Thursday, September 07, 2006

Today was a Good Day

"Drove to the pad and hit the showers
Didn't even get no static from the cowards
Cause just yesterday them fools tried to blast me
Saw the police and they rolled right past me"
-Ice Cube, The Predator (1993)

The Yankees had an all around day of celebration on Wednesday, as there was something for everyone to enjoy. Let's recap the happy moments from various angles, shall we...

1. Wins and Losses

The Yanks put the finishing touches on an annoying Royals club that should immediately commence it's self-flagellating "woe is me" routine in the papers now that the Yankees have left town with a series win. Randy Johnson was brilliant giving up a lone hit and two walks to the Royals while striking out 8. Posada was also fantastic, clubbing a pair of homers and driving in 6 while erasing Randy Johnson's only hit by picking off the runner on third. Jeter and Mauer played back and forth today with the Captain edging percentage points closer to the Minnesota catcher for the batting title. It could be a matter of a game or two before they permanently change positions in the rankings. They'll both have to hold off Robinson Cano though. He's at .340 and is blazing hot with the bat.

2. Getting Healthy

Hideki Matsui faced live pitching in his first ballgame since going out with a broken wrist in May. He went 1-3 with a strikeout, lineout, and an RBI single in Trenton's 3-1 victory over Portland in the playoff matchup between those clubs. If he can hit the ball hard a few times, it will be time for him to join the big boys in New York next week, just in time to DH his way back into the hearts of Bombers fans everywhere.

3. Thunder Claps

I mentioned the Trenton playoff victory, but the most important part of that game was not Hideki Matsui, but rather phenom Phil Hughes. Hughes went 6 strong innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, while striking out 13! He left the game with the score tied at 1, but what a performance. He is very clearly the best player in the Minors, anywhere.

4. The Red Sox lost

This is always good news, but it was especially good to get the game back we lost when we dropped the middle game to the Royals. It was also super satisfying because they have their full lineup back. Ortiz is now 0-7 with 3 Ks in his return to play. It's good to know he's back and healthy, but it's also good to watch the MVP slip from his fingers.

5. Fish Chowdah

I know it's clam chowdah that's big in Beantown, but former Bostonians Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez continue to show out in their new South Florida digs, while overrated power arm Josh Beckett has completely fizzled in the second half. Sanchez pitched a no-hitter for the Fish, while Ramirez recorded the final assist of the ballgame. He has more than 40 steals on the year, and has scored runs in bunches. Bet that would have looked nice in Red, White, and Blue, but I'm happy to see their success come in teal. Congrats Anibal.

6. Japan's Ace

Daisuke Matsuzaka put on a hell of a show, recording 7 innings of shutout ball on 70 pitches, while striking out 9 in front of Yankees scout Shoichi Kida, who was sitting in the VIP seats. He had 6 consecutive swinging Ks in the 5th and 6th innings, when he recorded back to back 1-2-3s. People are getting turned onto this young stud all over the baseball world, with various bulletin boards and blogs linking to Matsuzaka Watch. The frustrating thing for me is that people who know nothing about Japanese players, baseball, or the level of competition speak out their backsides in doubting Daisuke.

It's cool if people want to hate on him by using metrics and first person accounts of his performance, but most people have never seen him and support their doubts by saying things like, "I don't want a Japanese pitcher. Remember Irabu?" Meanwhile, Irabu was only called "The Japanese Nolan Ryan" by people who scouted him using strikeouts as their most advanced tool for measuring his performance. If you look at his K/BB ratio, or his WHIP, he looks like a bloated toad. You get what you pay for when you trust Ks as your best stat. Matsuzaka has Pedro-like numbers on top of what you see with your eyes. If you think your eyes are lying, go to the metrics. They almost never lie (apologies to Kazuo Matsui). I probably won't ever succeed in completely eliminating the knee-jerk chatter about Matsuzaka, but it is what I do after all.

I was having a conversation with my wife about how people viewed players from the Dominican Republic a generation ago, before they'd ever seen any of them play. Now the best Dominicans play in the Bigs and are the best players anywhere. Getting on Matsuzaka before you've ever seen him, or researched his numbers is a lot like saying, "I don't want a Dominican player. They don't even have gloves. Isn't that a milk carton he's using?" That quote is from the Mrs..

The best Japanese pitchers have never come to the Majors. Matsuzaka would be the first. Nomo was toast by the time he pitched for the Dodgers. Kaz Ishii? Please. Irabu? Not even close. When you see what he can do day in and day out, your jaw will drop. Hopefully the braintrust with the Yankees is using good metrics, modern scouting techniques, and aggressive free agent spending. To watch Pedro-san pitch in an Orioles uniform, or something, would be beyond painful for me.

Today was a good day. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!


singledd said...

I honestly think you should put together a (printed) page of Matsuzaka's most important numbers, include a link to your site, and mail it to the Yanks.

Tell them you are not only a very educated baseball and Yankee's fan, but that you also LIVE in JAPAN and the you have been closely following and reporting on Matsuzaka for months.

I think it's possible, that due to your unique circumstances (living in Japan and all), that if your letter is short, crisp and well composed, it might get their attention enough to look at your site.

I am quite serious about this. I know the Yankee brass doesn't typically take advice from 'fans', but they are humans, and all you need to do is catch there attention.

Is it possible you have seen this guy pitch IN PERSON more then their people? I don't know, but might it be true?

As you said, many Japanese players have been scouted poorly, using the wrong metrics. I think you might catch their attention.

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