It is harder to stay at the top than to get there.

The Hanshin Tigers are about to test that theory as they begin the season as the hunted after winning the Central League pennant and ending a 38-year wait for a Japan Series title.

Hanshin will not just have to fend off the rest of the Central League but overcome the hangover of an offseason that was busier than usual after a triumph that felt cathartic for much of the Kansai region.