Nippon Professional Baseball

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Nippon Professional Baseball
Upcoming season or competition:
Baseball current event.svg 2020 Nippon Professional Baseball season
NPB logo.svg
Formerly Japanese Baseball League
Sport Baseball
Founded1950
CEO Ryozo Kato
Commissioner Atsushi Saito
No. of teams12
CountryJapan
Most recent
champion(s)
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (10)
Most titles Yomiuri Giants (22)
Qualification Asia Series (2005–2013)
Official website NPB.jp
Koshien Stadium (in 2009) Summer Koshien 2009 Final.jpg
Koshien Stadium (in 2009)
Seibu Dome (in 2007) Seibu Dome baseball stadium - 26.jpg
Seibu Dome (in 2007)

Nippon Professional Baseball (日本野球機構, Nippon Yakyū Kikō) or NPB is the highest level of baseball in Japan. Locally, it is often called Puro Yakyū (プロ野球), meaning Professional Baseball. Outside Japan, it is often just referred to as "Japanese baseball". The roots of the league can be traced back to the formation of the "Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club" (大日本東京野球倶楽部, Dai-Nippon Tōkyō Yakyū Kurabu) in Tokyo, founded 1934 and the original circuit for the sport in the Empire two years later – Japanese Baseball League (1936–1949), and continued to play even through the final years of World War II.

Contents

The league that is today's NPB for Japan was formed when that sports organization reorganized in 1950, creating two leagues with six teams each in the Central League and the Pacific League with an annual season-ending Japan Series championship play-off series of games starting that year for the JPB along the lines of the American World Series tournament (held since 1903).

League structure

Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, which both have six teams in each league. There are also two secondary-level professional minor leagues, the Eastern League and the Western League, that play shorter schedules for developing players.

The season starts in late March or early April, and ends in October, with two or three all-star games in July. In recent decades prior to 2007, the two leagues each scheduled between 130 and 140 regular season games, with the 146 games played by the Central League in 2005 and 2006 being the only exception. Both leagues have since adopted 146-game seasons, 73 each at home & on road. In general, Japanese teams play six games a week, with every Monday off. [1]

Following the conclusion of each regular season the best teams from each league go on to play in the "Nippon Series" or Japan Series championship play-off tournament along the lines of the American World Series since 1903.

In 2004, the Pacific League played five fewer games than the Central League teams during the regular season and used a new playoff format to determine its champion (and which team would advance to the Japan Series). The teams in third and second place played in a best-of-three series (all at the second place team's home ground) with the winner of that series going on to play the first place team in a best-of-five format at its home ground. In 2006, the Central League adopted the Pacific League's tournament as well, and the tournament became known as the Climax Series with the two winners, one from each league, competing in the Japan Series. [2]

Comparison with Major League Baseball

The NPB rules are essentially those of the American Major League Baseball (MLB), but technical elements are slightly different: The Nippon league uses a smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field. The Japanese baseball is wound more tightly than an American baseball. The strike zone is narrower "inside" than away from the batter. Five Nippon league teams have fields whose small dimensions would violate the American Official Baseball Rules. The note set out at the end of Rule 1.04 specifies minimum dimensions for American ballparks built or renovated after 1958: 325 feet (99 m) down each foul line and 400 feet (120 m) to center field.

American Major League Baseball (MLB) players, scouts, and sabermetricians describe play in the NPB as "AAAA"; less competitive than in MLB, but more competitive than in Triple A's (AAA) developing level minor league baseball. [3] [4] [5] Play in the Pacific League is similar to that in American League baseball, with the use of designated hitters, unlike the Central League, which has no DH rule and is closer to National League baseball.

Unlike North American baseball, Japanese baseball games may end in a tie. If the score is tied after nine innings of play, up to three additional innings will be played; this includes the playoffs, but not the Japan Series going beyond Game 7. If there is no winner after 12 innings, the game is declared a tie; these games count as neither a win nor a loss to team standings or to postseason series.

