Saturday, April 28, 2007

R.I.P. Bronx Bombers

To give you an idea of how worthless wins and losses are in judging a pitcher's season or ability look at these numbers:

Against the Yankees
13 IP
10 runs
13 hits
5 walks
14 K
6.92 ERA
1.385 WHIP
9.69 K/9
2.80 K/BB
2 wins against no losses

Against everyone else
20 IP
6 runs
17 hits
5 walks
24 K
2.70 ERA
1.100 WHIP
10.80 K/9
4.80 K/BB
1 win against 2 losses

If the Yankees pitchers had done anything against Daisuke, he would have lost both starts in an ugly and frustrating pair of performances. Instead, he looks like a hero. Go figure. That's baseball sometimes. His poor showings against the Yankees have raised his ERA from 2.70 to 4.36 and you know he was breathing a sigh of relief and reserving a few Rolex watches for the batters who saved his bacon. The one positive you take as a Red Sox fan from those outings was his ability to limit the damage in the worst of times. The 4th inning today was about as bad as I've ever seen Matsuzaka in all the years I've watched him. Guess what? He had the bases loaded and nobody out after walking the first three batters of the inning. He gave up four runs. The rest of the game, he was dominant. As an ace pitcher, you have to localize the damage. Every pitcher will face tough lineups that will get to them. Koufax, Pedro, Clemens, and every other pitcher with a reputation has found himself staring down ugly innings with crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Mediocre pitchers get knocked out of those games. There is no recovery. Good pitchers and great pitchers localize the damage, regroup, and keep their team in the game. Kudos to Daisuke for that effort.

As a Yankees fan, this season is perhaps the least enjoyable I've had in more than 10 years. I anticipate some kind of firing soon, perhaps Guidry. The team is not that bad. As Red Sox fans, this must be especially enjoyable, but I wonder if any of you can honestly say you have an explanation for the Yankees 8 game losing streak. I'm not talking about an analysis. It's easy to understand that scoring 4 runs and giving up 7 runs every night will produce a long losing streak, but how many people anywhere in the sport can explain what we've seen from Mariano Rivera? Puzzling. It's hard to figure that the rotation can't get a single solitary quality start over that period of time. The Yankees and Red Sox are similarly talented. The Sox have better pitching, while the Yankees have a better lineup (save Mientkiewicz). In the end, you'd expect this season to play out a bit more neck and neck. At this point, honest fans of all "(pin)stripes" have to give a hand to Theo Epstein for putting the Boston boys in a position to be the best team in the sport. That's what the Red Sox are right now. There is no better team anywhere. Period.

I think some of the things that have gone right for the Sox so far will eventually turn South. I'm not saying permanently, but rather some adversity should be expected. Manny and Ortiz will do their best to wake up and carry the club when others begin to struggle, but a bit of regression is at least in the cards. The Yankees will be better than this. The gap will narrow. The one question you have to ask yourself is will the Red Sox continue to play well enough over the next 3 weeks to a month to put the Yankees 10+ games back and eliminate them from serious AL East contention? It could happen. The Yankees could be fighting for a wild card this season, while the Sox may just have built a good enough team to have the best record in the sport and a long overdue AL East pennant. Much of that will depend on Schilling, Beckett, and Daisuke. When you can put three pitchers on the field that challenge for ERA+ numbers of 120 and above, you have a World Series contender.

Today, Matsuzaka escaped. He should be thrilled beyond belief to face other clubs for a while. The Yankees were a failure in many ways that he will need to improve upon later in the year if and when there's a pennant race and the Yankees are fielding a better rotation. Improving on these results may mean the difference between the big AL East prize and a disappointing finish to the season. I am betting on Matsuzaka despite my loyalties. Now, please excuse me while I go lock myself in a dark closet somewhere and cry myself to sleep. ;)

21 Comments:

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous DaisukeM18 said...

I think he pitched rather well considering he was facing a much healthier Yankees lineup and with Petite starting.

In my opinion, any time a sox pitcher out pitches Andy Petite, its a good start. Matsuzaka was aware that he was facing their ace and he stepped up to the challenge.

