Category Archives: Hall of Fame

Points of view

Was I ever wrong.

I thought the 2021 Hall of Fame votes were clearly in the rearview mirror until today’s story about Nobuhiko Matsunaka coaching the Lotte Marines in spring training.

When rushing to cast my Hall of Fame vote, I admit only glancing at the ballot’s pitchers on the ballot and may have underestimated what good arguments some of them have for inclusion. Yet, there was little doubt in my mind Matsunaka was the best choice of the bunch, a guy the Players’ Division voters should have intentionally walked into the Hall of Fame.

When I saw the story about Matsunaka, however, it reminded me that he was named on a piddly 17 percent of the ballots, and the way voting can be skewed by how “journalists” see a player. That’s because Matsunaka was complicated.

It wasn’t just his triple crown stats that made him such a strong candidate. There are players who are always alert on the field, who over and over make good decisions on tough plays. That was Matsunaka — at least the part of his game that constantly amazed me — his ability to advance on fly balls that many faster players would never have risked.

He is a big guy who was never overly fast, but I never saw a player so good at scoring from third on flies hit so shallow into the outfield. Matsunaka was, for a while at least, the team’s unofficial morale officer. When Julio Zuleta first arrived with the team, he told me Matsunaka took him under his wing to provide some of the extra support that new guys — particularly new imports — often need.

Trey Hillman said Matsunaka was one of the two players, the other was Takeshi Yamasaki, who always greeted him at the start of a series, showing him the kind of respect players often give to opposing Japanese managers.

So that was one side. Matsunaka’s other side was that he could be prickly. Once at spring training, while wandering through the Hawks’ indoor practice facility, I decided to break the ice with him with humor. My Japanese then was pretty crappy, but I don’t think it would have mattered. I asked Matsunaka, who was wearing a phiten necklace the size of an ox collar, if it was big enough for him. He said something under his breath and stalked off. That was the last time he spoke to me.

A year or so later, a colleague who’d covered the Hawks for years with their local paper, Nishinihon Sports, told me that Matsunaka was no longer the big guy, that he was overrated and all the young players saw shortstop Munenori Kawasaki as the team leader.

I don’t know if it’s related to anything, but Matsunaka signed a six-year contract with the Hawks before the 2006 WBC. When Japan advanced to the quarterfinal round in Anaheim, he told reporters that nobody on the team had better dare see it as a chance to show off for major league scouts.

Years later, when Zuleta joined the Marines, we talked about Matsunaka again, but his opinion of his former teammate had shifted. I mentioned his hustle and judgment on the bases, and Zuleta rolled his eyes and said, “You better look again.”

As injuries took their toll, Matsunaka became a bench player after the 2009 season and wasn’t productive after 2011. The team would have loved to dump him but those things involve huge PR hits, so they hung with him.

As a player, the only possible cloud on Matsunaka’s legacy was his complete inability during his best years to perform in the postseason. At the very end, he snapped out of it. But it was painful to watch the country’s best hitter do so badly when everyone was watching. It didn’t help that the Hawks during those years were managed by Sadaharu Oh. Oh is one of the people I admire most in the world, but he was a terrible manager in big games.

Oh and Matsunaka were an interesting combination. Oh told me he relied on the slugger to be the warm and friendly face of the team to newcomers because his own phobia about being too close to the players. The skipper, now the SoftBank Hawks chairman, is so well respected that I wonder if some players wanted to win big games so badly for him that they tightened up. I could certainly see that happening with Matsunaka.

My point is that if you look at what Matsunaka actually did, be the best player on a team that won three Japan Series, and led the PL in regular season wins five times, that’s plenty. I’m guessing that in addition to his ability to play baseball, he also had a talent for pissing people off, but that’s just a guess.

I wrote in this week’s newsletter that unlike America’s National Baseball Hall of Fame, Japan’s doesn’t have huge elephant-in-the-room issues balancing players’ PED use, domestic violence and sexual assault with their career value to determine their worthiness. I mentioned Craig Calcaterra, who has had enough of the whole exercise and decided he doesn’t care anymore about what being a Hall of Famer means.

“if one does not need the Hall of Fame to assess baseball greatness, and if the Hall of Fame is hopelessly ill-equipped to assess the character of players, why should anyone care about an institution that not only tries to do both of those things, but tries to mash them together into a single assessment?! “

–Craig Calcaterra in his Dec. 31, 2020, “Cup of Coffee” newsletter.

We do things much more simply in Japan, at least for now.

