30 January 2008

NPB Notes:::Yokohama BayStars

Founded: 1950 as the Taiyo Whales by the Taiyo Fishing Company. The Shochiku Robins were merged into the Whales in 1953 and the team played as the Taiyo Shochiku Robins for one season and the Yo-Sho Robins for one season before returning to the Taiyo Whales from '55 to '77. With the move to Yokohama Stadium in 1978, the name changed to the Yokohama Taiyo Whales until 1992, when the Taiyo company changed its name to Maruha Corp. and the Whales became the Yokohama BayStars.
Owner: Maruha Corp. (that's the mascot, Hossy, at right)
Home base: Yokohama Stadium, a few blocks from the waterfront in Yokohama. The stadium features a 16-foot outfield fence and somewhat small dimensions.

Titles: 2 Central League pennants, 2 Japan Series titles (1960, 1998)

The Pipeline's sentiments for Japanese teams are pretty much split three ways (I've never been a big one-team-and-one-team-only guy). Number 1 would be the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, because I have respect for any team in a city that survived an atomic bombing. Number 2 would be the Orix Buffaloes (more toward the former Kintetsu Buffaloes, the lovable losers of the Pacific League), and number 3 would be the Yokohama BayStars, the lovable losers of the Central League most often compared to the Chicago Cubs. The BayStars are another Tokyo-area team, and after a winning record in their first season as the Taiyo Whales in 1950, the franchise struggled with losing records throughout the rest of the 1950s. The main highlight of the team's first decade was three CL home run titles from 2B/3B/CF Noburo Aota, who came over from Yomiuri in 1953. Aota was a four-time all-star and was named to 2 Best Nines for Taiyo and won the HR titles in 1954, 1956 and 1957 for the Whales. He retired with 265 lifetime homers that was a NPB career record until 1963. The team's first pitching standout was righty submarine-style pitcher Noboru Akiyama, who debuted in 1956 and started his career with four straight 300-IP seasons and then logged 5 200-IP seasons in a row after that. According to the Japan Baseball Daily site's entry on Akiyama, his college head coach made him throw up to 1,000 pitches a day to help develop that "rubber arm". A back injury kept him from becoming a Yomiuri Giant and Taiyo got him instead. In 1956 Taiyo won 43 games. Akiyama got the win in 25 of them en route to the Rookie of the Year award. He also lost 25. Akiyama would win both games of a doubleheader five times in his career and is the only man in the two-league NPB era to throw shutouts on consecutive days. He was a 9-time all-star but was named to only 1 Best Nine for Taiyo. His list of titles reads like both sides of a coin. On one hand he won one ERA title (1960) and a K title (1957) along with 2 complete game titles, 3 IP and 4 appearances titles. On the other hand, he led the league in losses from 1956 to 1959 with more than 20 losses each season (thanks to a sub-par Taiyo offense) and led the league in HR allowed in each of those seasons. He retired with a career ERA of 2.60, career WHIP of 1.11 and OAV of .227 with 6 20-win seasons and 1,896 Ks under his belt for Taiyo. He was inducted into the NPB Hall of Fame in 2004. A good example of the Whales' first decade is lefty P Masatoshi Gondo, who won Rookie of the Year in 1953 with a 15-12 record and 2.77 ERA. Two years later he was 3-21, then in 1956 he went 0-13, then in 1957 he was 12-17. In that time frame he lost 28 consecutive decisions and the 13 straight in one season is a CL record. Still, he was a two-time all star for Taiyo and retired with a career WHIP of 1.23 and a 2.78 ERA.

