Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shoki Murakami and Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto were named Japanese pro baseball's MVPs on Tuesday.
Yamamoto became the first player since Ichiro Suzuki to win three straight MVP awards, while Murakami also won CL Rookie of the Year honors. Orix pitcher Shumpeita Yamashita was named the PL's top rookie.
The 25-year-old Yamamoto led the PL in wins, winning percentage, strikeouts, and ERA for the past three seasons, when he was also voted the winner of the Sawamura Award as Japan's most impressive starting pitcher.
He went 16-6 this year with a career-low 1.21 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 164 innings. Murakami, also 25, led the CL with a 1.75 ERA and went 10-6.
Yamamoto received 259 of a total number of 267 first-place votes cast by veteran members of Japan's baseball media. Each first-, second-, and third-place vote has a point value of five, three and one, respectively.
"I can't quite say I left everything out there on the field, but I've had a terrific journey in pro baseball," said Yamamoto, who is currently seeking a contract with an MLB team via the posting system.
"I'm very happy because it's important to me to continue to contribute."
Yamamoto joins Suzuki and pitcher Hisashi Yamada as the third winner of three straight MVPs. Yamada played for the Hankyu Braves, who were taken over by Orix after the 1988 season, and for whom Suzuki won his three MVPs from 1994 to 1996.
"He is a legend of the franchise," Yamamoto said of the former MLB star. "I'm happy to have done the same as him. Everyone looks up to him, and I'm one of those."
Murakami, who was not surprised by winning top rookie honors, received 85 of the 306 first-place votes for the CL MVP, with three Tigers teammates each receiving more than 50.
"I didn't imagine I'd win both," he said. "I didn't think I'd win the MVP from among so many good players. I want to strive to achieve even better results."
Rookie Yamashita was Orix's Opening Day starter and posted a 9-3 record with a 1.61 ERA.