Monday, November 06, 2006

Matsuzaka Redux: The End is Near

The posting process is underway and we've learned a lot about the field of players in competition for Daisuke's services. I posted a version of this article a few weeks back, entitled "Matsuzaka Redux", and I think it's worth revisiting again. 1000s of people have begin to visit this site with the intrigue of the outlandish bidding war in progress. A little refresher on what this is all about, and who Daisuke Matsuzaka is, seems to be in order. First, what is this blog all about.

I am a Yankee fan who has been living in Japan for nearly 3 years. I've followed Daisuke Matsuzaka since the beginning of the 2004 season, when I moved to the Far East, and really latched on after his stellar outing against Australia in the 2004 Summer Games (more on that later). As it's increasingly been speculated that Seibu would post him and allow him to pursue a career in the Major Leagues, I have become more and more interested in sharing what I know, and what I've seen of him over this time. There are many other players in Japan that would look nice in a Major League uniform, and perhaps we'll see some of them in the near future. In the meantime, this player is the best of the lot and the most imminent schedule for the US. To that end, I started this blog to chronicle the 2006 season, and provide the best possible analysis a fan with an understanding of simple metrics and Japanese language can provide. I've seen him pitch for 3 years with my own two eyes and hope that what I've seen will help you to paint a picture of the young ace.

To avoid a lengthy recap of the Matsuzaka credentials and background story, I'll refer newcomers to a story I wrote for Pending Pinstripes at the Most Valuable Network. That story should catch you up to speed on who Matsuzaka is, and why many people are falling over themselves trying to acquire him. That brings us to today. Here's where we know:

1. Matsuzaka has been posted.
2. Teams will have until Wednesday, November 8th to submit secret bids to Bud Selig's office.
3. Selig and company will hold those bids in trust, before finally delivering the winner to Seibu.
4. The winner will be announced immediately.
5. The winner will have 30 days to negotiate with Matsuzaka and Boras, before losing his rights.
6. If that happens, he MUST go back and pitch in Japan in 2007.

Beyond the posting process we also can speculate on dollars and cents:

1. The top bid will likely fall between $20-$30 million.
2. Boras will attempt to squeeze as much money as he can.
3. Rumors have that money anywhere from $8-$15 million a season over 3 to 5 years.
4. The posting money does not count against the tax penalty.

When you add it all up, you're looking at an average out of pocket expenditure of between $14 million and $22 million. The low end is acceptable. The mid-range is only acceptable if you are fairly certain that he's a legit #1. The top end is stupid by all accounts. When comparing this expenditure, it is important to remember to factor the US free agent's taxable salary against the soft cap, while Matsuzaka has none. As for his ability, there are differing opinions:

1. Most people who have seen him think he's a Major League frontline pitcher.
2. Many believe he's an ace.
3. Some people think he's a risk at any price, but especially at top dollar.
4. A few people think he's the second coming of Hideki Irabu.

His repertoire includes a four seam fastball that is clocked at around 95-96 MPH, and at around 92-93 when he locates on the corners or at the knees. His slider is filthy and is thrown with the same motion as the fastball. It's clocked at 82-83 MPH. In addition to those pitches, he throws a nice change, a sharp curve, a forkball, a two seamer, and an improving splitter. He does not throw a gyroball, as has been reported. The top contenders for his services are generally believed to be (in no particular order):

* Yankees
* Mets
* Rangers
* Red Sox
* Cubs

A fnumber of teams have reportedly dropped out of the bidding. The Mariners, most prominently, decided that the cost was prohibitive, and some reports suggest that Matsuzaka and Boras have informed a number of clubs that he won't play in their cities. That's unsubstantiated, but likely. The other cities in question are Los Angeles, Baltimore, and San Francisco. I wrote in Matsuzaka Redux that the best situations for him would be the Yankees, Mariners, or Dodgers. Since that time, the Mariners and Dodgers have opted out, prompting me to rethink the situation that will best suit Daisuke from the remaining teams. In my humble opinion, the best situations (in no particular order) for the player are:

1. New York Yankees

I'm a fan, so I hope he plays in New York. Beyond that, the prestige value is the highest. People in Japan revere the Yankees, and are already bananas about the idea of Matsuzaka pitching in pinstripes. The possibility of a title is also greatest in New York, although you'd have to argue that the team hasn't demonstrated anything worthy of that impression in recent years. The money is also best in New York. The Yankees will overpay, and market the daylights out of Daisuke. The franchise worth a billion dollars isn't shy when it comes to the green. Hideki Matsui's profile in both countries also helps him fit in more easily.

