|Current season, competition or edition:|
2021 Nippon Professional Baseball season
|Formerly||Japanese Baseball League|
|No. of teams||12|
|Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (11th title)|
|Most titles||Yomiuri Giants (22 titles)|
|Qualification||Asia Series (2005–2013)|
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 in 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.
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).
Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, which each have six teams. 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.
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 2007, 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.
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.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.
In addition, Japanese teams practice much more often than American teams; the game relies more on off-speed pitching and not as many fastballs, and team harmony is stressed over individual achievements.As American writer Robert Whiting wrote in his 1977 book The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, "the Japanese view of life, stressing group identity, cooperation, hard work, respect for age, seniority and 'face' has permeated almost every aspect of the sport.... Baseball Samurai Style is different."
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.
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).
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.
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.
Until 1993, baseball was the only team sport played professionally in Japan. In that year, the J.League professional football league was founded. The new football 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.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.
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…"
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 to 1943. (The team was officially renamed the Yomiuri Giants in 1947.)
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.)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.
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.
On September 1, 1964, Nankai Hawks' prospect Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to play in Major League Baseballwhen 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 to 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.
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 and 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.
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,and eventually led to the creation of the "posting system" in 1998.
Since Nomo's exodus, more than 60 NPB players have played Major League Baseball. Some of the more notable examples include:
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 BlueWave. 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,"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.
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.
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.
In 2011 Miyagi Baseball Stadium, home of the Rakuten Eagles, was badly damaged by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
The 2013 season featured a livelier baseball which was secretly introduced into NPB, resulting in a marked increase in home runs league-wide.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. 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.
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.
The 2020 NPB season was delayed numerous times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially preseason games were set to be played without spectators, but with opening day of March 20 remaining unchanged.With the lifting of states of emergency over major Japanese cities, NPB announced that it would begin its regular season on 19 June behind closed doors. "Warm-up" games began 26 May. The shortened 120-game regular season began on 19 June. On 10 July NPB began allowing a limited number of fans to attend games, with plans to further ease restrictions in the near future. On 19 September, attendance was expanded to a maximum of 20,000 fans per game, or 50% of stadium capacity.
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.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. 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.
Koreans have had an impact in the NPB as well, including such standout players as Lee Seung-yuop, Sun Dong-yol, Baek In-chun, Lee Jong-beom, and Dae-ho Lee. Venezuelans Alex Ramírez, Alex Cabrera, Bobby Marcano, and Roberto Petagine all had long, successful NPB careers. The Dominican third-baseman José Fernández played eleven years in the NPB, compiling a .282 batting average with 206 home runs and 772 runs batted in.
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.
|Chunichi Dragons||Nagoya, Aichi||Vantelin Dome Nagoya||40,500||1937||1950|
|Hanshin Tigers||Nishinomiya, Hyōgo||Hanshin Koshien Stadium||47,757||1935||1950|
|Hiroshima Toyo Carp||Hiroshima, Hiroshima||Mazda Stadium||32,000||1950|
|Tokyo Yakult Swallows||Shinjuku, Tokyo||Meiji Jingu Stadium||37,933||1950|
|Yokohama DeNA BayStars||Yokohama, Kanagawa||Yokohama Stadium||30,000||1950|
|Yomiuri Giants||Bunkyō, Tokyo||Tokyo Dome||46,000||1934||1950|
|Chiba Lotte Marines||Chiba, Chiba||ZOZO Marine Stadium||30,000||1950|
|Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks||Fukuoka, Fukuoka||PayPay Dome||38,561||1938||1950|
|Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters||Sapporo, Hokkaidō||Sapporo Dome||40,476||1946||1950|
|Orix Buffaloes||Divided between Osaka, Osaka and Kobe, Hyōgo||Kyocera Dome Osaka and Hotto Motto Field Kobe||36,477 and 35,000||1936||1950|
|Saitama Seibu Lions||Tokorozawa, Saitama||MetLife Dome||33,921||1950|
|Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles||Sendai, Miyagi||Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi||30,508||2005|
Note: Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have home stadiums in both team's home cities planned for after the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo. The Fighters are constructing ES CON Field and plan to inaugurate the stadium in 2023,while the Swallows plan to finish their new stadium, located next to its current stadium in 2030.
|Nishi Nippon Pirates||Fukuoka, Fukuoka||Heiwadai Stadium||1950||1950||Merged with the Nishitetsu Clippers (now known as the Saitama Seibu Lions)|
|Shochiku Robins||Kyoto, Kyoto||Kinugasa Stadium||1936||1952||Merged with the Taiyo Whales (now known as the Yokohama DeNA BayStars)|
|Takahashi Unions||Kawasaki, Kanagawa||Kawasaki Stadium||1954||1956||Merged with the Daiei Stars (later known as the Daiei Unions)|
|Daiei Unions||Bunkyō, Tokyo||Korakuen Stadium||1946||1957||Merged with the Mainichi Orions (now known as the Chiba Lotte Marines)|
|Kintetsu Buffaloes||Osaka, Osaka||Osaka Dome||1949||2004||Merged with the Orix BlueWave (now known as the Orix Buffaloes)|
Locations are listed from north to south. Only the most prominent names of each franchise are listed.
