Nov
19

Assessing Matsui’s and a DH’s values

By

We’ve been talking a lot about Hideki Matsui over the last few weeks. In the waning days of his most recent Yankee contract, he wowed us all in Game 6 of the World Series and won MVP accolades because of it. Now, the Yankees are faced with a tough choice. Do they let their everyday DH and Japanese superstar walk or do they try to bring him back?

Yesterday, we explored this question when we examined whether we would bring back Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui if we, as the Yankees seem to be doing, had to pick just one. With a heavy heart, I opted for Johnny Damon but noted that it would not be a mistake to bring back either one. Many commenters noted that Matsui may be had for a lesser price and fewer years than Damon. Those factors could very well be the difference in free agency.

Today, I want to put a different spin on the story. We’re going to look at Matsui’s perceived economic value to the team and then make a rough attempt to put a run value on Matsui’s DH production as compared with the Yanks’ willingness to use the DH in 2010 as a rotating rest spot for their veterans. The numbers are rough, but the conclusion is sound: The Yankees would be making a mistake if they opt against employing a true DH.

But first, the economics of Hideki Matsui. As we know, Matsui’s World Series MVP award set off a merchandising frenzy. Two days after the Fall Classic ended, Matsui memorabilia was in extremely high demand, and Godzilla’s popularity has grown in the ensuing two weeks. According to NPB Tracker, Matsui is now on pace to be as popular as Ichiro this off-season. He has received eight offers — three from preexisting sponsors and five from new ones — to appear in ads, and Patrick Newman estimates that Matsui could make $10 million this off-season. He adds:

Media demand has also rocketed for Matsui, as he has received an estimated 100 requests for television and event appearances in his home country. Even though his home for next season has yet to be determined, it’s not an understatement to say his new team (if the Yankees does not re-sign him) will have an opportunity to develop a big presence in the Land of the Rising Sun.

That opportunity sets Matsui apart from the rest of the free agent pool, in some regards. The Japanese-language signage we’ve been seeing in Yankee Stadium during Matsui’s tenure with the Yankees is sure to follow him wherever he goes. Every news program in Japan will show highlights from Matsui’s game, so a well-timed advertisement behind the plate will reach millions of Japanese homes on a nightly basis. With this comes a revenue opportunity that teams won’t get with, say, Jim Thome.

An article published today in Japanese alleged that the Yankees stand to lose at least $15 million if Matsui heads elsewhere. That is a significant economic impact, and one the team can’t just ignore. Considering that Matsui made $13 million in 2009 and shouldn’t earn that much again, he would basically pay for himself. Money, in other words, is not the issue.

With that in mind, what about his on-field value? As a DH, Matsui was among the best. His 32.6 VORP total placed him third among DHs and a good 12 VORP points — or approximately one win above replacement level — better than Jim Thome. I also attempted to calculate his relative value to the Yankees’ lineup using some MLVr figures.

MLVr — a rate estimation of marginal lineup value — calculates, according to Baseball Prospectus, the “additional number of runs a given player will contribute to a lineup that otherwise consists of average offensive performers.” Matsui’s MLVr in 2009 was 0.164 in 8.2 percent of the team’s plate appearances. By calculating the weighted MLVr total for the Yanks’ lineup and then multiplying it by nine — the number of spots in the lineup — we come up with a total that says the Yanks should have scored nearly 194 more runs than league average.

And this point, I have to stop to address that figure. In reality, the Yankees scored 134 more runs than the average AL team and 168 more than the Major League average. This is an inherent problem with MLVr, and Keith Woolner addressed it here four years ago. It is on the high side, but bear with me.

With that in mind, I made a few assumptions that won’t hold true. First, I held everyone’s production steady from 2009 to 2010 as well as their playing time. It’s unlikely to see the same level of offensive production from many of the aging Yankees, and the entire lineup should fall back from its lofty heights. That’s just a caveat.

Then, I removed Hideki Matsui from the equation and redistributed his playing time among Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Peña and Jerry Hairston, Jr. With these players in the lineup and taking over Matsui’s plate appearance, the team’s offensive output based on MLVr declined to approximately 174 runs above average. No doubt this would still be a potent offensive team, but removing Matsui’s bat from the equation and replacing him with nothing could cost the Yanks 20 runs or nearly two wins.

Now, I recognize this is some of the more in-depth mathematical analysis than we usually employ around here, but the point is one the Yanks should take to heart. Hideki Matsui played a big role in the Yanks’ lineup this year, and they can’t just eschew a true DH to rest regulars while replacing Matsui’s at-bats with the cast of characters they employ off the bench. Matsui has an economic value for the team and a win value as well. Perhaps, then, the Yanks should indeed bring him back for 2010.

Categories : Analysis

160 Comments»

  1. Rose says:

    Replacing Matsui’s bat with Cervelli, Pena, Gardner and Hairston only equates to 2 losses?

    Somehow I just don’t buy it…

    • DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

      Maybe they mean 2 loses in the World Series.

      I really hope these made up “crap stats” are not given too much weight by our GM and the rest of the front office.

      • Rose says:

        I whole-heartedly agree.

        The statistics may make mathematical sense when splicing numbers and attempting to predict the future using math…but reality will tell a much different story.

        • Moshe Mandel says:

          “reality will tell a much different story”

          This is false, as I note below. Statistics that do not correlate with reality are generally discarded fairly quickly. The ones currently in use, like WAR, correlate well with wins, such that reality and WAR are telling substantially similar stories.

      • Moshe Mandel says:

        Just because you don’t understand how to use these stats does not mean they are crap. Of course you could point to specific instances where Matsui “won them games” and say he is worth more than that. The stat suggests that his aggregate stats, removed from their context, make him worth 2 more wins in a season than those guys. I really do not get what the issue is with that. I guarantee that if you added up all the wins that you thought the Yankee players were really worth, you would have a team worth 150 wins.

        • I was really hoping no one would respond to such an incredulous claim.

        • Rose says:

          Regardless of what the stats are meant to predict…I don’t buy them. A full season of production and somehow determining how many “full games” one person would win over the course of the full season based on his production…I personally don’t see how this makes any more sense than just looking at the players side by side.

