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.


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.


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.

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.

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: 6/29
Interests: SportsHistory Book (179597)
SSI Weekend chat
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-06-30 17:05

Had to google what a "varlet" is. This is traditional SSI. The shtick runs circles around the subject matter.

2015-06-30 16:52

Zduriencik may not get the pick outright..but you know he gets any tiebreakers and his vote carries the most weight. Given that is his job and what he gets paid to do. That being said.. what worked on #Milwaukee is not working here. Surprised he has lasted as long as he has.

2015-06-30 16:39

Re: use of the Shout Box - got it. What Josh said. 'ave at it ye varlets :- )

2015-06-30 16:12

We should also note right about now that Zduriencik is horrible in the first round of the draft. Of course, I'm the one that always pops on about how McNamara actually runs the draft, but most people seem to think round 1 is usually Zduriencik's pick.

2015-06-30 16:09

Regarding Smoak and Montero, I think it's useful to note Zduriencik's bias even back then for bat-first, one-dimensional players. To be fair, if those bats had blossomed, the story might have been different. We'd be singing Zduriencik's praises right now. But they didn't, and because neither player is of much use defensively, those trades were basically zeros.

2015-06-30 15:46

#Jackson in CF vs. the NL RHP tonight....very interesting in this regard: Lloyd isn't sold on any Ackley rebound. Kudos to Lloyd for that......but negative kudos (what ever that is) for not realizing that #Jackson's .604 OPS vR is actually less than Ackley's .606!! Ackley has a 10-31 BB/K rate and #Jackson 10/42. Maybe the play is #Jackson......but it does indicate that Lloyd is pretty sour on Ackley, even with the recent 3-hit game.

2015-06-30 15:26

To try to answer your question Doc about 7 years ago...
I doubt it makes a difference with the Cliff Lee trade, as Smoak was supposed to be power plus OBP...
It may have made a difference with the Pineda trade, but again Montero was supposed to be power with great hit ability...
The dreaded Fister trade was to get Wells, who was a young unproven OF with moderate power and good OBP... so I doubt a difference there..
Figgins definitely happens.
Ackley definitely happens.
#Austin #Jackson definitely happens.
Maybe we have Springer versus Hultzen, but I am hard pressed to find any other easy changes.

2015-06-30 15:16

Hey everyone! I just wanted to follow up with what Jemanji is asking of you regarding shouts. We see no problem with multiple shouts - you can write one big one or 100 smaller ones. There is no limit. We use the shouts as a part of our testing so we do not want anything to limit that, instead please feel free to email me (or help@neongecko.com) with suggestions on how to make things work better when people write too many shouts... but, again, discouraging shouts - or any content - is the last thing we want (even considering recent issues). So, please feel free to use the shout box as much and as often as you like! Thank you.

2015-06-30 15:06

Of course, we all know that OBP doesn't happen in a vacuum. Most of the time, it correlates with the ability to hit with power. Skilled hitter + Slugging > low zone% > more walks and higher OBP. The problem with Trumbo is that he doesn't have the strong hitting skill to go along with his power. He's still a major league player, just not a very good one. Plus, his glove isn't very useful.

2015-06-30 14:55

ok - I fixed the bug that was kicking you off of the blog pages and back to the home page. Thanks for reporting the bugs -- we/I can fix them when we know about them...

2015-06-30 14:39

1) As far as the site being buggy today … guess that makes it open season on the Shout Box … not that it isn't usually. 2) the Keith Law rip on Zduriencik is an interesting one; he makes the very simple accusation that Jack Zduriencik does not value offensive OBP as much as do, say, the #Texas Rangers. Every sabermetrician alive, including those in Zduriencik's employ, has heard that a marginal point of OBP is worth 3x as much as a marginal point of SLG. Zduriencik, I had thought, values *talent,*, giftedness in the batter's box, more than sabermetric formulas (relative to some other GM's). Law's idea is annoyingly condescending but, sometimes, simple ideas are worth pondering. Had Zduriencik been told 7 years ago "Psssst. Go for OBP." would that have made a difference?

2015-06-30 14:35

Castro was an interesting piece, but we got back someone to take PT from the black hole that is Ackley (Trumbo), and also Nuno, who has many years of cheap team control *and* can start. Now we have a surplus of LH starters that can be used to flip for another piece.

2015-06-30 14:34

Browns my man … if you'd put that string of 5 one-liners into one Shout, then it wouldn't have pushed everybody else's ideas off the front page. Please be aware of this. Thanks, Moderator

2015-06-30 14:22

And although it was just some prospects for trumbo... it was still potential talent for a definate avg to mediocre guy. Lots of question marks on that deal

2015-06-30 14:10

I think the Trumbo deal really sealed it for me with Jack Zduriencik. I thought the move to bring in Welington Castillo made sense. It was a low-profile move, but it made sense to bring in another catcher that you feel like you can send out there twice a week or whatever. But getting rid of that guy in favor of a one-dimensional power hitter just didn't make sense to me.

