Seiichi Uchikawa (内川 聖一)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 181 lb.
- High School Oita Technical High School
Seiichi Uchikawa won batting titles in both of Japan's top leagues and won a MVP award in 2011.
Uchikawa was a first-round draft pick out of high school by the Yokohama BayStars. He went 0 for 2 with a run in 2001. In 42 games in 2002, he showed good promise with a .333/.371/.515 batting line at age 21. His first hit was on April 24 against Eddie Guardado. He was one of several backups to Hitoshi Taneda at second base.
In 2003, Uchikawa played 45 games and hit .313/.335/.427 as the third-string second baseman to Shuichi Murata and Taneda. He batted .287/.322/.476 with 17 home runs in 94 games in 2004. He finished 4th on the BayStars in homers while serving as the club's primary second baseman.
Uchikawa batted .274/.332/.385 in 90 games in 2005. Moved to the outfield, he backed up Masaaki Koike in left field and came off the bench as a pinch-hitter regularly. The better-fielding Taneda replaced him at second.
Uchikawa rotated between second base (60 games), first base (43 games) and the outfield (12 games) in 2006, hitting .286/.329/.363 in 124 games. He was Yokohama's best base-stealer, going 8 for 11 on the basepaths; Takuro Ishii stole four more but was caught stealing eight more times. Moved to right field in 2007, Uchikawa produced a a .279/.337/.457 batting line in 82 games.
Moved to first base full-time in 2008, Uchikawa had a huge season, hitting .378/.416/.540 with 37 doubles, 14 homers and 83 runs. He led the Central League in average (.031 ahead of Norichika Aoki, doubles, hits (189, 4 ahead of Kenta Kurihara) and OBP (.003 ahead of Aoki). He was 7th in the CL in runs, 7th in total bases (270) and 5th in slugging. He made his first All-Star team and went 4 for 5 in the 2nd All-Star Game. He broke Bobby Rose's 9-year-old record of .369 for the best average by a right-handed hitter in CL history. Uchikawa made the Best Nine at first base, beating out MVP runner-up Michihiro Ogasawara by a wide margin. He finished 4th in voting for the 2008 Central League Most Valuable Player Award behind Alex Ramirez, Ogasawara and Seth Greisinger.
Uchikawa was a productive part-time player for Samurai Japan when they won the 2009 World Baseball Classic; he appeared in left field, at first base and at DH. He went 6 for 18 with 2 walks, a double, homer, 3 runs and 4 RBI, posting a better OPS than any Japanese regular except Hiroyuki Nakajima. His 2-run homer off Won-sam Jang was the lone Japanese circuit clout in their games in the US. In the finale, Uchikawa scored twice in Japan's 5-3 win over South Korea. He got the winning run in the 10th, opening with a single off Chang-yong Lim and coming home on a Ichiro Suzuki hit.
In the summer of 2009, Uchikawa batted .318/.369/.491 with 32 doubles and 17 home runs. He made his second straight All-Star team and Best Nine (this time as an outfielder alongside Aoki and Ramirez). He made the CL top 10 in average (2nd, 4 points behind leader Ramirez), doubles (tied for 5th with Takahiro Arai), hits (160, 6th between Aoki and Ogasawara), total bases (247, 9th), double play grounders (16, tied for 4th with Kazuhiro Wada), OBP (6th between Masahiko Morino and Tomoaki Kanemoto) and slugging (9th, between Morino and Hayato Sakamoto).
He remained steady at .315/.371/.438 in 2010, the big slugging drop-off coming as his homer total fell from 17 to 9. He still had 36 doubles and 75 runs. He was among the CL leaders in average (6th between Morino and Arai), hits (182, 3rd behind Matt Murton and Arai), doubles (4th), triples (tied for 8th with 4) and double play ground balls (17). He just missed the top 10 in OBP, 3 points behind #10 Jun Hirose.
A free agent, he signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks for 2011. He hit .338/.371/.485, becoming the second player to win both CL and Pacific League batting titles (Shinichi Eto had done it in 1964 and 1965 in the CL and 1971 in the PL). He finished 19 points ahead of batting average runner-up Yoshio Itoi, was 7th in RBI (74, between Jose Fernandez and Tadahito Iguchi), tied for 9th in home runs (only 12, but power numbers were down across Japan as a new baseball was being used), total bases (208, 10th), sacrifice flies (7, tied for 4th), slugging (3rd behind Takeya Nakamura and Nobuhiro Matsuda) and OBP (5th, between Nakamura and Yuichi Honda). Softbank then won the 2011 Japan Series but lost the 2011 Asia Series to Korea's Samsung Lions Despite only leading in one department, Uchikawa won the 2011 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award pretty handily (120 of 214 first-place votes, 77 ahead of runner-up Masahiro Tanaka and 757 vote points, 343 ahead of Tanaka). He was the first position player to win the PL MVP in five years, after pitchers Tsuyoshi Wada (2010, Yu Darvish (2007, 2009) and Hisashi Iwakuma (2008). The last position player to win had been Ogasawara, another player who had successfully switched leagues.
Uchikawa batted .300/.342/.392 and fielded .996 in 2012. He was 4th in average (between Itoi and Kensuke Tanaka) and led with 157 hits (two ahead of Itoi and Nakajima). He was picked to the Best Nine alongside Itoi and Katsuya Kakunaka.
In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Uchikawa hit third and played right field for Japan, which failed to repeat as champions, falling in the semifinals. He hit .348/.400/.525 with 4 runs and 4 RBI in six games; he cracked a 3-run dinger off Rob Cordemans of the Netherlands. Overall, he was second on Japan in average (behind Hirokazu Ibata) and hits, tied Takashi Toritani for second in OBP among the regulars and was 4th in OPS after Ibata, Shinnosuke Abe and Itoi. In the semifinals, he was 2 for 4 in a 3-1 loss to Puerto Rico. With one out and one on in the bottom of the 8th, he singled off Randy Fontanez. On an ensuing attempted double steal, though, Ibata retreated back to 2B quickly while Uchikawa kept on going and was caught in a run-down; Uchikawa blamed himself for the team's loss due to the baserunning miscue, even though he had been one of their better batters.
For the regular season in 2013, the veteran produced at a .316/.377/.477 clip with 19 HR and 92 RBI and made no errors in 177 chances. He was 6th in average (between Hideto Asamura and Akira Nakamura), 8th in slugging (between Dae-ho Lee and Itoi), 10th in runs (76), second in hits (180, 18 behind Yuya Hasegawa), tied with Itoi for second with 33 doubles (5 behind Asamura), tied Hasegawa for 9th in dingers, was 5th in RBI (behind Asamura, Michel Abreu, Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee), led with 23 double play grounders, was third with 272 total bases (after Asamura and Hasegawa) and tied for third with 12 HBP (with Kazuya Fujita and Daichi Suzuki). He joined Sho Nakata and Hasegawa on the Best Nine, his 5th time being selected.
The year he turned 32, Uchikawa batted .310/.355/.479 with 26 doubles, 18 home runs and 74 RBI in 2014 and again made no errors (102 chances, this time splitting time between DH and OF). He was 5th in the PL in average (between Nakata and Lee), 7th in slugging (between Takahiro Okada and Nakata), 6th in RBI and tied for 10th in home runs with Matsuda. He then excelled in the 2014 Japan Series, going 7 for 20 with two doubles and three RBI as Softbank beat the Hanshin Tigers in five games. He was named Series MVP.