Daisuke Matsuzaka

DMZ · October 12, 2004 at 10:26 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Reader Toshio Tsukiyama reminded us that a pitcher we haven’t mentioned is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is rumored to be “posted” by the Siebu Lions. This is the same process Ichiro! went through: teams bid for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka. Which makes this even more of a gamble than a normal free agent would be.

Matsuzaka is supposedly the next star to come over. He reportedly (I haven’t seen him) throws 96mph with a plus fastball and the infamous gyroball, a bizarre double-spin screwball. You can check out Matsuzaka’s stats here. And here’s a good story with picture at the Japan Times Online. He’s had pretty good results — using that site’s admittedly inaccurate stats, he’s running over a 2:1 K:BB ratio. I’m a little worried about the crazy number of complete games, and whether his arm’s potentially shredded already after being ridden at a level that would be a felony in most American states. He threw 249 pitches in a 17 inning complete game in high school. 249!

But here’s the thing. Dude is 24. Eeeeeeeeeeeeyup.

So what do you pay for a guy like this? What kind of priority does he take in the off-season?

And, if I may be so bold, if the team’s running a second account for new, off-shore players (which they claimed back during the Contreras bidding), who cares? Spend the freaking money.


83 Responses to “Daisuke Matsuzaka”

  1. PositivePaul on October 13th, 2004 12:52 pm

    That’s very likely, too. My point is that the M’s really have the inside scoop on Japanese players, and if a player has the potential to shine in the U.S. AND that player is willing to play for the M’s, the M’s will do whatever it takes to get first dibs on that player. Happened with Sasaki, and it happened with Ichiro. Though Sasaki wasn’t here for the long-term, aside from his injury season, he filled a HUGE hole for the M’s when he was here. Ichiro is just one of the most elite players in the game, for different reasons than others are elite of course, but he’s still one of the premiere players.

    As much as I don’t trust them in other realms, I do trust our management in dealing with signing Japanese players.

  2. Kevin on October 13th, 2004 1:20 pm

    Lots of good explanations on why pitchers in the past could throw so many innings. Makes sense. But at what point did pitchers have to start throwing hard all the time? Steve Carlton threw 346 innings as recently as 1972. I doubt he could lob in BP pitches to the bottom half of the lineup.

    My theory is that some guys are genetically inclined to be durable, and others are inclined to injury. These durable guys today could pitch 350 innings a season if anybody would let them, but no manager who valued his job would do so. I think the whole topic of workloads and pitch counts probably saves a lot of injury-prone pitchers from early flame-outs, but that there is also a number of pitchers who are fully capable of throwing 150 pitches a game and completing 30 games a year. We’ll just never know who they are.

  3. msb on October 13th, 2004 1:38 pm

    #26: this was how it was ‘explained’ after Contreras:

    Jan 2, 2003 JOHN HICKEY P-I reporter
    “The Mariners could afford to go after Contreras because of the way their accounting process works. As a never-before-signed player, he would come under a different listing in the ledger – acquisitions – than would a regular free agent. Which means that the $7 million or so that might have gone to Contreras isn’t available to go to free agents still being pursued by the Mariners.”

    re: scouting in Japan, who took that area over after Jim Colborn left?

  4. Eric on October 13th, 2004 1:47 pm

    Another thought on the old time vs modern pitchers, just how much affect has the lowered mound had? Not sure that I have any idea or even guess, just another variable to toss out there.

  5. WsuMojo on October 13th, 2004 2:04 pm

    Some one please explain to me the circumstances of this foreign players ledger we have. Why could it not be added to the payroll for MLB players?? I don’t understand why there is this ledger that the owners can take millions out of for foreign players, but not for any other players? Are they convinced that if they spend $7M on a player, that they will get back at least $7M in gained revenue from the foreign country’s fans in tickets and merchandise? Otherwise, if those millions are spent on a player, why does it matter where that player is from?

  6. Rob on October 13th, 2004 2:07 pm


    I believe the M’s logic is this. They take a couple million our to put into international signings every year. That way when a big start is available on the international market they have more money to spend then other teams. OTher teams might do that also, but I think the m’s just put money aside into this account.

