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Friday, June 13, 2003

Aaron’s Baseball Blog: Examining Godzilla

Next week, Matsui takes on Mothra.

Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui signing to play with the Yankees after years of dominating Japanese competition was one of the bigger stories of the off-season. I read a lot of analysis and studies of the “conversation rate” of Japanese League performances to Major League performances and I felt as though Hideki Matsui would be a star outfielder for the Yankees

.



Here is what I said about it way back on

the day after he signed with the Yanks:

 

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see Matsui hit about .290 with 35 homers, 90 walks and solid corner outfield defense, which would make him one of the better outfielders in baseball.”

Then, when I was making my pre-season predictions, I made the following regarding Matsui’s 2003 numbers:

 

“I’ll officially say .290/.390/.525, with some pretty good defense in left field.”

I even went so far as to ridicule those who predicted Matsui would struggle in America and not hit for significant power in the major leagues:

“Hideki Matsui will prove all of the idiots that say he won’t hit for power in the United States completely wrong. The idiocy behind the ‘logic’ used regarding Japanese players is incredible. When Ichiro! got here, all the experts were saying that he wouldn’t succeed because he was too small and weak to hit major league pitching. Now, after he has established himself as one of the best players in baseball, those same experts are saying that Hideki Matsui won’t succeed here because his power won’t translate well in the states.



Let me get this straight? Ichiro! was too small and weak, but Hideki Matsui relies too much on power? Yeah, that makes sense. A great player is a great player, whether he is born in Nebraska, Tokyo or Santo Domingo. You have to wonder how many more players have to come over here from Japan and have success before guys like Dan Gladden and Rob Dibble will realize we don’t have some special potion that makes American ballplayers superior to everyone else.”

Well, now it is June 12th and Hideki Matsui is hitting .275/.329/.415 with 5 homers and 22 doubles in 64 games. He is on pace to hit 56 doubles, but just 13 home runs.



It is still early in the season, but it is definitely time for me to eat some crow. I still believe Matsui will end up having a very good season, but it is clear he is not going to hit for as much home run power as I anticipated he would. I make a lot of predictions and statements on my blog and I am wrong my fair share of times, so I want to be “man enough” to admit it in this instance.



I still believe in everything I said. I believe he will hit for power in the major leagues and I believe the people who dismissed his chances of doing so were stupid and their logic flawed. However, the actual results thus far speak much louder than what I believe.



That said, the most interesting thing regarding Hideki Matsui is not that I was wrong about his power production, but why I was wrong, or more accurately, why he is not hitting for power in the major leagues.



I have watched a lot of Yankee games this year, thanks to the life-changing innovation known as

MLB Extra Innings for DirecTV

and, like any person who has watched Matsui for any significant amount of time this season can tell you, he is hitting a ton of ground balls. Hard grounders to first base, soft grounders to second, one-hoppers to third - everything has been on the ground.



The actual numbers certainly back up the personal observation. Matsui has hit 134 ground balls this year and just 54 fly balls. That works out to a GB/FB ratio of 2.48, meaning he has 2.48 ground balls for every fly ball.



Quite frankly, there doesn’t need to be a whole lot of additional analysis here to come to the conclusion that you simply cannot hit a lot of home runs when everything is being hit on the ground. I mean, how many balls have you seen go over the outfield fence after rolling on the infield grass?



Take a look at this year’s most ground ball-oriented hitters:

Player         GB/FB

Jacque Jones       2.80

Mark Grudzielanek   2.68

Cesar Izturis     2.58

Hideki Matsui     2.48

Luis Castillo     2.35

Jose Hernandez     2.33

Endy Chavez       2.27

Juan Pierre       2.23

Chris Stynes       2.19

Roberto Alomar     2.10

There just isn’t a whole lot of power on that list.

Jacque Jones

is on pace to hit 21 homers in 608 at bats and he is the power leader among those 10 players.



Current pace, projected to a full-season:

Player         HR     AB

Jacque Jones     21   609

Jose Hernandez     17   583

Hideki Matsui     13   671

Chris Stynes     12   434

Endy Chavez       8   587

Luis Castillo     7   618

Roberto Alomar     5   525

Mark Grudzielanek   3   591

Juan Pierre       0   685

Cesar Izturis     0   543

Jones currently ranks tied for 71st in home runs and

Jose Hernandez

is tied for 83rd. None of the other GB-hitters are in the top 100. And it’s not just this season.



Here are the top 5 GB/FB guys from 2002:

Player         GB/FB   HR     AB

Luis Castillo     3.39     2   606

Juan Pierre       3.20     1   592

Ichiro Suzuki     2.48     8   647

Derek Jeter       2.23   18   644

Ben Grieve       2.08   19   482

And the top 5 GB/FB guys from 2001:

Player         GB/FB   HR     AB

Rey Sanchez       2.81     0   544

Juan Pierre       2.77     2   617

Ichiro Suzuki     2.63     8   692

Luis Castillo     2.59     2   537

Roger Cedeno       2.52     6   523

And from 2000:

Player         GB/FB   HR     AB

Luis Castillo     4.74     2   539

Rey Sanchez       3.35     1   509

Eric Owens       2.82     6   583

Rafael Furcal     2.24     4   455

Peter Bergeron     2.23     5   518

There are some very good players on those lists. Players who make all-star teams and routinely hit .300 and score tons of runs. But there aren’t any home run hitters.



