Monday, October 24, 2016

Former Pittsburgh Pirate Kris Johnson wins Sawamura Award as Japan's top pitcher.

Kris Johnson, who pitched briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, won the Eiji Sawamura Award today as Japan's top pitcher in 2016. From Kyodo News:
Johnson became the first foreign-born winner of the award for the best starting pitcher since Hanshin Tigers right-hander Gene Bacque won in 1964, and the first since 1981 not to lead his league in a major pitching category.

"It's a huge honor," Johnson said at Sapporo Dome, where the Carp were preparing for Game 3 of the Japan Series against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

"I'd be lying if I said I can take all the credit myself. I've had a great bunch of guys behind me all year and especially behind the plate (catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara). A lot of the credit has to go to him."

Johnson's selection for the honor was not without opposition in a season in which no pitcher came close to meeting the two most outdated benchmarks used to evaluate the candidates most comparable to prewar Tokyo (Yomiuri) Giants ace Eiji Sawamura.

Every one of the five former pitching greats on the committee, chaired by former Giants ace Tsuneo Horiuchi, considered not selecting anyone at all. But Horiuchi said times were changing and that was hardly the pitchers' fault.

Johnson met four of the seven criteria the committee uses -- 25 games, 15 wins, a 2.50 ERA and a .600 winning percentage. He pitched in 26 games, went 15-7 with a 2.15 ERA, both second best in Nippon Professional Baseball, while posting a .682 winning percentage
Johnson, 32, appeared in four games for Pittsburgh in 2013 and three for Minnesota the following year.