The 2015 season ended for the Dragons as their third straight losing year. They got off to a decent start, but began to slide after the end of Interleague play. The bats were fairly solid, though the home run power was lacking. Starting pitching was decent, but not spectacular, Chunichi finished third in the Central League in team ERA and Yudai Ono's performance was strong and Shunta Wakamatsu was a nice surprise. Had the Dragons had any semblance of a bullpen I think they could have competed for a playoff spot in a very mediocre Central League this year. Instead they fell to the bottom of a pack of average to bad baseball teams.
Despite being a bottom-feeder this year the Dragons did have a couple of things to play for in the last week of the season. They were playing to avoid last place and were able to do so. DeNA fell below the Dragons as the Baystars ended their season winning only one of their last seven games while Chunichi finished 3-3 in their last six games. The Dragons now have played 19 seasons since their last sixth place finish. Finishing fifth isn't much to be excited about, but it's so much better than last place. Last place just sucks, plain and simple, and in the NPB it doesn't even get you the first pick in the draft.
After the Dragons had "clinched" fifth place earlier in the week they played their final game of the season in Hiroshima in a game with playoff implications. The Carp were tied for third and their final game against Chunichi was a de facto one-game playoff, if they won they would continue to the Climax Series, if not their season was over. Masa Yamamoto started for Chunichi and ceremonially retired the first batter in what would be his last game prior to retirement. Kenta Maeda started for Hiroshima in what may be his last game for the Carp, if he goes to MLB next year. The game played out much like a playoff game, Maeda and Yudai Ono, who took over for Yamamoto, locked into a pitchers' duel and the game remained 0-0 into the 8th inning when Chunichi scored 4 against Hiroshima's bullpen. Shunta Wakamatsu who had taken over for the Dragons in the seventh inning finished the game and picked up the win. While Chunichi's season was over either way, they played like it meant something, maybe that experience will mean something for some of the younger players down the road.
Looking forward to next season, Motonobu Tanishige will be back as manager. Hopefully he can do something to get more consistency out of the team next year. Prolonged late-season losing streaks have sunk the team the last two years. Finding someone who can close a freakin' game should be priority number one. I think Yamai should remain in the bullpen next year, while he struggled as as a starter this year, he did perform pretty well as a reliever and has been one at times in the past. More pop in the lineup and more starting pitching is always welcome, but as always their probably won't be much available on the free agent market. Chunichi's foreign players: Luna, Hernandez, Nanita and Valdes did well this year and I think will be back, and it sounds like Drew Naylor will be back as well, so I don't know that much will change in the foreign lineup. If the Dragons are to improve it will likely have to be done with the players they already have. Some veterans are retiring and it will be up to the youngsters to step up if the Dragons are to succeed in 2016.