* Is Dice-K Out Of Gas?

Japanese pitching star Daisuke Matsuzaka has become a 5-inning pitcher who could use a 7-day rotation.

Daisuke Matsuzaka reminds me of Pedro Martinez. And not in a good way. Pedro had the knack of throwing a ton of pitches and losing close games that he couldn’t complete, especially towards the end of his Red Sox career. I’m sure we can all think of at least one game that Pedro could not complete.

Is Dice-K heading down the same path that Pedro took? Only a decade earlier? Dice-K is busy losing to the Yankees tonight in the first of three games in the Bronx. It’s an all-too-familiar theme. Dice-K pitches OK for about five innings, throws a ton of pitches, and has to come out of the game.

I know, the game is not over, but check out the game-by-game stats for Daisuke Matsuzaka:

  • In April and May, Dice-K was 7-3, and the Red Sox were 8-3 in his starts (winning his one no-decision).
  • Since June, Dice-K is 6-7, and the Red Sox were 6-9 in his starts (losing his two no-decisions).
  • Dice-K has has not won two consecutive starts since June.
  • Dick-K has not won at all since 08/04.

I lack confidence when Dice-K is on the mound. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Here are the summaries of Dice-K’s losing performances since June:

  1. 2007-06-05 – Athletics 2, Red Sox 0. “Dice-K turns in quality outing, but Sox muster just three hits.”
  2. 2007-06-10 – Diamondbacks 5, Red Sox 1. “Dice-K allowed two runs and struck out nine over six innings.”
  3. 2007-06-27 – Mariners 2, Red Sox 1. “Daisuke Matsuzaka fanned eight batters and allowed just one run over eight dazzling innings.”
  4. 2007-07-08 – Tigers 6, Red Sox 5. “Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed a season-high six runs and three long balls in five innings.”
  5. 2007-07-19 – White Sox 4, Red Sox 2. “Daisuke Matsuzaka yielded just two hits and three runs, but he struggled with his control over five-plus innings.”
  6. 2007-07-29 – Devil Rays 5, Red Sox 2. “Matsuzaka gave up eight hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out six.”
  7. 2007-08-10 – Orioles 6, Red Sox 5. “Dice-K struck out seven batters to set a new Boston rookie record with 159 punchouts this season and held Baltimore in check just as he has done to opposing offenses all season. But after he matched Bedard’s 7 2/3 lights-out innings and left the game, the low-scoring nail-biter became a hit parade.”
  8. 2007-08-15 – Devil Rays, Red Sox 5. “Daisuke Matsuzaka was off his game, as the right-hander gave up six runs during his six innings of work.”
  9. 2007-08-22 – Devil Rays 2, Red Sox 1. “Dice-K struck out eight and walked four over six innings as his record fell to 13-10.”

Apologists will point out that Dice-K was “out-pitched” in these games. Or didn’t get the “run support.” But notice how he lost a bunch of close games to bad teams. Great pitchers don’t get “out-pitched.” Great pitchers don’t worry about “run support.” I seem to recall that Pedro often lost close games to bad teams. Or got “out-piched” or lacked “run support.” But not when he was in his prime.

Should the Sox put Dice-K on the DL? Move to a 7-man rotation? I think that Dice-K is out of gas.

8 Replies to “* Is Dice-K Out Of Gas?”

  1. “Great pitchers don’t worry about ‘run support.'” I’m not even sure how to approach this. Without run support, a great pitcher could have an era of 2 and a losing record. This is precisely why you have to look only to those stats that speak to how well the pitcher is doing his job, leaving aside the failings (or successes) of his offensive teammates, namely ERA and WHIP. Dice-K’s in the top 15 in the AL by those metrics, behind the clear number ones of the league (such as Beckett). And far from coming out of games early, he’s also in the top 15 in innings pitched. But hey, you’re looking at this emotionally, not with a cold statistical eye. Standard operating procedure for us Red Sox fans, of course.

    He does give up too many home runs, and he has sandwiched two sub-par games around one very good one. And he does seem to have one funky inning per start. Otherwise, I like our chances with him on the mound.

  2. Greetings Matt,

    If Dice-K were pitching complete games and losing due to lack of run support, then I’d cut him some slack on this point. But he’s barely qualifying for the minimum (5 innings) in many starts much less getting quality starts or complete games.