New manager Osamu Mihara was brought in in 1960 and, for at least one season, the Whales' fortunes turned. Taiyo went 70-56-4 and won the CL pennant by 4 1/2 games over Yomiuri. Akiyama led the way with an MVP and Best Nine season of a 21-10 record, 1.75 ERA (good for CL ERA title), 1.05 WHIP and 183 Ks in 262 1/3 IP. The season began with him taking a fungo in the head in warmup on op
ening day, but he recovered after missing a few games and, in June, won both ends of a doubleheader against Yomiuri in 12 inning sayonara victories. Gondo chipped in a 12-5 mark with a 1.42 ERA in 158 IP. Taiyo all-star C Kiyoshi Doi must have been a hell of a defender because he put up paltry numbers at the plate despite making seven straight all-star teams for the Whales, including in '60 when he hit .212 with a .569 OPS. 1B Kazuhiko Kondo had a breakout season in the first of six .300 BA seasons with a .316 BA and .812 OPS and was named to the first of nine all-star teams and seven Best Nines as a Whale. On the other hand, 3B Takeshi Kuwata followed up a 31-homer Rookie of the Year season in 1959 by hitting .300 the only season of his career at .301 with an .869 OPS but only 16 HR en route to his second of six all-star apperances. Joining Akiyama and Gondo on the mound for Taiyo were all-star P Gentaro Shimada, who was 19-10 with 203 Ks, 14 CG, 8 shutouts (led CL) and a 2.29 ERA in 247 1/3 IP and threw a perfect game in August against Hanshin; and P Takashi Suzuki, who followed up a combined 27-34 record in 520 IP in '58 and '59 with a 5-11 mark and 2.91 ERA in 160 IP in the last of his three all-star apperances. Pitching propelled Taiyo in 1960 as the team posted a CL-best 2.33 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP along with a league-leading 836 K.

The Whales' well-earned CL victory put them in the Japan Series versus the Daimai Orions, who
had gone 82-48-3 en route to a 4-game win over Nankai for the PL pennant. Taiyo ended up sweeping the Orions, but it wasn't easy as each win came by only 1 run. Akiyama shut down Daimai in a 1-0 game 1 win as OF Hidenori Kanemitsu provided the winning margin with a solo homer. He had hit only 5 in a ho-hum regular season. Game 2 was a 3-2 Taiyo win with Shimada picking up the victory, but Game 3 had some dramatics as Gondo got the win in a 6-5 Taiyo triumph on a ninth-inning solo homer by rookie 2B Akihito Kondo, who had hit only .226 with 4 HR in the regular season. Rookie Kondo came through again in game 4 with the only RBI in a 1-0 Taiyo victory as Akiyama shut the Orions down again. The rookie was named series MVP despite hitting only .200 as his 2 RBI in the series came at just the right times. Kanemitsu and Kazuhiko Kondo stepped up to hit .400 in the series with Kanemitsu driving in 4 runs. OF Kiyoshi Watanabe also hit .364 in the series for the Whales. On the mound, Akiyama pitched in all 4 games and allowed 1 ER in 16 1/3 IP while Shimada allowed only 2 ER in 11 2/3 IP as the duo stymied the Daimai bats.

