Dice-K Weathers A Challenging Year
BOSTON–The Red Sox shelled out $103 million for him last offseason, and for most of the year Daisuke Matsuzaka looked like he was worth the investment.
The Japanese righthander, who Boston obtained with a $51.1 million posting fee and six-year, $52 million contract, boasts a dazzling array of pitches.
A slump in August and September, in which he went 1-4, 8.15 in one seven-start stretch, hurt his rookie of the year chances, but the Red Sox said Matsuzaka's year—in which he was trailed from the start by hordes of Japanese and American media—was a success.
"What happened during the course of the year is probably what could have been expected," manager Terry Francona said. "Some peaks and valleys. So much newness, so much difference just in the culture and all the things we've talked about since Day One. But he's handled himself very professionally. He's worked very hard. I think what's most reassuring is his competitiveness and his heart. He's not going to back down. Not to anybody."
The Red Sox courted Matsuzaka after eight outstanding seasons with the Seibu Lions that turned him into a rock star across the Pacific. Though Matsuzaka, 27, was famous for a rubber arm that once threw 250 pitches in a game, he had to adjust to a longer season and shorter rest than in Japan, where six-man rotations are the norm.
Still, he finished the regular season 15-12, 4.40, starting more games (32) and pitching more innings (205) than anyone else on the team.
Besides the unprecedented contract and interest level, Matsuzaka's year was statistically historic. His 15 wins were the most for a Japanese rookie pitcher, and he was the first rookie to top 200 innings and 200 strikeouts since Dwight Gooden (218 innings, 276 strikeouts) in 1984.
"Before the season started, I felt that as long as I kept my place in the rotation and I fulfilled my role as a starter that the 200 innings would be something that I would achieve," Matsuzaka said through a translator after reaching the milestones in his last regular season start. "So in that sense, I'm a little bit relieved today. As for the 200 strikeouts, I feel that's more like a bonus."