The patient Sox walked all over LA of A to take a half-game lead in the AL East over the weekend, and Daisuke didn't even have anything to do with it. He gets the chance to extend Boston's 3-game winning streak tonight. Elsewhere, Terry Francona vaults himself to the forefront of progressive closer usage, and pizza flies at Fenway...
On to the Advance Scout!
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Patience counts. Go up hacking against Daisuke and he will make you look very inept. There really isn't anybody quite like him in the majors. He throws just about every common pitch there is in the book: mid-90s fastball, cutter, 'shuuto,' slider, curve, splitter, and a changeup with nasty movement that he uses as an out pitch. He also isn't shy about being eccentric in his pitch selection: he might start 40% of hitters off with a fastball, and he'll throw anything in the strike zone in fastball counts, especially the change. He's also very content to throw the same offspeed pitch 2, 3 times in a row. Hitters appear to be very conscious of the change: Daisuke is getting most of his K's off fastballs and sliders. So far, hitters who have the most success against Daisuke seem to be those who sit all over the high fastball and whack it in the unlikely event that it comes. Take a bow, David DeJesus. A team that looks for fastballs on a night when Daisuke happens to have trouble spotting his off-speed stuff should do well. In a very small sample, Daisuke's GB% sits at 33.3 - I'm curious to see whether Matsuzaka actually plays as a flyball pitcher as the AL gets used to him. I have a hunch Adam Lind hits his first big-league homer of 2007 tonight. I swear I wrote that last night.
Tim Wakefield: Some things never change. Wake turns 41 in August. Like you'd expect from a knuckleballer, he's a flyball pitcher who has sustained low BABIPs throughout his career. He also has a 1.77 lifetime K/BB - I had no idea he was actually that good at missing bats. Wakefield is 12-8 with a 3.93 ERA and a save in 217.2 career innings against the Jays franchise. No current Jays have particularly good or bad career numbers against Wake. Frank Thomas is 7-36 with 4 walks and 3 homers. Alex Rios is 6-16 with a double, triple and homer.
Julian Tavarez: Will be just a little bit anxious to get back on track after his command deserted him in a loss at Texas in his only other start of the year. Since that game, he's seen his second start pushed back twice due to inclement weather. He's a groundball pitcher who does his damage with a sinker and slider. Matt Stairs has managed to strike out 4 times in 6 PA against him; Alex Rios is 5-6 with a triple; Royce Clayton is 4-20 with 5 walks and a homer.
Curt Schilling: Was scheduled to pitch Thursday until the Sox decided that to make Tavarez wait any more than 12 days between starts would be completely inhumane. He won't pitch this series. However, if you are not regularly reading 38 Pitches, commence doing so now. Schill's blog offers insight into the mind of a really good pitcher that is unique among other sources of pitcher insight in that it isn't filtered in any way by the media.
Jon Papelbon: Papelbon, who stranded a jawdropping 88.6% of baserunners in 2005 and 92.4% in 2006, is off and running after being reinstalled as Boston's executioner. 3.1 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 6 strikeouts, 2 saves. Any questions? His last action came on Friday. With the Sox leading 4-1 in the eighth inning and one out, Vladimir Guerrero was due up, so Terry Francona went all Jamesian on him and decided to bring Papelbon in to stop the rally before it started. Papelbon struck Guerrero out and saved the 4-1 lead, and the Sox responded with a six-run eighth to blow the game open. Mike Timlin pitched the ninth. Progressive!
David Ortiz: Big Papi has been one of the biggest thorns in Roy Halladay's side throughout his career. He's 20-67 against Doc with 7 homers and only 9 K's.
Hideki Okajima: Boston's second lefty specialist, alongside J.C. Romero. Okajima is a 31-year-old career reliever who has posted very good strikeout rates since making his NPB debut in 1995. He throws around 90 with his fastball and dispatches hitters with a sweeping curveball. He also throws a fork. He's only allowed 1 run so far, but it came in the form of a John Buck homer on the first major-league pitch he ever threw. Okajima is the seventh pitcher in major-league history to give up a homer on his first pitch.
J.D. Drew: Hit a foul popup that just landed in the seats in the 7th inning of Monday's game against LA of A, triggering a sequence of events that will populate blooper reels all year long.
Dustin Pedroia: Miguel Tejada's a fan. “I had made a couple of real good plays against Baltimore, and all of a sudden he’s coming up to me and saying, ‘Make sure you don’t get down if you start slumping, because you’re going to be a real good player.' "
Wily Mo Pena: The ridiculously powerful righty outfielder is 0-7 with a walk and 4 K's; he's seen time in 6 different games. He thrashes fastballs. He doesn't really thrash anything else (to thrash things, you have to make them hit your bat, see.)
Mike Lowell: A professional hitter who doesn't strike out and hits tons of fly balls. The batted-ball stats in the chart are not far from his career averages. He's also an excellent fielder at third, with great range and reflexes.
Coco Crisp: He sucks! Let us wash our hands of him! Crisp, who stands as close to the front of the batter's box as any hitter I can remember, has raced to a .111/.179/.167 start. Part of his struggles can be explained away by his sub-.150 BABIP and Pinto's PMR loved his defense last year, but the vultures are circling. He took a giant leap backwards with a .317 OBP last year and currently hits 8th in Boston's order, with Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis usurping the two top spots in the order. Tony Massarotti reasonably suggests that Crisp, as a fastball hitter marooned at the bottom of the Sox order, is stuck in a vicious cycle where he has to overcome unfavorable circumstances to earn protection and hence the fastballs he needs to thrive. Could the Sox be headed toward a Manny-Drew-Hinske outfield? It's early, but...
The Credit Section: Batted-ball and Leverage Index data are available at Fangraphs. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks respectively as a percentage of plate appearances. Everything else, most notably the AL average statistics, is available at The Hardball Times. The "Rest" column for relievers is basically self explanatory: the number on the left of the forward slash is the number of days off the pitcher has had, while the number on the right is the number of pitches the pitcher threw in his last outing.
Chart Oddities: Check out those walk rates at the top of the order, and the sub-amazing pitches per PA that accompany them. Chacin and Ohka are not sure bets to make it out of the fifth inning. Even Halladay will have a tough time being as efficient as usual. Sample size disclaimer: the 2 through 5 hitters have current P/PA numbers well below their career averages.