As most of you already know, the Nippon Series is tied 1-1 and is heading to Fukuoka for three games, where the Hawks will host the Tigers in the confines of YafuOku Dome. With the Pacific League team hosting, the rules change slightly as well. Instead of the pitcher getting an at-bat, each team designates one player to hit in his place for the whole game. He is called the designated hitter. (My apologies for writing very simply – most of you know the rule, but some don’t!)
The Tigers normally do not enjoy this luxury, but the Hawks do, so they already have a few players who are accustomed to sitting on the bench all game except for those 4-5 at-bats. So the question, then, is this: Whom should the Tigers employ as their designated hitter in this series?
Naturally, one strategy they will consider is using a hitter who bats from the opposite side as the pitcher throws, that is, a right-handed batter against a left-handed pitcher, and vice-versa. Game 3 sees that Hawks starting lefty Kenji Ohtonari, so the Tigers will likely use a right-handed hitter as their DH. Games 4-5 will likely feature right-handed pitchers for the Hawks (perhaps Settsu and Nakata, and if they go with a shortened rotation, Standridge will go instead of one of the above – either way, two righties). In this case, the odds of the Tigers using a lefty as their DH increase.
Here is a list of all the players currently on the bench for the Tigers. First, the righties: Takahiro Arai, Ryota Arai, Keisuke Kanoh, Kentaro Sekimoto, Shunsuke, Ryutaro Umeno, and the catcher they don’t start – either Kazunari Tsuruoka or Akihito Fujii. Next, the lefties: Fumiya Araki, Ryota Imanari, Hayata Itoh, Katsuhiko Saka, Kohei Shibata.
Of these, the likely candidates are the Arais, Kanoh, Sekimoto, Imanari and Itoh. I have read various columns and forums, and it seems like beyond these men, other options lie. For one, several of these players are capable third basemen, and since it is not Tsuyoshi Nishioka‘s (switch hitter) natural position, there is talk of him being the DH while one of these guys plays third. Another possibility is giving Matt Murton (righty) and his sore legs some rest, letting him DH while someone else patrols left field.
So the question is, which righty and lefty do you think are most suited for the DH role in these three games? Feel free to vote on these two polls and explain your votes in the comments!