          Matsui’s bat is WAY more important than Cervelli/Gardner/Pena/Hairston. Regardless of the “wins” certain mathematical information may claim. I’d rather have Matsui up to the plate than any of them…162 games a season.

          • Will says:

            Your point is well taken, and I think too many people are quick to dismiss them. That doesn’t mean the “stats” are without merit, but it does suggest that we be more cautious about how definitiveneness of the conclusions drawn.

          • Matsui’s bat is WAY more important than Cervelli/Gardner/Pena/Hairston.

            That’s exactly what the data suggests. The combination of those four costs the Yankees two wins that could be had from Matsui’s bat alone.

            • Rose says:

              I guess what it is…is the fact that 2 games out of 162 sounds insignificant. While 2 games actually are very important…when you think of 2 games compared to the entire season…it just seems like it’s not all that big of a deal. Especially when you tie in tens of millions of dollars to for just 2 wins out of 162.

              • Who said two games are not important?

                • Rose says:

                  I guess what it is…is the fact that 2 games out of 162 sounds insignificant.

                • Okay so you said it. Ben’s analysis did not make that distinction. You did. Ben’s post says that even w/o Matsui and with the replacement level-esque guys, the Yankees are still above average but probably two wins worse (or, two wins better with Matsui). So, where in the post is there anything about two wins being unimportant? You’re the only one that suggested that–not the data, not Ben.

                • It sounds like the real problem, Rose, is that you don’t grasp the significance of the scale, because the stat is very unfamiliar to you.

                  If you had never heard of baseball before and someone explained it to you today for the first time ever, you might think that a batting average of .300 is pretty pathetic, since it’s only a 30% success rate. Once you familiarize yourself with the scale, the mean/median/mode, the standard deviation of a stat, it will cease “sounding” so insignificant.

                • Is it really so crazy to think that Matsui is worth 2 wins to this ballclub? I mean, if you take Matsui out of this lineup for 2010 and assume the roster holes (other than Matsui’s) are filled so that they’re at (or possibly above) 2009 levels… How many fewer games would you expect this team to win in 2010 than they won in 2009? I think there’s a reaction to the number “2″ just because it’s so low in general, but when put in context, saying that Matsui is worth 2 wins is not insignificant.

                  I’m not arguing that the Yanks shouldn’t re-sign Matsui… In fact, I’ve been all over these threads arguing against the fully-rotating DH slot and for the acquisition of a somewhat full-time DH bat (whether it be Matsui or someone else)… I just think a decent amount of the blame for this conversation can be placed on people just failing to put these numbers into perspective.

          • Moshe Mandel says:

            “I personally don’t see how this makes any more sense than just looking at the players side by side.”

            Because looking at players side by side is incredibly inexact, while these stats like WAR that try and distill the impact of each player have been shown to correlate fairly strongly with actual victories. So instead of us, or a GM, looking at the relevant players and saying, “of course Matsui is better, look at those stats” and making a decision based on that, he can say “Matsui is about 2 wins better” and judge whether the cost matches the value, whether he can make up the wins elsewhere, etc.

            • Will says:

              The problem with saying that Matsui is two wins better is that it ignores context. It seems to imply that if the Yankees had replayed the season with Ramiro Pena batting instead of Matsui, the Yankees would have won 101 games. Do you really believe that?

              While there is value in quantifying Matsui’s value for comparison purposes (i.e., Matsui at +2 is better than Player X at +1), I am not sure that it wise to make a decision based on the expectation that replacing Matsui with a below league average bat would only result in a net of two losses.

              • Moshe Mandel says:

                It’s not perfect, and should not be used alone to make decisions. However, it does provide a baseline and help prevent hyperbole like “the Yankees wouldn’t have made the playoffs without player X” from infecting decision making.

                • Rose says:

                  How important is an argument saying “the Yankees wouldn’t have made the playoffs without player X” though? It’s moot. They play as a team. They all won it as a team. Matsui was an integral part of the World Championship team. Whether stats claim he was only worth a certain amount of “wins”…fact of the matter is…it doesn’t factor in EVERY aspect of the human element or even every factor of the game in general. It takes certain qualities of the game and bases it strictly on that alone. I just choose to not look at that. Calling me ignorant for not looking at the statistic as a 100% accurate measurement is just as arbitrary as me calling you ignorant for thinking that it is…

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  Never called you ignorant. That being said, I think you would concede that certain factors are much more important than others, and that these unquantifiable factors you speak of cannot be major portions of our analysis because they are by nature unquantifiable. Therefore, the things that we can measure should be the primary elements of analysis, while the more “human” elements can only be supplementary.

                • I’ll add to that, Moshe, that when Rose argues about the human element, there is no specific argument. Sorry to pick on you, Rose, but all you’re doing is arguing a human element without describing how the human element paints this situation differently. Instead, you espouse the human element while dismissing stats. That’s not an effective debate stratagem.

                • Rose says:

                  I didn’t go further into it because somebody already touched upon it. The presence of Matsui at the plate as opposed to the other guys would play a completely different role for the hitter in front of him and behind him. Matsui has the ability to work the pitcher better…tiring him out more. All of these are factor that this statistic doesn’t take under consideration.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  How important do you think those things are compared to the things that the stats do take into effect? I would say minimal at best. The other guys wouldnt bat 5th, Posada would, meaning there would be little change for everybody else. It would only matter in the 8 slot and the 9 slot, at most. Matsui takes maybe one pitch a game more than those guys, 2 on a good night. These are things that cannot be discounted, but they are barely strong enough to say that stats that do not include them are not worthy. Those stats are not 100% accurate and no one is claiming that they are. But they have a fairly high correlation to actual victories and are computed using the causative elements of victories, which suggests that you want your GM to utilize them when building his team.

                • Rose says:

                  How important do you think those things are compared to the things that the stats do take into effect?

                  Well one of the main reasons we’re so successful is our ability AS A TEAM to wear down opposing pitchers…

                  Matsui does this both with his bat…and while it may not be able to be proven…his presense forces a pitcher to work harder. You place Posada in his spot? Well one of those bums are going to replace SOME form of significant bat somewhere in the order. Also, when preparing, the pitcher doesn’t have to work as hard knowing Matsui is not there and that Cervelli/Hairston/Gardner/Pena is.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  You evaded my question. These things are relevant, as I noted. But how relevant are they compared to those other things?

