Nippon Professional Baseball

Nippon Professional Baseball (日本野球機構 Nippon Yakyū Kikō) or NPB is the highest level of baseball in Japan. Locally, it is often called Puro Yakyū (プロ野球), meaning Professional Baseball. Outside Japan, it is often just referred to as "Japanese baseball". The roots of the league can be traced back to the formation of the "Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club" (大日本東京野球倶楽部 Dai-Nippon Tōkyō Yakyū Kurabu) in Tokyo, founded 1934 and the original circuit for the sport in the Empire two years later - Japanese Baseball League (1936-1949), and surprisingly even continued to play through the dark years of total warfare with Japan's invasion of Manchuria (northeast China) in 1931, and intervening in the Chinese Civil War in 1937 with the wider Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and into the greater World War II (1939-1945).

The new NPB for Japan was formed when that sports organization reorganized in 1950 with creating its two leagues with six teams each of the Central League and the Pacific League with an annual season ending Japan Series championship play-off series of games starting that year for the JPB on the lines of the American World Series tournament (since 1903).

Nippon Professional Baseball
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2019 Nippon Professional Baseball season
NPB logo
FormerlyJapanese Baseball League
CEORyozo Kato
CommissionerAtsushi Saito
No. of teams12
Most recent
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (9)
Most titlesYomiuri Giants (22)
QualificationAsia Series (2005–2013)
Summer Koshien 2009 Final
Koshien Stadium (in 2009)
Seibu Dome baseball stadium - 26
Seibu Dome (in 2007)

League structure

Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League with six teams / franchises each. There are also two secondary-level professional minor leagues, the Eastern League and the Western League, that play shorter schedules for developing players.

The season starts in late March or early April, and ends in October, with two or three all-star games in July. In recent decades prior to 2007, the two leagues each scheduled between 130 and 140 regular season games, with the 146 games played by the Central League in 2005 and 2006 being the only exception. Both leagues have since adopted 146-game seasons, 73 each at home & on road. In general, Japanese teams play six games a week, with every Monday off.[1]

Following the conclusion of each regular season the best teams from each league go on to play in the "Nippon Series" or Japan Series championship play-off tournament along the lines of the American World Series since 1903.

In 2004, the Pacific League played five fewer games than the Central League teams during the regular season and used a new playoff format to determine its champion (and which team would advance to the Japan Series). The teams in third and second place played in a best-of-three series (all at the second place team's home ground) with the winner of that series going on to play the first place team in a best-of-five format at its home ground. In 2006, the Central League adopted the Pacific League's tournament as well, and the tournament became known as the Climax Series with the two winners, one from each league, competing in the Japan Series.[2]

Comparison with Major League Baseball

The NPB rules are essentially those of the American Major League Baseball (MLB), but technical elements are slightly different: The Nippon league uses a smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field. The Japanese baseball is wound more tightly than an American baseball. The strike zone is narrower "inside" than away from the batter. Five Nippon league teams have fields whose small dimensions would violate the American Official Baseball Rules. The note set out at the end of Rule 1.04 specifies minimum dimensions for American ballparks built or renovated after 1958: 325 feet (99 m) down each foul line and 400 feet (120 m) to center field.

American Major League Baseball (MLB) players, scouts, and sabermetricians describe play in the NPB as "AAAA"; less competitive than in MLB, but more competitive than in Triple A's (AAA) developing level minor league baseball.[3][4][5] Play in the Pacific League is similar to that in American League baseball, with the use of designated hitters, unlike the Central League, which has no DH rule and is closer to National League baseball.

Unlike North American baseball, Japanese baseball games may end in a tie. If the score is tied after nine innings of play, up to three additional innings will be played; this includes the playoffs, but not the Japan Series going beyond Game 7. If there is no winner after 12 innings, the game is declared a tie; these games count as neither a win nor a loss to team standings or to postseason series.

Similar to the current structure of the World Series, a team must win four games to clinch the Japan Series title; however, due to the fact that games can end in a tie, it may take more than 7 games to win the series. If the series must be extended, all games beyond game 7 are played with no innings limit, with game 8 being played in the same venue as game 7, and game 9 and beyond played in the opposing team's venue following a moving day.[6]

Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, special rules were implemented for the 2011 NPB season:

  • For power conservation reasons, besides the usual 12-inning limit, no extra innings were allowed to commence during the regular season once 3 hours, 30 minutes had elapsed from the game start time. This time included delays due to weather, but power failures would result in a called game.[7]
  • Due to the delayed start of the season and because of post-season commitments to the champion (such as the 2011 Asia Series), the Japan Series' extension rules were modified in 2011 if the series was tied after seven games, only one extra game would be played.[8]

Most Japanese teams have a six-man starting rotation (as opposed to MLB teams, which feature five-man rotations). Although each team roster has 28 players, similar to other professional sports, there is a 25 player limit for each game. Managers scratch three players before each game, typically including the most recent starting pitchers, similar to professional basketball (two scratches).[1]

