Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Conversation with Will Carroll

At 10:30pm I sat in my home office, looking over some articles on the web. At any moment, the little green "online" icon was going to appear next to Will Carroll's name on my Skype contacts list, and we'd begin our long overdue conversation on Japanese pitching phenom, Daisuke Matsuzaka. I'd first contacted Will in October, prior to the posting process. We'd exchanged some e-mails and both agreed that a conversation would be a good idea. Unfortunately, that conversation didn't materialize until two days ago. Life intervened, and the mayhem surrounding the posting and negotiations provided enough blogging fodder to keep 10 people busy 24 hours a day. Now, in the calm of the offseason, and in the waxing hours of night in Japan, I waited to bring this conversation to life.

For Will, this "phone call" meant dragging himself to his computer at 8:30am EST. The quiet of the Japan night was simultaneously the coffee-fueled beginning to the American morning. We'd agreed in advance on a few topics of interest, and I'd accepted his gracious offer to be interviewed for Baseball Prospectus Radio, when our talk wrapped. As I stared out the dark second story window of my Japanese home, the call came.

Will Carroll is an excellent writer for the baseball think tank, Baseball Prospectus. He is an astute observer of pitching, among many other things, and brings an advanced understanding of physiology to his work. His specialty is injury analysis, although that niche is far too limiting to capture the scope of his perspective. I've enjoyed his writing for a long time, including his weekly column at BP called "Under the Knife", but my connection to him has developed over a long period of time, from afar, and quite anonymously. You see, for the past few years both of us have been eagerly observing Daisuke Matsuzaka, and writing about him.

To begin our talk, the two of us exchanged a few thoughts on Japanese baseball in general. In the course the ensuing conversation, Will asked me what I thought Matsuzaka would do. It was an interesting question to me because I felt that over the last few years, as I’d been talking to people about my belief that Matsuzaka could be one of the top 10 pitchers in the world, there was really only one other voice out there that was talking about the player, and talking about him in the same terms as I. That was, of course, Will Carroll. After a long-winded and winding response to the question, I eventually got back to that same assessment and was curious about how Will got to know this player on the other side of the ocean. His response was very interesting.

MW: At what point did you first become aware of him?

WC: I became conscious of him through the gyroball. Mostly the whole mythology of the gyroball and his connection to it, and trying to figure out….I’ve been on this “gyroquest” for three years now, and then when Matsuzaka’s name came into it I was like, “Oh! Look at this guy.” Y’know, aside from it, he was just good, and at the Seibu website they actually showed the games. So, I would wake up at, like, three in the freakin’ morning and watch the games on this one inch screen. What can you learn from that? I don’t know, but then at the World Baseball Classic he came out there and Jeff Passan did the article on him and he’s kind of become my little player.

It’s kind of the way you find a band before everybody else has heard of them and you tell all your friends, “Hey, you should listen to this band.” Well, Matsuzaka’s my baseball player, which is really strange because he was good well before that and it’s not only that he’s good and fun to watch but I also have this emotional investment in him that he should be good because I’ve been talking about him for three years and now I need him to be good. If he’d throw the gyroball occasionally that would help me a lot too.

MW: When I started researching him, as I got more interested in him, you were the sole voice that I found repeatedly saying that you thought this guy was one of the top pitchers in the world, and I was glad that my own opinion of him was sort of verified by seeing that. I think that now our interest in him has kind of converged that we’re talking about it now. I think I saw recently you did a piece on YouTube ….

WC: Well, we use YouTube to save the bandwidth cost. (laughs)

MW: Sure. (laughs) You talked about the kind of pitches that you felt he has and scouts say he has some 70 (rated) pitches, and that the slider’s an 80. That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to harp on with people who automatically see a Japanese name and say, “Irabu” as soon as they see it. And, the whole reason behind what I tried to do at the beginning is kind of get people used to the fact that you haven’t seen a top Japanese pitcher come over yet and especially one of this caliber who comes around once in a generation.

