Tag Archives: Yoshinobu Yamamoto

The forgotten 4 & miss-translations

For some reason, probably a miss-translation, Japanese pro baseball only counts no-hitters that are also shutouts. Daichi Osera’s gem on Friday., June 7, was the 102nd of those thrown in Japan’s majors during the regular season. I knew of at least one other, but hadn’t done the leg work to identify more. So I was happy to learn that Osera’s no-hitter was actually the 104th individual effort.

This information allows us to correct a sentence that was bandied about a lot last year when Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw his no-hitter. At the time, Kyodo News wrote:

“In September, Yamamoto threw a no-hitter for the second consecutive year, something previously accomplished in 1936 and 1937 by Sawamura and in 1940 and 1941 by Tadashi Kameda.”

While that is true, it is precise only if we limit these three pitchers’ no-hitters only to shutouts… Because the record for consecutive seasons with a no-hitter is not two, but three.

As for why Japan’s rule for counting no-hitters is different from MLB’s, my guess is that a miss-translation on this side likely caused generations of Japanese to believe that only shutouts could be no-hitters. There are at least two precedents for this:

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What is going on in Japan?

This is the text of a speech I gave in March to the Japan American Society of Chicago, entitled: “What Japanese Baseball Brings to the World.”

Last winter’s record MLB contracts to Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have brought fans of America’s two major leagues into contact with the idea that Japan’s two major leagues can produce some of the best baseball players in the world.

Although this is not a new idea, Ohtani’s $700 million deal, the most valuable contract in the history of team sports, and Yamamoto’s $325 million, the most valuable ever given to a pitcher, have validated the talk of Japanese players’ prowess in ways that even the World Baseball Classic and scouting reports haven’t.

In the language Americans understand, that of concrete dollars and cents, these contracts have spelled out how valuable players coming out of a radically different pro baseball context can be, and force people to ask, “what the heck is going on over there?”

That difference between Japan’s and America’s baseball worlds and the value it creates for baseball around the world is the focus of today’s talk, because if Japanese baseball did not exist, or if the relationship between MLB and Japan were different, there would be no Shohei Ohtani in the sense that we know him now as perhaps the best human to ever play the game.

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