Bargain Basement

TAMPA, Fla. – One Japanese pitcher has thrown 17 innings during spring training, allowing 13 hits and five earned runs. He has walked 12 and struck out 19.

Another Japanese pitcher has tossed 17 2/3 innings this spring. He has given up nine hits and four earned runs with seven walks and 19 strikeouts.

Care to guess which one is superstar-in-the-making Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox and which one is supposed rotation filler Kei Igawa of the Yankees?

Peter Abraham goes the snide route in the Journal News this morning, tarnishing an otherwise fine article with a needless comparison of the two Japanese pitchers based on their spring training statistics. Although, as commenter d-1 notes in a thread below, Abraham wisely stays away from extrapolating to his logical extreme — that Igawa will be nearly as good as Matsuzaka — he still can’t resist saying Igawa might be the better "bargain."

Forgetting for a second the lunacy of declaring someone with no track record a bargain a week before the season even starts, extrapolating those spring stats over 200 innings gives two entirely different pitchers:

  • 208.2 IP, 106 H, 83 BB, 224 K, .906 WHIP
  • 200.2 IP, 153 H, 142 BB, 224 K, 1.47 WHIP

By comparison, no pitcher in baseball had a WHIP below 1.00 in 2006. The top 3 in WHIP were Santana, Carpenter and Halladay, all 1.10 or below with ERAs below 3.20. Sixty-five MLB pitchers had WHIPs below 1.47, including Tim Hudson (4.86 ERA), Mark Buehrle (4.99) and the much maligned Gil Meche (4.48). Jeff Weaver’s WHIP last season was 1.51 (with a 5.76 ERA). Jason Marquis’ (6.02) was 1.52.

If Igawa can pitch on a level with those pitchers, he will be a bargain considering what they received in free agency. If Matsuzaka pitches on a level with Santana, Halladay and Carpenter, he too will be a bargain considering what Zito and Schmidt received in free agency. The comparisons logically shouldn’t go much further than that.

56 comments… add one
  • He might be right, Igawa might be the better “bargain”.
    It’s too bad that these “bargains” don’t really matter in the playoffs anyhow!

    Lar March 27, 2007, 12:21 pm
  • at first, i really couldn’t understand what his rational was with writing that. I think it’s pretty clear that one is superior than the other. but i agree with him that just looking at the spring training line is interesting. BUT it shouldn’t have been the focus of the article or even a real argument. the intersting thing (that he did touch on) is that Igawa could be better than most people, scouts and the Yankees themselves, thought he would be.
    i’m not saying he’s an ace, but if his ceiling is a 3-4 starter (they’re projecting 4-5 or even bullpen), than he would certainly be a bargain. if Matsuzaka becomes a front of the rotation pitcher than he too is a bargain.

    m.g. yanks fan March 27, 2007, 12:42 pm
  • also, i should note that i’m not saying he’s going to be a 3-4 starter, (i’d be happy and realistically think 4-5) just that if he reaches that level he’d truly be a bargain.

    m.g. yanks fan March 27, 2007, 12:48 pm
  • I think it’s silly to use ST numbers to predict or compare anything. Can’t everyone please wait until the season starts to begin predicting and projecting?

    Andrews March 27, 2007, 1:18 pm
  • Dear Brian Cashman –
    Ignore Joe Torre. Andy Phillips sucks, and Josh Phelps is better. He also demolishes lefties, something Andy Phillips can’t do since, well, he bats left. Though really, Andy never really demolished righties either. What else does Josh Phelps have to do to earn a spot on the team? Yes, Andy Phillips put up great numbers at AAA and has spent a long time with the team. But he sucks, and it’s time to waive him and hope he gets through.
    Josh Phelps isn’t going to hit 40 homeruns, but he’ll give a lot more production than Andy Phillips, and from the right side. The choice is so obvious that it hurts. If you choose Andy Phillips and give Phelps back to the Orioles I will cry.

