(Blogathon ’16) Kazuto Yamazaki: NPB Bat-Flip Juggernauts to Watch For

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Baseball in Asia offers so many obscurities to the fans on the other side of the sea; Relentless, boisterous chants throughout a game. Incomprehensible, yet fascinating amount of pitches in bullpen sessions. Towering eephus pitches. And, of course,  glorious bat flips that make rounds on the Internet every now and then.

Lately, it’s the KBO who usually demonstrate those mind-boggling pieces of fine art. However, while getting its thunder stolen by the neighbor league, the NPB remains a goldmine of awesome bat flips.  In this post, I’ll introduce some bat-flip extraordinaires to keep an eye for the upcoming 2016 season.

Yoshio Itoi

Despite the down year he had in 2015, in which he slashed .262/.366/.413 – pedestrian for his standards with the worst average and on-base percentage in a full season -, Itoi is still considered one of,  if not the most, talented players in the NPB. At thirty-four, he’s stepping into the decline phase of his career. But if he recovers from the knee problems that bothered him for the entire 2015 season, he’s on track to display some more of these magnificent flips in 2016.

Takahiro Arai

Some bat flips are not like the others. And when it comes to bat flip inordinateness, Takahiro Arai is the one excelles. Every single time he knows he got it, bar none, he finishes his swing two-handed, takes a step or two towards to first base, then gently jettisons the bat, as if he’s putting  it on the top of a Jenga tower made of bats.

Alas, he just turned thirty-nine on January 30th, the 17-year NPB veteran’s peak is far behind in the rearview mirror, and the clock for him as a player is about strike midnight. Yet he may have gotten just enough in the tank to reach the 300 career home runs plateau, which he’s just 13 more trips around the diamond away.

Ryota Arai

Unlike his brother, the younger Arai does it in a more traditional way. Unlike his brother, Ryota has smashed just thirty-two long balls in his ten-year career. But on most of them, he’s display the iconic, sky-high bat flips that seem to be in the air as long as the ball.

Norihiro Nakamura

The Bat Flip Emperor, Nakamura clubbed 404 dingers – 382 in twenty-two years in Japan and twenty-two more in his one-year stint in the States, in which he spent more of the season at Triple-A. In his heyday, both his power and flips were prodigious. Sadly, at forty-two, his career is likely to be over. But his legacy lives forever. Watch the video above. It captures some Crème de la crème flips the human race ever seen.

 

Taiga Egoshi

After reading about the four players  I mentioned above, you may be thinking all the spectacular flippers in the NPB are either old or not good enough to secure a full-time role. No worries. We’ve got some young, up-and-coming potential stars with magnificent bat-flip ability.

Taiga Egoshi is the one whom I believe will become the next big thing in the bat flip industry. In 2015, his rookie campaign, the twenty-two year-old unleashed five homers with sumptuous flips, like the one captured in the video, on all of them.

Entering his sophomore year, Egoshi is seen as the frontrunner for the Hanshin Tigers’ starting centerfielder job. If he does win the position, we could count on him to flourish.

 

Yuto Takahama (Click for video)

Takahama is another rookie who made debut in 2015. Though he had just two plate appearances with the ichi-gun (top level) squad. But down on the farm, he flipped the heck outta the bat here and there, every now and then. He doesn’t give a damn if it actually clears the wall or not. Ladies and gentlemen, we might be witnessing the dawn of the career of a legendary bat flipper.

And here are compilations of the rest of bat flippers in the NPB. Enjoy:


Kaz is a Tokyo-based baseball fanatic. He contributes to multiple websites in multiple languages. You can follow him on Twitter @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Graveyard Baseball- Your guide to adopting an NPB team Part 12: Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Who are we?: We are an English blog writing about one of 12 teams in the Japanese professional baseball league known as Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). While the Saitama Seibu Lions are the primary team we cover, we will write anything that connects MLB and NPB, such as the recent signing of Kenta Maeda to the Los Angeles Dodgers. You can follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall for any instant updates.