It seems to me that Japan’s standard is to vote for players who were kind to you and don’t vote for those who told you to piss off.

That’s not because Japan doesn’t or didn’t have those same problems, but because Japan’s problems are not well known. That’s how things work. Abuse is a huge problem in societies, but many assume that because it rarely makes the news in Japan, it doesn’t exist. In a kind of Trumpian chauvinist bravado, use that lack of reporting as the reason to praise the Japanese for their innate moral character.

Former Japan Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu once told his South Korean counterpart that no Koreans had been brought to Japan to serve as forced labor during or before World War II because there was no record of such a thing. This prompted a flood of 50-year-old documents from Japanese companies confirming their rosters of conscripted Korean laborers. Kaifu then committed political suicide by issuing an apology to South Korea.

Times change, and it’s hard to predict when information that had been hiding in plain sight will flood the landscape and force a reckoning or at least encourage people that a reckoning is in order.

Before long Japan will no doubt catch up in its awareness of claims of sexual assault and domestic violence — even against ballplayers. At some point — and we might already be there without my knowing it due to the lack of public dialog about the voting — voters may ask “How good does a player have to be to get into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer despite credible allegations of domestic violence?”

Beat writers know a lot more about players’ lives than guys like me who poke around and talk to people on different teams when I have time. Who knows? Perhaps some players’ poor performance in the voting is due to beat writers expressing their wrath about things that aren’t public knowledge.

Before writing this, I was optimistic Japan’s voters will find a better solution to the problem than those in the States have, but four years ago I also held some naive sliver of hope that Donald Trump wouldn’t be a total dumpster fire as president.

Having thought about it again, @craigcalcaterra may be right.

Sign up to receive news and alerts by mail

Fix the hall

With the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame failing to elect a former pro player for the first time since it went two straight years in 1986 and 1987, people are asking what the heck is wrong.

It’s not a shortage of good candidates. In three years, the Players’ division has managed to elect only longtime Chunichi Dragons second baseman Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, while arguably the best candidate, Tuffy Rhodes, treaded water in the middle of the ballot.

This year’s ballot was both larger, increasing from 21 candidates to 30, and better stocked with players who had huge careers.

This year’s results

Reliever Shingo Takatsu and outfielder Alex Ramirez, each got the same number of votes as they did last year, but it’s not true that everyone who voted for them a year ago did so again, because I didn’t. But Masahiro Kawai, a perplexing high flyer dropped from 218 to 210, while Rhodes crashed from 102 to 61.

This year’s poor outcome, however, might encourage some changes to the way things are done.

What can be done

I’m glad you asked. I don’t have a concrete solution, like changing the way the ballots are structured or voted, but while the whole process is administered efficiently and above board, it is a closed circuit.

Baseball writers who cover players during their careers then vote on those players. The results are then announced to the media and only then relayed to the public through that media filter. The event is a press conference in the long narrow hall where the plaques are hung, and as wonderful as the surroundings are, it’s not a good venue for a press conference.

Unlike the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, Japan’s wonderful museum at Tokyo Dome is closed on the day results are announced. TV cameras are there to record the introductory speeches and the speeches of those being enshrined — or their survivors.

The only public part of the enshrinement process is when new members are presented with their plaques at Game 1 of the annual all-star series. There are fans in the crowd, but there’s no time for anything more than a wave to them.

The first thing to do is take the private process and make the fans a part of it.

Hold the induction ceremony outdoors and invite the public. Give honorees more than a day or two to prepare their remarks. Give their fans time to show up. Make it an event that for one day stops baseball time in its tracks.

Give voters a chance to go public

Look I may be wrong when I say Masahiro Kawai– whom I loved as the Yomiuri Giants infield anchor at short for years–is not really deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame. I’m wrong a lot. But if you think he is, why not tell everyone your reasoning?

Sure, full disclosure might bring abuse from the public, but it would ensure more careful deliberation by voters. How about we go halfway, and have the ballot committees give voters the chance to make their votes public. Then we can have a debate and I can learn stuff and the public can be more involved.

Of course, every writer has that option in this day and age, but I may be the only one who uses it other than a few Hall of Famers who take to the press each year to issue proclamations on who is and isn’t up to THEIR standards.

My podcast partner John E. Gibson complains about the lack of standards, but neither of thinks that’s really the problem, but I like the idea of looking at who is in and what the current candidates have in common with most of them.

If we don’t find a positive way to solve it, I’m sure the Hall of Fame can come up with a “solution” that causes more problems.

