Famous Japan Baseball Players – Aside from Major League Baseball, Japan has the strongest league in the sport. Many great players spend their entire careers in Nippon Professional Baseball, but a few occasionally head to the United States.
The two-way superstar has become one of the biggest talents in the sport, joining the likes of Ichiro Suzuki to receive such an honor. Several other Japanese players have become longtime fixtures in the lineup or rotation, occasionally earning All-Star honors or finishing as top contenders for other individual awards.
Famous Japan Baseball Players
While the player list is subjective, both traditional and advanced stats are considered. The order is alphabetical.
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Prior to the 2012 season, the Texas Rangers committed more than $111 million to Yu Darvish. They paid $51.7 million to broadcast the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and immediately signed Darvish to a six-year, $60 million contract.
Of course, his career did not go according to plan. Tommy John surgery sidelined Darvish in 2015, and he too struggled for a few years. But he is a five-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young runner-up — once with Texas and once with the Chicago Cubs — who holds the MLB record for fastest pitcher with 1,500 strikeouts.
Darvish, who turns 35 on Monday, should have at least a few more seasons to build his MLB resume.
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The same season Darvish headed to Texas, Hisashi Iwakuma joined the AL West rival Seattle Mariners.
As a starter in 2012, Iwakuma split time as a starter and reliever. He entered the rotation in 2013 and enjoyed the best season of his MLB career, posting a 14-6 record and a 2.66 ERA. Iwakuma made the All-Star team and finished third in AL Cy Young voting.
In all, he appeared in 136 games and posted a 63-39 record with a career 3.42 ERA. Other than Hideo Noma, Iwakuma is the only Japanese player to achieve success in the major leagues.
New York Yankees Ichiro Suzuki Reacts After He Hits A Single In The First Inning Against The Toronto Blue Jays At Yankee Stadium In New York City On August 21, 2013. With
Hiroki Kuroda never had a breakout year, but he was about as consistent as a major league pitcher can be.
From 2008 to 2014, the right-hander played four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and three with the New York Yankees, playing in at least 31 games over six years. His ERA ranged from 3.07 to 3.76 and his FIP never varied between 3.26 and 3.86, according to Baseball Reference.
Kuroda’s reliability is particularly notable since he debuted in L.A. at the age of 33. Few pitchers have been able to maintain this level of performance in their prime, let alone toward the end of their playing days, like Kuroda.
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Shohei Ohtani seems destined to retain that title, but so far Hideki Matsui is MLB’s most prolific Japanese hitter.
During his 10-year career, spent mostly with the Yankees, Matsui hit 175 homers and drove in 760 runs. Ichiro Suzuki is the only player with more RBIs (780) and more than twice as many plate appearances (10,734) as Matsui (5,066).
The 2003 AL Rookie of the Year had five 20-homer seasons and four 100-RBI seasons. He won two All-Star awards and the 2009 World Series MVP, becoming the first — and still only — Japanese-born player to win the latter award.
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Matsui retired after the 2012 season and was inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Hideo Nomo is the first outstanding player born in Japan in MLB history, as a pioneer for his country.
In 1995, he won NL Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 236 hits. Nomo went on to hit 234 and 233 at bats over the next two seasons. He finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting in both 1995 and 1996.
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In his only season (2001) with the Boston Red Sox, Nomo had 220 at-bats. He then returned to the Dodgers and posted a 3.24 ERA in 67 starts in 2002-03.
Shohei Ohtani isn’t yet the best Japanese player in MLB history, but if his performance in 2021 is any indication of long-term success, he’s on the right track.
In 2018, the Los Angeles Angels star secured the AL Rookie of the Year award. Ohtani hit 22 homers and had a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts. The dreaded Tommy John surgery ended his year, but Ohtani returned to the lineup in 2019 and finished another injury-plagued season with 18 homers.
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This year, Ohtani became the first player in MLB history to achieve two awards. First, he had 30 homers and 10 RBIs in the first 81 games of the season. Second, he was selected to the All-Star team as both a position player and a forward.
