Boston Red Sox Rotation Should Say Sayonara to Daisuke Matsuzaka

Matt SAnalyst IIIApril 12, 2011

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 11:  Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 consoles Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of the Boston Red Sox after a six-run second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park April 11, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Can we all just agree that this wretched experiment needs to end?  Several years ago, the Red Sox took a chance on a Japanese import. It didn’t work out. Despite big bucks. Despite a lot patience.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is just not a good option in the major leagues.

I get it.  $103 million is a lot to spend and no one wants to give up.  The team is still clinging to the belief that perhaps 2008 wasn’t merely some kind of lucky fluke.  We can’t know what Dice-K himself is thinking since he’s as inscrutable as they come.  But regardless of both parties’ hopes and dreams, reality is telling us loud and clear that Matsuzaka doesn’t belong anywhere near a rotation right now.

Again I’m forced to question the club’s decision-making.  How many seasons of failure are required before someone stands up and says enough is enough? 

In case you somehow missed it on Monday, Daisuke was as bad as he’s been at any point in his career, surrendering 7 runs over a mere 2 innings of work in what would ultimately be a 16-5 Tampa win.  He allowed 8 hits, 2 of them home runs.  Another 2 were doubles.  He walked a pair.  He threw a total of 47 pitches and faced 16 batters to register 6 outs. 

This was the last thing that the Sox needed this year.  After taking 2 of 3 from New York, it appeared as though things were finally beginning to turn around from the 0-6 start.  And then comes a soul-crushing blowout at the hands of a team that has been even more offensively dysfunctional than Boston.

I’ve resisted the urge to panic over the early-season struggles.  But now the team is 2-8, tied for last place (again) with the Rays.  At some point, hard decisions must be made.  At some point, changes need to be implemented.  Because while there are indeed 152 games remaining, no team can afford to fall too far behind in this division.

And as things currently stand, it sure feels like the Sox are facing losses whenever John Lackey and Matsuzaka take the mound.

Lackey has a better chance of recovery.  As bad as he’s been in 2 outings, he does have a track record of being a dependable A.L. starter.  Matsuzaka, on the other hand, had one “good” season in which his peripherals did not support his impressive 2.90 ERA.  Supporters point to that 2008 campaign as evidence of his capabilities, but in that year he posted a 1.32 WHIP, the exact same number he posted in 2007.

The difference was that in 2007 his ERA finished at 4.40.

Dice-K was one of the game’s luckiest pitchers in 2008, and no one should be using that performance as justification for continuing to send him out there.  The guy isn’t even a replacement-level player at this point; as I’ve commented several times this year, I’d rather fail with Doubront than fail with Dice-K.  At least Doubront has some upside.

After Monday’s debacle, pundits everywhere are telling us not to be surprised when Matsuzaka’s next start is skipped.  That’s good.  But they’re pointing out that he’ll likely be passed over in favor of Tim Wakefield.  That’s not.

As D.J. Short of and NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk succinctly put it, Matsuzaka’s outing was “an embarrassing showing against a pathetic offense.  Tim Wakefield could be in this rotation soon.”

I have a lot of respect for Wake given what he’s done over the years, but I have to wonder if folks have been paying attention.  Wakefield came on in relief of Dice-K on Monday and promptly surrendered 5 more runs.  In 9 innings this year, he’s coughed up 7.  The man is nearing 45 years of age and posted an ERA over 5 last year.

To be blunt, Wakefield is not an option.

I realize that having dealt Casey Kelly to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox are suffering a lack of major league-ready pitching in the farm system.  And I don’t have a perfect solution to offer.  But when what you’re doing isn’t working, you try something else.  That something else might not work either, but at least it demonstrates a commitment to the rest of the team.

The bottom line is that Boston cannot continue to trot out Lackey and Matsuzaka.  Boston cannot afford to give away 40% of its games.  Lackey will probably get better at some point, or, failing that, will at least be less of a disaster.  Matuszaka?  Probably won’t.   It’s time to pull him from the rotation, and not just for one start.

In fairness to Matsuzaka, it’s not his raw talent that’s at issue.  It just seems like there’s something about American baseball that doesn’t mesh with his style.  He was a great pitcher in Japan, and perhaps could be again.  The Japanese leagues are excellent; I’m in no way suggesting that MLB is superior.  That’s a different topic for a different day.  But Matsuzaka’s career with the Sox speaks for itself. 

Sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on.

And on a related note…

Can anyone tell me why Jed Lowrie isn’t getting more at bats?  Scutaro will be gone after this season; it’s almost impossible to imagine the Sox picking up their club option at $6 million.  A $1.5 million buyout is no joke, but it’s the preferable alternative.

Or…here’s an even better possibility.

The Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal just broke his thumb and will miss at least a month.  Beyond L.A., there are plenty of teams who could use a veteran middle infielder, and I think I’ve established that Boston has other, more pressing needs.  I know it’s early, but could the Sox start thinking about some kind of trade package?

Perhaps a Papelbon/ Scutaro combo bundled with a willingness to eat some of the duo’s (costly) 2011 salaries?  There’s value there, and the Sox need another starting arm.  Plain and simple.

I’ll come back to this topic another day because I think it could really help the club.  But the end result would be Lowrie in the lineup and a likely call-up for Yamaico Navarro and/or Lars Anderson.  Both are hitting well in Pawtucket.

**This post originally appeared on where I cover the Boston Red Sox**