The Pacific League opener is nearly upon us. Here are a couple of storylines I'll have my eye on this year:
- Have the Yokohama BayStars done enough to contend for a playoff spot this year? - Yokohama added 12 new players this offseason, most of whom are veterans intended to help the 2010 club. Will it be enough to compete for a third place finish? My gut feeling is that Yokohama's pitching is still a little lacking, but if they get a bunch of career years... you never know.
- Shane Spencer... Lew Ford... Kevin Mench... Matt Murton? Have the Hanshin Tigers gotten it right this year?
- Are the Rakuten Golden Eagles Pacific League title contenders this year? The Eagles finished second last year despite predictable regression from Hisashi Iwakuma, a mediocre bullpen and some major lineup gaps. Have they plugged enough holes to win the Pacific this year?
- Can either Hanshin or Chunichi unseat Yomiuri as the Central League champion? The Kyojin-gun has a three-year stranglehold on the Se-League. Is this a new dynasty or do the Tigers or Dragons have enough to knock 'em back? Or even Yakult?
- What will Yu Darvish do this year? Will he mundanely post a fourth straight sub-2.00 era, sub-1.00 whip season? Will he throw a no-hitter?
- How much of Yusei Kikuchi will we see at the top level this year? He's already been penciled in to the ni-gun rotation to start the season.
The Pacific League opens on March 20. I'll try to do some kind of live chat, so stay tuned for details.