Why keeping Matsuzaka (for now) makes sense for the Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched well today and for now, my in-box is blissfully free of schemes and dreams about trading him.

But even if he had been rocked by the Tigers, trying to trade Dice-K still would not have made much sense.

You know, of course, that Matsuzaka pitched just 153.2 innings last season and started only 25 games. But did you know that only 49 pitchers in the American League — 3.5 per team — reached those levels?

The average American League pitcher last season had a 4.14 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He averaged 8.9 hits per nine innings, 3.2 walks and 6.8 strikeouts.

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Matsuzaka had a 4.69 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. He averaged 8.0 hits per nine innings, 4.3 walks and 7.8 strikeouts.

Add it up and Matsuzaka is an average starting pitcher. Not so good, not so bad. The Red Sox were 15-10 in the games that he started, a better winning percentage (.600) than when he didn’t start (.540).

Could Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller or Tim Wakefield do better? Maybe. But Aceves was released by a team desperate for pitching. Miller was traded for Dustin Richardson and Wakefield is 4-12 with a 5.42 ERA since Aug. 1, 2009.

The only prospect close to being ready is Felix Doubont, who was shut down in September with an achy muscle near his shoulder and again this year with a stiff elbow. Trusting him with 150-175 innings sounds like a bad idea.

Matsuzaka is a vastly overpaid No. 5 starter and if you injected team executives with truth serum, they would admit it has been a lousy deal. But as teams like the Yankees cling to flotsam like Freddy Garcia, the Red Sox should keep saying nice things about Dice-K and hope Curt Young finds the switch John Farrell never could.

Tying to trade Matsuzaka could make sense in July or next winter. But for now, the Red Sox should not mess too much with what looks to be a very strong team.

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