Current status: Signed three-year, $21-million contract with the Cincinnati Reds as a free agent on Jan. 6, 2019. Akiyama turned down a generous offer to re-sign with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League.
Team: Cincinnati Reds as a free agent from the Seibu Lions
Pos: CF Age: 31, he’ll be 32 on April 16, 2020. Bats: L
Honors: Best Nine (3), Golden Glove (6)
League leader: Hits (3) — NPB record 216 in 2015, Batting Avg. (1).
Akiyama turned down a lucrative contract extension last autumn and the Lions had been pressing another one on him. He suffered a fracture of the fourth toe on his right foot in a Premier 12 warm-up game against Canada on Oct. 31 and has been rehabbing at the Lions’ complex outside Tokyo.
He can hit for average and has deceptive power. Akiyama has always been among Delta Graphs’ leaders in “hard contact percentage,” but tends to hit the ball on the ground a lot. Once a dynamite base runner he is no longer a serious base-stealing threat. Akiyama is not slow, but now he’s just better than average.
Career L-R splits
Once a terrific defensive center fielder with an above-average arm and very good range, Akiyama’s defensive results as tracked by Delta Graphs and Win Shares show a steady decline.
At the start of this season, he seemed to be having trouble tracking balls and some who follow the Lions agreed he had unusual trouble with a number of routine catches. That issue appears to have cleared up, however.
Although he is a team captain, he’s more of a quiet leader rather than someone like Tsutsugo who will seek out his teammates to encourage them and keep them loose.
|Year||Team||Raw WS||Batting WS||Def WS||WAR|
Akiyama’s fastball-hitting ability appears to have peaked at the age of 28 in 2016 — a year after he set the single-season hit record. That year he had more trouble with sliders and curves according to Delta Graphs, but since then he’s been better than the average regular against whatever pitches he sees.
The last three seasons, Akiyama has been pulling the ball slightly more, hitting the ball in the air significantly more, resulting in a few more pop ups and swinging strikes but also producing three straight 20-plus home run seasons. He has also chased less and compared to his figures from 2014-2016, he has forced pitchers to throw about 12 percent more strikes. He also hits the ball consistently hard.
Since Delta Graphs began analyzing pitches in 2014, he has averaged over 0.5 standared deviations above the mean for established regular players against fastballs, curveballs and sliders, making him one of the three most well-rounded hitter in Japan. The other two are the remarkable Tetsuto Yamada, and new Tampa Bay Ray Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. In this definition, established means three-plus seasons of 300-plus plate appearances.
The table below shows how many standard deviations they are above the mean for hitters with 300-plus NPB plate appearances from 2014 to 2019 — among players with three or more regular seasons. Also included is their ranking among the 68 batters who qualified for inclusion.
|Tetsuto Yamada||1.2 – 6th||0.5 – 16th||0.8 – 5th|
|Yoshitomo Tsutsugo||0.9 – 10th||0.8 – 8th||0.5 – 13th|
|Shogo Akiyama||0.5 – 17th||0.6 – 13th||0.6 – 9th|