The Chunichi Dragons of Nagoya are trying to become the first team to repeat as champ since the Yakult Swallows in 1992 and 1993. The Dragons return the CL's top hitter for average in Kosuke Fukudome (.351) and the home run and RBI leader in Tyrone Woods (47, 144). Chunichi has one of the CL's top pitchers in Kenshin Kawakami (17-7, 2.51).
The Hanshin Tigers (of Nishinomiya) and the Yomiuri Giants (of Tokyo) are both considered contenders and likely to finish in the top three, which would be good enough to make the playoffs under the CL's new expanded playoff system that mirrors the one used by the Pacific League. The second place team meets the third place team in a best of three with the winner facing the first place team in a best of five. Unlike last year, the first place team will no longer receive a one game advantage.
The Pacific League started play last weekend and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks won three of their first four and defending Japan Series champion Fukuoka Nippon Ham Fighters started off 1-1-2.
Also, the owners finally decided to immediately end the "kibo-waku" system which allowed amateur players designate a team that they wished to negotiate with or vice versa (a team could pick a player prior to the draft and forfeit a pick.)