Tag Archives: Hayato Sakamoto

Tetsuto Yamada keeps door open for move from Yakult

Second baseman Tetsuto Yamada ostensibly became the highest-paid player in the history of the Yakult Swallows, Kyodo News (Japanese) reported in its online edition Tuesday. The 27-year-old is the only player in NPB history to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 30 steals more than once in his career.

He accomplished the feat for the third time in 2018. In 2019, he went 33-for-36 as a base stealer with 35 home runs, but only batted. 271. Despite that slight hiccup, Yamada received a 70 million yen pay increase for 2020 after turning down a multiyear contract. This opens the door for him to file for domestic free agency next November or even ask the Swallows to post him.

As Japan’s premier second baseman since he broke out in the second half of the 2014 season at the age of 21, some have wondered if Yamada might ask Yakult to post him, and he did express some positive feelings about such a move. Since then, the lingering effects of being hit by a pitch in August 2016, and a quiet multiyear commitment to the team muted talk of a major league move.

Despite the injury that reduced his production to fairly pedestrian levels for nearly two seasons, Yamada’s peak value is unmatched among NPB second baseman, a position where Japan has traditionally obsessed about fielding and preferred slap hitters. His best three seasons using Bill James’ win shares rank 10th in NPB history. The value of his best five-year span is 15th. Both are tops at his position in Japanese pro baseball history.

Although he is not shy and retiring like notable busts like pitcher Kei Igawa and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka, Yamada seems content, like Yomiuri Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, to be a superstar in Japan. If Yamada does remain in Japan, expect the Giants or his hometown Hanshin Tigers to make a serious run at him next season along with the SoftBank Hawks, who have not had a big gun at second since Tadahito Iguchi left after the 2004 season.

Yamada’s 2019 salary was reportedly the highest the club had ever paid a Japanese player, while next year’s deal eclipses the 450 million paid to first baseman Roberto Petagine after he was the CL’s MVP in 2001.

Second to none: NPB’s top-10 second basemen

The following table gives my estimate of the top-10 second basemen in the history of Japanese professional baseball, based on: Each player’s ranking among all players in total career win shares, the value of their five-best consecutive seasons, and the total of their three best seasons — all as measured by Bill James’ win shares.

I don’t have win shares data prior to 1946. With those numbers, Chiba, who began playing in 1938 might move up a little closer to Yamada.

NameOverall RankCareer WS5-year spanBest-3 seasons
Tetsuto Yamada*25th153rd15th10th
Tadahito Iguchi46th22nd76th70th
Shigeru Chiba+76th132nd70th70th
Hideto Asamura*78th156th75th60th
Tatsuyoshi Tatsunami+90th34th146th231st
Bobby Rose91st172nd75th92nd
Hiroyuki Yamazaki109th60th192nd216th
Yutaka Takagi131st121st169th191st
Ryosuke Kikuchi*133rd306th125th106th
Yuichi Honda155th204th149th226th

NPB game, news of Sept. 7, 2019

I’ll admit, Paul Simon probably won’t be updating the Joe DiMaggio line in “Mrs. Robinson” to account for Yangervis Solarte’s departure from the Hanshin Tigers, but the CL club was indeed wondering where he’d gone after he failed to report to the farm team.

Solarte, who sparked joy into the Tigers after stepping into the starting lineup soon after his arrival from the States, was demoted to the farm team on Aug. 19 after batting .188 in 80 plate appearances.

The Tigers announced his signing on July 7, and arrived 14 days later. He practiced on July 23, played in a farm game the next day and was activated for first-team duty on July 26. After hitting four home runs in 20 games, he was gone.

The Tigers were anticipating his activation on Friday, but he informed manager Akihiro Yano that he was “unmotivated” and was returning to Osaka.

Central League

Dragons 8, BayStars 3

At Nagoya Dome, Yuya Yanagi (10-5) bounced back from allowing two first-inning home runs to work seven innings and earn his first win since July 7 as Chunichi came from behind to beat DeNA.

“I felt in my bones how hard just one win is to come by,” said Yanagi after achieving a new career high in wins.

BayStars rookie Taiga Kamichatani (6-6) gave up the lead in the bottom of the first and then made things hard on himself by rushing on a sacrifice bunt and juggling the ball for an error, and then throwing a two-strike forkball in the strike zone when it didn’t need to be. The pitch was hit for an RBI double in Chunichi’s four-run second.

Tigers 7, Carp 3

At Mazda Stadium, Yuki Nishi (7-8) allowed three runs over eight innings. He allowed 11 hits but no walks, and escaped more trouble by serving up three double play ground balls as Hanshin beat Hiroshima.

Giants 10, Swallows 6

At Jingu Stadium, Hayato Sakamoto doubled twice and hit his 36th home run, scoring three runs and driving in two to pace Yomiuri past Yakult. Alex Guerrero homered to open the fourth and break a 3-3 tie as the Giants snapped a six-game losing streak

Pacific League

Marines 4, Hawks 0

At Yafuoku Dome, Yuji Nishino (2-2), who has spent the bulk of his career as a reliever — including three seasons as Lotte’s closer — threw a four-hitter for his first career shutout to beat SoftBank.

Tsuyoshi Wada (4-4) surrendered two runs over 4-1/3 innings to take the loss. Nishino allowed the first two runners to reach in the first and fourth innings. The Hawks tried to steal a run in the fourth, but Yurisbel Gracial was out at home on a delayed double steal to end the inning.

Leonys Martin, whose two dropped balls in center were instrumental in both of SoftBank’s runs on Friday, iced the game for the Marines in the sixth with a two-run home run.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 8, Buffaloes 7

At Sapporo Dome, Taishi Ota singled four times, scored three runs and drove in one, while Ryo Watanabe singled, homered, scored twice and drove in four as Nippon Ham held off Orix.

The Fighters rocked Andrew Albers (2-4) for six runs, five earned, over three-plus innings, while Kohei Arihara (14-7) allowed four runs over six innings to earn the win, giving away three runs in the sixth after he had an 8-1 lead.

Ryo Akiyoshi struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 21st save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 5, Lions 3

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Rakuten whacked Seibu starter Kona Takahashi (10-6) for four runs in the fourth inning — two scoring on Hiroaki Shimauchi’s tie-breaking two-run double.

Game highlights are HERE.