This Carp just became one of Japan's biggest fish.
Hiroshima right-hander Kenta Maeda won the prestigious Sawamura Award on Monday, joining a list that includes some of Japan's most famous pitchers.
The award for Japan's best starting pitcher, named in honor of Yomiuri Giants pitching legend Eiji Sawamura, went to a Central Leaguer for the first time since 2004.
"It's a surprise," Maeda said. "I'm overjoyed."
Maeda, who led the CL with 15 wins, six complete games, 215-2/2 innings, 174 strikeouts and a 2.21 ERA, was named ahead of Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish and Orix Buffaloes right-hander Chihiro Kaneko.
"We come here to chose the overall No. 1 pitcher this year, and my nomination was Kenta Maeda," said Tsuneo Horiuchi, acting chairman of the Sawamura Award Committee.
Committee member and former Lotte ace Choji Murata took Maeda's playing for a CL club into consideration in agreeing to his selection.
"His complete game total was a little low but he did that in a league without the designated hitter," Murata said.
"In the other league, we had Kaneko and Darvish. Make no mistake, if you talk about who is the most reliable pitcher year in and year out, that would be Darvish. But this year, he was surpassed by Maeda."
The committee uses seven benchmarks to assist in the selection, searching for pitchers with at least 25 games, 10 complete games, 15 wins, a .600 winning percentage, 200 innings, 150 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.50 or better.
Former Taiyo Whales ace Masaji Hiramatsu said this year's choice was not easy.
"It's too bad, but we didn't have any one pitcher who cleared all seven benchmarks," he said. "Two pitchers cleared six: Maeda and Darvish. One cleared five: Kaneko. It would be a little sad to give the Sawamura Award to someone who cleared just four, so it was really between these three.
"Kaneko was pitcher of the month in August and September, when he was spectacular and won 10 straight. But he also had a 3.30 ERA, and I can't nominate a pitcher who does that."
"Darvish had that 1.78 ERA. Simply amazing. But he won only 12 games, and he's competing here with a pitcher with 17 wins and one with 15."
In other baseball news:
--The Rakuten Eagles made ace Hisashi Iwakuma available to major league clubs through the posting system on Monday. If the Eagles agree to the amount of the highest sealed bid, the highest bidding team will have 30 days to sign Iwakuma.