A Global World Series

» 30 January 2010 » In nichibei »

File this one under shameless self-promotion — I contributed a couple of thoughts to Jon Paul Morosi’s recent article on the idea of a MLB vs NPB World Series. One of the questions Jon asked me was if any of the recent NPB champs would have had a chance against their counterpart World Series winner. I went with the 2003 Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, who had four MLB-caliber starters in Kazumi Saito, Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi and Nagisa Arakaki, as well as future MLB’ers Kenji Johjima and Tadahito Iguchi.

I think that MLB would have the upper hand on NPB nearly every year, but looking at the last ten years, I think there are a couple of matchups where the NPB team would hold there own.

2009 — Yankees vs Yomiuri: I have a hard time seeing this year’s Giants team putting up much of a fight against the Yankees, but it would have been a great event. Dicky Gonzales had a great year, but I can’t see him shutting down the Yankees the way Cliff Lee did.

2008 — Phillies vs Seibu: I’d score this one a little closer. Seibu featured a couple of strong pitchers in Hideaki Wakui and Takayuki Kishi, a good infield defense, and a well-balanced lineup. Cole Hamels strikes me as a guy that NPB players would be able to hit, but he was really on his game in the 2008 post-season.

2007 — Red Sox vs Chunichi: The Dragons had almost everything you want to see in a short series: a strong defense, a good bullpen, some on-base skills, and three-run homer power. What they didn’t have was a lot of standout starting pitching beyond Kenshin Kawakami, though Kenta Asakura has always been good when healthy, and Daisuke Yamai-Hitoki Iwase combined with for a perfect game to close the Japan Series. Of course, Boston pummeled Colorado in the ’07 World Series, and would have had an edge over Chunichi.

2006 — Cardinals vs Nippon Ham: Yu Darvish was on the winning 2006 Fighters, but hadn’t yet broken out as Japan’s best pitcher. Tomoya Yagi Nippon Ham’s staff ace, and the Fighters got it done with strong, balanced offense. I actually had tickets to the World Series in 2006, had it been in Oakland, but alas the A’s got stomped in the ALCS by the shockingly good Tigers. I fully expected the Tigers to stomp the Cardinals too, but the Cardinals just played better. So I think the Fighters would have had a chance against the Cards.

2005 — White Sox vs Lotte: I grew up a White Sox fan, and followed Hanshin in Japan, so I’ll have to try extra hard to be objective with this one. 2005 was a case of both champions getting hot at the right time. The White Sox steamrolled everyone in their path in the 2005 postseason, and Marines destroyed Hanshin in the Japan Series. Baseball Prospectus simulated a hypothetical series between the two teams, and the White Sox won, 4-1, but the Marines were competitive.

2004 — Red Sox vs Seibu: This would have been interesting — Daisuke Matsuzaka vs his future team. The Lions also had a still-effective Fumiya Nishiguchi and a once-promising Chang Chih-Chia. They would have had to go up against a Red Sox team that came back from 3-0 against the Yankees, and then swept the Cardinals. So destiny would have worked against the Lions in this one.

2003 — Marlins vs Daiei: As I said earlier, I think this would have been a good series. Daiei’s biggest weakness was their bullpen, but they could have gone with a three-man rotation and stuck a starter (maybe Arakaki) in the bullpen. The more I think about this matchup, the more I think Daiei really would have had the edge in this one.

2002 — Angels vs Yomiuri: I think this would have been another good series. The 2002 Giants featured Hideki Matsui and Koji Uehara, who were both really in their primes (2002 was Matsui’s near-Triple Crown season); as well as Masumi Kuwata, Kimiyasu Kudoh, and Hideki Okajima. I think they would have given the Angels a good series.

2001 — Diamondbacks vs Yakult: The 2001 World Series is one of my all-time favorites (along with 1991 and 2005), so I’m a little biased here. Yakult had a balanced lineup with a good defense, and four future MLB’ers: Kazuhisa Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, Akinori Iwamura, and Ryota Igarashi. So maybe they could have taken a game or two, but it’s hard to pick against Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in a short series.

2000 — Yankees vs Yomiuri: The 2000 Japan Series was the first I was actually present in Japan for, so again I have fond memories of this one too (my three favorite players in Japan, for a time, where Okajima, Akira Etoh and Darrell May). Anyway, this Giants team would have gone up against the last World Series winner from the Yank’s late-90’s dynasty.

Alright, you’ve sat through 700+ words from me, if you’re still here, what are your thoughts?

