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Kazuo Matsui

Kazuo Matsui

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is a Japanese second baseman
Second baseman
Second base, or 2B, is the second of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a base runner in order to score a run for that player's team. A second baseman is the baseball player guarding second base...

 for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
The is a baseball team founded in 2004; it played its first season in the Japanese Pacific League in 2005. It is simply called Rakuten . The team was created to fill the void left by the merger of the Orix Blue Wave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes, after the 2004 season due to financial difficulties,...

 of Nippon Professional Baseball. Matsui is a switch-hitter. Matsui is not related to Hideki Matsui
Hideki Matsui
is a Japanese Major League Baseball designated hitter and outfielder. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed.After playing the first ten seasons of his career for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, he played the next seven seasons, from 2003–2009, for the New York...

, the designated hitter
Designated hitter
In baseball, the designated hitter rule is the common name for Major League Baseball Rule 6.10, an official position adopted by the American League in 1973 that allows teams to designate a player, known as the designated hitter , to bat in place of the pitcher each time he would otherwise come to...

 for the Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics are a Major League Baseball team based in Oakland, California. The Athletics are a member of the Western Division of Major League Baseball's American League. From to the present, the Athletics have played in the O.co Coliseum....


Matsui signed with the New York Mets
New York Mets
The New York Mets are a professional baseball team based in the borough of Queens in New York City, New York. They belong to Major League Baseball's National League East Division. One of baseball's first expansion teams, the Mets were founded in 1962 to replace New York's departed National League...

 on December 17, 2003, becoming the first Japanese infielder
An infielder is a baseball player stationed at one of four defensive "infield" positions on the baseball field.-Standard arrangement of positions:In a game of baseball, two teams of nine players take turns playing offensive and defensive roles...

 to sign with a Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...


Early life

He graduated from the PL Academy Senior High School in Osaka, a school nationally renowned for its baseball program. The only appearance Matsui made at the National High School Baseball Championship Tournament was in his second year at PL Academy. Though Matsui was considered to be the PL Academy's ace
Ace (baseball)
In baseball, an ace is the best starting pitcher of any team and nearly always the first pitcher in his starting rotation. Barring injury or exceptional circumstances, an ace usually always starts on Opening Day...

 starting pitcher
Starting pitcher
In baseball or softball, a starting pitcher is the pitcher who delivers the first pitch to the first batter of a game. A pitcher who enters the game after the first pitch of the game is a relief pitcher....

, injuries limited him to playing only in the quarter-final game, where he allowed two runs
Run (baseball)
In baseball, a run is scored when a player advances around first, second and third base and returns safely to home plate, touching the bases in that order, before three outs are recorded and all obligations to reach base safely on batted balls are met or assured...

 during 2 2/3 innings.

Japanese League career

Matsui was chosen third overall by the Seibu Lions
Seibu Lions
The are a professional baseball team in Japan's Pacific League based west of Tokyo in Tokorozawa, Saitama. Before 1979, they were based in Fukuoka in Kyushu. The team is owned by a subsidiary of Prince Hotels, which in turn is owned by the Seibu Group...

 of Nippon Professional Baseball's Pacific League
Pacific League
The or is one of the two professional baseball leagues constituting Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. The winner of the league championship competes against the winner in the Central League for the annual Japan Series...

 in the 1994 Japanese League Draft, where he would wear number 32. In 1996, his third season, he became a regular starter as a shortstop
Shortstop, abbreviated SS, is the baseball fielding position between second and third base. Shortstop is often regarded as the most dynamic defensive position in baseball, because there are more right-handed hitters in baseball than left-handed hitters, and most hitters have a tendency to pull the...

 and finished the season second in stolen base
Stolen base
In baseball, a stolen base occurs when a baserunner successfully advances to the next base while the pitcher is delivering the ball to home plate...

s (50). Prior to the 1997 season, he would change his number to 7. The 1997 season saw him reach a .300 batting average
Batting average
Batting average is a statistic in both cricket and baseball that measures the performance of cricket batsmen and baseball hitters. The two statistics are related in that baseball averages are directly descended from the concept of cricket averages.- Cricket :...

 for the first time and lead the league in stolen bases (62) to help his team win the Pacific League Title. During the 1997 All-Star Game he set a new All-Star Game record by stealing four bases and was chosen the game MVP. Matsui would lead the Pacific League in stolen bases for two more consecutive seasons.

Prior to joining MLB, Matsui would only play for the Seibu Lions, playing there from 1995 to 2003. He enjoyed success as a seven-time Best Nine
Best Nine Award
The Best Nine Award is awarded annually to the best player at each position in both the Central League and Pacific League of Japanese professional baseball as determined by a pool of journalists.-History:...

 award winner (1997–2003). One of his best years was 2002, when he had a .332 batting average with 36 home run
Home run
In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process...

s, 87 RBI
Run batted in
Runs batted in or RBIs is a statistic used in baseball and softball to credit a batter when the outcome of his at-bat results in a run being scored, except in certain situations such as when an error is made on the play. The first team to track RBI was the Buffalo Bisons.Common nicknames for an RBI...

, 193 hits
Hit (baseball)
In baseball statistics, a hit , also called a base hit, is credited to a batter when the batter safely reaches first base after hitting the ball into fair territory, without the benefit of an error or a fielder's choice....

, 119 runs
Run (baseball)
In baseball, a run is scored when a player advances around first, second and third base and returns safely to home plate, touching the bases in that order, before three outs are recorded and all obligations to reach base safely on batted balls are met or assured...

, 46 doubles
Double (baseball)
In baseball, a double is the act of a batter striking the pitched ball and safely reaching second base without being called out by the umpire, without the benefit of a fielder's misplay or another runner being put out on a fielder's choice....

, 6 triples
Triple (baseball)
In baseball, a triple is the act of a batter safely reaching third base after hitting the ball, with neither the benefit of a fielder's misplay nor another runner being put out on a fielder's choice....

 and 33 stolen bases. He received four Gold Glove
Mitsui Golden Glove Award
The Mitsui Golden Glove Award, sponsored by Japan's Mitsui Group, is annually awarded to nine fielders in Japan's professional baseball leagues by the Nippon Professional Baseball Association. The players are selected based on votes by TV, radio, and newspaper journalists with over 5 years...

 awards while in Japan (equivalent of Rawlings Gold Glove Award
Rawlings Gold Glove Award
The Rawlings Gold Glove Award, usually referred to as the Gold Glove, is the award given annually to the Major League Baseball players judged to have exhibited superior individual fielding performances at each fielding position in both the National League and the American League , as voted by the...

 in MLB) during the 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003 seasons. He also won a Nippon Professional Baseball MVP award in Japan during the 1998 season. Although Matsui experienced winning the Pacific League Title a total of four times (1994, 1997, 1998, 2002), his team never won the Japanese Series.


With the Mets, Matsui hit home runs in his first plate appearance
Plate appearance
In baseball statistics, a player is credited with a plate appearance each time he completes a turn batting. A player completes a turn batting when: He strikes out or is declared out before reaching first base; or He reaches first base safely or is awarded first base ; or He hits a fair ball which...

 in each of the 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau
Elias Sports Bureau
The Elias Sports Bureau is an American company that provides historical research and statistical services in the field of professional sports.In 1913, Al Munro Elias and his brother Walter established the Al Munro Elias Bureau in New York City...

, he is the only Major League player to hit a home run in his first plate appearance of his first three seasons. The only other player to hit a home run in even his first at-bat of three consecutive seasons was Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
George Kenneth "Ken" Griffey, Jr. , nicknamed "Junior" and "The Kid", is a former Major League Baseball outfielder and during his final years, designated hitter...

 In 2004, Matsui homered on the first pitch from Russ Ortiz
Russ Ortiz
Russell Reid Ortiz is a retired Major League baseball pitcher. Ortiz played for the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers...

 of the Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves are a professional baseball club based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Braves are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's National League. The Braves have played in Turner Field since 1997....

 leading off the first inning, in 2005, on the sixth pitch from Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson (baseball player)
Paul Anthony Wilson is a retired right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball.-Baseball career:Wilson played college baseball for the Florida State University Seminoles under head coach Mike Martin....

 of the Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds are a Major League Baseball team based in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are members of the National League Central Division. The club was established in 1882 as a charter member of the American Association and joined the National League in 1890....

 with one out in the first inning, and in 2006, on the fourth pitch from Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy
Jacob Edward Peavy is a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who plays for the Chicago White Sox. He bats and throws right-handed...

 of the San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are a Major League Baseball team based in San Diego, California. They play in the National League Western Division. Founded in 1969, the Padres have won the National League Pennant twice, in 1984 and 1998, losing in the World Series both times...

 with no outs in the top of the third. The third home run is notable for being an inside-the-park home run
Inside-the-park home run
In baseball parlance, an inside-the-park home run, "leg home run", or "quadruple", is a play where a batter hits a home run without hitting the ball out of play.-Discussion:...

. He slid into home as his former Met teammate Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza
Michael Joseph "Mike" Piazza ; born September 4, 1968) is an American former Major League Baseball catcher. He played in his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and the Oakland Athletics....

 was blocking the plate.

