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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

DragonSoulcast: Aristides Aquino signs on

 Literally the day after I release my last podcast, the Dragons announced their signing of former Cincinatti Reds slugger, Aristides Aquino. He signs on for big money which I hope will lead to big things. I break down the signing, what he best compares to and where he will fit into the team. 

I also make mention of the new uniforms the Dragons have announced which you can view here:

Monday, November 28, 2022

DragonSoulCast: We signed some more dudes; Calixte and Almonte edition

 As of a few days ago the Dragons have been active in bringing in more players ahead of the 2023 season. Former Royals and Giants utility, Orlando Calixte joins the team while Zolilo Almonte makes a surprising return after a 3 year absence. This however doesn't look to spell the end of the Dragons roster shake-up...

Friday, November 18, 2022

Emergency DragonSoulCast: Breaking down the two trades

 Hi all, I bring to you a new podcast based on breaking down the two trades that have occurred this week. We firstly had infielder, Toshiki Abe being sent to the Rakuten Eagles for veteran starter Hideaki Wakui while just today news broke of former rookie of the year, Yota Kyoda going to the Yokohama Baystars for lefty bullpen arm Yoshiki Sunada. Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Yoshinori Ueda appointed 2-gun hitting coach

 I will be editing and uploading my draft review either tonight or tomorrow. My apologies for the delay. 

In the meantime some Dragons news, the team have signed a second 2-gun hitting-coach for the first time since the Shigekazu Mori regime. The only disappointment perhaps is that it is yet another retread. Yoshinori Ueda, who was part of the Dragons staff between 2009-2015 has been installed as a former left-handed hitting player to coach our hitters along. 

Ueda has a long career in coaching. After he left the Dragons in 2015 he joined Alex Ramirez's staff at the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. After Daisuke Miura cleaned house, Ueda moved on to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for two years before arriving back in Nagoya. Looks good on paper right? An experienced coach with connection and exposure to other teams? I would have thought so. But hang on, what was his position in these teams again? Base-running and outfield defence coach. Oh. Despite hitting being the biggest issue for the Dragons in recent years, they are bringing in a coach who has zero experience actually coaching players how to hit. Now, this is not to say that he doesn't have some nous when it comes to coaching hitters, but, so far, he has no experience doing so. 

Ueda's hiring reeks of more incestuous in-house hiring. While Ueda comes from another team, he still has the Dragons connection as a player and former coach. The Dragons love doing this but it severely limits the pool of ideas and reinforces the power structures in place. If you're used to the Dragons way, you're less likely to question it. A guy like Norihiro Nakamura was a bit of a mercenary and has always been a free thinker, so I'd like to take him away from this conversation, but by and large, particularly for the farm team, the Dragons like to hire from within. Kazuhiro Wada's hiring is just another example in a long line of coaching decisions made for seemingly sentimental reasons. I don't think Wada will be a bad coach per se, but I disagree with the logic of the search conditions. 

Out of the current staff members, it is only Shuji Nishiyama, Atsushi Kataoka and Yutaka Nakamura who had no previous Dragons affiliation before joining the team. In a similar vein to drafting local talents, there seems to be a very insular culture at the Dragons. The 2022 draft disproved this somewhat as, for the first time in a very long time, the Dragons did not draft anyone in their immediate catchment area. However, the staff recruiting policy seems to remain the same. The first box that apparently needs to be ticked is "Played for Dragons". I don't know if this is done as a way to maintain some form of uniformity in the ranks or if it's to ensure some kind of loyalty in spite of poor decision making. We'll possibly never no. The Dragons are of course not the only team to hire their own, but I feel it is done to such an extreme degree in with Chunichi that the team seem to be afraid of outside influence. Ironically, the longer this goes on the worse it is going to get. The connections coaches and players have will be limited to players and coaches that have always been with the Dragons. The fact the team don't chase after free agents from other teams only further impacts this. Add in the fact that the team rarely go after polished international signings as well and the influence of outside ideas really is waning. 

Awano was a big part of changing pitcher management.
Awano was a big part of revolutionising Dragons' pitcher management.

I understand that managers will often look to old classmates from university and the like as well to bring in new faces. Yoda did this with Hideyuki Awano. Awano brought with him former Hankyu team-mate Motoyuki Akahori and together the trio created one of the most formidable pitching staffs in Japan. The same could not be said for Takayuki Murakami however as he seemed to fail to make an impact on the team's hitting. Unfortunately, beyond this, many of the others of Yoda's staff were made up of former Dragons. 

We must therefore respect Hiromitsu Ochiai's personnel selections. Ochiai went out of his way to hire coaches who had nothing to do with the Dragons. Ochiai was responsible for bringing in Shigekazu Mori and Hatsuhiko Suji from the Lions. Of the 2006 staff, Shinji Hata was brought in out of the blue after a failed coaching stint at the Marines. Seiji Kobayashi was picked up out of the blue. Hideki Takayanagi was brought in from the Hawks via the Marines. Shinji Hara  had been coaching in Taiwan before being brought into the Dragons fold. Naoyuki Kazuoka, now still coaching with Orix, was a Tigers coach before his tenure. While there are plenty of coaches who previously had either playing or coaching experience with the Dragons before Ochiai appointed them, it is clear that Ochiai was a man with connections that wasn't afraid to go beyond the Dragons pool. 

Perhaps it is too much to ask of a manager like Tatsunami who spent his entire career at the Dragons. You would perhaps think that the connections he made during his professional career as a representative of his team, frequent all-star and Meikyuikai member would have yielded slightly better appointments. This is not to mention the various ex-baseball people he would have met in the close to 15 years he had as an analyst. 

This turned into a rant very quickly, however I think Ueda's appointment once again falls within the realms of imagination and is overall a disappointing choice. Given the issues that the Dragons have in developing hitters, it is suicidally irresponsible to not address this with a stronger move. While this would have been a first-team appointment, Takuro Ishii, one of the highest regarded hitting coaches in NPB was available last year. He joined Daisuke Miura's backroom at the Baystars. Surely however, this is the kind of appointment that needs to be considered if the team are to get back on the right track. Maybe luck or connection wasn't their with Ishii, but surely there are a bevy of other candidates. 

The appointment of Ueda is yet further evidence of a team lacking ambition and leadership. If the rumour is true that certain former players are avoiding coaching for the Dragons because they see it as a sinking ship, then I can't see how the ship is going to righted. In saying all this, I don't know how Ueda will perform as a hitting coach. He could be ready to take on the challenge and be excellent at his job. Who knows; we will have to wait and see. As usual however, I will maintain my skepticism.

Monday, October 17, 2022

DragonSoulCast #4: 2022 NPB Draft Preview & Predictions

 Hi all, after recording, re-recording and then sitting on it for a few days, I finally have my draft preview ready. You can listen via the embedded link here or through Spotify. I am not sure what's happening with iTunes at the moment. 

Through this podcast I go through 12 of the brightest talent available at the draft that I predict will be selected in the opening two rounds. It's very hard to predict exactly how the dominoes will fall as through the lottery and team need, selections may pivot wildly. I think here, the 12 guys I have selected will all disappear in the top 2 rounds. 

After this, I take a deep dive into the Dragons roster construction and make some predictions on who they might go after based on team need. I identify 5 particularly important areas that need to be addressed in the off-season and preferably at the draft. I then go into roughly what I think the Dragons will end up. All this has been based on my research into who the Dragons have shown interest in and where those players might end up falling to them. 

I'd also like to mention that the Carp have since announced one of their picks which I would have included otherwise so I apologise to any Carp fans out there who may be listening that were interested to hear about their man. I have otherwise included all other publicized picks in the top 12. 

I'll do a write-up on how accurate my predictions were once the draft has finished. 

The broadcast of the draft will start at 5:00pm JST on the 20th of October. The Sportsbull app has been streaming the draft the last few years. It will otherwise be broadcast via TBS (first round only), Paravi and SkyA.

Addtional Notes 19/10/2022

I thought it would be worth listing who has publicized their first round picks. I've also tried to find any news of what types of players teams will be targeting in the first round and made a quick table.

SwallowsKojiro YoshimuraRHP Toshiba
CarpYuta SaitoRHPTomakomai Chuo HS
GiantsShogo AsanoOFTakamatsu Commercial HS
DragonsReia NakachiRHPOkinawa University
BuffaloesRyuhei SotaniLHPHakuoh University
HawksIkhine ItuaSSHomore HS
LionsTakuya HirumaOFWaseda University
EaglesKosei ShojiRHPRikkyo University
FightersKota YazawaLHP/OFNippon Sports Science Uni

Friday, October 14, 2022

Team departures and a new arrival

 Hi all, I should have my draft preview podcast ready very soon. Will be editing a little bit now. I recorded it yesterday and unfortunately it's already a little out of date (curse you Carpies!). 

