Jim Albright / the japanese insider
Summarized Cases for Cooperstown of Four Great NPB Position Players
By Jim Albright
He was a feared hitter and an exceptionally durable catcher who rarely missed a game, even frequently catching both ends of a doubleheader. He was enough of a student of the game to become one of Japan's most successful managers.
He was the first man to win a Triple Crown in Japan after World War II, hit 40 or more homers in four consecutive years (1962-1965). He won nine home run titles in the Pacific League, eight of them consecutively (1961-68). From 1962 to 1968, he never hit less than 30 HR in a season. He was named the best catcher in the Pacific League in 19 seasons, and won five MVPs. He's fifth in career RBI in Japan, second in career homers, and second in career hits.
In William McNeil's Baseball's Other Stars, Nomura is rated the best Japanese catcher by all three men providing such ratings, and McNeil also names him as a reserve to the all world non-major league team and to the second team of the all-time all world team. I rank him as the second best player ever in Japan, to Sadaharu Oh.
Glenn Mickens, from Rob Fitts' Remembering Japanese Baseball page 72: Nomura . . .
Don Blasingame, Fitts page 111:
Nomura's Actual Career Japanese Stats
I rank him as Japan's best catcher ever and its second best player.
Nomura's MLB Projection
This projection meets 61 of the HOF standards, certainly a HOF-caliber performance. This projection means his group of most similars includes Bench, Gary Carter, Berra and Fisk along with Ted Simmons and Lance Parrish. He is more durable than even Carter and Bench, and did this mostly in the more run starved enviroment which was the sixties. His defense is short of those guys, but I'd say his overall value is quite similar.
A study of a major league conversion of his best seasons here indicates he would have been a major league all-star at least 10 times, maybe as many as 14 times. By this projection, he would have been one of the two most productive hitters among catchers eight times. I concluded there is sufficient evidence that he was the best catcher in all of baseball for the period 1961-1968.
Nagashima's Japanese Record
He is the most popular player ever in Japan, lauded for his clutch play and superb defense. He was named the best third baseman in the Central League in each of his seventeen seasons, and won the only two Gold Gloves awarded in his career (in the final two years of his career). He won 5 MVPs, 6 batting titles, 5 RBI titles, batted over .300 in 11 seasons, and had 25 or more homers 12 seasons. He also was named the MVP of the Japan Series four times.
In Baseball's Other Stars, Daniel Johnson, William McNeil and Fumihiro Fujisawara all name him the best third baseman in Japanese baseball history. McNeil names him as the starting third baseman on his all-world non major league team and as the reserve third baseman on his all-time all world team. I concur that he was the best third baseman ever in Japan, and have named him the third best player there ever. I also consider him the second best player in Japan in the 1960's, behind Oh.
In 1961, the Yomiuri Giants trained with the Dodgers in Vero Beach. Walter O'Malley was so impressed with Nagashima he tried to buy Nagashima's contract, only to be turned down flat by Giant ownership. (pp. 72-73. The Meaning of Ichiro by Robert Whiting)
Wally Yonamine on Nagashima on pp 28-29 of Remembering Japanese Baseball by Robert Fitts:
Glenn Mickens, also from the Fitts book:
The late Don Blasingame, who also managed in Japan, from the Fitts book: "Nagashima could do it all. He had defense, speed, and he could hit."
Nagashima's Japanese stats
Nagashima's Major League Projection
This projection meets 57 HOF standards, and the average HOFer "only" meets 50. I did a study comparing Nagashima to all the third basemen who had at least two thirds of their careers after 1920 and were either in the HOF or finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting. That study is here. The categories examined were runs created, runs created per 27 outs, OPS, runs scored and RBI, pitting Nagashima's projected figures versus the others. Each man scored based on his ranking in the group, and Nagashima came out fifth, behind Schmidt, Brett, Boggs and Mathews and ahead of Santo, Brooks Robinson and Pie Traynor, not to mention Freddy Lindstrom and George Kell.
