Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Dice-K Conundrum

As he heads to the 15-day disabled list, it's a good time to try to dispassionately evaluate Daisuke Matsuzaka. The conventional wisdom holds that Dice-K is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, he can deliver back-to-back 1-hit gems (as he did earlier this year) and, on the other hand, he can implode with a 7-walk, 5-run, 106-pitch, 4 2/3 inning disaster (as he did in his last start).

But, taking a step back, it's interesting to note how consistent he actually is. In fact, it lends some credence to those who shrug their shoulders and say, "Hey, he's a fifth starter. He is what he is".

One thing is true about Dice-K: he gives up relatively few hits. Even this year, in 37 1/3 innings, he's yielded only 32 hits. Over his career, he's given up 54 fewer hits than innings pitched. Usually the sign of a very good hurler.

Of course, he's walked 23 this year (against only 26 strikeouts), making his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) a mediocre 1.47. But is that an aberration? Not really, his career WHIP is 1.40. Yet another astounding consistency is 'batting average against'—this year it stands at only .224, for his career it's .242. Both pretty darned good. Want more evidence of consistency? In Japan, he was 108-60. That's a .642 winning percentage. With the Sox? How about 49-30, a .620 winning percentage?

So, what does this all suggest? It seems pretty clear that the Red Sox have to convince Dice-K to throw the ball over and allow hitters to make outs. Obviously, the team has tried to make this case before, but have they shown him the hard evidence? If batters put it in play, they're hitting just .242 off him! Why nibble? Assuming he's healthy (NOTE: An MRI late today showed Dice-K has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, and strain to his common flexor mass and will likely miss at least a month), he's got the stuff. Use it! Sometimes baseball can be pretty simple.