Part 12?  What?: This is the final piece in a 12-part series on a guide with who to adopt as your NPB team. We connected with some history, trivia and showing who played on each team with MLB on their resume.  You can see all posts at the bottom which covers each team.

Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ)

The Saitama Seibu (西武) Lions were originally in Fukuoka (Kyushu island) as the Nishitetsu Clippers in 1950 for one season. Nishitetsu is an electric railway in Fukuoka which still operates today. After a merger with another team, they became Nishitetsu Lions one year later in 1951.

There would be a Black Mist scandal involving players fixing games from 1969-1971, similar to the Black Sox scandal from 1919. Nishitetsu would sell the team and they would be Taiheiyo Club Lions from 1973-1976, which is named after a golf course and resort developer. They would then be sold to Crown Lighter Gas, to be called the Crown Lighter Lions from 1977-1978.

Eventually, they were sold to Seibu Group and they moved to Tokorozawa in 1979, a place they still hold today. Their title would be Seibu Lions until 2008, where they added the prefecture name “Saitama” to the front.

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Ownership: Seibu Holdings

Seibu is a conglomerate which owns several businesses. The most well-known one is the Seibu Railway as it operates in greater Tokyo. The trains are one of the best ways to get to a game in Tokorozawa. Seibu also owns hotels, real estate, resorts and more.

Train stations in the area will often be decorated with Lions related colors. The name “Seibu” (西武) derives as an abbreviation from it’s kanji title of west Musashi, which was the old title of where present day Saitama prefecture was located. 西 (Nishi) means West in Japanese.

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League: Pacific

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Payroll rank in 2015: 9

The Lions are a team with a tight budget as they won’t spend a lot. However, they will pay players who prove their worth and this ranking can go up with multiple pay raises happening. Usually they are in the “pack”.

Location/Stadium: Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture

Tokorozawa is a suburb in greater Tokyo. It’s quite a distance from the capital itself, but the Lions represent Saitama prefecture, which is in the North. Saitama prefecture is known for some mountains in their scenery, with plenty of room to go hiking.

The most famous spot in the area, would be Hachikokuyama, which is a park right on the border of Saitama and Tokyo prefectures.  The park was used as an inspiration as the scenery for the movie My Neighbor Totoro


Side note: I recommend everyone sees this short movie, which is nearly 30 years old now.

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Seibu Dome was originally an outdoor stadium when the Lions moved there in 1979. It was then known as Seibu Stadium. While there is a roof, you can see that in the outfield and all around the building that it can be exposed to wind and hot temperatures with the open face.  The domed roof was added in 1998. Due to one player being sold, the place underwent renovations after 2007.

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Mascots: Leo (right) and Lyna (left)

Leo is based off the character Kimba the White Lion in the Japanese Anime known as “Jungle Emperor Leo.” The Lions used to have this as their main logo and still use it for flags (such as what’s in centerfield near the country’s flag. That flag is also seen during the NPB Draft.

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Uniforms: The Lions have switched to Majestic in 2016, and had a ceremonial “kick-off” for them last Friday morning:

QnvleipjNote: The Lions used to wear a bright blue design with the Kimba logo since their move to Tokorozawa. However, a scandal in the 00s by then-owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi made them want to move on from it and rebranded to a dark blue design beginning in 2009.

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Cheer song:  Hoero Lions (吠えろライオンズ) “Roar Lions”

Instead of a 7th inning stretch of “Take me out to the ballgame”, Fans pull out balloons in 9 out of 12 stadiums and sing a cheer song as an alternative.  A video of this can be found here.

