Baseball: Swallows' Murakami, Buffaloes' Yamamoto repeat as MVPs

Yakult Swallows cleanup hitter Munetaka Murakami and Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto were named the winners of their respective league's Most Valuable Player Award for the second straight year on Friday.

The 22-year-old Murakami, the Central League's first batting Triple Crown winner since 1986 and Japanese pro baseball's youngest, became the league's first unanimous MVP selection since Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh in 1977.

"I want to express my gratitude to those around me who have had my back," Murakami said. "It's hard to continue to get good results. Winning (two in a row) is satisfying. There are a number of things, however, that I can do better. I'll do my best to win again next year."

Both the Swallows and Buffaloes, for whom Yamamoto led the Pacific League in wins, strikeouts and ERA for the second straight season, repeated as champions of their respective leagues.

Yamamoto became the first PL player to win back-to-back MVP Awards since Ichiro Suzuki took three straight from 1994 to 1996. He received 255 of the 267 votes cast for the PL award.

Relief pitchers bagged both of the Rookie of the Year awards. Second-year Seibu Lions right-hander Yoshinobu Mizukami took the PL's prize, while first-year Yomiuri Giants closer Taisei Ota won in the CL.

Yamamoto, taken in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, went 15-5 with two shutouts and a PL-best four complete games, while striking out 205 batters in a PL-high 193 innings with a 1.68 ERA.

Murakami, signed out of the first round of the 2017 draft, hit 56 home runs this year, Japanese pro ball's second-highest single-season total. He led the CL with 114 runs, 134 RBIs, 118 walks a .318 batting average, a .458 on-base percentage and a .710 slugging average.

Mizukami, who joined Seibu in 2021 on a non-roster developmental contract, recorded 31 holds, second most in the PL this season. Ota's 37 saves tied Japan's rookie record.

© Kyodo News