POTD Kawasaki - translating NPB-MLB performance

 ..........

Q.  Can NPB stats be translated?

A.  They can't, no.  There haven't been enough players come over.  

Translations can't be done in the same way that major league equivalencies (MLE's) have, anyway.  Would we post MLE's if only ten minor leaguers had ever come up?

We remember that Clay Davenport once overhauled BP's translations based on one player -- after Godzilla came over, he ratcheted the estimates way up.  And said so.

With Dr. D's typical great modesty, he announces that this next table will equip YOU to translate NPB-infielder stats about as well as anybody else can do it.

;- )

Here are the four infielders who have come over, plus Ichiro, who is shortstop-sized.  The slash lines represent Dr. D's summaries of how good the guy batted, after he had matured as a hitter.

K. Matsui NPB 320 / 375 / 550
 ... in MLB 290 / 350 / 400
Iguchi NPB 330 / 420 / 550
 ... in MLB 270 / 340 / 400
Iwamura 300 / 380 / 550
... in MLB 270 / 340 / 380
Ichiro 350 / 410 / 535
... in MLB 330 / 380 / 430 (Safeco)
Nishioka 300 / 380 / 450
... in MLB terrible (in first 68 games)

Five previously-played chess positions would be interesting to a master if they were as consistent as these are.  Each one of those first three infielders had exactly the same transition.  They were Nomar Garciaparras in Japan, and exactly MLB-average hitters over here.  Average-solid hitters.

What's fascinating is that these were not only average hitters, but they were average hitters, if you know what I mean.

They hit average-to-good for AVG, they were average for OBP, and mediocre for SLG.  I'm not saying that Matsui, Iguchi, and Iwamura were 100-type hitters.  I'm saying they all represented the MLB slash line, in each category individually.  That's weird.

........

That indeed gives us a baseline, rule-of-thumb to go on:  your WBC superstar, hitting 300+ / 380 / .550 over there, is going to run you a prototype MLB median slash line.

In fact our mini-database of 10 Japanese hitters kicked back a slash line of .288 / .349 / .412.  About league average, except more contact and less power.  Moderately.  And no, Ichiro and Godzilla weren't all that atypical.  All the NPB stars can hit .270 with decent gap power (or better, in the case of the big two).

Johjima-san was also in this mold, by the way.  His slash line didn't veer far from the MLB slash, in any category.  It's weird, I tell ya.

........

Two notes:  Kazuo Matsui came to New York City, flopped horribly, and is remembered for that.  But if you check it, the very instant that he left New York, he became a good offensive player.  So suddenly that it reminds you of Miguel Olivo's three hits (IIRC) the game after leaving Seattle on a 132-strikeout streak.

Secondly:  Nishioka-san was nowhere near the NPB hitter that the other guys were.  You might as well compare Nick Swisher to Steve Braun, as to compare Nishioka to these other guys.

.

Q.  Leaving Kawasaki where?

A.  Well, he hits .300 / .350 / .400 in Japan.  So let's say -- pending further info -- that the translations work like this.  We're talking about players with infielder body types:

All-Star hitter in Japan 270 / 340 / 420 in America
Good hitter there (Nishioka) 80 OPS+ guy here
Mediocre there (Kawasaki) You better brace yourself

You'd guess that the scouts are right.  Figure on maybe a .250 with some doubles and some speed.

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Taro's picture

Taro

Another thing you have to consider is that most times you're getting these guys in their 30s. In most cases, they are in their decline phases and you're not getting that 1.000 OPS NPB guy.

When guys like Iguchi and Johjima went back to the NPB, they started OPSing in the mid-800s.

Also, the level of hitting in general seems to have signficantly declined in recent years in the NPB. There are a few tremendous pitchers, but there is not a single guy I'd be confident in as a plus hitter in the MLB. The late 90s, early 2000s seem to be the peak for NPB hitting talent.

Not only are there no more Ichiro, H.Matsuis, and Ogasawara monster type hitters, but there are no Johjima, Iguchi, Iwamura type hitters anymore either.

1

And have also had the impression that 1995-2000 was a sort of golden era over there.

..........

The age thing is one reason that Prince Fielder looks attractive to me, by the way.  Saw an Albert Pujols discussion on TV and not only will somebody have to pay 8/$225 to get his age 32-40 seasons, but ... they also have to fret about whether Pujols' age is actually 32 in the first place.

2

Taro's picture

Taro

Yes, and with HGH testing now.. Pujols is a pretty big gamble with HGH regulation and the questions regarding his age. Would definetly stay away now.

Prince seems naturally big to me (who knows though). It really comes down to the terms.

3

Taro's picture

Taro

As for acquiring Kawasaki.. I would offer him a minor league deal. He says he'll take one to play for the Mariners. If hes valuable, you'll control him for a while.

Hes more athletic than Nishioka with a stronger arm, so its possible he could adjust defensively. You could give him some regular time at AAA initially for a feeling out processs.

Offensively, I'm skeptical but there is So Taguchi. Taguchi was basically the OF version of Kawasaki and ended up hitting better in MLB (in his decline phase no less) than he did in the NPB.

If Kawasaki could hit like Taguchi (his upside), he'd be quite valuable. No reason not to at least offer him a minor league deal to see if he can pull it off.

