Hideki Matsui and his ‘Sayonara’ home runs

Hideki-Matsui

Hideki Matsui hits a 2-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 6 of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Hideki Matsui called it a career yesterday, ending his great 20 years of professional baseball, ten in Japan, and another in MLB.
He played in total 2,504 games (1,268 in Japan, 1,236 in U.S.) hit 2,643 hits, 507 HRs, 1,649 RBI, with .293 batting average. (1,390 hits, 332 HR, 889 RBI, .304 in Japan, 2,643 hits, 175 HR, 760 RBI, and .282 BA in MLB. Source: Nikkan Sports)

With a nod to Ichiro Suzuki, who is in his own category and most likely headed for the Hall of Fame after he retires, Matsui was one of the best power hitters in Japan, and the most successful power hitter from Japan.

Number doesn’t lie. Here is the total number of home runs and RBI by JapaneseBallPlayers.

Player HR Season(s)
Hideki Matsui 175 10
Ichiro Suzuki 104 12
Kenji Johjima 48 4
Tadahito Iguchi 44 4
Kosuke Fukudome 42 4
Kazuo Matsui 32 6
Tsuyoshi Shinjo 20 3
So Taguchi 19 5
Akinori Iwamura 16 4
Norichika Aoki 10 1
Player RBI Season(s)
Hideki Matsui 760 10
Ichiro Suzuki 642 12
Kazuo Matsui 211 7
Tadahito Iguchi 205 4
Kenji Johjima 198 4
Kosuke Fukudome 195 5
So Taguchi 163 7
Akinori Iwamura 117 4
Tsuyoshi Shinjo 100 3
Norichika Aoki 50 1
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 20 2
Munenori Kawasaki 7 1
Norihiro Nakamura 3 1

Hits and Batting Averages? Obviously he doesn’t come close to Ichiro, but far better than other Japanese hitters.

Player Hits Season(s)
Ichiro Suzuki 2,606 12
Hideki Matsui 1,253 10
Kazuo Matsui 555 7
Kosuke Fukudome 498 5
Tadahito Iguchi 494 4
Kenji Johjima 431 4
Akinori Iwamura 413 4
So Taguchi 382 8
Tsuyoshi Shinjo 215 3
Norichika Aoki 150 1
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 50 2
Munenori Kawasaki 20 1
Norihiro Nakamura 5 1
Player AVG Season(s) (H/AB)
Ichiro Suzuki .322 12 (2,606/8,085)
Norichika Aoki .288 1 (150/520)
Hideki Matsui .282 10 (1,253/4,442)
So Taguchi .279 8 (382/1,369)
Tadahito Iguchi .268 4 (494/1,841)
Kenji Johjima .268 4 (431/1,609)
Akinori Iwamura .267 4 (413/1,545)
Kosuke Fukudome .258 5 (498/1,929)
Tsuyoshi Shinjo .245 3 (215/876)
Kazuo Matsui .241 7 (555/2,302)
Tsuyoshi Nishioka .215 2 (50/233)
Munenori Kawasaki .192 1 (20/104)
Norihiro Nakamura .128 1 (5/39)

But one of more interesting numbers about Matsui is how much of a clutch hitter that he was. Only four Japanese players — Matsui, Tadahito Iguchi, Ichiro Suzuki and Norichika Aoki — have hit walk-off home runs in the major league baseball thus far. Walk-off home run is known in Japan as “Sayonara” home run, as in “Game over, good bye.” Hideki Matsui have hit three “Sayonaras”, while others, Ichiro, Iguchi and Aoki each have hit one. That’s right, Matsui has three of the six walk-off home runs hit by Japanese players in the majors.

List of Walk-off home runs hit by Japanese Major Leaguers

As of conclusion of 2012 season

In 2011, as a member of Oakland Athletics, Hideki Matsui hit his third MLB walk-off home run in the 10th to beat the Rangers, on May 2, 2011.

May 2, against Texas Rangers. Off Darren Oliver in the 10th, with 0 out, the bases empty and the score tied at 4-4. Retrosheet Box

An article from Sankei Sports in Japan then reported that Matsui, with his 8 sayonara home runs (total combining 5 in Japan and 3 in the United States) passed Shigeo Nagashima and tied with Sadaharu Oh. According to an un-official personal research by Akichan, most Sayonara home run in Japanese History is held by Kazuhiro Kiyohara (12), followed by Katsuya Nomura (11) Norihiro Nakamura (10, a one-time Dodger, current Yokohama DeNA BayStars), and Oh and Tsutomu Wakamatsu (8).

Other two times were:

  • July 17, 2003 against Cleveland Indians. Off David Riske in 9th inning with 0 out, the bases empty and the score tied at 4-4. Retrosheet Box.
    This was the first Sayonara home run hit by a Japanese player in the history of MLB.
  • July 20, 2009 against Baltimore Orioles. Off Jim Johnson in the 9th inning with 1 out, the bases empty and the score tied at 1-1. Retrosheet Box

He also have 5 walk-off homers in 10 seasons in Japan, 1994, 1996, 2000(x2) and 2001.

*****

The second Sayonara home run hit by a Japanese player in MLB history came in 2008, by infielder Tadahito Iguchi, then playing for the San Diego Padres.

April 26, 2008 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Off Yusmeiro Petit in 13th inning with 1 out, the bases empty and the score tied at 7-7. Retrosheet box.

Iguchi is currently playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines, and has hit 7 sayonara homers in Japan. Bringing his US-Japan total to 8, matching Matsui.

****

Ichiro is an interesting case. He did not hit any walk-off hits in his first 8 seasons in MLB. But in 2009, he had three, and one of them came in a form of a Sayonara homer. Off of Mariano Rivera no less. The two run Sayonara blast made Felix Hernandez, who pitched a complete game, a winner. Ichiro does not have any walk-off home run in his 9 seasons in Japan.

Ichiro Suzuki playing for Seattle Mariners, on September 18, 2009 against the New York Yankees. Off Mariano Rivera in 9th inning with 2 outs, a runners on second and the score at 2-1. Retrosheet box.

*****

30-year old rookie outfielder Norichika Aoki of Milwaukee Brewers was the one to hit the latest walk-off home run, on June 7 this year. Aoki AND his translator experienced a big-league tradition, a shaving cream pie in the face.

June 7, 2012 against the Chicago Cubs. Off Casey Coleman in 10th inning with 0 out, the bases empty and the score tied at 3-3. Retrosheet box.

******

UPDATE: Ichiro Suzuki hits a walk-off home run on June 25, 2013 for the New York Yankees. His second in his MLB career. Ichiro delivered a walk-off home run off Tanner Scheppers, bottom 9th, 2 outs, nobody on. Game tied at 3-3.

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