Jim Albright / the japanese insider
Players discussed in this article:
When I wrote the article comparing top seasons of NPB's candidates for Cooperstown to their major league contemporaries, I decided to take the cream of the crop of the seasons of other hitters in Japan and do essentially the same thing for them. The methods for determining similarity are identical to the other article, but in this case the standards are based on NPB performance: 50 HR, a Triple Crown, or a .360 or better average. I also limited this to seasons after 1945, as NPB seasons before then could be quite short, plus NPB was a startup league and/or was playing during the total war of World War II, when many top athletes were serving their countries.
I'll tackle the seasons in chronological order. One obligatory note: when I say I prefer one player to another, I'm only talking about the season in question.
I'd take Kozuru because of the large disparity in walks, but otherwise they're a good match.
Again, Kozuru has a sizeable edge in walks. However, Duke played more and was a fine centerfielder, so these two wind up being a rather good match that year.
Fujimura played more and walked more while playing just as demanding a defensive position. As good as Doby was in 1950, I think Fujimura was better.
Kawakami played more and had more power, but Fain had a better on base percentage. It's a rather even match.
Oshita was awfully good in 1951, and he'd have to be to even be considered a decent match for Musial. That said, Musial was clearly better. Musial played more, had a higher average, walked more and had more power.
Yonamine played more, stole more bases and walked a good bit more, so you've got to prefer his 1954 season to Noren's.
Davis played more, stole more bases, and hit more homers. The slugging percentages of the two are close because Bloomfield played less and had a lot more triples. Bloomfield played a demanding defensive position in second base, while Davis was an outfielder/third baseman. The question of which one was better in 1962 comes down to how good Bloomfield was defensively.
Clemente played much more, and with his superb defense, that's a bigger value than Hirose's big advantage in steals.
The biggest differences are Kato's extra walks, and the fact Cooper's total bases are spread out over a more at bats. Both differences are in Kato's favor, and that's who I'd pick that year.
I'd take Hernandez' defense at first, and with his greater durability for the year, I have to choose his year. Overall, though, they're a good match.
They're awfully close, with Wells rating a small edge before defense is considered. I can't say if Wells' advantage would hold up. This is Wells' Triple Crown year in NPB. The comparison to Easler is specially interesting, because Easler excelled in the majors for a few years once he finally got serious playing time in the majors at age 29. Guys like Wells went to Japan without getting that playing time in the majors despite usually doing well in the minors. Really, these two had similar beginnings to their careers, and diverged because Wells went to Japan without getting his shot in the majors, while Easler stayed and eventually got his shot.
Bass is another guy who had trouble getting a full shot in the majors despite doing well in the minors (his high for a season in plate appearances in MLB was just over 200 in 1981). I don't think it's ridiculous to think he could have played nearly as well as Mattingly given the chance. I'd take Mattingly's year because the edge of 24 doubles is more important than Bass' edge of 20 walks and because Mattingly played more. This was Bass' first NPB Triple Crown year.
This is Bass' second NPB Triple Crown year. Mattingly played more, and may deserve some consideration because his home park of Yankee Stadium may have hurt him overall. However, Bass had a higher average, walked 40 more times, and had a better slugging percentage. I think Bass had the better year in 1986, though only a fool would have traded Mattingly even up for Bass since Bass was about 7 years older.
Puckett played much more, which at this level of play is a big deal. Yes, Cromartie had a higher average, walked more, and had a higher slugging percentage, but those edges are fairly small, so I'll take the extra playing time.
Seitzer walked more and had a better slugging percentage, and probably was also worth more defensively due to his work at third. I'd take him over Arai in 1987.
Puckett and Cromartie are paired again. Cromartie's average is better, he walked more, and had a better slugging percentage. However, Puckett played more and was probably better with the glove as he was younger. It's a tough call.
This is the year ended by strike in the majors. Lofton probably is better defensively at this point, but, if not, he's not going to concede much ground. Lofton has more power and a better on base percentage, and that's why I'd take his season in 1994.
Jeter has significant edges in walks and steals, but otherwise at the plate, they're an excellent match. Jeter probably doesn't lose ground defensively, as I get the sense Rose wasn't a super glove man. If that sense of Rose's glove work is accurate, it would explain why he had trouble making it in the majors. I'm not exactly in awe of Jeter's defense, but in this case, I see little reason to give Rose any edge in that area.
It's hard to get a good match for Ichiro in 2000, and Stynes is the one the method comes up with. He's as good as anybody. He played even less than Ichiro and didn't steal or walk as often and had a lower average. However, he did have more power. Ichiro's excellent defensive skills seal the deal, as Stynes can't make up much ground that way.
This is Rhodes' 55 homer year in Japan, and even so, once we account for the difference in leagues, he's got a lower slugging percentage than Ordonez. Overall, I'd take Rhodes mainly because he played more, but it's close.
Pujols edges him in power despite the fact this is Hideki's 50 homer year in NPB. However, I'd definitely go with Matsui in 2002 due to the advantage in walks.
Leaving Giambi's steroid use out of it, you'd have to go with Giambi, who played more and had slightly better marks in on-base percentage and power. This was Cabrera's first time in NPB with 50 or more homers.
This is Rhodes' other NPB season with at least 50 homers, and while it's better than Teixiera's year due to more playing time and a better on base percentage, it's not an overwhelming year.
This is Cabrera's 55 homer season. It's tough to choose between him and Young because he has edges in on base and slugging percentages, but is behind in playing time and probably in defensive value as well.
These two are an excellent match except for the walk total, and that's why I'd go with Ogasawara
Matsunaka won a Triple Crown in the Pacific League in 2004. Matsunaka's edge of 30 walks is significant, but Guerrero has more steals and power to balance the scales. I think that Vlad's defense gives him the nod, but not by much.