Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Olympic Gold Medallist, Premier12 and World Baseball Classic champion wins third Eiji Sawamura Award in a row
31/10/2023 2 Minute Read

Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Olympic Gold Medallist, Premier12 and World Baseball Classic champion wins third Eiji Sawamura Award in a row

Yamamoto becomes the second pitcher to win the Eiji Sawamura Award three years in a row.

At the age of 25, Yoshinobu Yamamoto's career has enough accolades to be considered a successful one, even if he doesn't get any other in the rest of his active years. The two-time Pacific League MVP, multiple-time Triple Crown winner, Japan Series Champion, Olympic Gold Medal winner, and Premier12 and World Baseball Classic winner is now a three-time successive Eiji Sawamura Award recipient.

Yamamoto joins Hall of Famer Masaichi Kaneda as one of the only players to win the award, which is bestowed upon the top starting pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball each year, for three straight years.

As the Japan Times reported, in a year when no pitchers met two of the seven benchmarks the selection committee uses as guidelines - 10 complete games and 200 innings - the 25-year-old Orix Buffaloes ace beat out some stiff competition from Katsuki Azuma.

The DeNA BayStars lefty pitched in one more game, threw four complete games to Yamamoto's two, also won 16 games while losing three fewer and pitched 8-1/3 more innings. Yamamoto, however, struck out 36 more batters and posted a better ERA, 1.21 to Azuma's 1.98.

The five other benchmarks consulted by the panel of former pitchers are 25 games, 15 wins, a .600 winning percentage, 150 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.50 or lower.

Committee member Hisashi Yamada said he gave weight to Yamamoto's contribution to the national team.

Since Yamamoto made his appearance on the international stage during the 2019 Premier12, at only 21 years of age, everyone knew that he is a special talent.

The right-handed pitcher exploded in the 2021 NPB season, pitching 193.2 innings and posting an 18-5 record with a 1.39 ERA. In that season, Yamamoto won his first MVP, the Eiji Sawamura Award, and the Triple Crown.

Then his appearances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - where he struck out 18 opponents in 11.1 innings - and at the World Baseball Classic - where he posted a 2.45 ERA with 12 SO in 7.1 innings with a 1-0 record - made it clear that he would be a player in demand in the coming seasons.

According to several media reports, Yamamoto may land at the MLB for the 2024 season with big-market teams pursuing him, including the New York Mets who could put him together with Kodai Senga to lead the starting rotation.

Whether Yamamoto will be part of the Japanese superstars contingent in the US along with Senga, Shohei Ohtani, Seiya Suzuki, Yu Darvish, and Masataka Yoshida, only time will tell.