|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|
|Team||Champions||Runners-up||Winning seasons||Runners-up seasons|
|Yomiuri Giants||22||14||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, 2020|
|Saitama Seibu Lions||13||8||1956, 1957, 1958, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2004, 2008||1954, 1963, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002|
|Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks||11||9||1959, 1964, 1999, 2003, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020||1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1961, 1965, 1966, 1973, 2000|
|Tokyo Yakult Swallows||5||2||1978, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001||1992, 2015|
|Orix Buffaloes||4||8||1975, 1976, 1977, 1996||1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1978, 1984, 1995|
|Chiba Lotte Marines||4||2||1950, 1974, 2005, 2010||1960, 1970|
|Hiroshima Toyo Carp||3||4||1979, 1980, 1984||1975, 1986, 1991, 2016, 2018|
|Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters||3||4||1962, 2006, 2016||1981, 2007, 2009, 2012|
|Chunichi Dragons||2||8||1954, 2007||1974, 1982, 1988, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011|
|Yokohama BayStars||2||1||1960, 1998||2017|
|Hanshin Tigers||1||5||1985||1962, 1964, 2003, 2005, 2014|
|Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles||1||0||2013||—|
|Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes||0||4||—||1979, 1980, 1989, 2001|
The verifiability of the claims made in this article is disputed.(August 2021)
|Central League||Pacific League||Overall|
|Randy Bass||.389||1986||Ichiro Suzuki||.387||2000||Randy Bass||.389||1986|
|Warren Cromartie||.378||1989||Ichiro Suzuki||.385||1994||Ichiro Suzuki||.387||2000|
|Seiichi Uchikawa||.378||2008||Yuki Yanagita||.363||2015||Ichiro Suzuki||.385||1994|
|Wladimir Balentien a||60||2013||Tuffy Rhodes||55||2001||Wladimir Balentien||60||2013|
|Sadaharu Oh b||55||1964||Alex Cabrera||55||2002||Sadaharu Oh||55||1964|
|Randy Bass||54||1985||Tuffy Rhodes||51||2003||Tuffy Rhodes||55||2001|
|Makoto Kozuru||161||1950||Hiromitsu Ochiai||146||1985||Makoto Kozuru||161||1950|
|Bobby Rose||153||1999||Katsuya Nomura||135||1963||Bobby Rose||153||1999|
|Makoto Imaoka||147||2005||Norihiro Nakamura||132||2001||Makoto Imaoka||147||2005|
|Matt Murton||214||2010||Shogo Akiyama||216||2015||Shogo Akiyama||216||2015|
|Nori Aoki||209||2010||Ichiro Suzuki||210||1994||Matt Murton||214||2010|
|Alex Ramírez c||204||2007||Tsuyoshi Nishioka||206||2010||Ichiro Suzuki||210||1994|
|Tadashi Matsumoto||76||1983||Yutaka Fukumoto||106||1972||Yutaka Fukumoto||106||1972|
|Yoshihiko Takahashi||73||1985||Yutaka Fukumoto||95||1973||Yutaka Fukumoto||95||1973|
|Isao Shibata||70||1967||Yutaka Fukumoto||94||1974||Yutaka Fukumoto||94||1974|
|Munetaka Murakami||184||2019||Ralph Bryant||204||1993||Ralph Bryant||204||1993|
|Akinori Iwamura||173||2004||Ralph Bryant||198||1990||Ralph Bryant||198||1990|
|Brad Eldred||169||2014||Ralph Bryant||187||1989||Ralph Bryant||187||1989|
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 Ramirez did not have Japanese citizenship until 2019 and so is listed as the nationality he was during his playing career.
