Tuesday, October 17, 2006

From Bobby V's Lips...

Matsuzaka has hit the big time. Feature story in the New York Times. NYT writer, Tyler Kepner, has done a nice piece on Daisuke in the October 17th edition of the paper. I'll let you read it for yourself, but there are a few notable quotes to share with you.

"Six years ago, as the major league playoffs dominated the attention of American baseball fans, Bobby Valentine was asked about the potential impact of a player from Japan. Valentine, then managing the Mets, said he believed the player was already one of the five best in the world.

That player was Ichiro Suzuki, who quickly proved Valentine right by winning the American League Most Valuable Player award for Seattle the next season.

Now, as the manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, Valentine has a more intimate knowledge of Japanese talent. If his instincts are the same, then Daisuke Matsuzaka will be the next big star in the majors. “This guy is the real deal,” Valentine said last week in an e-mail message. “He has the ability to be one of the top starters in M.L.B.”"

I've been waiting to hear Bobby V. chime in on Matsuzaka's posting for a while, but this is the first time I've heard him say anything. Matsuzaka faces the Lotte Marines several times a year, as they are both highly competitive clubs in the Pacific League. There's more:

"One scout who has seen Matsuzaka extensively said his skills went beyond talent. The scout, who asked not to be identified, said Matsuzaka had the competitive drive to battle out of jams.

“It’s not only his stuff — his ability to pitch is even more impressive,” the scout said. “He’s a bulldog.”

The scout said that while Matsuzaka could throw 95 miles an hour, his fastball was usually around 92-93; Valentine described the fastball as “a little above average.” But Matsuzaka’s command is excellent, his slider — called a “Gyroball” in Japan — is sharp, and Valentine called his changeup devastating."

I've been saying this for a while now. Matsuzaka is a mentally tough guy that doesn't back down in jams. It's uncanny. Bases loaded, nobody out. No problem. Walk in the park. I'll just strike the next three guys out....and he does. The fastball is good. It used to be crackling good and topped 100 in the 2004 Olympics, but he doesn't usually top out anymore. He pitches. He realized that he was going to pull a Nomo and burn his arm out if he continued to blaze it by guys. His offspeed stuff is so freakishly good that his 92-93 MPH stuff on the black looks like 96-97. He can still pop one on you if you sleep. The one thing that Valentine said that had me scratching my head a bit was this:

"As polished as Matsuzaka is, Valentine said, “he lost a little this year.”

“It was probably because of the W.B.C.,” he said. “He did have a few small injuries for the first time in his life.”"

He lost a little? The guy posted a 6.06 K/BB ratio that topped all players in Japan by a mile. He also dropped his ERA to a career low 2.13 on the season. I'd like to lose that much too. I'd be standing in line to cash in on 10s of millions. The few small injuries seems a bit odd too. His groin tightened up on him in the 1st inning of one start and he skipped a turn in the rotation, and he had a strain in his "right buttock" one game that he ended up dominating with double digit Ks. The last couple of starts he hit an oddly high number of batters (6 over two games). He's probably tired after pitching so much. Seibu doesn't give a damn if they use him up this season, because he won't be back.

At any rate, a good article by Kepner. He mistakenly says that Matsuzaka's slider is called a "gyroball" in Japan. A gyroball is a gyroball. A slider is a slider. The two shall never meet. Matsuzaka throws one of the nastiest sliders you've ever seen. He does not throw a gyroball. Aside from that, perfect. Enjoy.


At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike--awesome website; been following it since the summer.

Would you be able to provide your assessment of other NPB players that might become available this winter--e.g., Iwamura, Uehara?

Also, how do do you compare "Dice-K" with Nomo in his prime in Japan, and Kazumi Saito?

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saito has nothing on Matsuzaka. It's something like a career year for him, but anyone can get one like that. Saito has a relatively limited arsenal, while Daisuke has 5 excellent pitches if his fastball fails him.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Thanks for the posts.

Iwamura is a nice player. I doubt he will be better than Iguchi in the end. He has a little pop, but for a thirdbaseman, I'm not sure he'll be a hige impact player.

A team with a mid-level budget looking to solidify the hot corner would be very happy to have him. He'll be steady and win a few games with the bat.

Saito is an excellent pitcher. He'd be a front of the rotation pitcher in the Majors, but I think he has weaknesses that would be exposed in the Bigs, where Matsuzaka does not. Saito's pitches are effective when he's locating and he has a nice mix, but nothing is particularly electric, and his breaking stuff in only above average, not stunning. He'd still be very very good.

Uehara is a guy I am planning to watch for next season. He'l be a free agent in 2007 and will almost assuredly play in the Majors in 2008. I like him a lot. He doesn't walk guys and knows how to pitch. He'll be very good in the Majors, for sure.

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

Uehara is more of a grounder-type pitcher ala Chien-Ming Wang or Webb. He doesn't have that nasty sinker but his pitching is insanely precise (as seen in WBC).
One thing I'd be concerned with would be his age, he's getting old and that might affect his performance in the Majors. Regardless, he would be a decent pitcher in the Major, perhaps a no.2 at most.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i believe he said irabu was going to be good as well.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Jamie said...

Enough with the Irabu crap, the guy was a fuckin' disaster we get it. Dice K is going to own shit, and I really hope the Red Sox don't outbid the Yanks or I will go crazy.


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