Dice-K a 'disappointment'? Consider the facts first
Originally Published: October 27, 2007By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
DENVER -- A man once described by his GM as "a national treasure" will start Game 3 of the 2007 World Series on Saturday night.
Disappointment, huh? Ya sure about that?"I've said without qualification," Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said this month, "that this first year for him was a success."
Well, that's his vote. And we'd second that motion. You might not believe us, but keep reading. We bet we can at least make you think about it long and hard. What follows are true facts about Matsuzaka's rookie season. We're not making any of this up: • He struck out 201 hitters in the regular season -- more than Josh Beckett, John Smoltz or Carlos Zambrano. For that matter, only five pitchers in the American League, and seven in the entire sport, piled up more whiffs than that. • And Matsuzaka collected all those K's in 204 2/3 innings, which computes to a strikeout rate of 8.84 per nine innings. Want to know five guys with worse strikeout rates than that? How about C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels, Justin Verlander and Beckett -- among many others. • Speaking of those 204 2/3 innings, that's more innings than several noted "horses" you may have heard of, too. Such as: Livan Hernandez, Mark Buehrle, Barry Zito and Carlos Silva. • Finally, opposing hitters batted .246 against this guy. Here's a group of pitchers who were more "hittable" than that: Fausto Carmona, Sabathia, John Lackey, Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay. Heard of any of them? And Dice-K unfurled those numbers as a "rookie," remember. So if that's a season of major disappointment, then disappointment doesn't get much more upbeat than that. On balance, it would be a similar kind of disappointment to, say, having to split a Powerball jackpot instead of raking it all in by yourself. We dropped that Powerball analogy because it makes for a perfect segue for the rest of this piece -- since the money the Red Sox paid to reel in Matsuzaka is a number so gigundous, it's possible that the only other place you'd ever see one like it in your life is on a Powerball billboard. Price tags create a context for all judgments in sports these days. But especially in the case of a mega-hyped player like this, who cost somewhere around the Gross National Product of Paraguay. Did the Red Sox get all their $103 million -- or all 11,772,896,716 yen's -- worth out of Dice-K this season? Well, no. But they weren't supposed to, either. This wasn't a one-year contract, remember. This was a six-year contract -- for a pitcher who's still only 27 years old. And he's younger than Rich Hill, Wandy Rodriguez or John Van Benschoten. Again, among many others. Would you take Dice-K's future over the futures of those three guys? We would. Would you take his future, for that matter, over this list of fellow 26-year-olds: John Maine, Daniel Cabrera, Joe Blanton, Noah Lowry and Brian Bannister? Again, we would.
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonDaisuke Matsuzaka is 1-1 with a 5.65 ERA in three postseason starts for the Red Sox.
I think Daisuke's year is pretty much, if you look back on it, probably not a surprise the way it went. Some ups and downs. Some learning.
-- Red Sox manager Terry Francona
|• Rookies with 15 wins, 200 strikeouts, 200 innings and 30 starts since 1900:|
|Christy Mathewson||1901 Giants|
|Russ Ford||1910 Yankees|
|Pete Alexander||1911 Phillies|
|Herb Score||1955 Indians|
|John Montefusco||1975 Giants|
|Dwight Gooden||1984 Mets|
|Mark Langston||1984 Mariners|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka||2007 Red Sox|
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.