The New York Mets have found themselves with an array of pitching needs this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka has met all of them. A man who didn’t even make the team out of Spring Training has become one of the most solid performers.
Need help in middle relief? Go to Dice-K. He’ll pitch the 6th and the 7th for you. Starter didn’t get out of the 4th? Matsuzaka will pitch 3 in relief. Need a closer? Sure Dice-K will step up for his first career save. Prospects not ready for the rotation yet? Matsuzaka is your guy to take the ball every 5th day.
Every possible role that a pitcher could fill, Matsuzaka has done it already this season, and most of the time, he did it well.
Dice-K was not signed to be an ace, either in the rotation or the ‘pen but looking at the numbers, that’s what he has been. In 19 appearances (3 starts) Matsuzaka is 3-0 with an ERA of 2.95. To put the surprise into perspective, the last time Dice-K had an ERA under 3.00 was his 18 win season in 2008. Additionally, he averages a strikeout per inning and opposing hitters have an average of only .154 against him this season. He also earned his first career save and his WHIP is the lowest it has ever been throughout his entire career.
He has become a rock in what has been an inconsistent pitching staff. Whether it is out of the ‘pen or starting Dice-K has shown the ability to confuse hitters and locate all of his pitches.
However, it is likely that most of his future appearances will be out of the bullpen. Dillon Gee is working his way back from injury, as is Noah Syndergaard, who is also expected to make his debut this season. Look for Matsuzaka to earn his way into more important and pressure filled situations including perhaps another spot save opportunity on a day when Jenrry Mejia is unavailable.
Matsuzaka’s performance this season has made it easy to see why the Mets brought him back, and showed that he is capable of getting back to the form that made him an ace in Japan.
Of course there have been some bad performances along the way but they have been few and far between. There is not much more a young team can ask of a veteran pitcher.
Not much has gone right for the Mets but Dice-K has been rolling this season and the Mets will give him plenty of chances to succeed.