Quelling the D-Mat Hype

While we sit on our hands and wait for the Seibu Lions to decide whether or not they’re going to accept the mysterious bid for star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, let’s see if we can’t clear up a few misconceptions about D-Mat. (My apologies to the Scott Boras propaganda squad, which did a marvelous job convincing everyone that Matsuzaka is the Second Coming.)

1. His first name is pronounced “Dice-kay”. Such as in “Andrew Dice Clay”

2. He does NOT throw the gyroball. No, really, he DOESN’T.

3. He USED TO throw in the “high 90s”. He now ranges around 88-92 MPH. Boras did a great job of stepping around that one, by stating things like “he’s been clocked as high as 100” … indeed, about four years ago.

4. He has not quite “dominated” Japanese baseball. For example, he’s never won more than 17 games in a season, and has gone 15-15 and 14-13. Granted, he’s played on bad teams, so he could suffer from Roger Clemens run support disease.

5. He’s an “old” 26. He only threw 72 innings in 2002 because of a “tired arm” or an “elbow injury” — depending on who you talk to. His legendary 250-pitch, 17-inning game, followed by a save and a no-hitter at Koshien as an 18-year-old is merely one example of the abuse his arm has been through.

6. He’s not necessarily the “best” pitcher in Japan. Yes, Matsuzaka is definitely one of the better pitchers in Japan, but it’s not like he’s light years ahead of everyone else. For example, Kenshin Kawakami, Shinobu Fukuhara, Kazumi Saito, and Hiroki Kuroda all outperformed D-Mat in 2006. Further, the last four recipients of the Sawamura Award (basically, Japan’s version of the Cy Young) were Saito, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Kei Igawa, and Koji Uehara.

7. He won’t be an MLB ace. Boras claims Matsuzaka is a #1 starter, and is fond of saying that a great pitcher is a great pitcher no matter what league he’s in. Oh yeah? Then why did Alay Soler and Mike Pelfrey have so much trouble in the bigs, after dominating AA? You can’t tell me that D-Mat is going to have his way with MLB hitters when his toughest opponents in Japan were Benny Agbayani, Tuffy Rhodes, and Kaz Matsui. A more realistic expectation is to see D-Mat as a #3 starter, possibly developing into a #2. That’s not to say he can’t be a #1 — only that it shouldn’t be expected.

So keep the above in mind while sweating out this posting process.

The goal here is not to trash Daisuke Matsuzaka … in fact, I’ll be pulling for the guy no matter where he ends up (as long as it’s not elsewhere in the NL East). Rather, it seems appropriate to tear down the mountain of hype spun by the Scott Boras publicity machine.

It’s going to be difficult enough for this kid to adjust to the culture of the USA, but to have to come in with the load of a $50M+ investment on his shoulders, and an agent saying “his fastball is like Tom Seaver’s, his slider like Steve Carlton’s” is too much for anyone.

I realize Boras is out to grab every last dollar he can get, but is it worth the expense of destroying the ego and confidence of a young hurler?

Mets fans no doubt are having deja vu all over again … we were promised a Japanese import who was hyped to be the next Honus Wagner — only with power! — and three years later that same “superstar” was struggling to get out of AAA.

Let’s hope the same fate does not befall Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.