2. New York Mets

The Mets are an exciting young team, with a chance to steal the spotlight from the Yankees. Minaya and company would love to do that, and may need a big time replacement for Pedro Martinez should he retire or be completely unavailable in 2007. The past track record of Japanese players in Queens suggests two things. One, the Mets aren't afraid to enter the Japanese market. Two, they've been burned by the likes of Yoshii, Ishii, Shinjo, and Kaz Matsui. My opinion on this is more favorable to the first point than the second. Some writers have suggested that the Mets won't spend so big on an unknown after their past disappointments. That may be true, but I think Omar Minaya isn't connected to past regimes, and seems to have a good nose for talent. The Mets would do well to sign Matsuzaka, and he's perform very well at Shea.

3. Is there a clear #3?

The Cubs need offense more than anything, so they should probably avoid dumping a truckload of money on one pitcher, but Matsuzaka would do well at Wrigley. Yes, it's a hitters park, but it's also home to a team in the NL Central, which isn't exactly the AL East. Facing the pitcher every few innings would help Daisuke, and being around a competitive manager like Sweet Lou would assure that the team would be out there trying to win every night. It's an improving situation, but not ideal. The Rangers won't be competitive on many nights thanks to a weak rotation, and probably need more than one pitcher to win that division. Matsuzaka would play in a hitters park, and Texas isn't exactly a hotbed of Japanese culture. Boston would be a great situation for Matsuzaka, with an aggressive front office and a good lineup, but I'm not sure the Sox want to splash that much money on him.

Here are some of my earlier posts. There are links to these in the right hand margin, but they are listed here with some comments to clarify or elaborate on my reasoning.

Final 2006 Stats
This is a simple compilation of Matsuzaka's game log from the 2006 campaign. Each start is listed with the accompanying statistics. At the bottom of the chart you'll find many important ratios like ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, and so on.

vs. Japan's Best
This post was written as a way to put Matsuzaka's pitching into context. Many casual observers want to lump him in the same company as Hideki Irabu. I try to show in this article that Daisuke's numbers are in most ways well superior to his contemporaries. The sample I chose to examine was Jim Albright's All 1990's Team and a handful of current aces that I believe make up the elite.

Abuse Points
The metric called PAP, or "Pitcher Abuse Points" is one way of framing the amount of work (or overwork) that a pitcher is subjected to on a start by start, and cumulative basis. It was developed by the good people at Baseball Prospectus, and I've applied it to Matsuzaka's 2006 mid-season numbers here. If you're looking for a reason to be shy in signing this player, this article is for you. It's not the be all and end all of analysis, but the numbers are alarming.

Koshien and 2005
This is a simple set of game logs that highlight Matsuzaka's 2-time participation in the Koshien competition, and a more recent look at his 2005 games. Nothing fancy, but more data to look at.

Crude MLB Projection

This post is likely to be the most controversial of the lot. It's essentially an attempt to translate the 2005 and 2006 season in Japan to MLB equivalents. The process is very rough, and I warn you that I'm no statistician, but I think it's good enough to draw some simple conclusions. The method was borrowed from the aforementioned Jim Albright, but the data set is very small. Take it with a grain of salt, but understand that there's reason to think highly of this pitcher in the Majors. I actually think that Daisuke will post a mid-3.00 ERA in his first year, rather than the Cy Young-esque mid-2.00 in this post, but I think he has that kind of potential.

