This is dedicated to my father, Bill, who has provided a fine model
of a father for me to follow, and to my son Josh, who is proving that while
being a father may not be easy, it is well worth the
JAPANS TOP PLAYERS
By Jim Albright
For an alphabetical list of players covered in this article, click
here or go to the end of the article.
The rankings in this article are by "excellence plus points". For a further explanation of
how these points were calculated, see this article.
1. Sadaharu Oh
1b 1116 points
I've written so much about him elsewhere that it's difficult to find something new to say
about him. On top of what he accomplished as a player, he's already turned in a managing
career which meets the standard for induction to the Japanese Hall of Fame on that basis
alone. The JHOF only inducts individuals once, so it's something of a moot point. Bill James'
Win Shares book indicates 40 or more Win Shares is at the level of a "historic season", and
that 30 or more Win Shares in a year is a MVP candidate/Hall of Fame performer-type year. If
we translated those numbers to NPB, I think I'd use 80% of those figures because of the far
shorter Japanese seasons. For purposes of this comment, though, we won't fiddle with James'
descriptions. Oh has five seasons of 40 or more points, and ten more in the 30-39 point range.
The only other players I found with five or more 30 point seasons were
Nagashima (7), Bessho (6),
Starffin (6), Katsuya Nomura (6),
Jiro Noguchi (5), Masaichi Kaneda
(5), and Inao (5). Interestingly, Oh's best is 43 points, which
would struggle to make the top 10 (Starffin's 53 in 1940 was the best I saw in a quick review).
However, the very top scores are dominated by pitchers with 400+ inning seasons. If we look at
position players, Oh becomes dominant once again. Further, the pitchers weren't able to
sustain such levels of success, while Oh was. The men who attained two or more 40 point
seasons other than Oh are: Inao (4),
Jiro Noguchi (3), Starffin (2) and
Wakabayashi (2). The bottom line is that while Oh couldn't
match very best individual seasons of pitchers, he was able to much more consistently perform
at a level just below that than anyone else. Further, his seasons are very much among the
best ever in NPB history for position players.
2. Katsuya Nomura
c 899 points
I'm picking Nomura over Japan's most popular player, Shigeo
Nagashima. It is clear that Nagashima at his best was more brilliant than Nomura
at his best. However, Nomura played in 931 more games, had 2378 more at bats, 430 more
hits, 213 more homers. 466 more RBI, and scored 239 more runs. Furthermore, he did all this
at a more demanding defensive position. Therefore, in my opinion, Nomura's clear superiority
in career accomplishments outweighs Nagashima's advantage in peak performance.
Shigeo Nagashima   3b 816 points
Nagashima was renowned for his glovework in addition to his potent bat, and nothing I said
in comparing him to Nomura should be construed to mean he was anything but a truly great
player in Japan. He won a Best Nine in every season he played plus 5 MVPs, 6 batting
titles, and 5 RBI crowns. He also collected the only 2 Gold Gloves at third awarded during
4. Isao Harimoto
of 807 points
Japan's only player to record 3000 career hits, and only of only 6 NPB players to reach 500
homers. His career average of .319 is only one point away from the lead in that category.
He is third in the most walks taken in a career. Obviously, he has to rank among the very
best in Japan as a result. The fact Nagashima beats him out
proves a player with a higher peak performance can do well in this rating system, given that
Harimoto had a higher average in 1572 more at bats, 614 more hits, 60 more homers. 154 more
RBI, and 253 more runs scored. However, Harimoto had only 3 seasons of more than 30 EWS,
while Nagashima had 7. Also, Nagashima collected more awards than Harimoto, and those two
factors put him ahead in my view.
5. Masaichi Kaneda
p 701 points
Kaneda wasn't as spectacular as Inao or
Starffin in their best seasons, but had a longer
career than either of them. Also, he hit rather well for a pitcher, all of which combines to
make me regard him as the greatest NPB pitcher of all time. Once pitched a perfect game,
on August 21, 1957.
6. Victor Starffin
p 694 points
He was born in Russia, the son of a officer for the czarist armies. When the Bolsheviks came
to power, the family narrowly managed to escape to Japan. Victor was 6 feet 3 inches tall,
so he towered over the Japanese of the day. He was a durable power pitcher for the Giants,
but in 1944, Japanese wartime paranoia led to his being placed in a detention camp. After
that doubtlessly unpleasant experience, he primarily pitched for the Stars.
Hiromitsu Ochiai   1b-3b-2b 692 points
The only man to win three Triple Crowns in NPB was also a rebel against NPB's Japanese
baseball traditions. He refused to follow the rigorous training, deference to authority, and
other traditional aspects of Japanese baseball. He started out as a second baseman, was
shuttled between first and third during his peak years, and ended his career as a first
baseman. If one regards the outfield as one position, he's the only man to win Best Nine
Awards at three different positions.
Kazuhiro Yamauchi   of 689 points
A high average hitter with power despite being only 5 feet, 9 1/2 inches tall and 167 pounds,
After twelve years with the Pacific League Orions, he was traded to the Central League's
Tigers before ending his career with the Central League Carp.
9. Kazuhisa Inao
p 675 points
If you're looking for the NPB picher who had the highest peak performance, he's probably your
guy, with four seasons of 40 or more EWS. He could easily rank even higher if we went back
and figured out how many games he saved. However, at least by using the games finished
statistic, we've got some sense of the impact of this aspect of his play.
10. Koji Yamamoto
of 668 points
In addition to being a ten time Gold Glove right fielder who had enough power to be one of the
very few NPB players to amass 500 career homers, he was a base stealing threat and durable
as well. He won 2 MVPs and 10 Best Nine Awards while leading the Carp to five pennants and
three Japan Series titles.
Akira Bessho   p 651 points
Although he started his career in 1942. he didn't emerge as a star until after the war. After
three excellent seasons with the Hawks, he was traded to the Giants, where he experienced
even greater success. He was also a strong hitter for the era, playing over 60 games at first
or in the outfield.
12. Jiro Noguchi
p 644 points
A superb pitcher for the early Senators, which is one of the franchises which went out of
existence without leaving a modern ancestor. Noguchi was quite capable with the bat, peaking
with a 31 game hitting streak in 1946. He was an iron man, especially before the end of WW II,
including a 527 inning season in 1942. A key component of his success was his
control, as he was frequently among the league's best at giving up the least walks per nine
Tetsuharu Kawakami   1b 611 points
He was nicknamed "The God of Batting" due to his regularly high averages. He had some power,
but especially after a 1950 talk with Ted Williams, he focused on hitting line drives for
average. He still had good doubles power, though. His managing career is even more
impressive than his playing career, with 11 pennants and Japan Series titles in only 14
seasons, none of which were under .500!
