It looked like Daisuke Matsuzaka's year was over, at least insofar as starting for the Red Sox goes, following his drubbing at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays are a team that, thanks to their sometimes over-aggressive approach, Matsuzaka tends to succeed against. If he can't beat a team trying to beat themselves, then what use is he?
It appears as if he'll get one more shot to start, though, following a bullpen session with a mechanical tweak that manager Bobby Valentine feels put Dice-K back where he needs to be in order to succeed. Whether that's accurate or not is something we'll see on Friday, when we see or do not see another fireworks display against the Blue Jays. It sounds as if this is it for him, though, if he doesn't succeed.
Matsuzaka has started eight games for the Red Sox following Tommy John surgery performed in 2011, and, while there have been flashes of a return to form, he's been mostly awful. His season ERA is 7.20, and he's averaging just 4-1/3 innings per outing, poor by even Dice-K's standards.
Maybe we should have seen this coming, even with the return from surgery. From Baseball Prospectus 2011 (full disclosure: this is my writing):
Matsuzaka has thrown 200 innings only once in his major-league career, and has managed just 39 starts over the past two seasons. Inefficiency contributes to his low innings totals, with Matsuzaka averaging 4.0 pitches per plate appearance for his career, granting every hitter that faces him the patience of Wade Boggs. The Sox were encouraged by an uptick in four-seamer and slider velocity over the last two months of 2010, a period during which Dice-K also averaged over 6.1 innings per start. On the surface, he appeared more efficient, lowering his rate to 3.8 P/PA, but that deceptive improvement was due to his being hit harder earlier in the count: Dice-K had a 5.34 ERA (and 4.45 SIERA) over those 64 innings, so maybe the team's expectations should be as low as his K/BB ratio.
There was reason for optimism -- maybe his elbow was bothering him further back than 2011, hence some of the past struggles -- but now, after the TJ procedure, it's harder to believe that's the case for the right-hander, especially given all of this is just so familiar. Overly so.