Fact or Fiction examines the 2010 performance of a player, good or bad, and determines whether he'll duplicate the numbers in 2011, or if it was just a fluke. Today's fact or fiction takes a look at Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka
Four years ago, Boston Red Sox fans never believed they would be reading an article like this about the then newly-signed Daisuke Matsuzaka- a player who signed a six-year, $52 million contract after the Sox paid a posting fee of $52 million to the Seibu Lions.
The once-heralded Dice-K came to Major League Baseball with plenty of hype, mainly because of his performance in the World Baseball Classic, as well as his arsenal of pitches, which included the ever-popular "gyroball." Two years later, Matsuzaka had a 15-12 record and an impressive 18-3 mark in 2008, leading the league at 6.9 hits per nine innings and 94 total walks.
That year, Matsuzaka rightfully finished fourth in American League Cy Young Award voting after posting a 2.90 ERA with 154 strikeouts. At the start of 2009, Matsuzaka had gone from unproven rookie to top-tier (and fantasy must-have) starting pitcher. However, Daisuke's troubles started soon thereafter. Injuries limited him to just 12 starts in 2009, and a ballooning ERA with over 12 hits allowed per nine innings (H/9) did not help.
Coming off an injury-riddled season, many fantasy players looked to him as a "buy low" option, but once again Daisuke produced very mixed results. Last year, he spent a short time on the disabled list and was able to rack up over 150 innings over 25 starts for fantasy owners, but was only effective enough to be a number four or five starting pitcher. While his walk numbers stayed high, Daisuke's H/9 stats returned to a respectable 8.0, bringing his WHIP down 1.37, a number similar to his average.
For the 2011 season, Daisuke's fate is in his own hands. He is currently penciled in as the Red Sox number five pitcher behind Josh Beckett
, Jon Lester
, John Lackey
, and Clay Buchholz
, and while Daisuke will most likely not have to fight for a rotation spot given his $10 million salary, that doesn't mean fantasy owners should be chomping at the bit to reach for him in their drafts over the next couple of months.
Because Daisuke is one of the better fifth starters in the league, he will not only have favorable matchups but will also benefit from a newly beefed up Red Sox lineup. However, with his inconsistencies he is a tough call for 2011.
In a standard five-by-five fantasy league, Daisuke will be a very capable starting pitcher when it comes to wins and strikeouts. While he shouldn't be taken early in a draft, one can most likely expect a 12-12 record with an ERA in the high 4.00 range. Don't be afraid to take a risk on the Japanese flamethrower but, for his first few starts, don't be afraid to bench him either, just to make sure you know which Daisuke you've added to your team.