Debating Matsuzaka

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.

That leads Bob Ryan to write in this morning's Globe:

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.

46 comments… add one

  • “Everything this pitcher has done and will do for the remainder of his contract is invalidated by the fact that he sucks right now and I need to have a new article on my boss’ desk by 9:00!”

    Atheose June 23, 2009, 8:27 am
  • Thank you! Thank you for carrying the torch of reason through the darkness of absolute idiocy that seems to emanate from Boston-area sports columnists!

    Eric Hanson June 23, 2009, 8:42 am
  • All I know about DiceK is that he isnt worth the $18 I paid for him in the auction this year for my fantasy baseball team. Bob Ryan should write an article about that!

    sam-YF June 23, 2009, 9:07 am
  • Ryan and Shank/CHB = grumpy old men without the humor.

    dw (sf) June 23, 2009, 9:16 am
  • I generally expect more from Bob Ryan, but he has tended to slide into grump/scold mode more often as the years have gone by. It’s pretty sad to think of how Gammons, Ryan and Shaughnessy were the backbone of probably the best sports staff any newspaper has ever had. Guess it’s not just ballplayers who lose their skills as they get older.

    Paul SF June 23, 2009, 9:22 am
  • great post. well argued.

    beth June 23, 2009, 9:37 am
  • The guy is certainly not as pitiful as Wang…who pitches tonight by the way. Another loss.
    I do think it’s cool though how most SF’s defend/cheer/encourage their guys…as opposed to how myself and most YF’s treat our guys.

    krueg June 23, 2009, 10:13 am
  • No kidding Krueg. Teixeira goes 4 for 4, but strikes out in the 9th? He gets booed. Ortiz hits like Alex Gonzalez for two months and the Fenway crowd still cheered him on in every AB.

    Atheose June 23, 2009, 10:33 am
  • To be fair, we have quite the history with Ortiz and owe him a lot (whereas this is Tex’s first season in NY). I do remember Jeter getting booed, briefly, when he was going through that slump. That one always shocked me – I figured the two truly bulletproof Yankees were Mo and Captain Clutch.

    Micah-SF June 23, 2009, 10:57 am
  • Very nicely rebutted. Don’t live in Japan but as you alluded to, the signing had to make the Sox suddenly very popular over there, especially with the Series win in 2007 and Matsui’s slow fade.
    Shutting him down before he torpedoes more games and perhaps his confidence as well is the smart move. Or I hope it’ll prove to be the smart move, anyway.

    ponch - sf June 23, 2009, 11:01 am
  • Let’s not generalize gentlemen. To be fair I couldn’t stomach Wang when he was good. I don’t boo any of my own players, let alone Tex. It’s easy to be warm and fuzzy when you are in 1st place. If the Sox (or any big market team with a high payroll and a lot invested) were 10 games out and struggling, something tells me their fans wouldn’t be so loving and caring. I also think the Red Sox have some credits in the bank with their fans re: their recent success. This isn’t a Yankee-centric thing, I am sure Cubs fans, Mets fans, etc…would all act the same way if the situation arose.
    As for Paul’s piece, great job. I think high profile injuries like Daisuke, Oswalt, Putz, etc…will only help in the cause of changing the timing of the WBC. I don’t know when the perfect time is, but it’s not during spring training. These clubs have so much invested in these individuals and to ask them to play all out, midway through spring training, earlier than they normally would is a tough pill to swallow. I am not blaming the WBC for Putz and Daisuke, but there is certainly room to, that’s for sure.

    John - YF June 23, 2009, 11:07 am
  • The Tazawa signing was one benefit from the Matsuzaka posting fee. And if Tazawa’s value exceeds his contract, you might as well credit that back against Dice-K’s posting fee.
    Does Ryan get pissed about what the Sox spend on signage? Or on new seats in the Stadium? Because that was what the posting fee was, effectively, an elective operating cost. People keep making this, at least emotionally, a salary expense, which it wasn’t.

