2006 in Japanese Baseball
From BR Bullpen
|2006 in baseball|
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 Nippon Professional Baseball
The 2006 season in Japan was marked by a surprising champion, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Going from fifth in the six-team Pacific League to first in the course of a year, the Fighters then took the playoffs easily and topped the Chunichi Dragons in the 2006 Japan Series. They became the second straight Japan Series champion with an American manager as they were guided by Trey Hillman. Leading their attack were 1B Michihiro Ogasawara, RF Atsunori Inaba and DH Fernando Seguignol, while a fine young pitching staff was anchored by sophomore Yu Darvish and Rookie of the Year Tomoya Yagi. The Chiba Lotte Marines, meanwhile, fell from first in 2005 to the second division and missed the playoffs.
In the Central League, there was a tight pennant race between the defending champion Hanshin Tigers and Chunichi, with both teams having fine finishing runs to keep the action alive. Unfortunately, it would be the last true pennant race in CL history as the league decided to copy the Pacific League's playoff structure for 2007.
The season marked the return of the player-manager to Japan as Atsuya Furuta guided the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Furuta was the first player-manager in NPB in 30 years, since his mentor Katsuya Nomura had filled the role. The former two-time MVP spent most of the year on the bench, but the 40-year-old still contributed at times.
It was a year for no-hitters of note in Japan. On April 15, there was the first combined no-hitter in NPB in 65 years when Yagi (10 IP), Hisashi Takeda (1 IP) and Micheal Nakamura (1 IP) combined to keep the Softbank Hawks hitless for twelve innings. On May 25, Rick Guttormson pitched the first no-hitter in NPB during interleague play. Using 139 pitches, he became the 7th foreigner in league annals to throw a no-hitter, stopping the Rakuten Golden Eagles flat. He was sent down afterwards on a technicality to free up a roster space for Dicky Gonzalez as NPB rules limit the number of foreigners on the active roster. The third historical no-hitter came in September when 41-year-old Masahiro Yamamoto became the oldest pitcher in league history to throw a no-hitter.
Hanshin Tigers LF Tomoaki Kanemoto, the 2005 Central League MVP, made note this year for a durability mark. He played in his 903rd consecutive game without missing an inning, breaking the world record previously held by Cal Ripken Jr.. Later in the year, Kanemoto reached 1,000 consecutive games played.
Yomiuri Giants SS Tomohiro Nioka provided his club with one of their bright spots in a rare second straight bad season for the most successful team in Japanese history. On April 30, Nioka set a Yomiuri record with 10 RBI in a game, something never done by the likes of Sadaharu Oh, Tetsuharu Kawakami or Shigeo Nagashima. He also became the first player in NPB history to hit grand slams in consecutive at-bats in that game against Chunichi.
While Kazumi Saitoh took home the pitching Triple Crown, most American eyes were on another Pacific League hurler, Daisuke Matsuzaka. The MVP of the 2006 World Baseball Classic (won by Japan), Matsuzaka was finally posted after the season after much anticipation and a denied request a year earlier.
- Bold indicates league champion; Italics indicate Nippon Series winner; * indicates Pacific League playoffs team
 Central League
|Chunichi Dragons||146||87||54||5||0.617||-.-||669||496||0.270||0.333||0.409||3.10||Hiromitsu Ochiai|
|Hanshin Tigers||146||84||58||4||0.592||3.5||597||508||0.267||0.328||0.396||3.13||Akinobu Okada|
|Tokyo Yakult Swallows||146||70||73||3||0.490||18||669||642||0.269||0.326||0.415||3.91||Atsuya Furuta|
|Yomiuri Giants||146||65||79||2||0.451||23.5||552||592||0.251||0.307||0.380||3.65||Tatsunori Hara|
|Hiroshima Toyo Carp||146||62||79||5||0.440||25||549||648||0.266||0.311||0.386||3.96||Marty Brown|
|Yokohama BayStars||146||58||84||4||0.408||29.5||575||662||0.257||0.311||0.387||4.25||Kazuhiko Ushijima|
 Pacific League
|Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters*||136||82||54||0||0.603||-.-||567||452||0.269||0.323||0.418||3.05||Trey Hillman|
|Seibu Lions*||136||80||54||2||0.597||1||645||556||0.275||0.342||0.419||3.64||Tsutomu Ito|
|Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks*||136||75||56||5||0.573||4.5||553||472||0.259||0.324||0.373||3.13||Sadaharu Oh1/Hiroshi Moriwaki|
|Chiba Lotte Marines||136||65||70||1||0.481||16.5||502||562||0.252||0.315||0.382||3.78||Bobby Valentine|
|Orix Buffaloes||136||52||81||3||0.391||28.5||481||570||0.253||0.311||0.373||3.84||Katsuhiro Nakamura|
|Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles||136||47||85||4||0.356||33||452||651||0.258||0.320||0.355||4.30||Katsuya Nomura|
- Bold indicates league record, Italics indicate all-time record
 All-Star Game
The NPB All-Star Game featured two games and was won by the Central League two games to none. The first game was played at Meiji-Jingu Stadium and was won by the CL, 3 - 1. The second game was played at Miyazaki Sun Marine Stadium and was won by the CL, 7 - 4.
In the first stage of the playoffs at the Invoice Seibu Dome, the third place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks defeated the second place Seibu Lions in two straight games. In the second stage of the playoffs the first-place Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters began the best-of-five series with a one-game advantage over the Hawks for finishing ahead of them. The Fighters swept the two games at the Sapporo Dome giving them pennant.
In the Nippon Series, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (PL) defeated the Chunichi Dragons (CL) in five games, 4 - 1. It was the team's first title in 44 years. The winning manager was Trey Hillman. The series MVP was Toshiaki Imae.
