Japanese stats and the Hall of Fame

Jeff · June 15, 2005 at 1:42 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Jim Caple raises — and does not answer — the question of whether stats from Japan should be considered in Ichiro’s Hall of Fame case.

I wouldn’t argue in favor of weighting Japanese statistics on a 1-to-1 basis — that’s why Japan’s own Hall of Fame exists — but realistically, it will have to play in voters’ minds that the guy they’re voting on was an exceptional player for years elsewhere.

Besides, I think Ichiro will have a solid Cooperstown resume based solely on what he accomplishes on this side of the pond. Hideki Matsui, on the other hand, would probably need a lot more points for his achievements with Yomiuri. Those two extra prime years make a big difference.


48 Responses to “Japanese stats and the Hall of Fame”

  1. Evan on June 15th, 2005 1:46 pm

    If Ichiro plays for another 8 seasons, with 4 or more of them as good as 2001 or 2004 (so basically repeating his 4 year career twice more), he’ll have a fairly credible claim on the Hall even without his Japanese stats.

  2. Todd on June 15th, 2005 1:54 pm

    There are some writers who now refuse to vote for Japanese players for Rookie of the Year due to their extensive experience in the Japanese leagues. Gammons, at least, has said that he doesn’t “think” of Japanese players as rookies. Matsui lost ROY because of few writers refused to think of him as a rookie, and I believe that Iguchi will face the same backlash this year. If this line of thinking becomes accepted, then Japanese players should be given Hall of Fame credit for their accomplishments in the Japanese leagues. They should become barred from ROY candidacy and at the same time not have their Japanese stats considered in HOF voting.

  3. Hush on June 15th, 2005 1:55 pm

    Being a young whipper-snapper I might have this wrong…..but didn’t certain negro league players who had excellent negro league careers and finished up in the Majors have their negro league careers factored in when being voted on for the HOF?

  4. Todd on June 15th, 2005 1:55 pm

    Sorry, here are the corrections.

    “because a few writers …” and “They should not become barred”

  5. IgnatiusReilly on June 15th, 2005 1:55 pm

    “Will there be a time when a Japanese player’s case for the Hall of Fame is compelling enough that we’ll take his Japan totals into consideration when casting our votes? If not officially, then at least in our minds? (And if so, will there be Cuban players worthy of the same consideration?)”

    I would point out to Mr. Caple, that most players that accumulate stats in independent, Mexican, and Cuban leagues don’t move directly to the major leagues from those places.

  6. Cynic on June 15th, 2005 2:07 pm

    Seriously? count his Japanese league stats? that’s absurd … count Triple-A stats, too… or college stats. He’s not going to be close, anyway — based on stats over here. You’re seeing the beginning of the decline already… you’ve seen the best of him. And that wasn’t Hall of Fame stuff.

  7. Alex on June 15th, 2005 2:09 pm

    #6 – Your comment smells of flamebait, so I will abstain from commenting further.

  8. semajllibfonaf on June 15th, 2005 2:22 pm

    Ichiro’s HOF case will be almost entirely based on his ML career, and should be. I’m pretty sure (and the mindless viciousness of his detractors convinces me the more) after ten years he will have proven himself to be that special sort of exceptional player, as he so far has: exciting to watch, popular with fans, respected by his peers, and posting impressive numbers as well as setting records.
    His NPB should count only if he ends his career in the “gray area” with regard to career numbers (unless he wins back-to-back MVPs or some such), in which case his election should consider his career in Japan, when he COULD NOT jump to the Majors, and should be delayed an appropriate amount of time to reflect this weakness.

    (About “Mr. Cynic” — I didn’t know trolls were allowed to post here. Your sort of %&$#% has labelled him as dead every year so far. Go ahead and miss out on seeing as exciting a player as there exists: no one else cares.)

  9. Evan on June 15th, 2005 2:29 pm

    There’s a credible argument to be made that Japanese stats should count like Independent League or Mexican League stats, and thus not be considered.

    There’s a credible argument to be made that Japanese stats should count like Negro League stats, and thus should be considered.

    Unlike the Negro League players, Japanese players are not barred from the major leagues, and thus are allowed to come play here as soon as they are able.

    Like the Negro League players, Japanese players are not able to play here whenever they wish, however, as they are locked into those 10 year Japanese contracts.

