We are all hoping you feel a lot better. Missing a game in the middle of a serious pennant race is a difficult thing for any ace, and we wish you the best for a swift and healthy return to mowing down overmatched Japan Leaguers. It's not the same without you making people look foolish on a weekly basis.
Warm wishes for a complete recovery, Matsuzaka Watch
(Matsuzaka missed tonight's start against Orix -the team that lit him up for 4 runs in 4+ innings last time he met them- but should be back for a July 7th showdown with Shinjo and the Nippon Ham Fighters.)
Greetings Matsuzaka fans. After running these updates at Canyon of Heroes exclusively, I decided that the content was important enough to merit it's own blog. Matsuzaka Watch is now a full weblog unto itself, and should host information and updates on Daisuke Matsuzaka as often as I can humanly achieve it.
You'll notice that the blog header is the old COH banner for Matsuzaka Watch with the Yankee logo on the left. That can't be helped. The entire reason I started this project in the first place was to keep Yankee fans over at Canyon of Heroes well versed on the most coveted pitcher in the world today. That's still my purpose, although I am happy to see that so many Angels, Mets, and Red Sox fans have chimed in on their desire to bring Daisuke to the US. I wish those teams luck, but my heart is with the home team, so Yankees logo on the banner it is.
I've been a bit negligent in keeping Matsuzaka Watch current at COH, and owe readers a few June updates. I'll start by mentioning that Matsuzaka left his last start on Friday the 23rd of June in the early innings with a strained groin. He missed some time with the same injury in recent years, but all updates indicate that it was a precautionary thing and that he seems to be moving normally now. No word on whether he'll make his scheduled Friday start this week, but you'll know as soon as I do.
I'll start with the June 2nd game in catching you up to speed. It won't be very comprehensive, but the 4 games I write about here are long since finished and the stats at the end of the post will tell the story for me. Here we go:
On June 2nd, 2006, the Lions took on the legendary Yomiuri Giants. It was a matchup between dominating American pitcher Jeremy Powell and young Daisuke that ended in a dramatic victory for the Giants. Matsuzaka was absolutely cruising through this game, while Powell beaned Lions' rightfielder Hisashi Takayama and was immediately ejected under Japanese rules. In the 6th inning the wheels came off the cart for Daisuke, as he gave up 2 singles and a double before succumbing to a huge 3 run blast by catcher Shinnosuke Abe, a personal favorite, on a hanging change. I've never seen Matsuzaka so frustrated and shaken. He totally lost his cool and danced around the mound smirking to himself. He is usually unflappable, but I think he saw the whole thing building and lost his concentration. That was all the Giants needed as they won 4-2.
On the following Friday, June 9th, Matsuzaka and the Lions faced the equally historical Hanshin Tigers and figured to bounce back from his disappointment against the Giants. He did just that as he pitched a complete game, giving up one run in a 10-1 victory. He struck out 14 batters, matching the total in his May 26th start against the same club. The capper was his 8th inning 2 run bomb that put the cherry on top of his outing.
June 16th was another impressive affair for young Daisuke. He faced the inept Yokohama BayStars, who had taken the loss in his May 19th victory despite lighting him up for 7 runs, 5 earned. That outing alone was responsible for a third of his earned run total on the season going into the game, and the 2 earned runs he gave up in his victory the second time around still tallies a third of his 21 earned runs on the year. However, this time was a bit easier for Matsuzaka as he struck out 12 batter on his way to a complete game, 3-hitter, 6-3 win.
That brings us to the injury that Matsuzaka sustained in his last start. On Saturday, June 24th, Seibu took on the defending champion Chiba Lotte Marines and Bobby Valentine. In the first inning, Daisuke began by walking leadoff man and WBC teammate Nishioka before retiring right fielder Watson on a deep fly to center. Matsuzaka then proceeded to walk the outstanding 1st baseman for Lotte, Fukuura before retiring Benny Agbayani on a pop up to first. That was all she wrote as the trainer was called to examine our hero and it was decided that it would be better to play it safe. The Lions went on to win the game 4-3 thanks to a couple of homers including Alex Cabrera's 19th on the year and shortstop Kataoka's 3-run job in the deciding 5th inning.