2015-06-30 13:57

Regarding Cruz, if it was me I'd mostly be interested in getting his salary off the #Books.

2015-06-30 13:55

The site is acting buggy right now. When I open up an individual blog post, it's fine for a few seconds but then there seems to be some kind of refresh that kicks me out and sends me back to the main page.

2015-06-30 13:53

don't think we'll get much for Cruz unless he finishes strong this season. Needs to end the year with career-best totals for us to win any trade involving him.

2015-06-30 13:14

I could see Cruz getting flipped. With 3 years left on his deal, the new GM may not want to risk carrying the risk of his age 36, 37, and 38 seasons if someone else is willing to take it on.

2015-06-30 13:03

Yep, the new guy will be expected to be different from the old guy. Everyone can deliver on being different. Being better? aye there's the rub.

2015-06-30 12:52

I agree with GLS. Not in favor of massive roster moves..historically no matter the sport..new regime equals immediate changes.

2015-06-30 12:46

If they have a mandate to win now, the newcomer will off-load contracts that interfere with adding better talent if he can...and will otherwise trade away all of Z's prospects but the ones in which he actually believes, as Z did with Bavasi's. You will see an epic string of prospect swaps.

2015-06-30 12:36

Getting back to the Mariners, I'm not necessarily advocating huge roster churn so much as that's simply the direction that I see things going. It seems like a virtual certainty at this point that Zduriencik will be replaced with someone. We don't know who that is yet, but what we do know is that with Felix, Cano, and Seager all signed long term, the new GM will have much more of a "win now" mandate. Probably, that means taking a fresh look at the roster, top to bottom, and then doing some wheeling and dealing to try and right the ship.

2015-06-30 11:45

Then again he has a strong run game and D that you think of first when thinking of the Hawks. Nevertheless, pay the man

2015-06-30 11:44

One ring to boot..and DHOULD have a second

2015-06-30 11:44

He also has the most wins ever by a qb in their first 3 years.

2015-06-30 11:43

I think he will end up being highest paid. Anymore when a franchise qb redoes their contract it seems like they end up being highest paid. FLACCO and Rodgers most recently

2015-06-30 11:42

Sadly though they need to make him whole at the same time. 8 backup qbs make more than he does currently

2015-06-30 11:42

I agree he needs to.finally get a contract, and it shoukd.be a ton.. just dunno.about highest paid

2015-06-30 11:26

I would do it. Franchise QBs don't grow on trees.

2015-06-30 11:17

I know it's a change of subject, but it's going to be huge offseason story. What do we think about making Wilson the highest payed player in the NFL

2015-06-30 11:15

Great point. I sure wouldn't goto a squad with a #History of just trade baiting

2015-06-30 11:13

A Marlinificated fire #Sale is the last degradation before the Mariners lose all respect and credibility. Vot next? Zduriencik for Manager? The problem is that if you blow up too much, no respectable free agent will sign with you because he won't want to get bounced to a different team every July. Buy low, sell high. Now, Mariners' field stock is at a low point. HOLD. You heard it here first.

2015-06-30 11:08

Ya. Any time their is a regime change you have to almost expect it. Someone is going

2015-06-30 10:31

I wouldn't sell at the deadline. Not much point in that. But, I'll say again, in the offseason, when the new GM comes in, I expect there will be some wheeling and dealing. Walker, Paxton, Elias, #Montgomery, Zunino, Miller, Taylor - some or all of those guys could go in exchange for other pieces.

2015-06-30 08:52

Ya. Don't blow it up.. gotta wait on it. Braves made some sense to blow it up. Farm system got much better REAL fast

2015-06-30 08:11

Yeah, once again we are just good enough (and without tradable assets) to not get much benefit from blowing it up. Really have to hope for all the under performers to turn it around. We are going to age fast too.. our window is probably next year and *maybe* 2017.

2015-06-30 08:04

Unfortunately I keep thinking it will happen...and it just hasnt. Glimpses at best

2015-06-30 08:03

I agree. They have to just ride it out at this point and hope things come together.

2015-06-30 07:40

If the M's become sellers at the deadline, who can really be traded - not just dumped but actually traded for something of value? Happ? Trumbo? Furbush? Morrison? What, realistically, are you going to get for those guys? A #2 catcher? A bullpen arm? A few flawed prospects?

The org is going to need the young starters in order to have any shot at fielding a competitive roster in 16, so I have to think that Walker, Paxton and Elias are off limits. Ditto Felix and Seager. Cano is not tradeable. Cruz...I guess could get moved but then they are right back trying to find a RH bat to hit in the heart of the order for 16, so I think not.

2015-06-30 07:07

I mean our record is similiar to the ATL braves... a team who just got rid of everyone. Got a bunch of avg older vets and some young nobodies..

2015-06-30 07:03

Really hoping for a good run these next games b4 the break. Gotta live teams that look good on paper