14. Yutaka Fukumoto
of 584 points
Japan's ultimate leadoff man--a high average with a good eye (he led the league in walks 6
times) and superb base stealing speed. He is the career leader in steals, and has 469
more steals than anyone else in a NPB career. He also used his speed to good advantage
in the field, winning 12 consecutive Gold Gloves in center field. He was durable, and even
had some power, though not a lot. All in all, a very formidable package of talents.
Yasumitsu Toyoda   ss-1b 578 points
This 5 foot 9 inch tall, 181 pound shortstop had serious power, averaging 24 homers a year.
He's the Excellence Plus Point choice as Japan's greatest shortstop ever, though
Kazuo Matsui is closing on him, especially since Toyoda spent his
last few seasons playing first base. The system also sees him as the second best player
retired at least 15 years who has not yet been inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame.
Finally, the fact a middle infielder ranks this highly shows why I believe this system is so
much better than the one it is replacing. In the previous system, Katsuya Nomura was the only
catcher or middle infielder in the top 39 players according to the ratings. In the Excellence
Plus point system, Katsuya Nomura is 1 of 6 players whose primary position was catcher or a
middle infield spot. The Excellence Plus point evaluation of the distribution of talent is
clearly more on target.
Hiromitsu Kadota   of 578 points
This 5 foot 7 inch 180 pound power hitter smacked 567 homers, the third best NPB career total
ever. He also surpassed the magic 2000 hit mark despite missing the 1979 season to a
ruptured Achilles tendon. After that injury, he was primarily limited to serving as a DH. He
may have been moving in that direction anyway since he played more at DH than in the outfield
Kihachi Enomoto   1b 577 points
He won 9 Best Nine Awards, primarily while hitting third in front of
Kazuhiro Yamauchi. According to Fitts and Engels, after an
off year in 1965, Enomoto bought a batting cage with a plastic roof (in case of rain) and put
it in his backyard. The extra practice he put in there helped him to a league leading .351
average to win the batting title in 1966.
18. Fumio Fujimura
3b-1b 571 points
This early star of Japanese baseball was very superstitious, never shaving before games or
hurting insects, lest doing so adversely affect his batting. A very intense player with a hot
temper who was once suspended for physically abusing an umpire.
19 (tie). Masahiro Doi
of 563 points
He wasn't much with the glove, but Doi was an excellent power hitter. He had 465 homers among
his 2452 hits, but because he played most of his career for one of the least popular teams,
the Buffaloes, he rarely got as much recognition as he deserved.
19 (tie). Hideki Matsui
of 563 points
Since my system counts MLB win shares for players like "Godzilla", he's sure to pass
a few more players along the way. He might slip behind
Ichiro again, though.
21. Sachio Kinugasa
3b-1b 561 points
Kinugasa was the offspring of a black American serviceman and a Japanese woman. Unfortunately,
Kinugasa's father wasn't involved in his life after birth. Kinugasa is best known for his
2215 consecutive game streak. It's clear there were times his production suffered from playing
hurt. Please note I didn't say this hurt his teams, because it is certainly possible he still
performed better than whoever on the bench would have taken his place in the lineup.
Presumably, his manager (usually the quite astute Koba) thought he was better than the
alternatives. One thing I find quite odd is how he split his time between third and first
base. It looks like he started at third but would be switched to third for defensive purposes.
Ordinarily, this would suggest his defense at third was a weakness, but he won his three Gold
Gloves there. Without more data to help resolve the issue, it will have to remain a mystery.
Tadashi Wakabayashi   p 560 points
He was born in Hawaii to Japanese parents. In 1929, Wakabayashi toured Japan as a Nisei high
schooler, and then attended a Japanese university. After finishing his schooling, he joined
the Tigers and became a top-notch professional hurler in Japan. He was also known as an
outspoken critic of Japanese society and Japanese baseball.
23. Koichi Tabuchi
c 555 points
A huge man by Japanese standards (6 foot 3 inches, 210 pounds), he was a fine defensive
catcher who had big time home run power. Won five Best Nine Awards and two Gold Gloves at
Kazuhiro Kiyohara   1b 554 points
Has now surpassed 2000 career hits, and will likely pass 500 HR as well. In his 1995 Guide,
Jim Allen called him the best defensive first baseman in Japan at the time. Won 3 Best Nine
Awards and 5 Gold Gloves.
25. Katsuo Osugi
1b 547 points
He was a power hitting right handed first baseman who was the last player signed before the
first Japan Pro Baseball draft. He advocated a batting style called "hit it towards the moon",
which I gather involved uppercutting.
Shigeru Sugishita   p 535 points
This glasses-wearing right hander with a fine curve ball had a relatively short but brilliant
career. His best season was his dominant 1954 campaign in which he led the Dragona to a
Japan Series win. In the process, he collected the MVP, Sawamura Award, and the Series MVP.
27 (tie). Shinichi Eto
of-1b 531 points
Openly rebelled against his manager in 1970 when he refused to obey a curfew or pay fines for
his disobedience. The rebellion forced a trade. Also of note is that in an admittedly small
number of at bats, Fitts and Engels report he did quite well against major league pitchers,
going 18 for 44 (.409) with 3 homers.
27 (tie). Koji Akiyama
of 531 points
A fine defensive outfielder with good speed (51 stolen bases in 60 attempts in 1990) who
recently retired. He won 8 Best Nine Awards and 11 Gold Gloves.
29. Ichiro Suzuki
of 529 points
Ichiro demonstrated that a Japanese star could be a star in the majors. He already has a
career worthy of induction into Japan's Hall of Fame, and could be taking aim at Cooperstown
Hideo Fujimoto   p 528 points
The first man to pitch a perfect game in NPB, on June 28, 1950. In fact, he is still best
known in Japan for this accomplishment. By 1948, this 5 foot 7 inch, 145 pound fireballer
had a sore arm, but he successfully coped by changing his delivery from over the top to
sidearm and adding the slider to his repertoire. He was, according to Fitts and Engels, the
first Japanese pitcher to use this pitch. He was also a good hitter for a pitcher, with a .245
Masayuki Kakefu   3b 528 points
Kakefu drew a good number of walks to add to a .292 lifetime average. He added good defense
as well, as evidenced by his 7 Best Nine Awards and 6 Gold Gloves. He would rank even higher
had he not missed about half the season in 1980, right in the middle of his best years.
Futoshi Nakanishi   3b 497 points
An absolutely briiliant player from 1953 to his wrist injury in 1959. Unfortunately, he only
had 949 at bats after the injury spread out over 11 seasons. He could still hit, as seen by
the 54 homers he hit in those 949 AB. The brilliance of his good years propels his rating
this high, but the fact he had only 4116 career AB keeps him from going higher. Easily
qualifies for Japan's Hall of Fame in my opinion.
