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List of Japanese players in Major League Baseball

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Title: List of Japanese players in Major League Baseball  
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Subject: Nippon Professional Baseball, Hideo Nomo, List of Japanese baseball players, So Taguchi, Masato Yoshii, Shigeki Abe
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List of Japanese players in Major League Baseball

A total of 43 Japanese-born[1] players have played in at least one Major League Baseball (MLB) game. The first instance of a Japanese-born player playing in MLB occurred in 1964, when the Nankai Hawks, a Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team, sent three exchange prospects to the United States to gain experience in MLB's Minor League system. One of the players, pitcher Masanori Murakami, was named the California League Rookie of the Year while playing for the Fresno Giants (the San Francisco Giants' Class-A team). Giants executives were impressed with this talent and on September 1, 1964 Murakami was promoted, thus becoming the first Japanese player to play in MLB.[2] After Murakami put up good pitching statistics as a reliever, Giants executives sought to exercise a clause in their contract with the Hawks that, they claimed, allowed them to buy up an exchange prospect's contract. NPB officials objected, stating that they had no intention of selling Murakami's contract to the Giants and telling them that Murakami was merely on loan for the 1964 season. After a two-month stalemate the Giants eventually agreed to send Murakami back to the Hawks after the 1965 season. This affair led to the 1967 United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement, also known as the "Working Agreement", between MLB and NPB, which was basically a hands-off policy.[3][4]

For thirty years Murakami was the only Japanese player to appear in an MLB game. Pitcher Hideo Nomo, with the help of agent Don Nomura, became the second Japanese-born player to play in MLB in 1995. Nomo, who was not yet eligible for free agency in Japan, was advised by Nomura that a "voluntary retirement" clause in the Working Agreement did not specify that a player wishing to play again after retiring must return to NPB. Nomo utilized this loophole to void his NPB contract with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and play in MLB. He announced his retirement from NPB in late 1994 and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in February 1995.[5] Nomo's maneuver and Hideki Irabu's later MLB contractual complications were contributing factors to a major revision of the Working Agreement in 1998 that created the current posting system. Since its inception 11 Japanese-born players have been signed through the system, with Shinji Mori the only player not to have played due to injury.

Table key

   §   
Signed with a Major League Baseball team without first playing for a Nippon Professional Baseball team
*
Signed with a Major League Baseball team via the Posting System

Current players

Players that are currently on a Major League Baseball roster.

Player Position Debut Team(s) Status Notes
Suzuki, IchiroIchiro Suzuki* RF 02001-04-02April 2, 2001 Seattle Mariners (2001–2012)
New York Yankees (2012–)
Active [6]
Matsuzaka, DaisukeDaisuke Matsuzaka* P 02007-04-05April 5, 2007 Boston Red Sox (2007–2012)
New York Mets (2013–)
Active [7]
Kuroda, HirokiHiroki Kuroda P 02008-04-04April 4, 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers (2008–2011)
New York Yankees (2012–)
Active [8]
Uehara, KojiKoji Uehara P 02009-04-08April 8, 2009 Baltimore Orioles (2009–2011)
Texas Rangers (2011–2012)
Boston Red Sox (2013–)
Active [9]
Tazawa, JunichiJunichi Tazawa§ P 02009-08-07August 7, 2009 Boston Red Sox (2009–) Active [10]
Aoki, NorichikaNorichika Aoki* LF 02012-04-06April 6, 2012 Milwaukee Brewers (2012–) Active [11]
Kawasaki, MunenoriMunenori Kawasaki SS 02012-04-07April 7, 2012 Seattle Mariners (2012)
Toronto Blue Jays (2013–)
Active [12]
Darvish, YuYu Darvish* P 02012-04-09April 9, 2012 Texas Rangers (2012–) Active [13]
Iwakuma, HisashiHisashi Iwakuma P 02012-04-20April 20, 2012 Seattle Mariners (2012–) Active [14]
Fujikawa, KyujiKyuji Fujikawa P 02013-04-01April 1, 2013 Chicago Cubs (2013–) 60-day DL [15]
Wada, TsuyoshiTsuyoshi Wada P Baltimore Orioles (2012–) Active [16]