A little background

The first nine members were selected by the special committee, and that group included only one former professional player, the Yomiuri Giants’ first Japanese ace, Eiji Sawamura. The following year, his Russian teammate, Victor Starffin, became the first player to be selected by the competitors’ ballot in 1960.

The competitors’ ballot, considered anyone and everyone who played amateur or professional ball, managed, coached or umpired until it was disbanded after 2007 in favor of two competitors’ divisions, the players’ division for recent retirees and the experts’ division for those who hadn’t played in 21 years.

At least until 1965, former players still in uniform could be elected, since the manager of the Nishitetsu Lions, Tadashi “Bozo” Wakabayashi was elected in 1964. The next year, the Hall inducted the managers of the Yomiuri Giants, Tetsuharu Kawakami, and Nankai Hawks Kazuto Tsuruoka.

Perhaps someone didn’t like the idea of Hall of Famers in uniform, because from 1966 to 1996 nobody was allowed on the ballot who had been active as a player, manager or coach in the past five seasons.

Thus, Sadaharu Oh, who last played in 1980 and then coached and managed until 1988, couldn’t be considered until 1994. It created a huge logjam as guys like Oh, Masaichi Kaneda, Kazuhisa Inao, Katsuya Nomura and Shigeo Nagashima had to leave the game for five years before they could go in the Hall of Fame.

The Players’ division can now consider guys in uniform if they haven’t played for five years, while the experts’ division can handle anyone out of uniform for six months, and can consider other contributions to the game. The special committee is now how non-players and amateurs get in. It used to be the last resort for players, and players selected by the special committee are not considered competitors, even if they did little else but play.

Sign up to receive news and alerts by mail

HOF 2021 Day 3

The Experts’ Division

The voters for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame’s Experts’ division failed to reach a consensus on who belongs in the Hall of Fame. The division is the territory of those whose pro playing careers have been over for 21 years and who have not coached or managed in the past six months.

The Experts’ Division panel of voters is made up of journalists who have covered baseball for 30 years, the journalists who manage but don’t vote in the Players’ division election, and living Hall of Famers. The candidates are still considered competitors by the Hall’s definition.

The outspoken Experts’ Division voter is Hall of Famer Tatsturo Hirooka. The former Giants shortstop and hard-ass manager last year said that virtually no one on either of the competitors division was worthy of induction. He said that while saying it was ridiculous that Atsushi Nagaike, who is still languishing in the Experts’ division ballot, was not already enshrined, an opinion I agree with.

Here’s a quick look at this year’s results. Despite being older than a lot of the guys who vote in the Experts’ division, I don’t get a vote there, so I have a little less vitriol for them.

2021 results

NamePos20212020
Randy Bass1B70.965.9
Masayuki Kakefu3B54.545.9
Masayoshi OsawaOF36.636.3
Atsushi NagaikeOF30.627.4
Isao ShibataOF23.929.6
Masayuki DobashiP23.120.0
Boomer Wells1B22.4
Yasunori OshimaOF21.6
Kenichi Yazawa1B19.4
Michiyo Arito3B17.9
Hideji Kato1B14.920.7
Masataka NashidaC13.412.6
Shigeru TakadaOF11.912.6
Kiyoshi Nakahata1B9.711.1
Yoshinori SatoP8.210.4
Mitsuo TatsukawaC6.78.1
Hiromu MatsuokaP4.58.9
Taira FujitaSS3.7

Because a player will be removed permanently from his division’s ballot if he fails to get 3 percent of the voters to name him on a ballot, some worthy candidates are sometimes held off the ballot if organizers think news unrelated to their candidacies, such as scandal or legal trouble, would prevent them from receiving the necessary 3 percent.

Evaluating the current candidates

The Experts’ division is harder to evaluate because some of the guys on the ballot are there because they bolstered their profile by contributing as coaches, managers and executives.

Chief among those guys on the current ballot is Keiji Osawa, a fringe player, who three times took struggling teams and made them competitive. This guy is now the dean of the media analysts and will end up in the Hall sooner or later, either through this division or as a Special Committee selection.

An explanation of the numbers in the tables below can be found in HOF 2021 Day 2, so I won’t rehash it here. If I got four votes in this division, they would go to Masayuki Kakefu, Randy Bass, Taira Fujita, and then Nagaike. Fujita was back on the ballot this year, and people must really dislike him. Otherwise, I can’t account for his poor record in the voting.

