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Roki Sasaki

From BR Bullpen

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Roki Sasaki (佐々木 朗希)
(Wonder of Reiwa)

BR Register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Roki Sasaki pitched one of the best games in Nippon Pro Baseball history when he was only 20 years old.

His father and grandfather died in a massive earthquake in 2011. [1] He pitched one shutout inning (1 BB, 1 K, 0 H) for Japan in the 2019 U-18 Baseball World Cup. [2] He hit 99.4 on the radar gun as a high school senior, tying Shohei Otani's record for a Japanese high schooler; there were rumors he hit 101.2 for a scout. [3] In the 2019 NPB draft, he was the first pick of four teams (the Nippon Ham Fighters, Chiba Lotte Marines, Rakuten Golden Eagles and Seibu Lions, with Chiba Lotte winning the lottery for his rights. [4]

He did not appear in a game in 2020. He was 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 11 games for the Marines in 2021, fanning 68 in 63 1/3 IP; he was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in five minor league games as well. He got two votes for the 2021 Pacific League Rookie of the Year Award, finishing fifth. [5] He started their first playoff game and fanned ten in six innings against the Golden Eagles but his bullpen blew the lead; they rallied to win later. [6]

In his first game of 2022, his fastball reached a new record speed for himself, 101.9 mph. [7] On April 10, he pitched a game for the ages. He fanned 13 in a row, shattering the old NPB record of nine set in 1957 by Takao Kajimoto and tied by Masayuki Dobashi in 1958 (Yutaka Enatsu had fanned nine straight in 1971 NPB All-Star Game 1). [8] He finished with 19 whiffs, tying Koji Noda's NPB record. [9] He threw a perfect game against the Orix Buffaloes, including getting the 3-4-5 hitters to strike out all nine times up (Masataka Yoshida, Rangel Ravelo, Shuhei Fukuda). [10] He was the first NPB pitcher to throw a regular-season perfect game since Hiromi Makihara in 1994 (Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase had combined on one in the 2007 Japan Series). It was the 18th NPB perfecto and he was the youngest pitcher to have thrown one. [11] In his next start on April 16th, he was perfect for the first 8 innings against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before being removed after throwing 102 pitches in what was still a scoreless tie (Chiba lost the game, 1-0, in extra innings). He struck out 14 batters in the 8 innings, giving him a streak - still active - of 52 straight batters retired. That streak ended quickly in his next start, on April 24th, he gave up a hit to Shuhei Fukuda of the Orix Buffaloes on his first pitch of the game.

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "'It's as if he's throwing his soul': Get to know Japanese ace Roki Sasaki", mlb.com, March 19, 2023. [1]
  • Chris Bumbaca: "Who is Roki Sasaki? Meet Japanese pitching phenom who almost threw back-to-back perfect games", USA Today, April 17, 2022. [2]
  • Rick Gold: "Back-to-back perfect games? Almost", mlb.com, April 17, 2022. [3]
  • Thomas Harrigan: "Sasaki reiterates 'desire to play' in MLB -- but how soon?", mlb.com, January 27, 2024. [4]
  • Pat James: "Japanese phenom fans 19 in perfect game", mlb.com, April 10, 2022. [5]
  • Yuri Kageyama and Stephen Wade (Associated Press): "Pitcher Roki Sasaki next 'big thing' from Japanese baseball", Yahoo! News, March 7, 2023. [6]

Related Sites[edit]