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Daisuke + cutter = good?

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Daisuke + cutter = good?

Postby hot4tx » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:38 am

Daisuke Matsuzaka got a save last night with Farnsworth having thrown a lot lately and having "I'm just old" arm issues, which got me to actually look at him a bit. Yes it's a super small sample size and he's got a .200 BABIP, but there's a few items I noticed that made me wonder what if he's actually a darkhorse candidate in that terrible Mets bullpen. His K% is way up, and so is his SwStr % (up to 11.1% compared to his highest year at 10.6% in 2007 and his career average of 9.1%). Another huge difference seems to be the huge drop in Z-contact% (the contact % for swings at ball in the zone) which is down into the upper 60% versus his consistent mid-to-upper 80s% (85.7% career). Obviously he won't stay that low through a whole season, but if he could stay even in the mid-to-upper 70% that would put him a very good group of RP guys like Clippard, Chapman, Frieri, Benoit, and Uehara from last season.

My first thought was maybe his velocity is up since he's in the pen instead of starting, but there isn't substantial uptick there that would make any difference.

Then I checked out what pitches he is throwing. From fangraphs you can see that he's throwing about the same percentage of pitches that register as 2-seam fastballs, sliders, curves and change - but the thing that jumps out is he's throwing less fastballs and more cutters. His fastball percentage is 27.2% this year (versus 41% last year and 45.7% for his career) and he's throwing a cutter 27.2% of the time (versus 10.1% last year and 12.9% for his career). He's always thrown the cutter, now he's just throwing it more than 2.5 times more often. Also looking at the Z-contact for this pitch it is down below 50% which is obviously an anomaly of small sample size but would make it an absolutely dominant pitch (versus his career average of 88.7%). Again there's no large difference in velocity there and the total movement of the pitch doesn't seem to be that different from his past (7.1 versus career average of 6.6), so I took a look at heat maps for location.

It looks like he's throwing the cutter about twice as much to RHB as to LHB. It also looks like he's been completely able to avoid the middle part of the plate with the pitch against RHB. Every cutter he's thrown as a strike to a RHP is on the outside edge, or near the bottom-outside corner of the k zone. Also most of his cutters outside the k zone vs RHB have been close to the k zone and low or away.

Now obviously I don't think Dice-k has learned to throw a better cutter than Mariano Rivera ever dreamed of, so there's regression that will happen. However if he can keep throwing that cutter consistently like he has it will be an absolutely dominant pitch vs RHB and may give LHB something else to think about besides sitting on the fastball and change-up low and away (which he throws almost exclusively against LHB).

Thoughts? Comments? Dice-K on anyone else's watch list yet this season?
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Re: Daisuke + cutter = good?

Postby Skin Blues » Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:11 am

Definitely on my watch list. Snagged him in my NL only this morning with a $4 FAAB bid. You never know what a converted starter will do when healthy and in the bullpen. He clearly has a track record of having good stuff as a starter and he's only 33 which isn't ancient by any means. I think the Mets would give him a shot as soon as Farnsworth shows a hint of Valverdeing in the 9th inning. Which shouldn't be long.
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