Former players

Name Position MLB Debut Final MLB Game Former MLB Team(s) Current League Current Team Notes
Murakami, MasanoriMasanori Murakami P 01964-09-01September 1, 1964 01965-10-01October 1, 1965 San Francisco Giants (1964–1965) Retired [17]
Nomo, HideoHideo Nomo P 01995-05-02May 2, 1995 02008-04-18April 18, 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers (1995–1998, 2002–2004)
New York Mets (1998)
Milwaukee Brewers (1999)
Detroit Tigers (2000)
Boston Red Sox (2001)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2005)
Kansas City Royals (2008)
Retired [18]
Suzuki, MacMac Suzuki§ P 01996-07-07July 7, 1996 02002-06-28June 28, 2002 Seattle Mariners (1996, 1998–1999)
Kansas City Royals (1999–2001, 2002)
Colorado Rockies (2001)
Milwaukee Brewers (2001)
Free agent [19]
Hasegawa, ShigetoshiShigetoshi Hasegawa P 01997-04-05April 5, 1997 02005-09-28September 28, 2005 Anaheim Angels (1997–2001)
Seattle Mariners (2002–2005)
Retired [20]
Kashiwada, TakashiTakashi Kashiwada P 01997-05-01May 1, 1997 01997-09-18September 18, 1997 New York Mets (1997) Retired [21]
Irabu, HidekiHideki Irabu P 01997-07-10July 10, 1997 02002-07-12July 12, 2002 New York Yankees (1997–1999)
Montreal Expos (2000–2001)
Texas Rangers (2002)
Deceased [22]
Yoshii, MasatoMasato Yoshii P 01998-04-05April 5, 1998 02002-09-11September 11, 2002 New York Mets (1998–1999)
Colorado Rockies (2000)
Montreal Expos (2001–2002)
Retired [23]
Kida, MasaoMasao Kida P 01999-04-05April 5, 1999 02005-08-03August 3, 2005 Detroit Tigers (1999–2000)
Los Angeles Dodgers (2003–2004)
Seattle Mariners (2004–2005)
BCL Ishikawa Million Stars [24][25]
Ohka, TomokazuTomokazu Ohka P 01999-07-19July 19, 1999 02009-10-04October 4, 2009 Boston Red Sox (1999–2001)
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2001–2005)
Milwaukee Brewers (2005–2006)
Toronto Blue Jays (2007)
Cleveland Indians (2009)
BCL Toyama Thunderbirds [26]
Sasaki, KazuhiroKazuhiro Sasaki P 02000-04-05April 5, 2000 02003-09-28September 28, 2003 Seattle Mariners (2000–2003) Retired [27]
Shinjo, TsuyoshiTsuyoshi Shinjo OF 02001-04-03April 3, 2001 02003-06-27June 27, 2003 New York Mets (2001, 2003)
San Francisco Giants (2002)
Retired [28]
Nomura, TakahitoTakahito Nomura P 02002-04-03April 3, 2002 02002-05-15May 15, 2002 Milwaukee Brewers (2002) Retired [29]
Komiyama, SatoruSatoru Komiyama P 02002-04-04April 4, 2002 02002-09-11September 11, 2002 New York Mets (2002) Retired [30]
Ishii, KazuhisaKazuhisa Ishii* P 02002-04-06April 6, 2002 02005-09-28September 28, 2005 Los Angeles Dodgers (2002–2004)
New York Mets (2005)
Retired [31][32]
Taguchi, SoSo Taguchi OF 02002-06-10June 10, 2002 02009-10-04October 4, 2009 St. Louis Cardinals (2002–2007)
Philadelphia Phillies (2008)
Chicago Cubs (2009)
Retired [33]
Matsui, HidekiHideki Matsui LF/DH 02003-03-31March 31, 2003 02012-07-22July 22, 2012 New York Yankees (2003–2009)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2010)
Oakland Athletics (2011)
Tampa Bay Rays (2012)
Retired [34]
Nakamura, MichealMicheal Nakamura§ P 02003-06-07June 7, 2003 02004-07-31July 31, 2004 Minnesota Twins (2003)
Toronto Blue Jays (2004)
Retired [35]
Matsui, KazuoKazuo Matsui SS/2B 02004-04-06April 6, 2004 02010-05-18May 18, 2010 New York Mets (2004–2006)
Colorado Rockies (2006–2007)
Houston Astros (2008–2010)
NPB Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles [36][37]
Otsuka, AkinoriAkinori Otsuka* P 02004-04-06April 6, 2004 02007-07-01July 1, 2007 San Diego Padres (2004–2005)
Texas Rangers (2006–2007)
BCL Shinano Grandserows [38]
Takatsu, ShingoShingo Takatsu P 02004-04-09April 9, 2004 02005-10-02October 2, 2005 Chicago White Sox (2004–2005)
