Thursday, January 18, 2018

NPB 101: Schedule and calendar for a year

Nippon Professional Baseball has it's schedules and quirks among some of the many things in the league. However, not everyone is aware of all that goes on, including yours truly.

In a guide to understanding NPB more, here is the ideal calendar for a season:


-Training camp begins. All teams have a ni-gun facility which is separate and a distance away from the ichi-gun team. Some teams train in Okinawa, while other are in Miyazaki prefecture. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters have spent a portion of their ichi-gun camp in Arizona since 2016.

-Practice games commence. Unlike an exhibition, teams can substitute players to come back in and out as the games are not under officials rules.



-Preseason (Open-sen) begins. Exhibitions will go only nine innings with no extras, but are otherwise played under official rules.

-The first 28-man roster announcement comes, everyone else is in the farm.

-Spring Koshien, known as the invitational and lesser of the two high school Koshien events take place. Only 32 schools participate with a few special underdogs given an invite known as 21st Century Schools. It was in Spring Koshien when Shohei Ohtani lost to Shintaro Fujinami in a duel.
It's a good way to scout a few potential draft picks and a better alternative for those craving meaningful do or die baseball. As a result, the Hanshin Tigers start their home season in Kyocera Dome.

-Opening Day takes place, the last Friday of the month.



-First time through the order completed. All teams see the other five teams in the same league first, then go through this again having played in all traditional home stadiums.



-Second time through the order completed.

-Golden Week, a national holiday in Japan. With majority of the country taking the week off, games will take place in the day time. Golden Week can overlap in late April.



-Interleague play takes place for 18 games, three weeks. Sometimes interleague play will start in the final week of May. There is also a makeup week scheduled after the initial three weeks for any games that were rained out. Interleague games are not made up in September/October.



-NPB All-Star games. There are usually two All-Star games and sometimes a third. The 2018 edition will be in Kyocera Dome and in Kumamoto prefecture.

-Trade deadline is on July 31. This is also the deadline for teams to sign any foreign imports if there is room.



-Summer Koshien begins. This is the most iconic baseball-related event in Japan, given it's longer history (though some college rivalries have lasted longer). All 47 prefectures have at least one school involved with Tokyo and Hokkaido getting two in, representing different regions.

This is a gauntlet and it's like March Madness in Japan. Once again, plenty of talent to scout and someone could up his stock for the draft by the time it's all over. Masahiro Tanaka and Yuki Saito became legends here.

-Crazy schedule, including more games on Monday than usual. Sundays are usually day games in Japan, but there could be more night games everywhere.



-Irregular schedule structured to add in makeup games from the season. There are fewer three-game series against a team and there are likely stand alone games in place. The pennant is likely decided in this month for both leagues.



-Regular season ends. Several makeup games could continue to take place depending on how many were rained out during the season.

-Phoenix League in Miyazaki takes place where players will get extra work. If a team makes the postseason, the Phoenix League team will be made up of farm players. Ichi-gun players will get more work if they come up short.

-First and final stages of the Climax Series and Japan Series commences and concludes.

-NPB Draft takes place prior to the Japan Series. Players who will not be retained are usually announced before and after the draft, known as Senryokugai.

-Lots of "captain obvious" quotes come from teams regarding pending free agents on how important or good a potential outgoing player is.



-Fall camp begins. Several teams will practice together at their spring training facility or elsewhere for a separate camp.

-Foreign signings commence. Some signings come as early as November.

-Contract negotiations for the following season begin. A player will sit down with the team and come to a salary agreement for the next year.

-Thanks Festa, the NPB equivalent of fan fest takes place after the season. Teams who win the pennant and Japan Series also have their parades, including those that didn't win the latter.

-Free agency begins. Players who have a domestic (7 years) or international (9 years) FA option can exercise it this month and put themselves on the open market. Based on his salary from the season, he will be either a type A, B or C free agent.

-Some teams will send players abroad into a league in the offseason. The Saitama Seibu Lions have been partnered with the Melbourne Aces since 2011. Others like the Yokohama DeNA Baystars have sent players to Mexico and the Dominican Republic.



-MLB Winter meetings in Florida take place. Plenty of representatives from NPB will attend this.

-Contract negotiations should be completed with all salaries reported for the next year.

-Players are likely posted this month if a team elects to do so. They are given a 30-day window from the day of their posting to come to an agreement with a team.

-Majority of foreign signings are announced, domestic free agents likely find their destination. Teams who have compensation FA rights could make their decision on what to do in December.

-Slogans and mottos are often said at the end of the calendar year for the following season. Sometimes they come as late as January or February.



-Rookie camp begins for all draft picks last October. They'll typically go through drills and normal exercises to remain in shape. Those taken out of college and high school are still technically students, as they graduate in the spring.

These rookies will move into a dorm or a team facility whether it's an 18-year high schooler or a 25-year old shakaijin. The biggest "news" during this time is finding out a significant item the rookie brought with him when moving in.

-Battle Stadium, a Japanese TV special will air. Players from each team will participate in indoor games as this is fan service. This isn't just reserves or a farm player, even stars like Takahiro Norimoto and Tetsuto Yamada will be part of this. Interviews take place between the games.

Here's a look at the 2015 edition:


The NPB season has its cycles, but hopefully this calendar can give you an idea how a year goes. If there's anything significant we missed, please let us know.


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  1. What's the stadium in the photo?

    1. That's Koza Shinkin Stadium in Okinawa (Carp's spring camp stadium)