vs. Pedro
Again, a sexy idea for Matsuzaka supporters, but hardly a meaningful projection to Major League success. I attempt to show how Matsuzaka has dominated Japanese baseball, and how his level of ability in Japan can be examined in the same context as Pedro in the Major Leagues. The K/BB ratio plays a big part in this discussion, and I think even a guarded approach to this information will leave you with an optimistic outlook on Matsuzaka. An updated chart featuring the years each pitcher played from age 22-25 is featured just below. Pedro pitched at this age from 1994-1997 and Matsuzaka from 2003 to the present. (click to enlarge):

vs. MLB's Best 2006
For fun, I tried to imagine the exact 2006 numbers for Matsuzaka being thrust into a Major League context. It's purpose is not to say that the numbers will translate directly and that Matsuzaka is as good as Johan Santana, but rather to demonstrate how dominating he could be even by significantly dumbing down his numbers. If he's even half as good in the Majors as he's been in Japan, he'll still be a frontline starter.

Pacific to MLB Projections
In this post, I attempt to translate the numbers for the top 3 starters of all six teams in the Japanese Pacific League to the American League. I find the league average numbers for pitchers with over 100 innings pitched in both leagues, and create equivalents to translate the Japanese numbers. The flaw is assuming that a league average pitcher in both leagues is of the same quality. The benefit of this info is that it brings us a little bit closer to understanding the separations between the truly elite pitchers in Japan that have a chance to succeed, and those who would likely be overmatched even given a favorable environment.

vs. the World
This is a look at all the games (at least all the games I know of) that Matsuzaka pitched in international competition. It ranges from outings against Chinese Taipei in the WBC to the Cuban National Team on several occasions, and on to the MLB All Stars that toured Japan in 2004. The main value of this information is that it shows a steady level of excellence against whatever lineup is in front of him. Sure, the sample size is small, but it's still informative.

Each one of his 25 starts in the 2006 regular season are detailed at Matsuzaka Watch. Check the links at the right for any particular start. A You Tube video of his May 9th, 14 strikeout outing is available for your enjoyment. Look for other video clips in 2006 game recaps, indicated by the [VIDEO] next to the start in the linkroll. When the posting is complete and the winner is announced, I'll be back with a big post. In the meantime, look for some small contributions with any news or rumors that are floating out there. Take them with a grain of salt, as I don't believe anyone knows anything.....


At 12:11 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

Ex-Met Manager Bobby Valentine was on Michael kay's Show He said Dmat will be #3 starter in mlb.

Matzusaka has straight fastball. Occasionally he throws 97 once in a season. It seems Valentine wasn't enamored with Matsuzaka. When Matsuzaka comes to Us, The culture will be different and way you dress. Also the pitching Japan is much different than Us. Valentine compared Dmat to Mike Mussina.

At 2:15 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

Videos are from 2002 & 2003, respectively.

At 5:23 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:46 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

I forgot to bring this up before, but some for those who didn't hear the 2 Matsuzaka discussions on Michael Kay's show on ESPN1050:

With Buster Olney 11/2:

With Bobby Valentine 11/3:

(Hopefully these work)

At 5:57 AM, Blogger Elroy303 said...

Hey MediaJ33 ... they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there's no need to repost my exact words from verbatim without giving me credit. Thanks.

PS: Mike, thanks much for this amazing blog. You really have become the go-to reference for all things Matsuzaka. Arigato gozaimasu!

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

I think I posted somewhere about Bobby V's comments. Bobby V alternates between insightful and cuckoo. I always take what he has to say with a grain of salt.

If Matsuzaka is a #3 in the US that means that there are no #2s or #1s in Japan, and that there may never be.

Sure Daisuke may be a #3 in his first season, although I rather suspect he'll be a #2 right away, but Bobby V has rocks in his head if he thinks there's a better pitcher in Japan.

He did say that Kaz Matsui was a can't miss prospect too. Listen to Bobby V, and then get a second opinion.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

The Bosux are interested signing Akinori Iwamura. Do you think the Yankees are interested signing him also and put bid on him? How about trading Arod for Jake Peavy or Zambrano.