                • Rose says:

                  You can’t assess them using mathematical equations…so you really can’t tell. Just because you can’t accurately measure them doesn’t mean they’re any less important though. They very well may be…but since there isn’t any way to find out…it’s not an answerable question…but the fact that it’s certainly relevant means that it should be taken under serious consideration.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  How can you consider something that “is not an answerable question?” How can a GM weigh this when making decisions? If you can’t, then it should be at most an incidental element of decision making.

                • Rose says:

                  How do you determine between right and wrong? There are several instances in life where there aren’t mathematical statistics to evaluate but a positive and negative outcome will arise.

                  The fact that we know Matsui will wear down and worry an opposing pitcher over a platooning significantly worse bat should be enough. How much more will he wear the pitcher down? That you can’t really assess. But it still doesn’t mean you chuck out the advantage all together because of that.

                  It’s tough. I’m not saying you’re wrong…I’m just saying that there is more than meets the eye (robots in disguise)…

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  “I’m just saying that there is more than meets the eye”

                  And I agree with you. All I’m saying is that those things are by nature significantly less important to the analysis than the actual production, such that the fact that those factors are left out of these sats does not severely injure the credibility of those stats.

              • Once again, as I said below, this stat compares Matsui to the league average DH. How is it unbelievable that he’d is two wins more than an AVERAGE DH?

                • Will says:

                  Didn’t you compare Matsui versus the league average DH TO Pena/Cervelli/etc. versus the league average DH…and from that comparison come up with the 20 run (2 win) differential? If so, you are comparing the impact of Matsui versus Pena/Cervelli/etc.

                • Will says:

                  It certainly seems like the comparsion is Matsui to the Pena/Cervelli/etc. and not the league average DH. The 20 run difference comes from running two lineups: one with Matsui and one with the others.

            • Rose says:

              I understand…but as I just wrote above…”2 wins” out of 162 just sounds insignificant…especially when tens of millions of dollars are being discussed in association with winning just 2 games out of 162. It seems like the 4 guys are the better option when looking at it this way…when common sense tells you that’s just not the case.

          • “Regardless of what the stats are meant to predict…I don’t buy them.”

            Just wanted to say that a bit louder. That sentence is the very definition of willful ignorance.

            • Will says:

              How is that ignorance? Alot of science has been disproven throughout history. Things we thought were certainly true have been revealed to be incorrect. Just because a calculation yields a value doesn’t give it credibility. It is perfectly reasonable to not “buy” a metric if you believe it is flawed. In fact, I think that kind of skepticism is better than one who blindly accepts all statistics, especially when they don’t really understand what they mean.

              • How is that ignorance? First of all, I called it willful ignorance. The “willful” part is important. It’s willful ignorance because he’s saying that he, purposefully and consciously (willfully, if you will), is deciding to not consider this metric regardless of it’s intent/formula (which is an example of ignorance, if you will). Thus, he’s proclaiming willful ignorance.

                • Will says:

                  There was nothing “willful” about the statement. In fact, a very clear reason was given for ignoring the stat: skepticism over the value of trying to assign a win value to an entire season.

                  Also, it should be noted that willful ignornace includes espousing statistics that one doesn’t really understand. I am not suggesting you are doing that, but more and more people seem to be.

                • There was nothing “willful” about the statement.

                  The word “Regardless” that prefaces the statement is the word that implies the willfulness.

                  He’s not saying “I don’t buy the stat because I don’t understand it”. He’s saying “Regardless of what the stat is attempting to say I’m not going to buy it.”

                  He’s openly and honestly saying not that “I haven’t learned this stat” but rather “I’m not going to learn this stat”.

                  That’s willful ignorance, i.e., I have made the concrete decision to remain ignorant about this topic.

                • (TSJC – Thanks for the assist. Well-said.)

                • Will says:

                  It might be well said, but I don’t think it is accurate because the post specifically stated why there was a level of mistrust.

                  For example, I could say, I don’t care what that statistic says, I refuse to accept that the value of a person’s life can be defined by how much money they make. If one does not agree with the premise of the statistic, it is not being willfully ignorant to ignore it.

                  Willfil ignorance would be saying I don’t understand the stat, nor do I know what it is intending to measure, so I will simply dismiss it. That is not what was implied.

                • “Willfil ignorance would be saying I don’t understand the stat, nor do I know what it is intending to measure, so I will simply dismiss it. That is not what was implied.”

                  Yes, it is.

                • Will says:

                  Ah…now that’s a very convincing response. How to reply…let’s see… No, it’s not.

                • Rose says:

                  The word “Regardless” that prefaces the statement is the word that implies the willfulness.

                  I also used the phrase “meant to” in the same sentence, giving the entire sentence an entirely different meaning.

                  Saying “Regardless of what the stats are meant to predict…I don’t buy them” is much different than saying “I don’t understand the stats and I refuse to learn them and I disagree with them.”

                  That might be your interpretation…but that sentence certainly has absolutely nothing to do with it.

                • Ah…now that’s a very convincing response. How to reply…let’s see… Yes, it is.

                  We can all play this childish little game all day long, but it’s pointless and there’s no need to get so bothered to the point of sarcasm by this whole thing. I thought it was abundantly obvious what the rest of that response would look like so I decided to just post my disagreement in the record, but if you want it spelled out for you…

                  First of all, I disagree with your idea of what would make that statement qualify as willful ignorance. You’re trying to raise the bar by including this business about Rose saying he doesn’t understand the stats (which I actually think was clear from his other comments all over this thread, but that’s neither here nor there), but that’s kind of irrelevant to the question at hand.

                  Secondly, yes, for the reasons I stated above and TSJC effectively added to, his statement was an example of willful ignorance. To paraphrase your comment, above… ‘Willful ignorance would be saying i don’t know what this metric is intending to measure, so I will dismiss it,’ and that’s exactly what Rose said.

                • Rose says:

                  You’re trying to raise the bar by including this business about Rose saying he doesn’t understand the stats (which I actually think was clear from his other comments all over this thread

                  First of all, whether or not I ‘understood’ the statistic has nothing to do with the fact that the post also (at least) made it look as though her were comparing Matsui to Cervelli/Hairston/Pena/Gardner and not the league average DH. You actually said that the two comparisons were identical anyways in one of your posts…which is ridiculous.

