Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sports Card Magazine #112


The latest issue of Sports Card Magazine is out and, as usual, features some morsels of useful information that can be deciphered by non-Japanese readers like myself.

I have to say that this time I'm not completely sure what the main article in the color section of the magazine is about.  It appears to be a list of the top 37 BBM cards over the past 25 years.  Number one is the 1997 Diamond Heroes Hideki Matsui jersey card, followed by Ichiro Suzuki's Game Used Bat card from the 2000 set and his (Ichiro's) 1993 rookie card.  The remaining cards on the list include various autographed and memorabilia cards, including ones from sports other than baseball.  I think it was some sort of poll as there are ties for some of the spots on the list (the reason for such an odd number for a "top" list is that there were 10 items tied for 28th on the list).  But what's odd is that some of the spots list a card but don't show it - they just say "Wanted!" instead.  There's also a list of what I think is the top 11 unopened boxes (four items tied for number 8 which is again why there's an odd number) and a group of cards that I think are some sort of honorable mention.  I'd be interested in knowing what the deal is with this section - I really need to learn Japanese one of these days...

Their list of "Best Cards" for the issue is:

Best Card Of This Month:  2015 BBM Carp Hiroki Kuroda autograph card
Best Item Of This Month:  2015 BBM Classic

Hot Card Lists
Rookies:
1. 2015 BBM 1st Version Kazuma Okamoto (#186)
2. 2013 BBM 1st Version Shohei Ohtani (#183)
3. 2015 BBM 1st Version Hayato Takagi (#188)
4. 2015 BBM 1st Version Shun Lin Haru (#111)
5. 2015 BBM 1st Version Takayoshi Noma (#237)
6. 2015 BBM 1st Version Kona Takahashi (#131)
7. 2015 BBM 1st Version Tomohiro Anaraku (#156)
8. 2015 BBM 1st Version Yasuaki Yamasaki (#291)
9. 2015 BBM 1st Version Daiki Osama (#075)
10. 1993 BBM Ichiro Suzuki (#239)

Autograph & Memorabilia:
1. 2015 BBM Carp Hiroki Kuroda autograph card
2. 2015 BBM Fighters Shohei Ohtani autograph card
3. 2015 BBM 1st Version Shohei Ohtani autograph card
4. 2015 Epoch Tigers Nippon Champions 1985 Randy Bass, Masayuki Kakefu & Akinobu Okada autograph card
5. 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 Katsuya Nomura autograph card (2015 BBM Classic buyback)
6. 1993 BBM Kazuhiro Sasaki autograph card (2015 BBM Classic buyback)
7. 2015 BBM Hawks Daisuke Matsuzaka autograph card
8. 2015 BBM Dragons Michihiro Ogasawara autograph card
9. 2015 BBM Dancing Heroine - Hana Luna autograph card
10. 2015 BBM Dancing Heroine - Hana Rina Fujii autograph card

The color section also includes the usual several pages of ads of new releases.  The big one is the two page spread for 2nd Version which comes out in about a week.  There is also a two page spread for the new J-League set.  There are single page ads for the new Lions and Giants sets that came out a few weeks back as well as the Dancing Heroine - Mai set that came out last week.  There are half page ads for the four team based boxed sets that are coming soon from BBM - Hawks & Dragons "Autographed Editions" and Carp and Tigers "Authentic Editions".

The "newsprint" section of the magazine features an article that looks like it's highlighting the insert sets in all 12 of BBM's team sets from this year.  There's also what looks like a comparison of breaks of boxes of Classic by four different collectors - looks like each of them pulled an autographed card (although only one was a "buyback") and two insert cards.

The "New Card List" section lists all the sets that were featured in the ads in the color section.  The old card checklist and price guide lists non-BBM baseball issues including Calbee (all the way back to 1973 except for 1977-79), Lotte, Tomy, and Upper Deck.

