NPB: Yamamoto Wins Third Consecutive MVP Award

Yoshinobu Yamamoto won the NPB’s MVP award for the third consecutive season. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the right-handed pitcher for the Orix Buffaloes who is likely the prize of the Major League Baseball free agent market this offseason, has won the 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball MVP Award for the third consecutive season. 

Yamamoto becomes the third player in the history of the NPB’s Pacific League to win the MVP in three consecutive seasons, joining outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who won it from 1994-96 with the Orix Blue Wave and pitcher Hisashi Yamada, who accomplished the feat from 1976-78 with the Hankyu Braves. 

No player in the NPB Central League has won the MVP in three consecutive seasons since the league started in 1950. 

First baseman Sadaharu Oh, who played for the Yomiuri Giants from 1959-80, has the most NPB MVP Awards, earning nine during his career.  

In 2023, Yamamoto went 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA in 23 starts, throwing two complete games and one shutout, throwing 164 innings and allowing 117 hits, 22 earned runs, two home runs, 28 walks, and 169 strikeouts with a 0.884 WHIP. 

Yamamoto, 25, was born in Bizen, Japan, and has played seven seasons for the Orix Buffaloes, winning the Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award from 2021-23, the Eiji Sawamura Award from 2021-23, the Best Nine Award, three Pacific League Golden Glove Awards, and pitching Triple Crown in the same seasons, and is a five-time NPB All-Star. Yamamoto has also led the Pacific League in strikeouts from 2020-23, wins from 2021-23, and in ERA in 2019 and 2021-23. 

Yamamoto threw his second career no-hitter and the 100th no-hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball history on September 9 when the Buffaloes beat their league rival, the Chiba Lotte Marines 4-0.

In 2022, Yamamoto went 15-5 starting in 26 games, recording a 1.69 ERA with two shutouts and throwing 193 innings, allowing 137 hits, six home runs, walking 42 batters, and striking out 205,  helping Orix win the 2023 Japan Series over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in six games.

During his seven year career in NPB and with the Orix farm team, Yamamoto has a 75-30 record with a 1.72 ERA with a 188 total appearances, including eight shutouts, one save, throwing 967.2 innings, allowing 669 hits, 185 earned runs, 36 home runs, 216 walks, 986 strikeouts, and a 0.915 WHIP. 

Yamamoto has a 45-day negotiating window opened on November 21 and will run until 5 p.m. EST on January 4, 2024.

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