A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Matsui vs. Matsui

I I think the consensus was that Hideki was hands down a flat out better hitter than Kazuo when they played back in Japan. Kaz’s career average was .309 and Hideki’s was .304. Kaz hit under .300 only twice (his 1st two years) and Hideki hit under .300 five times. Kaz hit over .320 three times and Hideki hit over .320 twice. Kaz had 26 more doubles than Hideki in one less season. Kaz had 35 more triples and 260 more stolen bases. The big knock on Kaz was that he struck out too much. However, he struck out over 100 times only twice (his last two years) and only topped 90 k’s three times in nine years. Hideki topped 100 four times and topped 90 k’s in eight out of ten years. Kaz was reportedly a gold glove fielder with tons of speed that could switch hit. The two areas Hideki buried Kaz in is BBs and HRs. Since Kaz is not a homerun hitter like Hideki, one would think that his numbers would translate over to the states better due to his ability to shorten his stroke to put the ball in play and use his speed.

In Kazuo's first season he struggled a lot more than Hideki did. His power took a huge hit and only averaged a homerun every 66 plate appearances. Hideki averaged a homerun every 39 plate appearances in his first exposure to major league pitching. Hideki hit RBIs with a higher frequency and walked at a slightly higher frequency. Part of Hideki's success could be attributed to the park he was playing in half the time and the lineup that was surrounding him. Kaz had very little in terms of protection and played half his games at Shea. Despite that, Kaz was proving to be a capable hitting after going through a rocky start in the US. He finished with a .272 average, but it was on the rise. After his first three months in the Majors, Kaz had 303 at bats and owned a .250 batting average. Kaz would have had to hit .300 in his next 303 at bats just to get his average up to a respectable .275 average. Kaz never reached another 303 at bats for the remainder of the season but almost brought his average up to .275 anyway. He only had 157 at bats the rest of the season due to his back spasms but managed to hit .312 in those 157 at bats. Kaz was also near the league leaders in doubles before he went down with his back injury. He finished the year with 32 doubles in 460 at bats which is a double every 14.4 at bats. He was on pace to be in the top 10 in entire MLB in terms of doubles.

After a season of adjustment in the states I see no reason why Kaz cannot be a force in the United States like he was in Japan when you look at both his and Hideki’s numbers. Kaz was arguably the more complete player back then and could turn into a more complete player now. He will never be the homerun threat and run producer that Hideki is, but he has more facets to his game. Kaz may have struggled more than Hideki did in each of their respective first seasons, but I think he can again top Hideki in every category except homeruns and base on balls. Let's not forget that Kaz was making a resurgence at the end of the season before he went down and was on a similar path that Hideki was on in terms of adjustment. Hideki batted .254 and .261 in his first two months of major league experience before taking off and hitting .394 in his third month, following that up with .299, .233, and .289. Hideki finished with a .287 average which was about 6% off his career numbers and 14% off his last year in Japan. Hideki also hit 78% less homeruns in 123 more at bats in his first year in the States than his last year in Japan. Hideki then raised his average by .012 and almost doubled his homerun production with one year of seasoning. The strangest thing about Hideki's first year was his ability to not strike out. He almost tied a career low in K's and just missed by 2 K's in a ton more at bats. Kaz finished with a .272 average which was almost 14% off his career mark and was about 12% off his mark in 2003, but his average was rising fast before his injury. Like Hideki, Kaz hit 78% less homers in the States than his last year in Japan, but did so in less at bats than in Japan and actually had his power translate better than Hideki's did despite playing in Shea while Hideki was in Yankee Stadium. Kaz was also on pace for a career best in doubles, which is definitely noteworthy. Yes Kaz struck out more, but he was more of a contact hitter than Hideki was for his career back in Japan and K'd as little as 60 times in 2000 and 83 times in 2001.

It is not unreasonable to expect a .290/.340/.485 line with about 15 homeruns and about 45 doubles in his second season. Kaz was basically on pace with Hideki in terms of extra base hits in their first exposure to the majors and I have faith in Kaz that he will prove that he is the player that the Mets thought he was. In terms of fielding, Kaz can only go up from here. He averaged 13.5 errors a year in his first eight seasons as a starter in Japan. Hitting and pitching do not translate as well as fielding and there is no good reason for Matui's horrible work in the field. He only topped 20 errors once and booted less than ten balls in 2001 and 2002. There is no conceivable reason why he could boot 28 balls in 280 games in his last two seasons in Japan and boot 24 balls in his first 114 games in the States. It also has to be understood that since he played on turf in Japan, he was not used to charging groundballs as they got to him faster. Between his weak arm and waiting back on balls, I'm sure it forced him to rush a lot of throws and screw him up all together with his approach to fielding. The shorter throw from his move to second base compounded with a solid fielding first baseman and time he spent his first year getting used to the grass will hopefully translate into 150 or so games with under 20 errors. The Real Matsui will show his true colors in 2005 and be the all around threat that the Mets scouted in Japan. His adjustment period in this new culture and level of competition is over and it is time for him to produce. There are no more excuses and judging by his last 157 at bats and the amount of doubles he finished with, I think it is very projectile that he will be a major surprise for Met fans next in this upcoming season. Kaz has a very real possibility of being in the top third of all ML second baseman in doubles, triples, homeruns, RBIs, and batting average. For anyone that wants to trade Matsui to let Garcia and Keppinger play or whatever, that would be mistake. Matsui can play and I have feeling he'll earn his keep a bit better in '05.

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  • Newsday has this tidbit:

    With the Mets cooling on Sosa, they have turned their attention to free agents Richard Hidalgo and Magglio Ordoñez for rightfield.

    As for first base, the Mets have not yet made an offer to Richie Sexson, according to a person familiar with the situation, but he is on the club's radar, as is Carlos Delgado.

    The Mets have summoned their front-office personnel and scouting directors for conferences in New York this week. Those sessions will help design a strategy for the winter meetings in Anaheim in less than two weeks.

    One source says the Mets have cooled on Sosa and one source says the Mets are awaiting response from Hendry on a proposal that Omar made with the Cubs picking up more money. Please just let the deal have been pulled of the table and this is just some garbage news about proposals and counterproposals.

  • Even if the Mets do not get Pedro, Omar is doing what he set out to do. He set out to make some waves, create a buzz, steal some back pages, and make the Mets relative and distinct from the Yankees. He's trying to create the feeling that the Mets are not just the other team. Like Lupica said in his column today:

    Minaya is saying that the Mets don't sit back anymore. I think Pedro belongs in Boston. I think he'll stay in Boston, unless he leaves a great situation over money the way Jason Giambi did. He's still better than anybody the Mets have, if he can pass a physical. You want to know why Minaya tries? That's why.

  • "Go ahead and arrest me."

    Milton, not want you want to say to a cop. Milton Bradley got arrested in an investigation for disorderly conduct. Oh, and he is in the midst of undergoing anger-management treatment.

  • Benitez is about to ink a three year $21 million contract with the Giants. No matter how good he ends up doing, I'm just glad he is not in Flushing.

  • The Yankees have a one year contract offer to Al Leiter. It's a bit more than the Mets offer, but still incentive based for the most part. If he takes the offer before Dec. 7th, the Mets would own the Yankees' first round pick and would received a sandwich pick basically making any picks the Mets lose in the free agent market moot. C'mon Al, sign already.

    Oh, and the Yankees are still pursuing Milton, Johnson, and Leiber.

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