A recent comment about Akiyama suggested MLB’s extreme shifts could be trouble for him.
“Akiyama will have to adjust to more shifts in MLB. He’ll have to prove he can beat them.”
It’s true that shifts in NPB are pretty tame, there’s a reason for that: Japanese kids learn from an early age to go to hit the ball back up the middle or — especially fast left-handed hitters — hit it to the opposite field. It’s a huge difference between NPB and MLB.
And like most speedy left-handed hitters, Akiyama is adept at shooting the ball between third and short. You could shift on him a little and it might help, but too much and he’ll kill you.
The only team that tries extreme shifts here now is the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters. In one game they over-shifted to the right against left-handed hitting Tomoya Mori. In response, the slugging Lions catcher poked the ball on the ground into left, and expressed his thanks to the Fighters for giving him a freebie.
Watch any Japanese game and it’s hard to miss the slap hitters. Just how many there are is hard to get a grasp of because they come in various shades, based on how often they try to pull or drive the ball.
They all have some speed, while most of them are left-handed hitters and nearly all are either center fielders or middle infielders. In April, while waiting to talk to So Taguchi, who now coaches Buffaloes hitters, I was watching them take BP at MetLife Dome and was struck by how many Buffaloes are little guys with little swings.
With the Buffaloes and Hanshin Tigers playing Japan’s only night game on Saturday, I got another look at Orix as the Buffaloes tried to come back from a 2-1 deficit. And I thought, are the Buffaloes the lightest team in NPB? If not, who is?
Below is a table with the average weight per plate appearance by every NPB lineup through June 14.
Weight per PA in Kgs
The surprise, is the SoftBank Hawks weighing in as the second lightest, but part of that might be the team listing both Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial at 95 kilograms which seems laughable. But also, with their rash of injuries, the Hawks have been without Gracial and 91-kg center fielder Yuki Yanagita, and have filled gaps in their lineup with 67-kg Ukyo Shuto, 68-kg Tomoki Takata and 76-kg Taisei Makihara.