Thursday, August 31, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 21

I'll cut right to the chase. Complete game. 14 strikeouts. 140 pitches thrown.

Do you think the Lions remember that they have a closer? At any rate, what's done is done and our hero racked up his 14th victory of the season against 4 losses with a solid 5-3 victory over the Orix Buffaloes. Everything was working for Daisuke tonight as he shredded the Orix hitters to the tune of 13 out of 14 strikeouts of the swinging variety. At several points he was hitting 95 on the radar gun. It helped that he was able to work from ahead for almost the duration of the ballgame thanks to the Lions hit parade in the 2nd and 3rd innings that netted 4 runs and put the club up for good.

The Buffaloes were game, however, and did their best to keep things close with 2 runs in the bottom of the 3rd inning and another run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 7th. Matsuzaka was rarely in real trouble as he went 1-2-3 in 5 out of the 9 innings he pitched, and would have finished 1-2-3 in the 9th as well, were it not for an error by shortstop Yasayuki Kataoka. The ace was at his dominant best, striking out the numbers 2, 3, and 4 batters in the 8th including former Yankee Karim Garcia, and 39 year old former slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara.

The 14 strikeouts marked the 44th time in his young career that he's fanned double digit batters, putting him 5th all-time in that accomplishment. Here's what he's done to date this season, and a little video to enjoy (click stats to enlarge):

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Hold on to your's happening. Can you feel it?!

The Seibu Group, and president Hidekazu Ota, announced that Daisuke Matsuzaka will likely be posted following the 2006 Japanese season. Ota commented that the posting did not occur last season because the team still needed Matsuzaka at the request of his manager. This season, however, the ace has distinguished himself on the field and in the World Baseball Classic and Ota has agreed to let the voice of the fans guide his decision.

Matsuzaka has declared his wish to play in the Majors several times, and the people at Seibu have declined despite great consideration. Ota called Matsuzaka the "treasure of Japan" and indicated that he hoped to make the young man's wish come true. The final decision will be made after the season is complete, and a serious consultation will be made between the hierarchy at Seibu, the pitcher, and the fans via the team website. The website played an important role in swaying opinions at Seibu. After the WBC, fans flooded the site with praise for the MVP and an overwhelming number of people indicated their desire to see Daisuke play in the Big Leagues next year.

For his part, Matsuzaka has kept quiet all season. He is focused on winning the championship and he has maintained a quiet resolve to complete his current mission before thinking about the next. Upon hearing the news of his imminent posting, the ace stated that he hoped to finish 1st in the league and share the customary beer celebration with his teammates before considering his future. Make no mistake, this public pronouncement is a gigantic leap towards seeing our hero in the US next year, and we'll keep you posted on reactions and any further news on this front.

He were go!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

MLB Projections

This post attempts to erase any doubt about the effectiveness of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Major Leagues. It is intended particulary for those skeptics that have never seen the ace pitch a single game, but are willing to write him off for the big money he will cost, and level of competition he has faced in his career. There is a method to my scouting and analysis here at Matsuzaka Watch. It is born in part from Sabermetrics, as applied by Jim Albright of Baseball Guru.

Albright is a very bright guy. He's dedicated himself to applying SABR analysis to Japanese baseball, with a very limited statistical set and a lot of creativity. His work is imperfect, but highly effective. There is clearly some margin of error, but any differences in projections is purely due to the relatively rough data set and inevitable outside factors that affect cross-cultural adjustments and lifestyle changes. His work on predicting Japan to MLB production has been very interesting and for the most part has been refined to a very respectable level. You can read it for yourself.

Here, I will attempt to demonstrate the projection for Matsuzaka in a similar way. There are a couple of important differences. I will use the formulas that Albright has developed, but instead of a generic prediction I will use the exact data set to project Matsuzaka's record on the Yankees in 2005 and 2006. This blog is intended to inform all fans about the Japanese ace, but it is first a spin-off of my Yankee blog Canyon of Heroes, and as such will continue to be devoted to bringing Matsuzaka to New York. Apologies to the good fans of other clubs. This information will be valuable to all of you too. Follow me....

Albright has used a large cross section of data for players crossing the ocean to play in both NPB and MLB and has found some important ratios to demonstrate the differences in performance in the categories of hits, home runs, walks, and strikeouts. This data is useful in projecting Component ERA, which can be in turn extrapolated to Pythagorean Expectations on wins and losses. You can read the info in Albright's article, and the wikipedia listings for the other metrics, if you don't understand them but want to learn. Otherwise, just try to catch the general sense of this.

Matsuzaka's 2005 statistics for Seibu can be translated to MLB equivalents using the aformentioned ratios, and then an ERAC is created. Using the Yankees 2005 Pythagorean data, and projecting Matsuzaka's participation in their ballgames over 215 innings, I came up with these results (1 decision for each 9 innings pitched):

19-5 record
28 GS
215 IP
185 Hits
16 HR
63 BB
200 K
2.74 ERA
1.154 WHIP
8.37 K/9
3.18 K/BB

That's Cy Young material. In the American League in 2005, those stats would rank Matsuzaka thus:

Wins (2nd)
W-L% (1st)
ERA (1st)
WHIP (3rd)
K/9 (4th)
Ks (3rd)

I projected the current 2006 season for Matsuzaka out to the expected 25 games pitched, and adjusted the current statistical pace he's on to final numbers. I subsequently converted those numbers to MLB equivalents, and put Daisuke in the context of the 2006 Yankees (1 decision for each 9 innings pitched).