Unfortunately for Taiyo, the good times didn't last long. They ended up in the cellar in 1961 with
only 50 wins as the pitching was as poor relative to the league as it had been good in 1960. Kuwata did earn the CL RBI title in that season at 94. The Whales rebounded in '62 to finish 71-59-4 but ended up 4 games back of Hanshin despite the improved showing. After another drop near the bottom in '63, the roller coaster continued as the Whales posted the franchise-best win total of 80 victories in 1964 but lost out by a game to Hanshin. The Whales led at the all-star break but couldn't hold the league lead, and Taiyo wouldn't see a 70-win season again until the late '90s. As the Giants dominated the CL through the 1960s and 1970s, the Whales made little noise. Kazuhiko Kondo continued to rack up all-star appearances; in 1966, a new standout was found in Taiyo in 3B Makoto Matsubara, who would be an 11-time all-star in a long Taiyo career in which he hit over .300 only twice but clubbed 331 homers (including two 3-homer games), helped set a Japan record when the Whales turned 146 double plays in 1972, set a CL record with 45 doubles in 1978, and hit 405 doubles in his career for 8th all time in Japan; C Isao Itoh was a five-time all-star despite not much output at the plate; and the new Whales pitching stud came along in the form of P Masaji Hiramatsu. Hiramatsu spent his entire career with the Whales and broke out in 1969 with a 14-12 record and 2.56 ERA in 245 2/3 IP. He followed that with a Sawamura season in 1970 of a 25-19 mark (leading CL in wins), a 1.95 ERA and sub-1 WHIP with 23 complete games and 6 shutouts in 332 2/3 IP. The eight-time all-star followed that Best Nine season with another one in '71 at 17-13 (again leading league in wins) with a 2.23 ERA in 279 IP. He never again won 20 games in a season but finished with a 1.20 WHIP, 3.31 ERA, 2,045 Ks and 201 wins. He won his only ERA title in 1979 at 2.39. The team's first sustained successful Western import was 2B John Sipin, who came over in 1972 and played six seasons in Taiyo. Sipin hit over .300 three times as a Whale and averaged nearly 28 homers a year with a peak of 34 in 1975. He was a four-time all-star for Taiyo and was named to 2 Best Nines while winning 2 Gold Gloves in Japan. He later moved on to Yomiuri to finish his career in NPB but ended up with 218 career HR in 9 seasons while becoming notorious late in his career for starting a couple on-field brawls. SS Daisuke Yamashita joined Taiyo in 1974 and would make his bones with his glove with only pedestrian output at the plate. Yamashita won 8 Gold Gloves for the Whales from '76 to '83 and was named to one Best Nine in 1981 when he hit .278 with 31 doubles (led CL) and 16 HR en route to a .790 OPS. He was a four-time all-star and had a stretch of 302 chances without an error from 1977 to '78. OF Masayuki Nakatsuka also made a name for himself with Taiyo in the '70s with four all-star appearances despite unspectacular offensive performance.

In 1978 the Whales said sayonara to Kawasaki Stadium and moved into the new Yokohama Stadium. The team responded with its first winning season since third-place finishes in 1970 and '71. After another winning season in '79, the Whales then went 16 seasons before finishing above the .500 mark. Puerto Rican I
F Felix Millan came over to play for Taiyo in 1978 and, in 1979, became the first non-Japanese player to win a CL batting title with a .346 mark for his only Best Nine in three seasons in Japan. Accolades for other Whales occurred here and there. P Osamu Nomura went 17-11 in 1978 to capture the wins title. P Kazuhiko Endo was the franchise's next mound standout with a career WHIP of 1.19 and ERA of 3.49 over 15 years for the Whales. Endo went 18-9 with a 2.87 ERA and 17 CG in 238 1/3 IP for his only Sawamura and Best Nine in 1983 and followed that up by leading the CL in wins and losses in '84 with a 17-17 mark. Endo was a five-time all-star, led the league in complete games 4 times and in Ks 3 times. OF Keiji Nagasaki earned his only Best Nine and all-star nod in 1982 with a batting title at .351 as he added a .911 OPS, 11 HR and 21 doubles in a career year. His 8 triples in 1978 tied a club record. C Hisaaki Fukushima played seven seasons for Taiyo before becoming even a semi-regular and responded with three all-star appearances. P Akio Saito also stood out as Rookie of the Year in 1977 (with a 4.40 ERA and 8-9 record in 141 1/3 IP) as he started a long career that ended in the team's first season as the BayStars. He led the league in Ks and CG in 1978, and losses in '80 and '81, but bounced back to claim the CL ERA title in 1982 at 2.07. His career had an Eckersley/Smoltz curve to it as he was the first righty with 100 wins and 100 saves in NPB history. The six-time all-star finished with more than 1,300 Ks, a career ERA of 3.52 and career WHIP of 1.29. He won three save titles and two Fireman of the Year awards. Switch-hitting 2B/SS Yutaka Takagi emerged in the mid-80s as he hit over .300 eight times as a Whale. He set a CL record in 1987 with a .997 fielding percentage at 2B but didn't win the Gold Glove that year as it went instead to Hiroshima's Kozo Shoda. Takagi did win one in 1983. He was also a three-time triples champ, an eight-time all-star, was chosen for 3 Best Nines and set the club record in combined BB and HBP with 757 in his career. He finished with a .297 career BA and .789 career OPS. Another Puerto Rican made an impact for the Whales in the late 1980s as OF Carlos Ponce spent five years with Taiyo and, while making one all-star appearance, led the league with 159 hits in 1987, 33 doubles in '89, 7 triples in '89, 33 HR in '88, topped the league in RBI in both '87 and '88, slugged .656 in '87 and was named to 2 Best Nines. He hit over .300 twice and both times was over .320. Ponce faded quickly in 1990 while teammate and Michigander 1B Jim Paciorek led the league in hitting at .326. Paciorek played 4 seasons for Taiyo and hit over .300 each year with slugging percentages over .500 in three of the seasons. He led the league in hits twice as a Whale and also earned 2 of his 3 Best Nine nods for Taiyo. Virginian Larry Sheets made his one year in Japan count for Taiyo in 1992 as he hit .308 with a .915 OPS, 32 2B, 26 HR and 100 RBI to win the league RBI title and earn a Best Nine selection. The next semi-standout at pitcher for the Whales was lefty Hiroki Nomura, who was named to three all-star teams and posted his best season in 1993 when he went 17-6 (led CL in wins) with a 2.51 ERA in 179 1/3 IP in the team's first year as the BayStars. He was also 15-8 with a 3.16 ERA in 182 1/3 IP in 1991. P Koki Morita polished off a comeback from brain surgery in 1988 to lead the league in ERA for Taiyo at 2.05 in 1992 and went on to post ERAs of 2.48 in 72 2/3 IP in '94 and 1.97 in 73 IP in '95. He was a two-time all-star for the franchise.