With Sox third baseman Mike Lowell having only one year left on his contract (at $9 million) and knowing there's enough interest that they could move him, the Red Sox have interest in lefthanded-hitting Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura, 27, who has hit over .300 with 106 homers the last three seasons. He had a .389 on-base percentage last season for the Yakult Swallows. The Indians, Padres and Phillies also appear to be in position to make a bid for Iwamura, a Gold Glove-caliber fielder who can also play second base and center field. Iwamura will be posted by the Swallows tomorrow and teams can begin making their secret bids. Iwamura will likely require a contract in the $4 million-$5 million range per season. Akinori Iwamura is the next Eric Chavez in the Mlb.

Iwamura put up for bid

NEW YORK (AP) -Third baseman Akinori Iwamura was put up for bid Monday by the Yakult Swallow of Japan's Central League.

Major league teams have until Friday to submit bids for the 27-year-old Iwamura, a five-time Gold Glove winner in Japan who played for his nation's team that won the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March.

The Swallows will be notified of the top offer - without being told which team made it - and have until Nov. 16 to accept. If the offer is accepted, the winning major league team has 30 days to negotiate a contract.

Iwamura hit .311 this season with 32 homers and 77 RBIs. He hit 44 homers in 2004 and surpassed 100 RBIs in 2004 and 2005. During his Japanese career, he has a .300 average with 188 homers and 570 RBIs.

During the WBC, Iwamura hit .389 (7-for-18) with three RBIs and two steals.

Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was put up for bid last week by the Seibu Lions of the Pacific League. Offers are due Wednesday, with the Lions due to decide whether to accept by Nov. 14.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

2007 My Yankees lineup

1st base Garciaparra

2nd Cano

ss - Derek jeter

3rd -Iwamura

left - Matsui/Melky

Cf -Damon


dh- Giambi

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Iwamura is no better than Tadahito Iguchi, if that. I would hesitate to sign him if I were a big budget team. There's no reason.

Trading A-Rod seems stupid to me by any argument, and doing so to replace him with Iwamura is not a good idea.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

think Arod's not a team guy and fail miserably in the clutch for the last three years with Yankees.He's selfish and only cares about his personal stats. This year Arod had more errors playing third and had no range at all. I think it's time to move on and trade him. Don't you think?

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

"I think Arod's not a team guy and fail miserably in the clutch for the last three years with Yankees."

Yes, he's failed so miserably in the clutch that he won the MVP in 2005 with the highest EQA in the sport. Plus, everyone else on the Yankees was hitting .800 while he was stinking it up, right?

"He's selfish and only cares about his personal stats."

So the fact that he moved to 3rd despite being one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game is selfish? Never complaining even when Torre embarrassed him by hitting him 8th is selfish? Where do you get the idea that he only cares about his stats? Do you realize that he's one homer at shortstop from becoming the all-time home run hitting shortstop in history, yet he's never asked Torre to play short, even once.

"This year Arod had more errors playing third years and had no range at all. I think it's time to move on and trade him. Don't you think?"

Yeah he struggled at 3rd, but I think his home runs and RBIs more than made up for the errors. Would you rather have a .270 hitting guy with a slick glove over there? That's all you're going to find if you trade him. Why anyone would trade one of the greatest players in history because he had some bad post seasons is beyond me. Babe Ruth had a similar post-season batting slump, but no one ever suggested the Yankees trade him.

At 1:13 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

I hope the Yankees land D-mat and win the bid. Will Dmat teach Wang how to throw that pitch?Do you think Wang can learn that "Gyroball" pitch from Dmat ? Wang needs strikeout pitch besides his great sinker

At 1:33 AM, Blogger KingCorran said...

Dice-K doesn't throw a gyroball. At least, not yet. ^_^

At 2:09 AM, Blogger Buffonesque said...

When exactly do you think the information will be released to the press about the bidding processs? Wednesday night (EST) ? Or Thursday?

At 4:40 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

Hey Mike, do you know anyhting about Hiroki Kuroda? Thanks. IS He interested at all playing for the Us next year.

At 4:43 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

At 8:09 AM, Blogger KingCorran said...