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Ōendan (Cheerleading) Songs: 2015 Player songs at 00:00, Hoero Lions at 7:03, Special Chance themes at 8:27, [ソリャセ] (Soryase, an equivalent of “Let’s Go”) at 10:42, Regular chance themes at 11:18, Scoring song at 15:08

Notes:

Every player has their own “song” to hear when they’re batting. Whether home or away, a portion of the crowd will always be singing. A Chance song is a special song when usually runners are in scoring position, hence drawing a “Chance” opportunity.

The regular chance songs for the Lions have similar tunes to “Cotton Eye Joe”, “Do you know the Muffin man?”, but notice how Chance #4 near the end has women and men singing separate lines. You can hear a cleaner version here. (Scoring song featured too)

The Lions are the only Oendan in Japan to wave flags as a group. They do this when scoring and well as during the [ソリャセ], which is almost like saying “We want more runs”.

The scoring song title translates into “I saw a Lion running on the Horizon”.  An up close version of the song can be heard in the video below starting at 2:41. They also sing “Happy Birthday” to players on their birthday, which you can see in the video as well.

Here is a link to a full version of the song as sung by a person. Lastly, here’s an instrumental version from a commemorative 1986 Nippon Series Champions box.


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MLB Comparison: Oakland Athletics

The Lions have found ways to be competitive with a low payroll more times than not. Since their move to Tokorozawa in 1979, the Lions have finished in the Bottom 3 of the Pacific League only three times.

Only difference is, the Lions have won a crucial elimination game multiple times in the 21st Century, including a Game 7 of the Japan Series. They’ve been competitive and avoided the cellar for the most part, which is good for a team that hasn’t been a high spender in recent years. Playing in what is viewed as the “ugliest” stadium in NPB also draws this comparison to the Oakland A’s, who play in the Oakland Coliseum.

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Notable former MiLB and MLB players to play for the Lions:


Ryan Spilborghs, Esmerling Vasquez, Matty Alou, Terry Whitfield, George Vukovich, Kazuhisa Ishii

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Notable players who played in MLB: 

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuo Matsui

Note: The Lions used a portion of the $51.1 million they acquired for Matsuzaka on renovations to the Seibu Dome. You can see the original look of the Dome prior to renovations here. Matsuzaka paid for restroom upgrades, an HD scoreboard, renovated field turf as well as adding bullpen box seats on the side.

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Verdict


Why you root for them: 


Because you’re used to being in a big market, but rooting for a team with less fans in numbers. The Lions are far from the city, which is a long train ride away to get to the Seibu Dome. Yes, they’re in greater Tokyo, but forgotten due to teams like the Yomiuri Giants controlling the market.

It could also be that you’re an Oakland A’s fan know what it’s like to compete on a lower budget. The Lions have benefited from their ballpark and developed pitching over the years. Like the A’s, they have a strong amount of success in their team’s history with 13 Japan Series championships overall when combining their time in Fukuoka with the Seibu era.

The Lions had a “Golden Age” where they won 11 pennants from 1982-1994 and took eight Japan Series titles in that timeframe. This dynasty gets overlooked, similar to how the A’s had a three-peat from 1972-1974, due to being in the Pacific League.

Here at Graveyard Baseball, we can provide exclusive coverage of the team and insight in English for anyone. As of the time of this writing, we’re the only blog to write about the Lions in the English language.

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Why you don’t root for them:


Like the A’s, the Lions have had their share of disappointing postseason exits. They were a strong team in both 2012 and 2013, but lost in the opening round when they were favored. You also dislike ugly stadiums if not teams from a suburb away from the city.

Crowds are also half empty on week nights due to the proximity from the heart of Tokyo. The average person who works in the city would not be able to attend a game on a week night at first pitch. Assuming the game begins at 6:00 PM local time, it takes 90 minutes by train to arrive at the Seibu Dome from Tokyo, meaning it wouldn’t be worth it for a worker (known as salarymen in Japan) to attend a game late.

