Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kazumi Saitoh

The Hawks held a retirement ceremony for Kazumi Saitoh a couple weeks ago.  I was a little surprised to discover that Saitoh actually hasn't played with the ichi-gun Hawks since 2007 - I knew he had injury issues but I hadn't realized just how long it had been since he'd pitched with the top club.

Saitoh was a first round pick of the Hawks back in the fall of 1995.  His rookie card (which I don't have) is in the 1996 BBM set (#513) on which he is labeled "Kazumi".  He doesn't appear in another BBM flagship set until 2001 but he does show up in BBM's 1998 Hawks and 2000 Nippon Series sets.

1998 BBM Hawks #FD28

2000 BBM Nippon Series #S40

2001 BBM #163

I'm a little confused on what his first Calbee card is.  I'm pretty confident that his first regular Calbee card is #147 from the 2003 set but Engel lists him as having a card in the 2002 Memorial Card subset which really doesn't make any sense.  The Memorial Card subset was how Calbee celebrated their 20th Anniversary - it featured reprints of Calbee's first cards of 36 different players.  How could their be a reprint of Saitoh's first Calbee card if he hadn't had one yet?

2003 Calbee #147

Saitoh mostly worked out of the bullpen his first few seasons.  He mixed starting and relieving in 2000 and 2001 before exclusively being a starter in 2002.  In 2003, it all came together for him - he went 20-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 160 strikeouts and helped lead the Hawks to a Nippon Series championship over the Tigers.  He lead the league in both wins and ERA and won the Sawamura award.  He had a very poor season in 2004 (10-7 with an ERA over 6) before coming back with a very good 2005 (16-1 with a 2.92 ERA) and an amazing 2006 - 18-5, 1.75 ERA and 205 strikeouts, all league leaders (the "Pitching Triple Crown") and winning a second Sawamura Award - the first Pacific League pitcher ever to do so.

2007 BBM #476

He suffered injuries in 2007 and his last appearance with the ichi-gun Hawks was in the Pacific League Climax Series where he got hit hard by the Marines.

He made the All Star team in both of his Sawamura Award winning seasons and appeared in two Nippon Series - 2000 and 2003.

2006 BBM All Stars #A17

I'm not entirely sure what exactly Saitoh retired from this season.  He appeared in last winter's "Historic Collection" set as an OB player rather than an active player.  The back of that card indicated that his time with the Hawks was from 1996-2010.  From what I can tell from this post at Yakyu Baka, I think he was acting as a rehab coach for the Hawks while attempting to make a comeback this year.  Apparently he decided that he couldn't make it back.

2013 BBM Great Numbers #128


Jason Presley said...

Thankfully, Calbee still has their checklists online back to 1998. Card M06 in the 2002 Memorial set is actually Takashi Saitoh. I've corrected the listing at SCF.

NPB Card Guy said...

I should have thought to look there. I had forgotten the checklists went back that far.