32 (tie). Michiyo Arito
3b 497 points
He finishes even with Nakanishi due to a much longer career (7303 career AB). He was an all-
around player, with good averages, power and defense to go with speed (he stole 20 or more
bases in 5 different seasons). The only minor flaw I see is his walk totals were quite
34. Shigeru Chiba
2b 496 points
He was called "The Formidable Buffalo" for reasons I don't understand, especially given his
rather diminutive size of 5 feet 6 inches tall and 140 pounds. He was formidable as a leadoff
man, combining excellent averages, high walk totals and speed. He was also a strong defensive
Tsutomu Wakamatsu   of 494 points
He was known as the "Little Big Batter" because of his size (5 feet 6 inches tall, 165 pounds)
and his high batting averages, .319 for his career, second best in NPB history for hitters with
over 4000 AB. He also added good defense and some power (220 career HR) to complete the
36. Tatsunori Hara
3b-of 491 points
He was a very popular Giant, which didn't sit well with
Warren Cromartie, which is obvious from Slugging It Out in Japan. Nevertheless,
Hara had critics, apparently largely because he wasn't as good as Oh or Nagashima. While it's
true he wasn't that good, Giant fans should have been thankful he was as good as he
37. Taira Fujita
ss 489 points
Fujita hit for average (.286 lifetime, with a single season high of .358) and had good power
for a middle infielder with 207 career homers. This lefty also rarely struck out. He won 3
Gold Gloves at short as well to go with his seven Best Nine Awards, six at short and one at
first. All in all, a wonderful player.
38. Masaaki Koyama
p 483 points
This righthander had excellent control, which helped him win 320 games. He had good size for
a Japanese player a 6 foot 1 inch tall and 161 pounds. He was traded in mid-career from the
Tigers to the Orions for Kazuhiro Yamauchi.
39. Atsuya Furuta
c 479 points
He's still active and playing well, so he should move up a few notches. He's already turned
in a Japanese Hall of Fame caliber career, and even has a chance at catching the #2 all-time
40. Hideji Kato
1b 476 points
A key performer for the Braves' dynasty of the 1970's, which won 6 pennants and 3 Japan Series
in that time. He was over .300 in almost all the 1970's seasons, and adds 347 career homers
to his resume. There's no doubt he was an excellent player.
Hiromichi Ishige   3b-ss 475 points
He won 5 Gold Gloves at shortstop, then five more as a third baseman. I'd sure like to know
who or what inspired them to move him. Anyway, in Jim Allen's 1994 Guide, there is this about
Ishige: "This guy is the nail who holds the Lions together. No one outhustles or outthinks
him." He added 8 Best Nine Awards to his Gold Gloves, 5 at short and 3 at third.
42. Kazuo Matsui
ss 470 points
He has already staked a claim for induction into the Japanese Hall of Fame. One can even
reasonably argue he's already the best Japanese shortstop ever in view of the fact the two
men who are primarily shortstops who are ahead of him both put in significant playing time at
first at the end of their careers. The main question I have about his move to the majors is
if he will accept a drastic reduction in homers. If he does, I think the rest of his game
will stay intact. If not, there could be trouble.
43. Kenichi Yazawa
1b-of 469 points
He hit for power and average, usually in the 3-4 spots in the lineup for the Dragons. This
lefty ruptured his Achilles tendon in 1978, costing him half of that season and most of the
rest. He rebounded well enough to win 4 of his 5 career Best Nine Awards and to finish with a
career average over .300
Hiroyuki Yamazaki   2b-ss 466 points
A slick fielding middle infielder who could hit for power. There was a fierce battle among
teams to get him to sign with them after he left high school, and this helped lead to the
institution of the Japan pro draft in 1965.
45. Shosei Go
of 464 points
In the previous rating system, I was skeptical of his worthiness to be inducted into Japan's
Hall of Fame. This new rating system demonstrates to my satisfaction that if you give him
due credit for the deadball play of the wartime years, the short seasons of that time, the
suspended season of 1945, his fine pitching in 1946 (including a no hitter), and his excellent
ability to get on base, he easily deserves the honor. He was the premier leadoff hitter of
the one league era, with good stolen base numbers to support his superior ability to get on
Tatsuhiko Kimata   c 462 points
He was overshadowed by his Central League contemporary at catcher, Tabuchi. He's a clear
example of how Excellence Plus does a far better job of evaluating middle infielders and
catchers than the previous "Greatness Points" system did. He caught almost 2000 games and hit
for decent power, with 285 homers. He won five Best Nines at catcher, despite frequently
having Tabuchi for competition.
Morimichi Takagi   2b 461 points
He was a scrappy right hander with speed (369 career steals) and good power for a middle
infielder (272 career HR). He didn't walk much, and his average suffered for five seasons
after a serious 1968 beaning in which he was hit in the face by a pitch from
Tsuneo Horiuchi. He is best known for his defense
around second, though.
Kazuyoshi Tatsunami   2b-ss-3b 456 points
He's still active, but he's already done enough to merit eventual induction into Japan's Hall
of Fame. Jim Allen says he wasn't a special fielder as a shortstop, but was such a fielder as
a second baseman. He has moved to third now, but has remained effective with the bat. In
his 1994 Guide, Jim Allen called him "the Roberto Alomar of Japan". He won a Best Nine Award
and five Gold Gloves (three at second, and one each at third and short).
Hiromi Matsunaga   3b 455 points
In his 1997 Guide, Jim Allen says Matsunaga was once the best third baseman and leadoff
hitter in Japan. By the time that was written, Matsunaga was 37 and had several serious
injuries in the previous six years, so he no longer deserved those accolades, as Allen made
clear. Still, I think his career merits induction into the Japanese Hall of Fame.
50. Makoto Kozuru
of-1b 454 points
Under the previous rating system, I concluded he wasn't a worthy choice for Japan's Hall of
Fame. This new evaluation persuades me the voters were fully justified in selecting him, and
I was wrong to criticize them for doing so.
51. Akira Eto
3b-1b 453 points
He's still active, but fighting for playing time for the Giants. He was a competent if
unspectacular fielder who drew lots of walks and hit for power. He's currently the last man
over 450 Excellence Plus points, which is the level I use to mark a sure Japanese Hall of
Famer. The gray area extends from 350 to 449 points and should be viewed as a continuum in
which the higher a player's score is, the better his chances of induction to the Japanese Hall
of Fame should be. I see players at 400 points as 50/50 chances to make the Hall, all things
being equal. Below 350, you'd better have significant success as a manager or in baseball
outside of NPB to merit induction in my view.