  10. Ralph Malph on June 15th, 2005 2:39 pm

    I don’t like the way Mr. Cynic made his point but I have wondered myself if he is in decline.

    I hasn’t seemed to me that he is beating out as many infield hits as he used to. Time was if he hit a ball to the SS’s right he was just about certain to beat it out. Even to the 2B’s right.

    I have seen a number of times this year when infielders threw him out on balls that I expected him to beat out based on past years’ observations.

    Does anybody else think he might have lost a step?

  11. Pilots fan on June 15th, 2005 2:47 pm


  12. Grizz on June 15th, 2005 2:53 pm

    Kirby Puckett would be a recent favorable comparable for Ichiro as a player who made the Hall without amassing (through no fault of his own) the longevity-driven statistical benchmarks normally required for enshrinement — provided, of course, that Ichiro can play long and well enough to approach Puckett’s career numbers. Ichiro’s standing as Japan’s best player before his major league debut, his status as the first Japanese position player to stick in the major leagues (Hall voters love a pioneer), and his outstanding defense should provide bonus factors weighing in favor of his election.

  13. PLU Tim on June 15th, 2005 3:12 pm

    1518 hits
    137 Homers
    734 RBI
    197 SB

    Those numbers appear to be rather pedestrian don’t they?

    I will probably be torched for this, but those are the numbers of a very beloved Hall of Famer named Jackie Robinson.

    Maybe Ichiro didn’t break through racial intolerance and hate like Robinson did, but the guy certainly knocked down barriers that were most certainly real. When Hideo Nomo broke in, there was no influx of Japanese players. Hideki Irabu made sure of that.

    Every now an then you hear Ichiro’s name mentioned along side, “The first Japanese position player in MLB.” Which is really nice and all, but I think he goes far beyond that. If Ichiro didn’t excell in MLB, there wouldn’t be a Hideki Matsui, but would there be a Shingo Takastu or Keiichi Yabu in the Majors? Would Kazuhito Tadano be an adult film star instead of a baseball player? Would MLB teams be devoting millions of dollars to scout asain players? I don’t think so.

    As far as his Japanese numbers go, they probably won’t be considered for his HOF entrance, but in 30 years when the first Japanese born player is elected into the HOF and he mentions Ichiro’s name in his speech, it would be a travesty if he were not in the building.

  14. Russ on June 15th, 2005 3:19 pm


    I have the same questions based on his age, not on his performce so far to date this year. This very short slump is not indicative of anything but a slump to me. I recall a period last year in that he was being pounded inside by every pitcher he faced. He struggled for a bit and I thought that perhaps the magic had gone. I was clearly wrong about him last year and I wouldn’t bet anything I value on his decline this year.

    I believe the whole season will have to be played to entertain a conversation with regards to his status of either holding steady or declining.

  15. Tom on June 15th, 2005 3:24 pm

    The thing about HOF balloting is that other than seeing a person’s named checked on 75% of the ballots, there really is no “counting” involved. It’s entirely subjective. If the voter feels that a player is good enough, then he votes for that player. If not, then no. Sure, there are solid benchmarks such as 3000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins, but without looking it up, I’d say that only 1/3rd of the players in the HOF meet any of those “counting” stats.

    In Ichiro!’s case, I think that if he plays for another 8 years (12 total) and he has over a .300 career batting average, then he will be voted in. While some see him as overrated, most see him as a very special player, and in the end, I think that perception is all that he needs to get in.

  16. IgnatiusReilly on June 15th, 2005 3:25 pm

    Easy enough to test with a stop watch (I believe the answer is no).

  17. Evan on June 15th, 2005 3:28 pm

    How many HoF voters take into account things like run support or BABIP or park factors? Not many (though an understanding of run support does seem to be keeping Jack Morris out of the Hall).

    Take the M’s pitchers right now. Only 3 M’s pitchers so far this season are allowing a BABIP higher than .300. Moyer, Villone, and Pineiro. Everyone one else has been lucky. But how many HoF voters would look at Matt Thornton and say, “Sure, his ERA is high, but he’s also been lucky and pitching in Safeco, so he’s even worse than that.”

    So, even if HoF voters doo look at stats, they rarely seem to go to any effort to understand them.

  18. paul on June 15th, 2005 3:37 pm

    How many HoF voters would look at Matt Thornton?

