Monday, October 23, 2006

Scouting Daisuke

I was referred to a nice article in the Japan Times this morning. The feature is written by Jack Gallagher, and is based on consultation with Chicago White Sox super scout, Ray Poitevint. Poitevint is actually the Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President/General Manager, International Operations. He is famous for his work in the Orioles organization where as Western Regional Scouting Supervisor he signed Hall of Famer Eddie Murray and Dennis Martinez. He was a long time scout in the Brewers organization, and moved up the ladder to hold a similar post with Milwaukee. He spent a number of years, recently, in the Red Sox organization scouting the Pacific and Japan in particular. During the Hideki Matsui free agent run, he compared the player to Fred Lynn. Over the years, Poitevint has become one of the most well-spoken experts on Japanese talent and chimed in on Matsuzaka. A few of his choice comments:

"He may eventually be a No. 1 starter. If you are looking at a first-division ball club, that has a good pitching staff already, you are looking at him maybe being your third starter at the outset," Poitevint said by telephone from his California home recently. "If he stays healthy, by the second year he would be at least your second starter. He has all of the ability. It has to do with the non-physical things and the adjustments."

That's a fair and conservative prediction from a guy that's been watching Japanese baseball for 40 years. I think there's also the possibility that he can come in as a #2 right away and take off from there. Poitevint goes on to say:

"Physically, he could help any team. He is an American-type pitcher. He has the kind of stuff that American major-league pitchers have. "He is not coming with great movement, or deception on his changeup, or anything of that nature. He is just a good, solid pitcher."

I agree with this point as well, with the exception that his slider has as good a movement in the zone as any slider in baseball. Later in his discussion of the pitch selection that Matsuzaka features, he also fails to praise that pitch:

"When we scout, we rank them from two to eight. Five means average, six is above average, seven is good, eight is excellent. "Matsuzaka is a 'six' on everything. He is above average. He doesn't have the fastball of Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens -- which were 'eights.' "There are some 'eight fastballs' in Japan, but Matsuzaka doesn't have one. "He has an above-average fastball with some movement on it. I think he is good enough that he doesn't have to put the wear and tear on his arm that he does by throwing so many different pitches." "The pitches that he has command of are the slider, forkball, changeup, the four-seam fastball -- which is a riding-type fastball with increasing velocity, the two-seam fastball -- which has some sink. All of those pitches are above average.

In my humble, and significantly less experienced opinion, Matsuzaka's fastball is a 'seven' more often than he is perhaps being given credit for. Poitevint talks about the fastball being 141 to most guys with a little extra that notches it up to 147-150 against the big boys. That means he throws an 87-88 MPH fastball to most guys and notches it up to 91-93. I just don't see that. Unless we're watching a different guy. Every game I watch has Matsuzaka up around 147(91-92) to most guys with a ceiling of around 153(95) against tough hitters in big spots. It may seem like a small discrepancy, but it's a huge difference actually. A guy who throws an 88 MPH fastball with little movement is throwing batting practice. That is MLB home run speed. I don't recall seeing any of Daisuke's fastballs that low on the gun.

His slider is an 'eight'. No one throws a wicked slider that buckles knees better than Matsuzaka. To call his slider 'above average' is like calling Derek Jeter's girlfriends 'alright looking'. Aside from those points, I think he's right. The rest of the repetoire is 'above average' and occasionally good. Poitevint makes some other excellent points about the wear and tear that might make teams worry. He recommends that anyone looking to shell out big money should give him a thorough physical. He also praises Matsuzaka's bulldog mentality. He is a mentally tough, and some say cocky, young player. The spotlight doesn't faze him, and being in a jam isn't going to have him pacing around the mound with jitters. That much is universally agreed upon. No Irabu or Contreras choke jobs from Daisuke. The mental part has been mastered. The final point that I'll quote from Poitevint is this:

"Unless his control falters, he will have success. Only injuries will prevent him from being a No. 1 to No. 3 starter."

There you have it. My only objection was to the assessment of his fastball and slider. I think he's better than Poitevint says, but that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.


At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Mike, I agree with you. As a fan who's been watching Matsuzaka since Koshien era (yes, I've been lurking around this website for a few weeks now), the scouting report here has underestimated/undervalued Matsuzaka. And that's scary enough since the scouting report is putting him as a no.2 pitcher
If you watch Matsuzaka's games more often, as Mike's stated, Matsuzaka often jacks it up to 95-96 Mph when facing tough hitters. And his slider's extremely nasty, clocking at 131-135 km/hr with a nasty, sharp turn.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Thanks anonymous. Drop me a line at

That's my e-mail for Canyon of Heroes, my Yankees blog.

I think Mr. Poitevint probably knows what he's talking about, but the scouting report on a pitcher will rarely rate everything a 'six' across the board. That's a nice scouting line if you can get it, but I think it's a little too across the board. Fastball is a 6.5-7 and the slider is definitely an 8.

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Mets fan, so we are cross town rivals. Nothing would make me happier than see him in a Metropolitan jersey next year. I would rather Omar invest in Daisuke than Zito's 6yr/95 mill contract.

