Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Upcoming Milestones

With the first official game of the 2023 NPB season less than 36 hours away, I thought I'd revisit a topic I last touched on two years ago - which players are approaching the milestones that would put them into the Meikyukai or Golden Player's Club.  The requirements are for a player to have been born in the Showa Era or later* and to have accumulated 2000 hits, 200 wins or 250 saves.  Statistics from MLB count but only if the NPB stats came first - which is why Alfonso Soriano belongs but Adam Jones doesn't.

* The Showa Era requirement was included when Masaichi Kaneda founded the club in the late 70's to exclude the only player in JBL/NPB history with more than 2000 hits who was born prior to it - Tetsuharu Kawakami.  The restriction had the side effect of excluding seven or so pitchers including Victor Staffin and Shigeru Sugishita

Two years ago I did separate posts for the players approaching 2000 hits and 200 wins but I decided to combine the lists into one post this time and add the players approaching 250 saves as well.  First up are the hitters.  Keep in mind that there are three active Meikyukai members in NPB right now - Hayato Sakamoto, Takumi Kuriyama and Norichika Aoki.  Aoki "only" has 1874 hits in NPB but his 774 MLB hits gives him a total of 2648 which is the most for any active NPB player (with Sakamoto in second with 2205.  Here are the top six batters with more than 1500 hits and less than 2000 hits:

1. Hiroyuki Nakajima, 1923 hits

2022 BBM Giants #G45

2. Yohei Ohshima, 1885 hits

2022 BBM Dragons #D57

3. Nobuhiro Matsuda, 1831 hits

2022 BBM Hawks #H40

4. Hideto Asamura, 1702 hits

2022 BBM Eagles #E45

5. Takeya Nakamura, 1698 hits

2022 BBM Lions #L51

6. Yoshihiro Maru, 1602 hits

2022 BBM Giants #G58

I'm pretty comfortable in predicting that Ohshima will get the 115 hits he needs this season.  It's going to tough for Nakajima to get the 77 hits he needs this season since he's only had 73 hits in the past two seasons combined.  I don't think either Matsuda or Nakamura are going to ever reach 2000 hits which in Nakamura's case makes me very sad since he's one of my favorite players.  Asamura will probably reach the milestone in 2024 or 2025 and Maru will do the same in 2025.  Whichever of those two do it first will be the first batter born in the Heisei Era to join the Meikyukai.

Next up is the victory leaders.  There are no active Meikyukai pitchers in NPB or MLB right now - the last one with 200 or more victories was Hiroki Kuroda who retired in 2016.  Here's everyone with 149 or more combined NPB-MLB wins (I was going to go with 150 or more but Takayuki Kishi was so close...):

1. Masahiro Tanaka, 190 wins (112 NPB, 78 MLB)

2022 BBM Eagles #E08

2. Yu Darvish, 188 wins (93 NPB, 95 MLB)

2008 BBM Fighters #F02

3. Masanori Ishikawa, 183 wins

2022 BBM Swallows #S09

4. Kenta Maeda, 156 wins (97 NPB, 59 MLB)

2015 BBM Carp #C07

5. Tsuyoshi Wada, 155 wins (150 NPB, 5 MLB)

2022 BBM Hawks #F10

6. Hideaki Wakui, 154 wins

2022 BBM Eagles #E06
7. Takayuki Kishi, 149 wins

2022 BBM Eagles #E03

I think there's a very good chance Darvish will reach 200 wins this season.  Tanaka has a shot at it but if he doesn't make it this season, he'll reach it in 2024.  It'll probably take Maeda three or four seasons to reach the milestone if or when he's healthy again.  I don't think the other four are likely to ever reach 200 wins due to their ages (Ishikawa is 43, Wada is 42, Kishi is 38 and Wakui is 36).

Last up is saves.  The last player to reach 250 saves was Hitoki Iwase in 2010.  Iwase retired in 2018.  Here are the top three active saves leaders in NPB:

1. Yoshihisa Hirano, 221 saves (213 NPB, 8 MLB)

2022 BBM Buffaloes #B06

2. Yasuaki Yamasaki, 207 saves

2022 BBM Baystars #DB10

3. Yuki Matsui, 197 saves

2022 BBM Eagles #E02

It's unlikely but it's possible that any of these three could reach 250 saves this season, although it would take a near record effort from Matsui.  That said, I think it's very likely that all three reach the milestone by the end of next season.  Matsui or Yamasaki is also likely to become the first Heisei-born player in the Meikyukai as I expect they'll do it before Asamura or Maru reach 2000 hits.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

2022 BBM Team Sets

As usual the bulk of that big package I got from Ryan recently consisted of the twelve "comprehensive" team sets from BBM for last year and as usual it's taken me about a month to get them all inputted into my database.  Now what I mean by a "comprehensive" team set is one that has all the players on the team's 70 man roster at the time it was printed (which is usually less than 70 players).  The team sets were all released between April and July of last year.