Matsui played 114 games in 2004 (the most games he has played so far in his MLB career). He hit .272 with 125 hits, 32 doubles, 2 triples, 7 home runs, 44 RBI, 65 runs, 14 stolen bases, 5 sacrifice hit
Sacrifice hit
In baseball, a sacrifice bunt is a batter's act of deliberately bunting the ball in a manner that allows a runner on base to advance to another base. The batter is almost always sacrificed but sometimes reaches base due to an error or fielder's choice...

s, 40 walks
Base on balls
A base on balls is credited to a batter and against a pitcher in baseball statistics when a batter receives four pitches that the umpire calls balls. It is better known as a walk. The base on balls is defined in Section 2.00 of baseball's Official Rules, and further detail is given in 6.08...

 and 182 total bases
Total bases
In baseball statistics, total bases refers to the number of bases a player has gained with hits, i.e., the sum of his hits weighted by 1 for a single, 2 for a double, 3 for a triple and 4 for a home run.Only bases attained from hits count toward this total....

. His hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, and total bases currently remain career highs.


Based on his performance in Japan, Matsui was expected to excel defensively as a shortstop with the Mets. However, in 2004, Matsui committed many errors
Error (baseball)
In baseball statistics, an error is the act, in the judgment of the official scorer, of a fielder misplaying a ball in a manner that allows a batter or baserunner to reach one or more additional bases, when such an advance would have been prevented given ordinary effort by the fielder.The term ...

 and misjudgments at the position, and was made the second baseman for 2005. He was also plagued by injuries, which were not a problem for him in Japan. His offensive production was also much lower than anticipated. By mid-2005, he was no longer an everyday player, sharing time at second base with Miguel Cairo
Miguel Cairo
Miguel Jesús Cairo is a Major League Baseball utility player who is currently with the Cincinnati Reds. He has mostly played second base during his career, but has played every position in baseball except catcher and pitcher. He currently plays mostly third base, in place of Scott Rolen during his...

 and Marlon Anderson
Marlon Anderson
Marlon Ordell Anderson is a former Major League Baseball utility player. He was widely known for his clutch hits, and writers for publications including The New York Times and Newsday had referred to him as one of the best pinch-hitters in the game...

. Matsui finished the season batting .255 with three home runs and 24 RBI.


Matsui began the 2006 season by hitting .200 (26-for-130) with 10 runs, six doubles, one home run and seven RBI. The one home run came on an inside-the-park home run against the San Diego Padres on April 20, 2006. Matsui became the first player since 1975 to hit an inside-the-park home run as his first home run of the season.

On June 9, 2006, Matsui was traded to the Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies are a Major League Baseball team based in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1991, they started play in 1993 and are in the West Division of the National League. The team is named after the Rocky Mountains...

 for Eli Marrero
Eli Marrero
Elieser Marrero , is a former Major League Baseball player. Marrero started his career as a catcher, but spent time at first base, third base and in the outfield....

. Colorado asked that Matsui waive certain clauses in his contract and he agreed. Once complete, Matsui was sent down to play with the Rockies' Triple-A
AAA (baseball)
Triple-A refers to the highest level of play in minor league baseball in the United States and Mexico.-Purpose:Triple-A teams' main purpose is to prepare players for the Major Leagues:...

 affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox
Colorado Springs Sky Sox
The Colorado Springs Sky Sox are a minor league baseball team in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The team's colors are red and blue. The team plays in the Pacific Coast League and are the Triple-A affiliate of the major league Colorado Rockies...

 for about two and a half months. Matsui made his Rockies debut against the Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers are a professional baseball team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently playing in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League...

 on August 23, 2006, starting at shortstop in place of Clint Barmes
Clint Barmes
Clint Harold Barmes [BAR-miss] is an American professional baseball shortstop and second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball. He played for the Colorado Rockies from 2003-2010 and Houston Astros in 2011...

. Matsui would soon shift to second base. Through 2006 he improved from .200/.235/.269 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in his 130 at bats as a Met, to hitting .345/.392/.504 in 113 at bats as a member of the Rockies.

His stint in New York was punctuated with pronounced booing from Mets fans in response to his failure to validate high expectations gleaned from his (positionally) prodigious Japanese numbers. It should also be noted that some of the booing may have been a result of Matsui supplanting future Mets star José Reyes at shortstop.

Matsui re-signed with the Colorado Rockies for a one-year, $1.5M contract for 2007 and changed his number to 7, a number that he wore in Japan.


