Japan’s top left-handed pitching prospect who dominated Korean baseball gets a 100% pay raise

Left-hander Chihiro Sumida (24-Seibu Lions), who anchored the South Korean batting lineup in the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC), has secured a significant pay raise in his third year as a professional.

Japanese media outlets such as Full Count reported that Sumida signed a contract for the 2024 season for 40 million yen (approximately $353 million), doubling his salary from 20 million yen (approximately $177 million) this season. Unlike the KBO, the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league does not publish official salaries for its players, but estimates from Japanese media are usually in line with what players actually receive.

Born in 1999, Sumida was drafted by the Seibu Lions with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NPB Rookie Draft after graduating from West Nippon Institute of Technology. Upon joining the organization, he was expected to inherit the No. 16 jersey of Yusei Kikuchi (32-Toronto Blue Jays), who went on to win 73 games in his career with Seibu and reached the Major Leagues.

Sumida immediately established himself as the team’s starter in his professional debut. Since his rookie year in 2022, he has pitched 81⅔ innings in 16 games for the first team. He didn’t have much offensive support, going just 1-10, but he did have a respectable 3.75 ERA.

In his second year, the 2023 season, he stepped up his game. In 22 games and 131 innings, he went 9-10 with a 3.44 ERA. He also showed off his powerful stuff, striking out 128 batters.

After the season, Sumida was named to the Japan National Team for the 2023 APBC at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. He took the mound in the second game of the group stage against South Korea and threw a seven-inning, three-hit shutout with one walk and seven strikeouts, smothering Ryu Joong-il’s Korean bats. He only needed 77 pitches. He could have gone the distance, but with a 2-0 lead in the game, he turned the mound over to the bullpen in the eighth inning.

Sumida used a mid-90s fastball, a splitter, a changeup, and a variety of other pitches to shake up the Korean hitters’ timing. The Korean lineup of Kim Hye-sung, Kim Do-young, Yoon Dong-hee, Noh Si-hwan, Moon Hyun-bin, Kim Hyung-joon, Kim Joo-won, Park Seung-kyu, and Choi Ji-hoon were unable to capitalize on Sumida. With Sumida on the mound, it was a frustratingly slow start to the game.

Lee Yi-ri (22-KIA Tigers), Korea’s starter against Japan, pitched six innings of one-run ball, one hit, three walks and three strikeouts, but was overshadowed by Sumida’s dominance. It was a game that confirmed the quality of Japan’s top left-handed prospect.

The magnitude of Sumida’s performance against South Korea in the group stage was underscored by the fact that South Korea later scored two runs on five hits and two walks in the fourth inning against Tatsuya Imai (25-Seibu Lions), who went 10-5 with a 2.30 ERA in 19 games and 133 innings this season in the 2023 APBC Finals.

After the group stage loss to Japan, Ryu Jung-il said, “The other pitcher (Chihiro Sumida) threw the ball so easily. He throws strikes, balls, and then throws forks for strikes. “He had five or six pitches, and he has the ability to throw strikes with all of them. He’s not an easy pitcher to hit. Like I said, it was better than the video. His pitches were well executed,” he praised.

“It was my first international start,” Sumida said. I went to the mound thinking I had to do what I had to do, and I wasn’t nervous.” “I was facing a batter I hadn’t seen before, and all I could do was throw strikes. It was good to be able to pitch with rhythm,” he said of his experience against the Korean hitters.

Off the field, Sumida also made a strong impression on Korea and its fans. In the top of the fifth inning of Japan’s 2-0 win over South Korea in the group stage, he took off his hat and gestured apologetically to Kim Joo-won, who was in pain after being hit by a pitch.

“I think it was a hard pitch, and I’m very sorry that the other player was in pain,” Sumida said of Kim’s pitch, and then apologized again through a Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) official. Sumida later visited Kim in person before the APBC final to apologize again, creating a heartwarming scene.

“Sumida pitched a dominant game in the APBC Korea and was selected to the best nine of the tournament,” Full Count explained, “and he also played in the starting rotation for his team, including his first complete game of the season.”

“I want to be one of the best pitchers in the game. I’m confident in my changeup and want to go to the next level as a pitcher,” Sumida said after signing a contract for the 2024 season, according to Full Count.

Tatsuya Imai also finalized his contract for the 2024 season for 80 million yen (approximately $700 million), a 35 million yen increase from his 45 million yen (approximately $398 million) salary this season. 캡틴토토

Imai said, “I am satisfied with my performance this season. I feel confident as we prepare for next season, but we need to set our sights higher,” Imai said.

Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions are led by Kazuo Matsui, 48, a legendary shortstop in Japanese baseball. The Lions finished the 2023 season with a record of 65 wins, 77 losses, and one tie, finishing fifth in the Pacific League and missing the postseason. Their last Japanese Series title dates back to 2008.

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