New York Mets (2005)
Retired [39]
Tadano, KazuhitoKazuhito Tadano§ P 02004-04-27April 27, 2004 02005-07-16July 16, 2005 Cleveland Indians (2004–2005) NPB Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters [40][41]
Iguchi, TadahitoTadahito Iguchi 2B 02005-04-04April 4, 2005 02008-09-28September 28, 2008 Chicago White Sox (2005–2007)
Philadelphia Phillies (2007, 2008)
San Diego Padres (2008)
NPB Chiba Lotte Marines [42][43]
Yabu, KeiichiKeiichi Yabu P 02005-04-09April 9, 2005 02008-09-27September 27, 2008 Oakland Athletics (2005)
San Francisco Giants (2008)
Retired [44]
Nakamura, NorihiroNorihiro Nakamura* 3B 02005-04-10April 10, 2005 02005-05-06May 6, 2005 Los Angeles Dodgers (2005) NPB Yokohama DeNA BayStars [45][46]
Johjima, KenjiKenji Johjima C 02006-04-03April 3, 2006 02009-10-03October 3, 2009 Seattle Mariners (2006–2009) Retired [47]
Saito, TakashiTakashi Saito P 02006-04-09April 9, 2006 02012-09-30September 30, 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers (2006–2008)
Boston Red Sox (2009)
Atlanta Braves (2010)
Milwaukee Brewers (2011)
Arizona Diamondbacks (2012)
NPB Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles [48]
Iwamura, AkinoriAkinori Iwamura* 2B 02007-04-02April 2, 2007 02010-09-26September 26, 2010 Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Rays (2007–2009)
Pittsburgh Pirates (2010)
Oakland Athletics (2010)
NPB Tokyo Yakult Swallows [49][50]
Okajima, HidekiHideki Okajima P 02007-04-02April 2, 2007 02013-06-13June 13, 2013 Boston Red Sox (2007–2011)
Oakland Athletics (2013)
Free agent [51]
Igawa, KeiKei Igawa* P 02007-04-07April 7, 2007 02008-06-27June 27, 2008 New York Yankees (2007–2008) NPB Orix Buffaloes [52][53]
Kuwata, MasumiMasumi Kuwata P 02007-06-10June 10, 2007 02007-08-13August 13, 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates (2007) Retired [54]
Fukudome, KosukeKosuke Fukudome RF 02008-03-31March 31, 2008 02012-06-03June 3, 2012 Chicago Cubs (2008–2011)
Cleveland Indians (2011)
Chicago White Sox (2012)
NPB Hanshin Tigers [55]
Fukumori, KazuoKazuo Fukumori P 02008-03-31March 31, 2008 02008-04-24April 24, 2008 Texas Rangers (2008) Retired [56]
Kobayashi, MasahideMasahide Kobayashi P 02008-04-02April 2, 2008 02009-05-07May 7, 2009 Cleveland Indians (2008–2009) Retired [57]
Yabuta, YasuhikoYasuhiko Yabuta P 02008-04-05April 5, 2008 02009-10-04October 4, 2009 Kansas City Royals (2008–2009) Retired [58][59]
Kawakami, KenshinKenshin Kawakami P 02009-04-11April 11, 2009 02010-09-09September 9, 2010 Atlanta Braves (2009–2010) NPB Chunichi Dragons [60][61]
Takahashi, KenKen Takahashi P 02009-05-02May 2, 2009 02009-09-25September 25, 2009 New York Mets (2009) Retired [62]
Takahashi, HisanoriHisanori Takahashi P 02010-04-07April 7, 2010 02013-04-11April 11, 2013 New York Mets (2010)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2011–2012)
Pittsburgh Pirates (2012)
Chicago Cubs (2013)
Free agent [63]
Igarashi, RyotaRyota Igarashi P 02010-04-08April 8, 2010 02012-08-12August 12, 2012 New York Mets (2010–2011)
Toronto Blue Jays (2012)
New York Yankees (2012)
NPB Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks [64]
Nishioka, TsuyoshiTsuyoshi Nishioka* 2B 02011-04-01April 1, 2011 02012-08-08August 8, 2012 Minnesota Twins (2011–2012) NPB Hanshin Tigers [65]
Tateyama, YoshinoriYoshinori Tateyama P 02011-05-24May 24, 2011 02012-09-26September 26, 2012 Texas Rangers (2011–2012) MiLB New York Yankees affiliate [66]
Tanaka, KensukeKensuke Tanaka LF 02013-07-09July 9, 2013 02013-07-28July 28, 2013 San Francisco Giants (2013) Free agent [67]

