I came across an interesting piece of Baseball history while researching Ichiro's Japanese statistics for my last post. Last week Ichiro tied Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons for a career with 10 seasons. As I stated last week, Ichiro is the Majors season hit leader with 262 which he accomplished in 2004. But what I found interesting is that Ichiro was also the single season hit leader in Japan with 210 hits which he accomplished in 1994 while with the Orix Blue Wave. What I didn't know what until that time no player had ever eclipsed the 200-hit mark in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). (PHOTO CREDIT http://japanesebaseballcards.blogspot.com/)
This season makes the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the NPB. I found it amazing that until 1994 there hadn't been a player with 200-hits. Now granted, the NPB plays a shorter season than MLB. I'm not sure if the number of games are consistent from year to year but from what I have researched, the last few years the Japanese season has been 144 games long while the MLB season is 162 games. That's a difference of 18 games which can be between 60 and 75 at-bats over that span. In 1994, Ichiro had 210-hits in 546 at-bats for an average of .385. In a league that plays small ball over the bloop and the blast that is most common here, I would think that more players would have had 200-hits. That might be changing.
Since Ichiro set the single season record for both the Pacific League and the NPB in 1994, four players have hit for 200 or more hits in a season. Here is the breakdown:
Norichika Aoki 202 in 2005 with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Alex Ramirez 204 in 2007 with the Yomiyuri Giants
Matt Murton 205 in 2010 with the Hanshin Tigers
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 203 in 2010 with the Chiba Lotte Marines
Norichika Aoki 202 in 2010 with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
(PHOTO CREDIT http://japanesebaseballcards.blogspot.com/)
Aoki, who had the spotlight of the World Baseball Classic on him during the 2009 tournament, is the only player to have multiple 200-hits seasons (2005 and 2010). Former Rockies and Cubs outfielder Matt Murton currently holds the Central League single season record of 205-hits and has 8 games left to try and break Ichiro's record of 210-hits during his inaugural season with the Hanshin Tigers.
I know for many baseball fans here in the U.S., happenings in the Japanese baseball league barely register as a blip on the radar but I like to think of myself as a more worldy baseball fan. Especially since I remember the first day I saw Ichiro being introduced to the U.S. press with his signing with Seattle Mariners for the 2001 season and wondering who was this Japanese guy with the cool shades. We all now know who he is.
For Further Reading
- Robert Whiting The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime (New York, Time Warner Book Group: 2004)
- Click Here for the English Language version of the Nippon Baseball League webpage
- Click Here to access YakyuBaka.com for an awesome site devoted to all things Yakyu. That's Baseball for all you Gaijin out there. LOL.
- Click Here to access my April 8, 2010 post on Alex Ramirez being the dominant Latino ballplayer in Japan from Latinoball
- Click Here to access my July 1, 2010 post on Alex Ramirez as he progressed during the 2010 NPB season from Latinoball
- Click Here to access my post from September 1, 2010 detailing how Alex Ramirez became the 1st player in the history of the NPB to have 8 100+ RBI seasons from Latinoball