    SF June 23, 2009, 11:09 am
  • Come on John, we YF’s love to BOOOOOOOOOOOO…

    krueg June 23, 2009, 11:23 am
  • No one is bulletproof when you suck Micah…NO ONE!!!

    krueg June 23, 2009, 11:24 am
  • Hey, I remember Bernie getting Boo’d a few times in 2003/2004. So it’s not just when the Yankees suck.
    But John is right, we shouldn’t generalize.

    Atheose June 23, 2009, 1:45 pm
  • I was at the Friday game, and saw PLENTY of Sox fans – well, nominal Sox fans, at least, judging from their clothes – boo Daisuke’s 12 pitch streak of inverse perfection at the start of the game (during which no pitch that was a strike failed to be hit for a safety).
    I was shocked and still am, but I’m not sure if this was/is due to witnessing the phenomenally bad pitching or the booing, which was pretty intense just then.

    dabize June 23, 2009, 2:07 pm
  • 1) The Red Sox have won the World Series just twice in the past century, and DiceK was a key part of one of those two teams. Could the Sox have gone all the way with another pitcher in the rotation? Maybe, but it’s entirely hypothetical. This alone strikes me as ample justification for his signing.
    2) 33 wins in your first two seasons? Not too shabby.
    3) DiceK has been gracious, humble and apologetic for his performance this year.
    I’m not ready to bash the guy, much as his every appearance raises my risk of ulcer by a medically-significant percentage.

    Hudson June 23, 2009, 2:20 pm
  • I know there are times when I’ve been watching or listening to a game and felt like booing players, whether Daisuke or Javier Lopez or Julio Lugo. It’s an emotional response to a frustrating moment, and I don’t blame fans who boo a player because I at least know what they’re feeling — though I myself have never actually booed a player, and wouldn’t.
    I think there’s a distinct difference between booing a player like Matsuzaka, who has had little chance to build up that connection with fans and — though he has contributed to a World Series title — has not been a principal contributor to a championship, and booing a player like Ortiz, a big-time contributor who nurtures a relationship with the fans and could never in any sense be classified a jerk. I can understand, though I wouldn’t participate in, booing the former. You should be kicked out of the bleepin’ ballpark for booing the latter.

    Paul SF June 23, 2009, 2:21 pm
  • “I understand Matsuzaka can be frustrating — both to watch on the mound and listen to after a poor performance”
    Paul, I don’t watch RS post-games – what is wrong with how DM reacts to poor performances? (I ask esp in light of Hudson’s observation that “DiceK has been gracious, humble and apologetic for his performance this year”.)

    IronHorse June 23, 2009, 3:17 pm
  • the national media have been treating the DL-ing as some sort of death blow, while most SF’s are welcoming the move. i don’t fault the national media for not being abreast of clays amazing stint but i would figure they’d all be aware of the smoltz timetable. when the sox left spring training they were hedging on wakefield or penny crapping the bed before june. instead, the 2 have found themselves in the top 3 in wins on the team. i’d much rather be in the situation we are now than having a 8 loss wakefield or penny making the decision clear cut. for that matter, a broken beckett or lester would be harder pill to swallow. IMHO this is the best case scenario. and if dice-k comes back in late july or august well rested and can contribute when one of the starting 5 hits a snag, we’ll be back to singing theos praises. having too much starting pitching is problem the sox are fortunate to have.

    sf rod June 23, 2009, 3:57 pm
  • Matsuzaka has 3 years left on his contract after this season, not two.

    TJ Sox Fan June 23, 2009, 4:30 pm
  • Bob Ryan may be easy to mock.
    Rob Neyer is not.

    Rob June 23, 2009, 4:31 pm
  • The Tazawa signing was one benefit from the Matsuzaka posting fee. And if Tazawa’s value exceeds his contract, you might as well credit that back against Dice-K’s posting fee.
    Did the Yankees “benefit” from Igawa because of Matsui?

