File this one under shameless self-promotion - I contributed a couple of thoughts to Jon Paul Morosi's recent article on the idea of a MLB vs NPB World Series. One of the questions Jon asked me was if any of the recent NPB champs would have had a chance against their counterpart World Series winner. I went with the 2003 Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, who had four MLB-caliber starters in Kazumi Saito, Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi and Nagisa Arakaki, as well as future MLB'ers Kenji Johjima and Tadahito Iguchi.
I think that MLB would have the upper hand on NPB nearly every year, but looking at the last ten years, I think there are a couple of matchups where the NPB team would hold there own.
2009 - Yankees vs Yomiuri: I have a hard time seeing this year's Giants team putting up much of a fight against the Yankees, but it would have been a great event. Dicky Gonzales had a great year, but I can't see him shutting down the Yankees the way Cliff Lee did.
2008 - Phillies vs Seibu: I'd score this one a little closer. Seibu featured a couple of strong pitchers in Hideaki Wakui and Takayuki Kishi, a good infield defense, and a well-balanced lineup. Cole Hamels strikes me as a guy that NPB players would be able to hit, but he was really on his game in the 2008 post-season.
2007 - Red Sox vs Chunichi: The Dragons had almost everything you want to see in a short series: a strong defense, a good bullpen, some on-base skills, and three-run homer power. What they didn't have was a lot of standout starting pitching beyond Kenshin Kawakami, though Kenta Asakura has always been good when healthy, and Daisuke Yamai/Hitoki Iwase combined with for a perfect game to close the Japan Series. Of course, Boston pummeled Colorado in the '07 World Series, and would have had an edge over Chunichi.
2006 - Cardinals vs Nippon Ham: Yu Darvish was on the winning 2006 Fighters, but hadn't yet broken out as Japan's best pitcher. Tomoya Yagi Nippon Ham's staff ace, and the Fighters got it done with strong, balanced offense. I actually had tickets to the World Series in 2006, had it been in Oakland, but alas the A's got stomped in the ALCS by the shockingly good Tigers. I fully expected the Tigers to stomp the Cardinals too, but the Cardinals just played better. So I think the Fighters would have had a chance against the Cards.
2005 - White Sox vs Lotte: I grew up a White Sox fan, and followed Hanshin in Japan, so I'll have to try extra hard to be objective with this one. 2005 was a case of both champions getting hot at the right time. The White Sox steamrolled everyone in their path in the 2005 postseason, and Marines destroyed Hanshin in the Japan Series. Baseball Prospectus simulated a hypothetical series between the two teams, and the White Sox won, 4-1, but the Marines were competitive.
2004 - Red Sox vs Seibu: This would have been interesting - Daisuke Matsuzaka vs his future team. The Lions also had a still-effective Fumiya Nishiguchi and a once-promising Chang Chih-Chia. They would have had to go up against a Red Sox team that came back from 3-0 against the Yankees, and then swept the Cardinals. So destiny would have worked against the Lions in this one.
2003 - Marlins vs Daiei: As I said earlier, I think this would have been a good series. Daiei's biggest weakness was their bullpen, but they could have gone with a three-man rotation and stuck a starter (maybe Arakaki) in the bullpen. The more I think about this matchup, the more I think Daiei really would have had the edge in this one.
2002 - Angels vs Yomiuri: I think this would have been another good series. The 2002 Giants featured Hideki Matsui and Koji Uehara, who were both really in their primes (2002 was Matsui's near-Triple Crown season); as well as Masumi Kuwata, Kimiyasu Kudoh, and Hideki Okajima. I think they would have given the Angels a good series.
2001 - Diamondbacks vs Yakult: The 2001 World Series is one of my all-time favorites (along with 1991 and 2005), so I'm a little biased here. Yakult had a balanced lineup with a good defense, and four future MLB'ers: Kazuhisa Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, Akinori Iwamura, and Ryota Igarashi. So maybe they could have taken a game or two, but it's hard to pick against Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in a short series.
2000 - Yankees vs Yomiuri: The 2000 Japan Series was the first I was actually present in Japan for, so again I have fond memories of this one too (my three favorite players in Japan, for a time, where Okajima, Akira Etoh and Darrell May). Anyway, this Giants team would have gone up against the last World Series winner from the Yank's late-90's dynasty.
Alright, you've sat through 700 words from me, if you're still here, what are your thoughts?