|Central League||Pacific League||Overall|
|Minoru Murayama||1.19||1959||Kazuhisa Inao||1.06||1956||Kazuhisa Inao d||1.06||1956|
|Minoru Murayama||1.20||1962||Yukio Shimabara||1.35||1955||Minoru Murayama||1.19||1959|
|Masaichi Kaneda e||1.30||1958||Kazuhisa Inao||1.37||1957||Minoru Murayama||1.20||1960|
|Juzo Sanada||39||1950||Kazuhisa Inao||42||1961||Kazuhisa Inao f||42||1961|
|Hiroshi Gondo||35||1961||Tadashi Sugiura||38||1959||Juzo Sanada||39||1950|
|Takehiko Bessho||33||1952||Kazuhisa Inao||35||1957||Tadashi Sugiura||38||1959|
|Hitoki Iwase||46||2005||Dennis Sarfate||54||2017||Dennis Sarfate||54||2017|
|Kyuji Fujikawa||46||2007||Dennis Sarfate||41||2015||Hitoki Iwase||46||2005|
|Hitoki Iwase||43||2007||Yoshihisa Hirano||40||2014||Kyuji Fujikawa||46||2007|
|Yutaka Enatsu||401||1968||Kazuhisa Inao||353||1961||Yutaka Enatsu||401||1968|
|Masaichi Kaneda||350||1955||Tadashi Sugiura||336||1959||Kazuhisa Inao||353||1961|
|Masaichi Kaneda||316||1956||Kazuhisa Inao||334||1958||Masaichi Kaneda||350||1955|
d The Japanese record is 0.73, set by Hideo Fujimoto in the 1943 Japanese Baseball League season, which ironic, is also the world record era, surpassing Tim Keefe's 0.86 of the Troy Trojans in 1880.
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.
|Norichika Aoki||.325||2004–2011, 2018–present|
|Shingo Takatsu||286||1991–2003, 2006–2007|
|Kazuhiro Sasaki||252||1990–1999, 2004–2005|
|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|
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.
The Yomiuri Giants are a professional baseball team based in Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan. The team competes in the Central League in Nippon Professional Baseball. They play their home games in the Tokyo Dome, opened in 1988. The team's owner is Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings, Japan's largest media conglomerate which also owns two newspapers and the Nippon Television Network.
The Japan Series, also the Nippon Series, is the annual championship series in Nippon Professional Baseball, the top baseball league in Japan. It is a best-of-seven series between the winning clubs of the league's two circuits, the Central League and the Pacific League, and is played in October or November. The first team to win four games is the overall winner and is declared the Japan Series Champion each year. The winner of the Japan Series also goes on to be the Japanese representative team in the annual Asia Series. The Japan Series uses a 2-3-2 format.
The Japanese Baseball League was a professional baseball league in Japan which operated from 1936 to 1949, before reorganizing in 1950 as Nippon Professional Baseball.
Alexander Ramón Ramírez Quiñónez is a Venezuelan-born Japanese former professional baseball outfielder who had a long career in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He is the first foreign-born player to record 2,000 hits while playing in NPB. Before playing in Japan, he played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cleveland Indians (1998–2000) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2000). He batted and threw right-handed.
The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters are a Japanese professional baseball team based in Sapporo, Hokkaidō. They compete in the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball, playing the majority of their home games at the Sapporo Dome. The Fighters also host a select number of regional home games in cities across Hokkaidō, including Hakodate, Asahikawa, Kushiro, and Obihiro. The team's name comes from its parent organization, Nippon Ham, a major Japanese food-processing company.
The Orix Buffaloes are a Nippon Professional Baseball team formed as a result of the 2004 Nippon Professional Baseball realignment by the merger of the Orix BlueWave of Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, and the Kintetsu Buffaloes of Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. The team plays in the Pacific League and is under ownership by the Orix Group, a leading diversified financial services company based in Tokyo.
Lee Seung-yuop is a retired baseball player, who spent most of his career with the Samsung Lions of the KBO League. At the age of 26, he became the youngest professional baseball player in the world to hit 300 home runs. He formerly held the Asian home run record of 56 homers in a season, established in 2003 while playing for Samsung in the KBO. The record was broken by Wladimir Balentien of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, on September 15, 2013, when he hit his 56th and 57th Home Runs of the season against the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. He holds the KBO records for career home runs, runs scored, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage and OPS. Combined, across the KBO and NPB, Lee has also recorded more hits than any other native-born South Korean player.
Baseball was introduced to Japan in 1872 and is Japan's most popular participatory and spectator sport. The first professional competitions emerged in the 1920s. The highest level of baseball in Japan is Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), which consists of two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, with six teams in each league. High school baseball enjoys a particularly strong public profile and fanbase, much like college football and college basketball in the United States; the Japanese High School Baseball Championship, which takes place each August, is nationally televised and includes regional champions from each of Japan's 47 prefectures.
Professional baseball in Japan first started in the 1920s, but it was not until the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club was established in 1934 that the modern professional game had continued success.
The 2008 Nippon Professional Baseball season was the 59th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950. The regular season started on March 20 with the Pacific League opener, and on March 28 with the Central League opener. On March 25 and 26, the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics played 2 regular season Major League Baseball games at Tokyo Dome. During their visit, they also played exhibition games against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants.
