Daisuke Matsuzaka, again

DMZ · October 11, 2005 at 9:02 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Rumors are starting to bubble again. The New York Times ran a story which speculated the Yankees, who’ve been sent home early again, might pursue him if he’s posted. The Mariners almost certainly would.

We’ve written about him before, including a whole spate of articles at this time last year, when it looked like he might have been posted then.

Matsuzaka pitched on the 8th for the Seibu Lions in the playoffs (against the Chiba Lotte Marines, managed by Bobby Valentine)… going seven innings and throwing 142 pitches.

142. In seven innings.

Which brings up the huge negative about Matsuzaka, even if he’s posted: his workload has been absolutely insane. Maybe he’s one of the few players who can take that kind of abuse and remain effective, but he’s only 25, and he was overworked horribly during years where that kind of abuse most harms pitchers. Teams should be scared.

If he’s posted, it’s going to take a lot of money to get him. He’s undeniably talented, though we can debate what meaningless rotation number label you could put on him. But it’d be like buying an amazingly risky used car:
“How much for this 2005 Boxster of yours?”
“Oh, $55,000.”
“That’s really expensive, but it is nice… how many miles?”
“Um… wow. You sure drove it a lot. Do you have maintenance records?”
“A what now?”
“Regular service.. oil changes?”
“Phhhbbbllltttt. Every morning I go out, put it in neutral, rev it all the way up a couple times while it’s still cold, peel out, and then drive the rest of the day. If the oil light comes on, I just pour some of that Slick 50 stuff in.”


42 Responses to “Daisuke Matsuzaka, again”

  1. David J Corcoran on October 11th, 2005 9:09 am


  2. DaveG on October 11th, 2005 9:09 am

    Not to be nitpicky, but as a Porsche owner i must comment: it’s boxSter 😛

  3. Russ on October 11th, 2005 9:13 am

    A Boxster has a Porsche nameplate however without the dry sump oiling, one has to worry. Now a 911…

    Anyone here familier with Japanese baseball enough to understand his past few seasons? Does anyone read the Japanese papers to get a good feel for what his condition may be?

  4. Dave on October 11th, 2005 9:23 am

    His full season game log can be found here.

    160 pitches in his 2nd start. Hit 152 and 151 in later starts. He averaged 122 pitches per start. From April 22nd to July 9th, he averaged 135 pitches per start.

    In early August, he got rocked in back to back starts and complained of shoulder pain. Of course, he didn’t miss any starts, and was unhittable down the stretch, so it probably wasn’t a big deal.

    Basically, there’s two conclusions about him that can be reached; he’s either been abused so badly that his arm is going to fall off any day, or he’s superhuman and the rules of arm usage down apply to him, and he’ll pitch til he’s 50. I don’t think there’s a middle ground here.

    Whoever gets Matsuzaka either gets an all-star with Nolan Ryan’s durability or gets to pay for a really expensive rehab.

  5. mln on October 11th, 2005 9:30 am

    What’s Matsuzaka’s injury history? That would be an important predictor of his future health issues. I believe he has spent some significant time on the DL before.

    Maybe a good analogy for Matsuzaka’s career trajectory is someone like Sandy Koufax–a rare talent that shined brightly, though (relatively) briefly.

  6. eponymous coward on October 11th, 2005 9:33 am

    My understanding is the J Leagues do that to EVERYONE, from when I was reading You Gotta Have Wa. They start spring training in early February and make people do an insane amount of work- plus Japanese batters tend to work counts even more than in the US. It’s sort of like going back 50 years in US baseball history, back when “seven-inning pitcher” was an insult instead of a good performance.

  7. msb on October 11th, 2005 9:36 am

    it would be sort of satisfying (in an unwholesome way) to have the Yankees spend a bucket of money on a shiny new pitching arm, only to once again have the car sit in the shop all season (to wring even more out of the analogy…)

  8. Colin on October 11th, 2005 9:41 am

    Wow. Those are some VERY scary pitch count numbers. So, DMZ (or Dave), I would assume that you would rather us chase after Millwood or Burnett then go after Matsuzaka?

    Would Burnett be less of an injury scare then Matsuzaka with his history?

  9. Rusty on October 11th, 2005 9:42 am

    Ha ha! Great writing Derek. It’s always fun to start the morning off with a good chuckle.

    I wonder if the Japanese League isn’t the equivalent to MLB during the dead ball era, where pitchers with huge workloads held back their hardest and best stuff until when they really needed it. Christy Matthewson and others have confirmed that this was indeed the case back in the olden days.

