Special Read: Is This Year’s Abe Giants Truly Formidable? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Special Read: Is This Year’s Abe Giants Truly Formidable?

The pitching staff, which had been in a state of "collapse," has been revitalized, and the use of young pitchers has been successful!

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Shinnosuke Abe (45), manager, advocates a laid-back baseball style, perhaps to get rid of the “sporty” atmosphere of the team. He is sometimes ridiculed for his rigid baseball style, with his frequent use of bunting.

Something is different about this year’s Giants.

Last season, the Hanshin Tigers won the Japanese championship for the first time in 38 years. Their eternal rivals, the Giants, were languishing in the B class. While the Giants boasted the league’s top batting average and home runs per plate appearance, their pitching staff was a drag, with a team batting average of 3.39, the second-worst in the league. In particular, the relief defense ratio was the lowest at 3.81, and no matter how many runs the team scored, it was always turned around in the late innings, causing the fans in Tokyo Dome to sigh.

What about this season?

In response to the slump, manager Tatsunori Hara (65) stepped down, and Shinnosuke Abe (45) was promoted from head coach to manager. They actively reinforced the pitching staff through trades and the draft, releasing Adam Walker (32), who had limited playing opportunities, and acquiring Reiji Takahashi (28) and Keisuke Izumi (27).

“The coaching staff, previously dubbed the ‘friends cabinet’ by some, has also been completely revamped. Hara’s loyalists such as Daisuke Motoki (52) and Dave Okubo (57) have shed their uniforms, with Kenji Yano (43) taking over as the new hitting coach and Toshiya Sugiuchi (43) and Tetsuya Utsumi (41) assuming roles as pitching coaches. With proactive changes, they’ve emphasized a departure from the harsh atmosphere both inside and outside the organization. This team reform has paid off, and the Giants have been performing well since the season opener. They’re not playing the same offensive baseball as last season; instead, they’re winning games with solid defense and pitching strength, leading a competitive race for the top spot with the also performing well Chunichi Dragons.” (from Mr. A, a sports newspaper desk)

Is the strong start of this season for the Giants the prologue to reclaiming the championship, or just a spring fling after 12 long years? Are the new Giants really strong? Is Abe a great manager?

“This year’s Giants are strong!”

Former Lotte baseball commentator Tomoya Sato, who ranked the Giants first in his ranking predictions on his YouTube channel, responded promptly.

“Last year, the Giants struggled with the downturn of Yomiuri’s infield cornerstone, Hayato Sakamoto (35), and the closer, Kazuto Taguchi (24). However, this year, they have successfully stabilized Sakamoto at third base and Taguchi has regained his pitching strength. If they perform well, they’re not just a B-class team. This year, young players are also performing well, and there are many positive indicators.”

On the other hand, there are Giants alumni who predict that it will be a tough fight just like last year. Former player Sei Nishimoto, who predicted a fourth-place finish in the final standings and said, “Last place is also possible,” is wielding a whip filled with love for his juniors in a conversation with his former teammate and rival, Takashi Kawakawa (68).

“Indeed, the team is better equipped than last year, but whether they can mesh well is another matter. What I’m particularly worried about is the power hitting. With the departure of Shogo Nakata (34) and Adam Walker, the number of batters who can hit double-digit home runs has decreased. Currently, in many cases, second-year player Sei Monwaki (23), who has been fixed as the shortstop in place of Sakamoto, is batting third, but he is a player who excels more in speed and skillful hitting than power hitting. Compared to the third batters of other teams, he lacks power hitting. Personally, he would find it easier to bat first, second, or lower in the lineup. If they could secure a Major League-returnee like Yoshi Tsutsugo (32, DeNA), who was once rumored to be acquired, as the third batter, it would fit perfectly… The key is how well young outfielders like rookie Shunsuke Sasaki (24) and second-year player Masaya Hagiwara (23) can hit.”

While their predictions are opposite, both gentlemen cited the performance of young players as key points. Will the Giants’ good performance continue? For more detailed analysis from both gentlemen, as well as insights from team officials, pro baseball alumni, and reporters who are closely covering the players, check out the April 19th (Friday) issue of “FRIDAY” and the paid version “FRIDAY GOLD.”

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