DENVER - Tonight Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his fourth start of the post season as he goes in game three against the Rockies at Coors Field. In his three previous outing, one against the Angels and two against Cleveland, he’s given up 19 hits and 5 walks in 14 and 1/3 innings while striking out 12. That translated to one win and one loss with an ERA of 5.65. Lest it seem as if Dice-K has pitched poorly in the postseason it should be remembered that he gave up 46 baserunners in 28 and 1/3 innings in September (a 7.62 ERA) and 52 runners in 32 1/3 innings in August (a 4.45 ERA). So it’s not as if he’s performed more poorly in the postseason than he did in the second half.
However, it’s interesting to take a look at his pitch distribution using the pitch profiles I developed back in July. For the season and covering 17 starts tracked by PITCHf/x we find the following:
FB CFB SL FK/SPL CV CH
Left 53.2% 10.3% 10.5% 7.7% 11.4% 6.4%
Right 57.6% 8.1% 19.8% 1.3% 11.4% 0.6%
This looks pretty similar to the distribution we talked about in July although against left-handers he ended up throwing fewer forkballs and more curves and against righties fewer cutters and more curves. Where this changes is when we look at what he’s done in his three postseason starts covering 284 pitches.
FB CFB SL FK/SPL CV CH
Left 57.2% 16.7% 10.6% 11.1% 2.8% 1.7%
Right 34.6% 21.2% 33.7% 1.0% 8.7% 0.0%
Now it would seem that he’s relying more on the cutter against both sides and is really working the slider at the expense of his fastball when facing right-handed hitters. Against lefties he’s also not opted to break out the curve or changeup as often and instead thrown a few more fastballs and forkballs. The variance in sliders against right-handers can also be seen in the following graph showing an increased reliance at the end of the season and in the postseason.
It should be cautioned that the profiles used here are based on the movement and velocity of the pitch and not on visual inspection (for example, taking into account the grip if visible) and so it certainly could be the case that the apparent decline in curveballs is at least partially due to poorer pitch execution with overthrown curveballs causing the curve to “look like” a slider in terms of horizontal and vertical movement. In any case, if the trend holds the Rockies right-handed hitters in tonight’s lineup including Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Troy Tulowitzki, and Yorvit Torrealba (yes, Willy Taveras is sitting in favor of Cory Sullivan who will bat eighth with Tulowitzki batting second) might be advised to look a little less for the four-seamer.
And despite the fact that Tim McCarver has several times in the postseason identified a particular pitch as a gryoball, I believe, based both on the movement and his grip which was evident on most of them, that those were primarily forkballs and the profiles again only identify a single pitch as unknown.