    Makes sense to me, but it also sucks that they don’t spend that money on normal FA. This idea allows them to spend more on international free agents, either be young 16yrs or 25yrs “stars”

    That is my take on it. I could and probably am wrong but who cares 😀

  7. Troy on October 13th, 2004 2:08 pm

    Kevin (post 52) I completely agree with your assessment, and explains how pitchers went longer back in the day more than anything else. I think the emphasis on pitch counts and protecting arms is a good thing and has lenghthened and improved the quality of many a career. I have no problem accepting that it has also diminished the impact and value of those few genetic outliers that could have tolerated the ancient workloads.

    Until we’re able to identify who those people are, I say sacrificing the impact of the few is worth protecting the arms of the many.

  8. DMZ on October 13th, 2004 2:10 pm

    I don’t think that’s the case. As far as we know, the Mariners don’t set aside money for this reason, or have a different account — it’s that when they spend that money, it’s accounted for differently, like most business divide capital and operational expenses, for instance. Because of the way they’re accounting for it, they’re more willing to spend on that venue, but as to the why, or how this actually works, I don’t think anyone outside of the M’s accountants really understand that.

  9. vaujot on October 13th, 2004 2:19 pm

    About the pitchcount: Here’s an interesting article from the hardballtimes, arguing that they achieve little in preventing pitcher injuries.

  10. DMZ on October 13th, 2004 2:24 pm

    It’s a terrible article, that basically agrees with a flawed and superfical (and, unfortunately, typical of Bill James of late) James article and then uses historical estimation of pitch counts to show that the survivors — the guys that ran up really huge counts — didn’t get injured which… well, duh. If they got injured and blew out their rotator cuffs they wouldn’t reach those IPs.

    No one’s making pitch counts out as the end-all be-all of injury, as I’ve said, as everyone who looks at is says, and this constant vilification of pitch counts as some great evil is like saying that the increased awareness of OBP has resulted in the death of complete baseball players because it neglects defense.

  11. dw on October 13th, 2004 2:30 pm

    On DMZ’s comment, I believe posting fees and transfer fees by in large are seen as capital expenses by sport clubs. This makes sense — you’re paying (or receiving) a one-time fee for the right of control over a player. It’s not an annual expense. If you know anything about capital vs. operating budgets, a posting fee is a capital expense, while salary is an operating expense.

  12. DMZ on October 13th, 2004 2:34 pm

    That’s true, but the M’s (through Hickey) made the argument that Contreras’ salary would be, essentially, a new account, like it too was a capital expense.

    But now I’m straining to squeeze so much information from the quote that it’s dumb.

  13. Deanna on October 13th, 2004 2:56 pm

    47 – Are the J Leagues deep enough to force pitchers to focus through the whole lineup?

    A major difference between NPB and MLB is the farm system. Each team in Japan has its league team and its farm team. One farm team. That’s it. The team rosters there also have something like 70 people on them. There’ll be somewhere around 5-10 really talented people per team, the ones that will play in or start 95% of the games, but then there’s a ton of other people that get called in to pinch hit, or just play/pitch one inning, or whatever. I was too busy cheering and singing when I went to games in Japan to keep a scorecard, but I’m glad I didn’t try, as it would have been impossible to keep up with all the player swaps.

    With so many people on the team, it’s not entirely uncommon that there’ll be a guy up to bat that isn’t up to snuff.

    But, another thing that most people haven’t brought up about the pitch counts — Japanese players tend to work the counts really high. Lots of full counts and not as many first-pitch swings there. I don’t know whether that really accounts for the high pitch counts on some of these pitchers, though Matsuzaka at Koshien was probably some combination of pride and stamina and stubbornness. Given how much media coverage that event gets, and knowing that pulling off something astounding and being a star at Koshien pretty much guarantees you an NPB job, it’s just amazing he stayed through it all, and still averaged 14 pitches per inning.

