Baseball BeatDecember 14, 2006
The Big Heist
By Rich Lederer

The Boston Red Sox and Diasuke Matsuzaka reached agreement Wednesday on a six-year contract that will pay the Japanese star $52 million plus the potential for an additional $8 million in escalators based on awards. Matsuzaka will also receive a "litany of personal comforts" as described by his agent Scott Boras, including an interpreter, personal assistant, therapists, special housing and transportation arrangements and accommodations for his wife, and 80-90 flights over the course of the deal.

The deal calls for Matsuzaka to receive a $2 million signing bonus, a $6 million salary in 2007, followed by $8 million in each of the following three seasons, and $10 million in each of the final two years. Aside from the personal services side of the equation, the Red Sox will spend a minimum of $103.1M and a maximum of $111.1M (including the $51.1M posting fee) to secure the 26-year-old righthander for the next six years. In other words, Boston winds up paying Barry Zito-money for Matsuzaka, and the MVP of the World Baseball Classic last spring makes less dough than Gil Meche. Go figure.

Matsuzaka will actually cost the Red Sox less than what Zito is likely to command because the $51.1M posting fee is not subject to luxury taxes. At a rate of 40% for clubs over the threshold three or more times, John Henry & Co. could save more than $20M over the life of the D-Mat contract. Credit Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Theo Epstein for waiting Boras and Matsuzaka out and getting their man on the cheap at the eleventh hour.

The man whose first name is pronounced "Dice-K" joins fellow 26-year-olds Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, plus Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield in a rotation that potentially becomes one of the most powerful in the game. Boston also has Jon Lester as its "sixth man" and Clay Buchholz waiting in the wings. The only piece of the puzzle still missing is a top-shelf closer to shut down the opposition in the late innings. Could the Red Sox sign Roger Clemens and ask Papelbon to gut it out for one more year in the 'pen? Paps may not be too happy about that but Sox fans sure would be.

What kind of numbers do you expect Matsuzaka to post? I'm going to set the range at 14-16 wins, 3.50-4.00 ERA, and 150-180 strikeouts. You can take the unders, the middle, or the overs.



are those numbers the average over the contract or for 2007? if it's for 2007, i'll take the, um.. over.

that is, "over" meaning better performance than 3.5-4.00 ERA, 14-16 wins and 150-180 strikeouts.

i'm a royals fan

i'm tired of the "gil meche and the royals" problem that has been voiced.

hey, its like the meek guy at the poker table finally wanting a chance to buy in.

the biggest part of all this is not the contract but it is the fact the kansas city royals are developing in my mind the most talented group of position players in the AL.

supplement that with about 3 pitchers with 200+ innings at around 4.5 era then you will have a division winner (even in the ALC, the best in baseball).

cheers, dayton moore and walmart, especially to walmart.

here's to grade A ball in KC, and respect to Buck O'Neil, the greatest spokesman in baseball to come about in a long while.

I will take the overs for the '07 Dice-K and the unders for the '07 Meche-Royals.

A quick response to J.M.'s comments above...I do have to say I'm happy to see the Royals make a move...I'm just dissapointed that, after waiting for so long, it's $55M to Gil Meche! I would have loved it if they had payed a little extra to secure a Zito or someone else who really would command respect...but for their sakes, I hope this works out for them. As for a "division winner", I don't know what the standards are for one of those, but yours are surely not it. It's not like the Royals have the best lineup in the division, which might accomidate a rotation with a mid-4 ERA...they don't stack up with Cleveland's, and Detroit's looks better too, at the very least. Meanwhile, I like the pitching on a lot of teams more than KC's...Chicago, Detroit, and Minnesota especially. There's still work to be done.

As for Matsuzaka...I'd take the middle/over. I agree with the ERA estimate, but I'll take the over for wins...I'd like to imagine that with all the money thrown around for Boston's lineup, Matsuzaka will win more than 16 games (think Derek Lowe following his Cy Young caliber season). I'll also make one'll either see a jump in his walk totals along with 200+ K's, or his strikeouts will fall but his command will remain the same. History has shown that SPs who come over from Japan and keep a high K rate also walk a lot of I have to imagine that something's gonna give, at least for 2007.

I think Boston's pitching will be better but I think the offense is still looking at some troubles. I don't particularly like the mix of players they have.