Each set had a base set of 81 cards which included 63 to 70 "regular" cards featuring the players on the 70 man roster plus the team's manager.  Each set also had a single card dedicated to its mascot or mascots and then the remainder of the set was made up of three or four subsets containing two to six cards.  Some of the mascot cards double as a checklist for the set.  Here's the break down for each set:

Team Player/Manager Cards Mascot Cards Subsets
Chiba Lotte Marines 68 1 Newcomer (2), Young & Fine (2), Title Holder (5), Uniform Number Geneology (3)
Chunichi Dragons 66 1 Heart & Soul (3), Flame Ball (4), Power Plant (3), Veolcity (4)
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 65 1 Newcomer (2), Shutout (4), Get Over (4), Charge! (5)
Hanshin Tigers 69 1 First Pick (3), Smart & Smooth (3), No Mercy (5)
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 67 1 Newcomer (4), Bring It On (5), Awesome Guys (4)
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 68 1 Tough Enough (3), Blast Off (3), Homegrown (3), High Intensity (3)
Orix Buffaloes 63 1 2020 Orix Buffaloes Topiocs (4), Brilliant Achievement 2021 (4), Golden Age (6), Pedigree (3)
Saitama Seibu Lions 64 1 Young Lion (6), Bring Change (5), Nice (5)
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 70 1 Big Bolt (3), Stand Out (3), Fresh Breeze (4)
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 66 1 Milestone (2), New Phase (5), Check it Out (7)
Yokohama DeNA Baystars 67 1 Revival (3), Uplift (3), Future Is Here (4), Expertise (3)
Yomiuri Giants 67 1 Great Comeback (3), Generations (3), Get The Chance (3), Supreme Diamond (4)

Each team set includes 30 to 35 players who do not appear in BBM's 2022 "flagship" sets (1st & 2nd Versions and Fusion).  As usual these include an interesting mix of Westerners (Carter Stewart, Robert Cornier, Geronimo Franzua, Bryan Rodriguez, Cesar Vargas, Alan Busenitz, Cy Sneed, Michael Peoples and Rubby De La Rosa) and somewhat big name veterans (Seiya Inoue, Shota Ohno, Seiji Uebayashi, Wei-Yin Chen, Chihiro Kaneko, Tomotaka Sakaguchi, Seiichi Uchikawa and Seiji Kobayashi).  There's are five Westerners who have their first ever (and possibly only) NPB card in these sets - Kyle Keller, John Gant, Rangel Ravel, Chris Gittens and Matt Andriese.

Here's a card of a player from each set who was not in any of BBM's flagship sets:

2022 BBM Marines #M52

2022 BBM Dragons #D22

2022 BBM Hawks #H03

2022 BBM Tigers #T08

2022 BBM Carp #C46

2022 BBM Fighters #F42

2022 BBM Buffaloes #B03

2022 BBM Lions #L50

2022 BBM Eagles #E63

2022 BBM Swallows #S27

2022 BBM Baystars #DB50

2022 BBM Giants #G03

Card Of The Week March 26

When Topps put out their NPB Bowman set back in December, I was intrigued that one of the inserts was "Bowman In 3D".  There really haven't been a lot of lenticular cards in Japan so I happily took advantage of an opportunity to pick one up on Ebay a little while ago.  Imagine my surprise when I got the card and noticed something significant about it.

It wasn't lenticular.  Or really 3D.

The card had the player's image superimposed over a set of rectangles that decrease in size to create the illusion of depth.  I'm extremely underwhelmed by it.  To be fair, Topps did inserts with the same name and design for their MLB Bowman set so I would have known what to expect if I'd paid any attention to MLB issues.

Of course, given what I've seen from Topps' NPB products, I shouldn't have been expecting too much.  Anyway, here's the card I got - Hiroya Miyagi (#3DB-14):

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Calbee Update And More New Sets

Thought I'd do a quick post on some new sets that have been announced lately plus give an update on Calbee's Series One set.

