Wada day for baseball!
The Central and Pacific League MVPs were announced Thursday in Tokyo and one name was very prominent.
Chunichi Dragons veteran outfielder Kazuhiro Wada took the honors in the CL, while left-handed starter Tsuyoshi Wada (no relation) of the Softbank Hawks was named the top PL player for 2010.
Kazuhiro Wada drew 131 first-place votes from Japan's baseball writers to outpoll relief pitcher and teammate Takuya Asao (66 votes) and Hanshin Tigers outfielder Matt Murton (22). Hiroshima Carp starter Kenta Maeda, this year's Sawamura Award winner, finished fourth with 18 votes with Yomiuri Giants outfielder Alex Ramirez, a two-time CL MVP who led the league in both homers and RBIs this season, a distant fifth.
"This is the biggest thing that has happened in my career," said Kazuhiro Wada, a 14-year veteran who at the age of 38 becomes the oldest man to win the award. "My manager said he would use me in various spots in the lineup (hitting third, fourth and fifth) and it worked out well, as this was my first year to win the CL pennant."
In his third season with the Dragons, Wada played in all 144 games for the second straight year and led the team in batting average (.339), home runs (37) and RBIs (93). His bat helped the club win its first Central League title since 2006, before they lost in seven games to the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japan Series.
"I wasn't really concerned about my personal stats, I just wanted to help the team win," said Wada, who spent the first 11 years of his career with the Pacific League's Seibu Lions.
In the PL, Tsuyoshi Wada finished just 17 votes ahead of teammate and fellow-lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi in the MVP ballotting. Wada shared the league lead in wins with 17 (tied with Chihiro Kaneko of Orix) while posting a 3.14 ERA with 169 strikeouts. Sugiuchi won 16 games with 218 Ks and a 3.55 ERA as the pair played a major role in the Hawks claiming the PL pennant.
"I'm surprised but happy," said Tsuyoshi Wada, who garnered 76 first-place votes. "Last year I had some elbow trouble so I was determined to make the most of this season to see if I could regain my old form.
"It was good that neither me nor Sugiuchi got hurt this year. We talked at the beginning of the season and said we both wanted to post winning records in 2010."
Marines shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who hit a PL-best .346 and had 206 hits this year, finished third with 44 votes. He is expected to move to the majors this offseason.
Yomiuri outfielder Hisayoshi Chono was named the CL Rookie of the Year, the third straight season a Giants player has taken the award after Tetsuya Matsumoto in 2009 and pitcher Tetsuya Yamaguchi in '08.
"I was able to do everything I wanted this year as an individual but I'm disappointed my team didn't win the championship," said Chono, who posted a .288 average with 19 home runs and 52 RBIs over 128 games in his first year out of the Industrial League. "I found the level of play in NPB high and I'm glad I could play up to the level of the best players in Japan."
Reliever Ryo Sakakibara of the Nippon-Ham Fighters was named the PL's top rookie. In 2010, the right-hander went 10-1 out of the bullpen. He struck out 54 over 72 innings while posting a 2.63 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP.
The CL Best Nine was comprised of Carp pitcher Maeda, Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe, Tigers first baseman Craig Brazell, Hanshin second baseman Keiichi Hirano, Dragons third baseman Masahiko Morino, Tigers shortstop Takashi Toritani and outfielders Murton, Wada and Norichika Aoki of the Yakult Swallows.
In the PL, the Best Nine were Tsuyoshi Wada on the mound, Motohiro Shima of the Rakuten Eagles at catcher, the Buffaloes' Alex Cabrera at first base, Fighters Kensuke Tanaka and Eiichi Koyano at second and third, respectively, and Nishioka at short. The PL outfield was made up of the Hawks' Hitoshi Tamura, Takahiro Okada of Orix and Seibu's Takumi Kuriyama. Lotte's Kazuya Fukuura was the designated hitter.