Sasaki, the 1998 Central League MVP (one of the two leagues that make up the NPB), made an immediate impact in the United States. He won AL Rookie of the Year in 2000 with a 3.16 ERA with 37 strikeouts at age 32. old became the second oldest recipient of the award.
He then earned All-Star honors in 2001 and 2002, totaling 82 saves over those two seasons. Sasaki had 10 saves in his final year in MLB and finished his career with 129.
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Ichiro Suzuki is the most successful Japanese player in MLB history, and that’s made even more impressive by his NPB award. As a member of the Orix BlueWave, he won three Pacific League MVPs, seven titles and seven Gold Gloves.
In 2001, Ichiro was awarded AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year for the Silver Rush and Gold Glove awards. The 27-year-old led the American League in hits (242), batting average (.350) and runs scored (56). A remarkable first season set the tone for an incredible career.
While with the Mariners from 2001 to 2012, the right fielder collected 10 All-Star nods, 10 Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers and two shutout wins. He spent more than two seasons with the Yankees and three with the Miami Marlins before returning to Seattle and retiring in early 2019 at the age of 45.
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In early 2010, Masahiro Tanaka led NPB in wins and ERA twice. His dominance led the Yankees to offer Tanaka a seven-year, $155 million contract, which he signed in 2014.
New York added Tanaka to the rotation and he responded with an excellent first season. Despite missing two months with an elbow injury — which prevented him from making the All-Star Game — he posted a 13-5 record with a 2.77 ERA.
From 2014-16, Tanaka had a 39-16 record and a 3.12 ERA with 445 strikeouts to just 84 walks. While that stretch was arguably his best, Tanaka was a useful starter during his seven years in the Bronx.
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Tanaka returned to play for Japan after the 2020 season and helped his country win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Koji Uehara made his MLB debut in 2009 at the age of 34 and started 12 games for the Baltimore Orioles with modest success. However, a move to the bullpen in 2010 proved to be the right decision for his future.
From 2010 to 2012 in Baltimore and Texas, Uehara had a 2.36 ERA in 145 relief appearances. He posted an impressive .772 WHIP, struck out 183 batters and drew just 17 walks.
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With the Boston Red Sox, Uehara earned MVP honors in the 2013 American League Championship Series and hit the final out of the World Series. In 2014, he also made the All-Star team.
Uehara returned to Japan after the 2017 campaign and finished his MLB career with a 2.66 ERA over 480.2 innings. Just four years after arriving in the United States from Japan, Shohei Ohtani has become an international sensation.
Ohtani, the first two-way All-Star in baseball history, has been successful with trades on two continents and has the best endorsement portfolio in the league. Is he ready to take advantage?
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Ajor League Baseball’s top hitter ripped his 31st home run of the season on Sunday afternoon. Two days later, he pitched seven innings to limit a potent Red Sox lineup to two runs and earn the win. Meanwhile, he was named an American League All-Star as both a shortstop and a pitcher.
That the announcement was expected didn’t make it any less so: In the nearly 90-year history of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, no one has been selected as a two-way player. But Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels has a way of making a superhuman impression routine.
Those perks help Ohtani stand out on the field, too: The 27-year-old now leads all players in baseball with an endorsement portfolio worth at least $6 million a year.
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It is estimated that only four years after arriving in the United States from Japan. Although his salary at court is not enough to get a seat
On the list of MLB’s top ten highest-paid players of all time, he rakes in more marketing dollars than established stars such as Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Bryce Harper ($5 million) and Chicago Cubs veteran Kris Bryant ($3.5 million).
That’s largely because the Japanese native is a proven hit on two continents, as evidenced by his endorsement deals with Asics, JAL Airlines and Seiko Watch in Japan and Fanatics, Oakley and Topps in the U.S. Ohtani now has a chance to fill a crucial void. for MLB. , which the world baseball icon so desperately needs. The only question is whether he is willing
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