Tomochika Tsuboi (坪井 智哉)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 10", Weight 173 lb.
Tomochika Tsuboi was a two-time All-Star outfielder. He was the son of Shinsaburo Tsuboi.
Tsuboi played for Toshiba in the industrial leagues after college. He was picked in the 4th round in 1997 by the Hanshin Tigers. Tomochika became Hanshin's leadoff hitter right away. His first hit was on April 11 against Makoto Kito. Tsuboi's first home run came off Kito on July 4 - it was an inside-the-park job, the third player ever to get their first home run on an inside-the-park shot. It also was a leadoff homer; the next Hanshin rookie to lead off a game with their first career homer was Shun Takayama 18 years later. Tsuboi hit .327/.383/.414 as a rookie, setting the highest rookie batting average since 1950. He was third in the Central League in average behind Takanori Suzuki and Tomonori Maeda. He set a Hanshin record for hits by a rookie, that would be by Takayama.
The left-handed batter hit .304/.363/.392 with 30 doubles and 75 runs in 1999. He tied Hideki Matsui and Akihiro Yano for 8th in the CL in average. He batted .272/.338/.342 in 2000 but made his first All-Star team. He was hit by 12 pitches, leading the circuit.
Tsuboi struggled in 2001, hitting just .219/.279/.352 in 43 games, his third straight season of decline. He only appeared in 24 contests in 2002 and batted .250/.301/.338. The Tigers then dealt Tsuboi to the Nippon Ham Fighters in exchange for Toshihiro Noguchi.
The deal rejuvenated Tsuboi's career. He hit .330/.396/.436 in 2003 and made the Pacific League All-Star team. He tied Kenji Johjima for 6th in the PL in average, was 7th in OBP and tied Kazuo Matsui for 9th in steals (13). He became the first player ever to hit .300 their first year in both of Japan's top leagues.
Tsuboi hit .284/.358/.451 in 2004. He had the first Nippon Ham hit after they moved to Sapporo, a double off Hisashi Iwakuma. He produced at a .309/.370/.366 rate in 2005. Had he qualified, he would've tied Johjima for 7th in the league in average. Injuries limited him to 25 games in 2006 and he hit .191/.224/.234. He was 0 for 1 in the 2006 Japan Series as Nippon Ham took its first title. He was released by Nippon Ham and resigned at a lower salary.
Tsuboi hit .283/.334/.322 in 2007 and was 1 for 3 in the 2007 Japan Series. He limited action in 2008, going 11 for 50 with a walk and two doubles. His career average entering 2009 was .294/.356/.384.
He hit .267/.292/.322 in 84 games and 156 plate appearances as a backup outfielder in 2009.
Tsuboi does not drink, which is rare in Japan.
Source: Japan Baseball Daily