Countdown to ArmaggedonThe way people are talking about the Matsuzaka debut, it's as if we're about to witness the prophecy of the Archangel Gabriel's "end of days", or at least the coming of the Nazgul to the American Midwest. Spring Training has been very exciting and a lot of people have come to know Daisuke Matsuzaka a bit better for having seen him firsthand. You'd have thought that the mythical version of his background would have subsided just a bit with a closer personal experience with the pitcher, but in fact it has grown. To paraphrase Verbal Kint:
He's become a myth, a spook story that managers tell their hitters at night. Don't take your swings, and Daisuke will get you. Ty Cobb always said 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him. Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Daisuke Matsuzaka.
People in Kansas City are tingling at the chance to watch the pitcher make his debut. The Japanese media is flooding Missouri and Red Sox Nation is ready to explode. From Japan, there is little more than standard anticipation for a national hero's performance on the international stage. That, in and of itself, is a big deal, but not nearly as big as the wave of excitement that exists in the US by all accounts. It has come to my attention that NHK aired a segment Thursday morning, Japan time, in which fans interviewed on the street all planned to be awake at 3am for the debut. I'll be there as well. Tomorrow is going to be a sleepy Japan. If any aggressive nations had their sights set on an invasion, Friday would be the day.
Looking ahead to the game, it will be interesting to see how the Royals approach Matsuzaka. None of them have seen him, and he hasn't seen them either. The KC ball club is a mix of youth and veterans and it figures that the younger players stand no chance against the man from Yokohama. I honestly can't see Pena or Gordon doing much against a wily veteran like Matsuzaka. If I had to predict his approach, I would guess that he will challenge the younger guys with the fastball on difficult parts of the plate, and high in the zone, using the change as his out pitch. The veterans will see the change, but I'm guessing the slider will be the killer that finishes the job. My prediction:
The Red Sox may not allow him that many pitches, in which case he'll probably go 7 innings and the other numbers will be adjusted down accordingly. I know it's silly to guess on something like this, but it's all in the name of fun. Hang on folks. Away we go.