Kuroda signed a contract with the Carp. He won't be coming to the US next year.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

Possible Cubs Matsuzaka Bid Amount
The buzz around Chicago today is that the Cubs plan on submitting a bid of $21 million for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka. If other teams believe this leak to be accurate, it may cause them to up the ante if they have not yet submitted bids.

The Yankees, Mets, Rangers, and Red Sox are said to be the other four teams in the game.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

I don't want zito or Schmidt. Yankees should be bidding to maximum for this guy. What ever it takes to sign D-mat.

If the Yankees failed to land D-mat, George should fire cashman and let him go.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger citi21 said...

Nice job on this blog Mike.

Can't tell you how happy I am to see that there are people out there smart enough to realize that this hating on Arod is both idiotic and nonsensical.

Most of these people follow the media like sheep. They talk trash about Arod and pretend to know about baseball.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger citi21 said...

By the way, I've watched Matsuzaka and based on what I've seen and some mild statistical analysis, I'd say the most accurate comparison for Matzuzaka is Javier Vazquez. In fact, I think they are almost clones.

The main difference is Matsuzaka's slider is slightly better, while Vazquez's change up is stronger.

Both can throw what looks like 6-7 different pitches factoring in the arms angles, and both are a unique combination of power and command.

Most casual fans don't realize this, but factoring in consistency and health, Vazquez is arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball.

His peripheral statistics over the course of his whole career have been outstanding. (WHIP, K/BB, K/9, etc.)

This is what I expect from Matsuzaka, including the fluctuating ERAs and durability. I expect his WHIp and K/BB ratios will be just as strong and consistent as Vazquez's.

At 1:30 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

Comments from Cubs about D-mat . Cubs Fans say The Cubs will outbid the Yankees.

At 4:06 AM, Blogger Mediaj33 said...

Yanks ready to catch gyroball

Maybe it's the urban legend of his bizarre pitch -- the "gyroball" -- that defies both logic and physics. Or maybe it's that he's young, or Japanese, or a hard thrower, which makes the Yankees remember why they once coveted Randy Johnson.

There are plenty of reasons why Daisuke Matsuzaka has become the centerpiece of the Bombers' offseason plans, but the focus on the right-hander is so great, he's put a potential courtship of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte on a back burner.

"This is the guy we want," one Yankees official said on Tuesday, referring to Matsuzaka. "I'm not saying we have to get him, but we'd like to."

The baseball world will have its answer on Wednesday, when, by 5 p.m. ET, clubs have to submit their blind bids for the negotiating rights to Matsuzaka and the gyroball, which is said to rotate like a football and move like a slider in slow motion.

The Yankees are believed to be ready to go as high as $20 million for the mere right to speak to Matsuzaka about a contract. It's an enormous posting fee, even by the Yankees' standards, but they're being driven by an unsubstantiated belief that the Rangers will be the dark horses in the blind bidding.

Owner Tom Hicks, they hear, is apparently convinced he needs just one young arm to take control of the West, and further believes his working relationship with agent Scott Boras, who represents Matsuzaka, can divert the pitcher away from the Bronx straight to the heart of Texas.

At 4:11 AM, Blogger James said...

Great posts and comments so far, I'm a big user of and I'd love it if you guys checked it out once in a while to share your views.

I'm also a Yanks fan and I think he'll probably end up there.

At 4:12 AM, Blogger James said...

Great posts and comments so far, I'm a big user of and I'd love it if you guys checked it talked more at length there about Matsuzaka.

I'm also a Yanks fan and I think he'll probably end up there.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger KingCorran said...

Latest rumor:

"Early reports appear to indicate that the Rangers may have submitted the highest bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

An emailer just wrote in to tell me that 1310 Sports Radio in Dallas reported that Texas posted the highest bid, estimated to be around $25MM"

As much as I don't want Dice-K to end up in New York, Texas might be just a little worse. Maybe as a Yankee the rich get richer, but I'd rather the M's faced him cross-division than in-division.

Maybe Boras will hold his ground, and Dice-K will return in free agency in 2008.


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