Sadaaki Yoshimura

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Sadaaki Yoshimura (吉村 禎章)
(Gandam, Pochi)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Sadaaki Yoshimura played 17 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball, making four All-Star teams.

Yoshimura was on the team that won the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament in 1981. The Yomiuri Giants picked him in the third round of the 1981 NPB draft. He debuted as a pinch-hitter for Hajime Kato and was 0 for 3 with a whiff for Yomiuri in 1982; he would spend his entire career with the Giants. His first hit, off Shigeru Kobayashi, came as a pinch-hitter for Hisao Niura. He got his first RBI on his first homer, a 3-run shot off Tomoaki Hamada June 29, 1983. He was an excellent bench player that year - .326/.379/.579, 4 3B, 5 HR, 26 R in 104 PA and 84 G. Reggie Smith, Hector Cruz and Tadashi Matsumoto were Yomiuri's starting outfielders then. Yoshimura struck out in both of his at-bats in the 1983 Japan Series, which the Giants dropped to the Seibu Lions.

Yoshimura got more opportunities in 1984 as Cruz left (replaced by Warren Cromartie) and Smith was injured frequently. Kazuhiro Yamakura joined Cromartie and Matsumoto as the starters but Yoshimura got 298 plate appearances and 115 games, hitting .342/.415/.615 with 26 doubles and 13 home runs. Despite his part-time role, he tied Seiji Kamikawa and Kiyoyuki Nagashima for 4th in the Central League in doubles. Had he qualified, he would have beaten Kazunori Shinozuka by .008 for the batting title, Randy Bass by .017 for the slugging title and Masayuki Kakefu by .009 for the OBP lead.

With Smith gone, Yoshimura became a starter in right in 1985 and did very well (.328/.428/.529, 16 HR). He was third in average (behind Bass and Akinobu Okada), just lost the OBP race to Bass, was 10th in slugging (between Leon Lee and Koji Yamamoto), was 6th in OPS (between Akinobu Mayumi and Tatsunori Hara), was 10th with 59 walks, tied for 5th with six sacrifice flies and tied for third with 6 times hit by pitch. He made his first All-Star team in 1986, when he hit .312/.372/.536 with 23 home runs, 84 runs, 72 RBI and 10 steals in 14 tries. He was on the CL leaderboard in average (5th, between Lee and Yutaka Takagi), OBP (7th, between Takagi and Hara), SLG (7th, between Mayumi and Gary Rajsich), OPS (6th, between Carlos Ponce and Mayumi), runs (4th, behind Cromartie, Bass and Yoshihiko Takahashi), hits (151, 7th, between Ponce and Ken Hirano), triples (6, 2nd, 2 behind outfield mate Matsumoto), RBI (9th, between Doug Loman and Okada), hit-by-pitch (7, tied for first with Cromartie and Sachio Kinugasa) and sacrifice flies (5, tied for 6th with Lee and Takagi). He joined Cromartie and Koji Yamamoto as the Best Nine picks in the outfield for the CL.

Despite being only 24 years old, Yoshimura had his last season as a starter in 1987. He hit .322/.357/.591 with 30 home runs and 86 RBI. He was 5th in the Central League in average (between Ponce and Kiyoshi Nakahata), 5th in slugging (between Hara and Toru Sugiura), 6th in OPS (between Sugiura and Cromartie), 5th in total bases (253, between Hara and Cromartie), 5th in runs (76), 9th in hits (138), tied for 9th in doubles (21) and tied for 6th in home runs (even with Masaru Uno). He was an All-Star and made his second and last Best Nine, joining Cromartie and Ponce as the CL's top flyhawks. In the 1987 Japan Series, he was one of the few Giants who hit at all against the Lions, going 7 for 23 with two walks, no runs and two RBI; the team was held to 14 runs in six games and only Cromartie and Shinozuka had more hits for the squad.

