Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch

In an effort to keep tabs on the hottest pitching prospect in the world, I've devised a new feature for Canyon of Heroes called, "Matsuzaka Watch".

The Japanese professional season kicked off on March 25th to great fanfare with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Manager Sadaharu Oh facing the Japan Champion Chiba Lotte Marines and our own Bobby Valentine. 13 of the WBC Champions play for these teams and the crowd reaction was outstanding.

I've been watching the early Seibu box scores to get a feel for when our hero would make his first start. The Lions are standing at 1-1 after splitting their opening two games with the Orix Buffaloes. Japan's lone medalist at the Torino Olympic Games, figure skater Shizuka Arakawa threw out the first pitch to open the year for the Lions. If only Matsuzaka looked this good, Seibu would win every year. Surprisingly, Matsuzaka will debut in Seibu's 3rd game against Oh and Soft Bank at the Fukuoka Dome. You can watch the game live via internet broadcast on Tuesday, March 28th at 1am PST/4am EST. If you're in Japan, tune in at 6pm for the game. You'll be getting Lotte against Nippon Ham on NHK's BS1.

Against Soft Bank in 2005, Matsuzaka posted a 2-4 record with a 2.65 ERA and 41 strikouts against 4 walks. He featured a 0.93 WHIP in 44.2 innings pitched against the Hawks. His downfall was 7 home runs against in 6 games, with 3 coming in one mid-season tilt. Those 3 dingers only accounted for 4 runs over 8 innings though.

Before I continue with this feature, I should say that I don't share with many of the US sportswriters the notion that Matsuzaka has done all he can do in Japanese pro ball, or that he needs to come to the majors to test his stuff against the best hitters in the world. If he played the rest of his career in Japan there would be no shame in it, and whatever accomplishments he chalks up should stand as a marvel, regardless of our personal feelings in comparing the Majors with Japanese "Pro Yakyu". I simply want him playing for the Yankees because I want the best pitchers in the world on my favorite ballclub.

I'll provide a recap of his performance against Soft Bank and track his stats for you over the course of the season. Check back for his upcoming games and regular updates on statistical information.


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