Kenichi Kajima (梶間 健一)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 8", Weight 150 lb.
- High School Hokota Number One High School
Kenichi Kajima was a five-time All-Star for the Yakult Swallows.
Kajima played for Nihon Kokan in the industrial leagues after high school. He was Yakult's second pick in the 1976 draft, following Keiichi Sakai. He saw regular and effective action as a rookie in 1977, going 7-7 with a save and a 3.35 ERA. He lost Central League Rookie of the Year honors to Akio Saito, who had worse stats and finished third in the ERA race behind Hisao Niura and Shigeru Kobayashi. Working inside, he plunked 13 batters, one behind league leader Yasujiro Suzuki. Despite being a rookie, he made the CL All-Star team. In the 1977 NPB All-Star Games, he pitched 1 1/3 shutout innings, winning both games 1 and 3 as the CL beat the Pacific League two games to one.
Kajima slumped to 3-8, 5.36 with two saves and a .285 opponent average in 1978. He allowed only one hit (but four walks) and one run in 5 1/3 IP over three outings in the 1978 Japan Series and also got a hit in his lone at-bat as Yakult won its first Japan Series, topping the Hankyu Braves in seven contests. Kenichi was 10-12 with a 5.09 ERA in 1979. He pitched in all three 1979 NPB All-Star Games, with 2 2/3 shutout innings. He tied Kazuhiko Endo and Takenori Emoto for the CL lead in losses, tied Kazuyuki Yamamoto for 5th in homers allowed (27) and was 4th in hit batsmen (10).
The little lefty had his best season in 1980 (15-8, 2.76, .229 opponent average). He again excelled on the All-Star stage, with 2 1/3 shutout innings in games 2 and 3 of the 1980 NPB All-Star Games. He was among the CL's leaders in ERA (5th, between Takashi Nishimoto and Kazuo Yamane), wins (tied for second, one behind Suguru Egawa), strikeouts (148, 5th, between Yamamoto and Takao Obana), walks (60, tied for 4th with Egawa) and innings pitched (195 2/3 IP, 9th, between Masaji Hiramatsu and Osamu Nomura).
The Ibaraki native was 6-10 with a save, 5.36 ERA and .296 opponent average in a rough one in 1981. He was only on the CL leaderboard in some negative categories: losses (tied for 7th), runs allowed (92, tied for second with Saito), earned runs (86, 2nd, 4 behind Hiroaki Fukushi), hit batters (9, 3rd) and homers (22, tied for 8th). He had another 6-10 campaign in 1982 but lowered his ERA to 4.23 and saved two games. He tied Yujiro Miyako for 8th in the league with 43 games pitched, tied for 7th in losses, tied Yamane for 9th in gopher balls (19) and hit the most batters (13, 5 more than #2 Kobayashi).
Kajima rebounded in 1983 (14-12, 3 Sv, 3.21 ERA, .227 opponent average). He finished 6th in ERA (between Tatsuo Komatsu and Egawa), 5th in wins, tied Miyako for 7th in appearances, tied Manabu Kitabeppu for 4th with 12 complete games, tied for second with three shutouts (one behind Kazuhisa Kawaguchi), was third in IP (232 2/3, behind Nishimoto and Endo), ranked third with 84 walks (after Kawaguchi and Tsugio Kanazawa) and was 4th with 147 Ks (between Genji Kaku and Komatsu). He made his first All-Star team in three years. In the 1983 NPB All-Star Game 1, he relieved Hiromu Matsuoka in the third with a 4-0 deficit and fanned three in three hitless, scoreless innings (1 BB, 1 HB) before Nishimoto relieved in a CL loss; he had now tossed 9 1/3 shutout frames in All-Star competition and gone 2-0.
He made his final All-Star team the next year, giving up two unearned runs in 2 1/3 IP in the 1984 NPB All-Star Games. He was 12-11 with two saves and a 3.75 ERA for the Swallows in 1984. He placed 10th in the CL in wins, tied for third in losses, was 5th in walks (64, between Hiromi Makihara and Kanazawa) and led with 11 hit batsmen (four more than Kanazawa).
He was Yakult's Opening Day starter in 1985 but things went south that year for him (11-17, 4.22, .282 average allowed, 81 BB to 88 K, 29 HR). He was still 10th in ERA and tied for 7th in wins but also led in losses (four ahead of Hirofumi Sekine), was 5th with 203 hits allowed, was 5th with 98 runs allowed (between Rich Gale and Sekine), tied Kaku for 8th in earned runs (89), tied Sekine for third with 29 gopher balls and was second to Gale in walks (3 shy of the lead). He also tied for 5th in complete games (8) and was 7th in IP (189 2/3, between Gale and Nishimoto). He struggled in 1986 (0-3, 7.54 ERA, .376 average), rebounded in a relief role in 1987 (0-3, 2 Sv, 4.01 in 37 G) and was 1-0 with a 2.76 ERA in 18 games in 1988 before retiring. In 1987, he became the 75th NPB pitcher to 1,000 career strikeouts when he whiffed Ken Hirano.
Kajima finished 85-101 with 13 saves, a 4.01 ERA, .259 opponent average and 1.33 WHIP in 428 NPB games (198 starts). He fanned 1,016 and walked 550 in 1,547 1/3 IP. Through 2011, he was 76th in NPB history in homers allowed (208), tied for 23rd in hit batsmen (90, even with Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, Keishi Suzuki and Shunsuke Watanabe) and was tied for 43rd in intentional walks (50, even with Chikara Morinaka).
He later was a minor league pitching coach for the Swallows.