Click the graphic below for an enlarged image depicting the up to date stats for Matsuzaka.
Now that you're up to speed, check back often for more news on Daisuke Matsuzaka, and whether or not he'll be making his scheduled start this week. Keep your fingers crossed. See you back here soon.
You can't stop him. But he can sure stop you. The Daisuke Matsuzaka Express is blazing through Japan on its way to New York. At least that's what I'm hoping for. There are a handful of Angels fans that read my posts that would tend to disagree, but I find it hard to imagine that anyone will outbid the Yankees when it comes to negotiating with Seibu. It may be obscene, but that's the world we live in these days.
Matsuzaka is coming off a poor outing against the lowly Yokohama Bay Stars, and it figured that he would come out guns blazing versus the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka. The Tigers, like the Yomiuri Giants, are a traditional franchise here in Japan and have a following not dissimilar to Red Sox Nation. They are usually good, but rarely good enough in the end. Their cheering section is legendary for its spirit and vibrant chants. There must have been little to cheer about as young Daisuke mowed down Tigers' hitters like blades of grass....as if that matters to the Hanshin Crazies.
Through 4 innings, the Seibu ace gave up 1 walk, no hits, and 6 strikeouts. He was truly dominant from the start. The 5th inning started as something of an adventure as Hanshin opened with a single and a double to put Matsuzaka in trouble. What do All-World pitchers do when the have runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in a close game? They strike out the next 3 batters. That brought his strikeout total to 9. In this contest, Daisuke went 1-2-3 in every inning but the 5th and 7th, when he gave up his only other hit. His final line was a complete game shutout featuring 3 hits, one walk and a ridiculous 14 strikeouts. His teammates gave him just enough run support to earn his 7th victory in 9 tries, triumphing 3-0.
His ERA now stands at 2.01 with a WHIP of 1.040, which in my book means he's a bad ass. Here's the full stat line (click below):
Back in the saddle again ladies and gentleman. Another installment of the world famous "Matsuzaka Watch". "Friday night with the Lions", as I like to call it. It's been a remarkable season for Seibu and Matsuzaka to this point, and the Lions currently sit at 24-19, a half game back of Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines, and the Nippon Ham Fighters of Shinjo fame. I expect Lotte to remain competitive the rest of the season, but Seibu should leave Nippon Ham in the rear view mirror eventually. All three teams won on Friday night, including a 10-7 slugfest featuring the victorious Lions againt the Yokohama Bay Stars.
Matsuzaka was staked to an early 2-0 lead as superstar Alex Cabrera mashed a 2 run bomb in the top of the opening frame. Young Daisuke has shown a tendency to be a little off in the 1st inning this season, and he ended up handing a run back on a two out double, walk, and single. Both teams scored big in the 4th, with Seibu putting up a 6 spot highlighted by an RBI double off the bat of Daisuke. The big Seibu inning was followed by Yokohama's 3 run rally. The Yokohama rally featured two infield hits, a clean single, and a loud double.
Matsuzaka would go on to give up 2 home runs in the game. The first to struggling WBC alumn Hitoshi Tamura, and the other a 7th inning solo shot to slugger Shuichi Murata, who has a Pujols-esque 14 dingers in the early going. All in all, not a sharp effort by our hero, but he got the win and still managed to post a few impressive numbers. For instance, try on 10 strikeouts for size. He tossed an alarming 127 pitched through 7 full, giving up 11 hits and 3 walks. Ouch. Here's his line for the year:
See you next Friday for the next edition of "Matsuzaka Watch"...
With the Hideki Matsui injury stealing headlines, I opted to wait on posting this update until Yankee fans had the opportunity to read my piece on Gojira before bumping it from the top spot on the blog.
