What’s up with Dice K?

A lot if you must ask.

Remember Daisuke Matsuzaka? Remember the gyro ball? OK. Well let’s forget about that.

Matsuzaka won NPB’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. He was remarkably good with remarkably little. In his first year with the Chunichi Dragons, Matsuzaka went 6-4 in 11 starts, the most he’s made since going 1-7 for the Red Sox the season after having Tommy John surgery.

He had a 3.74 ERA — never mind that he made nine of those starts at home in the Central League’s best pitchers’ park. On average, 2,064 more fans came to Nagoya Dome when Dice K was starting.

Matsuzaka threw his four-seamer 15 percent of the time, according to analytic site Delta Graphs, with an average velocity of 138.8 kph (86.2 mph). His main pitch was his cutter.

After earning 15 million yen ($132,000) this past season, Matsuzaka received a raise to 80 million ($704,000) for 2019.

He ranked 54th among 62 CL pitchers with 50-plus innings pitched in WHIP, but was dynamite with runners on second and third or with the bases loaded, allowing one six RBIs and one hit (a home run) over 21 plate appearances.

Lions’ Akiyama set up for 2019 free agency

Shogo Akiyama
Shogo Akiyama, center, appears set to follow teammate Kazuo Matsui (left) to the majors.

Seibu Lions center fielder Shogo Akiyama turned down a multiyear contract extension on Monday, a move that will make the 30-year-old eligible for international free agency a year from now. Last month, Akiyama won his fifth Golden Glove and his third Pacific League Best Nine Award. He finished in the voting for PL MVP. The left-handed hitter became eligible for domestic free agency after the 2017 season, but signed a two-year contract to remain with the Lions. “He didn’t say he had any particular plans right now (for next year),” Seibu Senior Director Hisanobu Watanabe said. The Lions have lost three key players from 2018, when they won the PL for the first time in 10 years. Second baseman Hideto Asamura, the runner-up in the MVP voting left as a free agent for the PL’s Rakuten Eagles, while Ginjiro Sumitani, the former No. 1 catcher, filed for free agency and joined the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants. On Monday, the Lions filed the paperwork needed to post lefty Yusei Kikuchi. “Losing that many key players means that everyone’s going to have more opportunities,” Akiyama said after meeting with team officials. “For me, next season is going to be one of challenges.”

writing & research on Japanese baseball