YR Team AVG GP PA AB H 2B 3B HR TB RBI R K BB HBP S SF SB CS GIDP OBP SLG OPS RISP E 2003 Marines .333 7 11 9 3 2 0 0 5 1 3 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .455 .556 1.010 .500 1 2004 Marines .255 63 232 212 54 8 2 6 84 35 32 37 14 2 2 2 8 2 2 .304 .396 .701 .268 6 2005 Marines .268 122 493 447 120 22 11 4 176 48 80 51 31 5 6 4 41 9 6 .320 .394 .714 .377 5 2006 Marines .282 115 485 426 120 20 7 4 166 27 58 61 49 3 4 3 33 17 6 .358 .390 .747 .291 13 2007 Marines .300 130 559 494 148 31 3 3 194 40 76 73 50 4 7 4 27 13 3 .366 .393 .759 .340 15 2008 Marines .300 116 522 473 142 26 6 13 219 49 78 68 36 7 4 2 18 11 3 .357 .463 .820 .255 10 2009 Marines .260 120 531 454 118 24 5 14 194 41 70 76 67 5 3 2 26 10 6 .360 .427 .787 .242 12 2010 Marines .346 144 692 596 206 32 8 11 287 59 121 96 79 4 8 5 22 11 8 .423 .482 .904 .323 19 2013 Tigers .290 122 549 497 144 28 3 4 190 44 57 65 45 1 0 6 11 3 6 .346 .382 .728 .259 8 2014 Tigers .237 24 46 38 9 3 1 0 14 4 6 6 7 0 1 0 0 1 0 .356 .368 .724 .214 2 2015 Tigers .262 50 196 172 45 8 0 2 59 14 20 21 22 1 0 1 1 3 5 .347 .343 .690 .256 5 2016 Tigers .295 55 205 190 56 7 1 0 65 15 16 25 13 2 0 0 6 1 5 .346 .342 .688 .359 6 2017 Tigers .228 32 100 92 21 4 0 0 25 5 6 17 7 1 0 0 3 2 0 .290 .272 .562 .250 2 Career .289 1100 4621 4100 1186 215 47 61 1678 382 623 597 422 35 35 29 196 83 50 .358 .409 .768 .298 104
Tsuyoshi Nishioka was born in Osaka into a family of three. His older brother played a big part in his interest in baseball. However, much like Ichiro’s story, it was Nishioka’s father who pushed him to excellence through strict, rigorous training. Nishioka says only once did he skip practice by lying to his father, and regretted it the next day. His biggest dream was to enter what was then the most powerful baseball high school, PL Gakuen. When he did not succeed in the endeavor, he “settled” for entrance into another Osaka high school, Toin. There, he was determined to defeat PL in the prefectural tournament and gain a spot in the national tournament at Koshien Stadium. In his senior year, he accomplished the feat, though his team was eliminated in the first round of the national tournament.
Nishioka was drafted straight out of high school in the first round by the Chiba Lotte Marines in 2002. It took him a few years to really establish his place on the top squad, but when he did, he became one of the top middle infielders in Japan. In 2005, he led the league in triples and stolen bases, and was named to the All-PL team at shortstop while winning the Golden Glove at second base. (He platooned with two other guys at the middle infield positions.) Prior to the 2006 season, in which he played exclusively at shortstop, he was part of the inaugural Samurai Japan team at the World Baseball Classic. Once again in 2006, he led the league in triples and stolen bases (though he also led in times caught stealing).
In the seasons that followed, he changed his officially registered name to “TSUYOSHI” and managed to keep his batting average near the .300 mark, though he was plagued with a myriad of injuries. Then in 2009, he ran into a bit of controversy. With the team struggling to find success on the field, fans started to display placards and banners criticizing management and the front office. In a hero interview, Nishioka urged fans to put away their hateful banners if they truly loved the team. The result was a backlash against him, as fans started to bring banners that were critical of him, and stopped singing his cheer song. He issued an apology on his personal blog. Unfortunately, the year was full of hardships for him personally, too. Poor results on the field accompanied the controversy, and he found himself addicted to sleeping pills, chronically depressed, and prepared to quit baseball. His older brother, who was his original inspiration to start playing baseball, convinced him to keep on playing, though. As he things together, he headed into the 2010 season with a huge goal: get to the majors or bust.
He pulled it all off in 2010, picking up a club record 206 hits (one of 3 players to hit the 200-hit plateau that season, including Matt Murton), led the league with a .346 batting average, set an NPB record with 27 three-hit (or more) games, and played in every single inning, making an incredible 692 plate appearances in the process. He also brought his team its second Nippon Series championship in six years, coming back from an improbable third place finish to win it all. At season’s end, he got his wish, as the Marines agreed to post him to Major League Baseball. The Minnesota Twins won the rights to negotiate a deal with him, and signed him to a three-year deal worth $9-million, with a club option for a fourth year.
