Koichi Tabuchi

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Koichi Tabuchi

Biographical Information[edit]

Koichi Tabuchi was a catcher, first baseman, coach and manager in Japan. He made the Best Nine team five years in a row and was a 11-time All-Star. The slugger set a college home run record and later won a home run title in the Central League and went deep 474 times in Nippon Pro Baseball. He was the center of one of the more notable trades in Japan in the 1970s. Unlike some sluggers, Tabuchi did not hit many doubles, usually hitting high and long homers when he connected. [1] After finishing up as a player, Tabuchi worked as a baseball commentator and then as a manager. He most recently has been a hitting coach, including a stint with the Japanese national team that included the 2008 Olympics.

Early career[edit]

Tabuchi slugged 22 homers while at Hosei University. This was the Tokyo Big Six University League record for 30 years, before Yoshinobu Takahashi broke it. [2] In 1968, he was picked by the Hanshin Tigers in the first round of the draft. He debuted in NPB in 1969 and hit .226/.320/.457 with 22 HR, making the Central League All-Star team as a rookie. [3] He won the CL Rookie of the Year award that season. [4]

Tabuchi batted .244/.327/.478 in 1970 and homered 21 times in 316 AB but missed three months after being plunked in the head by Yoshiro Sotokoba on July 26. A player who took lots of pitches, he struck out 74 times that year after 98 times as a rookie. [5] He played only 80 games in 1971 but still made his third consecutive All-Star team. He homered 18 times in 276 AB. In the All-Star game, Tabuchi was involved in a historic moment when he was behind the plate as Central League starter Yutaka Enatsu struck out the first nine Pacific League All-Stars in order to open the game. [6]

1972-1976: The peak years[edit]

In 1972, Tabuchi produced at a .258/.341/.516 clip with 34 home runs. In addition to being named to the CL All-Star team, Tabuchi was honored as the top catcher in the CL by making the Best Nine for the first time. [7] The next season, Koichi had several impressive accomplishments. At one point, he homered in four consecutive games (May 12-15). In seven consecutive at-bats against the Yomiuri Giants, he homered every time, a NPB record for consecutive homers against one club. On September 9, he was intentionally walked by Takeshi Yasuda, ending Yasuda's record of 81 consecutive innings without hitting or walking a batter. Tabuchi made the Best Nine again, was an All-Star again and won his first Diamond Glove Award. The slugger batted .256/.393/.550 with 37 HR (only 6 doubles), 90 RBI and 85 walks (24 intentional). [8]

Tabuchi kept on improving. He put up a .278/.437/.644 line in 1974 with 45 home runs, 83 runs, 95 RBI, 16 times hit by pitch and 102 walks (28 intentional) to 67 strikeouts in 407 AB. He led the CL in times hit by pitch, made his fifth All-Star team, his third Best Nine and won his second and last Diamond Glove. He was four home runs behind CL leader Sadaharu Oh and 56 walks behind Oh, who was drawing even more free passes than usual. In the All-Star game that year, he was robbed of a homer when Yutaka Fukumoto climbed the fence to catch the ball. [9] [10]

In 1975, Tabuchi broke Oh's run of 14 consecutive home run titles by outhomering the legend, 43-33. He drove in 90, was hit by 15 pitches and drew 88 walks. He led the CL in slugging and times hit by pitch, made the All-Star team and the Best Nine. On June 19, he hit his 200th career home run, making him the quickest player in NPB history to attain that level. [11] [12]

Tabuchi batted .277/.379/.575 in 1976 with 39 HR and his walk total fell to 65. He still made his 8th consecutive All-Star team and made his fifth and final Best Nine. [13]

1977-1984: Decline phase[edit]

For the first time in his career, Tabuchi missed the CL All-Star team in 1977. At age 30, he had begun to fade, hitting .261/.333/.496 with 23 HR, his lowest total in a 100+ game season since his rookie year. [14] In 1978, Koichi returned to the All-Star roster and batted .288/.386/.584 with 38 HR (8 2B) and 89 RBI. [15] He was six homers shy of CL leader Koji Yamamoto in his last year with Hanshin. [16] On June 5, he hits his 300th career homer, the 10th player in NPB history to reach that mark and the fastest to have done so. [17] As of 2009, he is second all-time in Hanshin history in homers (320). [18]

Tabuchi was traded to the Seibu Lions with Kenji Furusawa for Akinobu Mayumi, Masashi Takenouchi, Masafumi Takeda, Yoshiharu Wakana and 20 million yen. Seibu GM/manager Rikuo Nemoto wanted a "flagship player" as the team had just changed ownership and wanted to show its commitment to change. As Tabuchi's weight issues were hampering his defensive abilities and his personal life was the subject of much tabloid review, Hanshin had shipped him around, with four teams showing interest. Additionally, new Tigers manager Don Blasingame was stressing a small-ball game which did not fit with Koichi's skills. Typical of the whole affair was how Hanshin notified their long-time star - they called him at two o'clock in the morning.

