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Masaji Hiramatsu

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Masaji Hiramatsu

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 162 lb.

Masaji Hiramatsu won over 200 games for the Taiyo Whales. He was an 8-time All-Star and a two-time Best Nine pick. He is considered the top shuuto pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball history; his throw was nicknamed the "razor shuuto" as it seemed to "cut the air".

Hiramatsu starred in the 1965 spring Koshien, throwing four shutouts in a row then going 13 innings in the finale to give his school the title. He was taken in the second round of the secondary phase of the 1966 draft by Taiyo.

Masaji was 3-4 with a 3.58 ERA as a rookie in 1967. He fell to 5-12, 4.26 in 1968 at age 20. In 1969, Hiramatsu improved to 14-12, 2.56 in 245 2/3 innings over 57 games. He led the Central League in appearances and finished 7th in the league in ERA. He made his first All-Star team as well.

The Okayama native had a busy year in 1970 with 332 2/3 innings over 51 games, going 25-19 with a 1.95 ERA. He held opponents to a .193 batting average and struck out 182 while walking 68 for a 0.88 WHIP in his career year. He was second to Minoru Murayama in ERA and led the CL in both wins and losses, amazingly enough. He made his second All-Star team, was chosen to the Best Nine as his league's top hurler and took the Sawamura Award as the top pitcher in all of NPB (beating out Pacific League MVP Masaaki Kitaru).

Hiramatsu went 17-13 with a 2.23 ERA and .211 average allowed in 279 innings in 1971, making his third All-Star team. He was 7th in the league in ERA. He also led in wins, the lowest total to lead the CL to that point and the lowest to pace any NPB circuit since Victor Starffin won 14 in the two-season-per-year format of 1938. Suguru Egawa was the first CL pitcher to lead the loop with a lower total, 16, in 1980. Hiramatsu again made the Best Nine.

The Taiyo hurler was 13-15 with a 3.44 ERA in 1972 and led the CL with four wild pitches. He made the All-Star team again. He went 17-11 with a 3.03 ERA in 1973 and was picked as an All-Star for the fifth straight campaign. His All-Star run reached six in 1974, when he was 15-16 with two saves and a 3.66 ERA. He tied Yoshiro Sotokoba for the league lead in losses, led in homers surrendered (37) and led in runs allowed (112).

The veteran failed to make the All-Star cut in 1975 when he finished 12-10 with two saves and a 3.24 ERA, allowing a .228 average. He was an All-Star for the 7th time when he was chosen in 1976. That year, Hiramatsu went 13-17 with two saves and a 3.80 ERA. He led the CL in homers allowed (40), walks (95), runs allowed (121) and earned runs allowed (110), as well as losses (tying teammate Hideyuki Okue on a last-place squad). He just missed the top 10 in ERA.

The tireless Taiyo pitcher had a 10-9, 3.96 record with one save in 1977 and was 10-5 with 7 saves and a 3.93 ERA in the next year. He was 13-7 with a save and a 2.39 ERA in 1979. He led the league in ERA for the only time, beating out Takashi Nishimoto by a solid .37. It was his last time leading in any category, whether positive or negative.

Hiramatsu made his 8th and last All-Star team at age 32 in 1980. For the year, his record read 10-11, 4.29 with a .294 opponent average. It was his 12th straight season with double-digit wins. In 1981, he was 6-7 with a save and a 3.50 ERA. In his 17th season, 1982, the right-hander had a 9-10, 3.98 record followed by 8-8, 3.92 in 1983 and 1-10, 5.68 in 1984, to end things up. He joined the meikyukai with his 200th win, his last one of '83.

Overall, he was 201-196 with 16 saves and a 3.31 ERA in 635 career games in NPB, posting a winning record despite never playing for a pennant-winner.

Hiramatsu later was a broadcaster for Fuji Television.

Through 2009, he ranked 23rd in NPB annals in wins (between Tsuneo Horiuchi and Hideo Fujimoto), 8th in losses (between Ryohei Hasegawa and Hiroshi Matsuoka), 25th in complete games (214 in 421 starts), 24th in games pitched, 14th in innings (3,360 2/3), 16th in strikeouts (2,045, between Hisashi Yamada and Nobuyuki Hoshino), 21st in walks (990), 10th in hit batsmen (120, retiring as the CL leader), 13th in hits allowed (3,037), 6th in homers allowed (374), 11th in runs allowed (1,385) and 10th in earned runs allowed (1,236). He also hit 25 home runs, 4th all-time among pitchers through 2009.

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