Last night's masterpiece was Daisuke Matsuzaka's 100th start for the Red Sox. Anyone for a commemorative home run ball to remember the occasion? Maybe inscribed with "Hanging meatball clobbered by [grateful player's name here] on a 3-2 count"?
Yeah, those probably won't be such a big seller over at Twins. Too bad. Such a nice, round number might be a cause for reflection and celebration had Dice-K even approached fulfilling his advanced billing.
Instead, it seems like an appropriate moment to draw a conclusion, which, the morning after yet another hideous performance by the perpetually disappointing righthander, is this:
I'd just as soon he not make start No. 101 for the Red Sox. Not just three days from now. Not three months from now. Not three years from now.
It's time, to paraphrase Peter Abraham's spot-on take from this morning, for Dice-K to become someone else's migraine.
He has to go.
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't come to this conclusion easily. I try to avoid opining in lockstep with the sports radio conventional wisdom of the day. The panic button is usually well out of my reach. And I don't like trading an accomplished pitcher -- which Dice-K, a genuine icon in Japan who is 49-26 with a 4.18 ERA in the major leagues, certainly is -- just because of perceived depth. The lesson still lingers from the Bronson Arroyo-for-Wily Mo Pena trade.
Besides, there's the matter of who replaces him. His most similar pitcher through age 29, Tim Wakefield, a 43-year-old muscle-pull-waiting-to-happen? Alfredo Aceves, whose versatility would be missed should he take a regular turn in the rotation? Michael Bowden? Felix Doubront? Mark Portugal?
Well . . . yeah, actually, any of them will do, save for Portugal, I suppose. Because here's the dirty truth about Dice-K: He's not just maddening or inconsistent. He's plain lousy, and he has been for more than two years now. Pete laid out some of his numbers since the beginning of the 2009 season, a span of 37 starts, and here we've tallied a few more, for this final line:
13 wins, 14 losses, 220 innings, 232 hits allowed, 128 earned runs, 109 walks, 191 strikeouts, 5.24 ERA, 1.55 WHIP 1.06 HRs per nine innings.
That's not a decent No. 5. Heck, that's not even Wes Gardner or John Wasdin, and I'm not being a snarky weasel for once.
During his three-plus seasons (1997-2000) with the Red Sox, during which he became something of a punchline thanks to Jerry Trupiano's overly enthusiastic home run calls, ol' Way Back won 19, lost 16 and had a 4.66 ERA and 1.307 WHIP. He allowed 1.4 HRs per nine while pitching at the peak of the steroid era.
It's true: John Wasdin was better over the course of his Red Sox career than Dice-K has been since the start of the '09 season.
I know. Wasdin. Better.
Then there's Wes Gardner, whose greatest claim to fame as a Red Sox pitcher was giving up a home run to Bo Jackson hit so hard that it is very possibly lodged in the back wall of the center field bleachers?
During his five seasons (1986-90) in Boston, Gardner went 17-26 with a 4.73 ERA and a 1.439 WHIP. He was . . . pretty terrible, though he did have 2.2 WAR in '88. He was also better than post-'08 Dice-K. I can't decide if that's more frightening, hilarious, or embarrassing, but it's definitely all of the above.
I realize the clear-eyed reaction is to skip his turn in the rotation, or bury him in the bullpen, or send him on yet another injury-related (wink, wink) hiatus to Ft. Myers, or perhaps get particularly clever and tell the Blue Jays there was an oversight and he was really supposed to accompany John Farrell to Toronto. But I'm sure the Red Sox will be prudent, and as Pete noted, the no-trade clause and the money remaining make it very unlikely that he will be dealt anyway. As much as we'd like to track his plane out of town, he's not departing anytime soon.
Which, again, is too bad. He's just terrible, and any cure for this prolonged terribleness seems unfathomable to you, me, and probably Curt Young, too. His supposedly deep repertoire -- much of which never came stateside with him in the first place -- has been whittled down to a flat fastball and an adequate breaking ball. He either nibbles or serves up beach balls to the likes of Sam Fuld, an extremely likable, extremely limited ballplayer with exactly 26 homers in seven seasons of pro ball.
One more stat tangentially related to Matsuzaka before I sign off here: Only eight pitchers in history have pitched 220 innings in a single season with an ERA and WHIP at or above the respective 5.24 and 1.55 Matsuzaka has heaved up over his last 220 innings. The last to do it was the wonderfully named Harry Byrd in 1953. In other words, pitchers have rarely had the opportunity over a full season to be as brutal as Matsuzaka has been in sum over the past three.
Wait, wait . . . one more stat tangentially related to the previous stat: Only 15 pitchers in history have logged 200 innings in a season with an ERA and WHIP higher than his 5.24/1.55: Jason Jennings in 2004 and -- this was a bit of a surprise until I remembered his habit of pitching three good innings, then melting down -- Tom "Flash" Gordon in 1996, when he went 12-9 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP in 215.2 innings in his first season with the Sox.
Gordon, of course, was soon converted to relief, saving a club-record 46 games in 1998, then six years later doing his part (in pinstripes) to help the Sox overcome the Yankees in the ALCS.
He last pitched in the majors in 2009, turns 44 in November, and you know what? I think I'd rather see Flash pitch for the Sox this season than Dice-K.
You think I'm kidding? Maybe. But I bet he could walk directly from the couch to the mound right now and snap off a better breaking ball than Dice-K.
And, he is younger than Wakefield.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.