Our hero, Daisuke Matsuzaka, took the mound against the world famous Tokyo Yomiuri Giants last night in an interleague game matchup. The Lions have struggled recently, dropping out of 1st place in the Pacific League, mainly due to poor pitching. Young Daisuke was sure to be the remedy for those ills. The Lions managed to win a close ballgame 3-1 with some late inning fireworks. Here's the lowdown:
In the Giants half of the first inning, Matsuzaka started sluggishly. Walking left fielder Takayuki Shimizu and then allowing a single to right fielder, and former Lion, Tatsuya Ozeki. Still no one out. After a strikeout of infielder Tomohiro Nioka, the Lions' ace gave up his first run on a single by "The Lion King" Lee Seung Yeop. 1-0 Giants. That's all the Giants would get for the remainder of the ballgame, as Matsuzaka cruised to a complete game, using only 106 pitches to strikeout 7, with 5 hits, no walks, and just the single run on the board.
The win didn't come without the pressure of holding it close. The Lions didn't manage to mount an attack until they batted in the 8th inning. With a runner on and two outs, the Seibu club strung together 3 consecutive hits, culminating in a game winning, 2-run double off the bat of Alex Cabrera. Cabrera is now hitting .345 with 9 home runs on the young season and saved a big moment for Matsuzaka's outing in Tokyo. More great pitching for Japan's best player. Here's his updated numbers on the year (click below):
Matsuzaka has allowed one earned run in every start this season, with the exception of the blip two weeks ago against Orix when he gave up 4. His ERA is a ridiculous 1.75 and he sports a WHIP of 1.013 making things very difficult on opposing hitters. His pitch count has been extremely managable recently which bodes well for success in the long marathon that is a professional baseball season. Check back next week for his next outing.
Coming off his worst outing of the season against Orix, Daisuke Matsuzaka looked to rebound by dominating the Fukuoka Soft Bank Hawks. Easier said than done, as the Hawks are a very good ballclub managed by Oh Sadaharu and featuring several key members of the WBC champion team, including #4 hitter and former triple crown winner Nobuhiko Matsunaka. How would the world's most sought after pitcher fare? Try, very well. Seibu 7, Soft Bank 5.
The score makes this affair seem a lot closer than it actually was. The heavyweight matchup of Matsuzaka vs. Matsunaka manifested in the first run of the ballgame in the Soft Bank 3rd, as the cleanup man drove a ball into the right field stands to give his team a 1-0 lead. That was all she wrote for the Hawks as Matsuzaka cruised for a total of 107 pitches over 7 innings, giving up that lone run on 6 hits and 3 walks. The WHIP of 1.286 is a little high for his typical outing, but the baserunners were scattered fairly evenly over 7, with the only real trouble coming in a shaky 1st and a mildly interesting 7th. Other than that he was lights out.
But wait, you say. The final score was 7-5. That's a competitive ballgame. What happened? The Lions scored in 3 consecutive innings (6-7-8) on a series of walks and hits in the 6th, and home runs by Jeffrey Liefer in the 7th, and Kazuhiro Wada in the 8th. Soft Bank didn't go down easily though, as they answered with 4 runs in the top of the 9th inning against 3 different relievers. Closer, Chikara (Power) Onodera came in to nail down the last two outs for his 9th save, and earning Matsuzaka win #4. Phew. On the season, Daisuke has posted the following numbers (click below):
Daisuke Matsuzaka's 5th start of the year was an off night, in which the star hurler gave up 4 runs on 6 hits, including 3 doubles and a home run. The damage came in only 4.1 innings of work, so the upside to the poor outing is the low pitch count, at 67.
The Orix Buffaloes have been just awful this season, and should be thankful that the Rakuten Golden Eagles are in the Pacific League or they would be firmly in the basement in the standings and in every major statistical category on earth. The early success they had against Matsuzaka included a first inning 2-run shot off the bat of failed Major Leaguer and former Dodger, Norihiro Nakamura. It wasn't to last, however, as Seibu's bats came alive in the 7th inning to put up a 5 spot and seal a victory for the first place club.
Matsuzaka stayed out of the loss column thanks to a 7th inning, pinch hit, grand slam by superstar Alex Cabrera. Other home runs for Seibu included a 2nd inning shot by third baseman Takeya Nakamura, and a 3rd inning blast by G.G. Sato.
