Sunday, September 19, 2021

Card Of The Week September 19

Swallows third baseman Munetaka Murakami hit his 35th home run of the season today against the Carp.  It was also the 100th home run of his career.  At the age of 21 years, seven months, Murakami is now the youngest player to reach that milestone.  Here's his rookie card from the 2018 BBM Swallows set (#S54):



Friday, September 17, 2021

RIP Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama

Former Hiroshima Carp outfielder Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama passed away earlier this week at age 91.  Hirayama was born in Exeter, California to Japanese immigrant parents.  He spent several years during World War II interred in the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona.  He was a star athlete at both football and baseball at Fresno State and signed with the St Louis Browns after graduating.  He played one season with Stockton in the California League in 1952 before drafted into the Army.  Upon discharge he signed with the Carp at the urging of legendary Japanese-American baseball figure Kenichi Zenimura.

Hirayama was one of the first of the nisei Japanese-Americans who played in NPB during the 1950's and early 1960's.  He had a 10 year career with the Carp from 1955 to 1964 and made the All Star team twice (1956 and 1958).  His career was cut short by injury - he suffered nerve damage after running into a wall that damaged the vision in his right eye.  He coached for the Carp for one year after his playing days were over and later scouted for both the Angels and Carp.  He also had a stint running the Carp's Dominican Academy.

There are no modern cards of Hirayama available - other than Wally Yonamine the nisei players from the 1950's have pretty much been ignored in BBM and Epoch's OB sets - but he had several menko, bromide and gum cards during his playing career.  Here are the only two that I have:

1958 "Who Am I?" menko (JCM 54)

1959 JBR 5

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Take Me To Your Leader

1991 BBM #219

One of the hallmarks of BBM's flagship sets used to be their "Leader" subset.  From 1991 to 2013 BBM included 20 or 30 cards in their "regular" set (1991-2001) or their 1st Version set (2002-2013) that featured the award winners and statistical leaders from the previous season.  I always liked this subset and was disappointed when BBM discontinued it in 2014.  They kind of added them again to the Fusion set starting in 2016 but it's not quite the same.

The idea was that each statistical category leader or award winner would have a card commemorating that title.  So for example, Hiromitsu Ochiai led the Central League in home runs in 1990 so he has a card in the 1991 BBM set commemorating it.  Unlike the leader cards that I remember from Topps sets, the card ONLY shows Ochiai - he doesn't share it with either the leader from the other league or the second and third place finishers.  Ochiai also led the CL in RBIs in 1990 so there's a separate Leader card of him for that category.  If two or more players tied for the league lead in something, each player would get a separate cards in the subset.   For example, Orestes Destrade and Kazuhiko Ishimine tied for the most RBIs in the Pacific League in 1990 so they both have "PL RBI Leader" cards in the 1991 BBM set.

2007 BBM 1st Version #445

One aspect of the cards is that usually the player was depicted on the Leader card with the team for which he earned the award or statistical title, regardless of whether or not that's the team he had his "regular" card in the set with.  Where this gets kind of interesting is guys who switched teams in the off season.  For example Michichiro Ogasaswara won the 2006 Pacific League MVP award while playing for the Fighters but joined the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent that winter.  His 2007 "PL MVP Leader" cards shows him with the Fighters but his "regular" card shows him with the Giants.  Similarly if a player won a title or award with a team that changed its name during the offseason due to being sold, merged or some other reason, in most cases the player would be shown with the original team.  (I say "most cases" because it looks like that's not the case for at least the 1991-93 Leader cards.)

How BBM handled the flagship "Leader" cards differed both from how Calbee has handled their "Title Holder" cards and how BBM is now handling their "Leader" subset in the Fusion sets.  Calbee does not do separate "Title Holder" cards for players who win multiple titles/awards - there's one card per player in the subset that lists everything the player won.  BBM's Fusion sets have a set number of Leader cards - if multiple players tie for a particular statistical category, they all appear on the same card.  This has led to having as many as three players on one Leader card.