Financial problems

Financial problems plague many teams in the league. It is believed that with the exception of the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, all teams are operating with considerable subsidies, often as much as ¥6 billion (about US$73 million), from their parent companies. A raise in the salaries of players is often blamed, but, from the start of the professional league, parent companies paid the difference as an advertisement. Most teams have never tried to improve their finances through constructive marketing. In addition, teams in the Central League historically saw much higher profits than the Pacific League, having popular teams such as the Giants and Tigers.[9]

The number of metropolitan areas represented in the league increased from four to five in 1988, when the Nankai Hawks (now Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) moved to Fukuoka; and to seven between 2003 and 2005, as the Nippon-Ham Fighters moved to Hokkaidō and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes merged with the Orix BlueWave and were replaced by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.[10]

Until 1993, baseball was the only team sport played professionally in Japan. In that year, the J.League professional soccer league was founded. The new soccer league placed teams in prefectural capitals around the country—rather than clustering them in and around Tokyo—and the teams were named after their locations rather than after corporate sponsors.

The wave of players moving to Major League Baseball, which began with Hideo Nomo "retiring" from the Kintetsu Buffaloes, then signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has also added to the financial problems. Attendance suffered as teams lost their most marketable players, while TV ratings declined as viewers tuned into broadcasts of Major League games.[11] To discourage players from leaving to play in North America, or to at least compensate teams that lose players, Japanese baseball and MLB agreed on a posting system for players under contract. MLB teams wishing to negotiate with a player submit bids for a "posting fee", which the winning MLB team would pay the Japanese team if the player signs with the MLB team. Free agents are not subject to the posting system, however.[12]



The first professional baseball team in Japan was founded by media mogul Matsutarō Shōriki in late 1934 and called the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Kurabu ("the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club"). After matching up with a team of visiting American All-Stars that included Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, and Charlie Gehringer, the team spent the 1935 season barnstorming in the U.S., winning 93 of 102 games against semi-pro and Pacific Coast League teams. According to historian Joseph Reaves, "The only minor drawbacks to the team's popularity in the States were their kanji characters and their cumbersome Japanese name. They rectified both by renaming themselves the Tokyo Kyojin ['Tokyo Giants'] and adopting a uniform identical to the New York Giants…"[13]

From 1936–1950, professional baseball in Japan was under the name of the Japanese Baseball League (JBL). The league's dominant team during this period was the Tokyo Kyojin, which won nine league championships, including six in a row from 1938–1943. (The team was officially renamed the Yomiuri Giants in 1947.)

NPB establishment

After the 1949 season, the JBL team owners reorganized into the NPB; Daiei Stars owner Masaichi Nagata promoted a two-league system, which became the Pacific League (initially called the Taiheiyo Baseball Union) and the Central League. (Nagata became the first president of the Pacific League.)[14]

Four JBL teams formed the basis of the Central League: the Chunichi Dragons, the Hanshin Tigers, the Yomiuri Giants, and the Shochiku Robins (formerly the Taiyō Robins). To fill out the league, four new teams were formed: the Hiroshima Carp, the Kokutetsu Swallows, the Nishi Nippon Pirates, and the Taiyō Whales.

Four JBL teams formed the basis of the Pacific League: the Hankyu Braves, the Nankai Hawks, the Daiei Stars, and the Tokyu Flyers. To fill out the league, three new teams were formed: the Kintetsu Pearls, the Mainichi Orions, and the Nishitetsu Clippers.

Matsutarō Shōriki, the Giants' owner, acted as NPB's unofficial commissioner and oversaw the first Japan Series, which featured the Mainichi Orions defeating the Shochiku Robins 4 games to 2.

Expansion and contraction

The Central League's Nishi Nippon Pirates existed for one season — they placed sixth in 1950, and the following season merged with the Nishitetsu Clippers (also based in Fukuoka) to form the Nishitetsu Lions. This brought the number of Central League teams down to an ungainly arrangement of seven. In 1952, it was decided that any Central League team ending the season with a winning percentage below .300 would be disbanded or merged with other teams. The Shochiku Robins fell into this category, and were merged with the Taiyō Whales to become the Taiyō Shochiku Robins in January 1953. This enabled the Central League to shrink to an even number of six teams.

In 1954 a new Pacific League team was founded, the Takahashi Unions, to increase the number of teams in that division to eight. Although the team was stocked with players from the other Pacific League teams, the Unions struggled from the outset and finished in the second division every season. In 1957, the Unions were merged with the Daiei Stars to form the Daiei Unions (and again bringing the number of Pacific League teams down to seven). The Unions existed for a single season, finishing in last place, 43-1/2 games out of first. In 1958, the Unions merged with the Mainichi Orions to form the Daimai Orions. This enabled the Pacific League to contract from the ungainly seven-team arrangement to six teams.