Toshio Shiraishi   ss 449 points
He was 5 foot 6 inches tall and 150 pounds. His offensive contribution was better than one
would think by looking at his .256 career average for several reasons: 1) he drew a lot of
walks, 2) most of his career was in a deadball era, and 3) he was a middle infielder. I think
his selection to the Japanese Hall of Fame is fully justified.
Michio Nishizawa   1b-p 447 points
The previous rating system's results made me disagree with his selection to Japan's Hall of
Fame. This new evaluation persuades me I and the previous rating system were wrong about
that. He started out in NPB as a 16 year old pitcher, and never was special as a hurler.
in 1947 and 1948, he played for the Stars, and was converted to first base. For most of the
next decade, this right hander hit line drives, mostly to left field, and with some power,
reaching a single season high of 46 HR.
53 (tie). Yutaka Enatsu
p 447 points
This left handed power pitcher began his professional career as a dominant starter and
eventually became a dominant reliever. In that way, he's much like the majors' Dennis
Eckersley, though Enatsu was more dominant as a starter than Eckersley, but less so as a
reliever than Eckersley. Despite Enatsu's brilliance on the mound, he played for five
different teams in 10 years. The reasons for this are in the form of his off the mound
behavior. He sometimes slept during practice, once shoved o0ne of his managers, had a feud
with another of his managers, chain smoked five packs of cigarettes a day, associated with
gangsters, and had drug abuse problems, according to Fitts and Engels.
Yoshihiko Takahashi   ss 443 points
He won five Best Nine Awards at short, but never won a Gold Glove despite the fact they were
awarded throughout his career. He had a .416 career slugging percentage, which means he had
some pop in his bat for a middle infielder. He also added speed to the mix, finishing among
the league leaders in steals several times.
Hisashi Yamada   p 443 points
This right handed submarine style pitcher won three consecutive Pacific League MVPs. He added
five Best Nine Awards and five Gold Gloves. His major weakness was the gopher ball, once
allowing 42 in a season.
57. Yasunori Oshima
of-1b-3b 442 points
This power hitter had good size for a Japanese player at 6 foot tall, 190 pounds. He was also
quite successful as a pinch hitter early in his career while he was trying to establish
himself as a regular.
Yoshinori Hirose   of-ss 439 points
He was a right handed contact hitter who led off for the Hawks for much of the 1960's. He was
an excellent base stealer, with stolen base percentages consistently over 80%. He stole 596
bases in his career, second only to Fukumoto. He once stole 31 bases in a row without being
thrown out. He began his career at short, but was moved to center field. He quickly became a
defensive standout at center.
59. Tokuji Nagaike
of 438 points
He won 2 MVPs and 7 Best Nine Awards. He was a slugger who hit 338 HR in his career and had
a career slugging percentage of .534. The main reason he doesn't rank higher is that his
career is on the short side, 4872 career AB.
60 (tie). Tokuji Iida
1b-of 437 points
A right hand hitter known for his durability and base stealing ability, one of the top 10 in
60 (tie). Bobby Rose
2b 437 points
Currently the all-time best position player among the Western foreign-born players, but will
likely soon be challenged for that title by Petagine and/or
Rhodes. A decent but unspectacular fielder who could really hit
and played a middle infield spot to boot. I think his career is worthy of induction to the
Japanese Hall of Fame when he's been retired long enough.
62. Ryohei Hasegawa
p 433 points
Hasegawa is truly one of those pitchers who was let down by his teams. Yes, he had a 197-208
record, but the teams he played for were far worse than that. Hasegawa was a workhorse
pitcher who strove mightily to make the Carp respectable in the 1950's. A classic example of
what he was up against was 1955, when he won 30 games, but the Carp managed only 28 wins for
all its other pitchers. When all is said and done, I beleive he is a worthy member of Japan's
Hall of Fame.
63. Kazuto Yamamoto
3b-2b 432 points
His managing career under the family name Tsuruoka made him a shoo-in for the Japanese Hall of
Fame, but he was one heck of a player as well. The key to this rating is adding in the seven
years he lost to World War II. Beyond that, he had high averages and good walk totals, which
is always a valuable combination.
64. Minoru Murayama
p 430 points
He grew up rooting for the Tigers, and declined a more lucrative offer from the Giants to sign
with the Tigers. In so doing, he honored his father's dying request that Minoru become a
Tiger. He was a power pitcher who relied on a forkball and a fastball along with excellent
Tadashi Sugiura   p 427 points
Amassed almost 2/3 of his career wins (116 out of 187) in the four seasons from 1958 to 1961,
including a stellar 38-4 mark in 1959 to lead the Hawks to a Japan Series title. He was
worked very hard, and as a result, after 1964, he only pitched six more seasons, all of them
as a reliever. This relatively short career explains why he doesn't rank higher.
Kenjiro Tamiya   of 427 points
The Greatness Point rating system led me to criticize his 2002 induction to the Japanese Hall
of Fame, and once again, that system misled me. The Excellence Plus evaluation shows he
earned it despite the fact his career was on the short side (4807 career AB). He was a high
average hitter who won five Best Nine Awards.
Takahiro Ikeyama   ss 427 points
He recently retired. The previous method led me to say he wouldn't make the JHOF. I now lean
in the other direction because while he scores well, he has a lot of contemporaries at short
who contributed approximately as much or even more than him. That concentration of talent at
short may derail his chances of being inducted into the JHOF. He won five Best Nines and a
Gold Glove at short, and those awards can't hurt his chances.
68. Isao Shibata
of 426 points
The leadoff hitter and center fielder for the "V-9" Giants, he hit for good averages, drew
a lot of walks, and stole the third most bases in a career. He did strike out quite a bit,
though. The Gold Gloves didn't start in Japan until his was half over, but he still won five
of them. That convinces me he belongs in the Japanese Hall of Fame.
69. Yoshio Yoshida
ss-1b 425 points
He was known as "Mr. Shortstop" in Japan because of his fielding prowess. He won 9 Best Nine
Awards even though his career batting average is a not overly impressive .267. He won those
awards because of his fielding, base stealing, bunting, and proficiency at the hit and run.
He was the Tigers' leadoff hitter from 1955 to 1966, which doesn't seem to mesh well with the
bunting and hit and run skills in a non-DH league. I have to wonder if the Tigers wouldn't
have done better to bat him second instead. In any event, I think he deserves his Hall of
70. Yukio Tanaka
ss-of 422 points
He's still active, though he may be slowing down now. He broke his leg in 1992 and was
shifted to the outfield. His career really took off when he was returned to short in 1995.
Apparently he got on a regular weight training program after the broken leg and stuck with it.
That made him one of the few Japanese players at the time to use weights.
