- Hideki Okajima
Boston Red Sox — No. 37 Relief pitcher Born: December 25, 1975
Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Bats: Left Throws: Left Professional debut NPB: October 6, 1995 for the Yomiuri Giants MLB: April 2, 2007 for the Boston Red Sox NPB statistics Win–loss record 34–32 Earned run average 3.36 Saves 41 MLB statistics
(through 2010 season)
Win–loss record 16-8 Earned run average 3.06 Strikeouts 209 Teams Career highlights and awards
Hideki Okajima (岡島 秀樹 Okajima Hideki , born December 25, 1975 in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto) is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher with the Boston Red Sox organization in the United States, currently with their AAA affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox. He played with the Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league from 1994-2006. He was elected to the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game as a first time All-Star via the Monster All-Star Final Vote.
Career in Japan
Okajima attended Higashiyama High School and pitched in the 1994 Koshien National High School Tournament. He was drafted in the third round in 1993 by the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Okajima pitched mostly as a setup man, but sometimes played the role of a starter until 1999. When he played with the Giants in Japan, Okajima chose to go by the nickname "Okaji" instead of "Hideki" because there was Hideki Matsui, who preceded him on the Giants. Okajima's entrance song with the Giants was the Dixie Chicks' version of The Supremes' hit, "You Can't Hurry Love."
Okajima became the team's closer in 2000–2001, before returning to his setup role in 2002. He was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters right before the start of the 2006 season for two position players, and was a valuable lefty setup man for the team, pitching in 55 games, with a 2.14 ERA. The Fighters won the championship that year. In Japan, Okajima had a career record of 34–32 with a 3.36 ERA.
North American Major League career
Okajima became a free agent in 2006, and signed a two-year, $2,500,000 deal with the Boston Red Sox. The deal included a $1.75m club option for a third year. During spring training in 2007, Okajima was asked what he felt about being relatively anonymous while his teammate and countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka's every move was scrutinized. Okajima stated, "I'm willing to be a hero in the dark."
Okajima allowed a home run to John Buck on his very first pitch in the major leagues. It was the 7th time in MLB history a pitcher gave up a home run on his first pitch. However, Okajima then proceeded to hold opponents scoreless for nearly two months until the Yankees scored a run off of him via a fielder's choice on May 22. At the start of the 2007 Red Sox season, injuries and poor performances limited the effectiveness of anticipated setup relievers Mike Timlin and Joel Piñeiro. Okajima stepped into the role of primary setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon and quickly became one of the most dominant relievers in the major leagues. Through the first two months of the season, Okajima cemented himself as the top setup man in the Red Sox bullpen, garnering the American League Rookie of the Month for April. Okajima's scoreless streak from April to May 2007 was the longest by a Red Sox left-hander since Bruce Hurst 20 years prior.
Okajima earned his first MLB save on April 20, 2007 against the New York Yankees. After getting a save in his first appearance during a Red Sox–Yankees series, Okajima compared the experience to winning the pennant.
For all of his early success, Okajima remained relatively anonymous in his forays around Boston. While Okajima was taking a cab ride with his wife to a local restaurant, his cab driver gushed about the amazing performance of the Red Sox's newly acquired lefty without knowing that the reliever was in the cab with him.
In Japan, Okajima was even known as a gloomy man. However, Okajima has revealed more of his humorous side in the United States. Okajima faced the heart of the Detroit Tigers order for the second time in one day to earn his second major league save. When Japanese reporters asked him about facing the same three batters in both games of the doubleheader, he answered with a smile, "I did?"
Following the All-Star break, Okajima continued to pitch solid and reliable relief innings, occasionally closing games for the Sox as they held their place at the top of the AL East. However, the rigors of the MLB season began to catch up with Okajima in the later stages of the season and he began to struggle, culminating into a career-high four-run meltdown in a game against the Yankees on September 14, 2007. Red Sox management decided to shut him down following this outing to allow Okajima to relieve the physical and mental fatigue of the longer American season. On his return during the final stages of the regular season, Okajima regained his sharp early season form, pitching scoreless frames to establish himself again as an integral part of the dominant Red Sox bullpen as they headed into the post-season.