  10. robbbbbb on October 11th, 2005 9:42 am

    He averaged 122? That’s insane. He’s twenty-five years old? Man, what a risk to run, but with a potentially huge payoff.

    That’s a high-risk high-reward move. The Mariners are flush with cash right now, so it could be a terrific move. Especially if that line-item in the budget isn’t used for other things. In other words: The money’s there. Take advantage of that fact. Plus, Matsuzaka has a huge Butts-In-Seats factor, just for his uniqueness.

    But think of this: Matsuzaka *and* Burnett/Millwood. The cash is there for that, plus Jacque Jones in LF, if I’m reading the market correctly. Resign Moyer for $3M as a back-of-the-rotation, and then you’ve got Felix and Pineiro in the rotation.

  11. Kelly M on October 11th, 2005 9:42 am

    Hey, let’s look on the bright side of the Mariner’s pitching injuries. What other club in the WORLD has as much experience in rehabing serious pitching injuries? We are PERFECT for him.

  12. Russ on October 11th, 2005 9:43 am

    From the season log, it would seem that while he has pitched a fair amount of games with high pitch counts, he had an equal number of games in which he went deep into a game with around 105-120 pitches. The deeper into the season he went, the more economical he got. I certainly like his walk rate, he simply didn’t give up that many walks all season.

    Dave??? boxSter vs. Boxster??? I don’t get it.

  13. msb on October 11th, 2005 9:46 am

    as the comments box isn’t open under Jeff’s post about the NY rumors re: Mel S., here is the latest from Corey Brock in the TNT, regarding Wiley pulling out of the pitching coach pool (no mention of Mel) and another blurb or two out of NY re: Mel

  14. Jeff on October 11th, 2005 9:47 am

    The comments box isn’t open? It’s open for me. That’s weird. Thanks for the links, though: I may add ’em to the post.

  15. Dave on October 11th, 2005 9:49 am

    I don’t know what to think about Matsuzaka and the M’s.

    Here’s what I do know; based on his Japanese numbers, there’s almost no chance that he’s not one of the best pitchers alive. If the M’s can count the posting fee against some non-payroll budget item that doesn’t effect the player development or acquisition budgets, then I don’t care if they spend $100 million on to buy his rights.

    But if it gets to a point where you’re looking at paying $20 million out of the budget for the guy, then you have to ask yourself how much you’re willing to gamble that this guy is the exception to years of history.

    He might be. So far, he is. He’s survived insane pitch counts for years and years. And if he comes over, and if he’s healthy, and if the pitching coaches here don’t screw him up by trying to Americanize his delivery or workout regime, well, then he’s probably something like the best available pitching talent to hit the market in a decade.

    But that’s just so many questions. Without knowing how his acquisition would effect other acquisitions with less measured risk, it’s hard to evaluate.

    But if Howard Lincoln tells Bavasi that the posting fee won’t count against payroll, then sign me up immediately.

  16. Jeff in Fremont on October 11th, 2005 9:52 am

    Has anyone done a breakdown of the overall success of Japanese/Asian pitchers relative to the overall population? My initial thought is that there’s a few that have a couple spectacular seasons, then quickly flame out (Nomo, Sasaki, Irabu, Park), and the rest are just a flat-out bust (Ishii, M. Suzuki, Kim).

    Perhaps a by-product of their “over-training” in the Far East (ex. Mac Suzuki, who just wasn’t very good at driving his Hummer while drunk)?

    That being said, conventional wisdom would say if you go for Gyroball, you get him for two or three years at most, then let someone else pay for his arm to fall off.

  17. DMZ on October 11th, 2005 9:52 am

    I agree. Never turn down free money.

    And from what we know, the M’s not only don’t count posting fees against payroll budget, they don’t count the acquisition cost of foreign players who don’t come in through the draft/etc, which is why they’re frequently in on the pursuit of Cuban players — I think they’ve generally been poor buys, especially the high-profile ones given their cost — but if it’s free for a GM to go after them, of course they’ll do it.

  18. robbbbbb on October 11th, 2005 9:53 am

    Whoa. I just looked at those season stats. Look at that BB rate (and that includes HBP!) And he’s averaging better than a K/IP. Thirteen homers in 200+ IP!?!

    I’m aware that Matsuzaka is a prime injury candidate, but at this point I don’t really care. Run the risk. We may get outbid by the Yankees, but this guy’s a helluva talent. The Mariners should make a serious effort to get him if he’s posted.

