Shohei Otani, the slugging ace of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, was among 10 first-time winners of the Best Nine Awards announced by Nippon Professional Baseball on Tuesday.
The flame-throwing right-hander Otani led the Pacific League in wins, winning percentage and ERA. Joining him as a Best Nine debutant is Seibu Lions center fielder Shogo Akiyama, who set NPB’s single-season hit record this year with 216 and received a league-high 221 votes.
“I want to prepare well enough so I can keep winning this from next year,” the 21-year-old Otani said. “I’ll do my best to be Japan champion next season and win this on top of that.”
Seibu catcher Ginjiro Sumitani, Fighters shortstop Takuya Nakashima and Chiba Lotte Marines outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota were the other three first-timers.
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows, who won the Central League for the first time in 14 years, were rewarded with four honorees around the infield.
Catcher Yuhei Nakamura, first baseman Kazuhiro Hatakeyama and third baseman Shingo Kawabata each won for the first time, joining second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, who won his first in 2014.
Hatakeyama led the CL in RBIs, Kawabata in batting average and Yamada in virtually everything else (runs, doubles, home runs, stolen bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage).
“I don’t want to be satisfied with the way things are,” said Yamada, a runaway favorite to be named CL MVP on Wednesday.
“In order to win this award every year, I want to reach the next level in base running, batting and fielding.”
A pair of national team standouts, outfielders Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of the Yokohama BayStars and Ryosuke Hirata of the Chunichi Dragons, was also selected for the first time.
Also in the CL, Hanshin shortstop Takashi Toritani won his sixth honor and his third straight, while Tigers outfielder Kosuke Fukudome won his fourth but his first in nine years.
Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda won his first in two years, his third overall.
In the PL, the Fighters’ Sho Nakata won at first base after receiving back-to-back awards in left field. At second, Nippon Ham’s Kensuke Tanaka picked up where he left off three years ago with his sixth award after returning from the United States.
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks center fielder Yuki Yanagita, who like Yamada hit .300 and joined the 30-30 club, won for the second straight time.
Seibu and Japan cleanup hitter Takeya Nakamura was named the top third baseman for the first time. He also won once as a designated hitter.
The Hawks’ Lee Dae-ho, who is attempting to move to the majors after four seasons in Japan, was named the PL’s best designated hitter. Lee also won the award at first in 2012 with the Orix Buffaloes.
The narrowest vote in the balloting by members of the media was Nakamura’s 115-69 victory over the runner-up at third base, Nobuhiro Matsuda of the Hawks.
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