His success this year has come as just as much a surprise in Japan as in America, a lot of fans here thinking that the Kyoto native was added merely to ‘help’ Dice-K adjust to US-life. Nothing in his statistics in Japan suggested that Okajima would thrive as he has. His best ever season was in 2001, when he had 25 saves, and an ERA of 2.76 (53 games) for the powerhouse Yomiuri Giants. Over his 12 years in Japan, Okajima was 34-32, 41 saves, and an ERA of 3.36.
Playing in the shadow of Matsuzaka, Okajima has exceeded expectations. Craig Shipley, the Red Sox scout who followed Okajima when he played in Japan and was key in bringing him to Boston, said “Oka’s had a great year. If anyone had said at the beginning of the season he’d be doing what he’s doing, you probably would have laughed at them.”
Signed for a mere $2.5 million over 2 years, winning the internet vote to play in the All Star game was icing on a very surprising cake for Hideki Okajima.