If we’re going to start profiling our GoodEnough for Me contenders, then who better to begin with that the most heralded of rooks, Daisuke Matsuzaka? And what better night to profile him on than the night he matches pitches with another young, rising phenom in Felix Hernandez? Or faces the Major’s greatest Japanese player so far in Ichiro Suzuki? No, tonight was the perfect night for to examine the man they call The Monster (Kaibutsu in Japanese).
Daisuke became something of a legend in Japan while he was still in high school, completely dominating his opponents. He went straight from high school to the Japanese major leagues, where he made his professional opponents appear nearly as silly as his academic ones.
The man throws a low 90s fastball, coupled with a curve, splitter, cutter, slider, and split-fingered changeup… as well as a screwball, knuckler, knuckle-curve, spitter, palmball, shuuto, and Eephus. He does not through a gyroball. All of Matsuzaka’s pitches are above average, but none are devastating. He finds success through excellent control of his pitches, and by “pitching backwards”. That is, Kaibutsu will throw the junk when the hitter expects the heat, and vice versa. And by reputation, he’s very good at this. For other fun tidbit, his delivery is nearly identical to Roger Clemens. Apparently, Clemens is also pretty good at throwing little white orbs at high speeds.
Nearly as fascinating as his performance this year will be the dozens of Japanese reporters following him around, in addition to the standard fare of the hawkish Boston reporters making their livings proclaiming the end of the world with every home run he gives up.
No rookie is facing nearly as much pressure as Matsuzaka. Then again, no rookie has his kind of previous experience. Whether or not he can live up to the hype will be one of the season’s best storylines.