WC: Well, yeah, I don’t know if you saw Rob Neyer [say] that we should be looking at Nomo rather than anybody else. And the more I think about it, the more I think Rob’s right. I mean, because Nomo was….I don’t know exactly how good he was if you rank the Japanese pitchers at the time he came over, but he was up there because he had crazy, nasty stuff.

[Editor's Note: To see how Matsuzaka stacks up against guys like Irabu and Nomo, check out my piece on Matsuzaka vs. Japan's Best]

And I know a lot of people got thrown off by Nomo’s little delivery. Matsuzaka has the same sort of…it’s not the same twist, but he’s got that pause at the top, and a lot of people had trouble with Otsuka because he had that three beat delivery. I wonder if anybody’s going to try to mess with Matsuzaka’s delivery. Whether they’ll say that pause in there’s illegal.

MW: You mean in terms of the rules of the game? I’ve wondered that as well.

WC: I don’t think it’ll effect him, but I think Joe Torre’s wondering if it will.

MW: (laughs) Yeah, I’m sure the Yankees will be the first ones to call attention to it.

At this point in the conversation, we paused so Will could grab cup of coffee #2. The idea that Matsuzaka's mechanics, and his style of delivery might be an issue in the Major Leagues is something that has rarely been discussed, but merits a bit of thought as Spring Training approaches. There are a host of questions about the Japanese routine that will come into play over the next few weeks and months, and when the brief break for coffee refill was over, our conversation turned to that very subject.

WC: With Matsuzaka, there’s two things that I haven’t seen anybody talk about with his preparation, and the first is whether he does anything “typically Japanese”, because I know they’re into throwing a lot, which I think is good and there are always the stories about a guy has a bad outing so he goes to throw 300 pitches in the bullpen. Is there anything he does along those lines that they’re almost sure not to let him do here?

MW: Yeah, I was actually going to ask you the same thing because over here he’ll throw 100-pitch bullpen sessions every day before his start, except for the day before, I think. I think last year he threw a pretty heavy bullpen one day before he pitched because he felt he didn’t get a good workout in the day before, which made the news. They’ll throw 100 pitches, in the offseason sometimes they throw 200 pitches, and the crazy thing to me is that not only do they do that every day but between innings they’ll just stand there on the side and play “long toss” or even throw seriously.

WC: Now, when they’re throwing a bullpen, what percentage are they going at?

MW: I would say, probably 60 to 70 percent.

WC: So it’s like throwing warm up pitches?

MW: Yeah, they throw warm up pitches, but I’m sure they put some pop on it at times. But, they throw so many pitches, I don’t think they could go 100 percent the whole bullpen session. I think they go at a pretty good clip though. I wonder if any of these Japanese pitchers have come over to the Majors and have actually been told by their Major League teams, “Your not going to be allowed to do that anymore.”

WC: All of them.

MW: And do you think they listen?

WC: Some. The one that didn’t was Sasaki. He would go to the bullpen and throw 100 pitches just for the hell of it....But, he had a lot of success. Nomo, they didn’t. There’s even been some other guys. Like, Chan Ho Park, when he went to Texas, they would stop letting him do his…it’s not really a “yoga” workout…I’m sure it’s not yoga…but he ended up having hamstring problems, and the hamstring problems led to back problems.

With a new pitching coach in Boston, a guy who was a pitcher, but he really doesn’t have any pitching coach background, I’m very curious whether he’s going to have his own ideas or he’s going to be a blank slate or whether Matsuzaka’s going to be special. Because already Schilling gets to do his own thing, and Beckett is Beckett, so it wouldn’t be hard to say, “Hey. He’s special. He’s just going to do his own thing. Especially given the fact that everybody’s going to be watching him anyway. So, I’m very curious about that, and the other thing I’m curious about that I haven’t been able to find, old stats that aren’t in Japanese characters. Does Matsuzaka have his own catcher? Has he had a guy long term?

MW: Not that I know of. I’m not sure about that. I think they rotate catchers quite a bit actually. I’ll have to go back and look again, but I’m pretty sure the Lions have had a couple of catchers over the last few years and neither one of them has been particularly good with the bat, so I think they’ve kind of rotated them back and forth.

