Hard luck for Matsuzaka. I know someone who has some financial incentive in Daisuke getting 15 wins this year, and I'm feeling for him right now. Here's to one last start this regular season, probably against the Twins, and a 15th victory for our man. To my friend out there, you know who you are, I'm pulling for you big time.
With likely a single solitary start for Matsuzaka in the regular season and at least one in the postseason, I think it's time to announce the retirement of Matsuzaka Watch. When the Red Sox season comes to its natural conclusion, either in a champagne drenched locker room celebrating another title, or in more humble surroundings after a playoff defeat, I will hang up my Matsuzaka blog for good.
I've followed Daisuke on a start-by-start basis for 4 complete seasons now, and since his high school days from the periphery. Starting this blog was a way to reach out to the baseball-loving public and to turn fans of our national pastime on to the Japanese game via its most dynamic talent. Over the last two seasons, I have devotedly written about each Matsuzaka start, both with Seibu and the Red Sox, not to mention the World Baseball Classic. I've covered theoretical projections, analysis of various features of his workload in Japan, and I've argued tooth and nail with many doubters about his viability in the Major Leagues.
It has been interesting to me to watch the conversation transform itself from a very small group of interested fans to a swell of mania in the days of the posting process to a season of ups and downs for Matsuzaka as he's navigated the very different game in the Major Leagues. The conversation started with questions about Japan and the Japanese style of play, prospects headed to the Major Leagues, and heated debates with many people who were too narrow-minded to accept the possibility that every Japanese pitcher would not suffer the same fate as Hideki Irabu, Kazuhisa Ishii, and others. My approach has been a combination of my own enthusiastic fan's perspective, rudimentary metrics, first hand knowledge of the Japanese game, and consultation with people a lot smarter than me.
Thanks to the excitement generated by this blog I have been able to expand my coverage to include other dynamic players such as Yu Darvish, Yuki Saito, Sho Nakata, Kosuke Fukudome, Koji Uehara, and more. I have joined a team of outstanding baseball minds at Baseball Prospectus to cover Japan and hopefully increase the interest and knowledge of the universality of this game. In a way, I am proud that my efforts have contributed to broadening the understanding of Japan and Japanese culture as a result of our common love for baseball. I will continue to cover the Japanese game for BP as well as the many other blogs that have spun off from this effort.
I'll have some final words for you after the final out has been recorded for the Sox. There will be some housecleaning to do and some perspective to consider. I will leave you with some thoughts on his first season, his future, and some personal feelings about what this experience has meant to me. I will also leave you some links as a reminder of where to find my writing if you are interested in reading more. I will always find my outlet for writing about the Japanese game, and the sport in all its forms. Until the last out, stay tuned for regular coverage and keep your fingers crossed for win #15, for Daisuke, for the Sox, and for my unnamed friend......
The Yankees have miraculously made it interesting. The combination of wins and losses last night makes it 2.5 again, and Matsuzaka will look to essentially put a nail in the coffin of the Yankees AL East aspirations against the Rays. Hard to put a finger on which Matsuzaka we're going to see this week. He pitched back-to-back starts against the Rays in mid-August. Here are those lines:
8/15 6 IP 8 hits 3 walks 5 Ks 6 ER
8/22 6 IP 2 hits 4 walks 8 Ks 2 ER
I'll split the difference on today's prediction, since I'm out of ways to do this. My guess:
6 IP 5 hits 3 walks 7 Ks 4 ER
How's that? The question is, will that kind of start be enough to get the Sox an important win? I think, yes.
That's just what Matsuzaka must be thinking right now. Three straight starts have gone sour on Daisuke, and the rookie campaign is hurdling a bit out of control. Yankee fans have started their ritualistic mockery of #18 at this point, revising history by saying how much they hoped he wouldn't be in pinstripes. It’s funny to me that all the “told you so” crowd is coming out now when he’s struggled for 3 starts and seen his numbers inflate. When he had a mid-3s ERA and a 125 ERA+ a few weeks ago, no one was saying boo.
If you take the Yankees out of the equation, Matsuzaka's numbers are slightly better. To that point, let's look at his season with and without the Bombers.
Against the Yankees 19.1 IP 19 hits 8 walks 16 Ks 3 HR 15 ER 6.98 ERA 1.40 WHIP
Season minus Yankees 165 IP 156 hits 62 walks 76 ER 20 HR 163 Ks 4.15 ERA 1.32 WHIP
Those numbers are only slightly better than his season totals, but when you consider that 6.98 ERA into the equation, he gets into trouble. Baltimore and Texas have also really cuffed Daisuke around, and hurt an otherwise outstanding stat line. With his recent struggles, Daisuke has posted a 103 ERA+ on the year, which will continue to delight Yankee fans and naysayers. $100 million for a league average pitcher. Nice work Theo.
I'll never be in that camp. This is a world class pitcher, who needs to adjust. If Daisuke can do it in the postseason and learn enough to make adjustments in the offseason, you'll see the investment start to bubble over the next 2-3 seasons. If he fizzles against NY again, and then (God forbid) gets smacked around in the playoffs (God forbid against NY), Bostonians will turn on him faster than you can bat an eye. Keep the faith folks.
6 IP 6 hits 3 walks 8 Ks 3 runs 118 pitches
I'm betting that it won't be pretty against NY, but that our hero will escape a few jams. He's only got a .253 BAA with the Yankees, so it's not like he's getting smoked.
I'm fluctuating between access and no access to the internet these days as I get my life set up back home in NYC. I'll be in the US, in NYC, for at least a year. Japan is a part time thing in the short term, with several trips lined up this year.
In the meantime, I'm trying to get myself back in full operational mode with respect to the net, e-mail, and blogging. I missed the last prediction, but I'll make sure to be there for the next. You'll also see a few more lengthy features in the near future as I reconnect with some of the folks in the blogosphere, on the beat, and at BP.