Monday, October 09, 2006

All Good Things....

Matsuzaka Watch is sad to report that Seibu's season has come to a crashing end. After outdueling the likely 2006 Sawamura Award winner Kazumi Saito 1-0, Daisuke Matsuzaka watched his teammates cough up the best of 3 series by dropping the final two games by scores of 11-3 and 6-1, respectively. Superstar Nobuhiko Matsunaka did the damage in the second game by driving in 5 runs, while #5 hitter Julio Zuleta broke a tie ballgame in the 8th inning with a titanic 3-run blast in the conclusive game. I've been saying since opening day that whatever the records say in the standings, SoftBank is the best ballclub in Japan this year. I fully expect them to beat Nippon Ham to win the Pacific League pennant and then Chuinichi for the whole enchilada.

What does this mean now for the young ace? It means that he won't be donning the Seibu colors again, in all likelihood. It is virtually assured that he will be posted following the conclusion of the Japan Series in a few weeks. Fans around the country have already begun to prepare for the posting, and are excited to see the man they call "The World's Matsuzaka" or "The World's Ace" don an MLB uniform come Spring Training. In an article from the post-game coverage of the Seibu elimination I found this:

Matsuzaka Greets Fans, But Is It a Parting of Ways?

"Despite Seibu ace Matsuzaka's complete game shutout victory in the first game, the team has missed advancing to the second round by "losing two consecutive". Matsuzaka pined, "I was frustrated because I wanted to pitch a little more." After the game, he appeared on the field alone and performed polite greetings. He took a hat for a fan who was buried in the right wing seats and in the first base infield stands, and bowed to them. Rumors about his right arm being transferred to the U.S. Major Leagues by the posting system (a bid system) did not die out, and he seemed to say his last good-byes to the fans now. Matsuzaka said that he "believed in a Seibu victory, and a lot of fans came to support us" regarding this action."

There is one step before the posting process moves to a frenzy pitch. That last step is the Aeon MLB All-Star Series, called the Aeon NichiBei Yakyu here in Japan. Aeon is the largest retailer over here and they have sponsored the previous two installments of this series in 2002 and 2004. They also provided sponsorship for the season opening games between the Yankees and Tampa Bay in recent years, and others.


You'll note that I wrote about Matsuzaka's participation in the 2004 event in my feature on international competition, linked at right as "vs. the World". Daisuke tossed a complete game against a team of MLB All-Stars in which he gave up one run, 5 hits, no walks, and 6 strikeouts. He'll likely face an even better lineup this November as the series is renewed. The details of this competition are as follows:

2006 JAPAN ALL-STAR SERIES

NOV 2 MLB All-Stars vs. Yomiuri Giants
NOV 3 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 4 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 5 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 7 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars
NOV 8 MLB All-Stars vs. NPB All-Stars

The rosters have yet to be announced, but a number of MLB players have committed to play. The Japanese rosters will be selected in part by fan ballotting, a la the MLB All Star Game, and the manager of the NPB club, Rakuten's Katsuya Nomura. To date the following Major Leaguers have been named as participants in the event:

C Kenji Johjima
1B Ryan Howard
2B Tadahito Iguchi
SS Jose Reyes
3B David Wright
OF Andruw Jones
IF Chase Utley

SP Johan Santana

The rest of the team will be announced later. Typically, the players coming in from the Bigs spend more time buying electronics and picking up women than they do focused on baseball according to some newspaper accounts of the previous events, but there is a different sentiment this time around by all accounts. The Major Leaguers are out to reclaim some dignity for their league in the wake of the WBC competition. A number of guys have been quoted as saying they want to get back some of the pride that was lost in the March event.

Whatever happens, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be there. I'm not certain if we will learn who has won the posting rights during the same timeframe, or if they will announce everything after the games have concluded. I'm also not sure how soon we can expect to get the official press release from Seibu that the posting will go on as planned. I'll be there to cover everything for you. Keep coming back, and get ready for some interesting games.

On a final note, this blog has topped 10,000 hits after slowing building readership every month, and I'd like to thank fans of all stripes for coming by, linking to me, and entering through various search engines. I've had visitors from countries all over the world, and I hope you've enjoyed my work here. More soon..........

12 Comments:

At 5:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure the MLB teams aren't disappointed. If they're dropping 100 mil on him, given his past abuse, the less innings the better.

 
At 2:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been confirmed that Matsuzaka is coming to the Major league next year. Seibu Lions will post him up fairly soon

As for your comments on matsuzaka's "past abuse", you don't understand how "yakkyu" works. In Japan it's a 6 starter rotation rather than the 5 starter, so a pitcher gets a full 5 day rest before taking the mound again. It is fairly common for a pitcher to pitch over 100 sometimes to 140 or 150 (though rarely) a game. It depends on the pitcher's training and condition. Matsuzaka has always been known for a workhorse because he has very solid fitness training ever since highschool

 
At 4:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm glad johjima will be over there to fit Dice-k for his new threads.

 
At 4:54 AM, Blogger KingCorran said...