[Editor's Note: I went back and looked at the catching situation for Seibu since 2001. I was able to determine that in 2006, Matsuzaka pitched to light hitting Tooru Hosokawa 21 of his 26 starts, including the post-season. This is not unusual as Hosokawa caught 99 of Seibu's 136 games last year, and 113, 116, and 93 going backwards to 2003. Before Hosokawa was the #1 guy for Seibu, Tsutomo Ito was the catcher for 22 or 23 years.]

Will and I discussed the strong personality of Jason Varitek, and how it might affect a strong-willed guy on the mound, like Matsuzaka. His command of 4 or 5 pitches will be something different for Varitek to handle this season, and it will be interesting to see how the two work together. Both Will and I have thoughts, but we're going to take a wait and see on this situation. So many questions!

One of those questions, central to many American fans' thinking is the abuse that is inflicted upon Japanese pitchers. More than Varitek's catching, the pitch repertoire, or cultural adjustment Matsuzaka's ability in the US to earn his contract, and make the Red Sox look like geniuses, is his ability to dominate AND stay healthy. I ran a piece about midway through the 2006 season about Pitcher Abuse Points, or PAP. If you care to read up on the finer details of that analysis, head over to that story. The gist of it is, pitchers who throw over 100 pitches in a game, increasingly subject themselves to exponentially worse "damage" in 10 pitch increments. In our early e-mail exchanges, Will told me that PAP doesn't work for Japanese pitcher. I had to ask him why...

MW: Something I wanted to ask you, since we began to e-mail back and forth…I did a piece a while back using a PAP chart that I was running on Matsuzaka, just to see how he stacked up, and it’s off the charts compared to even the most abused Major Leaguers….

WC: It doesn’t work.

MW: Yeah, I was wondering what’s your perspective on it? Why doesn’t it work?

WC: A couple things. First off, PAP is based off a five man rotation and even though the Japanese use five man there’s more rest days in there, so it essentially factors out to six days rest, which is something I’m curious about…his adjustment to that…the five days versus six. But, it’s just a different game. It’s not played the same way, and all the assumptions made off PAP were based off, I wanna say, it went back to like 1978.

Japan is actually more equivalent to the 60s, and we’re working on this project where we’re doing this book on pennant races and two of the chapters I’m working on are 1934 and 1967. So I’m looking at all these pitch charts and it was just different. They didn’t throw as hard, but they would throw 150 pitches a game. And, there weren’t as many strikeouts because they were throwing for ground balls. And I think the Japanese have been kind of the same way. They are a little more strikeout happy so I think that they’re throwing harder, especially from the games I’ve seen. But even so, the strikeout totals, and the strikeout rates equate more to a game of the late 60s or early 70s than the PAP era, so I just don’t think the math works.

MW: It’s hard, because from what I’ve read about PAP, there were some differing opinions as to whether the 6 man rotation is a factor in lessening the impact or whether it a matter of how many times he’s thrown more than 130, 40, 50, 60 pitches in a game.

WC: I think the fact is, and we’ve learned this all along, PAP is a proxy for fatigue. And, it’s a pretty good one. I mean, it stands up statistically, but it’s still a proxy and it’s far from perfect. I’ve been involved in a study, where we’re trying to use heart rate to predict how fatigued someone’s getting and it’s interesting but we’re really really early at this stage. We can’t figure out how to take someone’s pulse on the mound without getting really intrusive which teams obviously won’t allow. So, I think we’re still at a proxy for fatigue.

We’re looking more at how much more does the extra day of rest affect their fatigue. Does the differing conditioning regimen affect their fatigue? Does just a different mindset affect them, and so I just don’t think PAP works, perfectly. There’s probably an adjustment in there.

