Tetsuya Yoneda

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Tetsuya Yoneda (米田 哲也) (The Human Tank, Gasoline Tank)

Biographical Information[edit]

Tetsuya Yoneda is the 2nd-winningest pitcher all-time in Nippon Professional Baseball with 350 victories.

Yoneda was signed by the Hanshin Tigers in December 1955 out of high school. The Hankyu Braves said that the deal was invalid and filed an objection; the objection was upheld and Yoneda wound up signing with Hankyu instead. In his fourth pro at-bat, he hit a grand slam, sooner than anyone else had done so in Japan. For his career, he showed good power for a little pitcher, although with a typical pitcher's batting average. He was 9-15 with a 2.38 ERA and .210 opponent average as a rookie and hit .161 with two home runs. Had he qualified, he would have been 10th in the low-scoring 1956 Pacific League in ERA. He made his first PL All-Star team.

The teenager worked 299 2/3 innings in 1957, striking out 268. He was 21-16 with a 1.86 ERA and .199 opponent average. He finished third in the league in ERA behind Kazuhisa Inao and Shoichi Ono. In 1958, the Tottori native was 23-13 with 25 complete games and 11 shutouts in 36 starts. He had a 2.12 ERA, .213 opponent average and 268 whiffs. He finished 5th in the league in ERA, between Tadashi Sugiura and Masayuki Dobashi. He made his second All-Star team, set a PL record for shutouts (breaking Sadao Nishimura's mark by 3) that still stands as of 2010 and led in complete games.

Yoneda made his third All-Star team in 1959 when the youngster was 18-24 with a 2.12 ERA. He finished third in the league in ERA behind Sugiura and Inao yet led in losses due to almost no offensive support; Hankyu was 30-58 when other pitchers got the decision and their 387 runs were six shy of being worst in the PL that year. He was 22-16 with a 2.73 ERA in 51 games in 1960, allowing the most hits (271) and earned runs (112) in the league. He still finished 9th in ERA, right behind fellow Japanese legend Inao and got his third straight All-Star nod.

The Hankyu ace pitched 56 games (35 starts) and 275 2/3 innings in 1961 with a 16-22, 3.56 record. He led the league in homers allowed (27), runs allowed (127) and earned runs allowed (109). He also had one of his best offensive seasons, hitting .206/.250/.431 with 8 doubles and 5 home runs in 102 at-bats. He finished 10th in ERA, right behind Joe Stanka, with league offensive levels on the rise to some degree. Yoneda was 20-17 with a 3.23 ERA in 1962. The 24-year-old made his 5th All-Star team and led the league with 231 strikeouts, but failed to crack the top 10 in ERA.

Yoneda had one of his worst campaigns in 1963 with a 14-23, 4.01 record. He led the league in losses, runs (135) and earned runs (117). He still was picked as an All-Star. In 1964, Yoneda was chosen as an All-Star for the 7th time; on the year, he was 21-16 in 60 games (40 starts), working 319 2/3 innings. His ERA was 2.53. For once, he did not lead the league in either a positive or negative department despite his workload. He was 5th in ERA between Katsuji Sakai and Yukio Ozaki. The Hankyu hurler went 20-17 with a 3.00 ERA in 1965 and led with 280 hits allowed.

In 1966, the 28-year-old topped 200 career wins. He was 25-17 in 55 games (310 innings), posting a 3.19 ERA. He led the league in hits allowed (289), innings, batters faced (1,265), walks (81), runs (120) and earned runs (110) but also in wins. He made his 8th All-Star team. Yoneda went 18-15 with a 2.76 ERA in 1967 and was an All-Star for the 9th time. He was a workhorse in the 1967 Japan Series, his first Japan Series, starting games one, five and six against the Yomiuri Giants and relieving in game three. He walked 10 and allowed nine runs in a disappointing 10 2/3 innings. His lone decision was a game one loss to Masaichi Kaneda, the only pitcher who wound wind up with more wins in NPB history. Yomiuri beat Hankyu in six games to win the third of their historic nine straight titles.

