Kenji Akashi

From BR Bullpen


Kenji Akashi (明石 健志)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 154 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Kenji Akashi has been on six Japan Series winners (through 2019).

Akashi was a 4th-round pick of the Daiei Hawks in the 2003 NPB draft. [1] He tripled off Tetsuro Kawajiri in his first at-bat in Nippon Pro Baseball; he was 1 for 4 with a walk and two runs in seven games in 2004 and spent the next couple years in the minors. He returned in 2007; the team was now the SoftBank Hawks. He was 3 for 18 with a double, walk, 3 runs and a RBI. In 2008, he led the minor Western League in triples while batting .224/.245/.306 in 55 plate appearances with the big club, mostly backing up Hiroki Kokubo at 1B and Munenori Kawasaki at SS. [2]

In 2009, he played 48 games and batted .291/.339/.447, with his first homer off Hiroyuki Kobayashi. He was a backup outfielder that year and stole six bases in six tries. The next year, he played every position except catcher and pitcher but hit only .128/.163/.170 in 51 plate appearances. In 2011, he was the backup to Kokubo at 1B, playing error-free ball and hitting .278/.347/.433 in 105 plate appearances. He legged out 5 triples in his 25 hits, good for 7th in the Pacific League. In the 2011 Japan Series, he was 0 for 1 for the champs. [3]

The 26-year-old played regularly in 2012, producing at a .254/.301/.299 clip with 25 steals in 35 tries and 6 triples. He moved around, with no set position; he was behind Kokubo at 1B, Yuichi Honda at 2B and Nobuhiro Matsuda at 3B. He was 4th in the PL in swipes, between Honda and Yoshifumi Okada, and 4th in triples. He made the PL team for the 2012 NPB All-Star Games and also set a NPB record with 15 fouls in a plate appearance, before drawing a walk from Masahiro Inui. [4]

After his All-Star turn, he fell drastically in 2013, to .228/.282/.304 in 89 plate appearances and 33 games while battling injuries. [5] In 2014, he backed up Honda at 2B, Matsuda at 3B and Akira Nakamura and Dae-ho Lee at 1B; he hit .252/.293/.336 and swiped 17 bases in 21 tries. He played regularly at second in the 2014 Japan Series, getting two hits and two walks in a Game 3 win and scoring the winner in Game 4 in the 10th on a Nakamura homer. In the finale, he was manning first base in the bottom of the 9th with two outs and the bases loaded. He handled a Tsuyoshi Nishioka grounder and threw home to get the force to end it, then the ump ruled Nishioka had caused interference on the play. [6]

The Hokkaido native split 1B for the 2015 Hawks with Lee and Nakamura and split 2B with Honda, Keizo Kawashima and Tomoki Takata. He fielded .997 in 60 games at 1B and had 228 error-free chances at 2B. He hit .263/.330/.342. In the 2015 Japan Series, he homered off Toshihiro Sugiura of the Yakult Swallows in Game 3 and had 3 hits in the decisive Game 5, scoring the winning run on a Lee dinger. He batted .438/.609/.750 for the Series and was named one of the Outstanding Players alongside Rick van den Hurk and Dennis Sarfate; Lee was named MVP. [7]

Akashi slumped to .230/.274/.304 in 2016, backing up Seiichi Uchikawa at 1B and Honda at 2B. In 2017, he split first with Uchikawa and was one of five second baseman to play 35-60 games for Softbank. He batted .279/.346/.345 though he was slowing down (5 SB, 6 CS). In Game 2 of the 2017 Japan Series, his pinch-hit double off Tomoya Mikami began the comeback against the Yokohama BayStars but he also made two big errors in the Series, including one that cost them Game 4. His team still won their 4th Series of the decade; he hit .250/.357/.333 while playing regularly at second. [8]

In 2018, the backup 1B/2B saw reduced time but hit .282/.357/.417 in 115 plate appearances. He hit .250/.438/.500 in the 2018 Japan Series, including a 7th-inning dinger off Geronimo Franzua to tie it against the Hiroshima Carp, giving him homers in two of his past three Series after never topping 3 in a regular season to that point. [9] He was the Hawks' main second sacker in 2019 (.248/.313/.365; .987 FLD% at 2B). In the 2019 Japan Series, though, he was on the bench, going 0 for 2 with a walk while Taisei Makihara got most of the action at 2B. Softbank won its 6th Series of the decade, this time topping the Yomiuri Giants. [10]