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Legal NPB Betting 2022 – Japanese Baseball Betting Guide

NPB Baseball
  • Legally bet on the 2022 Japanese baseball season online
  • Bet on NPB futures: Climax Series odds + Japan Series odds
  • Small ball has BIG payouts on the baseball betting boards!

With the resurgence in baseball's popularity in the US and abroad, it’s no surprise that Japan’s top competitive league – Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) – is gaining respect on the boards at offshore sports betting sites. As a result, it’s now possible to easily bet on the NPB across its seven-month season, even for bettors located half a world away.

While Major League Baseball betting remains the top draw for the sport in gambling circles, the NPB is considered the pinnacle of international baseball, with better competition than even the MLB’s AAA affiliates. Many big league players eventually come to the US from the NPB, while former US stars often make their way to play baseball in Japan as their careers wind down. If you want to learn more about the NPB and how to bet on small ball, our big Japanese baseball betting guide covers all the bases.

Is It Legal To Bet On NPB Baseball?

If you live in the US (or most other countries abroad), it is legal to bet on NPB baseball provided you use a licensed and/or regulated offshore sports betting site. Though domestic American books are growing in number of late, these don’t offer much NPB action, but overseas books have been covering Japanese baseball for many years now.

Please note that while all major NPB betting sites accept US players aged 18 and up, residents from Washington are precluded by local betting laws from joining. However, despite blanket online gambling bans, the law is seemingly unenforced, and we’ve never heard of WA residents getting into legal hot water over online baseball betting (or any other kind of online sports gambling).

Best Online Sportsbooks for Japanese Baseball Betting 2022

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2022 NPB Betting Odds

Before the 2022 Japanese baseball season started, you could bet on the eventual champion of the 2022 NPB season at the top online sportsbooks. There, the defending champion Tokyo Yakult Swallows were favored by 50-100 points, and while those futures are now off the boards, it's safe to assume that the Swallows are still on top.

As the season works its way through the next few months, you'll start to see betting lines on the next Japan Series winner as well as NPB Central League odds, NPB Pacific League odds, and even NPB Climax Series odds.

After two seasons of COVID-related disruptions (albeit the 2021 season did see a full slate of games), the 2022 season is finally bringing Nippon Professional Baseball back to its regular spot on the sporting schedule.

What Is The NPB?

Nippon Professional Baseball, aka the NPB, is the highest level of pro baseball in Japan, and it’s widely regarded as the highest level of the sport outside of the United States-based MLB league. In fact, most Major League scouts refer to the NPB as “AAAA” baseball, putting it one tier ahead of the American-based AAA Minor League level. As a result, the NPB is a hotbed of talent for the American game, and over the last generation, a number of major MLB stars have emerged from Japan.

NPB League Structure And Teams

Nippon Professional Baseball – or Puro Yakyū as its known in Japan – is comprised of two leagues: the Central League and the Pacific League. Both leagues have six teams (though there is a governmental proposal to add four new teams to NPB), and the seasons are around 146 games in length (73 home games and 73 away games). However, this isn't always the case, as each season is flexible and will add or remove games as required to make way for other scheduled events throughout Japan.

Note: The 2022 NPB regular season is comprised of 143 games. Of these matchups, 125 will be intraleague contests, while 18 interleague matches will be played by each team. 

The NPB Central League is akin to the MLB’s National League, as it has no designated hitters, while the NPB Pacific League is like the American League, fully utilizing the DH position. The Central League and Pacific League playoffs are dubbed the Climax Series, with the top three teams in both leagues making the postseason.

The winners of each Climax Series go on to play one another in the Japan Series, which is the NPB championship and equivalent to the MLB’s World Series. The Japan Series is contested in a best-of-seven format, but because games 1-7 can end in ties, it is possible for the Japan Series to last for eight or more games.

2022 NPB Teams:

Central League

  • Chunichi Dragons
  • Hanshin Tigers
  • Hiroshima Toyo Carp
  • Tokyo Yakult Swallows
  • Yokohama DeNA BayStars
  • Yomiuri Giants

Pacific League

  • Chiba Lotte Marines
  • Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks
  • Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
  • Orix Buffaloes
  • Saitama Seibu Lions
  • Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

How Is The NPB Different Than The MLB?

While the game’s rules are mostly similar to Major League Baseball and NCAA Baseball, there are a few key differences in Nippon Professional Baseball to be aware of as a bettor and fan. These include the following:

  • Smaller, tighter-wound baseball
  • Smaller strike zone on inside half of plate
  • Smaller playing fields
  • Games can end in ties (after 12 innings)
  • 6-man starting rotations (as opposed to 5-man rotations in MLB)
  • 28-player roster (with three scratches per game)
  • Shorter regular season

When Is The NPB Season?

The Nippon Professional Baseball season is nominally 146 games in length (this is variable based on weather, rankings, etc., as in the American game), and it takes place over 6-7 months from late March/April to October. The NPB season generally aligns with the MLB season.

