Yoshinobu Yamamoto, 25, the “monster pitcher” who faced South Korea at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has finally accomplished the feat of becoming the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history to win four titles in three consecutive years.
The 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) pennant race wrapped up the day before on Tuesday, with the Chiba Lotte and Rakuten Golden Eagles facing off.
Individual title winners were also crowned. The most notable was Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a starting pitcher for the Oryx Buffaloes.
Yamamoto started all 23 games this season, posting a 16-6 record with a 1.21 ERA. In 164 total innings pitched, he faced 636 batters, allowing 117 hits (two home runs), 169 walks, 28 strikeouts, six hit batsmen, 27 runs (22 earned), a batting average of 0.198 and a WHIP of 0.88. He had a 91.3% quality start rate (6 innings pitched with 3 earned runs or less).
Along with Yamamoto’s stellar performance, the Orix won the Pacific League with a dominant 86-53 record (0.619 winning percentage) and won their third straight league title. They have 15.5 games in hand over second-place Chiba Lotte and 27.5 games in hand over the league’s last-place Nihon Ham Fighters. At the other end of the spectrum, the Central League was won by the Hanshin Tigers (85 wins, 53 losses).
Yamamoto finished first in every major pitching category, including wins, ERA, strikeouts, and winning percentage. Yamamoto is the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history to win four titles in three consecutive seasons. He is five wins ahead of Sachiya Yamasaki (Orix) and Kaima Taira (Seibu Lions), who are tied for second in the wins category with 11 wins apiece. Yamamoto is also the only pitcher to have a 1:1 earned run average, and he leads the league in strikeouts by 12 over second-place Atsuki Taneichi (Chiba Lotte).
Yamamoto is one of the most accomplished pitchers in Japanese professional baseball, not to mention the Orix. The South Korean national baseball team has gone head-to-head with Yamamoto before. It was two years ago at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Yamamoto impressed in his start against South Korea, going 5⅓ innings (94 pitches) with five hits, nine strikeouts, one walk, and two runs (two earned). He throws a fastball that reaches over 155 kilometers per hour and a super-fast forkball and slider that reaches 140 kilometers per hour. It was encouraging to see Lee Jung-hoo record a multi-hit game against Yamamoto, while Heo Kyung-min, Park Hae-min, and Kang Baek-ho also had hits.
Yamamoto, who made his professional debut with the Oryx in 2017, went 4-2 in 2018 and 8-2 in 2019 and 2020 before winning his first four titles in 2021 with 레고토토 an 18-5 record, a 1.39 ERA, and a 0.783 winning percentage. He followed that up with a 15-5 record, 1.68 ERA, and 0.750 winning percentage in 2022, his second consecutive four-peat. This season, he won his third consecutive title, finishing first in all four categories. Earlier, Yamamoto won the Sawamura Award, which recognizes the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball, for the second year in a row.
The Japanese stage is small for Yamamoto