Yoshinori Sato (01)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 190 lb.
Sato won Silver with the Japanese national team in the 1975 Asian Championship. He set a Tokyo Metropolitan University League with 76 strikeouts in the fall 1976 season. The Braves took him in the first round of the draft that winter. Sato had a good rookie year in 1977, going 7-3 with a save and a 3.85 ERA. He was named the Pacific League Rookie of the Year. Starting the fifth and final game of the 1977 Japan Series, he allowed two runs in four innings before being relieved by Shizuo Shiraishi as Hankyu locked up the title with a 6-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.
Sato improved to 13-8, 3.62 with a save in 1978 and made his first PL All-Star team. He walked 73 batters, tying Masumitsu Moriguchi for the league lead. Yoshinori went 10-6 with two saves and a 4.30 ERA in 1979.
Sato fell to 4-13, 5.82 in 1980 and walked 81 in 135 2/3 IP. Yoshinori did not pitch in 1981 and returned as a reliever in 1982, going 4-2 with 13 saves and a 2.49 ERA. He led the loop with six wild pitches. In 1983, he was only 1-8 with a 4.12 ERA, saving a career-high 16 games.
Sato was back in the rotation for 1984 and went 17-6 with a save and a 3.51 ERA; the big problem still was control with 106 walks in 210 1/3 IP. He made his first All-Star team in six years. He led the league in walks but also in strikeouts (136). He was 5th in the league in ERA. In the 1984 Japan Series, he lost game 3 to the Hiroshima Carp and had a no-decision in game six; he allowed 9 runs in 5 1/3 IP for the Series. The lone positive was a double in his only at-bat; he was not used to batting as the Pacific League used a DH rule.
The veteran right-hander was a workhorse in 1985, going 21-11 with a 4.29 ERA. He led the PL in innings (260 1/3), wins, batters facec (1,146), complete games (23), hits allowed (279), strikeouts (188), walks (105), runs allowed (136) and earned runs allowed (124). He finished 10th in ERA. He made his third All-Star team. No one would win 20 games in the PL again until Kazumi Saitoh in 2003. No NPB pitcher would match his 21 wins until Hisashi Iwakuma in 2008, 23 years later.
Sato's record was less impressive in 1986 (14-6, 2.83) but his ERA fell to 2.83 and he walked only 34 in 162 innings. He led the league in ERA by .04 over Hisanobu Watanabe and in shutouts (4). In 1987, he fell back down, going 7-8 with 3 saves and a 4.70 ERA. On August 27, he became the 74th NPB pitcher to 1,000 strikeouts when he whiffed Ben Oglivie.
The 33-year-old had a 13-10, 3.22 record in 1988 to finish 10th in the PL in ERA. He made the All-Star team and led the league in hit batsmen (10) and shutouts (5). He reached 100 career wins on April 30, the 95th NPB pitcher to top the century mark.
Sato continued his roller-coaster run in 1989 with a 9-13, 5.00 record, allowing 195 hits in 165 2/3 IP. He led the league with 106 runs allowed and made his fifth All-Star team. The Hokkaido native had a 7-7, 4.80 record in 1990.
Yoshinori kept on rolling in 1994 by going 8-8 with a 3.52 ERA, finishing 6th in the PL in ERA. He made his 7th and last All-Star team. He only pitched 16 games in 1995, going 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA. He was the third NPB pitcher ever to toss a shutout after turning 40. He started game one of the 1995 Japan Series and allowed eight hits and three runs in 4 2/3 IP in a loss to Terry Bross and the Yakult Swallows, who would take the Series. Sato had pitched in a Japan Series in three different decades.
In 1996, he had a WHIP of 1.96 and a ERA of 5.58. He was only 1-2, but his win was a big one. It came on August 26 and was a no-hitter of the Kintetsu Buffaloes. It was the 61st no-hitter in NPB history; no one had been older when they accomplished the feat. A decade later, Masahiro Yamamoto threw a no-hitter at age 41.
Overall, he had gone 165-137 with 48 saves, 27 shutouts and a 3.97 ERA in 501 games.
Sato later coached for the Hanshin Tigers.
Through 2008, Yoshinori was tied for 28th all-time with 141 complete games, was 15th in walks (1,055), tied for 19th in homers allowed (308) and was 16th in runs allowed (1,251).
Source: Japan Baseball Daily