Position players

NamePos20212020Bat EyeCareer5 Peak3 Best
Randy Bass1B70.965.931132.52630.3
Masayuki Kakefu3B54.545.945302.83038.1
Masayoshi OsawaOF36.636.3038.36.88.7
Atsushi NagaikeOF30.627.465215.825.328.8
Isao ShibataOF23.929.640261.417.620.7
Boomer Wells1B22.439195.623.328.1
Yasunori OshimaOF21.69275.818.623.5
Kenichi Yazawa1B19.434269.921.825.6
Michiyo Arito3B17.961301.621.725.1
Hideji Kato1B14.920.750285.622.926.7
Masataka NashidaC13.412.622102.812.114.8
Shigeru TakadaOF11.912.629166.916.817.7
Kiyoshi Nakahata1B9.711.1614816.418.1
Mitsuo TatsukawaC6.78.120109.511.614.8
Taira FujitaSS3.746301.924.428.5

Pitchers

Name20212020P EyeCareer5 Peak3 Best
Masayuki Dobashi23.1205155.121.727.1
Mitsuhiro Adachi13.415.614203.916.120.9
Yoshinori Sato8.210.412174.614.818.2
Hiromu Matsuoka4.58.99232.621.422.8

Sign up to receive news and alerts by mail

HOF 2021 Day 2

Seems like a week’s gone by since the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame voting was announced but it’s barely been more than 24 hours. Late on Thursday when the day job wrapped up, I wrote up diatribe No. 1.

Today it’s time to get down to basics. Who got votes and ways in which their careers can be evaluated, starting today with the players’ division ballot, the one I have a vote for.

Players’ division results

The results are given as a percentage of valid ballots cast, with 75 percent needed for induction. The voters are baseball journalists with 15 to 29 years of experience. The real lifers vote on the experts’ division candidates.

Players can stay on the ballot for 15 years or until they are named on less than 3 percent of the ballots.

The biggest losers on the ballot were three guys with great careers who failed to get three percent: Hirokazu Ibata, Kenshin Kawakami and Norihiro Nakamura.

Players who get cut can then be added to the experts’ division 21 years after they’ve finished playing and six months after they are out of uniform. Tatsunori Hara, who barely missed induction as a player in 2015, with a 73.2 percent approval rating, was elected in the experts’ division three years later–when voters were allowed to consider his seven CL and three Japan Series pennants.

To prevent players from being unfairly disqualified, the ballot selection committee can hold players off the ballot rather than see good candidates fail to get any support and get eliminated from consideration too quickly. This is the reason Kazuhiro Kiyohara is currently not on the ballot.

There were 358 valid ballots cast in the players’ division, with 269 needed for election. Shingo Takatsu, led the voting for the second straight year, coming up 10 short.

NamePos20212020
Shingo TakatsuP72.373.2
Masahiro YamamotoP68.2
Alex RamirezLF65.165.8
Masahiro KawaiSS58.161.6
Shinya MiyamotoSS50.358.2
Motonobu TanishigeC38.5
Masumi KuwataP25.434.2
Kenjiro NomuraSS24.635.9
Hiroki Kokubo3B18.229.4
Tuffy RhodesCF17.028.8
Nobuhiko Matsunaka1B17.0
Tomonori MaedaLF15.928.8
Michihiro Ogasawara3B15.6
Takuro IshiiSS12.824.6
Kenji JojimaC12.317.2
Atsunori InabaRF7.820.3
Takeshi Yamasaki1B7.011.6
Yoshinobu TakahashiRF6.4
Norihiro AkahoshiCF6.19.0
Shinji SasaokaP5.611.0
So TaguchiOF5.69.6
Kazuhiro WadaLF4.5
Yoshitomo TaniRF3.1
Hirokazu IbataSS2.8
Fumiya NishiguchiP2.2
Takashi SaitoP2.0
Shinjiro HiyamaRF1.74.5
Kazuhisa IshiiP1.44.0
Norihiro Nakamura3B1.17.9

Experts’ division results

I’m going to keep this just to the results this time, since people were keen on seeing them and shouldn’t have to wait any longer. Randy Bass, the runner-up in the 2020 voting that elected slugging Hanshin Tigers catcher Koichi Tabuchi, was No. 1 this year. 134 votes were cast and 101 needed for election with Bass getting 95.