25 GS
187 IP
156 Hits
21 HR
39 BB
181 K
2.52 ERA
1.043 WHIP
8.71 K/9
4.64 K/BB

Again, Cy Young candidate. The 2006 season is still in progress so this is a rough comparison and analysis, but it's not a stretch to put Daisuke among the league leaders in virtually every major category again. Remember, this data has been calculated according to the necessary "dumbing down" factors that accurately predicted the MLB projections for most of the players who have made the leap across the Pacific, give or take a few hundredths of a point here or there, and a few tummy aches from the oilier Western food and travel routine.

If you want to "dumb down" the stats even further because you're a pessimist, there's still room to make Matsuzaka a top frontline pitcher on any club in the Majors. Give him a 3.50 ERA and you've totally blown metrics and established data out of the water in favor of doubt, and you still have one of the best pitchers in the AL. There's no way around it. He's going to be a monster, and should command top dollar at 26 years old.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #7

I've got a mixed bag of things for you in the latest Daisuke Bulletin. First is a simple link to an article at written by Bruce Jenkins. If Mr. Jenkins has his way, the Giants will be looking to bid for Matsuzaka's services soon. I'll keep my eye on this San Francisco intrigue to see if anything more substantial materializes.

I thought I'd give you a look at Daisuke's statistics from the Spring and Summer Koshien events in 1998 when he was in his 3rd and final year of high school. Three years of Jr. High, and three of High School over here. I've compiled the chart below with the basic info available to me. I have no pitch count data to add to the mix, but we know that he threw 250 pitches in his 17 inning affair with legendary PL Gakuen in the Summer Championship. The final game of his high school career was the no hitter against Kyoto Seisho. Not a bad way to cap things off. Click to enlarge:

Then and now, you have 17 and 18 year olds throwing 5 complete games in an 8-10 day period. Insanity. That brings me to an updated item that I'd like to present. I compiled DM's statistics for the 2005 season, and I've calculated the important ratios as well. Finding GO/AO data for 2005 will take some real effort, and perhaps I'll undertake that research at some point. For now, you can take a look at what he did last year and compare notes with his current 2006 numbers. Click to enlarge:

You'll note that he was FAR more abused in 2005 than he is in 2006. He threw a season high 160 pitches against Rakuten on April 2nd, 2005. He also had pitch counts of 152 and 151 during the season, and took quite a beating. It's also apparent that the Lions slowed him down after his July 9th, 142 pitch, outing against Softbank. I'm not sure what precipatated that, but it has carried over into 2006 for the most part. He closed 2005 at a significantly lighter workload than he had carried all year, and while he still averages 115 pitches a game in 2006, he's not thrown more than 134 in any start. No more 140, 151, 160 games. For what it's worth.

You can look at the abuse he took in 2005 more closely with this Pitcher Abuse Points chart. If you need more background on this metric, go back and read my analysis of Daisuke's pitch counts in 2006. Click to enlarge:

Scary, huh? At any rate, the Watch continues, and we'll keep you posted on the latest, as soon as we find it. Come back again soon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 20

The game is over and the results are in. Start number 20 on the year was a success for Seibu's powerful ace, as he roared through the Lotte lineup on his way to a very satisfying 7-3 victory. The Lions came into the game with a 2 game lead on second place Softbank, entering the stretch run. Here's a little rundown of the particulars.

The Lions jumped out to an early 4-run lead, thanks to two seeing-eye singles through the left side, an RBI ground out to second base by cleanup man Alex Cabrera, and back to back home runs by Kazuhiro Wada and Hiroshi Hirao. Matsuzaka was set up. At the start of action, Daisuke featured a 2.00 ERA which meant that Lotte had dug quite a hole. In the top of the 3rd, however, Lotte showed it's mettle by stringing together a one out walk, a single, an RBI double, and a sacrifice fly to get 2 runs in the visitor's column. It was a game again.

The Lions were unable to counter with any insurance runs and saw Lotte scratch a 3rd run out against our hero in the top of the 4th. It took a double by WBC catcher and Matsuzaka nemesis, Tomoya Satozaki, followed by a wild pitch and another sac fly to get the run across and things had become quite uncomfortable. That was all she wrote for Lotte, however, as Matsuzaka turned things on and his teammates scored once in the 6th and twice in the 7th to salt away the victory. Wada's two run homer in the 7th was his second of the night, and the hero's welcome belonged to him as the Lions strengthened their hold on first in the Pacific League.

Matsuzaka threw 133 pitches over 8 innings, fanning 12 against only 2 walks. His ERA went up from 2.00 to 2.08 with the 3 run outburst by Lotte, but what's a few hundreths of a point among friends, right? I'll include the statistical update for the 2006 season below, noting a few important changes that you'll hopefully appreciate. First, I've replaced the ERA column in the main chart with a "ground out/air out" column. Below the main chart is a stat line featuring many of the most important ratios, including ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, GO:AO, and STRESS. If you're not familiar with these, please make your way over to Baseball Reference and check their statistical glossary. In a recent post, I wrote about Pitcher Abuse Points, a metric which attempts to measure the amount of punishment a pitcher is subjected to over each start and cumulatively over the season. The metric "STRESS" is the total number of Pitcher Abuse Points divided by the number of pitches thrown. For more on this metric read my piece here. Click the chart to enlarge:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #6

A few news items today on Matsuzaka's future.

First, The Japan Times does a nice rundown of the upcoming free agent and posting period in Japanese Pro Yakyu. They report that the Yakult Swallows are looking to make some moves and will likely post their third baseman, Akinori Iwamura of WBC fame. They will also post lefty closer Hirotoshi Ishii. Several Major League teams have expressed interest in these players. The article calls Matsuzaka, "Boy Wonder, and indicates that Seibu will almost certainly post him. The dollar numbers are similar to what's been reported already. $25-30 million to talk, and 5 years, 70 million to sign. (The picture is Daisuke as a high school star at Koshien, in honor of today's Championship Game. More later...)

