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[NPB NOTEBOOK] Can Munetaka Murakami Bounce Back? Will the Giants Rebound Under Shinnosuke Abe?

As the new NPB season approaches, there are plenty of interesting storylines to follow, including how the reigning champion Hanshin Tigers play from the get-go.



Tokyo Yakult Swallows slugger Munetaka Murakami takes a swing during a spring training workout in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture, on February 3, 2024. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [NPB NOTEBOOK] Can Munetaka Murakami Bounce Back? Will the Giants Rebound Under Shinnosuke Abe?

There will be plenty of intriguing storylines as we enter the new NPB season, which kicks off on March 29.

Among those is how will the Yomiuri Giants perform under new manager Shinnosuke Abe? How will the Orix Buffaloes adjust in the absence of ace pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto? And will the Japan Series champion Hanshin Tigers be able to repeat?

Another question fans will be asking entering the season is this: Can Munetaka Murakami bounce back from, at least by his standards, a modest 2023 campaign?

Murakami was on top of the baseball world in 2022 when he led the Central League with 56 home runs, 134 RBIs and a .318 batting average to win the Triple Crown while helping his Tokyo Yakult Swallows to a second straight Central League pennant.

After that, he received a three-year contract and spoke of possibly moving to Major League Baseball when it expired.

Murakami played for Japan at the 2023 World Baseball Classic in March. While he struggled at the plate early on in the tournament, he came alive late with a semifinal-winning ninth-inning double and a game-tying homer in the final that helped Japan win the title.

Munetaka Murakami fields a grounder on February 7. (KYODO)

Murakami Targets Another Triple Crown

Whether it was a post-WBC hangover or a nagging injury is unclear, but Murakami struggled once the 2023 regular season started and the Swallows finished a disappointing fifth.

In 2023, Murakami hit 31 regular season homers and drove in 84 runs, 50 fewer than the previous year. While those numbers aren't bad, they seemed anticlimactic for the 24-year-old slugger.

Now in spring training for the Swallows, Murakami is vowing to get back to his 2022 form.

"I want to win another Triple Crown," Murakami was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "And, if I am able, I think the team can win another pennant."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.


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