Koji Noda (野田 浩司)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 180 lb.
- High School Taragi High School
Koji Noda was an All-Star one time in Nippon Pro Baseball.
Noda played for Kyushu Sanko in the industrial leagues, going 22-13. When they dissolved their team, he was picked by the Hanshin Tigers in the first round of the 1987 draft. He went 3-13 with a 3.98 ERA as a rookie in 1988. He hit 7 batters, one behind Central League leader Matt Keough, and tied Hiromi Makihara for second in losses, three behind Takao Obana.
Koji was used mostly in relief in 1989, going 5-4 with two saves and a 3.35 ERA in 43 games, second-most on the Tigers staff. In 1990, the right-hander was 11-12 with five saves and a 4.90 ERA and .302 opponent average. He tied Hiroaki Nakayama for 4th in the CL in defeats. Despite that performance, he was the Tigers' Opening Day starter the next year; he turned in a 8-14, 3.81 campaign with one save. He led the CL in losses, hits allowed (206), runs allowed (95), earned runs allowed (90) and wild pitches (10, tied). He did throw his first career shutout, a two-hitter of the Hiroshima Carp on May 24. Noda was 8-9 with a save and a 2.98 ERA in 1992, showing good strides. Had he qualified, he would have been 9th in the CL in ERA.
That off-season, Hanshin dealt him to the Orix BlueWave for fading star Hiromi Matsunaga in what would be a good deal for Orix. Noda struck out 15 Kintetsu Buffaloes on April 21 and 16 Buffaloes on July 4. He made the Pacific League All-Star team and went 17-5 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .228 opponent average and 209 K in 225 IP in his first season in his new loop. He was among the PL leaders in ERA (third behind Kimiyasu Kudoh and Yukihiro Nishizaki), wins (tied for second with Hideo Nomo), shutouts (4, tied for first), complete games (17, tied for first with Nishizaki), innings (225, 2nd to Nomo), hits allowed (187, 3rd), home runs allowed (23, 2nd, two behind Takehiro Ishii) and strikeouts (2nd, a distant 67 behind Nomo, but 49 more than Hideki Irabu, who was second to Noda among the top 10 ERA pitchers). Noda also won a Gold Glove.
The Kumamoto native faded to 12-11, 4.24 in 1994 despite 213 whiffs in 193 innings. On August 12, he tied the Nippon Pro Baseball record with 17 Ks in a game, again dominating Kintetsu. For the season, he was among the PL leaders in home runs allowed (25, 1st), runs allowed (98, 1st), earned runs allowed (91, 1st), strikeouts (2nd, 26 behind Irabu), innings (2nd to Irabu), wins (tied for third with Yamazaki and Toyohiko Yoshida) and losses (tied for third with Yoshida and Tomoyuki Uchiyama).
Noda rebounded to go 10-7 with a 3.08 ERA, .214 opponent average and 208 strikeouts in 184 1/3 IP in 1995. On April 21, he set a new NPB record with 19 strikeouts in a game (taking a no-decision in an extra-inning loss against the Chiba Lotte Marines). He was the first NPB hurler to have three games of 16+ Ks and the second with four games of 15+. For the year, he was second in the PL in strikeouts (31 shy of Irabu), second in homers allowed (21, 5 behind Hirofumi Kono), 9th in ERA and first in wild pitches (13). In the 1995 Japan Series, he allowed two runs and fanned 12 in 10 innings over two relief appearances and a start. In his game two start, he blanked the Yakult Swallows for 7 innings in a duel with Kazuhisa Ishii before fading in a no-decision; the BlueWaves lost, 3-2, in extra innings. He led the Series in strikeouts but the Swallows beat Orix in five games.
In 1996, the 28-year-old was 8-7 with a 3.14 ERA. He was 6th in the league in ERA, between Nobuyuki Hoshino and Fumiya Nishiguchi. He allowed two runs in 6 1/3 IP of game 3 of the 1996 Japan Series to beat Balvino Galvez and the Yomiuri Giants; Orix won in five games, their only Japan Series title during their time as the BlueWave.
Koji turned in a 7-5, 3.29 campaign in 1997, placing 9th in the PL in ERA, between Nobuyuki Hoshino and Kimiyasu Kudoh. He then ran into elbow problems and lasted just 6 1/3 IP in four games in 1998 (10 H, 3 BB, 5 R). He had surgery but did not recover, giving up two runs in an inning in 1999 to end his playing career. He officially retired the next year.
Overall, Noda had gone 89-87 with 9 saves and a 3.50 ERA in 316 NPB games (209 starts). He struck out 1,325 and walked 561 in 1,614 1/3 IP while allowing a .251 average. Through 2011, he was 70th in NPB history in strikeouts (between Kenshin Kawakami and Akio Saito) and 14th with 66 wild pitches (between Masumi Kuwata and another Koji, Koji Nakata).
Noda's top pitch was his forkball, called "obake" (the ghost) for the way it would seem to disappear.
After his playing career ended, Noda was a coach for Orix and a TV and radio baseball commentator.
- Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland
- Michael Eng's Japanese Database