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The Boston Red Sox placed Daisuke Matsuzaka on the 60-day DL Friday. Although the team has not said this definitively, multiple sources have told Boston Globe writer Pete Abraham that Matsuzaka will undergo Tommy John surgery. With only one more year on his contract, the surgery and its 15-month minimum recovery period means that Matsuzaka has played his last game in a Red Sox uniform.
Red Sox fans, are you sweating profusely, obsessing over the fear that no Matsuzaka means no World Series championship? Will you shed tears for the lost Japanese sensation and his nonexistent “gyroball?” Do you actually care? Even a little?
Because really, when has Matsuzaka ever done anything good for the Red Sox? He was a .556 pitcher with an uninspiring 4.40 ERA his rookie year. He won two games in the 2007 postseason, but had a 5.03 ERA and never game the team a quality start. Heck, his greatest contribution to the team in 2007 may have been with his bat, driving in two runs in Boston’s 10-5 Game 3 victory against the Rockies.
He had a good season in 2008, there’s no way to deny that. 18-3 record, 2.90 ERA, fourth in Cy Young voting, he was a definite contributor to a team that made it to Game 7 of the ALCS. There’s no way not to give him credit for that year. Just that year.
Because since 2008, Matsuzaka has been an absolute dud. In his last three seasons, Matsuzaka has gone 16-15 with a 5.04 ERA.
Now, those numbers aren’t awful on their own. Tim Wakefield’s career winning percentage isn’t much better than Matsuzaka’s, and his 4.38 ERA isn’t exactly “dominating.” But Wakefield is always entertaining, and that lets him overcome rather pedestrian statistics. You all like watching Wakefield pitch, right? I know I do. That knuckleball either makes hitters look stupid, or it leads to a lot of deep home runs. Whichever knuckleball you get, it’s fun to watch. Plus, you always know immediately what Wakefield will give you. The knuckleball will either be on, or it will be off.
Matsuzaka has never shown any consistency, even within a single start. He could walk two guys, get two quick outs, hit a batter, then get out of the jam. The next inning, he could go 1-2-3. After that, he gives up two singles and a home run. Then, he misses a start … then wins two in a row … then gets rocked. Matsuzaka is maddening. Literally. Watching him makes you angry.
Let’s look at his quality starts (commonly defined as six innings of three runs or fewer) throughout his career. In his rookie season, Matsuzaka gave the Red Sox 18 quality starts of 32 total. In 2008, that number dropped to 14 and one in the postseason in 29 regular-season and three postseason starts. In 2009, a season in which Matsuzaka decided the World Baseball Classic was more important than the preparation necessary to get through the regular MLB season injury-free, he gave the team just three quality starts out of 12.
That number hiked back up to 10 (of 25) in 2010, but here’s a fun fact: this season, Josh Beckett gave the Red Sox 10 quality starts before June. Matsuzaka threw 15 innings of two-hit baseball in back-to-back starts in April this season, but those were his only quality starts before going on the DL.
Is Matsuzaka’s early termination a bad thing? Doesn’t seem like it. With the exception of three seasons ago, he’s never given the Red Sox much better than a 50-50 chance of winning. Wakefield gives the Red Sox as good a chance to win if not better, and Red Sox fans actually like him. Besides, with a reclaimed spot in the rotation, Wakefield still has an outside shot to become the winningest pitcher in Red Sox history. At 181 career wins with the Red Sox, he needs 11 to tie, 12 to break.
As long as the Red Sox are going to use a .500 pitcher in the fifth spot, why not have it be a pitcher that people actually root for? Red Sox fans would much rather see Roger Clemens erased from the history books than sludge through four more months of Matsuzaka.
The Seibu Lion turned out to be a paper tiger. At this point, fans would rather the Red Sox just fold him up for good.