96 pitches and the exit for Daisuke? Seven innings pitched well, not great, but well enough, and Matsuzaka gets taken out of the game. I don’t necessarily disagree with it, but I would like to know exactly why Francona did it. One reason could be that he was surprised Daisuke was semi-efficient, and was glad to take the seven innings and move on. Once again, the Twins are very impatient, so I wouldn’t look too much into this start. It was pretty much the same in the beginning, walks, more pitches, opportunities for the Twins. The Twins actually hit the ball decent off Matsuzaka, they hit some balls hard, and they went the other way, almost with ease it seemed at one point. But once Daisuke finally settled down, in the last few innings he was awesome. His pitches appeared to be “crisp,” locating everything perfectly, including that fastball on the outside corner that he sometimes struggles with (fastball in general I mean). Which leads me to believe that maybe he has to throw all the pitches beforehand, like he did in Japan, to maximize his potential. I don’t know, but it shouldn’t take four or five innings to get your **** straight. And what he showed us late in the game, is almost a tease. If he becomes that pitcher, he will be a bonafide ace, but if he continues to pitch wildy, and run up his pitch count, then he may still have some success, but he simply will not be as good as he could be. He is the most fascinating pitcher for me to watch personally, but he can also be the most frustrating.
The second reason Francona may have taken him out, might have been because he didn’t necessarily trust Daisuke in the following inning. As well as Matsuzaka had pitched down the stretch in this game, he was only a few walks away from creating a problem for either himself, the bullpen, or most importantly, the team. So Francona may simply have taken him out to bring in someone whom he trusted more than Matsuzaka.
The other reason they might have removed Dice-K, was simply to limit his pitches. It kind of goes hand and hand with the first reason, take him out with seven good innings, while limiting his pitch count, hoping that he does not fatigue once again this season. They have a reliable bullpen, with two very capable arms, and a few other decent options too. And of course, to elaborate on the second reason, Okajima has not been nearly as effective when he has been brought in with men on base so far in this young season. So having Okajima start the inning made some sense too.
Joe Mauer has such a great eye at the plate. These are the things that one does not see in the statistics. Sure, I can look at the “pitches per PA.” But seeing it is something that has always marveled me. I have gone on before about how I admire what Abreu and Drew are able to do with the strike zone. And when I have seen Fukudome, he is able to do the same thing. They have such a great eye of the strike zone, it’s just amazing to me, how they can be so calm, and so aware of it. It does frustrate me when Drew watches a called third strike go by, if it is clearly a strike that is. If it’s a questionable call, it hurts a little less, but if it’s a ball, then Drew is right. I don’t buy that, “It’s too close to take” saying. If it is a ball then the umpire screwed up. It is like what Wade Boggs (I think) said when he was on BBTN (This isn’t an exact quote): These players spend their entire lives learning the strike zone, they aren’t going to relearn the zone for each umpire that wants to express himself by calling balls and strikes with a different mentality.
Every umpire should be on the same page, they aren’t, but they should be.
But anyway, Daisuke threw more strikes last night. And hopefully he continues with more of the same, because there is a difference between a “pretty good” pitcher, and a “GREAT” pitcher.