The excellence of Japanese baseball, which won the World Baseball Classic (WBC) 7 times, is painful to say. Murakami Munetaka (Yakult Swallows), who hit 56 homers, proudly said after winning the WBC, “There is no difference between major leagues in Japan and the US.”
However, it seems that there is still a difference in level between the Japanese and American major leagues. The proof is that outfielder Akiyama Shogo (35, Hiroshima Toyo Carp), who returned to Japan after a disastrous failure in the major leagues, has splendidly revived this season.
In the home game against the Yakult Swallows held at Matsuda Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima, 메이저놀이터Japan on the 15th, Akiyama started as a third hitter in center field and hit 3 hits and 2 RBIs in 5 at-bats, including a two-run home run to end the 9th inning, leading Yakult to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory. led
Akiyama, who recorded multiple hits with a right-handed hit in the 3rd inning and a left-handed hit in the 7th, became a hero in the last at-bat in the ninth inning, trailing 3-4. In the 2nd and 1st base, Yakult lefty finisher Kazuto Taguchi pushed the slider outside the first pitch and crossed the left fence. The first home run of this season ended the thrilling turnaround.
Until this day, Akiyama has a batting average of .468 with .468 slugging percentage of .636 OPS with 1 home run, 9 RBIs, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts in 12 games of the season. He ranks first in the Central League in hits, second in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and third in RBI. It’s still early in the season, but it announced a revival with one of the best results in the league.
Akiyama is a failed player in the major leagues. After debuting at Seibu in 2011, he played an active role in Japan until 2019 with a total of 1207 games, a batting average of 30%, 1405 hits, 116 homers, 513 RBIs and 112 stolen bases. In 2015, Japan recorded the most hits in a season with 216 hits and became the batting king, and it was a hitting machine that shone with the most hits for three consecutive years.
In January 2020, he entered the major leagues with a three-year, $21 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds, but failed completely. For two years from 2020 to 2021, it was sluggish with a batting average of 242 games (71 hits in 317 bats), no homers, 21 RBIs, and an OPS of .594 in 142 games. In Japan, he had 20 home runs three times, including the most 25 home runs in a season (2017), but he couldn’t pass any of them in the major leagues.
Last year, even in the demonstration game, it failed to show the possibility of a rebound, and Cincinnati released Akiyama ahead of the opening on the condition that he pay the remaining annual salary of $ 8 million. Afterwards, Akiyama, who signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres but did not receive a call-up to the big leagues, returned to Japan in June of last year. After his return, Akiyama said, “I could see my skills. He said that it was not the superiority and inferiority of American and Japanese baseball, but the major leagues were different.”
Akiyama, who wore a Hiroshima uniform with a three-year contract, fell short of expectations last year with a batting average of .265 (41 hits in 155 at-bats), 5 homers, 26 RBIs and an OPS of .746 in 44 games. However, Akiyama, who maintained an annual salary of 150 million yen this year, has been hot from the start, and Hiroshima is also tied for second place in the Central League at the beginning of the season with 7 wins and 5 losses.