Dice-K suffers from "intestinal turmoil"

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Stand by me guy.jpgOne of the reasons teams have media relations people is so that a nice little shine can be put on news tidbits that aren’t particularly shiny. Health updates are one of those things. For example, did you know that there’s an exhibit in the PR Professionals Hall of Fame dedicated to preserving the memory of one Alfred R. Wilkinson? Who is Alfred Wilkinson you ask? Why, he’s the former Yankees PR man who came up with the term “flulike smptoms” to cover for Mikey Mantle’s legendary May 19th-23rd 1962 Minneapolis bender, and it’s been used ever since. It’s true! (note: may not be true).

I bring this up because I’m sure the Boston Red Sox have their own version of Alfred Wilkinson, and he probably should have been consulted before Terry Francona briefed the media on why Daisuke Matsuzaka had to cut his side session short today:

Daisuke Matsuzaka was forced to abandon his scheduled side session
due to what Red Sox manager Terry Francona classified as ‘intestinal
turmoil.’ The pitcher threw up after executing long toss, not getting a
chance to begin his work in the bullpen. Matsuzaka was sent back to the
team hotel with the hope that he will be able to throw a lighter side
session Thursday.

“He got sick,” Francona said. “I don’t know how you say that in
Japanese, but he puked.”

Sure, maybe “flulike symptons” is not appropriate for Matsusaka’s particular situation, but I’m sure there was a more artful way that could have been phrased. How about “stomach flu?”  Or perhaps he had a sore thumb!  Everyone has one of those these days!

But really, if the Sox are going to bypass their P.R. people, the least they could do is let Dustin Pedroia do the briefings. I’m sure the guy who came up with “laser show” could characterize Dice-K’s little problem in a much more entertaining way.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.