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Other NPB Teams in the series: 

Yomiuri Giants (巨人)

Hiroshima Toyo Carp (広島)

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (日本) 

Orix Buffaloes (オリックス)

Hanshin Tigers (阪神) 

Chunichi Dragons (中日)

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (楽天)

Softbank Hawks (ソフトバンク) 

Yokohama (DeNA) Baystars

Chiba Lotte Marines (ロッテ)

Tokyo Yakult Swallows (ヤクルトス)

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Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Yakyu Night Owl: Dreams of Kenji-kun

Kenji-Alexander Ramírez was born last spring. His proud father, Alex Ramírez, will pilot the Yokohama DeNA BayStars this coming season. Rami-chan was a legend. His career was tremendous, and the accolades deserved, but there was also a certain poetry in moments big and small. Of course, his 2,000 hit in NPB was a home run. Why celebrate at first base?

When a great ballplayer adds to the family, it’s natural to be excited and think about what may happen in the future. After all, he isn’t just the newest part of a family at home. Kenji-kun has hundreds of older brothers, uncles, and aunts in his immediate baseball family, and thousands more around the world.

We can easily imagine the little fella growing into bigger and bigger uniforms and caps. If daddy keeps managing for a living, perhaps the clubhouse will be a second home. He could share enthusiastic high fives with the team after an exciting win, or a simple kind word to someone after a tough loss. In time, he may be carefully crafting rosin bags, or hanging fresh uniforms in long row of lockers. It’s fun to trace the steps along the road of a potential baseball lifer.

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For every Casey Candaele born to a Helen Callaghan, or David born to a Diego Seguí, there are a million children of ballplayers who never play baseball for a living. Like so many kids, Kenji-kun will probably not grow up to have 400 foot power, but his impact could still reach far beyond the upper deck.

Yes, it’s unfair to have expectations. He is just a little kid. At the same time, he is the youngest son of a global ambassador for the game. Imagine a generation of ballplayers learning from Kenji. By being himself, he can inspire others to be themselves. By being part of a winning clubhouse, he could show without a doubt that everyone has something to offer. He might open more eyes. He may change more hearts.

It’s a lot of pressure to put on an adorable little sprout, but this kid has immense potential, and an 80 grade grin.

Yakyu Night Owl is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who enjoys baseball across a big ocean.

Is this the end of the Curse of the Colonel?

Okay, jump into your nearest Wayback Machine, DeLorean, TARDIS, or George Carlin-approved Phone Booth, and go to the year 1985, to the Kansai Region of Japan. The Osaka area, to be exact. The Hanshin Tigers have just beaten the Seibu Lions, 4 games to 2, to win the Japan Series. It’s the first time they’ve won the NPB championship, and the first time the team has been Japan’s champion since 1947, three years before the founding of NPB.

In celebration, fans of the Tigers* gathered near a local river, with fans shouting out the names of star players followed by people who resembled the player then jumping in. However, there was one problem: The team’s star player, Randy Bass, was not Japanese, but instead a bearded American named Randy Bass. With nobody around who resembled him, they instead grabbed a statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby KFC and threw it in instead.

The following year, they fell to third in the Central League. The year after that, they were last. The year after that, they were last again. In fact, they would prove to generally be asecond-division team every year until 2003. In that time, an explanation was come up with- it was a curse. A curse from Colonel Sanders.

Visits to the Japan Series in 2003 and 2005 ended in defeat, and four playoff appearances since had seen them go out in the first stage of the “Climax Series” (the first stage of the “Climax Series” is roughly analogous to the LDS round of MLB, although the fact it pits the 2nd and 3rd best teams in each league make it a bit similar to the Wild Card Play-In).

But then, this year, they got through the first stage of the Climax Series (defeating Hiroshima) and got to Stage 2 against their rivals, the Yomiuri Giants. Now, Stage 2 of the Climax Series is a weird thing to American eyes. While it essentially is a LCS round, it’s a best-of-6. Yes, you read that right: best-of-six. The team with the better record/home field gets a 1-game advantage to start the series, meaning that they only need to win 3 games, while the other team needs to win 4.

