Plenty of weapons up Dice-K's sleeve
Besides the mystical gyroball, righty has six potent pitches
For all the talk about the gyroball, which seems to be more myth than fact, it is far more constructive to look at the pitches that Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka actually throws.
A legend in Japan, Dice-K is set to unveil his six-pitch arsenal in the Major Leagues, beginning with his debut in Kansas City on Thursday.
Here is a breakdown of Matsuzaka's impressive repertoire, with considerable help from Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
Four-seam fastball: Matsuzaka is able to locate his four-seamer to both sides of the plate, and it ranges from 92-95 mph. This is the pitch that Matsuzaka sometimes leaves up in the zone. He could get away with that in Japan, but it could lead to devastating mistakes in the power-packed American League.
Two-seam fastball: This is the pitch that Matsuzaka worked hardest on refining during Spring Training. This is because he didn't throw it all that much in Japan. Matsuzaka uses the two-seamer quite a bit on right-handers. The pitch whistles in anywhere from 90-92 mph, with tough, downward action.
"I think when you look at his fastball in general, he's got the ability to sink it," Farrell said. "He's got the ability to really carry it through the zone. And his delivery allows for some deception where he's going to get some swings and misses. Not only is the location and velocity there, but the deception adds to the overall effectiveness."
The cutter: What makes Matsuzaka's cutter most effective, according to Farrell, is its tightness. The speed is 87-89 mph.
"It's tight; there's such definition," Farrell said. "He's got the ability to go to both sides of the plate with it. And it's got power and late action. What will come out of all of this is the fact that his ability to manipulate the baseball is tremendous."
The curve: Out of all of Matsuzaka's pitches, this one is the prettiest to watch. Matsuzaka's bender, which Farrell says has an 11-to-7 break, comes in at 75-77 mph.
"He's able to drop it over for a strike, seemingly at will," Farrell said. "The 2-0 curveball has been a pitch for him that has really slowed the bats down and taken some of the aggressiveness out of the hitter. It's a command pitch for him. It's not too big to where it's going to be difficult for him to throw inside a Major League strike zone. Again, it's obviously a very usable pitch for him."
Slider: This nasty pitch is one that Matsuzaka will use quite a bit to put away left-handed hitters. It is a mid-80s pitch for Matsuzaka, ranging anywhere from 83-87 mph.
"Again, to be able to go backdoor to a lefty, on the back foot of a lefty, there's definitely some power to it," Farrell said. "It's a put-away pitch for him and a finishing type of pitch. There's swing-and-miss ability to both lefties and righties."
Changeup: Saving the best for last, this is Matsuzaka's most unhittable offering. This is the one that leaves hitters taking the ugliest of swings and the one that has been confused with the gyroball pitch.
"Actually the pitch he throws that some might think is that pitch is his changeup," Farrell said. "He turns the ball over so it has some screwball action to it, but I think the gyroball is still somewhat of a legend. It is, in fact, his changeup that he turns over. It's somewhat of a circle change where he'll get on the inside of the ball and really coordinate his hand inward and that creates that screwball type of spin."
Matsuzaka throws the pitch between 78-82 mph.
"To me, his changeup is what will really set him apart," Farrell said. "Just the overall arm speed and deception he creates with his changeup is phenomenal."
As for the gyroball, Matsuzaka is obviously having fun keeping the legend alive in hitters' minds.
"Even in my conversations with him, he's very reluctant to reveal anything," Farrell said. "So whether that's part of the mystique or whether in fact it's something that's nonexistent, the fact that it's still something that people will consider or hitters will consider, the fact that that thought is in there, is an advantage for him.
"I think that's part of where his reluctance is to describe it, because I think he sees it as a competitive advantage. "
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.