In the meantime some interesting developments have taken place with regards to the team. Firstly, Ariel Martinez has left the team and is now a free agent. He performed well this year hitting a .276/.350/.435 slash with 8 homeruns in 82 games this year. It seems...strange to jettison a player that actually did quite well but perhaps there were some things in the background. It sounds like firstly, Martinez reluctantly left the catching position this year to make some kind of team contribution. His inability to play as a catcher may have been a deciding factor. The team may also have not thought his relative contribution worthy of the possible price-tag. With news that Tatsunami is going on a scouting mission the the Dominican Republic Winter League, it sounds like they're looking for someone a bit cheaper and with more upside. 

On the staff side of things, there has also been a bit of a shake-up. There was news earlier that Toshio Haru, long serving batting coach, would be leaving the team. He has now left the team alongside other long-standing coaches, Takashi Ogasawara and Hidenori Kuramoto. Ogasawara has been busy developing arms on the farm since 2013 and has a fairly decent track record. Hidenori has been up and down between the first and second team as an outfield coach since 2013 as well. Haru I can understand leaving given the hitting issues, but I don't understand jettisoning two perfectly good coaches in Ogasawara and Hidenori. The former I thought was quite good at his job and this now leaves two relatively inexperinced pitching coaches in Daisuke Yamai and Takuya Asao. Hidenori was given a role on the farm this year as a development coach, but I think that was merely the precursor for him leaving the team when his contract finished. There may have been compatibility issues with Atsushi Kataoka that led to the change, but this is pure speculation. What will this mean for the farm team? Since Asao was hired, the team have had 3 pitching coaches on the farm. Maybe cutting one is making room for another hitting coach perhaps? We'll have to wait and see. 

With all the outs, we have had an in. Former MVP, Kazuhiro Wada has joined the Tatsunami backroom as first team hitting coach. He was reportedly sent an invite when it was announced Haru was leaving. Wada was a great hitter in his day but has not had any coaching experience. His post-retirement days have been mostly spent as a colour commentator. Wada and Tatsunami spent two years together with the Dragons in 2008 and 2009. 

That was just a small update on some key moves the Dragons are making. I will be interesting to see what further shake-ups may occur post-draft and if there will be further additions to the coaching staff. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Phoenix League Team Announced

 The team for the annual Phoenix League in Miyazaki prefecture has been announced. The following players will be playing in the roughly 3 week long fall tournament. The Phoenix League is usually for younger players to get more experience and the roster is often an expanded farm team of sorts but mostly for prospects or older players that need to tune-up.

PitchersPosition Players
Akira NeoTaisei Miya
Yuki HashimotoYuya Gunji
Hiroto TakahashiKota Ishibashi
Hiroto MoriShuhei Takahashi
Yuichiro OkanoMasami Ishigaki
Akiyoshi KatsunoRyuku Tsuchida
Hiroshi SuzukiMao Hoshino
Takumi YamamotoKosuke Ukai
Ryushin TakeuchiYuma Fukumoto
Yuta MatsukihiraHironori Miyoshi
Hiroaki MatsudaKenta Bright
Sho IshikawaKosuke Ito
Shota FukushimaYuki Okabayashi

I think we'll see Yuya Gunji being tested to find his position. He has been playing outfield by news says he will also play some first base in the Phoenix League. Kenta Bright gets to have a good hit-out after missing most of the season with injury while Kosuke Ukai similarly will be looking to make-up for lost at-bats. Overall, a lot of exciting young talents to watch, I'd personally like to see them line-up like this:

1. RF Hironori Miyoshi
2. CF Yuki Okabayashi
3. LF Kenta Bright
4. DH Kosuke Ukai
5. 3B Shuhei Takahashi
6. 1B Yuya Gunji
7. C  Kota Ishibashi
8. 2B Masami Ishigaki
9. SS Ryuku Tsuchida 

Given the DH is in play, there'll be plenty of opportunities for all the hitters to get some ABs. I hope they test Bright in CF as well and I'd like to see Masami Ishigaki really have a good fall league. I think we'll also see Fukumoto play some first-base as well as getting some reps in the outfield. Here's hoping for an injury-free, productive Phoenix League.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

DragonSoulCast #3 - 2022 is dead, long live 2022

 Hi guys,

I'm sticking with Podcasts for now. I have actually set-up an RSS feed (still playing with this) for future podcasts. As I mention in the episode, I don't have a schedule or anything so I just upload when I can.