  14. Morisseau on October 13th, 2004 3:22 pm

    any news on the manager search? more than a day and no new threads? what have we come to!?

  15. Jim Thomsen on October 13th, 2004 3:53 pm

    Speaking of new threads ….

    One I’d like to see, as a permalink off to the left, would take note of low-profile roster shufflings from other teams from week to week. I remember last year e-mailing to USS Mariner that the Mariners should take a flyer on some of the guys released from 40-man rosters last year as at least Doule-A or Triple-A filler — Glendon Rusch, who worked out pretty well for the Cubs this year for essentially nothing, was the guy I was pushing.

    I noticed that the Cincinnati Reds this week released Aaron Myette. To me, he’s worth a minor-league contract and an NRI. He’s a righthander who’s still semi-young — 27 — has a good hard fastball with movement, and yes, hasn’t had a lick of luck in the major leagues. There are a zillion guys like this, I’m aware. But if you can hook a guy like this up with the right pitching coach and the right organization, sometimes that potential gets unleashed and the next thing you know, you’ve got a “late bloomer” on your hands for little risk.

    I wouldn’t tout Myette as a guy who can make the team out of spring training. But I would tout him as a guy who deserves two or three months in the organization to see if he can get it going. Besides, he’s a semi-local … he comes from British Columbia, played at the UW for a year and lives in Gig Harbor in the offseason. Sometimes moving closer to home does make a psychological difference, and, in looking at Myette’s history, he’s very much a head-case guy whose Nuke LaLooshiness has gotten in the way of his pretty decent upside potential. Maybe Rafael Chaves or somebody can give him a head slap.

  16. The Ancient Mariner on October 13th, 2004 5:18 pm

    #46–Ryan, at least, threw very few pitches through his age-27 year, due to a number of circumstances (plus he had mechanics which minimized arm stress). Not sure how heavily the others were worked as kids.

    #47–no one’s talking about reminiscences; these are statements which were recorded at the time. As such, they’re just as valid as a record of how those pitchers did their jobs as statements made by Edgar in the past five years about his hitting approach are as a record of how he did his.

  17. Daryl on October 13th, 2004 5:18 pm

    Isn’t that what the Mariners are already doing (taking a flyer) by signing all these players out of the Independent League? (Madritsch, Sherril, Pulsipher, etc.) Yes, guys do slip through the cracks and you can find a “late bloomer” but in defense of the Mariners I believe they do take flyers on guys. I don’t agree with many of the Mariners methods or operating policies, but in this case I think the Mariners are pretty active in such practices. Myette as you say may be a guy worth giving a shot, I don’t know that much about him. But I do believe the Mariners are scouting and signing such players already. They have a lot of weaknesses, but I don’t see this as one of them.

  18. Dave on October 13th, 2004 5:35 pm

    From reader Toshio Tsukiyama, a potential roadblock;

    I read in Japanese news sites today that Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, the owner
    of Seibu Lions, will resign from the owners position after the Japan
    Series due to financial scandals associated with his company. It sound
    strange that an “owner” resigns, but in Japan, “owners” are usually
    executives of the companies that own ball clubs. In the case of the
    Lions, Tsutsumi is the owner of the company that owns the team.
    Anyways, I believe that it has been Tsutsumi who has been supportive
    for Matsuzaka’s wish to play in the US, so his resignation can delay or
    stop the posting process. In the worst case, it’s rumored that the
    Lions might be sold to another company after Tsutsumi’s resignation. If
    this happens, the new “owner” will likely hold onto the best pitcher of
    the league. I hope this won’t happen, but I am worried.

  19. J on October 13th, 2004 6:47 pm

    Daryl, just a note, but Pulsipher was released, he only pitched in two games before going down with an injury.

  20. Paul Molitor Cocktail on October 13th, 2004 7:17 pm

    I think the Mariners heavily scouting the Indy Leagues is a good thing. It’s a “Moneyball”-style technique – find players who are undervalued or undiscovered.

