Archive for the ‘Daisuke Matsuzaka’ Category

And the Winner is…

November 14, 2006

MoneyA few days ago, this blog took your predictions for who would win the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka. As ESPN reported tonight, the Red Sox won his rights for a whopping $51.1 million. That means the winner of our contest was… no one! That’s right, no one predicted that the Red Sox would outbid everyone. The closest prediction in terms of dollars goes to “George Steinbrenner“, who “predicted” the Devil Rays would win the auction with a bid of $52,000,000.01. George, I’m not sure if you were serious, but that’s deadly accurate (sort of).

Good luck to the Red Sox; here’s hoping Matsuzaka is the ace that the Red Sox Nation will expect him to be.

Free Agent Predictions Part 1: Starting Pitchers

November 13, 2006

The GM meetings in Naples, Florida act as the “opening bell” of the free agent market and serve as an appropriate time to take a survey of the landscape. SGR favorite Daisuke Matsuzaka’s MLB suitor should be announced tonight; all signs point to the Red Sox winning his posting rights for upwards of $30 million. Over the weekend, Aramis Ramirez re-signed with his old team, the Cubs, putting more pressure on GMs looking to upgrade their clubs to act aggressively and decisively. Before anything else can happen, let’s take a quick look at the top free agents and try to guess where they’ll end up (and for how much).

  •  Daisuke Matsuzaka

We consider Matsuzaka to be the top free agent on the market, even if he isn’t technically a free agent. His combination of stuff, statistical profile, and age is unrivaled in this market (and indeed most markets). The media consensus at this point has him landing with the Red Sox, but for how long and how much? If we take it as given that he signs with the Sox (and doesn’t return to Japan), that implies the Red Sox will expect to amortize the posting fee they pay over as many years as possible. That doesn’t mean he has to sign a six-year contract, though; even if Matsuzaka goes into arbitration after a 3-year or 4-year deal, he’ll still have the profile of a top starter (unless something goes drastically wrong) and can count on a big arb award or a contract extension. A contract of 4 years, $40 million would both make Matsuzaka happy and give the Sox a young ace for the foreseeable future.

  • Barry Zito 

Yet another Scott Boras guy, Zito lucked out by reaching free agency this year; in previous years, he’d be nowhere near the cream of the crop. Boras has a busy couple months ahead of him — in between negotiating with the Sox, he’ll play Matsuzaka’s spurned suitors off one another and exploit their desire for a rotation-heading starter. The Mets, despite their gaping hole at the front of the rotation, probably won’t be a big player here. Signing Zito now would be a tacit admission that he could have helped the club last summer, especially if and when they start dealing potential trade chips Lastings Milledge and Aaron Heilman. The Rangers, Yankees, and Dodgers will probably end up as the front-runners, and it’s hard to bet against a $200 million payroll. The Yankees are the pick, for 5 years, $70 million. 

  • Jason Schmidt

Schmidt has had an interesting career arc. When he joined the Giants at age 28, he had the reputation of a talented but inconsistent starter who didn’t live up to his potential. He immediately became a well-above average starter, including a dominant 2003 in which he finished second in the Cy Young voting. Schmidt turns 34 in a few months and is in the twilight of his career. He still throws hard, but doesn’t have the dominant fastball he once did, and relies more on his offspeed pitches. He reportedly wants to return to his roots in the pacific northwest, which makes him a good bet to join the Mariners for a 4 year, $50 million deal.

  • Roger Clemens

Easily the best bet of this bunch for 2007, Roger ranks this low because of how unlikely he is to pitch in 2008 and beyond. It’s tough to argue with his success in Houston the past three years. A Cy Young at 41? A 1.87 ERA at 42? Three consecutive years below his career ERA, all after age 40? He’s an amazing athlete and perhaps the best pitcher in history. A last hurrah in Houston with pal Andy Pettite, perhaps? There are 15 million reasons why it might happen in a one year deal.

  • Mike Mussina

Friend of SGR David Buckley proclaims that Mussina’s treachery has cursed the Yankees and doubts they will win another World Series until he’s gone. In that case, Yankee haters, rejoice! The Moose is coming back to New York, where he’ll try to improve his Hall of Fame case during a two year, $25 million deal.

  • Andy Pettite

He says he’s done, but don’t believe it. The Rocket will convince him to come back to Houston (but the two years, $20 million he’ll get won’t hurt either). Hey, if you were Andy Pettite and saw Jeff Suppan sign a long-term, big-dollar deal, wouldn’t professional pride compel you to keep going out there?