  19. Dave on October 11th, 2005 9:55 am

    His strikeout numbers may be a bit misleading. The average K/9 for a Pacific League pitcher in 2004 was 7.1, significantly higher than in MLB. So, Matsuzaka’s 9.2 is still terrific, but it’s more like 8.6 over here.

    That’s a quibble, though. Even factoring in a huge regression, his numbers project at an all-star level. His line from last year looks like what I expect out of Felix for the forseeable future.

  20. John on October 11th, 2005 9:55 am

    Any truth to his lost velocity? Don’t most arm problems give evidence of impending injury by affecting performance? Isn’t 25 out of the supposed “injury nexus” for pitchers? I read that he only throws two pitches, fastball and gyroball, both of which put minimal strain on his arm. If he isn’t hurt yet maybe moving to the more pitcher friendly MLB would improve his performance. How good could he be averaging only 110 pitches an outing? Risk be damned, I want to see this guy in a Mariner’s uniform–with him we may not have a perennial World Series contender, but we would have absolutely the coolest international roster in baseball.

  21. robbbbbb on October 11th, 2005 9:58 am

    And John, at #20, hits on the reason why this might become the M’s next big acquisition: Butts in Seats factor. As DMZ notes a couple posts down, the Mariners evaluate moves by, “How well does this help us make money,” with part of that being, “Winning puts Butts In Seats.”

    However, Matsuzaka can do that by himself. He’s a unique talent. Plus, he’s a damn fine pitcher. That’s why I think the M’s are going to be in on the bidding, and that’s why I’m hopeful.

    If, of course, his J-league team posts him.

  22. IgnatiusReilly on October 11th, 2005 10:01 am

    A general question on injuries: Would greatly decreasing his workload effect his risk of injury at all? Increase it, decrease it, no change (damage done), or we just don’t know?

  23. Mat on October 11th, 2005 10:01 am

    220,000 miles on a 2005 model? That is indeed a lot of mileage.

    I’m not sure exactly when 2005 model Boxsters were available for purchase, but let’s say the car was driven over the last 400 days. That’s 550 miles per day! I don’t think 122 pitches/game is quite THAT abusive. Of course, 122 pitches/game is still worrisome.

  24. DMZ on October 11th, 2005 10:05 am

    It was an exaggeration for comic effect.

  25. Mat on October 11th, 2005 10:10 am

    I’m not criticizing, just noting. If anything, actually figuring out that it was about 550 miles/day increased the comic effect for me.

  26. Deanna on October 11th, 2005 10:12 am

    Well, I mean, if you had the crap that was the Lions’ bullpen this year, you’d be running your starters out as long as you could as well…

  27. Jerry on October 11th, 2005 10:45 am

    I have a question about some things that I have heard, but don’t really know the accuracy of.

    I heard that Japanese pitchers typically have crazy workloads like this, and that Matsuzaka’s workload, while still qualifying him as a horse regarless of the league, is not totally insane when compared to what goes on with the typical Japanese starter. Is there anything to this?

    Second, I have heard that, while the Japenese leagues tend to work their pitchers hard, they are really advanced when it comes to mechanics. Thus, pitchers motions are broken down and mechanical flaws are dealt with a lot more effectively than they might be in the US. Matsuzaka’s ‘gyro-ball’ is one example of this Japanese pitching focus on mechanics, as I have heard that this pitch actually helps relieve stress on the arm. However, I have no idea if this is actually true.

    Third, is there any evidence that previous workloads are a precurson to injuried. I know that huge workloads can cause injuries in the short-term. However, I wonder if a guy who has pitched crazy amounts in the past, but stayed healthy, is more at risk later. This is especially difficult to say with Matsuzaka. What might we expect if he comes to the US healthy, and his pitch counts are reduced dramatically? Obviously, this guy has proven to be pretty durable over the course of the year. Perhaps lowering him pitch counts and having him do a more US-style workout schedule might actually be bad for him. Are there any precedents to this? I know that Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo have had arm trouble. But were these guys abused earlier in thier careers? And can we say for sure that early abuse had something to do with these guys careers?

    This seems to me like a really complicated issue.

    Regardless, I think that this guy is well worth the risk. I would be really pissed off if the M’s don’t get into the bidding on this guy in the event that he is posted. Given the clubs ownership, their fanbase, the team needs, etc., this is a no-brainer. And the M’s wouldn’t even lose draft picks for getting him. That is the icing on the cake.

  28. Russ on October 11th, 2005 11:09 am

    is there any evidence that previous workloads are a precursor to injuries. I know that huge workloads can cause injuries in the short-term. However, I wonder if a guy who has pitched crazy amounts in the past, but stayed healthy, is more at risk later.