Let's see how young Daisuke rebounds in his next outing in about a week. Here's his updated line on the season:
A chilly evening in Sendai, Japan greeted Daisuke Matsuzaka and his Seibu Lions on April 21st. A reported crowd of 5,486 lonely souls braved the miserable weather to cheer on their 2nd year expansion Rakuten Golden Eagles. I have to believe that many of those fans were either clinically insane, or like-minded fans of the crown jewel of Japanese Professional Baseball. Perhaps they were both. They saw a Seibu victory over the home team 11-1.
As usual Matsuzaka dominated the opposition, giving up 5 hits and a single run over 7 innings of work using only 96 pitches to get the job done. His fastball was clocked between 96-97 mph throughout the game helping him tally 11 strikeouts in baffling the hapless Golden Eagles. Matsuzaka got all the offense he needed in a 9 run second inning capped by outstanding and follically challenged outfielder Kazuhiro Wada's grand slam.
Seibu leads the Pacific League by 2 games with a 14-7 record, and looks to continue their surge behind good hitting and excellent pitching. For Matsuzaka's current pitching line click below:
Matsuzaka and the Seibu Lions took the field tonight against the defending Japan Series champion Chiba Lotte Marines. Manager Bobby Valentine was on hand, with former Met players Benny "Hawaiian Punch" Agbayani and Matt Franco hitting in the middle of the order. Several key members of the WBC champion team played for Lotte tonight against the tournament's MVP. Would the Lotte powerhouse, fueled by some of international baseball's best everyday players, be able to gang up on the lone gunslinger? The answer is....no.
Several of the Lotte alumni of the WBC team factored in the outcome of the ballgame, but it was Matsuzaka who dominated from beginning to end. His stoic presence on the hill was never shaken, even with speedster Tsuyoshi Nishioka running the bases behind him after reaching on a bunt. Nishioka was erased on a wicked throw from Seibu right fielder Takahiko "G.G." Sato after trying to tag up. He subsequently left the game with a sprained ankle. WBC "Best 9" member Tomoya Satozaki sat this game out in favor of reserve catcher Tasuku Hashimoto. Japan Series MVP Toshiaki Imae reached base against Matsuzaka but could do nothing bt watch his teammates flail at the deadly offerings that followed. Finally, Lotte closer and WBC standout Yasuhiko Yabuta was wild and didn't trust his fastball enough. With runners in scoring position Sato, a former Phillies single-A catcher, singled to give Seibu a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning. That was all she wrote as Daisuke struck out the side in the 9th to end with 129 pitches and 13 strikeouts, with only 5 hits and no walks.
The only run that Matsuzaka gave up in the game was a cheap home run, on a 3-2 count, to light hitting second baseman Hisao Heiuchi. Unwilling to give up the walk, Matsuzaka blazed a straight fastball over the plate hoping to overpower the smallish middle infielder. What can you say? Every dog has it's day, right. The rest of the night he was electric and calm under pressure. Featuring a Pedro Martinez-like fastball with wicked movement and a Mussina-esque 12-6 curve, the hurler worked out of a few error plagued innings. Two ground ball boots in the 8th by his corner infielders prompted little reaction from Matsuzaka. He smiled and pointed as if to say, "Whatever fellas. I'll just have to strike out the next two guys to get out of the inning." And he did. His pitches looked like optical illusions tonight. Here's his updated numbers and a little video for you (click below):
Last night (Japan time) marked the 2nd appearance of Daisuke Matsuzaka in his Seibu Lions uniform to start the 2006 season. While I was unable to watch the entire game due to a prior commitment, I managed to catch a short stretch of the game and the repeated highlights on television.
Back to Matsuzaka. I made a rather extreme remark to my wife as I watched him pitch last night, and I want to preface the revelation of that statement by telling you that I am aware of it's inflated stature and premature timing. Daisuke Matsuzaka's easy throwing motion and explosive delivery looks a lot like Mariano Rivera. Before you roll your eyes and mutter, "Whatever." let me say that no one is Mariano Rivera. It is about 10 years too early to put Matsuzaka and Mariano in the same conversation in terms of accomplishment, but there are some similarities that make him so attractive as a pitching prospect.
