Yano’s style is to change batting order and defensive positions, and use a catcher as well, but “players are more comfortable if they are fixed,” says Okada.The weakest in history. The front page of the newspaper was decorated with such powerful words as “the weakest in history” (Okada). The word “weakest” made the front page of the newspaper in mid-April. Who would have thought that Hanshin would be in the A-Class two months later after losing nine straight games and posting the lowest winning percentage in history at .063?
“It was Koyo Aoyagi (28). We were able to save money in the series with a 12-6 record because our pitchers, led by Aoyagi, who won three games in the series and had a 0.00 earned run average, held their own against the opposition.”
Akinobu Okada, the manager of the ’05 winning team, laughs, “I think it’s a little too much,” but Tetsuro Kawajiri, a no-hitter in the dark ages, believes that an upset victory is not impossible.
“The top-ranked Yakult team has a strong batting lineup and a well-developed pitching staff. The only way to win is to play a low-scoring game, and the only team in the Central League that can do that is the Hanshin League. Wilkerson (33), our starter, has started to get hit a little, but we have Takumi Akiyama (31), who had double-digit wins last season, Shintaro Fujinami (28), the starting pitcher this season, and Hiroto Saiki (23), whose hard stuff has returned. They are a cut above the rest in terms of mass.”
The team is also filling the hole left by Suarez (31), who was the team’s weak point as a guardian god.
“The emergence of Kyoki Yuasa (22) and Masumi Hamachi (24) has been significant. Suguru Iwazaki (31) throws a great straight ball, but when he gets tired, he loses his sharpness and gets hit easily. I would pitch Hamachi or Yuta Iwasada (30) in the 7th inning. Or you can let Keller (29), who has become a different person and came back from the farm, go. He has always had a good curveball, his fastball speed has improved, and he has learned to drop his fastball.”
Katsumi Hirosawa, who was the main gun in the golden days of the Yakult baseball team in the 1990s, recommends a double closer system.
“Shingo Takatsu (53) and Tomohito Ito (51) once worked together as a closer. I think there is a way to use Iwasaki and Alcantara (29) together so that Iwasaki doesn’t get tired, and have Hamachi and Yuasa go to the 7th and 8th innings, and Iwasada when a good left-handed batter leads off.”
Once the new “winning formula” is completed, the pitching staff will finally be on solid ground. The key to a comeback victory will be the hitting staff. To solve the poor hitting, the team acquired first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez (30) from the Padres’ 3A affiliate.
“Yusuke Oyama (27) has been in great form since the interleague game and is a good defender at first base. I think he’s good if you want to use him as a substitute. I wanted to get Yoshio Itoi (40) and one more substitute batter.
On the batting line, there are pros and cons to having Koji Chikamoto (27) bat third. However, when he faced the Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto (23) in the interleague game, Chikamoto’s infield single with two outs in the 8th inning suddenly created an atmosphere of opportunity. In fact, Teruaki Sato’s (23) triple and other hits allowed us to tie the game. With an agile top lineup of Kairi Shimada (26), Takumu Nakano (25), and Chikamoto, there would be fewer get-togethers, and it would be easier for Sato and Oyama to get around runners on base with infield hits,” said Hirosawa.
It’s the weak man’s strategy. Kawajiri notes that there are only 13.5 games remaining in the series with Yakult (as of June 20).
“If they run too fast, they will run out of steam, and they will be caught off guard. The fact that Osuna (29) is not yet ready is also a cause for concern. On the other hand, Hanshin can afford to rest Iwasaki and Yuasa at the second base. It would be interesting if they could bring their extra strength into the game at the end of the season.”
Hirozawa also believes that if it comes down to the CS, Hanshin’s pitching should be a threat.
However, the bench work required to win games is “the weakest point of manager Yano Akihiro (53),” Okada said.