  19. JSM on June 15th, 2005 3:39 pm

    I will probably favor Ichiro a hall of famer if he adds one more bench mark, 0.400+ batting average for one season. Add to it his ROY and MVP awards, the single season hits record, he is the first Japanese born position player in MLB, and maintains his career batting average at well above 0.300, he is real close as it is.

    In addition, I feel his Japanese league accomplishments should be recognized, but not counted in actual HOF votes.

  20. Typical Idiot Fan on June 15th, 2005 3:50 pm

    This is the same debate that has raged in the NFL about Warren Moon. His NFL career was pretty stellar, but if you combine his NFL career numbers with his CFL numbers, he becomes the best statistical quarterback ever to play the game. However, his CFL numbers are not even close to being considered as addendums to his career totals.

    Now in Moon’s case, he managed to have a good career in the NFL anyway, so his legacy is just fine. But Ichiro needs to have some pretty good years in the future if he is going to comfortably make it in on his own Major League merits.

    Regardless, I think that it is irresponsible to ignore professional stats in another league. I am not saying that you have to add those stats to a perosn’s MLB stats in order to validate their status as Hall of Famer, what I am saying is that if the voters have any responsibility, they will look at his MLB totals and what he did in Japan and use those as consideration of a lifetime achievement of greatness. So, whether the Japan stats get added to Ichiro’s career totals is irrelevant. If the voters still take into account that this guy did have a career in Japan and was the best in Japan before coming here and becoming the best here, then I think he’s a lock for the HOF. If they don’t even consider that, and ignore that Japan’s baseball leagues even exist, then I think it becomes tougher for Ichiro all around.

    So that’s my stance Career totals are relatively worthless in the grand scheme of things, but ignoring his accomplishments is just irresponsible. Take the Japan stats into account, but don’t add them to his career totals, when considering him for the HOF.

  21. Scott on June 15th, 2005 3:55 pm

    I am with Jeff on this. I think by the time Ichiro finishes his career in MLB, he would have so many stats going into HOF. Arod with ten years in MLB has only 700plus hits, so what you can say about Ichiro? The guy is just amazing.

  22. Brian Rust on June 15th, 2005 3:59 pm

    Good post (#13), PLU Tim. The numbers, wherever they’re put up, are just part of the “package.” As Tom (#15 said), the numbers aren’t “counted,” but “considered.” If Ichiro plays out another LT contract after the current one, and stays over .300 lifetime, he’ll be considered.

    That being said, HoF talk about a 31-year-old with only 4 seasons under his belt IS somewhat premature.

  23. Evan on June 15th, 2005 4:03 pm

    20 – Though, for some reason, it was a big deal when Moon passed Ron Lancaster as the most prolific passer in football history, but to make that work you had to add Moon’s NFL and CFL totals to exceed Lancaster’s CFL total.

  24. JPWood on June 15th, 2005 4:08 pm

    As the first any-country-you-want-to-name player to have earned ROY, MVP, BA, SB and GG awards in the same year (the first since Jackie Robinson to get the BA and SB crowns as a rookie), Ichiro! could cruise another 5-6 seasons and make Cooperstown. But he isn’t cruising. Since then he has become the ML single-season hit leader and third-quickest to 1000 hits.
    Other players might need their Japan stats, but he won’t.

  25. Mark on June 15th, 2005 4:11 pm

    #21 I think you might want to check A-rod’s numbers again, 700 plus hits?

  26. Evan on June 15th, 2005 4:14 pm

    Um, yeah. To date, A-Rod has 1,781 hits in his career.

    I suppose that’s 700 plus, in that it’s more than 700.

  27. Roger on June 15th, 2005 4:33 pm

    Sorta like I’m 150+ pounds.

    I think we are being a bit premature. We need to see what Ichiro! does for another three or four years before we can seriously consider the merits of his addition to the HoF

  28. Harry on June 15th, 2005 4:38 pm

    People will cite his Japanese numbers if he’s a marginal case, and they may sway a couple voters to include him. He needs to stave off decline better than most players, for longer, to put up enough to make him a marginal candidate.

    But the funny thing is that I think he will. I think he’s that exceptional: he’ll still be fast when he’s 36, will have 2k hits, and will still be playing All-Star CF-quality defense. With his records and his pioneer status, that will force serious consideration.

  29. Evan on June 15th, 2005 4:49 pm

    If Ichiro can develop old-player skills at the same time he maintains his bat control, he won’t need his speed to get 200 hits each year.