After these various franchise developments, by the end of the 1950s Nippon Professional Baseball had contracted from the initial allotment of 15 teams down to the current number of 12.

1960s and 1970s

On September 1, 1964, Nankai Hawks' prospect Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to play in Major League Baseball[15] when he appeared on the mound for the San Francisco Giants. Disputes over the rights to his contract eventually led to the 1967 United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement.

Continuing their dominance from the JBL, the Yomiuri Giants won nine consecutive Japan Series championships from 1965–1973.

The Black Mist Scandal rocked Nippon Professional Baseball between 1969 and 1971. The fallout from a series of game-fixing scandals in resulted in several star players receiving long suspensions, salary cuts, or being banned from professional play entirely; the resulting abandonment of baseball by many fans in Japan also led to the sale of the Nishitetsu Lions and the Toei Flyers.

From 1973 to 1982, the Pacific League employed a split season with the first-half winner playing against the second-half winner in a mini-playoff to determine its champion. In 1975, the Pacific League adopted the designated hitter rule.

1980s and the "Invincible Seibu"

After being a second division team for much of the 1960s and 1970s, in 1983 the Seibu Lions began a period of sustained success. The team gained the moniker "Invincible Seibu" during the 1980s and 1990s due to their sustained domination of the league, winning 11 league championships and eight Japan Series championships between 1982–1994. The Lions had a powerful lineup in this period, loaded with sluggers such as Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, and Orestes Destrade. Their defense also benefited from the services of skilled players such as Hiromichi Ishige, Hatsuhiko Tsuji and catcher Tsutomu Ito. Among the pitchers employed by the Lions in this period was "The Oriental Express" Taigen Kaku, Osamu Higashio, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Hisanobu Watanabe, and relievers Yoshitaka Katori and Tetsuya Shiozaki.

American expatriate players made their mark in NPB in the 1980s, with players like the Lee brothers, Leron Lee and Leon Lee, Greg "Boomer" Wells, Randy Bass, and Ralph Bryant playing key roles on their NPB teams.

Hideo Nomo and the exodus to MLB

In 1995, star pitcher Hideo Nomo "retired" from the Kintetsu Buffaloes and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nomo pitched over the span of 14 seasons in the Major Leagues before retiring in 2008. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1995. He twice led the league in strikeouts, and also threw two no-hitters (the only Japanese pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Major League Baseball until Hisashi Iwakuma achieved the feat in August 2015). Nomo's MLB success led to more NPB players moving to Major League Baseball,[16] and eventually led to the creation of the "posting system" in 1998.[17]

Since Nomo's exodus, more than 60 NPB players have played Major League Baseball. Some of the more notable examples include:

  • Ichiro Suzuki – after nine years with the Orix BlueWave, in 2001 Ichiro was posted by the BlueWave and claimed by MLB's Seattle Mariners. The first Japanese-born position player to be signed to the major leagues,[18] Ichiro led the American League (AL) in batting average and stolen bases en route to being named AL Rookie of the Year and AL Most Valuable Player. Ichiro, a member of MLB's 3,000-hit club, has established a number of MLB batting records, including the single-season record for hits with 262. He had ten consecutive 200-hit seasons, the longest streak by any player in history. Between his career hits in Japan's and America's major leagues, Ichiro has the most all-time top-flight hits.
  • Hideki Matsui – the slugger played ten seasons for the Yomiuri Giants, and then in 2003 moved to MLB, where he starred for the New York Yankees for seven more seasons, including being named the Most Valuable Player for the 2009 World Series. He was the first power hitter from Japan to succeed in Major League Baseball.
  • Kazuhiro Sasaki - a closer famed for his splitter, known as "The Fang". In 2000, he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after saving 37 games for the Mariners. In 2001, he was a vital contributor to the Mariners' extremely strong team that won an American League record 116 games, of which he saved 45. In 2001 and 2002, he was an All-Star. After 2003, he returned to Japan to pitch in the NPB until his retirement in 2005.
  • Kazuo Matsui – after eight stellar seasons with the Seibu Lions, Matsui signed with the New York Mets on December 15, 2003, in 2004 becoming the first Japanese infielder to play with a Major League Baseball team.[19] His seven seasons in Major League Baseball were not as successful, and he later returned to NPB.

Merger and strike of 2004

In September 2004, the professional Japanese players went on strike for the first time in over 70 years. The strike arose from a dispute that took place between the owners of the 12 professional Japanese baseball teams and the players' union (which was led by popular Yakult Swallows player-manager Atsuya Furuta), concerning the merging of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix Blue Wave. The owners wanted to get rid of the financially defunct Buffaloes, and merge the two baseball leagues, since teams in the Central League saw much higher profits than the Pacific League, having popular teams such as the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers. After negotiations, the owners agreed to guarantee the survival of the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, leaving the Central League with six teams and the Pacific League with five.

