I was just reading SG’s fine write-up on Daisuke Matsuzaka
over at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog and it made me think of Hideki Matsui’s troubles when he first joined the Yankees. For those who don’t remember, via ESPN.com, here was the issue:
…Matsui arrived in the big leagues without any weapons to combat the cut-fastball and sinking two-seamer — two pitches that are virtually non-existent in Japan.
Even the traditional four-seam fastball posed a threat to Matsui, since Japanese pitches don’t throw nearly as hard as major leaguers.
“That’s what worried me at first, because the pitching here is better,” Matsui said through an interpreter the other day. “There was quite a bit of adjustment for me. I was worried if I would be good enough to play here. The sinker and the cutter were much different than what I was used to.”
Now, the reports say that Matsuzaka throws around 140-150 KPH. In the States, that’s a range of 87-93 MPH. So, it’s safe to say, on average, Matsuzaka is just touching 90 MPH on his fastball. Reports also say that Matsuzaka, in addition to his fastball, throws a slider, forkball, changeup, and two-seam sinking fastball.
Since Matsui said that you don’t see sinkers and cutters in Japan, I would bet that has helped Matsuzaka – because he reportedly does feature these pitches.
But, in the big leagues here, batters are used to seeing pitchers who feature the forkball/sinker/cut-fastball tool belt. And, unless it’s a sinker like Wang’s or a cut-fastball like Rivera’s, hitters are not going to be over-powered by these style pitchers.
So, unless Matsuzaka has Wang/Rivera type movement on his breaking pitches, he’s not going to fool many hitters here with a 90-MPH heater and pitches with a slight wrinkle to them.
In fact, this could be some of the reason behind SG’s projection result of 37 HRs allowed in 186 IP for Matsuzaka on U.S. soil.
I would have to believe that a pitcher who allows 35+ HRs in less than 200 IP in the majors would be looking at an ERA near five for the season – unless he walks few and whiffs a lot of batters.
Again, the question here is – Does Matsuzaka have the package of pitches that will make major league hitters whiff, and often?
Once White Sox scout was recently quoted as saying, on Matsuzaka -
“He is not coming with great movement, or deception on his changeup, or anything of that nature. He is just a good, solid pitcher.”
No great movement, huh?
Anyone who signs Matsuzaka is probably looking at a $60 million total package between the posting fee and his contract. That’s a lot of coin for someone who could end up pitching like Jose Lima in this country. It’s too much risk for my nerves. I think the Yankees should pass on Matsuzaka, now, thinking it all over.