While most of Japan will be more concerned with Daisuke Matsuzaka starting tonight for the Red Sox in New York, his former team, the Seibu Lions, have started out the season in a virtual three-way tie for first in the Pacific League.
Presently, Lotte leads by percentage points at 13-9 and Seibu is .008 behind at 14-10. The Softbank Hawks are 15-11. All three teams have at least one tie, but they don't figure into the winning percentage.
Despite the absence of Matsuzaka and beset by a scandal involving bribing amateur players and coaches to induce them to sign with Seibu, the Lions still have strong pitching. 20-year old Hideaki Wakui is 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in the early going. He has 32 strikeouts in 39 innings and just six walks. He's thrown three complete games and is putting up some high pitch counts (148 in one game.) Wakui lasted just 4 1/3 IP in his last start. 23-year old rookie Takayuki Kishi is 2-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 32 1/3 IP and he has 33 strikeouts.
Alex Cabrera has seven home runs and an OPS of .969 in the early going.
Last year's champ, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have gotten off to a slow start and are 9-16-3 although they got a boost recently from 20-year old Yu Darvish who tossed a 2-hit shutout against Lotte for a 1-0 win.
I'm picking up my info from Michael Westbay's Japanesebaseball.com, the Japan Ball site (where you can buy a nice and easy to use English language media guide to Japanese baseball), and Yahoo Sports Japan, which requires you to know some Japanese or just be really lucky in your clicking.