After a strong showing at the plate in spring training, but less-than-stellar throwing from short, Nishioka was named the team’s Opening Day second baseman. It didn’t take long for him to record his first hit, but the same was true of his first error – both took place in his first game. And his first injury, a broken left fibula bone, happened less than a week later. It happened when he was unable to get out of the way of an aggressive slide from Yankees’ Nick Swisher, who was trying to break up a double play. Nishioka came back a couple of months later, but was moved over to shortstop. He showed very little ability to be a solid contributor, though. But soon after the birth of his first daughter in August, he started to show signs of life. Unfortunately, two injuries limited him to just five games from the end of August until season’s end. The next season was even less kind to him. He started 2012 on the farm, but soon injured himself again. He struggled through the first half of the season in the minors, but caught a lucky “break” when one of the Twins’ infielders was traded away and another got injured. He got a call up, but committed two errors in his first game back. He also went hitless in 12 straight at bats, and was soon back in the minors. He ended the year in AAA Rochester with a .303 average, but that would be the end of his time in America. Instead of collecting the rest of the money owed to him, Nishioka asked the team for an outright release and left $3.25 million on the table.
Nishioka actually reached an agreement with Hanshin in the fall of 2012, saying that he felt more wanted by the Tigers than any other team that contacted him.
Nishioka had a solid 2013 season with the team, playing in a reasonable 122 games and hitting .290. He was even named to the all-CL team at second base, a first in his career (after three nominations in the PL at shortstop). He was one of the big reasons that the team was able to bounce back from a poor showing in 2012. He was a real spark plug at the top of the order, not only in production (leadoff home runs, walk off hits and more), but also in clubhouse atmosphere. He was the one who started the club’s “Gratiii” (from the English word ‘gratitude’ – showing thanks to the fans) celebration after home runs. It only lasted the 2013 season, though. Nishioka only hit the disabled list once in his initial season with the team, however, health would be a major issue the rest of his time with the club.
In the third game of 2014 (@Giants in Tokyo Dome), while playing second base and chasing a fly ball to shallow right, he and fellow returnee Kosuke Fukudome collided. Nishioka had to be carried off on a stretcher. He had a broken nose, bruised chest, a partially dislocated left shoulder and two broken ribs. His replacement, Hiroki Uemoto, did a stellar job as lead off hitter, pushing Nishioka to third base upon his return on June 27th. He played reasonably well for most of the next month, but complained of elbow and back pains on July 23rd, and was put back on the disabled list. He returned as a pinch hitter in September, and did not start in games until the playoffs. The postseason brought out the best in Nishioka, as he produced some clutch hitting against the Giants in the final round of the Climax Series and against the SoftBank Hawks in the Nippon Series. Unfortunately, he will forever be remembered as the man who recorded the final outs of the series. With the bases loaded and his team down a run in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5, he grounded into a series-ending double play. His out on that play was due to base runner interference, as he purposely ran inside the baseline in an attempt to be hit by the throw by the catcher. He was successful, but the umpires saw through the charade.
The 2015 season started quite well for Nishioka, as he batted lead off and started at third base. However, on May 23rd, he started to experience pain in his right elbow again. The result was a need for surgery and a season essentially lost. He would return in time for the playoffs, but the team decided he could no longer play third base, for fear that his elbow would not be able to handle it. He was employed solely as a pinch hitter. For the second straight season, he suited up in fewer than half of the team’s games. The worst was yet to come, though.
Nishioka started the 2016 season by beating out Uemoto and Yamato for the starting job at second base. On April 9th, in the team’s Koshien opener, he collected the game-winning hit on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. On the hero’s podium he talked about how he had caused the team a lot of trouble by being injured so much, tearing up as he spoke. It didn’t take long before he was injured once again. He missed some time with thigh muscle pains, and even got a bit of action in the outfield in an attempt to save his body from wear and tear. But on July 20th against the Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium, he ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon while rounding first base. He considered retiring, but says that the fans’ encouragement spurred him on towards a comeback. He would spend the remainder of the year rehabbing.
The comeback was completed nearly a year to the day that he had crumbled at first base the previous year. Suiting up against the Hiroshima Carp on July 17, Nishioka played some first base, some center field, and looked fitter than he ever had before in a Tigers uniform. This half-season was not without its further injuries, though. Just over a month after his return, he hurt his heel while dodging his teammate’s bat at home plate as he was running in from third. For the fourth straight season, Nishioka failed to get 200 top squad at bats.
Nishioka to Stay with Tigers, Aims for First Half Return (October 15, 2016)
Nishioka Right Elbow Rehab News (July 11, 2015)
Tsuyoshi Nishioka Autobiography Review (February 6, 2015)
Nishioka Explains Himself on Facebook (October 31, 2014)
Nishioka Recovering from Back Injury (September 5, 2014)