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Makoto Sasaki

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Makoto Sasaki

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 178 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Makoto Sasaki was an outfielder for three teams in Nippon Pro Baseball. He made six All-Star teams and six Best Nine picks, won four Gold Gloves, a batting title and dominated in a couple series against Major League Baseball stars.

Sasaki was a 6th-round pick of the Nankai Hawks in 1983 and debuted in NPB two years later. In 1985, the 19-year-old hit .291/.336/.398 in 114 plate appearances. In 1986, he struggled with a .163/.237/.231 batting line.

Sasaki got a regular role in 1987 and batted .288/.343/.419 for the Hawks. One highlight that year was that he hit leadoff home runs in consecutive games. In 1988, the young flyhawk hit .284/.330/.436 with 16 home runs. He made his first Pacific League All-Star team. He led the Japanese All-Stars in their 1988 Series with the MLB All-Stars with 4 RBI and one home run (tied). His .385 average was better than anyone else on the squad.

In 1989, he slipped to a .235/.295/.372 batting line with 15 long balls. 1990 was better by a bit as he batted .273/.318/.434 with 19 steals (in 27 tries) and 33 doubles. He led the Pacific League in doubles. He hit .429 in the 1990 Series against the MLB All-Stars and had the first five-hit game by a Japanese player in the Series's history.

Sasaki continued to improve with a .304/.368/.514 batting line in 1991. He hit 21 home runs, topping 20 for the first time, and also stole 36 bases in 46 tries for his first 20-steal season. The 25-year-old led the PL with 32 doubles and 158 hits and he also rapped 7 triples. He was 4th in the Pacific League in average and six steals behind leader Hisashi Ono. Sasaki made his second All-Star team, won his first Gold Glove and made his first Best Nine, joining Mitsuchika Hirai and Koji Akiyama in the PL outfield.

In 1992, Makoto batted .322/.364/.505 with 40 swipes (in 51 tries), 21 home runs and 83 runs. He easily won the batting title by 17 points over Kelvin Torve and also paced the circuit in both stolen bases and hits (164). He joined Akiyama and Satoshi Takahashi on the Best Nine, won a Gold Glove and was an All-Star.

Sasaki produced at a .277/.332/.383 clip in an off-year in 1993. He only hit 7 home runs and stole 23 bases in 34 tries. He still won a Gold Glove, made the All-Star team and the Best Nine (joining Akiyama and Yasuo Fujii in the outfield).

After the season, Sasaki was involved in a major six-player trade that sent him to the Seibu Lions with Katsuyoshi Murata and Takehiro Hashimoto for Akiyama, Tomoyuki Uchiyama and Tomio Watanabe. In 1994, Sasaki hit .285/.327/.446 for Seibu with 92 runs, 20 home runs, 84 RBI and 37 stolen bases in 45 tries. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He finished third in runs behind Ichiro Suzuki and Akiyama, tied Hiromi Matsunaga for third in hits (150) and led in steals with 8 more than Ichiro. Sasaki made the Best Nine, joining Suzuki and Kevin Reimer in the outfield. It was Sasaki's last year with 20 steals or 20 homers. He hit .333/.357/.370 with two steals in the 1994 Japan Series, which Seibu lost in six games.

In 1995, Sasaki's batting line was .271/.321/.424. He stole 18 bases and hit 17 home runs. He made his final All-Star team and Best Nine, joining Ichiro Suzuki and Darrin Jackson in the outfield. The next year, the veteran hit .243/.298/.345 and failed to reach double digits in home runs or stolen bases for the first time in a decade.

Sasaki hit .304/.342/.453 in 1997, his last big year. He was 8th in the PL in average. He joined Tuffy Rhodes and Ichiro Suzuki on the Best Nine, his final selection. He was only 3 for 18 in the 1997 Japan Series.

Sasaki slipped to .259/.307/.303 in 1998, reduced to a part-time role. In 1999, he moved to the Hanshin Tigers and hit .273/.310/.455 as a bench player (30 games). He concluded his playing career in 2000, going 3 for 19.

Overall, Sasaki hit .277/.332/.422 in 1,581 games in NPB with 242 steals (in 329 tries) and 170 home runs.

He became a coach after retiring.

Source: Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland

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