It’s been a week of benchmarks in NPB, with a few players reaching nice, round numbers.
The biggest milestone achieved was by Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate, who closed out a win over the Orix Buffaloes at Yafuoku Dome on Wednesday night for his 200th career save (and NPB-best 25th this season) in Japan. Sarfate is only the sixth player to reach that number in Japanese baseball and the first foreign player to hit the mark.
“A lot of games,” Sarfate said during his hero interview on Wednesday. “Especially with this team, we win so much, so I just knew that getting 200 saves is . . . we won 200 games when I pitched. For me, that’s more special.”
Sarfate is in his seventh season in Japan. He converted 44 saves for the Hiroshima Carp from 2011-2012 and 10 more for the Seibu Lions in 2013. Through Thursday, he had 146 for the Hawks.
Sarfate is currently sixth on NPB’s career list. He’s third among active players behind the Hanshin Tigers’ Kyuji Fujikawa (223) and the Chunichi Dragons’ Hitoki Iwase (403), the all-time leader.
“I think that just means I’m really old,” he joked. “I’m 36, but I’m getting up there. Everybody calls me grandpa. Hopefully I have a few more years left in me, and I would really like to go after 250 (the benchmark for closers joining the Meikyukai or Golden Players Club).”
Wednesday’s game also saw Sarfate’s teammate Kenta Imamiya lay down his 250th sacrifice bunt, becoming the 19th player to reach that total.
On July 2, Seibu Lions veteran Takumi Kuriyama became the 69th player in NPB history to record 300 doubles. On Thursday, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kensuke Tanaka became the 74th member of the 200-stolen base club.
Also on Thursday, the Carp’s Yoshihiro Maru hit his 100th (and later 101st) career home run during Hiroshima’s win over the Yomiuri Giants.
“I really didn’t think I could do this,” Maru said. “I like to think of as crossing a point off the list.”
Lonely road: The Chunichi Dragons’ Alex Guerrero hit his 22nd home run of the season in a win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Wednesday night. It was a solo shot, something that has become a trend for Guerrero.
Of Guerrero’s 22 home runs this season, 19 have come with no runners on base. The other three all came with runners on first and second.
Exchange rates: The Yokohama BayStars and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Thursday agreed to a trade that sends catcher Toshiki Kurobane north to Hokkaido with lefty pitcher Edwin Escobar coming back the other way.
While there aren’t many trades in Japan in general, deals involving foreign players are particularly rare. The last occurred in 2012, when the Yomiuri Giants traded Venezuelan pitcher Levi Romero to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks as part of a four-player exchange (a deal that sent outfielder Soichiro Tateoka to Yomiuri).
According to Baseballking.com, there have only been 10 trades involving foreign players since 1964.