Hiroyuki Yamazaki

From BR Bullpen

Hiroyuki Yamazaki

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 167 lb.

Hiroyuki Yamazaki was a five-time Best Nine pick in Nippon Pro Baseball.

Yamazaki debuted in NPB with the Tokyo Orions in 1965, hitting .190/.243/.259 in 71 games. He was just 8 for 65 with three walks in 1966. He topped the Mendoza Line in 1967 at .224/.271/.345. He hit .255/.316/.421 with 14 home runs in 1968. On September 1, he set a NPB record with 10 putouts at shortstop.

Hiroyuki continued to improve in 1969, hitting .301/.346/.440. He was 5th in the Pacific League in average and made his first Best Nine, honored as the top second baseman in the PL. He also made his first All-Star team in '69. In 1970, he fell to .247/.298/.451 but went deep 25 times. He was again an All-Star and Best Nine pick. He was just 2 for 16 with two walks in the 1970 Japan Series, when the Orions fell to the Yomiuri Giants.

Hiroyuki hit .280/.368/.487 with 21 circuit clouts and 84 runs in 1971. From July 29 through August 3, he doubled in six straight games, a NPB record. On August 14, he hit for the cycle. He got his third straight nod as the best second sacker in the PL.

Yamazaki produced at a .242/.322/.405 line with 16 homers in 1972 and was an All-Star. In 1973, Hiroyuki's line was just .239/.316/.355 but still made his 4th All-Star team. He batted .274/.331/.434 with 32 doubles in 1974. He led the loop in doubles, was an All-Star and Best Nine. He followed with a .364/.440/.636 performance in the 1974 Japan Series, which the Orions won.

He hit .270/.340/.451 with 17 long balls in 1975 and was an All-Star. He went deep 16 times in 1976 and batted .273/.345/.443, making the All-Star squad again. Yamazaki hit .257/.317/.435 with 17 homers in 1977. He was an All-Star and won a Diamond Glove Award at second base. His last season with the Orions was 1978 when he batted .290/.340/.441.

Moving to the Seibu Lions in 1979, Yamazaki had a career year at .332/.422/.528, albeit in only 79 games. Had he qualified, he would have been 5th in the league in average behind Hideji Kato, Hiromasa Arai, Jinten Haku and Leron Lee. (On a side note, Yamazaki taught Lee how to steal signs after Leron came to Japan). On October 3, he hit the 11th come-from-behind sayonara grand slam off Motoi Kinjo.

The Ageo native hit .294/.400/.514 in 1980 with 78 walks, 89 runs and 25 home runs. He made his 9th All-Star team and became the 33rd player to 200 home runs in NPB annals. He tied Yutaka Fukumoto for the most walks in the PL. He won the Diamond Glove at second base and took his final Best Nine honor at 2B. His five Best Nines at second is the Pacific League record through 2009.

In 1981, Yamazaki hit .271/.390/.492 with 22 homers, 88 walks and 97 runs. He led in runs scored, was four walks behind leader Hiromitsu Kadota and was an All-Star. He won his last Diamond Glove. The next year, he had a batting line of .246/.327/.340 in a poor turn. He hit .286/.348/.286 in the 1982 Japan Series as Seibu won its first Japan Series title.

At age 36 in 1983, Yamazaki hit .287/.367/.462 with 30 doubles, 18 home runs, 96 runs and 82 RBI in one last big year. He made his 11th and last All-Star team. He became the second player in NPB history to have two innings with multiple homers in his career. On September 18, he became the 18th player with 2,000 career hits, joining the meikyukai. He led in doubles, runs, at-bats (515) and plate appearances (600). He lost Best Nine honors to Daijiro Oishi. He hit .259/.333/.444 in the 1983 Japan Series as Seibu won again.

In 1984, Yamazaki hit .228/.285/.337. He then retired. Overall, in 2,251 NPB games, he batted .265/.337/.429 with 2,081 hits, 371 doubles, 270 home runs, 1,099 runs, 985 RBI and 842 walks. Through 2009, he was tied with Hiromitsu Ochiai for 18th in NPB history in doubles, 26th in hits (between Makoto Matsubara and Tomonori Maeda), 24th in runs (between Tuffy Rhodes and Katsuo Osugi), 26th in total bases (3,364, between Morimichi Takagi and Yukio Tanaka), 29th in walks (between Hideki Matsui and Tetsuharu Kawakami), tied for 27th in sac flies (even with Kiyoshi Hatsushiba and Tanaka), 19th in strikeouts (1,267), 15th in games (between Takagi and Takuro Ishii), 16th in at-bats (7,845, between Tomoaki Kanemoto and Kazuhiro Kiyohara) and 20th in plate appearances (8,658, between Kazuhiro Yamauchi and Osugi).

Yamazaki was later a baseball commentator for Tokyo TV.

Sources: Japanbaseballdaily.com, Remembering Japanese Baseball by Robert Fitts