That’s all for now. Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts? Leave ’em in the comments.

Matsuzaka Rumors

November 10, 2006

While we’re all waiting for Seibu to decide whether or not they accept the highest bid forMatsuzaka, let’s engage in a little rumor-mongering.

Wow. Olney, citing “officials monitoring the bidding”, says the Sox “may” have offered between $38 million and $45 million for his rights. That would be higher than every prediction in our contest except those of Steinbrenner and Dr. Evil (no commentary on the seriousness of their predictions).

It’s impossible to not enjoy all the hedging in these rumors-made-stories. In other news, Angelina Jolie “may” leave Brad Pitt to hang out with this author. It’s possible! The rumor the ST has says the Rangers may have offered “close to $30 million.”

Kei Igawa was either posted today or will be posted shortly. Bids should be due next week.

Matsuzaka End-of-Auction Contest

November 8, 2006

5 minutes ago, bidding for Daisuke Matsuzaka’s posting rights officially ended. MLB will forward the amount of the winning bid to Seibu, who has 4 days to decide whether or not to accept it. At that point, the winning team is announced and they can begin to negotiate with Matsuzaka’s agent, Scott Boras.

In the comments, feel free to guess the amount of the winning bid and the team that won. Our predictions after the break:

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Japanese Projections – Part 2: Pitchers

November 8, 2006

Earlier, we talked about how hard it is to predict the future. As our old professor Larry Sabato used to say:

He who lives by the crystal ball ends up eating ground glass.

So, with that in mind, let’s fry up a delicious glass omelet!

Jim Albright’s system gives us the means to translate Japanese into American, so to speak: numbers from NPB become numbers from MLB. Of course, the translations overlook several factors. They do not account for park effects, for one. Another: they don’t adjust for age. And finally: they don’t account for league difficulty. These are problems I’ll try to tackle at some point in the future; but for now, we’ll overlook our beauty queen’s gapped teeth and barely noticeable moustaches, and get her ready for the swimwear competition.

The first set of translations are easy: we simply hold IP constant and multiply the other statistics by the translation factors. As mentioned yesterday, 100 hits in 100 IP become 107 hits in 100 IP. Et cetera. (Stats we don’t have translation factors for, like HBP and WP, were left unchanged). The largest adjustment turns out to be for home runs; despite the bigger parks in America, pitchers have trouble keeping the ball in the yard when they make the trip over here.

So, we’ve translated hits, home runs, strikeouts, and walks to MLB equivalents. What now? We used Bill James’ component ERA formula to calculate an ERC for each player. Then, based on the number of innings, we figure out how many earned runs that player must have allowed given the number of innings they pitched.

Aside: the ERC formula requires BFP (which we don’t have for all years) as one of its inputs. Using the Lahman database and Excel, I regressed BFP on IPouts, H, BB, K, HBP, and HR. I used the weights from this regression to estimate BFP. For a full season’s worth of hitters (800+ BFP) the calculated value is usually within 5 BFP and rarely further than 15 BFP from the correct value. Click here to see the regression results.

Then, using their historical ratio of R to ER, we take a stab at guessing how many unearned runs they might have allowed in addition. If we wanted, we could also try to guess how many wins and losses a player would have had based on their RA, an assumed team RA and run context. For now, we’ll just ignore them in our translated statistics.

After we have all our translations done, we should adjust everything for age and park. And maybe we will, later. But for now, a simple flat 3/2/1 projection without mean regression will have to suffice. What that means in English: we will assign each of the last three years a weight of either 3 (for the most recent year), 2, or 1. We will then calculate the weighted average for stats like BB, H, K, IP, etc. using that algorithm. ERC, ER, and R are re-calculated as described above. Finally, we will re-calculate starts and innings pitched based on the assumption that Japanese pitchers will throw fewer pitches per start (but start more frequently) in America, and pro-rate other stats accordingly.

Aside: Since the start of the 2000 season, 420 pitchers have started at least 25 games with one team during a season while making no relief appearances. I calculated the average number of batters those pitchers faced per start — it’s 26.7. From this number, we can assume either a number of starts or a number of batters faced and back into innings pitched (and hence other numbers) that way.