BBM's first set in 1991 included 23 Leader cards, the fewest of any set.  The number of cards in the subset expanded to the high-20's the next two years then broke 30 in 1994.  The size of the subset remained above 30 the rest of the subset's lifespan with the exception of 2001 which only had 29 cards.  The set with the highest number of subset cards was 2004 with 37 cards - 1999, 2005 and 2013 tied for second with 36.

I reached a milestone a while back in my goal to complete all of BBM's flagship sets - I now have every leader card from the 1991 to 2013 sets - all 739 of them!  Since I have them all in my card database I thought I'd take the opportunity to do some analysis of who and what these cards included.  It's probably more information than anyone ever want to know but here goes.  There's five questions I was curious about.

1. Which Awards And Statistical Categories Were Included?


2008 BBM 1st Version #436

The awards and statistical categories included in the Leader cards varied over the years.  Certain statistical categories appeared every year - Batting Average, ERA, Home Runs, RBI, Strikeouts, Stolen Bases and Wins - along with the big three awards - MVP, Rookie Of The Year and Sawamura (or at least in the years that these awards were actually awarded - for some reason 2000 saw no Sawamura Award or Pacific League Rookie Of The Year).   They also included a card for the previous year's Nippon Series winner.  BBM increased the number of categories after 1991, adding the Shoriki Award in 1992, OBP and the Comeback Player Award in 1993, and Game Winning RBI in 1995.  

2001 BBM #14

All of the statistical categories I've mentioned so far were "official titles" for each league when they appeared in the Leader subsets with the exception of Game Winning RBI which after 1988 was no longer an official stat for the Pacific League and would get dropped by the Central League after 2000 (and BBM's last card for it was from 2001 naturally).  Additional "official titles" were added by the leagues in the 1990's and drove the inclusion of new categories for the Leader cards.  The two leagues added Hits as an "official title" in 1994 so the first "Hits Leader" cards appeared in 1995.  

1993 BBM #13

2013 BBM 1st Version #349

Sometimes the categories evolved from year to year.  Saves were introduced as an official stat in 1974 but the leagues switched to tracking "save points" (SP) a few years later (1976 for the CL and 1977 for the PL).  "Save points" are determined by adding the number of saves to the number of relief wins a pitcher has.  This remained the case until 2005 when both leagues went back to saves.  The Leader subsets have an "SP" category until 2006 and a "save" category after that.

1998 BBM #12

1998 BBM #13

2010 BBM 1st Version #459

There was a similar but slightly more complicated issue with Holds.  The Pacific League adopted Holds as an official statistic in 1996 but the Central League instead had an award called simply "Middle Relief".  The PL shifted to the "Middle Relief" award in 2002 and both leagues shifted to "Hold Points" (HP) starting in 2006 (like "save points", "hold points" are calculated by adding up a player's holds and relief wins).

2012 BBM 1st Version #356

There are some oddball categories that I haven't quite figured out why BBM included them.  Innings Pitched was included in one set (1993) and never again.  There's some sort of relationship between the "MVPitcher" and "Pitcher Of The Year" awards and the "Winning Percentage" leaders that I don't fully understand.  But the oddball one that really stands out is the "Rookie Special Award".  I'm pretty sure this has been awarded a number of times - I think it's basically a consolation prize to an outstanding rookie that didn't win the Rookie Of The Year award - but it only shows up once as a Leader card (in 2012).


2. How Many Players Had Leader Cards And Who Had The Most?


1995 BBM #10

There are 270 players who had at least one Leader card.  Ichiro Suzuki had the most with a somewhat astounding total of 24.  I say "astounding" for two reasons.  The first is that he only had Leader cards in seven sets (1995-2001) and the second is that those 24 cards are TEN more than the 14 cards Hideki Matsui, the player with the second most Leader cards, had.  Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Hideo Nomo are tied for third with 13 cards each.  Alex Ramirez is fifth with 12 cards and Daisuke Matsuzaka and Masaki Saitoh are tied for sixth with 11 each.  Kazumi Saitoh and Koji Uehara are tied for eighth with 10 each and four players are tied for tenth with 9 cards - Norichika Aoki, Michihiro Ogasawara, Tuffy Rhodes and Toshiya Sugiuchi.