2022 NPB Schedule – Important Dates

  • February 23: First day of NPB Preseason
  • March 21: Last day of NPB Preseason
  • March 25: 2022 NPB Opening Day (both leagues)
  • May 24: NPB Interleague games begin
  • June 12: NPB Interleague games end
  • July 26: NPB 2022 All-Star Game 1 (venue: Fukuoka PayPay Dome)
  • July 27: NPB 2022 All-Star Game 2 (venue: Matsuyama Botchan Stadium)
  • October 1: Start of 2022 Climax Series
  • October 22: Start of 2022 Nippon Series (2022 Japan Series)
  • October 30: Nippon Series Game 7 (if necessary)

COVID Recap: Due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, the NPB's 2020 season was pushed back from its typical start time to June 19. The league reduced each team's schedule to 120 games in order to fit into the shortened window, and the 2020 Japan Series concluded on November 25. In 2021, the NPB season went on a three-week hiatus after the all-star break so the Japan men's national baseball team could participate in the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics baseball tournament, where Team Japan won its first ever Olympic baseball gold medal. Nevertheless, the 2021 NPB season finished on time with each team playing 143 games.  

2021 NPB Season – Final Standings

2021 NPB Regular Season Final Results – CL

  1. Tokyo Yakult Swallows: 73-52
  2. Hanshin Tigers: 77-56
  3. Yomiuri Giants: 61-62
  4. Hiroshima Toyo Carp: 63-68
  5. Chunichi Dragons: 55-71
  6. Yokohama DeNa BayStars: 54-73

2021 NPB Regular Season Final Results – PL

  1. Orix Buffaloes: 70-55
  2. Chiba Lotte Marines: 67-57
  3. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: 66-62
  4. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: 60-62
  5. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: 55-68
  6. Saitama Seibu Lions: 55-70

2021 NPB Climax Series First Stage Results

  • CL: Yomiuri Giants def. Hanshin Tigers, 2-0
  • PL: Chiba Lotte Marines def. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, 1-0

2021 NPB Climax Series Final Stage Results

  • CL: Tokyo Yakult Swallows def. Yumiuri Giants, 3-0
  • PL: Orix Buffalos def. Chiba Lotte Marines, 1-0

2021 Japan Series Results

In 2021, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows won the 2021 Japan Series by defeating the Orix Buffaloes 4-2. Catcher Yuhei Nakamura (Tokyo) won the 2021 Japan Series MVP.

  • Game 1 – Orix Buffalos defeat Tokyo Yakult Swallows, 4-3
  • Game 2 – Orix Buffalos lose to Tokyo Yakult Swallows, 0-2
  • Game 3 – Tokyo Yakult Swallows defeat Orix Buffaloes, 5-4
  • Game 4 – Tokyo Yakult Swallows defeat Orix Buffaloes 2-1
  • Game 5 – Tokyo Yakult Swallows lose to Orix Buffalos, 5-6
  • Game 6 – Orix Buffalos lose to Tokyo Yakult Swallows, 1-2

2022 NPB Playoff Format

Due to delays related to COVID-19, only three NPB teams made the playoffs in 2020. However, the 2021 season brought the normal 6-team playoff back into the mix, which should give fans in 2022 a bit more to root for – and bettors far more to bet on!

The standard Japanese baseball playoff format has the top three teams from both leagues making the NPB postseason, and they face off per the following model:

  • Climax Series – First Stage: 3 seed vs. 2 seed, best-of-three
  • Climax Series – Final Stage: Winner of First Stage vs. league champion, best-of-six (champion starts with 1-0 game advantage)
  • Japan Series (aka Nippon Series): Central League Champion vs. Pacific League Champion, best-of-seven (ties allowed) 

Nippon Professional Baseball Betting Types

The wagering types available for NPB betting are the same as those you’d get for standard baseball betting. These include the following basic bet varieties, all of which you should be familiar with before wagering on Nippon Professional Baseball:

  • Runline bet – Usually set at +/-1.5 runs, the runline is the baseball equivalent of a point spread bet. This is also known as a handicap or Asian handicap wager.
  • Straight bet (aka moneyline bet) – Pick the winner straight up at the advertised betting odds/prices.
  • Totals bet (aka over/under bet) – The sportsbook chooses a number representing the combined total runs to be scored between both teams. Pick whether they will score more or fewer runs.
  • Player prop bet – Wager on individual in-game statistical performances, like how many hits, home runs, or strikeouts a player will get in a given contest.
  • Team prop bet – Wager on team-based in-game statistical performances, like how many errors or hits a club will get in a given contest.
  • Futures bet – Bet on Central League and Pacific League Champions, Japan Series champions, and individual player award recipients.

NPB Betting Strategies

There are no special, unique betting strategies to use when wagering on NPB action. Since the league operates as a standard baseball league in most respects, it is represented as such by most legal online sports betting sites. For the most part, new bettors will want to simply keep the following bits of advice in the backs of their ball caps:

  • Consult recent win/loss records.
  • Consult recent ATS (Against The Spread) records.
  • Consult historical matchup records.
  • Note injuries, discipline issues, etc.
  • Note the weather, game time, venue, etc.
  • Don’t chase losses.
  • Don’t wager more than you can afford to lose.
  • Beginners should stick to straight bets, not parlays.
  • Avoid the sabermetrics rabbit hole (i.e. don’t overanalyze).
  • Mind the ties!
  • Bet with your head, not your heart.

