Answers, Part 3

Okay, time for the final installment of the Q&A series. You know the drill by now.

Kirk says: January 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

I’m interested in the following:

– how prevelant is sabermetrics in Japanese baseball (in the fans, press, front offices)?

– there have been a lot of looks into how Japanese players and their stats translate over in the MLB, but it seems like a missed opportunity without examining how major or minor league players perform over in Japan. This would especially be useful for players like Julio Franco who went back and forth.

– I would imagine Oh has to be consensus GOAT, but has there been other, say, top 50 players of all time lists?

– how many MLB games are on Japan’s national TV (i.e., no specialty or strictly regional cabel channels) regularly?

1. I’ve talked a little bit about sabermetrics already, but there’s enough interest that I’ll put together an entire post on it at some point.

2. Clay Davenport has done some work in this area.

3. Sadaharu Oh is definitely the greatest of all time (868 home runs!). For a longer list of top players, I will again turn to Jim Albright’s work, which is in English and has a documented methodology behind it. I may have a nit-pick or two with his ordering, but it reads like a who’s who of Japanese baseball history.

4. I can’t say what the current status is based on personal experience. When I was living in Japan between 2000-2003, I only saw playoff and World Series games televised live on national terrestrial TV.

Malemute says: January 22, 2010 at 7:52 pm


What are some of your favorite player nicknames?

Did the Japanese writer who didn’t give Mauer a first place MVP vote this year ever give an explanation as to why he thought Cabrera was better?

Nickames: One of the fatter players, Takeya Nakamura, is known as Okawari-kun, which means “another round.” Michihiro Ogasawara is known as “Guts”, and my all-time favorite is “Gun”, which was Akinori Iwamura’s Yakult Swallows-era nickname.

If that writer ever explained voting against Mauer, I missed it.

Chris says:January 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

It would be awesome if you put together a database where you could see potential stars in Japan and what year they are eligible to come to the US, or even an article highlighting a few guys over the next couple of years.

I have published lists of impending free agents and posting candidates at for the last two years, and plan to do so again this year. And you’ll see content along those lines here as well.

Grady says:

I have a Bum Ho Lee jersey from when he was still with the Eagles. If I were to wear it in South Korea, would I be murdered? How closely does this compare to a rivalry in the MLB (a la Johnny Damon BOS to NYY scenario)?

Probably not. Lee left an absolute doormat of a team to take a huge pay raise in Japan. I don’t think Korean fans will begrudge him for that. That said, the Japanese and Koreans love beating each other. NPB has pretty much swept KBO in the league-vs-league games that have been played, but Korea has fared a little better in national games, winning the gold in the 2008 Olympics and going toe-to-toe with Japan in last year’s WBC. Last year’s WBC final was a huge event in both countries.

Ivan Grushenko says:

How competitive with MLB would the Japanese leagues (and Korean ones) if they eliminated the 2 foreigner limit? Could the Kyojin for example then field a team as good as the Phillies or even Yankees? Do they have that level of resources/fan support?

Actually, NPB teams are allowed to have up to four foreign players on their active rosters, with three in the game at any one time. There is also no limit to how many foreign players a team is allowed to have under contract, so most teams have a couple of foreign players in their farm systems. And finally, foreign players no longer count against the limit under certain conditions, such as after accumulating enough service time, or living in Japan for a certain number of years before turning pro. Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Ramirez, and Alex Cabrera have all played in Japan long enough to shed their “foreign player” status. The Korean teams are, as you said, restricted to two foreign players.

However, even if the limit were dropped, Japanese and Korean teams still wouldn’t be able to/try to compete with MLB clubs. Japanese teams have plenty of fan support, but there’s no way Alex Rodriguez’s best offer would ever come from Japan. Korean players are in a much lower tax bracket than their Japanese counterparts. The maximum KBO salary a few years ago was about $200k, I believe it’s gone up in the last year or two but salaries still max out in the mid-six figures. Last year Japan had over 100 players making $1m or more.

Alex says: January 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hi Patrick,

I had the opportunity to spent about 2 weeks in Japan over the summer, and I got to see some games on TV. One thing I noticed was that in-game strategy seems to be much more conservative there. Especially in the later innings, if the leadoff man got on, the next few batters would all try to bunt him around the bases and play for that one run as opposed to going for a big inning. Is this a small sample size issue or do most teams play this way?

What you saw was very much reflective of the way most NPB teams play. There have been some recent exceptions, such as Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines and the 2008 Seibu Lions. This is actually a common source of culture clash between the standing NPB brass and Americans who manage NPB teams.

Matt B. says: January 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm (Edit)

What is the general reaction to the modest struggles (mostly) of Dice-K in North America? From what I have heard, he was a near legend over there and looking at his Japan numbers, I see why, but overall (IMO) has been a bit disappointing over here.

Matsuzaka was a very good professional player in Japan, but his legend status really came from his performance in the national Koshien high school baseball tournament. I’ve had more than one Japanese person tell me he looked out of shape in last year’s WBC and MLB season. I watched him a number of times in 2008, when he was actually pretty good, and what I noticed was that he still has good stuff, but he had a tendency to nibble until he had runners on base. I think that if he’s in shape in 2010 and is more aggressive on the mound, he’ll have a good year.

BGriffith says: January 27, 2010 at 11:46 pm

What would you recommend as a good, english websites for Japanese baseball? Basic stats, standings, that kind of thing.

Self-promotion time: right here of course, and my own site, For stats and standing, start with these two:

About once a year I do a post on other English-language Japanese baseball blogs, so look out for that on NPB Tracker.

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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at, and on Twitter @npbtracker.

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