The other interesting note, and something that I've been following since the WBC, is that the Yomiuri Giants are trying to blow Seung Yeop Lee away with a big three year offer to keep him in Japan. He is hitting .326 with 36 homers and 81 RBIs for the Giants this year and is the only real bright spot in their everyday lineup. If they can't re-sign him, which the Japan Times says is only a 10% chance, the 'Kyojin' fans will have more to be depressed about than their 2006 last place finish. 90% Lee is in the Majors next year.

The second article was from the Seattle Times' Steve Kelley. Most of the piece is dedicated to blowing up the team. He even gets on Ichiro for hitting .325, but only producing singles. It's rough going in Sea-Town these days that anyone could find fault with Ichiro. He wants the team to make the $30 million splash to bring in Matsuzaka, AND sign Jason Schmidt. Yeah. Good luck with that one Steve.

The final piece I read was from the Baltimore Sun. All the talk about the Orioles being in the mix for Matsuzaka is a bit troublesome to me, but the Sun piece tells the story best. Here's the analysis, among the looks at key free agents:

"Daisuke Matsuzaka, Seibu Lions, right-handed pitcher: It's undecided whether the Lions will post -- auction off the negotiating rights for -- Matsuzaka, the 25-year-old pitching sensation who was the Most Valuable Player of March's inaugural World Baseball Classic. If he is posted, it could cost $30 million -- and that's before negotiating a salary with him. Orioles' angle: They have yet to jump into the Asian market, so don't count on it."

I concur.

The last thing I wanted to report today is only marginally related to Matsuzaka, but is a follow up to the piece I wrote yesterday about Pitcher Abuse Points. The Final game at the Koshien Summer High School Baseball Tournament was held today. The game ended in a 1-1 tie after 15 innings, which requires that both teams return the next day to start from scratch. Yup. Play it again.

The thing is, Oh Sadaharu's alma mater Waseda Jitsugyo featured their ace, Yuki Saito, who showed great stuff going all 15 innings with 178 pitches. The defending champions from Hokkaido, Komadai Tomakomai, also got a great effort from their top pitcher, Tanaka, who went from the 3rd inning to the end of the 15th on 165 pitches. Watch them go again tomorrow. Why not? Saito threw 178 pitches after pitching 5 complete games in 9 days. Why not? What's 700-800 pitches in 9 days among friends. The Japanese consider it heroic and powerful. I call it torture and it should stop immediately. Just prehistorically stupid. Get out of the Meiji Era, Japan. This is a world of science and advanced sports medicine. Stop the madness.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pitcher Abuse Points

Baseball Prospectus has a very interesting metric for analyzing a pitcher's level of abuse. It has been refined significantly over the years, and I think it's worth looking at with respect to Daisuke Matsuzaka. Japanese pitchers are routinely abused from the time they can pick up a ball, but how much? How does Matsuzaka compare to the most abused Major League starters? Is he really abused at all?

The first thing to understand about Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) is that pitchers are believed to be at a threshhold of sorts at 100 pitches. Up until roughly 100 pitches a starter is in his comfort zone. It makes no difference how much rest he has between starts. 4 man rotations bore out essentially the same as 5 man rotations and I would wager to say it holds true for the Japanese style 6 man rotations as well. It's not the lack of recovery time that hurts a pitcher, but rather the point beyond the stress threshhold that each violent delivery brings after 100 pitches. Another thing to understand is that the metric itself has been called into question on a number of occasions. Take it under advisement.

This series of bullet points from a 2004 BP article called "How We Measure Pitcher Usage" will help me illustrate my point:

"So to recap, here's everything we know about the usage of starting pitchers:

*There is no evidence that the current system of employing a five-man rotation is any better at accomplishing what it was created for--keeping pitchers healthy--than the four-man rotation. It appears that most pitchers simply don't need more than three days of rest between starts.

*In the era of the four-man rotation, teams were able to get six or seven more starts, and 50-75 more innings, out of their best starters than teams do today.

*Starting pitchers have, historically speaking, thrived without use of a fixed rotation at all.

*Starting pitchers have, historically speaking, been used as relievers between starts without adverse consequences.

*What seems to put starters at risk of injury is throwing too many pitches per start.

*Roughly speaking, "too many pitches" seems to translate to "over 100".

*Once a pitcher hits his fatigue point, his risk of injury goes up very quickly with each additional pitch.

*Pitchers under the age of 25 are exquisitely sensitive to overuse."

Knowing all this, it's time to examine the various metrics in use to determine a pitcher's "Stress" level and abuse. Here's a list that I took from the BP chart of Major Leaguers. I later translated that chart to include Matsuzaka's data.

TOT_NP = The number of pitches a pitcher has thrown in 2006.
MAX_NP = The highest number of pitches he threw in one start.
AVG_NP = The average number of pitches thrown per start.
TOT_PAP = Total Pitcher Abuse Points (NP-100)^3 where NP > 100
MAX_PAP = The single highest PAP total in one start.
AVG_PAP = The average PAP total across the full season's work.
CAT 1 = 1-100 pitch starts
CAT 2 = 101-109
CAT 3 = 110-121
CAT 4 = 122-132
CAT 5 = 133+
Stress = PAP/NP

Let's take a look at the chart now and see what we find (click to enlarge):

You'll notice right away that all the pitchers on this list have started 24 or 26 games in the Majors. Matsuzaka has only started 18. (Actually, it's 19 but I discounted a start in which he left with a groin problem after only 19 pitches since it unfairly skewed the data.) In only 18 starts Matsuzaka easily tops the chart in AVG NP, Total PAP, and AVG PAP. In all of the Major Leagues this season there have only been 3 games in which the starter threw more than 132 pitches. Matsuzaka has 3 on his own. Also, the highest number of combined CAT 4 and 5 starts is Carlos Zambrano at 5. Three or four other pitchers have 3 combined CAT 4 and 5 starts. Matsuzaka has 9!

