Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 20The game is over and the results are in. Start number 20 on the year was a success for Seibu's powerful ace, as he roared through the Lotte lineup on his way to a very satisfying 7-3 victory. The Lions came into the game with a 2 game lead on second place Softbank, entering the stretch run. Here's a little rundown of the particulars.
The Lions jumped out to an early 4-run lead, thanks to two seeing-eye singles through the left side, an RBI ground out to second base by cleanup man Alex Cabrera, and back to back home runs by Kazuhiro Wada and Hiroshi Hirao. Matsuzaka was set up. At the start of action, Daisuke featured a 2.00 ERA which meant that Lotte had dug quite a hole. In the top of the 3rd, however, Lotte showed it's mettle by stringing together a one out walk, a single, an RBI double, and a sacrifice fly to get 2 runs in the visitor's column. It was a game again.
The Lions were unable to counter with any insurance runs and saw Lotte scratch a 3rd run out against our hero in the top of the 4th. It took a double by WBC catcher and Matsuzaka nemesis, Tomoya Satozaki, followed by a wild pitch and another sac fly to get the run across and things had become quite uncomfortable. That was all she wrote for Lotte, however, as Matsuzaka turned things on and his teammates scored once in the 6th and twice in the 7th to salt away the victory. Wada's two run homer in the 7th was his second of the night, and the hero's welcome belonged to him as the Lions strengthened their hold on first in the Pacific League.
Matsuzaka threw 133 pitches over 8 innings, fanning 12 against only 2 walks. His ERA went up from 2.00 to 2.08 with the 3 run outburst by Lotte, but what's a few hundreths of a point among friends, right? I'll include the statistical update for the 2006 season below, noting a few important changes that you'll hopefully appreciate. First, I've replaced the ERA column in the main chart with a "ground out/air out" column. Below the main chart is a stat line featuring many of the most important ratios, including ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, GO:AO, and STRESS. If you're not familiar with these, please make your way over to Baseball Reference and check their statistical glossary. In a recent post, I wrote about Pitcher Abuse Points, a metric which attempts to measure the amount of punishment a pitcher is subjected to over each start and cumulatively over the season. The metric "STRESS" is the total number of Pitcher Abuse Points divided by the number of pitches thrown. For more on this metric read my piece here. Click the chart to enlarge: