Tag Archives: Hotaka Yamakawa

Hotaka Yamakawa and the art of 1st team survival

Nobody in Japan hits home runs as often as Hotaka Yamakawa, not Shohei Ohtani, not Yuki Yanagita, not anybody. So how come it took the Seibu Lions’ big bopper so long to earn playing time?

It’s complicated.

And in case you’re curious about who in NPB history with 50 or more home runs has hit them more often than Yamakawa, there are only two. One is in the Hall of Fame, one is likely to earn admission to the Hall of Fame through the expert’s division ballot within a few years. They are Sadaharu Oh (10.66 at-bats per career home run), Randy Bass (10.93) and Yamakawa (11.08).

This summer I spoke with Yamakawa several times about his early playing time mystery and he explained how an attitude adjustment — and good luck opened the door for him. You can find that story on Kyodo News here.

Complete NameABHRAB per HR
Sadaharu Oh925086810.6566820276
Randy Bass220820210.9306930693
Hotaka Yamakawa9538611.0813953488
Chuck Manuel212718911.253968254
Orestes Destrade181616011.35
Rick Lancellotti6675811.5
Ralph Bryant298025911.5057915058
Tony Solaita178615511.5225806452
Hal Breeden9217911.6582278481
Tyler Van Burkleo6565511.9272727273
Roberto Petagine283023312.1459227468
Wladimir Balentien310325512.168627451
Tyrone Woods294024012.25
Koichi Tabuchi588147412.4071729958
Larry Parrish8747012.4857142857
Alex Cabrera451035712.6330532213
Adrian Garret130210212.7647058824
Clarence Jones318224612.9349593496
Mike Diaz12569313.5053763441
Tuffy Rhodes627446413.5215517241
Gene Martin256218913.5555555556
Takeya Nakamura523338513.5922077922
Jack Howell136510013.65
Bernardo Brito6845013.68
Hideki Matsui457233213.7710843373

More to come from PL MVP Yamakawa

Hotaka Yamakawa has only been the Seibu Lions’ regular first baseman for 1-1/2 years, but the Okinawa native has already established himself as an elite home run hitter, but during the Japan MLB-All Star Series, he sounded an ominous warning.

Although he led both of NPB’s elite leagues in home runs with 47, Yamakawa said his glass was only half full. He hit well enough against pitchers he sees over and over during the year and was honored as the Pacific League’s MVP this year, but against major leaguers he’d never faced, he looked completely lost.

“I dislike facing pitchers for the first time,” he said. “On top of that, the major league pitchers have good late movement on their fastballs. It’s clear from this that I have a lot to learn about getting the barrel of the bat on the ball.”

Among all players in NPB history with a minimum of 750 plate appearances, Yamakawa ranks third in home run frequency behind only Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh, and iconic Hanshin Tigers slugger Randy Bass.

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“I hit 40 home runs this year, so I know I have power. But you know what? I hit almost all of them without really squaring it up. So that’s something I need to work on,” He said that prior to Game 3 when he had a good pinch-hit at-bat that turned series around.

“Whatever I learn here, I’m going to apply as much as I can going forward.”

And as scary a hitter as Yamakawa already is, the idea of him making even better contact is not a pleasant one for PL pitchers.