Also, this has been the best pitching performance a sox starting pitcher has had against the Yankees this year. This time, the Yanks had Posada and Matsui in their lineup.

I believe these wins will do a lot for Daisuke's confidence and the team's confidence in him. The future seems bright for this kid.

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous mouse said...

That's the second time Matsuzaka had an inning where his control just suddenly vanished. I've been impressed with his strikeout abilities so far, but he seems to give up his walks in bunches. That can't continue or else he'll be in big trouble.

He did a nice job of righting himself afterwards, though, so I think it was a mostly positive outing. Hopefully another good learning experience.

 
At 3:04 PM, Anonymous ptodd said...

Dice-K ran into a bit of bad luck against the Yankees. In the first game, Giambi had a couple of FB's that fell for hits, a little luck and he allows 3 runs. The 6th run was allowed in by the BP, since his runner was on first with 1 out, most of the responsibility was the BP's. Three of the hits were not very hard hit. They only hit 4 LD in play, 2 for hits.

Adj line for better luck

7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 7 K, 1 BB

Todays game Dice-K was the victim of an inconsistent strike zone. the umpire was calling a pitcher friendly game and all of a sudden the zone changed in the bottom of the 4th. This also hurt Pettite. To Dice-K's credit, none of the 3 hits were hard, too were bloopers and a 3rd a not very had hit GB that found the hole. They only hit 3 LD, 2 for hits.

Adj line with better luck

6 IP, 2H, 0 ER, 7 K, 4 BB

Total, adjusted for luck

13 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 14 K, 5 BB, BABIP 200, LD rate 20% (5 hits, 7 LD)

Actual line, no luck

13 IP, 13 H, 10 ER, 14 K, 5 BB
BABIP 333

Pedro in 1998, his first year in the AL, his line against the Yankees in his first 2 games against them (spaced 4 months apat, not 5 days)looks like this

13 IP, 13 H, 7 ER, 12 K, 10 BB
BABIP 300

I think this 2007 Yankee lineup is as tough if not tougher than the 1998 lineup (but you guys need a 1B'man who can hit)

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Danny said...

RE: Yankkes 8 game streak,
Its just pitching. It is that simple. The Yankee starters are averaging <5 innings per start, needing to get 4+ innings per game from a shaky BP. The have Igawa (now in the bullpen) and a cast of Rookies trying to make starts. Bullpen is toast...rookie starters are not ready, and Mo has not gotten much work. A-Rod could hit 30 HR's in April and it wouldn't help this cast of young, inexperienced starters. If they don't win when Andy or Wang makes starts...then the rest of the week does not look good!

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger Wayne said...

Buster Olney speculated last week that Rivera has been ineffective this year because he hasn't yet built up his arm strength. His cutter has been around 88 MPH with little or no movement. His lack of work hasn't allowed him to regain his arm strength.

The bullpen is simply overworked and worse than most people thought. The starting rotation wasn't very strong or deep to start the season. That's why the Yankees have lost 7 in a row. I thought that the Yankee pen was overrated before the season. Most people see Rivera and figure the rest is good enough. I saw Proctor and Rivera and no one else. I thought Cashman would do more to bolster the bullpen in the offseason.

That said, I didn't think the Red Sox bullpen was any better than the Yankees bullpen before the season. I didn't like most of Theo's moves regarding the pen. Pineiro is an experiment, Romero looked really bad last year, Timlin is showing his age, Okajima was an unknown, and Donnelly appeard to be regressing. Okajima has been a pleasant surprise and everyone else has pitched better than expected so far, except for Timlin, who isn't 100% yet.

Don't forget that we're talking about the Sox here. They could be up 15 games in June and still finished second to NY in the standings. Any other team and I'd be more confident. We've blown too many division titles in the last 9 years, including last year.

 
At 12:42 AM, Anonymous RSN said...

Dice-K did not pitch that well, but the most thing is that the Yankees lost.

The New York Yankees are now AL East cellar dwellars, bottom feeders, back of the bus, etc.

Yankee schauenfreude is always sweet.