5

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moethedogphx, The M's are frustrated that a potential trading partner is trying to get the best of them? Really? Then it is a comment on the wacky attitude of the FO. That's the Rays' job...to school every team in a trade, just like it is the M's job. If we're really that frustrated about such a trade it indicate how anal we've become about that move to the exclusion of others. The Rays job is not to "give" the M's anything. And we're frustrated?1 min 56 sec ago
SABR MattMal...that's a skill McGehee actually owns. He also has a good batting eye. He's not a huge power hitter, but he would be a nice lead-off option in Seattle. He would be used in RF.40 min 6 sec ago
malcontentI don't really understand the interest in McGehee; he plays 3rd and 2nd, and hasn't shown even the limited power he used to have, relying on a .370 BABiP to get a decent batting line. Am I missing something?1 hour 8 min ago
Bat571Since the Marlins have a CRUMMY infield situation and like Latin players -- Noriega and Almonte with Tenbrink (who could step in at 3b immediately) for McGehee? Would Leutge or Bawcom be of interest in their bullpen if they trade guys from there? I know, we'd probably have to include someone like Sanchez, Diaz, Marte, or Erasmo to get their attention -- and they'd probably want Franklin in any case.1 hour 27 min ago
phxterryBSR - Good catch yesterday about M's sources whining to Peter Gammons that the Rays have been stringing the M's along in trade talks, with no intention of completing a a major trade before 7/29 - 7/31. And they won't make any major trade before the deadline unless they have lost all hope of contending in 2014. Heck, if the Rays win 6 out of their next 8, they might be buyers at the deadline. IMO, the normally tight-lipped M's FO leaked that info to Gammons to ensure the Rays and the rest of MLB knew how angry they were at being played by the Rays. Mission accomplished for the Rays - the leading team for the second WC spot did not upgrade in early-to-mid July while the Rays were playing red-hot baseball and closing the gap.1 hour 47 min ago
phxterryGood article in LL today by Scott Weber on Miller's latest batting funk over the last month. Lloyd has responded by running Willie Ballgame out there at SS yesterday and again today. Miller's streakiness is just one more reason that GMZ needs to upgrade 1B / DH / Corner OF offensively2 hours 2 min ago
mojicianNo scouting report up yet? Here goes: Legend tells of a player who washed out of the Major leagues and found himself in Sendai, Japan. Through error, he became accustomed to the brutal off speed game of NPB pitchers, and began to "let the ball get deeper into the zone" to hit the ball to all fields. He now controls the trajectory of the ball and bends it according to where the fielders are not. Armed with a technique some thought was only possessed by Ichiro and Cano, McGehee has returned to the United States with one thought on his mind: Revenge.2 hours 25 min ago
SABR MattTHAT...would actually be a nice pick-up3 hours 10 min ago
mojicianNew Heyman Rumor: M's making trade call on Casey McGehee of the Marlins.3 hours 32 min ago
moethedogHooray.....for Fangraphs pointing out that Ty Kelly is something worth having and using. Since we have him I would prefer we use him. Hooray for Taylor, too. But I'm with Beni and Matt, too. Booo Booo Hiss to the M's for watching July 22nd come and (nearly) go and STILL they haven't made any move to upgrade our lineup. None. Holy Moly! Booooo Hisssss!3 hours 48 min ago
DaddyOThe A's are a different matter. They are matching us in pitching and nearly match the Angels in offense. They have a +150 run differential. Hard to run down a club like that unless they have a rash of injuries and fall completely apart. It occurs to me that maybe Jack is looking at this very fact, that the 2nd Wild Card isn't that much different from the 1st Wild Card, so why try. I dunno. To me, we haven't got the 2nd Wild Card in the bag, and our first playoff appearance in over a decade might be worth actually trying to secure instead of fiddling around (sarcasm intended).3 hours 50 min ago
DaddyOmojician, actually, I was being sarcastic. Sorry I didn't make that clear. The M's have made all SORTS of roster moves, but it's just been rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic for the positions affected (with the exception of the Almonte for Jones swap in CF). The Angles have actually improved their bullpen, SIGNIFICANTLY, with all their moves. What have we accomplished? Squat. We have the same black holes at DH, in LF (so far), in RF (except for when Saunders was healthy, but even then he alternated flashes of production with periods of complete washout, like he always has). Like Matt, I've grown frustrated at the lack of urgency in fixing VERY fixable problems that would have long since vaulted us from 2nd Wild Card contenders into a serious challenge of the Angels.3 hours 54 min ago
GrumpyDon't forget Ackley can play a plus 2B also... He may look like an option to those clubs too.4 hours 24 min ago
mojicianYou're right though. For our outfield problems, the Org has flipped Almonte for Jones, and has had a revolving cast of Gillespie, Romero, Chavez, and. . .First base you have Smoak, LoMo and Bloomquist. Everyone is given an extended audition and nothing is done rashly. Maybe the Angels are being too shrill about their problems and having new players every week is not the answer for everything. I imagine Moreno stomping into Dipoto's office in April, and yelling: "Fix the bullpen right now or everyone's fired".4 hours 31 min ago
DaddyOmojican, I just laughed and laughed when you posted that.4 hours 52 min ago
mojicianWhy do I have to be Mindy?4 hours 57 min ago
DaddyOThe expression "fish or cut bait" was created for situations like the one faced by the Seattle Mariners. In this case, one wonders if they are determined to prove that you can catch a fish without ANY bait.5 hours 4 min ago
DaddyOI agree Matt and moji (my version of Mork and Mindy). I keep telling myself that it's possible in the end Jack will be proved right to have waited. (After all, Ackley is suddenly teasing us again with his potential.) But I find the lack of urgency bewildering.5 hours 8 min ago
DaddyOIn case anyone wonders, that was a joke.5 hours 10 min ago
DaddyOHey, the M's make roster moves. They demote Lucas Leutge, they promote Justin Smoak. They demote Smoak and call up Leutge. They start the season Romero on the roster, then they send him down and call up XXX. Then they send XXX down and call up Smoak again. Then Romero, or maybe Montero, until they demote them again. Yup, they make roster moves allright.5 hours 11 min ago