NamePos20212020
Randy Bass1B70.965.9
Masayuki Kakefu3B54.545.9
Masayoshi OsawaOF36.636.3
Atsushi NagaikeOF30.627.4
Isao ShibataOF23.929.6
Masayuki DobashiP23.120.0
Boomer Wells1B22.4
Yasunori OshimaOF21.6
Kenichi Yazawa1B19.4
Michiyo Arito3B17.9
Hideji Kato1B14.920.7
Masataka NashidaC13.412.6
Shigeru TakadaOF11.912.6
Kiyoshi Nakahata1B9.711.1
Yoshinori SatoP8.210.4
Mitsuo TatsukawaC6.78.1
Hiromu MatsuokaP4.58.9
Taira FujitaSS3.7

Talking turkey

As I did last week, I’m going to give some context to the candidates. I want to evaluate the pitchers and position players separately and have supplied five measures to do so.

  • Batters Eye: An “eye-test” point system for position players that gives players credit for tangible accomplishments that require no big math such as batting home run and RBI titles, playing for pennant winners, winning Best Nine and MVP awards, amassing large numbers of hits and home runs and so on. I don’t really think these are more important than other things but they’re the ones that get mentioned in every story.
  • Pitchers Eye: The same for pitchers, although they don’t work to scale with the batters formula. Some day they will.
  • Career value: Expressed in Win Shares.
  • 5 Peak: The average win share value of the best five-year stretch in the player’s career.
  • 3 Best: The average win share value of the three best seasons in the player’s career.

The day the results came out, I mentioned other questions we need to ask about a player, whether he was considered the best player in his league at any time, or the best player at his position for any length of time, or could a team win a pennant with this guy as its best player. I’m not going to try and answer those questions now, but you can for an extra-credit homework assignment.

Position players on the ballot

NamePos20212020Bat EyeCareer5 Peak3 Best
Alex RamirezLF65.165.853247.624.629.3
Masahiro KawaiSS58.161.617147.615.719.3
Shinya MiyamotoSS50.358.226200.613.716.0
Motonobu TanishigeC38.522307.517.421.3
Kenjiro NomuraSS24.635.925243.624.128.5
Hiroki Kokubo3B18.229.428310.625.528.6
Tuffy RhodesCF17.028.856319.925.833.8
Tomonori MaedaLF15.928.828262.317.925.5
Michihiro Ogasawara3B15.669334.830.531.7
Takuro IshiiSS12.824.640298.924.126.8
Kenji JojimaC12.317.254293.528.030.7
Atsunori InabaRF7.820.337302.227.331.0
Takeshi Yamasaki1B7.011.622241.118.924.7
Yoshinobu TakahashiRF6.418262.420.226.2
Norihiro AkahoshiCF6.19.020146.220.224.5
So TaguchiOF5.69.69170.114.9617.4
Kazuhiro WadaLF4.549331.726.930.9
Yoshitomo TaniRF3.131193.618.021.5
Hirokazu IbataSS2.837257.826.030.8
Shinjiro HiyamaRF1.74.53137.813.117.3
Norihiro Nakamura3B1.17.939304.826.029.1

Pitchers on the ballot

Name20212020P EyeCareer5 Peak3 Best
Shingo Takatsu72.373.216119.710.0614
Masahiro Yamamoto68.226226.413.718.5
Masumi Kuwata25.434.217191.019.5824.2
Shinji Sasaoka5.61115171.714.418.9
Fumiya Nishiguchi2.222168.71618.5
Takashi Saito2.09192.314.720.6
Kazuhisa Ishii1.4410165.513.617.5

Earning points

Here are the formulas I used for the Batters Eye and Pitchers Eye points.

Batters Eye

  • 9 points per MVP award
  • 5 points per Best Nine award
  • 1 point per Golden Glove for players whose main position was shortstop or catcher
  • 1 point for every 2 Golden Gloves at any position
  • 1 point for every 150 home runs
  • 1 point for 400-plus career home runs
  • 1 point for 500-plus career home runs
  • 1 point for every 1,000 career hits
  • 3 points for 2,000 career hits
  • 1 point for each time leading the league in batting, home runs, RBIs or stolen bases.
  • 1 point for every two 250-plus plate appearance seasons for a league champion.

Pitchers Eye

  • 3 points for each MVP Award
  • 2 points for each Sawamura Award or Best Nine Award
  • 2 points for each time leading the league in wins or saves
  • 1 point for each time leading the league in ERA or strikeouts
  • 1 point for every two times leading the league in innings pitched
  • 5 points for every 100 career wins
  • 1 point for every 40 career saves
  • 1 point for every two seasons with 40-plus games or 100-plus innings in a league championship season.

Sign up to receive news and alerts by mail

Hall of Infamy

I have a message for some of my fellow voters in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame’s players’ division, and I’d like you not to take it the wrong way: Get your heads out of your asses.

