Yoichi Okabayashi (岡林 洋一)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 176 lb.
Yoichi Okabayashi was a pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball for a decade, making three All-Star teams. He was probably the most successful 20th Century baseball player born in Paraguay.
Okabayashi's parents were both Japanese living in Paraguay. He returned to Japan in 8th grade, having played some baseball in Paraguay and continuing in Japan. He was 28-18 with a 1.85 ERA in college and was named the Tokyo Metropolitan University League MVP once. The Yakult Swallows picked him in the first round of the 1990 draft. As a rookie in 1991, he went 12-6 with 12 saves, a 3.97 ERA and only 19 walks in 106 2/3 IP. He was among the Central League leaders in games pitched (45, 7th), wins (tied for 7th with Kazuhisa Kawaguchi and Shinji Imanaka) and saves (4th).
In 1992, he went 15-10 with a 2.97 ERA and made the CL All-Star team. He finished among the league leaders in almost every category: ERA (8th, between Toshiro Yufune and Kazutomo Miyamoto), wins (2nd, 2 behind Masaki Saito), complete games (12, tied for second with Hiromi Makihara and Saito, one behind Koji Nakada), shutouts (3, tied for 3rd with Koji Noda and Masumi Kuwata), losses (tied for 8th), innings (197, tied for 6th with Shinji Sasaoka), hits (190, 5th, between Makihara and Sasaoka), homers (20, 4th, between Makihara and Tatsuo Komatsu), runs (70, tied for 9th with Komatsu) and earned runs (65, tied for 8th with Masahiro Yamamoto). He excelled in the 1992 Japan Series, going 1-2 but with a 1.50 ERA and 22 K to 3 BB in 30 IP; he worked almost half of Yakult's 67 innings in the Series. He went 12 innings to beat the Seibu Lions in Game 1, then allowed only a Koji Akiyama homer in game 4 but lost 1-0 as Tomio Watanabe, Yoshitaka Katori (who went to the same high school) and Tetsuya Shiozaki combined on a whitewash. In game 7, he again went the distance, only to lose a 2-1 duel to Takehiro Ishii. In the 10th, Akiyama hit a sacrifice fly to score Hatsuhiko Tsuji with the decisive run. Okabayashi easily outperformed rotation mates Kazuhisa Ishii, Daisuke Araki and Hikaru Takano. He even went 2 for 7 at the plate for a better average than all the Yakult starting position players except Tetsuya Iida; part-time second baseman Johnny Paredes was also higher, as was a backup outfielder. Joe Stanka had been the last hurler to throw three complete games in a Japan Series, back in 1964, while no one had pitched as many innings in a Series since Tadashi Sugiura in 1959. He got the Fighting Spirit Award as the MVP of the losing side in a Japan Series.
Okabayashi missed time with injury in 1993, going 5-8 with a 3.66 ERA. He made his second All-Star team. He was unavailable for the 1993 Japan Series, which Yakult won. He rebounded to 11-5, 2.99 with 31 BB in 171 2/3 IP in 1994 and was an All-Star once again. He was 5th in the league in ERA (between Imanaka and Yufine), wins (tied for 7th with Yoshihisa Kondo) and innings (9th, between Takashi Saito and Akimitsu Ito).
The right-hander was Yakult's Opening Day starter and finished with a 7-7, 3.79 record in 1995, walking only 20 in 107 innings. He hurt his right shoulder and right knee and missed the 1995 Japan Series. He had surgery on his knee that offseason. #15 returned to the field in 1997 and pitched 12 games (1-1, 4.88, .315 opponent average). He then had shoulder surgery, missing the 1997 Japan Series (Yakult won as in 1993 and 1995). He missed 1998 then was not effective in 1999 (1-2, 6.22 in 19 G) and 2000 (1-0, 4.91 in 7 G).
Okabayashi finished his career 53-39 with 12 saves, a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and .267 opponent average in 175 games (86 starts) in NPB. He struck out 472 in 766 IP. Through 2011, he was 69th in NPB annals in walk rate (1.95 BB/9), between Glenn Mickens and Masaru Takeda.