Saturday, October 3, 2015

Shogo Akiyama's historic season ends with the hits record

Shogo Akiyama recorded an NPB record with 216 hits in a single season, taking it to the 143rd game at the end of the season.

He reached on an infield single where Eiichi Koyano would clutch before his throw to first. He would later pad his hits number with a gapper in the ninth inning.

The 2015 season has been remarkable for Akiyama, where he was primed for a breakout season in both 2013 and 2014. He came into 2015 with a different approach as the leadoff hitter while previously batting sixth.

Akiyama showed a tendency to want to swing for the single, but wasn't obsessed with getting hits by swinging outside the zone. In the midst of his 31-game hitting streak, in a game against Rakuten it would be snapped where he would walk and extend the inning before Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would end it with a sayonara.

With this career season, Akiyama would have highs in average (.359), stolen bases (17), home runs (14), triples (10), runs (108), slugging percentage (.522), and on-base percentage (.419). He would even lower his strikeout numbers to only 78 in 2015, contrary to when he had 89 and 98 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Initially he didn't look like he was on pace to make it, but going 5-5 with two walks in seven at-bats against the Orix Buffaloes on September 30 had him tie Matt Murton's record. While we cannot compare Murton and Akiyama's number to what Ichiro Suzuki accomplished in 1994 (210 hits), it is still a great accomplishment.

Ichiro played less games than Akiyama back then and both players had their own unique style. Akiyama remained patient but would seize a pitch when he saw it this year. At age 27, he most likely doesn't have MLB potential but repeating a similar season like 2015 could draws the eyes of some scouts.

According to John Gibson of One World Sports, one Major League front office executive likes his plate discipline. This 2015 season could be a fluke if he goes back to hitting .275 or below, but right now, he took a giant leap with a great season as the batting champion. 

Akiyama was interviewed after the final game in Osaka during the 4-1 loss to Orix. Here is a transcript of the conversation with the help of our interpreter, @Maple_Ash.

Q: How did you feel when you established a new NPB record?

Shogo Akiyama: "After the game, many people praised [and applauded] me. I'm very glad."


Q: How did you feel when you recorded the record-breaking 215th hit?

SA: My feeling wasn't so good. But we lost the [game] anyway. I only wanted to get on base [and] hit the ball [well]. And this came by pure chance. It was lucky. I watched only [Eiichi] Koyano's catch and felt I would be out. But I ran [with] all my strength [and made it] in time [as] the umpire said 'safe'. After that play, [I saw that] Koyano [gripped the ball] again. I [confirmed from looking at the scoreboard] and knew I was safe. It was good."


Q: Was [was going through your mind before the 216th hit] Mr. Akiyama?

SA: "I was cornered in count and [was] the first batter and had to score 4 runs [being down 4-0]. With the same [feeling] of 115th hit, I stepped into the batter box in order to get on base no matter what. I wanted to hit a ball, even [hit it foul]. And I could fly a ball forward by chance."


 Q: Who supported you to achieve your new record? 

SA: "To record such a lot of hits, I needed [a lot more plate appearances]. During this year, I accomplished [this] without injures. I owe my achievement to not only my manager [Norio Tanabe and] coaches, but also our scorers and trainers. Besides my teammates [who gave me] many [at bats]."

"I [look back on] this season deeply grateful [for] my teammates and fans. Please look back [at] this season objectively. Not [to be] finished [with] this season, but it's difficult to look back it. But it's a honor to look [at] my name over the various players of experience in baseball. [I'm also] a little shy [and] I don't really feel that I established a new record yet."


Q: Do you have any innermost secrets or thoughts from this whole season? 

SA: "[It wasn't easy to record this accomplishment]. Without various supporters' cooperation, I wouldn't have succeeded. I don't [know] if I have gotten them now. There are [still] games [ahead]. And after next year, if I won't be able to get such [a similar] result, I won't be able to say about [my] innermost secrets."


Q: What is your next goal? 

SA: "[The] regular season [is] finished. Though it depends on the results of the [Chiba Lotte Marines], during this week we will prepare for Climax Series with all our strength. And waiting is the only thing we can do. Without neglect of our preparation, we [will] wait [for] good news in the belief that we would succeed."


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