                  Either way, when compared to the league average DH? I agree with the assessment. When compared to Cervelli/Hairston/Pena/Gardner? Is absolutely do not.

                • “I also used the phrase ‘meant to’ in the same sentence, giving the entire sentence an entirely different meaning.”

                  I’m sorry, but this explanation falls flat to me. I think the metric’s intent is important, and I called your statement willfully ignorant with full knowledge that you said the words ‘meant to’ in your comment. I think your statement that you ‘don’t buy’ these metrics regardless of what they’re intended to tell us is willfully ignorant, and I’m pretty sure that reflects a full understanding and acknowledgment of your statement.

                  “Saying ‘Regardless of what the stats are meant to predict…I don’t buy them’ is much different than saying ‘I don’t understand the stats and I refuse to learn them and I disagree with them.’”

                  Sure, it is different. It’s also still willfully ignorant.

                  “That might be your interpretation…but that sentence certainly has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

                  My interpretation is accurate and reasonable. Given how many times you’ve claimed that your command of the English language is such that people shouldn’t take your words at face value because they often don’t accurately represent your intended arguments, it seems a bit strange that you’d now claim that the clear meaning of your words is being misinterpreted by others. And, unfortunately for you, my interpretation of your words mirrors your own interpretation of those words.

                • Rose says:

                  My interpretation is accurate and reasonable. Given how many times you’ve claimed that your command of the English language is such that people shouldn’t take your words at face value because they often don’t accurately represent your intended arguments, it seems a bit strange that you’d now claim that the clear meaning of your words is being misinterpreted by others. And, unfortunately for you, my interpretation of your words mirrors your own interpretation of those words.

                  So basically what you’re saying is that it only works for you and everybody else…but it’s entirely not allowed to be strange for me…instead it will continue to be used against me instead?

                  Either way, me disregarding a stat I didn’t believe to be accurate enough (regardless of whether or not I knew the actual definition) doesn’t make me “willfully ignorant.” The fact that I’ve explained WHY I don’t side with it…means that there’s a reason.

                • “So basically what you’re saying is that it only works for you and everybody else…but it’s entirely not allowed to be strange for me…instead it will continue to be used against me instead?”

                  No. I’m saying it’s funny that you usually complain about people taking your words seriously (before eventually conceding that your words were off but the interpretation was accurate), but this time you’re complaining that your words are clear and the interpretation is off.

                  And look… I’m not about to get into this ‘stuff is held against Rose’ discussion for the googleplexillionth time… But yeah, I mean, stuff you said in the past can be referenced, just like it can be referenced for anyone else. I’m not picking on you by referring to that stuff, I’m treating you the same way I’d treat anyone else.

                  “Either way, me disregarding a stat I didn’t believe to be accurate enough (regardless of whether or not I knew the actual definition) doesn’t make me “willfully ignorant.””

                  Sure, I can roll with that, it doesn’t. The statement you made above was willfully ignorant, though, for the reasons stated above (numerous times).

                  “The fact that I’ve explained WHY I don’t side with it…means that there’s a reason.”

                  If you’re saying that you later had to explain why you don’t like the metric, then you’re admitting that your initial statement that you don’t buy it, regardless of the intent of the metric, was willfully ignorant.

            • Rose says:

              It’s ignorant to think that Matsui is worth more than just 2 wins out of 162 played in a season? Especially when compared to guys like Pena, Cervelli, Gardner, and Hairston???

              I’ll take my common sense over that stat anyday of the week…

              • “It’s ignorant to think that Matsui is worth more than just 2 wins out of 162 played in a season?”

                That’s not what I said. I’m not going to waste my or everyone else’s time with a drawn-out conversation about this. Read Moshe’s comments, above.

              • Your “common sense” completely misunderstands the stat used in the post. It compares Matsui to the league average. So, if you replaced Matsui with a league average DH — NOT Cervelli, Pena, etc. — he’s worth two wins.

                Two wins over an AVERAGE player. There is nothing unreasonable about that.

                • Rose says:

                  The post compares Matsui to the 4 other replacements. It doesn’t compare him to other DH’s…therefore, my argument was towards a Yankees team being FAR better with Matsui…than a Yankees team, not only without Matsui, but with Cervelli, Pena, Hairston, and Gardner taking at bats in his place 162 games out of the year.

                • It’s not meant to compare him to other DHs. It’s meant to compare to the situation in which the Yanks re-sign Johnny Damon and use the DH spot to rest Damon, Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, etc. on a regular basis while using one of their other options — that is, Hairston, Cervelli, Gardner, Pena — on an everyday basis.

                  The whole point is that the Yankees should not do that but should sign a true DH whether that be Matsui or someone else who can hit.

                • Rose says:

                  And I agree with this. I was only perplexed when it looked as though Matsui’s value was only 2 wins over Cervelli/Hairston/Pena/Gardner in the batters box in a 162 game season. That’s all. If I misunderstood…I misunderstood. But that’s what my stance was.

                • Mike HC says:

                  The stat says that if we replay last year and every player in baseball has the exact same year, then if we used Cervelli, Hairston, Pena, and Gardner for the exact same amount of at bats we gave Matsui last year, the Yanks would have won two less games then if they had Matsui taking those at bats.

                  Whether you think the stat is accurate is another story, but that is what the stat tells us.

                • Rose says:

                  If that’s what it means then I absolutely believe the stat is inaccurate. The odds that everybody else along with every circumstance on the planet would be uneffected with the absence of Matsui is ridiculous. More pressure would be on not only the kids…but everybody had Matsui not been there. Which would result in different approaches, at-bats, outcomes. You can’t simply take Matsui out of the line up and assume everything would have just turned out the same. THAT is “willful ignorance” in a nutshell…

                • You remember how everyone was saying during the World Series that Bobby Abreu’s presence in the lineup was causing the Angels to be more patient at the plate and take more walks?

                  And then they drilled down the actual numbers, and found out that the increase in team walks and team pitches per plate appearance was totally Bobby Abreu by himself, and the rest of the team was seeing pitches and taking walks at the exact same rate they’d been doing before?