Most of the highly abused pitchers in the Majors go between 110-121 pitches on their worst days. You know, those days that Dusty Baker fell asleep in the 6th inning after a light snack. As a result the abuse is somewhat limited, especially taking into consideration the gigantic disparity in Matsuzaka's 126! Stress rating, when compared to Livan Hernandez' 2nd place finish at 45.

The data does not lie folks. Matsuzaka's rotator cuff and right elbow are being worked into shoe leather by the Torquemadan pitching coaches of Japanese Pro Yakyu. Considering that BP's analysis shows that pitchers under the age of 25 are most affected by this abuse, it's amazing to think that he's lasted this long without extended periods on the DL. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Likewise, it makes it more criminal that High School pitchers are subjected to 200-300 pitch counts during the big tournaments. I will do a PAP analysis on one of these young hurlers in the future, but we must rescue Daisuke from the evil clutches of Seibu before it's too late!! I'm not worried about the durability of his arm, as he's only 25 this year. If it continues 2 or 3 more years it's trouble. We've got a 100 pitch count waiting for you in the States DM. Come and get it.

(By the way, in the high school game when Matsuzaka threw 250 pitches he earned about 3,375,000 PAP! Yowza!)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 19

You'll want to look at this one quickly and jump directly to the post below for a lengthy analysis of our young ace's ranking among the pitchers of his generation. The recap of Matsuzaka's 2-1 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters won't take long.

Cruising through the Nippon Ham order with little resistance, our hero gave up 3 singles and a walk through 5 and two-thirds before allowing his first extra base hit. After Fernando Seguinol doubled with two outs, young Daisuke retired 7 of the next 8 batters, taking him smoothly into the 9th inning with a 2-0 lead. Seguinol again tagged a Matuszaka offering to lead off the 9th, this time for a solo shot to bring the game within one. The next batter, outfielder Atsunori Inaba, singled. That was all she wrote for the Fighters. A little 9th inning cardiac exercise for Seibu fans, but the next three batter went quietly into the night.

Our hero pitched a complete game, on 7 hits and a walk, with only the solo homer against his record. He managed to go 9 in an impressive 118 pitches, for an average of about 13 per. His record improved to 12-4, and his ERA dropped to a cool 2.00 on the season and his WHIP 0.96! Click the stats below to enlarge, and don't forget the insightful post I constructed just below.


With so much traffic picking up lately in the mainstream press about Matsuzaka and his 2007 destination, I thought I'd nip a couple of things in the bud before they become the accepted truth. A lot of people who have never seen Daisuke Matsuzaka want to compare him to Hideo Nomo and Hideki Irabu. A lot of people are willing to forgoe the young ace because they don't trust a Japanese pitcher to be worth $10+ million at the front of their rotation. Questions about pitch counts, and the level of competition have sprung up in various places.

For me, it's in the best interest of the teams that know the truth and really want him to let these myths and misconceptions balloon. The more people with doubts about Matsuzaka's ability, the fewer suitors there will be in their way.

I wanted to put Daisuke's career to date into perspective. I've chosen 5 pitchers from Jim Albright of Baseball Guru's All 1990's team, and 4 of Matsuzaka's contemporaries, to show the kind of ratios he has in comparison to the best of his generation. Here are the other 9 pitchers and a short list of their credentials:

1. Hideo Nomo - 1990 Sawamura Award Winner (Japan's Cy Young), 1990 MVP, 1995 NL ROY
2. Hideki Irabu - 1994 and 1995 "Best 9" member
3. Masaki Saito - 1989, 1995, 1996 Sawamura Award Winner, 1990 Central League MVP
4. Shinji Sasaoka - 1991 Sawamura Award Winner, 1991 MVP
5. Shinji Imanaka - 1993 Sawamura Award Winner
6. Kei Igawa* - 2003 Sawamura Award Winner, 2003 MVP
7. Koji Uehara* - 1999 and 2002 Sawamura Award Winner
8. Kenshin Kawakami* - 2004 Sawamura Award Winner, 2004 MVP
9. Kazumi Saito* - 2003 Sawamura Award Winner

* Denotes player is still active

I calculated the following ratios for comparison between these pitchers:

K/9 - a measure of a pitcher's strikeout ability
K/BB - a measure of a pitcher's control and power
WHIP - a measure of a pitcher's ability to keep runners off base
ERA - a rough estimate of a pitcher's ability to prevent runs from scoring

The first chart employing these ratios is a rough sample of each player's career. In principle, I aimed to select the time period between a player's debut through the season he pitched the most games while at age 25. I tried to use this criteria to match Daisuke Matsuzaka's career to date. For some of the active pitchers that proved problematic because they chose to pitch in college before entering the pros. Some Japanese pitchers are wisely choosing this course, as they are given the chance to mature and develop their arsenal before being thrown into the mix. Pitchers like Matsuzaka are often drafted out of high school and tossed in the fire at age 18. In the case of those active pitchers, I used the span of their entire career to date, which was a sample size roughly the same as Matsuzaka's games and innings pitched. Click the chart to enlarge:

To keep the Nomo/Irabu conversation going, let's compare where they place with Matsuzaka's results:

K/9 - Nomo (1st), Matsuzaka (2nd), Irabu (3rd)
K/BB - Matsuzaka (6th), Nomo (9th), Irabu (10th)
WHIP - Matsuzaka (2nd), Nomo (9th), Irabu (10th)
ERA - Matsuzaka (2nd), Nomo (6th), Irabu (10th)

Right away it's easy to see that scouts fell in love with Nomo and Irabu's K Rate, before they could more critically analyze their all around talent. Nomo is near the bottom of the list here in most categories, while Irabu is clearly the worst of these players. Matsuzaka joins the former Major Leaguers in showing a mediocre K/BB ratio, but we will account for that later. One note on these statistics. You'll see that several players have significantly less innings as a sample, despite the amount of service they put in. It's common practice for Japanese professional teams to break in their 18 year old rookies by starting them in the pen for a couple of years before putting them in the rotation. It affects the stats just a bit, but not overwhelmingly.

