You forgot about that, didn’t you? You completely erased Dice-K’s 2008 season from your memories. But, that’s too bad. Maddening Matsuzaka went 18-3 that year. That’s pretty impressive.
Or is it? Basically, this season is the perfect analogy for who Dice-K is as a pitcher. Yes, he got 18 wins. But, we all know that wins mean very little when it comes to pitching ability. What about some other numbers? He had a 2.90 ERA that year, third in the league. But, he only threw 167.2 innings. He led the league by holding batters to a .211 average. But, he walked a league leading 94 batters. He didn’t give up a hit all year with the bases loaded. But, he loaded the bases fourteen times that year. What did all that mean?
I’ve always thought that Dice-K was very honest with himself when it came to facing batters. He knew which hitters he could get out, and which ones he couldn’t. He didn’t mind base runners. He knew that having people on base didn’t matter in the least if he struck out the next guy to end the inning. It looked like he knew that there were three or four guys in every line-up he knew he’d have trouble with. He also knew there were three or four guys he had no problem with. So, like any decent pitcher, he would pitch carefully to those he had trouble with so he could attack those he didn’t. So what if you walk three guys to load the bases if the next three strike out? It was like every batter he faced was either Manny Ramirez, or Jose Iglesias. Any pitcher would pitch carefully to Manny. Don’t give him a pitch to hit. If he makes an out hitting a bad pitch, great. If he takes the walk, that’s fine too. If Manny was followed by Iglesias in the line-up every day, Manny would be walked plenty of times by every pitcher. That was Dice-K.
Now, he ended up throwing plenty of pitches doing that. Which is why he only threw the 167 innings. But, did that come from the American way of handling him? Looking at his numbers in Japan, he certainly walked his fair share, and threw plenty of pitches. Remember the legendary high school game where he threw 250 pitches? Even in 17 innings, that’s a ton of pitches. Nobody worried about that then.
So, wrap that all together and what do you get? 18 wins for the Sox during the season. It may have been annoying to watch. But, was it all done with a plan?
18 is for 18 wins from Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2008.