12 May 2010
After two very disappointing starts, Daisuke Matsuzaka looked impressive last night, holding the Blue Jays to one run on three hits through seven innings. Even more exciting were the nine Ks and the goose egg in the walks column.
But where do we go from here?
John Farrell talked to NESN before the game about Matsuzaka and his addiction to nibbling at the plate. In short, he said is continues to be his down fall (see his first two starts and most of his start in America), but Farrell is pushing for Matsuzaka to use his fastball more often and to stop trying to get batters to swing at pitches out of the zone.
Dice-K did that last night and had great results, but he was also facing the most free swinging team in the AL (300 Ks as a team). So is Dice-K really this good or are the Jays just really bad?
We probably won't know until he tries this new approach on a more patient team.
Matsuzaka threw a little bit of everything in his first two starts:
5/1 @ BAL - 41 fastballs, 17 sliders, 12 cutters, 13 change-ups
5/6 v LAA - 26 fastballs, 25 cutters,12 two-seam FB, 11 sliders
Last night, he was more aggressive:
5/11 v TOR - 68 fastballs, 15 sliders and 7 change-ups
What might be even more telling is his strike/inning percentage. In the one bad inning against the Angels, Matsuzaka threw 39 pitches in the first inning and 20 were strikes (51%). After that inning, he threw 15 or less pitches per inning and averaged a 75% strike rate.
Last night, he posted a 67% strike rate through 7 innings, and you have to assume a large factor there was the more aggressive approach.
Bottom Line: Matsuzaka completed 7 or more innings only once last season and only 8 times in 29 starts in 2008. My guess is the Blue Jays helped him out here and a more patient team is likely to push him back into old habits... but if Farrell and Tito can keep him pitching aggressively, we should see more good thinks from Dice-K in the future.
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