Kei Igawa

Here’s how Igawa did in Japan the past three years:

Kei Igawa Actual Statistics

Pretty good numbers (although lots of home runs). 228 K in 200 IP looks great. Watch what happens after the translation:

Kei Igawa Translated Statistics

Some good, some bad. Note that Igawa’s BB/K ratios are always pretty good, though he gave up too many baserunners and homers in ’04 and ’05. Hard to find anything wrong with the translated 2006 line, although we find it a tad too optimistic a translation. Keep in mind that GS has not been adjusted, and it’s unlikely that Igawa would have stayed in each start as long as these stats would lead you to believe. We will adjust for that in his projection.

Aside: You might wonder why Igawa’s Japanese ERA was nearly identical in 2004 and 2005 yet translated so differently. The first numbers use his actual Japanese ERA; the second estimate what his ERA would have been in America given his component stats. Thus, despite posting similar ERAs in Japan in 2004 and 2005, Igawa’s components indicate he pitched much better in 2004 than he did the following year.

Now, we project his stats using the model described above. We will assume he makes 30 starts and faces 26.7 batters per start. Also, we assume he plays for a team that scored 4.85 runs per game (splitting the difference between the AL and the NL, as this is projection applies to neither league in particular). Finally, we’ll assume he got a decision for every 9 IP and calculate his winning percentage using James’ pythagorean formula with an exponent of 1.82. That gives us this:

Kei Igawa 2007 Projection

The ERA is deceptive – he’s giving up a lot of unearned runs. Basically a league-average starter. This line is somewhat similar to Matt Clement or Jeremy Bonderman ca. 2005. If he can match this projection, he’s worth Jeff Suppan money.

Hiroki Kuroda

Kuroda apparently re-signed with the Carp already, but let’s take a look anyway. Japanese actual stats:

Hiroki Kuroda Stats

He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but he keeps the ball in the park and has great control (his R/ER ratios are surprising – they’re very low for a groundball pitcher, as he reportedly is). Translated:

Hiroki Kuroda Translated Stats

Those hold up very well, mainly because he doesn’t walk anyone and keeps the ball down. Note the 2005 3.17 translated ERA matches the 3.17 actual ERA by a lucky quirk: his Japanese peripherals suggested he was unlucky to have an ERA as high as it was. Projected to 2007:

Hiroki Kuroda 2007 MLB Projection

A Cy Young candidate in the National League. Two important caveats: first, there’s no age adjustment, and he’s on the bad side of 30. This would cause him to take a hit. Second, it seems unlikely that a guy who relies on control could allow so many balls in play but so few over the fence. This projection is probably at least a run too low.

Kazumi Saitoh

Ahh, my favorite player in NPB. His numbers are fantastic; how will they hold up? Actual numbers:

Kazumi Saitoh Stats

Not a lot of innings in 2004 and 2005; was he hurt? Tons of runs in 2004 despite pretty good peripherals, too. Translations:

Kazumi Saitoh Translated Stats

Not a bad 2006, huh? The H/9 looks too low, though. He would have run away with the Cy Young if he put up those numbers in MLB. 2007 projection:

Kazumi Saitoh 2007 Projection

Sign me up! I’m not sure if he would be able to sustain the BABIP, though. I think this projection is a tad optimistic, but I buy it more than Kuroda’s. Note that I didn’t give Saitoh 30 starts, as that would have been a reach given the number of innings he’s thrown recently.

Daisuke Matsuzaka

What we’ve all been waiting for. Actual stats:

Daisuke Matsuzaka Actual Stats
Absolutely dominant. 138 hits in 186 innings is incredible. He did miss a few starts in 2004 to injury. Translated:

Daisuke Matsuzaka Translated Stats
It’s hard not to get excited. K/BB is still over 5. HR rates are low. Wow. And the projection:

Daisuke Matsuzaka 2007 Projection
Wonder why teams are bidding $25 million just to talk to this guy? Now you know. He probably won’t be this good — his projected BABIP is too high, for instance. But you never know…

Matsuzaka Posted Today

November 2, 2006

MatsuzakaFinally. Besides Seattle, the Angels, Orioles, and Giants have all reportedly dropped out of the race. Unfortunately, this means that Matsuzaka is even more likely to end up on the Yankees. Booo! Teams have until 5pm next Wednesday to get their bids in; after that, Seibu has a few more days to decide whether or not it will accept the bid.

mlb.com: Let the Bidding for Matsuzaka Begin
Japan Times: Matsuzaka ‘relieved’ Seibu OKs his request

NPB Player News

November 2, 2006

I’m slammed today, so projections will have to wait. In the mean time…

The Mariners, considered by some to be the favorites for the Daisukster, decided not to bid on him when he is posted. This will come as a surprise to lots of folks – the M’s obviously have had a lot of success with previous imports Ichiro! and Kenji Johjima, so it only made sense that they’d try to go to the well again. What does this mean? A (slightly) lower winning bid, perhaps, and a lot of disappointed fans in Seattle.