I wish I knew what was up with some Hall of Fame voters because if it was simply a matter of looking at 30 former players and choosing the seven you think are most qualified, we wouldn’t get the dog’s breakfast we saw from the 2021 players ballot.

To be fair, it was a packed ballot, with a lot of solid candidates, but for the first time since 1987, none of the new Hall of Famers were former pro players. The Hall said it was the first time since 1998 that no former players were elected, but the Hall doesn’t count former players elected by the special committee, which inducted 209-game winner Hiroshi Nakao that year.

2021 Hall of Fame ballot posts

With a slew of solid candidates on this year’s ballots it’s easy to see how big candidates can split the ballot. Shingo Takatsu led the players’ division vote with 72.3 percent, coming just 10 votes shy of induction. I didn’t vote for him this time, but he’s an OK choice.

But if quality of the player matters, then perhaps voters should ask themselves these questions, lifted from Bill James’ old abstracts:

  • Was this player ever considered the best at his position in his league for any length of time?
  • Would you expect a team to be a pennant winner if he was its best player?

Shingo Takatsu? He was one of the better relievers for an extended period, but if he was your best player you wouldn’t win a pennant.

No. 2 on this year’s players’ ballot was lefty Masahiro Yamamoto, who I did vote for. He was considered one of the CL’s better starters for a long, long time. He won a Sawamura Award. So obviously, his best was pretty darn good. The same could be said for No. 3, Alex Ramirez. He won two MVPs and four Best Nines.

After that we get into a shit show. I don’t mean to disrespect the substantial quality of all the guys on the ballot. Fifty-eight percent of the voters named Masahiro Kawai on their ballots. He was a terrific player, but if he’s the best you’ve got, you’re not going to win a pennant.

Two hundred and eight voters named him on their ballot. These are people who have been covering pro baseball for established outlets for over 15 years.

I love Kawai. He was a really good player who I thought was underrated during his career, but if you voted for him, I would appreciate it if you take your vote more seriously. If in your carefully considered opinion, you really think Kawai belongs in the hall, then your considered opinion needs a hell of a lot of explaining.

Norihiro Nakamura, a player who deserves serious consideration, got none. He received four votes, and will not be eligible to be reconsidered for another 14 or so years when he can get onto the experts’ division.

Hirokazu Ibata, a much better player than Kawai, got 1.8 percent of the vote. Kenshin Kawakami, perhaps a good candidate, got 1.4 and he’s gone, too.

It’s like there was a rebellion and voters decided that after voting in Kazuyoshi Tatsunami a year ago, and putting strong support behind Yamamoto this year, that no other former Dragons deserved support, since Kazuhiro Wada barely survived the first cut.

There are so many players on this ballot who are comparable to guys already in the Hall, but many of them may not get there because votes are being wasted by people who have no respect for their vote.

If that’s you, I’ll be happy to publish your reasoning. The more we discuss our choices and rationale, the better they should get.

Sign up to receive news and alerts by mail

Another look at pitchers

Since I’m on a Hall of Fame jag, I want to dig deeper into the subject of pitchers, who gets in and who gets out. I only included one pitcher, Masahiro Yamamoto, on my 2021 ballot, and perhaps I should more carefully examine the credentials of a few other pitchers on the ballot.

In the first run-through, I looked to see how often pitchers were elected into the Hall of Fame based on their MVP, Sawamura, and Best Nine Awards, and also on three measures using Bill James’ Win Shares: career value, the average value of their five best seasons, and the average value of their three best seasons.

Next year’s big new names will be two pitchers whose quality went largely overlooked because they played for weak offensive teams in hitters’ parks, Hiroki Kuroda and Daisuke Miura. But while I’m at it I’ll try and right a wrong and have a look at the pitchers I passed over in my 2021 ballot.

For a slightly different look, I’m doing pitcher Hall of Fame points that I’m going to call “career highlight points” because unlike Win Shares, anyone can count them. These are as follows:

  • MVP award: 3 points
  • Sawamura Award: 2 points
  • Leading the league in wins: 2 points
  • Leading the league in saves: 2 points
  • Best Nine award: 2 points
  • Key pitcher on a championship team (40+ games or 100+ IP): 2 points
  • Each 100 career wins: 5 points
  • Each 40 career saves: 1 point

So far, each of the 18 eligible pitchers with 21-plus career highlight points is in the Hall of Fame with the exception of the scandal-hit Yutaka Enatsu. Eight of the 12 players from 17 to 21 are in. Below 16 and it’s fuzzy.

