Jun
01

Hideki’s final pinstriped season

By

Every time I think Hideki Matsui is done, he comes back to life. Last week, Matsui went 0 for 5 and left five runners on base as the Yanks fell to the Phillies in extras. At that point, he was hitting an anemic .241/.325/.429, and I was looking forward to the return of Xavier Nady as a way to eliminate some of the Matsui at-bats.

But since then, Matsui, the streakiest of streakiest hitters, has turned it back on. In 19 at-bats spanning five games and 22 plate appearances, Matsui has hit .421/.500/.895 with two home runs and three doubles. He has raised his season numbers to .263/.347/.487 and is outperforming the AL DH average OPS by .057 points.

Despite this recent uptick in performance, it’s highly doubtful that Hideki Matsui, a free agent this winter, will return to the Yankees, and I have to wonder whether his overall future in Major League Baseball is in doubt. Today, MLBTR points us to a Joel Sherman column on Matsui. While we are often skeptical of Sherman’s work, I think he’s onto something here:

The Yanks have long been concerned about the inflexibility of their roster due to having too many DH types, such as exists this year with Matsui, Jorge Posada Jorge Posada and Xavier Nady (if he returns from his elbow injury). Yankee officials envision a 2010 in which Posada takes more at-bats as the DH, and in which Joe Girardi could better rest everyday players such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira without losing their bats.

In spring training, Matsui told me that he prefers to stay a Yankee, but is not wedded to the Yanks and would consider other teams here if he decided to keep playing. He is a total pro and – when healthy – a clutch, productive hitter. But with his lingering knee issues that guarantee he cannot play left field with any regularity – if at all — I wonder if any team would be willing to invest even a few million on Matsui. That is part of the death of the traditional DH.

Poorly constructed sentences aside, Sherman raises some valid concerns the Yankees have for next season. In Jeter, Posada and A-Rod, they have three key players under contract and over 35 next year, and to keep them healthy, the team will have to make use of a rotating DH spot. Meanwhile, the Yankees are rather publicly committed to getting younger and more athletic. Resigning Hideki Matsui isn’t part of that equation.

If Matsui and the Yanks are destined for a post-season divorce, will another Major League team pick him up? When he’s on, he can hit with the best of them, but he will be an old 36 next June. With the market as depressed as it currently is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matsui jobless or back in Japan come April 2010. His will have been a good run, and while it’s not over yet, 2009 is in all likelihood his Yankee swan song.

Categories : Musings

72 Comments»

  1. A.D. says:

    I agree, thought the same thing that Matsui is packing after this year, wouldn’t be bad for a team in need of a bat to be able to add him for the cheap.

  2. I think one of the lighter hitting west coast teams–Oakland or Seattle–could take a shot at him next year. If not, I think he’ll be back in Youmiori (sp?).

  3. jsbrendog says:

    He has raised his season numbers to .263/.347/.487 and is outperforming the AL DH average OPS by .057 points.

    and he is hitting like two david ortizes combined. zing…but seriously take out ortiz’s dh numbers and would he still be outperforming the avg?

    anyway, i see matsui latching on somewhere. maybe KC. they could use a lefty hitting dh type eh? eh? eh?

    no but seriously. he’ll end up somewhere whether it be in japan or america. I wish him only the best

  4. Bob Stone says:

    I’ve always liked Matsui. He has been the penultimate professional and a real gamer. The sad thing is that he had a run of something like 1,500+ (sorry I don’t remenber the exact number) consecutive games until his second year in New York. Then he injured his wrist on a really hustling, diving play in left field.

    Since then it’s been totally downhill healthwise. Talk about a ball player getting really old really fast! I hope he gets healthy enough this year to play some outfield, at least against NL clubs in their ball parks.

    I love watching him hit. I have never seen a batter stand so still in the batter’s box. He is the antithesis of Noamr Garciaparra (he used to make me nuts watching him in between each pitch – but that’s another story).

    Next year I hope he stays in MLB with someone else picking him up. I would love to see him play another year or two.

  5. Zack says:

    I think Matsui will retire. He’s “36″ which is questionable, has been beat up 3 out of the last 4 years, can barely jog on the base paths, and it just looks painful to watch him.
    Let’s be honest no one is going to be after him this offseason, no small market team will, no competitor will need a 37 year old DH who is breaking down.

  6. neil says:

    I think he’ll go to seattle and replace griffey at DH. I could also see him going to San Fransisco and be the primary pinch hitter/ once in a while lefty fielder there. The dodgers are another possibility in that role.

  7. some call me...tim. says:

    OH COME ONE!!!

    if we’ll waste a spot on Berroa, why on earth wouldn’t we waste a spot on Godzilla?!?!

    its our WAY to sign over the hill superstars…for Pete’s sake, ask him what it would take for a one year deal, he’ll give you a pleasantly low number, keep him around for one more year. PLEASE!!!

    sigh…

    :(

  8. neil says:

    Damon should also he let go after this season. Hopefully the economy picks up and the yankees offer him arb. He will probably get a 3 year deal somewhere similar to Raul Ibanez.