    Andrew March 27, 2007, 1:38 pm
  • Relax, Pete was just pointing out that Igawa’s numbers are as good as Matsuzaka’s at this point in time. He doesn’t say that hes a batter pitcher or the Matsuzaka sucks or anything else. Just a comparison on ST numbers, which don’t lie, but aren’t a season either. Let’s see what the next six months bring before you get defensive. Nothing is proven yet.

    wemisspaulie March 27, 2007, 1:40 pm
  • i was crunching some spring training numbers myself and discovered jj hardy is the best shortstop in baseball. not to mention he’s a tremendous bargain at the league minimum. don’t even get me started on freddy “bargain” sanchez. numbers don’t lie.

    sf rod March 27, 2007, 1:46 pm
  • “Pete was just pointing out that Igawa’s numbers are as good as Matsuzaka’s at this point in time.”
    The whole point, Paulie, is that his numbers are actually not nearly as good as Matsuzaka’s at this point in time, and it’s wrong for Abraham to write as if they were.
    Really, the idea of using ST stats to do anything other than practice for the regular season box-score-reading competition (I just made that up) is preposterous, but this was Pete’s game. I’m just trying to compete.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 1:57 pm
  • Nevermind that while Igawa was “excited” about his outing, Matsuzaka was “not happy” with his no hit performance. Comparing their pitching lines and the pitchers’ respective reactions, it would seem that Igawa’s ceiling seems to be a notch below Matsuzaka’s floor.

    Tyrel SF March 27, 2007, 2:15 pm
  • and i wonder why this guy works for a newspaper i never heard of…
    Phil Hughes grew up a Red Sox fan..nuff ced

    Buffalohead March 27, 2007, 2:34 pm
  • To go along with the fact that their overall numbers really aren’t that close, the way the two starters compiled their stats–specifically, walk totals–bears repeating. Igawa’s been consistantly wild, showing exceptional control in just one of his five starts…while Matsuzaka has been the exact opposite in all but his last outing. More than anything, this just highlights the absurdity of spring statistics…but it’s also something I’d be worried about as a YF.
    Of course, according to Shaughnessy’s latest, Matsuzaka is possibly hiding an injury, and he might be a prima donna, and all of Boston is in a tizzy over one game’s control issues; apparently there’s a true panic, despite the fact that he’s the only one panicking (in print, at least). Not even BDD is freaking out yet…although they do heart DS’ Schilling-blog-column, and wonder out loud if Crisp is just going to quit on the team for having the audacity to say something to the effect of, “I don’t care what people think about me, I just play to have fun. Hopefully people enjoy watching.” God I hate that f*cking website…

    desturbd1 March 27, 2007, 2:34 pm
  • Yes, d1. BDD sucks. It’s the Sox “blog” equivalent of the National Enquirer. I’ve looked at it probably once in the past two years.

    Devine March 27, 2007, 2:45 pm
  • “but it’s also something I’d be worried about as a YF.”
    I’ve heard that Igawa was always a slow starter in Japan, and given his very good control there, I don’t think the ST walks are that much of a concern. His average fastball, on the other hand…

    Andrews March 27, 2007, 2:54 pm
  • “and i wonder why this guy works for a newspaper i never heard of…”
    That’s not fair, Buffalohead. Abraham is a great reporter, one of the best to cover the Yankees. I would guess that’s precisely because he works for a paper most of us haven’t heard of. He has to write stories on different topics from different angles than the big boys in the City. The same with Rob Bradford, a great Sox reporter who also works for a paper I had never heard of until people started recommending his writing. The great writers find great stories no one else thinks to find. Bradford and Abraham are two of the best at that.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 2:56 pm
  • ” Andy Phillips can’t do since, well, he bats left”
    Andrew, Phillips bats right

    Andrews March 27, 2007, 3:02 pm
  • I completely agree about Phelps, though.

    Andrews March 27, 2007, 3:03 pm
  • Fuck, I could have sworn he bats left. Still, though, he was atrocious vs lefties last year, so it’s not like it makes a difference.
    Phelps ’07!

    Andrew March 27, 2007, 3:13 pm
  • “[Igawa’s] average fastball, on the other hand…”
    How fast is Igawa’s fastball? Abrahams suggested he was successful challenging hitters with a high fastball, which articles I’ve read about Matuzaka suggest is something that pitchers get away with in Japan, but in the ML high fastballs often travel 400 feet. And wasn’t Igawa something of a strikeout pitcher in Japan?

