Friday, July 28, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 16

The saga of the two seam fastball begins anew. Our hero promised to showcase the pitch in his July 26th outing against Orix. The Buffaloes were the team to hand Matsuzaka his worst outing of the year and I guarantee he wanted to send a message. The two seamer helped him to do so, as he was once again magnificent.

Reports around the Japanese press had been brewing prior to the start that Daisuke was breaking out the pitch for the first time since participating in international competition. He has showcased the two seamer in the Olympics and the WBC in the past, and I am at a loss to explain why he has been reluctant to feature it for Seibu. The speculation is that his interest in the two seamer has something to do with his desire to play in the US next year, and he's out to show a different look. Perhaps some scouts have questioned the effectiveness of certain pitches in his arsenal against Major League hitters (as hard as that is for me to imagine) and he wanted to show his across the board dominance. He did indirectly suggest his desire to make a move by claiming the two seamer was being taken out of moth balls to "take on the world", or something to that effect. Now to the game...

The matchup between the Buffaloes and the Lions was a close affair with the teams clinging to a 2-1 score in favor of Seibu. A collection of hits got Matsuzaka the lead, and the lone Orix run came via 3 consecutive singles by the middle of the order. Otherwise the young ace was dominating, featuring 7 ground ball outs to only 4 in the air, and 6 strikeouts over 6.2 innings pitched. The strange set of circumstances in this ballgame that limited Matsuzaka to 6 and two-thirds was a pitch in the 7th inning that got away from Daisuke and grazed the helmet of Orix' leadoff man Oonishi, who had sandwiched a single between two strikeouts to that point. The umpire immediately tossed Daisuke from the 2-1 contest, citing the "dangerous pitch" rule. Can you imagine an umpire getting away with tossing Johan Santana in a close ballgame without a warning? Gardenhire would go homicidal. He gets tossed for going ballistic when an umpire calls a slightly loose strike zone.

The bullpen did its job and held the Buffaloes at one. The Seibu offense put up a couple of extra runs to cap the game 4-1 and Matsuzaka got his Japan-leading 11th win on the season. His ERA is at a preposterous 1.92 as of today. Click the stats below for a better look.


At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Jamie said...

As always, love your site; the first blog i read every morning. Quick question though, i don't know if you have mentioned this in the past but does Matsui or Wang have any type of pull with Matsuzaka from the past at all or no? The commenter from your last post gets me so excited about the future of the Yankees that I can't contain myself. Who would have thunk it that maybe two Far East pitchers could complement (or even headline) the New York Yankees starting rotation.
Is Matsuzaka the type of guy who would love the challenge of conquering a town like New York? The press I feel wouldn't be that much different because I know from your posts that he gets abudent attention over in Japan. I'm really mad at myself for not watching the WBC finals after the U.S. lost. I just remember this guy from Japan owning everyone... had no idea at the time it was Dice-K.
Once again, thanks a lot for your post and keep up the awesome work!

At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude-Wang is from Taiwan. Matsuzaka is from Japan. Why on earth would you think Wang would have any pull with Matsuzaka? They only thing they have in common is that a) they pitch for a living and b) well, there is no b. Just because they both happen to be of Asian heritage (two completely different heritages-do you even know they speak different languages in Japan and Taiwan?) doesn't mean they're best buddies, moron.

At 4:05 AM, Anonymous Jamie said...

I know he's from Taiwan, so don't pull out the whole race card just yet alright? I was just stating that Matsuzaka sees Wang is a pitcher who did not grow up in the Western Hemisphere but excels with the Yankees in a media haven known as the city that never sleeps. Please do not pull out the friggin' race card, especially since you don't even have the decency to state your name. I hate people like that, you want to make a statement and criticize my comment but you don't have the BALLS to even state your name. And i didn't say best buddies or even friends, it was a question if Mike would have known if they have met at an All-Star game of some sort in the past or played against each other before they were both pros.
Just because they are not from the same country and speak the same language does not mean that A) they couldn't be friends and
B) have never met each other or have any communication.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

It's all love here at Matsuzaka Watch. No fighting. ;)

Matsuzaka is one of those transcendant guys that seems to operate at a level of mental mastery that few others can hope to achieve. I won't throw around Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan because it's unfair to put that kind of expectation on the young man before he even tries his hand at the Majors, and it's too tough to use athletes from other sports to relate to baseball players.

His concentration and confidence are there though, and he'd undoubtedly make the Yankees home very quickly. I won't say there will be only sunshine and candy though. When a guy bumps up a level in competition and has to deal with language, culture, food, and travel in a foreign country, it's bound to affect him negatively. Especially for a guy from Japan. There is little in Japan to prepare him for the huge differences in the US. Latin players have an advantage because the States is very Spanish friendly.

Matsui probably has a little influence as his "elder" in Japan. Wang, to my knowledge, has no connection to Matsuzaka. Ironically, the guys with the most influence over Matsuzaka may be Damon, A-Rod, and Bernie who are also clients of Scott Boras.

Time will tell.

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