- First the update:  Calbee released the checklist for their Series One set in advance of the set being released next Monday (well, officially, it'll probably be in card shops this weekend).  A month ago I predicted that the base set would "contain 72 'regular' player cards (six per team), either a 20-ish card "Title Holder" subset or a 12 card subset with some theme that ends up working out to one card per team, and four checklist cards along with a 24 card "Star" insert set".  I was close - there's actually only 60 "regular" player cards (five per team), an 18 card "Title Holder" subset and four checklist cards plus two insert sets - "Star" (24 cards) and "Legend" (8 cards for guys who retired at the end of last season).  The total size of the base set is only 82 cards, the smallest in quite a long time.  

- BBM's announced two more of their annual "comprehensive" team sets.  I'm going to continue what I did last time and put the details for these in a table again.  Each set has a base set of 81 cards, most of which are "regular" player cards featuring the manager and the players on the 70 man roster plus a couple subsets (which may not be fully defined yet) to fill out the set.  Each set also has 18 non-premium insert cards split into a variety of sets which also may not be fully defined yet.  The Treasure, Esperanza and Antique inserts are all serially numbered.  (If it's not obvious, the "Regular Cards", "Treasure", "Esperanza" and "Antique" columns are the total number of those type of cards in each set)

Release Date Team Regular Cards Subsets Non-Premium Inserts Treasure Esperanza Antique Other
Mid May Hawks 69 Newcomer (4), Starting Pitchers (4), Strong Batting Line (4) Main Players (9), Task Forces (5), Big Comeback (2), Expected Cannon (2) 16 15 Autograph cards, jersey cards for Isami Nomura, Tomoya Masaki
Late May Lions 68 Leap Year Man (5), Newcomer (4), Starting Quartet (4) Main Players (9), Rookies (3), Breakout Candidates (3), 20 Year Combination (3) 16 15 Autograph cards

- The first of Epoch's "Premier Edition" team sets has been announced and it's for the Baystars.  It'll have a a 30 card base set and each card will have a hologram parallel.  The set has a somewhat bewildering amount of inserts - "Regular Printed Signature (Silver)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature (Gold)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature (Hologram A: Silver)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature (Hologram A: Gold)" (18 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram A: Silver)" (9 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram A: Gold)" (9 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram B: Silver)" (9 cards), "Regular Printed Signature Variation (Hologram B: Gold)" (9 cards), "Metal Power (Silver)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Gold)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram A: Silver)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram A: Gold)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram B: Silver)" (18 cards), "Metal Power (Hologram B: Gold)" (18 cards), "Time To Shine (Hologram A)" (6 cards), "Time To Shine (Hologram B)" (6 cards), "Time To Shine (Hologram C)" (6 cards), "Decomori Signature (Gold) (6 cards), "Decomori Signature (Green) (6 cards), "Decomori Signature (Hologram) (6 cards), "Gem" (6 cards) and "Black Gem" (6 cards).  I think every player in the set has an "Authentic" and "1 of 1" autograph card and there's also five "Rookie", four "Star" and five "Baseball" autograph cards.  The set will be released on May 13th.

- 216 Co. Ltd (or whatever their name is) is also releasing the "Swallows Used Ball" set on June 10th.  The base set will contain 81 cards although the set only features 16 players.  There's also a variety of special and rare cards available in the packs including real and facsimile autographs and "used ball" and "ball patch" memorabilia cards.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Showing Off Some Vintage Calbees

I discovered about a month ago that COMC had a bunch of mid-70's Calbees at very reasonable prices.  I've really been cutting back on vintage cards lately but I couldn't resist picking some up.  I thought I'd do a quick post to show off what I got (partly because Sean asked me to).  So without further ado, here they are:

1974/75 #30 Yutaka Enatsu

1974/75 #31 Yutaka Enatsu

1974/75 #51 Sachio Kinugasa

1974/75 #212 Isao Harimoto/Katsuo Ohsugi (#51)