Similar to the current structure of the World Series, a team must win four games to clinch the Japan Series title; however, due to the fact that games can end in a tie, it may take more than 7 games to win the series. If the series must be extended, all games beyond game 7 are played with no innings limit, with game 8 being played in the same venue as game 7, and game 9 and beyond played in the opposing team's venue following a moving day. [6]

Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, special rules were implemented for the 2011 NPB season:

Most Japanese teams have a six-man starting rotation (as opposed to MLB teams, which feature five-man rotations). Although each team roster has 28 players, similar to other professional sports, there is a 25 player limit for each game. Managers scratch three players before each game, typically including the most recent starting pitchers, similar to professional basketball (two scratches). [1]

Financial problems

Financial problems plague many teams in the league. It is believed that with the exception of the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, all teams are operating with considerable subsidies, often as much as ¥ 6 billion (about US$73 million), from their parent companies. A raise in the salaries of players is often blamed, but, from the start of the professional league, parent companies paid the difference as an advertisement. Most teams have never tried to improve their finances through constructive marketing. In addition, teams in the Central League historically saw much higher profits than the Pacific League, having popular teams such as the Giants and Tigers. [9]

The number of metropolitan areas represented in the league increased from four to five in 1988, when the Nankai Hawks (now Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) moved to Fukuoka; and to seven between 2003 and 2005, as the Nippon-Ham Fighters moved to Hokkaidō and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes merged with the Orix BlueWave (becoming the Orix Buffaloes) and were replaced by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. [10]

Until 1993, baseball was the only team sport played professionally in Japan. In that year, the J.League professional soccer league was founded. The new soccer league placed teams in prefectural capitals around the country—rather than clustering them in and around Tokyo—and the teams were named after their locations rather than after corporate sponsors.

The wave of players moving to Major League Baseball, which began with Hideo Nomo "retiring" from the Kintetsu Buffaloes, then signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has also added to the financial problems. Attendance suffered as teams lost their most marketable players, while TV ratings declined as viewers tuned into broadcasts of Major League games. [11] To discourage players from leaving to play in North America, or to at least compensate teams that lose players, Japanese baseball and MLB agreed on a posting system for players under contract. MLB teams wishing to negotiate with a player submit bids for a "posting fee", which the winning MLB team would pay the Japanese team if the player signs with the MLB team. Free agents are not subject to the posting system, however. [12]

History

Origins

The first professional baseball team in Japan was founded by media mogul Matsutarō Shōriki in late 1934 and called the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Kurabu ("the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club"). After matching up with a team of visiting American All-Stars that included Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Charlie Gehringer, the team spent the 1935 season barnstorming in the U.S., winning 93 of 102 games against semi-pro and Pacific Coast League teams. According to historian Joseph Reaves, "The only minor drawbacks to the team's popularity in the States were their kanji characters and their cumbersome Japanese name. They rectified both by renaming themselves the Tokyo Kyojin ['Tokyo Giants'] and adopting a uniform identical to the New York Giants…" [13]

From 1936 to 1950, professional baseball in Japan was played under the banner of the Japanese Baseball League (JBL). The league's dominant team during this period was the Tokyo Kyojin, which won nine league championships, including six in a row from 1938–1943. (The team was officially renamed the Yomiuri Giants in 1947.)

NPB establishment

After the 1949 season, the JBL team owners reorganized into the NPB; Daiei Stars owner Masaichi Nagata promoted a two-league system, which became the Pacific League (initially called the Taiheiyo Baseball Union) and the Central League. (Nagata became the first president of the Pacific League.) [14] The league now known as Nippon Pro Baseball began play in the 1950 season.

Four JBL teams formed the basis of the Central League: the Chunichi Dragons, the Hanshin Tigers, the Yomiuri Giants, and the Shochiku Robins (formerly the Taiyō Robins). To fill out the league, four new teams were formed: the Hiroshima Carp, the Kokutetsu Swallows, the Nishi Nippon Pirates, and the Taiyō Whales.

Four JBL teams formed the basis of the Pacific League: the Hankyu Braves, the Nankai Hawks, the Daiei Stars, and the Tokyu Flyers. To fill out the league, three new teams were formed: the Kintetsu Pearls, the Mainichi Orions, and the Nishitetsu Clippers.

Matsutarō Shōriki, the Giants' owner, acted as NPB's unofficial commissioner and oversaw the first Japan Series, which featured the Mainichi Orions defeating the Shochiku Robins 4 games to 2.

