Joyce: Big in Japan: When Major League nobodies become NPB somebodies

From Tom Joyce at The Hardball Times on August 14, 2019:

When Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hideo Nomo made his major league debut in 1995, he opened the door for Japanese players to cross over to the major leagues. Since Nomo, a 1995 All-Star who fired two no-hitters, became the second-ever native of Japan to play in the big leagues — and the first since the 1960s — there have been more than 100.

Many of these players have made profound impacts, most notably Ichiro Suzuki, who smacked 3,089 big league hits and set the single-season hits record in 2004. Hideki Matsui, a two-time All-Star, was the New York Yankees’ 2009 World Series MVP, going 8-for-13 with three home runs in the series. All-Star setup man Hideki Okajima and starter Daisuke Matsuzaka helped the Boston Red Sox to a World Series sweep in 2007, while closer Koji Uehara (1.09 ERA in 73 games) did the same for the Red Sox in 2013. Meanwhile, starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka have been Cy Young Award runners-up, while Shohei Ohtani earned the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award as a designated hitter and starting pitcher.

As Major League Baseball has benefited from its share of former Nippon Professional Baseball standouts, the inverse situation — former major leaguers moving to NPB teams — is far more prevalent. Since Nomo, there have been 56 more Japanese-born-and-raised major-league players. This year’s major league Opening Day rosters featured six Japanese-born players. Meanwhile, as of July 30, NPB rosters featured 54 non-Japanese-born former major league players between their active rosters and reserves this season. The Hanshin Tigers had the most with seven, while the three teams were tied for the fewest with three: the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Saitama Seibu Lions, and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. NPB teams are allowed to have up to four foreign-born players on their active roster at any given time, although there is no limit on how many they are actually allowed to sign and have as reserves.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 15, 2019. Last Updated: August 15, 2019.