    Rob June 23, 2009, 4:34 pm
  • Eh, Neyer is really easy to mock based on that piece. He uses the same faulty math that Ryan does, in effect. Using the Sox’ 2007 postseason to knock Matsuzaka because the Sox might have won games without him? Really? Isn’t that a cardinal sin of assumption/presumption, a complete methodological fallacy? This column is mighty lazy, the way I read it.
    Even worse is this statement:
    But it’s still striking, isn’t it, how much money the Red Sox, with all their analytical tools, have blown over the last few years?
    which is devoid of context, substantiation, or comparison to other teams’ efforts. In other words, it’s Neyer looking to get a cheap shot in at the Sox, nothing more.
    I like Neyer, a LOT. But that blog post is one of his weaker efforts, and not a long distance from Bob Ryan.

    SF June 23, 2009, 4:42 pm
  • As for the fangraphs versus “real” value:
    1. The Sox bid $51.11 presumably because they were expecting a #1 not a #5.
    2. Analyzing then the total amount paid, that gives us a $17.1 million AAV.
    3. DiceK has yet to reach that value in any season.
    4. Losing significant time to the DL hampers the ability to recoup on the investment (see also, A-Rod). This fact is especially true of pitchers who can easily miss long stretches.
    It’s now becoming quite clear that the Sox vastly overpaid for the player. It’s not the first, nor the last time. But Yu Darvish has probably lost $20 – $30 million already. Until a Japanese pitcher dominates over successive seasons every one will suspect.

    Rob June 23, 2009, 4:45 pm
  • Did the Yankees “benefit” from Igawa because of Matsui?”
    Uh, what? The point is that Boston was in the running with several other teams for Tazawa. He signed with the Sox, for less money than was offered by other teams, because of Matsuzaka’s presence. Quote:
    “I think there is a definite influence of having Daisuke Matsuzaka play here,” Tazawa said late last year when he signed with Boston. “To me, he is the best player and to be able to learn from him is an incredible opportunity for me.”
    As for whether the Tazawa signing will be a good deal financially for the Sox, that is yet to be determined, which is exactly what I said in my original comment. Yeesh.

    SF June 23, 2009, 4:48 pm
  • 2. Analyzing then the total amount paid, that gives us a $17.1 million AAV.
    The posting fee is NOT SALARY. Your assertion is not “analysis”, rather it’s a pretty serious mistake in accounting.
    If you want to consider it salary so as to satisfy your own opinion of the signing, then that’s your prerogative. But the posting fee is not salary, it doesn’t count as salary. It isn’t part of the “AAV” of Matsuzaka’s contract.

    SF June 23, 2009, 4:53 pm
  • Rob, I’d suggest going back and reading the numerous threads we had about the posting fee when it was first paid in December 2006. It remains some of the most intelligent, thoughtful discussion I’ve ever seen at YFSF. It will help you from repeating the same arguments that have already been made — and rejected — multiple times here.
    1. The Sox bid $51.11 presumably because they were expecting a #1 not a #5.
    Firstly, the presumption is flawed, not least because it ignores the Red Sox’ own stated intentions for such a massive overbid (opening the Japanese market to both advertising, scouting, signing opps, etc.)
    Secondly, you might have missed in my post where I mentioned Daisuke Matsuzaka had the sixth-best ERA+ in the AL over the 2007-8 timeframe. That would make him the No. 1 starter on eight teams.
    Thirdly, what is up with Rob Neyer lately? His stuff has been well below his usual standards, to the point that the mockery on sites like BBTF has gotten pretty severe. Last week, he used headlines about pitching performances as the standard by which to determine whether the AL was superior to the NL.
    Fourthly, what is the value of winning a postseason game? A World Series game? I would suspect it is much higher than the value of a regular season game (where the value tends to be placed somewhere around $500,000), perhaps as high as $1 million or more?

    Paul SF June 23, 2009, 5:10 pm
  • 1. The Sox bid $51.11 presumably because they were expecting a #1 not a #5.
    Wrong. They bid what they bid because it was money you could spend on a NOT #1 without penalty. Funny thing, the Sox were mostly right about getting a #1. Cherry pick your year/month/week/series if you need to thrash him, but Matsuzaka was a good choice, most of the time, so far.
    2. Analyzing then the total amount paid, that gives us a $17.1 million AAV. Garbled decision, but okay.
    3. DiceK has yet to reach that value in any season. WHAT? Wait, I phrased that wrong. WHAT? that’s better.
    4. Losing significant time to the DL hampers the ability to recoup on the investment busy winning world series.. recoup later… (see also, A-Rod). another WHAT?
    This fact clarify the fact that you are writhing about
    is especially true of pitchers who can easily miss long stretches.
    Daisuke Matsuzaka is especially true of pitchers who don’t miss long stretches but recently began doing so. Not that he didn’t give his turn prior.