71. Noburu Aota
of 421 points
He has been retired since 1959 and hasn't been inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame, even
though the Excellence Plus point system sees him as a rather strong candidate. I'd have to
think that even if a player is never ineligible to be selected to the JHOF, the chances of
receiving the honor have to start to drop dramatically at some point, and that Aota is past
72 (tie). Mitsuo Motoi
2b 420 points
He played over 1700 games as a middle infielder, finishing with a .273 career average and a
.412 career slugging percentage, which are pretty solid marks for a middle infielder. However,
he only won one Best Nine Award and one Gold Glove, and the lack of awards will not help his
case for the JHOF.
Roberto Petagine   1b 420 points
He is still active and has rocketed out to this impressive mark in a mere six years. It not
only looks like he's solidifying an already formidable case for the JHOF, but that he's taking
aim on the two foreign born position players ahead of him, Rose and
Tomoaki Kanemoto   of 418 points
Began his career as a left-handed platoon outfielder and progressed from there. Even in
Japan's minors, he walked a lot and had power, and those valuable traits followed him to NPB.
Eventually, he improved to become a good defensive left fielder who not only had the
aforementioned power and walks, but added high averages and effective base stealing. He's
now with the Tigers and still rather effective. It sure looks from here like he'll eventually
be inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame.
75. Tetsuya Yoneda
p 414 points
This 5 foot 11 inch tall, 190 pound right hander pitched the second most innings in NPB
history (5130) and won the second most games (350). He was also an excellent batter for a
pitcher, with a .271 career average and 33 career HR. Not surprisingly, he was occasionally
called upon to fill in at first or in the outfield when not pitching. Clearly, he earned his
induction into the JHOF.
76. Juzo Sanada
p 413 points
This right hander was renowned for having the best curveball of the period after WW II to the
mid-fifties. In 1946 and 1947, he pitched a total of 888.2 innings, and did so quite
effectively. He was also solid enough with the bat to register a .255 career average, Sanada
is yet another case where the "Greatness Points" system led me to wrongly disagree with the
folks who selected him to the Hall of Fame, and this new system showed me I was wrong.
Makoto Matsubara   1b-3b 412 points
He was durable and a very good player, but was overshadowed by being a first baseman-third
baseman at the same time and in the same league as Oh and Nagashima. Furthermore, he played
all but his last season for the generally sorry Whales. These factors will not help his JHOF
candidacy. Unless his defense was truly special, it is reasonable to think he won't be
inducted. It's a legitimately close call, though.
Kenjiro Nomura   ss-3b 412 points
He's now finishing his career as a third baseman, and doesn't appear to have much left. Jim
Allen's Guides indicate he was good defensively, and I respect his judgment. I'd say he has a
good chance of eventually being inducted into the JHOF. The only problem is that he's only
one of several excellent shortstops from the same time frame, and it's unlikely all of them
will get in.
79. Keishi Suzuki
p 410 points
This lefty began his career as a pure fireballer, but as he aged, he made the transition from
hurler to pitcher. Unfortunately, he played for the Buffaloes, who usually lost more than they
won. Also, because he relished challenging hitters, he surrendered 560 homers in his career.
In my view, he fully deserved his recent induction to the JHOF.
80. Tuffy Rhodes
of 409 points
He is still active, though now with the Giants. One of his main claims to fame is that he is
tied for the single season homer mark at 55. Since he's still quite effective, I'd say the
homer record plus his accomplishments to date might well be enough, but when you include any
realistic assessment of what he can be expected to add before his career is over, he should
certainly be deserving of induction into the Japanese Hall of Fame some day.
Norihiro Nakamura   3b 408 points
It is interesting that he is just behind his long-time teammate Rhodes
. Unless it is Rhodes' turn to suffer injury, I suspect Rhodes will open up the gap.
Nakamura's 2003 season raises the question of how close he is to being finished, while we
haven't started asking that question about Rhodes yet. I don't think Nakamura is done yet,
but I have the feeling he is closer to that point than Rhodes. We'll see.
82. Akinobu Mayumi
of-ss 405 points
A problem for his JHOF candidacy is that he won "only" 2 Best Nine Awards and no Gold Gloves.
When you talk about all players, that's a good record, since most players don't even deserve
one. However, when you talk about a Hall of Fame, you're talking about the very best,
and then that same record isn't very impressive. Another problem is that even the Excellence
Plus system doesn't uncover any real monster seasons to support his candidacy. For all these
reasons, unless his defense is a significantly greater asset than I suspect, I'd say he just
falls short of the Japanese Hall of Fame.
83. Yutaka Takagi
2b-ss 403 points
His only awards are three Best Nines, and, like Mayumi, never had a real monster season.
Given all the recent and current middle infielders which will be becoming eligible fot the
JHOF, I think it is likely he will be crowded out of the picture.
84 (tie). Masaru Uno
ss-3b 402 points
He's another recent vintage middle infielder with three Best Nines and no other awards to his
credit. Unlike Yutaka Takagi, he's got high quality power hitting to grab attention. He hit
338 career homers, including one season with 41 round-trippers and another season with 37
blasts to lead the league. I'd guess that will be just enough to put him over the top in
JHOF consideration some day.
Hiroshi Oshita   of 402 points
This left handed outfielder was born in Taiwan and used a blue bat. He helped the Lions to
4 pennants and 3 Japan Series titles, including his 1954 MVP season. He won 7 Best Nine Awards
and 3 batting titles. According to Fitts and Engels' book, "Oshita loved the nightlife and
had a legendary appetite for both sake and women." I won't argue with his selection to the
Hall of Fame not only because of his accomplishments, but it can reasonably be argued he lost
a few seasons to WW II, and if he had those seasons, he'd look like a much stronger
Daijiro Oishi   2b 401 points
He won 3 Best Nine Awards and 3 Gold Gloves, which gives him a bit of an edge over Yutaka
Takagi. The Gold Gloves mean it is quite possible the system is undervaluing his defense.
He knew how to draw walks, which certainly is helpful, and could steal bases. Jim Allen's
1994 Guide said of him:"He's been a remarkably consistent and valuable player for ten years."
I'd say he deserves entry into the Japanese Hall of Fame.
86 (tie). Takuro Ishii
ss-3b 401 points
He's still active, though he is 33 and had a poor 2003 season. He won 5 Best Nine Awards and
4 Gold Gloves, so I think he's got a good case for the JHOF.
88. Takao Kajimoto
p 399 points
Kajimoto is the first man I will definitely say does not belong in the Japanese Hall of Fame.
He hasn't been inducted yet, and really doesn't deserve it because not only was he 254-255,
but he was below his team and, by my calculations, even below an average pitcher with the same
number of decisions each year for the same team. His teams won 53% of their games without him,
and he's about 9 games behind that. When I used the comparison to an average pitcher, he was
only 3 games below that mark. Unfortunately, when you can't even demonstrate you can
outperform an average player, you've provided clear evidence you don't belong in a Hall of
Fame with the great players of the game based upon your play. His positives are easy to see,
though: he was quite durable, and three of his first four years were of All-Star quality.
