This should be fun…
Matsuzaka enters his fifth season with the Red Sox and continues to struggle with pitch count and inconsistency. After his first start (5 IP, 96 pitches, 3BB, 2 K) it looks like things have not changed. The owner of a vast arsenal of pitches, the Japanese import lacks a true out pitch. His cutter is probably the closest to one, but his most used pitches in recent seasons – the fastball and slider- have been hit. Look for the Rays to load the lineup with lefties against him as his wildness is enhanced by the presence of left-handed batters (5.55 K/9 career vs. LHB).
Arguably one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, Lester throws four quality pitches (fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup) with regularity. His top weapons come in the form of the cutter and changeup. Because of this, Joe Maddon mentioned the possibility of going Danks Theory on the Red Sox lefty. Although Lester shows no real platoon split, there are some pitch usage patterns to be aware of. He throws his cutter to both types of batters, but is more effective versus righties. In terms of the changeup, it is almost exclusive to right-handed batters. Here are some heat maps from fangraphs.com to illustrate how he used both pitches in 2010.
Lackey’s first season in Boston was not as bad as his 4.40 ERA suggests. That said, his first two starts in 2011 have been absolutely awful. Throughout his career he has thrown a fastball, slider, curveball, and used his changeup as a “get me over” off-speed pitch. His curveball has been his best pitch; however, the breaking ball has tailed off in effectiveness. Despite the lack of natural stuff, Lackey has been solid against both left and right-handed batters. He is more of a groundball pitcher which could provide opportunity to matchup based on batted ball data.
The new and improved Red Sox bullpen after the jump…
(Three-year samples used when possible)
*Career numbers because of small sample size in recent years. These tables all exclude 2011 stats
(Favors means the split is +/- .020 points)
Matchup favors LHB: Papelbon, Wheeler, Bard, Jenks
Matchup favors RHB: Aceves, Doubront
Matchup is a push: Wakefield
(Credit to Chris St. John for the data)
Although the chart shows the matchups favor left-handed batters against Papelbon, Bard, and Jenks, all three are pretty filthy against both types of hitters. If Terry Francona wants to put Wheeler in a bases loaded, no out situation with three lefties do up, I would see no problem with that.