    attackgerbil June 23, 2009, 5:27 pm
  • Quote:
    What do you expect him to say? “DiceK’s an asshat”?
    Your assertion is not “analysis”, rather it’s a pretty serious mistake in accounting.
    Accountants can move numbers around however they may want. But the transparent cost was real. The Sox invested $103 million. The question going forward is: What’s the return? DiceK is going to have to win a Cy Young or two to make the investment an obvious net positive. Unless you’ve seen the Sox books?
    Firstly
    Seems you’re moving the “goalposts” with each retort.
    The question (of Ryan and Neyer), simply, is whether Dice’K has been worth $103 million.
    Clearly he has not been. Is this really debatable?
    By the end of this year (year 3 of 6), DiceK will have cost them at least $10 million of real value (buying fangraphs – and probably closer to $20 million) relative to his earned value. There’s no question that the overall failure of Japanese pitchers to live up to expectations severely hurts that market going forward. The DiceK cost will be seen as the symbol of that futility even as they’re far from alone. For as much as the Sox see a deficit in their outlay to DiceK versus the return, Darvish will see less. DiceK is the, ahem, gold standard for investments in that market.
    Now, if you want to treat DiceK like an actual investment, then how much actual return (leaving aside a 23 year old AA pitcher) has he brought? Even selling 10 million hats and 1 million jeresys gives them, it doesn’t affect their bottom line. That’s MLB revenue. Where else do they mine that market? In-stadium advertising?

    Rob June 23, 2009, 5:39 pm
  • They bid what they bid because it was money you could spend on a NOT #1 without penalty.
    That’s lame. They could afford the penalty if they needed to. They thought they were getting a #1 below the market value so they bid accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it was smart accounting. But they guessed wrong. Japanese starting pitchers are fragile and overrated. We’re still waiting for the one to prove us wrong.
    Cherry pick your year/month/week/series if you need to thrash him, but Matsuzaka was a good choice, most of the time, so far.
    His career ERA+ is 114.
    The Yankee spent less on A.J. Burnett (111 career ERA+). He’s no #1 or #2 or #3 either (and that was a horrid signing).

    Rob June 23, 2009, 5:49 pm
  • Care to re-rebut the Tazawa item in the context of the facts presented?
    I thought not.

    SF June 23, 2009, 5:51 pm
  • and that was a horrid signing
    Can you pick my lottery numbers for me, please?

    SF June 23, 2009, 5:54 pm
  • Care to re-rebut the Tazawa item in the context of the facts presented?
    Which part? That he came to the Sox for less money or that he will be worth his contract?
    The first part I have no idea how to refute. Your best evidence is a quote where he speaks highly of DiceK. Got anything on topic? Those are hard cases to prove. It’s a nice story (like Teixeira really wanting to be a Yankee) but I’m dubious.
    The second part I’m decidedly bearish. He’s 23 and putting up Igawa-like numbers in AA while taking a spot on the 40-man. Nothing screams “prospect” to me and not one worth $3 million. But I could easily be wrong there.
    Still, that’s not to say Tazawa wasn’t a good experiment. Someone had to try to evaluate what would be a first round draft choice there versus here. Hopefully we see more of that. With baseball drafts being informed guesses, it’s not hard to imagine one team, eventually, finding an Ichiro. For the pitchers though, it would be nice to see one consistent success.

    Rob June 23, 2009, 6:02 pm
  • Can you pick my lottery numbers for me, please?
    I’ll admit to baling early. But Hughes (and Aceves even) could be as inconsistent for 1/20th of the money.

    Rob June 23, 2009, 6:05 pm
  • “But Hughes (and Aceves even) could be as inconsistent for 1/20th of the money.”
    but isn’t the “true cost” of hughes santana?

    sf rod June 23, 2009, 6:15 pm
  • “but isn’t the “true cost” of hughes santana?”
    it’s hughes, jackson, other prospects most likely and a lot of money. It’s an oversimplification to say that Hughes stood solely in the way of getting Santana.

    Nick-YF June 23, 2009, 6:51 pm
  • Of course, Santana required money too.

    Rob June 23, 2009, 6:52 pm
  • Where did I ever say Tazawa would be worth his contract? This is your standard MO, Rob. I didn’t say anything about whether Tazawa would be good, or worth what the Sox paid. I simply said that IF he perfoms well, that IF he exceeds his contract value through performance, the Sox can credit this against the posting fee.

    SF June 23, 2009, 8:23 pm
  • Are you honestly splitting hairs between drawing a conclusion and drawing that same conclusion based on conditionals? And what’s my “standard MO”? Questioning you on your “logic”?
    Okay, you win. If Burnett wins two Cy Youngs, he will have been worth his contract. If A-Rod wins four titles, he’ll be universally loved. And if Tazawa is actually good, somehow we can credit DiceK’s posting fee.
    Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Rob June 23, 2009, 9:39 pm
  • Seems you’re moving the “goalposts” with each retort.
    The question (of Ryan and Neyer), simply, is whether Dice’K has been worth $103 million.

    And my point, as it has been since my initial post, is that this is a flawed question. If I ask, “Has Daisuke been worth $3.5 billion?” it has the same validity as the question Ryan and Neyer are asking.
    The Red Sox are not spending $103 million on Matsuzaka. They are spending $52 million on him as part of their taxable payroll, and they’re spending a separate pool of $51 million for a combination of Matsuzaka and entrance into the Japanese market on multiple fronts.
    The $51 million was an investment, the return on which (so far) is Tazawa, advertising dollars, fan base enlargement, etc. The $52 million was the price they were willing to pay for Matsuzaka’s performance. So far he has been worth that price.

    Paul SF June 24, 2009, 8:41 am
  • Just because you disagree, and keep repeating it, doesn’t make it any more true. The Sox spent $103 million to acquire DiceK. That’s an undeniable fact. They couldn’t have spent less if they wanted to. There may have been ancillary benefits. But unless you’ve seen their books, or have a thorough accounting of those benefits, the numbers are meaningless for anything but judging the pitcher and the cost of acquisition.
    The next obvious test is Darvish. No team will pay $103 million to acquire him. I’ll be shocked frankly if the total price tag is more than $60 million. That market is too unstable to judge fairly. If Strasburg isn’t getting $60 million then neither is an overworked Japanese pitcher.
    Still, I won’t be complaining if the Yankees make a run. Sooner or later someone will peg that market correctly. But then you have to believe every story will lead with how no Japanese starting pitcher has lived up to expectations.
    Now I’m all for judging true cost relative to value. We should absolutely be looking at how much Burnett costs relative to his salary and the MLB taxes. On that score, DiceK is clearly a better value, but not by much.

    Rob June 24, 2009, 10:38 am
  • It is possible that the signing of Okajima was made to help convince Matsuzaka to sign with Boston after the Sox won the bidding.
    Its also possible that the presence of Matsuzaka and Okajima in Boston helped them sign Saito this past offseason.
    These two signings should also be listed as possible benefits of the $51.1 million investment Boston made with their posting fee.

    TJ Sox Fan June 24, 2009, 12:06 pm
  • How can any signing be considered a failure a few months in OR even midway through? I am sure if you dig deep enough you can find examples, but Burnett and Daisuke are not them. Let their contracts play out first, there’s plenty of time for both players to make both contracts worth while.

    John - YF June 24, 2009, 12:32 pm
  • Dammit, John. I don’t like waking up, logging on and finding I agree with someone with “-YF” after his name. well, the day can only go uphill from here…

    rootbeerfloat June 24, 2009, 1:34 pm
  • Well, they did spend 103 mil (or whatever it is) to acquire him, with the “obvious” side effect of breaking into the market, etc.
    Haven’t we discussed this like, a billion times now?

    Lar June 24, 2009, 6:43 pm

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