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Guide to Betting on Japanese Baseball in 2020

Nippon Professional Baseball
The athletes all over the world are slowly returning to action after the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. One of the professional leagues that are already running is Nippon Professional Baseball which is the top tier of baseball in Japan.

I’m pretty sure that many baseball fans know how strong baseball culture in Japan is, while numerous Japanese players have made it to Major League Baseball over the years. The first Japanese baseball league was found in 1936, and 14 years later, it was transformed into a sports organization called Nippon Professional Baseball.

If you like to watch baseball or just prefer to wager on MLB, I want to show you how Nippon Professional Baseball works and how to bet on Japanese baseball.

NPB League Format and Playoffs

Since 1950, Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues – Central League and Pacific League – and each league has six teams. As well as Major League Baseball, the Nippon Professional Baseball season runs from late March or early April to late September or early October when playoffs start.

Each of the 12 NPB teams plays 143 games in the regular season. At the end of the regular season, the top team from each league qualifies for the Climax Series which is basically the league’s finals played as the best-of-five series.

The second and third-placed teams from each league play in a wild-card best-of-three series, and the winner qualifies for the Climax Series. Finally, winners of the Climax Series meet each other in the Japan Series which is actually the Japanese version of the World Series.

Monday is a day off in Nippon Professional Baseball, so each team plays six games per week. When it comes to interleague play, each team plays a couple of two-game series against each team from the other league.

NPB Teams

Central LeaguePacific League
Chunichi DragonsChiba Lotte Marines
Hanshin TigersFukuoka SoftBank Hawks
Hiroshima Toyo CarpHokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Tokyo Yakult SwallowsOrix Buffaloes
Yokohama DeNa BayStarsSaitama Seibu Lions
Yomiuri GiantsTohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are a three-time reigning Japan Series champions. They’ve also won five Japan Series in the last six years.

After two straight titles in 2014 and 2015, Fukuoka missed the 2016 Japan Series when the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters won the championship.

Last year, the Hawks swept the Yomiuri Giants to win their 10th Japan Series in the team’s history. Interestingly, the Giants are one of the most important teams in Japanese baseball history. They’ve won the most titles (22) while clinching nine straight championships from 1965 to 1973.

Over the last 10 years, nine different teams have made it to the Japan Series. The second-most successful team with 13 titles, Saitama Seibu Lions, haven’t been in the Japan Series since 2008 when they won their last championship.

The vast majority of NPB players are Japanese. At the moment, just 72 internationals are playing for the NPB teams including 29 guys from the USA.

NPB Compared to MLB

Essentially, the NPB rules are those of Major League Baseball, but there are a few slight differences. First, Nippon Professional Baseball uses a slightly smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field. Five of 12 NPB teams have fields with dimensions that would violate the MLB rules.

Second, the NPG game can be finished in a tie. If the rivals are tied after nine innings, the maximum of three additional innings will be played. If they are tied after 12 innings, the clash is declared a draw. This rule refers to playoff games, too, so the best-of-seven series can potentially produce more than seven games.

How to Bet on Japanese Baseball?

Honestly, it’s the same approach as with Major League Baseball. Many MLB experts, scouts, and former players claim that NPB is less competitive than MLB, but it is way more competitive than the Triple A’s.

Most of the NPB teams use a six-man rotation, unlike the MLB teams that mostly use a five-man rotation. Anyway, you should take a closer look at each NPB team and find out who are their best players and aces, in case you want to bet on Japanese baseball.

Back in 2019, the reigning champs Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks averaged only 4.07 runs per game during the regular season. They’ve been surrendering 3.94 runs per contest, finishing at the second spot of the Pacific League standings.

The Saitama Seibu Lions ended the 2019 regular season atop of the Pacific League. They’ve been scoring 5.29 runs per game while allowing 4.86 runs in a return. The Lions had the best record in the NPB (80-62-1), while the Tokyo Yakult Swallows had the worst overall record (59-82-2).

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the New York Yankees led the MLB with 5.82 runs per game, while the Atlanta Braves were seventh in the league with 5.28 runs per contest. The Baltimore Orioles had the worst defense in 2019, yielding 6.06 runs per game, whilst the LA Dodgers led the majors with just 3.78 runs allowed per contest.


Furthermore, keep in mind that the NPB teams from the same league know a lot about each other, considering the number of games they are playing against each other over the year. It’s something similar to the division rivalries in MLB.

When it comes to the odds and markets, everything is pretty much the same as with betting on the MLB. You can take the side bet, but remember there’s a tie in the NPB. Also, you can bet against the spread, take the totals, player props, and much more.

Getting Started with NPB Betting

All the top online betting sites offer the NPB odds, so the sports bettors around the country won’t have any problems to wager on Japanese baseball.

If you like to bet on Major League Baseball, I highly suggest you try wagering on Nippon Professional Baseball.