However, I do not believe he had any other seasons at that level, and I further feel that
three such years just aren't enough, especially given the rest of his record.
Shoichi Busujima   of 394 points
He isn't in the JHOF at this time, and won "only" three Best Nine Awards. He had good speed,
leading the league in triples three times and stealing 10 or more bases in 10 different
seasons. I wish I knew more about his defense, since his JHOF case is such a close call,
because if his defense was top-notch, his chances of making it improve greatly, and if it
wasn't, he probably falls short.
90. Mitsuo Minagawa
p 393 points
This right handed submariner is the last man to win 30 games in NPB, in 1968. He had
excellent control and used a sinker as his out pitch. He seems to have worn out his arm in
that 30 win 1968 season. He's not in the JHOF now, but I think beng the last 30 game winner
will be the factor that puts him into that company some day.
91. Wally Yonamine
of 392 points
He was born in Hawaii to Japanese parents. He was a football star and even played football
professionally until suffering a broken wrist in 1950. He maintained a hard-nosed, hustling
football style of play when he went to Japan in 1951. As a result, he introduced the Japanese
to a far more aggressive style of baseball. He won 6 Best Nine Awards, an MVP, and 3 batting
titles. His NPB career average is .311. Add to that the fact he was an important part of the
Giants' success in the 1950's, and I'd say he earned his induction into Japan's Hall.
92. Kazuhiko Kondo
of-1b 390 points
He played centerfield for the Whales and earned 7 Best Nine Awards and nine seasons on the
all-star team. He once won a stolen base crown. He was known for his unusual batting style,
which was called the "balance scales". For more information on him, see Gary Garland's
obituary of him here. In
terms of the JHOF, he's a tough call. For one thing, I'd love to know more about his defense.
93. Akinobu Okada
2b-3b 385 points
He won 1 Best Nine Award and 2 Gold Gloves. He had some power, with a career .466 slugging
percentage and 247 career HR, especially for a middle infielder. He had a big season for the
Tigers in their 1985 pennant year, with a .342 average and 35 homers, both career highs. He
might just squeak into the JHOF behind those qualifications.
94. Mitsuo Naka
of 384 points
His 1967 batting title with a .343 average and his 5 Best Nine Awards deserve notice. My take
on him for the JHOF depends on his defense--if it was top-notch, he probably should make it.
If not, I think he falls just short.
95. Akitoshi Kodama
3b 382 points
He won 5 Best Nine Awards, but that is his main asset in terms of JHOF qualifications. I
think he's another case who had to have been top-notch defensively to earn induction.
Katsumi Hirosawa   1b-of 379 points
Definitely appears to be near the end of his career. He won 4 Best Nine Awards, but no other
honors. Without a big last-hurrah type season, I don't think he's quite JHOF quality.
Norihiro Komada   1b-of 379 points
He won only 1 Best Nine Award, but added 10 Gold Gloves at first. If those Gold Gloves had
come at almost any other defensive position, I'd say he would be worthy of the JHOF. Since
they didn't, I think his case for that honor fails.
96 (tie). Boomer Wells
1b 379 points
His score is this low because he only played 10 seasons in NPB, with 4451 career at bats.
Otherwise, he has a ton of JHOF-type qualifications: a Triple Crown, a MVP, 4 Best Nine
Awards, 2 Gold Gloves, a batting title besides the one in the Triple Crown year, seven full
seasons with an average over .300, 3 seasons with over 40 homers, and two more seasons with
30-39 homers. I think he deserves to get inducted.
Toshio Shinozuka   2b 379 points
I think he makes a much better JHOF case than this score indicates. He has a .304 career
average, which is superb for a middle infielder who won 5 Best Nine Awards and 4 Gold Gloves
at second. He adds two batting titles and the fact he did all this for Japan's Team, the
100 (tie). Masayasu Kaneda
of 377 points
One batting title, three Best Nine Awards and good walk and stolen base marks probably aren't
quite enough to get this Tiger left-hander a JHOF nod.
100 (tie). Takeshi Kuwata
3b-ss 377 points
He had good power, with 20 or more HR in eight seasons. Unfortunately for him, he played for
the generall sad-sack Whales at a time when the Giants had a far better third baseman named
Nagashima. He couldn't wrest any Central League awards away from Nagashima, and that probably
dooms whatever chances he had of making the JHOF.
102. Teruzo Nakao
p 375 points
A lefty who early in his career took a Nolan Ryan-type pitching philosophy to its logical
extreme. This Giant from the early days of NPB either struck out batters or walked them in
his first seven seasons. In 1940, he walked 212 men while striking out 225 and allowing only
223 hits in 347 innings to keep his ERA down to 1.76. He must have thrown an ungodly number
of pitches that year. He certainly was unique, and a 209-127 won-loss record (.622 pct) for
his career are what got him into the JHOF. My own opinion is that he's a close call, because
while he has enough positives to see why he could make it, he's got some serious negatives to
overcome as well.
Atsushi Aramaki   p 371 points
This slight (5 foot 8 inches tall, 135 pound), glasses-wearing lefty relied on a variety of
off-speed pitches, according to Fitts and Engels. His work against the New York Giants in
1953 impressed Bill Veeck enough for Veeck to make him a standing offer of a tryout with the
Indians. He was named to 5 all-star teams and had a monster rookie season in 1950 with a 26-8
record and a league leading 2.08 ERA. Also, his 26 wins were best in the league that year.
Kazuyoshi Yamamoto   of 371 points
He never won a Best Nine, a MVP, or a title in one of the Triple Crown categories. You can be
a fine player and never do any of those things, and Yamamoto certainly was. However, if you
want to get into a Hall of Fame without any of those qualifications, you'd better be quite
durable. Yamamoto wasn't with only 4846 career AB.
103 (tie). LeRon Lee
of 371 points
Lee's career is far more brilliant than Kazuyoshi Yamamoto's as can be seen by Lee's 4 Best
Nine Awards, one title in each of the Triple Crown categories, the fact he hit 30 or more HR
in 5 seasons, and had nine seasons in which he qualified for a batting title and hit over
.300. Robert Whiting singles out LeRon and his brother Leon in You Gotta Have Wa as
two of the Americans who made the transition to playing in Japan most successfully. Since
LeRon also holds the NPB record for lifetime average (which requires at least 4000 AB) at
.320, he has a legitimate shot at being selected to the JHOF some day.
