Greetings from frigid Japan! This has been one of the coldest winters in recent memory, but that has not stopped the boys of summer from getting ready for the 2022 season!
We are a little light on news this time around, so I will include a quick listing of the 12 NPB teams, plus their finish in the standings over the past three seasons.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 continues to dominate headlines and, in some cases, limit how much baseball we will be allowed to watch. Teams have placed caps on how many fans can attend games, but at least fans will be allowed to attend in some capacity! That said, the scheduled friendly matches against a team of Taiwanese representatives (March 5 & 6 at Tokyo Dome) have been cancelled because of border restrictions. The good news about those restrictions is that it appears the government is loosening its control of newcomers entering the country, and it is highly possible that the newly signed imports will arrive in the first week or two of March. This bodes well for nearly every team, and will be a big change from last year, when some players did not get to Japan until April.
At spring training, things have gone as expected… lots of players getting hype about what they are doing during batting practice and bullpen sessions. One exception is 20-year-old pitcher Roki Sasaki of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who touched 162 km/h and 163 km/h (100-101 mph) on back-to-back pitches in a practice game. If that is what he can do in February, there is no telling how badly he will light up the radar guns come summertime!
And now, a quick look at NPB teams, with their final spot in the standings in 2021, 2020 and 2019. We start with the Central League because they won the Japan Series last year. An asterisk (*) indicates the Japan Series championship in that year.
Tokyo Yakult Swallows: 1st*, 6th, 6th
Hanshin Tigers: 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
Yomiuri Giants: 3rd, 1st, 1st
Hiroshima Toyo Carp: 4th, 5th, 4th
Chunichi Dragons: 5th, 3rd, 5th
Yokohama DeNA Baystars: 6th, 4th, 2nd
Orix Buffaloes: 1st, 6th, 6th
Chiba Lotte Marines: 2nd, 2nd, 4th
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: 3rd, 4th, 3rd
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: 4th, 1st*, 2nd*
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: 5th, 5th, 5th
Saitama Seibu Lions: 6th, 3rd, 1st