A battle escalated between the players union and the owners, and reached its height when Yomiuri Giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe controversially remarked that Furuta was "a mere player,"[20] implying that players had no say in what league would look like the next year. The dispute received huge press coverage (which mostly favored Furuta and the players' union) and was dubbed one of the biggest events in the history of Japanese baseball. Proposals and amendments concerning interleague games, player drafting, and management were also discussed between the players union and the owners during this period.

The strike was originally planned for all Saturday and Sunday games that month, starting from September 11, but was pushed back due to the agreement of another meeting between the union and the owners on September 10. The players decided to strike on September 18–19, 2004, when no progress was made in the negotiations, as there was insufficient time left in the season to hold discussions.

The dispute officially ended after the two groups reached consensus on September 23, 2004. As part of the agreement, the Buffaloes were allowed to merge with the Blue Wave (forming into the Orix Buffaloes); in addition, the Rakuten Golden Eagles were newly created (at a reduced "entry fee") to keep the former six-team league structure. Other agreements included the leagues adopting interleague play to help the Pacific League gain exposure by playing the more popular Central league teams. All these changes took place before the 2005 season.

Interleague play

The two leagues began interleague play in 2005, with each team playing two three-game series (one home, one away) against each of the six teams in the other league. This was reduced to two two-game series in 2007. All interleague play games are played in a seven-week span near the middle of the season.

As of the end of the 2017 season, the Pacific League has won the most games in interleague play since it began in 2005 twelve times, with 2009 being the only time that the Central League has won more games.

League championship series/Climax Series

After 2004, a three-team playoff system was introduced in the Pacific League, dubbed the "Pacific League Championship Series." The teams with the second- and third-best records play in the three-game first stage, with the winner advancing to the five-game final against the top team. The winner becomes the representative of the Pacific League to the Japan Series.

Since the Pacific League won every Japan Series after introducing this league playoff system, an identical system was introduced to the Central League in 2007, and the post-season intra-league games were renamed the "Climax Series" in both leagues. Player statistics and drafting order based on team records are not affected by these postseason games.

Recent history

In 2011 Miyagi Baseball Stadium, home of the Rakuten Eagles, was badly damaged by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[21]

The 2013 season featured a livelier baseball which was secretly introduced into NPB, resulting in a marked increase in home runs league-wide.[22] Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentien broke the NPB single-season home run record of 55, previously held by professional baseball's all-time home run leader Sadaharu Oh in 1964, Tuffy Rhodes in 2001, and Alex Cabrera in 2002.[23] Balantien finished the season with 60 home runs. Three-term NPB commissioner Ryōzō Katō was forced to resign over the scandal when the changed baseball was revealed.[22]

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed expanding NPB to 16 total teams by adding two expansion franchises in each of the country's top-tier professional baseball leagues. The goal of such a move would be to energize the economies of the regions receiving the new teams. Okinawa, Shizuoka, Shikoku, and Niigata have been identified as regions that could play host to said teams.[24]

Expatriate baseball players in Japan

For most of its history, NPB regulations imposed "gaijin waku", a limit on the number of non-Japanese people per team to two or three — including the manager and/or coaching staff.[25] Even today, a team cannot have more than four foreign players on a 25-man game roster, although there is no limit on the number of foreign players that it may sign. If there are four, they cannot all be pitchers nor all be position players.[25] This limits the cost and competition for expensive players of other nationalities, and is similar to rules in many European sports leagues' roster limits on non-European players.

Nonetheless, expatriate baseball players in Japan have been a feature of the Japanese professional leagues since 1934. Hundreds of foreigners — particularly Americans — have played NPB. Taiwanese nationals Shosei Go and Hiroshi Oshita both starred in the 1940s. American players began to steadily find spots on NPB rosters in the 1960s. American players hold several NPB records, including highest career batting average (Leron Lee, .334), highest single season batting average (Randy Bass, .389), and the dubious record of most strikeouts in a season by a hitter (Ralph Bryant, 204). Americans rank #3 (Tuffy Rhodes, 55) and #5 (Randy Bass, 54) on the list of most home runs in a season, and #2 in single-season RBI (Bobby Rose, 153). CuraçaoanDutch outfielder Wladimir Balentien holds the NPB single-season home run record with 60 round-trippers in 2013. Venezuelans Alex Ramírez, Alex Cabrera, Bobby Marcano, and Roberto Petagine all had long, successful NPB careers.

Many of the most celebrated foreign players came to Japan after not finding success in the Major Leagues. (see: "Big in Japan")

Since the 1970s, foreigners have also made an impact in Nippon Professional Baseball's managing and coaching ranks, with Americans Bobby Valentine and Trey Hillman managing their respective teams to Japan Series championships.