                  That Bobby’s influence was totally nil and it was all just false narrative?

                  Yeah… good times.

              • Moshe Mandel says:

                That is not what it means, so you can take your common sense over a stat that no one is arguing for.

              • Here, maybe this will help everyone:

                Hideki Matsui has a WAR of 2.4 as a DH.

                The replacement level DH this year was Hank Blalock (0.0).

                Take Hideki Matsui off the 2009 Yankees and replace him with Hank Blalock, direct swap of DH’s, all other players on the roster remain the same. We’d win 2.4 fewer games. That sounds about right to me.

                Or, think about it this way: 2.4 x 25 = 60. A team of 25 Hideki Matsuis (25 talented DH’s) would win SIXTY MORE GAMES than a team of 25 Hank Blalocks (25 average DH’s).

                WAR works, IMO, because it illustrates both the relative significance of each player (on a player-by-player basis, 2.4 wins is a sizeable chunk) and the relative insignificance of each player (i.e., no matter how significant each player is, he’s still only 4% of a major league active roster and he needs the other 24 guys to do their job or his team is going to lose way more games than they win).

                • Will says:

                  But that’s not the analysis that was explained above. Read the excerpt below. It clearly implies that the 20 run difference is between Matsui and the others.

                  “Then, I removed Hideki Matsui from the equation and redistributed his playing time among Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Peña and Jerry Hairston, Jr. With these players in the lineup and taking over Matsui’s plate appearance…”

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  I think it is equally illustrative for our situation. He is 2 wins better than those guys. A team of Matsuis would win 50 more games than a team of that four headed monster. (Obviously this is not true as you cant just convert WAR and such stats from position to position, defense is not considered, but you get the idea) Is that really so hard to believe?

                • Tubby says:

                  Right on.

                  Or, if you reduce every starting Yankee hitter’s WAR by 2.4, they become an 81 win team (103 wins – (2.4*9)= 81.4). Can’t get any more league average than that.

                • Will says:

                  Where do you get 50 wins from? Clearly, you can’t multiply 2 by 25 because that would imply all 25 players have the same playing time, would it not? The analysis assumes that Matsui is a near-full time player, so wouldn’t you need to multiply 2 by 9 or 10? In that case, yes, it is very hard to believe that a lineup of Matsuis would only win 20 more games than a lineup of Francisco Cervelli’s.

                • Rose says:

                  I think it is equally illustrative for our situation. He is 2 wins better than those guys.

                  So basically, you’re saying that those guys are the exact equivalent of the league average DH…and are just as good as Hank Blalock.

                  I’m sorry but I’d take Hank Blalock anyday over any of those 4 players at the plate in his spot. And also…would MUCH rather have Matsui there instead of Hank Blalock…

                • But that’s not the analysis that was explained above. Read the excerpt below. It clearly implies that the 20 run difference is between Matsui and the others.

                  Runs/10 = wins.

                  20 runs = 2 wins.

                • In that case, yes, it is very hard to believe that a lineup of Matsuis would only win 20 more games than a lineup of Francisco Cervelli’s.

                  Is it? A lineup full of Hideki Matsui’s would dramatically outhit the lineup of Franciso Cervellis, yes… but the lineup of Hideki Matsuis would be pretty atrocious defensively, and the lineup of Frankie Cervellis would be sterling defensively. They’d prevent a ton of runs.

                  Hideki would be better, yes… but not as much as you think initially.

                • Mike HC says:

                  It is really not that tough.

                  Ben uses two stats.

                  VORP shows him to be one win above a replacement league average player.

                  MLVr shows him to be two wins above pena, hairston etc … taking Matsui’s playing time and everything else staying the same.

                  The problem is, if everything else does not stay the same, and everyone does not have career years again, then Matsui’s bat could be worth even more. It was just based on last year.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  How about we go to runs. Matsui 20 runs better than that group, 200 runs more as a lineup 20×10 (10 Matsui’s provide about enough games for an entire lineup, although it should be a bit more.)

                  The best lineup in the AL was 275 runs better than the worse. It’s really not that farfetched at all to say lineup of Matsui is 200 runs (and 20 wins) better.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  Hank Blalock OBP’d .277 this year. Gardner alone probably had a better offensive year.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  TSJC, the 20 wins judgment is defense independent, as far as I can tell.

                • Where do you get 50 wins from? Clearly, you can’t multiply 2 by 25 because that would imply all 25 players have the same playing time, would it not?

                  It’s a rough sketch. But no, it wouldn’t be only 9 or 10 guys on the roster, because in addition to the 9 guys in the lineup, each game would also have 2-5 pitchers in it (and their WAR counts too) and maybe a pinch hit or two from a bench player.

                  But yeah, you’re right, it’s not as cut and dried as 2.4 x 25. Probably more like 2.4 x 19 or 20 or so, subtracting out the guys at the end of the bench and the back of the bullpen who don’t play that much.

                  So maybe a team of Hideki Matsuis is only worth 48-52 wins or so more than a team full of Hank Blalocks. Remember, though, the key is the WAR difference, not the actual player. So, when I say a team full of Hideki Matsuis, what I’m really saying is a team full of guys who are worth a WAR of +2.4 at every position. So, the starting pitching staff would be five starters with WARs of +2.4 and the Blalock team would have five starters with WARs of 0.0, etc.

    • Spaceman.Spiff says:

      I think part of the trouble with these statistical projections/simulations sometimes is that although they try to account for as much as they can statistically, in the end they fail to factor in many relevant factors. Some of these factors may include the value of forcing a pitcher to work harder to retire you per at-bat (guessing an at-bat thrown to Matsui is on average a more stressful and longer at-bat for the pitcher than Pena), the number of strikes the player in front of Matsui might get as opposed to a player in front of a Cervelli or Pena (the lineup protection argument), the cost of moving up a lesser player to his spot in the lineup and the domino effect that would go down through the lineup, as well as a bunch of others I’m sure I’ve looked over. I can’t say it with any certainty but I’d guess that replacing Matsui with that bunch would lead to more than a 2 loss difference, IMO.