Expansion and contraction

The Central League's Nishi Nippon Pirates existed for one season — they placed sixth in 1950, and the following season merged with the Nishitetsu Clippers (also based in Fukuoka) to form the Nishitetsu Lions. This brought the number of Central League teams down to an ungainly arrangement of seven. In 1952, it was decided that any Central League team ending the season with a winning percentage below .300 would be disbanded or merged with other teams. The Shochiku Robins fell into this category, and were merged with the Taiyō Whales to become the Taiyō Shochiku Robins in January 1953. This enabled the Central League to shrink to an even number of six teams.

In 1954 a new Pacific League team was founded, the Takahashi Unions, to increase the number of teams in that division to eight. Although the team was stocked with players from the other Pacific League teams, the Unions struggled from the outset and finished in the second division every season. In 1957, the Unions were merged with the Daiei Stars to form the Daiei Unions (and again bringing the number of Pacific League teams down to seven). The Unions existed for a single season, finishing in last place, 43-1/2 games out of first. In 1958, the Unions merged with the Mainichi Orions to form the Daimai Orions. This enabled the Pacific League to contract from the ungainly seven-team arrangement to six teams.

After these various franchise developments, by the end of the 1950s Nippon Professional Baseball had contracted from the initial allotment of 15 teams down to the current number of 12.

1960s and 1970s

On September 1, 1964, Nankai Hawks' prospect Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to play in Major League Baseball [15] when he appeared on the mound for the San Francisco Giants; he returned to Japan in 1966. Disputes over the rights to his contract eventually led to the 1967 United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement; it would be almost 30 years before another Japanese player played in the Major Leagues.

Continuing their dominance from the JBL, the Yomiuri Giants won nine consecutive Japan Series championships from 1965–1973.

The Black Mist Scandal rocked Nippon Professional Baseball between 1969 and 1971. The fallout from a series of game-fixing scandals in resulted in several star players receiving long suspensions, salary cuts, or being banned from professional play entirely; the resulting abandonment of baseball by many fans in Japan also led to the sale of the Nishitetsu Lions and the Toei Flyers.

From 1973 to 1982, in a forerunner to today's Climax Series playoff rounds, the Pacific League employed a split season with the first-half winner playing against the second-half winner in a mini-playoff to determine its champion. In 1975, the Pacific League adopted the designated hitter rule.

1980s and the "Invincible Seibu"

After being a second division team for much of the 1960s and 1970s, in 1983 the Seibu Lions began a period of sustained success. The team gained the moniker "Invincible Seibu" during the 1980s and 1990s due to their sustained domination of the league, winning 11 league championships and eight Japan Series championships between 1982–1994. The Lions had a powerful lineup in this period, loaded with sluggers such as Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, and Orestes Destrade. Their defense also benefited from the services of skilled players such as Hiromichi Ishige, Hatsuhiko Tsuji and catcher Tsutomu Ito. Among the pitchers employed by the Lions in this period was "The Oriental Express" Taigen Kaku, Osamu Higashio, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Hisanobu Watanabe, and relievers Yoshitaka Katori and Tetsuya Shiozaki.

American expatriate players made their mark in NPB in the 1980s, with players like the Lee brothers, Leron Lee and Leon Lee, Greg "Boomer" Wells, Randy Bass, and Ralph Bryant playing key roles on their NPB teams.

Hideo Nomo and the exodus to MLB

In 1995, star pitcher Hideo Nomo "retired" from the Kintetsu Buffaloes and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nomo pitched over the span of 14 seasons in the Major Leagues before retiring in 2008. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1995. He twice led the league in strikeouts, and also threw two no-hitters (the only Japanese pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Major League Baseball until Hisashi Iwakuma achieved the feat in August 2015). Nomo's MLB success led to more NPB players moving to Major League Baseball, [16] and eventually led to the creation of the "posting system" in 1998. [17]

Since Nomo's exodus, more than 60 NPB players have played Major League Baseball. Some of the more notable examples include:

Merger and strike of 2004

In September 2004, the professional Japanese players went on strike for the first time in over 70 years. The strike arose from a dispute that took place between the owners of the 12 professional Japanese baseball teams and the players' union (which was led by popular Yakult Swallows player-manager Atsuya Furuta), concerning the merging of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix Blue Wave. The owners wanted to get rid of the financially defunct Buffaloes, and merge the two baseball leagues, since teams in the Central League saw much higher profits than the Pacific League, having popular teams such as the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers. After negotiations, the owners agreed to guarantee the survival of the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, leaving the Central League with six teams and the Pacific League with five.[ citation needed ]