With Taiyo's name change to Maruha Corp. in 1993, the 40-year association with the Whales name also was left behind as the team became the Yokohama BayStars. According to the BayStars' Wikipedia page, new restrictions on the actual whaling industry helped pressure the change. The new name didn't do much for the team's on-field performance as former Whale Akihito Kondo came back to manage the team 33 years after being named MVP of the team's lone Japan Series appearance and win.
The BayStars went 57-73 in 1993 and followed that up with a 61-69 cellar-dwelling season in 1994. A new and probably the most widely known (because of his MLB stint) face of the franchise appeared in the 1990s as RP Kazuhiro Sasaki debuted. He picked up 2 saves in an otherwise unremarkable rookie season in 1990 but then racked up at least 10 saves in every year of the '90s thereafter. His worst ERA over the remainder of the decade was 3.24. He appeared in a league leading 58 games in 1991 and earned his first Fireman of the Year award with 21 saves and a 2.46 ERA in 1992. As Yokohama appeared to turn the corner in 1995, Sasaki continued to pitch very well. In Kondo's third season as manager in 1995, the team had a winning record for the first time since 1979 at 66-64 and finished fourth in the CL. Sasaki nailed down 32 saves with a 7-2 record and 1.75 ERA in 47 games and 56 2/3 IP for his first saves title and second Fireman of the Year Award. Nobody other than Sasaki would lead the league in saves or win a CL Fireman award until 1999 when Sasaki had elbow surgery and pitched in only 23 games. He also became the first 500 million yen player over this time, which roughly equates to $4.5 million. The BayStars replaced Kondo in 1996 and the team dropped back to 20 games below .500 but recovered in 1997 to go 72-63 for second place in the CL. A group of players keyed the resurgence. Pitcher-turned-outfielder Hitoshi Hatayama earned three all-star selections in the mid-90s for Yokohama; American import OF Glenn Braggs earned two all-star picks in four years with the BayStars including 35 homers and 91 RBI in 1994 and a career OPS of .941 in Japan -- he earned a Best Nine selection in '94 as well; and American 2B Bobby Rose spent 8 years with Yokohama and built a reputation as one of the best foreign players in league history. Rose hit .325 with a league-leading 33 2B and 94 RBI in his debut season in 1993 for the first of 6 Best Nines. His numbers slipped in '94 but he earned the first of four all-star selections with a .315 BA and 32 doubles, 22 HR and 97 RBI in '95. 1994 would be the only season he drove in less than 90 runs in Japan. In '96 he led the league with 6 triples and set a CL record with 12 sac flies. Rose followed that with a CL-leading .444 OBP and third Best Nine selction in 1997. SS Takuro Ishii debuted in 1989 and became a position player at short in 1992. Over the next 16 years and counting he has racked up 9 150-hit seasons, been named to six all-star teams, received 5 Best Nine selections, and picked up 4 Gold Gloves. He also holds the team records for hits, triples, and steals. OF Takanori Suzuki hit the scene for good in 1993 and racked up the first of two batting titles and Best Nines in 1997 by hitting .335 with 21 HR and 83 RBI. That season kickstarted a stretch of three straight .300 BA seasons and six overall .300 seasons for Suzuki. P Takashi Saito would also make his name known for Yokohama after debuting in 1992. He racked up steady 3-point ERAs every year until missing 1997 with elbow surgery.

