In Praise of Ono Shingo

Memories - I took this at the 2010 Victory Parade.

Memories – I took this at the 2010 Victory Parade.

Ono Shingo announced his retirement on Thursday after 20 years in a Lotte uniform. “Sunday Shingo” was never a star on the team but he was a solid performer, a contributor to two championship teams. He’ll be missed.

It’s not a surprise that Ono is retiring – he’s had a hard time getting on the field in the past few years due mostly to injury (he is 38 now, after all) – this year he has yet to make it on the ichi-gun roster. Anyone could see it coming.

Ono’s heyday was before this blog’s inception (and before my time in Japan) but for the years I’ve watched him he’s been the sort of starter that gave you something you could count on every game. You would not expect to see dominance, but rarely would you see a disaster either. Even in career decline Ono posted a sub-4.00 ERA 3 of the last 4 years. Despite most of his regular season appearances coming in the starting rotation (220 starts in 293 career appearances), Ono was used out of the pen in both the 2005 and 2010 Nippon Series.

About those two Nippon Series championships: In 2005 he was fantastic – 2 appearances including a key one in the tense deciding game 4, 0 ER and a hold. In 2010 he struggled a bit more, giving up 3 ER in the blowout game 2 where nobody pitched well, but also appeared in 3 other games including long relief in games 4 (3.1 IP, 0 ER) and 6 (2.1 IP, 0 ER). Suffice it to say Our Marines would not have won those championships without his efforts.

Drafted out of Gotemba Nishi HS in the 6th round of the 1993 draft, Ono didn’t make an ichi-gun appearance until 1997 and didn’t record a victory until 1999, his 6th year. Starting in 2000 Ono was a fixture in the Lotte rotation, though injuries limited him to only 5 years with over 20 starts. He led the league in win percentage in 2000 (13-5) and was the player of the month in June of that year. His best year statistically was probably the 2005 title year, as Ono went 10-4 in 17 starts with a 2.81 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 3/1 K/BB ratio.

Overall, Ono went 85-77 in those 293 appearances with a 3.68 ERA in 1425 innings. I hope he gets a late season call up so we fans can cheer for him one last time. It says a lot about a man that he can pitch for the same team at a high level for 20 years.

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