Yasujiro Suzuki (鈴木 康二朗)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 176 lb.
- High School Isohara High School
Suzuki played for Nikko Hitachi in the industrial leagues after high school. He was picked by the Yakult Atoms in the 5th round of the 1972 draft. He made it to the big club in 1975, by which point they had become the Yakult Swallows; he had a rough debut (10 H, 7 R in 4 IP). He became a regular reliever for Yakult in 1976 (2-5, Sv, 3.61 in 43 G), tying Motoyasu Kaneshiro, Shigeru Kobayashi and Jun Misawa for 10th in the Central League in games pitched. He also went 7 for 20 with a double, homer and a walk. His first hit was off Kenji Furusawa and his homer against Hidetake Watanabe.
In 1977, he became a starter and was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA. He also batted .263/.300/.316. He was 6th in the CL in wins, 5th in ERA (between Senichi Hoshino and Takenori Emoto), tied Jiro Ueda for 9th in complete games (7), tied for 5th in shutouts (2), tied for 9th in losses, was 9th in IP (184, between Hiromu Matsuoka and Teruo Aida) and led with 14 hit batsmen (1 ahead of Kenichi Kajima). He made the CL All-Star team. In 1977 NPB All-Star Game 1, he relieved Emoto in the 4th of a scoreless game and worked two innings, allowing four hits but no runs and fanning three; Kajima relieved him and would get the win as the CL finally scored. In Game 3, he replaced Kajima in the 6th with a 3-2 lead and worked two 1-2-3 innings, striking out two, for a hold; Takamasa Suzuki then entered and saved the game. On September 3, he allowed Sadaharu Oh's 756th NPB homer, setting the new world record to break Hank Aaron's mark.
The Swallows made the first Japan Series in franchise history in 1978; Suzuki contributed a 13-3, 4.11 record, but the main contributions came from the hitting of Tsutomu Wakamatsu and Charlie Manuel. Suzuki finished among the CL leaders in wins (tied for 7th with Kojiro Ikegaya and Kobayashi), complete games (7, tied for 7th with Tsuneo Horiuchi and Satoshi Takahashi), shutouts (2, tied for 4th), hits allowed (203, 8th, between Ikegaya and Matsuoka), runs allowed (95, 9th), earned runs (85, 10th), homers (34, 1st, one ahead of Furusawa) and hit batsmen (10, tied for 3rd with Osamu Nomura). In the 1978 NPB All-Star Game 3, he relieved Nomura in the bottom of the 5th with a 6-3 lead; he tossed two shutout innings (2 H, 1 K) before Isao Harimoto batted for him. The CL won, 8-5. In his lone Japan Series, he had a 10.13 ERA, worst on Yakult; he was 0-2 with 9 hits, 4 walks and 9 runs in 8 IP. He lost game 3 to Mitsuhiro Adachi and the Hankyu Braves; back on the hill for game 6, he lost to Shizuo Shiraishi. Yakult prevailed in game 7 thanks to Matsuoka, Manuel and Katsuo Osugi.
Suzuki was 8-11 with a 4.27 ERA in 1979 and was on the leaderboard in losses (tied for 4th), IP (185 2/3, 8th, between Masaji Hiramatsu and Kimiya Fujisawa), hit batsmen (8, 6th), runs allowed (95, tied for second with Misawa) and earned runs surrendered (88, tied for third with Akio Saito and Kobayashi). He rebounded in 1980 (11-6, 5 Sv, 2.96; he also homered twice). He was 7th in the CL in ERA (between Kazuo Yamane and Takao Obana), tied for third with two shutouts, 8th in saves, 10th with 194 hits allowed and tied with Nomura for second with 10 hit batters.
In 1981, he had a 9-8, 3.81 record and hit .305/.305/.458 after three years between .119 and .137. He was 10th in innings (182, between Matsuoka and Saito), 8th in hits allowed (190, between Matsuoka and Shinichiro Ihara), tied for 4th with 8 batters plunked, tied Yutaka Ono for second with 6 wild pitches, was 6th with 88 runs allowed and tied Kobayashi for 9th with 77 earned runs. He was 7-4 with a save and a 4.01 ERA for Yakult in 1982.
The right-hander was then dealt with backup outfielder Takahiro Yanagihara to the Kintetsu Buffaloes for Takashi Imoto. The Buffaloes made Suzuki their closer; he was 5-1 with 14 saves, a 2.28 ERA and a WHIP under 1 in his first year in that role. He tied Tamotsu Nagai for 5th in the Pacific League in games pitched (42) in 1983 and was 5th in saves (between Kaneshiro and Steve Shirley).
The Ibaraki native went 5-4 with 18 saves and a 3.10 ERA in 1984. He was third in the PL in games pitched (46, two behind Nagai and Yukihiko Yamaoki) and led in saves (3 ahead of Yamaoki). Yamaoki beat him out in save points (25-23). The two-time CL All-Star made the PL All-Star team. In the 1984 NPB All-Star Game 1, he went 1-2-3 in the 9th inning of a 14-5 win, retiring Yukio Yaegashi, Sachio Kinugasa and Kiyoshi Nakahata. In Game 2, he entered in the 5th with a 3-2 deficit, relieving Yutaro Imai. He pitched two shutout innings (1 H, 2 BB, 1 K) and got to bat for the only time in his PL career (the PL using a DH), retired by Takashi Nishimoto. He left with a 6-3 lead, replaced by Osamu Higashio, who saved a 6-5 win for Suzuki. In Game 3, he entered with a 1-1 tie in the 6th, replacing Yoshinori Sato, and allowed two hits and an unearned run in one inning; Masaru Ishikawa relieved him and Suzuki took the loss this time.
Suzuki was 5-2 with 12 saves and a 3.00 ERA in 1985. He tied Yukio Tanaka for second in the PL with 47 appearances, a distant 23 behind Yoshiaki Ishimoto. He again led in saves, this time one ahead of Hisanobu Watanabe. Ishimoto led in saves points, with 26 to Suzuki's 17. Suzuki fell to 2-1, 4.37 in 21 games in 1986 as Ishimoto became Kintetsu's closer.
Yasujiro was 81-54 with 52 saves and a 3.68 ERA in 414 NPB games (151 starts). He allowed a .268 average and 1.29 WHIP. He hit a solid .202/.243/.287 for a pitcher, with 5 homers and 32 RBI in 371 plate appearances. Through 2011, he was among NPB's career leaders in saves (tied for 52nd with Alex Graman), ties (18, tied for 31st), save points (79, 37th), intentional walks (37, tied for 84th), hit batsmen (70, tied for 55th with Akira Kawahara) and winning percentage (39th, between Minoru Murayama and Tetsuya Shiozaki).