Pitching coach Hiroshi Gondo moved up to manager for the 1998 season and the pieces came together. Sasaki won his 4th straight saves title and Fireman of the Year Award along with his only Best Nine and MVP to help lead the BayStars to a 79-56-1 record and 4 game CL title win over the Chunichi Dragons. The reliever followed a 0.90 ERA in 1997 with an even more miniscule 0.64 ERA and sub-1 WHIP in 51 games and 56 IP as he went 1-1 with 45 saves to set a Japan record in saves for a season. Rose earned his only Gold Glove and fourth Best Nine selection in 1998 as he hit .325 with a .939 OPS, 29 2B, 19 HR and 96 RBI; Suzuki won his second straight batting title and Best Nine pick at .337 with a .920 OPS, 92 RS, 30 2B, 16 HR and 87 RBI; Ishii (pictured at right) won his fourth (and last...so far) Gold Glove while hitting .314 with an .820 OPS, 103 RS (led CL), 174 hits (led CL), 34 2B and 39 SB (led CL) in his second Best Nine season; 36-year-old 1B Norihiro Komada, who had come over from Yomiuri in 1994, won his 9th Gold Glove and sixth straight overall with his sixth all-star selection as he hit .281 with a .690 OPS, 25 2B and 81 RBI; and C Motonobu Tanishige won his first Gold Glove and only Best Nine selection by hitting .254 with a .745 OPS, 23 2B and 14 HR. 3B Tatsuya Shindo also picked up a Gold Glove to make it 5 BayStars picking up fielding hardware. Saito returned from surgery in 1998 and went 13-5 with 1 save and a 2.94 ERA in 143 2/3 IP to help feed Sasaki save opportunities. P Takeo Kawamura also stepped up after posting a 3.32 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in his rookie season in 1997. He threw a 1-hitter on opening day 1998 and went on to go 8-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 146 1/3 IP in the first of his two all-star seasons. Six years after his CL wins title, Nomura proved still effective in going 13-8 with a 3.34 ERA in 177 2/3 IP. Up and coming P Daisuke Miura had a 3.35 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with a breakout 10-3 record in 142 1/3 IP in 1997 and followed with a 12-7 record, 3.18 ERA, and 1.25 WHIP in 158 2/3 IP in '98.

In the Pacific League, Seibu had outlasted Nippon Ham to earn a berth in the Japan Series to face Yokohama. The BayStars would find the going a little rougher than their Whale ancestors had faced in 1960 but the end result would be the same. The home BayStars won game 1, 9-4, on their home field as Nomura picked up the win and Sasaki closed out the game. They also won game 2 at home, 4-0, as Saito picked up the shutout win. The series shifted to Seibu Dome for game 3 and the Lions responded with a 7-2 win
with Miura taking the loss and BayStar pitchers walking 11 for a Japan Series record. Game 4 saw the Lions knot the series at 2 games each with a 4-2 win as Nomura got touched for the loss. The BayStars cranked up the offense for a 17-5 win in game 5 as Saito got the win and Yokohama set a series record with 20 base hits. Komada had a 3-run double in the win. Game 6 back in Yokohama was scoreless going into the 8th inning before Komada hit a 2-run double. Sasaki came in to save the game for P Hideyuki Awano in the 9th and allowed a run before getting the final out to lock down the BayStars' series win. Takanori Suzuki was named co-MVP for hitting .480 with a homer and 8 RBI in the series. Ishii and OF Takahiro Saeki hit .364 each as Saeki drove in 4 runs. Komada hit .280 with 7 RBI and Rose hit only .190 but did have 5 RBI. Saito also earned co-MVP honors with 2 ER allowed in 16 IP for a 1.13 ERA and 0.81 WHIP while going 2-0. Nomura had a rougher go with a 6.17 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 11 2/3 IP but did go 1-1. Kawamura was the only other BayStar with more than 5 IP as he pitched a scoreless 7 1/3 innings in the series.

