Siberian Baseball

Monday, July 23, 2007

The wheels aren't falling off the Dice-K bandwagon

I have to admit that I poach more than my fair share of ideas from little asides I'll hear on MLB broadcasts. Not to the point that I just transcribe what the announcers are saying, but where I'll hear conventional wisdom or skewed stats and wonder if they're correct.

Case in point? Daisuke Matsuzaka's home run totals.

Matsuzaka rattled off five starts - dating back to his June 10 start - without allowing a home run before allowing 3 on July 8 in Detroit and 2 on July 14 against Toronto. Questions of Matsuzaka's pitch counts (more on that later), arm slot and general pitching issues surfaced.

My question is whether or not anyone bothered to look at the numbers before asking those questions on the broadcast.

If you dig a little deeper to the stats for Matsuzaka this year, you'll see a roller coaster of innings, pitches, earned runs and home runs allowed.

Considering that he's had five starts each month - except for six in May and four so far in July and that will change this week - it's not that hard to do the math. For the sake of brevity, I'll use monthly totals, but the full stat sheet is available here.

April - 3-2; 4.36 ERA; 33 IP; 16 ER; 2 HR; 541 pitches thrown; 38 K.
May - 4-1; 5.22 ERA; 39.2 IP; 23 ER; 6 HR; 623 pitches thrown; 30 K.
June - 2-2; 1.59 ERA; 34 IP; 6 ER; 1 HR; 601 pitches thrown; 42 K.
July (four games) - 2-2; 4.88 ERA; 24 IP; 13 ER; 5 HR; 431 pitches thrown; 21 K.

The quick breakdowns show a few things:

* The home run allowances aren't that far out of whack, but after allowing just one homer in the entire month of June, seeing back to back games of three homers and two homers look like a problem. It's not.

* There should be strong concerns regarding pitch counts after throwing no fewer than 112 pitches per game in his five June starts, with a high of 130 on June 5. On the season, he's pitched no fewer than 85 pitches, with three starts under 100 pitches.

Seriously, go look at those stats again - it's ridiculous.

* There is a real "all or nothing" pattern in terms of earned runs in Matsuzaka's starts, where it's six or seven earned runs or two or fewer. Kind of strange.

* While the numbers don't really flesh it out much, Matsuzaka is prone to the proverbial big inning, where he'll get into trouble, walk a few batters, give up a cheap hit and find himself on the short end of a quick flurry of runs. Cubs fans will know this as the Kerry Wood Effect.

* Matsuzaka has allowed 13 homers on grass and only one on turf... so there's that.

* The numbers are pretty equal otherwise if you look at the split stats here. In short, there's no real reason for Red Sox Nation to panic quite yet.

Of course, there's always the second half of the season, warmer days to wear him down, warmer air to help the hitters and the growing body of work that other teams get to pick apart to try and give their hitters the edge in matchups.

In short, here we go again.

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