Katsuji Sakai

From BR Bullpen

Katsuji Sakai (坂井 勝二)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 158 lb.

BR Japan page

Biographical Information[edit]

Katsuji Sakai pitched for 18 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball and was a three-time All-Star.

Dropping out of college his junior year, after going 18-5 with a 1.20 ERA and winning MVP honors. Signed by the Daimai Orions, the submarine pitcher went 1-1 with a 6.11 ERA in 1959. He was little better (1-2, 5.83) in 1960 and made some progress in 1961 (2-6, 3.33). In 1962, he went 11-10 with a 4.27 ERA and .228 opponent average in 49 games (21 starts). He served up 21 homers, second to Kazuhisa Inao in the Pacific League.

Sakai made strides in 1963, going 14-19 with a 2.61 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 58 games (26 starts). He was among the PL leaders in ERA (6th, between Chikara Morinaka and Tadashi Sugiura), games pitched (5th), losses (2nd, 4 behind Tetsuya Yoneda), innings (251 2/3, tied for 8th with Yukihiro Kubo), homers allowed (23, 8th, between Mitsuhiro Adachi and Shigeo Ishii), walks (65, 8th), strikeouts (183, 3rd, behind Inao and Shoichi Ono), hit batsmen (16, 1st) and wild pitches (5, 3rd).

He had arguably his best season in 1964. In 58 games (37 starts), he went 25-17 with a 2.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, striking out 183. He made his first PL All-Star team. He placed on the PL leaderboard in games pitched (8th), complete games (13, 5th, between Yoneda and Masayuki Dobashi), wins (4th behind Masaaki Koyama, Ishii and Joe Stanka), losses (tied for 5th with Koichiro Sasaki), ties (3, tied for first with Takao Kajimoto and Tsutomu Tanaka), innings (4th, between Yoneda and Yukio Ozaki), hits allowed (260, 5th, between Yoneda and Sugiura), homers (21, tied for 9th with Ishii and Morinaka), walks (73, 10th, between Yoshio Inoue and Morinaka), strikeouts (3rd behind Ozaki and Koyama) and ERA (4th behind Yoshiro Tsumajima, Stanka and Koyama).

Sakai fell to 10-16, 3.04 in 1965, finishing among the leaders in complete games (10, tied for 8th with Adachi and Toshiaki Tokuhisa), shutouts (7, tied for 3rd with Masaaki Ikenaga and Tsumajima), losses (tied for 6th with Kubo and Tokuhisa), innings (225 1/3, 6th, between Ikenaga and Mitsugu Tanaka), hits (199, 5th, between Ozaki and Inoue), homers (27, tied for second with Ishii), hit batters (12, 1st) and strikeouts (139, tied for 8th with Yoneda). He had similar numbers (11-16, 2.94) in 1966, finishing 4th in losses (behind Shigemasa Yamamoto, Ozaki and Yoneda), 1st in homers allowed (31, 4 ahead of Adachi) and 9th in walks (54, between Kenshiro Saga and Keishi Suzuki).

In 1967, Sakai had a 13-18, 3.28 record with a .219 opponent average and a 1.03 WHIP. He tied Taisuke Watanabe for the most losses, was 9th in IP (244 1/3, between Watanabe and Eizo Goda), was second in homers allowed (33, 3 behind Suzuki), was 8th in walks (58, between Adachi and Koyama), was 6th in strikeouts (173, between Fumio Narita and Mitsugu Tanaka), tied Koyama for third in runs allowed (101), tied Watanabe for second in earned runs allowed (89, trailing Toshiaki Moriyasu) and was 6th in complete games (11). On April 25, he had a no-hitter for 8 innings before losing in extra innings. He went 16-17 with a 3.03 ERA in 1968, tying Moriyasu for 7th in wins, placing 3rd in losses (behind Moriyasu and Suzuki), finishing 7th in innings (276 1/3, between Ikenaga and Kajimoto), allowing the fourth-most hits (259, between Suzuki and Mutsuo Minagawa), tying Sasaki for 7th in homers (23), walking the 8th-most (71), hitting 15 (second to Moriyasu), tying for 5th in shutouts (4, even with Ishii), fanning the 7th-most (170, between Kajimoto and Ikenaga), tied Narita for third in runs allowed (112) and allowing the sixth-most earned runs (93). He made his second All-Star team, became the 44th NPB hurler to 100 wins and the 32nd to 1,000 whiffs.