A battle escalated between the players union and the owners, and reached its height when Yomiuri Giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe controversially remarked that Furuta was "a mere player," [20] implying that players had no say in what league would look like the next year. The dispute received huge press coverage (which mostly favored Furuta and the players' union) and was dubbed one of the biggest events in the history of Japanese baseball. Proposals and amendments concerning interleague games, player drafting, and management were also discussed between the players union and the owners during this period.

The strike was originally planned for all Saturday and Sunday games that month, starting from September 11, but was pushed back due to the agreement of another meeting between the union and the owners on September 10. The players decided to strike on September 18–19, 2004, when no progress was made in the negotiations, as there was insufficient time left in the season to hold discussions.[ citation needed ]

The dispute officially ended after the two groups reached consensus on September 23, 2004. As part of the agreement, the Buffaloes were allowed to merge with the Blue Wave (forming into the Orix Buffaloes); in addition, the Rakuten Golden Eagles were newly created (at a reduced "entry fee") to keep the former six-team league structure. Other agreements included the leagues adopting interleague play to help the Pacific League gain exposure by playing the more popular Central league teams. All these changes took place before the 2005 season.

Interleague play

The two leagues began interleague play in 2005, with each team playing two three-game series (one home, one away) against each of the six teams in the other league. This was reduced to two two-game series in 2007. All interleague play games are played in a seven-week span near the middle of the season.

As of the end of the 2017 season, the Pacific League has won the most games in interleague play since it began in 2005 twelve times, with 2009 being the only time that the Central League has won more games.

League championship series/Climax Series

After 2004, a three-team playoff system was introduced in the Pacific League, dubbed the "Pacific League Championship Series." The teams with the second- and third-best records play in the three-game first stage, with the winner advancing to the five-game final against the top team. The winner becomes the representative of the Pacific League to the Japan Series.

Since the Pacific League won every Japan Series after introducing this league playoff system, an identical system was introduced to the Central League in 2007, and the post-season intra-league games were renamed the "Climax Series" in both leagues. Player statistics and drafting order based on team records are not affected by these postseason games.

Recent history

In 2011 Miyagi Baseball Stadium, home of the Rakuten Eagles, was badly damaged by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. [21]

The 2013 season featured a livelier baseball which was secretly introduced into NPB, resulting in a marked increase in home runs league-wide. [22] Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentien broke the NPB single-season home run record of 55, previously held by professional baseball's all-time home run leader Sadaharu Oh in 1964, Tuffy Rhodes in 2001, and Alex Cabrera in 2002. [23] Balantien finished the season with 60 home runs. Three-term NPB commissioner Ryōzō Katō was forced to resign over the scandal when the changed baseball was revealed. [22]

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed expanding NPB to 16 total teams by adding two expansion franchises in each of the country's top-tier professional baseball leagues. The goal of such a move would be to energize the economies of the regions receiving the new teams. Okinawa, Shizuoka, Shikoku, and Niigata have been identified as regions that could play host to said teams. [24]

The 2020 NPB season has been delayed numerous times due to the 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Initially preseason games were set to be played without spectators, but with opening day of March 20 remaining unchanged. [25] It has since been delayed twice, and while a firm opening date has yet to be selected, league officials hope to begin play sometime in June 2020. [26] This is the first time since 2011 that league play has been suspended. [27]

Expatriate baseball players in Japan

For most of its history, NPB regulations imposed "gaijin waku", a limit on the number of non-Japanese people per team to two or three — including the manager and/or coaching staff. [28] Even today, a team cannot have more than four foreign players on a 25-man game roster, although there is no limit on the number of foreign players that it may sign. If there are four, they cannot all be pitchers nor all be position players. [28] This limits the cost and competition for expensive players of other nationalities, and is similar to rules in many European sports leagues' roster limits on non-European players.

