The extraordinarily streaky Hideki Matsui

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This is, by all practical views, Hideki Matsui‘s last season as a New York Yankee. Much celebrated when he joined the team in 2003, Matsui became a fan favorite during his first contract, putting up good numbers all around. However, since he signed his new contract following the 2005 season he has played just one full season, missing significant time in 2006 and 2008 (wrist and then knees). The Yankees were hoping to get some solid production out of him from the DH slot during his final season. So far, it’s had its ups and downs.

Matsui started off slow, leaving everyone wondering whether he was done. He did keep walking, which mitigated the situation a bit, but his batting average stood below .200 until April 19. Matsui then surged, getting his BA to .295 by April 28 (small samples work wonders), while pulling his OBP over .400 and his SLG over .500. Of course, this was as much a product of small samples as his poor start to the season. He cooled off considerably since then, his OBP dropping from a peak of .419 to .325 the other day.

This, it seems, is what the team will get from Matsui in his final season. There will be ups, and there will be downs. If the past two games are any indication, Matsui could be righting himself again. He was 4 for 9 in those games, hitting a double and two home runs. If he can just keep this up until Nady gets back, it would be a huge plus for the team. Then, if he cools off again as he did for most of May, he won’t be doing the team as much harm because they can slot Nady into the DH spot.

What really strikes me as odd is that Matsui has hit better — considerably better — against lefties this season than righties. Against the latter he’s .257/.339/.455, while against southpaws he/s .356/.356/.564. Of course, he’s only face lefties in 45 of his 160 plate appearances. This performance does not lend itself to a DH platoon between he and Nady, who also mashes lefties. Then again, it’s probably something that will even itself out as the season progresses.

I’ve always been a Matsui fan. He’s been one of the Yankees in recent years who I’ve really wanted to see in big spots. The YES commentators always point out his demonstrated ability to get the runner home from third with less than two outs. And it always seems they get a big hit from him just when they need it. It’s sad, then, to see him in his home run trot, plodding around the bases. He’s only 35, but he looks much older than that running the bases.

We can only hope that Matsui’s knees hold up for the duration of the season. Even if his streaks persist throughout the season, the Yankees should have bench options, Nady especially, to spell him during his down times. Because when he’s good, he’s damn good. That we’ve seen in the past two games.

(And no, there’s no real point to this post. It’s just after spending all of yesterday talking about pitching in general and Joba specifically, I wanted to change the tenor. Plus, we all love Hideki, right?)

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  • pat

    We love Hideki and Hideki loves porn.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Does it follow, therefore, that “we” love porn?

  • Alex

    I will always respect Hideki, especially after he was so ashamed when he got hurt the first time in 2006. With that said, it will not be an entirely sad day when we do not resign him this off season.

  • Arlok789

    Hideki is a professional that plays the game with respect and class. That said, it would be nice if he never got hurt and could play a little more consistently.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      [Insert baseball player’s name here] is a professional that plays the game with respect and class. That said, it would be nice if he never got hurt and could play a little more consistently.

      See what I did there?

      • Arlok789

        Yeah but one could argue that Matsui is as professional as they come.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Unlike ARod, who rapes babies.

          • JP

            And then eats them with Madonna.

          • Bill

            Stop projecting your own thoughts onto A Rod and leave him alone!

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Well, just to play devil’s advocate, you really couldn’t insert Papelbon there. Not an ounce of class. None.

  • Chris

    Loved him almost from day 1. He had a flair for the dramatic-remember the GS in the home opener against Toronto his 1st year?

    Remember him keeping the Pedro meltdown going in the 03 ALCS with a ringing double down the line?

    And it was his 8th inning HR in 04 off Pedro that sparked the “tip my hat and call them my Daddy” line.

    He’s been a great Yankee-all too injury prone these last few years though.

  • Frank

    I’ve always liked Hideki. But the sad fact remains his legs are shot. It’s actually quite remarkable he’s hitting as well as he is considering he’s essentially using only his upper body and has no leg drive to speak up. I also have to wonder if Joe still intends to play him in the OF during inter-league next month. From the way he’s moving, I doubt it.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    I like Matsui too.

    And his wife? SMOKIN’ hot.

    http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/2008/03/28/alg_matsui_wife.jpg

    • Tank the Frank

      Damnit you beat me to it! I laughed SOOOO hard at that. He released some kind of strange statement too… calling her a “civilian.” Absolutely hilarious.

      • gxpanos

        Haha yeah, and said that she’s “not so sprightly,” whatever that meant.

