Category Archives: Baseball

Japan’s Hall of Fame middle infielders

This is the fourth part of a series about this year’s Hall of Fame candidates.

Shortstop Kenjiro Nomura finished seventh in the voting a year ago, and is now fourth among players still on this winter’s ballot.

Including Nomura, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami (2B) and Masahiro Kawai, this year’s players’ ballot has five middle infielders on it. The other two are shortstops Takuro Ishii and Shinya Miyamoto.

Let’s look at who the hall has inducted and passed over.

The best middle infielder by career total of Bill James’ Win Shares is shortstop Yasumitsu Toyoda (352) is in. Shortstop Taira Fujita (322), with longer productive career but slightly less peak value, is out.

Toyoda’s predecessor as Hanshin Tigers shortstop, Yoshio Yoshida (312), is third, and he’s in. He also managed the Tigers to their only Japan Series championship in 1985, and his nine Best Nine awards are the most among any NPB middle infielder.

Tatsunami (302) is a 1990s version of Fujita, although he was never a viable MVP candidate — Win Shares ranks his best season NPB’s 61st best by a second baseman. He is followed by shortstop Hiroyuki Yamazaki (287), who was a good match for Tatsunami, a reliable solid player whose career failed to last quite as long.

Shortstop Takuro Ishii (281) is also a very similar player to Tatsunami with nearly as many career hits, a little less power, more speed. In his ballot debut last year, Ishii was selected by 19.3 percent of the voters.

Second baseman Morimichi Takagi, seventh with 271 career win shares, is in the hall, and his career is very similar to Tatsunami, Yamazaki and Ishii a really good player who never had an MVP-caliber season.

By the time we get past Takagi, the only middle infielders in the hall are guys who were good players but were elected as managers who won multiple pennants: Tatsuro Hirooka, Akira Ogi and Takeshi Koba.

View data on Japan’s top middle infielders whose career ended after 1959 with at least 1,000 career hits, sorted by career win shares. The headings are mostly self explanatory, with “leading” indicating how many times the player led his league in an offensive category. Golden gloves have been awarded since 1972. The year under “HOF” is the year that player was inducted.

Nomura is a wonderful guy and helped build the Hiroshima Carp into pennant contenders as a manager, but it’s
This brings us to Nomura, who hit for average, had power, stole bases. His two MVP-caliber seasons shaped our image of him as a super star, but he was inconsistent.

Miyamoto played 19 seasons despite debuting at the age of 24. He won 10 Golden Gloves, the most of any middle infielder, but wasn’t a really good offensive player.
hard to see either him or Miyamoto as Hall of Famers regardless of whether or not you decide middle infielders have been unfairly represented. This goes for Masahiro Kawai, too.

The big injustice is obviously Fujita, who didn’t help his cause from his time as Hanshin manager. Then, he was most famous for getting into a feud with Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s mother.

I’m inclined to call Takagi the lower limit, find a way to get Fujita, Tatsunami and perhaps Yamazaki in, and draw the line there.

It’s no snub to be considered good enough to be on the ballot. So many players never get that far.

Wang set to join Fighters on 3-year deal

The Nippon Ham Fighters have reached an agreement on a three-year deal with 25-year-old Taiwan outfielder Wang Po-jung on Friday according to the Nikkan Sports.

You can see the original Japanese version HERE.

The contract for Wang, who has batted over .400 twice in his brief career, is worth a reported 400 million yen ($887,000) with additional incentives. His salary next year will be 90 million yen.

“They showed me respect, and are giving me a chance to perform on a new stage, and I am grateful,” Wang said in a statement released by the Fighters.

The Lamigo Monkeys’ star won CPBL’s triple crown in 2017, and has led the league in on-base percentage the past three seasons.

“I’m honored to be the first player from Taiwan pro baseball to join NPB through the overseas transfer system, although some pressure comes with that.”

“Going forward, I will pull my weight and not forget the desire I’m coming in with.”

Speaking at the Fighters’ minor league facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, Nippon Ham General Manager Hiroshi Yoshimura said that Wang’s age was a factor in the acquisition according to the Nikkan Sports.

“His age is the key to his coming to grips with Japanese baseball,” Yoshimura said. “Because he’s young, we expect him to get even better. We’d like him to be playing in our new ballpark (due to open in 2023).”