I really liked the insert cards with this issue of the magazine - they are all "bonus" cards for the 12 BBM team sets.  Some of them are "regular" cards of players who were not included with the original set either because they were late signing foreign players (Wily Mo Pena of the Eagles, Nate Schierholtz of the Carp, Nelson Perez of the Tigers), players promoted from ikusei (Yoshiki Sunada of the Baystars) or even the rare mid-season traded player (Kenji Yano of the Fighters).  There were other cards that were just additional cards for subsets (Shota Takeda for the "Super Hawks" subset, Masahiro Nishino for the "Horn Attack" subset in the Buffaloes set, Motonobu Tanishige for the "Record Holder" subset in the Dragons set, Ikuhiro Kiyota for the "Prime Time" subset for the Marines set and a combination card for Tomoya Mori, Hideto Asamura and Takeya Nakamura in the Lions set.  Then there's the Mitch Dening card for the Swallows set that combines both a new subset card (Gold Version Shining Swallows) with a late signing foreign player.  The final card features Miles Mikolas of the Giants with his wife Lauren who apparently has been attracting a lot of attention in the Japanese press.  Each card is numbered as card #82 in whichever team set it is a bonus card for along with its SCM number.

SCM #334/#F82

SCM #336/#L82

SCM #338/#G82

SCM #339/#T82
UPDATE - I suspected this when I was writing the post but for whatever reason I didn't check until now - several of what I called "subsets" in the team sets are actually insert sets.  So while the Takeda "Super Hawks" card, the Kiyota "Prime Time" card, the Nishino "Horn Attack" card and the Dening "Shining Swallows" card are numbered as extensions of the base set, they are technically extensions of the corresponding insert sets.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Card Of The Week July 26

I was looking at the all time leaders for grand slams in NPB that Yakyu Baka published the other day due to Takeya Nakamura tying Sadaharu Oh for the lead and there was a name that stuck out at me as being an odd one on the list.  I'll reproduce the list here:

Player GS
Oh, Sadaharu 15
Nakamura, Takeya 15
Fujii, Yasuo 14
Nakamura, Norihiro 14
Komada, Norihiro 13
Eto, Akira 13
Kokubo, Hiroki 13
Eto, Shinichi 12
Nomura, Katsuya 12
Iguchi, Tadahito 12

Maybe it's not obvious - let's do the list again with each player's career home run totals:

Player GS HRs
Oh, Sadaharu 15 868
Nakamura, Takeya 15 301
Fujii, Yasuo 14 282
Nakamura, Norihiro 14 404
Komada, Norihiro 13 195
Eto, Akira 13 364
Kokubo, Hiroki 13 413
Eto, Shinichi 12 367
Nomura, Katsuya 12 657
Iguchi, Tadahito 12 241

What surprised me is that Norihiro Komada is tied for fifth on the list despite having hit less than 200 home runs in his career.  Komada's grand slams account for almost 7% of all his home runs - that number is 5% or less for everyone else.  He only hit more than 20 home runs in a season twice in his 18 year career.  That's just a crazy number of grand slams for that few home runs.

Looking into this a little deeper, I learned that Komada was the first player in Japan to hit a grand slam in his first at bat in NPB.  His nickname was "Manrui Otoko" or "Grand Slam Man".

Here's a 1994 Kanebo card of Komada (#027).  Komada left the Giants as a free agent following the 1993 season and signed with the Baystars - I assume this picture is from the press conference announcing the signing.  


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Takeya Nakamura

I submitted a question to the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast a few weeks back regarding who was most likely to be the next player to reach 500 home runs in NPB.  I was pleased that John Gibson and Jim Allen pretty much agreed with me that Takeya Nakamura of the Lions was the most likely candidate, although John felt that Okawari-kun's health issues would likely keep him from reaching that milestone.  (Several other candidates were discussed - Tetsuto Yamada of the Swallows, Sho Nakata of the Fighters and Tomoya Mori of the Lions - but there were concerns that each of them might spend some number of years in MLB.)

Nakamura had a big game this past Friday night.  In the fourth inning, he hit a solo home run off Shohei Ohtani of the Fighters for his 1000th career hit and his 300th career home run.  The next inning, facing Ohtani again with the bases loaded this time, he hit his 15th career grand slam, tying him with Sadaharu Oh for the most in NPB history.