Npb teams map
Team City Stadium Capacity Founded Joined
Central League
Chunichi Dragons Nagoya, Aichi Nagoya Dome 40,500 1937 1950
Hanshin Tigers Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Hanshin Koshien Stadium 47,757 1935 1950
Hiroshima Toyo Carp Hiroshima, Hiroshima MAZDA Zoom-Zoom Stadium Hiroshima 32,000 1950
Tokyo Yakult Swallows Shinjuku, Tokyo Meiji Jingu Stadium 37,933 1950
Yokohama DeNA BayStars Yokohama, Kanagawa Yokohama Stadium 30,000 1950
Yomiuri Giants Bunkyō, Tokyo Tokyo Dome 46,000 1934 1950
Pacific League
Chiba Lotte Marines Chiba, Chiba ZOZO Marine Stadium 30,000 1950
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Fukuoka, Fukuoka Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome 38,561 1938 1950
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Sapporo, Hokkaidō Sapporo Dome 40,476 1946 1950
Orix Buffaloes Divided between Osaka and Kobe Kyocera Dome Osaka and Hotto Motto Stadium Kobe 36,477 and 35,000 1936 1950
Saitama Seibu Lions Tokorozawa, Saitama MetLife Dome 33,921 1950
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles Sendai, Miyagi Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 30,508 2005

Note: Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are planning to build new home stadiums in home cities after the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Fighters plan to finish the stadium in 2023 and Swallows plan to finish the new stadium in 2027. [26] [27]

Franchise locations

Locations are listed from north to south. Only the most prominent names of each franchise are listed.

Locality 1950 1951–1952 1953 1954 1955–1956 1957 1958–1972 1973–1977 1978 1979–1988 1989–2003 2004 2005–present
Sapporo   Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL), 2004–present
Sendai   Lotte Orions (PL), 1973–1977   Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (PL), 2005–present
Greater Tokyo Kokutetsu Swallows / Sankei Atoms / Yakult Swallows (CL), 1950–present
Yomiuri Giants (CL), 1950–present
Toei Flyers / Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL), 1950–2003
Mainichi/Daimai/Tokyo/Lotte Orions (PL), 1950–1972   Lotte Orions / Chiba Lotte Marines (PL), 1978–present
  Takahashi Unions (PL), 1954–1956 Daiei Unions (PL), 1957   Saitama Seibu Lions (PL), 1979–present
Daiei Stars (PL), 1950–1956
  Taiyo Whales / Yokohama BayStars (CL), 1955–present
Nagoya Chunichi Dragons (CL), 1950–present
Greater Osaka Hanshin Tigers (CL), 1950–present
Hankyu Braves / Orix BlueWave (PL), 1950–2004 Orix Buffaloes (PL), 2005–present
Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (PL), 1950–2004
Nankai Hawks (PL), 1950–1988
Shochiku Robins (CL), 1950–1954
Hiroshima Hiroshima Toyo Carp (CL), 1950–present
Shimonoseki Taiyo Whales (CL), 1950–1952
Fukuoka Nishitetsu Lions (PL), 1950–1978   Fukuoka Daiei/SoftBank Hawks (PL), 1989–present
Nishi Nippon Pirates (CL), 1950


Team Wins Losses
Yomiuri Giants 22 12
Saitama Seibu Lions 13 8
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 9 9
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5 2
Orix Buffaloes 4 8
Chiba Lotte Marines 4 2
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 3 4
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 3 4
Chunichi Dragons 2 8
Yokohama BayStars 2 1
Hanshin Tigers 1 5
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 0
Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes 0 4
Shochiku Robins 0 1



Single season batting

Player Year
Batting average
United States Randy Bass .389 1986
Japan Ichiro Suzuki .387 2000
Japan Ichiro Suzuki .385 1994
Home Runs
Netherlands Wladimir Balentien 60 2013
Venezuela Alex Cabrera 55 2002
United States Tuffy Rhodes 55 2001
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh 55 1964
United States Randy Bass 54 1985
Japan Makoto Kozuru 161 1950
United States Bobby Rose 153 1999
Japan Makoto Imaoka 147 2005
Japan Fumio Fujimura 146 1950
Japan Hiromitsu Ochiai 146 1985
Japan Shogo Akiyama 216 2015
United States Matt Murton 214 2010
Japan Ichiro Suzuki 210 1994
Japan Norichika Aoki 209 2010
Stolen Bases
Japan Yutaka Fukumoto 106 1972
Japan Yutaka Fukumoto 95 1973
Japan Yutaka Fukumoto 94 1974
United States Ralph Bryant 204 1993
United States Ralph Bryant 198 1990
United States Ralph Bryant 187 1989
United States Ralph Bryant 176 1992
Japan Akinori Iwamura 173 2004
Cuba Orestes Destrade 165 1990