1975/76/77 #439 Yakult Swallows

1975/76/77 #854 Sachio Kinugasa

1975/76/77 #1213 Isao Harimoto

1978 Regular Type I Charlie Manuel

1978 Regular Type I Jim Lyttle

1978 Regular Type I Hisaaki Fukushima

Some comments about the cards:
  • I was amused that the 1974/75 card of Kinugasa has him wearing number 28 while the 1975/76/77 card has him wearing the more familiar number 3 (which the Carp retired for him)
  • From left to right on the Swallows card - top row is manager Hiroshi Arakawa, Tetsuo Nishii, Hiromu Matsuoka and Keishi Asano; middle row is Takeshi Yasuda, Akihiro Ohya, Katsuo Ohsugi and Keitoku Yamashita, bottom row is Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Charlie Manuel, Roger Repoz and Kunio Fukutomi
  • I almost bought a Hal Breeden card from COMC so I was happy to see him making a cameo appearance on Harimoto's card
  • Not positive but I think that's Felix Millan on Jim Lyttle's card

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Card Of The Week March 19

It's kind of funny how things happen sometimes.  I'd been looking for Yuki Yanagita's rookie card from the 2011 BBM Hawks set for a while and was having no luck tracking one down.  I'd only seen one up for auction in the last year or so on Yahoo! Japan Auctions as part of a Yanagita rookie card lot.  I asked Ryan to bid on it but we came up short.  I don't think it went for a huge amount of money but I didn't want to spend a lot on the card so it whatever it sold for was more than I wanted to pay.  

I won't say I gave up on it but I hadn't really looked for it too much for a while.  But on a whim in early February I did a search for the card on YJA and came across an auction for it for only 100 yen.  No one had bid on it yet and it only had about 40 minutes left when I found it.  Normally I'd ask Ryan to bid on it for me but since it had such a short fuse I figured I'd better bid on it myself.  I used ZenMarket, figuring that even with their 300 yen service fee I was still getting a bargain.  I bid 1000 yen on it and was surprised when the auction ended without any other bidders.  I had won it for 100 yen.  I knew that domestic shipping from the seller to ZenMarket would be 100 yen so my total for the card would be a very reasonable 500 yen.  And I knew I'd be using ZenMarket to get the BBM Munetaka Murakami Shin-Ka and Rookie Edition sets in the near future and I could get the card shipped to me with them with minimal impact to the shipping fee.

I had forgotten something though.  Back in December, I had done some sort of survey for ZenMarket.  I don't even recall much about it anymore but they had promised to add 500 yen to my account.  As I said, I had completely forgotten about it until I went to pay them for the Yanagita card as discovered that I didn't owe them any money.  That 500 yen they gave me covered the cost of the card (100 yen), the ZenMarket fee (300 yen) and domestic shipping (100 yen).  So my Yanagita rookie card was free!

2011 BBM Hawks #H67

Saturday, March 18, 2023

History Of Calbee Part 11 - Wrappers And Bags

I want to finish up my series on Calbee's history with a post about the pack wrappers and chip bags.  I'm going to limit this to just items I have in my collection - for more information check out this post Sean did on some unopened packs he had from the 1980s (which then references some posts from the "Calbee Card Institute" blog).

I've been fortunate enough to pick up a number of unopened Calbee packs over the years.  They have not remained unopened for long, however, and I wasn't always good about minimizing the damage to the wrapper when opening the pack.  But I've tried to keep at least one example wrapper of every Calbee set that I've opened.  For the older sets there are often more than one wrapper design for a set.

When Calbee started out, each pack contained only one card.  The packs were not actually attached to the potato chip bags.  The shopkeeper who was selling the chips would keep the packs behind the counter and would distribute them to customers who bought the bags of chips.

The oldest set I have a wrapper for is the huge 1975-76-77 set.  Since both sides of the wrapper had the same design I scanned them both to give a sense of what an unopened wrapper would look like.

IIRC I pulled card #712 (Clyde Wright) out of this pack which would indicate that it was issued in 1976.

The next wrappers I have are from 1979.  Again these have the same design on both sides but since I did a better job opening them, I'm only scanning one side.  Despite there being three different designs, all three of the cards I pulled were from the "May Best" set so it doesn't appear that the wrapper design was specific to the Calbee series (or subset or whatever you want to call the 1979 sets).

The packs would have pretty much the same appearance for the next ten years, only changing in size (Calbee dropped the card size in the middle of the second series in 1980) and color occasionally.  Here are two packs from the 1980 set - these are the same size as the 1979 packs so they're from one or both of the first two series that year:

Unlike the previous packs, these packs didn't have the same design on the other side.  The other side had a baseball and what looks like laurel leaves design along with some text:

I think the vertical text on the right side says something about carefully cutting open the pack, something that I obviously didn't do.

