Rainy season got you down? Well, it’s been twelve games since we last posted. So how about another We Love Marines News Update to cheer you up!?!? I can’t think of better way to boost morale than to celebrate our four All Star Marines. Yes, four members of our Lotte Marines have been selected to represent the Pacific League in the 2015 All Star Series: Ikuhiro Kiyota, Hideaki Wakui, Katsuya Kakunaka, and Luis Cruz. Before we get into that though, let’s do a quick update on the state of Lotteland.
Your 2015 All Stars (clockwise from TL): Kiyota, Wakui, Cruz, Kakunaka. photos from marines.co.jp
I know I promised to lift your spirits. If you’re anything like me though, the endless gray and dull of rainy season makes you a bit moody. A bit up and down. Well, apparently it has the same effect on Our Marines. We rang in the return to the regularly scheduled PL calendar by dropping three straight at home to Rakuten (bad). Then we followed by winning five of our next six (good), only to go winless in a three game set at Seibu Dome (bad).
This streakiness is not just a short-term phenomenon, it’s become the modus operandi of the 2015 Marines. We start a few games below .500, reel off some wins to get within striking distance of A-class status in the standings…only fall right back down with another losing streak. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. It’s been even more pronounced in our last 23 games: LLLLLWLWWWWLLLWLWWWWTLL
ALL STAR SELECTIONS
Ok, as promised, let’s devote the rest of this post to our Chiba Marine All Stars. Kiyota was our only non-manager selection, securing his first All Star appearance as a players choice. Wakui was a manager selection, thanks to a strong start to the year. On the eve of the Star Festival Tanabata, our remaining star tanaバッター are Kakunaka & Cruz.
Kiyota’s successes this season have been well documented here on WLM. There were his 4 straight modashos and 7 game multi-hit streak in May, and of course his 23 game hit streak that continued into June. As of this post, he still leads the team in BA, OBP, & SLG .331/.396/.521. For more, check out the full page article ode to Kyota that Steve wrote back in May.
Wakui was our only pitcher selected after assuming the role of staff ace in the early part of the year. As of this post though, the stud sophomore Ishikawa actually leads the starting staff in wins (7-4), ERA (3.13), and WHIP (1.21). Still, Wakui’s strong start was critical in allowing the often shaky rotation to settle into its current somewhat stable form. In his first three starts he allowed just 3 ER in 22 innings. Through the end of May he was 5-5 with a 2.75 ERA.
Kakunaka earned his second All Star appearance. His yearly OPBs since the 2012 batting title have been a remarkably steady: .366/.360./.385/.363 (2012/2013/2014/2015 as of July 6). He’s also provided us with my vote for “best moment” of the first half, a 9th inning 2-out go-ahead grand slam in a game at Koshien. Marines fans have watched Kakunaka continue to evolve and produce since 2012. Whether it’s working the count, tapping into his gap power, or turning a ball out of the zone into a base hit, his work to perfect a well-rounded approach at the plate has paid dividends in the form of a second All Star season.
Cruz is our fourth and final All Star. Like Kakunaka, Cruz is another example of a player adapting and evolving into one of the league’s best. Of course the defensive brilliance at second base has been a constant throughout his two years with the Marines. His production at the plate is what has brought him up to All Star level in 2015. In 2014 is slash line was .238/.268/.419. So far in 2015 he’s .275/.312/.471. In just 72 games he has nearly as many HR (13) & RBI (49) as he had in 126 games in 2014 (16 & 61).
Kiyota video montage from PLTV
Kakunaka video montage from PLTV
Cruz video montage from PLTV