In a study of projected individual seasons here, Nagashima had four MVP candidate/Hall of Famer type years, which combined with at least two other years which were clearly All-Star quality and a third year which might have been an All-Star effort plus excellent defense sounds like a Cooperstown resume, especially when he had nine other seasons, at least five of which would be the quality one would expect from a good regular. The seven years identified were worth approximately 200 win shares in the majors. He should have accumulated over 350 career win shares had he been in the majors, and over 80% of players with between 350 and 400 career win shares are in so long as they don't get into Pete Rose/Joe Jackson-type problems
Harimoto's Japanese Record
He won 7 batting titles, and was in the top 10 in average 17 times. He is the only Japanese player to reach 3000 hits in their shorter seasons. He is one of only eight men with 500 homers and his .319 career average is a mere point below the record for career average with over 4000 AB. He drew the third most career walks. He won an MVP and was named as one of the three best outfielders in his league 16 times.
He once had a thirty game hitting streak and had 3 hits or more in 251 games.
I've named him the best outfielder in Japan in both the 1960's and 1970's, its best outfielder ever, and its fourth best player overall. In Baseball's Other Stars, William McNeil, Fumihiro Fujisawara and Daniel Johnson all name him as a starting outfielder in their all-time Japanese teams.
Harimoto's Actual stats
Glenn Mickens from the Rob Fitts' Remembering Japanese Baseball:
This projection meets 58 of the HOF standards, well over HOF quality, as the average HOFer scores at 50. The ten most similar names to his projection has six HOFers (Molitor, Kaline, Brett, Clemente, Winfield and Perez), Rickey Henderson plus Pinson, Baines and Staub. The three outsiders all had averages under .290 and less than 3000 hits, so it's fair to put Harimoto in while they're out.
A study of Harimoto's individual seasons here conlcuded Harimoto had two seasons in which he'd have been an MVP candidate, and would have been an all-star a minimum of five times, but likely 7-10 times and possibly even as many as 13 times. In the 13 years we looked at, he's worth at least 290 win shares and probably more like 338. When you then consider he had seven other seasons, 3 of which were good but not great and another 3 of which were decent full time efforts, he clearly should have surpassed the 350 career win share level, at which over 80% of players get into the Hall, and maybe even 400 win share mark, at which point everybody who's eligible gets in. There's little question he has a HOF-caliber resume.
Ochiai's Japanese Record
He thought more like American players, which was an impediment to Japanese baseball's insistence on conformity. He bucked the system, which meant he spent a few years in Japan's industrial leagues before getting his chance in their top league. He won 3 Triple Crowns, 2 of them consecutively, was the first Japanese player ever to have consecutive 50 homer seasons, won 10 Best Nines at three different positions (2B, 1B, and 3B), 2 MVPs, 5 batting titles, 5 homer titles and 5 RBI titles. I rank him as the seventh best player in Japanese baseball history overall and as the best player there in the eighties. In Baseball's Other Stars, he makes backup teams for both McNeil and Fujisawara.
Ochiai's Japanese Stats
Leron Lee from the Fitts book:
Boomer Wells from the Fitts book: "[M]an, Ochiai could hit! He had this attitude, because he knew he could hit."
Alonzo Powell, again from the Fitts book:
Ochiai's MLB Projection:
Ochiai's resistance to the Japanese way of doing things delayed his entry into NPB. However, his ideas were much more compatible with major league thinking, so it's likely he would have started his career earlier in the majors than he did in Japan. If I had a way to project when he would have started in the majors and how he would have performed which I had confidence in, I would use that and shave off the several unproductive (at a major league level) years I left on at the end of his career. If I could do so, I am confident his projection would look even more impressive than the projection I am actually using. Even so, Ochiai's list of the ten most comparable major leaguers has three Hall of Famers in Tony Perez, Al Kaline and Billy Williams. He has four more guys who finished in the top 10 in BBWAA voting for the Hall in Dwight Evans, Darrell Evans, Ron Santo and Steve Garvey. The list of ten is rounded out with Chili Davis, Dave Parker and Harold Baines.
His projected OPS of 856 beats all of his ten most comparable players. Further, I think his defensive contributions would likely resemble those of Perez and Williams, which further distances him from Garvey, Davis and Baines.
I also looked at his projected seasons on an individual basis here His 1985 Triple Crown year was quite comparable to George Brett's excellent campaign that year. Overall, I looked at eight seasons of his career, and he could have been an all-star each time. There's little doubt he deserved it in five of those years, two of which were MVP candidate-type years. One of the two MVP candidate years (1985) was even around the level of a "historic season". In those eight seasons, he was worth at least 197 win shares, and probably more like 221. He had nine other full time seasons and three other part time years in his projected career, even without giving him any extra years for an earlier start. He certainly should have surpassed 350 career win shares, which is a level at which over 80% of the eligible players are in Cooperstown