Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 2

Last night (Japan time) marked the 2nd appearance of Daisuke Matsuzaka in his Seibu Lions uniform to start the 2006 season. While I was unable to watch the entire game due to a prior commitment, I managed to catch a short stretch of the game and the repeated highlights on television.

In this game, the Lions and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters squared off in the northern hinterlands of Sapporo, the Lions prevailing 7-1. For those of you who don't know the background, Nippon Ham is in fact Japan Ham company. Yup. The team is named after sausage. In their defense, the Yakult Swallows are named for their yogurt company, and while the mascot of the team is a bird, the double-entendre of the name "swallows" is rather unfortunate.

Back to Matsuzaka. I made a rather extreme remark to my wife as I watched him pitch last night, and I want to preface the revelation of that statement by telling you that I am aware of it's inflated stature and premature timing. Daisuke Matsuzaka's easy throwing motion and explosive delivery looks a lot like Mariano Rivera. Before you roll your eyes and mutter, "Whatever." let me say that no one is Mariano Rivera. It is about 10 years too early to put Matsuzaka and Mariano in the same conversation in terms of accomplishment, but there are some similarities that make him so attractive as a pitching prospect.

Regardless of the batter, Matsuzaka remains stoic and focused. His delivery is consistent and breathtaking in its effortless power. He overpowers hitters and makes them look foolish. When they take a seat, he's ready for the next hitter with the same razor sharp conviction that he showed against each of the prior batters he's faced. Last night was that kind of game for the blooming superstar. No one could touch him and it looked as though he was pitching against Little Leaguers.

My favorite at bat in the game was hideously plastic surgeried, tooth-whitened, and George Hamil-tanned Shinjo. He does awful underwear commercials in Japan and makes 60 year old women swoon at the sight of his mannequin form. It's absolutely nauseating and he is the antithesis of everything I like in sports. Fitting that a hot dog like Shinjo plays for a ham company. Matsuzaka shattered his bat and made him stumble around in the batter's box like a goon. It was the highlight of my baseball season so far.

The pitching line for Matsuzaka thus far this season is as follows (click to enlarge):


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