  30. dave in minnie on June 15th, 2005 4:56 pm

    As a longtime twins fan (i do live here), Ichiro’s career reminds me a lot of Kirby Puckett’s, on the surface. I’m sure there are many stats to refute this, but he is the same type of hitter with Puckett having a little more power. Whereas Puckett’s career ended too soon, perhaps Ichiro’s started too late. I know Puck is in the Hall, but thats a different argument.

    I do not think japanese numbers should be included, because the history of the game (negro leagues, winter ball) has always used MLB only, and it would actually make sense. This could actually be a good thing, which Bud Selig is immune to allowing.

  31. dave in minnie on June 15th, 2005 4:57 pm

    sorry if i lost anyone on that last thread. I sometimes ramble.

  32. dave in minnie on June 15th, 2005 5:00 pm

    and i apolgize for my unintentional plaguerism of Grizz. My apologies, i hadnt read that yet. (#12)

    ok, i’ll hang up and listen

  33. DMZ on June 15th, 2005 5:07 pm

    Please do.

    Also, am I the only one surprised every time I’m reminded that Kirby Puckett is in the Hall of Fame?

  34. Brian Rust on June 15th, 2005 5:10 pm

    If you’re not aware of the other work, it’s not plagiarism, merely ignorance.

    But seriously, do you think Puckett gained HoF “bonus points” by being a World Series star?

  35. DMZ on June 15th, 2005 5:14 pm

    Totally. And for having a reputation as a smiling, pleasant guy who helped spread baseball cheer, his career tragically cut short.

  36. The Artist formerly known as Ryan Anderson on June 15th, 2005 6:31 pm

    I’m pretty sure from reading Joe Morgan’s article he doesn’t want anyone else to join him in the Hall and won’t vote fo Ichiro unless he gets 3000 hits (MLB). Even if Ichiro were to hit .400 Joe would just point out all those players like Fred Dunlap and Pete Browning who hit .400 during a season and aren’t in the Hall. Bah.

  37. Steve Thornton on June 15th, 2005 6:47 pm

    3 – no, all of the players with substantial Negro Leagues experience got in by weight of their Major Leagues experience, or were brought in under the separate aegis of the Negro Leagues Committee. There’s not actually that many Hall players who starred in both — Jackie Robinson was a hot young prospect when he was taken into the white minors, but he didn’t need his Negro Leagues numbers to make the Hall. Conversely, guys like Satchel Paige, who starred for centuries in every kind of ball you could think of except the majors, did end up in the majors but would never have made the Hall based on THAT service. He’s a Negro Leagues inductee.

    Unless the Hall is going to establish a “Japanese Leagues Committee”, which I doubt (and which would be a terrible idea), there’s no precedent for using Japanese service in figuring for the Hall. Which is not to say that they couldn’t do it anyways.

    It’s not like there are hard-and-fast numerical rules about the Hall, anyways. Well, there’s one: ten years’ service. I can’t imagine that any player would be allowed to count his Japanese service against the ten years; Ichiro is going to have to play ten in MLB to be considered. But whether the Japanese numbers “count” — well, most of the people voting CAN’T count.

    I think it’ll end up being a point of consideration, like everything else. If Ichiro doesn’t merit serious consideration after his MLB career is over, based just on MLB, I don’t think the Japanese service will put him over the edge unless he’s very close. But that’s not a numerical analysis; it’s a matter of guys saying “gosh, he’s just not quite there for me” but then deciding to vote yes.

    A player with lesser MLB achievements than Ichiro will fail to be elected no matter how great his Japanese record is.

  38. DMZ on June 15th, 2005 6:53 pm

    w/r/t Joe Morgan — and yet he’s argued at some point for the election of nearly every member of any Big Red Machine team.

    We shouldn’t pay attention to what Joe Morgan says. There’s little evidence to indicate that he does.

  39. Noel on June 15th, 2005 7:13 pm

    One thing Ichiro! has going for him is that he seems very durable (so far, anyway). If he can keep playing at a high level for another 8 years or so, without losing significant playing time to injury, then he’s likely to rack up good-enough career totals to get the votes he needs.