So, without a good idea of run support, I can't figure out wins, but I'll go with a 3.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and a K/9 in the mid 7s. I think people who are looking for Johan Santana type numbers are in for a big letdown.

I do agree the deal worked out great - the Red Sox can also probably tap the Asian market through this signing and recoup some money. Furthermore, they didn't only get stuck with Matsuzaka for 3 years like Boras wanted. They'll have him locked up through age 33, his most productive years. And even a total price tag of 6 years, $111 million, is preferable to the money spent on Barry Zito.

The Red Sox have done well. They have Beckett locked up for 3 years, Papelbon at least 5 more, Matsuzaka 6, and Wakefield with his interesting contract as long as he's good they could have him cheap... open-ended.

Daisuke's numbers for next year:

20-6, 3.15 ERA ... and two no-hitters.

Quote from Peter:

History has shown that SPs who come over from Japan and keep a high K rate also walk a lot of I have to imagine that something's gonna give, at least for 2007.

That's a pretty small sample size to be taking from. Also, Matuszaka has better a k/bb ratio than most other japanese imports. I think he'll win more for the same reason listed above, this team's offense will be one of the top 2-3 in the game.

Also, in regards to Paps being upset about going back to the pen in a possible roger signing. Just remember, Clemens is his idol, I think he would love closing out games for him. He's expected to be a starter because of health reasons, but if Francona can use him better (shorter outings, no irregular usage of 3 days on, 4 days off type of stuff) then he should stay healthy in the pen as well... man I would love to see that happen...

I'd bet that Seibu kicked back some of their $51.1 million to Matsuzaka (estimate: $5 million or so) to get the deal done.

He's a first-rate pitcher, but it'll take some time to adjust to dealing with right-handed hitting American League sluggers and the Green Monster. There aren't any Konerkos, Frank Thomases or Sextons in Japan.

I think your expectations are pretty close to right on. I'll take the over on wins if the ERA is below 4.00. Of course, they will need someone to close out those games lest they lose a couple of wins to blown saves.


Red Sox Times

i'll take the over - if the 'ol gyroball is breaking, of course....

those numbers are about right. era should be higher than 4.0 though, after all, this is the al east.
he's good, a good bet, a great signing at 6/52-60m. i think he'll get better too, but he should be barely above-average in '07.
he'll need to adjust and that takes time.
i'm a yankee fan, but as a baseball fan, i'd love to see him do great in '08.

The numbers below are within the range of your prediction. Would you take this line? (I apologize for formatting problems)

G  GS  IP    H  R  ER BB SO  W  L  ERA 
33 33 196.1 196 92 82 69 171 15 11 3.76

The mystery line belongs to Eric Bedard of the Orioles. If he does a little better, he can put up a season closer to Mike Mussina. If he does a bit worse, well, he's Barry Zito, Curt Schilling, or Dontrelle Willis.

I'll take that. No question. I'll take that.

Pencil me in for 15-8, 4.00 ERA, and 160K/40BB in 200 IP.

I'll take the unders on ERA, thanks.

I don't see Clemens going to the Red Sox because, like Rich stated, they have enough starters. I also can't see them paying his exorbitant salary for presumably less than a full season.
A couple of people have mentioned this, but the Sox lineup is probably not going to be as productive as it was from 03-05 (which is why the improved rotation is even more essential to their success).
I just hope there's at least one Matsuzaka-Igawa game in the upcoming season. I think the power grids in Japan would explode (or whatever power grids do when they stop working).

Japan is generally considered to be somewhere between AAA and the majors in terms of quality of play; if you use his Japan numbers as AAA stats he grades out as a 3.00-3.25 ERA type guy which would place him in the top tier of AL starters. I think that's a little optimistic, and taking into account the AL East and the adjustment time to US baseball, I think numbers in the 17W/3.50 ERA/1.20 WHIP/180K range are reasonable. That $51 million bid looked so absurd a month ago; it's funny how it now looks like the Red Sox got away relatively "cheap."

Oh, and re: Gil Meche

I want to see the Royals succeed and I have faith in Dayton Moore; I even understand the motivation behind the Gil Meche contract--they want to send the message to their fans that they are trying, and that they're willing to spend money to improve. But I'm worried they're spending money merely for the sake of spending it, and Gil Meche doesn't constitute a wise investment. The Royals are a long way from contending, and they can't afford to have 40% of their payroll wrapped up in two players (Meche and Sweeney) while they're trying to build a competitive team. He made sense for a team like the Cubs or the Yankees who could plug him in the back of their rotation, but the Royals are paying him to be their ace.