    Tyrel SF March 27, 2007, 3:19 pm
  • I’ve heard that it tops out at 91, but it is deceptively fast (per Joe Torre) whatever that means. The little I’ve seen of him and his results remind me a little of a more durable Ted Lilly.

    Nick-YF March 27, 2007, 3:22 pm
  • Thanks.

    Tyrel SF March 27, 2007, 3:23 pm
  • What is knock-down hilarious about Paul SF’s thread is that if he were comparing Papelbon and Rivera or Nomar and Jeter he’d be all to happy to go on a small statistical sampling to “show” that Paps is just as good as Rivera “at that point in time” or Nomar “was better” than Jeter way back then. And then he’d call us idiots for invoking the same arguments he uses above.
    Have you no shame?

    lp March 27, 2007, 3:24 pm
  • According to a scouting report at Prospect Insider, Igawa’s 4-seamer settles between 88-91, touching 92. He gets most of his swings and misses on an above-average change at 78-81, and has a “solid” slider. I haven’t been able to watch him pitch much this spring…the only games I’ve seen were the ones he got shelled in. I don’t know what his velocity’s looked like since he came over.
    And lp…that’s a joke, right?

    desturbd1 March 27, 2007, 3:33 pm
  • I wish it were a joke. I’ve had several “at that point in time” arguments concerning those exact player comparisons.

    lp March 27, 2007, 3:36 pm
  • Golden sombrero for Phillips today. Phelps? Homerun and an RBI single. This is what it’s been like all spring. Cashman needs to tie up Joe Torre till Opening Day to make sure Torre doesn’t cash in Phillips’ ‘loyalty’ coins.

    Andrew March 27, 2007, 3:40 pm
  • Nice try, LP, but comparing Rivera and Papelbon over the course of the 2006 season is valid. Comparing Nomar and Jeter while Nomar was with the Sox is valid. Comparing Igawa and Matsuzaka over the course of the 2007 is valid. Comparing them over the couse of spring training is not.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 3:44 pm
  • Paul SF,
    Too bad you raised this issue comparing Paps and Mo PRIOR TO THE ALL STAR BREAK last year.
    Don’t sit here and lie about it. Have you no honor?
    And I actually agree with you about any Dice-K comparisions or valuations. The man has yet to throw a MLB pitch. Given that I was against holding up his WBC statline last spring to justify forking out $100 mil, I don’t see how one can come to any conclusions about him based on such a limited number of non regular season innings. But it IS fun to watch Sox fans fly off the handle at any hint that their new toy might not be worth the cash or the hype.

    lp March 27, 2007, 3:53 pm
  • “I don’t know what his velocity’s looked like since he came over.”
    I haven’t seen every pitch, but I’ve heard a couple of times that he topped out at 90. He likes to throw it high, which concerns me.

    Anonymous March 27, 2007, 3:54 pm
  • …that BDD is one of the funniest sports satires i’ve seen…hilarious, and usually right on…
    …paul, i agree with you that spring training stats are irrelevant…but, in the case of the 2 japanese imports, the comparisons are inevitable, especially considering it’s the sox and yanks…you’re right, i wouldn’t get too excited either way the stats are falling at this point in time…on the other hand, if the trends hold true [but they probably won’t], you’d have to agree that for about 25% of what the sox laid out for mats, this igawa guy looks like a bargain…

    dc March 27, 2007, 3:57 pm
  • “Comparing them over the couse of spring training is not.”
    Agreed, but it makes me wonder why you bothered rebutting Pete, then Paul.

    Anonymous March 27, 2007, 3:57 pm
  • I’m anon, yet again.

    Andrews March 27, 2007, 3:59 pm
  • …and I don’t use commas correctly.
    Pete then, Paul.

    Andrews March 27, 2007, 4:01 pm
  • I understand your point, but your extrapolation to the whole season is silly. the whole problem with using ST stats, or any other small-sample stats is that there are large error bars around the statistics. From a formal statistical perspective, Pete A. is right in that you cannot rule out that Igawa and DM’s performance are significantly different, given the small sample and consequent wide range of error.
    The jury on both of these guys is going to be out, at least until July, when the AL East has had a little it of a chance to get a look at their pitches. It will be interesting.

