Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Matsuzaka Fever

It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it. Matsuzaka Fever is heating up. Already this site has seen more than 10 times the typical traffic in one day, with the announcement by Seibu principal owner Hidekazu Ota that his star pitcher will be sent to the Major Leagues by the posting process. This announcement comes on the heels of Seibu’s elimination from the Pacific League wild card series several days ago. Mr. Ota had previously indicated that he would follow the will of the fans in making his decision to post Matsuzaka, and it became clear at that point that we would be looking forward to this outcome sometime in the not too distant future.

The Japanese press broke the story yesterday with headlines reading things to the effect of “Matsuzaka Okayed to Pursue Majors Career. Yankees and 6 Other Teams Interested.” It was also the hot topic of conversation at the workplace and on the street. At first, my ears perked up to conversations being had at desks around the office. There was a soft murmuring of Japanese with the words, “Yankees” and “Matsuzaka” clearly pronounced. Sometime later in the day, I was asked in the men’s room if I knew Daisuke Matsuzaka. I grinned and told my co-workers about this blog. They were shocked and delighted and proudly announced to me that he would be on the Yankees next season. I was, of course, pleased to hear that they believed one of Japan’s favorite sons would join the Bombers, but I had to remind them that the posting system is open to anyone who decides to spend big. They replied something to the effect of, “Yeeeah. C’mon. He will be on the Yankees.”

I went out last night with some co-workers to celebrate the departure of a fellow teacher and spent the evening in a eating/drinking establishment. There I also heard talk of Matsuzaka joining the Majors, and again I heard an excited “Yankees” in the mix of the discussion. On the street in the area surrounding the restaurant there were taxi drivers and locals talking about the Chuinichi Dragons clinching the Central League pennant, and the conversation turned to the Yankees and Matsuzaka. All of this pleases me a great deal as a Yankee fan. If you’ve spent any time reading here, you know that this is the spin-off blog to Canyon of Heroes, which chronicles the Yanks throughout the year. The pleasure I get in hearing my favorite club admired so enthusiastically in Japan is only measured by the knowledge that whatever the fans want, and whatever Matsuzaka wants, the highest bidder will retain his rights. Take heart in that Mariners, Ranger, Orioles, Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Mets fans….among others.

I’m sure the coverage of this story will grow by leaps and bounds as the posting draws nearer. I will continue to cover the news, and the details of the upcoming Japan/MLB All Star Series. This year’s competition has been announced as a best of five series. All the games will be played, but there is certainly an air of real competition about it. The following comments were made on by key figures in the sport.

"Beginning the baseball season with the inaugural World Baseball Classic and ending it with a competition featuring superstars from the two premier professional leagues in the world is a true testament to the global reach of our game," said Paul Archey, Senior Vice President, International Business Operations, Major League Baseball. "This event will provide an exclamation point for what has been a truly remarkable year for Major League Baseball and the worldwide exposure of the game."

"With these games, we take an important step in heightening the competitive aspect of postseason play in Japan," said Eugene Orza, Chief Operating Officer of the Players Association. "While friendship will always be a hallmark of the play, with such talented rosters and an expanded prize pool, these games will certainly be even more exciting and competitive than ever before."

The rosters have also been officially announced. The MLB team will be as follows:

C Joe Mauer
1B Ryan Howard
2B Chase Utley
SS Jose Reyes
3B David Wright
OF Andruw Jones
OF Chone Figgins
OF Bill Hall

C Kenji Johjima
C Brian Schneider
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Tadahito Iguchi
SS Rafael Furcal

SP Johan Santana
SP John Lackey
SP Chris Young
SP Bronson Arroyo
SP Erik Bedard

RP Brian Fuentes
RP Ray King
RP Chris Capuano
RP Mike Myers
RP Scot Shields
CL Joe Nathan

Manager: Ken Macha

Clearly the MLB team will need to add another outfielder or two to the roster, but I think the team is solid. It’s not the best players out there, but it’s more than enough with that pitching in all likelihood. In 2004, we saw Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Vernon Wells on the club, among others, and it was perhaps a bit scarier. A total of three more players will be added shortly. The Japanese will be fired up to take a best of 5 from the Major Leaguers and solidify their reputation as a premier league, on par with MLB. It’s not true, but that’s how it will be perceived, like it or not. The Japanese roster will be very good and will feature many of the players from the WBC championship roster. It appears as though the series will open with Matsuzaka facing Johan Santana, but Koji Uehara has generally been chosen for such opening games in the past with seniority on the former Seibu ace. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

If you are new to the blog, or simply don't know how it works, there are links in the right hand margin to take you to my recaps of all 25 regular season starts, as well as his one playoff start. There are also links to various analysis that I performed on MLB projections, Pitcher Abuse Points, and more. Take your time, browse the content, and keep coming back for more.


At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is sort of unrelated to the article, but I was wondering if there's any update on Matsui Kazuo? I for one hope he doesn't go back to Japan.

Anyway, it seems to me it'd be a great honour for all japaneses if "Kaibutsu" joins Yankees. It's almost considered the highest honour in most people's mind (Same thing happened with Matsui Hideki)

Who else is gonna be posted this year? Kinjoh? Iwamura?

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Good questions.

I don't know about Kaz Matsui. I've heard he's likely to rejoin a Japanese club. He did hit .350-something for the Rockies to close out the year, so who knows.

