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What Is The “Shuuto”?
The Red Sox's recent signing of Japanese baseball star Daisuke Matsuzaka has brought the “shuuto” into the English baseball vocabulary. Although variously described as a sinker, two-seam fastball, screwball, gyroball, or splitter, the shuuto is closer to a “reverse slider” that breaks down and in on batters. According to a wikipedia article, “the shuuto is unique because it is a faster pitch with less downward break when compared to a screwball, and has less speed but more lateral break when compared to two-seam fastballs and sinking fastballs.” It is more common in Japan where it was the hallmark of Japanese Hall-of-Famer Ryohei Hasegawa, who consistently froze hitters with it while pitching in the 1950s and 60s. In the states, Greg Maddux’s running fastball to left-handers has been described as a shuuto-type pitch in the way it breaks sharply down and inside the strike zone. The video clip below shows Matsuzaka throwing the shuuto while on the Seibu Lions.

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Career:
Age: 26 (DOB 9/13/1980; Tokyo, Japan)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 180 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Honors: 1999 Pacific League Rookie of the Year; 2001 Sawamura Award (the Japanese Cy Young Award); 2006 World Baseball Classic MVP

Widely considered the best pitcher in Japan when the Red Sox signed him in 2006, Daisuke (pronounced Dice-K) Matsuzaka throws a mid-90s fastball, slider, curve, and changeup, in addition to the shuuto. He gained national fame in high-school where he threw an astonishing 250 pitches for Yokohama High School over 17 innings in a complete game victory over powerhouse PL Gakuen in the summer Koshien tournament. Two days later in the final game, he had 11 strikeouts in hurling a no-hitter over Kyoto Seisho.

In the Nippon professional league in Japan, he played his entire career with the Seibu Lions. As an 18-year old, he earned the Pacific League Rookie of the Year, going 16-5 and striking out 87. In his last year in Japan (2006), Matsuzaka was 17-5, with a 2.13 ERA, 200 strikeouts, and 14 complete games. Over his career, he went 108-60, averaging 2.95 ERA and 182 strikeouts a season.

In international play, Matsuzaka made history as the first MVP of the World Baseball Classic in 2006. His strong pitching (3-0, 1.38 ERA) led Japan to the Championship after they beat Cuba 10-6 in the final game. He also pitched for Japan in the Olympics in 2000 and 2004. In Athens in 2004, Matsuzaka shut out Cuba over 8 innings, only to lose 1-0 in the semi-finals to Australia.

After the 2006 season, the Red Sox paid an astonishing $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions for the rights simply to negotiate a contract with Matsuzaka, followed by the inking of a $52 million deal locking up Matsuzaka for six years. In Japan, he is married to Nippon TV sportscaster Tomoyo Shibata and has achieved rock star status.

Watch Other Matsuzaka Video Clips

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