Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Looking at the Heart of the Dice-K Training Controversy

Reading over some of the articles on the storm raging over Matsuzaka's comments to the Japanese media about his training regimen, I'm struck by two things:
  1. John Farrell really knows how to take off the gloves once the dirty fighting starts: "It’s one thing to say that, ‘OK, we’ll let you go 125 pitches,’ ’’ Farrell said. “But you know what? You’ve got to go out and be effective. We’re not just going to let someone sit on the mound and throw 125 pitches and be down, 10-0. There has to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of the player." No sugar-coating there, clearly.

  2. This disagreement seems to have its roots in how clubs - and their training staffs - use performance statistics, as verbalized by another Farrell quote: "That’s based on a number of pitchers that when they get into that area you’re predisposed to injury. So we’d like to think that we’re trying to do our best to put him in the best situation and yet this is where the two worlds, the two baseball worlds, somewhat collide."
My reading of Farrell's statement is that the Sox hold the belief that pitch counts reflect what one school of medical statistics says a pitcher's arm can handle every five days. When training, a pitcher should maintain the strength necessary to meet that pitch count without overtaxing the arm and shoulder, which could lead to injury. Matsuzaka and his trainers, on the other hand, seem to follow another school of thought, believing that the pitcher will avoid injury by doing the pitching equivalent of using a 50 pound weight to train for a situation where you'll be lifting 30 pounds - what my friend Fred calls the Nolan Ryan school of pitching. There's some question as to which style is more effective, with some anecdotal evidence that the focus on pitch counts has led to more arm and shoulder injuries, but regardless of the overall truth, the Sox look like they're in the right: Matsuzaka's shoulder isn't strong enough to throw effectively in games.

We'll see how things turn out, but Matsuzaka's rather douchey decision to complain to the press aside, I don't really see this situation resolving itself until the Sox and Dice-K find some common ground on the best way to train.