Okajima returned with his performance in Game 2 of the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, in which he pitched 2⅓ perfect innings in relief of Curt Schilling, striking out four at Fenway Park. He became the first Japanese born pitcher to play in the World Series. He closed the 2007 post-season with a home run to Garrett Atkins.
On December 3, he was non-tendered by the Red Sox, making him a free agent. However, both parties agreed on a one year deal on January 2.
Okajima did not make the 2011 Opening Day roster, starting the season in Triple-A Pawtucket. On April 18, he was called up to the Red Sox.
Okajima has a distinctive pitching form in which he turns his head downwards just before he releases the ball, and after release jerks it hard towards third base. These extra movements appear to give Okajima some added velocity to his pitches as it torques his body towards homeplate, and reportedly disguises his pitches and causes batters to swing early. Okajima is said to have mimicked his pitching form after a pitcher in Yoichi Takahashi's manga Ace! who torqued his head so much after every pitch that it always caused his hat to come flying off. Okajima admits, "I was trying to copy the motion. I believed it would make me throw harder."
A part of Japanese people dubbed this pitching form "Looking the Other Way", after a local version of the rock-paper-scissors game. Initially, in Japan, numerous coaches such as Tsuneo Horiuchi attempted to change Okajima's pitching form throughout his baseball career. This all stopped, however, when pitching coach Yoshitaka Katori of the Yomiuri Giants admitted his pitch. In the past, Okajima was prone to bouts of wildness—even being booed in his home park for his poor control. After 2005 season, Okajima was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and then he changed his pitching form so that he re-established good control.
Okajima's pitches are of a lower velocity than average for most pitchers, forcing him to develop a more consistent release point to better control his pitches. Okajima’s fastball is usually in the 85-89 mph range, rarely ever reaching 90 mph. His out pitch in Japan was his sharp rainbow curveball in the 70-75 mph range, which left-handed hitters find hard to hit. He also occasionally throws a Circle changeup, a forkball in the 80-84 mph range and changeup usually 82-84 mph.
After joining the Red Sox, Okajima has displayed such pinpoint accuracy that Hideki Matsui, former teammate, of the New York Yankees was amazed that since his time with Okajima in Japan, he never believed Okajima could gain such "great control". Okajima's success in the major leagues against multiple batters was a departure from his time in Japan, where he was known as a situational lefty brought in to face one left-handed batter in key late-game situations.
During an April 15 rainout in 2007, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell tweaked Okajima's changeup delivery. The result was a changeup with screwball motion dubbed the "Okie-Dokie" by bullpen coach Gary Tuck. As of May 10, 2007, the Okie-Dokie has been thrown for strikes 79% of the time with hitters swinging through the pitch 14 out of 30 times.
Detroit Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield declared Okajima "one of the most impressive lefties I've ever seen" with "stuff I have never seen before from anybody." Former Yankees manager Joe Torre called Okajima "unhittable".
Okajima calls Masumi Kuwata his "master". Okajima's wife is sports announcer Yuka Kurihara (栗原 由佳 Kurihara Yuka ), with whom he has a son and a daughter. He met his wife during a champagne/beer celebration after his Yomiuri Giants won the 2000 Japan Series.
Japanese Professional Leagues
- 439 Games
- 34 Wins
- 32 Losses
- 41 Saves
- 3.36 ERA
- 681 Strikeouts
- 12 Wins, 4 Losses
- 6/16 On saves
- 192 Innings Pitched
- Hits Surrendered: 155
- Runs Surrendered: 58
- 176 Strikeouts
- 2.72 E.R.A.
Awards and recognition
- Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Game 2000, 2001, 2002.
- Japan Series Champion (2000, 2002 Yomiuri Giants and 2006 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters).
- Asia Series Champion (2006 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters).
- Okajima was awarded Rookie of the Month of the American League for April 2007.