Today I talk about the end of the season, staff shuffles, who the Dragons might be saying farewell to and what they might want to target at the draft. 

I will have an episode as well to preview the draft but that will go-up likely next week. Draft is slated for the 20th of October.

DragonSoulCast #3 - 2022 is dead, long live 2022

4th October 2022 - 5:00pm update

The Dragons have gone heavy on the cuts and have laid off the following:

Ryosuke Hirata, Ayatsugu Yamashita, Yu Sato, Masaru Watanabe, Marc Ishida, Yoan Tavarez, Luke Wakamatsu, Kaname Takino, Yuta Omine and Tatsuro Hamada. 

They have cleared 8 spots on the top-team roster in one foul swoop. The names listed are not one's I'm surprised about but perhaps Kaname Takino can consider himself a little unlucky. Tatsuro Hamada's career has been hanging on by the good wishes of the club. He's had injury after injury and the man once uttered in the same breath as Shohei Otani and Shintaro Fujinami will be leaving the team. Yamashita leaving is also slightly surprising given the lack of options at first-base on the farm, but this may well change. Looks as though at least the team are keen on bringing back Ariel Martinez, we'll have to see how his contract plays out.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

DragonSoulCast #2 - Who is Neo? The oufielder-come-short-stop now a pitcher (16th June 2022)

 Hi all, another podcast of sorts today which is a half-rant/analysis about Neo being converted to a pitcher by Kazuyoshi Tatsunami. I make a few comparisons and largely throw my arms up in despair. 

DragonSoulCast #2 - Who is Neo? The outfielder-come-short-stop now a pitcher (16th June 2022)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Curious Case of Shuhei Takahashi


Tatsunami's monstrous attempt to play Shuhei Takahashi at short-stop against the Lions last night is telling of a few things, most of which is there isn't a place for Takahashi in this team. Shuhei missed out on a number of months with an injury to start the season but now it seems there are better options at his two preferred positions of third-base and second-base. 

There's a number of issues that are preventing the former regular's use and here I would like to run through a few of them.

1. The form of Toshiki Abe

Abe had a pretty bad year last year, but this year, the Iwate-born infielder has been one of the Dragons' hottest bats. He's currently hitting a .275/.344/.450 slash which is one of the best among Dragons hitters. His splits are also a bit strange for a right-handed hitter as he's only hitting .238 against lefties but in a small sample size of 21 plate appearances. He's otherwise striking .281 against right handers. Shuhei has traditionally been a good hitter against righties and last year he was abysmal against lefties. A platoon situation therefore is off the table somewhat at second base. Plus, let's face it, Abe is slugging at a level that is beyond what Shuhei normally musters and in a team that lacks big hits, taking out Abe would be suicidal. 

2. The development of Takaya Ishikawa

Out of all the position players in the Dragons organisation, Ishikawa has by far the highest ceiling. A third-baseman that hits for power and is an above average defender is a prized commodity and seeing him develop and ensure he can be that superstar the teams needs in future is important and in particular a mission of Tatsunami's this year. Ishikawa has been typically inconsistent for a young hitter this year and has been slashing a modest .228/.269/.423 this year. While the slugging potential is certainly there, the on-base ability hasn't come along just yet. Only 7 walks in 135 plate appearances is somewhat telling of where Ishikawa is at with his plate discipline, but he doesn't strike-out and awful lot either (26 this year) which means he's getting contact but perhaps just not on the right kinds of pitches. 

When we look at his splits however, he is only hitting .215 against right-handers in 107 PA while, in a much smaller sample size, hits .313 over 16 PA against lefties. Ishikawa is a potential platoon candidate with Shuhei based on these numbers but we must take into account two things. Firstly, there just don't seem to be a lot of PAs against lefty pitchers in the Central this year compared to the inverse. Secondly, you want Ishikawa at this stage in his development to face everything and everybody so that he can adjust and get the experience so he can be better at hitting right-handers; this is a tack I think the Dragons are definitely taking. So in this respect too, finding time for Shuhei, who offers little power but probably better on-base skills, is not really a prime candidate. 

