Chunichi Dragons lefty Yudai Ono was named the winner of the 2020 Eiji Sawamura Award on Monday in Tokyo. As predicted, the 32-year-old made the five old pitchers’ hearts on the selection committee flutter with his 10 complete games and six shutouts, despite a pedestrian win-loss record of 11-6.
The award goes to the most impressive starting pitcher from Japan’s two leagues, thus it is similar to but not quite analogous to MLB’s Cy Young Award.
““Getting an award like this is something that seemed beyond my grasp both as an amateur and even after I turned pro. It feels like it can’t be happening.“–Chunichi Dragons pitcher Yudai Ono on winning the Sawamura Award.
Ono led the Central League in strikeouts with 148, one shy of tying for the Japan lead with SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga and Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Ono led both leagues in innings pitched, ERA, complete games and shutouts.
There was a lot of sentiment for Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano because of the committee’s parallel obsession with win totals as the right-hander went 14-2 and set this year’s stupidest Japan record — the most consecutive decisions won from the start of the season by an Opening Day starter.
Several voters were willing to name both Ono and Sugano, but the sentiment toward picking “the best one” prevailed. Other pitchers were considered, but they lacked the sexy win total of Sugano and complete game total of Ono.
The other pitchers named were Hiroshima Carp rookie Masato Morishita and three 11-game winners from the Pacific League, Senga, his Hawks teamamte Shuta Ishikawa, and Rakuten Eagles veteran Hideaki Wakui.
This year’s Sawamura Award selection committee members were: Tsuneo Horiuchi, Manabu Kitabeppu, Choji Murata, Hisashi Yamada and Masaji HIramatsu.
The award has been open to players from both leagues since 1990, when Hideo Nomo became the first PL pitcher to win. Sugano won in 2017 and 2018, but no winner was named in 2019 for the first time since 2000.
Although the PL has dominated competition between the two leagues over the previous 16 years, no PL pitcher has won since 2014. From 2005 to 2014 however, nine of the 10 winners were PL pitchers.
Here’s the Kyodo News story.