- American League All-Star (2007).
- World Series Champion (2007 Boston Red Sox).
- List of Major League Baseball players from Japan
- ^ Newman, Mark (2007-07-05). "Young, Okajima win Final Vote". MLB.com. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070705&content_id=2069109&vkey=allstar2007&fext=.jsp. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- ^ "The Official Site of Boston Red Sox: Team: Player Information: Biography and Career Highlights: Hideki Okajima". MLB.com. http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player_career.jsp?player_id=506606. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
- ^ Gordon Edes (2006-12-01). "Okajima bolsters bullpen". Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2006/12/01/okajima_bolsters_bullpen/. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ a b "Red Sox report: Inside pitch". The Sports Xchange. 2007-01-20. http://www.qa.sportsline.com/mlb/teams/report/BOS/9942498. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ Jimmy Golen (2007-05-05). "Okajima: Hardly a dicey deal for the Red Sox". Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2007/05/05/okajima_hardly_a_dicey_deal_for_the_red_sox/?page=2. Retrieved 2007-10-30. [dead link]
- ^ CBS SportsLine.com wire reports, "BoSox reach deal with Japanese lefty; Matsuzaka talks continue", CBS SportsLine.com, November 30, 2006. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ Ian Browne, "Okajima emerging out of the shadows", MLB.com, 30 April 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ Red, "Hideki Okajima Probably Wishes He Could Have That First Pitch Back", AOL Sports Blog, April 2, 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ Home Run Allowed to First Batter Faced, Baseball Almanac. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ MLB - Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees Box Score Tuesday May 22, 2007, Yahoo! Sports, May 22, 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ Caleb Breakey, "Okajima named AL Rookie of the Month", MLB.com, 2 May 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ "Red Sox 7, Yankees 3". Yahoo! Sports. 2007-05-22. http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/recap?gid=270522110. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ "Okajima is lights out for Red Sox". Times Herald-Record. 2007-05-22. http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070522/SPORTS/705220338/-1/SPORTS06. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ Gordon Edes, "Reliever's been lighting it up", Boston Globe, April 22, 2007.
- ^ Jeré Longman, "Boston’s Other Japanese Pitcher", The New York Times, August 27, 2007. Accessed 2011-04-28.
- ^ "日本ハムに移籍の岡島寡黙な印象振り払う" (in Japanese). Nikkan Sports. 2006-03-28. http://hokkaido.nikkansports.com/baseball/professional/fighters/p-hf-tp0-20060328-12292.html. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ a b Jackie MacMullan, "Okajima cleans up in spotless fashion", Boston Globe, May 18, 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ Steve Silva, "Okajima wins Star slot", Boston Globe, July 5, 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ Associated Press, "BoSox's Okajima shelved several days with tired arm", ESPN.com, September 20, 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ "Topps announces the 49th annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team". KansasCity.Royals.mlb.com. 2007-11-26. http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20071126&content_id=2307272&vkey=pr_kc&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
- ^ "Boston extend World Series lead". BBC. 2007-10-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/baseball/7063187.stm. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ "Red Sox win World Series in a sweep". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-10-29. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/baseball/story/2007/10/29/redsox-worldseries-rockies.html. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ "Dice-K gets no-decision as Red Sox hang on to beat A's in extras". ESPN. 2008-03-25. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=280325111. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ Abraham, Peter (2011-01-10). "Max Ramirez era comes to an end". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2011/01/max_ramirez_era.html.