    In a nutshell yes. Soft tissue injuries are often not event specific but rather cumlative in nature, carpal tunnel being a prime example. However, conditioning to a use pattern can overcome injury in that the connective tissues have been developed and strengthend to handle the workload placed upon the joint.

  29. Brian Rust on October 11th, 2005 11:10 am

    Theoretically, of course, that 550 miles/day might only cost you four or five hours.

  30. KW on October 11th, 2005 11:50 am

    Besides, the Boxster is a Porsche for wannabes anyway. For those who want to look cute without a Miata but can’t afford a 911.

  31. Shoeless Jose on October 11th, 2005 12:26 pm

    And they build them better in Japan anyway. Lots of Hondas are running fine after 200K+ miles.

    And before you get done with making those rude noises, let me remind you the Acura NSX is a Honda.

  32. pensive on October 11th, 2005 12:27 pm

    DMZ__ I actually read Will article you refered to last year. The biomechanics and computer breakdown of stress on pitcher was enough. Certainly the Japanese do not want to fail here. More than a pay check the pride of a nation burdens the players.

    Hope he posts and with DMZ and Dave advocating his signing Mariners go for him. 98 mph fastball along with gyroball as Will Carroll explained it reads awesome on paper. As long as Mariners do not stop there with upgrading.

    Kenny Rodgers pitches well in Texas and we have to play and beat them in August. His information as well as ability maybe worth the investment. Anger aside in Seattle there would not be that unbearable heat. Moyer Browm Rodgers quite abit of knowledge there. Of course make sure Rodgers has a driver or lives walking distance to Park or road rage may occur.

  33. Paul T on October 11th, 2005 12:35 pm

    220,000 miles on a 2005 model

    Are those miles adjusted for “road” effects? If they are auto friendly German Autobahn miles then I would a lot less concerned than say, Chicago city miles.

  34. Long Suffering on October 11th, 2005 12:44 pm

    With Moyer Brown and Rogers, the Ms would have the triple threat. A guy who beats up cameramen, a guy who beats up concrete walls, and a guy who beats up windshields for charity.

  35. LB on October 11th, 2005 1:11 pm

    What did Sasaki’s “pitcher abuse points” look like before he came over? It seemed to me that the first time he came into the game for the M’s, he was warming up in the 6th inning for an appearance in the 9th. A guy who sat next to me told me not to worry, that they liked a long warmup in Japan.

  36. Shoeless Jose on October 11th, 2005 1:12 pm

    Call them the old wrecking crew…

  37. Shoeless Jose on October 11th, 2005 1:14 pm

    You know, if the Japanese are really doing such innovative work on monitoring and correcting mechanics, and getting more work out of their pitchers with fewer injuries, perhaps the M’s should be looking at importing all that knowledge and technique, not just the players.

    I know, I know, in the “we’ve always done it this way and we know better than any punk who never played in the Majors” old boy world of MLB it will never happen, but….

  38. Grizz on October 11th, 2005 1:57 pm

    Just for fun, I always wondered what would happen if you moved a Japanese team to the major leagues for a season. Put the team in Vancouver, give them some access to major league players (free agents? expansion draft?) to even out the talent differential, and see what happens. You could do it in the year between the contraction of the Devil Rays and the Marlins.

  39. Typical Idiot Fan on October 11th, 2005 2:33 pm

    Hawaii would be more appropriate. Large Asian / Japanese population / vacationers there. You’d at least be able to draw a larger proportioned Japanese crowd.

  40. LB on October 11th, 2005 5:03 pm

    #38: Of course, you’d need to move two, since no league can have an odd number of teams unless it wants to require a team to sit idle while the other teams play each other.

  41. Grizz on October 11th, 2005 5:17 pm

    #40: Or, as previously suggested, you put off the contraction of the Marlins for one year following the contraction of the Devil Rays.

    #39: Good idea. Maybe a San Juan/Montreal-like split season to head off player association rumblings about too many Honolulu-to-Boston road trips.

  42. Paul Campbell on October 12th, 2005 9:59 am

    I don’t know if anyone’s seen this stat yet, but it’s from Wikipedia. The number is so unbelievable it took me a little while to even remember he was probably 17 or 18 when he did it:

    Matsuzaka attended Yokohama High School in Japan until 1998. In the quarterfinals of that year’s Koshien national high school baseball tournament, he threw 250 pitches in 17 innings to beat powerhouse P.L. Gakuen.