The 2015 season is off and running, here's how I think the standings will end up:
According to some of the articles and message boards I've been seeing, many think this will be a dreary year for the Dragons. Some are even picking them to finish in last place, something that hasn't happened since 1992 (since 1992 Chunichi has finished lower than 4th only once, which was in 2001). Somehow I'm not seeing what they're seeing, barring some very serious injuries (something Chunichi's already been dealing with the last two years when they've missed the playoffs, Yoshimi, Asao, etc.) I don't see this year's team being the worst in the Central League. Sure, they are old and have some holes, but this looks to me like another ho-hum middle-of-the-pack Dragons team. Certainly they are not the only team with holes.
This year's team likely isn't going to score a ton of runs, but is their lineup much worse or even worse at all than their recent pitching-driven playoff teams? I don't think so, it includes two all-star quality players in Oshima and Luna, and Hirata is just coming into his prime. Outside of the catching position, the rest of the lineup was no worse than average last year. Then we get to the pitching, I like the bullpen, they have some good young arms there. Starting pitching shouldn't be a problem either, Valdes is looking like he could be a great pick up to go with Yamai and Ono and maybe even Yoshimi at some point, plus plenty of servicable guys in the back end of the rotation. I'm just not seeing a last-place team here. There is no doubt that the Dragons lineup needs to get younger for future success, but statistics-wise last year wasn't a bad year for guys like Morino, so why is this the year that everyone goes in the tank?
Get fired up Dragons fans, it's a new season, we don't have to listen to the haters! ;-)