Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dice-K dominant? Simmer down nah. He one hit the F'n Pirates

A couple headlines from today's coverage of Matsuzaka's outing yesterday against the Pirates: "Dice-K Shines" "Dice-K Baffles" "Dice-K Earns His Money". In his blog, posted yesterday, Jason Stark gave Matsusaka a textual handjob noting "[a]fter watching Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch for the first time Wednesday, I couldn't tell you for sure that this guy is about to win 20 games, a Cy Young or possibly a Nobel Peace Prize." Really Jason? Did you really just mention 20 and a Cy Young (albeit in a tone dripping with sarcasm but with a hint of "I will tell everyone I called this if it actually happens")? In Stark's defense, much of the post was devoted to the freakshow like atmosphere that follows Dice-K wherever he goes, but has any pitcher received this much praise for throwing 5 & 2/3 in a Spring Training game against one of the worst teams in baseball who weren't even playing their entire Major League lineup? First of all, 92 pitches in 5 & 2/3 is not exactly economical. Given the Sox bullpen situation, 5.4 pitches per out is not good enough for a one hit game. Now clearly Matsuzaka will have a longer leash during the regular season and he won't be messing around with his two seam fastball as much (which was all over the place yesterday) but he's got to be more economical with his put away pitches. He got away with at least 4 or 5 meatballs right down the plate that will end up impaling a patron at the Cask 'n Flagon if he throws them at Fenway. All that being said, Matsuzaka can pitch. He was hitting mid-90's for the first time all Spring (likely due to ESPN's radar gun which had Zumaya throwing 118mph last year), he has an absurd low 80's changeup that breaks away from lefties, a la Pedro, throws all his pitches for strikes and isn't afraid to pitch backwards. Phillips and Hershiser were calling him the Ace of the staff (he's 3rd in the order) and today people (a list that now includes me) have invoked the name of Pedro in order to offer a frame of reference. I'm just not ready to commit to such high praise. Yes, the break in his changeup is similar to Pedro's. Yes, he seems unphased by the media attention and competition. And Yes, there is a certain "it" factor to his pitching style and presence. I give him all of that. Let's just slow down on giving him 15 wins and a sub 3 ERA. What everyone needs to step back and realize is that making Chris Duffy look stupid at the plate, while funny, isn't a criteria for the CY Young. The kid can fucking throw, but he's got plenty of work to do.

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