Single season pitching

Player Year
Japan Hideo Fujimoto 0.73 1943
Japan Masaru Kageura 0.79 1936 fall
Japan Eiji Sawamura 0.81 1937 spring
Russia Victor Starffin 42 1942
Japan Kazuhisa Inao 42 1961
Japan Jiro Noguchi 40 1942
United States Dennis Sarfate 54 2017
Japan Hitoki Iwase 46 2005
Japan Kyuji Fujikawa 46 2007
Japan Yutaka Enatsu 401 1968
Japan Kazuhisa Inao 353 1961
Japan Masaichi Kaneda 350 1955

Career batting

Player Years played
Batting average[28]
Japan Norichika Aoki .328 2004–2011, 2018–present
United States Leon Lee .320 1977–1987
Japan Tsutomu Wakamatsu .31918 1971–1989
South Korea Isao Harimoto .31915 1959–1981
Home Runs
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh 868 1959–1980
Japan Katsuya Nomura 657 1954–1980
Japan Hiromitsu Kadota 567 1970–1992
South Korea Isao Harimoto 3085 1959–1981
Japan Katsuya Nomura 2901 1954–1980
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh 2786 1959–1980
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh 2170 1959–1980
Japan Katsuya Nomura 1988 1954–1980
Japan Hiromitsu Kadota 1678 1970–1992
Stolen Bases
Japan Yutaka Fukumoto 1065 1969–1988
Japan Yoshinori Hirose 596 1955–1977
Japan Isao Shibata 579 1962–1981
Japan Kazuhiro Kiyohara 1955 1986–2008
Japan Motonobu Tanishige 1838 1989-2015
Japan Koji Akiyama 1712 1981–2002
Taiwan Sadaharu Oh 1.080 1959–1980
Japan Hideki Matsui .995 1993–2002
Venezuela Alex Cabrera .990 2001–2012

Career pitching

Player Years played
Japan Hideo Fujimoto 1.90 1942–1955
Japan Masaichi Kaneda 400 1950–1969
Japan Tetsuya Yoneda 350 1956–1977
Japan Masaaki Koyama 320 1953–1973
Japan Keishi Suzuki 317 1966–1985
Japan Takehiko Bessho 310 1942–1960
Russia Victor Starffin 303 1936–1955
Japan Masaichi Kaneda 4490 1950–1969
Japan Tetsuya Yoneda 3388 1956–1977
Japan Masaaki Koyama 3159 1953–1973
Japan Keishi Suzuki 3061 1966–1985
Japan Hitoki Iwase 407 1999–2018
Japan Shingo Takatsu 286 1991–2003, 2006–2007
Japan Kazuhiro Sasaki 252 1990–1999, 2004–2005

Perfect games

Date Pitcher (Club) Score Opponent Ballpark
June 28, 1950 Hideo Fujimoto (Yomiuri Giants) 4–0 Nishi-Nippon Pirates Aomori Stadium
June 19, 1955 Fumio Takechi (Kintetsu Pearls) 1–0 Daiei Stars Ōsaka Stadium
September 19, 1956 Yoshitomo Miyaji (Kokutetsu Swallows) 6–0 Hiroshima Carp Kanazawa Stadium
August 21, 1957 Masaichi Kaneda (Kokutetsu Swallows) 1–0 Chunichi Dragons Chunichi Stadium
July 19, 1958 Sadao Nishimura (Nishitetsu Lions) 1–0 Toei Flyers Komazawa Stadium
August 11, 1960 Gentaro Shimada (Taiyō Whales) 1–0 Ōsaka Tigers Kawasaki Stadium
June 20, 1961 Yoshimi Moritaki (Kokutetsu Swallows) 1–0 Chunichi Dragons Korakuen Stadium
May 1, 1966 Yoshiro Sasaki (Taiyō Whales) 1–0 Hiroshima Carp Hiroshima Municipal Stadium
May 12, 1966 Tsutomu Tanaka (Nishitetsu Lions) 2–0 Nankai Hawks Heiwadai Stadium
September 14, 1968 Yoshiro Sotokoba (Hiroshima Toyo Carp) 2–0 Taiyō Whales Hiroshima Municipal Stadium
October 6, 1970 Koichiro Sasaki (Kintetsu Buffaloes) 3–0 Nankai Hawks Ōsaka Stadium
August 21, 1971 Yoshimasa Takahashi (Toei Flyers) 4–0 Nishitetsu Lions Korakuen Stadium
October 10, 1973 Soroku Yagisawa (Lotte Orions) 1–0 Taiheiyo Club Lions Miyagi Stadium
August 31, 1978 Yutaro Imai (Hankyu Braves) 5–0 Lotte Orions Miyagi Stadium
May 18, 1994 Hiromi Makihara (Yomiuri Giants) 6–0 Hiroshima Toyo Carp Fukuoka Dome
November 1, 2007 Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) 1–0† Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Nagoya Dome
  • †: 5th game of Japan Series; In NPB, no-hitters or perfect games achieved by multiple pitchers in one game are considered unofficial. However, it is recognized by the WBSC (international governing body of baseball) as a perfect game.

