There were few surprises as Japanese pro baseball’s final award announcements dropped on Friday, as Yakult Swallows third baseman Munetaka Murakami and Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto joined some elite company by repeating as their leagues’ MVPs.
Yamamoto became the first back-to-back winner in the Pacific League since Ichiro Suzuki won from 1994 to 1996 for the Orix BlueWave. Three Hall of Famers round out the field of back-to-back PL winners, Nishitetsu Lions ace Kazuhisa Ino, Nankai Hawks catcher Katsuya Nomura and Hankyu Braves side-armer Hisashi Yamada.
In addition to becoming the fifth Central League player to win back-to-back MVPs and the first since Yoshihiro Maru won in 2017 and 2018 for the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami became the Japan’s first unanimous MVP since Masahiro Tanaka in 2013.
Pandering media rant alert
Although it’s only been nine years since Tanaka grabbed every first-place MVP vote, all the headlines in Japan’s media ignore him and instead say Murakami’s unanimous vote was the first since Sadaharu Oh in 1977 (among CL winners), because editors believe that headlines that can in any way be related to the Giants or a player of Oh’s stature, create clicks and generate revenue.
The next batch of award winners’ names dropped Thursday, as the Central and Pacific leagues each named their all-league teams with the Best Nine Awards.
The MVP and Rookie of the Year awards will be announced Friday
There are a couple of head-scratching votes, but for the most part, the players who received votes were deserving.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto led the PL in votes with 260, , although his teammate Masataka Yoshida also had 260 — split between 219 for DH and 21 for the outfield.
Munetaka Murakami came within one vote of a unanimous selection for the CL’s third base award, with one voter casting his lot with DeNA’s Toshiro Miyazaki. I’m happy Miyazaki got a vote, but I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to defend saying he was the best in the league.
The same goes for the 125 voters who selected Takuya Kai on their ballot. It makes me wonder what Tomoya Mori did to piss off that many in the media.
For each player receiving votes, I’ll give you their vote total, their overall WAR from Delta Graph, and their overall win shares. I can’t break them down by position.