As the deadline for Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame ballots approaches, and people talk about who should be in the Hall of Fame — as opposed to who shouldn’t, it might be constructive to look at who are the all-time greats.
The biggest problem I find with compiling these lists is that the competition is generally better since 1990 than it was in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s. Thus, it is far more difficult to dominate play than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. For that reason, a straight-line numbers comparison between a recent superstar and one from 50 years ago will almost always be one-sided.
Let’s look at how many times a player has led his league in one of the following offensive categories:
- batting average
- on-base percentage
- slugging average
- home runs
- stolen bases
Sadaharu Oh led his league in one of these categories 102 times. Seven of the top-10 leaders played the bulk of their careers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. This requires an adjustment to adjust for both the era and the degree to which talent is compacted.
OK. Enough talk. Here are top 20 players in career value in NPB according to Bill James’ win shares formulas and using a competition adjustment (based on the year and the standard deviation of win shares by players with 100-plus games in a season. There may be no perfect solution to this problem but this was mine).
Top Career Totals
|Name||Best Season||Career High||Career Total||Avg modifier|
Peak value: Average of best 5 consecutive seasons
The following table represents my estimate of the players who put together the best five-season runs in NPB history.
|Name||Period||Average WS||WS totals||Modifier|
|Sadaharu Oh||1964-1968||39.1||40, 42, 40, 37, 37||1.07|
|Kazuhisa Inao||1957-1961||36.0||37, 40, 40, 20, 44||1.12|
|Yuki Yanagita||2014-2018||35.2||31, 39, 32, 39, 36||0.93|
|Ichiro Suzuki||1994-1998||35.0||38, 38, 38, 33, 28||0.92|
|Shigeo Nagashima||1959-1963||34.8||36, 34, 41, 25, 38||1.10|
|Hideki Matsui||1998-2002||34.0||36, 31, 36, 32, 35||1.00|
|Katsuya Nomura||1964-1968||33.8||30, 38, 34, 33, 34||1.07|
|Hiromitsu Ochiai||1982-1986||33.0||33, 30, 35, 34, 31||0.97|
|Masaichi Kaneda||1954-1958||32.5||25, 35, 33, 30, 40||1.09|
|Shigeru Sugishita||1951-1955||32.3||27, 33, 26, 43, 33||1.03|
Hall of Fame candidates
Here are the 23 candidates on this year’s players division ballot for the Hall of Fame, with their career win shares and best-five consecutive season averages and how they rank all-time in both categories:
HOF candidates 2020
|Nam e||Career WS||Career Rank +||Peak 5||Peak Rank|