The veteran hurler had 43 starts and 20 relief stints in 1968, going 29-13 with a 2.79 ERA, 302 hits, 237 strikeouts and 105 walks in 348 2/3 IP. He also hit 5 home runs while batting .150/.216/.308. He was an All-Star for the tenth time and finished 6th in ERA behind Mutsuo Minagawa, Masanori Murakami, Masaaki Ikenaga, Keishi Suzuki and Inao. He was two wins behind leader Minagawa. Despite not leading the league in anything, he was named Pacific League MVP. In the 1968 Japan Series, he won game one against Kaneda, lost game three to Tsuneo Horiuchi then had two no-decisions. He had a 1-1, 5.09 record overall and was 2 for 5 at the plate, at least faring better than he had in '67.

Yoneda was an All-Star in 1969, his first time making the team four years in a row after two previous streaks ended at three. The Human Tank kept on rolling with 46 games (31 starts, 17 complete) and 253 1/3 innings. He surprisingly had a losing record (14-16, 2.95, .229 opponent average) on a title-winning team. He tossed one shutout inning in the 1969 Japan Series, coming when Hankyu was already out of game six in falling to Yomiuri. Mitsuhiro Adachi and Yukinobu Miyamoto got the bulk of the work in taking over the role of Hankyu aces. He was 16-13 with a 3.57 ERA in 1970, making his 12th All-Star team.

The old-timer was 14-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 1971, an All-Star once more. He reached 300 career wins with his last one of the campaign. He also had his best season at the plate, batting .239/.292/.478 with four home runs. He was 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in the 1971 Japan Series as Hankyu again lost to Yomiuri. He relieved in games one, two (a win in relief of Hisashi Yamada) and four. In game five, with Hankyu down 3 games to 1, he started and lost against Kazumi Takahashi. In 1972, Yoneda was 10-7 with a 3.24 ERA for the Braves. He finished 9th in the PL in ERA. In the 1972 Japan Series, he again started game five against Takahashi with his club down 3 games to 1. This time, he got a no-decision (2 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 0 R) as they lost and were eliminated. He would never appear in another Japan Series, having been on the losing side all five times out.

At age 35, Yoneda was not down and out by any means. He was 15-3 with a 2.46 ERA in 1973. He made his 14th and last All-Star team. After not leading the league in anything since 1966, he won his only ERA title, having taken each league of the pitching Triple Crown in a different season. He was .11 ahead of Akira Tanaka. Hankyu had the best record, but the league employed a split-season schedule and they fell in the playoffs to the Nankai Hawks. He fell to 11-8, 4.27 in 1974 but rebounded to 10-6, 2.52 in 1975. He switched clubs in mid-season; after 19 1/2 years with Hankyu, he finally wound up with the team that had first signed him, Hanshin.

Yoneda was a shadow of his former self by 1976, going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 13 games for Hanshin. He had a 2-2, 4.62 record and .302 opponent average for the 1977 Kintetsu Buffaloes then retired as a player. His 23 straight seasons with a win remained a NPB record for 30 years before being broken by Kimiyasu Kudoh.

Overall, Yoneda was 350-285 with a 2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 949 games (626 starts) in NPB. He completed 262 games, 64 of them shutouts. He allowed 4,561 hits and 1,480 walks in 5,130 innings while striking out 3,388. He hit .171/.218/.271 with 55 doubles and 33 home runs in 1,556 AB. He was second all-time in home runs by a NPB pitcher. As of 2010, he ranked second in NPB history in wins (50 behind Kaneda, first among righties), second in losses (13 behind Kaneda), 8th in complete games (between Tadashi Wakabayashi and Jiro Noguchi), 7th in shutouts (between Noguchi and Hideo Fujimoto), first in appearances (five ahead of Kaneda), second in innings (between Kaneda and Masaaki Koyama), second in strikeouts (over 1,000 behind Kaneda), second in walks (over 400 behind Kaneda), tied for third in hit batsmen (143, even with Sakai), first in hits allowed (over 400 ahead of Kaneda), 7th in homers allowed (370, between Masaji Hiramatsu and Koyama), 1st in runs allowed (1,940, over 100 ahead of Higashio) and 1st in earned runs allowed (1,659, 71 ahead of Suzuki and Higashio).

After retiring as a player, he was a commentator for Mainichi Broadcasting, Nikkan Sports and Kansai TV. He also coached for both Hanshin and Kintetsu. In 2000, he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hankyu teammate Gordie Windhorn described Yoneda as having "a good assortment of different pitches. He kept the bill in and had good location. Yoneda was probably one of the smarter pitchers over there."

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