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.

Comments

1
Taro's picture

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.

2

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.

3
Taro's picture

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.

4
Taro's picture

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.

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Chat: 8/3/15 7:02am
Interests: Strange Money (204063)
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-08-03 23:38

B-R has Rasmussen at 5'10".

2015-08-03 23:35

I think Lloyd was right about Carson Smith a couple of months back pointing out that he can't really go out there on back to back days the way Rodney can. It makes me curious what sort of off-season conditioning regimen someone like Carson Smith would use to build up his endurance.

2015-08-03 21:55

Only this team can almost blow that lead. Even with Felix.. no lead safe this year. As mentioned though..baseball tgere just isn't fair at times. I guess the playing field is all even, but not really and more of a crap shoot than not

2015-08-03 21:41

BTW - what is Rasmussen, 5'4"?

2015-08-03 21:37

Also looked like the CO air was stealing bite from everyone's offspeed stuff... Is Felix also "worse than overrated" based on his performance? Their starter also couldn't get a slider to bite for the life of him... welcome to mile high! Carson definitely looked tired and his slider didn't move, but he was poised, he didn't walk people to make it worse and... he got the save...

2015-08-03 21:34

I can certainly see why they were leery of him getting too much exposure. Looks like he's tired and overthrowing to me. Good way to get hurt.

2015-08-03 21:29

Well, Matt, I'll give you one thing... Your opinions are never luke-warm, either hot or cold... although also almost always... "worse than useless" ;) a month ago you were lauding Smith as uber closer and untouchable... So he had a mortal week... so sue him

2015-08-03 20:57

Carson Smith is worse than useless as a closer. He is probably one of those guys, like Nelson, that just can't do it.

2015-08-03 20:56

Carson Smith needs a week off. Or two. He's as scary right now as bad Rodney.

2015-08-03 19:26

HAHAHAHAA...Zunino getting greedy - for a WALK. Throws the bat away on ball three. :)

2015-08-03 18:33

Baseball in #Denver is a joke.

2015-08-03 18:32

7-1....I bet Felix can handle this.

2015-08-03 17:48

Brown: M's fired Wakamatsu mid-year.

2015-08-03 17:47

This is a pretty good article on Chapman's adjustment from Cuba... http://espn.go.com/m...

To be honest, I have a hunch that the M's have trouble growing players that aren't classical in the sense of family and friendliness. Felix is the epitome of this; he has a wife, two kids, a dog and is extremely media friendly. Cano also seems fairly family oriented, especially with his parents.

But flip it over to Sasaki, or any number of players that have had media or family or any sort of outlying trouble, and their exits can be seen from a mile away. Sasaki was only afforded a dignified, but very Japanese, exit.

2015-08-03 17:45

Ackley look-alike playing CF for the Rockies!

2015-08-03 17:07

Crap runs downhill...look at the top.. maybe this is beginning of the end for upper management.. will now within next few weeks.

2015-08-03 16:47

Right. I have no issue with Nuno getting the start but if they are just now talking about changing a culture of entitlement, well, that's a little odd.

2015-08-03 16:34

McC sez 'We are trying to change the culture here' with respect to Roenis Elias? That's way harsh as a public comment. It's also way harsh on himself, if the culture needs to begin changing at the year-and-a-half mark. Not annoyed; mystified. McC's frustration and "visible sinking feeling" aura in the dugout ... it's quite a contrast to Pete Carroll imposing his personality on everybody around him including the media.

2015-08-03 16:28

Ya I see more likely them staying.. just cuz really the end is pretty close at this point. I do not see the Ms making a run at .500 though. Nothing has shown them to have that in them this year. No.matter the strength of schedule. If Lloyd and Jack are here come end of Aug.. they certainly will play out contract. If memory serves me Ms coaches usually play through contract also.

2015-08-03 15:41

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the addition of Montero etc, a weaker 2nd half schedule, that the M's go on a bit of a run, maybe even get back to .500 by seasons end and as a result Lloyd and Jack stick around.

2015-08-03 14:49

I think they are in fact going to stay the rest of the year. Because the gettings will be better for their replacements in the off-season.

