Hidekazu Watanabe

From BR Bullpen

Hidekazu Watanabe (渡辺 秀一)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 160 lb.

Biographical Information[edit]

Hidekazu Watanabe was a Pacific League Rookie of the Year whose career was derailed by injury.

Watanabe won two league MVP awards in college. He won Gold with the Japanese national team in the 1993 Asian Championship. He went 4-0 in the 1993 Intercontinental Cup, allowing one unearned run and no earned runs in 25 2/3 innings. He allowed 12 hits and four walks while whiffing 19. 7 of the hits came in his Bronze Medal game whitewash of Nicaragua. He led the Cup in wins (no one else had even 3) and ERA (tied with Giorge Díaz and Jorge Luis Valdés). He and Omar Ajete were named the All-Star pitchers for the event. The Daiei Hawks took him in the first round of the 1993 draft.

As a rookie in 1994, Watanabe went 8-4 with a 3.20 ERA. Had he qualified, he would have ranked 4th in the Pacific League in ERA after Hiroshi Shintani, Hideki Irabu and Shigetoshi Hasegawa. He won Rookie of the Year honors in the PL (Keiichi Yabu won in the CL with a nearly identical 3.18 ERA). He pitched for the Kauai Emeralds in the Hawaii Winter League and absolutely dominated that circuit, going 8-0 with a 0.98 ERA and 77 strikeouts to win the pitching Triple Crown. He beat out fellow Japanese hurler Takashi Ishii by two strikeouts but by a .62 margin in ERA. The MVP went to another Daiei prospect, though, Hiroki Kokubo.

In 1995, the right-hander slumped to 5-10, 4.11 with a .286 opponent average. He rebounded to go 9-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 1996, finishing third in the PL in ERA (behind Irabu and Eric Hillman). He missed most of 1997 due to injury, with a 3.86 ERA in his four games. He struggled at 4-8, 5.18 in 1998. The year had begun on a bad note, as he and Kokubo were both suspended and fined due to tax evasion.

Watanabe was 1-1 with a 5.67 ERA and .321 opponent average in 1999, working almost entirely out of the bullpen. The Hawks beat the Chunichi Dragons in the 1999 Japan Series. Watanabe worked one inning of relief in game 2, striking out two and walking one. In a similar role in 2000, he went 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA. In the 2000 Japan Series, he again pitched only in game 2, relieving Brady Raggio in a rout by the Yomiuri Giants (who would win in 6 games). He allowed hits to two of the three batters he faced before being yanked in favor of Junji Hoshino. He wrapped up his career in 2001, walking one batter and striking out one.

Overall, Watanabe was 27-30 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 140 NPB games (71 starts), fading from his early promise. After his playing career ended, he was a batting practice pitcher.