Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Tale Of Two Pitchers

In 2008, Daisuke Matsuzaka went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. Josh Beckett went 12-10 with a 4.03 ERA and looked brutal in more than one outing.

What a difference a year makes.

On Friday we saw the ultimate implosion in Daisuke's 2009 season. His control was horrible. He was hanging pitches over the plate. He had trouble getting ahead in the count (only 12 of 23 on first pitch strikes). The result was Daisuke getting pulled after four innings and just 67 pitches. He gave up six runs on eight hits and just buried the Sox in their 8-2 loss. It didn't help that the Braves' Kenshin Kawakami (who the Sox were briefly tied to in the off-season) made his countryman look horrible.

It finally became obvious even to the Boston brass that Daisuke needed to be pulled from the rotation. And so he was yesterday, ostensibly for "examinations" and a possible MRI. I am guessing he will have some random ailment that is hard to disprove and he will go on the 15-day DL. That will give Daisuke time to get in game shape, figure out what is wrong and regain his confidence. This is also an object lesson in why you can truly never have too much pitching in the majors. Now the Sox can put the Penny rumors to rest and still have room for Smoltz.

Then came Saturday night's game and the continuing great performances of Josh Beckett. He looked flat-out rotten to begin the season. He came out of the month of April with a 2-2 record and a 7.22 ERA. But he has been getting better month-by-month, and in June he has been flat-out devastating to the opposition in June; 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA.

That includes last night's complete game, five hit shutout from Beckett. He needed just 94 pitches to lead the Sox to a 3-0 win over the Braves. Beckett had seven strikeouts and no walks. Every so often you see a game where the pitcher can simply do whatever he wants. Last night was that kind of game for Beckett.

Of his 94 pitches 67 were strikes, which means more than seven out of every 10 pitches were strikes. He pitched to contact (21 of those strikes were put in play), a sign of a confident pitcher. A couple of more performances like this and Beckett has to be considered for an All-Star slot, something that seemed unthinkable in April.

Oh, and don't look too closely, but Nick Green is on the verge of cracking .300 on his batting average and his fielding has improved dramatically. How can there even be a debate on what should happen when Jed Lowrie returns? If the Sox keep Lugo and send Green back to The Bucket then they will be making a decision for the team based not on what gives them the best chance to win, but for what they consider "financial considerations."

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