Dissecting Dice-K: What's Wrong With Matsuzaka, Red Sox?

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Dissecting Dice-K: What's Wrong With Matsuzaka, Red Sox?
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Last night against New York, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched 4.2 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits.

So far this season, he is 2-1 with a 7.89 ERA.

He has pitched in four games and three have been awful. His third outing, against Toronto, was perhaps the best of his Major League career, going seven, allowing one run on three hits. He fanned nine and walked none.

As for the bad starts, he has been let down in each one by one bad inning. Twice it was the first—as was the case last night, as the Yankees got to him for five runs—and once the sixth.

It is very much reminiscent of Jon Lester’s start last year. Lester went on to have a very good season, but in April and May, almost every outing was tarnished by one weak frame. Now Matsuzaka is going through the same thing.

He has pitched 21 and two thirds innings on the season. Take out the three bad innings, and his ERA drops from 7.89 to 1.98.

Obviously, I know that you cannot just erase three innings from the statistics, but the fact is, outside of those bad frames, Daisuke’s been very, very good. I wouldn’t panic just yet. He’s closer to being back than you think.

There is another issue here, though. And it relates to comments made after the crushing loss last night.

Catcher Victor Martinez said: “I’m just back to try and help [Matsuzaka] go through the game. At the end he’s the one who has the ball in his hand."

“At the end, he’s the one who has the last word. He’s the one who has the ball in his hand. I’m just putting suggestions and he can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

In other words, Martinez was saying Daisuke’s performance was Daisuke’s fault. This raises two points.

One, it is very unusual to hear a catcher come out after a game and throw his pitcher under the bus. I can’t remember a time when the likes of Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, or Brian McCann said anything like this. While they never condone or make excuses for bad pitching, they don’t blatantly attempt to distance themselves from the game.

Two, what if it isn’t all Daisuke’s fault?

What I mean by that is, what if the pitchers are having trouble when Victor is behind the plate. There’s no doubt that the rotation can do better than they have done and Beckett now effectively has Varitek as his personal catcher.

Being a backup suits the ageing Varitek nicely. He won’t get worn down as quickly and will be more effective down the stretch. However, with this team fast running out of time to get started, perhaps giving the captain more starts is worth a shot.

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