Monday, April 16, 2007

The Wax and Wane of Red Sox Pitching, by Sara Hatch

It’s an interesting time for the Red Sox rotation. There is a newness and an oldness to it, exemplified in forms by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling.

Matsuzaka is the hope for the Red Sox. Japanese players are becoming a more common feature in American baseball, akin almost to the American presence in European football. Matsuzaka and his improbable salary had a rough night in his first home game this past week but he’s got a bright future ahead of him. His command of pitches is good and he’s got a range of them. Also, he is used to pitching far longer games in Japan which will mean he’ll be much more durable than many of the other pitchers on the team.

Pitchers are treated with such a revered sense of coddling these days. They can’t have over 100 pitch counts; they can only pitch every five games. But Matsuzaka will be good for the franchise and his newness will have an effect for at least the first half of the season. His loss at home this week wasn’t even all that bad of a game. Sometimes you pitch a good game and the other pitcher is just better. I see good things in his future, especially as he adjusts to the Majors and becomes more comfortable with his surroundings.

On the other end of the spectrum is Curt Schilling who is facing the pull of age. Schilling was such a good pitcher in his time that even now at 40 he can pitch his way out of almost any situation. His fastball has lost its bite but he hasn’t lost his pitcher’s brain. But this year may be his last and it will be a sad thing to see him go. The past few years have been years of brilliance and excess for the Red Sox and Schilling will forever go down in Red Sox history for his World Series performance.

But with time comes change and the masterful command Schilling has on his pitches will become harder to maintain. Going six innings will be a blessing and the great games will come farther and fewer between. Even with all that though, he’s still one of the keys to this year’s rotation.

This year, more than anything, this team will live and die by the strength of its pitchers. When will Matsuzaka settle and when will Schilling break?

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