Takashi Saito (斎藤 隆, Saitō Takashi, born February 14, 1970) is a Japanese former professional baseball pitcher who is currently the chief pitching coach for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

Takashi Saito
Saito with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
Born: (1970-02-14) February 14, 1970 (age 54)
Sendai, Miyagi, Japan
Batted: Left
Threw: Right
Professional debut
NPB: April 7, 1992, for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales
MLB: April 9, 2006, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Last appearance
MLB: September 30, 2012, for the Arizona Diamondbacks
NPB: October 4, 2015, for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
NPB statistics
Win–loss record91–81
Earned run average3.75
MLB statistics
Win–loss record21–15
Earned run average2.34
Career highlights and awards


Saito's professional career spanned 23 years. He spent his first 13 seasons pitching for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales / BayStars in the Japanese Central League, compiling a record of 87–80, usually as a starter. He spent the next seven seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a closer and relief pitcher, before finishing his career in Japan with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In his first MLB season of 2006, Saito finished eighth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. In his second season, he was named an All-Star.[1] Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully bestowed the nickname "The Man from Miyagi" upon him, in reference to the prefecture that encompasses Saito's place of birth. He was also nicknamed "Sammy" by his Dodgers teammates Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who affectionally compared him to Sammy Sosa.[2]

Career edit

Japan edit

Saito played for Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai during his college years alongside players such as closer Kazuhiro Sasaki (who went on to play for the Seattle Mariners) and left fielder Tomoaki Kanemoto (who went on to play for the Hanshin Tigers). Saito was originally a position player, but he became a pitcher in his second year in college. He was drafted in the first round by the Yokohama Taiyo Whales in 1991. He was an All-Star a total of four times while in Japan (1994, 1996, 1999 and 2001), and he led the Central League in strikeouts with 206 in 1996. He was found to have a dislocated cartilage in his right elbow in the spring of 1997 and had to undergo surgery, and he spent the rest of the season rehabbing. He returned in 1998, winning 13 games while posting a 2.94 ERA. His team, the BayStars, also won the Japanese championship series for the second time in 38 years. He became the team's closer after incumbent Kazuhiro Sasaki left the BayStars to join the Mariners in 2000. His record was 7–1 with 27 saves with a 1.67 ERA in 2001. Saito returned to his starting role in 2003 but did not win more than 6 games in a season between 2003 and 2005.

Los Angeles Dodgers edit

Saito with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007.

Saito signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 36-year-old rookie in 2006. He made his first Major League appearance on April 9, 2006, against the Philadelphia Phillies, pitching 2/3 of an inning without giving up any hits or runs. He surprised fans in 2006 by making 24 saves, posting a 2.07 ERA, and striking out 107 batters (the most among relievers). After stepping into the closer role recently vacated by fan favorite Éric Gagné, he recorded his first Major League save on May 15, 2006, against the Colorado Rockies.

Saito threw a 159 km/h (99 mph) fastball on June 26, 2007, which is claimed to be the all-time record for a Japanese-born Major League pitcher.[3] In 2007, Saito recorded 39 saves with 78 strikeouts in 64 innings. He posted a career-best 1.40 ERA and 0.715 WHIP. He was named to the National League All-Star team for the first time in 2007 and was also named closer of the month for August of that year, and on September 25, Saito was named one of 10 finalists for the DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award.

Saito had his first career major league at-bat on April 23, 2008. On July 18, 2008, Saito was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ligament in his elbow. He was activated on September 13. The Dodgers did not offer Saito a contract after the 2008 season and he became a free agent.[4]

Boston Red Sox edit

Saito with the Boston Red Sox

On January 10, 2009, Saito signed a one-year $1.5 (+6) million contract with the Boston Red Sox with a team option for 2010.[5] He was 3–3 with a 2.53 ERA in 56 games with the Red Sox, primarily as a setup man, in 2009 (final salary: $6 million[6]).

Atlanta Braves edit

Saito signed a one-year $3.2 million contract with the Atlanta Braves on December 3, 2009.[7] He signed a translator, Kosuke Inaji, for the 2010 season.[8] Saito had another productive year, appearing in 56 games for the second consecutive season and posting a 2.83 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 54 innings. He was released by the Braves following the 2010 season, even though he did not have enough MLB experience to qualify for free agency, as stipulated by his contract.[9]

Milwaukee Brewers edit

After the 2010 season, Saito signed a one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers for about $3 million.[10][11] Kosuke Inaji retained his position from the previous year as Saito's translator.[8] Although he appeared in just 30 games, Saito was 4–2 with a 2.03 ERA in 2011, marking his sixth consecutive season with a sub-2.90 ERA since joining MLB in 2006. He was the third-oldest player in the National League during this season.[12]

The 2011 season with the Brewers also marked Saito's last postseason appearance in MLB play. Yet it was the first time he was credited with a win (Game 2 of the NLDS) and the first time he pitched beyond a Division Series, as the Brewers advanced to the NLCS. His career postseason totals include a 1–0 record in 10 games with a 1.69 ERA, nine strikeouts, no walks, and no home runs allowed.

