Hotaka Yamakawa has only been the Seibu Lions’ regular first baseman for 1-1/2 years, but the Okinawa native has already established himself as an elite home run hitter, but during the Japan MLB-All Star Series, he sounded an ominous warning.
Although he led both of NPB’s elite leagues in home runs with 47, Yamakawa said his glass was only half full. He hit well enough against pitchers he sees over and over during the year and was honored as the Pacific League’s MVP this year, but against major leaguers he’d never faced, he looked completely lost.
“I dislike facing pitchers for the first time,” he said. “On top of that, the major league pitchers have good late movement on their fastballs. It’s clear from this that I have a lot to learn about getting the barrel of the bat on the ball.”
Among all players in NPB history with a minimum of 750 plate appearances, Yamakawa ranks third in home run frequency behind only Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh, and iconic Hanshin Tigers slugger Randy Bass.
“I hit 40 home runs this year, so I know I have power. But you know what? I hit almost all of them without really squaring it up. So that’s something I need to work on,” He said that prior to Game 3 when he had a good pinch-hit at-bat that turned series around.
“Whatever I learn here, I’m going to apply as much as I can going forward.”
And as scary a hitter as Yamakawa already is, the idea of him making even better contact is not a pleasant one for PL pitchers.