 
At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Yankees will take Game One fairly comfortably behind Pettitte. Geez....I know I'm going to be sorry for this prediction. Go easy on me people. I'm sensitive. ;)"

No other comments, just the quote. I think that's going easy.

 
At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I like Mouse's comment about Matsuzaka giving up too many walks in bunches. It's true that if he keeps breaking down during these moments, then he's going to be in for a ride. As of now, Matsuzaka is *less* than a mediocre pitcher in the AL, given that his 4.38 ERA does not fare well with the league's 4.33 average.

According to Francona and Farell, Matsuzaka is pressing too much and therefore does not trust his stuff when he most needs it. Perhaps they are right. Maybe there is something about Japanese culture which believes in pressing too hard; works sometimes, but not quite as much in baseball.

Still, those jams he gets himself into are pretty hardcore. I hope he learns to avoid them.

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

Using ERA to judge pitchers? Nice.

Here are Dice-K's alternative stats:

Games: 5
IP: 33
WHIP: 1.21
K/9: 10.36
K/BB: 3.80

If we compare this with three other AL "strikeout starters" who were top 3 with MOST Ks:

Santana (MIN Twins,age 27)
5
34.0
0.94
10.32
4.88

Lackey (LAA, 29)
5
30.2
1.43
8.22
3.11
2.35

Bonderman (DET Tigers, 25) 5
34.0
1.06
7.68
7.25


Overall, compared to ALL THE American League pitchers, Dice-K ranks:

11th in WHIP,
4th in K/9
7th in K/BB, and
3rd in most K.

We are looking at a Cyan Award score of 5th or 6th place. And how many pitchers are out there in AL? Go figure.

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger Gregg said...

I disagree. The games Matsuzaka pitched against the Yankees went down exactly how you would think. The Yankees have a killer offense, so they hit Daisuke up. Their pitching sucks though, so we scored enough runs off of them for Daisuke to win. It makes plenty of sense. When Daisuke pitched well, we just happened to run into a better pitching performance from guys who probably are at least capable of throwing good games. Not like they're Chase Wright.

 
At 10:22 PM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

By the way, I accidentally slipped in Lackey's 2.35 ERA. Just ignore that-- His ERA is lower(=better) than Santana and many other more consistent strikeout starters than him. Remember, ERA fluctuates every day and if you do cross-season analysis with ERA, it becomes ridiculous. Performance of Setup pitchers who take over the same inning, fielding, and other external factors like wind, ballpark, grass ALL AFFECT a run-in or not, which is what ERA is based on.

I'm saying to ignore that, also reminding you that, aside from Bonderman, who definitely has fatigue from World Series, all other pitchers' stats so far match their 2006 stats, take the three for example:

Santana
Games: 34
IP: 233.2
WHIP: 1.00
K/9: 9.44
K/BB: 5.21
K total: 245

Lackey
33
217.2
1.26
7.86
2.64
190

Bonderman
34
214.0
1.30
8.50
3.16
202

Of course, after we considered the pitcher's SLG, OBA, FIP, and stuffs, we are looking at some very competitive pitchings from Dice-K.

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous matsumiya said...

Dorasaga,

Let's hope you're right. I can hear from the tone of voice that you don't consider ERA as a valid measure of performance. Yet, from what I understand, the ERA is as bottom-line as it gets. Still, you misheard me. I contextualized his performance based on giving up too many runs in isolated innings when he loses control. For example, in the last outing, he gave up 4 runs in one inning, and the rest of his innings were superb. I'm sure the stats average out to say that he's pretty darn good. The case is that Matsuzaka breaks down in certain innings; whether the reason is psychological, cultural, or otherwise, we must still consider his performance based on consistency. He is, so far, not so consistent in this regard.

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

To matsumiya:

Thanks for your reply. I am trying to tackle many things in one short comment-post, and a second came out because the first one is not enough, but I definitely under-explained a lot of my points.

1. Should I use ERA to evaluate a pitcher? I will be more specific here: Yes, if and only if ERA is adjusted to reduce as much external factors as possible. You can search on Baseball Prospectus all the explanation about FIP and the debate on BABIP, then come back to question my point.