3. Positional inflexibility

Shuhei has shown a willingness to move around the diamond throughout his career to get opportunities. First coming up under Morimichi Takagi, there were attempts to play him at short-stop to replace the departing Hirokazu Ibata. Shuhei was a bit exposed at short and ended up being billed as a third-baseman, trapped behind Hector Luna. Once Luna left the organisation however, Nobumasa Fukuda started providing power from the hot corner, and Shuhei was then given an opportunity at second-base where he was competent but still looked like a WWI-era tank turning double plays.  We all know that he has an elite glove at third-base. The diving catches and neat footwork have been somewhat of a trademark, but at the moment team need is not at third, it is probably at short-stop if anywhere. Unfortunately, Shuhei is built like a power-hitter and is not the kind of guy you want at short-stop long-term. That being said there's really no-one banging on the door to be the team's next short-stop. 

Takahashi is essentially the odd-man out at the moment. He can't play short, but is probably capable at just about every other position across the diamond. However, what does Shuhei bring to the team? Good corner infield defense and on-base skills. Given Ishikawa is a competent third-baseman that can bring in extra bases, this limits Shuhei to play third. Second base is currently occupied by the team's hottest hitter and another that is more skilled at getting extra base-hits. The question is, what do you do with Shuhei? If this were the MLB, there'd bit a strong case to trade Shuhei to maybe bring in a potential short-stop but I don't think the Dragons would part with one of their team faces so easily. 

What is the solution? Well, it might just sort itself out. Patience with Ishikawa may dwindle and that might force Tatsunami's hand to play Shuhei at third more often. Abe could get injured or drop-off, and that too would allow for Shuhei to be first-up at second-base. At the current point in the season there just doesn't seem to be a proper space for him unless you are using him as cover to give Abe and Ishikawa rest-days which again, seems kinda unlikely for the Dragons or an NPB team to do. 

Let's all agree, that no matter what happens he should never appear at short ever again.

Other news: Yakyu Cosmopolitan on YouTube and I collaborated on a video. They have used a bit of my analysis for their video on the rise and fall of the Chunichi Dragons. Please give it a watch.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Dragons Top 10 Best Offensive Seasons: Individual & Positional

With the severe lack of runs over the past few seasons, it's hard not to get a little skeptical as to whether the Dragons ever scored runs with an proclivity whatsoever. I often find myself looking back into the Dragons' history for the greatest that have played the game for the team. And while those celebrated by fans quite commonly come up with a scour through the data and statistics, I'm always excited to find cases that challenge those conceptions or that highlight the careers of players long since forgotten. I am also keen here to find out if the Dome era has really been such a negative for Dragons hitters over the past 25 years. 

In this post, I'm using data on wRAA (weighted runs above average) and WRC+ (weighted runs created plus) to give you an idea of some of the most productive seasons by players in a Dragons shirt. 

Here's some definitions before we move on:

wRAA measures how many runs a hitter contributes, compared with an average player -- so a player with a 0 wRAA would be considered league average, offensively. It's calculated by finding the difference in the number of runs contributed between a player and the league average (which is determined by the league average wOBA). 

 wRC+ takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for important external factors -- like ballpark or era. It's adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.


First, as WRC+ is a statistic that is based on wRAA plus a few bits and bobs, I will present to you the greatest career years for Dragons based on position and wRAA. This will be followed but a top 10 list not constricted to position.

CTatsuhiko Kimata37.71970
1BTyrone Woods60.62006
2BMorimichi Takagi29.71966
3BHiromitsu Ochiai41.61987
SSKiyoshi Sugiura30.71950
RFKōsuke Fukudome70.02006
CFToshio Naka31.91966
LFShinichi Etō59.71965

I quite enjoyed the results I got here. The majority aren't huge surprises, but there are a few standouts that piqued my interest. First of all, we must all just marvel at Kosuke Fukudome's 2006. Historically, it's the highest wRAA for any Dragons player in history followed up by Tyrone Woods' effort in the same year. Somewhat surprising in the lack of a clear standout at second-base. While Takagi pips the next best by a few points, I thought Takagi was going to be a clear winner. Some of the more interesting pick-ups here is Kiyoshi Sugiura's 1950 season. Masaru Uno and Hirokazu Ibata are the most commonly cited best players in Dragons history at this position, but Sugiura's inclusion is an interesting one. His production at short-stop was very good for someone playing in a time guys that could hit 25+ homers a year were at a premium. Sugiura had a career best .929 OPS in 1950 which contributes highly to his presence on this list. Overall, we're still seeing a lot of what we'd appreciate as the established greats of the team. Sugiura and perhaps Woods are the only real outliers here.