    I think if Nady comes back hitting similar to what he did last year as the DH this year then he will be offered Arb and might accept in order to build up value for next year. Or if Matt Holliday continues to struggle in OAK then the yankees might be able to sign him on a cheap 1 year incenive laden deal to play LF. Aparently he has a preference for the yankees.

    If Jackson continues to play well for AAA he is the opening day CF. If Melky or Gardner perform this year one of them will play LF, while the other is the backup OF. That leaves Swisher as the RF.

    Lineup:
    SS Jeter
    LF Melky/Gardner
    1B Tex
    3B A-Rod
    2B Cano
    DH Nady/Holliday
    C Posada
    RF Swisher
    CF Jackson

    Bench:
    -C Cervila
    SS Pena
    CF Gardner/Melky
    Another UTILITY man with options. Maybe like a Chris Malec type or a veteren who can play IF and OF like Cairo

    Posada and Jeter can also Dh quite a bit. And Cervilla and Pena should be defensive caddys for Posada and Jeter respectively for late innings.

    This is probably the youngest, athletic team n quite a while.

    • Bob Stone says:

      Slight correction – It’s Cervelli not Cervila

    • JRVJ says:

      If he finishes the season healthy and anywhere close to his 2008/first 1/3rd of 2009 production, Damon is coming back, be it due to arbitration or a short-term deal.

      Count on it.

      I don’t see Nady coming back.

      The Yankees can still have the following OF: Damon, Melky, Swisher, with Gardner and A-Jax as 4th and 5th Outfielders, and with some real rotation of playing time.

      Also, without Matsui, Damon (and maybe Swish) can DH in addition to Posada, A-Rod and Jeter.

    • Even if the economy rebounds, I don’t think the Yankees are going to offer Johnny Damon arbitration. He’s making $13MM right now and that would obviously go up during arbitration, and there is no way that he’s going to get that or more than that on the FA market, even with a recovered economy.

    • Also, if (BIG IF) Matt Holliday signs with the Yankees, he ain’t gonna be DHing. His bat is good but it’s not good enough that he can be allowed to not give anything defensively. As for his defense, Holliday is actually pretty good, 8.0 UZR/150 in left.

    • Zack says:

      “Or if Matt Holliday continues to struggle in OAK then the yankees might be able to sign him on a cheap 1 year incenive laden deal to play LF. Aparently he has a preference for the yankees.”

      1. Scott Boras doesnt do cheap 1 year incentive laden deals
      2. He has a preference to play for 120m+, whether that be Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, etc

      • neil says:

        I dont hink a player with a .782 OPS will be making 120+ million. He’ll probly get a 5 mil ober 1 year deal if he performs as he has so far this year. Of course i think he is better player than a .782 OPS and will likely hit better thus putting the yankees out of the running.

  9. Count Zero says:

    He has raised his season numbers to .263/.347/.487 and is outperforming the AL DH average OPS by .057 points.

    Wow! So you’re telling me the DH average OPS is .777? That’s mind-boggling! You have a position where a guy is paid to do nothing but hit — theoretically a guy who hits well but doesn’t have a viable position he can play on defense — and the best the league can do is an average .777 OPS? Really?

    To put that in perspective, Gritt Gritner has a .730 OPS. Every starting position player on the Yanks has a higher OPS than Matsui.

    Do you have that DH average number for say…the past five seasons? Just curious and at work…

    • Ask and ye shall receive.

      Average AL DH OPS by Year

      2004: .790
      2005: .777
      2006: .818
      2007: .801
      2008: .774

      Designated hitters don’t do nearly as much hitting as one would think.

  10. Whizzo The Wize says:

    Whizzo fondly recalls the series in Cincinnati during Matsui’s rookie campaign where his bat came to life the first time in the US.

    Whizzo’s hoping for a glorious year from Godzilla. And then for some fountain-of-youth tonic to appear in the clubhouse.

  11. JobaWockeeZ says:

    I agree. I always liked Matsui. I’d love to see him back but there’s really no chance he’ll come back. I hope the Yankees win a championship so he can go off with a bang.

  12. JP says:

    I say he signs…with Vivid Video.

  13. mustang says:

    It’s the monthly he is over 35 or so death watch here on RAB.
    Maybe Matsui should commit Hari kari or kamikaze himself into the Red Sox’s dugout.
    lol

  14. nilnil says:

    Matsui would not comeback to Yomiuri, which is in Central league without DH role.

  15. NG says:

    I still like this guy. He came with a lot of hype and he delivered. It is not only about him hitting hr but how cool and unfazed he looked at any point in the game. Very clutch. In his best years he was the best clutch hitters on my team.
    Whether he gets signed by Yankees or any other team is whole different topic but on the personal lever I have always liked Godzilla and still have.

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