|But what about the “Demon Miracle Pitch”?||08.20.08 at 10:30 am ET|
Daisuke Matsuzaka showed up at Fenway Park for his introductory press conference in December 2006 as an unprecedented phenomenon. He was treated as a revolutionary, someone who might throw pitches–the gyroball, the shuuto–that would force an expansion of baseball vocabularies.
The plaudits were far-reaching, none more fascinating than agent Scott Boras’ claim that Matsuzaka was akin to “a surgeon with a chainsaw.”
Twenty months later, the world looks different. Matsuzaka does have warts (metaphorically speaking, of course – dermatologically speaking, the 27-year-old seems beyond reproach) that have made him the most scrutinized 15-2 pitcher in baseball history.
But, in an odd way, Matsuzaka has come as promised this year – he has been unlike almost anything that we have ever seen. He is amidst just the ninth season since 1901 (thanks, baseball-reference.com) of a pitcher who has walked at least five batters per nine innings while claiming 15 wins and producing a sub-3.00 ERA.
Wilson Alvarez was the last guy to do it, accomplishing the feat in 1993 when he went 15-8 with a 2.95 ERA and a beastly 122 walks. Nolan Ryan did it twice, Johnny van der Meer did it a couple of times, and Bob Buhl, Herb Score and Marty O’Toole each did it once.
One other thought: As of this afternoon, Matsuzaka qualifies for the ERA title. As of the first pitch tonight, he won’t. Thanks to his shoulder injury and his remarkable inefficiency, Matsuzaka has pitched 126 2/3 innings through the first 126 Red Sox games this year.
He has at least a fightin’ chance of setting the record for the most wins ever by a pitcher with fewer than 162 innings pitched, which currently stands at 18. Watch out Roy Face! (Face, it is worth recalling, went 18-1 in 93 1/3 innings in 1959. He still owns the record for the highest single-season winning percentage in baseball history.)
Matsuzaka is enjoying a season that will likely distinguish himself in Red Sox annals – just not in the way that anyone expected.
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