Munetaka Murakami

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Munetaka Murakami (村上 宗隆)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Munetaka Murakami won Rookie of the Year and MVP in Japan, then set the single-season record for most homers by a Japanese player in NPB. He was the youngest Japanese player to 100 career home runs and won an Olympic Gold Medal.

He hit 52 homers in high school. [1] The Yakult Swallows, Yomiuri Giants and Rakuten Golden Eagles all went for him in the first round of the 2017 NPB draft after all three lost out on Kotaro Kiyomiya; Yakult won the lottery. [2] He went 1 for 12 with two walks and a homer in 2018, going deep off Akitake Okada. He spent most of the year in the minors, batting .288/.389/.490 with 17 HR and 70 RBI in 98 games. He tied Kiyomiya for 2nd in the Eastern League in dingers and was 2nd to Ren Wada in RBI.

He was a regular for the Swallows in 2019, alternating between first base (.995 in 124 G) and third base (.857 in 28 G). He hit .231/.332/.481 with 36 home runs, 74 walks and 96 RBI. The youngster finished third in the CL in circuit clouts (behind Neftali Soto and MVP Hayato Sakamoto), 3rd in RBI (after Soto and Tetsuto Yamada) and 10th in slugging (between Kazuma Okamoto and Jose Lopez). He was 0 for 4 with 3 whiffs in 2019 NPB All-Star Game 1 but 2 for 2 in Game 2. [3] He set a record for homers by a teenager. [4] He won the 2019 Central League Rookie of the Year Award, getting 168 votes to 139 from Koji Chikamoto. [5]

Murakami had no sophomore slump - he did even better in 2020, improving his contact drastically to bat .307/.427/.585 with 30 doubles, 28 home runs, 86 RBI and 87 walks, also stealing 12 bases in 17 tries. He was again all over the leaderboards, making the top ten in more categories: average (5th, between Yohei Oshima and Shuhei Takahashi), OBP (1st, .003 ahead of Nori Aoki, slugging (1st, .025 ahead of Yusuke Ohyama), OPS (1st, 31 ahead of Aoki), runs (70, 5th, between Okamoto and Ohyama), hits (130, 5th), doubles (tied Aoki for 2nd, one behind Yoshihiro Maru), homers (tied Ohyama for 2nd, 3 behind Okamoto), RBI (2nd, 11 behind Okamoto), steals (tied Naoki Yoshikawa for 8th), walks (1st, 15 ahead of Seiya Suzuki), total bases (248, 1st, 8 ahead of Okamoto) and intentional walks (12, 1st, 3 ahead of Okamoto). He was named to the Best Nine as the CL's top first baseman. [6] He was 11th in voting for the 2020 Central League Most Valuable Player Award. [7]

In 2021 NPB All-Star Game 1, he backed up Jefry Marté at first base for the CL, flying out against Chihaya Sasaki. [8] In Game 2, he hit cleanup and played the whole game at third base, but went 0 for 4 in a 4-3 loss. [9] He then played for Japan in the Tokyo Olympics (though the baseball portion was not held in Tokyo, the finals taking place in Yokohama). He hit 8th and played third in the opener against Bronze Medal-bound Dominican Republic, playing a role in 3 of their 4 runs in a 4-3 win. He grounded in Hideto Asamura (against Luis Castillo in the 7th for the first Japanese run. Down 3-1 in the 9th, he singled off Jairo Asencio to plate Yuki Yanagita then later that inning was driven in by Sakamoto with the winning run. His third-inning homer off Team USA's Nick Martinez in the Gold Medal game was the winning hit in a 2-0 victory as Japan got their first baseball Gold in an Olympics. He had hit .333/.474/.533 with six runs and four walks in five games, handling six error-free chances, mostly at 3B. He tied Danny Valencia and Hyun-soo Kim for second in the Games in runs, one behind Hae-min Park. He also tied for 4th in walks and tied Mitch Glasser for 3rd in OBP. [10] When he hit his 100th career home run, off Kouya Takahashi, he was the youngest player in NPB annals to that figure. [11] He finished the year at .278/.408/.566 with 82 runs, 27 doubles, 39 home runs, 112 RBI and 106 walks while going 12-for-19 in steal attempts. Back at third base as his primary position, he fielded .957 there (he also saw some action at 1B). He was 2nd in the 2021 CL in OBP (.028 behind Suzuki), 2nd in slugging (.073 behind Suzuki, though Tyler Austin was ahead of him and nearly qualified), 2nd in OPS (obviously behind Suzuki; same caveat regarding Austin), 4th in runs, 8th in hits, tied Shuhei Takahashi for 8th in doubles, tied Okamoto for the home run lead, 2nd in RBI (one behind Okamoto), tied Masayuki Kuwahara for 7th in steals, led in walks (19 ahead of Suzuki) and led in total bases (283, 5 ahead of Suzuki). [12] He tied Yukihiko Machida as the youngest CL home run leader; Machida had done it 66 years prior. [13] In the 2021 Japan Series, his two-run homer off the Orix Buffaloes' Tyler Higgins put Yakult up 3-1 in the 8th but they failed to hold on in Game 1. He finished the Series with a batting line of .217/.280/.565, having added a second homer. He tied Domingo Santana for the Series home run lead and the Swallows won their first Japan Series in 20 years. [14] After the Series ended, he took home some hardware, winning the Best Nine at 3B [15] and being the runaway winner of the 2021 CL MVP, with 287 of 306 first-place votes (teammate Noboru Shimizu was next at 7) and 1,472 vote points (teammate Yamada was next with 348). [16]