Nonetheless, expatriate baseball players in Japan have been a feature of the Japanese professional leagues since 1934. Hundreds of foreigners — particularly Americans — have played NPB. Taiwanese nationals Shosei Go and Hiroshi Oshita both starred in the 1940s. American players began to steadily find spots on NPB rosters in the 1960s. American players hold several NPB records, including highest career batting average (Leron Lee, .334), highest single season batting average (Randy Bass, .389), and the dubious record of most strikeouts in a season by a hitter (Ralph Bryant, 204). Americans rank #3 (Tuffy Rhodes, 55) and #5 (Randy Bass, 54) on the list of most home runs in a season, and #2 in single-season RBI (Bobby Rose, 153). Curaçaoan Dutch outfielder Wladimir Balentien holds the NPB single-season home run record with 60 round-trippers in 2013. Venezuelans Alex Ramírez, Alex Cabrera, Bobby Marcano, and Roberto Petagine all had long, successful NPB careers.

Many of the most celebrated foreign players came to Japan after not finding success in the Major Leagues. (see: "Big in Japan")

Since the 1970s, foreigners have also made an impact in Nippon Professional Baseball's managing and coaching ranks, with Americans Bobby Valentine and Trey Hillman managing their respective teams to Japan Series championships.

Teams

TeamCityStadiumCapacityFoundedJoined
Central League
Chunichi Dragons Nagoya, Aichi Nagoya Dome 40,50019371950
Hanshin Tigers Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Hanshin Koshien Stadium 47,75719351950
Hiroshima Toyo Carp Hiroshima, Hiroshima MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima 32,0001950
Tokyo Yakult Swallows Shinjuku, Tokyo Meiji Jingu Stadium 37,9331950
Yokohama DeNA BayStars Yokohama, Kanagawa Yokohama Stadium 30,0001950
Yomiuri Giants Bunkyō, Tokyo Tokyo Dome 46,00019341950
Pacific League
Chiba Lotte Marines Chiba, Chiba ZOZO Marine Stadium 30,0001950
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Fukuoka, Fukuoka PayPay Dome 38,56119381950
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Sapporo, Hokkaidō Sapporo Dome 40,47619461950
Orix Buffaloes Divided between Osaka and Kobe Kyocera Dome Osaka and Hotto Motto Stadium Kobe 36,477 and 35,00019361950
Saitama Seibu Lions Tokorozawa, Saitama MetLife Dome 33,9211950
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles Sendai, Miyagi Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 30,5082005
Defunct Clubs
TeamCityStadiumFoundedCeased OperationsNotes
Nishi Nippon Pirates Fukuoka, Fukuoka Heiwadai Stadium 19501950Merged with the Nishitetsu Clippers (now known as the Saitama Seibu Lions)
Shochiku Robins Kyoto, Kyoto Kinugasa Stadium 19361952Merged with the Taiyo Whales (now known as the Yokohama DeNA BayStars)
Takahashi Unions Kawasaki, Kanagawa Kawasaki Stadium 19541956Merged with the Daiei Stars (later known as the Daiei Unions)
Daiei Unions Bunkyō, Tokyo Korakuen Stadium 19461957Merged with the Mainichi Orions (now known as the Chiba Lotte Marines)
Kintetsu Buffaloes Osaka, Osaka Osaka Dome 19492004Merged with the Orix BlueWave (now known as the Orix Buffaloes)

Franchise locations

Locations are listed from north to south. Only the most prominent names of each franchise are listed.

Locality19501951–1952195319541955–195619571958–19721973–197719781979–19881989–200320042005–present
Sapporo   Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL), 2004–present
Sendai   Lotte Orions (PL), 1973–1977  Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (PL), 2005–present
Greater Tokyo Kokutetsu Swallows / Sankei Atoms / Yakult Swallows (CL), 1950–present
Yomiuri Giants (CL), 1950–present
Toei Flyers / Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL), 1950–2003
Mainichi/Daimai/Tokyo/Lotte Orions (PL), 1950–1972  Lotte Orions / Chiba Lotte Marines (PL), 1978–present
  Takahashi Unions (PL), 1954–1956 Daiei Unions (PL), 1957  Saitama Seibu Lions (PL), 1979–present
Daiei Stars (PL), 1950–1956
  Taiyo Whales / Yokohama BayStars (CL), 1955–present
Nagoya Chunichi Dragons (CL), 1950–present
Greater Osaka Hanshin Tigers (CL), 1950–present
Hankyu Braves / Orix BlueWave (PL), 1950–2004 Orix Buffaloes (PL), 2005–present
Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (PL), 1950–2004
Nankai Hawks (PL), 1950–1988
Shochiku Robins (CL), 1950–1954
Hiroshima Hiroshima Toyo Carp (CL), 1950–present
Shimonoseki Taiyo Whales (CL), 1950–1952
Fukuoka Nishitetsu Lions (PL), 1950–1978  Fukuoka Daiei/SoftBank Hawks (PL), 1989–present
Nishi Nippon Pirates (CL), 1950