I thought I'd do a little retrospective of Nakamura on his getting 60% of the way to 500 home runs.  Nakamura was drafted by the Lions in the second round of the fall 2001 draft out of Osaka Toin high school.  He debuted with the ichi-gun Lions in 2003 and became a regular in 2005.  He's lead the PL in home runs five times in his career and appears to have been one of the only players unaffected by the "dead ball" of 2011-12.  He has (as John Gibson alluded to) had issues staying healthy - he missed about half of the 2010 and most of the 2013 seasons with injuries.  He also doesn't hit for a high average - his career average is .254 - which may make it difficult for him to maintain playing time as he gets older and his skills inevitably decline.  I figure he'll need six or seven more seasons to reach 500 home runs (although it wouldn't stun me if he did it in five) so we'll see how it goes.

His rookie card was #268 from the 2002 BBM 1st Version set.  He doesn't have appear in another BBM "flagship" set until the 2005 2nd Version set.  His first Calbee card appears to be from 2005 as well.

2002 BBM 1st Version #268

2005 BBM 2nd Version #695

2006 Konami Baseball Heroes "Black" #B06B055

2007 Calbee #018

2008 BBM Nippon Series #S23

2009 BBM 1st Version #439

2010 BBM Lions 60th Anniversary #58

2011 BBM All Stars #A28

2012 Lions "Winning Game Card"

2013 BBM Lions #L87

2014 Front Runner Lions Rookies & Young Stars #04

2015 BBM 1st Version #126

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Card Of The Week July 19

Hanshin's Shintaro Fujinami threw three perfect innings against the Pacific League in Friday's All Star game.   Fujinami came into the game in the fourth inning in relief of Tomoyuki Sugano with the CL down 4-2 but left with them up 7-2 (they held on to win 8-4).  Fujinami won both the game and the MVP, becoming the youngest player to ever win the game award.

And from what I was reading on Twitter on Saturday, his aggressive third base coaching contributed to the CL winning the second All Star game by a score of 8-3.

Here's a card of Fujinami from the 2013 BBM Tigers set.  That set had a six card "Fujinami Special" insert set featuring highlights of Fujinami's first season (or really first couple months).  Here's one of the cards (#FS5) commemorating something that happened on May 5, 2013 - not sure what, as the back of the card indicates that the Swallows won the game 7-5.:


Saturday, July 18, 2015

2015 Calbee Series Two

Calbee's second Series for the year came out a few weeks back.  It contains 100 cards in the base set - 84 player cards, 12 manager cards and 4 checklists.

The 84 player cards are (as always) split evenly between the 12 teams, so there are seven cards per team.  The cards boast Calbee's usual fine photography:

#097

#100

#156

#085

#127
What's kind of nice about the player selection in this set is that there's no overlap between it and Series One this year (to be clear - I mean that the 168 player cards between the two Series so far depict 168 unique players).  There are also 16 guys in the set who do not appear in BBM's 1st Version set including Kazuya Fukuura, Wily Mo Pena, Takashi Saito, Lastings Milledge, and Hirokazu Ibata.

The 12 card managers subset depicts (obviously) the managers for each of the 12 teams.  The set apparently went to press before Hiroshi Moriwaki was replaced as Orix manager by Junichi Fukura.  The backs of each manager cards show the roster for the team (the complete roster, not just the players in the set).

#M-05 (Norio Tanabe)

Back of #M-05 (Lions roster)
The four checkiist cards show highlights from the first week of the season - Shohei Ohtani and Hideaki Wakui winning on Opening Day, Hiroki Kuroda winning on March 29 and Nobumasa Fukuda of the Dragons homering against the Giants on April 2.

#C-6 (Kuroda)
All the cards can be seen here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

RIP Kazumi Takahashi

V9-era Giants pitcher Kazumi Takahashi passed away this past week.  His two best seasons were 1969 and 1973 were he won 22 and 23 games respectively.  He also took home  the Sawamura Award and the Best Pitcher Award (which actually are two separate things) and made the Central League Best 9 team both of those years as well.  He was famously traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters after the 1975 season in the deal that brought Isao Harimoto to the Giants.  He retired as a player after the 1983 season and coached for both the Giants (on three separate occasions) and the Fighters after his playing career ended.

