Home Page

Baseball Analysis Home   Jim Albright / the japanese insider


By Jim Albright

I thought it would be interesting to determine Japan’s most successful  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 manager's 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 follows: 

 1) If a manager's full season won-lost percentage is over .500, multiply it by ten and subtract 4 (for example a .600 winning percentage multiplied by 10 is 6 minus 4 is 2)

 Please also note that in 1937 and 1938 I added the spring and fall results together for this rule.  If the win-loss percentage is .500 or lower, he gets 0 pts for that season.

 2) 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 more point

 3) If the manager's team made the playoffs but did not play for the league championship. score 0.5 points.

 4) If the manager's team won its league but not a Japan series title, score 2 more points Note:  this category includes seasons before the Japan Series began in 1950

 5) If the managers team won the Japan series, score 3 points

 6) Please note there would be a way to adjust a manager's score if he did not manage the team the entire season, namely that he would get the percentage of points for the team's season times his percentage of the team's wins he coached for.  That means if the team won in the playoffs, he would get no credit for those wins unless he coached in the playoffs. 

 An 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 the 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 times 20 per cent plus 0.4 of the points for getting into the Japan series (20 percent of  2 points)  The other manager would get his points under the first rule times 80 percent, plus 80 percent of the 2 points for getting into the Japan series (or 1.6 points) plus the extra point for actually winning the series.  Fortunately, for the most successful managers discussed here, the managers all managed full seasons throughout their careers.

 While I wouldn't agree completely with the following results under the system described 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 due to managing, plus any close active managers):

Manager Points Japan Series Pennants Rule 4 Rule 3 over .500
Kazuto Tsuruoka *$ 70.44 2 9 0 0 21
Shigeru Mizuhara $ 62.22 5 5 0 0 18
Tetsuharu Kawakami $   59.66 11 0 0 0 14
Sadayoshi Fujimoto +$   48.56 0 6 2 0 16
Osamu Mihara ^$ 43.70 4 2 0 0 14
Yukio Nishimoto $   42.61 0 8 2 0 12
Masaaki Mori 41.94 6 2 0 0 10
Toshiharu Ueda 39.39 3 2 1 0 16
Shigeo Nagashima $   30.39 2 3 0 0 11
Katsuya Nomura $ 30.21 3 2 0 0 11
Sadaharu Oh #$ 29.53 2 2 1 0 10
Takeshi Koba $ 27.36 3 1 0 0 10
Akira Ogi $ 25.27 1 2 0 0 11
Motoshi Fujita $ 23.19 2 2 0 0 7
Senichi Hoshino 21.43 0 3 0 0 9
Tatsuro Hirooka $ 21.29 3 1 0 0 6
Kaoru Betto $ 18.05 0 0 0 0 11
Shunichi Amachi $ 12.95 1 0 0 0 5
Shuichi Ishimoto $ 12.01 0 0 2 0 3
Kenjiro Matsuki $   11.88 0 0 0 0 7
Hisanori Karita $   8.31 0 0 0 0 5
Tokuru Konishi $   7.23 0 1 0 0 2
Haruyasu Nakajima $   6.88 0 1 0 0 2
Sadao Kondo $ 4.88 0 1 0 0 2
Michinori Tsubouchi $   3.87 0 0 0 0 2
Shinji Hamazaki $ 2.82 0 0 0 0 2
Shigeo Mori $   0.00 0 0 0 0 0

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 and 38 Fall
^--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 points is where a manger gets close to being in the Hall of Fame for his managing 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

Kazuto Tsuruoka           70.44 points
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.

Shigeru Mizuhara           62.22 points
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.

Tetsuahru Kawakami          59.66 points
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".

Sadayoshi Fujimoto          48.56 points
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.

Osamu Mihara           43.70 points
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.

Yukio Nishimoto           42.61 points
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.

Masaaki Mori           41.94 points
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 Lions."

Toshiharu Ueda           39.39 points
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 next day."

Shigeo Nagashima           30.39 points
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 experienced players.

Katsuya Nomura           30.21 points
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.

Sadaharu Oh           29.53 points
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.

Takeshi Koba           27.36 points
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.

Akira Ogi           25.27 points
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.

Motoshi Fujita           23.19 points
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.

Senichi Hoshino           21.43 points
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.

Tatsuro Hirooka           21.29 points
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.

Kaoru Betto           18.05 points
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.

Shunichi Amachi           12.95 points
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.

Shuichi Ishimoto           12.01 points
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 39-37.

Kenjiro Matsuki           11.88 points
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.

Hisanori Karita           8.31 points
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 idea.

Tokuru Konishi           7.23 points
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.

Haruyasu Nakajima           6.88 points
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.

Sadao Kondo           4.88 points
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.

Michinori Tsubouchi          3.87 points
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.

Shinji Hamazaki           2.82 points
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.

Shigeo Mori           Zero points
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,

Managers Covered in this Article
Shunichi Amachi Kaoru Betto Sadayoshi Fujimoto   Motoshi Fujita
Shinji Hamazaki Tatsuro Hirooka Senichi Hoshino Shuichi Ishimoto
Hisanori Karita   Tetsuharu Kawakami   Takeshi Koba Sadao Kondo
Tokuru Konishi   Kenjiro Matsuki   Osamu Mihara Shigeru Mizuhara
Masaaki Mori Shigeo Mori   Shigeo Nagashima   Haruyasu Nakajima  
Yukio Nishimoto   Katsuya Nomura Akira Ogi Sadaharu Oh
Michinori Tsubouchi   Kazuto Tsuruoka Toshiharu Ueda  

HomeGuru's Baseball Book StoreLink to UsBraintrust & Mailing ListsEmail the GuruContact InfoBaseball Analysis Home