just one game pitched, he’s reaching Cy Young Award level even if he goes to the majors right now.”

Masahiro Tanaka of Rakuten (35) had a WAR of 8.2 in 2001 when he went undefeated with 24 wins, and Sasaki has the potential to surpass him.

The Orix, the three-time defending champions, are expected to fall to the B class.

The left-handed ace Daiya Miyagi (22), with a top-class WAR of 4.2, will not make up for this. If players who have yet to make their mark, such as Shunpeita Yamashita (21), who broke out last year, can improve their numbers, they may be able to join the championship contenders. ……

Tsuyoshi Shinjo, 52, manager of the Nippon Ham baseball team, which has been on the precipice of finishing in last place for two consecutive years, looks to be able to climb out of the bottom half of the standings in fifth place.

He has a WAR of 5.2, the second highest in the league, and if he can get Kondo, who finished first last season with a WAR of 8.8, he will be in the top five. If Kondo (8.3 WAR last season), who ranked first, had stayed with the team instead of moving to Softbank, they would have been in contention for the championship. This year, ace Naoyuki Uesawa (30), who had recorded a WAR of 3 or higher every year, went to the U.S., but the team acquired left-handed pitcher Fukuya Yamazaki (31) from the Orix. New foreigners have also been aggressively reinforced to fill in the holes. We have many young players such as Kotaro Kiyomiya (24), so if our fielders awaken, we may move up in the standings.

Seibu, which lost Tomoya Mori (28) to Orix and Yamakawa to Softbank, has lost its powerful batting lineup, once known as the “bandit line,” and is projected to finish last with the Pacific League’s worst fielding WAR at 9.5.

Thanks to the excellent starters such as Tatsuya Imai (25), Mitsunari Takahashi (27), and Kaiba Taira (24), the team ranks fourth in pitching WAR. However, the batting lineup is too tough. The biggest issue is the outfielders. They only have players with hitting ability below the league average. It’s as if the defensive staff is playing a full inning of baseball.

Yakult and SoftBank, which once dominated the league with their overwhelming power, are back in the game. This year’s professional baseball season may be even more dramatic than last year’s, which began with the WBC.

In the Pacific League, where young players such as Akinori Sasaki and Mannami have been growing remarkably, an even bigger battle than last year is expected.

From the February 23, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Kyodo News, Sankei Shimbun

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