MW: It’s been one of the more puzzling things that to look at because one of the cultural factors that exists here is that in whatever profession you take up, whatever activity you engage in, it’s sort of a forgone conclusion that you’re going to finish what you start. And there’s a certain element of pride. It’s sort of the Japanese equivalent of macho. You’re expected to finish what you start, so you see these guys with…. I think Matsuzaka had 14 complete games last year, and that’s not unusual. The thing that puzzles me about it is, there are closers on these teams but they don’t use them when there ace is on the mound, and they let these guys throw…I mean, they’ve scaled Matsuzaka back the last couple of years but he still throws on occasion 150 pitches, 160 maybe, and regularly tops 125-130, so I’m wondering, I’ve read some of the things you’ve written in terms of pitch counts, is there a reasonable ceiling that we can say is madness to go over?

WC: No. You’ve caught me at a really bad time because I’m working on an article about why pitch counts are hurting pitchers. (laughter) No, I think again, we’re using pitch counts as…y’know, PAP is a proxy for fatigue, and pitch counts is a really bad but simple proxy for fatigue, it’s more a fact of, are we taking pitchers who could throw 150 pitches, if done reasonably and technically well, and a lot of other things, and not letting them get over-tired. I think it’s pitching tired, where you’re either overexerting or your mechanics break down because of muscular fatigue that you get into a situation.

I mean, we saw what happened to Pedro Martinez when he altered his mechanics, and he altered his mechanics because he was hurt and started this feedback loop. I think it’s a fact that if they’re in condition to do it, and they do it safely, we don’t know what the extra day of rest does, and one of the things I’ve been advocating for years is a four-man rotation, but you would throw less pitches. You would get him out of there right at 100. You would have not quite the fatigue to get out of, theoretically, but then you have a guy like Matsuzaka who can throw 150 pitches, and you have a guy like Maddux, who right about 80, he starts thinking he’s done. So, I think there should be a place for both of those. You should be able to say, “This is my pitcher and today he is really good for “x” number of pitches and then at some point he’s “less than” and my reliever is “better than”. I don’t think the pitch count itself, in the absence of any other information, tells us a whole lot.

MW: I wanted to ask you while we were talking about pitch counts for a second, because I tend to follow what you’re saying about the differences in situation and physiology and so forth, that make it difficult to put a number on it and there is something insane which happens over here that…..I’ve seen that you wrote in something I read a little while back that a high school pitcher threw 144 pitches….

WC: 166.

MW: …and what you see here, actually, is a little bit more frightening than that even. There’s a kid, I don’t know if you’ve heard his name, Yuki Saito, and he was the big star…. What we saw him do this year in the High School Tournament was typical of what you see a lot of these high school kids do during the tournament. Over a 14 day period he threw 931 pitches, and in back to back days he threw 300 pitches in less than 24 hours.

WC: Well, I mean, that’s very Matsuzaka-like from…what was it ’98?

MW: Yeah, ’98.

WC: Um…Yeah, and again, you’ve got the fact that high school pitchers tend not to have quite the same control, that they throw a lot more pitches just to begin with. The kid that threw the 166 was over 7 innings....Yeah…y’know…..was he effective? Did his mechanics change? Was he still getting people out? We see a lot of it. It’s not as well documented because, y’know, high school baseball over here is nothing, and getting moreso. In college we see that a lot. Like [Tim] Lincecum, the kid with the crazy arm action. He would regularly start on Friday, relieve on Sunday. And he would go out and throw 120 and 130, I think he had one 140 pitch outing, and then come back and throw 20 on Sunday. If you did that with….pick a Major League pitcher….people would scream and holler. I’m not sure it’s bad.

MW: It seems insane to me but at the same time the kid didn’t look like he was laboring, and was still popping the gun in the low-90s after 14 days of pitching and and back to back days of over 100 pitches, he was still popping the gun at the end of the game when he won.

WC: Yeah, and if his mechanics were solid, and if he wasn’t fatigued, and…Earl Weaver always said, “The hitter will tell me when he’s tired.” I think there’s so much truth to that. If I had the energy I had when I was 18, I would be exploding or something. But, I think it’s the same way. These kids can do things at 18, that maybe they can’t at even 22, 23, 24. I still think I’d rather err on the side of caution, but the fact is that some of these kids can, and one of the things that bugs me about pitch counts and the standardization of them, is that we have guys out there who can probably safely throw 140-150 pitches an outing. We have no idea who they are because we have no development system to get them up to that number....So, I think we’re probably leaving pitches on the table with some people, but the worst part is we don’t know.

