JAPAN'S MOST SUCCESSFUL MANAGERS
By Jim Albright
I thought it would be interesting to determine Japan’s most
managers. Once I got
Rob Fitts' book, I knew I could begin the
effort. The first step was to
identify the most successful managers, and between Rob's book and the
file on the NPB managers I found on the internet and have turned into
this file and this file
I knew I could do that. I used a system
which is slightly different than the one
Bill James used in his book on managers, but is clearly inspired by it.
The system is as
If a manager's full season won-lost percentage is over .500, multiply
by ten and subtract 4 (for example a .600 winning percentage multiplied
10 is 6 minus 4 is 2)
also note that in 1937 and 1938 I added the spring and fall results
for this rule. If the win-loss
percentage is .500 or lower, he gets 0 pts for that
If the manager's team won one-half of a split season or made the league championship series
but didn't play in a Japan series (include 1937 and 1938 fall and spring seasons), score 1
3) If the manager's team made the playoffs but did not play for the league
championship. score 0.5 points.
If the manager's team won its league but not a Japan series title,
2 more points Note: this category includes
seasons before the Japan Series
began in 1950
If the managers team won the Japan series, score 3 points
Please note there would be a way to adjust a manager's score if he did
manage the team the entire season, namely that he would get the
of points for the team's season times his percentage of the team's wins
coached for. That means if the
team won in the playoffs, he would get no credit for those wins unless
coached in the playoffs.
example may help. Lets assume
a team went .600 and won the world
series. The first manager was
fired after winning 20% of the team's wins and the second manager won
remaining 80% of the team's games and the Japan
series. The first manager,
if he had a winning record, would get the points under the first rule
20 per cent plus 0.4 of the points for getting into the Japan series
percent of 2
points) The other manager would
get his points under the first rule times 80 percent, plus 80 percent
the 2 points for getting into the Japan series (or 1.6 points) plus the
point for actually winning the series.
Fortunately, for the most successful managers discussed here,
managers all managed full seasons throughout their
I wouldn't agree completely with the following results under the system
above, the system awards winning, playoff success and
longevity. This last factor
is the primary reason Kawakami
doesn't finish first. Anyway,
the results for managers (minimum
20 points, or in the Japanese Hall of Fame arguably at least in part
to managing, plus any close active managers):
Counting starts in 1937
Japan Series-Japan series winners
Pennant-league winners who did not win a Japan series
Split season-won a split season but not a league title
# -- active in 2003
*-- 2 pre 1950 league championships
+-- 4 pre 1950 league championships, and split seasons are 37 Spring
^--1 pre 1950 league championship
$-in Hall of Fame
For an alphabetical list of the managers covered in this article, go here
I chose the 20 point cutoff both because in the major leagues 25
is where a manger gets close to being in the Hall of Fame for his
and it seems that in Japan the standard would be at least that
low. I can’t advocate going
below 20 because a manager could get that in only four good
years, which is too short for my taste.
Now for comments on each of the managers
He managed the Hawks for 23 seasons, and was over .500 in 21 of them. Won 11 pennants despite
having to compete against the 1950's Lions dynasty. Won only 2 Japan Series, but two of his
pennants came in the one league era, before the series existed. Most of the other losses were
at the hands of the Giant powerhouses of the 50's and 60's.
He led the Giants in the 1950's, which meant the manager he faced quite often in the Japan
Series was the man he replaced as the Giant head man, Osamu Mihara. His tenure with the
Giants ended when he was replaced by Kawakami. He went to the Flyers, and led them to a Japan
series win in 1962.
Kawakami was an outspoken advocate of keeping NPB all-Asian, and put his money where his
mouth was. His "V-9" squads were composed exclusively of Asian players. Of course, when you
have Oh and Nagashima, no draft of players, and the Giant mystique and money to help sign
players, it's a little easier to make such an approach work. His managing style not only
worked his players hard, but extensively controlled their behavior on and off the field. His
approach was called "controlled baseball".
He led the Giants at the beginning of NPB, won one of the two split season titles in each of
1937 and 1938, and then led them to four consecutive titles. In 1943, he resigned as manager
to enter Japan's military during WWII. He returned to managing after the war, but the Giant
job was held by others, so he toiled for lesser teams, without notable success in the 1950's.
Then in the 1960's he got the Tiger job and led them to two pennants, but lost in the Japan
Series each time.
He won a pennant managing the Giants in the last one league era season of 1949, but was
replaced by Mizuhara. He went to the Lions, and helped build their 1950's dynasty. He left
the Lions after a 4th place finish in 1959. He went to the Whales and immediately led them to
a Japan Series win. He managed 13 more seasons, but that was his last title. He was a rare
Japanese manager of his time in that he refused to strike his players. He also preferred to
manage for big innings far more than other managers and used the bunt far less than his
managing peers, according to Robert Whiting's The Meaning of Ichiro.
