Daisuke Matsuzaka is on the disabled list, a victim — to hear the Sox tell it — of the World Baseball Classic and the inadequate timing that provided for him to get ready for the season.
May we agree on one thing?
Daisuke Matsuzaka was not worth $102 million.There's a lot of financial craziness out there in modern professional sport, but we have not yet reached the point where a third or fourth (and in this case, fifth) starter is worth a total investment of $102 million for six years.
There's really not going to be any kind of debate about this, is there?
Well, for one thing, Bob, Matsuzaka isn't dead, so using the past tense on a pitcher with
two three years left on his contract (plus the remainder of this season) seems a little unusual.
For another, Matsuzaka to this point has been worth $30 million, according to Fangraphs
— 60 percent of the amount the Red Sox are actually paying him in a contract not yet halfway to completion.
Because I understand, Bob, that there is a lot of the financial craziness out there in modern professional sport, and some of that craziness includes the complexity of Matsuzaka's contract. Since you're paid well by the Globe to analyze said professional sports, I would hope you can understand such complexities: The Red Sox are paying Matsuzaka $51 million, not $102 million. The chances are good that Daisuke will easily end up being worth more than that by the end of his deal.
Now, yes, they did pay the infamous $51.111111111 million posting fee, and to some extent that was a reflection of how much the Red Sox valued Matsuzaka. But it was also a reflection of how much the Red Sox valued obtaining the most famous Japanese pitcher ever, how much the Red Sox valued making inroads into a heavily populated baseball-crazy market theretofore dominated by their fiercest rivals, and how much the Red Sox valued spending money that wouldn't count toward the luxury tax.
No one is going to miss a starter with an ERA of 8.23 and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 2.20. No one is going to miss someone against whom opponents are batting .378 with an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 1.091. No one is going to miss someone who routinely gives up four- or five-run leads.
True, but the Red Sox will miss — and have missed so far — a starter who entered this season with an ERA of 3.72 and a WHIP of 1.32. A lot of people have missed someone against whom opponents batted .222 with an OPS of .679. A lot of people have missed someone who finished fourth in last year's Cy Young voting.
I understand Matsuzaka can be frustrating — both to watch on the mound and listen to after a poor performance. Ryan later in his piece seems to indicate why he apparently doesn't like Daisuke: He's a "nibbler."
What we’ve seen at his best is a guy who throws in the low 90s and who has decent auxiliary stuff. We have seen that, in common with pitchers in his basic category, he needs to hit spots to be effective. He has got to locate that fastball on the corners. If he can do that, everything else has a chance to work.
In other words, he’s like a hundred other guys.
Really, Bob? Because his results in 2007 and 2008 were like eight other guys — one of only nine starters in the American League to post an ERA+ over 120 and pitch at least 350 innings in that span. Names like Halladay, Beckett, Kazmir, Sabathia, Lackey. For that matter, let's look at it this way: Only 23 AL starters even managed 350 innings in those two seasons. Only 19 posted an ERA+ over 100. Matsuzaka was sixth.
Later, Ryan contradicts his own opening statement.
Understand that over half the $102 million John Henry paid to obtain Dice-K’s services was a posting fee to his old club. So the just under $9 million he gets in actual salary might be something approximating market value for a pitcher of Dice-K’s caliber.
But that’s not the way he was billed.
Matsuzaka has been worth about $15 million per season so far. In 2007/08 he was one of the 10 best starters in the league. Perhaps Ryan's expectations were a tad high. Because the Red Sox are a much better team with a healthy Daisuke Matsuzaka — who so far has been easily worth more to this ballclub than what they are paying him.