How to vote for MVP: 6 easy steps

Yoshihiro Maru of the Hiroshima Carp and Hotaka Yamakawa of the Seibu Lions were named NPB’s MVPs on Tuesday and both were deserving–although I cast my Pacific League vote to Yuki Yanagita of the SoftBank Hawks.

This year’s MVPs are fairly reasonable choices, which they often aren’t. So in case any of you one day get the grey envelope containing NPB’s league award ballots, here are six easy steps you need to follow to vote like an upstanding member of Japan’s baseball media:

  1. Be conscious of who wins the pennant and who on that team is the biggest statistical outlier or creates the biggest buzz all year.
  2. Look for player on the non-pennant winners with the most eye-popping stats. Did he set a Japan record in a triple-crown category? Did he win 20 games? Set a saves record?
  3. If step No. 2 produces a candidate, and none of the players on the pennant winner look THAT outstanding, then vote for the guy on the non-pennant winner to prove that you are not blindly favoring pennant winners in your voting when you in fact are.
  4. If No. 2 produces no obvious candidates, then pick the player on the pennant winner who has the most outstanding-looking numbers be it a pitcher or hitter, without regard to their fielding value or the offensive context in which their runs are produced.
  5. Ignore who you think is actually the best player. Even though the MVP and Best Nine votes are part of the same ballot, we still some pretty weird stuff. Yanagita was a unanimous selection as the PL’s best outfielder, one voted ahead of the Lions’ Shogo Akiyama, in the Best Nine voting, but receive 27 fewer votes in the MVP vote. Although this is not too weird, some people thought Yanagita was a better player, but not more valuable.
  6. Somebody, somewhere is required to cast a vote for Naoki Miyanishi. How this is executed and who is required to waste a vote on the Fighters’ wonderful left-handed middle reliever remains an unanswered question.

I’m not a big fan of WAR, but in case some of you are curious, the top three WAR values in each league this year were, according to Delta Graphs:

Central League

  1. Tetsuto Yamada, Swallows–8.4
  2. Yoshihiro Maru, Carp–7.1
  3. Hayato Sakamoto, Giants–6.3

Pacific League

  1. Yuki Yanagita, Hawks–8.9
  2. Hideto Asamura, Lions–6.6
  3. Shogo Akiyama, Lions–6.2

My measure of choice is Bill James’ Win Shares, which can be found in PDFs on my data page. Each win share is worth 1/3 of a win.

Central League

  1. Yoshihiro Maru, Carp–32
  2. Tetsuto Yamada, Swallows–32
  3. Seiya Suzuki, Carp–28

Pacific League

  1. Yuki Yanagita, Hawks–36
  2. Shogo Akiyama, Lions–34
  3. Hotaka Yamakawa, Lions–33


MVP, Rookie of the Year Voting 2018

Most Valuable Player

Central League Pacific League
Total Ballots Cast 295 261
Valid Ballots Cast 294 258

1st-place votes are worth 5 points, 2nd place 3 points and 3rd place 1 point

Central League

Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd Total Points
Yoshihiro Maru Carp 241 33 10 1314
Daichi Osera Carp 20 107 61 482
Seiya Suzuki Carp 7 69 72 314
Tomoyuki Sugano Giants 17 45 52 272
Tetsuto Yamada Swallows 6 24 51 153
Dayan Viciedo Dragons 1 2 4 15
Kazuma Okamoto Giants 0 1 6 9
Shota Nakazaki Carp 0 2 2 8
Geronimo Franzua Carp 1 0 2 7
Norichika Aoki Swallows 1 0 1 6
Tsubasa Aizawa Carp 0 0 2 2
Neftali Soto BayStars 0 0 2 2
Ryuhei Matsuyama Carp 0 0 1 1
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo BayStars 0 0 1 1
Blank 0 11 27 60

Pacific League

Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd Total Points
Hotaka Yamakawa Lions 148 77 20 991
Hideto Asamura Lions 81 107 24 750
Shogo Akiyama Lions 11 21 73 191
Yuki Yanagita Hawks 14 21 43 176
Yusei Kikuchi Lions 2 15 43 98
Shinsaburo Tawata Lions 0 6 19 37
Sosuke Genda Lions 1 0 2 7
Masataka Yoshida Buffaloes 1 0 0 5
Daiki Enokida Lions 0 1 1 4
Takahiro Norimoto Eagles 0 1 1 4
Tomoya Mori Lions 0 0 3 3
Naoki Miyanishi Fighters 0 1 0 3
Takayuki Kishi Eagles 0 0 3 3
Yuito Mori Hawks 0 0 1 1
Blank 0 8 25 49