    JJ March 27, 2007, 4:09 pm
  • Paul,
    What’s wrong with Pete Abe saying “hey, check this out Yankee fans, Dice-K and Igawa have similar lines this spring”. He doesn’t say it will project like this into the season, it’s a statistical tid bit HIS readership will enjoy, and anyone reading too far into it by assuming Pete’s trying to say Kei may be a better pitcher is either an idiot or blind fanboy.
    You really need to be less defensive. Did you get like this due to your growing up in an area of CT where there was a lot of Yankee fans that pissed you off all the time?

    bloodyank78 March 27, 2007, 4:18 pm
  • If you want to see a meaningful, analytical comparison of Igawa and DM by Cliff Corcoran, go here.
    He looks at performance in Japan, over 7 seasons.
    The bottom line:
    “According to those numbers, Matsuzaka is the better pitcher, but not by much. His advantage in home run rate suggests that he induces weaker contact, but absent Japanese batting averages on balls in play, one wonders if the reduced hit rate which gives Matsuzaka his biggest advantage over Igawa isn’t in part attributable to the Seibu Lions’ defense. If so, it would make the gap between the two even smaller. Of course, just because Igawa compares favorably to Matsuzaka doesn’t mean either will succeed in the AL East, but it seems that the Yankees have done a solid job of keeping up with the Joneses here, and for a fraction of the price.”
    At the end of the day, that’s what Pete Abraham is saying.

    jj March 27, 2007, 4:28 pm
  • Oh, and by the way, WHIP over those 7 seasons:
    Igawa: 1.24
    DM: 1.14

    jj March 27, 2007, 4:33 pm
  • Abraham wasn’t just saying that, BY. He was drawing a conclusion from those meaningless stats. I decided, spurred by d-1’s comment, to show just how far off-base that conclusion was and how meaningless those stats are.
    Again, LP, those comments were essentially: “Paps is having a better season than Mo.” This was correct. You somehow took that to mean I was calling Paps the better closer overall, which I was not. Had I said so, you would have been right to call me out because that would be roughly equivalent to Abraham saying, “Igawa is having almost as good a spring as Matsuzaka, so it looks like he’ll be a better bargain.” Nevertheless, you keep looking for stuff that isn’t there. Your outrage at the Nomar-Jeter comparisons was roundly dismissed by nearly everyone here, including YFs. Your similar outrage about something I never even said is equally telling.
    The extrapolation of the whole season IS silly, just as silly as calling one pitcher a bargain based on meaningless spring training stats — which, when extrapolated over a meaningful period of time, actually show how that pitcher isn’t a bargain anyway.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 5:12 pm
  • “one wonders if the reduced hit rate which gives Matsuzaka his biggest advantage over Igawa isn’t in part attributable to the Seibu Lions’ defense.”
    That works both ways…one could also wonder if Matsuzaka’s BABIP is higher because of shoddy defense, especially given what we know about the Lions…that they’re close to bankruptcy and probably not fielding too great a team. Or maybe Igawa played in front of the best defense in the league. Other then that…uhh…look at the last 2 seasons. Matsuzaka’s been a starter since 19, and his first few seasons “drag down” his numbers a bit…look at 2005 and 2006 and tell me they’re anywhere near each other.

    desturbd1 March 27, 2007, 5:31 pm
  • “Igawa is the first player. Statistics are only one tool to evaluate a player headed into the season. But based on the numbers, it seems the Yankees might have found themselves a bargain in Igawa, at least when compared to the $103 million the Red Sox spent to land Matsuzaka.”
    Where Paul, does he make any conclusion? He says MIGHT have found themselves a bargain. Who knows? Maybe they did. If Dice-K goes 15-4 w/a 3.50; and Igawa goes 13-9 w/4.25 did the Yanks get a bargain? I’d say they probably did. Pete can draw far fetched conclusions based on meaningless stats if he’s just saying “maybe this means something”. My question is why does it make you angry?

