Shinjiro Hiyama

From BR Bullpen

ShinjiroHiyama.jpg

Shinjiro Hiyama (Hiyan) (桧山 進次郎)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 171 lb.

BR Japan page

Biographical Information[edit]

Shinjiro Hiyama played for 22 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball and was a three-time All-Star.

Hiyama is third-generation Korean-Japanese; his Korean name is Chin-hwan Hwang. He is not a Japanese citizen and said he has no intention of naturalizing due to Japan's unusual immigration laws. Hiyama won a batting title his sophomore year of college. The Hanshin Tigers took him in the 4th round of the 1991 draft.

His first hit in NPB was an infield single off Chuck Cary. He was 3 for 17 with a run and a RBI as a rookie in 1992. In 1993, he hit .162/.219/.309 in 73 plate appearances; his first homer was off Hiroshi Nagatomi. He was MVP of a minor league All-Star Game that year as well. In 1994, he remained a bench player, going 10 for 36 with two doubles, two homers, no walks and 15 whiffs.

He became a starter in 1995 when an injury sidelined former outfield starter Tsutomu Kameyama. Hiyama hit .249/.305/.397. He hit .271/?/.365 for the Hilo Stars in the 1995 Hawaii Winter League. By 1996, he was the top offensive force on the Tigers (who were not in a glorious era for them), hitting .263/.353/.455 with 22 home runs, 66 walks and 73 RBI; Tsuyoshi Shinjo (19) was their only other player over 11 HR. He tied Shane Mack for 10th in the Central League in home runs, was 9th in walks (between Hiromitsu Ochiai and Koichi Ogata), was third in whiffs (108, behind Hensley Meulens and Ogata) and was second in sacrifice flies (8, behind Bobby Rose). He took Shigeki Noguchi four times over a two-game span.

The Kyoto native made his first CL All-Star team in 1997. In the first 1997 NPB All-Star Game, he replaced Shinjo in the batting order while Hideki Matsui moved from CF to RF so Hiyama could play RF. Hiyama got a hit off Yasuyuki Kawamoto in his lone at-bat, the last of 5 CL hits in a 5-0 loss to the Pacific League. He replaced Atsunori Inaba in right field in Game 2 and went 1 for 2 with a run in a 6-3 win, his hit coming off Takashi Ishii. He finished the game in LF; when Shinjo entered in CF, Matsui moved from CF to RF and Hiyama from RF to LF, replacing Takanori Suzuki there. For the 1997 season, he hit .227/.333/.425 with 23 home runs and 82 RBI, drawing 68 walks but fanning in 150 of 466 AB, while fielding .992. He again led Hanshin in home runs and RBI. He made the CL leaderboard in triples (5, tied for 4th with Yutaka Wada and Ogata), dingers (8th, between Akira Eto and Katsumi Hirosawa), walks (tied for 8th with Kazuhiro Kiyohara), strikeouts (2nd, 2 behind Kiyohara) and sacrifice flies (7, tied for 6th).

His production fell in 1998 (.226/.317/.407) but his 15 home runs were still second on Hanshin (behind Yasuaki Taiho) He was tied for 7th with 7 times hit by pitch and tied Matsui for second with 101 Ks (two behind Eto). In 1999, the Toyo alumnus batted .256/.331/.393 and handled 135 chances without an error. With the acquisition of Tony Tarasco to join Shinjo and Tomochika Tsuboi in the Hanshin outfield, Hiyama hit the pine in 2000. He hit .220/.328/.377 in 186 plate appearances over 87 games.

Hiyama got a break in 2001 when Shinjo left for the US and Tarasco was not retained. He went on to set a Hanshin record with a 28-game hitting streak (Matt Murton topped the mark 10 years later). He batted .300/.355/.448 for the year, showing improved contact if not as much power as he had in 1996-1997 - he had 12 homers. He also cut his strikeouts to 62 that year, indicating he had adjusted his approach at he plate significantly, aiming for more contact and less pop. He just missed the CL top 10 in average (.002 behind Takahiro Saeki).

In 2002, the 32/33-year-old produced at a .293/.340/.445 clip. He also fielded .995. He tied Ogata for 5th in the CL in times plunked (10). He made his second All-Star team. In 2002 NPB All-Star Game 1, he pinch-hit for Alex Ramirez to face Kazuo Yamaguchi. He stayed in at LF and went 0 for 2 in a 4-1 win. In Game 2, he started at DH and hit 5th after Kosuke Fukudome and Matsui; he was 0 for 2 before being replaced by George Arias in a 4-2 loss. He took Masayuki Hasegawa deep that year for his 100th career home run, the 218th NPB player to that figure.