  • gxpanos

    It’s amazing how insanely durable he was, and then, BAM, knees shot. Or, maybe, that makes a lot of sense. Sad.

    Remember when he fleeced Jeter and Abreu in the marriage bet? And then randomly drew a picture of her to show to the Japanese media? And the porn? Dude’s hysterical, along with being a great hitter and, formerly, a VERY smart outfielder and baserunner who got around physical limitations in those areas.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      It’s amazing how insanely durable he was, and then, BAM, knees shot. Or, maybe, that makes a lot of sense. Sad.

      Correlation does not equal causation.

      However, three of the greatest “ironmen” of our era are Matsui, Ripken, and Albert Belle. Towards the end, all of their careers seemed to have hit the proverbial wall harder than proverbial Aaron Rowand.

      Giving players time off during the season is a good idea.

      • JP

        Giving players time off during the season is a good idea.

        I had an epiphany of sorts watching a Cardinals game a few years back. I was about 40 years old, a time in which many people begin feeling old…having aches and pains that don’t go away, etc. Among those, for me, is a shoulder impingement, the inevitable aftermath of years of throwing and trying to play ball sports with a body ill-equipped to do so.

        Anyway, Jim Edmonds was running full bore after a fly ball. He dove, laying out in a full stretch/dive, caught the ball and landed in a sort of belly flop. The vision of watching his outstretched arm hit the ground at that speed and velocity literally made me feel a twinge in my own shoulder.

        I thought to myself, I’d NEVER tried so hard on a ball or in any sport I’d ever played, as he did on that play. And he probably made plays like that, or tried to, dozens of times per year, for 20 or more years.

        All professional athletes abuse their bodies. In the extreme. You have to be a genetic freak to play a sport 30 years and walk away relatively healthy. The pattern of evolution of things differs from player to player. Matsui’s collapse looks unique, but one way or another, most career athletes reach an end point like his, at least somewhere on their bodies.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    “And no, there’s no real point to this post. It’s just after spending all of yesterday talking about pitching in general and Joba specifically, I wanted to change the tenor.”

    What the hell is the point of this post?? Yeah, right, like you bloggers are smart enough to tell the Yankees what to do with Hideki Matsui. Don’t quit your day job, loser.

    /SalBoGrantLannyBrendo’d

  • JP

    Hideki has always hit lefties well. His career splits are pretty even, lefty-righty. A bit more slugging against righties (OPS 870 v. 800, with essentially the same batting average). But when you consider the fact that most lefties perform much worse against lefty pitchers, Matsui is, in a way, better against lefties than righties.

    I always think it’s hilarious when they bring in lefty specialists to face Hideki, especially when they take out a better, harder throwing righty in order to do it.

    • http://www.myspace.com/sloanbruno69 Bruno

      I always think it’s hilarious when they bring in lefty specialists to face Hideki, especially when they take out a better, harder throwing righty in order to do it.

      But “The Book” told me to do it!

  • J.R.

    So most people agree he will go back to Japan and play. Do the Japanese teams use the DH?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I think he should sign with the Kansas City Royals, and he and Coco Crisp can star in a madcap buddies/fish out of water reality sitcom, “The Black Guy and the Asian Guy in the Heartland”.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        With Kyle Farnsworth as the crazy neighbor.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Farnsworth = Mr. Farley

          • JP

            Among the things I’ll never understand:

            Madson throws 95-100…virtually unhittable.
            Farnsworth throws 95-100…batting practice.

            I know, I know, ‘movement’ and all that. But for all the times you hear the announcers talk about “pitching versus throwing,” let’s face it, most guys who can throw 95-100 blow most MLB hitters away. Farnsworth is the exception, not the rule.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Mike Macdougal
              Armando Benitez
              Mark Wohlers
              Guillermo Mota

              Just off the top of my head. I’d say there’s probably a pretty good split, maybe even 50-50%. For every guy who throws hard and is great, there’s probably a pitcher who throws hard and sucks.

              • JP

                Benitez and Wohlers (and Macdougal?) were, at least for a while, very good pitchers who were effective because of their velocity…they just imploded for other reasons. Was Farnsworth EVER a lights out guy?

            • Bill

              Nah, I remember Farnsworth blowing people away too.

              The problem is he gives up a hit (usually a homerun) and becomes unglued.

              He just doesn’t have the psychological make up to be a relief pitcher and he never will unfortunately because he has such outstanding stuff :(

      • JohnnyC

        He and Sweeny Murti should star in the second Harold and Kumar sequel.