International play

Since 1986 an All-Star team from Major League Baseball (MLB) is sent to a biennial end-of-the-season tour of Japan, dubbed as MLB Japan All-Star Series, playing exhibition games in a best-of format against the All-Stars from NPB or recently as of 2014 the national team Samurai Japan.

The latest series also celebrated the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Japan's professional baseball by holding an exhibition game of a joint team of Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants against the MLB All-Stars at the Koshien Stadium on November 11, 2014.

See also


  1. ^ a b Waldstein, David. "Ace Favors Fewer Starts to Protect Pitchers' Arms: Rangers' Yu Darvish Pushes for a Six-Man Pitching Rotation," New York Times (July 21, 2014).
  2. ^
  3. ^ "For Players and Agents RE: Playing Baseball in Japan". Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  4. ^ Clemmons, Anna Katherine (2011-01-07). "Matt Murton thrives in Japanese setting". ESPN. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  5. ^ Lykos, Deana M. (June 2008). "Why are the Japanese Leagues Considered AAAA Baseball?" (PDF). Asian Baseball Committee Journal. 6 (2): 1–3.
  6. ^ "SMBC日本シリーズ2015: 開催要項" [SMBC Nippon Series 2015: Information] (Press release) (in Japanese). Nippon Professional Baseball. October 2015. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 引き分け試合があったことにより、第7戦を行ってなお優勝が決定しない場合には翌日第7戦を行った球場で第8戦を行う。さらに第9戦が必要な場合には、1日移動日を設け、もう一方のチームの球場で行う ("If there is a tie game and the champion is not decided in Game 7, it should be noted that Game 8 is played in the ballpark where Game 7 was played. Further, if Game 9 is required, one moving day is provided, and is played in the ballpark of the other team.")
  7. ^ 2011年度レギュラー・シーズンのイニング制限、時間制限に関する特例措置 [2011 regular season: special measures regarding innings limit, time limit] (Press release) (in Japanese). Nippon Professional Baseball. April 11, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  8. ^ コナミ日本シリーズ2011 : 第8戦 開催要項 [Konami Nippon Series 2011: Game 8 Information] (Press release) (in Japanese). Nippon Professional Baseball. November 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ McKillop, Peter (18 May 2001). "Letter from Japan: Go West, Young Man". TIME.
  12. ^ Axisa, Mike (29 October 2016). "Focus shifts to Shohei Otani posting decision after Fighters win Japan Series".
  13. ^ Reaves, Joseph A. Taking in a Game: A History of Baseball in Asia (U. of Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 77.
  14. ^ "Nagata, Masaichi". Hall of Famers List. The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  15. ^ Kleinberg, Alexander (December 24, 2001). "Where have you gone, Masanori Murakami?". Major League Baseball. Archived from the original on August 18, 2002. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  16. ^ "Nomo Retires from Baseball", News,, The Associated Press, July 17, 2008, archived from the original on 23 May 2016
  17. ^ Whiting, Robert (April 2004). The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of our National Pastime. Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-53192-8. p. 146.
  18. ^ "Players by birthplace: Japan Baseball Stats and Info". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  19. ^ "The Official Site of The Colorado Rockies: Official Info" (Press release). Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2011.
  20. ^ "He's Back, We're on TV, and Your Reading Assignment". 13 June 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16.
  21. ^ Japan Pro Baseball and the Earthquake and Tsunami Archived 2011-08-11 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ a b "Ryozo Kato resigns as commish," (September 19, 2013).
  23. ^ Berry, Adam (September 15, 2013). "Balentien breaks Oh's Japanese home run record". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  24. ^ "Japan's new plan to beat deflation – more baseball". thestaronline. 2014-05-20. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  25. ^ a b "Foreign Player Restrictions?". Japanese Baseball.
  26. ^ Fighters could start trend with building of own stadium Japan Times, 2016
  27. ^ Nippon Ham Fighters select Kitahiroshima for new stadium, Yakyu DB 10/31/2018
  28. ^ Ichiro Suzuki hit .353 for his Japanese career (1993–2000), but did not have enough at-bats to qualify for career leadership.

Further reading

  • Fitts, Robert K. (2005). Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-2630-2.
  • Johnson, Daniel (2006). Japanese Baseball: A Statistical Handbook. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-2841-4.
  • Whiting, Robert (2005). The Samurai Way of Baseball: The Impact of Ichiro and the New Wave from Japan. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69403-7.
  • Whiting, Robert (1990). You Gotta Have Wa. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-72947-X.

External links

2003 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2003 Nippon Professional Baseball season ended with the Daiei Hawks defeating the Hanshin Tigers in the 2003 Japan Series 4 games to 3.