3. Who Had The Most Leader Cards In One Set?


1996 BBM #2

Ichiro again leads this list with seven Leader cards in the 1996 set.  Hideo Nomo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka are tied for second on the list with six each.  Nomo's six were in the 1991 set while Matsunaka's were in the 2005 set (and partially commemorated his Triple Crown season in 2004).  Ten other players are tied for fourth with five cards - Shinji Sasakoka (1992), Ichiro (1995), Fumiya Nishiguchi (1998), Koji Uehara (2000), Hideki Matsui (2001), Kei Igawa (2004), Kazumi Saitoh (2007), Hisashi Iwakuma (2009), Kenta Maeda (2011) and Shinnosuke Abe (2013).  

By the way, this means that Ichiro's Leader cards from 1995 and 1996 constitute half of all his Leader cards.


4. Which Leader Cards Are Missing?


I noticed when putting the list together that there are Leader cards that are missing.  In other words, there are categories for which a card would have been expected but there's no card.  I pretty much picked these for categories that BBM had previously included a card for but didn't in a given year.

There are nine instances that I'm comfortable saying that BBM left a Leader card out:

1993 PL Home Runs Orestes Destrade
1993 CL RBI Larry Sheets
1993 PL RBI Boomer Wells
1997 PL ERA Hideki Irabu
1997 CL GWRBI Tom O'Malley
1998 CL GWRBI Takanori Suzuki
2001 CL Hits Bobby Rose
2001 Nippon Champion Yomiuri Giants
2012 PL Strikeouts Yu Darvish

Seven of these feature players who were no longer playing in Japan when the set was published - Destrade, Sheets, Wells, Irabu, O'Malley, Rose and Darvish.  I'm assuming that BBM (and Calbee and Epoch) have the rights to make a baseball card of anyone playing in NPB in the current year but not for anyone who left after the previous season.  For BBM to include any of those seven players they would have to make a separate deal with them for the rights.

That said - I have no idea why Takanori Suzuki doesn't have a Game Winning RBI Leader card in 1998 or why the Giants don't have a Nippon Champion Leader card in 2001.  Suzuki played in NPB in 1998 (and not only has a base card in the 1998 set but he has also has a Leader card for Batting Average) and obviously the Yomiuri Giants played in NPB in 2001. 


5. Which Leader Card Are NOT Missing?


2003 BBM #373

The seven players mentioned above are not the only ones to have led the league in a category during their final season in Japan.  I did some searches to look for players who had one or more Leader cards in a flagship set but not a "regular" card.  I found nine players who had fourteen cards between them:

1992 Jim Traber PL RBI
2001 Ichiro Suzuki PL AVG, OBP
2003 Hideki Matsui CL MVP, HR, OBP, RBI
2004 Senichi Hoshino Shoriki Award
2004 Shingo Takatsu CL Save Points
2007 Kei Igawa CL Strikeouts
2008 Yasuhiko Yabuta PL Hold Points
2010 Colby Lewis CL Strikeouts
2011 Tsuyoshi Nishioka PL Hits, AVG

Seven of these players - Ichiro, Matsui, Takatsu, Igawa, Yabuta, Lewis and Nishioka - had moved to MLB organizations while Traber didn't play anywhere in 1992.  Hoshino is a special case - he had stepped down as manager of the Hanshin Tigers due to health reasons after leading the team to their first Central League pennant since 1985.  

