This is the second part of my look at the top fielders at each position in NPB history. Today, I’ll go through the second and third basemen.
This list is surprisingly dominated by active players, although there’s no mistaking how much better Shigeru “Buffalo” Chiba was compared to his contemporaries. Chiba’s 1949 season, when he turned a record 128 double plays with just 18 errors for the league champions, ranks as the most valuable fielding year ever for a second baseman in Japan. Chiba has two of the top-10 seasons and had golden gloves been awarded before he retired, he would have won it every year from 1946 to 1952.
On top of that, when he went to manage Kintetsu, they named the team after him, and he is credited with being the origin behind the popular dish “katsu curry,” which combines what he said were his two favorite foods, Japanese-style curry on rice with pork cutlets (katsu) on top.
As before, the numbers given are: career fielding win shares, and fielding WS per 27 outs & number of “win share golden gloves”:
- Shigeru Chiba, Giants, 1938-1956: 63-.500, 7
- Yuichi Honda, Hawks, 2006-present: 58-.469, 6
- Kazunori Shinozuka, Giants, 1977-1994: 66-.426, 5
- Shozo Doi, Giants, 1965-1978: 57-.383, 4
- Kensuke Tanaka, Fighters, 2000-present: 46-.377, 1
- Minoru Kamada, Tigers, 1957-1972: 50-.369, 3
- Chico Barbon, Braves, 1955-1965: 52-.369, 4
- Yasuyuki Kataoka, Lions-Giants, 2005-present: 49-.366, 0
- Hatsuhiko Tsuji, Lions, 1984-1999, 49-.366, 5
- Hiroyasu Tanaka, Swallows: 2005-present: 44-.387, 3
There are some surprises here. Shinozuka was less known for his fielding than his outstanding offense, while Hiroyasu Tanaka has always seemed more solid and workmanlike than outstanding… Yasuyuki Kataoka could easily rank higher because the fielding win shares per 27 outs hurts a player like Kataoka — who makes lots of outs, and helps players like Kensuke Tanaka and Chico Barbon — although Kamada was a good-field, no-hit type…
When one hears so much about how great a particular player is, it is easy to believe that some of it must be hyperbola, and no one generated more hyperbola than Shigeo Nagashima. But that’s what happens if a charismatic player achieves his peak early and plays consistently well for a fair amount of time. Defensively, he was easily the best regular at third base.
- Shigeo Nagashima, Giants, 1958-1974: 76-.342, 9
- Hiromi Matsunaga, Braves, 1981-1987: 59-.337, 4
- Kinji Shimatani, Dragons-Braves, 1969-1982: 55-.341, 5
- Norifumi Kido, Swallows-Lions, 1957-1974: 46-.373, 4
- Michiyo Arito, Orions, 1969-1986: 55-.279, 3
- Norihiro Nakamura, Buffaloes-Dragons, etc., 1992-2014: 58-.265, 5
- Tatsunori Hara, Giants, 1981-1995: 46-.351, 5
- Koichi Hada, Buffaloes, 1973-1989: 50-.298, 2
- Hideo Furuya, Fighters, 1978-1992: 47-.312, 3
- Masayuki Kakefu, Tigers, 1974-1988: 46-.301, 3
Nobuhiro Matsuda, who TALKED about going to the majors this winter, but opted to stay put in Japan will now have the opportunity to crack this list in the next three years.