Friday, April 23, 2010

Scouting Trip #3 (cont'd)

Daisuke Matsuzaka

The enigmatic Dice-K was a total bitch to scout. He throws so many different pitches in the same velocotic range that you find yourself second guessing exactly what he is throwing. It got easier as his start went along and I became for familiar with the flight paths of his pitches. In the future I will try to find some video on pitchers that throw a wide array of pitches.

Dice has not lived up to the hype he generated coming out of Japan. He is a classic nibbler, hovering just outside the strike zone with his pitches because he doesn't trust his stuff enough to take his chances throwing strikes. Major League hitters are selective enough that they don't chase and as a result, Matsuzaka runs up tremendous pitch counts early in starts.

Looking at my chart, Dice-k showed an interesting trend in this start. He threw more pitches per inning as the night went on (1st- 12, 2nd- 13, 3rd- 17, 4th- 17, 5th- 18, 6th- 21) but was getting ahead in the count as the game went on as well (first pitch strike % by inning: 1st-33% 2nd-25% 3rd-50% 4th-33% 5th-75% 6th-80%). This relationship is counterintuitive. You would think getting ahead in counts would generate quicker outs. However, faling behind forced Dice to throw pitches in hittable places, which Lehigh Valley hitters offered at. Since the Iron Pig hitters aren't very good (3,4,5 hiters a combined 0-11 in this game), Dice-k didn't get hurt.

Matsuzaka got markedly better as his start drew on, garnering most of his 8 strikeouts later on. He got into a rhythym, saw a slight increase in velocity (Fastball went from exclusively in upper 80s early to hovering in the low 90s) and showed a more diverse mix of pitches later in his start.

Dice-K does a lot of different things with the fastball, cutting it, sinking it. All of it is pretty average to me. His changeup sits in the high 70s and is decent. I liked his curveball/slider, which he threw for strikes and got some outs with. He supposedly throws both but I had a hard time differentiating between them.

While he did strike out 8, Dice-k threw 99 pitches over 5 and 2/3 innings, which is a lot and will probably be more once he faces more selective major league hitters. I think he will struggle when he returns.

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