Nine players were named their league’s best at their position for the first time on Friday, when NPB announced the results of the Central and Pacific Leagues’ Best Nine Award voting.
The PL had four first-timers among its 10 winners — there is also an award for the league’s best designated hitter. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks catcher Takuya Kai was the only first-year regular this season to win a Best Nine in either league.
“It’s an honor,” said Kai, who turned pro on a developmental contract in 2011 and entered this season with just 15 first-team games under his belt.
“Frankly speaking, those are the only words that come out. This award is due to the managers and coaches giving me a chance and then sticking with me.”
The CL ballot was dominated by five members of the Carp. Center fielder Yoshihiro Maru was a third-time winner, while right-fielder Seiya Suzuki won his second and catcher Tsubasa Aizawa, second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi and shortstop Kosuke Tanaka won for the first time.
Maru’s 274 votes were the most for any player in either league, just ahead of the 272 garnered by Jose Lopez of the Yokohama BayStars at first base.
The BayStars, who reached the Japan Series despite finishing third in the league and having to win two playoff series on the road to do so, had three players on the CL postseason all-star team: cleanup hitter and left-fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo won his third, while third baseman Toshiro Miyazaki and Lopez each won for the first time.
Yomiuri Giants right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, who received this year’s Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, won his second Best Nine Award and his first in three years to round out the CL ballot.
Despite winning 94 games, the most in NPB in 61 years, the PL champion Hawks nabbed only four of their league’s 10 awards. Like Kai, designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne was honored for the first time, while shortstop Kenta Imamiya won his second and center fielder Yuki Yanagita his third.
Imamiya won the closest vote in either league, earning 90 votes to take the award at shortstop ahead of the Tohku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ Eigoro Mogi with 87 and rookie Sosuke Genda of the Seibu Lions with 81. Kai won the next closest race, edging Lions catcher Ginjiro Sumitani 102-80.
The second-place Lions won three awards. Center fielder Shogo Akiyama and second baseman Hideto Asamura each won their second, while pitcher Yusei Kikuchi earned his first.
The third-place Eagles had first-time winner Zelous Wheeler at third base, while first baseman Ginji Akaminai, a former winner at third base, won for the first time at the other corner infield spot. The PL final award went to Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters left fielder Haruki Nishikawa.