      • Will says:

        You raise an excellent point…and it’s one that many sabermetrically inclined people (of which I consider myself one) ignore. Baseball is a game played by human beings…it isn’t a series of probability based events. In addition to biology, physics and other physical sciences, psychology also plays a role.

        • Rose says:

          I agree with the both of you. It’s nice to throw new-age sabermetric mathematical equations around…but sometimes it’s just better to view it from a fellow “human” point of view…

        • “You raise an excellent point…and it’s one that many sabermetrically inclined people (of which I consider myself one) ignore. Baseball is a game played by human beings…it isn’t a series of probability based events. In addition to biology, physics and other physical sciences, psychology also plays a role.”

          Don’t paint “sabermetrically inclined people” as ignorant of those factors, that’s totally unfair. Frankly, of the people I know who would fall into that “sabermetrically inclined” category, precisely zero of them are ignorant of those factors you mentioned. That’s a transparent ad hominem argument that’s not based in reality.

          • Will says:

            It’s not a transparent ad hominem argument…it is a very specific criticism. You may not “ignore” (I didn’t say ignorant to them, which is a huge difference) them, but that when someone argues that there is no such thing as “clutch”, for example, that’s precisely what they are doing. Similarly, when one argues that “anyone could close games”, they are making the same mistake.

            • “… when someone argues that there is no such thing as “clutch”, for example, that’s precisely what they are doing.”

              First of all, no, it’s not. Second… Your statement above implied that a decent portion of sabermetrically inclined people ignore the personal/human factors. I’m not saying nobody ignores those factors, but I think it’s a much much lower percentage of people than you imply. Seriously – name one person, preferably someone who writes or comments here or is prominent in the baseball writing and/or statistical analysis community, who ignores the personal/human factors of baseball. One person who straight-up denies that emotions, personal issues, pressure and other factors affect the outcome of any athletic competition. Name two. I don’t think many names are forthcoming.

              “Similarly, when one argues that “anyone could close games”, they are making the same mistake.”

              Again… Name one person who makes this argument. You’re significantly misrepresenting these arguments in order to set up straw-men to knock down.

              And yes, it is an ad hominem argument, because you’re trying to discount other people’s arguments by painting them as ignorant of the personal/human side of the game, without actually just dealing with their arguments. You’re attacking the credibility of the person in the argument, not the argument itself. That’s the definition of an ad hominem argument.

              • Will says:

                I don’t catalogue sabermetric articles that ignore psychological factors, but the two themes I offered as examples are prevalent. I am sorry if you haven’t encountered them.

                As for ad hominem attacks, again, you are misunderstanding the term. An ad hominem attack would be sabermetricians are bad because they live in their mom’s basement. My criticism (that many ignore psychological factors) is an “attack” on their arguments. It does not call anyone ignorant, but does question their methods.

                • “I don’t catalogue sabermetric articles that ignore psychological factors, but the two themes I offered as examples are prevalent. I am sorry if you haven’t encountered them.”

                  If they’re so prevalent, provide some evidence. I’ll even take your recollection, if you can at least remember where you read the piece and possibly who wrote it/what it was about. While I appreciate your concern, I’m sorry that you can’t provide the evidence requested because it just doesn’t exist.

                  “As for ad hominem attacks, again, you are misunderstanding the term. An ad hominem attack would be sabermetricians are bad because they live in their mom’s basement. My criticism (that many ignore psychological factors) is an “attack” on their arguments. It does not call anyone ignorant, but does question their methods.”

                  No, you’re wrong. You’re attacking the arguments of sabermetrically inclined people by accusing them, personally, of ignoring the personal/human side of the game. That’s an ad hominem attack. I’m sorry, again, but you’re just flat-out wrong. Look at it this way… If you were to say ‘I don’t like Bob’s theory because Bob’s other theory says something I disagree with,’ that would be ad hom. You’re not addressing the idea in question, there, you’re attacking the idea because you don’t like an unrelated idea espoused by the same person. To paraphrase the great and almighty wikipedia, you’re linking the validity of a premise to an irrelevant belief of the person advocating the premise.

                • Will says:

                  As much as I’d like to be convinced by your telling me I am wrong, I can’t get past the fact that you are the one who is wrong. So, I hope you can be convinced by that argument, although I guess I can’t expect it to work any better for me than it did for you.

                • Fortunately for you I explained why you’re wrong in addition to telling you that you’re wrong.

                  You’re really getting quite snippy in this thread. There’s really no need to get bothered by this stuff… Telling you you’re wrong isn’t an insult.

            • but that when someone argues that there is no such thing as “clutch”, for example, that’s precisely what they are doing.

              False. Saying that there is no such thing as “clutch” is not a sabermetrician saying that there is no human element to baseball.

              Saying that there is no such thing as clutch is a sabermetrician saying “whether or not human psychological factors affect performance is unclear, because when you examine the actual outcomes of play, there is not a statistically verifiable OUTCOME that indicates the presence of any type of ‘clutchness’.”

              Sabermetricians haven’t said that “clutch” does not exist. What they have said is that it’s impossible to tell the difference between “clutch” and “not-clutch”, because when viewed dispassionately and with large sample sizes, players perform at their normal levels of production. They’re not saying there’s no human element in baseball, they’re saying the human element is VASTLY overstated in our narrative, because the results shown do not bear out any statistical difference that is non-negligible.

  2. chriskeo says:

    I think that if the Yankees are committed to bringing one of the two of them back, Damon and Boras could end up making this very easy for the Yankees. If Boras demands more than 2 years, and someone, like San Francisco, gives it to him, then the Yankees will let him walk and sign Matsui.

  3. Willy says:

    Another question in regards to Matsui’s negotiation with the Yankees is how much would he stand to lose if he went to another market. I’d imagine that his visibility on the Yankees makes his endorsements significantly more valuable.

    • DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

      I think this is accurate. He will lose more $ than the Yanks will if he moves to a non historic franchises.

  4. Andiamo says:

    If we sign DeRosa we can spell the regulars and still have a fairly potent bat in the lineup.

    • Mark DeRosa is not a fairly potent bat. He’s a just-above-average bat who had one real good year in ’08 and the rest have been nothing special.

    • Willy says:

      I’d love to have DeRosa, but I think that he’s more valuable to other teams where he’ll get a chance to do more than just play in the outfield.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Where and when would he play? Are they really going to sit Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Swish, Tex, etc. once a week? That’s crazy, they’re all better than DeRosa.

