Closer look at Ichiro vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Ichiro at Fenway, April 29, 2011. Photo by Charles Krupa/AP

Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Ichiro at Fenway, April 29, 2011. Photo by Charles Krupa/AP

The Seattle Mariners were in Boston the end of last month. Boston Red Sox right-hander, Daisuke Matsuzaka started one of the games. The lead-off hitter for the Mariners, of course, was Ichiro Suzuki.

Remember how historic that first meeting between them were in 2007? It was heralded Genius (Tensai 天才) vs Monster (Kaibutsu 怪物) by the Japanese media. It was crazy.

Ichiro went 1-for-3 in the game in April 29, 2011 and Matsuzaka exited with tightness in his right elbow, but it got me thinking to look up how they were matched up, historically. They may face each other in July (7/22-24 at Fnenway) and August (8/12-14 at SefeCo), but here is all the results of their match up as of May 10, 2011.

Ichiro vs Daisuke Matsuzaka in Japan.

Ichiro was born in 1973, and Matsuzaka 1980. There are 7 year age difference between them. They first met in 1999. Matsuzaka, then 18 years old, was a rookie for the Seibu Lions. Right out of his legendary high school tournament performance — where he had 17 innings, 250-pitch quarter-final, saved the game in semi, then pitched a no-hitter in the championship game in the span of three days — and a number one draft pick in the country. Ichiro, at age 25, on the other hand, was 9 year veteran, who have already won 3 MVPs, into 5th year of reigning batting champion (he will win two more after that) broke Japanese record in most hits per season in 1994, and led the league with most his in the last 5 seasons.

They faced each other 5 games in 1999, and 5 games in 2000.

Source: Yomiuri newspaper article in 2006

1999 (5 games)

May 16 0-for-3. A walk, and three strikeouts.
June 23 1-for-3. Sacrifice fly.
July 6 1-for-4. A home run. Ichiro’s 100th career home run.
Aug. 6 0-for-2
Aug. 20 1-for-3

2000 (5 games)

April 7 1-for-4. A strikeout.
May 21 1-for-3.
June 24 2-for-4.
July 20 0-for-4.
Aug. 4 1-for-4. A double.

Total in Japan: 8-for-34 (.235) 4RBI 1HR 4K 1BB.

Ichiro vs Daisuke Matsuzaka in MLB.

Ichiro goes to MLB in 2001 season. They will not face each other for 6 seasons. In 2007, when Daisuke Matsuzaka signs with the Boston Red Sox, they faced each other again. In 2007, Matsuzaka was 26, and Ichiro 33.

When Daisuke Matsuzaka was negotiating with the Red Sox in November 2006, Daisuke Matsuzaka was asked by Japanese reporters in Japan who he was most excited to face. Everyone expected him to say Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees since the two franchise were a rival, but Matsuzaka without hesitation responded “For me, it is Ichiro who I’d like to face again.”

Sources: MLB, Baseball-Reference, Retrosheets

2007 (4 games 1-for-12 .083 – 2BB, 3K, 1SB, 1RBI )

April 11 @BOS 0-for-4, A strikeout.
May 3 @BOS 0-for-1, 2 walks.
June 27 @SEA 1-for-3, 2 strikeouts and a RBI single.
Aug 4 @SEA 0-for-4.

2008 (2 games 2-for-4 .750 – 3 Runs 2BB 1RBI)

May 27 @SEA 2-for-2. A double and a single. 2 runs.
July 22 @SEA 1-for-2. 2 walks, RBI single. A run scored.

2009

None

2010 (2 games 2-for-6, 1 RBI, 1BB, 1K 1SB)

July 25 @SEA 0-for-3. A strikeout.
Sept. 14 @SEA 2-for-3. A RBI double, a single and a walk. Stolen base. A run scored.

2011 (1 game – so far, 1-for-3.)

April 29 @BOS 1-for-3.

In MLB: 7-for-25 (.280) 6 Runs, 3 RBIs, 4 Ks 5 BBs. 3 SBs. 3 doubles.

In conclusion: Ichiro vs Daisuke Matsuzaka

Ichiro’s total Batting Average against Matsuzaka is .254 (15-for-59).

Which is far below his career batting averages of .331. So you could argue that Daisuke Matsuzaka has upper hands on this match up, even though Ichiro is far more accomplished player, who will no doubt end up in Cooperstown, NY.

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