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  1. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 12:53 am Permalink

    The 2002 Giants would have had no chance against the Angels. First of all, assuming the umpire crews were not all from NPB, the Giants pitchers would not have enjoyed their usual special strike zone and Kuwata in particular would have been useless without the “Kuwata strike zone” (Japanese umpires effectively added about 8-10 years to that guy’s career; the last few years, when he threw genuine strikes, he got hit hard and on nights when he was wild the umpires called everything a strike anyway and Kuwata would leave the game up 2-0 after five and get a cheap win if the bullpen held up). Second, Anaheim already proved that fall that they could beat the Giants. They did it in 6 games.

  2. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 4:09 am Permalink

    I think that in the first NPB-MLB series, the Japanese team will have the greater desire to win. National pride will be at stake. The American team will likely treat the series as an just another exhibition. So expect the Japanese to win the first one or two global world series.

  3. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 5:24 am Permalink

    In the sport of baseball, anything can happen in 7 games.

  4. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 7:20 am Permalink

    I would love to see it, but I have a feeling MLB players would have a hard time taking it seriously. That might give the NPB an edge.

  5. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 9:01 am Permalink

    I think the MLB team would have the edge most of the time, a la http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Japan_All-Star_Series

  6. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 1:41 pm Permalink

    Very good article Patrick. My thoughts: the Phillies vs the Seibu Lions’ series would have been even better if it were not post-Matsuzaka in NPB. Hamels was truly on his game so I think he would have shut out Seibu without much problems with his excellent changeup and the fantastic Phillies defense behind him… I cross my fingers and hope dominant Hamels shows up behind Roy Halladay this upcoming season. (:

  7. Patrick
    John Brooks
    31/01/2010 at 9:59 pm Permalink

    Excellent article, Patrick. First off in a 7 game series anything can happen, anyone can be dominant at the right time a la 2004 Boston Red Sox or 2005 Chiba Lotte Marines. I also remember the Baseball Prospectus in which Chiba was competitive.

    As for 2000, the Yankees were so dominant of a team in almost every way that its hard to expect anyone to beat them, even in MLB. 2006, stands out for me also as the best chance a NPB team would have to beat a MLB team in a best of 7, since the Cardinals are what I define as a team that got hot at the right time and barely were above .500 also. How that translates is beyond me or if it does at all, though Albert Pujols always makes a difference.

    Others have said it, NPB teams will be playing with national pride at stake, without somekind of incentive for MLB players to take this serious and not as somekind of exhibition I think there needs to be a lot more worked out before we get to a Global World Series, but its a great starting point the idea is.

  8. Patrick
    31/01/2010 at 11:15 pm Permalink

    I think the best incentive for the MLB teams would be losing a few times 🙂

    And I don’t know how big a role national pride would play in this type of series, because there would be Japanese players on both sides (every WS winner has had a Japanese player since 2005, and ever series has had a Japanese player since 2002). NPB teams also have foreign national players as well. Who are the Japanese fans going to cheer for if it’s Wirfin Obispo of Yomiuri pitching against Hideki Matsui of the Yankees? I think you’d have different people cheering for both sides.

  9. Patrick
    01/02/2010 at 7:52 am Permalink

    To prevent any cries of the Japan champion not being on par with the MLB champion, I would suggest that the winner of the Central League take the National League wild card spot, and the winner of the Pacific League take the American League wild card spot. This way the Japanese team will earn their way with another couple of rounds, eliminating any doubt that they belong in the final should they get there. (The only problem I see is if/when the two Japanese teams finish on top and play the “World Series” in North America.)

    To add Korea, it would only be 日本一 representing Japan, the Korean champion taking the second wild card spot. (Rotating between NL and AL?)

  10. Patrick
    01/02/2010 at 10:52 am Permalink

    Journalist Masa Niwa, who was quoted in Morosi’s article, had a similar idea.

  11. Patrick
    04/02/2010 at 9:36 pm Permalink

    I don’t follow Japanese baseball really, but I am generally interested in baseball… This idea is interesting to me because unlike the WBC it’s not necessarily about national pride and more about team pride…

    Forgive my ignorance on this one but how would the scheduling for this work? From what I remember reading during the WBC the Japanese and American seasons are played at different times (with some overlap?). Obviously the tournament could go on, but I’m sure if the gap between seasons were too great there would be a lot of grumbling. To what extent would this be an issue?

    2005 World Series was great.