The Fighters proceeded to the Asia Series, to determine the champion of the four Asian leagues. The champions of Japan swept through the round-robin winning each of their three games to advance to the title match against the La New Bears of the CPBL. The Fighters won the game 1 - 0 to be crowned Asian champions.
 Award Winners
The winner of the 2006 Sawamura Award was Kazumi Saito of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. He had a 18 - 5 win-loss record, 205 strikeouts, and a 1.75 ERA in 201.0 innings; winning the Pacific League's pitching triple crown.
|Award||League||Player||Team||Position||AB||R||H||HR||RBI||SB||AVG||OBP||SLG||W - L||SV||IP||HA||HRA||BB||SO||ERA|
|Most Valuable Player||CL||Kosuke Fukudome||Chunichi Dragons||OF||496||117||174||31||104||11||.351||.438||.653||Did not pitch|
|PL||Michihiro Ogasawara||Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters||1B||496||77||155||32||100||4||.312||.397||.573||Did not pitch|
|Rookie of the Year||CL||Eishin Soyogi||Hiroshima Toyo Carp||IF||450||78||138||8||36||13||.289||.332||.422||Did not pitch|
|PL||Tomoya Yagi||Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters||P||26||1||1||0||1||0||.143||.143||.286||12 - 8||0||170.2||134||12||51||108||2.48|
 Best Nine
The following players were part of the 2006 Best Nine teams.
 Gold Gloves
The following players were the recipients of the Gold Glove Award in 2006.
 High School Baseball
The 88th National High School Baseball Championship featured a total of 4112 schools competing for 49 spots in the finals at Koshien. In the championship game Waseda Jitsugyo High School (West Tokyo) defeated Komadai Tomakomai High School (North Hokkaido) by a score of 4 - 3 in a replay of the championship game. The first game between the teams ended after 15 innings in a 1 - 1 tie.
The 78th National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament featured 32 schools competing in the tournament at Koshien. In the championship game Yokohama High School (Kanagawa) defeated Seihou High School (Nagasaki) by a score of 21 - 0.
 University Baseball
 All-Japan University Baseball Championship Series
The 2006 All-Japan University Baseball Championship Series featured 26 schools competing in the tournament at Meiji-Jingu Stadium. In the championship game Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences defeated Aoyama Gakuin University by a score of 7 - 6.
 Meiji Jingu Baseball Convention
 Tokyo Big6 Baseball League
 Tohto University Base Ball League
 Kansai 6 University Baseball League
 International Baseball
In the second World University Baseball Championship in Cuba, the Japanese national baseball team placed fourth. In the sixteenth Intercontinental Cup in Taiwan, the Japanese national baseball team placed fourth. In the 2006 Women's Baseball World Cup in Canada, the Japanese women's national baseball team won a silver medal. At the twenty-third Haarlemse Honkbalweek in Haarlem, the Netherlands, the Japanese national baseball team placed fourth.
 Japanese Players in Other Countries
- Italics indicate a Major League appearance
- Satoru Fujii: Sparta/Feyenoord, Hoofdklasse
- Takumi Hamaoka: GCL Braves (COL-R)
- Tadahito Iguchi: Chicago White Sox
- Daisuke Ikenaga: Mainz Athletics, Bundesliga
- Yusaku Iriki: St. Lucie Mets, Florida State (NYM-A-Adv); Norfolk Tides, International (NYM-AAA)
- Kenji Johjima: Seattle Mariners
- Ryokan Kobayashi: Calgary Vipers, Northern League
- Kazuo Matsui: New York Mets; St. Lucie Mets, Florida State (NYM-A-Adv); Norfolk Tides, International (NYM-AAA); Colorado Springs SkySox, Pacific Coast (COL-AAA); Colorado Rockies
- Hideki Matsui: New York Yankees; Trenton Thunder, Eastern (NYY-AA)
- Keith McDonald: Colorado Springs SkySox, Pacific Coast (COL-AAA
- Hideki Nagasaka: Reno Silver Sox; Chico Heat, Golden Baseball League
- Yuji Nerei: Neptunus, Hoofdklasse
- Hideo Nomo: Charlotte Knights, International (CWS-AAA)
- Tomokazu Ohka: Milwaukee Brewers; Brevard County Manatees, Florida State (MIL-A-Adv); AZL Brewers, Arizona (MIL-R);
- Akira Okamoto: ADO, Hoofdklasse
- Akinori Otsuka: Texas Rangers
- Stephen Randolph: Charlotte Knights, International (CWS-AAA)
- Dave Roberts: San Diego Padres; Lake Elsinore Storm, California (SDP-A-Adv)
- Kazuhiko Shiotani, SK Wyverns, Korea Baseball Organization
- Kenta Suzumegano: Sioux Falls Canaries, American Association
- Ichiro Suzuki: Seattle Mariners
- Mac Suzuki: Iowa Cubs, Pacific Coast (CHC-AAA) and Tijuana Colts, Mexican
- Kazuhito Tadano: Sacramento River Cats, Pacific Coast (OAK-AAA); Stockton Ports, California (OAK-A-Adv)
- So Taguchi: St. Louis Cardinals
- Masayoshi Tokuda: unknown (ATL)
- Keisuke Ueno: AZL Rangers, Arizona (TEX-R)
- Keiichi Yabu: Potros de Tijuana, Mexican League
- Tetsu Yofu: Brother Elephants, Chinese Professional Baseball League
 Hall of Fame
The following people were elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame:
- Hiromitsu Kadota, by Sportswriters Committee
- Morimichi Takagi, by Sportswriters Committee
- Hisashi Yamada, by Sportswriters Committee
- Hiromori Kawashima, by Special Committee
- Yasumitsu Toyoda, by Special Committee
|Japanese Baseball Seasons