Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Big Moment

This is why the Red Sox paid $100 million. Daisuke in the playoffs. Frankly, it's the reason the Yankees spent unfortunate wads of money on Roger Clemens too. Of course you need the horses to get there, but the post-season is all about pitching, and not just pitching, dominant pitching.

This is a very big spot for Matsuzaka. He was shaky in the playoffs for Seibu over the years, but made his last start in a short series between the Lions and the SoftBank Hawks where he was matched up against Kazumi Saito. He won the game 1-0, and was absolutely unhittable all night long. That's what the Red Sox would like from Daisuke. One of the keys to this particular performance is the ability of Matsuzaka to get the Sox to the 8th inning with the lead. If he can go 7 strong, Boston can go to one of the setup men with the knowledge that Papelbon is available for 6 outs if need be. That's huge. That's the gift that Beckett bestowed upon his mates when he pitched the complete game shutout.

For his part, Daisuke will be facing the Angels for the first time. He has had his greatest success against ball clubs in their first hacks against him, so it bodes well. The only drawback is that I think Francona should have saved him for Game 3 in Anaheim. Matsuzaka's road numbers are better than his home19-5 record splits and he won the WBC MVP on the mound in Southern California. It probably makes no difference.

One piece of business is a quick peak at my pre-season projection for Matsuzaka, based on past performance and established translation methods. I ran two different sets of numbers in doing my analysis, the 2005 Seibu stats and last season's 2006 numbers. Here are my attempts and the real thing (keep in mind, I always said that the ERA projection was a run too low):

2005 projection
215 IP
185 Hits
16 HR
63 BB
200 K
2.74 ERA
1.154 WHIP
8.37 K/9
3.18 K/BB

2006 projection
187 IP
156 Hits
21 HR
39 BB
181 K
2.52 ERA
1.043 WHIP
8.71 K/9
4.64 K/BB

Actual numbers
204.7 IP
191 Hits
25 HR
80 BB
201 K
4.40 ERA
1.324 WHIP
8.84 K/9
2.51 K/BB

In retrospect, it would have been wiser to project Matsuzaka based on his 2003, 2004, and maybe 2005 numbers for this season. By 2005 and 2006 in Japan he had established a rhythm which allowed him to dominate everyone he faced. Prior to 2005, he was still figuring things out, as he was this season in Boston. You can see that the MLB numbers aren't terribly skewed from his 2005, but are quite a distance from the projection based on last season. What the two projections I provided may tell you, is that Matsuzaka has the upside to be what I have given you...again add a run to that ERA. I'm hoping you'll see Daisuke keep it together all season in 2008 and give you at least a 3.70 ERA, if not lower.

The game tonight is a tough one. I'm going to continue following my guts with my predictions. To the annoyance of some readers, I make my guesses by guts and a little feel for this player. I don't go through the trouble of real metrics-based crunching. I don't have time for it to be honest. I've been pretty good so far this year and will bring you an added up tally of every prediction to compare to the actual numbers. That will be fun. Here's the prediction:

7 IP
7 hits
2 walks
2 ER
7 strikeouts
115 pitches

Go Daisuke.


At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Dice-K will ever be ace quality... or even a top ten pitcher. His control is severely lacking. The fact that he wasn't able to even make it out of 5 innings (not for the first time, either), says volumes. I've lost faith in him.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Good fan. I've lost faith in him after one season. Typical.

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous myasu said...

It is unbelievable to me how many people give up on him after just one season. I bet these guys said the same thing the last year about Beckett. ( And I am sure these people will say something like "Oh, I never said this about Beckett. He has got more velocity" )

Dice-K is still 27yo, and he still has a lot to learn in this league.

As a Red Sox fan, I will expect him to bounce back the next year.
And as a Japanese who watched him when he was in Japan, I know he is one tough kid, who will never allow himself be a loser.


Thanks a lot for your great work here.
I have enjoyed it a lot, and will look forward to seeing your future works elswhere!

At 2:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The August/September (and soon to be October) implosion is unforgivable for a pitcher who is supposedly an ace-in-the-making. I mean, a true ace shows brilliance on a consistant basis... Matsuzaka was effin' brilliant in June... but before and after that, there were only flashes of an ace. I'm being a realist here... big Major League Batters outside and outpower Japanese sluggers.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Wayne said...

Matsuzaka will not surprise me in the least if he turns the corner next year just like Beckett did this year. The similarities are too striking to ignore. Both pitchers were stubborn in their refusal to change styles. Beckett wanted to throw his fastball to blow away hitters and ignored his secondary pitches. Matsuzaka has also tried to blow away hitters and has refused to throw strikes (he still wants to nibble). Next year Daisuke will most likely have even better command of his secondary pitches and will trust Varitek even more. Next year Beckett and Matsuzaka could be the best 1-2 punch in baseball.

Mike, thanks for your devotion to Daisuke and your insight this year. It's been a fun ride. I know I haven't been as frequent a visitor or commentor down the stretch, but I never forgot your site. Good luck with your future endeavors.


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