    My arguments are not based on emotion (although I am emotional about this, like all Red Sox fans), they are based on fact. Since June 1, the Red Sox have the worst record in games started by Dice-K:

    1. Clay Buchholz – 1-0 (1.000)
    2. Jon Lester – 5-1 (.833)
    3. Tim Wakefield – 11-5 (.687)
    4. Curt Schilling – 5-3 (.625)
    5. Josh Becket – 8-7 (.533)
    6. Julian Tavarez – 5-7 (.416)
    7. Daisuke Matsuzaka – 6-10 (.375)

    Based on the above statistics, I’d say your post-season starters are (in this order) Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, and Josh Becket. If you need a fourth, I’d go with Jon Lester. Clay Buchholz will probably not be on the post-season roster, and Julian Tavarez and Daisuke Matsuzaka should be in the bullpen. You could make the argument that Daisuke Matsuzaka should be relegated to the bullpen today.

    Regards,
    Erik

  3. i don’t think the pedro martinez comparison is fair. you are talking about an aging, veteran, physically damaged version of pedro martinez (as the young, in-his-prime “vintage” martinez did not struggle like this for ANY reason) vs. a young, healthy pitcher who is a rookie in this leage. their outcomes might be similar, but the reasons are not close to the same.

    are you aware that the ball itself is a different size in japan? or does that not cut the mustard with you? i’m asking sincerely. some people don’t think it’s an adequate excuse, but i personally feel that we have no conception out here as laypeople about the level at which these guys perform. especially for a finesse pitcher, working with a differently sized ball has got to be an incredible adjustment. the fact that he’s been passable–admittedly, not spectacular, but not spectacularly bad either–says a lot about his makeup and his potential in the long run. in my opinion matsuzaka is having a transition year in boston, the way coco did, the way beckett did, and so on. worth noting is the fact that one of the chief reasons guys new to the red sox have drawn out transition periods is our tendency as a fan base to try to eat our young when we don’t necessarily have / take into account all the facts.

    you’re entirely right that he looks like he could use a 7-day rotation. 6-day rotation prob. more accurate–that’s what he had in japan.

    i agree that watching him struggle has been difficult. but i think you’re overlooking quite a bit of context.

  4. Greetings Beth,

    Thanks for the comment. Your blog is still my favorite Red Sox blog. Even with Curt Schilling blogging.

    I just think it’s scary that a young Dice-K is pitching like an old Pedro. I am aware that the ball is smaller in Japan, and so are the hitters and the ball parks. But I think that the schedule is the biggest change for Dice-K. Hence his scary drop-off comparing his performance in April-May (great) to Jun-Aug (poor). He’s just plain out of gas now.

    The media was always easy on Trot Nixon because he was a “dirt dog.” But I’m pretty sure he had as many (if not more) mental lapses in right field as Manny had in left field. Manny always got the media scrutiny that Trot escaped.

    Similarly, the media is going easy on Dice-K, I believe. I know that there are reasons for his poor performance, but the bottom line is that his performance has been poor. Since June 1, the Red Sox have a better chance of winning with Julian Tavarez starting than with Dice-K. (Check the stats in my earlier comment.) Yet I’ve heard no suggestion of making Dice-K the number 5 starter or a reliever. We don’t know whether he can perform in the post-season, but if the playoffs started today, I don’t think Dice-K should be a starter.

    Regards,
    Erik

  5. Greetings Cap’n Dunsel,

    I’m responding to your comment posted on another blog:

    http://www.haloscan.com/comments/chadfinn/5661691908431378313/#264359

    “Apologists will point out that Dice-K was “out-pitched” in these games. Or didn’t get the “run support.” But notice how he lost a bunch of close games to bad teams. Great pitchers don’t get “out-pitched.” Great pitchers don’t worry about “run support.” I seem to recall that Pedro often lost close games to bad teams. Or got “out-piched” or lacked “run support.” But not when he was in his prime.”

