Dennis Sarfate

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Dennis Scott Sarfate

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Biographical information[edit]

Dennis Sarfate pitched four seasons in the majors then became one of the best closers in Nippon Pro Baseball history. His fastball has hit 100 mph.

Amateur career[edit]

He was 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA and 110 K in 81 IP as a high school senior, winning All-State honors. [1] He was picked by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round of the 1999 amateur draft out of high school but did not sign. Going on to Arizona State, he struggled, with two saves in three games and 10 K in 7 IP but 9 walks and 8 runs. [2] After transferring to junior college, he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers and scout Brian Johnson as their 9th-round pick in the 2001 amateur draft. [3]

2001-2006 in the minors[edit]

He was 1-2 with a save and a 4.63 ERA that summer for the Ogden Raptors, striking out 32 in 23 1/3 IP. He missed much of 2002 after shoulder surgery, appearing for the AZL Brewers (2.57 ERA, 22 K, 6 H in 14 iP) and Ogden (1 R in 1 IP). [4] He was excellent for the 2003 Beloit Snappers (12-2, 2.84, 140 K in 139 2/3 IP, .227 opponent average). He tied Jared Doyle, Jean Toledo and Anderson Tavares for 5th in the Midwest League in wins, was second in strikeouts (four behind Joe Blanton) and 5th with 66 walks (between Jonah Bayliss and Doyle). Among Brewers farmhands, he tied Luis Martinez for second in wins (one behind Derek Lee) and was third in strikeouts (behind Martinez and Chris Saenz).

The New York native fell to 7-12, 3.98 for the 2004 Huntsville Stars. He led the Southern League in losses and walks (78, 3 ahead of Glenn Bott) while not making the top 10 in whiffs (113). In the Brewers system, he was second in defeats (two behind Khalid Ballouli) and easily led in walks (by 20). He played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. [5] He spent most of 2005 back with the Stars (9-9, 3.88) before a late-season promotion to the Nashville Sounds (0-1, 2.25, 6 H in 12 IP). He tied for 9th in the SL in wins, tied for 10th in losses and was 9th with 59 walks. Among Brewers farmhands, he tied for 4th in wins, was 4th in strikeouts and 5th in walks.

He returned to Nashville for 2006 and was 10-7 with a 3.67 ERA. He was 10th in the 2006 PCL in ERA, tied for 10th in wins but led in walks (78, two ahead of Francisco Cruceta). [6] In the Milwaukee system, he tied Tim Dillard and Will Inman for 4th in victories, was 7th in strikeouts (117, between Carlos Villanueva and Dana Eveland) but walked 19 more than anyone else.

2006-2010: MLB and MILB[edit]

He got a late-season call-up and became the 28th Brewer pitcher of the season, setting a franchise record. [7] In his MLB debut, he relieved Geremi Gonzalez with 10-0 deficit in the top of the 8th with one on and two out against the Marlins. He struck out Josh Willingham to end the inning. In the 9th, he went 1-2-3 against Mike Jacobs, Cody Ross and Matt Treanor, striking out the latter two. In eight games for the 2006 Brewers, he allowed four runs in 8 1/3 IP (9 H, 4 BB, 11 K). In the winter, he appeared for the Scorpions (1-0, 3 Sv, 4.20) as well as dominating for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific League (1-0, 2 H, 1 UER in 12 1/3 IP, 19 K, 3 BB). He tied Billy Sadler for third in the Arizona Fall League in saves, behind Leonel Rosales and Jesse Chavez.

Dennis opened 2007 with the Sounds, pitching primarily in relief for his first time in several years. He was 2-7 with four saves and a 4.52 ERA in a team-high 45 games. He struck out 68 but walked 47 in 61 2/3 IP. He tied for fifth in the Brewers chain in games pitched. In September, they sold his contract to the Houston Astros. He was 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in seven games for the 2007 Astros (1 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 14 K in 8 1/3 IP). He allowed one run in four innings that winter for Hermosillo. Houston dealt him to the Baltimore Orioles with Matt Albers, Mike Costanzo, Troy Patton and Luke Scott in return for Miguel Tejada.

Sarfate spent the entire season with the 2008 Orioles for his lone complete MLB campaign. He pitched 57 games, third among AL rookies and struck out 86 in 79 2/3 IP to finish 5th among AL rookies in Ks. [8] He was 4-3 with a 4.74 ERA for the team, still battling control problems (62 BB) though he was hard to hit (.218 opponent average), showing signs that he could dominate if he had better control.

2009 was largely a lost season; he pitched 20 games for the O's, going 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in 20 games and missed most of the season due to circulatory problems in his hand. He pitched on rehab stints with the Frederick Keys (1-0, 2 R in 2 IP), Bowie Baysox (1 IP, 0 R) and Norfolk Tides (1-1, 6.39 in 12 G). He had gone 5-4 with a 4.53 ERA in 92 MLB games, striking out 131 but walking 81 in 119 1/3 IP. He had allowed only a .225 average in The Show.

He was 1-1 with 7 saves and a 3.50 ERA for the 2009-2010 Naranjeros. He was 5th in the LMP in saves. He then dominated for Norfolk in 2010 (2-2, 20 Sv, 2.73, 72 K, 32 H in 56 IP); he still walked 27, but this was much sharper control than in the last few seasons. He tied Joel Peralta for 7th in the 2010 International League in saves, led Orioles minor leaguers (two ahead of Josh Dowdy) and was third among O's farmhands with 47 games pitched. Despite signs that he was harnessing his stuff with better control, he was not given another chance in MLB, instead signing with a team in Japan.

