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Further Examination of Qualifications of NPB Stars for Cooperstown

by Jim Albright

In the previous article on NPB stars and Cooperstown, I indicated a future avenue of study would be through comparison of the projections to the players most comparable to those projections. I have done such comparisons for all the players in the prior article and am prepared to report my results and conclusions. I will deal with the players in the same order as in the previous article.

I believe the standards I am using for worthiness for induction into Cooperstown are fairly tough, even allowing that we are talking about admittance to a quite exclusive fraternity. In my opinion this is appropriate because I do not want to weaken the quality of players enshrined in Cooperstown. If we err on the side of keeping guys out, we can later rectify the error if we become convinced we did err. If we err in inducting an individual, the error cannot be undone.

Every Day Players

Katsuya Nomura       Position: catcher

I realized that in the case of a catcher like Nomura who was so exceptionally durable that a major league manager would still rest him more than he is projected to. Therefore, I revised his projection with the idea Nomura's projected games played and the consequent adjustments on the basis of games played would be based on the higher figure of:
a) actual games played or
b) actual games played multiplied by an adjustment factor determined as follows:
     1) 140 games divided by Nomura's team's games for all seasons through 1960 as well as the strike year of 1972; or
     2) 145 games divided by Nomura's team's games for all other seasons.

These changes resulted in a slight reduction in Nomura's projected playing time and other raw total results. The projection is now as follows:

games   at bats    hits   2B   3B    HR    SB    AVG    OBP    SLG
2601 9285 2384 312 46 330 117 .257 .351 .407

Even with these adjustments, Nomura projects to be more durable than any major league catcher ever. His average (.257) is not spectacular, but the rest is rather impressive for a catcher. In fact, his list of ten most similar players includes Gary Carter and Johnny Bench, who hit .262 and .267 respectively in 1300 projected more at bats over Carter and 1700 over Bench. He projects to have more career hits than all of his ten top comparables other than Joe Morgan and Ted Simmons. Simmons had significant playing time at positions other than catcher and still only bests Nomura's revised projection by 58 hits. The list of top ten comparables has two other HOF catchers than Bench and Carter in Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk. The fifth HOFer on the list is the aforementioned Joe Morgan. Beyond that, he has four guys who made the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting in Simmons, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Graig Nettles. The remaining name on the list of comparables is Lance Parrish.

Nomura led numerous teams to pennants. When all is said and done, I believe the only issue which is not definitively resolved in his favor with respect to his worthiness for Cooperstown is whether or not the combination of his defensive skills plus his hitting would have allowed him to stay at catcher in the majors. I believe that a hitter of Nomura's stature in Japan would not have been a catcher as long as he was (especially on championship teams!) if he were not good defensively by the standards of Japanese catchers of his time. That leads me to believe that at the very worst, he would have been sound in the mental and mechanical aspects of the position. I can't speak to the quality of his throwing arm, but a catcher who hits like he did and is solid or better in all the defensive aspects of catching but for a weak arm is still rather valuable. Thus, unless someone can debunk my assumptions about Nomura's defensive quality as outlined above by either statistical means or by quotes from several major league types, I think he's a worthy candidate for Cooperstown.

Shigeo Nagashima       Position: Third Base

It would be nice to have some hard statistical evidence to support the perception of his defensive excellence. Barring that, some quotes from major league types supporting that view would be helpful. As it is, I think the evidence is to conclude he would have been at the very least a solid defensive third baseman at the major league level.

His list of most comparable players is one of the few which I feel provides insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion on his worthiness for Cooperstown (given the above assessment of his defensive capabilities). The list has only one HOFer as I write, in Joe Morgan. However, it has five players who finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting for the Hall: Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, and Ken Boyer. Some of those five may get into the Hall, possibly most of them deserve the honor. The remainder of Nagashima's list of comparables is Brian Downing, Buddy Bell, Willie Davis and Chili Davis. Nagashima projects to outhit most if not all of these guys besides giving away little or nothing to a similar proportion of the list. Such a state of affairs suggests he's better than his list of comparables--and how much better must one be than this group to merit induction to the Hall? Certainly it can't be much.

