02 February 2011
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP
In 2008 Matsuzaka wowed us with an 18-3 record and a 2.90 ERA. Since then, he's been beyond disappointing, making only 12 starts in 2009 due to injury and posting a 9-6 record and 4.69 ERA in 25 starts in 2010 due to more injuries and ineffectiveness.
Dice-K throws a variety of pitches, so my first guess was that he was throwing something too often or too little in relation to his first two years in the MLB, but a quick look at Fangraphs.com showed that he has been very consistent with his pitch selection over his 4-year MLB career.
What I did notice was an increase in contact outside of the strike zone. In 2008, batters only swung at pitches outside the zone 20% of the time. In 2010 it was up to 29%. Similarly, batters have mad more contact on pitches outside of the zone as well, up from 55% in 2007 to 71% in 2010.
With 3 1/2 years worth of video, batters appear to figured Matsuzaka out. They know he likes to nibble around the plate, so they're waiting for him to throw a strike or swinging at pitches they know they can hit - even if they're balls. The result has been an steady increase in contact, up from 77% on 2007 to 83% in 2010, and a drop in Ks per 9, down from 8.84 to 7.79.
Bottom Line: I think injuries played their role in Dice-K's ineffectiveness over the past two seasons, but if he can make a serious effort to be more aggressive and throw his fastball more often, I think he can get back to winning games and lasting more than 5 innings per start. That said, Matsuzaka has proven to be injury prone and stubborn in his approach, so don't expect big changes in 2011.
Rob's Prediction: 26 GS, 156 IP, 11 Wins, 8 losses, 4.04 ERA, 145 K
* Special Category: Walks - 70
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