His workload fell in 1969 and he went 6-8 with a 3.96 ERA; he only made the PL top 10 in homers allowed (26, 6th, between Watanabe and Tomehiro Kaneda) and hit batsmen (10, tied for 4th with Suzuki). He was then dealt to the Taiyo Whales for Ichiro Hiraoka. He was sharper in 1970 (10-6, 3.47) and cut his walk rate (22 in 109 IP). He was excellent in 1971 at age 33, going 9-4 with a 1.87 ERA. He was second in the Central League in ERA (.16 behind Kazuhiro Fujimoto) and led in winning percentage.

He topped 200 innings for the only time in his last 9 seasons during 1972, finishing 15-11 with a 3.02 ERA. He made his only CL All-Star team and was on the leader list in ERA (9th, between Kazumi Takahashi and Kazushi Saeki), shutouts (3, tied for third with Hiromu Matsuoka, Yutaka Enatsu and Yoshiro Sotokoba), wins (5th, between Matsuoka and Masaji Hiramatsu), losses (tied for 8th), complete games (10, tied for 7th with Hiramatsu and Tomohiro Tanimura), innings (214 2/3, 7th, between Takahashi and Sotokoba), hits (201, 5th, between Mitsuo Inaba and Sotokoba), gopher balls (22, tied for 7th with Takahashi), hit batsmen (13, tied for first with Hidetake Watanabe), strikeouts (9th, between Hidetake Watanabe and Keishi Asano), runs (78, 9th, between Takahashi and Yukitsura Matsumoto) and earned runs (72, 8th, between Asano and Takahashi).

Sakai had a 7-9, 3.23 record in 1973 and became the 24th NPB hurler to 150 career wins. On June 22, 1974, he whiffed Yoshihito Oda for his 1,500th strikeout, the 20th pitcher to do so. He finished with a 7-8, 4.96 season, his highest ERA in 14 years. In 1975, the veteran was 6-12 with a 3.86 ERA. He tied for 5th in the CL in losses, was 4th in hit batsmen (10), tied for 7th in walks (58) and tied Kojiro Ikegaya for 7th in homers allowed (22). He was then traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters for Hidetake Watanabe but struggled in his lone campaign for them (2-6, Sv, 4.62 in 1976.

He retired with a career record of 166-186 with a 3.26 ERA in 605 games (417 starts), completing 96 games (26 of them shutouts). In 2,839 2/3 IP, he allowed 2,512 hits and 817 walks while striking out 1,610. Through 2012, he was 42nd in wins (just behind Kazumi Takahashi, just ahead of Takashi Nishimoto and Yoshinori Sato), losses (10th, between Matsuoka and Ishii), games pitched (605, 33rd), complete games (tied for 73rd with Shigeru Kobayashi), shutouts (tied for 44th with Takao Fujimura, Takahashi and Yoshio Tenpo), batters faced (11,667, 30th, between Tokuji Kawasaki and Naoki Takahashi), innings pitched (32nd, between Shigeru Sugishita and Narita), hits allowed (30th, between Shinichi Yamauchi and Sasaki), homers allowed (325, 14th, between Matsuoka and Tsuneo Horiuchi), walks (38th, between Takenori Emoto and Tenpo), hit batsmen (143, tied for 3rd with Yoneda, behind Osamu Higashio and the man he was once traded for, Hidetake Watanabe), whiffs (42nd, between Minagawa and Hisanobu Watanabe), runs allowed (1,186, 25th, between Yamauchi and Daisuke Miura) and earned runs (1,029, 24th, between Yutaka Yanagida and Yamauchi).