Regardless of the batter, Matsuzaka remains stoic and focused. His delivery is consistent and breathtaking in its effortless power. He overpowers hitters and makes them look foolish. When they take a seat, he's ready for the next hitter with the same razor sharp conviction that he showed against each of the prior batters he's faced. Last night was that kind of game for the blooming superstar. No one could touch him and it looked as though he was pitching against Little Leaguers.
My favorite at bat in the game was hideously plastic surgeried, tooth-whitened, and George Hamil-tanned Shinjo. He does awful underwear commercials in Japan and makes 60 year old women swoon at the sight of his mannequin form. It's absolutely nauseating and he is the antithesis of everything I like in sports. Fitting that a hot dog like Shinjo plays for a ham company. Matsuzaka shattered his bat and made him stumble around in the batter's box like a goon. It was the highlight of my baseball season so far.
The pitching line for Matsuzaka thus far this season is as follows (click to enlarge):
Well ladies and gentlemen. Seibu versus SoftBank has concluded and Canyon of Heroes is here to bring you the low down on Daisuke Matsuzaka's first outing of the 2006 campaign. FYI...as the video highlights come from the SoftBank game recap, most of them are clips of the home team's success against Matsuzaka....hardly a fair picture of the game. But, there you have it.
In his "Seibu Blues", facing off against Fukuoka's Tsuyoshi Wada, Matsuzaka took the mound looking to capitalize on his MVP performance in the World Baseball Classic, which concluded in San Diego 10 days ago. Although he cruised through the first inning 1-2-3, showing unreal bite on his curve and electricity on his fastball, there was a wild pitch that sailed through the right handed hitter's box and went all the way to the backstop. Perhaps that pitch was a precursor of things to come.
In the second, he showed a bit of rust in giving up a LONG single off the wall [VIDEO] in left field to 2004 MVP and WBC cleanup hitter, Nobuhiko Matsunaka. A full count hanging curve to the next batter Julio Zuleta led to runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. In typically Japanese fashion, the next batter stepped in for the mandatory scarifice bunt (yes, in the 2nd inning of a scoreless game in March). In more idiotic fashion the following batter also chose to sneak a bunt in and failed. 2 outs. Talk about letting a pitcher off the hook. Matsuzaka got the next hitter to go quietly.
The third inning brought further deterioration of his control and you can see how a guy who is accustomed to throwing 120 pitches every 5 or 6 days would experience some difficulty after a 10 day layoff and a trip halfway around the world. A leadoff hit by Naoyuki Omura was followed by a sac bunt attempt that failed. The ball rolled foul saving him from total disaster and with his second chance, he chopped a little hit over the mound [VIDEO] putting two runners on again to start an inning. Naturally, with the same situation presenting itself in the 3rd as was present in the 2nd, Oh decided to sac bunt again. After two failed attempts, Mitsuru Honma fouled off several pitches and then worked a walk, filling the bases with nobody out.
The remarkable thing in this game was the fact that despite all the struggles early there was never a visit to the mound. Not even by the catcher. Jolbert Cabrera the #3 hitter for SoftBank worked a 3-0 count, and after Matsuzaka managed two strikes against him, walked in a run [VIDEO]. 1 to nothing SoftBank and threatening to break the game wide open with Matsunaka coming to bat yet again. Our hero proceeded to throw a fat hanging curve that the 2004 MVP hit dead on the screws. A screaming liner shot down the first baseline but was snared by Seibu firstbaseman Alex Cabrera who promptly stepped on the bag for the double play and pivoted for the throw to second. A split second faster and he may have had a chance at the triple play, but the gold star defensive effort energized Matsuzaka who got an over aggressive Zuleta on three wicked pitches.
Meanwhile, SoftBank left hander Tsuyoshi Wada was dealing. His three quarter release baffled Seibu hitters and he easily cruised through the early part of the ballgame. Where Matsuzaka faltered, Wada seemed to get stronger every inning. He was up to the challenge and seemed to relish the opportunity to face off against the man with all the accolades and hype. Cameras continually showed Wada smiling quietly to himself in the dugout between innings.
