He might not be primarily known as a slugger around Major League Baseball, but Shin-Soo Choo is the league’s new home run king among Asian-born players. And he took his crown in dramatic fashion.
The 35-year-old Korean passed former Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui of Japan with an extra-innings walk-off homer Saturday against the Royals, bringing his career long ball total to 176.
Shin-Soo Choo’s reaction to setting MLB’s Asian-born home record
Choo was fairly humble about the then-impending accomplishment before the game, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he’s only setting the record because he has played more seasons than Matsui. The former Yankee played in just 10 MLB seasons compared to Choo’s 14.
“I am not a home run hitter. I’ve just played in this league a long time. That’s not my focus,” he said. “[Matsui] only played ten years in the big leagues. If he had played longer, he would have more home runs than me. Somebody was going to break the record.”
After the homer, Choo was again deferential, saying he was only hoping to get on base and making hard contact.
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) May 26, 2018
Shin-Soo Choo’s history as MLB hitter
What’s remarkable about Choo taking the home run crown is that he’s really not known as a big home run producer. In 14 career MLB seasons, Choo has never hit more than 25 home runs in a single season and has a career .447 slugging percentage, which is good, but not true slugger territory. Instead, Choo got the record thanks to his longevity, and that’s thanks to his elite ability to get on-base. Since 2010, Choo ranks 15th in MLB in on-base percentage with a .375 mark.
All-time MLB home run leaders among Asian-born players
- Shin-Soo Choo, South Korea, 176
- Hideki Matsui, Japan, 175
- Ichiro Suzuki, Japan, 117
- Kenji Johjima, Japan, 48
- Tadahito Iguchi, Japan, 44
Choo and Matsui obviously lead the list, followed by the greatest Asian hitter ever (but also noted singles hitter) Ichiro Suzuki. From there, it gets a little limited since MLB really hasn’t seen many successful Asian-born hitters, so there could be even more change coming beyond Choo.
While he hasn’t played in MLB since 2016 after visa issues due to legal troubles, including a sexual assault accusation, the 31-year-old Jung-ho Kang is already at 36 through just two seasons and trying to make his way back to an MLB field.
And, just saying, Shohei Ohtani is at six homers through two months of his MLB career.
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