Here are five wrappers from 1981.  I don't remember which cards I pulled from them so I don't know which series they were from.

Again the reverse side for all the packs had text on it - I think it says something about how to send in redemption cards:

Here's a pack from 1983 that illustrates what I said before about the packs looking very similar from year to year:

The other side looks the same as the 1981 packs as well:

As do both sides of the 1985 packs, although the color was green that year:

Back to blue for 1986 but there's a bit of change to one side of the design:

The next set I have a pack from is 1989.  This is the first pack I have that has the year on it but I don't know that the 1987 and 1988 packs did not.  Both sides of the pack were the same:

The player drawing disappeared with the 1990 packs.  Calbee issued their set that year in two sizes with the first series being the same size as the cards from the 1980's.  Here's what both sides of a pack from that series looks like:

The remainder of cards in the 1990 set were phone sized cards.  There was a change in the overall pack design for those cards.  I don't know the technical terms for this so I'm probably going to stumble a little over the description.  Hopefully it'll still make sense.  The previous packs were all essentially created by pressing two pieces of paper around the card and sealing all four edges.  Starting with the larger cards in 1990, the packs were created by wrapping one piece of paper around the card and sealing the overlapping ends together to form a seam on the backside of the back (and also sealing the top and bottom edges).  This makes it possible to open the pack by ripping open the seam on the backside of the pack rather than rip open one of the sides of the pack.  Here's the front and back of the 1990 large pack - I've scanned the backside in a vertical orientation to hopefully make more sense:

Seeing what look like glue spots on the back of the pack makes me wonder if 1990 was when Calbee first started physically attaching the packs to the bags.  I had thought that wasn't until 1996.

I think this next wrapper is from 1991 although it's entirely possible that it's actually from 1992.  You'll notice that it also has what appear to be glue spots on the backside.

I'm a bit confused about this next one as well - it's either from 1992 or 1993.  It looks very much like the previous one but the back side of it is different:

There does not appear to be any glue spots on the back of this pack.

Calbee had made a couple changes to their pack design by the time the next set I have an example wrapper from, the 1994 Hokkaido set, came out.  They changed the orientation of the design to be vertical instead of horizontal but the bigger change is that the packs were made of foil instead of paper.

The backs were blank and due to the four glue spots on it (that are still sticky after 29 years!) I believe that these packs were attached to the chip bags.

The next set I have a wrapper from is the 1996 set:

These I know for a fact were glued to the back of the bags.  How do I know that?  I have some empty bags to prove it:

Here's what the bag fronts looked like.  These are all from Series One.  I assume there were bags representing each team.  Note that these are labeled "Tokyo Snack" - Calbee cards were distributed with "Pro Baseball Popcorn" instead of potato chips in 1995 and 1996.

Here's what the front and back of the 1997 packs looked like:

Here's what they looked like on the back of the bags:

And here's what the bag fronts looked like.  These again are all from Series One (which you can see was released on March 26th).  You'll see that these are labeled "baseball chips" - Calbee was back to distributing the cards with potato chips in 1997:

The next wrapper I have is from 2001 Series One:

Here are the fronts of the Series 1, 2 and 3 packs from 2003.  The handwritten numbers obviously were added by someone other than Calbee:

Here's the front and back of a chip bag (with the pack still attached to the back) from 2004:

It's kind of odd - this is a Series One bag but it doesn't look like it was released until early May, about a month and a half later than I'd have expected.  I assumed that all the chip bags for a given series are released at the same time but maybe that's not the case.

According to Sean, Calbee increased the number of cards in a pack from one to two in 2007, dropped it back to one in 2008, then raised it back to two for 2009 where it's been ever since.  This is kind of reflected in the next two packs I have - Series Three from 2008 and Series Two from 2010:

The back of the 2010 pack has a little bit of the bag it was attached to still stuck to it.

Here's the front and back of both a pack and a bag from Series Two in 2011:

I started buying complete Calbee sets in 2012 which has made it much less likely for me to have any bags or wrappers.  In fact the only wrapper I have since 2011 is from Series Two in 2022 and this was kind of a fluke.  I had won an auction on Ebay for a lot of Calbee cards from last year that included some Star cards and the seller sent the cards wrapped in open Series Two wrappers: