Now that the Major League Baseball season has reached the All-Star break, it is a good time to look back on how the Nikkei players have done so far. In the Bay Area, Travis Ishikawa and Kurt Suzuki have had fairly successful seasons for the Giants and A’s, respectively.
Ishikawa, a first baseman born in Seattle, has not been able to pin down a starting spot so far this year, but has cemented himself as one of the first players off of the bench and has shined as one of the league’s best pinch hitters. Since the beginning of July, Ishikawa has gotten more chances to start games and he has taken the opportunity, raising his batting average from .297 to an incredible .354.
Suzuki’s season was slowed by an injury during early May and he has not been able to get into a groove since. His season batting average of .252 is roughly 20 points lower than his career average, but the 26-year-old catcher from Hawai‘i has shown power by hitting a team-leading 10 home runs and by knocking in 37 RBIs, second most on the team.
In Seattle, Ichiro Suzuki has been in his usual, spectacular form all season. Hitting .326, the 36-year-old outfielder from Japan has been among the top 10 hitters in the American League for most of the campaign and has already collected 118 hits, putting him well on the pace to collect 200 hits in a season for the tenth season in a row, which would extend his Major League record.
Hideki Matsui has endured the toughest season of his Major League career so far, hitting .252, nearly 40 points below his career average. However, with 47 RBIs, the 36-year-old designated hitter from Japan is third on the Angels and has shown that he has some power left.
Thirty-four-year-old second baseman Kazuo Matsui has had an atrocious season that has seen him released by the Houston Astros and given a Minor League contract with the Colorado Rockies. With a dreadful .141 batting average through May, the switch hitter from Japan has found himself playing for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
In Boston, Daisuke Matsuzaka has had a mediocre year, marked by a 4.56 ERA through 12 starts. After posting an impressive 2.81 ERA in June, the 29-year-old right-handed starting pitcher from Japan was unable to maintain his string of strong performances and has had a 4.91 ERA through two starts in July.
Matsuzaka’s teammate, Hideki Okajima, is in the midst of his worst season thus far in the Major Leagues. With an awful 6.00 ERA and a WHIP of nearly 2.00, the 34-year-old left-handed reliever from Japan will have to improve in the second half of the season to make a positive impact on the Red Sox’ season.
Takashi Saito of the Atlanta Braves is statistically having his worst season since coming to the Major Leagues, but his numbers are still well within the range of respectability. In 35 appearances, he has accumulated a 3.71 ERA and has held opponents to a .225 batting average. With a strike out to walk ratio better than 3:1, it appears that the 40-year-old right-handed reliever from Japan still has a lot left in the tank.
Akinori Iwamura started the season with the perennially struggling Pirates, but was only able to accumulate an atrocious .182 batting average through the middle of June. With no team looking to trade for a struggling second baseman, the Pirates designated the 31-year-old from Japan to their Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians.
The Cubs’ Kosuke Fukudome has had an entirely average season by his standards thus far. With a .252 batting average, the 33-year-old Japanese outfielder is hovering right around his Major League career average and is on pace to collect between 50 and 60 RBIs, just as he has done for the past two seasons.
For the Dodgers, Hiroki Kuroda has had a decent season, posting a 3.87 ERA after 17 starts. Though he has a good strike out to walk ratio, the 35-year-old right-handed pitcher will want to bring down his .275 batting average against.
Veteran pitcher Koji Uehara, 35, has had a decent season that was interrupted by injury. The right-handed reliever from Japan has made 10 appearances, but has only pitched nine innings and allowed four earned runs.
Despite an ugly 1-9 record, the Braves’ Kenshin Kawakami has posted an acceptable 4.48 ERA. However, the 35-year-old right-handed starting pitcher from Japan will be looking to lower his .271 batting average against.
Hisanori Takahashi of the Mets has had a decent Major League debut season thus far. Operating as both a starting pitcher and a reliever, the 35-year-old from Japan has accumulated a 7-3 record with a 4.15 ERA.
Another Major League debutante for the Mets, Ryota Igarashi, has been far less impressive than Takahashi so far this season. With a 7.91 ERA through 22 appearances and a relatively poor strike outs to walks ratio, the 31-year-old right-handed reliever will certainly be looking to improve in the second half of the season.