I decided that to try to resolve the issue, I'd evaluate all the HOF third basemen plus Nagashima's projection as well as the marks of all the third basemen who finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting for the Hall. I added one additional requirement: no player would be considered who did not have at least 2/3 of his career AB after 1919. The final requirement eliminates any confusion caused by the inclusion of deadball players in the analysis. Such confusion is best avoided, especially when the consideration of deadball players isn't terribly relevant to an evaluation of Nagashima. The analysis consisted of ranking the players in five categories: career runs created, career runs created per game, career OPS, career runs scored, and career RBI. The rankings were totalled to arrive at rankings of these players, the lower the total, the better. A table showing the results appears below.

Nagashima finishes behind only Schmidt, Brett, Mathews and Boggs, and might catch one or two of them if defense could be factored in. Such a ranking indicates to me Nagashima was a HOF caliber player.

As a side note, I think four of the guys in the below table who aren't in the Hall deserve to be: Boggs, Santo, Boyer, and Hack. Darrell Evans probably deserves it, but with his .248 career batting average, I doubt he's got a serious chance of getting in. I will say this, the writers have omitted some deserving players, but even their worst choices for inclusion aren't awful. The various Old-Timer and Veteran's Committees, on the other hand, have given us real clunkers like George Kell and Fred Lindstrom. The one special committee I would absolve on this score is the Negro League Committee.

Name RC   rank   RC/G   rank   OPS   rank   runs   rank   RBI   rank   score
Mike Schmidt 1665 2 6.94 1 .907 1 1506 4 1595 1 9
George Brett 1782 1 6.32 5 .859 5 1583 1 1595 1 13
Eddie Mathews 1613 4 6.61 3 .886 2 1509 3 1453 4 16
Wade Boggs 1621 3 6.70 2 .860 4 1513 2 1014 13 24
Shigeo Nagashima   1524 5 5.85 6 .819 7 1231 8 1476 3 29
Ron Santo 1341 7 5.81 7 .827 6 1138 11 1331 7 38
Darrell Evans 1447 6 5.47 10 .793 12 1344 5 1354 6 39
Ken Boyer 1158 10 5.56 9 .811 8 1104 12 1141 10 49
Brooks Robinson 1321 8 4.32 17 .723 17 1232 7 1357 5 54
Pie Traynor 1101 13 5.46 11 .795 11 1183 10 1273 9 54
Stan Hack 1143 11 5.73 8 .789 13 1239 6 642 17 55
Graig Nettles 1315 9 4.96 15 .764 15 1193 9 1314 8 56
Al Rosen 688 17 6.59 4 .878 3 603 17 717 16 57
Ron Cey 1117 12 5.38 13 .797 10 977 14 1139 11 60
Fred Lindstrom 820 16 5.41 12 .799 9 895 15 779 15 67
Sal Bando 1023 14 4.95 16 .757 16 982 13 1039 12 71
George Kell 958 15 5.26 14 .779 14 881 16 870 14 73

Isao Harimoto       Position: Left Field

This is an easy call. Harimoto played left field, so unless his defense was truly bad, it isn't critical to his evaluation. He projects to get over 3000 hits while hitting over .290 for his career. That combination of achievements is definitely a Hall of Fame caliber performance. The list of Harimoto's ten most similar players supports such thinking, with six men who racked up over 3000 hits. Five of them are currently in the Hall (Molitor, Kaline, Brett, Clemente and Winfield), and the sixth shouldn't have to wait too long once he becomes eligible (Rickey Henderson). The list has another HOFer in Tony Perez, and a top ten BBWAA vote getter in Vada Pinson. The last two names on his list are Harold Baines and Rusty Staub. Other than Rickey, the guys on this list who aren't in the Hall 1) had less than 3000 hits and b) had career averages below .290. Harimoto is clearly qualified to stand among the greats in Cooperstown.

Hiromitsu Ochiai       Position: First Base- Third Base

As indicated in the prior article, 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. Overall, I think the evidence is clearly in favor of him being worthy of a spot in Cooperstown, though not until after he gets in Japan's Hall.