Champions

TeamChampionsRunners-upWinning seasonsRunners-up seasons
Yomiuri Giants 2213 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1981, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2009, 2012 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1976, 1977, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1996, 2008, 2013, 2019
Saitama Seibu Lions 138 1956, 1957, 1958, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2004, 2008 1954, 1963, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 109 1959, 1964, 1999, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1973, 2000
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 52 1978, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001 1992, 2015
Orix Buffaloes 48 1975, 1976, 1977, 1996 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1978, 1984, 1995
Chiba Lotte Marines 42 1950, 1974, 2005, 2010 1960, 1970
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 34 1979, 1980, 1984 1975, 1986, 1991, 2016, 2018
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 34 1962, 2006, 2016 1981, 2007, 2009, 2012
Chunichi Dragons 28 1954, 2007 1974, 1982, 1988, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011
Yokohama BayStars 21 1960, 1998 2017
Hanshin Tigers 15 1985 1962, 1964, 2003, 2005, 2014
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 10 2013
Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes 04 1979, 1980, 1989, 2001
Shochiku Robins 01 1950

Awards

Records

Single season batting

Central LeaguePacific LeagueOverall
PlayerYearPlayerYearPlayerYear
Batting average
Flag of the United States.svg Randy Bass .3891986 Flag of Japan.svg Ichiro Suzuki .3872000 Flag of the United States.svg Randy Bass .3891986
Flag of the United States.svg Warren Cromartie .3781989 Flag of Japan.svg Ichiro Suzuki .3851994 Flag of Japan.svg Ichiro Suzuki .3872000
Flag of Japan.svg Seiichi Uchikawa .3782008 Flag of Japan.svg Yuki Yanagita .3632015 Flag of Japan.svg Ichiro Suzuki .3851994
Home Runs
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Wladimir Balentien a602013 Flag of the United States.svg Tuffy Rhodes 552001 Flag of the Netherlands.svg Wladimir Balentien 602013
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Sadaharu Oh b551964 Flag of Venezuela.svg Alex Cabrera c552002 Flag of the Republic of China.svg Sadaharu Oh 551964
Flag of the United States.svg Randy Bass 541985 Flag of the United States.svg Tuffy Rhodes 512003 Flag of the United States.svg Tuffy Rhodes 552001
RBIs
Flag of Japan.svg Makoto Kozuru 1611950 Flag of Japan.svg Hiromitsu Ochiai 1461985 Flag of Japan.svg Makoto Kozuru 1611950
Flag of the United States.svg Bobby Rose 1531999 Flag of Japan.svg Katsuya Nomura 1351963 Flag of the United States.svg Bobby Rose 1531999
Flag of Japan.svg Makoto Imaoka 1472005 Flag of Japan.svg Norihiro Nakamura 1322001 Flag of Japan.svg Makoto Imaoka 1472005
Hits
Flag of the United States.svg Matt Murton 2142010 Flag of Japan.svg Shogo Akiyama 2162015 Flag of Japan.svg Shogo Akiyama 2162015
Flag of Japan.svg Nori Aoki 2092010 Flag of Japan.svg Ichiro Suzuki 2101994 Flag of the United States.svg Matt Murton 2142010
Flag of Venezuela.svg Alex Ramírez 2042007 Flag of Japan.svg Tsuyoshi Nishioka 2062010 Flag of Japan.svg Ichiro Suzuki 2101994
Stolen Bases
Flag of Japan.svg Tadashi Matsumoto 761983 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 1061972 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 1061972
Flag of Japan.svg Yoshihiko Takahashi 731985 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 951973 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 951973
Flag of Japan.svg Isao Shibata 701967 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 941974 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 941974
Strikeouts
Flag of Japan.svg Munetaka Murakami 1842019 Flag of the United States.svg Ralph Bryant 2041993 Flag of the United States.svg Ralph Bryant 2041993
Flag of Japan.svg Akinori Iwamura 1732004 Flag of the United States.svg Ralph Bryant 1981990 Flag of the United States.svg Ralph Bryant 1981990
Flag of the United States.svg Brad Eldred 1692014 Flag of the United States.svg Ralph Bryant 1871989 Flag of the United States.svg Ralph Bryant 1871989

