Telling it like it is
As people say on Twitter, “I was today years old when I” learned that the player of the month awarded to Nippon Professional Baseball position players is not the “player of the month” but the “Player of the month Batter’s Award.”
For years, I suspected that along with things like walks, runs scored, fielding excellence was not one of the things evaluated for the award, and on the podcast always referred to it derisively as the “batter of the month award,” but never even noticed the heading on the NPB website until today. To be fair, since two years ago, when Nippon Seimei assigned the award’s sponsorship to its Taiju Life Insurance subsidiary, things like runs, and on base percentage have become part of the equation.
The irony is that this year’s first Central League “batter of the month” winner, Hiroshima Carp second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, won the award despite his defense, and it so much as says that.
Here’s an English translation of the npb.jp.blurb:
Ryosuke Kikuchi of the Hiroshima Carp wins the batter’s award for the third time and for the first time since August 2016.
Kikuchi led the league with a .352 average, 45 hits and 21 runs scored. He maintained a high batting average and sparked the team from the leadoff spot. He began the season with a 16-game hitting streak, and on April 16 propelled the Carp by leading off the game against the Chunichi Dragons at Vantelin Dome with a home run, the 100th of his career.
He displays extraordinary batting sense, and even though he is excessively touted as a fielding master craftsman, his batting has been reverberating since the start of the season.
So in other words, don’t let the fact that Kikuchi fields his position well disqualify him from consideration for the award.
In my off-the-cuff opinion, Kikuchi was as valuable as Yakult slugger Munetaka Murakami because of his defense, but Delta Graphs rates Kikuchi as the NPB offensive WAR leader with 2.3, to 2.2 for Murakami and Yomiuri’s Hayato Sakamoto, so there.
The CL pitcher’s award went to Yomiuri Giants lefty Yuki Takahashi, who went 5-0 and tied for third with a 1.80 ERA. The league leader, teammate Nobutaka Imamura (1.62) went 2-0 in five starts while striking out 10 more batters and walking 10 fewer, and getting two fewer runs per game scored behind him. Takahashi’s blurb credited him with five quality starts; while Imamura had four.
Delta Graphs, through May 11, had Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi leading CL pitchers in WAR with 2.0, followed by Joe Gunkel, Imamura, Allen Kuri, Koyo Aoyagi, Tomoyuki Sugano, Daichi Osera, Carp rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, and Takahashi at No. 8.
In the PL
The PL’s batter of the month went to Lotte Marines right fielder Leonys Martin, whom Delta Graphs now has at 2.0 WAR behind Seibu shortstop Sosuke Genda at 2.1.
Martin’s credited with, according to NPB, leading the league with 10 home runs, a .576 slugging average, a .458 batting average with runners in scoring position, and playing in every game through April 30. Hey being fit enough to do well day in and day out is important, but about 20 players did that.
Masataka Yoshida would have been another good choice, but no complaints here for a change.
The PL’s pitcher award went to Hideaki Wakui of the Rakuten Eagles, who tied for the lead in wins with four, and was second in both ERA and innings pitched.
The pitcher who led the league in both categories, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, of the Orix Buffaloes went 3-2 scoring with 2.68 runs per nine innings in his games compared to 4.93 in Wakui’s.