Awards, records and notable accomplishments

Offense

  • Hits in a single season: Ichiro Suzuki, 2004 (262 Hits) MLB Record
  • Consecutive seasons of 200 or more hits: Ichiro Suzuki, 2001-2010 (10 Seasons) MLB Record
  • Most seasons with 200 or more hits: Ichiro Suzuki, 2001-2010 (10 Seasons) MLB Record (tie)
  • Batting titles: Ichiro Suzuki, 2001 (.350 Avg) and 2004 AL (.372 Avg)
  • Stolen bases champion: Ichiro Suzuki, 2001 AL (56 Stolen Bases)
  • Most consecutive stolen bases: Ichiro Suzuki, April 29, 2006 - May 16, 2007 (45) AL Record
  • Only Inside-the-park home run in All-Star game history: Ichiro Suzuki, 2007
  • Only MLB player to hit a home run in his first plate appearance of his first three seasons: Kazuo Matsui, 2004, 2005, 2006 (Inside-the-park home run)

Pitching

  • No-hitters: Hideo Nomo, with two no-hitter games, is the only Japanese pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Major League Baseball. Nomo is one of only five players that have ever pitched at least one no-hitter game in both the National League and American League in Major League Baseball history.
    • No-hitter #1: September 17, 1996 at Coors Field in Denver. Pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies. The only no-hitter to date at Coors Field.
    • No-hitter #2: April 4, 2001 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Pitching for the Boston Red Sox against the Baltimore Orioles. Walked three and struck out 11. Also the only no-hitter to date at Camden Yards.
  • Strikeout champion: Hideo Nomo, 1995 NL (236 Strikeouts) & 2001 AL (220 Strikeouts); Yu Darvish, 2013 AL (277 Strikeouts, led both leagues)
  • Lowest single-season WHIP in history (at least 50 innings): Koji Uehara, 2013 (0.565)
  • Most saves in the postseason: Koji Uehara, 2013 (7 saves) MLB Record (tie)
  • Strikeouts in a single inning: Kazuhiro Sasaki, April 4, 2003 (4 strikeouts in the 9th Inning) MLB Record (tie)

All-star selection

Player League Selections Years Notes
Suzuki, IchiroIchiro Suzuki AL 10 2001*, 2002*, 2003*, 2004*, 2005, 2006*, 2007*, 2008*, 2009*, 2010* Inside-the-park Home Run, MVP (2007)
Sasaki, KazuhiroKazuhiro Sasaki AL 2 2001, 2002 Closed and recorded a save for the American League (2001)
Matsui, HidekiHideki Matsui AL 2 2003*, 2004 Selected as the winner of the Final Vote (2004)
Darvish, YuYu Darvish AL 2 2012, 2013 Selected as the winner of the Final Vote, but did not play (2012)
Selected, but did not play (2013)
Nomo, HideoHideo Nomo NL 1 1995* Starting pitcher for the National League
Hasegawa, ShigetoshiShigetoshi Hasegawa AL 1 2003
Okajima, HidekiHideki Okajima AL 1 2007 Selected as the winner of the Final Vote, but did not play
Saito, TakashiTakashi Saito NL 1 2007
Fukudome, KosukeKosuke Fukudome NL 1 2008*
Iwakuma, HisashiHisashi Iwakuma AL 1 2013 Selected, but did not play

*-Starting Lineup

World Series appearances

Player World Series
championships
World Series
appearances
Years Notes
Taguchi, SoSo Taguchi 2 3 2004 Cardinals
2006 Cardinals
2008 Phillies
Did not play in the 2008 World Series, despite being on the Phillies' active roster
Matsui, HidekiHideki Matsui 1 2 2003 Yankees
2009 Yankees
2009 World Series MVP
Iguchi, TadahitoTadahito Iguchi 1 1 2005 White Sox First Japanese player to win the World Series
Matsuzaka, DaisukeDaisuke Matsuzaka 1 1 2007 Red Sox First Japanese pitcher to both start and win a World Series game and first Japanese pitcher to win an MLB playoff game during the 2007 postseason. With Okajima, first Japanese pitcher to win the World Series.
Okajima, HidekiHideki Okajima 1 1 2007 Red Sox First Japanese pitcher to appear in World Series. With Matsuzaka, first Japanese pitcher to win the World Series.
Tazawa, JunichiJunichi Tazawa 1 1 2013 Red Sox
Uehara, KojiKoji Uehara 1 1 2013 Red Sox
Shinjo, TsuyoshiTsuyoshi Shinjo 0 1 2002 Giants First Japanese player to play in a World Series game
Matsui, KazuoKazuo Matsui 0 1 2007 Rockies The 2007 World Series was the first in which Japanese-born players appeared for both teams.
Iwamura, AkinoriAkinori Iwamura 0 1 2008 Rays

Notes

References

  • Rains, Rob. Baseball Samurais: Ichiro Suzuki and the Asian Invasion. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2001. ISBN 0-312-98257-7.

External links

  • The Boston Globe
  • "Why Haven’t We Had More Japanese Players in the Majors?", Jim Albright, BaseballGuru.com
  • "booms and busts" "Japan Offers Rewards, with Risk: Plenty of Players Find Success, While Others Disappoint", Tom Singer, MLB.com, November 15, 2006
  • Statistics and awards at Baseball Reference
  • Japanese Players in MLB
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