      • http://www.votepaulformayor.blogspot.com jsbrendog

        the sequel to the danny glover joe pesci classic, gone fishin’, Gone fishin’ 2 starring coco crisp’s cornrows and hideki matsui’s porn collection.

    • JohnnyC

      The league Hideki played in, the Central League, for the Yomiuri Giants uses the DH. The league Ichiro played in, the Pacific League, did not.

  • http://www.myspace.com/sloanbruno69 Bruno

    Hopefully, if he wants to, Godzilla can find somewhere to DH next year, or maybe pinch-hit for a NL team. I’m fully confident Jorge will be our DH next year with either one of the other Molina brothers (sign Bengie? trade for Yadier {McCallister&Cervelli?}) at C.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      sign Bengie?

      I’m game.

      trade for Yadier {McCallister&Cervelli?}

      No. I’d rather buy a stopgap than trade away something of value for one.

      • JohnnyC

        Bengie’s the best hitter and worst fielder of the Molina brothers. They’re running wild on Bengie this year.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Am I the only one who’s not too keen on buying a catcher with a .308 career OBP and no power to make up for it (.416 SLG)? Couldn’t we just get that from Cervelli?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          If I really thought I could get a .308 OBP and a .416 SLG from Cervelli, I’d sign up for it. I don’t. He’s bound to come down from his current hitting groove.

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            I agree with that but, I don’t know, I feel like he could at least put up the .308 OBP; he probably won’t put up a .416 SLG, but I can see him doing the .308 and probably playing better defense than Bengie.

            Either way, I think the Yankees are gonna have a down year offensively next year.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

            I agree that he’s bound to come down, and considering that Cervelli is OPSing a whopping .642, that whole coming down thing won’t be too pretty.

            • Bill

              How the heck will we ever know if we don’t give him Cervelli a chance?

              Why are so many of us expecting failure from our players and then when they do have a rough period immediately jumping on the player. Lets give our guys a chance too.

              I want the best players too, but we need to return to the old Yankee philosophy that won us 4 straight World Series. That was when we had a good balance of player development, smart trades and good free agent signings.

              I hate this over reactive sign sign sign mentality that nets us Kyle Farnsworth and Carl Pavano. It didn’t work in the 80s and it hasn’t been working since 2001.

              Lets not turn into a bunch of whining Met fans, ok guys?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Moreover, you’re selling Bengie short. He’s become a much better hitter as he’s matured.

          Bengie Molina, age 23-29 – .269/.304/.387 (.690, 79+)
          Bengie Molina, age 30-34 – .284/.313/.447 (.760, 96+)

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            Interesting…It’s starting to make sense now.

          • JP

            You watch – they get Benji, and he goes down with injury.

            I’d probably fail as a GM, but I don’t understand why you have to make EVERY decision with the overriding goal of maximizing offense.

            So you take a hit at offense with Cervelli, v. Benji Molina. But you get a young, healthy, reliable guy who can play most of the season. He can run “average,” and avoid a double play now and then. You free up minor league positions, to keep the pipeline flowing. And he makes the league minimum.

            • http://www.myspace.com/sloanbruno69 Bruno

              Agreed. That’s why I’d trade for Yadier. Otherwise, Cervelli’s my man with Jose the backup.

    • V

      The Cardinals ain’t trading Yadier.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Eh, if 22 year old stud Bryan Anderson, who owns a career minor league line of .302/.364/.422, keeps progressing in AAA, yeah, maybe they would trade Yadier.

        But it’s moot: they’d only trade Yadier for good value, and with Montero and Romine on the way, we’re not interested in paying good value for a new catcher.

        • http://www.myspace.com/sloanbruno69 Bruno

          I’d give McCallister and Cervelli TOPS. The Q is would the Cards take it? Anderson/Cervelli would be fine IMO, but is adding McCallister to the system (plus the salary relief of Yadier) enough to entice STL?

          • http://www.myspace.com/sloanbruno69 Bruno

            I’d swap in IPK for McCallister if they gave back a low-level arm.

  • CountryClub

    You were right about it being sad watching him run the bases. I really hope he hangs them up after this year. I’d hate to see him be a shell of his former self while playing for somebody like the Royals or Orioles.

  • Ellis

    Interesting 2009 Matsui numbers:

    Line Drive % is highest it’s been since 2004 (19.0%)
    Home run per flyball rate is highest since ’04 (14%)
    His career BABIP is .310. In 2009, it’s at .269.

    I think Matsui’s season is on the verge of improving significantly, as the peripherals suggest.

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