Kyosuke Sasaki (佐々木恭介)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 171 lb.
- High School Kashiwahara High School
Kyosuke Sasaki won a batting title in Japan then later became a manager.
Sasaki played for Shin Nittetsu Hirohata in the industrial leagues after high school; the Toei Flyers had taken him in the 1970 draft but he did not sign. The Kintetsu Buffaloes took him in the first round of the 1971 draft. He debuted in 1972, hitting .246/.301/.426 as a backup corner infielder; he backed up Takao Ise primarily at 1B and Tomoo Sekine at 3B. His first hit came off Fumio Narita and his first home run off Mitsuhiro Adachi. Used as a backup OF-1B in 1973, he produced at a .225/.297/.397 clip in 233 plate appearances over 91 games.
Starting in 1974, he was employed primarily as a right fielder, no longer being used on the infield. He hit .262/.320/.439 that season. He tied Hideji Kato for 4th in the Pacific League with 25 doubles and tied for 6th with 8 times caught stealing (with only 7 successes). He batted .305/.371/.459 in 1975. He made his first PL All-Star team. In the first 1975 NPB All-Star Game, he pinch-hit for Keishi Suzuki and got a hit off Sohachi Aniya; the PL lost 8-0. In Game 2, a 4-3 loss, he took over in right field and was hit by a Yukitsura Matsumoto pitch. In Game 3, he batted for Shinichi Yamauchi in the second and was retired by Takeshi Yasuda in a 3-0 win. For the season, he tied for 5th in the league in triples (5), was 7th in RBI (69, between Bobby Marcano and Don Buford), tied for 8th in caught stealing (9, against 8 steals), tied for 6th with 6 hit-by-pitch, led with 12 sacrifice flies (4 more than runner-up Katsuya Nomura), ranked 4th in average (behind Jinten Haku, Yoshihito Oda and Kato), third in OBP (behind [Toru Ogawa]] and Kato) and 6th in OPS (between Atsushi Nagaike and Hiromitsu Kadota). He made the Best Nine, joining Sumio Hirota and Haku as the top PL outfielders.
The Hyogo native slumped to .268/.344/.385 in 1976; he also stole at a much better rate, going 15-for-20. He tied Haku and Michiyo Arito for 8th in steals in the Pacific League. The bottom fell out in 1977 when he hit only .201/.274/.290. He rebound and then some in 1978, hitting .354/.398/.487. He made the PL leaderboard in average (winning the batting title by 29 points over Yutaka Fukumoto), OBP (.001 behind leader Fukumoto), OPS (5th, between Shigeru Kurihashi and Fukumoto), doubles (19, tied for 10th), hits (133, 8th Mitsuyasu Hirano and Arito) and sac flies (10, tied for first with Kato). He joined Fukumoto and Koji Minoda on the Best Nine. In the first 1978 NPB All-Star Game, he took over in RF when Minoda moved to left and went 0-2 in a 7-5 loss. He entered in a similar situation in game 2 and went 1 for 2 in a 9-0 win; Kurihashi replaced him later in the game. In a 8-5 loss in game 3, he pinch-hit for Kurihashi and was retired by Yutaka Enatsu to end the game.
#5 remained sharp in 1979 - .320/.392/.504, 18 HR, 14 SB in 17 tries. He was 8th in the league in average, between Yasuhiro Takai and Hideo Furuya, 5th in OBP (between Takai and Fukumoto), 10th in OPS (between Kurihashi and Arito) and tied for 5th with 8 times hit by pitch. In their 21st season, the Buffaloes made their first Japan Series. In the 1979 Japan Series, Sasaki was 0 for 2 with a hit-by-pitch as Kintetsu fell to the Hiroshima Carp in 7 games. He was the victim of the lack of a DH in the Japan Series when PL teams used them in the regular season, forcing the insertion of regular-season DH Charlie Manuel into the lineup in the Series to join Kurihashi as the corner outfielders (Hirano had CF).
Sasaki hit .318/.393/.526 in 1980 with a career-high 19 home runs and 68 runs; his 66 RBI were three shy of his batting-title '75 season. He finished 9th in the PL in average (between Kato and Tommy Cruz) and 9th in OBP (between Kato and Hiroyuki Yamazaki). He was 4 for 16 with 3 walks, a run and three RBI in the 1980 Japan Series as Kintetsu again fell to Hiroshima in seven. Sasaki slipped to .261/.329/.344 in 1981. He missed 1982 due to hepatitis then retired as a player.
In 1,036 NPB games, he had hit .283/.352/.433 with 105 home runs, 404 runs, 412 RBI and 94 steals in 142 tries. Through 2011, he was tied for 77th in NPB history with 44 sacrifice flies.
After his playing career ended, he coached and scouted for Kintetsu and coached for the Hanshin Tigers. He replaced Jitsuo Mizutani as Kintetsu's skipper before the 1996 campaign. He was 62-67-1 his first year, 68-63-4 in 1997 and 66-67-2 in 1998 but fell to 54-77-2 in 1999. He coached for the Seibu Lions in 2001 and the Chunichi Dragons in 2002 and 2003. In September 2003, he replaced Hisashi Yamada as Chunichi's skipper with a 59-61 record and guided the team to a 14-5-1 record the rest of the way to finish in second place. Despite the strong finish, he was not retained for 2004 and Hiromitsu Ochiai got the job (where he would do very well).