I always say, “If you look at Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, you wouldn’t think they’re the same species, let alone the same occupation. And, they don’t do anything the same, but yet they get very very similar results. And, Randy can probably go out there for 120 pitches and outing and not even blink. Y’know, his back would act up, but….he’s crazy anyway. Where Greg will go out there and at 75 he starts whining. It’s too hot. My hands are sweating. He starts kvetching about everything. Which is good? Which is better? They both get good results. If you get Greg out at 90 pitches, you’re having a good day. If you get Randy out at 90 pitches, he’s going to shoot somebody.

Having a conversation with someone like Will Carroll brings out these great gems. The conversation we were having started at Matsuzaka and wound itself into a very interesting take on the issue of pitch counts in general. His explanation brings an entirely different context in which to examine the Japanese pitching phenomenon. If pitch counts are truly as poor an indicator of a pitcher's threshold as Will states, and PAP is a system unable to account for much of the Japanese routine, how does anyone know, short of an MRI, whether a Japanese pitcher has been abused without seeing his entire body of work. The answer may be, it's impossible. If Will's analysis is correct, every pitcher has a different ceiling and a different breaking point. Only when we see him visibly fatigue, and his mechanics break down, can we know for sure that he's had it. Bringing the conversation back to Matsuzaka specifically, I asked about what happens with the focus on pitch counts in the Majors, and how it will affect Matsuzaka.

MW: Yeah. It should be interesting to me. He’ll go back into the dugout, sit down, and he won’t say a word, but I’ve got to wonder what he’s going to think about his Major League experience as soon as they start yanking him at 110 pitches or whatever.

WC: ....I imagine Farrell’s talked to him. I imagine Boras has explained to him, “Forget the complete game. You’ll get one.” (laughter.) But, is he going to adjust his game to where he’s more efficient? Is he going to try to complete games? There’s obviously places for it, who was it? Mulder did one on 90 pitches a couple of years ago, and Halladay did the 99 pitch, 10-inning complete. Could he become that kind of pitcher? Yeah, absolutely. And, I’m curious to see what kind of adjustment he makes on that.

MW: There was a game this year that he threw a complete game….it wasn’t actually a complete game, but he pitched a 3 hitter over 7 innings on 70 pitches and didn’t walk a batter, struck out 9.

[Editor's Note: What I found when I went back to check this game, was that Matsuzaka was not 100% during this outing and was forced to pitch out of the stretch for virtually the entire game!!]

He’s definitely got it in him. He likes to try things. And I think that gets him into higher pitch counts. But I wonder if he’ll stop trying things, and he’ll just go with the stuff that works and he’ll stop playing around with pitch four and pitch five.

WC: I completely agree. I think that goes back to, is Varitek gonna call the game? Varitek’s not a nibbler. That was the problem that Varitek had with Beckett, was that Beckett always wants to nibble and Varitek would call for the ball and so Beckett would just say, “Screw you. Here comes 100 miles an hour, and usually it went out at about 120 miles an hour. So, yeah, I think there’s a lot of factors that go into….how’s he going to deal with the catcher? How’s he going to deal with not being able to complete games? Is not being able to complete games going to adjust his pitching style? Is his pitching style going to lead to more complete games? It’s this big circle. And, there’s so many factors that we don’t know. How is Francona going to deal with it? How is Varitek going to deal with it? How is a brand new pitching coach going to deal with it? How’s the media going to deal with it?

More questions. There will be a lot of scrutiny early in the season. Matsuzaka will have two countries watching him and evaluating his performance. If he does well, it may pave the way for a new understanding of Japanese pitching. If he falters, it will be another nail in the coffin for the reputation of Nippon Pro Yakyu. Will and I spent some time discussing this, as I alluded to earlier in this piece. Both of us agreed that Kei Igawa would be the real make or break pitcher for the next wave of guys hoping to sign contracts from Japan. If Igawa is even league average, it bodes well. If not, it may be tough for the other top players to make a big money deal. The last series of questions I had for this conversation were centered around the gyroball. Will Carroll is the United States' #1 advocate for the pitch and has done more to bring it into the forefront in the US than any other person. He continues to speak about the pitch, teach it, and I wondered where on Earth he first heard of this unusual pitch.