Koji Yamamoto       Position: Right Field

His list of comparables presents a situation similar to Nagashima's. He's got no current HOFers on his list, but has four who have reached the top 10 in the BBWAA vote for the Hall in Ron Santo, Dale Murphy, Ron Cey, and Dwight Evans. The rest are Chili Davis, Don Baylor, Brian Downing, Gary Gaetti, Joe Carter, and Bobby Bonilla. Only Santo and Dale Murphy have much of a shot of actually making the Hall, though, and Yamamoto's comparables aren't of the same quality as Nagashima'a are. I tend to think the message is that while he was good and he is close to HOF caliber, he's not quite good enough to join that company. I can accept that verdict in his case.

Tetsuharu Kawakami       Position: First Base

My skepticism in the earlier article about his HOF credentials was based on doubts he could have won and held a first base job in his own time. However, his list of comparables not only convinces me I was wrong on this point, but it is quite interesting and provides an interesting picture of him as a player. His list of ten most comparable players has five Hall of Famers: Jake Beckley, Zack Wheat, Roger Connor, Fred Clarke, and Enos Slaughter. It also has one man who finished in the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting in Keith Hernandez. It also has two players who are rather contemporary first basemen of Kawakami in Mickey Vernon and Joe Kuhel. The list is rounded out with Joe Judge and Jimmy Ryan.

Vernon and Kuhel show Kawakami could have gotten and kept a major league first base job even in his own time. In fact, Kawakami's projection is a little better than the careers of either man. This means he could match his projection, but since in his time the big name first basemen were Gehrig, Foxx and Greenberg, he would have been seen as a second tier first baseman like Vernon or Kuhel.

Keith Hernandez gives us a glimpse of how he would have been viewed in the 1970's or 1980's. However, his OPS is just a tad below Hernandez' mark, and Hernandez is on the outside of the Hall looking in.

Beckley and Connor show that he could have been a star in baseball before 1920. My view is that while he's close to HOF quality as a player, I think he's just short of the level required.

Yutaka Fukumoto       Position: Center Field

I felt confident in the earlier article that he was a good candidate for Cooperstown, and a review of his list of top comparables supports that opinion. The list has five current HOFers in Lou Brock, Max Carey, Brooks Robinson, Harry Hooper, and Sam Crawford. His list also includes Rickey Henderson, who is almost a lock to make it six enshrinees. Tim Raines and Vada Pinson finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting for Cooperstown. The remaining two names on the list are Willie Davis and Bill Buckner. If we consider Rickey a HOFer, the guys who aren't in the Hall all have less than Fukumoto's projected career hit total of 2860. Further, at least two of them (Raines and Buckner) were not as valuable defensively as Fukumoto would have been in the majors. Raines, Henderson and Crawford best him at the plate, but otherwise he holds his own even in this distinguished company. He fits nicely between his best two comparables, HOFers Brock and Carey.

Hiromitsu Kadota       Position: Right Field-Designated Hitter

I wasn't high on him in the earlier article, but his list of most comparable players gives me pause. He has five Hall of Famers in Tony Perez, Al Kaline, Dave Winfield, Brooks Robinson, and Billy Williams. Two more on his list made the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting: Dwight Evans and Darrell Evans. The remaining three names on the list are Harold Baines, Rusty Staub and Chili Davis. Unfortunately for Kadota, the four most similar are the four who had the lowest defensive value (Baines, Staub, Perez and Davis). Further, everybody on the list but Brooks Robinson has a higher OPS than Kadota's projection. I think he is most similar to Baines, Staub and Davis, and therefore he doesn't belong.

Fumio Fujimura       Position: Third Base

The only HOFer in his ten most comparable players is the tenth man, Jimmy Collins. That leaves him a glimmer of hope if he can make the case his glovework was the equal of Collins. The rest of his list is: Pinky Higgins, Marty McManus, Sam West, Garry Maddox, Ben Chapman, Gee Walker, Bob Elliott, Augie Galan and Dixie Walker. Those are all valuable players, but very few folks will tout any of them for Cooperstown. That's where Fujimura's case is, too, in my opinion.

