MLB

Everything You Wanted to Know About Matsui

Share This Story

foxsports admin

 
   
 
With all of the buzz over Japan's next big thing coming over to play for the , we thought we'd answer some of the questions every American baseball fan has about the mysterious Hideki Matsui:

Why all the fuss over this guy?
We've seen top pitching (Hideo Nomo, ) and hitting (Ichiro Suzuki) prospects make the jump across the pond, but Hideki Matsui will be the first true Japanese-born slugger to attempt to make it in the States. Based on his numbers in Japan's highly competitive Central League, Matsui has rightly earned his nickname "Godzilla." He's hit 332 homers in 10 seasons with the Yomiuri and was named MVP three times (1996, 2000, 2002). This season, he led the league with 50 homers and 107 RBIs and barely missed a triple crown, finishing second for the batting title with a .334 average.

Yeah, but isn't Tuffy Rhodes a god in Japan, too?
First of all, we'll argue that Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes, another lefty slugger, never got a fair shake with the and . But keep in mind that Rhodes was 5-11, 170 while Matsui steps in at a comparably hefty 6-2 and 210 lbs. Unlike most Japan League stars, Matsui is big and strong. He's shown improvement nearly every season in all-important categories like average, hits, RBIs and BBs. He's the first Japanese player since '86 to hit 50 homers in a season, and only the fifth player ever to do it. And in the field, he's versatile and realiable, never having missed a game in his pro career.

We know he puts up numbers, but is Matsui a winner?
In Matsui's 10 seasons, the have won four Central League pennants and three Japan Series titles (the Central League winner automatically advances to the Japan Series, their version of the World Series, to play the Pacific League champ). This season, the completed a four-game sweep of the Seibu Lions.

What position will Matsui play in the U.S.?
In Japan, he played mostly center field but can also play the other two outfield positions. To show off his versatility in November's seven-game series with the MLB All-Stars, his manager played him in RF. No doubt, he can also DH. Though he's a lefty batter, Matsui throws righty. He also picked up his third straight Golden Glove award this season.

If you had to compare Matsui to an American player, who would it be?
By most accounts, Matsui is the Japanese . According to one N.Y. press report, Matsui mimicked Giambi by "toning down the front-foot kick on his swing to improve his average and reaction speed." Matsui acknowledges he's taken a page from the slugger, saying "I wanted to be the type of hitter is."

How old is Matsui?
Matsui turned 28 in June. By comparison, Ichiro made the jump when he was 27, Nomo when he was 26 and Ishii when he was 28.

Has he always been this good or is he a late bloomer?
Matsui's success hardly came as a surprise. He was a top junior player and was once walked intentionally five times in a high school championship game. The Yomiuri made him the top draft pick in 1993 and he appeared in his first game for them midway through the '94 season.

How much will Matsui have to adjust to American pitching?
says "the biggest thing Matsui has in his adjustment process is driving the ball, getting used to the pitchers." However, told TIME Asia, "As talented as he is, I don't think he'll have to make a lot of major adjustments."

How does Matsui compare to Bonds?
Well, he actually lost to Bonds last month in a home-run hitting competition at the Tokyo Dome ... but it was close. Bonds jumped out to an early lead with eight home runs on 19 swings, but helped relax the "clearly nervous" Matsui by giving him a shoulder massage at the plate to the delight of the fans. Matsui responded with five shots, falling three short of tying Bonds.

What is the knock, if any, on Matsui?
From one scouting report: "Matsui has a fast swing but lacks Ichiro's samurai-like discipline at the plate." OK, but couldn't they have come up with an adjective a bit less obvious than "samurai-like?"

Matsui didn't look too impressive in the MLB All-Stars' seven-game series with the Japanese All-Stars? What gives?
True. Matsui went only 4-for-27 for a .148 average in the seven-game series. But keep in mind he endured an intense media and fan frenzy during his farewell week in Japan, with the crowd chanting "Home Run Matsui, Home Run Matsui" at every at-bat. Still, it raises questions on how he'll be able to deal with the intense pressure in the U.S.

Why were the so interested?
Aside from the obvious media attention, Matsui is a lefty batter and should thrive with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. Plus, the Yanks look to play Matsui in left field, an obvious upgrade over the /Juan Rivera platoon.

How much yen can Matsui expect to earn in the U.S.?
The highest-paid player in Japanese baseball history, Matsui earned $5.1 million last season. Agent Arn Tellem reportedly negotiated a three-year, $21 million deal, plus performance bonuses, with the .

How does the American Giambi feel about the Japanese Giambi joining him in the Bronx?
During the All-Stars' tour of Japan, Giambi welcomed the idea. He also said Matsui would probably hit "anywhere between No. 3-5" in the order.

What uniform number will Matsui wear?

He wore No. 55 with Yomiuri and, fortunately for Matsui, that's not among the many numbers retired by the . Actually, middle reliever wears the double-nickel, but he's a free agent anyway.

Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Astros, Dodgers, Giants, Jason Giambi, Ichiro Suzuki

More Stories From foxsports admin



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..