On Wednesday, Hanshin’s Teruaki Sato hit his 19th home run, which is now being touted as tying a record for a left-handed-hitting rookie since Japan’s elite pro baseball league expanded and split into two leagues in 1950, Chunichi Shimbun reported.
This is a dumb record on par with last year’s “longest winning streak from the start of the season for a pitcher who pitched on Opening Day” record, set by Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano.
First of all, “record” Sato tied starts from 1950, giving the existing record to Yoshinobu Takahashi, of the Giants, for a team that played 130 games. In 1946, in a really tough home run environment, Hiroshi Oshita hit 20 for the Senators, a team that played 105 games.
Anyone see a pattern there?
The Tigers record for home runs by a rookie, the story says, was 22 by right-handed-hitting catcher Koichi Tabuchi.
Another problem is Japan’s determination to only call first-year pros rookies. No one in the media will ever call a second-year pro a rookie, period. This is problematic because the qualifications are clearly defined. Currently, a player who’s been a pro for fewer than five years, who hasn’t pitched more than 30 innings on the first team or had more than 50 plate appearances is a rookie, whether they want to call him that or not.
In 2019, a left-handed hitter won the Central League’s Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 38 home runs, but if you want someone else to have a record, say a popular player for the Giants or Tigers, then let’s find a workaround and just start making shit up.