The Giants are winners of 35 Central League titles and 22 Japan Series titles in their history. When you consider that the modern NPB was founded in 1950, you can see why they are called the “Yankees of Japan”. And this year, they again had great success, winning the Central League by 7 games over Hiroshima and Hanshin and racking up the best record in Japanese baseball.

But, what do you know? The Tigers swept them 4-straight, winning game four by a 8-4 score, with home runs by Matt Murton, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Kosuke Fukudome and a late 2-run double by Mauro Gomez. You can see highlights here.

Their fans celebrated, of course, by jumping into the river:

So, now, the Tigers head to the Japan Series. They will face either Soft Bank or Nippon Ham. Will they win? I don’t know. But there is something to be noted here. Something that is different from the last few post-curse times they reached the Japan Series.

You see, a few years ago, a good chunk of the Colonel Sanders statue was found. This will be the Tigers’ first appearance in the Japanese Series since the Colonel was recovered. And so, it won’t be long until the world learns… whether the Colonel’s Curse lives.

Stay tuned.

 

*You may remember the Hanshin Tigers from my discussion of a Pokemon baseball episode.

MVP of Yesterday (Sept. 14, 2013): Wladimir Balentien (actually Brandon Belt)

Wladimir Balentien broke the NPB single-season HR mark early this morning, hitting his 56th home run of the year, breaking a record held by the great Sadaharu Oh since 1964. Check out this video, it’s awesome:

And, later in the game, he hit number 57.

However, the MVP of Yesterday is technically meant just for MLB, and thankfully, there is a very good candidate: Brandon Belt, who went 5-6 with a HR and 6 RBI in the Giants’ runaway 19-3 victory over the Dodgers. He JUST edges out Hunter Pence, who had 7 RBI, but only 3 hits.

Standings, as usual, under the jump:

Continue reading

Wladimir Balentien ties Sadaharu Oh’s single-season record

Wladimir Balentien has tied Sadaharu Oh’s record for single-season HR in Japan with his 55th HR. Others have tied it in the past, but none have been able to break it, partly due to Japanese pitchers avoiding him in order to preserve Oh’s record from being broken by a Gaijin. That attitude may now be a thing of the past though, and even if it isn’t, Balentien still has 22 games left, and it seems doubtful that they’d be able to avoid him for all of it.

Great Stuff from the B-Ref Japanese Data

With Baseball Reference adding Japanese stats, it’s time to look at some of the coolest stuff from it.

First off, of course, there is arguably the greatest Japanese player ever and one of the greatest hitters on any continent: Sadaharu Oh. You probably know about his 868 HRs, but you probably didn’t know about his impressive 2786 hits. Going on a tangent here, I remember reading somewhere that, after statistical conversions between the leagues, it’s thought that Oh would have had a career in MLB similar to Mel Ott.

Much like how Babe Ruth had Lou Gehrig behind him, Oh had Shigeo Nagashima, who formed the N in what was called the Yomiuri Giants’ “O-N Cannon”. Together, they helped the “Yankees of Japan” win nine straight titles.

However, had you looked hard enough, you probably could have found their statistics elsewhere, and the same probably goes for Americans and other westerners who spent time in Japan since the 1970s, like Charlie Manuel and Randy Bass and recent Japanese imports like Yu Darvish. What makes the Baseball Reference data awesome is that it goes beyond that to Japanese baseball’s earliest professional seasons.

For example, I can’t ever remember seeing the stats of Wally Yonamine, the first American to play in Japan post-WWII. Nor do I ever remember seeing statistics for Eiji Sawamura, the ace pitcher (Japan’s Cy Young Award equivalent is named for him) who once struck out Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in succession during one of Ruth’s famous tours of Japan, but whose career ended premature when he died during WWII.