Iwamura is likely to come, but aside from his situation the news has been very low key. I'll keep you posted.

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A minor update on the Matsuzaka news...

This month's Sports Illustrated has suggested the Yankees should concentrate on winning the Matsuzaka bid rather than going after Barry Zito. As discussed, Matsuzaka is the strike-out pitcher whom Yankees desperately needs in the rotation right now.
Should they acquire Matsuzaka, their rotation will consist of Chien-Ming Wang, Matsuzaka, farm Star Hughes who's expected to take the next step next season, and with veteran Mussina and Johnson as the 4th and 5th pitchers. This way the Yankees' top 3 pitchers will all be younger than 27 and should help Yankees sustain the pitching advantage in the next 4-5 years

At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you give us an update of the timing of the process? when are the bids due? is there any scouting involved (i.e., will he be working out for teams, etc.)

At 4:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The posting system for players in Japan is a JOKE.....Matsuzaka will go to whatever team he wants to go to....there will be leaks as to what the highest bid will be to the team Matsuzaka desires. If Matsuzaka doesn't want to go to the Yankees....he won't go there.

His ideal situation would be with the Mariners where they have a fluent japanese catcher that knows him...It would be the best chance for Matsuzaka to reach success in the MLB. If Matsuzaka realizes this, no matter what the Yankees bid....the M's will have the opportunity to cash in and beat the highest bid (this scenario pretty much works for whatever team Matsuzaka chooses....yes, even the Rangers - although HIGHLY unlikely).

At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another quick update... Matsuzaka is expected to hold a press conference in regards to his posting after the Nippon series

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous baileywalk said...

Anon, it's been repeated again and again that Mats is a Yankee fan (I don't know if this is true or not, but I've heard it a million times). I hardly think Posada has to know Japanese to work with Mats. Fingers don't come in languages; the number one is still a fastball. Plus he'll have Matsui during the game and his interpreter in between games. (Posada also knows these hitters better than Matsuzaka does.) Also, why would he choose a dead baseball town like Seattle over New York? (Not to mention being good on the New York stage guarantees him a ton of money for his next contract.)

Mike, here's a question to you: has Matsuzaka ever talked how moving to a five-man rotation will affect him?

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Matsuzaka will pitch wherever he is posted. The posting will occur sometime around the first week of November. MLB teams have 40 days to enter secret bids to Bud Selig's office. That means we'll know the winner around the middle of December.

The last opportunity for teams to scout him is the MLB/NPB All Star Series in the early part of November. He'll likely start opposite either Johan Santana or Jon Lackey. Once his rights are won, the team can probably give him a physical....although I'm not sure about that.

The catching situation isn't an issue. It would be nice for him to have Johjima as a batterymate, but it hardly matters in the end. Plenty of great pitcher/catcher combos speak different native languages and they get by fine. Watching video together and talking about the game notes is the only time they need to communicate using elaborate spoken language, but the MLB teams are rich and can bring in a good interpreter to deal with it.

As for the team preference, I think it's clear that his preference is the Yankees. Most Japanese people I talk to want him on the Yankees. I'll take off my Yankee hat for a second and talk about this objectively.

Matsuzaka's best financial situation is the Yankees. The New York market and the deep pockets are no-brainers. The best pitching situation for him is Seattle. He'd be under less of a microscope from a US media perspective, he'd have two established Japanese teammates, and the AL West is more wide open. The teams out there are very good, but don't throw wicked lineups at you night in and night out.

The best situation to dominate would probably be the Dodgers. The NL is weaker. LA has a big Japanese population. Nomo has been a big star there already. Saito would be his teammate.

Those are 3 situations he'd be happy to join. I hope it's the Yanks, but those 3 clubs are good situations for any fan of Matsuzaka.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous HowardForeskin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're an idiot if you think Matsuzaka will be a bust
Give your head a shake

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Mike in Prov said...

Hi guys! I am very excited about Dice-K and I have been analyzing all the video I could find of him and read all the reports I could find. Here's my understanding of Matsuzaka:

He doesn't have a "Gyroball." He has said this himself many times.

Look again. It is a very good changeup. It breaks low and away on lefties at around 82mph and is a devastating out-pitch.

He has a 92-94 mph Fastball that explodes halfway to the plate and he can locate on the corners. He can jack it up to 95 or even 96 mph if there are 2 strikes, or if it is a big at-bat, even in the 9th inning.

His slider varies from 78-82 mph and he can throw it for strikes. It breaks 12-6 like a curveball, somtimes with a sligh 1-7 break. He can throw it hard on occasion. It is probably his favorite pitch, he uses it in all counts to both lefties and righties.

Another pitch he has is a 2-seam fastball that has a slight sinking movement to it. It isn't as fast as his 4-seamer, clocking around 89mph, but he mixes it in to confuse batters, usually lefties.

He is making progress on a "split finger" pitch, not a true "splitter" but more of a "fork ball" which is a useful pitch in the MLB.

I'm a huge Sox fan. I don't care where this kid goes: Boston, Seattle, NY. I'll cheer for him every 5th day. He's not perfect, but he has great stuff and the mental makeup to get out of jams and outwit batters.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Sorboni said...

I heard the guy who owns DAISUKEFEVER.COM and MATSUZAKAFEVER.COM is getting hundreds of inquieries.


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