2011- : Japan[edit]

Sarfate signed with the Hiroshima Carp for 2011. He relieved Bryan Bullington in his debut, on April 14, and allowed two hits and a run in the 9th to blow a shutout by Bullington; Sarfate did get credit for a save. He was 1-3 with 35 saves and a 1.34 ERA in 57 games that year, whiffing 82 in 60 2/3 IP and allowing 40 hits. His control continued to progress as he walked 16. He was third in the Central League in saves, behind Kyuji Fujikawa and Hitoki Iwase. He also learned a forkball that year.

In 2012, he regressed (2-5, 9 Sv, 2.90 in 47 G, 24 BB, 43 H in 49 2/3 IP) as Kam Mickolio became the Carp closer. He signed with the Seibu Lions for 2013 and rebounded (9-1, 10 Sv, 1.87 ERA, 29 H, 24 BB, 66 K in 57 2/3 IP). He tied for 7th in the Pacific League in wins, tied Takahiro Matsunaga for 7th in pitching appearances (58) and tied Brian Falkenborg for 7th in saves.

The right-hander signed with the Softbank Hawks for 2014 and was even more dominant (7-1, 37 Sv, 1.05 ERA in 64 G, 96 K in 68 1/3 IP). He was second in saves (3 behind Yoshihisa Hirano), third in games pitched (64, behind Tatsuya Sato and Hiroyuki Fukuyama) and led full-time relievers in strikeouts (13 ahead of Sato). He became the first player in NPB history to register 30 saves in a season in both the CL and PL. [9] He finished 6th in voting for the 2014 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award. He saved games 2 and 5 in the 2014 Japan Series and won game 4 as Softbank topped the Hanshin Tigers; he had a 2.25 ERA. [10] He joined Kenji Akashi and Rick van den Hurk as winning the Outstanding Player Awards for the Series; Dae-ho Lee took home the more prestigious MVP award.

Sarfate was nearly untouchable in 2015 (5-1, 41 Sv, 1.11 ERA, .63 WHIP, 102 K in 64 2/3 IP); he walked only 14, having conquered his liability. He was the 26th NPB Player to reach 100 saves. [11] He broke Hirano's PL single-season save record by one. [12] He tied Fukuyama for third in the PL in games pitched (65) and had two more saves than runner-up Hirotoshi Masui. Surprisingly, he did not lead all relievers in whiffs; Yuki Matsui had 103, albeit in 7 2/3 more innings. He finished 4th in voting for the 2015 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, behind Yuki Yanagita, Shogo Akiyama and Shohei Otani. Only Akiyama had more second-place votes than Sarfate's 44. [13] He pitched three shutout innings in the 2015 Japan Series, saving one game, as Softbank defended their title, topping the Yakult Swallows. [14]

The Hawks closer looked somewhat more mortal in 2016 (0-7, 43 Sv, 1.88 in 64 G, .82 WHIP, 73 K in 62 1/3 IP). He still broke his own PL save record. He tied Shota Takekuma for second in the PL in games pitched (5 behind Fukuyama), was 12 saves ahead of runner-up Hirano and was still second among full-time relievers in Ks (2 behind Matsui). He fell to 11th in voting for the 2016 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award. In fan voting for the 2016 NPB All-Star Game, he nearly doubled the vote total of runner-up Matsui among closers (394,545 to 205,598). [15] He struggled in All-Star Game 1, though, allowing hits to Ryosuke Kikuchi, Seiya Suzuki and Yasutaka Tobashira for two insurance runs in what wound up a 5-4 PL loss. [16]

Sarfate set a new PL single-season save record for the third straight year, in 2017. He was 2-2 with 54 saves and a 1.09 ERA, K'ing 102 and walking only ten in 66 innings, giving up just 34 hits. He thus shattered his most recent PL save record by 11. He broke the NPB save record of 46, shared by Iwase and Kyuji Fujikawa. [17] He became the 6th NPB pitcher to 200 saves and the first gaijin to do so, following Kazuhiro Sasaki, Shingo Takatsu, Iwase, Masahide Kobayashi and Kyuji Fujikawa. [18] He was second in the PL with 66 games pitched (6 behind Sho Iwasaki), led in saves by 21 over Matsui and was 13th in strikeouts (the next full-time reliever on the list was Masui, with 82). He wasn't done yet. In the 2017 Japan Series, he saved Shuta Ishikawa's game 2 win over the Yokohama BayStars, striking out the last two batters with the potential tying run on second. He saved Ishikawa's 3-2 win in game 3 as well, going 1-2-3 in the 9th. In game 5, relieved Iwasaki in the 9th with a 3-2 deficit but Softbank tied it on a Seiichi Uchikawa homer and won in the 11th, giving Sarfate the victory as he had gone the final three (3 K, 2 H). [19] He was named Japan Series MVP, the first foreign pitcher to win since Joe Stanka in 1964. He also won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award, the second foreigner and first foreign player to win; Bobby Valentine had won 12 years prior. He was the first player to win since Shinnosuke Abe in 2012. [20] He also handily won the 2017 Pacific League MVP, getting 180 of 263 first-place votes and 983 vote points to 421 for runner-up Yanagita. [21]


  1. ASU bio
  2. The Baseball Cube
  3. 2008 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, pg. 58
  4. 2010 Orioles Media Guide, pg. 144
  5. 2010 Orioles Media Guide, pg. 144
  6. 2007 Baseball Almanac, pg. 291
  7. 2010 Orioles Media Guide, pg. 143
  8. 2010 Orioles Media Guide, pg. 143
  9. Japanese Wikipedia
  10. 2014 Japan Series
  11. Japanese Wikipedia, previously cited
  14. 2015 Japan Series
  15. 2016 All-Star fan voting
  16. 2016 All-Star Game 1
  17. Kyodo News
  18. Japan Times article
  19. 2017 Japan Series MVP
  21. 2017 PL MVP voting results at YakyuDB

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