Rookie of the Year

Central League

Player Team Votes
Katsuki Azuma BayStars 290
Makoto Aduwa Carp 2
Masaya Kyoyama BayStars 1
Blank 1

Pacific League

Player Team Votes
Kazuki Tanaka Eagles 112
Yoshinobu Yamamoto Buffaloes 70
Ren Kajiya Hawks 45
Yudai Fujioka Marines 17
Kotaro Kiyomiya Fighters 2
Tatsuya Imai Lions 1
Yurisbel Gracial Hawks 1
Daiki Tajima Buffaloes 1
Blank 9

Best Nine Voting Results

Results of NPB’s Best Nine Award Voting:

Central League

Pacific League


Tomoyuki Sugano, Giants 243

Daichi Osera, Carp 39


Yusei Kikuchi, Lions 135

Shinsaburo Tawata, Lions 65

Takayuki Kishi, Eagles 44

Naoyuki Uwasawa, Fighters 3

Daiki Enokida, Lions 1


Tsubasa Aizawa, Carp 248

Ryotaro Umeno, Tigers 27

Seiji Kobayashi, Giants 4

Yuhei Nakamura, Swallows 3


Tomoya Mori, Lions 179

Takuya Kai, Hawks 54

Tatsuhiro Tamura, Marines 15

Ryo Ishikawa, Fighters 1

Motohiro Shima, Eagles 1

First Base:
Dayan Viciedo, Dragons 174
Kazuma Okamoto, Giants 95
Jose Lopez, BayStars 5
Ryohei Matsuyama, Carp, 3
Tomotaka Sakaguchi, Swallows 3
Takahiro Arai, Carp 1
Neftali Soto, BayStars 1

First Base:
Hotaka Yamakawa, Lions 243
Sho Nakata, Fighters 3
Akira Nakamura, Hawks 2
Seiya Inoue, Marines 1

Second Base:
Tetsuto Yamada, Swallows 263
Ryosuke Kikuchi, Carp 19

Second Base:
Hideto Asamura, Lions 251

Third Base:
Toshiro Miyazaki, BayStars 250
Kazuma Okamoto, Giants 23
Casey McGehee, Giants 8
Ryoma Nishikawa, Carp 1

Third Base:
Nobuhiro Matsuda, Hawks 162
Takeya Nakamura, Lions 67
Shota Sotozaki, Lions 8
Daichi Suzuki, Marines 7
Toshiaki Imae, Eagles 6
Brandon Laird, Fighters 1

Hayato Sakamoto, Giants 264
Kosuke Tanaka, Carp 18

Sosuke Genda, Lions 248
Kenta Imamiya, Hawks 2
Takuya Nakashima, Fighters 1

Yoshihiro Maru, Carp 271
Seiya Suzuki, Carp 213
Neftali Soto, BayStars 108
Wladimir Balentien, Swallows 76
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, BayStars 62
Norichika Aoki, Swallows 56
Ryosuke Hirata, Dragons 45
Kazuma Okamoto, Giants 8
Takayoshi Noma, Carp 4
Zoilo Almonte, Dragons 2
Ryuhei Matsuyama, Carp 1

Yuki Yanagita, Hawks 251
Shogo Akiyama, Lions 250
Masataka Yoshida, Buffaloes 174
Haruki Nishikawa, Fighters, 36
Kensuke Kondo, Fighters 25
Seiji Uebayashi, Hawks 5
Shota Sotozaki, Lions 4
Hiroaki Shimauchi, Eagles 3
Kazuki Tanaka, Eagles 1



Designated Hitter:
Kensuke Kondo, Fighters 122
Alfredo Despaigne, Hawks 104
Tomoya Mori, Lions 13
Sho Nakata, Fighters 3
Takumi Kuiryama, Lions 2
Stefen Romero, Buffaloes 2
Masataka Yoshida, Buffaloes 2
Takeya Nakamura, Lions 1
Seiya Inoue, Marines 1
Katsuya Kakunaka, Marines 1

When catcher is the new second base

Tatsunori Hara is back for his 13th season as Yomiuri Giants manager after a three-year sabbatical. During his first 12 seasons, from 2002 to 2003, and then again from 2006 to 2015, Hara won seven Central League pennants. During that time, he also earned some attention for using lots of second basemen.

When Hara I suggested he had left in 2015 because he had exhausted the nation’s supply of second baseman. A few weeks ago, sitting in for John Gibson on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, Jason Coskrey, quipped that seeing the Giants employ third baseman Casey McGehee at second base in 2017 had rekindled the skipper’s desire to return.