MW:’s kind of what makes him the story of the offseason in the Major Leagues. You’ve got this guy who’s a legend over here and he’s a big mystery over there with the gyroball and everything following him around. I’m sure you’ve been asked about it a million times. I’m curious where you learned the gyroball the first time. Where did you hear about it?

WC: Rob Neyer was doing a chat on ESPN and somebody asked him about it, and unfortunately when I finally thought to go back and look at the chat, they don’t have it archived. So, I’d love to know who asked him. He was doing his pitcher book at that point and, so, somebody asked him about the gyroball. He’d never heard of it. Sent out an e-mail to five or six people, of which I was one. And, being the obsessive compulsive that I am, I was like, “Well let’s look this thing up.” And, I found a website about knuckleballs, of all things, where they were talking about this pitch. I was like, “Well, what is this thing?”

At the time, I had a friend who was over in Japan. He was over there. He’s a securities analyst and happened to be over there. So I call him up and I asked, “Hey, have you ever heard of this book?”, and he goes, “No, I’ve never heard of this book. Why would I have heard of this book?” And, I go, “Well, could you go to a bookstore and see if they’ve got it?” He goes, “Hey, I just walked by the world’s largest bookstore over here in whatever section of Tokyo he was in.” And, I’m like, “Yeah, go get it”, and it was there. And, so, he bought it for me and he comes back. It takes me like a month to get him to remember to send it to me, and “boom” here it is. And, so I’ve got this book in Japanese and I can’t read a damn word of Japanese, but there’s lots of pictures. Have you seen the book?

MW: Yeah, I’ve seen the book and I have a bunch of the Power Points and a lot of the stuff they used in doing the research. Somebody sent it to me a while back.

WC: Oh, awesome. Going through it, it took me a year to get anything out of it. Every once in a while, I’d pick it up and look at it and initially I wrote an article for Rob about it and completely screwed it up, and everybody keeps referencing it and I keep telling Rob he needs to either take it down or let me fix it. (laughs) Because I confused the gyroball with the shuuto.

MW: I know the article you’re talking about.

[Editor's Note: I've linked to that article in the right margin since I started this blog. I didn't have the heart to tell him during our conversation, but it's still an interesting read, if for nothing than to follow the history of the conversation of this pitch in the US.]

WC: Yeah, and it’s embarrassing at this stage. But, it turns out it wasn’t horribly wrong because the gyroball does go down and in if you throw the true gyroball. But after a year of looking at the book I finally figured out one of them, and should technically be like the slider one. Then, one day working with a couple of pitchers I go, “Hey, you wanna try something?” And, one of the high school pitchers threw it and it broke like two feet, and I was like, “Holy crap! What is that?”

MW: Was that Joe Niezer?

WC: Yeah. And, it was just like, “Wow! What is that?”

MW: I saw the video of that and it looks pretty crazy.

WC: It was sick, and unfortunately he thought it was a gimmick and didn’t want to throw it and now he doesn’t even talk to anybody about it. I’ve got a high school kid in Jersey who throws a better one. I mean, he threw this thing and inside a half an hour, he was not only throwing it with that nasty break, he was controlling it. And we had the coach from Rutgers out there. ESPN was shooting a bunch of stuff. They’ve got a big article coming…I want to say February 15th….It’s one of their E-Ticket articles, like 10,000 words on it. Yeah, Montefusco. His breaks like nothing I’ve seen. It’s evil.

MW: I’d like to see that.

WC: Yeah. We’ve got some video. Of all the gyroball articles, this is the one I’m actually excited about. Most of them make me sound like I’ve seen the Loch Ness Monster.

MW: (laughs) That’s what’s funny to me. When I read about it, it reminds me of….I read recently that there are four different styles of gyroball, with different grips and things, and I didn’t know that, actually….and it reminds me of when I was a college student. We had a basement lounge in our dorm, and my buddy and I used to play whiffle ball down there. There was no wind, so we could do all kinds of crazy things and I had to laugh when I read it, that it reminds me of doing whiffle ball grips.

