Verducci's Take on DaisukeTom Verducci's latest piece at SI.com is almost enough to make this entire blog obsolete. I've been at this for about a year. I pride myself on knowing that I was on the Daisuke beat before anyone else in this business save perhaps Rob Neyer and Will Carroll. It wasn't long ago that people laughed at the idea that a Japanese player could succeed in the Majors. Now, I get e-mail after e-mail every day asking, "Who's next?"
The article is a 7-page masterpiece, detailing everything Matsuzaka. The most valuable part of the story is its attention on the shift in attitude regarding pitchers' workloads and pitch counts in general. Verducci gets it, and many of baseball's top organizations are beginning to get it too. The Japanese way of training may revolutionize the American game, and Daisuke is one of the most important figures in that process moving forward. I pulled a couple of excerpts that struck me:
"After being part of this for three years," former big league manager Bobby Valentine says by e-mail from Japan, where he's the manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines, "I am convinced we do a bad job of coaching in the U.S. for pitchers."
Fact is, Matsuzaka would not be Matsuzaka if he had been born in the States. Says Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, "I'm not even sure he would have been drafted out of high school, as a 5'11" righthander who was pushed like that at such a young age."
This strikes me because it means we may be missing out on pitchers that could make Major League impact simply for a lack of training expertise. Yuki Saito, following in Matsuzaka's footsteps, is a prime example of an undersized guy that has the potential to enter the Majors in 3-4 years time and dominate. He just completed a Waseda University training camp in Okinawa where he threw 1000 pitches over 6 days. That sounds insane to Americans, but it is a mandatory training regimen for Waseda starters. Matsuzaka may be the Jackie Robinson of Japanese pitchers if he can break the Irabu wall, and simultaneously change the perception of smaller pitchers who train intensely like Saito, for example.
Think the Red Sox were concerned about his MRI when they posted $51 million?
"When Matsuzaka's pictures came back, the Red Sox were shocked at what they saw. The MRIs were whistle-clean."
The article says that Daisuke doesn't ice his arm and never has. Go figure. I think there's so much we don't know about how Japanese pitchers train. I'm sure there will be more articles like this to follow, and I'll be curious to talk this over with Will Carroll again soon. More on that later. The article also talks about the idea that Matsuzaka's pitching ability, both physical and mental, appears to be lining up with the Cy Youngs of the game, and that all eyes are on him for a run at 20 games if he stays healthy. I'm biased, so take that for what it's worth. Read the article for yourself, and then stop back here to comment.