Kinji Shimatani   3b 371 points
He won 2 Best Nine Awards and 4 Gold Gloves, and had good power, with 20 or more homers in 7
seasons. That makes him one heck of a player, but I don't think it's enough to get him into
the Japanese Hall of Fame.
107. Takeshi Doigaki
c 366 points
Since I only rank four catchers ahead of him under this rating system, it is possible that the
idea that 400 points represents a 50-50 shot at the JHOF may be a tad too high for catchers.
Doigaki won 6 Best Nine Awards, so I wouldn't object if he were selected, especially if
someone provided evidence he was a top-notch receiver (there weren't any Gold Glove Awards in
108. Toru Sugiura
of 364 points
He won 2 Best Nine Awards but no Gold Gloves despite the fact Gold Gloves were awarded
throughout his career. He had good plate discipline and therefore rather good walk totals.
He added some power, with 20 or more HR in five seasons. He never led the league in any of
the Triple Crown categories, so while he was clearly a fine player, I don't think he should
be selected to the JHOF.
109. Takumi Otomo
p 360 points
This right hander pitched well for the Giants, with a 27-6 season with a league leading 1.86
ERA in 1953 and a 30-6 season with a 1.75 ERA in 1955. The season in between, 1954, was a
heck of a year as well. Unfortunately, those three seasons amount to over 54% of his career
innings pitched (863.2 of 1591.2). I think that although he was truly brilliant for those
three years, the shortness of his career should disqualify him from the Hall of Fame.
Michihiro Ogasawara   1b-3b 358 points
Still active and very effective, and has been successfully switched from first to third base.
He has power and takes a lot of walks in addition to hitting for high averages, which means
he's a tremendous hitter. He got a bit of a late start, and turned 30 in October 2003. If
he has decent health, he should complete a JHOF-caliber career.
111 (tie). Toru Ogawa
1b-of 357 points
The only award he won was a single Gold Glove. I just don't think this lefty has been JHOF
Atsushi Kataoka   3b-1b 357 points
He's still active and now plays for the Tigers. He was rather effective in 2003 after 2 off
seasons. He will be 35 in June 2004, so his production from here on will have a great impact
on his chances of being inducted into the JHOF.
113. Tsutomu Ito
c 352 points
Ito just retired after the 2003 season. Despite his relatively low score, I think he will get
into the JHOF behind his 9 Best Nine Awards and 11 Gold Gloves. He wasn't a great hitter by
any means, but that record indicates he was an excellent defensive catcher. Since this
rating system still isn't terribly sophisticated in its defensive evaluations, it means that
it probably underrates Ito's value. For all those reasons, he doesn't have to have been much
of a hitter to deserve induction.
114 (tie). Tom O'Malley
1b 350 points
His NPB career is very short for him to be considered among the best, with only six
seasons and 2603 career AB. However, he hit over .300 in each of those years with good to
spectacular walk totals with at least 15 HR a year and a high of 31. He won one batting title,
one MVP, and one Best Nine Award. I think that the short career does in his JHOF chances, but
just barely. In his 1996 Guide, Jim Allen said that "O'Malley is a smart player who does
everything he can to win."
114 (tie). Randy Bass
1b 350 points
Bass also had a short career, but he has some tremendous positives in his favor. In fact, he
did well in the voting for the candidates who will be inducted in 2004, reportedly missing
induction by a mere two votes. His two consecutive Triple Crowns head his list of
achievements, along with 1 MVP and 3 Gold Gloves. He hit 54 HR in one of the Triple Crown
seasons, and might well have tied Oh's record had Giant pitchers
(Oh managed the Giants at the time) not thrown their pitches so far away from the plate as to
make them unhittable in Bass' last game that year. The following year he hit .389, which
remains the best single season mark in NPB history. His career ended in disputes arising from
his departure from Japan to be with his 8 year old son, who was discovered to have a brain
tumor. The Tigers promised to pay for the boy's medical expenses, but unfortunately no one in
the organization procured insurance to pay for the boy's expensive treatments. This led to a
nasty disagreement between Bass and the Tigers. For a nice, more in-depth discussion of Bass'
NPB career, see Chapter 12 of You Gotta Have Wa.
NOTE: From here on, we will exclusively focus on players selected to Japan's Hall of
Fame. At this point, we're skipping large numbers of players, and therefore, I will dispense
with giving you where a player ranks.
of 327 points
His playing career puts him close to the JHOF, especially if you think he deserves a break on
the theory that but for WWII he would have begun his NPB career earlier than age 28 in 1948.
He was a right hander who wore glasses and whose stance (according to Fitts and Engels) was
graceful and spread-legged, resembling Joe DiMaggio's stance. He won 1 MVP and 6 Best Nine
Awards and added a home run title and a RBI title to his accomplishments. He is also close
to deserving JHOF honors for his managing career, so I can accept the argument that when one
combines both of those careers in one individual, he deserved being inducted even though
neither part of his career standing alone is sufficient to support the honor.
of 324 points
A small (5 feet, 4 inches tall, 130 pounds), fleet outfielder from the early days of NPB who
was a fine base stealer. He won two Best Nine Awards, though they were given only once
before 1947, in 1940. This rating system helps him out with the deadball era and the shorter
seasons of the day, yet sees him as well short of JHOF standards. Personally, I think his
induction was a mistake.
p 318 points
A 2004 inductee to the JHOF. Had he pitched at a later time, I might buy it. He has one of
each of the following to his credit: an ERA title, a winning percentage title, a strikeout
title, a Best Nine Award, and a MVP. Even so, I can't endorse this selection.
p 296 points
He had a quite successful career as a manager which fully justifies his selection to the JHOF
of 292 points
The NPB didn't exist until he was 27, so perhaps one can justify his induction to the JHOF at
least partially based upon his play in the industrial leagues prior to NPB's existence. If
that explains why he's in, I won't argue, mainly because I know very little about such issues.
He won NPB's first Triple Crown. Overall, he led the league in homers twice, average once,
and RBI 4 times. He was an excellent curve ball hitter and used all parts of the field. He
also had a strong throwing arm, occasionally getting assists on force outs at second or to
throwing to beat the batter to first.
of 278 points
He went into the military before he could play for the Hawks in 1938. When he finished his
tour of duty, he played for three seasons with the Hawks, and then left for the industrial
leagues. He returned to NPB in 1949 at age 37. Considering his age, he had a great NPB
career from that point on. However, his NPB accomplishments alone are insufficient to support
his induction. However, the JHOF chooses to consider contributions by high schoolers,
collegians, and industrial league players in choosing who it honors. I have no idea if
Iwamoto's accomplishments outside NPB alone or in combination with his NPB
accomplishments are enough to properly support his induction.
ss 277 points
His managing career alone is more than adequate to support his induction, so I certainly won't
argue with it. I'd say he was perceived as a superlative glove man, based on the fact he was
named to all-star teams in six seasons without having that many good years at the plate and
because he was able to keep his job on championship quality Giant teams even after his bat
deserted him. He won 1 Best Nine Award.
of-p 274 points
He was good enough at both outfield and pitching to be selected for an all-star team (in
different years) at each spot. That means he was unique and quite good, but I don't think it
makes him deserving of his plaque in the Japanese Hall of Fame.
of 262 points
He had some success as a pitcher as well, but pitched less than 400 innings in his career.
