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Kazunori Shinozuka

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Kazunori Shinozuka (AKA Toshio Shinozuka)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 150 lb.

Infielder Kazunori Shinozuka spent 18 years in Nippon Pro Baseball, made 9 Central League All-Star teams and five Best Nines. He won two batting titles and almost won a third. Leron Lee described him as "a Joe Morgan-type guy but maybe not as strong."

Shinozuka was on the team that won the 1974 summer Koshien. He battled illness after that but was still picked in the first round in 1975 by the Yomiuri Giants. Kazunori debuted for Yomiuri in 1977, going 5 for 24 with 2 walks. He went 2 for 7 in 1978. In 1979, he hit .278/.323/.344 in 97 plate appearances over 76 games.

Shinozuka became a starter in 1980 and hit .260/.309/.378. In 1981, the Tokyo native batted .357/.400/.468, won a Diamond Glove Award at second base and was named to his first Best Nine. He was .001 behind Taira Fujita for the Central League lead in batting average. He was 5 for 16 with a double and a homer in the 1981 Japan Series, which Yomiuri won.

Shinozuka hit .315/.361/.441 in 1982, made his first All-Star team, won the Diamond Glove and made the Best Nine. He finished 4th in the league in average. In 1983, the infielder hit .307/.362/.458 with a career-best 13 home runs. He was 7th in the CL in average and was an All-Star but lost Best Nine honors to Akinobu Mayumi. He batted .333/.412/.433 in the 1983 Japan Series, but Yomiuri fell in 7 games to the Seibu Lions.

During the 1984 campaign, Shinozuka batted .334/.402/.497 with a career-high 35 doubles and 75 runs. He won his third Gold Glove, made his third Best Nine, made his third All-Star team and led the league in both doubles and average (.005 ahead of Kenichi Yazawa).

Shinozuka kept it up in 1985, batting .307/.367/.408 and made the All-Star team. He was 9th in the circuit in average. Akinobu Okada was named as the Best Nine second baseman in the CL that season.

In 1986, the Giants veteran fell under .300, only hitting .291/.320/.404 to finish 10th in the league in average. He won his last Gold Glove at second base and made his 4th Best Nine as well as his 5th All-Star squad.

Shinozuka won his second batting title in 1987 with a line of .333/.353/.455. He tied Kozo Shoda for the best mark in the CL. He made his fifth and final Best Nine and his 6th All-Star team. He hit .409/.409/.591 in the 1987 Japan Series; Seibu lost but Shinozuka got the Fighting Spirit Award as the MVP of the losing club.

In 1988, he hit .316/.361/.408 and was third in average behind Shoda and Jim Paciorek. Shinozuka lost out Best Nine honoes to Shoda. He made his 7th All-Star team. He was picked to his 8th such unit in 1989, when the veteran posted a batting line of .291/.322/.395. It was the only time in the 1980s that he did not finish in the top 10 in the Central League in average. He hit .192/.276/.192 in the 1989 Japan Series, which the Giants won.

In a reduced role in 1990, Kazunori hit .284/.329/.405 in 71 games. He was 2 for 11 with a walk, 5 strikeouts and a homer in the 1990 Japan Series, when Yomiuri got swept in 4 games by Seibu. He made his last All-Star team in 1991, when he batted .266/.338/.343 in 97 games.

In 1992, he hit .266/.305/.307 in 67 games. During 1993, Shinozuka batted .337/.379/.433 in 66 games. Had he qualified, he would have beaten out Tom O'Malley for the CL batting title. In 1994, Shinozuka hit .238/.284/.313 in 57 games. He was 0 for 1 in the 1994 Japan Series, which Yomiuri won.

In 1,651 games, Shinozuka hit .304/.351/.415. Through 2008, he is tied for 13th all-time in Nippon Pro Baseball in average (min. 4,000 AB), even with Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Hideki Matsui and tied for 9th among Japanese natives.

After retiring as a player, Shinozuka coached for Yomiuri. He was a coach for the Japanese national team when they won the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

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