October 11, 2010

Dice Throws Strikes. It Is A Fact.

A reader named Amanda emailed:
Peter Abraham said today: "Watching Dice-K pitch is painful. He's not willing to throw strikes."

I thought I read somewhere on your site where dicek actually wasn't as bad as other pitchers on the sox staff (strikes/balls).
I did post about that, back on August 10. Among the facts I passed along were, as of that point in the season, Matsuzaka has thrown a higher percentage of his pitches for strikes than every other Red Sox starting pitcher except Tim Wakefield. Matsuzaka also got ahead of batters 0-2 more often than any other Boston starter.

Looking through the comments to that post, I see that I sent the URL to Abraham (thinking he might want to cite it in a pre-game blog post) and he and I emailed back and forth a little bit. So Abraham is (or was, in August) aware of the facts -- yet he still insists that Matsuzaka is "not willing to throw strikes".

Here are the complete 2010 totals:

Percentage Of Pitches Thrown For Strikes:
             PIT    STR      %
Wakefield 2150 1441 67.023
Lackey 3584 2264 63.170
Matsuzaka 2611 1645 63.003
Beckett 2166 1343 62.004
Buchholz 2798 1731 61.866
Lester 3356 2067 61.591
Percentage Of 0-2 Counts
             PA   0-2      %
Wakefield 610 164 26.885
Matsuzaka 664 169 25.452
Buchholz 711 168 23.629
Lester 861 195 22.648
Beckett 577 115 19.931
Lackey 930 205 19.631
Don't you hate it when Matsuzaka goes to a 3-0 count on opposing batters? Well, in 2010, Lester did it more often.
             PA   3-0     %
Lester 861 42 4.878
Matsuzaka 664 31 4.669
(Note: While Lester issued 13 four-pitch walks and Matsuzaka handed out 12, Lester also faced almost 200 more batters. So, thumbs down to Dice for that.)

Lester led the staff with 30 three-pitch strikeouts, but Dice was a close second with 27. Wakefield had 23, Beckett had 18, and Lackey and Buchholz each had 13.

Clay Buchholz led the starters with the most pitches per batter:
             PA   PIT   P/PA%
Buchholz 711 2798 3.935
Matsuzaka 664 2611 3.932
Lester 861 3356 3.898
I have no problem with Abraham writing "Watching Dice-K pitch is painful". That is his opinion, and on some nights, I wholeheartedly agree. However, when Abraham states "He's not willing to throw strikes", he does not have the facts on his side.


Unknown said...

Well, if by "doesn't throw strikes" he meant "walks a lot of batters" or "doesn't throw strikes late in counts," he's right. Daisuke walked 4.3 guys per 9 innings, which was the highest of anyone who started a game for the Sox last year, by a good deal. Maybe Abraham is guilty of imprecise language, but it's not tough to get his meaning from what he wrote.

allan said...

I can't read Pete's mind, so I am going by exactly what he said.

Dice does walk people, though. 11.1% of his PA ended with a walk. The next highest percentages? Bard (10.2%) and Papelbon (9.8%)!

That is not good!

Lester was 9.6 and HH was at 9.4. The AL average was 8.4.

Not quite sure how to figure out if he throws strikes late in the count or not...

Here is something at random:

What happened after a 3-1 count?

Dice - 72 times
42 BB, 8 K, 22 Other

Lester - 91 times
39 BB, 14 K, 38 Other

Buchholz - 76 times
35 BB, 4 K, 37 Other

Not good, Dice.

Amy said...

So perhaps percentage of strikes is not a very good way of evaluating the effectiveness of pitchers. Given that our best pitchers have the lowest and our less effective pitchers have the highest percentages...

laura k said...

Obviously walk-to-strikeout ratio is different from percentage of strikes thrown.

But "guilty of imprecise language" is another way to say WRONG.

Zenslinger said...

Nice point.

Section 36 said...

The tricky part, is foul balls count as strikes. So, an 0-2 count, followed by three balls, six fouls, and a fourth ball would be 8 strikes in 12 pitches. But, a gut-wrenching AB nonetheless. In reality, it wasn't that bad of a pitching performance, but all anyone rememebrs is the sour taste in the end. If Dice goes 0-2, and eventually 3-2...even if he ends up striking the guy out, all anyone remembers is the three balls.

When a batter swings at a Beckett fastball off the plate and misses, Beckett made him chase a bad pitch. If Dice throws it, the batter helped Dice out. Sometimes, it's all in the preconcepion.