Diasuke Matsuzaka Scouting Report
by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
April 5, 2007
Matsuzaka-mania has finally hit the US, and it hit well; at least according to Red Sox fans. Matsuzaka made his highly anticipated debut today in Kansas City, and he was electric. Matsuzaka struck out 10 batters, 6 of them window shopping. He allowed six hits, one of them a HR on a cutter that didnít seem to cut, and only walked one. All in all, it was a great start to Matsuzakaís career.
While I watched the 26 year old Japanese import pitch, I decided to take notes. Throughout the day, Daisuke threw seven different pitches: A two and four seam fastball, a cutter, splitter, changeup, slider, and a curve. His fastball was consistently at 91-93, his curve was in the high 70ís to low 80ís, and his change was in the mid to high 80ís. During the first time through the order, Matsuzaka started off five of the first nine batters off with a fastball that stayed within the 91-93 mph hour range. Four of those five were strikes, and he threw six first pitch strikes overall. In fact, Matsuzaka started off 19 of 28 batters with first pitch strikes. 10 of those 19 were fastballs, while the other 9 were a mix of curves and change-ups. To me, this is one of the main reasons why Matsuzaka was so successful. Since he threw so many first pitch strikes, he was able to keep a lot of batters off balance and change speeds well.
One thing that surprised me was that when Daisuke fell behind in the count (3-1, or 2-0) he threw all off-speed pitches. He threw a change-up twice for strikes, and a slider for a ball to Mark Teahen, which lead to his only walk.
However, when he was ahead on the count, he favored his fastball. Seven of his ten strikeouts came on a fastball, and of those seven, the count was either 0-2, or 1-2. Also, when Matsuzaka was in trouble, which wasnít too often, he favored his fastball. In the first inning, with men on first and second, he threw two straight fastballs, while the second one was pounded into the ground and resulted in a double play. In the sixth inning, with runners on the corners and two out, Matsuzaka threw seven straight fastballs, and the last one resulted in a ground out.
I want to say that Matsuzakaís ďout pitchĒ is his fastball, but I wouldnít want to bet on it. He did throw his fastball a lot today, but his changeup seemed to set it up, which caused a lot of confusion for the opposing batters.
So, what exactly is the mysterious gyroball? Well, nothing actually. Itís not a fastball, or a slider, or a change, or a screwball. Itís actually thrown like a slider, but is the most effective when is straight. Weird, I know. Itís best when it is thrown straight because the batter picks up the spin and the little red dot, and automatically assumes that a slider is coming, when the ball never slides at all. A lot of Japanese pitchers do have this in their arsenal, and generates a ton of strike outs.
Another myth that isnít true, or wasnít true today, is that Dice-K actually gets stronger as the game gets on. His velocity remained the same through out the game. His fastball did top out at 96 2-3 times, but that occurred in the first three innings. Now that Matsuzaka is pitching on four days rest instead of five, and will probably be throwing more pitches in his major league career. Due to quality of the batters he will face, the thought that he will get stronger as the game goes on seems far-fetched to say the least.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Tony resides in Queens, New York and can be reached at email@example.com.
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