Better run this before ALL the awards are announced... several weeks ago, Randy, Ken and I made our selections for the top performers of 2011. And here they are, with minimal analysis.
Sawamura Award: Masahiro Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Yu Darvish (Randy)
Ken and I liked Tanaka's crazy 1.27 ERA, while Randy favored Darvish's higher innings pitched and strikeout totals. Can't really go wrong either way.
Apologies to: Kazuki Yoshimi, Tetsuya Utsumi
Pacific League MVP: Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Darvish (Randy)
The new NPB ball made this a pitcher's year, and there was general consensus that the performance of Darvish and Tanaka put them ahead of everyone else.
The real winner, Seiichi Uchikawa, finished third on Randy's ballot and fifth on mine. He would have been my winner if he had missed less time.
Apologies to: Takeya Nakamura, Yoshio Itoi, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Uchikawa
Central League MVP: Hisayoshi Chono (unanimous)
The overall lack of offense around the league meant that Chono's performance stood out enough to win our votes. The lack of a Tanaka or Darvish type starting pitcher in the CL played a role here as well. Yoshimi and Utsumi were extremely good this year, but not scarily dominant.
The real winner, Takuya Asao, finished fourth on my ballot. You can argue that he put up that Tanaka-level performance in the CL this year, and I guess the voters did, but personally I valued a starting position player over a relief pitcher.
Apologies to: Asao, Yoshimi, Utsumi, Kenta Kurihara, Hirokazu Sawamura
Pacific League Rookie of the Year: Kazuhisa Makita (Patrick, Ken), Shota Ishimine (Randy)
While there were a lot of strong rookies in the PL this year, Makita pitched over 100 innings for Seibu out of the rotation and out of the bullpen, solidifying each when his team needed it. Ishimine stuck in the Lotte outfield throughout the season, got on base at a respectable clip, and swiped 32 bases.
The real voters agreed with Ken and I.
Apologies to: Takahiro Shiomi, Yuki Saito
Central League Rookie of the Year: Sawamura (unanimous)
Probably the most obvious award in quite some time, thanks to Sawamura's 2.03 ERA over 200 innings pitched. The real voters thought so.
Apologies to: Daiki Enokida