As for Kaz Matsui, I rooted for him more than alot of Mets fans, but he just was too injury prone and not mentally tough to play in NY. It seems like there are the Irabus, the Kaz Matsuis who are not mentally tough enough to take the criticism. Really happy to read about Daisuke's mental toughness.

At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an article that suggests Matsuzaka doesn't reallly desire the you so strongly feel.

You'll probably bash it and discount it as nonsense since you're a biased Yankee fan

At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Jamie said...

Nice Link, too bad it doesn't work dumbass

At 2:44 AM, Anonymous Orlandu said...

You don't need to be so rude to him, Jamie.

Here is the correct link.

At 2:49 AM, Anonymous orlandu said...

Damn this thing! Here's the rest of the link.


At 3:41 AM, Anonymous mars2001 said...

here's the text of the above-mentioned article...

World Series Notebook: Does Matsuzaka want to join Ichiro?
Yankees expected to battle Mariners for star pitcher


DETROIT -- The World Series, as always, is a celebration of the two teams that outlasted the other 28 to make it into the second half of October.

That doesn't mean the other 28 can be completely dismissed during the Fall Classic.

Not far from the talk of the Tigers and the Cardinals is talk of how others are planning on making it to the Series next year and beyond.

In many circles, that talk includes Daisuke Matsuzaka. The teams that are believed to be preparing posting bids to pay the Seibu Lions for the rights to the services of the right-handed starting pitcher are the Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs and Mets. And the Angels and Orioles might take a flier at the 26-year-old right-hander who was 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA in Japan this season.

But where is it that Matsuzaka himself would like to land? Baseball sources say that if he could choose, he'd come to Seattle to play. The reasons are twofold -- center fielder Ichiro Suzuki and catcher Kenji Johjima.

Matsuzaka, associates say, has long wanted to play with Ichiro, something that both men experienced in the World Baseball Classic last spring. Team Japan won the tournament with Matsuzaka winning the Most Valuable Player award and Ichiro serving as mentor to the younger men on the team.

And Matsuzaka and Johjima spent time as teammates at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The Mariners, and everyone else, had believed they would have one last chance to scout Matsuzaka next month when a team of major league All-Stars, including Johjima, plays a five-game tour in Japan.

Matsuzaka was supposed to be on the Japanese select squad, but this weekend came word that he is pulling out. He cited lingering pain from a hit off his right elbow in September, while tour organizers said he was withdrawing because he wanted to focus on his conditioning in preparation for joining a major league team.

The posting process probably will run its course by the middle of next month. The Yankees, the team with the most money, and the Mariners, the team with the best Japanese connections, are widely considered the clubs that will ultimately butt heads for the right to sign Matsuzaka.

However, the bids are submitted just once for each team, no one knowing what the other teams might do. Seattle bid $13.1 million for Ichiro in fall 2000, and most believe this year's winning bid on Matsuzaka will be in excess of $20 million.

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

Very nice. Since I'm such a biased Yankees fan, I should just erase it and act like a dictator to sweep it under the table.

Since that is a Yankee Hater label that is being put on me, I'll choose to ignore it and comment on my own:

1. Great. I included Seattle as one of my 3 best options for him. I don't know who "associates" are that are saying all that, but congratulations for the scoop. I think Seattle would be a great place for him, and I'm sure he'd be very comfortable and happy there.

2. Discounting the Yankees in his list of preferred destinations may make everyone's psyche rest a bit easy, but it's simply not true. Matsuzaka has long been interested in playing for the Bombers, as most competitive athletes are. I think he'd also be very happy to play in New York.

3. We won't know where he's playing until the posting process is done, so any speculation as to where he wants to play is just our own egos being massaged. No problem. I think he wants to play in Korea for the Samsung Lions, to keep the team name and all. That would make me rest easy at night...

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous mars2001 said...

Mike -

You say it as a joke, but I am curious... could ANYONE (a team from SK, another Japanese team, an NFL team, the Desert Sands in Las Vegas, etc....) THEORECTIALLY put in the winning bid on Daisuke such that unless he reached a deal with them he'd end up in Japan for one more year? (Is the posting process/sealed bids an unlimited thing?)...

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

As far as I know, the bidding is limited to MLB teams. It was the result of the Nomo situation, and only exists between the two leagues.

It would be interesting if it could be anyone. I doubt the Sansung Lions have $75 million to pay a guy, but it would be crazy if they were ABLE to do it.

At 1:10 AM, Blogger KingCorran said...

The bidding is, in fact, limited to MLB teams. The agreement that posting is derived from specificially mentions MLB and NPB teams, and all requests go through the "Japan commissioner"'s office and the "US commissioner"'s office. Bud Selig wouldn't see any profit to MLB in allowing Dice-K to go elsewhere, so in our case the question is moot... but in the general case, it is explicitly stated that the bidder is a 'US club'. If the MLB commissioner allowed any non-MLB party - even an independent league club! - to purchase the negotiating rights like this, any MLB club which had been outbid would be up in arms. Even if the player is to be offered a minor league contract, it is the major league club which does the negotiating.

