Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
If you live in New York, you’ve heard it all season long and as recently as last week: Hideki Matsui won’t be back next year, he’s too old and hurt, there’s “no room” for him on the 2010 roster and/or the Yankees have to “get younger.”
Possibly valid points at the beginning of the season with a guy, formerly indestructible, who was coming off two knee surgeries and couldn’t play in the field, especially in the expansive left field of Yankee Stadium.
But have any of these “experts” been watching this year? Matsui has been a legitimate star and clutch player on a team loaded with stars. To cut this man loose now (unless he wants to retire) would be, in this writer’s opinion, both bush league and a mistake.
WHY WRITE THIS ARTICLE NOW?
Well, it seems that this is already a done deal (or, at least, presented by some “experts” as such). Matsui is having a stunning season for the Yankees and his numbers against lefthanders are staggering. You don’t find guys like this hanging off of trees or even on the free agent list.
Hopefully, this can sway the conversation to at least become an objective one: this isn’t a cripple on his last legs who’s slogging through the final year of his contract as he’s just about to ride off into the sunset. This is a very valuable player to the top franchise in baseball trying to win its first World Series in nine years.
LET’S LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
While baseball has been overrun (and overanalyzed) with statistics in the last 20 years or so, they still tell you plenty and, combined with some baseball knowledge, can help give a complete picture of a player and his worth. Matsui is off the charts in intangibles (hard worker, great guy in the clubhouse, great teammate by all accounts, perfect citizen, never says or does anything stupid, and a quiet, lead-by-example guy). He’s also off the charts in his money-making ability for the Yankees – he’s opened up a cottage industry for the Yankees, making inroads into the Japanese market as baseball (and the Yankees) looks to go international (plus, he’s a lot more likeable than Ichiro).
But it’s what he does with a bat in his hands that, as always, is the final decision-maker for success or failure – or, it is submitted here, for bringing him back or not. The overall numbers are terrific: 28 homers, 90 runs batted in and a .280 batting average are all excellent. The power numbers, however, are awesome when you understand that they came in only 443 at-bats.
It’s deeper than that, however. In 130 at-bats against lefties, Hideki Matsui has 13 homers and 46 runs batted in with a .285 average. His on base percentage (OBP) against lefties is .361 and his slugging percentage is .623. That makes his OPS .984. Hello, hello, is anybody listening?
A lefty who hits a homer in one out of every ten official at-bats against lefties? Do these guys actually exist? And, if you have one, do you just let him go away? I don’t think so.
Of course, there’s more. I think even old-timers will like this stat at baseball-reference.com. It’s called Late & Close. It’s defined as “plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.” How are Hideki Matsui’s numbers there? Well, his batting average in 91 plate appearances (81 actual at-bats) over 69 games is .321. His OBP is .396 and his slugging percentage is .617. That’s a staggering OPS (on base plus slugging) of 1.013. Amazing.
With two outs and runners in scoring position, the man has 26 RBIs in 65 at-bats. His average is .277 but he’s been walked 18 times in his 84 plate appearances (.440 OBP) in this situation. That’s a combination of a good eye (his is excellent) and pitchers not wanting him to beat them (although he beat the Red Sox on Sunday with a two-out, two-run single to clinch the AL East).
Some of these numbers are video-game numbers. And the Yankees are just going to let him walk?
WHAT IF THE YANKEES WIN IT ALL?
With good pitching (still unclear but better of late), the Yankees, of course, can win it all. And if Hideki Matsui wants to ride off into the sunset with a World Series ring, good for him. But that should really be his choice.
It says here that the Yankees should offer Hideki Matsui a one or even two-year deal. The money won’t be a big problem because Matsui, if he wants to play next year (why wouldn’t he?), probably wants to remain a Yankee. It’s weird to picture him in any other AL uniform (not Joe-Namath-in-a-Rams-uniform weird, but weird nonetheless).
Maybe, with a winter of rehab on his knees, Matsui could play 20 games in leftfield. But even if he can’t, he could DH in 95-100 games (giving Joe Girardi 65 or so games to use others at DH) and be available for pinch-hitting duties in the rest. Remember, it’s hard to calculate what it does to the opposing manager when you have a lefty in the line-up or on the bench who hits lefties as well as (better than?) righties.
Did I mention Hideki Matsui’s 2009 pinch-hit, video-game numbers? His average is .381. His OBP is .500. His OPS is 1.119. These are, of course, off the charts.
Here’s hoping that the Yankees do the right thing and bring back a true professional, Hideki Matsui. He’ll only help the team win.
© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.