Darvish, former big leaguer Ramirez win MVP honors in Japan

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darvish.jpg23-year-old Nippon Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish and Venezuelan outfielder Alex Ramirez took home the Japanese league MVP awards on Wednesday.
Darvish, who probably qualifies as one of the world’s top 10 pitchers, earned the Pacific League honor despite making just 23 starts this season. He went 15-5 with a 1.73 ERA and a 167/45 K/BB ratio in 182 innings. As spectacular as he was, his performance can’t be regarded as much more valuable than that Hideaki Wakui, who went 16-6 with a 2.30 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 211 2/3 innings for Seibu.
Also making a case for the award was Seibu third baseman Takeya Nakamura, who hit 48 homers to lead the league by nine. He hit .285/.359/.651 overall. Outfielder Teppei Tsuchiya was the league’s leading hitter, coming in at .327/.391/.504 with 13 steals.
Ramirez won a second straight Central League MVP despite finishing with slightly weaker numbers than teammate Michihiro Ogasawara. Ramirez came in at .322/.347/.544 with 31 homers and 103 RBI, while Osagawara hit .309/.384/.543 with 31 homers and 107 RBI.
Ramirez played in the majors for the Indians and Pirates in from 1998-2000, hitting .259/.293/.437 with 12 homers in 332 at-bats. The outfielder is up to 287 homers in nine seasons in Japan.
The Central League’s top pitcher was 24-year-old Wei-Ying Chen. In his first full year in the rotation, he went 8-4 with a 1.54 ERA and four shutouts in 24 starts. Former major leaguer Dicky Gonzalez finished third in the league with a 2.11 ERA.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: