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Home » August 2008 Game CommentsAugust 2008 » Natsukashii [懐かしい]

Natsukashii [懐かしい]

Game 126: August 19, 2008
WinRed Sox 7 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-2) 73-53, 2 game winning streak
Orioles 2 L: Daniel Cabrera (8-8) 60-65, 2 game losing streak
Highlights: In the post-game show Dennis Eckersley boasted that, aside from his rookie year, he hadn’t walked five or more batters in a game. A quick check of Baseball Reference Play Index shows that there are 16 games in which he walked five or more batters; six of those games were in his debut year 1975, but there were a smattering of such outings in the starting pitcher phase of his career. Often when reminiscing of former glories the details of the past become worn, hewn to the shape of what we wished rather than what actually was. The Japanese have a word for nostalgia, natsukashii, that describes the object that stirs one’s idealized memories.

Dennis Eckersley, Jerry Remy, and even Lou Merloni, who is not so far removed from the game, seem to hold Daisuke Matsuzaka up to some unattainable ideal of a pitcher. Anything short of Sidd Finch is deemed unacceptable.

Remy, in particular, has identified Matsuzaka as his object of scorn, replacing his former target, Dustin Pedroia. As Melvin Mora fouled off pitch after pitch in the fourth inning with ducks on the pond and one out, Remy proclaimed with doom, “Hitters are 0-for -2 with the bases loaded against Matsuzaka, but that may change quickly.” Change it did—to 0-for-14.

I didn’t expect him to bring out a pair of pompoms from under the broadcast desk, but Remy seemed to want Matsuzaka to fail at that point of the game. I’m glad Remy isn’t a complete homer like Ken Harrelson or Ron Santo, but the analyst has incessantly harped upon what he sees as Matsuzaka’s shortcomings. And as Remy goes, so do the rest of the NESN talking heads; Heidi Watney even asked Pedroia about what it’s like to play behind someone that walks so many batters.

The fact that Matsuzaka leads his team in wins and has an ERA of 2.77 is brushed aside. Such statistics don’t have a lot of currency in advanced statistical analysis, as well they shouldn’t. Using VORP, amongst Red Sox pitchers Mastsuzaka’s 38.6 is second only to Jon Lester’s 44.7.

(As I write this Remy appeared on the pre-game of tonight’s game and basically said he doesn’t like calling a game when Matsuzaka ptiches. It’s a pity he’s allows his personal feelings to color his judgment. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson told the visitors’ dugout to drink decaf when they were getting chirpy in the top of the eighth. I recommend the same to Remy.)

In an era where on-base percentage, which doesn’t devalue walks, is hailed as a greater indicator of offensive production, it seems pitchers who walk a lot of batters take a corresponding hit in their perceived value.

Boston batters have finally found a way to produce on the road, and facing the volcanic Daniel Cabrera added heat to their fire. Jason Varitek homered for the second game in a row in the second inning. Kevin Youkilis continued to fill the role of clean-up hitter with a longball of his own in the fifth; the two-corner infielder has a line of .328 batting average, .403 on-base percentage, and .625 slugging percentage batting fourth over the course of 64 innings.

It doesn’t bother me so much to see Manny in Dodger blue these days.

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