I am promoting this comment (from Kyoto, a regular visitor around these parts) regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka’s recent difficulties.
Didn’t have a chance to see the game, had to work, but from the comments Daisuke’s outing seems absolutely brutal. The top three places I’d begin looking for an answer:
1) No change-up. Daisuke was never a power-pitcher. He was a junk-baller with power. The last few outings in particular all fastball (of several varieties) and slider. Is it that he can’t get his other pitches over, or that Varitek isn’t calling them. Or some combination of the two. Without his other pitches working his "power" stuff is very hittable. With them, he’s (historically) very tough. Possible solution for this category of problems: get his old manager and former pitcher over here, Mr. Higashio. Last time 大輔さん was really struggling Higashio happened to find himself in town and watched a few bullpen sesssions, had a few dinners with the young man and things improved. Plus, Higashio’s daughter is hot and a pro-golfer over in America who speaks perfect English, so he probably needs the airline tickets anyway.
2) This could be related a bit to the above. Communication and the entourage. I have some experience dealing with multi-lingual situations. Translating is a tough business and while doing the work there is little time for reflection. I noticed an article in MLB patting all the clubs on their collective backs for the wonderful jobs they are doing for their Japanese players. Ichiro’s translator got special attention, though he is probably one of the worst translators I have ever heard. Thus Ichiro’s reputation for flaky quotes, when in fact he is a fairly cerebral and definitely not wacky guy. The Red Sox did a good job of taking the problem seriously after the debacle of Daisuke’s first appearance before the press. But the Harvard guy and the gal who worked with Mrs. D may be causing problems and missing things they can’t even fathom. I often come across situations where the translators have the skills and the intelligence, but lack important kinds of insight, perspective, experience, and street smarts to get the job done correctly. Wild speculation hat off. Solution: fly me to Boston and let me observe all interactions between Daisuke and his translators. I won’t say a thing. But I guarantee I’ll pick up twenty or thirty things problems that need to be handled. (p.s. business class, thanks. And the wife wants tickets.)
3) Tired. Physically, mentally. This too could also be related to the two points above. Hard to tell. But in this vein of thought he needs more mental toughness: especially when he thinks he’s getting squeezed by the umps (taking it personally instead of understanding MLB umps, many of them, suck). Especially when he wants to throw a different pitch than Varitek is giving him. His whole demeanor on the field, from the get-go of the season, has seemed to me a bit off. No rhythm. Languishing between pitches. Pulling at his belt, adjusting his hat. Just not strong. Not Daisuke. I thought it would get better but it seems to be getting worse. A hesistant, sulking, less than confident player is blood in the water. You can smell it. Anyway who has played sports at a high level understands the feeling one gets when sensing the opposition (a player or the whole team) is scared, doubting. I wouldn’t be surprised if when I get a chance to see that inning, the Baltimore players have that old familar twinkle in the eye. Solution: shut it down for a start, and maybe he needs a tattoo. A good bench clearing brawl. In the first inning needs to urinate on the mound to claim it Daisuke’s territory. Something.
Wake up your Alpha male Daisuke!