I used to love baseball video games. And there's nothing wrong with baseball video games now -- I just don't really have much time to play them, since the games take so long to complete. I love how they've progressively gotten more and more realistic, to the point where games today have pitchers use their own, signature wind-ups and deliveries. It makes the game feel a hell of a lot more realistic, like it isn't actually all a series of mathematical equations. But -- and I think I've mentioned this before -- there's one drawback with realism. Not all individual quirks enhance the gameplay experience. And since games have gotten more realistic, when I've had the opportunity to play, I've had to avoid playing with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Playing with Daisuke Matsuzaka ruins the fun.
This is why I'm bringing this up:
The Seattle Mariners are apparently looking into Daisuke Matsuzaka. Source: Sponichi 1/25/2013
It's nothing. It's a throwaway remark, based on somebody else's throwaway remark. Right now, we don't have reason to believe the Mariners are on the verge of signing Daisuke Matsuzaka. But it makes sense. The Mariners want to add a veteran starting pitcher or two, probably for cheap. Matsuzaka is out there, and he has raw talent, and according to recent reports he's only gathered minor-league contract offers. Other reports say he's considering a return to Japan, since there's so little major-league interest. The idea of the Mariners signing Matsuzaka isn't far-fetched. He fits the mold.
And, oh god, oh god no. There's a perfectly fine statistical argument that Matsuzaka has upside. Always has, and he's not old, and now he should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. But this is all about watchability. We've talked about Hisashi Iwakuma's pace before, on the mound. Since 2008, according to PITCHf/x, no starting pitcher in the major leagues has had a slower pace than Iwakuma, who averaged more than 26 seconds between pitches. We tolerated Iwakuma's pace, though, because he was effective. The benefits of having Iwakuma outweighed the costs of watching him pitch.
Were Iwakuma to get worse, we'd all start to hate him, the way we hated Miguel Batista. He'd be worse, but he wouldn't be faster. He might even be slower. Since 2008, according to PITCHf/x, Matsuzaka has been just eight-tenths of a second faster than Iwakuma between pitches. Iwakuma has been the slowest starting pitcher, while Matsuzaka has been the fourth-slowest. And over the past four years, Matsuzaka has been below average in terms of performance. His ERA has been 25 percent worse than average, his FIP has been six percent worse than average, and his xFIP has been 14 percent worse than average. Matsuzaka has gotten more hittable, and he gets into way too many deep counts and he walks way too many hitters. Iwakuma is slow and effective, which we put up with. Matsuzaka is slow and relatively ineffective, which is a recipe for a watchability disaster. There is no pleasure in actually watching Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch.
This is a .gif that I made. Try not to hate it. That's a challenge that I'm issuing to you. Try not to let this .gif ruin your Friday afternoon and the subsequent weekend. Consider this guy pitching for the Mariners on your television.
I want to tie that .gif to a cinder block and throw it into a river. Then I want to rescue that .gif right when it's on the verge of lifelessness, coax it back to comfort, and do it again, this time into a river of acid. I was at Daisuke Matsuzaka's Fenway debut, more popularly remembered as the Felix Hernandez one-hitter. There was a buzz in the air as Boston prepared to watch their exciting new ace import. People couldn't wait to watch Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch. That was then. That was a long, long time ago. If anything, Matsuzaka is a ratings deterrent. I'd hate watching him, and I know I wouldn't be alone. He'd have to be more effective than he probably will be to make the torture worthwhile. We are talking about a performance offsetting torture. It would have to be one hell of a performance.
At the end of the day, we want for the Mariners to win, and whether or not the Mariners win will be determined by how well they play baseball, not by how watchably they play baseball. Matsuzaka could bounce back to be a decent back-of-the-rotation starter. He could probably be had for cheap, so, there, there's the upside argument. Matsuzaka might be better than Hector Noesi. But he might not actually be better than Hector Noesi -- lately he has not been good -- and the experience of him pitching is just dreadful. If it sounds like I'm exaggerating, it's only because I've probably watched more Matsuzaka than you have. Watching Daisuke Matsuzaka is standing in line at the post office. You only do it if you have to, and it's no one's idea of a good time. If the Mariners actually were to sign Matsuzaka, I'd root for him to be good, but I don't know if I'd have the stomach to watch him try. I don't always have better things to do than watch the Mariners, but I probably always have better things to do than watch Daisuke Matsuzaka.
I mean, fuck