Yoshimura was off to another fine season in 1988 (.302/.373/.541, 13 HR in 65 G) and hit his 100th career home run July 6 off Akira Yonemura. In the 8th inning, though, he and CF Tadahiro Sakaemura collided while chasing a fly from Takayoshi Nakao. He severed three ligaments in his left knee. Dr. Frank Jobe performed two knee surgeries on Yoshimura. He spent over a year rehabbing before he could play again. He returned to raucous crowd backing in late 1989 and went 5 for 28 with two walks in limited action that year. He was 2 for 6 with a run in the 1989 Japan Series, playing DH in the road games that used Pacific League DH rules rather than CL pitcher-batting rules. Yomiuri won the Series over the Kintetsu Buffaloes, the first title for them in Yoshimura's career.

The Nara native homered in five straight games in September 1990; he finished at .327/.415/.582 with 14 HR and 45 RBI in 241 PA over 84 G, a superb performer as a part-timer. Had he qualified, he would have beaten Jim Paciorek for the batting crown (by .001), finished .001 behind Hiromitsu Ochiai for the OBP lead and beaten Vance Law by 18 points for the slugging title (though Rod Allen had a higher slugging percentage in more playing time, also as a non-qualifier). He won the NPB Comeback Player of the Year Award. He was 2 for 12 with a run in the 1990 Japan Series as Seibu shut down Yomiuri's hitting in a replay of 1987; the Giants got just 8 runs in a four-game sweep.

Yoshimura was Yomiuri's third-most-used outfielder in 1991 but hit poorly (.227/.306/.376 in 10 HR in 271 PA) as they had trouble finding a third regular outfielder to play alongside Hara and Phil Bradley. He somehow made the CL All-Star team for the third time despite one of his worst seasons. He rebounded to .317/.375/.442 in 91 games in 1992 as the Giants outfield shuffled some more with Bradley being replaced by Lloyd Moseby, Hara moving to 1B and Norihiro Komada moving from 1B to the OF. Had he qualified, he would have finished third in the CL in average behind Jack Howell and Tom O'Malley. He was an All-Star for the final time in 1993, when he hit .270/.334/.399. While not a great season, he outperformed outfield mates Moseby and Koichi Ogata and had similar numbers to a young Hideki Matsui; only Jesse Barfield was clearly better among Yomiuri outfielders.

Yoshimura slumped to .175/.241/.269 in 81 games in 1994. In the 1994 Japan Series, Dan Gladden, Matsui and Henry Cotto were the starting outfielders for the Giants. Back in the DH role he had occupied in prior Japan Series, he excelled, going 4 for 7 with a double, home run and two walks as Yomiuri beat Seibu. His long ball off Hisanobu Watanabe tied game 5 in the third inning as Yomiuri pulled away and then won game 6 to wrap it up. He spent his last four years basically just pinch-hitting. He hit .288/.373/.500 in 75 plate appearances (55 G) in 1995, .246/.277/.344 in 65 PA and 53 G in 1996 (going 0 for 1 in the 1996 Japan Series), .258/.290/.403 in 69 PA and 69 G in 1997 and .262/.368/.338 in 76 PA and 71 G in 1998.

Yoshimura wound up playing 1,349 games in NPB, with a .296/.364/.494 batting line in 3,678 plate appearances. He had 459 runs, 149 home runs and 535 RBI. Due to his injuries and limited playing time many years, he did not finish among the career leaders in any counting stats, but through 2011, he was among the NPB career top-100 in the four major rate stats. He was 56th in average (between Ponce and Kenta Kurihara), 91st in OBP (between Dave Roberts and Phil Clark), 74th in slugging (between Fumio Fujimura and Korean legend Seung-yeop Lee) and 72nd in OPS (between Luis Lopez and Hiroshi Oshita).

After retiring as a player, he was a baseball commentator on TV from 1999-2001, coached for Yomiuri in 2002-2003, commentator from 2004-2006, minor league manager for Yomiuri in 2007-2008, Yomiuri coach from 2009-2011 and TV and radio commentator again starting in 2012.