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Kazuhiro Yamakura

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Kazuhiro Yamakura

[edit] Biographical Information

Kazuhiro Yamakura spent 13 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball, winning one MVP Award.

The Yomiuri Giants took him in the first round of the 1977 draft. He hit .197/.248/.288 as a backup in his rookie year, 1978 then improved slightly to .208/.273/.339 in 1979. In 1980, he became a starter and hit .246/.297/.441 with 17 home runs. He fell to .205/.271/.329 in 1981 but made his first Central League All-Star team, won the Diamond Glove and made the Best Nine as the league's top catcher. In the 1981 Japan Series, he was 3 for 19 with two homers as Yomiuri beat the Nippon Ham Fighters in six games.

An All-Star again in 1982, Yamakura again struggled at the plate (.196/.264/.289) but threw out 42.5% of attempted base-stealers (best in the CL that year). He lost out the Diamond Glove to Takayoshi Nakao. He hit .254/.309/.355 in 1983, made the All-Star team, won the Diamond Glove and Best Nine. He hit .261/.346/.565 in the 1983 Japan Series, with a homer in the 3-2 finale loss as Yomiuri lost out to the Seibu Lions in seven games.

Yamakura's production at the plate picked up (.241/.326/.400) in 1984 but he was succeeded by Mitsuo Tatsukawa as the Best Nine catcher in the CL. He still made his fourth All-Star team in a row. In 1985, he batted .273/.342/.421 with 13 dingers but Yukio Yaegashi got the Best Nine nod. Yamakura fell to .237/.294/.368 in 1986. In both 1985 and 1986, he had 3-homer games, getting 6 RBI the first time and 7 RBI the second.

Yamakura had his big year in 1987, producing at a .273/.362/.486 rate with 22 home runs and 66 RBI. He won his third Diamond Glove, third Best Nine, made his 7th All-Star team and became the first Yomiuri catcher to win the Central League MVP and only the second CL catcher from any team (following Takayoshi Nakao in 1982). Among those he beat out were batting co-champs Kozo Shoda and Kazunori Shinozuka, home run leader Rick Lancellotti, RBI leader Carlos Ponce, ERA leader Masumi Kuwata and veteran star Hiromitsu Ochiai. He was just 2 for 20 with a double and a walk in the 1987 Japan Series, which Yomiuri dropped to Seibu.

Yamakura fell hard after his MVP year. He hit only .170/.260/.275 in 1988 and .120/.234/.196 in 1989 (now as a backup to Nakao, acquired by Yomiuri). He played one game and did not bat in the 1989 Japan Series, in which Yomiuri beat the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He made his 8th and last All-Star team in 1990 but had another unimpressive year (18 for 85, 3 2B, 2 HR, 14 BB).

Overall, he hit .231/.301/.369 with 113 HR in 4,066 plate appearances over 1,262 NPB games.

After his career ended he became a Yomiuri Giants battery coach in 1993 and an anouncer for NHK in 1999.

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