Yoshinobu Yamamoto's early life, childhood and career in Japan

yoshinobu's pitching in NPB yoshinobu joined LAD

Yoshinobu was a mediocre pitcher when he was little.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto(山本由伸 in kanji) was born on August 17, 1998 in Bizen, Okayama, Japan. His grandmother named him Yoshinobu, taking the characters "Yoshi" (由) from his mother's name and "Nobu" (伸) from his father's name. Yoshinobu started playing baseball in the first grade of elementary school, playing third base and catcher.

Yoshinobu spoke of those days, saying, "I used to cry a lot. I remember one day I cried because I couldn't find my lunch box in my backpack. I also hated to lose, so I think I cried every time we lost." In elementary school, he was just an ordinary baseball kid, with no outstanding tournament records.

yoshinobu in elementary school

Yoshinobu entered a local junior high school and joined the baseball team, but he was smaller and thinner than his classmates. Because of this, he was not a regular member of the team in his first and second year of junior high school, and it was not until his third year that he became a regular member. He was also a pitcher, but mainly played second base regularly. As a hitter, he was not a home run hitter, but an average hitter with dexterity and small skills.

Yoshinobu was not an outstanding athlete, but there was one scene in which he showed signs of his future success. In the final game of a regional qualifier for a national tournament in his junior year, Yoshinobu took the mound in relief for the final two innings. He threw a straight ball to the last batter of the final inning, and it was thrown with perfect accuracy into the catcher's mitt. His pitch was so brilliant that all the coaches at the time said, "I'll never forget that one pitch."

yoshinobu in junior high school

However, in the national tournament that followed, his team lost a game in the first round. Yoshinobu again took the mound in relief, but the opposing batter hit a huge home run to left field. Mr. Nakata, who was the manager at the time, said, "Yoshinobu was not a bad player by any means. But we were aware, as was he, that there were higher-ranked players. I never even imagined that he would become a professional baseball player in the future."

After retiring from baseball at junior high school, Yoshinobu was accepted to Miyakonojo High School in Miyazaki Prefecture. That was when his switch to baseball was flipped. After retiring, he continued to participate in team practices and repeated pitching practice on the mound whenever he had time. His pitching speed was about 74 MPH in the summer, but by the time he graduated, it had reached 80 MPH.

After entering high school, his pitch speed reached 83 MPH when he began practicing as a freshman in high school, concentrating on pitching. He threw 91 MPH in the spring of his second year in high school and 94 MPH in a summer rookie baseball tournament. In the final game of that tournament, he achieved a no-hit, no-run game.

However, he injured his elbow before the last tournament of the summer of his senior year in high school, and he hid it from everyone around him as he pitched. He won his first game, pitching 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out 11, but lost 0-2 in a pitcher's duel in the third inning. Many teams avoided selecting Yoshinobu in the 2016 draft due to his inability to compete in national tournaments and his elbow condition. Against this background, the Orix Buffaloes selected Yoshinobu in the fourth round, and he entered the team with the number 43.

yoshinobu in high school

Yoshinobu trained as a starting pitcher in his first year in 2017 and started five games for the first team. He eventually posted a 1-1 record and a 5.32 ERA(earned-run average). He also faced Shohei Ohtani, who would later become a teammate of his in the Japan National Team and the Dodgers, once that year. He gave up one hit to Shohei Ohtani, but struck out three straight batters in the first inning, including Shohei Ohtani. After the game, Shohei Ohtani said that he was the best pitcher he had faced this year.

Yoshinobu pitched the 2018 season as a reliever due to the team's lack of relievers. He pitched in 54 games, going 4-2 with one save and 32 holds for a 2.89 ERA. He switched to starting in the 2019 season and pitched in 20 games, going 8-6 with a 1.95 ERA and winning the title of Best Defensive Ratio. He changed his number to "18" in 2020 and tied with Kohdai Senga for the title for most strikeouts. He was selected as the opening day pitcher for the first time in 2021 and achieved a 1.39 ERA, an 18-5 record, and four pitching titles (best defensive batting average, highest winning percentage, most wins, and most strikeouts). He also won the Sawamura Award, MVP, Best Nine, and Golden Glove Award.

He was the opening day pitcher again in 2022, and in a game on June 18, he achieved a no-hit, no-run game. He also won four pitching titles for the second year in a row, and won the Sawamura Award and MVP two years in a row. He pitched eight scoreless innings in the postseason as well, but developed side pain after pitching in the first game of the Japan Series, but his team won its first Japan championship in 26 years.

yoshonobu no hit no run

In 2023, he was a member of the Japanese national team for the 5th WBC, pitching against Australia and Mexico. He pitched four innings against Australia, allowing one hit and no runs with eight strikeouts. In the season, he pitched a no-hit, no-run game for the second year in a row. He eventually won the fourth pitching crown of his career that year with a record of 16-6 and a 1.21 ERA.

Yoshinobu decided to challenge MLB through the posting system on November 5 after the season ended, and after negotiations with several MLB teams, he decided to join the LAD. His number was decided to be 18, and Yoshinobu said, "When I was 19 years old, I went to the playoffs at Dodger Stadium and actually saw Kenta Maeda pitching there with the number 18 on his back. From that moment on, my desire for MLB became very strong."

yoshinobu decided to join LAD

By the way, the number 18 is the most famous "ace number" in Japan. There are various theories as to why the number 18 became established as the ace number. The most famous theory is that Kabuki actors call their specialty "Kabuki 18-ban" (ohako). It is said that "18" came to be used in the sense of a specialty, and in the baseball world, too, the most outstanding performance became "18".

Another theory is that it is because the number of pitchers active in the early days of professional baseball in Japan was 18. There is a story that Motoshi Fujita, who inherited "18" from Hiroshi Nakao, one of those pitchers, was told by Nakao that "18 is an ace number." It seems that the Yomiuri Giants, to which he belonged, had been aware since the 1950s that number 18 was an ace. The Yomiuri Giants were the most popular baseball team in Japan, and it is possible that this perception spread to other teams as well. In addition to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Shota Imanaga of the Chicago Cubs is another Japanese pitcher who has worn the number 18 in MLB.