Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Verducci: Target Matsuzaka

The Monk thought about this today -- is Barry Zito worth 60M/5 years? Answer, no. Is Ted Lilly worth 24M over 3? Answer, possibly. Reason: strikeouts.

The reason the Yanks have stunk up the past three Octobers is that they cannot hitters out in key situations. In other words, no shutdown pitchers. Ask the RedSawx, Angels and Tigers if they feared any of the Yanks' starters. Answer: no. Reason: no young power arms, other than Wang.

Tom Verducci points out how the Yanks' starters have been woeful in the recent postseasons and, more importantly, why. During the course of a 162-game season, with tomorrow's game as another chance to get on-track, individual at-bats are less important and so are individual games. Thus, hitters concentrate less and can be shut down because they'll make more mistakes. In the playoffs, every pitch is a small battle, therefore each pitcher needs a good "out pitch" and that's usually a hard fastball. The 1996-2000 Yanks typified this approach and Verducci notes how Clemens, Wells, Cone, Moooooooooose and Pettitte approached opposing batters with aggressive hard fastballs during the Yanks' ALCS dominance. Indeed, it takes a very good performance to strike out 11 whilst complaining that "these guys don't swing at anything!" as John Smoltz did with the '99 Yanks who battled him tooth-and-claw to win game 4 of the '99 Series.

Today, Mooooooooose doesn't blow past 91 on the gun very often, Johnson is nowhere near his 95-98 heat of even two years ago.

The prescription for the future: hard-throwers who can locate blow-by fastballs. Yesterday, Zito had 0 K against the free-swinging Tigers who listened to batting coach Don Slaught's admonition that "[Zito] throws a lot of balls" and topped out at 88 throwing four-seam fastballs (the straighter ones). Compare to Pettitte, who topped out at 93-94 and relied on two-seamers (they dip down) and cutters.

Verducci's solution: go for Matsuzaka, the Japanese dominator from the World Baseball Classic who throws 93-94, is perfecting a two-seamer, is only 26 and has fewer innings on his arm than a comparable major league pitcher. Combine him with Wang (who doesn't strikeout hitters but has that nasty hard sinker), Philip Hughes and either Moooooooooose or Johnson (whoever is less zombified) and the Yanks have a top 4 for the 2007 ALDS.

Problem is, Torre might pitch Moooooose in game 1. Other than that, The Monk does not dislike Verducci's thought process.

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