2. Is Dice-K performing inconsistently? Yes, if and only if he has control problem in every ONE GAME OUT OF FIVE, and five games are all the sample size we have right now. I therefore proposed: Instead of relying on just five games from one pitcher in order to evaluate this pitcher (Dice-K), why don't we take cross-reference from ALL THE GAMES of other similar pitchers?

That's why I brought up the data of all the strikeout starters who have been successful in American League for 2006, and then utilize these data, in addition to their 2007 data so far, for a PROJECTION of their 2007 performance.

I believe these are what Mike of Matsuzaka Watch has been doing. Of course, a second professional opinion will clear here up as well.

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

I probably didn't explain the context above:

*1. FIP and BABIP evolved to help evalute the pitcher where ERA cannot.

*2. We can compare these projections with DiceK's stats so far, helping us evaluate DiceK's consistency through the consistency of as many as we can, if not all, league leaders of starters, including DiceK.

 
At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Matsumiya said...

To Dorasaga-san,

Before continuing with my reply, I would first like to admit that I'm not necessarily a "stat-head" and so my replies based on quantitative evidence must be avoided at all costs. That said, the following is my qualitative response to your two stated points:

1.) Of course ERA is a valid measure and such a number must be controlled for as many external factors as possible. Still, we can be more simplistic here. Would it not be more reasonable to compare his performance with other red sox pitchers? Compared to Schilling, Wakefield, and Beckett, Matsuzaka has most certainly performed less satisfactorily then those two. Let's stay within reasonable context here. Yes, it's rough and dirty, but reasonable given the limitation of data.

2.) OK. That sounds like a reasonable method. We're in what Bostonians call a "jiffy", or a place between a rock and a hard place; a conundrum if you will. If I remember the definition of a "statistic" back in my stats 101 class, a *statistic* is not a *statistic* without a large enough sample size. Further, statistics are not meaningful unless the number achieves statistical significance. Right now, in other words, we simply don't have enough evidence to project a generalization of Matsuzaka's performance projection for 2007.

That said, we'll just have to wait it out and see how he does. However, we must admit that Matsuzaka's performance has not been met up with his perceived expectations thus far. Calling him a "top five" starter, further, is pushing it. That's just plain wrong and full of wishful thinking, although I do hope he wins the CY Young this year!

 
At 9:59 PM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

matsumiya,

I don't feel like challenging your empathy; you can believe whatever you like. I am not a "stat-head"; many of the more profound SABR scholars or baseball veterans are not "stat-head." What I am trying to point out is facts. And I want to use facts to establish a good reference point, where we can start evaluate Dice-K in a more scientific way, which is more likely closer-to-truth.

It's good to hear from different opinions, though, and I hope you will root for Japanese baseball as well. There is a whole different world outside American baseball.

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RIP indeed. The Yankees may well bounce back by summertime, but the importance of their slow start is that Clemens will decide by the end of this month which team he'll join. He won't want to join a failing team, and the Yankees and Astros are both cellar dwellers. That leaves the Red Sox.

On stats, it's interesting to see that Daisuke's holding up well by these measures, but over the course of a full season, he won't be worth $103 million if he stays over 4.00. Beckett, Schilling and Wakefield deal with the same grass, ballparks, defense, and bullpen as Daisuke does. And any other stat you use, like K/9 and K/BB ratio, is also affected by external factors, such as the umpire's strike zone. The ump for the KC game had a particularly big one (for both pitchers), so I felt that the 10 K's that day were generous.

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Matsumiya said...

Good point. The problem with analysts such as Dorasaga is that they engage in a logical fallacy. They assume apriori certain adjectives, i.e. "good", and they then rummage around a bunch of statistics or "facts" to qualify that statement. Therefore, he's working from the top-down as the reference point, and not from the bottom-up. Matsuzaka is not one of the top 5 pictures. That's the bottom line. He must clearly learn to control his pitches and avoid walks in clumps. As of now, Matsuzaka is not living up to his name.

In regards to the comment about a whole world outside American baseball, I'm not sure how what he means by this.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

anonymous,

I will say this one last time:

1. Taking ERA for granted without understanding is nature will not help you know more about baseball.

2. Statistic analysis is a part of baseball science, and the purpose of a scientific analysis is to PROCESS information, not to be definite about the processed result.