As I said earlier, my assumption is that BBM had to make a separate deal with all of these guys to have the rights to include their cards in the set.  Why they successfully were able to do it with these guys and not the seven mentioned above is beyond me.  It's interesting, though, that most of the "missing" cards are from before 2001 and most of the "not missing" cards from 2001 and after.  It's almost like they went out of their way to include Ichiro in the 2001 set and Matsui in the 2003 set and decided to keep doing it.

There's another question I'd like to know the answer to but having the cards organized in the database isn't going to help me - why did BBM stop doing Leader cards after 2013?  I don't know the answer but I have a suspicion.  

I want to add some context here though.  BBM actually changed several things between 2012 and 2015.  They stopped publishing the annual All Star and Nippon Series box sets after 2012 and dropped the Tokyo Big Six collegiate set after 2013.  They streamlined their "comprehensive" team sets in 2015, standardizing them as 81 card base sets.  So there was some other retooling of their product line going on in those years.

What I suspect was the catalyst for BBM dropping the Leader cards though was Masahiro Tanaka's outstanding season in 2013.  Tanaka led the PL in wins and ERA and won both the MVP and Sawamura awards in 2013.  But he also left NPB for New York after the season so BBM was apparently faced with having to either make a separate deal with him to appear in the Leader cards in the 2014 set or have the Leader subset be missing four cards.

The counterargument to this is that Tanaka appeared in several other BBM sets in 2014, including Rookie Edition, the Eagles 10th Anniversary set and the Professional Baseball 80th Anniversary Pitchers Edition set so it's not like he wasn't willing to work with BBM that year.

By moving the Leader cards to the Fusion set, BBM solved the problem of not having the player under contract.  The Leader cards would now come out in the same year that the players led the league.  The only downside is that they no longer could include the award winners since those would not be announced until after the set went to press.

Here's the spreadsheet I put together to gather all the information about the Leader cards.  The cells that are highlighted in green represent Leader cards that are missing (as described above):



Monday, September 13, 2021

Takumi Kuriyama

I'm a little late getting to this but on September 4th (one day after his 38th birthday) Takumi Kuriyama of the Lions became the latest NPB player to reach 2000 hits.  Kuriyama was Seibu's fourth round pick in the 2001 draft out of Ikuei High School in Kobe (Takeya Nakamura was the team's second round pick that year).  He spent most of his first three professional seasons on the farm team but by 2007 he was a regular with the ichi-gun Lions.  He led the Central League in hits in 2008 and has won four Best 9 awards and one Golden Glove award.  Oddly enough he has only been named to the All Star team once (in 2016).  He's played in one Nippon Series, helping the Lions beat the Giants in 2008.  He was the Lions captain from the end of 2012 (taking over from Hiroyuki Nakajima who had left for America) until 2020 when he ceded the role to Sosuke Genda.  

Here's a bunch of Kuriyama's cards from over the years:

2002 BBM 1st Version #269

2004 BBM Lions #71

2005 BBM Lions #L075

2006 Konami Baseball Heroes 2 White Edition #B06W045

2009 BBM 1st Version #445

2011 BBM 1st Version #046

2013 Calbee #122

2014 BBM Lions Classic - Impact Of Lionsblue #08

2015 Lions Fan Club #1

2016 BBM Fusion #062

2020 Epoch Lions Rookies & Stars #30

2021 Epoch NPB #098

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Card Of The Week September 12

The Buffaloes and Marines started last week in a virtual tie for first place in the Pacific League (although Lotte was technically in first since they had a slightly better winning percentage) and as luck would have it they played each other in a three game series in Kobe from Tuesday through Thursday.  Each game was one of those tight, low scoring games that are always so much fun in a pennant race (especially if it's not one of your teams playing).

On Tuesday the Marines got out to an early 3-0 lead after two innings but the Buffaloes scored a run in bottom of the third.   No more runs were scored until pinch hitter Seiichiro Ohshita led off the bottom of the eighth by doing this:


That made the score 3-2 and the Buffaloes went on to tie it up that inning.  Then in the bottom of the ninth, Ohshita (who had remained in the game at first base) batted again with one out and the bases loaded and came through again:
 

The Buffaloes walked off with a 4-3 victory.

