Kazuo "Kaz" Matsui (born October 23, 1975 in Osaka, Japan) is a second baseman and switch hitter in Major League Baseball and plays for the Colorado Rockies. Prior to joining the MLB, he enjoyed a successful career with the Seibu Lions in Japan from 1995 to 2003. His best year was 2002, when he had a .332 batting average with 36 home runs as well as 36 stolen bases.
With the Mets, his most notable accomplishment has been hitting home runs in his first plate appearance in each of the 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the only major league player to hit a home run in his first plate appearance of his first 3 major league seasons. The only other player to hit a home run in even his first at bat of three consecutive seasons was Ken Griffey Jr.. In 2004, Matsui homered on the first pitch from Russ Ortiz of the Atlanta Braves leading off the first inning, in 2005, on the sixth pitch from Paul Wilson of the Cincinnati Reds with one out in the first inning, and in 2006, on the fourth pitch from Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres with no outs in the top of third. The third home run is notable for being an inside-the-park home run. He slid into home as his former Met teammate Mike Piazza was blocking the plate. Despite this, Matsui has been regarded as a disappointment in his Major League career. Based on his record in Japan, he was expected to excel defensively as a shortstop but, in 2004, made many errors and misjudgements at the position, and was made the second baseman for 2005. He has also been plagued by injuries, which were not a problem for him in Japan. His offensive production has also been much lower than anticipated. By mid-2005, he was no longer an everyday player, sharing time at second base with Miguel Cairo and Marlon Anderson.
After batting .255 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in 2005, Matsui was hitting .200 (26-for-130) with 10 runs, six doubles, one home run and seven RBIs the following season when on June 9, 2006, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero. The Rockies asked that Matsui waive certain clauses in his contract and he agreed. Once complete, Matsui was sent down to play with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox for up to a month.
Matsui made his Rockies debut against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 23, 2006, playing in place of Clint Barmes. 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.
Since relocating to Colorado his numbers have dramatically improved from those in New York.
Matsui re-signed with the Colorado Rockies for a 1-year $1.5M contract and changed his number to 7, a number that he wore in Japan.
Kaz Matsui (Kazuo Matsui) was born on October 23, 1975 in Osaka, Japan. He made his Major League debut on April 6, 2004 for the New York Mets. In 2004, his rookie year, he hit .272 with 7 home runs and 44 RBI. Matsui played for the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies over the course of his 3 year career.
- Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the New York Mets on (December 10, 2003).
- Traded by the New York Mets with cash to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Eli Marrero on (June 9, 2006).
- Granted free agency on (October 31, 2006).
- Signed by the Colorado Rockies on (November 13, 2006).
- Signed by the Houston Astros on (November 30, 2007).
- Matsui was only the second player ever to hit a double, triple and home run in a postseason game (Lou Brock did it in game four of the 1968 World Series was the first).