Here are the breakdowns for the Win Shares measures:

  • Career WS above 233: 20 out of 21 in Hall
  • Best 5-year stretch average above 24 WS: 12 out of 13 in Hall. Essentially an old-timers category since the last pitcher in that group retired in 1988.
  • Best 3 season average above 29 WS: 12 out of 13 in Hall (see above).

Hiroki Kuroda

  • Highlight points: 10 – 58th
  • Career Win Shares: 244 – 13th
  • Avg WS Best 5-year stretch: 17.1 – 54th
  • Avg Best 3 seasons: 21 – 59th

As an exercise, let’s start with Kuroda.

Because of his career win shares value, the former Carp ace seems like a shoo-in, but his peak value is not as great as some of his contemporaries, and he lacks the eye-catching things like playing for multiple championship teams and winning MVP awards and so has just 10 career highlight points

Kuroda’s Wins Shares profile is similar to recent experts’ division selection, Taiyo Whales ace Masaji Hiramatsu and his contemporary, Yakult Swallows ace Hiromu Matsuoka, who has struggled on the experts’ ballot. The obvious difference? Hiramatsu had a famous pitch, his “kamisori” (razor) shoot, had two big seasons and 21 career highlight points while Matsuoka has just nine. Hiramatsu was not a lot better but LOOKED a lot better, and now he’s in.

In Kuroda’s favor, the Hall of Fame voting system is different from when those two retired in the mid-1980s, and he was both popular and a durable, successful major leaguer. My guess is he won’t have to wait for the experts’ division ballot to get in. Matsuoka’s “fault” was to be consistently good for a long time without having at least one more big year when everyone was talking about how great he was.

Here’s how the the players on the ballot this year and next year compare:

NameLast seasonHighlight PtsCareer WSBest 5-year stretchBest 3 seasons
Hiroki Kuroda20161024417.121.0
Masahiro Yamamoto20152622613.718.8
Daisuke Miura2016721115.118.6
Masumi Kuwata20071719119.624.2
Shinji Sasaoka20071517214.418.9
Fumiya Nishiguchi20152216916.018.5
Kazuhisa Ishii20131016613.617.5
Kenshin Kawakami20152013615.018.4
Shingo Takatsu20101612010.114.0
Takashi Saito2015919214.720.6

Again, this is not about who I want to see in the Hall of Fame, but rather an effort to answer the question “Who does the Hall of Fame think belongs?”

By the established standards, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Yamamoto and Fumiya Nishiguchi are all Hall of Famers, and Kenshin Kawakami and Masumi Kuwata are likely to get in at some point.

Win Shares sees Miura as being better than Nishiguchi and way better than Kawakami, but he lacks the career highlights that will likely make their resumes sing to the voters. As it is Miura is probably going to fall about one good, not great, season short of getting in on career value.

You decide

Here is a table of every pitcher who is eligible to be in the Hall of Fame, and is not currently on the players’ division ballot who has a career Win Share total as high as the lowest of any pitcher in the HOF, former Carp closer Tsunemi Tsuda. An “E” in the HOF column indicates they are currently on the experts’ division ballot. HOF indicates an original member, and a year indicates when they were inducted.

I would like to say who has a chance to get on a ballot again and who is out of chances, but that’s a huge project, and anyone who is in uniform again as a coach or manager has a chance to get back on the experts’ ballot.