On Wednesday Orix got on the board first with a solo home run from rookie Ryoto Kita in the fourth.  The Marines tied it up in the top of the sixth and then in the top of the eighth Leonys Martin stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second:


Martin's three run home run not only was the margin of victory in Lotte's 4-1 win but also was the 8000th home run in Orions/Marines history.

Friday the Buffaloes again got the lead first by scoring single runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth (the latter coming on a solo home run from Yutaro Sugimoto who has hit half of his 24 home runs this year against Lotte).  But the Marines weren't done yet.  Former Hiroshima Toyo Carp Tetsuya Kokubo, who the Marines had just signed at the end of August after he'd spent most of the year with the Fire Country Salamanders of the independent Kyushu Asian League, homered in the seventh to cut the Buffaloes' lead in half and then Takashi Ogino led off the ninth by doing this:


Ogino's solo home run tied the game at 2.  The Buffaloes nearly walked it off in the bottom of the ninth - with two runners on and two outs Kotaro Kurebayashi hit a shot but Lotte third baseman Ryo Miki speared it for the final out of the 2-2 tie.

So after the series, the situation was roughly the same as it was before the series - the two teams in a virtual tie for first with the Marines having a slightly better winning percentage.  Unfortunately for Orix, the weekend's results weren't as good for them.  The Buffaloes dropped two of three to the Lions while Lotte swept the Eagles.  Still there's a lot of baseball left to be played and I'm still holding out hope that the Buffaloes and Tigers will meet in the Nippon Series.  There's only been one all-Kansai Nippon Series in history (the 1964 Series between the Tigers and the Nankai Hawks who played in Osaka at the time) and I think it'd be cool for there to be another one.

I thought this week I'd share a card of the big heroes from each of the three games:

2020 BBM Fusion #613

2020 Epoch One #505

2020 Calbee "AVG Leader" #AL-04


Saturday, September 11, 2021

2021 BBM Dragons History 1936-2021

BBM issued the latest in their OB team set "History" series a few weeks ago.  This one is called "Dragons History 1936-2021" and is the third is in the series following last year's "Carp History 1950-2020" and "Giants History 1934-2020".  This set is basically celebrating the team's 85th Anniversary, making it the fourth Anniversary set for the team following the 70th in 2006, the 75th in 2011 and the 80th in 2016.

I really like this set.  It helps that I'm a Dragons fan but the "History" sets have been really attractive and this one is no different.  It especially helps to make up for the lousy 80th Anniversary set that BBM basically phoned in five years ago.

Like the two previous "History" set, the base set for this set has 90 cards that are split into three parts.  The first is a six card "Dragons History" subset.  Each card features a 12 to 17 year span of the team's history.  The backs list the team's finish and who the manager was.  Card #01 covers 1936-48, Card #02 covers 1949-64, Card #03 covers 1965-1977, Card #04 covers #1978-1991, Card #05 covers #1992-2003 and Card #06 covers 2004-2020.  Here's the 1949-64 card showing the 1954 Nippon Series Champions:

#02

The bulk of the set is reserved for the OB players.  There are 72 cards representing former Dragons players.  I'm pretty sure everyone included in the set is retired - I don't think any of the players are active but playing for other teams.  As we've come to expect from this kind of set, most of the players included are from the 1970's and later.  There's only three players from before 1960 in the set, the most significant being Shigeru Sugishita who turns 96 next week and autographed cards for the set.  Some of the other players included are Morimichi Takagi, Seinchi Hoshino, Kenichi Yazawa, Eiji Bandoh, Hiroshi Gondoh, Yasushi Tao, Yasunori Ohshima, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, Genji Kaku, Motonobu Tanishige, Kenshin Kawakami and Masahiko Morino.  The only foreign player included is Alzono Powell (who's currently a coach for the team).