Notable NPB Players

  • Sadaharu Oh – Sadaharu Oh is considered the greatest Japanese baseball player of all time, hitting 868 HR and knocking in 2170 RBI over his career (both all-time NPB records). He is a legend on the scale of America’s Babe Ruth in terms of league history and lore, and he has the most pro baseball HRs of any player in any league(s).
  • Ichiro Suzuki – Ichiro is the only other player that many will argue is the greatest Japanese talent in history. Ichiro had a stellar career in the NPB with the Orix Blue Wave, batting .353 over nine seasons and then .311 in the Majors over 18 years. Despite an abbreviated MLB career, Ichiro racked up 3089 hits in the US. Added to his 1278 hits in Japan, he is the all-time hits leader in professional baseball with 4367 (111 more than Pete Rose’s 4256).
  • Hideo Nomo – Hideo Nomo was the first top-level Japanese-born player to play in Major League Baseball, making history when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995. Nomo was known for his staggered, twisted delivery. Nomo went 78-46 with 1204 Ks and a 3.15 ERA in the NPB, and his MLB career record stands at 123-109 with 1918 Ks and a 4.24 ERA. Nomo is credited with opening the door for the modern model of Japanese player signings in the United States’ MLB.
  • Masahiro Tanaka – The premier ace on the New York Yankees’ 2010-era pitching staff, Masahiro Tanaka started his career in the NPB, amassing a record of 99-35 (2.30 ERA, 1238 Ks). As of 2020 (the last season in which Tanaka played in the Majors), his MLB record is 78-46 (3.74 ERA, 991 K). Being in his early 30s, Tanaka has several years left in the tank should he decide to continue playing in the MLB. However, Tanaka now plays for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the NPB and is unlikely to return to America. 
  • Hideki Matsui – Another NYY star, Hideki Matsui was a slugger in the NPB, with a .304 batting average, 332 HR, and 889 RBI. In the MLB, Matsui batted .282, had 175 HR, and 760 RBI. In 19 years of professional baseball, Matsui mashed 507 HR, and he earned World Series MVP honors in 2009.
  • Shohei Ohtani – Shohei Ohtani is the newest Japanese sensation to hit the US after being acquired by the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Nicknamed “Shotime,” Ohtani is both an ace pitcher and gifted slugger at the plate, with many calling him the modern-day Babe Ruth. In the NPB as a pitcher, Ohtani went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 Ks. As a hitter, he had a .288 average, 48 HR, and 166 RBI. In the Majors, Ohtani has already won the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award, the 2021 AL MVP award (unanimous), and the 2021 AP Athlete of the Year award. He was also the first player in MLB history to be voted to the All-Star Game as a pitcher and as a hitter in the same season (2021). Ohtani is the favorite to win the 2022 AL MVP in the leadup to the 2022 MLB season.

Notable NPB Teams:  

  • First NPB Champion: Mainichi Orions (Pacific League, 1950)
  • Most NPB Championships: Yomiuri Giants, 22
  • Most Central League Titles: Yomiuri Giants, 46
  • Most Pacific League Titles: Seibu Lions, 23

NPB Stats And Facts:

  • Career HR leader: Sadaharu Oh, 868 (1959-1980)
  • Career hits leader: Isao Harimoto, 3085 (1959-1981)
  • Career RBI leader: Sadaharu Oh, 2170 (1959-1980)
  • Career BA leader: Norichikia Aoki, .328 (2004-2011, 2018-present)
  • Career stolen bases leader: Yutaka Fukumoto, 1065 (1969-1988)
  • Career wins leader: Masaichi Kaneda, 400 (1950-1969)
  • Career ERA leader: Hideo Fujimoto, 1.90 (1942-1955)
  • Career strikeout leader: Masaichi Kaneda, 4490 (1950-1969)
  • Career saves leader: Hitoki Iwase, 407 (1999-2018)
  • Most HR in a single season: Wladimir Balentien, 60 (2013)
  • Most hits in a single season: Shogo Akiyama, 216 (2015)
  • Most RBI in a single season: Makoto Kozuru, 161 (1950)
  • Highest single season BA: Randy Bass, .389 (1986)
  • Most single season stolen bases: Yutaka Fukumoto, 106 (1972)
  • Most single season wins: Kazuhisa Inao, 42 (1961)
  • Lowest single season ERA: Kazuhisa Inao, 1.06 (1956)
  • Most single season strikeouts: Yutaka Enatsu, 401 (1968)
  • Most single season saves: Dennis Sarfate, 54 (2017)
  • Perfect games: 16 (most recent: November 1, 2007)

NPB Resources: Stats, Scores, and Streams

As with the MLB and KBO, the NPB is completely statistics-heavy, giving fans lots to talk about and bettors a ton of information to sort through in order to make the most informed wagers possible. To that end, you can visit the following links in order to get up to speed on the latest NPB stats, scores, and streams.

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