    • Rose says:

      Hairston is a better bang for the buck than DeRosa…

      Either way…it’s a bad idea and we need a DH.

    • A.D. says:

      Problem is DeRosa’s value is his ability to play the infield, which is just a nice to have for the Yankees, so they’re going to pay for something they’re not going to use (well hopefully don’t use at least).

      • Bo says:

        DeRosa would be a luxury. Hairston is perfectly fine for this team.

      • This. DeRosa does have value, it’s just not necessarily a value best exploited by the Yankees as opposed to another team. For this roster slot, the bat is probably more important than the defensive versatility. I know we want to rest the regulars more often but nobody is benching A-Rod or Jeter (and/or Tex) so often that DeRosa’s ability to play the infield positions is valuable enough to the Yankees to cover up for his offensive deficiencies.

  5. Rose says:

    An article published today in Japanese alleged that the Yankees stand to lose at least $15 million if Matsui heads elsewhere.

    Why wouldn’t another team want to sign Matsui immediately then? If he basically pays for himself…and is a potent bat…why aren’t teams chomping at the bit to get a FREE upgrade at the DH position??

    • Because his marketing value isn’t the same elsewhere as it is in New York.

      • Rose says:

        True. But he will still have SOME value…maybe not $15 million dollars worth…but he’ll certainly generate millions of dollars on another team…the bigger the city (Chicago, LA) the more revenue generated…so instead of paying for himself in New York…he’ll pay for half of himself somewhere else…which is still a bargain teams should be chomping at the bit for…

        • TLVP says:

          It’s not the size of the city – it’s the number of Japanese tourists and the lustre of the name of the team. LA would qualify, but the Angels might not have the lustre. Red Sox would qualify but there aren’t many Japanese tourists in Boston.

          • Will says:

            From what I can tell, it doesn’t seem like the signage is installed to appeal to tourists in the local city. Rather, it is intended to be seen by the audience in the home (in this case, Japan) TV market. So, unless you think fewer Japanese people will watch Matsui if he plays on a lesser team, then I don’t really think he has that much more value to the Yankees.

            Having said that, I find it hard to believe that Matsui brings in $15mn in revenue…at least not marginal revenue. I am sure the Yankees could sell the same signage to American companies. Even if they had to do so at a lesser rate, I am sure the net total wouldn’t be close to $15mn.

            • Bo says:

              It is why Matsui and his people want him in NY.

              That 15 mil isnt the same if hes in KC.

              • Will says:

                Matsui and his people want him in NY because the Yankees have the most money and it probably makes Matsui more valuable in a very international market like New York. It doesn’t (or at least I don’t think it should) make him more valuable to another team because most of the added revenue is coming from signage, the value of which depends on how many people are watching his games in Japan. Considering Matsui’s vast popularity in Japan, I would guess that the ratings for his games would be pretty high whereever he played.

                • Bo says:

                  Ratings for his games if he played in KC or Cle would be high?

                  Maybe for the first week.

                • Will says:

                  So, you think the Japanese TV market (people in Japan) would stop watching Matsui? I completely disagree with that notion. From what I have gathered, Matsui and Ichiro are iconic figures that stand above the game. People don’t really care about the teams they are or the outcome of the games they play….they only care about how well Matsui and Ichiro do.

                • Bo says:

                  Yes. i think they wouldnt watch in as large as numbers if the team he played on was bad to middle of the road.

                • Gorillaz says:

                  And that just shows your ignorance..

  6. TLVP says:

    I really prefer Matsui over Damon. One main reason is that he has proven that he can perform off the bench. We don’t know about Damon as a PH.

    I think revenues will be better with Matsui on the team so you can pay him fairly well. But remember that those revenues will dry up quickly if he doesn’t get to play.

    Sorry to see Damon go but I think it is the right decision, his defense is a liability.

  7. larryf says:

    Matsui-2 year contract

    2nd year includes sitting next to Yankee brass in Japan as we negotiate with next great phenom to play for us…

  8. 5th Starter says:

    I still don’t understand why the Yankees aren’t offering Damon arbitration. They pay him a bit more than he’s worth, but for only one year. Then, the Yanks can even sign Matsui for one year and for a lesser price. Then the Yanks still have roster flexibility if/when they need it.

  9. crapula says:

    I’d like to see them both back for a year, but with the noise Boras is making, it doesn’t seem to me that the Yankees are going to put up with that bs of his.

    Hideki is definitely the more economical choice because of the Japanese money that pours into Yankee Stadium and I think that he can remain a potent bat for another year.

  10. Bo says:

    The decision on whether to keep Matsui will have nothing to do with japanese revenue. it will have all to do with can he help the team.

    I doubt they’ll find a lefty power bat on the market for a 1 or 2 yr deal.

    Same with Damon. If he finds a team willing to go 4 yrs he should take it. But I also doubt they want LF locked down for more than a yr or two because a certain SS will prob have to play there soon.

  11. Mr. Exceptional says:

    I really feel Matsui is the better choice. Love what Damon DID for the Yankees, but I just can’t get by the defense. He has that later years Kenny Lofton thing going on, he looks like he’s being chased by a swarm of bees when he’s going after a flyball.

    The revolving DH idea just doesn’t make sense to me.

    I know people occasionaly bring up David DeJesus, and I think he might be worth exploring. Maybe the Yanks could put together a deal for DeJesus and Meche . . . I don’t know, just saying.

    I just think there are other options then Damon. I feel Matsui is worth hanging onto.

    • Why would the Yankees want Gil Meche?

      • Mr. Exceptional says:

        From everything I’ve read the Yanks are looking for a little more pitching depth. Meche is reasonably good and not overly expensive. I know they inquired on Bannister last season, although he didn’t have a great year. So maybe Bannister.

        Either way I don’t believe you’ll see both Joba and Phil in the rotation next year. I think one will end up in the pen.

        Just working through some thoughts.

        I do like DeJesus though. Brooklyn kid, that could do well at the new stadium.