There's a handful of players who aren't in the set.  It really wasn't a surprise that Hiromitsu Ochiai's not in the set since he hasn't been on a baseball card in 10 years now (although if you squint you can almost make him out in the photo of the 2011 Central League champs on card #06) but I was surprised that both Shinichi Etoh and Michio Nishizawa were not in the set.  Shunichi Amachi (manager of the 1954 champs), Toru Mori, Yasuaki Taihoh and Kaname "Wally" Yonamine were others that I was a little surprised to not see.  There's a couple gaijin like Tyrone Woods, Gene Martin and Leo Gomez who were in the earlier Anniversary sets but not this one.

The cards themselves are beautiful.  The design of the cards is very similar to the two previous "History" sets and BBM continues to dig up new and interesting photos for the players.  Most of the photos are in color - there's only four cards in black and white.  Here's a bunch of examples:

#07

#13

#27

#17

#64

#40

#63

#66

The photo on Iwase's card shows him celebrating the combined perfect game he and Daisuke Yamai threw against the Fighters in the 2007 Nippon Series.  The combined perfect game that won the first Championship for the Dragons since 1954.

The remaining 12 cards in the base set feature members of the 2021 Dragons.  The cards use the same design as the OB cards except that they have a blueish tint on their backgrounds.  This subset includes pretty much who you'd expect including Yudai Ohno, Yota Kyota, Shuhei Ohshima, Shuhei Takahashi, Dayan Viciedo, Ryosuke Hirata and Kosuke Fukudome:

#90

In addition to the base set, I also picked up two of the insert sets - "Dream Team" and "Team Records".

The 12 card "Dream Team" set features an All Time Great lineup for the Dragons, including both a right handed and left handed starting pitcher along with a relief pitcher and a manager.  You can probably nitpick the choices at any of the positions - my biggest challenge would be Senichi Hoshino as manager.  No offense to him, but Hiromitsu Ochiai is the best manager in Dragons history.  But the insert set doesn't include anyone not in the base set.  The set does include two active players - Yohei Ohshima and Kosuke Fukudome.

#DT05

The "Team Records" set contains nine cards showing the Dragons career leaders in a number (well, nine, actually) of statistical categories.  Actually that's not quite true.  No player is shown more than once so there's four times when the second place player for a category is shown instead.  For example, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami is the Dragons career leader in hits, games played and RBIs.  He's on the card for most hits but the second place player for games played (Morimichi Takagi) and RBIs (Kenichi Yazawa) is shown instead.  It's a little odd but the cards are good looking.

#TR4

As always, you can see all the cards (including the inserts) over at Jambalaya.

If like me you like the "History" sets and want to see more of them, you're in luck.  BBM is releasing one for the Marines next week and for the Tigers in October.  I suspect there will be even more in the future.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