  21. tede on October 13th, 2004 7:38 pm


    Unfortunately Kerfeld is gone. It’s too bad the M’s couldn’t ever scout the NL as well as they did the Northern League.

    In July and August Tacoma definitely raided the Indy leagues for all the second tier replacement pitchers they could find. And it almost worked.

  22. DMZ on October 13th, 2004 9:32 pm

    Jim writes:

    One I’d like to see, as a permalink off to the left, would take note of low-profile roster shufflings from other teams from week to week.



    Let me know if anyone’s willing to pay one of us to work full-time on USSM, and we’ll set that up for you. Good thought, but we’re as likely to do this as the three of us are to establish a permanent lunar base and move the Expos there.


  23. G-Man on October 13th, 2004 10:42 pm

    OK, we’ll let you off the hook about keeping us informed about every player in baseball, Derek. But how about this:

    Despite your efforts and requests, people still use the most recent thread posted for most of their thoughts, regardless of subject. Could you have a permalink that occupies that spot right at the top of the main column, right where this one is now? Label it “Mariners Talk” or something, and maybe these sorts of posts will end up there instead of everywhre else.

    In any case, the work that you, Dave and Jason do is greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.

  24. Jim Thomsen on October 13th, 2004 11:15 pm

    Yeah, that’s what I meant. Sorry if I worded it poorly. I wasn’t thinking of anything terribly labor-intensive.

    Re #67 and others: I don’t think scouting and/or signing guys like Myette can be equated with raiding indy-league rosters for pitching filler to restock depleted minor-league larders amidst midseason chaos. Myette actually has the stuff to pitch in the majors and the time to improve, whereas the guys who weres signed to play for Tacoma last year — Andy Shibilo, Jeff Harris, Tony Runion, Bryan Ward, Bill Pulsipher, etc. are played-out journeymen who aren’t considered by ANYBODY — any scouting bureau or rating service — to be capable of pitching in the big leagues. They represent cost-efficient, inning-eating roster filler. Sort of like in 2003, when they went out and got J.R. Phillips, Craig Kuzmic, Adrian Myers, Jalal Leach and others who had no chance to be anything but carbon-based life forms to wear uniforms and do what they were told.

  25. Evan on October 13th, 2004 11:17 pm

    Assuming one of us could pay one of you to work full-time on the site, which of you should get the cushy gig?

  26. Bud Selig on October 13th, 2004 11:22 pm

    A permanent lunar base for the Expos? Hey, get Dupay on the phone and tell him the DC plans are on hold.

  27. The Ancient Mariner on October 14th, 2004 10:36 am

    Actually, Kuzmic came up in the M’s system (and looked for a while like he’d be an extremely valuable bench player in Seattle), and Adrian Myers came over in exchange for Fassero in ’99 when we dumped his moldering corpse on Texas.

  28. Aaron on October 14th, 2004 3:29 pm

    Here’s how Will Carroll endend his injury column today:

    “Will’s free tip to front offices: Daisuke Matsuzaka won’t break down in his first year over here. If he doesn’t win 12 games and Rookie of the Year, I’ll come bat against Rob Dibble without the benefit of a batting helmet between innings of your first home game in 2006.”

  29. Stephen on October 19th, 2004 11:40 am

    I actually throw a gyroball, I just never knew that is what it was called. To help out with its effectiveness, gyroballs are best against power hitters because of the upper cut swing. The pitch initially looks like a slider. If it is thrown on the inside corner, it will appear to be a slider that ends up on the middle of the plate but the rotation reverses itself due to arm action and the pitch winds up 3 inches off the plate. It is very difficult to throw for a strike, unless it is used like a back door slider. The pitch is most effective if the pitcher also throws a slider or cutter along with the gyroball. As for arm injuries, the gyro is about as taxing on the arm as a knuckleball. You don’t need to worry about injury.