It was just six months ago Wal-Mart and Company passed over Justin Miller, the consensus top talent in the draft, because of his bonus demands. Am I to believe they now have a spare $55 million lying around to throw at Gil Meche? I refuse to believe that money couldn't be better spent elsewhere, be it on the draft, improved international scouting, or what have you.

Sadly, it reminds me of the Devil Rays and Pirates around the year 2000 when both clubs tried to buy respectability. The Rays spent a lot of money on guys like Canseco/Castilla/Vaughn, and while it succeeded in bloating the payroll it didn't translate to wins on the field or butts in the seats. Ditto for the Pirates signing guys like Pat Meares and Derek Bell, and handing out big money extensions to Kevin Young and Jason Kendall. These types of moves are done in good will to show committment to the fans, but they can absolutely cripple a low revenue club. Here's hoping Dayton Moore doesn't go the way of Cam Bonifay and Chuck LaMar.

i'll take the over - if the 'ol gyroball is breaking, of course....

Will Carroll's gonna have to teach him to throw it.

im betting that Dice ends up with a 15-12 win lost record, era around 4.5, 200 innings pitched, 175 strike outs and the wrath of the boston fans for his being a Hideki Iruba clone. Boston will on the hook for 6 years for at best, an average pitcher with average results. Good job Theo!

Two no-no's? What? Really?

16-8, 3.80

Wins is too hard to figure, at this point with the Sox bullpen if Papelbon is indeed not closing i wouldn't be too optimistic on the win totals, 14-16, if they get a legit bullpen together 17-20

ERA, 3.50-4.00 is about right.

K/bb, i expect a more Mussina/ Schilling like k/bb for him , somewhere in the very high 3s to 4 range.

Joe, really? He doesn't have control problems, so something tells me if he racks up 175 strikeouts, he'll have had a pretty good season.

10-9, 4.86 ERA, 1 TJ surgery. Book it!

POMPs* (Pitcher Overall Metric Projections) has Dice projected to go 29-1 with 283.7 IP and an ERA of 1.09.

*POMPs are derived by very carefully reaching up my butt, and pulling things out of it.

Shoot...Sox signed JC Romero and traded for Donnelly.

Go ahead and take three wins off my prediction.

W: 10/14, ERA: 4.00/4.50 K: 120/150

I think Dice-K will end up going for something like 0-24 with a 10.32 ERA, 1 strikeout and 512 walks in 123 innings pitched. And that drunken Red Sux Nation fans will hate him.

I also think that the Yankees will go 162-0 and win the World Series with A-Rod hitting something like 88 homeruns by the All-Star Break and Derek Jeter (whom I have a poster of on my bedroom wall) will win the AL MVP, World Series MVP, and Cy Young all in one season.

Let's go Yankees!

Has there ever been a light-out Japanese pitcher in the MLB? Nope.

I can't wait for April to see how this all turns out, but after facing batter like Arod, Thomas, etc. my intuition tell me he's just going to be average.

Number of players with more than 16 wins last year: 7.

This is the most reasonable projection I've seen for Zaka. I'd probably put him on the "better" edge of those numbers, but that seems like a good range ofor him to fall in.

Well, at the height of Nomo-mania in 95-96, Hideo was about as lights out as anyone in the game not named Greg Maddux.

Over his first two years:

29-17 419.6 IP 304 H (6.5 H/9 IP) 1.11 WHIP 470 K

In his rookie year in particular he was probably the 3rd best pitcher in baseball behind the aforementioned Maddux (ERA+ 273!) and AL CYA Randy Johnson. He was essentially a league average pitcher or worse the rest of his career after hitters figured out his throwing motion, but he was dominant for a time.

D-Mat doesn't rely so much on a funky throwing motion like a lot of the Japanese imports and he has fundamentally better "stuff" and control than the pitchers we've seen before.

"Could the Red Sox sign Roger Clemens and ask Papelbon to gut it out for one more year in the 'pen? Paps may not be too happy about that but Sox fans sure would be."

Hasn't Papelbon stated that he would actually like the opportunity to stay as the closer and become one of the best closers in MLB history? I swear I remember reading that. The Sox probably won't move him back due to injury concerns. They feel that giving him a more regulated starting job where he goes every 5th day will give him less chance of aggravating the injury he had last season.

