What a great day to be named Wada.
Kazuhiro Wada of the Central League champion Chunichi Dragons and Tsuyoshi Wada of the Pacific League pennant-winning Fukuoka Softbank Hawks capped impressive performances this year by being named the MVP of their respective leagues on Thursday when the NPB announced its 2010 award winners at Akasaka Sacas.
“This is the biggest thing that has happened in my career,” said Kazuhiro Wada, a veteran of 14 NPB seasons.
The 38-year-old slugger had a resurgent year for Chunichi, hitting .339 with 37 home runs and 93 RBIs. He played in all 144 games and led Japanese baseball with a .437 on-base percentage and a .624 slugging percentage.
He’s the first Chunichi player to win the award since Kosuke Fukudome won in 2006.
“I’m just happy I could play every day,” the Dragons slugger said. “I did the best I could, so I am very pleased with my season.”
In the PL, Hawks hurler Tsuyoshi Wada, went 17-8 to tie Orix pitcher Chihiro Kaneko (17-8), for the most wins in the NPB. He ended the year with a 3.14 ERA, 169 strikeouts and a 1.18 WHIP, helping Softbank win the PL pennant for the first time since 2005.
“I’m surprised but very happy,” the southpaw said. “Last year, I had elbow trouble and could not help the team. So I was determined not only to help the team win, but to see if I could come back and help the team like I could before the elbow trouble.”
It’s the fourth straight season and fifth time in the past six years a pitcher has been named the PL MVP. Softbank hurler Toshiya Sugiuchi won in 2005 while Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star Yu Darvish was the 2007 winner. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Hisashi Iwakuma won in 2008 and Darvish won for a second time last season.
Sugiuchi was second in the voting this year after going 16-7 with a 3.55 ERA.
“It was good neither of us got hurt,” Tsuyoshi Wada said of pairing with Sugiuchi this year. “We got together at the beginning of the season and said we wanted each other to have a good year and at least finish with more wins than losses.”
Both of this year’s MVP winners came up big in the postseason as well, but it wasn’t enough for either as the Hawks and Dragons were each eliminated by the eventual Japan Series champion Chiba Lotte Marines.
Yomiuri Giants outfielder Hisayoshi Chono was named the CL Rookie of the Year, after hitting .288 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs in 128 games.
“I was already 25 years old when I became a pro,” Chono said. “I thought the NPB level was high and I am happy I could play up to the level of the best players.”
Chono is the third consecutive Yomiuri player to win the award, following Tetsuya Yamaguchi in 2008 and Tetsuya Matsumoto last season.
“I was able to do everything I wanted to do this year as an individual,” Chono said. “I’m just disappointed my team could not win the championship.”
Fighters reliever Ryo Sakakibara was named the top rookie in the PL. Sakakibara made 39 appearances for the Fighters and finished 10-1 with a 2.63 ERA.
“I took it one game at a time,” Sakakibara said. “So all the games were important to me. I always pitched with the team’s victory in mind.”
Both leagues also released their Best Nine squad, reserved for the top player at each position.
CL Best Nine: pitcher, Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima Carp); catcher, Shinnosuke Abe (Yomiuri Giants); first base, Craig Brazell (Hanshin Tigers); second base, Keiichi Hirano (Hanshin Tigers); third base, Masahiko Morino (Chunichi Dragons); shortstop, Takashi Toritani (Hanshin Tigers); outfielders, Matt Murton (Hanshin Tigers), Norichika Aoki (Tokyo Yakult Swallows), Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi Dragons).
PL Best Nine: pitcher, Tsuyoshi Wada (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks); catcher, Motohiro Shima (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles), first base, Alex Cabrera (Orix Buffaloes); second base, Kensuke Tanaka (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters); third base, Eiichi Koyano (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters); shortstop, Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Chiba Lotte Marines); outfielders, Hitoshi Tamura (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), Takahiro Okada (Orix Buffaloes); Takumi Kuriyama (Seibu Lions); designated hitter, Kazuya Fukuura (Chiba Lotte Marines).