With all the issues the Red Sox rotation has faced this season, there is nothing better than to see Daisuke Matsuzaka stepping up into at the right time. Throwing a one-hitter in Philadelphia on Saturday, there has been some speculation that Daisuke may be taking that long-awaited leap to respectability.
However, other than two stellar starts sandwiching his New York meltdown, there has been a little to be excited about this year. Daisuke just hasn’t changed at all from years past to indicate that any sustainable change is in the works.
His zone percentage at a career low (46.4 percent), his first-strike percentage largely unchanged (56.6 percent in 2010 v 59.5 percent, career), and his zone contact percentage in line with his career line (84.9 percent, 2010 v 84.2 percent, career), it seems we are dealing with the Daisuke of old again this season.
Though his walk rate has dipped below 4.00 per nine (3.94 BB/9) for the first time since 2007, much of it can be attributed to his career-high 83.8 contact percentage. Simply put, if batters make more contact, the at-bat ends sooner and eliminates the possibility for a walk.
Still, his contact percentage will likely revert back to his career rate of 77.9 percent when batters start whiffing more outside the zone. With a shockingly high 81.7 O-Contact percentage, it is unlikely that batters will continue to put balls in play at this exorbitant rate. Expect the contact rate to drop, the Ks to rise, and with it, the walks.
It won’t take too long, but we’re sure to get back to the Daisuke we all love — and hate — in short order. He should still be serviceable at that point, but don’t expect him to move mountains like he did Saturday. Still, considering Beckett’s woes accompanied by the team’s desperate need for stability, a solid fourth starter will be a valuable asset for the reeling rotation.
… and not a day too soon.
Having missed over a month (37 games) due to rib maladies, the young center-left fielder will be a welcome addition to the Boston lineup. Making his post-injury debut on Saturday, going 1-for-9 since his reinstallment in the lineup, it may be a few days before Ellbsury rediscovers his groove at the plate. But, not to worry, he’ll back back hitting and stealing bases in no time.
While the team still awaits the return of incumbent centerfielder Mike Cameron, Ellsbury will provide some welcome relief to a beleaguered outfield — one that is now facing hip and calf injuries to its starting right fielder, J.D. Drew. Drew is hitting very well recently amidst the team’s injury woes, it’s curious that Drew hasn’t missed more time lately due to his nagging maladies. Perhaps facing pressure to remain in the lineup given the lack of depth in the outfield, it will be interesting to see how Drew is handled in the coming days with Ellsbury back.
Also of interest will be the shuffling of the lineup now that Ellsbury has returned to the leadoff spot.
Tito mixing the lineup every which way in recent days — including placing Drew at leadoff — the competition between David Ortiz and J.D. Drew in the middle of the lineup bears watching. Drew having hit third on Saturday (with Ortiz at fourth) and fifth on Sunday (Ortiz out of the lineup), it will be difficult to get a judge on any consistent developments until the team returns from the National League parks. With V-Mart and Youkilis solid at three and four, Drew and Ortiz will likely split time at fifth and six.
With Ortiz hitting well of late, he may have the leg up on the fifth spot against righties. However, it is unlikely, even with his recent surge, that he’ll ever sniff cleanup again any time soon — if at all this season.