2015-08-03 14:38

Gnatto... hope you are wrong about Lloyd and Jack playing through contract... but definately should prepare for that. I am just hoping for the notification of otherwise, but don't see any movement there

2015-08-03 14:23

Why would you reward Elias's 7plus ERA with a callup? Jesus Montero had to lead the entire PCL in hitting (.346) before he got his second callup. Elias has been terrible in Tacoma since he was sent down. You call him up now, and what you are saying is that you can just mail it in in Tacoma.

2015-08-03 13:52

Regarding Nuno over Elias... this may be Jack trying to accomplish two things... build up Nuno's value, as well as making Elias hungry

2015-08-03 12:59

I think we may need to prepare ourselves for Lloyd and Jack to play out their contract.

2015-08-03 12:05

Toward the end of his last call-up, Elias wasn't very good...not just talking runs or K/BB/HR...I'm talking pitchability and repeating his delivery. He looked...out of sorts. Distracted.

There was a reason he got sent down. Happ didn't do any better, but they had to keep him up to showcase him for trade.

Honestly...I love Elias' potential and his pitch mix. And I generally like his poise out there. But I do worry that he was rushed emotionally. From desperate Cuban ballplayer who was largely overlooked to rotation mainstay with only a brief and lukewarm stint in A+/AA before his arrival.

2015-08-03 10:09

Sabr.. you may be on to something in regards to Elias.. look at Puig. Still trying to adjust to all the stardom. Don't feel it's anything racial.. just cultural. Esp in Puig regard in big city like LA, but still the #Money and dramatic change of scenary in #Seattle can def be attributed. Moe definately highlighted that he has been good though. Everyone's gunna have a shaky game here and there buy compared to most of the team he has been consistent.

2015-08-03 08:09

Too cryptic for me. It just soulnds like an "after the fact" continuing defense of choosing Happ in the rotation over Elias. Hey, it was a pick 'em perhaps....although I would have preferred we pick Elias. Nonetheless, Elias has been pretty good as a MLB starter this year, minus two terrible outings: In 7 of his 13 starts he gave up 2 runs or less. In 3 others he game up 3 runs. So in 77% of his starts, he went 5.2 to 8 innings and gave up 3 runs or less. He had one start of 5.1 innings with 4 runs. And then he had two terrible starts w/7 combined innings and 14 ER's. Take those 2 starts away and he's running an ERA of less than 3 over 11 starts. In his last 10 starts in '14 he gave up 2 runs or less (although 1 was a 4 inning outing and another was 3 innings. So basically he's got a 24 start run of impressive stuff. But I suppose he doesn't fit the M's "culture." Montero didn't either. I don't blame Elias for being frustrated. He's been better than decent in the Majors!

2015-08-03 08:05

I guess Elias got tossed from the game after he got taken out the other day, too. So maybe some frustration bubbling up for him?

2015-08-03 08:00

Right Matt, that's the sort of thing we don't have a window on. For all we know Lloyd's decision could be precisely the right one. By the way, this "change the culture" mantra, though in general a good thing, seems to be taken too far sometimes. Imagine how this season might have gone if Montero had been on the big club earlier and allowed to play his way into regular PT. But no, we had to bludgeon Montero's lesson into his head in a display of overkill while we watched LoMo flail against LHP.

2015-08-03 07:40

Maybe Elis took himself too seriously this year and acted too big for his own head? It happens sometimes with Cuban players (and no...that's not a racial thing...it's a cultural one)

2015-08-03 07:38

The "change the culture" comment by Lloyd did come across as a little #Strange. I'm sure for him there's a context that makes this a decisive factor for him. Some factors of that context may be opaque to us. But it's hard to fathom why, the team having rightly given up on making the playoffs this season, the primary consideration is giving Elias a chance to reestablish himself as a bona fide member of the rotation going forward (or a serious trade chip if needed). By the way, if McClendon wants to change the culture he should invite #Lincoln and Zduriencik to lunch and suggest that they all resign immediately.

2015-08-03 07:27

My lack of faith simply keeps sinking. If that's a true quote, that'll be my newest gripe after him using Marte at leadoff.

2015-08-03 07:10

Lloyd said that? What the heck does that mean? Maybe we need to start w/the manager's chair.

2015-08-03 07:02

I guess with Elias getting torched in AAA, Nuno gets the start on Tuesday. I got a chuckle over Lloyd's "we are trying to change the culture here" comments regarding why Elias wasn't being brought up.

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