He was superb in 1936-1939, but was drafted and not released until the 1943 season. He did
not play well that year, put he was only 28 and undoubtedly rusty, so it is reasonable to
think his batting talents would have returned. In 1944, he reenlisted and was killed in
battle in the Phillippines the next year. You can make the case that he would have had a
career equal to or better than many Hall of Famers, especially his contemporaries except for
his service to his country. I'm not inclined to argue with that line of reasoning.
2b 231 points
Fitts and Engels book describes him as "one of the greatest fielders in Japanese baseball
history." Assuming that's accurate, the method almost assuredly undervalues his contributions.
Even so, his NPB accomplishments alone aren't enough to support his induction, so we're back
to his play outside NPB. Maybe when you add up his NPB playing and managing careers plus his
work before NPB's existence, he's qualified, but I am not in a position to judge that issue
one way or another.
3b 206 points
He was 27 when NPB began and a veteran of the 1934 team which played the major league
all-stars. He also later toured the US with a Japanese all-star team. In NPB, he usually
played third base, but in the 1938 fall campaign, he pitched 82 innings and finished second in
the ERA race with a 1.76 mark. He won a Best Nine at third in 1940, the only time in his NPB
career Best Nine awards were made. He also won a MVP in 1942, when he hit .225 and didn't
play enough to qualify for the batting title. The .225 average is deceptive, as it
was 28 points over the league average that year and would have put him in the top ten in
average had he played enough to qualify for the batting title. By the time the 1942 MVP award
was announced, he was serving with the Japanese Imperial Army. During the war, he was
captured and spent four years in Siberia as a Russian POW. Though he was a good player, I don't
see his NPB career alone as deserving of JHOF recognition. However, his spectacular managerial
career almost made his induction into the JHOF mandatory.
p 201 points
This right hander is a legend in Japan, without any doubt. He threw hard and added a big
breaking curve to keep hitters off balance. He was born in 1917, but was already enough of
a pitcher in 1934 to be given the opportunity to face a team of touring American all-stars who
had been dominating their Japanese opposition. The American team included such luminaries as
Ruth, Gehrig, Gehringer and Foxx, and they were in the lineup in that order when they faced
Sawamura. He struck out those four in succession during the game, and surrendered only one
run in the seventh inning on a solo shot by Gehrig. Unfortunately for Sawamura, his teammates
were shut out, so he lost. In 1935, he toured America with another Japanese all-star team, and
he was able to dominate all levels of competition he faced. Once the NPB was formed, he
manhandled Japanese batters for two seasons before he was drafted for military service. He
was in the military from approximately January 1938 and the start of the 1940 season, and
apparently suffered some injury, because when he returned in 1940-1941, his fastball wasn't
the same. He was still able to pitch effectively and even registered his third no-hitter
(in only 105 appearances!). Once again he was called into service, which cost him the 1942
season. When he returned to the Giants in 1943, his shoulder was so sore that he attempted
to pitch submarine style with little success. In 1944, he rejoined the military, only to
become one of the 72 Japanese professional players to die in WW II when he was killed in the
service at the end of that year. The rating makes clear that his NPB play alone does not
justify his Hall of Fame selection, but he is so famous, it would be impossible to exclude him.
Also, he deserves some credit for his 1934 and 1935 exploits and probably deserves at least
some sympathy for doing his duty for his country.
p 190 points
He was only 5 foot 6 inches tall and 140 pounds, but this right hander was called "The Giant
Killer" for his ability to defeat the Yomiuri Giants (Kyojin). He was a talented pitcher,
because his rating is based on the only 3 seasons he spent in NPB. He also earned another,
rather less complimentary nickname of "The Heavy Drinking Pitcher", since he was definitely
fond of his alcohol. He left NPB for the industrial leagues after 1939, was drafted in 1944,
and died in combat in the Phillippines in 1945. If you can justify his case for the JHOF
based on his play in the industrial leagues and/or his service to his country, I have no basis
to dispute it. However, his NPB accomplishments alone are clearly insufficient to merit that
1b 180 points
He was compact, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 175 pounds, and the first baseman for the inaugural
Tiger team. He won a batting title and a homer title (with 4 homers) in the 1937 Spring
season, and won the triples title in the 1937 Fall season. He also won the slugging average
title in the 1937 Spring season. He stole 31 bases total between the two halves of the 1937
season and stole 23 in 1939. He had decent to good walk totals which also helped. He was
27 when NPB began and had been playing in the industrial leagues before that. He left NPB to
serve in the military in 1941, and returned for 12 AB in 1950 and 1951 as a 41 and 42 year old.
He might have been slipping when he went to war, since he was 32 and hit hit .219 in 1941.
The bottom line I have on him is that he's another case where if you want to justify his
induction into the Japanese Hall of Fame, you've got to do it with some accomplishments
outside of NPB.
p-1b 155 points
This lefty was known as "The Octopus" for his defensive excellence at first base. After the
1941 season, he was drafted and became a wartime casualty off the Phillippine coast in 1944.
His NPB accomplishments alone simply do not suffice for his induction into the JHOF, so the
selection would have to be justified by adding his high school exploits and possibly a plea
based upon his wartime service.
c 150 points
A strong-armed catcher who was a high school star. He also had speed, as evidenced by his 30
stolen bases in 1940. After his fourth season in NPB (1941), he was drafted in 1942. Two
years later, he died in battle in Burma. He presents yet another case where high school
achievements and his wartime service must be added to his NPB accomplishments to try to
justify his selection to the JHOF.
My sources for the ratings and the articles based upon those ratings are:
Bill James' Win Shares Book
The New Bill James Historical Abstract
The Bill James Handbook 2004
The Official Baseball Encyclopedia (for Japan)
Japanese Baseball: A Statistical Handbook by Dan Johnson
All-Time Japanese Baseball Register ed. by Carlos Bauer
You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting
The Meaning of Ichiro by Robert Whiting
Slugging It Out in Japan by Warren Cromartie
Jim Allen's Baseball Guides
Baseball's Other Stars by Bill McNeil
Japanese Baseball Superstars by Rob Fitts and Gary Engels
and special thanks to Michael Westbay of japanesebaseball.com for filling in much of my
missing data, especially for 1999-2003.