Thursday, September 15, 2005

Don't Worry, It's Just Godzilla
By Ben Valentine

Taking a break from the Mets for a moment, Zach mentioned something interesting the other day about Hideki Matsui. For all the hype and publicity Godzilla gets in the New York press as being a great player, his statistics said otherwise. Zach brought up the fact David Dellucci had a higher OPS, albeit in fewer at bats. So, just out of curiosity, I went over and looked up OPS to see where Matsui fell compared to others, above and below. First for some of the above:

Jason Bay: .301/.394/.560/.954 in 539 AB
Pat Burrell: .328/.382/.515/ .913 in 495 AB
Brian Giles: .304/.429/.492/ .920 in 490 AB
David Dellucci: .254/.370/.517/.887 in 406 AB
Geoff Jenkins: .287/.369/.504/.873 in 488 AB
Jhonny Peralta: .286/.354/.512/.867 in 441 AB

I’m not sure how aware the average Yankee fans are, but I have my doubts as to whether any of them would deal Matsui for the players listed above. Some might for Giles as he has a name. I’m not sure about Bay, since his phenomenal season has really gone under the radar. But if I proposed Jenkins for Matsui straight up, I’d be laughed out of the building in most places in this city. However, Jenkins has been by far the better player offensively, and he can’t be much worse than Matsui defensively. Forget Matsui for Peralta, who ironically is loads more valuable than Godzilla, given he plays shortstop. (But then the Yankees would have to move Derek Jeter and we know that aien’t happening). Burrell has had as many great seasons prior to this year as Matsui (one) but I was told by the same people who hail Godzilla, that Pat the Bat couldn’t maintain his numbers for a full season. Why? Who knows why in their minds 28 year old is more likely to decline than a 31 year old. As for Dellucci, I’ll be nice about that one; I mean who saw it coming?

Now for the similar tier:
Hideki Matsui: .300/.363/.497/.860 in 563 AB
Cliff Floyd: .274/.352/.502/.854 in 496 AB
Jermaine Dye: .274/.329/.507/.845 in 471 AB
Kevin Mench: .273/.342/.500/.842 in 502 AB
Grady Sizemore: .289/.346/.484/.830 in 568 AB
Raul Ibanez: .292/.364/.457/.821 in 551 AB

Matsui is the best of the bunch at 41st overall, but the guys I listed are there for a point. Cliff Floyd provides for a good direct comparison of media perception. Floyd is having as good as year as Matsui, while playing in a pitcher’s park, but his name doesn’t generate the same “star” power Godzilla’s does. Sure, the Japanese media hyping Matsui up is one thing. But the New York media shouldn’t care all that much about where he’s from. The difference, of course, is that Matsui plays for the Yankees and has gotten big hits for them in the past. Thus through that selective memory, he is “better” than Floyd.

As for the rest, I put Dye on there because he wasn’t on most teams’ radar last year, yet his year isn’t all that different from Godzilla’s. Ibanez, who most people would never talk about, has a lower OPS, but is playing in arguably the worst hitter’s park in baseball. Imagine what he could do with that short porch at Yankee stadium. While it is through manager stupidity, Kevin Mench has to fight to stay in the lineup in Texas. And let’s face it, Grady Sizemore, a centerfielder, would be a lot more useful to the Yankees than Matsui is. More to the point, are any of those guys “stars”? Good hitters yes, but stars? No way.

This technically is a down year for Matsui, who hit for a .912 OPS last season. Unfortunately at 31, there’s no guarantee he’s going to sniff that again. He’s technically nearing the end of his prime years for a team that looks to be declining itself. Thus the conditions are not favorable for him to put up something like that again. This year is also the medium between last year and his first season (.788 OPS that year), so again, one would expect this is closer to the real Matsui than 2003 and 2004 were.

Hideki Matsui is a good player but he’s no star. He’s a solid offensive corner outfielder who plays mediocre to below average defense. His RBI totals are inflated because he has A-Rod and Sheffield constantly on in front of him. Imagine what Jason Bay’s RBI total would look like if he had those two in the lineup instead of Pirate trash. But then as the example of Floyd shows, it’s not playing in New York that inflates the perceptions of these players. It’s playing for the Yankees. Put on the pinstripes and you automatically go from an average ball player to a star.

Unless of course you’re Alex Rodriguez. Then you could be arguably the best player in baseball, and end up being ripped and disrespected by Yankee fans until the cows come home. All because you’re not a “winner” like Derek Jeter. Got to love how things go down in the Bronx huh?

11 Comments:

Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Matsui is a good player. He's not the problem with the Yankees. But he's also not much more than that. And, I think the media at large may be catching on to that...I'm not hearing the smae buzz about Matsui you heard last year, or earlier this year.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Mastui is a good player, and the biggest problem the Yankees have is their pitching. However, it doesn't help their pitching that their outfield defense is atrocious. Bernie has no range or arm in center. Matsui is at best average range wise and his arm is terrible. He also gets miserable jumps and reads on fly balls. He's not part of their problem offensively, but defense counts too.

It's not his fault. The Yankees are just poorly constructed. They've thrown enough money at it so they might get by, but they still are put together badly.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Agreed. A team with a $205 million payroll should be worrying about how they're going to fit all their fans into the stadium for the opening game of the playoffs, not if they're going to make the Wild Card.

12:58 AM  
Blogger RotoAuthority said...