Sachio Kinugasa       Position: First Base-Third Base

In the previous article, I indicated his case for Cooperstown had two problems. One was the question of the quality of his defense at third, and the other was his projected career average of .251. Guys don't get into Cooperstown with career averages below .260 unless they fall into one of four categories: 1) big time home run hitters like Killebrew, 2) great catchers, 3) slick fielding middle infielders like Rabbit Maranville, or 4) outright mistaken selections. Kinugasa won't qualify in the first three categories, and I want no part of putting him in by using players in the fourth category.

Maybe somebody can show that if he sat out when he was hurt, his career projected average would get over .260, but unless or until someone can persuasively make that case, I'd leave him out. He has two Hall of Famers in his ten most comparable players, Brooks Robinson and Tony Perez. However, both of them outhit Kinugasa's projection and I am convinced Kinugasa's glove wasn't close to the class of Brooks Robinson's. The list also has three men who reached the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting in Graig Nettles, Darrell Evans and Vada Pinson. Once again, the OPS for all three of them are superior to Kinugasa's projection, and Nettles' glovework is almost certainly superior. The rest of Kinugasa's list are Rusty Staub, Gary Gaetti, Chili Davis, Don Baylor and Buddy Bell.

Shigeru Chiba       Position: Second Base

His group of most comparable players has only one man in Cooperstown, Bid McPhee. He has only one other to reach the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting, Willie Randolph. The rest of the list is Bobby Lowe, Jim Gilliam, Fred Pfeffer, Steve Sax, Tony Taylor, Delino Deshields, Larry Doyle and Lonny Frey. He does have a higher OPS than all but Randolph, but on the other hand, he has less projected hits than Lowe, Sax, Taylor, McPhee and Randolph.

In an effort to be fair to Chiba, I'll compare him to Randolph and the other three second basemen who reached the top ten in BBWAA voting for the Hall but have not yet been elected. They are: Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Joe Gordon. All four top him in OPS, and he only bests Gordon in career hits. Further, all four were good to excellent with the glove. I can't put him ahead of anybody in this group of four, and therefore I cannot endorse him for Cooperstown.

Tsutomu Wakamatsu      Position: Left Field-Center Field

In the previous article, I indicated that his projected career average gave him a shot at Cooperstown, especially if it could be shown he would have been at least a solid defensive centerfielder in the majors. I think his usage in NPB makes it hard to make that case, but I can't rule it out.

The list of the ten players most comparable to his projection assumes a split between left field and center. I think it demonstrates that he can't make the Hall without him being regarded as a centerfielder, and maybe not even then. There's only one HOFer on the list, Enos Slaughter, and only one other to make the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting in Tim Raines. The remainder of the list is Jose Cruz, Ken Griffey, Sr., Willie Davis, Mickey Vernon, Wally Moses, Bill Buckner, Buddy Bell and Jimmy Ryan. The only two he projects to have more hits than are Griffey, Sr. and Moses. His projected OPS only bests Davis, Buckner and Bell. If you look only at average, he does better, but he is clearly in the pack of the list of his most comparable players who aren't in the Hall. That isn't good enough to garner my endorsement for the Hall.

Hiromichi Ishige      Position: Third Base-Shortstop

His list of the ten players most similar to his projection includes two members of the Hall, Pee Wee Reese and Bill Mazeroski. It also has one man who has reached the top ten in BBWAA voting for Cooperstown, Alan Trammell. The rest of the names on the list are Frank White, Tony Taylor, Tony Phillips, Terry Pendleton, Amos Otis, Marty McManus and Davey Lopes. Trammell, Reese, Phillips and Otis beat him in both OPS and career hits. McManus and Lopes have better OPS but don't beat his projected career hits.

The best line of argument I can see for him is to start with Mazeroski and to try to show his glove was close enough in defensive value that Ishige's superior hitting makes them equally valuable. This won't be easy as Mazeroski was absolutely superb defensively--and I'm not sure that even if the argument holds water that it's enough to get Ishige into the Hall. For now, I'll pass.