Name RName JHOFLast NPB gameHighlight Pts.Career WS5-year peakBest 3
Masaichi Kaneda金田 正一1988196952459.332.536.9
Takehiko Bessho別所 毅彦1979196050359.231.738.4
Yutaka Enatsu江夏 豊198448294.322.225.1
Kazuhisa Inao稲尾 和久1993196944312.73641.3
Hisashi Yamada山田 久志200619884132226.930.1
Masaki Saito斎藤 雅樹2016200140236.321.628.6
Keishi Suzuki鈴木 啓示2002198537381.227.932.9
Minoru Murayama村山 実1993197235242.122.830.5
Hideo Nomo野茂 英雄2014199334236.119.1624.5
Kimiyasu Kudo工藤 公康2016201033234.913.420.3
Tsuneo Horiuchi堀内 恒夫2008198329188.617.220.8
Osamu Higashio東尾 修2010198829254.81724.8
Shigeru Sugishita杉下 茂1985196128250.132.336.4
Manabu Kitabeppu北別府 学2012199428213.72023.8
Victor Starffinスタルヒン1960195525139.419.526.7
Tetsuya Yoneda米田 哲也2000197724318.521.627.5
Choji Murata村田 兆治2005199023255.623.726.4
Kazuhiro Sasaki佐々木 主浩2014200522170.315.0418.4
Masaaki Koyama小山 正明2001197321324.624.528.2
Masaji Hiramatsu平松 政次2017198421236.518.826.1
Suguru Egawa江川 卓198721165.723.826.5
Hiroshi Nakao中尾 碩志1998195720126.314.420.8
Kazumi Takahashi高橋 一三198220174.615.922
Takumi Otomo大友 工司196019136.223.228.8
Hideo Fujimoto藤本 英雄197619551818526.131.7
Motoshi Fujita藤田 元司1996196417117.11724.8
Tadashi Sugiura杉浦 忠1995197017198.126.534
Mutsuo Minagawa皆川 睦男2011197117234.219.225.9
Kazuhiko Endo遠藤 一彦199217177.92024.1
Yutaka Ono大野 豊2013199817233.415.418.6
Tadashi Wakabayashi若林 忠志196419531681.216.223.7
Takao Kajimoto梶本 隆夫2007197316245.921.125.7
Shigeru Kobayashi小林 繁198316153.120.123.2
Akio Saito斉藤 明雄199316182.516.319.5
Kuo Yuen-chih郭 源治199616169.316.219.9
Hisao Niiura新浦 壽丈199215148.516.221
Hideki Irabu伊良部 秀輝200415125.213.518.8
Jyuzo Sanada真田 重蔵1990195614202.73138.4
Susumu Yuki柚木 進195614130.418.620.7
Mitsuhiro Adachi足立 光宏E197914203.916.120.9
Tomehiro Kaneda金田 留広198114141.517.722
Kei Igawa井川 慶20141491.514.0616.1
Yoshiro Sotokoba外木場 義郎2013197913155.116.125.4
Fumio Narita成田 文男198213181.118.723.4
Tokuji Kawasaki川崎 徳次195712182.319.428.2
Gene Bacqueバッキー196912117.52126.5
Yoshinori Sato佐藤 義則199412174.614.818.2
Joe Stankaスタンカ19661192.815.919
Noboru Akiyama秋山 登2004196711189.420.624.9
Yukio Ozaki尾崎 行雄197311102.718.724.6
Takashi Nishimoto西本 聖199311198.721.124.2
Atsushi Aramaki荒巻 淳1985196210195.321.427.5
Hiroshi Gondo権藤 博201919681085.716.325.3
Shoichi Ono小野 正一197010179.822.327.4
Hiromi Makihara槙原 寛己200010193.714.518.4
Senichi Hoshino星野 仙一201719829133.316.220.7
Hiromu Matsuoka松岡 弘E19859232.621.422.8
Kazuhisa Kawaguchi川口 和久19989172.515.719.5
Yukihiro Nishizaki西崎 幸広20009163.216.220.3
Kunio Jonouchi城之内 邦雄19748132.318.620.6
Yasuo Yonegawa米川 泰夫19597144.519.825.8
Ryohei Hasegawa長谷川 良平200119637239.428.633.1
Masaaki Ikenaga池永 正明1970712122.926.6
Shigeo Ishii石井 茂雄1979716517.422.7
Hideyuki Awano阿波野 秀幸2000798.717.424.5
Masato Yoshii吉井 理人20077151.113.0414.9
Masahide Kobayashi小林 雅英2011790.110.4412.9
Tadayoshi Kajioka梶岡 忠義1955614819.327.6
Michio Nishizawa西沢 道夫19771958624324.829.3
Kiyoshi Oishi大石 清19706125.719.324
Naoki Takahashi高橋 直樹19866196.123.827
Akinori Otsuka大塚 晶則20036105.911.0415.6
Satoru Komiyama小宮山 悟20096139.511.5216.8
Yoshio Tenbo天保 義夫19575113.41723.4
Masayuki Dobashi土橋 正幸E19675155.121.727.1
Shigetoshi Hasegawa長谷川 滋利19945148.112.7215.6
Tsunemi Tsuda津田 恒美20121991479.910.816.8
Giichiro Shiraki白木 義一郎19523132.22632
Masao Kida木田 優夫2012386.86.712.7
Takeshi Yasuda安田 猛19812125.217.720.6
Shigeaki Kuroo黒尾 重明19550114.416.522.7
Kentaro Imanishi今西 啓介19550102.219.724.3
Zaichi Hayashi林 義一19580128.919.624.3
Jyunzo Sekine関根 潤三200319650172.613.919.9
Keiichi Yabu藪 恵市20100108.311.612.4