Tag Archives: Alex Cabrera

NPB news plus: Aug. 28, 2022

I didn’t do my weekly subscriber’s newsletter tonight, so today’s post is more like the usual newsletter than just the day’s wrap. If you like it, then maybe you should sign up for the newsletter or better yet, (shameless plug) become a paid subscriber.

It’s still August and I’m wondering if I’m running out of superlatives for Munetaka Murakami, after he spent the weekend polishing his MVP credentials at the expense of the DeNA BayStars.

Japan’s media has already mentioned he’s on track to set the “Japanese home run record” which isn’t a thing, but if it were, wouldn’t be the one they’re talking about.

And because the baseball media revolves around squeezing “Giants” into a headline to increase clicks, stories are now circulating about how the 22-year-old is on the verge of tying Hideki Matsui’s career high of 50 home runs from 30 years ago.

Sunday wasn’t all about Murakami, though.

Kodai Senga, who entered the season as one of the most talked about players in Japan due to his upcoming international free agency, returned from a bout with COVID and was really good, while Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, questioned the manhood of his players, making one wonder how long it will be before he leaks to the press, again, that he is keen to serve out the rest of his three-year contract so they won’t fire his ass.


The Swallows’ slugger’s new nickname is a play on the first character of his name “Mura” and “kamisama” God.

Murakami is now on pace to tie Wladimir Balentien’s 60-homer Japan single season record, although odds are strong that he won’t. I remember Balentien being on a pace to hit 64 at one point.

But in 35 years of carefully following Japanese baseball, I only remember two players who were spoken about the way broadcast crews are now talking about Murakami: Alex Cabrera in 2001 and Balentien in 2013.

Continue reading NPB news plus: Aug. 28, 2022

The Heisei ERA, part 2

On this past week’s Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, a listener asked:

  1. Who had the single most dominant season in the Heisei era (1989 to April 30, 2019)?
  2. Who was the best player of the Heisei era in NPB?

To recap our answers, we split on Question 1. John (@JBWPodcast) Gibson answered Masahiro Tanaka‘s 2013, 24-0 MVP season for the Rakuten Eagles, while I had Tetsuto Yamada‘s 2015 MVP season at second base for the Yakult Swallows, which ranks — according to Bill James’ win shares — as the seventh most valuable season in Japanese pro baseball history.

The Heisei Most Dominant Season Award

Tanaka’s season ranks 457th overall among all players in history, and second behind Hall of Famer Masaki Saito’s 1989 season for the Yomiuri Giants. But if one thinks about how the game has changed, Tanaka’s season is pretty darn remarkable.

The quality of play in NPB has increased steadily along with the number of pitches needed to get batters out. Saito, who is a big strong guy like Tanaka had a season that was a little better but required 33 more innings to accomplish.

In terms of how much Tanaka accomplished per inning pitched, his 2013 season is third in Japanese baseball history, behind two more Hall of Famers, Masaichi Kaneda (1958, Kokutetsu Swallows) and Tadashi Sugiura (1959, Nankai Hawks) during Japan’s most pitcher-friendly years since the end of World War II.

John, for those of you who haven’t heard it, brought up Wladimir Balentien‘s 60-home run 2013 season, but Win Shares has that ranked right behind Hotaka Yamakawa‘s MVP season last year for the Seibu Lions and the 28th most valuable during the Heisei era.

The Heisei MVP Award

John and I both picked Tomoaki Kanemoto as the Heisei MVP, which came as a shock to Mr. Gibson. The question excluded Ichiro Suzuki, but if I valued his MLB win shares at 1.2 per NPB WS, he ranks as the undisputed Heisei king. Through that somewhat conservative formula, Suzuki’s 540 ranks him third in Japanese baseball history, far behind the run-away leader, Sadaharu Oh (723 WS) and catcher Katsuya Nomura (581). Because the bulk of Suzuki’s win shares come from MLB, he would shoot past Nomura if each WS was valued at 1.5 per NPB win share.

If we allowed MLB win shares, Kanemoto would finish third, right behind Hideki Matsui.

Anyway, here are the top Heisei win share seasons:

Position players

1. Tetsuto Yamada2015Swallows46.8
2. Yuki Yanagita2015Hawks42.0
3. Hideki Matsui2002Giants41.7
4. Ichiro Suzuki1995BlueWave40.5
5. Kosuke Fukudome2006Dragons39.1
6. Kazuo Matsui2002Lions38.8
7. Alex Cabrera2002Lions37.7
8. Tuffy Rhodes2001Buffaloes37.4
9. Yuki Yanagita2018Hawks36.4
10. Takeya Nakamura2011Lions35.8


1. Masaki Saito1989Giants29.8
2. Masahiro Tanaka2013Eagles27.3
3. Masaki Saito1990Giants26.6
4. Masahiro Tanaka2011Eagles26.3
5. Hideo Nomo1990Buffaloes25.1
6. Hideyuki Awano1989Buffaloes24.2
7. Shinji Imanaka1993Dragons23.2
8. Tomoyuki Sugano2017Giants23.2
9. Yu Darvish2008Fighters23.1
10. Koji Uehara1999Giants22.8

And for the guy who doesn’t fit anywhere easily, Shohei Ohtani had 32.3 win shares in 2016 as a pitcher and a hitter, and would have ranked high in either list had he only batted or pitched.

You can find my post on NPB’s Heisei era pitching leaders HERE.