Masaichi Kaneda

This is an easy case to decide. Nine of the ten most similar pitchers to his projection are in the Hall of Fame: Steve Carlton, Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Pete Alexander, Kid Nichols and Early Wynn. The tenth man a) has made the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting, and b) isn't as good as Kaneda's projection--Bert Blyleven. Kaneda belongs.

Victor Starffin

The ten most similar pitchers to his projection removed any qualms I might have had about his qualifications for the Hall of Fame. All of them are in the Hall: Lefty Grove, Jim Palmer, Eddie Plank, Whitey Ford, Carl Hubbell, Joe McGinnity, Pete Alexander, Vic Willis, Kid Nichols, and Juan Marichal. Three MLB deadballers (Starffin played in NPB's pre 1945 deadball era) who are on that list (McGinnity, Willis and Nichols) all had similarly low rates of strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.

Kazuhisa Inao

Yet another easy call, with 10 of 10 in Cooperstown. Inao's list is Juan Marichal, Carl Hubbell, Jim Palmer, Whitey Ford, Joe McGinnity, Lefty Grove, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Three Finger Brown and Chief Bender.

Akira Bessho

One more guy with all 10 of the pitchers most comparable to his projection in Cooperstown, and as such is clearly qualified for a plaque there. His ten are: Jim Palmer, Lefty Grove, Burleigh Grimes, Kid Nichols, Eddie Plank, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Carl Hubbell, Bob Feller and Red Faber.

Jiro Noguchi

Here's a guy whose case requires at least a little thought, since "only" six of the pitchers most comparable to his projection are in the Hall (seven if you count Clark Griffith): Joe McGinnity, Whitey Ford, Juan Marichal, Three Finger Brown, Carl Hubbell and Chief Bender. He also had a guy who finished in the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting: Carl Mays. The remaining two are Sam Leever and Babe Adams. He has more projected wins and IP than any of the comparables who aren't in the Hall, and among the outsiders only Leever beats him in ERA, and then only by 0.04 runs per game. He fits well among the HOFers, though, so he's got a strong case for enshrinement.

Shigeru Sugishita

Five of his best comparables are in the Hall of Fame: Bob Lemon, Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Dazzy Vance and Sandy Koufax. Lon Warneke finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting for Cooperstown. The rest of the list is Dave McNally, Dwight Gooden, Mike Cuellar and Jimmy Key. His Fibonacci score (indicative of excellence in the won-lost mark) and ERA are both better than all of the guys not in the Hall. His list of comparables only has two guys who had 200 or more wins like the projection, Ford and Lemon, and both are in the Hall. Similarly, there are only two guys on the list who had career ERAs under 3.00 like the projection, Koufax and Ford, and again, both are enshrined. I'd say he presents a strong case for Cooperstown.

Hideo Fujimoto

This is one of the few times I'll go against what the HOF standards indicates about a player's HOF qualifications. Fujimoto scored over 50, and 50 is the mark of an average HOFer. However, the list of the ten most comparable pitchers to his projection contains only one HOFer in Jack Chesbro, who is in because of his 40 win season far more than his career accomplishments. Fujimoto's list contains two others who finished in the top ten in BBWAA HOF voting in Lon Warneke and Carl Mays. The remaining seven are Sam Leever, Urban Shocker, Deacon Phillippe, Ed Reulbach, Jesse Tannehill, Art Nehf and Ron Guidry. The two comparables who seal my verdict against Fujimoto are Leever and Reulbach. Their Fibonacci score aren't quite as good as Fujimoto's projection, but their ERAs are definitely in his class. There's just not enough here to put him into Cooperstown in my opinion.

Masaaki Koyama

The list of the ten most comparable pitchers to his projection has seven men who have been inducted into the HOF: Tom Seaver, Eddie Plank, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Pete Alexander, Robin Roberts and Kid Nichols. Two of the remaining members of that list have finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting: Tommy John and Jim Kaat. The final name on the list is Dennis Martinez. Further, the three guys not in the Hall are under 300 wins and over a 3.00 career ERA, while Koyama's projection is in the opposite direction in both cases. To me, that says he's HOF quality.