a As all Curaçaoans have Dutch citizenship and Balentien has represented the Netherlands internationally, he is listed here as Dutch.
b Despite being born in Japan, Oh was a citizen of the Republic of China (his father's nationality) instead of Japan.
c Cabrera did not have Japanese citizenship until 2019 and so is listed as the nationality he was during his playing career.

Single season pitching

Central LeaguePacific LeagueOverall
PlayerYearPlayerYearPlayerYear
ERA
Flag of Japan.svg Minoru Murayama 1.191959 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 1.061956 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao d1.061956
Flag of Japan.svg Minoru Murayama 1.201962 Flag of Japan.svg Yukio Shimabara 1.351955 Flag of Japan.svg Minoru Murayama 1.191959
Flag of North Korea.svg Masaichi Kaneda e1.301958 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 1.371957 Flag of Japan.svg Minoru Murayama 1.201960
Wins
Flag of Japan.svg Juzo Sanada 391950 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 421961 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao f421961
Flag of Japan.svg Hiroshi Gondo 351961 Flag of Japan.svg Tadashi Sugiura 381959 Flag of Japan.svg Juzo Sanada 391950
Flag of Japan.svg Takehiko Bessho 331952 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 351957 Flag of Japan.svg Tadashi Sugiura 381959
Saves
Flag of Japan.svg Hitoki Iwase 462005 Flag of the United States.svg Dennis Sarfate 542017 Flag of the United States.svg Dennis Sarfate 542017
Flag of Japan.svg Kyuji Fujikawa 462007 Flag of the United States.svg Dennis Sarfate 412015 Flag of Japan.svg Hitoki Iwase 462005
Flag of Japan.svg Hitoki Iwase 432007 Flag of Japan.svg Yoshihisa Hirano 402014 Flag of Japan.svg Kyuji Fujikawa 462007
Strikeouts
Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Enatsu 4011968 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 3531961 Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Enatsu 4011968
Flag of North Korea.svg Masaichi Kaneda 3501955 Flag of Japan.svg Tadashi Sugiura 3361959 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 3531961
Flag of North Korea.svg Masaichi Kaneda 3161956 Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhisa Inao 3341958 Flag of North Korea.svg Masaichi Kaneda 3501955

d The Japanese record is 0.73, set by Hideo Fujimoto in the 1943 Japanese Baseball League season.
e Despite being born in Japan, Kaneda did not become a Japanese citizen until 1959 and was instead a North Korean citizen.
f The Japanese record is shared between Inao and Victor Starffin, who also recorded 42 wins during the 1942 Japanese Baseball League season.

Career batting

PlayerYears played
Batting average [29]
Flag of Japan.svg Norichika Aoki .3282004–2011, 2018–present
Flag of the United States.svg Leon Lee .3201977–1987
Flag of Japan.svg Tsutomu Wakamatsu .319181971–1989
Flag of South Korea.svg Isao Harimoto .319151959–1981
Home Runs
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Sadaharu Oh 8681959–1980
Flag of Japan.svg Katsuya Nomura 6571954–1980
Flag of Japan.svg Hiromitsu Kadota 5671970–1992
Hits
Flag of South Korea.svg Isao Harimoto 30851959–1981
Flag of Japan.svg Katsuya Nomura 29011954–1980
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Sadaharu Oh 27861959–1980
RBIs
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Sadaharu Oh 21701959–1980
Flag of Japan.svg Katsuya Nomura 19881954–1980
Flag of Japan.svg Hiromitsu Kadota 16781970–1992
Stolen Bases
Flag of Japan.svg Yutaka Fukumoto 10651969–1988
Flag of Japan.svg Yoshinori Hirose 5961955–1977
Flag of Japan.svg Isao Shibata 5791962–1981
Strikeouts
Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhiro Kiyohara 19551986–2008
Flag of Japan.svg Motonobu Tanishige 18381989-2015
Flag of Japan.svg Koji Akiyama 17121981–2002
OPS
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Sadaharu Oh 1.0801959–1980
Flag of Japan.svg Hideki Matsui .9951993–2002
Flag of Venezuela.svg Alex Cabrera .9902001–2012

