5-12-2010: Dice-K finally earns his name against the Blue Jays

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Daisuke Matsuzaka showed that the Dice-K of 2008 is still in there somewhere, as he allowed just three hits over seven innings to the Toronto Blue Jays last night. He struck out nine batters and walked nobody. Not that he needed to be that good, given all the free passes given out by starter Dana Eveland and then Shawn Camp.

Let’s not get too excited here: Dice-K was not as bad as he looked in his past two starts, but he wasn’t as good as he looked in this one. Let’s face it, the Blue Jays are far and away the most strikeout-prone club in the AL, with 300 Ks on the season (Tampa Bay is a distant 2nd at 258 Ks). And their team .308 OBP might have had something to do with Matsuzaka’s success last night. So I’m not saying he’s all the way back. But it was encouraging.

In his first start, he featured a sharp slider, but had to fall back on his cutter in his second outing (25 thrown, 68% strikes, 12% whiff rate) when his other stuff wasn’t getting the job done. Why was Matsuzaka so effective last night? It mainly comes down to his four-seam command and movement – here are his fastballs in his three starts by PITCHf/x:

Start OPP N Avg Vel Y mov X mov Spin rpm Strike% Whiff%
5/1 at BAL 41 91.8 8.97 -5.67 2124 58.5 2.4
5/6 ANA 26 92.2 9.96 -6.46 2342 65.4 11.5
5/11 TOR 68 91.9 11.66 -7.23 2644 69.1 10.3

See that trend of increasing spin and motion? It’s not the velocity that will make or break Matsuzaka, but how his ball moves and where he puts it. Dice-K was able to move the ball in and out last night, and avoid too many meatballs up in the zone. He had a pretty good slider working last night as well, and he’s really tightening up his stuff if you look at this plot:

image courtesy TexasLeaguers.com

He’s being consistent with nearly all of his pitches, and that can only be good for the Red Sox moving forward. Run prevention, here we come (75 runs scored vs 65 runs allowed in May so far)! Still want to trade Matsuzaka for a bag of balls?


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