Personal history and numbers don't always guide on-field performance, but they can give us a quick insight into who carries the advantage -- if ever so slight -- into a particular game. Tale O' Tape breaks down the starting pitchers to find an edge.
Personally - Dice-K's old school Cy Young numbers (18-3, 2.90) appear stellar, and he was quite solid from start to finish. On the flip-side, he struggles with control often. He's walked 94 batters in only 167 2/3 innings, and only averages 5 2/3 innings per start due to pitch counts piling up. He does good stuff, but the pecking around the strike zone puts an awful lot of pressure on the bullpen. His ALDS outing was less than acceptable, allowing eight hits, three walks, and three earned runs through only five innings.
Road Splits - He actually had phenomenal road numbers in the regular season. The ERA is a minuscule 2.37, and his record was 9-0. Once again, the low point is the 40 walks in 76 innings. He only gave up 48 hits, so it seems like he just needs to trust his stuff and not worry about being so fine with his location.
History against Tampa - Dice faced the Rays three times this season, but was only able to get through 15 innings ... which was directly due to his 11 walks and 17 strikeouts. He did allow 13 hits and five earned runs, though, so control wasn't the only problem for Dice-K in these outings. He kept the ERA down at 3.00, but 24 baserunners in 15 innings is very dangerous.
Vs. specific hitters - The good news for the Rays is that Akinori Iwamura and Carlos Pena have had great success against Dice. Iwamura is hitting .375 with a home run in 24 at-bats, while Pena sports a 1.147 OPS in 16 at-bats. Dioner Navarro and B.J. Upton have both gone yard against Matsuzaka as well, but the two have only combined for four hits in 31 at-bats. Evan Longoria is only 1-2, and Carl Crawford is 3-11 (.272), but the rest of the cast has been dismal. Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, and Jason Bartlett are a combined 1-20, for example.
Personally - He's coming off his third straight improvement in three major league seasons. This year he went 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA. Unlike his counterpart, he survives on control, with only 40 free passes in 215 regular season innings. This allows him to work deep into games when he's going well, as he completed three (Dice-K had zero complete games). If you throw out two one-inning starts, he averages seven innings per. His last outing was his first career postseason start, and he garnered the victory after 6 1/3 innings and three earned runs.
Home splits - He's much more suited to throw at home, as his home ERA (2.59) is more than two runs better than his road ERA. He's 9-2 at home, and averages 7 1/3 innings or work per home start.
History against Boston - This isn't good, Rays fans. Shields faced the Red Sox four times this year, and came away battered after only 20 innings of work. The 5.85 ERA in those games is well below his season mark. He didn't get in much trouble with control, but he was knocked around ... to the tune of 20 hits and 13 runs. Of course, we should qualify these numbers ... it's been a while. His last start against the Red Sox was June 30th.
Vs. specific hitters - The headline here is easy. Kevin Youkilis is 0-17. That's quite a sample for him to not even squeak out one base hit. Jason Bay and Mark Kotsay have never faced Shields. Jacoby Ellsbury is 1-10. Jason Varitek is 1-10. I hope I didn't get your hopes up Rays fans ... but I'm holding out on you. Check this out:
Other than Shields much better home splits, the rest of the numbers sway the advantage slightly in favor of the Red Sox and their Japanese import, Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the offensive history against these pitchers is any indication, however, the scoring won't be hard to come by.
Expect Big Papi to make an impact, unless Shields avoids him altogether.