WC: It is. It is. But it’s such a fine adjustment to the grip, but it’s how you adjust your wrist at release and it’s so fine that I’m not sure that anybody can control it. One of the things we were having trouble with, especially with Joey, is that if you threw the pitch 20 times, one time it would go the opposite direction, and break just as hard. And, we were sitting there going, “Well, why does it do this? How could this possibly be?” And, it never occurred to us that by adjusting the position of the wrist and the axis of rotation that it would reverse....Two of the things I’ve been doing are….A, the pitch exists, and B, I can teach it to somebody in 10 minutes. So, I mean, it’s been fairly easy.

MW: Sounds like you’ve got the Holy Grail.

WC: No. No. I’ve got an interesting pitch. That’s the thing. Everybody keeps going, “This is the pitch that’s going to change baseball.” And I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”

MW: It’s another breaking pitch.

WC: (laughter) It’s a good breaking ball. Yeah, that’s very nice to have, but it’s not going to change the game.

MW: That’s how people treat it though. It’s like it’s the first new pitch in 40 years, and yeah, it’s cool and it may save some guys some arm trouble, but it’s not like it’s doing Bugs Bunny things and spinning around…..

WC: No. No. Everybody wants it to be…it break twice….no, no, it breaks once.(laughter) The was one guy, who asked, “How much does it break?” I was like, “Well we have to aim it a little behind the batter.” He (wrote)was like, “It comes from behind the batter!” I’m like, “No! That’s not what I said at all!” (laughter) It’s crazy.

So, there you have it. Our conversation wrapped up and I sat up for a while to think about all the information that Will had kindly shared. I'm sure he went for coffee #3 after we finished our talk, and I still feel very grateful that we were able to bridge the gap between East and West via our internet conversation. Will and I are kindred spirits in many ways, I believe, but particularly in our feelings about Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is a pitcher that brings with him more than skill and determination. He brings a presence, the mystery of a new pitch, and the hopes of an entire nation.

For more about the gyroball, and for the wisdom of Will Carrol, please check out his regular work at Baseball Prospectus, including the excellent new feature, BP Radio. I will be appearing in a BP Radio segment with Will in the next few days, speaking about Japanese baseball and Matsuzaka. I hope to revisit this conversation with him when some of our questions are finally answered during the season, and I will bring it to you here at Matsuzaka Watch as soon as it happens.


At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Steve Lombardi said...

Just wanted to say that I enjoyed this feature. Thanks to you both for doing it.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger mehmattski said...

Great read, Mike. Despite being a Yankees fan I think I'll get a lot more use out of my subscription this year to watch Matsuzaka. You've gotten me hooked on him, and I can't wait to see how he does in the Majors. I'm really looking forward to that gyroball article Carrol talked about, sounds like it's gonna be good.

To me, the anticipation on Matsuzaka is a lot like the feeling on Phil Hughes: all we've got is video of him dominating the competition he's matched up against, and statistics. Those are enough to get us excited, but in the end we can only wait and see how that translates to the grind of MLB. This is gonna be a fun season to watch, for me.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Gregg said...

No doubt you're the best Japanese baseball webmaster I can find on the internet. I check your site daily and read all of your new posts, trying to learn as much as I can about our new ace before the start of the season. I love debating and disagreeing with my fellow Sox Nation members, however I can't disagree with you are you, so to say, "got me" as far as Japanese players is concerned.

That being said, would it be possible for you to link my site to yours. I can see you've only got a few, so I can understand if you decline to because you only want your favorites on there. My site isn't as convential as a blog, I understand. It'd be greatly appreciated however were you to.

-gd (don't forget about the Daisuke vs. Matsui matchup suggestion)

At 1:41 AM, Blogger Aubrey said...

Nice interview. I can't wait to see Matsuzaka pitch, and I can't wait to see a gyroball thrown in the Majors. (Now we know those will be seperate events)


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