- ^ "Morales added to Red Sox bullpen mix". MLB.com. 2011-05-19. http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110519&content_id=19307412&vkey=news_bos&c_id=bos. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
- ^ http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/05/24/okajima-clears-waivers-assigned-to-pawtucket/
- ^ Takako Ichikawa (2007-07-21). "高橋陽一". Yukan Fuji. Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. http://web.archive.org/web/20080118080447/http://www.zakzak.co.jp/people/20070721.html. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
- ^ http://www.bostonmagazine.com/home/display/Comic_book/
- ^ Kiyotaka Nanbara (2007-12-29). "29日(土)のゲストは、Rソックス・岡島秀樹投手でした！". Nippon Broadcasting System. http://www.plus-blog.sportsnavi.com/spodre/article/74. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ "岡島完ぺき稼頭央も三振斬り／Ｗシリーズ" (in Japanese). Nikkan Sports. 2007-10-27. Archived from the original on 2008-01-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20080130094940/http://www.nikkansports.com/baseball/mlb/playoff/2007/p-bb-tp2-20071027-275093.html. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ "おやＧの鹿取さん 岡島投手の"くせ"理論を開陳" (in Japanese). Yomiuri Giants. 2007-09-14. http://www.giants.jp/G/museum/2007/gnews/news_20070914_0003.html. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- ^ a b c Rob Bradford (2007-05-11). "Okajima is ‘Oka-Doke’ with Sox: 31-year-old rookie lefty emerges from Matsuzaka’s shadow". BostonHerald.com. http://redsox.bostonherald.com/redSox/view.bg?articleid=1000611&format=text. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
- ^ "13人の日本人メジャーたち" (in Japanese). YOMITIME. 2007-03-23. http://www.yomitime.com/special/032307/index.html. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ Yoshiaki Furuuchi (2007-05-01). "Who is Okajima?～岡島秀樹を見逃すな ＜古内義明＞" (in Japanese). MAJOR.JP. http://mlb.yahoo.co.jp/column/?n=35. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ John Torenli, "Okajima gives Red Sox bullpen decided edge", SBRForum.com, 22 May 2007. Accessed 2007-10-30.
- ^ "岡島"師匠"桑田の前で２回無失点" (in Japanese). Sponichi Annex. 2008-03-18. Archived from the original on 2008-03-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20080327192746/http://www.sponichi.co.jp/baseball/news/2008/03/18/18.html. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- ^ "栗原 由佳のプロフィール - Cent FORCE Co.,Ltd. (Kurihara Yuka's Profile)". Cent FORCE Co., Ltd. http://www.centforce.com/profile/t_profile/kurihara.html. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
- ^ "The Official Site of Boston Red Sox: Team: Player Information: Biography and Career Highlights: Hideki Okajima". MLB Advanced Media, L.P.. http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player_career.jsp?player_id=506606. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
- ^ Ian Browne (2007-03-28). "Matsuzaka, Okajima host scribes". MLB.com. http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070328&content_id=1864194&vkey=spt2007news&fext=.jsp&c_id=bos. Retrieved 2007-10-30.
- ^ Steve Silva (2008-12-14). "Okajima completes 6-hour Honolulu Marathon". Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2008/12/okajima_finishe.html. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- (Japanese) Hideki Okajima Official Home Page
- (Japanese) Hideki Okajima Official Blog 「Step by Step」
- Japanese league stats - Hideki Okajima
This Year in Baseball Setup Man of the Year Award Boston Red Sox 2007 World Series Champions7 J. D. Drew | 10 Coco Crisp | 12 Eric Hinske | 13 Alex Cora | 15 Dustin Pedroia | 17 Manny Delcarmen | 18 Daisuke Matsuzaka | 19 Josh Beckett | 20 Kevin Youkilis | 23 Julio Lugo | 24 Manny Ramirez | 25 Mike Lowell (World Series MVP) | 28 Doug Mirabelli | 31 Jon Lester | 32 Bobby Kielty | 33 Jason Varitek | 34 David Ortiz | 36 Kevin Cash | 37 Hideki Okajima | 38 Curt Schilling | 39 Kyle Snyder | 46 Jacoby Ellsbury | 48 Javier López | 49 Tim Wakefield | 50 Mike Timlin | 51 Julián Tavárez | 58 Jonathan Papelbon | 83 Éric Gagné
Manager: 47 Terry Francona
Coaches: 2 Brad Mills | 16 Luis Alicea | 29 Dave Magadan | 35 DeMarlo Hale | 52 John Farrell | 57 Gary Tuck | 65 Ino Guerrero
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.