He debuted with them in 1979 and hit .262/.333/.521 with 27 homers while playing DH primarily. He made his 10th All-Star team and his first in the Pacific League. His walk totals not what they once were, he only took 33 free passes all year. [19] In 1980, Tabuchi smashed 43 HR (9 doubles only), batting .266/.353/.584 with 97 RBI. He was five homers behind PL leader Charlie Manuel, who won the Best Nine honors at DH. [20] [21]

In 1981, Tabuchi slipped to .247/.345/.424 with 15 homers, the fewest yet in his 13-year career. In 283 AB, he hit 3 doubles. On September 6, he cracked his 400th home run, making him the 7th NPB player to have hit that many. Only Oh had reached 400 quicker. The victimized pitcher on the homer was Choji Murata. [22]

Koichi batted .218/.303/.462 in 1982, but still hammered 25 home runs. Playing first base in the 1982 Japan Series, he went 6 for 18 with two walks and one time hit by pitch to help Seibu claim their first title in what would be a grand decade. [23] [24]

In 1983, the veteran hit .293/.390/.630 in 82 games in a dazzling rebound year. He hit 30 homers, the 8th time he had smacked so many in a year, doing so in just 300 AB. He won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award. In the 1983 Japan Series, Tabuchi hit .364/.462/.682 with 2 homers and six RBI to power the Lions to a second straight title. [25][26] [27]

Tabuchi played his final 86 games in 1984, making his 11th and last All-Star team. He hit .230/.303/.409 and hit 14 homers in 291 AB, ensuring that he had reached double-digit home run totals in all 16 of his seasons. [28] The 38-year-old showed his dedication to the Japanese style that year when he fielded 900 straight grounders in spring training over the course of 2 hours and 50 minutes before collapsing, unable to stand anymore. Robert Whiting said it was the gattsu (guts) drills record for the 1980s.

[29]

Career Statistics[edit]

Tabuchi hit .260/.361/.535 overall in 1,739 games in NPB. He hit 474 homers but only 179 other extra-base hits. He drew 823 walks and was hit by 128 pitches. [30] Through 2009, he is 10th all-time in home runs in NPB (between Katsuo Osugi and Masahiro Doi), 13th in slugging (between Kazuhiro Wada and Isao Harimoto), 23rd in RBI (1,135), 8th in intentional walks (125), fifth in times hit by pitch and 26th in double plays ground into (176). [31]

Post-playing career[edit]

Tabuchi was a baseball commentator with Sports Nippon and TBS, working in that role from 1985-1989 and 1993-2001. [32]

In between his stints in the announcing booth, Tabuchi managed the Daiei Hawks. The club finished last in 1990 (41-85-4) and improved to fifth in 1991 (53-73-4) and fourth in 1992 (57-72-1) but was replaced by Nemoto, the man who had traded for him 13 years prior. [33]

In 2002, Tabuchi was hired by Hanshin as their batting coach. [34]

Tabuchi coached for Japan in the 2007 Asian Championship and the 2008 Olympics. [35] [36]

His hobbies are tennis and golf. [37]

Views on Foreign Players in Japan[edit]

When Randy Bass of Hanshin challenged Oh's single-season home run record in 1985, Tabuchi rooted for his contemporary over the player on his old team. He stated later that "[P]eople didn't want anyone other than a Japanese to break this record." [38] On the other hand, when Tuffy Rhodes challenged Oh's mark in 2001, Tabuchi's views had evolved. He said "Back then (Bass's time) the game seemed like Japanese versus the U.S...people are watching a lot of American ball and have gained a real appreciation for it. There's no prejudice anymore." [39] Boomer Wells recalls Tabuchi of being supportive of him when he struggled in 1992, recalling his own comeback after he felt washed-up, whereas Nemoto urged him to retire. [40]

Sources[edit]

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