Eigoro Mogi and Carlos Peguero have been one of the most dynamic duos in Japanese baseball so far this season.
They’ve been the driving force behind the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, helping the club to a 15-4 record and a spot in first place in the Pacific League. The two have been hitting 1-2 in manager Masataka Nashida’s order for most of the year and haven’t disappointed.
Mogi, the team’s second-year shortstop, is hitting .329 with five home runs and 13 RBIs out of the leadoff spot. Peguero, the No. 2 batter, has a .316 average, seven home runs and 21 RBIs.
“Because he’s (Peguero) there, I feel like I can get pitches to hit,” Mogi told The Japan Times on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome. “He’s a big influence, I’m grateful for him.”
That sentiment goes both ways.
“I think that helps me a lot,” Peguero said of Mogi hitting in front of him. “When he goes, we go. When he hits, the team gets fired up. I think most of the time he’s on base, I’m able to hit well, I’m able to get good pitches to hit. For me, that’s huge, because he’s a great hitter. I’m telling you, his swing is so beautiful, it’s something you don’t see everyday.”
Through Wednesday, Peguero led the PL in RBIs and was tied for first in home runs. Mogi was tied for first in runs scored (18), was eighth in RBIs and tied for the third-most home runs. Mogi sat eighth in the PL in batting average with Peguero three spots back in 11th.
Mogi is getting on base at a .440 clip and has done a good job of giving Peguero a chance to do some damage behind him.
“I mean, you don’t want to try to pitch around him to get to Peguero,” said Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Jason Standridge. “I think you have to treat it just like any situation. If he’s seeing the ball well, sometimes there’s really nothing you can do. You just keep pitching and hopefully you get him to hit it at somebody.”
Mogi only hit leadoff twice during his rookie year in 2016. He’s slid easily into the role this season, and it has fit like a glove to this point.
“Since I’ve been given the chance to hit first, of course I’d like to have a good on-base percentage and score runs, Mogi said. “In order to do that I have to focus on having a good swing each at-bat.”
Mogi has helped set the table for the hitters behind him, but has also done some of the heavy lifting himself. The 23-year old, who played 117 games and finished second in the rookie of the year voting last season, has already nearly eclipsed his 2016 home run total (seven) in just 18 games. He’s also already walked 14 times, just about half the amount (30) he drew last season.
“I’ve just been able to really put my type of swing on the ball,” Mogi said. “I’ve been able to see the ball well and make good contact. I think that’s why I’ve had some better slugging numbers.”
Like Mogi, Peguero is thriving early in his second year with the team. He arrived in Sendai in the middle of the 2016 season, debuting July 26, after mostly bouncing around the minor leagues and playing 103 MLB games in five years.
“It’s the grace of God,” Peguero said of his current play. “I always believe and I stay with my plan. I’m always focused and I enjoy the game. It meant a lot to come at the end of the season last year, getting experience with the pitchers and how they throw, understanding more what they want to do to me. I’m trying to understand that as quickly as possible and trying to stay with my plan and help the team win.”
With an average north of .300 and the prodigious power he’s put on display, Peguero has turned more than a few heads. While the outfielder’s start may have come out of nowhere to some, Peguero isn’t completely surprised.
“I always expect the best of myself,” he said. “If you don’t expect the best of yourself, why are you playing, what are you playing for? So I always expect to be good, to help the team.
“I’m kind of surprised, but I’m not surprised, because I know what I’m capable of and what I can do. I just try to enjoy the game and play day by day. I don’t try to think about tomorrow, just try to think about today’s game and have fun.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.