Shogo Akiyama won the Pacific League hitting MVP for the second time this year, beating out Yuki Yanagita of Softbank for the month of June award. He previously won this award for the month of March/April and is in the hunt to be the batting champion.
In the month of June, Akiyama hit .448 with an on base percentage of .495. He had a hit in every game with the exception of June 2 against the Chunichi Dragons.
"I didn't think I'd be able to receive the [Pacific League] MVP award in June because I received it once [in April]," Akiyama said in reaction as translated by @Maple_Ash.
Akiyama has been one of the most consistent hitters for the Lions and by hitting leadoff, he gets the most at bats among players in NPB. Yanagita might have been more deserving with his ability for his pop, but there is no denying that both players were worthy of this award.
Softbank's 1B Lee Dae-Ho beat out Ikuhiro Kiyota of Chiba for the Pacific League hitting MVP for the month of May.
It's been an interesting journey for Akiyama, as he had a down season hitting .259 in 2014. He was even batting sixth in the lineup throughout the year, as it wasn't a fun season for the Lions finishing fifth. Akiyama became the second player in NPB history to have back to back months of 40 hits or more, a distinction that Ichiro Suzuki once had.
As Jim Allen of Kyodo News wrote, Akiyama has been padding some of his stats on more inferior pitchers, while Yanagita hasn't had as significant of a drop.
From observation, Akiyama has been playing to slice the ball and hit for the singles most recently. He's done a good job at finding the gaps in the infield or creating a soft liner for a base hit. Last night against the Orix Buffaloes, he extended his hitting streak to 28 games with a solo home run in the ninth inning.
While this pace of hitting .370 throughout the whole year might be unsustainable, Akiyama and Yanagita are both chasing history towards Matt Murton's single season NPB record of 214 hits. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but we here at Graveyard Baseball are thankful that Akiyama has given us something to enjoy.
"There were few games in June [that] I could pile up many hits," Akiyama said. "So June became a good month for me. In March and April, I worked furiously. And that made me realize [I was] a little fatigue. I thought my conditioning [was] inferior to that of April. Though I don't intend to change [my conditions] every month, some things happened to occur at the same time."
Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall