Are You Down with NPB? Yeah, You Know Me*

*I apologize profusely for the title. However, it does bring up memories of being in elementary school and asking my schoolmates, 'Do you know what OPP stands for?' I still don't really know.

By now you've probably started following Wladimir Balentien, the Curacaon slugger with a name that makes me think of Dracula Ballerina, a film I desperately wait to see, and how he's already hit 52 home runs with nearly a month of action left. With just four more until he's the sole owner of the single season home run crown, it seems like a near lock that he'll make it. Beyond just the dingers, he's hitting .341/.468/.827, leading the league in walks and is second in RBI to Tony Blanco, which, if I'm ever on the lam, is the name I'll use to avoid the police. 

Coincidentally, Balentien's 7th most similar batter on Baseball-Reference is Tuffy Rhodes, the very same batter whose record he's trying to break. Considering that each batter had less than 250 PA in the Major Leagues, it certainly seems that B-Ref has become fully sentient and we should BOW BEFORE OUR ROBOTIC BETTER.

Anyway, while thinking about Balentien, I found myself going down the rabbit hole of this year's NPB statistics, finding some interesting and semi-interesting information that I will now relay to you via bullet point. It's fun in a pointing-a-flashlight-in-the-dark kind of way. Because even though American and Japanese baseball is ostensibly the same sport, there are nuances and quirks to the Japanese game that I'm probably missing and were not covered in the Tom Selleck classic Mr. Baseball.

So while I can look at some of these stats and say, "Hey! That's weird," I can't really draw any conclusions from them. Big NPB fans, feel free to illuminate me.

– Andruw Jones this year: .239/.380/.429. His last five years in the Majors: .214/.314/.420. He's the same hitter except that he's walking like never before, only one base on balls behind Balentien. He also leads the league in strikeouts.

– Bryan LaHair also hasn't found much success overseas: .234/.311/.436 with 16 HR. He was an All-Star last July if you remember.

– Wily Mo Pena, at the age of 31, may finally be done for: .222/.319/.274 in 135 PA. This after a year when he hit 21 HR with an .829 OPS. Of course, Wily Mo Pena does not follow a logical progression, Wily Mo Pena crushes home runs whenever he damn well feels like it.

–  In 1,170 MLB PA, Esteban German stole 34 bases and was caught 15 times. This year? 31 SB, 16 CS. And yet players who were traditional basestealers like Nyjer Morgan (2 SB, 2 CS), and Kaz Matsui (0 SB, 1 CS) aren't running.

– Speaking of Matsui, since returning to the NPB, he's been the symbol of consistency.

2011: .260/.394/.381, 9 HR, 48 RBI

2012: .266/.312/.408, 9 HR, 43 RBI

2013: .263/.323/.408, 9 HR, 46 RBI

Weird.

I mentioned this on David Temple's podcast, but since appearing, Kenta Imamiya has added four more sacrifice bunts and now leads the league with 48. Four players have over 30 and seven have more than twenty. Juan Pierre was the last Major Leaguer to have 20 when he did it in 2007. Jay Bell in 1991 was the last to have 30.

–  It will be interesting to see if Sho Nakata ever comes to America. Unfortunately, despite being 6'0, 209 lbs, and 24 years old, it appears he doesn't have much in the way of tools. Still, he's hitting .303/.377/.551 with 28 HR and is leading the Pacific League in intentional walks with four. To put that in perspective, that would rank him 40th in the Majors with Jose Altuve and Michael Young.

– Shinnosuke Abe leads the NPB in intentional passes with 8. That would at least tie him with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. But the intentional pass is just not a big part of the Japanese game.  

– While we're all very excited about Max Scherzer's 19 wins, Masahiro Tanaka is out-distancing him. The 24-year-old is 19-0 with a 1.20 ERA. For his career, he's 94-35 with a 2.32 ERA, striking out 8.5/9 while walking only 1.9. Jonah Keri recently wrote about him at Grantland and Yankees scouts are taking a look. 

– Randy Messenger, winner of four whole Major League games, is second in the Pacific League in victories with eleven, while leading in innings pitched and strikeouts. Kill the win?

– Bryan freaking Bullington is almost a symbol of consistency, which must be frustrating for Dave Littlefield to watch. Since going to Hiroshima, he's started 24+ games for three straight years, averaging 2 BB/9 and striking out 6.4 K/9. Thanks to a slew of arm injuries, he started ten games in the Majors. There's something beautiful in that.

And that, my friends, is just a small selection of the interesting statistics, featuring mostly former Major Leaguers from this year. Now think about all the other oddities that are hidden within Baseball-Reference's robotic heart, with their newly-added stats going all the way back to 1936. It's time to abandon all human relationships and give up our jobs–there's no need to ever leave the internet now. 

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