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Thursday, June 2, 2011
We've seen last of Matsuzaka in the majors

By David Schoenfield

I'll be honest: If I never see Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch another major league game, I'll be much happier for it.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tommy John surgery likely means the end of Daisuke Matsuzaka's time with the Boston Red Sox.
Look, sorry if I'm knocking a guy while he's down, as I'm not trying to make light of Matsuzaka's apparent insistence that he needs Tommy John surgery.

No, this is meant to knock Dice-K's style of pitching. It's a style that makes it impossible to defend baseball to the haters. He nibbles, he takes too much time between pitches, he nibbles some more, he stares in at the catcher, he throws a strike, he looks out at the Green Monster or Jacoby Ellsbury or maybe he thinks about how awesome he was in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, he nibbles some more, and then he usually walks the batter.

It is not a style conducive to entertaining baseball.

Anyway, if he does undergo surgery, I'm sure this is the last we'll see of him in a Red Sox uniform. He's signed through 2012, but surgery would make a 2012 return unlikely. If he returns in 2013, I would predict it's in Japan and not America.

The Red Sox are probably fine with this. They've spent the past three years battling with Matsuzaka over his weight and training methods -- not to mention his injuries and mediocre productivity. During his up-and-down five seasons in Boston, he had one excellent season -- 2008, when he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA -- but he topped 170 innings just once and while his career record is 49-30, his ERA is a pedestrian 4.25, certainly not what Boston expected when they spent over $100 million to sign him away from the Seibu Lions ($51 million posting fee, six-year, $52 million contract).

By far the most frustrating thing about him was that unwillingness to challenge hitters, leading to high pitch counts and early exits. He pitched as many as seven innings in just 31 of his 105 starts, which is fewer than the number of starts he pitched five or fewer innings (34). He had 14 starts where he pitched five or fewer innings and yet threw over 100 pitches. Among pitchers with at least 500 innings since 2007, only Jonathan Sanchez and Doug Davis have a higher walk rate per nine innings Dice-K.

That said, Red Sox shouldn't totally bash the guy. He did help them win the 2007 World Series, when he won two games in the postseason. But that seems like a long time ago. I don't think Boston fans are going to miss him much, if the team is struggling to fill the back of the rotation with Dice-K and John Lackey on the DL.