Reaching 1,000 career games during 2003, he made his last All-Star team. He moved to first base early in the year to make room for the newly-acquired Tomoaki Kanemoto, but finished up starting again in RF when Osamu Hamanaka was injured. In the 2003 NPB All-Star Game 1, he started at 1B and hit 7th, going 0 for 2 before Tyrone Woods succeeded him in a 4-4 tie. In Game 2, he started in CF and hit 7th in a 5-3 win. He was 0 for 2 for the 4th straight All-Star Game, with Yoshinobu Takahashi replacing him in the field and Fukudome in the batting order. On July 2, he hit for the cycle, the 4th Hanshin player ever to do so and the first since Akinobu Mayumi in 1979. For the regular season, he batted .278/.338/.459 with 16 home runs and 70 runs. He no longer had to be the sole Hanshin threat as he had been in his first peak, as Kanemoto and Arias led the charge and Hiyama could play a solid supporting role. As a result, Hanshin won the first CL pennant of his career and proceeded to the Japan Series. In the 2003 Japan Series, he hit .222/.250/.370 but this was actually better than the Hanshin team OPS. He took Toshiya Sugiuchi deep for their lone run in game 6 and Hanshin dropped the Series in 7 to the Daiei Hawks.

Hiyama hit .306/.352/.481 with 18 home runs and 84 RBI in 2004. He missed the top 10 in average, .3055 to #10 Atsuya Furuta's .3064. His 7 sacrifice flies were second in the loop, one behind Kanemoto. It was a relatively high offensive point in NPB history and his slugging percentage was about 20th in the CL. He became the 226th NPB player to 1,000 hits. In 2005, the old-timer was platooned in right with Shane Spencer; he hit .278/.352/.421 and made no errors. He was 3 for 10 with a walk, run and RBI in the 2005 Japan Series but Hanshin was swept by the Chiba Lotte Marines as their offense again went cold (.192/.234/.207).

With Hamanaka healthy again in 2006, Hiyama returned to the bench yet again; he hit .180/.243/.263 in 133 plate appearances. Wei-Chu Lin became the regular in RF in 2007 and Hiyama only played 12 games in the field out of 85 games played, used almost entirely as a pinch-hitter. He batted .191/.311/.303. He did hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Kenichi Matsuoka and became the 154th NPB player to appear in 1,500 games.

Hiyama would remain a key pinch-hitter for the Tigers for several more years but would only take the field 15 times (5 after 2008). He hit .300/.355/.409 in 2008 (94 G), though he became the 42nd player to 1,000 whiffs when Kenshin Kawakami K'd him July 18. He hit .225/.283/.303 in 2009 (82 G), .254/.296/.373 in 2010 (72 G; he and Kanemoto became the first pair of 40+-year-old players to homer in the same game) and .274/.333/.355 in 2011 (69 G). A broken collarbone caused him to miss spring training in 2012 and his production fell at age 42/43 (.224/.333/.241 in 67 G). He hit .196/.305/.275 in 57 games in 2013. Despite no homers in the regular season in 2012-2013, he went out with a bang in the 2013 postseason, with a pinch-hit two-run homer off Kam Mickolio in his last plate appearance. He became the oldest player (44 years, 3 months) to hit a homer in the NPB postseason, easily topping Hirosawa's 10-year-old record (41 years, 6 months). Only five players had hit regular season homers at older ages: Kanemoto, Ochiai, Hiromitsu Kadota, Katsuya Nomura and Yoshiyuki Iwamoto.

He finished his career with 150 pinch-hits and 100 pinch-hit RBI; he was third all-time in the CL in pinch hits behind Takao Miyagawa and Itsuki Asai. He hit .260/.331/.416 in 1,959 games, with 563 runs and 707 RBI. He hit 159 home runs. He fielded .990 in the outfield. Through 2011, he was 65th in NPB history in games played (between Makoto Kaneko and Eto), tied for 69th in sacrifice flies (45), tied for 49th in hit-by-pitch (71, even with Nori Aoki, Shinjo and [[Yoshio Yoshida) and 41st in whiffs (1,075, between Tomio Tashiro and Takeshi Nakamura).

He has been active in many charitable causes. After his playing career ended, he became a baseball commentator with Asahi Broadcasting.

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