So the impetus for this story is an article on Yahoo! Japan; I don’t read Japanese, so I’ll have to take the MLB Trade Rumors folks at their word. The Hanshin Tigers are making a pitch for Kuroda. However, if Kuroda signs with Hanshin, that probably makes Kei Igawa more likely to be posted. See below.

Igawa wants to come over and has for years; he’s a bit of a showman, apparently, and wants to show what he can do in MLB. If Hanshin wants Kuroda, the posting fee they earn from Igawa would pay for a bunch of free agents. Stay tuned.

Japanese Future MLBers: #1 – Daisuke Matsuzaka

November 1, 2006

The only thing in recent memory less surprising than Gary Sheffield’s involvement in a contract dispute is the #1 player on this list, Seibu Lions ace Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Seibu Lions RHSPLike as not, you’ve already heard of Matsuzaka. Just in case you haven’t, here’s the scoop: he’s probably the best baseball player in the world not on a major league roster (I can hear the Cubans griping already – calm down, will y’all?). He’s 26 years old and has been dominating Nippon Professional Baseball for eight seasons. 2007 is the final year of his contract with Seibu; rather than lose him to free agency for no return, they plan on using the posting system to sell his contract rights to a major league team.

Matsuzaka stands 6 feet tall and weighs about 185 pounds, so he’s a little smaller than you’d like for a right-handed pitcher, but he has proved fairly durable. The stories of him pitching in the Koshien Tournament are already legendary – he pitched 17 innings and threw 250 pitches one day for the victory, then came out in relief and picked up the save on the next. This year, he’s averaged around 140 pitches per start, albeit pitching on longer rest than he will in America.

Matsuzaka’s statistical record is excellent. He won the Sawamura award with a dominant season in 2001, although the heavy workload he endured that year might have caused him to miss time the following season. These days, he strikes out over a batter per inning, walks few, and doesn’t give up many homers. His statistics have been basically the same as those of Saitoh the past few seasons, but Saitoh came away with the hardware.

Matsuzaka throws a lot of pitches and throws them for strikes. He hit 94 on the gun many times during the World Baseball Classic as he spotted his fastball in and around the strike zone, although he usually sits in the 88-92 range. His slider has a very sharp break, like a yo-yo being snapped backward; he uses the pitch to make batters look foolish. And then there’s the gyroball. Right now, Will Carroll is hiking through the Japanese hinterlands with a crappy camcorder attempting to record footage of this mythical beast.

Buttercup: Westley, what about the G.O.U.S’s?
Westley: Gyroballs of Unusual Size? I don’t believe they exist.

In my opinion, Matsuzaka’s arsenal is exciting enough that it doesn’t need the added hype of a mystery pitch that Matsuzaka himself claims he doesn’t really throw. No, really – his stuff is great. Check the video if you don’t believe me.

Despite his obvious talent, Matsuzaka is anything but a sure thing. He has an awful lot of mileage on his young arm; as hard as it was to witness Francisco Liriano’s elbow pop, imagine if your team had just invested $90 million in him. Also, Matsuzaka might struggle under the microscope of a major media market like New York or Boston. Finally, the effects of culture shock, while probably minor, are still unpredictable at best.

Me? I’m optimistic. I expect 200 IP, 180 K, 45 BB, 25 HR, and a 3.40 ERA from Matsuzaka, and won’t be surprised if he beats that projection. He’s good enough to do it. Jeff Sackmann thinks that will earn him roughly $50 million in guaranteed salary, plus a posting fee of $25 million to Seibu. That seems reasonable enough to me, but again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number ended up even higher. We’ll know for sure in the next couple of weeks.

Daisuke Matsuzaka 2006 Stats:

 W  L   ERA  GP  GS CG ShO Hld  GF Sv     IP    H   R  ER  HR  BB   SO
17  5  2.13  25  25 14   2   0   0  0  186.1  138  50  44  13  34  200

Daisuke Matsuzaka Career Statistics
Daisuke Matsuzaka Biographical Data
Detect-O-Vision on Matsuzaka