2004 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2004 Nippon Professional Baseball season ended with the Seibu Lions defeating the Chunichi Dragons in the 2004 Japan Series. This season also saw the first and only players strike in Japanese professional baseball history. Players went on strike for two days in September because of the potential mergers and realignment.

2005 Nippon Professional Baseball season

In 2005 the Nippon Professional Baseball season ended with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Pacific League defeating the Hanshin Tigers of the Central League in a four-game sweep in the Nippon Series.

2007 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2007 Nippon Professional Baseball season was the 58th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2009 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2009 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 60th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950

2010 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2010 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 61st season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2011 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2011 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 62nd season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950. The season was delayed by the Tohoku earthquake. The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, based in northern Japan, and coached by Senichi Hoshino, were particularly affected by the quake, as the Miyagi Baseball Stadium was badly damaged.Because of energy concerns following the earthquake, NPB also imposed restrictions on games during the regular season. A three-hour-thirty-minute rule was imposed. If a game went past the 3:30 mark, regardless of inning, the inning in question would be the last inning. A game would be called should any blackout occur during the game. The 3:30 clock starts at the first pitch of the game and continues in case of any delay.


As the season ends, the Yokohama BayStars was renamed as Yokohama DeNA BayStars as the owner changes.

2012 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2012 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 63rd season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2013 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 64th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2014 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2014 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 65th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2017 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2017 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 68th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2018 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2018 Nippon Professional Baseball season is the 69th season since the NPB was reorganized in 1950.

2019 Nippon Professional Baseball season

The 2019 Nippon Professional Baseball season began on March 29. It is the 70th season since Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) was reorganized in 1950. There are 12 teams NPB, split evenly between the Central League and Pacific League. The 2019 NPB season is 143 games long; teams in each league will play 125 games against each other and 18 interleague games. The regular season is scheduled to end on September 24, except for any make-up games scheduled after it. The top three teams in each league proceed to the Climax Series, NPB's postseason system.

Michihiro Ogasawara

Michihiro Ogasawara (小笠原 道大, born October 25, 1973 in Mihama-ku, Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, Japan) is a Japanese former professional baseball player. He is currently the second team coach for Chunichi Dragons in Japan's Central League.

He had an illustrious career spanning 18 years with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Yomiuri Giants, and the Chunichi Dragons where he won two Japan Series, two MVP awards in both the Pacific and Central leagues; only one of two people to do so and the first to do it in consecutive seasons. He was an NPB All-Star 11 times. He was also a part of the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic winning Japan sides.

Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Series

The Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Game is an annual baseball series of All-Star Games (in most years, two games are played, but three such games can and have been played as well) between players from the Central League and the Pacific League, currently selected by a combination of fans, players, coaches, and managers. The All-Star Game usually occurs in early to mid-July and marks the symbolic halfway point in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) season (though not the mathematical halfway point; in most seasons, that takes place one week earlier).

Seiichi Uchikawa

Seiichi Uchikawa (内川 聖一, born August 4, 1982 in Ōita, Japan) is a Japanese professional baseball player for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. He rose to prominence in 2008 with a league-leading .378 batting average. He was a part of the Japanese baseball team during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, as well as the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

During the 2010 offseason, he exercised his free agent option and after weeks of negotiations between the Yokohama BayStars, Hiroshima Toyo Carp, and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, he decided to sign a four-year deal with SoftBank worth up to 1.36 billion yen.

Shinnosuke Abe

Shinnosuke Abe (阿部 慎之助, Abe Shinnosuke, born March 20, 1979 in Urayasu, Chiba) is a Japanese professional baseball player with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. He is the captain of the Giants. He has twice been named the MVP of the Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Series, in 2007 (Game 1) and 2010 (Game 1).

Takuya Asao

Takuya Asao (浅尾 拓也, Asao Takuya, born October 22, 1984 in Chita, Aichi) is a retired Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher. He spent his entire career at the Chunichi Dragons in Japan's Central League where he captured the Central League MVP award in 2011.

Tatsunori Hara

Tatsunori Hara (原 辰徳, Hara Tatsunori, born July 22, 1958 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan) is the manager of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team in Nippon Professional Baseball.

Hara previously managed the Giants from 2002 to 2003, and again from 2006 until his abrupt resignation at the end of the 2015 season. During those tenures, he led the Giants to seven Central League pennants and three Japan Series championships. In October 2018, he was rehired as Giants manager for three seasons after Yoshinobu Takahashi announced his intention to step down. Hara also played for the Giants during his professional baseball career from 1981 to 1995.

Hara led the Japan national baseball team to victory in the final of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.Hara's nephew, Tomoyuki Sugano, is a professional pitcher for the Giants.

Nippon Professional Baseball (2019)
Central League
Pacific League
Nippon Professional Baseball Seasons
(Japanese Baseball League)


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