Otani makes history with Best Nine selection at both pitcher and DH

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star Shohei Otani made history when he was named to the Pacific League’s Best Nine team as both pitcher and designated hitter when the awards were announced Friday afternoon.

The Fighters star excelled in both areas this season and benefitted from a rule change, that had him in mind, earlier this season that permitted voters to choose a pitcher in the DH spot.

He received 111 votes at pitcher, beating out the Chiba Lotte Marines’ Ayumu Ishikawa, who was second with 69. Otani’s selection was far more comprehensive at DH, where he garnered 190 votes to the 47 cast for second-place finisher Alfredo Despaigne of the Marines.

Otani made 21 appearances as a pitcher, going 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and a 0.96 walks plus hit per innings pitched in 140 innings. He struck out 174, finishing with the third-highest total in the PL despite missing several weeks on the mound due to a blister.

Otani hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs. He had 18 doubles, a triple and drew 54 walks in his 382 plate appearances. The 22-year-old ended the season with a 1.004 on-base plus slugging percentage. He also had seven stolen bases.

This marked the second season in which Otani won 10 games as a pitcher while also hitting at least 10 home runs, a feat he first accomplished in 2014, when he had 11 wins and 10 homers.

The Fighters led all PL teams with five Best Nine selections. Otani, who was chosen twice, was joined by first baseman Sho Nakata, third baseman Brandon Laird and outfielder Haruki Nishikawa.

A trio of Marines were honored with a pair of two-time winners in shortstop Daiichi Suzuki and outfielder Katsuya Kakunaka joined by first-timer Tatsuhiro Tamura, who was chosen at catcher.

The Seibu Lions’ Hideto Asamura was selected at second base, while Yoshio Itoi, who recently signed with the Hanshin Tigers as a free agent, was rewarded for his efforts in the outfield for the Orix Buffaloes.

The Central League champion Hiroshima Carp had five players named to the CL team.

Yusuke Nomura, who led the league with 16 wins, was chosen at pitcher and joined by first baseman Takahiro Arai, catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara, and outfielders Seiya Suzuki and Yoshihiro Maru.

The Yomiuri Giants had two players on the team, a year after having none, as shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and third baseman Shuichi Murata were honored.

Reigning CL MVP Tetsuto Yamada, second baseman for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, made the team for the second straight year and Yokohama BayStars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo was also selected.