Chihiro Kaneko (Neko) (金子 千尋)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Nagano Shogyo High School
Chihiro Kaneko has won a Sawamura Award and a MVP.
Kaneko played for Toyota Motors in Japan's industrial leagues after high school. He was a first-round pick of the Orix BlueWave in 2004. After a year in the minors, he came up in 2006 and was 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA but walked 18 in 28 innings.
The right-hander pitched 36 games, mostly in relief, in 2007 and was 6-2 with a save and a 2.79 ERA; he cut his walks to 20 in 84 innings. He pitched his first career shutout on August 26. He had the best record on the Orix club. In 2008, Kaneko posted a 10-9, 3.98 record with just 34 walks in 165 innings. He started and won on Opening Day that year. He tied Naoyuki Shimizu for 6th in the Pacific League in losses, was second wuth 185 hits allowed (behind Shunsuke Watanabe), was second with 19 home runs (behind only Brian Sweeney) and was 8th with 126 strikeouts.
Kaneko improved to 11-8 with four saves and a 2.57 ERA in 2009. He had a WHIP of 1.07 with just 34 walks to 165 strikeouts in 171 2/3 IP. He made his first PL All-Star squad. He was 5th in ERA behind Yu Darvish, Hideaki Wakui, Masahiro Tanaka and Toshiya Sugiuchi. He was 6th in the PL in innings, tied D.J. Houlton and Yoshihisa Naruse for 8th in wins, tied for 6th in losses, tied Darvish and 3 others for third in shutouts (2), tied for 5th with 5 complete games and was 5th in strikeouts (behind Sugiuchi, Wakui, Tanaka and Darvish). He became the first Orix hurler in 12 years to have consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, since Willie Fraser and Nobuyuki Hoshino.
On Opening Day, 2010, Kaneko threw a four-hit shutout to outduel Hisashi Iwakuma of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, 1-0. He went 17-8 with a 3.30 ERA and 190 K in 204 1/3 IP. He tied Tsuyoshi Wada for the PL lead in wins, led with 6 shutouts (one more than Sugiuchi), tied Naruse for third in complete games (7), was 4th in whiffs (between Naruse and Wada) and was 6th in ERA (between Wada and Naruse); Wada won Best Nine honors as the PL's top hurler. Kaneko finished 6th in voting for the 2010 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, between Darvish and Brian Falkenborg. He was 10-4 with a 2.43 ERA in 2011, finishing 7th in ERA (between Yuki Karakawa and Masaru Takeda), 7th in strikeouts (123, between Tadashi Settsu and Karakawa) and tied for 6th in complete games (5).
In 2012, he battled elbow injuries and was 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 9 outings. He was excellent in 2013 (15-8, 2.01, 200 K in 223 1/3 IP, 1.00 WHIP). He finished second in ERA (a distant .54 behind Tanaka), tied Settsu and Takahiro Norimoto for second in wins (9 back of Tanaka), led in whiffs (17 ahead of Tanaka to deny him a pitching Triple Crown), led with 10 complete games (2 more than Tanaka), tied Yusei Kikuchi for the most whitewashes (3) and led in innings (11 1/3 ahead of Tanaka). He was 8th in voting for the 2013 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, between Andruw Jones and Ginji Akaminai.
Kaneko made only his second All-Star team in 2014; he finished the year at 16-5, 1.98 with 199 K in 191 IP and a 1.04 WHIP. He won the ERA title by .53 over Takayuki Kishi, led in wins (two more than Norimoto), was third in shutouts (3, between Kishi and Norimoto) and was second in Ks (five back of Norimoto), taking the two ends of the pitching Triple Crown he missed in 2013. He won the Sawamura Award as the top pitcher in Japan; he was the first Orix hurler to take that honor. He also won the 2014 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, getting 125 of 243 first-place votes and 827 vote points; Yuki Yanagita was second with 39 first-place votes and 349 points while Shohei Otani had 35 first-place votes and 291 points.
Sources include Now-defunct Japan Baseball Daily website