Let's look at the leaderboard in these categories, 1 through 3:

K/9 - Nomo, Matsuzaka, Irabu
K/BB - Uehara, Kawakami, Imanaka
WHIP - Uehara, M. Saito, Matsuzaka
ERA - Saito, Matsuzaka, Uehara

Koji Uehara is the ace pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants. At 31 years old, he has been trying to escape the rapid collapse of that storied franchise to show his stuff in the Majors. They have not agreed to post him at any point. His uncanny ability to keep runners off base makes him a real treasure, and his dominance alongside Daisuke in the World Baseball Classic should keep him on Major League radar screens for as long as he can keep it up.

The next chart is a comparison of these players in the seasons when they pitched the majority of their games at age 25, as Matsuzaka is doing now. You'll note that Matsuzaka's stats are in progress, but the ratios will be representative. Also, Nomo's stats are from the previous season, as he was injured in his 25 year old campaign, and opted to retire to "defect" to the US. Again, click to enlarge:

Again, let's compare Nomo, Irabu, and Daisuke:

K/9 - Irabu (1st), Nomo (3rd), Matsuzaka (4th)
K/BB - Matsuzaka (2nd), Irabu (6th), Nomo (9th)
WHIP - Matsuzaka (1st), Irabu (6th), Nomo (9th)
ERA - Matsuzaka (1st), Irabu (5th), Nomo (7th)

Again, an indication of the love of the strikeout to the detriment of other evaluation criteria. Nomo and Irabu impress with their Nolan Ryan impressions, but fall well short in every other category. Let's look again at the leaderboard in these categories:

K/9 - Irabu, Igawa, Nomo
K/BB - Uehara, Matsuzaka, Igawa
WHIP - Matsuzaka, Uehara, M. Saito
ERA - Matsuzaka, M. Saito, K. Saito

The recurring names of Matsuzaka and Uehara are joined on this list by the ace of the Hanshin Tigers, Kei Igawa. He is an excellent pitcher who has also requested a posting to the Major Leagues. Like the Giants, Hanshin has declined that request more than once. I suppose I can't blame them. Where are you going to find a guy to replace your ace pitcher? Tough luck for Igawa, who is 27 and watching his best years fade away.

The ratio I'd like to focus on for the final part of this analysis is K/BB. I like this metric a lot. It is a simple to understand glimpse at a guys control. It combines a player's ability to create outs without a batted ball in play, and his control in the strikezone. Half the equation measures power and movement, and the other half measures control. There are certainly a host of other statistics that can pinpoint these things more precisely, but for the sake of simplicity, K/BB is a good snapshot.

I've argued that Matsuzaka's pitching has become ultra-refined in the last 2-3 seasons, and that any examination of his form, arsenal, and control before the 2004 season is not a great measuring stick for the pitcher he is today. Most players and pitchers hit their stride around their 25th or 26th birthday. Matsuzaka is no different. His control and power have converged very quickly to make him an ace of the highest caliber. Let's look at his K/BB ratios for the last 2+ seasons, and deposit him in the context of Major League players. It's not a fair or accurate measure with completely different data contexts in collision, but it should give some kind of rough guess at the range of his ability.

2004 K/BB Ratio

1. Ben Sheets - 8.25
2. Randy Johnson - 6.59
3. Curt Schilling - 5.80
4. Jon Lieber - 5.67
5. Brad Radke - 5.50
T15. Daisuke Matsuzaka/Bronson Arroyo - 3.02

2005 K/BB Ratio

1. Carlos Silva - 7.89
2. Johan Santana - 5.29
3. David Wells - 5.10
4. Brad Radke - 5.09
5. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 4.61

2006 K/BB Ratio

1. Curt Schilling - 6.95
2. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 5.27
3. Johan Santana - 4.92
4. Mike Mussina - 4.63
5. Francisco Liriano - 4.44

Finally, looking at the K/BB ratios of today's top pitchers at the ages of 24 and 25, and their career best #, we find:

Johan Santana - 3.60/4.91/5.28
Pedro Martinez - 3.17/4.55/8.88
Curt Schilling - 1.82/2.49/9.58
Roger Clemens - 3.08/4.69/4.69
Mike Mussina - 2.66/2.36/5.10
Roy Halladay - 3.84/2.71/6.38
Greg Maddux - 2.03/3.00/8.85
Randy Johnson - 1.00/1.35/6.59
Barry Zito - 2.33/1.66/2.56

That list is a short tally of the Cy Young winners in recent history. Many of them took a long time before they were able to harness their power and learn to control their stuff. The notable performance on this list is Barry Zito. He has never posted a remotely acceptable K/BB ratio, especially when compared to the greats on this list. He's Matsuzaka's main competition for the big free agent dollars this offseason. Which guy would you rather have for your money?

More of this type analysis will appear at Matsuzaka Watch along with the regular recaps of his starts and news bulletins. Please use the comments section to fill in any blanks I may have missed, or offer any additional analysis of your own. Go Daisuke!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #5

We're fast approaching another start for our young ace. In the meantime, I've come across a very nicely written account of Matsuzaka's pitching career and the forthcoming "posting" that seems to be just on the horizon. The blog that produced this article is a Red Sox fan blog, and the writer imagines Alex Rodriguez whiffing on the mysterious gyroball, which put a smile on my face. Funny mental image. In the end, he seems resigned to the fact that the gyroball will more likely be used to put David Ortiz to rest, thanks to the Yankees big wallet.

