Japan baseball stars Munetaka Murakami and Yoshinobu Yamamoto earn MVP honors

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
MVP winners Munetaka Murakami of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, left, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes chat during the 2022 pro baseball awards ceremony in Tokyo on Friday.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ record-setting slugger Munetaka Murakami was unanimously voted 2022 Central League MVP on Friday, while Orix Buffaloes hurler Yoshinobu Yamamoto earned the Pacific League honor, both men reaping their respective awards for the second straight year.

Murakami, 22, notched up 56 home runs during the season, beating the record held by Yomiuri Giants legend Sadaharu Oh for the most home runs by a Japanese pro baseball player that had stood since 1964.

Murakami, who also became the youngest Triple Crown winner in Japan’s pro baseball history, earned his honor after pro baseball writers used their 299 votes to make him top choice for MVP. It was sixth unanimous selection for CL MVP, and the first time since Oh scooped the prize in 1977.

Murakami, who is often compared with Oh, said: “I don’t think I’ve reached the level [of Oh]. It’s important for me to keep making good records.”

In the PL, Yamamoto, 24, collected 255 top-choice nods among 267 eligible votes for his part in the Orix’ first Japan Series win in 26 years. During the regular season, Yamamoto went 15-5, garnering the most wins and three other pitching titles.

Though the hurler put in a season of sterling performances, he remains determined to keep developing. “I want to throw balls that can never be hit, whether it’s a fast ball or a breaking ball,” he said

Meanwhile, Yomiuri Giants closer Taisei Ota, 23, and Saitama Seibu Lions reliever Yoshinobu Mizukami, 24, were voted rookie of the year for the CL and PL, respectively. Ota, who is registered under the name of Taisei, appeared in 57 games, registering 37 saves and eight holds. Mizukami appeared in 60 games and recorded 31 holds with one save.

The awards ceremony, which was held in Tokyo, was attended by an audience for the first time in three years.