    ************************************

    In 2000, when he had about the best season of any pitcher in the last 50 years (ERA more than 3 runs below league average), Pedro lost a 1-0 game to TB; 3-2 to Toronto; 2-1 to the Yankees; 3-0 to NY; 2-1 to the Angels; and 2-1 to Cleveland. You have got it completely bass ackwards. In order to beat a good pitcher, it takes a *great* performance by the other team’s pitcher. In your world, if Wakefield gets a “win” by giving up 5 runs in 6 innings but the Sox socre 10, he’s a better bet than Dice-K giving up 2 runs in 7 and losing?

    DiceK “lost a bunch of close games to bad teams?”
    If they were 10-9 games, you might make sense. They weren’t. A pitcher can’t do much more–unless you’re Joe Morgan–than hold a team to 1 or 2 runs.

    ************************************

    “great pitchers dont worry about run support”?!!

    No they dont. Great pitchers just “pitch great.” And if despite “pitching” great, the “other team” scores more runs than “their team,” the “great pitcher” gets saddled with the “loss.” That’s why anyone paying any attention knows that “wins” and “losses” tell very little about how the “pitcher” actually “pitched.”

    Hey, guess what. Julio Lugo has more RBI than Derek Jeter. He must be a better player.
    Cap’n Dunsel | 08.29.07 – 3:11 pm | #

    Great runners run faster when running head-to-head against other runnings. Great racecar drivers drive faster when racing on a track with other great drivers. Great pitchers rise to the occasion and pitch great games when facing great opponents. Dice-K, for whatever reason, is like a runner (or a biker) who is drafting the lead runner but never takes the lead and finishes second.

    The only stat that matters in baseball is who wins the game. You misquoted me. I did not refer to Wakefield’s winning record or to Dice-K’s. I referred to the record of the Red Sox team when each pitcher starts. Using your logic, the Red Sox won the 1975 World Series.

    The facts speak for themselves. The Red Sox record since June 1 is the worst (by far) when Dice-K starts. It only takes a .571 record (4-3) to win the World Series. The Red Sox, with Dice-K on the mound since June 1, have a .375 record. I want Dice-K to do well, and I want the Red Sox to do well, but Dice-K appears to have burned out. He’s a different pitcher today than he was in April and May.

    Great pitchers don’t just pitch great. They pitch better than the other team’s pitcher. And great teams win championships.

  6. Dont know who this Dunsel is, but he’s making more sense than you are:

    Dice K has pitched almost the exact same innings per game before and after June1.

    “Great teams win championships?”
    Introducing your 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.

    And what about all thos eclose games Pedro lost “in his prime” that you said never happened?

  7. Greetings J. Fredd Muggs,

    Thanks for your post.

    I never said that Dice-K’s inning count has decreased before and after June 1. I said the the Red Sox winning record with Dice-K starting has decreased since June 1 with Dice-K on the mount – and that the Red Sox record is worst when Dice-K starts. If Dice-K has only been pitching 5 innings all season, then the problem is even worse than I thought. The Red Sox have a five-inning pitcher with a losing record since June 1.

    I did say that great teams win championships. In baseball, there is a well-defined system of choosing the World Series champion each year. First, all teams play a 162-game schedule. Then, the top 4 teams from each league make the playoffs. Those teams play a best-of-five League Divisonal Series (LDS), a best-of-seven League Championship Series (LCS), and a best-of-seven World Series. The team that wins the World Series is that year’s champion.

    You may not think that the 2006 Cardinals were the best team in baseball. There were certainly teams with better records, but that does not matter. The best team always wins. The only stat that matters in baseball is who wins the game. As you may recall, Derek Jeter bad-mouthed the 2004 Red Sox saying something like “the best team doesn’t always win.” If you discount any team’s championship based on the fact that they weren’t the “best” team, then you might as well throw out the entire playoff system and crown the champion as the team that wins the most games each year.

    Regarding Pedro in his prime, I’ll admit that he lost some close games to bad teams. But my point (which many folks appear to be missing) is that not (1) Dice-K has a tendency to lose close game to bad teams and (2) he appears to be out of gas. I did say that a young Dice-K reminds me of an old Pedro, and that’s not a good thing. Pedro’s record in 2000 was 18-6. I don’t know the record of the Red Sox was in games Pedro started, but I’m guessing that both of those stats will be better than Dice-K’s numbers.

    So my point, one again, is that Daisuke Matsuzaka appears to be out of gas. I would love to be proven wrong.

    Regards,
    Erik

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