Tag Archives: Koichi Tabuchi

Dumb record redux

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.

Hall of Fame time 2020

By this time tomorrow we’ll know whether or not a large majority of voters for Japan’s Hall of Fame have stepped up to the plate and done their job or are still in need of a spine transplant.

I’ve written at length about the players division and Tuffy Rhodes, who I rank as the 31st best player ever to lace up his spikes in NPB. Rhodes was left off over 60 percent of last year’s ballots to finish ninth behind eight guys who are in most ways less qualified then him.

Former White Sox reliever Shingo Takatsu, who was runner-up in last year’s players division ballot, and has an argument for selection in that he was for a time NPB’s career saves leader. He and Hall of Famer Kazuhiro Sasaki were really the first two Japanese closers who were effective year after year at a relatively high level. They were both eventually surpassed by Hitoke Iwase, but their achievements still deserve some recognition.

The experts division, however, is more interesting. Last year’s runner-up with 64.7 percent of the 75 percent needed for induction was slugging Hanshin Tigers catcher Koichi Tabuchi. Right behind him, however, was Tigers first baseman and two-time triple crown winner Randy Bass.

I’ve written about Bass a bit. His career profile would have been better had he played in Japan longer, but he had to return to America when his child needed cancer treatment and that was that.

In my book, Venezuelan first basemen Roberto Petagine and Alex Cabrera had better careers in Japan than Bass, but neither were particularly well-liked by the media, almost a prerequisite for selection by baseball writers. Tom O’Malley, too, probably had a better career here, but the likable Bass’ claim to fame as the MVP on a historic franchise’s first Japan Series championship team — and two triple crowns — carries more cache.

By my count, Tabuchi is the third greatest catcher to ever play in Japan, behind Hall of Famer Katsuya Nomura and the recently retired Shinnosuke Abe. I also think Tabuchi is the second-best candidate on the expert’s division ballot. The best, and I have him as the second greatest third baseman of all time, is yet another Tiger, Masayuki Kakefu.

Kakefu was a distant third in last year’s ballot. Behind Tabuchi’s 64.7 percent and Bass’ 63.2 percent, Kakefu mustered only 30.8. But if Bass and Tabuchi go in this year, Kakefu is sure to shoot up in the voting.

My ballot for 2020

My ballot, in the order I believe they deserve to go in is:

  1. Tuffy Rhodes
  2. Hiroki Kokubo
  3. Norihiro Nakamura
  4. Takuro Ishii
  5. Kenji Jojima
  6. Alex Ramirez
  7. Shingo Takatsu

Mind you, Tuffy was fond of saying about long home runs, “If they go in (the seats) that’s all that matters.”