  40. jayVS on June 15th, 2005 8:13 pm

    I was at the June 14 game too. I got to wondering aloud if Ichrio’s career stats are going to be better than Kenny Lofton’s– 2061 hits, career .299 average with 119 HR. There’s more: Lofton has been a 7 time All-Star, 4 time Gold-Glove, he’s been the Stolen Base leader 5 times, and led the league in Hits twice. Lofton hit between .310 and .349 every year between for 5 years between ages 26 and 30.

    That seems like a pretty good comp to Ichiro, and I think it’s fair to think that Ichiro’s “lost” MLB time in Japan probably would have resulted in similar statistics to Lofton’s.

    Is Kenny Lofton a HoFer?


  41. Baltimore M's Fan on June 15th, 2005 8:31 pm

    Just read the Joe Morgan article. What an ass.

  42. David C on June 15th, 2005 9:18 pm

    I think the best thing for Ichiro! to do is play the minimum 10 years over here & then return to Japan when he’s 37. As long as he keeps his career average well north of .300 I think he’s a shoo-in.

    I wouldn’t worry about his final counting stats – He’s been an all-star every year & he’s got a great reputation – that will be enough for the voters.

  43. Trying to be objective on June 15th, 2005 10:44 pm

    The Lofton comparison was interesting. You can play that game. Dale Murphy had MANY gold gloves and TWO MVP awards… 398 homers in an era when 35 could lead the league… and he’s nowhere close to getting in. I believe Ichiro’s “pioneer” status will be the best thing he has going for himself. But seriously, anything he does in Japan has no more relevance than what someone here does in the minor leagues. There are many very good players in Japan. But really, does anyone out there consider it on a par with the major leagues here? If you don’t, then how could those stats be considered?

  44. Big Jon on June 16th, 2005 8:44 am

    That Morgan article also pissed me off… So I looked his impressive stats up on baseballreference.com and noticed a somewhat interesting “stat”…MVP finishes (which is obviously influenced by the caliber of your team of course).

    Morgan over the course of his 22-year career:

    2 MVPS
    4 Top 5 Finishes
    5 Top 10 Finishes
    7 Received Votes

    Ichiro over the course of his 4 seasons in MLB:

    1 MVP
    2 Top 10 Finishes
    Received Votes all 4 seasons

    How often do you see such stats thrown out in HOF conversations?

  45. John Brooks on June 16th, 2005 9:41 am

    “But really, does anyone out there consider it on par with the major leagues here?”

    I do, remember the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yankees(11-7) and tied the Devil Rays last year(7-7), this shows that the level of Japanese Baseball is as close to MLB as your going to get, the NPB is of equal level with the majors.

    If it wasn’t we wouldn’t the Hanshin Tigers wouldn’t have defeat the Yankees and tied the Devil Rays, Ichiro wouldn’t hold the MLB single-season hit record(along with the NPB single-season hit record), and so many foreign players wouldn’t be released in Japan when they don’t succeed in Japan if the level of baseball was so low. What this tells us is the level of competiveness in the NPB, is equal to the majors.

    Also with MVP’s how many times, do you see sportswriters vote for a person not on a pennant team(except Cal Ripken(91) and Andre Dawson(87), and Alex Rodriguez(03)) many sportswriters can’t find it in themselves to vote for a person not on a pennant team. Remember these are the same people who didn’t give Ted Williams an MVP, when he batted .406 or when he won the Triple Crown in 1947.

  46. Big Jon on June 16th, 2005 10:10 am

    Very good point. But it WAS impressive that Ichiro finished 7th this past season given how poor the M’s were.

  47. Adam S on June 16th, 2005 5:25 pm

    #35, I think Puckett also got in by being a pretty good player. Maybe it was more hype than results that got this, but he was an all-star 10 straight years and from 1986 to 1992 was a gold glover and silver slugger winner (basically the best CF in the AL) and had 6 top 10 MVP finishes.

    On Ichiro, let’s wait four more years, see what he’s accomplished and how he declines in his 30s and then talk about HoF and his Japanese accomplishments.

  48. John Brooks on June 16th, 2005 5:53 pm

    About Puckett, his career was cut short by glacuoma. His overall career was well worthy of HOF enshrinement nontheless.

    As mentioned, Puckett was a all around player with the Twins, he won 6 Gold Gloves, was a 10 time All Star. He hit .318 with 207 HR and 1,085 RBI and 2,304 hits in 1,783 games. If Puckett’s career wasn’t cut short he could of easily had 3,000+ hits. This alone warranted Puckett inductment into the HOF.