Next, the all-time highest wRAA in a season list:

Team NPBPositionNamewRAAYear
118RF/CFKosuke Fukudome70.02006
2371BTyrone Woods60.62006
339LFKazuhiro Wada60.52010
444LFShinichi Etō59.71965
585RFKōsuke Fukudome53.22005
6891BHiromitsu Ochiai52.81991
7-1BMichio Nishizawa48.61952
8-1BDayan Viciedo47.72018
9-3B/1BHiromitsu Ochiai45.81989
10-LFSatoshi Sugiyama45.31952

A lot of familiar names here. Apart from Fukudome, most our players here have positions that are usually reserved for bigger hitters and this shows. Topping the list of course is Fukudome and Woods while Kazuhiro Wada's 2010 MVP winning season manages to slip into the top 3. Shinichi Etō once again appears for his 1965 season while two seasons from Hiromitsu Ochiai show his value as a hitter for the Dragons. Michio Nishizawa, the first "Mr Dragons" comes in at #7 while his team-mate, Satoshi Sugiyama rounds out the top 10. The big surprise here is perhaps Dayan Viciedo's 2018 season clocking in. Among all these great seasons, it's quite a surprise to see such a modern hitter make the list in the Nagoya Dome and uniform ball era. Perhaps more credit is due to El Tanke than I first thought.

Now, let's weigh these statistics down with some ballpark measurements, history and all the rest. What does our line-up now look like with WRC+. Once again, I will follow-up with the top 10 regardless of position.

CTatsuhiko Kimata1821970
1BHiromitsu Ochiai2061991
2BMorimichi Takagi1651966
3BHiroji Okajima1691958
SSAkiteru Kawano1501963
RFKōsuke Fukudome2122006
CFAlonzo Powell1681993
LFShinichi Etō2331965

Well, with the weighting of this run production, there has been a bit of a shake-up. Woods, Naka and Sugiura have been replaced while Hiromitsu Ochiai changes positions with more weight given to his 1991 season. First of all, the eyes pop now at Shinichi Etō's 1965. Etō lead the league in average (.336) and has an OPS of 1.032. A massive 233 wRC+ puts him in touching distance of the legendary Sadaharu Oh who led the league in wRC+ in the same year with 266, his career best until 1973. Kōsuke Fukudome's 2006 continues to earn the respect it deserves, while we must continue to marvel at the kind of destruction that Hiromitsu Ochiai was capable of, this coming after his consecutive triple-crowns seasons with the Lotte Orions in his age 37 season.

The big surprises here are the two men that appear at third base and short-stop. That being Hiroji Okajima and Akiteru Kawano. If you've never heard of either of these players, you are not alone. I wasn't aware of their existence until doing this list. Leo Gomez of the late 90s Dragons had the highest career wRC+ for a Dragons third baseman, but he somehow doesn't make it onto this list as his best season was a 147. Okajima stole 47 bases and hit 16 homeruns in 1958 where the ball just didn't fly as much as it did in the modern game. Who then fits into the top 10 seasons of all Dragons hitters if we're not restricted by position?

114LFShinichi Etō2331965
240RFKōsuke Fukudome2122006
3481BHiromitsu Ochiai2061991
452LFShinichi Eto2041966
561LFSatoshi Sugiyama2011952
6911BMichio Nishizawa1921952
7971BTyrone Woods1912006
8-LFKazuhiro Wada1902010
9-1BKenichi Yazawa1831980
10-CTatsuhiko Kimata1821970

There are 5 players that have cracked 200+ wRC+  points in a season and two of those seasons belong to Shinichi Eto. That's quite an achievement. Eto here fully shows how much of a star he was in the mid-1960s. Alongside Morimichi Takagi and Toshio Naka, Etō was one of the modern day stars of the day. Eto had 11 all-star appearances to go along with 5 selections in the Best 9 during his career. There's more to go into, but we might leave that for another day. Alongside the usual suspects, it is perhaps Kimata's 1970 season that sticks out where he hit 30 homeruns for a .283 average, the best production of any Dragons catcher ever. Kenichi Yazawa's 1980 also needs to be appreciated as he hit a league leading .369 average with 27 homeruns despite his team finishing dead last and overall underperforming horribly.