Here's a couple of his cards from his playing career:

1973/74 Calbee #163

1974/75 Calbee #862

1976 Yamakatsu "JY1"

1979 TCMA #35
In recent years he's been showing up in a lot of OB sets, most significantly in BBM's The Trade Stories (from 2013) to commemorate his trade to the Fighters and last year's V9 Giants 50th Anniversary set from Epoch:

2013 BBM The Trade Stories #20

2014 Epoch Giants V9 Glorious Victory #26

Sunday, July 12, 2015

2015 BBM Classic

I picked up a copy of this year's edition of BBM's Classic set off of Yahoo! Japan Auctions (via kuboTEN) a few weeks ago.  Classic is BBM's version of Topps' Heritage and/or Archives sets - it contains cards for active players using a card design that BBM used previously.

There are actually two parts to the set - the active player part and the OB player part.  There are 108 cards total in the set - 72 active players (6 per team) and 36 OB players (3 per team).

The active player cards use the design of the 1993 BBM set (which is to be expected since last year's set used the 1992 design and the year before that used the 1991 design).   There are a handful of players still active in NPB that had cards in the 1993 set (Masahiro Yamamoto, Takashi Saito, Satoshi Nakajima and Motonobu Tanishige) but none of them appear in this year's Classic set - so instead of comparing two cards of the same player, I'll have to pick a couple at random...:

1993 BBM #239

Back of 1993 BBM #239

2015 BBM Classic #011

Back of 2015 BBM Classic #011
Once again BBM matched the design pretty well.  The main differences in the two designs are the same differences they've had in the previous two Classic sets - the Classic cards are the standard 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches rather than the original slightly smaller size and the backs have the "Classic" logo for a watermark rather than the team logo.  The only other little difference is that the Classic Tigers cards are labelled as the "Hanshin Tigers" (which has been standard with almost all cards since 2002) while the 1993 cards simply said "Tigers".

One thing I found interesting is that the original set had all the cards for a team using banners with the team's colors as the top and bottom borders on the front and back of the card.  Classic does this as well, but the colors are updated for the teams who have changed their colors in the last 22 years.  So for example, the Marines cards are silver/gray and black instead of pink and brown.  The Hawks and Fighters have also updated their colors (and of course the Eagles didn't exist in 1993) but the other eight teams have the same color scheme.

The players included in the set are pretty much the biggest stars of the league - or at least the biggest six stars for each team.  You can nitpick who's not in the set - I'd have liked Shogo Akiyama myself and why is Daisuke Matsuzaka in the set when he hasn't made an appearance at ichi-gun this year - but for the most part, it includes who you'd expect - Kenta Maeda, Yuki Yanagita, Takeya Nakamura, Tetsutu Yamada, Hayato Sakamoto, Shohei Ohtani, etc.  Wily Mo Pena appears in the set which marks his first baseball card with Rakuten - he signed too late in the spring to be included in either the 1st Version or Eagles team sets from BBM.  There are a handful of rookies included - Takayoshi Noma of the Carp, Sachiya Yamasaki of the Buffaloes, Toshihiko Kuramoto and Yasuaki Yamasaki of the Baystars, Hayato Takagi of the Giants - and their cards have the same kind of "Rookie" symbol the original set had.

The photos used on the cards are the typical attractive BBM photos - albeit with the typical BBM poses - pitchers pitching and batters batting - although there are a couple of catchers catching.  Like the original set, there are a couple cards that use a horizontal format on the front.  Here's some examples:

#035

#027

#043

#022

#053

#062
Kikuchi is the only guy who's not a pitcher or catcher shown on defense.

As has been the case for all the Classic sets, the OB player cards do not use the same design as the active player cards.  This year's cards use a design very similar to the OB cards in last year's Classic set which I believe was a new design.  As usual there's no obvious rhyme or reason why any of the OB players were included, other than they could sign autographs.  The OB players include Katsuya Nomura, Hisashi Yamada, Koichi Tabuchi, Koji Akiyama, Alex Ramirez, Julio Franco, Akinori Iwamura, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Koji Yamamoto.  Here's a couple examples:

#076

#084

#091
All the cards can be seen here.

I do really like the concept of the Classic set but I wish BBM would improve a couple things in the execution.  First of all, either eliminate the OB cards and do nine active players per team or use a "classic" design for them.  Or even use the same format as the active player cards.  Secondly, add some cards that echo the original set.  The 1993 set had multi-player cards - why not do a couple of those?  Maybe throw in a "Leaders"-style subset card for last year's MVPs.  Just something that would make this a little more than just a simple throwback set.  And I pretty much said the same thing as this last year...