Nishimoto was able win 8 Pacific League pennants, 1 for the Orions, 5 for the Braves, and 2
for the Buffaloes. Unfortunately, he met the "V-9" Giants in five Japan Series, and in the
two for the Buffaloes, twice lost seven game series to the Carp juggernaut of the late 1970's.
Jim Allen's 1995 Guide says this about him: "He didn't make wholesale changes. There wasn't
any year when he brought in more than two new key players. . . . He always worked to field a
strong defensive team. If his veterans could play defense and contribute at the plate, they
knew they would have a job. This policy was a wise one considering the talent of the veterans
on hand from day one. . . . Mori appreciates what a veteran can contribute. . . [H]e showed
far more patience with veteran players than he did with . . . younger players. As Mori's
team aged, his disposition to play veterans and ignore younger position players cost the
According to You Gotta Have Wa, he "was one of the toughest managers in Japan. He
tended to treat his charges like inmates on a Georgia chain gang. In spring camp, he would
stand on the field with a megaphone, berating his players . . . . When [his] catcher dropped
a throw in an intrasquad game, Ueda kicked him in the rear end, in fron of several
photographers. The . . . [picture of the] kick was prominently featured in the papers the
Jim Allen's Guides provide many of the following observations: Nagashima loved unpredictable
in-game strategies. He often chose leadoff men with poor on base percentages. In his first
two years in the 1990's, Nagashima accomodated the Giant's organizational preference for
veteran players. After he won the title in 1994, he began to work more with younger and less
Jim Allen says that with the Swallows, Nomura developed power pitchers and position players
with high on base percentages. He also improved the team defense. He was able to take many
pitchers and make them more effective, with his greatest successes coming with veteran
pitchers and relievers. He tended to use his most effective pitchers hard, which may have
caused difficulties in the long term development of young pitchers. He had good success in
getting high levels of production from his bench and bullpen.
Warren Cromartie was a great admirer of Oh when he played for him, going so far as to give his
one son the middle name of Oh (Cody Oh Cromartie). However, he paints a picture of a man
learning the job of managing under the pressure of the high expectations that come with the
Giants. Also, Cromartie feels Oh was under extra pressure because he replaced the popular
Shigeo Nagashima. Cromartie says Oh didn't trust young players and seemed to want to follow
the advice of others rather than to set his own course. I get the feeling that
since Oh has developed the Hawks into a powerhouse, he's found his own was as a manager. He
even was publicly critical of Hawk management in the Kokubo trade fiasco.
He got the Carp job in 1975 when first-season American manager Joe Lutz was fired because he
frequently was publicly critical of management. Koba immediately led the Carp to a Japan
Series triumph. He has been called the "modernizer of Japanese baseball". He retained the
traditional dedication to practice with a looser on field playing style, according to Fitts
and Engels' book. One innovation he brought to Japanese baseball was the development of
switch hitting, which was rare before Koba came along. He directed that many young Carp
prospects be taught to switch hit.
According to The Meaning of Ichiro, Ogi's personal motto was "drink hard and play hard",
and apparently he followed it. He won a pennant for the Buffaloes, and never finished below
third in five seasons with that club. In 1994, he came to the Blue Wave, and helped bring
along Ichiro. He won two pennants and one Japan Series for them. Jim Allen's 1996 Guide
discussed the 1995 pennant and said: "Ogi let everybody play and did not give up on players
for making a few mistakes. . . . [A player who screwed up] wouldn't press too hard because
he'd get another chance. . . ; Every player on the team could focus on the job at hand and
not on whether his job was on the line. . . . Ogi's use of his roster . . . helped Orix
overcome injuries to key players. It helped them get the most out of their talent, because it
created new options and possibilities." He also accepted Nomo's unorthodox pitching style and
desire for several days' rest between starts.
Cromartie's autobiography credits Fujita's 1989 success to using more young players, and
showing confidence in them, especially Masaki Saito. Cromartie also felt the change of
managers from Oh to Fujita changed the mood in the clubhouse, as managerial changes will tend
to do. Fujita was over .500 in all seven seasons he managed, and won four pennants and two
Japan series in his brief opportunities at managing.
Rebuilt the Tigers into the 2003 pennant winners to go along with the two pennants he won
managing the Dragons. Eight of his winning seasons cam for the Dragons. He has now retired,
so he will never manage a team to a Japan Series win unless he comes back. According to
The Meaning of Ichiro, Hoshino was tough on his own men, but was also quite devoted to
them, giving expensive gifts to player's wives and mothers on their birthdays. He also had a
knack for helping troubled young athletes, says that book.