I never use end to justify means, don't misinterpret my analysis. Remember, to be accurate, sample size must be substantial. In my analysis, a few games are not enough, so I brought in 2006 stats. (Please read Mike's older blog entry to see how he analyze Dice-K.)

And like I said, anyone really interested at evaluating a pitcher's performance needs to consider more stats, other than what I mentioned (and maybe what Mike mentioned), and ALSO his stuffs. Beckett, Schilling and Wakefield are each a different type of pitcher. They don't prefer relying on fastball stuffs to strikeout batters, in fact, they can't. There is a fundamental difference between TYPES of pitcher, and you can read dissertations about that. That is why I brought up Santana and Lackey when I compared Dice-K to the league (American League).

A lot of performance issues we see of Dice-K is a result of his education from a Japanese baseball environment, where players, coaches, and the front office think differently from their American counterpart.

For example, why Dice-K could pitch 97mph in his earlier games but not in his last two games? Good Japanese starters incorporate a concept of "power-distribution", which also means he will pitch strong selectively, and as a consequence, he will choose a game or choose the batters with whom he doesn't pitch all out. One effect of this distribution is less injury for the pitchers. This has a lot to do with muscle-strain and pitch mechanics.

And Matsumiya,

I really hope we can discuss baseball for the fun of baseball, not to point our fingers ad hominem and defy each other's character. Saying things like "logical fallacy" is not to the issue. I tried my best to make quality post, and I hope you do the same.

Thank you.

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Dorasaga said...

Just in case reader don't get confused, in my last post ("8:50 AM"):

In the 1st paragraph, there is a typo:
Taking ERA for granted without understanding its nature...

In the 4th paragraph:
I will add to that in Boston, Beckett is a strikeout pitcher more like Matsuzaka, but Schilling and Wakefield are not. But the point is to not compare pitchers within a team, but to the whole league, then we'll have a bigger sample size.

In the 6th paragraph:
Unfortunately, Mike didn't allow the date tag to appear following the post. I posted on 2007.05.04. So when I said "last two games," I meant the second Yankees game and the last home game against Seattle, wherein both Dice-K started. His fastballs was between 88-91 in the latter game. Then, Dice-K had command issue in the first inning - especially not able to locate his breaking balls and changeups, and perhaps so, the pitching coach asked him to down-speed his for the exchange of finding the right delivery, and as a consequence, his command.

 
At 9:12 PM, Anonymous matsumiya said...

Dorasaga-san,

I think you are replying to me? I'm not quite sure. Perhaps your rambling and incoherent posts reflect the nature of your confused responses.

In any case, the only point which I agree with you is the claim that we must look beyond the stats. Your "power distribution" claim that Japanese pitchers rely on strikes me as especially compelling. It may very well be the case that Matsuzaka is over-concetrating on select hitters rather than *every* hitter. In the American major leagues, this kind of philosophy simply does not work.

Okajima switched philosophies here. Just look at his success. He mentioned once that he has to take *every* hitter seriously, especially after he got run down by a few home runs during spring training and his first official major league start. On the other hand, perhaps his role as a setup pitcher allows him to switch philosophies. In other words, he learned to take *every* major league batter seriously, because *any* batter can *kill* you, even .230 hitters.

As far as I'm concerned, Matsuzaka must step up and reorient himself. We all clearly know he has the talent to dominate.

That said, I still think your statistical analysis does not work. Too many variables to control for. My suggestion is a comparison with other starting pitchers on the staff, because we're talking about the rough comparison of 1.) same ball parks, and 2.) same opponents. Small sample size, yes, but the side discrepancies in ERA between Matsuzaka and the rest (Schilling, Wakefield, Beckett) show that Matsuzaka is clearly inferior right now.

I maintain that the issue is your lack of logic. It's not an attack on your character, but rather a statement about illogical analysis. Your comparisons then, reach the quality of the following stats: (BA: .199, OBP: .210, SLG: .288). You're out of here!

 

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