It would be interesting this offseason if the Yanks let Matsui go. Giles could put up similar numbers for less money. The Yankees are in kind of a catch 22: I'm sure they'd love to stop building their team solely via free agents. But to do that you need good minor leaguers. the Yankees don't have that at all. Typically you need to lose big free agents and finish in the bottom of the standings to get great draft picks.

Best solution: balls out fire sale. trade absolutely every player on the team and give up one season for the greater good. (of course NY would never tolerate this).

1:37 PM  
Blogger RotoAuthority said...

oh yeah and Dellucci deserves a raise.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

I think there are two issues with rebuilding the Yankees. Issue one, George Steinbrenner isn't going to stand for it because he wants to keep winning as long as he's alive. (And we don't know how long that will be).

Issue two: Outside of Mariano, A-Rod and maybe Sheffield, this team is a bunch of untradable commodities. Who really wants Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson or Jason Giambi at their price tags and age?

The Yankees aren't going to get good prospects for their current players. They'll have to develop their own and that takes time. So I think it would take three or four seasons to really rebuild. It's an interesting thought though.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

You don't have to finish with a crappy record to get top prospects...considering that many players today are coming from overseas, where they're not subject to the draft. And even so, the reate of return on first-round picks in the MLB draft sucks. The problem for the Yankees is that if you want to build for the future, you can't keep trading away any and all prospects, or else you get stuck with Melky Cabrera.

5:11 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Jenkins is injury prone, Peralta is still unproven in the sense that one season is one season (see: Ben Grieve), and Delluci's OPS is driven by the heretofore insanely out-of-character number of walks he's drawn. Walks are nice and all, but when that's the primary difference between his OPS and Matsui's, I'd say the difference between their overall values is negligibly affected, especially since Matsui has the better track record. Giles (whose SLG is depressed by fewer HRs due to Petco) and Bay are clearly more valuable (although who knows for how much longer with Giles... can you imagine if the Pads had kept Bay?), and Burrell is in the same category of pretty damn dangerous hitter. The things that separates Matsui from the guys below him on your list: Floyd=defense/injuries, Dye=injuries/hacktastic, Mench=idiot manager (so we don't really know what would happen with him given full time duties), and Ibanez=older/less power. The thing is, the Yankees should have used Matsui in CF all along and found a corner OF to join him and Sheffield. He played there in Japan, he's done it adequately enough here, and it would be easier to find a quality or RF than CF. The Yanks will keep him if only because he might actually take a little less to play for them, seeing as I recall he only wanted to play for them all along, and they can't do any better on the free agent market. I just hope they're not insane enough to try to sign Milton Bradley and bring him to NYC, so the Giants can swoop in on him when the Dodgers refuse to offer him arbitration.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Raul Ibanez would easily be putting up better numbers if he were playing LF for the Yankees. He's hit 19 home runs playing at Safeco, and from having watched him I can tell you he'd have another 5-10 just from fly balls to right that become homers at Yankee Stadium. Beyond that, he's not much older (two years) and costs about 1/3 as much. He's also got a very solid arm. Matsui is notable only because he's Japanese and plays for the Yankees. Give him a European name and a spot on the Tigers and we'd never be talking about him

7:13 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

The Yankees tried Matsui in center. It didn't work because of injuries and well, he wasn't very good at it. I think if he were a big step up from Bernie Williams, he'd be playing in center. Personally I think the Yankees should have found a decent defensive guy to put out there. But George likes big names at every position so that wasn't happening.

One thing about Dellucci, his walks are not the anomoly. It's his power this year. His on-base was 100 points higher than his average last year. (.342 overall) This difference is this year he's slugging .515 rather than .441. He played in Texas last year too, so I have no idea where this power came from. Career year? Or is it the finally the chance to play almost every day? No clue, but all in all I'm hesitant to believe he'll do it again.

10:55 PM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Ibanez has a career high of 24 jacks, and that was in KC in a year when Kauffman's park factor was through the roof. As for the age thing, Ibanez could go into his career-end slide at any time; when it's 26-28, the two years don't mean as much as the difference between 31-33. It's not inconceivable that he would have hit 25 for the Yanks this year, but what if Matsui wasn't a Yankee? If you check out Matsui's spray chart (I suggest you click HRs and doubles, and All Years), you'll see that he hits to all fields. In other words, who's to say The Stadium isn't robbing him of jacks? If you click on only fly outs this season, I count about seven that might have been out elsewhere, robbed by Death Valley. According to MLB.com, Safeco may have robbed Ibanez of three. Not that any of this is scientific, but I think my overall point stands that Matsui is pretty damn good, and he's very arguably better than Ibanez. The point about his salary is well taken, and it would seem that teams would be well advised to invest their money more wisely for the production he'll bring. However, I don't know how much Japanese money he brings to his team, what with broadcasting his games and everything. That might offset at least some of the discrepancy.
As for Delluci, look at the five seasons in which he got significant playing time before this one, '98, and '01-'04. Not impressive in the least. You might argue that once he got to Texas, he turned a corner, but unless he does it next year, too, I don't think he's the real deal. Decent enough 6 hitter in the AL, but he's no contender's idea of a solid 3 hitter. The SLG increase is all in HRs; he hit only 13 doubles last year, and has only 16 so far this year. His total number of XBHs is about what you'd expect based on last year alone, prorated to a full season. The truly weird thing is that he's hitting better on the road. I'm ready to chalk this up to his career year, just like Mike Matheny's quiet breakout this year:) (32 doubles! 12 HRs!)

12:12 AM  

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