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ALDS: The Mystery of Dice-K
And on the second day, they rested.
Say what you want about the longer playoff series -– and I already have -– but it certainly helps build suspense, at the cost of momentum.
A start like tonight's is why the Red Sox went to such great efforts to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka. There's the added pressure that Boston thinks so highly of him that it pushed October hero Curt Schilling back to Game 3.
The Angels aren't sure what to make of Matsuzaka, whom they have not faced, though typically pitchers with a unique delivery and a large arsenal of pitchers do well against a team the first time through.
As Angels manager Mike Scioscia says, "I think when you first face a pitcher there's probably a slight advantage to the pitcher just in picking up release points, picking up the spin on the ball, picking up where the ball is breaking -— is it a late break or more of a slurve -- what his arm speed is like."
A quick look at the numbers proves that's been the case against Dice-K this season. He started against 16 different opponents during the regular season, and counting just the first start against each, these were his numbers:
9-6 record, 108 innings, 116 strikeouts, 94 hits, 42 walks, 9 HR, 3.17 ERA, 1.26 WHIP.
He also threw his one complete game of the season, a one-run gem against Detroit, in his first start against the Tigers.
Now take a look at all his other appearances, all of which were at least his second start against an opponent (he pitched against the Blue Jays, Mariners and Yankees four times each):
6-6 record, 96.2 innings, 85 strikeouts, 103 hits, 38 walks, 16 HR, 5.77 ERA, 1.46 WHIP.
Breaking it down further, while his BB/9 ratio stayed roughly the same (3.50 in first starts against 3.54 in other starts), there is a noticeable discrepancy in other ratios. Dice-K's K/BB is 2.76 in a first start, versus 2.24 in later starts, and his K/9 is 9.67 in first starts, vs. 7.91 in later starts. As Dice-K kept a steady walk ratio while seeing his WHIP increase dramatically, clearly opponents are racking up far more hits (and homers) with each at bat.
Obviously these numbers can only show a correlation, not prove a causation, of success. But there's also a lot more accumulated video on Dice-K floating around in October than there was in April.
The number-crunching poster, SouthPaw21, at Sons of Sam Horn did a great job compiling Boston's career numbers against LA's starter, Kelvim Escobar. Particularly take note of Manny's and Papi's poor numbers.
But those are regular-season numbers. In his last playoff start against Boston, the L.A. Times revisits Escobar's poor 2004 ALDS Game 3.
While watching Game 1 at Foley's, one of New York's great baseball bars, I got into a conversation with the gentleman next to me about the AL's best defensive outfielders. I said Ichiro, then Coco Crisp, then Torii Hunter. He said Hunter, then Ichiro, and then he might be willing to consider Coco. However you rank them, there's no denying that Coco has played a great CF for the Sox this year.
The Herald's Rob Bradford compares Dice-K of this year to Josh Beckett of last year and profiles the enigmatic Manny.
Labels: Angels-Red Sox
posted by SI.com | View comments |
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