    bloodyank78 March 27, 2007, 5:58 pm
  • Nobody here has shown any anger…
    “Care to guess which one is superstar-in-the-making Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox and which one is supposed rotation filler Kei Igawa of the Yankees?”
    He took a shot. He did so using incredibly flawed logic and spring stats…and we made fun of it. The fact is, calling Igawa a bargain–even if all that’s said is that it is a possibility–based on his spring stats is akin to us declaring Josh Beckett a possible Cy contender based on his March numbers; bring up Matsuzaka just made things a little worse. And if Bradford wrote a column wondering aloud if Beckett would drop his ERA a full 2 runs, you’d be laughing too.

    desturbd1 March 27, 2007, 6:07 pm
  • d1-
    “Peter Abraham goes the snide route in the Journal News this morning, tarnishing an otherwise fine article”
    I detect that Paul was peeved based on his choice of language. I just don’t see what’s wrong with using spring stats (I know they’re flawed) and saying “hey, maybe the Yankees got a bargain here”. A fun, hopeful prediction for Yankee fans that read his paper. Most of his readers do not live, breathe, and disect baseball like we do, they might be the causal fan and they could probably could give a shit if spring stats are pointless. It’s just an interesting tid bit for them to discuss at the water cooler.

    bloodyank78 March 27, 2007, 6:34 pm
  • I should say some of his readers aren’t hard core fans, because most who follow his blog are.

    bloodyank78 March 27, 2007, 6:38 pm
  • Peeved is different from angry, BY. Abraham took a shot at the Sox, in language that was pretty snide. I called it snide because that’s what it was and rebutted it factually and statistically. Not sure where you get the anger from, unless your channelling our friend Jim.
    To suggest that spring stats are any kind of a basis for determining whether or not the Yanks “might have” found a bargain is simply not logical. Particularly when you consider that the numbers in fact are NOT similar in the way Abraham says they are. I suspect Pete knew better, that he was taking a gratuitous shot at the Sox (and he might indeed have been doing so to please his readers) so I decided to rebut the jab.
    I don’t understand how we’ve started calling forceful arguments “angry.” It seems we’re blurring the lines of our language. If Dan Shaughnesy or Bob Ryan writes a column tomorrow saying Phil Hughes based on his spring stats “might be” overrated and nothing better than a No. 4 starter, will we hear nothing from the YFs here? I doubt that, and furthermore, I would be among those criticizing those columnists for writing such rubbish.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 6:45 pm
  • And I should note that it’s not whether or not the Yanks found a bargain. I think both teams have found bargains and wouldn’t have a problem with someone conditionally saying so based on how they’ve looked this spring.
    For me, it’s about the contention that Igawa will be the better bargain “when compared to … Matsuzaka” based on 1. meaningless spring statistics, and 2. meaningless spring statistics that actually disprove the statement.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 6:51 pm
  • “I suspect Pete knew better, that he was taking a gratuitous shot at the Sox (and he might indeed have been doing so to please his readers) so I decided to rebut the jab.”
    It pleased me; but not because I believed it or thought it to be accurate, but because I knew it would irritate certain members of RSN that are cerebral, logical, and above all..defensive. =)

    bloodyank78 March 27, 2007, 6:57 pm
  • lol, I’ll take the first two, BY. I suspect we’re all a touch defensive about our favorite teams — particularly when it comes to acquisitions we really-really like (Matsuzaka) or prospects we really-really like (Hughes). For some reason, it always ends up being more personal than it should.
    Though for what it’s worth, this was never personal. I was just irritated at the illogic and the inconsistency.