Yutaka Enatsu

Even though his stats suffered from the combination of relief work and NPB's decision not to record saves until 1974, he still has a better ERA and Fibonacci score than the three HOFers who are most similar to his projection (Don Drysdale, Jim Bunning and Catfish Hunter) as well as the three who finished in the top ten in BBWAA voting (Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Mickey Lolich). The remaining names on his list are Bob Welch, Vida Blue, David Cone and Orel Hershiser. I think his case shows he's Cooperstown quality.

Tetsuya Yoneda

Seven of his ten best comps are in the Hall: Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Early Wynn, Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins and Steve Carlton. The remaining three all managed to get into the top ten in BBWAA voting for the Hall: Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat and Tommy John. I think the projection is unrealistic in projecting Yoneda at 298 wins, as a player that close to such a significant mileston will usually hang on to best the mark, like Wynn did. I think he's a legitimate HOF-caliber pitcher in any event.

Minoru Murayama

Four of his ten most similar pitchers are in Cooperstown: Whitey Ford, Juan Marichal, Chief Bender and Three Finger Brown. Also, Lon Warneke is on the list and made the top ten in BBWAA voting. The remaining names on the list are Dwight Gooden, Jimmy Key, Ron Guidry, Dave McNally and Bob Welch. I think he probably had a significant assist from pitching in cavernous (by NPB standards) Koshien Stadium all his career. The question is whether he gained so much that it means he isn't deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown. I can't be sure right now, so I'll withhold judgment in this case. If I didn't have that concern, I'd say his record is more like the HOFers on his list than those who aren't in--but I do.

Keishi Suzuki

This is a tougher call than I thought it would be. His ten most similar pitchers include three Hall of Famers in Catfish Hunter, Jim Bunning and Don Drysdale. He has four more who made the top ten in writer voting for the Hall in Luis Tiant, Vida Blue, Mickey Lolich and Billy Pierce. The last three names on the list are Milt Pappas, Jim Perry and Rick Reuschel. Suzuki's projected ERA is worse than all three HOFers and all but one of the four to reach the top ten in writer voting (Lolich) and is also worse than Reuschel's. Further, his projected Fibonacci score is worse than Hunter and Drysdale among the HOFers, Tiant and Blue among the top 10 finishers, and Pappas. It's close, but I think he falls in the middle of the pack of his comparables, and that's not good enough for Cooperstown in my view.

Mitsuo Minagawa

The ten pitchers most comparable to his projection include only one Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale, and only two others who reached the top ten in writer voting for the Hall in Lew Burdette and Lon Warneke. The remaining seven in the group are Mike Cuellar, Milt Pappas, Bob Welch, Jimmy Key, Dave McNally, John Candelaria and Orel Hershiser. The weight of this list of pitchers is clearly against calling Minagawa a legitimate HOFer, and that's enough evidence for me.

Ryohei Hasegawa

This is one case where we don't even need to figure the comparables, because the fact he lost more than he won in NPB would sink his candidacy in any event. I realize that is due to the abysmal quality of many of the Carp teams he pitched for, and the projection has him pitching for an average major league squad, so he looks much better. However, since his projection doesn't present an overwhelming case in his favor, there's little point in trying to argue he belongs despite a sub .500 winning percentage.

Tadashi Sugiura

The ten most comparable pitchers to his projection include two Hall of Famers in Dizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax, but only one other pitcher who reached the top ten in BBWAA voting, Don Newcombe. The remaining seven are Bret Saberhagen, Ron Guidry, John Candelaria, Jimmy Key, Ed Lopat, Dave McNally and Schoolboy Rowe. The two in the Hall both have better Fibonacci scores than Sugiura, and were inducted for their huge seasons for pennant winners far more than their career statistics. He does have some positives in that his projected ERA is better than all ten of his comparables, and his Fibonacci score beats half the group (he loses to McNally, Guidry and Key as well). I just don't think there's enough here to put him in Cooperstown.