2021 BBM 2nd Version set


2021 BBM 2nd Version Set Summary


Size: 318 cards (cards numbered 337-600, the 18 cards of "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset are separately numbered FP01-FP18and 36 cards for the "Cross Torrent" subset are separately numbered CT37-CT72)
Cards Per Team: 19 (team card + 18 players)
Team Card Theme: Early Season Candids
Number Of Leader Cards: N/A
Checklists: 0
Subsets: 1st Version Update (36), Ceremonial First Pitch (18), Cross Torrent (36)
Inserts: New Sensation (12), Show Man (12), Phantom (12, #'d to 25), Foil Picturesque (12, #'d to 15)
Memorabilia Cards: Jersey cards for Takahisa Hayakawa and Teruaki Satoh, both of which are #'d to 200 along with patch versions that are #'d to 20 each.  There's also a combination jersey card featuring both Hayakawa and Satoh which is #'d to 10 along with a patch version of the combination card that is #'d to 5.  There are autographed cards for players that use a landscape version of the "Cross Torrent" cards that have print runs between 5 and 60 cards and other autograph cards that are #'d to 5.  There are also autographed "buy back" cards of Tomoya Mori.  There are autographed versions of eight of the "Ceremonial First Pitch History" cards with print runs between 25 and 27 with a silver parallel autographed version that are #'d to 5.  There are also 21 players with autograph cards using the format for the autograph cards in the player's team set - these are mostly for players who BBM was not able to include autograph cards in their team set due to COVID restrictions.
Parallels: 12 cards (one per team) have a "Secret" version which is a short printed photo variation.  12 other cards (also one per team) have an "Ultra Secret" version which is an even shorter printed photo variation.  70-ish of the player cards have four different facsimile autograph parallels - silver (unnumbered), gold (#'d to 100), hologram (#'d to 50), and red (#'d to 25) .  Each "Cross Torrent" card has two parallels - one that's #'d to 100 and a "1 of 1" version.  There are five different parallels for the "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards - holo (#'d to 300), silver (#'d to 200), gold (#'d to 100), silver holo (#'d to 50) and gold holo (#'d to 25).  The "New Sensation" inserts have a parallel version that is numbered to 100 while the "Show Man" cards have one parallel numbered to 150.
Notable Rookies: Yukikazu Sano

After a departure from the norm last year, BBM's 2nd Version set returned to form this year.  Once again there are 216 "regular" cards (18 per team) - unlike the 180 (15 per team) last year - and only the three usual subsets (1st Version Update, Cross Torrent and Ceremonial First Pitch) instead of the six last year - 1st Version Update, Cross Blossom, Ceremonial First Pitch History, Proud Ace, Big Archist and Ground Master.  Oh, and the Ceremonial First Pitch cards show pitches from the current year this time - last year's set had "historic" first pitches since by the time the set went to press the season had only been going on for about a week and a half.

As usual the "regular" cards are pretty attractive.  The photo selection continues the improvement that BBM started in this year's 1st Version set although there's still more "pitchers pitching, batters batting and catcher catching" photos than I'd like although it'd be tough for BBM to not have ANY cards using those poses.  Here's a bunch of examples:


#490

#387

#529

#421

#550

#434

#511

#457

#571

The backs have the player's statistics up until May 17th:

#404

There's 43 players who appear in the "regular" cards of the set who were not in this year's 1st Version set.  I'm not positive but I think that might be the most ever.  It's certainly the most over the past several years.  This I think is partly driven by the number of foreign players who were left out of 1st Version due to their late arrival in Japan this spring.  My reasoning for this is kind of roundabout - there's a whole bunch of foreign players in the 1st Version update subset for this set and I'd guess that that pushed some guys who would have normally been in that subset into the regular set (if that make sense).  There's still several foreigners with "regular" cards who weren't in 1st Version - Brandon Laird, Cy Sneed, Joe Gunkel, Jefry Marte and Reed Garrett.  Most of the other players are simply players who are making more of an impact for their team than BBM expected like Daiki Asama, Yuma Mune, Yuki Takahashi, Chihaya Sasaki and Sho Iwasaki.

The "1st Version Update" subset contains 36 cards (3 per team) using the 1st Version design featuring players who didn't appear in 1st Version.  As I said above, a lot of these are foreign players.  The subset contains 20 Westerners - Adeiny Hechavarria of Lotte; Mike Gerber and Randy Rosario of Chunichi; Nick Martinez, Chris Rea and Carter Stewart of the Hawks; Raul Alcantara and Mel Rojas, Jr. of Hanshin; Kyle Bird, Robert Corniel and Dovydas Neverauskas of Hiroshima; Robbie Erlin of Nippon-Ham; Stefen Romero of Orix, Matt Dermody of Seibu, Brandon Dixon of Rakuten; Jose Osuna and Domingo Santana of Yakult; Fernando Romero and Kevin Shackelford of DeNA and CC Mercedes of Yomiuri.  (I do need to mention that not all of these guys were late arrivals this season).  UPDATE - one thing I forgot to mention:  Justin Smoak of the Giants is NOT one of the foreign players in the set although he was included in some of the early promotional materials for the set.  Smoak had asked for his release from the team in late June, early enough that BBM was able to replace him in the set.  You can sort of see his intended card in Discount Niki's page for the set.