Matsui's performance improved during the 2007 season with the Rockies, as he hit .288, which was higher than his career average. He had career highs in runs (84), triples (6), stolen bases (32) and sacrifice hits (8) in 2007. Matsui was also first in the majors in scoring percentage (47%) when reaching base.

Matsui and the Rockies clinched the 2007 National League
National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League , is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball, and the world's oldest extant professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional...

 wild card
Wild card (sports)
The term wild card refers broadly to a tournament or playoff berth awarded to an individual or team that has not qualified through normal play.-International sports:...

 game by winning a one-game regular season playoff matchup
One-game playoff
A one-game playoff, sometimes known as a pennant playoff or play-in game, is a tiebreaker in certain sports—usually but not always professional—to determine which of two teams, tied in the final standings, will qualify for a post-season tournament...

 against the San Diego Padres, propelling Colorado into their second playoff appearance in club history.

Matsui hit his first career grand slam
Grand slam (baseball)
In the sport of baseball, a grand slam is a home run hit with all three bases occupied by baserunners , thereby scoring four runs—the most possible in one play. According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term originated in the card game of contract bridge, in which a grand slam involves...

 during the second game of the NLDS
National League Division Series
In Major League Baseball, the National League Division Series determine which two teams from the National League will advance to the National League Championship Series...

 against the Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are a Major League Baseball team. They are the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports, dating to 1883. The Phillies are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's National League...

. It came with the Rockies down 3–2 with two outs in the top of the 4th inning. The grand slam gave the Rockies a lead in which they would never relinquish. Colorado won the game, 10–5. Matsui became only the third player in MLB history to have his first career grand slam occur in the postseason rather than the regular season. He also became the first Japanese player to hit a grand slam in the postseason. Along with the grand slam, Matsui hit a triple and a double during game two of the NLDS, falling a single short of becoming the only player in history to hit a cycle
Hitting for the cycle
In baseball, hitting for the cycle is the accomplishment of one batter hitting a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in the same game. Collecting the hits in that order is known as a "natural cycle". Cycles are uncommon in Major League Baseball , occurring 293 times since the first by Curry...

 during the postseason. However, Matsui did become only the second player ever (Lou Brock
Lou Brock
Louis Clark "Lou" Brock is an American former professional baseball player. He began his Major League Baseball career with the Chicago Cubs but, spent the majority of his career as the left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Brock was best known for breaking Ty Cobb's all-time major league...

 in game four of the 1968 World Series
1968 World Series
The 1968 World Series featured the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers, with the Tigers winning in seven games for their first championship since 1945, and the third in their history...

 was the first) to hit a double, triple and home run in a postseason game.


On December 1, 2007, Matsui signed a three-year, $16.5-million deal with the Houston Astros.

Prior to Opening Day
Opening Day
Opening Day is the day on which professional baseball leagues begin their regular season. For Major League Baseball and most of the minor leagues, this day falls during the first week of April. For baseball fans, Opening Day serves as a symbol of rebirth; writer Thomas Boswell once penned a book...

, Matsui underwent surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

 to repair an anal fissure
Anal fissure
An anal fissure is a break or tear in the skin of the anal canal. Anal fissures may be noticed by bright red anal bleeding on the toilet paper, sometimes in the toilet. If acute they may cause severe periodic pain after defecation but with chronic fissures pain intensity is often less...

. He missed the first two-and-a-half weeks of the season. Matsui made his 2008 debut for the Astros on April 18. He posted a .293 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage with 20 stolen bases on the season.


Matsui still had injury problems but managed to keep the 2nd baseman starting position.
Matsui joined the exclusive list of baseball players with 2,000 hits or more lifetime. He has hit safely over 2,000 in his Japanese career and in the MLB combined.

In 2009 he led all major league starting second basemen in range factor
Range Factor
Range Factor is a baseball statistic developed by Bill James. It is calculated by dividing putouts and assists by number of innings or games played at a given defense position...

, at 5.33.


Matsui was released by the Houston Astros on May 19, 2010. In 71 at bats, Matsui managed only a .141 batting average
Batting average
Batting average is a statistic in both cricket and baseball that measures the performance of cricket batsmen and baseball hitters. The two statistics are related in that baseball averages are directly descended from the concept of cricket averages.- Cricket :...

 with 1 RBI and 1 stolen base
Stolen base
In baseball, a stolen base occurs when a baserunner successfully advances to the next base while the pitcher is delivering the ball to home plate...

. Following his release he signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies are a Major League Baseball team based in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1991, they started play in 1993 and are in the West Division of the National League. The team is named after the Rocky Mountains...

. He remained in the Rockies' minor league system for the remainder of the season.

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