According to Fitts and Engel, he was called the "Iron Shogun" during his managing career. He
managed in only seven seasons, had a winning record in six of them, won four pennants, and
three Japan Series. He won one J-Series in three years with the Swallows and two in four
years with the Lions. Hirooka made even Kawakami (much less any American manager ever) look
easy-going and laid back by comparison. He was a serious student of the game and had an
ability to make the right move at the right time. Also, he was never one to get flustered,
no matter how great the pressure. According to You Gotta Have Wa, he was an
excellent teacher who could rectify whatever was wrong (except, of course, a lack of talent).
However, his approach was one of constantly harping on negatives. He also frequently used the
press to do this as well. His teams rarely beat themselves and were prepared for virtually
every possible situation. He went well beyond hard practices and other on the field
activiites. He put his teams on natural foods diets and went so far as to counsel players on
all manner of private matters (including their sex lives) if he felt it would help their
ballplaying. Of course, his practices were even longer, more frequent and more demanding than
even the strict standards of more ordinary Japanese practices. The fact his managerial
tenures were so short despite the high degree of success he experienced seems to have been a
result of his prickly personality.
He managed for 17 seasons without ever winning a pennant. He did have 11 winning seasons,
however. It is important to note that he had to compete with Tsuruoka's Hawks, Kawakami's
Giants, and Mihara's Lions to win a pennant. Overall, I wouldn't say his managing career is
JHOF material by itself, but when it is combined with his playing career, I can see the case
for his JHOF induction.
He had a .581 winning percentage in his six seasons of managing, and never finished lower
than third. He piloted the Dragons to their Japan Series win in 1954 behind Sugishita's
pitching. I don't think his managing career is enough for the JHOF. Because his career is so
short, it is a little too easy for others to reach a similar degree of success. On the other
hand, when you consider some of the other managers who have qualified, one can certainly
argue persuasively that the actual standard in use is lower than Amachi's accomplishments.
He led the Tigers from 1937 to 1939, and that stretch accounts for hia only two titles, the
split season crowns from the Fall 1937 season and the Spring 1938 campaign. He had one other
campaign over .500 for another team, Nishitetsu in 1943, but he just barely made it at
I looked at him mainly to see if I thought his managing career justified his selection to
Japan's Hall of Fame, whether by itself or in combination with his playing career. I do not
believe his playing career alone is sufficient, and this review convinces me that even the
combination of his playing and managing careers isn't enough.
This is another case of a guy for whom even the combination of his NPB playing and manging
careers do not justify his selection to the Japanese Hall of Fame in my opinion. In his
case, though, one must take into account that in 1934 and 1935, before NPB existed, he was
good enough to make the All-Japanese Star teams as a starter that faced major leaguers and
toured the US. He also was involved in the industrial leagues after WWII. Whether or not
these other aspects of his baseball career are sufficient to justify his induction, I have no
He had a good year managing the Dragons in 1940, and then didn't manage again until 1950,
when he led the Robins to the first Japan Series, which they lost in six games. They had a
.737 winning percentage that year. Unfortunately, this was the second and last winning
season of Konishi's managerial career. He was a popular radio commentator later on, which
may be the main reason he is in Japan's Hall.
He led the Giants to the 1943 pennant, and had a winning season as the Giants' skipper in
1946. He managed the Giants in 1947 and the Whales in 1951, both to losing records. The
combination of his NPB playing and managing careers aren't enough to support his induction to
Japan's Hall of Fame in my opinion. However, he did earn notoriety for his career prior to
the existence of NPB, and maybe that is enough to do the trick. I really don't know.
He won a pennant in 1982 for the Dragons, but his main claim to fame is that he's the first
Japanese coach to divide his pitchers into starters and relievers. Fitts and Engels' book
credits this NPB "innovation" as the main reason for his induction to the Japanese Hall of
Fame. I believe them, but what I find curious in using that as justification for inducting a
man into Japan's Hall is the fact that American managers started doing this after WWII, and
every manager was doing it by 1960 or so. Maybe breaking the mold in Japan is that big a deal,
but that's the only justification I can see for putting him in Japan's Hall.
I checked him out as a manager to see if his managing career could have pushed what I see as
a less than JHOF quality playing career over the top. Since he had a mere two winning years
with no titles, I can't see how.
He's the answer to a trivia question: who is the oldest pitcher ever to win a game in NPB?
His fifth and last NPB win came in 1950, and he was born in 1901. His NPB career, even
combining managing and playing, isn't of JHOF caliber. He had a significant career before
NPB existed, and that may well support his induction.
Even though he scores no points, this is because I don't count the series of tournaments which
comprise the 1936 season. More importantly in terms of the Japanese Hall of Fame, he is
actually famous for managing at the amateur level,