Yesterday’s post on Daisuke Matsuzaka triggered a large number of requests for his PECOTA projection. I was reluctant to run that projection because I’ve been debating just how Japanese players should be treated in PECOTA. In particular, should Japanese players be treated as major leaguers or minor leaguers?
In the past, I’ve treated Japanese league stats simply as regular minor league stats, subject to the usual translations. That seems like the right approach, considering that the talent level in Japan is generally agreed upon to be roughly equivalent to a Triple-A standard of competition.
In one important way, however, Japanese players are not like Western Hemisphere minor leaguers. In particular, they do not have completely free entry into the major leagues. A pitcher with Matsuzaka’s talent would undoubtedly have spent several years in the major leagues by now if he hailed from Pennsylvania or Puerto Rico, but not if he comes from Japan.
This is significant because one of the variables that PECOTA uses to select its comparables is major league career length. This makes more of an impact than you might think; in Matsuaka’s case, it is the difference between having pitchers like John Montefusco and Mike Garcia at the top of his comps list, versus pitchers like Jose Rijo and Dave Stieb. PECOTA was punishing Matsuzaka for having no major league track record when this was no fault of his own.
The solution is pretty simple, which is simply to ignore the career length variable for Japanese imports. With that correction in mind, Matsuzaka’s PECOTA comes out thusly:
G GS IP H BB SO HR ERA VORP WARP
29 29 187.3 188 52 167 19 4.01 35.8 5.6
These are very good numbers. I’m sure that some of you would like to see an ERA in the 3’s, but a 4.01 number for a starting pitcher in Fenway Park, American League circa 2007 is quite an accomplishment. PECOTA hedges a little bit on his innings pitched, but that’s appropriate given the time Matsuzaka missed last year.
That works out to $69 million in market value over the next five years. If you wanted to throw in a sixth year, to account for Matsuzaka’s full contingent of pre-free agency major league service time, the total would come out in the neighborhood of $77-$78 million.