Change-UpSeptember 23, 2008
Bob Ryan Prefers His Own Definition of "Great"
By Patrick Sullivan

This is Bob Ryan in his column from this morning's edition of The Boston Globe.

The Red Sox never have been great this year. That just wasn't possible.

I will present the following without comment and leave it to you to decide whether or not you agree with Ryan.

                     Figure   AL Rank
OPS+                  109       2 
OPS Allowed          .711      t3 
ERA+                  115       3   
Run Differential      158       1

On the topic of "greatness", one debate that might be more interesting is whether a guy with an 18-2 record is or is not great because of that record alone. Have a look below at Daisuke Matsuzaka's numbers from 2007 and 2008 (h/t THT).

             2007     2008
W-L         15-12     18-2
ERA          4.40     2.80
K/G          8.90     8.20
BB/G         3.50     5.10
WHIP         1.32     1.32
HR/G         1.11     0.61 
LOB%         73.9     80.9
RISP*        .694     .556 
DER          .701     .743
* OPS Allowed
Reasonable minds can disagree over whether or not Matsuzaka's improved traditional numbers are the result of increased focus or legitimate improvement. Perhaps he has reached a new level of performance. I am unconvinced. The bold numbers above tell the story. He is allowing fewer home runs, stranding more runners and getting better defense behind him.

Home runs allowed is arguably a repeatable skill and he has improved drastically in that department. At the same time, his strikeout numbers are down and walk numbers up. It has been nice that the Red Sox have managed to win as often as they have with Dice-K, but those who think the Sox have a trio of aces heading into the playoffs might want to reconsider such classification for Matsuzaka.


Might have something to do with run support as well. Did you look at that? I know the era is down but run support might be the reason for only 2 losses.

Kirk, that may well be true but it still would not account for the flashy ERA.

I did not look at run support.

Dice will be an interesting pitcher to watch next year, I am big on peripherals and not looking at W/L and ERAs.... but all season long he has refused to pitch to contact and never throws a "get me over" fastball.

Oh course that leads to walks and 5 inning, 110 pitch outings, but it also leads to crappy contact and less homers. Obviously it has worked well this year, but next year will be an interesting follow up case.

He is also pitching with a better K/BB over his last 37 IP, 15 BB, 40 K.

Dice-K has been very strange this season. He's sort of like an off-spead Nolan Ryan, if that makes any sense. He's much more willing to allow a walk than he is a hit, and wastes a lot of pitches that don't get anywhere near the zone.

Now, in my gut, watching Dice-K throw at the corners of the strike zone (or out of the strike zone) he seems to get an awful lot of awkward swings, almost like watching Tim Wakefield pitch. I remember reading something about how knuckleballers tend to do better than their DIPS or PERA or whatever, and I'm wondering if multi-pitch guys who don't throw a lot of get-me-over type pitches might do the same.

Or, it's just good luck. We'll see.

Dice-K just needs to pitch from the stretch...all the time. Look at that OPS with RISP, its ridiculous.

Either he doesn't focus as much when no one is on or mechanically he isn't nearly the same. I don't know, but it gives me heart palpitations every time he's on the mound.