Tadashi Wakabayashi

The list of his ten most comparable pitchers includes three HOFers in for their pitching (Stan Coveleski, Joe McGinnity and Chief Bender) as well as a HOFer listed in the "Pioneers and Executives" section in Clark Griffith. He's got two more guys who reached the top ten in BBWAA voting in Carl Mays and Lon Warneke. The remaining names are Freddie Fitzsimmons, Wilbur Cooper, Eddie Cicotte and Babe Adams. I see him as just right around the edge of where the in/out line should be. Unfortunately, because I have some qualms about the accuracy of the projections for pitchers, especially those who pitched before 1945 in Japan (like Wakabayashi), that means I'm going to err on the side of leaving him out.


My goal has not been to select an all-star team from Japan, so my list of selections for Cooperstown will bold include any true middle infielders (I'm not going to count Ochiai's brief tenure at second), as I just don't see any NPB middle infielder who presents a strong enough case to merit my support for his induction to Cooperstown.

I remain open to new evidence and better methods of evaluation, and may change my positions on some players as a result. However, for now my list of NPB players who have demonstrated to my satisfaction they are of the quality that merits induction to Cooperstown is as follows:
Pitchers   Every Day Players   Position
Masaichi Kaneda      Katsuya Nomura C
Victor Starffin Sadaharu Oh 1B
Kazuhisa Inao Hiromitsu Ochiai 1B-3B
Akira Bessho Shigeo Nagashima 3B
Jiro Noguchi Isao Harimoto OF
Shigeru Sugishita Yutaka Fukumoto OF
Masaaki Koyama      Koji Yamamoto OF
Yutaka Enatsu    
Tetsuya Yoneda    

Pitchers Minoru Murayama and Tadashi Wakabayashi are really close and deserve more study. Further, a few of the above, like Ochiai and Yamamoto, still have not been inducted into the Japanese Hall. As a result, I would hold off on them as well.


My lists of comparables exclude all active players (I fudged a bit on Rickey Henderson) because I want to have known career totals to compare to, and active players don't give us that. I also excluded pitchers who had more than 30% of their career IP before the 60 foot 6 inch distance began in 1893, as pitching at shorter distances dramatically changes things.

My values for defense in the calculation of comparables for everyday players calculated a value from all defensive games plus games at DH rather than calculating it simply from a "primary position". I also chose not to use runs scored and RBI for hitter similarity scores mainly because 1) how the player is used has a profound effect on those numbers (i.e. leadoff hitters rarely do well in RBI) and 2) who his teammates are has a very large effect (if you hit in front of an RBI machine, you'll score a lot; if you hit behind an on base demon, you'll have lots of baserunners to drive in), and since projections simply cannot deal with these issues well, I'd rather leave them out. I had no sensible way to project starts, complete games or shutouts and therefore left them out of the calculations for similarity. However, I did use home runs allowed in determining pitcher similarity, and I also used the percentage of MLB career innings pitched before 1920 versus NPB career innings pitched before 1945 to a maximum of 25 points (those eras were deadball times in their respective leagues).

I need to thank Clay Davenport for providing me a spreadsheet of pitchers' career data, which greatly aided this research (thanks to the the other APBA folks who offered help, but Clay's stuff worked for me right away, and the others gave me some difficulties). I also found a spreadsheet called SimScore, which was a nice tool for batters. However, SimScore only went through 1998, so I had to supplement it with players similar to my selections listed in Baseball

Please note this article was written in 2004 prior to announcement of any voting for the 2005 class of inductees. I'm not going to try to revise this article to keep it updated--if I ever want to do something along those lines, I'll do a whole new article.

List of NPB Players Covered in this Article:

Akira Bessho Shigeru Chiba Yutaka Enatsu Hideo Fujimoto
Fumio Fujimura Yutaka Fukumoto Isao Harimoto Ryohei Hasegawa
Kazuhisa Inao Hiromichi Ishige Hiromitsu Kadota   Masaichi Kaneda
Tetsuharu Kawakami   Sachio Kinugasa Masaaki Koyama Mituso Minagawa
Minoru Murayama Shigeo Nagashima Jiro Noguchi Katsuya Nomura
Hiromitsu Ochiai Victor Starffin Shigeru Sugishita Tadashi Sugiura
Keishi Suzuki Tadashi Wakabayashi   Tsutomu Wakamatsu   Koji Yamamoto
Tetsuya Yoneda      

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