Dice-K returned after missing nearly three full years to win the NPB's Comeback Player of the Year Award
Few players ever had as much hype as former Red Sox star Daisuke Matsuzaka. Armed with a blazing fastball and with online forums dreaming of the rumor of the fictional gyroball, there was a ton of excitement around the pitcher who Boston ponied up over $50 million just for the rights to sign him to a $100 million contract.
Matsuzaka's career may not have lived up to all that -- though the man with the wiggliest hips in baseball history had his moments, like when he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008, or one-hit the Phillies in 2010.
However, Matsuzaka also walked plenty of batters and finished his big league career with an almost exactly league-average 99 ERA+. So, in 2015, he returned to Japan. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just a lone one-inning appearance from '15-17.
This season, Matsuzaka signed with the Chunichi Dragons, the team with the best mound landscaping in the game:
At the age of 37, clearly the club couldn't have been expecting much. But Matsuzaka was up to his old tricks. The motion was the same, the walks were (unfortunately) the same, but so were the strikeouts.
Fans came out in droves to see him, with his starts earning the Dragons an uptick in attendance compared to games he didn't take the mound. Matsuzaka finished the year with a 3.74 ERA in 11 starts -- 10 more than he had in the last three seasons. He was voted to the All-Star Game, too. It was enough for the pitcher to earn the NPB's Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Considering that his late-career path isn't all that dissimilar from a player like
Oh yeah, and if you were wondering what his swing was looking like these days, you're in luck. Don't think he'll be the next two-way star, though -- even if he can lift the ball over the fence: