Nov 6, 2006

In Defense of Matsuzaka

I read an annoying article today. This columnist basically writes that spending significant money to acquire Matsuzaka is crazy. The following is my rebuttal (with assistance from 'baileywalk'):

I don't know how much of an expert this guy is. He's not a baseball specialist; going by his columns, he covers all sports, so his 'baseball expertise' is somewhat suspect. All he's basing this on is past Japanese players, Matsuzaka's size, his pitch count, and Scott Boras' dishonesty, not exactly hard research. I'd much rather trust a guy like Mike Plugh, who lives in Japan, and actually watches DM pitch.

To counter the article, how about this one?

The 'anonymous scouts' are not anonymous. They include (among others) Ray Poitivent, the International GM for the White Sox, and Bobby Valentine, a current Japanese manager (and former MLB manager).

Matsuzaka does not have mysterious stuff, like the writer implies. He throws primarily 3 pitches (fastball, slider, change), and will occasionally throws variations, like a 2-seam fastball or a splitter. Anyone who wants can see his stuff here.

He also likes bringing up Irabu and Kaz Matsui as examples of failed Japanese players. Yes, they were never great (or even close to great), but what about the successes: Ichiro, Nomo, Hideki Matsui, Iguchi, Otsuka, etc.

And whatever you do, please don't bring up size as a negative. Pedro is 5'11", 180 too, and he dominated for a few years like no one ever has. Roy Oswalt is 6'0", 185. And going by his bio, DM is actually 6'0", 187. Or he's 6'1".

Don't forget that Nomo had a few good to great seasons in MLB, and that was after he was overused in Japan. DM has not been overused to the same extent. Look at Nomo's innings pitched totals (before joining MLB):
1994-114 (injured I believe). That makes an average of 209.

Compare that to DM.
2006-186. An average of 175. That's a 34 ip difference. That's pretty big.

Not to mention that Nomo went to MLB after his 2 worst years in Japan. DM is going into MLB after his 2 best years. Nomo's era the 2 previous seasons were 3.70 and 3.63. DM has been 2.30 and 2.13.

Plus DM doesn't rely on a deceptive delivery like Nomo did. It was good for Nomo at first, but part of the reason he tailed off was that hitters got accustomed to his delivery. DM relies on his great stuff, which is obviously much harder for hitters to get used to.

I like my chances with DM. And I think I've compared him quite favorably to the best Japanese pitcher (Nomo) we've seen so far.

Remember, there had never been a great Japanese hitter in MLB before Ichiro.

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