        • Players the Yankees should not want, because they’re just not that good:

          Gil Meche
          David DeJesus

          Players the Yankees should be interested in but not acquire because said player’s team is pricing him at levels beyond what we should be willing to pay for a non-essential depth player:

          Brian Bannister

          • Bo says:

            For a guy who’s banging the Cameron drum daily what would be so wrong with Dejesus playing LF??

            • He’s under contract to someone else. That’s what’s wrong with it. Mike Cameron costs nothing but money.

              (And, for the record, last year, when I was interested in picking him up via trade from the Brewers, it was on the condition that we’d be sending them non-prospects in a straight salary dump. We have no indication that the Royals are interested in moving DeJesus for non-prospects in a straight salary dump, so the situations are not analogous.)

          • (thinks for a second)

            Okay, that was too hasty. Let me revise:

            Players the Yankees should not want, because they’re just not that good:

            Gil Meche
            David DeJesus

            Players the Yankees should be interested in but not acquire because said player’s team is pricing him at levels beyond what we should be willing to pay for a non-essential depth player:

            Brian Bannister
            David DeJesus

            There, that’s better.

  12. JeffG says:

    I think it would be a huge mistake not to re-sign Matsui on both a business and a baseball perspective.

    He does a great job as DH and shouldn’t cost that much seeing the Yanks should be able to leverage their brand value as it applies to Matsui’s marketing contracts that he would lose (1yr 5/8mil?).

  13. Free Mike Vick says:

    Let Matsui walk…Damon to DH…DeRosa to LF…(insert nerds asking for Mike Cameron in CF here.)

    • Here’s the only rejoinder I’ll add:

      Mark DeRosa, 2009 – .250/.319/.433
      Mike Cameron, 2009 – .250/.342/.452

      Defensively, it’s probably a wash. DeRosa plays the IF positions and Cameron doesn’t, but DeRosa only plays an average LF/CF and Cameron is excellent there.

      Batwise, it’s Cammy in a landslide. Career figures agree as well.

      • Mark DeRosa can’t play CF. He never has.

        • Free Mike Vick says:

          yeah i’m not sure where the CF thing came from. I never said anything about DeRosa playing CF.

          • Well, the CF thing is applicable because the bulk of DeRosa’s value comes from his ability to play LF, 3B, and SS, thus allowing us to have a plus bat at those positions for when we would want to play Damon/ARod/Jeter at DH (if we don’t sign a DH).

            Cameron also has value of the ability to play not only LF but also CF (and RF) if we want to NOT play Gardbrera there or if we play Swisher at 1B when we give Tex a half or full day off.

            It’s an ancillary point, but it’s still a point.

            • Free Mike Vick says:

              Well. Cameron has not played LF since the year 2000…and that was in 1 game. He has played a total of 3 games in LF in his entire career.

              i guess he “could”…but its not like you can just put him out there and know what you’re getting.

              same thing in RF as he hasn’t played out there since 2005. (although he did play a good amount of games in RF that year)

    • Mark DeRosa is an overrated player.

      • Free Mike Vick says:

        How so?

        His numbers since the start of the 2006 season have been pretty good.

        .281/.359/.448…averaging 17 HRs and 81 RBI (and thats after a bad year in 2009)

        he can play the IF and the OF.

        DeRosa is good player…a solid player…thats what he is always called. and to me thats what he is.

        • I’m just not a big fan. He’s a little too old so his upside isn’t very big. He would probably not be playing the IF at all (he’s not better than any of the options there) and as an LF, his bat probably wouldn’t play well in LF. I know I’ve advocated for Melky to play there (whose bat is worse than DeRosa’s in LF), but that’s because Melky won’t cost anything.

          • Free Mike Vick says:

            There are some players that i’m not big fan of either. *cough cough mike cameron cough cough*

            but you would have to think DeRosa will get a handful of ABs at 3B when A-Rod DHs…maybe at SS for jeter getting half days off (although he hasn’t played SS in a few years)…same with 2B.

            So there are some IF ABs to be had.

            and put him LF and he would be a solid player for ya. Move him to RF when Swisher is slumping.

            Derosa would be a nice pick up, imo.

  14. pon says:

    20 runs? Where does it come from?

    194 = 9 Matsui(s).
    174 = One of mediocre players replaces Matsui.
    134 = Reality with Matsui.

    This means that one of mediocre players is far better than Matsui because he can produce 40 more runs. (40 = 174-134)

    Obviously this is a wrong calculation.
    Ben, you add three .200 hitters and regard them as a .600 hitter.

    • No, I don’t. The 194 figure is what the team’s individual average MLVr would suggest they score above league average. The 74 is what the team’s individual average MLVr without Matsui would suggest they score above league average. The 134 is what they scored above AL league average, and the 168 is what they scored above AL average.

      Keith Woolner, in the piece linked in the post, explains why MLVr tends to overexaggerate offense at the ends of the runs scored spectrum.

      Additionally, MLVr calculates the runs a team should score based upon its component parts, i.e. singles, doubles, etc. The Yanks had an OPS that was more than .030 lower with RISP than their overall number. So we could easily imagine the Yanks scoring 194 runs above average.

      That’s just the long-winded way of saying that I’m not wrong. You’re just misunderstanding the numbers I used or I didn’t do a good enough job explaining them originally. Needless to say, the 194 number is for the Yanks as a team and not nine Matsuis.

      • pon says:

        Thanks. i understand it.
        And your explanation tells that MLVr is not reliable because of the big difference between its numbers and realty. (as you refered to Keith Woolner.)
        it might come from disregard for clutchness or situational hitting — in another word, RBI.
        i guess you’d better not use MLVr.

  15. Reacher says:

    The probable revenue loss and the concommitant negative consequences in the Japanese market will result in Hideki wearing pinstripes, at least for another year.

  16. [...] Ben noted, the Yankees could lose an estimated $15 million if Matsui signs elsewhere. I can’t verify the accuracy of that number, so let’s use it [...]

  17. [...] the Yanks sign a versatile Mark DeRosa-type who can also hit, their offensive production, as I explored last month, will suffer. Still the winter is young, and there are still many, many moves to make. Posted [...]

  18. [...] on, a report out of Japan alleged that the Yanks stood to lose $15 million in revenue if Matsui left the Bronx. Many though questioned those numbers. The revenue from Japan [...]

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