Shohei Ohtani became the first Japanese player to lead a U.S. major league in home runs, capturing the American League home run title with 44 on Oct. 1, the last day of the regular season.
The two-way star achieved the feat despite playing in just 135 games before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery last month.
He is the first Japanese player to win an MLB batting crown since 2004, when Ichiro Suzuki led both leagues in batting average – his second AL batting average title as a Seattle Mariner.
“Thinking about the great Japanese players who have played in the U.S. major leagues until now, it’s both humbling and a great honor. I’m grateful to my teammates and fans,” Ohtani said in a statement.
Ohtani, who on Sept. 30 was named the Los Angeles Angels’ team MVP for the third straight season, is the overwhelming favorite to be named this year’s AL MVP for the second time.
He posted a .304 batting average, a .412 on-base percentage and a .654 slugging average, all highs in his six-year MLB career. He went 10-5 as a pitcher with a 3.14 ERA and struck out 167 batters in 132 innings, and is expected to sign a record contract as an MLB free agent over the winter. (Kyodo)