    Paul SF March 27, 2007, 7:02 pm
  • Agreed Paul, agreed. Let’s get this friggin’ season started so we can all start having some real fun. Oh, by the way; I’m predicting an opening day loss for the Yanks if its Kazmir v. Ol’Carl.

    bloodyank78 March 27, 2007, 7:12 pm
  • Paul/BY: Seconded. It’s tough to continually ingest all this cerebral/speculative stuff, as much as I enjoy reading about it. It’s like freakin’ caramels. I’ve already had a giant handful but there’s a huge bowl of them in front of me and I can’t stop eating them. Let’s see the leagues play season ball. At least then it means a little bit more, I think.

    attackgerbil March 27, 2007, 7:21 pm
  • Thank God- only a few more days until we start separating fact from fiction.
    Let the battle begin!
    Enough of the speculation!
    Gerbs, hope I didn’t offend with the Lasorda stuff…

    Anonymous March 27, 2007, 8:19 pm
  • me

    Anonymous March 27, 2007, 8:21 pm
  • I have not been offended on this site ever, except when Paul identified me in a lineup as Richard Gere’s date. Wait, can I say that?

    attackgerbil March 27, 2007, 8:26 pm
  • “I have not been offended on this site ever, except when Paul identified me in a lineup as Richard Gere’s date. Wait, can I say that?”
    you’ll hear from my lawyer!

    Richard Gere March 28, 2007, 12:02 am
  • …there seems to be a common theme on this site for attacking sportswriters…i’m ok with that, but frankly guys, who really cares what they think?…i don’t believe their opinions are worth any more than those from the more thoughtful of us that participate here…
    …however, i see nothing wrong with analyzing and commenting on spring training stats within the proper context, and i think that’s paul’s beef…i agree with him…[pete’s “snidery” was just for effect]…
    …if [and it’s as silly an argument as pretending 2000 isn’t part of the 2000’s…i ain’t letting that one go until an sf acknowledges the wiki entry] you could extrapolate spring’s stats over the season, igawa would be the better bargain…it’s a stupid argument, because it won’t likely play out that way…it’s the same kind of [il]logic that says a player who hits a homer in game 1 is on pace to hit 162 over the season…pete was trying to strike a nerve with sf’s and he did…it’s nothing more than that, and i’d suggest getting used to it because it seems to be a more commonly used strategy these days by sportwriters to call attention to themselves when their writing alone is not enough to do that…for most players spring training stats are meaningless, but for others who are borderline for making the roster, those spring performances are very important…neither of these 2 pitchers fall into that category…

    dc March 28, 2007, 9:21 am
  • I’m late to this discussion, but I don’t see what the big deal is with Paul’s distaste for Pete’s method here. If Pete just wanted to air an opinion about what he thought Kei’s relative “bargainness” would be in relation to Daisuke, that would be one thing, but once he went and cited the statistics as he did and implied some sort of modest equivalency between the two based on those stats (which he does) then it’s legit to question that method.
    For example, a player with a .300 batting average and a .315 OBP is a patently different player than a player with a .300 batting average and a .430 OBP, and this is the type of difference that Abraham is basically ignoring, pitching-wise, in the statistics he cites.
    In the end, of course, no one has proven a darn thing, so it’s all moot.

    SF March 28, 2007, 9:23 am
  • dc:
    you are right about a few things. The thing about Pete is that he’s supremely hooked in to the blogosphere, he’s reasonable, he’s intelligent, and understands baseball as it’s studied in the oughts(!), so for him to kind of dumb down the discussion this way (and using the stats the way he did without any critical attention was exactly that) was surprising. I hope it was only to needle Sox fans; if it indicates Abraham’s comprehension of pitching statistics then I am going to have to reconsider his “expertise”.
    I am totally willing to give him the benefit of the doubt right now, that he was just digging at us, such is his track record.

    SF March 28, 2007, 9:28 am
  • “you are right about a few things.”
    …thanks sf…i think i can tell that you and i are together in being a little disappointed with sportwriters who would rather provoke than report…it’s a cheap tactic, and somewhat irresponsible frankly…we poke at each other here but it’s all good natured, if passionate at times, but we at least respect each other’s opinions and the facts…pete and his colleagues have a duty to their readership to stick to the facts and put opinions in the proper context…i’m sure he’s still an expert, and his comparison was tongue in cheek, but still a bummer since we’d like to get more thoughtful analysis from a guy like that…

    dc March 28, 2007, 9:52 am
  • I have been reading here for a while now and thought it would only be fair to register and contribute instead of being a silent reader. So – I am looking forward to be a full part of the community!
    Take care!

    ProGasCasMash December 4, 2008, 10:00 am

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