The Hanshin Tigers swept May’s top player awards in the Central League, with closer Robert Suarez winning the pitcher’s award and rookie Teruaki Sato the hitter’s honor. The Pacific League awards went to SoftBank Hawks pitcher Nick Martinez and Orix Buffaloes outfielder Masataka Yoshida.
None of the awards were terrible, and though one never expects relievers to get it unless no starting pitcher wins three games, Suarez’s selection was a good one. The weakest link of the bunch was Sato. He had a great month, and you can’t pick everybody, but selecting Sato over DeNA’s Tyler Austin is like announcers drooling over hard-hit Sato flies that died on the warning track.
Here’s what the NPB website had to say about Sato. The first paragraph is relevant, the second filler, interesting stuff that that tells us about the player a little without saying why he is deserving of an award.
“Sato played in all 19 of his team games and led his team with 19 RBIs and six home runs, while leading the league with a .630 slugging average. He had seven three-hit games.”
“He showed plenty of power and clutch hitting. In particular, against Hiroshima on May 2, Sato batting fourth for the first time hit a superb come-from-behind grand slam, and on May 28, against Seibu, he became the second CL rookie and the first since Shigeo Nagashima in 1958 to hit three home runs in a game. He powered the Tigers as they ran away with first place.”
Now let’s do DeNA’s Tyler Austin but without the filler:
Austin played in all 22 of his team’s games and led his team with 16 runs, while leading the league with 17 walks, a .457 on-base percentage and a 1.068 OPS after finishing second in the league with a .610 slugging average. Compared to Teruaki Sato, Austin reached base 15 times more while making the same number of outs.
The other really deserving pitcher in the CL was Chunichi Dragons starter Yuya Yanagi, who led the league with a 0.82 ERA and 26 strikeouts, but only went 2-0 with his teammates scoring 2.05 runs behind him per game. Suarez worked 12 innings compared to Yanagi’s 22 and saved nine games. No complaints with that choice since I’ll buy that Suarez’s innings were on the whole twice as valuable as Yanagi’s. Well done.
Martinez was a no-brainer for the NPB crowd. He went 4-1 with a league-leading 1.97 ERA and led the PL with 34 strikeouts. Yoshida, too, was a good choice after leading the league in RBI and OPS. Brandon Laird, who was second in OPS, and led with nine home runs would have been a good choice, too.