The Kumamoto native hit cleanup and played third in both 2022 NPB All-Star Games. In Game 1, he flew out against Tomohisa Ohzeki and struck out facing Takahiro Norimoto then was replaced by Kaito Kozono. In Game 2, he singled off Roki Sasaki in the first then added another single in the third before being replaced by Shogo Sakakura. [17] On August 2, 2022, he became the first player in NPB history to homer in five consecutive at-bats. He had gone deep in his final three at-bats on July 31st, then began that day's game by homering his first two times up in a 5-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons. He had been the 21st player to homer in four straight at-bats when he connected in the 1st inning, before claiming the record for himself in the 3rd. He tried for another long ball in the 6th, but doubled and scored instead. [18] That was typical of a season in which, with 17 games to play, he was one home run away from Sadaharu Oh's mythic record of hitting 55 homers in a season, the most by a Japanese player (but not the NPB record, as Wladimir Balentien hit 60 in 2013). By hitting two homers on September 13th, he tied Oh's record. He then went into a prolonged home run slump and did not hit #56 until the final game of the season, against the Yokohama DeNA BayStars on October 3rd. The record-setting blast came in the 7th inning off Taisei Irie, a towering shot to right field. [19] He finished the '22 season at .318/.458/.711 with 114 runs, 134 RBI and 118 walks. He won the batting title (.004 ahead of Oshima) to go with his home run (a whopping 26 ahead of Okamoto) and RBI titles (47 more than runners-up Ohyama and Shugo Maki) for a Triple Crown. He was only the third CL Triple Crown winner, following Oh ('73-'74) and Randy Bass ('85-'86). [20] He was also tied for 4th in hits (with Sakakura), 1st in runs (31 ahead of teammate Yasutaka Shiomi), 8th in steals (12), 1st in walks (38 more than Maru), 1st in OBP (.082 ahead of Oshima) and 1st in slugging (.203 ahead of Maki). He was the unanimous winner of the 2022 CL MVP, getting all 299 votes. He was the first unanimous winner in the CL since Oh in 1977). He had 1,495 vote points, to 149 for #2 Koyo Aoyagi. [21] Surprisingly, he was not a unanimous pick for the Best Nine at 3B - Toshiro Miyazaki got one vote. [22] The 2022 Japan Series was a rematch of 2021. He homered off Yoshihisa Hirano in the opener but hit only .192/.344/.385 in the Series, albeit with five RBI in seven games, as Yakult failed to repeat. It was the one bad part of a stellar year. [23]


Further Reading[edit]

  • "Baseball: Munetaka Murakami makes home run history in Swallows' win", The Mainichi, August 2, 2022. [1]
  • Jon Paul Morosi: "It's not just Judge: Slugger chasing HR record an ocean away",, September 13, 2022. [2]
  • Henry Palattella: "Swallows star Murakami makes home run history: 22-year-old sets single-season HR record by a Japanese-born player in NPB, with No. 56",, October 3, 2022. [3]

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