“Maybe that’s why he came back,” Coskrey said. “‘You didn’t tell me I could put ANYBODY at second base.'”

Or maybe Hara’s sensibilities were offended when his successor and protege, Yoshinobu Takahashi,  used 26  second basemen in his three years in charge.

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Well now Hara is back, and although he may bring back his “Who’s my second baseman” smartphone app, it seems likely he’ll need the latest update that includes catchers after Ginjiro Sumitani joined the Giants as a free agent on Saturday.

Sumitani, who last season been forced out of the No. 1 spot he’d held down for a decade by a catcher who can really hit, Tomoya Mori, said Saturday he wants a chance to compete for a job again. That’s great, but the Giants are flush with catchers.

Their incumbent regular, Seiji Kobayashi, caught in 119 games last season, while his chief backup Takumi Oshiro, caught in 66. Former captain Shinnosuke Abe, who hasn’t caught since he played in 25 games behind the plate in 2015, has said he wants to catch again — probably because the emergence of 22-year-old corner infielder Kazuma Okamoto as cleanup hitter means playing time at first is about to get scarce.

Until three years ago, Sumitani was the Pacific League’s premier defensive catcher, and probably will be the best defensive option open to Hara. Abe remains a smart and dangerous hitter and an unquestioned leader. Kobayashi has earned his regular spot and might still improve a lot defensively although he is no slouch now.

Elsewhere, the Giants met with free-agent center fielder of the Hiroshima Carp on Saturday, with Hara taking part in the talks, urging the 2017 Central League MVP to bring “new blood” to the team.

Kimiyasu Kudo and the art of listening

Last week, Softbank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award, for his work in getting his injury-hit team to the Japan Series and winning it for the third time in his four years in charge in Fukuoka.

On Saturday, the Hall of Fame pitcher commented on the seemingly difficult choices he had in switching out front-line starter Shota Takeda and sticking him in the bullpen, where they were effective. Takeda was effective in middle relief in the postseason, where Kudo’s managing has even earned plaudits from John Gibson (@JBWPodcast).

“Those weren’t hard decisions,” Kudo said at Tokyo Dome, where he attended an event of the “Meikyukai” Golden Players Club. “We have so much pitching depth that we had lots of options. And even then, the decisions were only made after lots of study and discussion among the coaches.”

Is that indicative of a high level of communication within your team?

“Within the team, perhaps, but when it comes to communication, I’m the worst of anyone,” said Kudo, slightly tongue in cheek. “They do the talking, I listen.”

Koji Akiyama’s great American expectations

Former Hawks skipper Koji Akiyama.
Former Hawks manager Koji Akiyama is in no hurry to get back into uniform–except for old-timers games.


Former Lions and Hawks star Koji Akiyama said Saturday that the seeds of his success in Nippon Professional Baseball were sown in the United States, where he and several Seibu Lions teammates were sent 30-plus years ago to learn what the could in the Single-A ball.

“It completely changed my view, broadened my horizons,” Akiyama said at an event of Japan’s “Meikyukai” Golden Players Club at Tokyo Dome. “I played in San Jose and seeing American baseball, even just the atmosphere at the ballpark made me want to play in a major league park. It made me want to be better.”

Akiyama could have gone. When Japan’s free agent system was inaugurated in 1994, players needed 10 years of service time, and he qualified in the autumn of 1994. But when it came time to file, after his Lions had lost the Japan Series for the second straight season, no Japanese had played in the majors since Masanori Murakami in 30 years. But the majors were still embroiled in the strike that had cancelled the World Series and sent the American media to Japan to see the Lions play the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series.

Akiyama, a fleet, power-hitting center fielder, would have been a good fit for the majors, but he was born 10 years too early. During his prime years–all with Seibu from 1985 to 1994, Akiyama hit 348 home runs, more than any other NPB player during that span, while stealing 247 bases, the second most in Japan.

“I would have loved to have gone,” he said. “But you have to go in your twenties. By the time I thought I might that time had already gone.”

“The game over there was thrilling. Everything. Seeing games in major league ballparks for myself made me realize the game was so much bigger than I thought it was.”

After Hideo Nomo defied Japan’s baseball establishment by leaving for the States under his own power, the flow of Japanese talent began. But Akiyama said stars moving to the majors has resulted not in a talent drain but a talent boost.

“Young players now see that (Japanese guys playing in the majors) and they try harder than ever. It’s a great thing,” he said.