Yomiuri Onilne reviews some things each of the teams in the NPB should work on for the upcoming season.
Yomiuri Giants: With Koji Uehara going to the Majors, the Giants only have two starters penciled into the rotation for 2009: Tetsuya Utsumi and Seth Greisinger. The addition of Micheal Nakamura means that the Giants probably have one of the best setup / closer combo's in the league. The team also has a few holes in the infield and outfield they will need to fill.
Hanshin Tigers: The Tigers lost a 13 game lead in the CL to the Giants last season. The Tigers ended the season 10-14 against the Giants and finished with 578 runs (3rd) and only 83 home runs (tied with the Swallows for worst in the CL). Unless they work on their offense, they may not able to overcome the Giants. To that end, the Tigers are hoping for bigger things from Takahiro Arai this season.
Chunichi Dragons: The Dragons lost two key pieces of their offense this off-season: Tyrone Woods and Norihiro Nakamura. But the Dragons are hoping that will only motivate the other players to play harder to fill in the those two vacant positions. The Dragons also suffered a number of injuries to key players last season and ended up with league lows in team batting and homers. The Dragons are going through a rebuilding period.
Hiroshima Carp: The new stadium is going to be larger, which means the Carp will need to focus more on speed. Masato Akamatsu and Soichiro Amaya will most likely end up being important keys to the roster.
Yakult Swallows: The Swallows ended the season with 583 runs (2nd in the CL), but that number might be a little deceptive. While the offense was able to score runs, they still lack a true clean-up hitter -- last season they went through 4 players that collectively .248 with 12 homers and 73 rbis. The 5th slot wasn't much better as they tried 9 different players in that slot last season. The Swallows are hoping one of more of the following will be able to step up this season: Aaron Guiel, Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, Shinichi Takeuchi, and / or Jamie D'Antona.
Yokohama Bay Stars: The Bay Stars had the worst team ERA (4.74) in the NPB last season. They were the only team in the CL to have an ERA over 4. Daisuke Miura was the most consistent starter in the rotation and led the team with 7 wins. The team is hoping that putting Hayato Terahara back into the rotation will help. The addition of Ryan Glynn should also help. Futoshi Kobayashi and Takumi Nasuno will also need to step things up.
Seibu Lions: They led the league last season with 98 errors. The pitching staff also gave up 517 walks, second only to the Eagles' mark of 520.
Orix Buffaloes: They managed to add Jose Fernandez to their solid core, but questions still remain as to whether or not the other players can provide the proper support. As a team, they stole a league worst, 63 bases.
Ham Fighters: The Fighters only hit 82 home runs last season, the worst in the both leagues combined. The trade that brought Tomohiro Nioka to the team was in part to help bring some power from the right-side (no one player hit double-digits homers from the right-side). They also have a couple power bats (Sho Nakata and Yohei Kaneko) in the minors that could help.
Lotte Marines: The team had problems with injuries and slumps to key players last season, but there were still some bright spots on the roster, like Tsuyoshi Nishioka hitting .300 and Naoyuki Shimizu chalking up 13 victories. They also managed to add a powerful veteran presence in Tadahito Iguchi -- he will be an important peice of the puzzle in 2009.
Rakuten Eagles: The Eagles had a team ERA of 3.89, but that's largely due to Hisashi Iwakuma's 1.87 ERA. The Eagles need to find another arm to pitch behind Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka. To that end they are hoping Kohei Hasebe and Hiroshi Katayama can provide the team with more quality innings.
Softbank Hawks: The Hawks ended up in last place for the first time in 12 years. The main reason for that could be chalked up to injuries. Key players like Kazumi Saito, Munenori Kawasaki, and Hiroki Kokubo all went down at various points in the season. All but Saito appear to be ready for the upcoming season. How well the team does will depend on how healthy these players are.
And in other news...
The Giants announced that they will have new grey visitor uniforms for the 2009 season.