Daisuke Matsuzaka is one of five pitchers – including that young gun Pedro Martinez – who Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci thinks could blossom in 2008 with a “Josh Beckett season,” winning 20 games and possibly leading his team to a World Series title.
Like [Felix] Hernandez, Matsuzaka was underappreciated last year because the expectations were so high. He did win 15 games and strike out more than 200 batters. Only four other pitchers did that in their first year: Gooden, Mark Langston, Herb Score and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Still, Matsuzaka lacked a certain polish you'd expect from someone with his pro experience.
Boston pitching coach John Farrell said Matsuzaka needs to improve on his aggressiveness, especially when it comes to running the ball inside on right-handers and, like Hernandez, finishing off hitters in two-strike counts.
Matsuzaka was especially poor in full counts. He walked 15.7 percent of hitters in full counts, worse than the league average of 12.6 percent. And hitters batted .247 against him at 3-and-2, again leaving him worse than the league average (.232). There's nothing wrong with Matsuzaka's stuff. If he fine tunes his approach with that year of experience to learn from, five more wins is not out of the question.
It’s not out of the question at all. But as we saw Sunday during his struggle against the Dodgers, Matsuzaka still has that problem this spring.
Of the four pitchers Verducci mentions, both Gooden and Score won 20 games their second season in the pros. Langston never had a 20-win season and Alexander managed to win just 19 in 1912, a year before ripping off five straight 20-plus win seasons, including three with 30 or more.
So, I think we can all agree that if Matsuzaka can do that starting in 2009, he should be fine.