As for the anonymous blogger who was up in arms about Mike... wow. Very unnecessary.

Mike makes no secret of his Yankee leanings... so why get on his case about it? I'm a huge Mariners' fan, but I find a lot of neutral value in what Mike has to say here. When you have a personal bias (which is not a bad thing in and of itself!), this is a hard thing to get around. I would expect a slight Yankees angle to some of Mike's writings, and have been pleasantly surprised several times to find that angle to be unusually small in almost everything said here.

Keep up the good work, Mike - and thanks for the news you bring in.

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daisuke Wants to win. That won't happen in Seattle no matter how many Japanese stars they have

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Thanks King.

I am defintely a Yankee fan, and hope he's in pinstripes, but I've become an even bigger fan of Matsuzaka and hope he performs at a Cy Young level, whether it's in pinstripes, Mariners blue and green, Dodger blue, or God forbid Red Sox colors....well....maybe not Red Sox colors.

To the last poster's point. If Matsuzaka joins Seattle, and pitches like a Cy Young, why can't they win? They would have just as good a chance as Minnesota if they had an ace pitcher. The Mariners have a little money to throw around this off-season too.

I hope it's on Jason Schmidt, but Matsuzaka could find himself in the playoffs on a regular basis in Seattle if they're smart.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Travis G. said...

When is the posting over and we find out who won?

At 2:45 PM, Blogger KingCorran said...

Summary: We'll know about a week after he's posted, which could happen as early as November 1st. I would expect the whole thing to be done before the calendar switches over to December... it didn't take Ichiro long to sign, and I see no reason why Dice-K should take much longer even with Boras involved (no matter with which club he is negotiating)

At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't, theoretically, the red sox or whoever put in a bid of 35 mil or so to block the yankees, and then not come to a deal with diasuke? It seems dumb that if Seibu, Japan, MLB, Boras, Matsuzaka, and whatever MLB team that pays for him wants it to happen, it wouldn't happen.

At 3:25 AM, Anonymous Travis G. said...

that IS possible, but I believe Bud Selig has or will speak to the bidding teams that if they win the posting, they better make their best effort to sign him. Otherwise, it'll create problems betw. MLB & NPB.

At 4:06 AM, Blogger KingCorran said...

Selig or the NPB commissioner can reject any ridiculous bids. IIRC, the contract offered has to be larger than the amount of the successful bid as well, which is a key point they can watch for.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Orlandu said...

There's a good write-up on Matsuzaka in the blog I linked to my username.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous orlandu said...

Let's try this again.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous orlandu said...

At 3:38 AM, Blogger KingCorran said...

Hey Mike - what do you think of the speculation on this blog about recent Boras announcements? Any insight you can add to the conversation?

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys. I am a HUGE red sox fan, and even I think that Mike does a great job (or at the very very least, above average) at minimizing his bias and giving the facts objectively. Sure, he sprinkles in his OPINIONS, but it is only in an effort to help us better understand! I think he does very well.

I'd love to Dice-K (I like that nickname!) him in a Sox uniform behind Curt Schilling and in front of Josh Beckett, Jon Papelbon, and Tim Wakefield (while Jon Lester recovers from his Lymphoma). But if he goes to Seattle, I'll root for him (I am already a huge Ichiro Fan!) and if he goes to the hated Yanks.... ::shutter:: I would find myself rooting for him every 5th day... THAT'S how much I like Matsuzaka. I really think he will be something special.

One question I have relates to the "Gyroball" I was watching some footage of him (esp on youtube Matsuzaka vs Cuba in the WBC) and I thought he threw a Gyroball to 2 lefthanded batters... but upon further review, I don't think he has a gyroball (like he says)

I think what he throws is a very good change, sometimes he throws it "hard" and sometimes he really "pulls the string back" so to speak. A very good changeup can break low and away from lefties, I think THAT is the pitch that I thought was a Gyroball.

If his fastball is 91-92, that won't cut it in the AL East. It would have to be 93-94 and top out at 95 or 96. But if he can keep hitters honest with that excellent Changeup to lefties, and/or keep batters offbalance by throwing the sharp sliders (for strikes at least half the time) I think he has potential. Especially if his fastball is like Jonathan Papelbon's, where it seems to increase in speed about half way to the plate.

Let me know what you think!
-Mike in Providence, RI

At 1:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

His slider is not an 8. His command of his slider is an 8 but the movement is more like a 6 by MLB standards. I say this as someone who thinks Matsuzaka has a very good shot at being a 1/2 in MLB.

At 1:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

also, to respond to mike, a 91/92 fastball will cut it in the AL East if it's well placed. Look at Curt Schilling. Matsuzaka has a habit of not thowing his fastball down the middle of the plate. If he's painting corners, he'll be fine.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger YankeeBaseball said...

I saw some of his pitches officially clocked at 156, which translates to 97.5mph, plenty fast when you mix in that devastating slider...


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