August 2019 monthly awards

Since Nippon Seimei handed over the sponsorship of NPB’s monthly awards to its Daiju Seimei company, the once predictable and stale awards have become somewhat unpredictable, and August was perhaps the most surprising yet.

The pitcher of the month awards have typically gone to a starting pitcher with three-plus wins and one or fewer losses, and when none qualified for that, then a reliever with an ERA near zero and a lot of holds or saves.

The player of the month award almost always went to the batting average leader if he hit .400 or better or the home run or RBI leader. Runs scored and on-base percentage were two things never mentioned in the award announcements.

August’s winners were:

  • CL Pitcher of Month: David Buchanan, Swallows
  • CL Player of Month: Ryoma Nishikawa, Carp
  • PL Pitcher of Month: Alan Busenitz, Eagles
  • PL Player of Month: Tomoya Mori, Lions

Buchanan led the CL with a 1.64 ERA and tied for the lead in wins. He was one of two starters who went 3-0. The other was Shota Imanaga of DeNA, whose 25 innings were two shy of qualifying his 1.44 ERA for the ERA title. Imanaga threw a shutout and struck out 27 batters. The award selectors, however, credited Buchanan with working six-plus innings in all five of his starts and allowing two or fewer earned runs each time. Nothing wrong with his selection, just worthy of mention because the people selecting these things appear to be looking at more than just wins for the first time.

The same can be said for Nishikawa, who was recognized for leading the league in runs scored (22) and finishing fourth in on-base percentage. I don’t recall those ever being mentioned along with the usual suspects. I think Kazuma Okamoto of the Giants, who scored 21 runs, while driving in 26, would have been a better choice, but I’m glad the selectors demonstrated an understanding of on-base percentage for the first time. Dayan Viciedo, who led the CL in slugging average and was third in OBP would have been a good choice as well, which isn’t to say Nishikawa wasn’t — because he was definitely worthy.

Busenitz, whose name is pronounced like a snack called “Nits” that come in the flavors of various alcoholic beverages, was exceptional because Seibu Lions starting pitcher Zach Neal went 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA, but like Imanaga didn’t quite have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Speaking of ERA, Lotte’s Atsuki Taneichi led the PL (1.61) but going 2-1 won’t win you anything more than praise despite striking out 11.25 batters per nine innings.

Again Busenitz, with his 1-0 record and 11 holds and a 0.00 ERA made him a good choice.

Mori was a slam dunk, though. The award announcement cites leading the league in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, RBIs, slugging average. Surprised they didn’t mention he was third in OBP as well, but I guess they didn’t want to push it. In years past, Masataka Yoshida of Orix would have won with a .407 batting average, that was — for him — unusually powerless.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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