If you compare the stats of all the Japan-born starters in baseball-reference, pre-US Japan stats, then U.S. stats, you will find that all the pitchers tend to see their HR/9-rate fly up 50% or more, K/9 fall a good chuck, 20-30%, BB/9 tends to go up and ERA increase by at least 1 point. I realize that it is small samples, but I find the fact that all experienced a big jump in ERA to be significant.

Comparative Stats for Japan Vs. MLB

Stats: ERA - WHIP - K/9 - BB/9 - HR/9 - Ages

Japan: 3.38 - 1.29 - 9.7 - 4.7 - 0.8 - (18-27)
U.S.A.:4.44 - 1.53 - 6.9 - 5.7 - 1.1 - (28-31)
After: 3.44 - 1.33 - 8.6 - 3.0 - 0.8 - (32)

Japan: 3.37 - 1.30 - 9.1 - 4.1 - 0.6 - (19-27)
U.S.A.:5.15 - 1.41 - 7.1 - 3.1 - 1.6 - (28-33)
After: 4.44 - 1.42 - 8.3 - 2.5 - 1.4 - (34-35)
2003: 3.85 - 1.35 - 8.5 - 2.4 - 1.2 - (34)

Japan: 3.15 - 1.32 - 10.3 - 5.0 - 0.7 - (21-25)
U.S.A.:4.13 - 1.35 - 8.7 - 4.1 - 1.1 - (26-36)

Japan: 3.43 - 1.29 - 5.6 - 2.8 - 0.8 - (20-32)
U.S.A.:4.68 - 1.36 - 5.3 - 2.6 - 1.3 - (33-37)
After: 4.87 - 1.40 - 3.9 - 1.9 - 1.3 - (38-41)

Japan: 2.95 - 1.14 - 8.7 - 3.2 - 0.7 - (19-26)

Japan: 3.15 - 1.24 - 8.5 - 2.9 - 0.8 - (19-26)

I have seen some projections go from low 3's to mid-3's, but only one near 4 (4.01 by Baseball Prospectus, saw this on Roto Authority's take on D-Mat). I would go with a high 3 ERA since that is 1 point above his career stats, with a likelihood of mid-4 if he struggles like most of them did their first year, probably over the new culture, new everything.

Why? A number of reasons. HR/9 increased from 0.3 to 0.5 for these pitchers - any of that would put him at or above the 1.0 max you want from a good pitcher. It will help that he will pitch in Boston for half his games (roughly) as HR is depressed there by around 14% according to Bill James corrected park factor stats. But you have to realize that lousy hitters have gone to Japan and become HR hitters to see that HR must be depressed relative to the U.S., no matter how you slice the data. It's going up, even in Boston.

In addition, his K/9 should drop as well, and all his brethren saw drops, and for the high K/9, drops of 1.6 to 2.8, or about 15-30%. Dropping him 2.0 like Irabu would put him at 6.7 - still good, but hardly dominating - but a drop of 30% would push him to 6.1 and near the danger area where the pitcher has to be a really good control pitcher to survive. His dominating K/9 rate will not survive to the U.S.

Also, WHIPs have gone up as well, though with a low 1.14, it can go up .11 like Irabu and still be a very good 1.25.

But that is dependent on him reducing his BB/9. Irabu and Nomo were able to drop it a 1 point, but Ishii saw his rise 1 point. The drops counteracted a rise in H/9 (not in chart but can see via WHIP and BB/9 that they rose to counterbalance the drop in BB/9). Boston has been relatively neutral for walks (Bill James) so he won't get any help or hurt there. But Yankee Stadium helped Irabu probably (Bill James stats for last three seasons, not Irabu's seasons) and Dodger Stadium hurt Ishii and Nomo probably (same problem again). With a big drop in K/9 though, he needs to get his BB/9 down to at least 2.5 to have a superior K/BB still.

I think those are all big question mark areas that are reasonable doubt that Matsuzaka will deliver on $103M in money paid over 6 seasons. I think something like Millwood's 2003 season in Philly would be a good comparison: 4.01 ERA, 0.8 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.9 K/9, 1.25 WHIP, though a bit low on HR/9. Or Bartolo Colon's 2003 season: 3.87 ERA, 1.1 HR/9, 2.5 BB/9, 6.4 K/9, 1.20 WHIP. Nice, but is it really worth $17M per season?

Nice work, Obsessive.