As a third example of a early-years Japanese player who has interesting stats to look at: Victor Starfin (sometimes spelled Starffin). The first pitcher to win 300 games in Japan, Starfin was able to (mostly) avoid WWII’s effects on Japanese baseball. Well, until he was released in 1944 due to “security concerns” and thrown into a detention camp for being a foreign national. That, by the way, is like the fourth most interesting thing in his SABR biography. Seriously, it starts with his family fleeing the Russian Revolution and ends with him tragically dying in a drunk-driving accident in January, 1957- not long after his final season (1955).

Those just scratch the surface of the treasures in Baseball Reference’s new Japanese pages… go check them out.

Ichiro’s 4000 professional hits are impressive, regardless of the league some of them came in

Awhile back, Game 7 of the 1960 World Series was on MLB Network, having been found in an old wine cellar that had once belonged to Bing Crosby, who owned the Pirates at the time. And while, of course, it was one of the greatest games of all time in it’s own right, and had perhaps the greatest home run of all time in Bill Mazeroski‘s walk-off blast, what fascinated me was Roberto Clemente. I heard about how great Clemente was, I could see the old footage, but this was the first time I could see Clemente in a taped television broadcast since his death, as far as I knew.

And a weird thing happened: whenever he came up to the plate or a ball came towards him in the outfield, my eyes could not leave the television. Despite the fact the game had happened decades ago, despite the fact he only went one for four in the game… I could not take my eyes off the television. Because, well, I just knew there was a possibility he’d do something amazing (I hadn’t checked the box score before watching the broadcast, so I really only knew the broad strokes of the game).

To me, Ichiro Suzuki, the man who goes by only his first name, is the closest thing we have had in our lifetime to that sort of player. The player who’s talent is so great that you want to watch the TV not just when he’s at the plate, but when he’s about to make a fielding play as well, or on the basepaths. Oh, he’s left-handed (although naturally a righty, he bats lefty as a way of getting that slight head-start of running to first), and he’s Japanese and not Puerto Rican, but in most other ways the comparison fits: Ichiro, like Clemente, isn’t much of a power hitter (Ichiro averages about nine homers every 162 games while Clemente averaged about 16) but can definitely hit one when needed. Ichiro, like Clemente, has a cannon from the outfield that can stun even the fastest of runners. Ichiro, like Clemente, can make excellent catches in the outfield. And, finally, Ichiro, like Clemente, is a large case of “what if?”

For Clemente, it is a a tragic what-if of what may have happened had he not died that Christmas off the coast of Puerto Rico. For Ichiro, it is a bit more benign: what if he had played in Major League Baseball from the start?

As Ichiro got his 4000th combined hit yesterday, and in the run-up to it, some poo-poo’d him, saying that the 1,278 he had in Japan were meaningless, and that if we were to count them in any way we might as well count minor league statistics, or postseason statistics, or spring training statistics. This is ignorant of both the quality of the NPB (which, while not of MLB quality, is still better than even the best of AAA) and how dominant Ichiro was there (Jeff Passan notes that sabermetric wiz Clay Davenport found that Ichiro’s stats in Japan don’t translate downward that much when converted to MLB), as well as just how hard it is to get 4,000 hits in any league or combination of leagues.

In fact, as far as I can find, only seven players with good verifiable statistics have had 4,000 professional hits including every level: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Jigger Statz*, Minnie Minoso, Stan Musial and now Ichiro. Regardless of league, evel of competition or era, the fact that only seven players out of the thousands upon thousands of professional players in North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia and Europe have had 4,000 professional hits is proof of just how hard it is and how impressive it is that Ichiro has done so.

And, even if you want to totally ignore the Japanese hits, your forgetting the fact that with his hit yesterday, he passed Lou Gehrig (another player with a large “what-if”) on the all-time MLB hit list. And that, on it’s own, is impressive.

So, congratulations Ichiro.

*Statz got most of those in the minor leagues, where he was a constant presence for the Los Angeles Angels for years.