Arizona Diamondbacks edit

On December 12, 2011, Saito signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.[13] He struggled in 2012, appearing in just 16 games for the NL club with a 6.75 ERA in just 12 innings. He also spent time at the minor league level. Saito was the second-oldest active player in MLB during the season.

In seven seasons in MLB, Saito finished his career with a 2.34 ERA, 400 strikeouts, and an average of 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

Return to Japan edit

Saito returned to Japan after the 2012 season, signing with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.[14] The Eagles are located in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Saito's place of birth. (Saito was nicknamed "The Man from Miyagi" by Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.) The team was founded just one season before Saito left for MLB.

In his first season back in Japan, the Golden Eagles won the 2013 Japan Series for the first and only time in team history. Saito pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Game 3 in his only series appearance after earning the series-clinching win in the Pacific League championship series.[15] In a relief role at age 43, Saito appeared in 30 total games and recorded a 2.36 ERA, finishing with a 3–0 record.

2014, though less successful for the Golden Eagles, saw another productive season from Saito. He logged a 1–1 record with a 2.59 ERA in 31 games, his last full season in professional baseball.

2015 marked Saito's third year with the Golden Eagles, though he did not appear on the active roster for the majority of the season. On August 17, he announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season.[16] On October 4, with only three games remaining on the schedule, the team added Saito to the active roster. That day against the eventual NPB champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Saito took the mound in the ninth inning and faced one batter, striking him out swinging. He was replaced and received a reception with flowers from current teammates (among them Kazuo Matsui, another former MLB player). Saito was then thrown in the air by teammates five times, a celebratory custom in Japanese baseball.[17] Saito was removed from the active roster the next day.

Saito ended his career with 739 games played with 112 victories and 1,731 strikeouts in 23 NPB and MLB seasons.

Pitching style edit

Saito threw a four-seam fastball in the low 90s, a two-seam fastball, a slider, and a curveball.

Post-playing career edit

In November 2015, Saito agreed to a one-year role as a front office intern in the San Diego Padres organization.[18] The role has a baseball operations focus. Saito also agreed to serve as a pitching coach for a series of 2016 Japan national baseball team games.[19] After three seasons with the Padres, Saito returned to Japan to become a pitching coach for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. In 2022, he was named the chief pitching coach for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Personal life edit

Saito is married and has three children with his wife.[20]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ [1] "2006 NL Cy Young Award" Retrieved on July 24, 2007.
  2. ^ Plunkett, Bill (September 26, 2006). "Saito might be one and done". The Orange County Register. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  3. ^ ドジャース斎藤 黒田を"突き放す"宣言 (in Japanese). Sponichi. February 5, 2008. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2008.
  4. ^ Gurnick, Ken (March 22, 2008). "Dodgers make Saito a free agent". MLB.com. Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  5. ^ "Red Sox sign free agent righthanded pitcher Takashi Saito to one-year contract with option for 2010". MLB.com (Press release). January 10, 2009. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  6. ^ Red Sox Takashi Saito's salary rising up Archived January 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Braves add Saito to rebuilt bullpen". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on May 21, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Found in translation". JSOnline. March 26, 2011. Archived from the original on September 10, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  9. ^ David O'Brien (October 19, 2010). "Braves release Saito, Cabrera". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on December 26, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  10. ^ "Brewers agree to 1-year deal with RHP Saito". Sports Illustrated. December 27, 2010. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  11. ^ "Saito signing is official". JSOnline. January 5, 2011. Archived from the original on March 12, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  12. ^ "Takashi Saito Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on October 30, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  13. ^ Snyder, Matt (December 12, 2011). "Diamondbacks sign Takashi Saito". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on May 21, 2014. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  14. ^ "Takashi Saito To Sign With Rakuten Golden Eagles". Archived from the original on May 21, 2014.
  15. ^ "Tuesday, October 29, 2013". Nippon Professional Baseball. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  16. ^ "Rakuten Eagles: Takashi Saito to Retire After the Season". Yakyubaka.com. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  17. ^ Asako, Furui. "What's Going On? Doh-age". Nipponia. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  18. ^ Lin, Dennis (18 November 2015). "Padres Hire Former All-Star Takashi Saito as Front-Office Intern". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Gondo, Saito to Serve as Japan's Pitching Coaches for Games Against Taiwan". The Japan Times. 28 January 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  20. ^ Gleeman, Aaron (March 11, 2011). "Unable to contact parents in Japan, Saito leaves Brewers camp". NBC Sports. Retrieved June 15, 2022.

External links edit