I would agree with that, with one caveat. The Yankees and Mariners are the front runners because they have formed close ties with the Japanese baseball community before everyone else. In a way, both teams are insiders. A few other teams have made in-roads as well, with players acquired via posting, but non as high profile as the M's and the Bombers. There is still the element of dollars and cents that leaves it open to anyone who wants to spend. A lot of teams won't spend big to get a Japanese pitcher, and it probably doesn't make sense for them. A lot of teams would like to spend big, but there's also the matter of negotiating with Scott Boras after the money is in Seibu's bank account, and the threat of Matsuzaka saying, "No thank you" to teams in less desirable markets is very real. I'm not sure he would do that, but Boras certainly will play that card to scare teams with tight purse strings away.

The Red Sox are not one of those teams, however. They probably have fond memories of the no hitter that Hideo Nomo threw for them some years ago. The Sox can outbid the Yanks if they want to. They can probably sign Matsuzaka and reap all the benefits of his youth, talent, and marketability. I don't think they will though. I think the road is too difficult, and the sense that the Yankees have beaten them out on something they wanted again is not an easy situation for Theo Epstein and company. Instead, I imagine they will continue to pursue a deal for Roy Oswalt or sign Barry Zito. The specter of Matsuzaka in a Red Sox uniform does make me uneasy, and probably would mark the only reason I could learn to dislike the guy who has become my favorite player.

I also found an article in the Washington Post indicating that the Orioles are interested in Matsuzaka.........HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA.


Sorry, nothing against the Orioles, but that would be one of the biggest wastes of prime time talent in the history of Major League Baseball. There is no Japanese market for Matsuzaka in Baltimore, and the Orioles have so many problems that one guy will not even come close to solving them. Stay out of the way Angelos. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #4

The march goes on at Matsuzaka Watch. Recently, the work I've been doing here has been heavily related to the increased media attention the young ace is getting around Major League markets. I spoke of the interest that the Mariners have in Matsuzaka, and the Yankees moves in Japan to gain a step up on the competition.

More reports emerge every day in the Seattle media, essentially telling the same story. He's out there. He's good. The Yankees are also after him. The Japanese connection that the Mariners have could help land his services. It's been repeated in every major and minor Seattle baseball outlet over the past 2 weeks. I expect it to continue until Seibu announces he's been posted and claimed in heavy bidding. I'll post the links to those stories here when I find them, but unless something new is said, I don't see the point in discussing the content.

The one interesting post I saw today was from the Los Angeles Times. They allude to the Mariners and Yankees, and hint at the Angels interest, but the story focuses on the Dodgers position in acquiring Matsuzaka. Current Dodgers' closer, and former Yokohama Baystar, Takashi Saito remarks that the Dodgers should take him. He calls Daisuke a "great, great player", as if that's news to anyone. The writer insinuates that the LA club will likely look at Barry Zito more closely in the free agent market as they are unlikely to get into any bidding wars. I wouldn't count them out at this point, but it would seem the Dodgers may be looking for a better bargain. Wait and see. The Dodgers have gone the posting route before with Yakult ace Kazuhisa Ishii, who was inconsistent and is now back in Japan.

The Dodgers pitching situation for next year finds:

Derek Lowe due $9.5 million (signed through 2008)
Greg Maddux contracts expires (likely to retire)
Brad Penny due $7.5 million (signed through 2008)
Brett Tomko due $4.3 million (signed through 2007+2008 option)
Mark Hendrickson contract expires (sure to be released)
Chad Billingsley on minor league contract (will join ML rotation)

It seems that there is one space open in the Dodgers rotation for a new pitcher. With Billingsly claiming his Big League spot in the regular rotation for 2007, the club can afford to spend on a front of the rotation pitcher. Their payroll is at about $100 million, but that's what it's going to take to compete with the championship caliber teams. Which way will the Dodgers go?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #3

The Seattle news media has been busy lately speculating on the Mariners acquisition of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the off season. Blurbs in the newspapers, from Seattle's writer, and translations of the both have included the Mariners in the race for the ace righty's services. It's natual given the influence of board member Minoru Arakawa, who basically created Nintendo America, Donkey Kong, and the NES systems. He is the son-in-law of former Nintendo Chairman and Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi. The Mariners have been in the hunt for Japanese talent after pioneering the acquisition of everyday players with the signing of Ichiro Suzuki.

This short note from Rotowire is a nice short summary of the news, and includes mention of the money involved in the posting, and perspective on the high pitch counts. $30 million dollars seems to be a popular figure bandied about in the discussions of Seibu negotiations, which seems outlandish, but they are in a seller's market after all. If you take that figure into consideration, and factor in the estimate of $10 million a year over 4 or 5 years, the amount of money teams will need to spend on Matsuzaka is roughly $16-$17 million per season. Ouch. That kind of money is reserved for the Mussinas, Clemenses, Randy Johnsons, Andy Pettittes, Pedro Martinezes, and Curt Schillings of the world. Even those guys are somewhat overpaid at that figure.

The base salary of $10 million a season would put DM in the company of Derek Lowe, Jose Contreras, Ben Sheets, Matt Clement, Eric Milton, Jason Schmidt, and Tom Glavine among 2006 base salaries. As good as he is, and as much as I believe he'll earn that kind of money as a frontline starter for the next 7, 8, 9 years, it all but eliminates most of the Major League clubs. 19 teams have a starter making $8 million or more. 13 teams have a $9 million+ starter. 10 teams have a guy making more than $10 million for a single season. Those teams are the Giants (Schmidt), the Mets (Glavine, Pedro), the Braves (Smoltz, Hampton), the Astros (Oswalt, Pettitte, Clemens), the Cubs (Wood), the White Sox (Vasquez), the Blue Jays (Halladay), the Red Sox (Schilling), the Padres (Chan Ho Park!!), and the Yankees (Johnson, Mussina).