  30. Calsdark on October 22nd, 2004 10:45 am

    Hello everybody! I’m a Taiwanese but also a fan of NPB. I have poor English but I’ll try my best to write my note, if I were wrong, please excuse me.
    Matsuzaka is the greatest pitcher in Japan now, first. I’m a fan of Daiei Hawks, not Seibu, but I still want to say: Matsuzaka is a great enemy. I saw his pitching for years and he really progressed every year. He have mid-90 MPH 4-seam fastball, low-90 MPH cutter, low-80 MPH slurve(his out pitch), low-80 MPH SFF and high-70 MPH change-up.
    Actually, he have many kinds of weapons, and they all have power. He reduced the use of SFF in recent years because it may hurt his elbow. Besides, the mechanism of his slurve seems to be curve more than slider; so his elbow/shoulder problem may not be as serious as everybody thinks. The only year he was botherred by the injury was 2002, and he recoverred in 2003 with reducing SFF use / increasing change-up use. So I thick that injury was related with SFF. My score to his pitching was : (100 was the best in Japan) fastball 95, slurve 80, cutter 70, change-up 75; each one wasn’t the best in Japan but he really use them smartly and he had a good control. He has the strongest mentality in Japan, too.
    Matsuzaka wasn’t unhittable, but he was strong, and he keep growing now.

  31. Calsdark on October 22nd, 2004 11:22 am

    Then we talking about the overuse.
    I really think Matsuzaka was abused, but it might not be as serious as the American thinks. In Japan, they use 6-pitcher rotation, they had fewer relief pitcher and the starting pitcher should pitch 100-120 or even more to keep the game win. Because they have 5-6 days rest, so the overuse condition was not as badly as we think. The key was the different culture between USA and Japan. Maybe 4/5 pitcher rotation was better, but 6-pitcher rotation has its reason to survive.
    In fact, Matsuzaka received better protect this year. The new manager Itoh was the former catcher of Seibu, who was Matsuzaka’s old partner, and he protected Matsuzaka more than the former manager Higashio, the greatest pitcher in the history of Seibu Lions, who was a traditional Japanese manager. Matsuzaka pitched 110 balls each game in 2004, fewer than the past, and he had a better performance.(these was including 10 CG/ 5 SHO, so he used fewer balls, about 110-120 to complete a game!)
    This year. Matsuzaka had a bad start, he was down to the farm in May for adjustment. After June, he had a great performance: he started 11 games and had only 12 Earned Run; if we count with Olympics, then
    he started 13 games with 13 ER! All he started after June was QS except once he felt thigh sore and he got rest after 4 inn pitching. He also had OPPAVG:.230 (3rd), BB/9: 1.83 (4th), HR/9: 0.61 (3rd), SO/9: 10.56 (1st) after June.
    Finally, he earned the first among the league as ERA(2.897), CG(10), SHO(5), OPPAVG(.236). He also had 146 IP, 127SO / 42BB, 10W6L and only 7HR! Only I can say was that he was conquering this league, and he didn’t got severe injury now, so he should go to MLB as soon as possible!! May be for protection, mat be for challange!

  32. CFiJ on October 26th, 2004 6:45 am

    I’m sure this is much too late for anyone to see it, but I thought I’d mention that Matsuzaka does [i]not[/i] throw a gyroball. I’ve read the book put out by the researchers that came up with the gyroball, and Matsuzaka wasn’t even mentioned (well, he’s mentioned once, but it’s in relation to his 97 MPH fastball, not any kind of gyroball). A number of pitchers who have aspects of the gyro release and/or double-spin mechanics (including, but not limited to, Nomo, Shingo Takazu, Ichiro, and Pedro Martinez), but no professional player actually throws the true gyroball. Perhaps Takazu’s change-up comes closest.

  33. CFiJ on October 26th, 2004 6:58 am

    Ah, after doing some more checking, I see what’s going on. Matsuzaka doesn’t throw an “official” gyroball. IOW, he calls it a slider, everyone who sees it calls it a slider. But the researchers are saying that his slider is an “asymmetrical” gyro, and admit that not even Matsuzaka knows that he is throwing it. I’m inclined to take this with a grain of salt. He throws a slider with a gyro-like release, and this gives it its good break, but I fear the researchers are perhaps overstating their case in order to plug their research.