The 1990 Japan Series was the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) championship series for the 1990 season. It was the 41st Japan Series and featured the Pacific League champion Seibu Lions against the Central League champion Yomiuri Giants. Seibu won the PL pennant for the seventh time in nine years to reach the series, and Yomiuri dominated the CL to return to the series after winning it the year before. Played at Tokyo Dome and Seibu Lions Stadium, the Lions swept the heavily favored Giants in four games to win the franchise's 10th Japan Series title. Seibu slugger and former MLB player Orestes Destrade was named Most Valuable Player of the series. The series was played between October 20 and October 24 with home field advantage going to the Central League.
Hayato Sakamoto is a Japanese professional baseball shortstop with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
The 1996 Japan Series was the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) championship series for the 1996 season. It was the 47th Japan Series and featured the Pacific League champions, the Orix BlueWave, against the Central League champions, the Yomiuri Giants. The series was the eighth time the two franchises played each other for the championship; however, the last time the two teams played, Orix was known as the Hankyu Braves. Played at Tokyo Dome and Green Stadium Kobe, the BlueWave defeated the Giants four games to one in the best-of-seven series to win the franchise's 4th Japan Series title. BlueWave slugger and 1996 PL home run leader Troy Neel was named Most Valuable Player of the series. The series was played between October 19 and October 24, 1996, with home field advantage going to the Central League.
The 1989 Japan Series was the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) championship series for the 1989 season. It was the 40th Japan Series and featured the Pacific League champion Kintetsu Buffaloes against the Central League champion Yomiuri Giants. Kintetsu barely scraped into the series with a winning percentage only .001 higher than the second place Orix Braves, and Yomiuri won the CL pennant by 8 games to return to the series for the 25th time in franchise history. Played at Fujiidera Stadium and Tokyo Dome, the Giants won the series after losing the first three games to the underdog Buffaloes and staging a miraculous comeback, winning four games in a row with the final two wins coming on the road. Yomiuri slugger Norihiro Komada was named Most Valuable Player of the series. The series was played between October 21 and October 29 with home field advantage going to the Pacific League.
Hirokazu Sawamura is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) for the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines. Listed at 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) and 212 pounds (96 kg), he throws and bats right-handed.
American expatriate baseball players in Japan have been a feature of the Japanese professional leagues since 1934. American expatriate players began to steadily find spots on Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) rosters in the 1960s. More than 600 Americans have played NPB, although very few last more than a single season in Japan.
The 2004 Nippon Professional Baseball realignment was a series of events that occurred during the 2004 Nippon Professional Baseball season that changed the landscape of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). In June of that season, the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix BlueWave announced that, due to financial difficulties, the two teams planned to merge into one for the start of the 2005 season. Both teams were in the Pacific League (PL), and a merger between the two would result in a team imbalance with the PL's opposing league, the Central League (CL). Soon, it was announced that a second merger was being explored between two of the remaining four PL teams. With the possibility of the PL losing a second team, discussion about possibly restructuring NPB's two-league system into one ten-team league began. PL and CL executives continued to discuss the merits of both systems until it was finally decided that the two-league system would remain intact and interleague play would be introduced in the 2005 season.
Interleague play, officially titled Nippon Life Interleague Play for event sponsor Nippon Life, is an event consisting of 108 regular-season baseball games played between Central League (CL) and Pacific League (PL) teams in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Prior to 2005, matchups between CL and PL teams occurred only during spring training, the All-Star Series, a short-lived exhibition tournament called the Suntory Cup, and the Japan Series. Central League teams were reluctant to implement regular-season interleague play as it would reduce the money generated from games played against the Yomiuri Giants, the hugely popular CL team that generates the most money in Japanese baseball. However, during the 2004 NPB realignment, the merger of two PL teams that were struggling financially, the rumor of a second PL team merger, and talks of contracting and restructuring the two-league system into one ten-team league prompted the suggestion of interleague play as a possible solution. Team representatives eventually approved one merger, agreed to maintain the two-league system, and approved to hold interleague regular-season games during the 2005 season.
The 2019 Nippon Professional Baseball season began on March 29. It is the 70th season since Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) was reorganized in 1950. There are 12 teams NPB, split evenly between the Central League and Pacific League. The 2019 NPB season is 143 games long; teams in each league will play 125 games against each other and 18 interleague games. The regular season was scheduled to end on September 24 except for any make-up games scheduled after it; the regular season eventually concluded on September 30. The top three teams in each league proceed to the Climax Series, NPB's postseason system.
引き分け試合があったことにより、第7戦を行ってなお優勝が決定しない場合には翌日第7戦を行った球場で第8戦を行う。さらに第9戦が必要な場合には、1日移動日を設け、もう一方のチームの球場で行う("If there is a tie game and the champion is not decided in Game 7...Game 8 is played in the ballpark where Game 7 was played. Further, if Game 9 is required, one moving day is provided, and is played in the ballpark of the other team.")