The fourth brought misfortune to Matsuzaka yet again. An easy grounder to short was absolutely butchered as shortstop Nakajima threw the ball over Cabrera's head at first putting a no out runner on to lead off. Forgoing the bunt in this inning, third baseman, and #7 hitter, Nobuhiro Matsuda singled on a poorly thrown curve setting the stage again with 1st and 2nd nobody out. NOW you get the sac bunt, which worked to perfection. 2nd and 3rd, one out. Naoki Matoba hitting in the 9-hole looked completely overmatched on the first two pitches, only to choke up and find success fouling off 12-15 offers from Matsuzaka. To his credit, he stayed cool and took his wind up. On a pitch high in the zone Matoba weakly singled [VIDEO] scoring the runner from third and making the game 2 to nothing. A 1-4-3 double play later and the inning was over. The run was unearned and came back to haunt Matsuzaka and Seibu in the end.
A home run off the bat of Hiroyuki Nakajima (Kaz Matsui's successor at short) had Seibu back in the game with Matsuzaka absolutely cruising. The double play he started kicked him into gear and the Hawks barely touched him the rest of the way. He ended the game after 8 complete innings, 131 pitches in the books, and a one run deficit. The eighth was his strongest inning, striking out 2 on filthy pitches, and you got the feeling he could work about 3 innings more. Unreal.
The top of the 9th turned out to be the last half frame of the ballgame as Seibu rallied to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out, down one run. The next two batters, Hiroshi Hirao and Kotaro Sekida struck out in humiliatingly easy fashion.[VIDEO] Not even a ball in play for a chance at the tying run. Matsuzaka takes the loss. Here's his final line:
What did we learn about Daisuke Matsuzaka from this start. First, he needs to pitch on a regular schedule. Guys who regularly feature high pitch counts don't do well over-rested. Second, he's super cool under fire as his expression never changed during the worst jams of the game. His manager didn't need to talk to him and his catcher did little more than stand up and run through some signs. Third, if he gets on a roll it's over. Like all great pitchers, once he found his groove he was lights out. That's all for the first Matsuzaka Watch. Stay tuned for updates on the schedule and opponent for start #2. (Video Highlights from SoftBank broadcast)
In an effort to keep tabs on the hottest pitching prospect in the world, I've devised a new feature for Canyon of Heroes called, "Matsuzaka Watch".
The Japanese professional season kicked off on March 25th to great fanfare with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Manager Sadaharu Oh facing the Japan Champion Chiba Lotte Marines and our own Bobby Valentine. 13 of the WBC Champions play for these teams and the crowd reaction was outstanding.
I've been watching the early Seibu box scores to get a feel for when our hero would make his first start. The Lions are standing at 1-1 after splitting their opening two games with the Orix Buffaloes. Japan's lone medalist at the Torino Olympic Games, figure skater Shizuka Arakawa threw out the first pitch to open the year for the Lions. If only Matsuzaka looked this good, Seibu would win every year. Surprisingly, Matsuzaka will debut in Seibu's 3rd game against Oh and Soft Bank at the Fukuoka Dome. You can watch the game live via internet broadcast on Tuesday, March 28th at 1am PST/4am EST. If you're in Japan, tune in at 6pm for the game. You'll be getting Lotte against Nippon Ham on NHK's BS1.
Against Soft Bank in 2005, Matsuzaka posted a 2-4 record with a 2.65 ERA and 41 strikouts against 4 walks. He featured a 0.93 WHIP in 44.2 innings pitched against the Hawks. His downfall was 7 home runs against in 6 games, with 3 coming in one mid-season tilt. Those 3 dingers only accounted for 4 runs over 8 innings though.
Before I continue with this feature, I should say that I don't share with many of the US sportswriters the notion that Matsuzaka has done all he can do in Japanese pro ball, or that he needs to come to the majors to test his stuff against the best hitters in the world. If he played the rest of his career in Japan there would be no shame in it, and whatever accomplishments he chalks up should stand as a marvel, regardless of our personal feelings in comparing the Majors with Japanese "Pro Yakyu". I simply want him playing for the Yankees because I want the best pitchers in the world on my favorite ballclub.
I'll provide a recap of his performance against Soft Bank and track his stats for you over the course of the season. Check back for his upcoming games and regular updates on statistical information.