Let's just clear the air. I have NO issue with Daisuke Matsuzaka. I've been a member of Bleacher Report for a year, and it has been a very enjoyable experience. Whenever I hear someone say a player is overrated, at least one commenter says, "you're just a hater", and if a writer says a certain player is underrated, one commenter - at least - says, "you're just a homer." Let me get this straight to you - I have no problem with Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's a great pitcher. That shows in his 18-3 record and 2.90 ERA in 2008. However, I'm here to prove to you why "Dice-K" is the most overrated pitcher in baseball.
Judging by his "Dice-K" nickname, you would guess Matsuzaka gets a lot of strikeouts. Yeah, not really. 154 in 167 and two thirds innings doesn't impress me as much as it should. 94 walks in those innings blow me away. That led all American League pitchers in free passes. It's obvious his defense helped him. If he had 94 walks and finished 18-3, something has to be wrong. His 2.90 ERA shows he's a good pitcher - which he is. However, a great pitcher is a stretch of the imagination. Cliff Lee, the AL Cy Young Winner, pitched over 223 innings and really had to carry a load because of the departure of CC Sabathia and the inconsistency of Fausto Carmona. He hit a mere five batters.
In a tad over 167 innings, Dice-K beaned seven batters. Let's make a more modest comparison. Let's match Dice-K with Dan Haren, the Diamondbacks No. 2 who most would think isn't as good as Dice-K. In his 167 innings, we know Matsuzaka had 94 walks and seven hit batsmen. In 216 innings, Haren had 40 walks and six hit batsmen.
OK, that obviously has something to do with the weak NL West Haren often pitches in. Matsuzaka pitches in the AL East. He faces the Red Sox in practice and deals with the Yankees frequently, along with the Rays and even the O's have a pretty potent lineup. Let's compare him to another AL East pitcher. How about O's ace Jeremy Guthrie. In 190 and two thirds innings, Guthrie walked just 58 and hit seven. He hit the same amount, but walked less. Matsuzaka also had five wild pitches while Guthrie had three. I'm not saying Matsuzaka is not as good as Guthrie, but I am saying Matsuzaka is the most wild 18-3 pitcher you'll ever see.
Let's be honest. We all know every Red Sox and Yankees pitcher benefits a little from run support. In Matsuzaka's case, a lot. He had Dustin Pedroia (2008 AL MVP), David Ortiz (23 HR's), Kevin Youkilis (29 HR's, 115 RBI's), Manny Ramirez for part of the season, Jason Bay for another part of the year, Jacoby Ellsbury (50 SB's), JD Drew (AL All Star). Any major league level pitcher would benefit from this. Let's compare him to Guthrie again. In 29 starts, Dice-K was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. We know this. But it's deceiving. Of all pitchers with 160 or more innings in 2008, Dice-K had the second best run support, trailing just Vicente Padilla of the Texas Rangers.
Guthrie, on the other hand, was 10-12 with a 3.63 ERA, and had the 34th best run support of all pitchers with 160 or more frames. While Guthrie had a not-too-shabby 6.04 runs provided for him every game, that is also deceiving. He had a rare few games when his O's scored ten runs, but in most, the O's scored five or less. Guthrie pitched 19 quality starts, while Matsuzaka had just 14. You'd think Dice-K's super offense and quality defense would help. No.
The thing that does it for me: consistency. That's what will help form a great major league pitcher. And it is exactly why Dice-K isn't that. In just eight of 29 starts, he pitched seven innings. That would be good for a middle-tier pitcher. However, Dice-K finished fourth in Cy Young voting, ahead of a guy like Guthrie, who pitched 13 games through seven innings, purely on force. Guthrie was almost required to pitch seven innings every game because of the lackluster bullpen the O's have that consisted of Jamie Walker (6.87 ERA), Dennis Sarfate (4.74 ERA) and George Sherrill (ERA above four as an All Star closer). Guthrie also didn't get much support early in the year, but pushed through and finished with a solid year.
Matsuzaka, on the other hand, had a bullpen consisting of Hideki Okajima (2.61 ERA), Justin Masterson (3.16 ERA) and Jonathan Papelbon (2.34 ERA, 41 saves). So Matsuzaka, could go five innings, walk seven, allow three runs and get an easy 8-3 win. Guthrie, on the other hand, had to go seven innings, alloow three or less runs and he could pray that Walker, Sarfate and Sherrill would minimize the damage.
Let's be honest. We judge quarterbacks and pitchers by their playoff performances. Bryn Swartz wrote a very convincing article claiming Brett Favre was overrated. He did so very well. The basis for his argument was that Favre was unsatisfying in the playoffs. He's the quarterback. The man out there on the field. It's the same logic with Dice-K. In his two year tenure, he has posted a 4.79 ERA. Unsatisfying. It's definitely disappointing for a guy who is so successful during the regular season.
Honestly, I'd rather have an Andy Sonnanstine on the mound when it counts. Sonnanstine was 2-0 in his first two starts of the 2008 postseason, beating the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. He did lose to the Phillies in the World Series, but the Phillies don't exactly have a weak lineup and the Rays were a tired team going into the playoffs, having just beaten the AL Central Champ White Sox and beating the Red Sox in an exhausting seven game ALCS series.
So there you have it. Dice-K is an overrated player. Maybe the most overrated in baseball. One could make a case Jeremy Guthrie is a better pitcher than him - at least in 2008. Dice-K is a good pitcher. But great? Not even.