Unlike in '61 when the Whales mounted little defense of their Japan Series title, the BayStars had a good 1999 season in posting a 71-64 record for third place in the CL. Sasaki suffered a nerve injury that needed elbow surgery but was still named an all-star for the seventh time with 19 saves and a 1.93 ERA in 23 1/3 IP. Rose had a monster year by hitting .369 (batting title) with a 1.094 OPS, 93 RS, 192 hits (led CL, set new CL record), 34 2B (ditto), 37 HR and 153 RBI (led CL) in 134 games. He was the first player in Japan history to have 100 RBI by the all-star break and got those
RBIs in 81 games as the fastest ever to that mark. He had 10 RBIs in one game in the season and also became the only player in Japan history to hit for the cycle three times in a career. He was an all-star for the third time and earned his fifth Best Nine pick. Ishii hit .292 with a .775 OPS, 108 RS, 157 hits, 24 2B and 39 SB (led CL) with his 4th all-star selection and his third straight Best Nine. Suzuki also was solid offensively with a .328 BA, .897 OPS, 110 RS, 178 hits, 31 2B, 17 HR and 92 RBI. Tanishige also had another all-star year by hitting .295 with 23 2B and 11 HR. Kawamura was 17-6 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 183 IP in his second and last all-star season, Saito was 14-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 184 2/3 IP in his third all-star season, and RP Naoya Shimada earned an all-star selection. In 2000 the BayStars continued their winning ways but their record continued to slip. Sasaki was among the first of the 1998 team to leave when he signed with the Seattle Mariners for the 2000 season. Rose rounded out his Japanese career in 2000 with a .332 BA, .957 OPS, 168 hits (led CL), 31 2B, 21 HR and 97 RBI and the last of his Best Nine and all-star picks. Komada also quit after hitting .258 in 2000 and racking up his 10th Gold Glove in 1999.

