Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and the 5 Best Japanese-Born MLB Players Ever

Arad MarkowitzContributor IIIMay 20, 2011

Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and the 5 Best Japanese-Born MLB Players Ever

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    Ichiro
    IchiroJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    On September 1, 1964 Pitcher Masonari Murakami became the first Japanese-born Major League Baseball player. Murakami played for the Giants for just a year before the Nankei Hawks took him back. For 30 years, there was not another Japanese born layer until Hideo Nomo made his Major League debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in February 1995.

5. Takashi Saito

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 04: Takashi Saito #40 of the Milwaukee Brewers gave up two solo home runs in the 8th inning to the Atlanta Braves during the home opener at Miller Park on April 4, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Braves defeated the Brewers 2-1. (P
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Takashi Saito was the Dodgers closer from 2006 to 2008. Saito's best year was in 2007, where he went 2-1, had an ERA of 1.40 and saved 39 games. Saito also pitched for the Red Sox, Braves and the Brewers, where he mainly worked out of middle relief.

    Stats and Achievements

    17-14 W/L Record

    2.24 ERA

    84 Saves

    196 Career ERA+

    1 All-Star Appearance

    11.0 K/9

4. Dave Roberts

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    You might be surprised to see Dave Roberts on this list, but Roberts was actually born in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. From 1999 to 2001, Roberts played for the Cleveland Indians as a bench player/call-up. Roberts also played for the Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres and Giants, where he enjoyed some success as an everyday player.

    Stats

    .266 AVG

    23 Home Runs

    243 Stolen Bases

    721 Hits

3. Hideki Matsui

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    OAKLAND, CA - MAY 18:  Hideki Matsui #55 of the Oakland Athletics hits a single to score Daric Barton #10 of the Oakland Athletics to tie the score 3-3 in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 18, 2011 in O
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Matsui played for the New York Yankees from 2003 to 2009. In his rookie year, he lost the Rookie of the Year award to Angel Berroa, despite most agreeing that Matsui had a better year. In 2010 he played for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and he currently plays for the Oakland Athletics.

    Stats and Achievements

    1,142 Hits

    164 Home Runs

    .288 AVG

    2009 World Series MVP

    2 All-Star Appearances

2. Hideo Nomo

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    LOS ANGELES - APRIL 5:  Pitcher Hideo Nomo #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers winds back to pitch during the game against the San Diego Padres on April 5, 2004 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Padres defeated the Dodgers 8-2 in the season ope
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Nomo played for six different teams in his career, spanning 11 seasons. He pitched with the Dodgers from 1995 to 1998, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1995. Nomo then pitched for the Mets, Brewers, Tigers and Red Sox, before returning to the Dodgers for three more years. Nomo ended his career on the Devil Rays. Nomo pitched two no-hitters in his 11-year career.

    Stats and Achievements

    123-109 W/L Record

    4.24 ERA

    1,918 Strikeouts

    Led National League in Strikeouts in 1995 (236) and 2001 (220)

    1 All-Star Appearance

1. Ichiro Suzuki

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 17:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners bats during the game against the Kansas City Royals on April 17, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Easy choice here. Ichiro is the best Japanese MLB player ever. Ichiro has been on the Seattle Mariners his entire MLB career. Ichiro has been one of the best players since his debut in 2001.

    He won the Rookie of the Year AND the American League MVP in his rookie year, the second player to ever do so. Ichiro holds many Major League records, most notably the single-season hits record, with 262 which he achieved in 2004. He also has the most consecutive 200-hit seasons, with 10.

    Stats and Achievements

    2,297 Hits

    394 Stolen Bases

    .330 AVG

    2007 All-Star MVP

    10 All-Star Appearances

    10 Gold Glove Awards

    3 Silver Slugger Awards