#368

The remaining players are again just guys who are playing a bigger role for their team than BBM had expected - guys like Akira Neo, Aito Takeda and Nien-ting Wu (who's from Taiwan but went to high school and college in Japan and was subject to the draft so he doesn't count as a foreign player).  There's also a couple players who were traded since early March (Takahide Ikeda, Masaki Tanigawa, Taishi Hirooka and Kazuto Taguchi) although none of the appeared in 1st Version with their original team.  As usual I have no idea how BBM decides who gets a "1st Version Update" card and who just shows up in the "regular" cards.

#370

There's a couple players in the subset who are former ikesei players who have been registered to the 70 man roster for the first time - Dan Onodera of Hanshin, Fumiya Motomae of the Marines and Yukikazu Sano of Orix.  Sano was drafted last fall so he's the only one of the three who gets the "Rookie" icon on his card:

#353

The theme for the team checklists is "early season highlights" for lack of a better term.  There's a couple photos of post game celebrations, either on the field or during the "Hero Interviews".  There's also an action shot of Shogo Nakamura of the Marines sliding head first into home and the Dragons' mascot Doala doing his backflip.  Here's the Carp card showing Ryutaro Hatsuki (#69) and Masato Morishita (#18):

#599

Of course this set has the other half of the cross set subset "Cross Torrent" - the first half was in the 1st Version set.  There are 36 cards (three per team) numbered from #CT37 to CT72.

#CT48

BBM's annual ode to Japanese pop culture - the "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset - is back this year after being a "historic" subset last year.  The 18 cards are probably only around half of what BBM will eventually do - there'll likely be more of these cards in the Fusion set later this year.  There's the usual collection of Idols in the subset - Shiori Tamai (from Momoiro Clover Z), Mirei Suganami (from ≠ ME), Rikako Yagi (from Asia Cross), Haruka Momokama, Shiori Kubo and Maria Makino (from Morning Musume).  There's even a male Idol - Yukihisa Tamura.  There's a model (Miyu Ikeda), a pair of comedic brothers (the Tosa Brothers), a kabuki actor (Ukon Onoe), an actor (Fuku Suzuki), a TV announcer (Yumi Nagashima), a baseball You-Tuber (Tokusan) and an anime character (Conan Edogawa).

#FP03

Several of these people have appeared in previous subsets - Tamai appeared in the 2018 Fusion set; Suzuki was in the 2012 2nd Version set (when he was eight!) and Kubo was in last year's Fusion set.  Even the anime character Conan Edogawa was in a previous set - the 2011 2nd Version set.  This is Makino's fourth appearance in one of these subsets - she was previously in the 2017 2nd Version, 2018 2nd Version and 2019 Fusion sets.  That's two fewer than our returning champion, Idol/announcer Ami Inamura, who is appearing in her sixth BBM "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset after previously being in the 2016 2nd Version and Fusion sets, the 2017 2nd Version and Fusion sets and the 2018 Fusion set.  If you include the "secret" version of her 2017 2nd Version card, the six "Sports Card Magazine" insert cards of her and the two Epoch JWBL "First Pitch" cards of her, this is the 15th card of her doing a first pitch ceremony.

#FP15

If you've been counting, you'll have noticed that I've only mention the subjects of 15 of the 18 "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards (the two Tosa brothers share a card).  The remaining three cards feature members of the Hanshin Tigers Women's Team (and former Japan Women's Baseball League players) - Mizuki Bandoh, Asaka Tsuru and Minako Uemura.

#FP07

As usual, you can see all the cards (including the inserts, "secret" versions and parallels) over at Jambalaya.