Mommas don’t let your babys grow up to play defense

…that is, if you want them to win a monthly MVP award in Nippon Professional Baseball.

I totalled up NPB’s monthly MVP awards for position players today and found some not so surprising results. It has always seemed that whoever it is who does the selecting only looks at triple crown stats and stolen bases, so I was curious just how many players at more difficult to fill defensive positions did in the selections.

Without further a dew, here are the results since 1989, when the leagues decided to honor a position player and pitcher from each league.

Catchers: 19 — 5.5% of total
First Basemen: 95 — 27.4%
Second Basemen: 26 — 7.5%
Third Basemen: 48 — 13.8%
Shortstops: 19 — 5.5%
Outfielders at all positions: 131 — 37.8%
Designated Hitters: 9 — 5.2%

Because I don’t have the breakdowns by outfield positions and DH hand for the years between 1989 and 2002, it’s kind of a rough estimate, but it’s pretty clear, that the farther to the weaker end of the defensive spectrum a player is, the more likely he is to win an NPB “player” of the month award.

I do have better games played by position details from 2003, so here are the breakdowns from 2003 through 2017, when ironically, six of the eight winners are outfielders and five of those six have been center fielders.

Anyway, here are the breakdowns since 2003:

Catcher: 10 — 6%
First Baseman: 43 — 25.9%
Second Baseman: 15 — 9%
Third Baseman: 21 — 12.7%
Shortstop: 8 — 4.8%
Left Fielder: 25 — 15.1%
Center Fielder: 18 — 10.8%
Right Fielder: 17 — 10.2%
DH: 9 — 5.4%

The 10 catcher awards are largely due to future Hall of Famer Shinnosuke Abe, who has won 6 monthly MVP awards and another middle-of-the order guy, Kenji Jojima, who won two of the 10 at the position since 2003.

When Daiei Hawks designated hitter Kaz Yamamoto won the award in April 1994, he was batting second, and I was curious how often it was for a No. 2 hitter to be monthly MVP in a country that reserves that batting order spot for players who make lots and lots of outs.

With the exception of Yamamoto and one other player, the No. 2 hitters who won a monthly MVP award were shifted to other spots in the batting order after they disqualified themselves for the NO. 2 spot by being productive. The only Monthly MVP who batted second much of his career was Hankyu Braves second baseman (and current Orix Buffaloes manager) Junichi Fukura, who was a quality hitter but also fit the NPB stereotype of a No. 2 man by being a fast, good-glove middle infielder who excelled at bunting and rarely struck out.

Author: jballa5_wp

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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