Thursday, March 18, 2010

State of the Rotation: Andy Pettitte vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka

The fourth slot in our match is the one with the biggest differences. Andy Pettitte and Daisuke Matsuzaka could not be more different in every way. Pettitte is the old veteran lefty who relies on pitching smarts and location rather than raw physical power.

Matsuzaka on the other hand is a pitcher that has shown himself to be a pure power pitcher in every sense of the word. The righty lives by the strikeout and dies by the walk. He often shies away from contact and while that strategy won him 18 games in 2008, it ballooned his WHIP to 1.87 in 2009.

Everyone recognizes what Dice-K has in his arm; he has a power fastball and a set of devastating breaking pitches. His problem is that throughout his major league career he has never challenged hitters on a consistent basis and that has led to high walk rates. Red Sox Nation ignored the problem while Matsuzaka was pitching to the tune of a 2.90 ERA in '08, but eventually the problem came back and bite him. It didn't help that Matsuzaka was ignoring the Boston off-season conditioning program for pitchers and that, coupled with another stint in the World Baseball Classic, led to arm problems that derailed his '09 season.

Pettitte has been what he has been for the past three seasons in New York. He is an aging lefty that the Yankees relied on far too much in 2007 and 2008. Then, before last season, the Yankees picked up a couple extra arms for the front of the rotation and Pettitte was able to slide back to a more respectable three spot in the rotation.

Now that the veteran has dropped to the fourth spot in the rotation he will be more effective, well, at least in terms of performance to his slot. 200 innings plus an ERA right above 4.00 is more than respectable and is exactly what both teams want from the back end of their rotation. The thing is Andy Pettitte is far more likely to give that to the Yankees than Dice-K is to give it to the Sox. Sure the Japanese star has plenty of talent, but even if he is healthy, that doesn't preclude the possibility that he will continue to walk the house.

I've got to give it to the Yankees here simply because Pettitte's performance isn't likely to deviate much while what we have seen from Matsuzaka doesn't give me confidence in his performance this year.

Yanks even up the score at 2-2.


Dan said...

Dice-K's fastball is world class. If only he would throw it over the plate. If he doesn't figure that out, he should go down as a Kevin Brown/Mike Hampton/Carl Pavano type free agent bust.

Dennis said...

Given that he is 29 years old, healthy, and fully acclimatized to the US, I think 2010 Dice-K will be a lot closer to the pitcher we saw in '07-'08 than the one we saw pitch 59 innings in '09.

Joey said...

By all accounts Buchholz is the 4th starter. Dice-K and Wakefield are the 5th and 6th starters respectively. Buchholz is a bit of a head case, but should outperform both Dice-K and Pettitte in 2010.

Peter said...

Even if you get the 07-08 Dice-K what is that? It is something along the lines of A.J. Burnett with more walks. Yea that's right MORE walks. his '08 was an ERA aberrationand its more likely that he will be like his '07 self if not worse.

And I wouldn't call him healthy since he has already been scratched from a start.

Dan said...

Oh Dennis, the Dice-K sympathizer.

Dennis said...

I don't think I am a sympathizer, I think I am a realist. The guy has been in the US for 3 years, and in that time he has started 73 games. Peter is right, his ERA was artificially low in '08, but he is still a good pitcher overall.

He has pitched 430 innings, struck out 409 and only allowed 400 hits. That's damn good. His career ERA is 4, which you might think should be a little lower but, as you point out, he walks too many guys. This flaw often makes his games excruciating too watch. But it doesn't make him a bad pitcher.