What you see there is a combination of big market teams, with both New York and Chicago franchises on the list, a couple of mid-market teams with owners who wisely spend on pitching in the Red Sox, Astros, and Braves, ace pitchers on floundering middle of the road teams (Halladay and Schmidt), and an awful contract in San Diego. Chan Ho Park is the 5th highest paid pitcher in the Majors this year at $15.3 million!!!

The Mariners starting rotation in 2006 looks like this:

Jarrod Washburn ($7.45 million)
Joel Pineiro ($6.8 million)
Jamie Moyer ($5.5 million)
Gil Meche ($3.7 million)
Felix Hernandez ($340,000)

By contrast, the Yankees are paying the following starting pitchers:

Mike Mussina ($19 million)
Randy Johnson ($15.7 million)
Carl Pavano ($8 million)
Jaret Wright ($7.7 million)
Cory Lidle ($3.3 million)
Sidney Ponson ($1 million)
Chien Ming Wang ($353,175)

The Mariners would seem to have a nice amount of wiggle room in their payroll (currently ranked 11th at a little over $87 million) with Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro, and Gil Meche's contracts expiring after this season. I'm not up on the latest Mariners' contract discussions, but you'd have to figure that they are ready to say goodbye to Moyer. You'd have to figure that they will keep one of either Pineiro or Meche, who will both turn 28 in September. Both seems silly, given their mediocre performances, but you never know. There will be a lot of freed up money to splash on Matsuzaka if the Mariners are serious. With Ichiro and Johjima in the fold it makes sense. It almost seems like they had this plan a year ago when they brought in a catcher who speaks Japanese, huh?

The Yankees, for their part, would seem to have more flexibility than it would appear at first glance. Beyond deep pockets, the Yankees have some moves they can make to actually lower payroll and still add Daisuke. If you're interested, you can see the expanded Yankees version of this post at the mothership, Canyon of Heroes.

In the end, the "posting money" you gave to Seibu can be offset by Japanese marketing. You'll draw even more television interest, tourism, jersey sales, memorabilia, and ad sales to Japanese companies. The base salary that Matsuzaka will earn, actually becomes a bargain if he performs like an ace. Smart business. Seattle already knows it with Ichiro, and the Yankees definitely know it with Matsui. Unlike Ichiro and Matsui, Matsuzaka will only pitch every 5th day. It hardly matters, however, as the interest in those games he starts will be huge. He is called "the Crown Jewel of Japanese Baseball" after all.

The Mariners and the Yankees are the wisest choices for everyone involved. With everyday Japanese players in their lineups , and large Japanese populations, New York and Seattle will reap the benefits of additional exposure in Japan. Without the everyday player the TV coverage is limited to a once a week appearance. Seibu figures to make money from the marketing of Matsuzaka as one of their own in the Major Leagues, Japanese advertisers would benefit from the everyday tv exposure that their brand would get, and Matsuzaka himself would have a comrade to consult on the peculiarities of life in the US.

That's not to say that the Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets, or other high payroll clubs wouldn't love to get in on the action. I'll examine those teams a bit more closely as we get closer to the close of the season. How would paying Seibu and signing Matsuzaka affect those teams' fortunes? For now, it seems the Mariners and Yanks are off to the races.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 18

Before you read this, know that everything is okay. Are you scared? Heh heh.

The latest turn in the rotation for Daisuke Matsuzaka didn't go as planned. In fact, nothing was as planned all week, leading up to the August 9th game against Orix. DM's routine was altered for the first time this season, as he chose to pitch a bullpen session one day before his start. Seibu pitching coach, Daisuke Araki, said that Matsuzaka did this twice last season, but this was the first time in 2006 that he'd done so. Why did this happen?

As it turns out, young Daisuke has been dealing with some heavy coughing lately and perhaps was testing his stamina and effectiveness. What effect did the illness have on his start you ask? Let's take a look...

The level of concentration that Daisuke was able to muster was obviously insufficient to achieve his normal level of pitching mastery from the get go. The first two Orix batters reached on singles, and a run was brought home on a sac fly. Fortunately, the ace was able to settle down and get out of the inning with only a run scratched out against him. His teammates had staked him to a 2-0 lead to open the game, so 2-1 still worked in his favor. Everything was kosher for the next three innings, as Orix scattered 3 hits and a walk but were unable to score against Matsuzaka. His typical precision and pace were noticably off, and it's a credit to the young man that he was even able to take the mound. Unlike recent starts, DM's Seibu teammates were able to get runners aboard and drive them home to the tune of a 3 run top of the 3rd. Back to back home runs by Alex Cabrera and Tsuyoshi Wada fueled the offense.

The 5th inning was a bit of an adventure as the light-hitting #9 hitter, leftfielder Shimoyama, hit a solo shot to make the score 5-2. The Buffaloes really made Daisuke work with a few long at bats and a couple of singles mixed in. The illness combined with the effect of his medication hampered his ability to focus as it turns out in post-game interviews and he was forced to take himself out after the 5th with a 3 run lead. If you look at his numbers, it's actually incredible that he was able to perform as well as he did. His start looks a lot like what Roger Clemens has been doing in his 2006 return to the Astros. Matsuzaka apologized after the game to his teammates, coaches, and fans for his condition and the early departure. In Japanese culture, this sort of apology is common, as you can witness in Hideki Matsui's apology for breaking his wrist.

