2008 Projections: Daisuke Matsuzaka

You’ve heard all the excuses for why he didn’t do well last season: adjusting to a new country, doesn’t speak the language, the Japanese baseball is smaller and slicker, adjusting to the Boston media is tough, getting used to five days rest instead of six, etc.

But when you put it all together, Daisuke Matsuzaka had a pretty darn good rookie season. This is a guy who was seriously being considered for Rookie of the Year honors until about mid-August. He made 32 starts for a team playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, led the Sox in IP, and won 15 games his first year. He posted a 1.32 WHIP, an ERA+ of 108, and had a great K/9 ratio, finishing in the AL top 10 for strikeouts, K/9, and H/9.

Some of the not-so-great parts of this season: Dice-K did walk a lot more hitters than I expected, and he was 4th in the league in hit batsmen, not a good thing to be known for. He also allowed 25 HR this year, but his ratio is not terrible, given the number of innings pitched. The good news? A lot of that badness came in clusters, meaning he lost his concentration or focus during a single inning, and it kind of snowballed. I’ve blogged a lot about that “one bad inning” he always had, and how it really made his numbers look worse than they really were.

I expect Dice-K to make a huge jump forward this season, and not just because I’m a fellow Asian. Now that he’s run the gauntlet once, he knows what to expect, how to better pace himself. He’s also had an offseason to think about what went wrong (which, admittedly, could be good or bad). The early criticisms of him being inconsistent from the stretch have been answered, as hitters only hit .220/.306/.365 off of Matsuzaka with men on base. His numbers do look bad with a man on third, but not terribly out of line with what other pitchers put up. Matsuzaka is one of those pitchers who needs to be in a groove, which you can see from hitters lines against him with 0, 1 and 2 outs in an inning:

0 out: .276/.359/.452
1 out: .243/.319/.395
2 out: .214/.295/.359

Dice-K gets progressively tougher within each inning, and I watched him work out of a lot of jams last season. If there’s a bright side to his struggles, it was that he practiced pitching under pressure a lot. That should come in handy in the upcoming season.

Put all this together, and I think Matsuzaka is in for a huge year, and may even just edge Josh Beckett as the top pitcher (statistically) in this rotation. Don’t believe me? Check out his June and July 2007 numbers to see what he is capable of: 5-5 with a 2.65 ERA in 71.1 IP, with 74 K and 29 BB. He’ll be far more comfortable than last year, and looking to impress when he pitches in Japan to start off the 2008 season. He’s also tied for 6th in my list of pitchers with dominant starts in 2007. Basically, all signs point upwards. My forecast looks like this: 210 IP, 17 wins, 205 K with maybe 70 BB and a nice ERA of 3.75.

Projection comps:

Marcels:	11-9	156IP	148K	62BB	4.33ERA
Bill James:	14-8	193IP	188K	64BB	3.54ERA
ZiPS:		15-10	196IP	177K	60BB	3.95ERA
CHONE:		-	196IP	185K	67BB	3.99ERA

5 Responses to 2008 Projections: Daisuke Matsuzaka

  1. Pat says:

    I wholly agree, but to be fair, it should be accounted for that the league will have seen him for a year, and will know better what to expect. No? The Nomo factor.

    Next year will be very telling about Dice-K. I hope we see an improvement/adjustment like we saw with Beckett between ’06 and ’07.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Sure, this is a factor with any pitcher. But the Nomo comparison just doesn’t hold up for me, because he was kind of a one-trick pony with that forkball. Dice-K boasts at least five good pitches, and his stuff really dwarfs his Japanese forerunner’s, IMHO. I guess we’ll wait and see.

  3. Sam Johnson says:

    Yea i think his numbers will be up one time around the league he’ll be better conditioned and i bet 16-6 record

  4. Pingback: 2008 Projections: Pitching « Red Sox Talk

  5. Pingback: 4-4: Dice-K slams the door on the Tigers, 5-0 « Red Sox Talk

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