Now we have an idea of the individuals, what about some of the teams? Out of the Dragons top 5 run producing teams, unsurprisingly, only one of them has occurred in the Dome era that started in 1997. You'd also be unsurprised to learn that this was the pennant winning 2006 Dragons that had Fukudome and Woods firing on all cylinders. Alex Ochoa and Kazuki Inoue also showed off above average offensive capabilities in this season, this however only clocks in at #2 in wRC+ although it does top the list in wRAA with 103.5. I'll add in some key contributors for each season but limit them at requiring 200+ plate appearances.

RankYearwRC+wRAAKey ContributorsPlace
1196212290.6S. Etō (171), D. Newcombe (161), M. Maeda (143)3rd
22006117103.5K. Fukudome (212), T. Woods (191), K. Inoue (130)1st
3196611565.3S. Etō (204), T. Naka (168), M. Takagi (165)2nd
4199611481.8T. Yamasaki (167), T. Chen (149), A. Powell (141)2nd
5199111474.9H. Ochiai (206), T. Chen (140), K. Tatsunami (121)2nd

For what it's worth, when the Dragons have a good hitting team, they don't tend to win the league. In each of these seasons outside of 2006, the Dragons still finished in the top 3 but often a step or two off the top teams. In most of these seasons, the Dragons had the best offense in the league based on wRC+. Some interesting stories here and some names popping up that we haven't seen before. Tai-feng Chen, the Taiwanese power-hitter comes up twice on this list as a key contributor, while Kazuyoshi Tatsunami finally shows his name. Don Newcombe is an interesting name on this list. The American trail blazer played right-field in his one season in Japan where he hit 12 homers and 43 RBIs in his age 36 season. What is perhaps the sad part, is the best team offensive season was a season where the Dragons finished third behind the Hanshin Tigers and the Taiyo Whales in 1962.

In a way, I was hoping to see more to defend the ideas that Dragons hitting teams can still win, but this is apparently not the case. 1991 is a particularly interesting season given the team has a wonderful offence and some big names in the rotation. On parsing through the pitching statistics, it's apparent that the ilk of Shinji Imanaka, Masa Yamamoto and Tatsuo Komatsu did not have particularly good years. Unfortunately, apart from 2006, there are no other seasons in the top 10 for wRC+ for the Dragons that have occurred in the Dome era.

From this brief overview, we must really just marvel at the 2006 season where the prodigious talents of Kōsuke Fukudome and Tyrone Woods made the difference in making the walls of the Dome seem a little smaller. Should we give up on ever seeing a highly productive Dragons team in the current condition of the Vantelin Dome? The statistics are unfortunately quite damning. Kōsuke Fukudome and Kazuhiro Wada are the only two to have seasons of note since the move. Both of these players were hitting before the uniform ball was introduced across the NPB as well. Knowing this, it's quite hard to feel optimistic about the team going forward. That being said, as I have mentioned previously on the blog, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Dragons drafting over the past 10-15 years has reflected a focus on players that are more suited to defensive kinds of baseball. The team hasn't really gone after many power-hitters in the drafts. Takaya Ishikawa and to a lesser extent, Kōsuke Ukai could mark a significant derivation from this former philosophy and with Norihiro Nakamura on board as hitting coach, it's hard not to want to feel optimistic. 

The weight of history is on the 2022 Dragons to turn their offensive woes around. While the days of glamourous hitters like Shinichi Etō, Takeshi Yamasaki and Hiromitsu Ochiai may be gone with the Nagoya Stadium era, there is still a chance to overturn what has come before to create a new kind of team with a dangerous pointy end to it.

* I would like to thank the curator at the 日本プロ野球RCAA&PitchingRunまとめblog for the data used in this analysis. This is the go-to for any advanced historical data I need on Japanese baseball teams.