In 2001, the BayStars' record stabilized before the bottom dropped out in 2002. Former SS Daisuke Yamashita managed unsuccessfully for a couple years and after Kazuhiko Ushijima took over in 2005, Yokohama has hovered around the .500 mark a couple times in recent years but the BayStars haven't contended
. Takuro Ishii continues to play as he hit .302 in 2000 and led the league in hits and doubles in 2001 and earned the last of his five Best Nines that year. He picked up his 2,000th hit in 2006 and played his 2,000th game in 2007. Takanori Suzuki is also still active for Yokohama but hasn't played more than 100 games since 2003. He batted .311 with 30 2B and 19 HR that season after hitting .315 in 2001 and earning his last all-star pick. Tanishige earned 5 all-star selections as a BayStar but hit free agency after the 2001 season and signed with Chunichi, where he is still playing. Saito put up a 5.52 ERA in 2000 and, with Sasaki in Seattle, took over the Yokohama closer's role in 2001. He amassed 27 saves with a 1.67 ERA in '01 and 20 saves with a 2.45 ERA in 2002. The BayStars brought in American Eddie Gaillard in 2003 and he took over the closer's role with 22 saves as Saito moved back into the rotation. Saito was 6-7 with a 4.18 ERA in 103 1/3 IP in 2003 then bottomed out with a 7.71 ERA in '04 before coming back with a 3.82 ERA in '05. He earned a ticket to the U.S. when he signed to close for the Dodgers, which he has done successfully for the last couple seasons. Sasaki returned to Japan in 2004 after asking the Mariners for an early release from his contract to deal with marital problems. He rejoined Yokohama and notched 19 saves in '04 before retiring after the 2005 season with a career WHIP of 1.01 and ERA of 2.38. Kawamura endured a rough stretch from 2000 to 2003 but moved to the pen in 2004 and responded with 3.07 and 2.31 ERAs in '04 and '05. He recorded 3 saves in 2006 and was 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA out of the pen for the BayStars in 2007. Miura (right) has continued his climb among the league's pitchers as he was 11-6 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 164 2/3 IP in 2000 and then put up a 3.23 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 119 2/3 IP in 2002. After 2 years of ERAs over 4, he came back in a big way in 2005 with an ERA title at 2.52 while going 12-9 with a 1.02 WHIP, .215 OAV and 10 CG in 214 2/3 IP. The last 2 seasons he has posted ERAs of 3.45 and 3.06 with WHIPs in the 1.2 range. Yokohama brought over American 1B Tyrone Woods in 2003 and he earned back-to-back HR titles for the BayStars with 40 and 45 in the '03 and '04 seasons. His 87 RBI in '03 was also good for a CL title. He was an all-star in 2003 and earned a Best Nine selection in '04 before heading to Chunichi in 2005. The BayStars also found another good player in switch-hitting OF Tatsuhiko Kinjo, who earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 with a batting title at .346 to become the first true rookie to win a batting title in Japan. He endured a .170 season in 2002 after setting a Yokohama record with 43 sacrifices in 2001. In 2003 he returned with the first of 3 straight .300 seasons and displayed new found power with a combined 41 homers over those seasons. He had 191 hits with 30 doubles and 87 RBI in 2005 and also picked up his first Gold Glove. His production has dropped slightly the last 2 years but the three-time all-star has picked up his 1,000 hit already, as well as a second Gold Glove in 2007. The BayStars traded for IF Hitoshi Taneda in 2001 and the odd-batting-stanced infielder (pictured at right) produced with 2 .300 seasons for Yokohama. The BayStars drafted 3B Shuichi Murata in 2002 and he debuted with power and Ks in 2003. He clubbed 25 homers with 111 Ks in 2003, added 15 HR with only 84 Ks in 2004, hit 32 2B and 24 HR with 124 Ks in 2005, hit 30 2B and 34 HR with 114 RBI and 153 K in 2006, and hit 30 2B and 36 HR with 101 RBI and 117 K in 2007. He has put together an .834 career OPS thus far. C Ryoji Aikawa became the starter in 2005 and finished 8th in the CL in batting in 2007 at .302. The BayStars picked up 2B Toshihisa Nishi from Yomiuri after the 2006 season and Nishi rebounded from a .185 BA in '06 to hit .270 with 27 2B and 10 HR in 2007. OF Hitoshi Tamura joined the Yokohama outfield full time in 2004 and hit .305 with 40 HR and 100 RBI that season before hitting .304 with 31 HR and 26 doubles in 2005. He played only 39 games in 2006 before playing in 2007 with Softbank. 1B/OF Yuki Yoshimura broke into the lineup in 2006 with a .311 BA, .909 OPS, 24 2B and 26 HR and followed it up in '07 with a .274 BA, 21 2B, 24 HR and 85 RBI.

On the mound, the BayStars imported American RP Mark Kroon, who took over as closer for Sasaki in 2005 and notched 26 saves with a 2.70 ERA and .216 OAV in 53 1/3 IP. Kroon racked up another 27 saves with a .207 OAV, 3.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 48 IP in 2006 and then saved 31 games with a 2.76 ERA, .222 OAV and 1.18 WHIP in 42 1/3 IP in 2007. He was named an all-star all three years and was the first pitcher to be clocked at 100 mph in Japan. SP Hayato Terahara was brought into the fold in 2007 from Softbank and finished in the top 10 in the CL in ERA at 3.36 while going 12-12 with 163 Ks in 184 2/3 IP.

The BayStars have reportedly set a goal to be back in contention by 2009 but there is work to be done to bring Yokohama its next wave of good fortune.

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