Career pitching

PlayerYears played
ERA
Flag of Japan.svg Hideo Fujimoto 1.901942–1955
Wins
Flag of North Korea.svg Flag of Japan.svg Masaichi Kaneda 4001950–1969
Flag of Japan.svg Tetsuya Yoneda 3501956–1977
Flag of Japan.svg Masaaki Koyama 3201953–1973
Flag of Japan.svg Keishi Suzuki 3171966–1985
Flag of Japan.svg Takehiko Bessho 3101942–1960
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Victor Starffin 3031936–1955
Strikeouts
Flag of North Korea.svg Flag of Japan.svg Masaichi Kaneda 44901950–1969
Flag of Japan.svg Tetsuya Yoneda 33881956–1977
Flag of Japan.svg Masaaki Koyama 31591953–1973
Flag of Japan.svg Keishi Suzuki 30611966–1985
Saves
Flag of Japan.svg Hitoki Iwase 4071999–2018
Flag of Japan.svg Shingo Takatsu 2861991–2003, 2006–2007
Flag of Japan.svg Kazuhiro Sasaki 2521990–1999, 2004–2005

ERA champions

Perfect games

DatePitcher (Club)ScoreOpponentBallpark
June 28, 1950 Hideo Fujimoto (Yomiuri Giants)4–0 Nishi-Nippon Pirates Aomori Stadium
June 19, 1955 Fumio Takechi (Kintetsu Pearls)1–0 Daiei Stars Ōsaka Stadium
September 19, 1956 Yoshitomo Miyaji (Kokutetsu Swallows)6–0 Hiroshima Carp Kanazawa Stadium
August 21, 1957 Masaichi Kaneda (Kokutetsu Swallows)1–0 Chunichi Dragons Chunichi Stadium
July 19, 1958 Sadao Nishimura (Nishitetsu Lions)1–0 Toei Flyers Komazawa Stadium
August 11, 1960 Gentaro Shimada (Taiyō Whales)1–0 Ōsaka Tigers Kawasaki Stadium
June 20, 1961 Yoshimi Moritaki (Kokutetsu Swallows)1–0 Chunichi Dragons Korakuen Stadium
May 1, 1966 Yoshiro Sasaki (Taiyō Whales)1–0 Hiroshima Carp Hiroshima Municipal Stadium
May 12, 1966 Tsutomu Tanaka (Nishitetsu Lions)2–0 Nankai Hawks Heiwadai Stadium
September 14, 1968 Yoshiro Sotokoba (Hiroshima Toyo Carp)2–0 Taiyō Whales Hiroshima Municipal Stadium
October 6, 1970 Koichiro Sasaki (Kintetsu Buffaloes)3–0 Nankai Hawks Ōsaka Stadium
August 21, 1971 Yoshimasa Takahashi (Toei Flyers)4–0 Nishitetsu Lions Korakuen Stadium
October 10, 1973 Soroku Yagisawa (Lotte Orions)1–0 Taiheiyo Club Lions Miyagi Stadium
August 31, 1978 Yutaro Imai (Hankyu Braves)5–0 Lotte Orions Miyagi Stadium
May 18, 1994 Hiromi Makihara (Yomiuri Giants)6–0 Hiroshima Toyo Carp Fukuoka Dome
November 1, 2007 Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons)1–0† Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Nagoya Dome

International play

Since 1986 an All-Star team from Major League Baseball (MLB) is sent to a biennial end-of-the-season tour of Japan, dubbed as MLB Japan All-Star Series, playing exhibition games in a best-of format against the All-Stars from NPB or recently as of 2014 the national team Samurai Japan.

The latest series also celebrated the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Japan's professional baseball by holding an exhibition game of a joint team of Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants against the MLB All-Stars at the Koshien Stadium on November 11, 2014.

See also

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Further reading