Being unable to complete your duties is a big thing for Japanese, and Matsuzaka felt the shame of retiring from the contest before he had finished his job. As it turned out, the early exit may have cost Seibu the ballgame as Orix rallied for 2 walks, 5 hits, and 4 runs against closer Chikara (Power) Onodera to steal the game 6-5. The positive side of things for the Lions and Matsuzaka is that the illness isn't serious, and shouldn't linger, allowing him to make his next scheduled start. Click below for updated stats, and come back bewteen starts for more "Daisuke Bulletins" with news from around the web....

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #2

Not much going on in the news, as related to #18, this week. I've been scanning the news for anything new in English or Japanese, and it seems to be the same ol' standard fare.

This article from the Seattle Times restates what I've been telling you all along about next year and the big Matsuzaka sweepstakes. Writer, Larry Stone, feels that the bidding will come down to the Mariners and their wealth of Japanese resources, and the Yankees and their plain ol' wealth. I wouldn't count out either the Angels or the Dodgers at this point. They are known entitied in Asia and have deep pockets. Likewise, the Mets may try to sneak up on everyone and throw a big wad of cash at Seibu, although the last transaction they tried to pull off with the Lions didn't work out so well, did it?

Stay tuned until the next turn in the rotation for our hero. Go Daisuke!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Delivery

I uploaded an animated series of still photos of Matsuzaka's delivery to You Tube. You can view the animation below. It's not earth shattering, but you can see his easy delivery in slower, point-by-point, fashion. Check out the drag he uses on his back toe as he steps off the rubber. I wonder if those mechanics give his pitches something extra. He doesn't do it on every pitch.

I also added another You Tube clip from DM's May 26th performance against Hanshin. Click this link to take you to the story I wrote after that start, and the new video is available to watch. It's a highlight reel of his 14 strikeouts on the day, and you can get a good sense of the explosiveness of his fastball, along with the wicked bite of his breaking stuff. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 17

Hello again. Matsuzaka Watch continues with the latest from our hero's Pacific League adventures. Last night, the ace started his 17th game against the rival Chiba Lotte Marines. Matsuzaka has already started 4 games against Bobby V.'s boys, including last night, and has enjoyed mixed results. Prior to the latest matchup he posted a complete game win, a 2/3 inning injury-shortened outing, and an 8.2 effort ending in a walk-off "sayonara" hit. How did he do this time around?

It was apparent early on that DM wasn't sharp. It took a lot of pitches to each batter to move through the early innings and most of the hard stuff missed its mark. Matsuzaka managed to work through 3 scoreless nonetheless, and his arsenal appeared to be sufficiently unhittable that his lack of control wasn't a factor. The ball stayed on the ground during those innings and 7 of the 9 outs were recorded on ground balls (one double play included). The other 2 outs were Ks.

In the 4th inning, WBC "Best 9" catcher Tomoya Satozaki led off the inning with a solo homer to knot the game at 1. The pitch was down in the zone, but centered and he got all he needed to capture his 13th home run of the year. No shame. That's going to happen against brand name hitters from time to time. Matsuzaka went on to record the next 3 outs, moving on.

The next inning looked much the same for Daisuke, as Lotte CF Saburo Omura delivered another lead-off solo shot to give his club a 2-1 lead. DM struck out the next two hitters, and got the final batter of the inning to fly weakly to center. He then proceeded to go 1-2-3, 1-2-3 in the 6th and 7th innings, hitting 100 pitches on the final pitch of the 6th.

The 8th inning was a bit sloppy as our hero went back to fastballs and sliders to start the inning. His late inning strength was his use of the changeup and curveball, with a few fireballs mixed in for good measure. Going primarily with the heater cost him the third Lotte run in the 8th, but the point was moot as the Lions could muster no more than a single 1st inning run against Hiroyuki Kobayashi of the Marines. Closer Masahide Kobayashi recorded his 30th save of the season and young Daisuke took the 3-1 loss, his 4th on the year and 2nd to Lotte.

Here are the updated statistics for Matsuzaka in 2006 (click to enlarge):

On final note. A lot of interest has been generated about Daisuke Matsuzaka in recent days. With an almost assured trip to the Majors in store for 2007, the heat is starting to pick up on this kid. Come back to us for your definitive look at this intriguing young player. David Srinivasan of The Talented Mr. Roto has linked to us in a blurb about the Seibu ace, and will be talking about him again perhaps as soon as this weekend. Thanks to David and the good folks at TTMR for supporting us. Until next time. Sayonara.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Daisuke Bulletin #1

I've decided to offer a little current news on Matsuzaka from time to time to make this blog more active. From now on you'll be able to check back for the latest talk on Daisuke Matsuzaka from around the web and mainstream press. Something to keep you and I busy between starts. With no further ado, a little appetizer from around the world....

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has been on the Matsuzaka trail since the WBC, and has contributed to the understanding of the mythical "Gyroball". In a recent column rating the 2006-2007 free agents, Passan ranks Matsuzaka as the #1 prospect, likely to command about $50 million over 4 years. That's in addition to the $10 million+ that teams will need to bid just to talk.

The New York Daily News offered this information regarding the Yankees' popularity overseas, and the impact of players like Matsui and Matsuzaka on the "brand":

"Both teams [Mets and Yanks] have worldwide plans, too, and pursue players beyond their borders, from Latin America to Asia. The Yankees have enhanced their brand internationally by signing Japanese star Hideki Matsui, though he's recovering from injury. They could add pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka this winter. They've had so many fans from Japan inquire about tours of the Stadium that they now offer them in Japanese as well as English and Spanish, Trost said."

Finally, I thought I'd give you a peek at what his arsenal looks like by offering this tidbit from You Tube. This is the WBC Final against Cuba. Most of the pitches are straight heat, delivered with Mariano-esque easy motion. The second strikeout in this sequence features an almost freakish pitch that defies description. I'd be hard pressed to imagine a single Major League player being able to either lay off or hit that pitch. Vlad Guerrero included. Enjoy.