*lol* Anon #2

Well, now that he's on the table... I really hope Dice-K ends up in Seattle. I can hear the echo of everyone who's been reading here (with a slightly different city name)...

While only one team can get him, I'll be following Daisuke with interest in the Majors. If he's not a Mariner, I really hope he's not a Yankee (a 200m payroll shouldn't need him!) or in the AL West... but even if he is in the hated pinstripes, a part of me will be cheering for him every time he takes the mound... something that could formerly only be said about Yankee lifers like Posada, Williams, Rivera and Jeter.

 
At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: "past abuse"

Baseball Prospectus and some others have done work on this and concluded that innings pitcher per start is more important than rest between starts. Rough E.g., being part of a 4 man rotation and throwing 90 pitches per start is better than being part of a 6 man rotation and throwing 120 pitches per start. In fact, this was the subject of at least one post on this blog.

 
At 6:22 AM, Anonymous mars2001 said...

Dude... we need a new post here.... as per ESPN (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2619621)

Prized pitcher Matsuzaka given OK to pitch in MLB

Highly regarded pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was given permission by the Seibu Lions on Tuesday to pursue a career in the major leagues.

Matsuzaka, who has drawn interest from several major league teams including the New York Yankees, finished the 2006 regular season with a career-high 17 wins against five losses.

The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.13 earned-run average and 200 strikeouts.

Matsuzaka has long been considered one of the brightest prospects in Japanese professional baseball.

Seibu is expected to use the posting system in which major league teams present bids for Japanese players and the highest bidder wins the negotiating rights. Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Seattle Mariners under the same system.

Matsuzaka is still one year away from becoming a free agent.

In his eight-year career in Japan, Matsuzaka has led the Pacific League in wins three times and in strikeouts four times while winning the ERA title twice and the Sawamura Award, Japan's version of the Cy Young Award, once.

Matsuzaka impressed major league scouts when he helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last March and was named MVP of the tournament.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

 
At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: "past abuse"#2

I should clarify my argument a bit. In Matsuzaka's case, it isn't exactly "less innings the better". It would be "sufficient innings will do him good". Matsuzaka usually doesn't get warmed up until after 2nd inning or 3rd inning and he's at his best from 7th inning and on. I do understand where you're coming from - If they want to secure Matsuzaka's career, it'd better be for him to pitch less innings. However, It is quite rare that a pitcher in NPB reaches past 200 inning a season. Most starting pitchers (ace, too) eat up about 180~190 innings while having 5-10 Complete games; and they're expected to eat up most of the innings given that each team has limited bull-pen resources. (Their roster size is slightly smaller than that of the MLB)That's because the teams only play 136 games there, which is a huge difference from what MLB does.
When Matsuzaka pitches in the Major, I wouldn't be surprised to see him getting 200 innings and more in his first season.
Another point coming to mind is that NPB has a longer offseason too. The offseason training and "maintenance" is very crucial to the pitcher's career. Japanese players usually have very strict rules to follow during the offseason as a way to protect their playing life.
Anyway, I'm guessing Matsuzaka will be heading to Yankees. As much as I'd love to see him teaming up with Johjima, I wouldn't want to see him suffer on a shitty team.

 
At 7:33 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Rest between starts does not make up for high pitch counts. The research in sports medicine suggests a pitcher can easily survive in a 4 man rotation, throwing on 3 days rest, but will sustain an exponentially greater chance of injury every 10 pitches he throws above 100.

Rest doesn't matter. Pitch count does. I understand how yakkyu works perfectly well. I understand that the best pitchers in Japan miss whole seasons with dead arms and major surgery on occasion because no one seems to get this yet....especially at the high school level when guys throw 1000 pitches over a week at 180 a pop.

You'd get thrown in jail for doing that to a minor in the US.

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Also, the reason guys in Japan don't hit 200 innings is because they make an average of 28 starts, rather than 34 in the Majors.

The season is significantly shorter.

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

NPB's offseason is lost as a period of rest though. Japanese pitchers continue to throw 100 pitches a day throughout the offseason to stay sharp.

It's also true during the season. Bullpen sessions can get quite long. I would say that Matsuzaka is more durable and shows more of a rubber arm than most of the guys I've ever seen, but he does have mileage. There's no escaping it.

 
At 7:39 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

and of course, all my points were nicely covered in the post just prior to these 4 mini-posts.

;)

 
At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it surprising that someone in North America actually follows NPB. I've been watching Matsuzaka ever since his Koshien debut. Though it was fascinating to see him dominate in the tournaments, it was also painful to see him throwing enormous amount of pitches. Especially when he's merely a 16 year old and his body's still growing. Yet he just kept growing to become the best pitcher in Japan later.
It was a pity he lost to Saitoh this year in 4 pitching stats by a relatively small difference - ERA (2.13 vs 1.75), Wins(17 vs 18), Strikeouts(200 vs 205, though Matsuzaka only pitched 186.1 inning whereas Saitoh pitched 201), and Shut-outs (2 vs 5). If Seibu's offence gave him a better support he'd be the one claiming teh triple crown title, not Saitoh.

 

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