The other end of the GB/FB spectrum is where the sluggers can usually be found. This year’s leaders in fly ball ratio include guys like

Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas, Todd Helton and Alfonso Soriano. Even the guys among the FB leaders that aren’t thought of as sluggers are having big power years. Alex Gonzalez (of the Marlins) is on pace to hit 25 homers. Mike Lowell is on pace to hit 45 homers. Carl Everett

is on track to hit 42 homers.



In fact, not a single player among the top 10 FB ratio leaders is on pace to hit fewer than 25 homers and 6 of them are on pace to hit 35+ long balls. 2002’s top 10 FB hitters included Bonds (46 HRs),

Rafael Palmeiro (43), Brian Giles (38), Thomas (28), Tony Batista (31), Lowell (24), Carlos Lee

(26) and Giambi (41).



So, it’s pretty obvious that, if Matsui is going to be a home run hitter, he’s at the wrong end of the GB/FB ratio list. In looking at his numbers from Japan and the reports of his play over there, I find it very hard to believe that he was this much of a ground ball hitter while in Japan.



Look at his homer-totals in Japan:

Year   HR     AB

1996   38   487

1997   37   484

1998   34   487

1999   42   471

2000   42   474

2001   36   481

2002   50   500

It is almost impossible that someone could consistently hit 35-50 homers a season while hitting two-and-a-half ground balls for every fly ball they hit, whether they played in Japan or America, Yankee Stadium or a smaller park like the Tokyo Dome.



So, if that is the case, then it is very likely that Matsui has either been overmatched by American pitching to the point that he simply cannot elevate balls into the air, or he has changed his approach at the plate. While he has certainly has been facing tougher competition than he ever was in Japan, I don’t think he is any more overmatched than hundreds of other hitters who manage to hit lots of fly balls. I think the more likely scenario is that he has adjusted his hitting style, whether purposely or accidentally.



I actually think it is a little of both. I think he has seen the success

Ichiro!

has had in America by being a “slap hitter” and he decided to focus on making good contact at the plate and slapping balls all over the field at first, instead of trying to drive balls. In addition to that, I think maybe whatever overmatching that has taken place has caused him to adjust his style to even further become a slap hitter.



I’m obviously far from the first guy to think about this. The Yankees have been talking about Matsui’s lack of power and possible adjustments he has made at the plate and adjustments he can make to begin hitting for more power.



To Matsui credit, he

has been willing to make adjustments:

“My plan was to come here, to the majors, and experience what it’s like,” Matsui said through a translator. “And then adjust accordingly.”



“I don’t feel pressure,” he said. “My approach is to do things to the best of my ability. And right now I want to get used to things ... and make adjustments as I go.”

And it appears as though he has begun to make those adjustments…



April:

.255/.322/.368

2 homers (1 HR / 53 ABs)

6 doubles (1 2B / 18 ABs)



May:

.261/.294/.361

1 homer (1 HR / 119 ABs)

9 doubles (1 2B / 13 ABs)



June:

.389/.463/.750

2 homers (1 HR / 18 ABs)

7 doubles (1 2B / 5 ABs)



Since the start of June (which is right about the time stuff about Matsui changing his approach started appearing in print), Matsui has not only been hitting .389, he has been hitting for a lot more power. He has a double every 5 at bats this month and has already hit 2 homers in 36 at bats, after hitting just 3 in his first 229 at bats.



But 2 homers (and 7 doubles) is not enough of a power-surge to draw conclusions from. He could still be beating balls into the ground and maybe he’ll go the next 90 at bats in June without hitting another one.



The bigger question is whether or not he is beginning to hit more balls into the air, to at least give himself a chance to hit more homers.



GB/FB ratio:

April - 2.55 (51/20)

May - 2.29 (64/28)

June - 3.20 (16/5)



Well, the obvious answer here is a resounding no.



However, I think this is a case where the numbers (or at least those numbers) don’t tell the whole story. According to STATS Inc., ESPN.com’s statistics provider:

"Ground/Fly Ratio (Grd/Fly)

Simply a hitter’s ground balls divided by his fly balls. All batted balls except line drives and bunts are included."

This is interesting to me, because I always assumed every ball a player hit was being counted in his GB/FB ratio, but now I know that is not the case. I suppose it makes some sense. I mean, if someone hits a screaming line drive over the first base bag and into the outfield corner for a standup double, should that hit be counted as a ground ball or a fly ball?



According to ESPN.com, Matsui has hit 134 GBs and 54 FBs this year. According to my quick-and-dirty math, he has hit a total of 228 balls into play this year, meaning he has 40 balls that were not counted as GBs or FBs. I would assume, and I definitely could be wrong, that those 40 would be his line drives.



Breaking it down even further, here Matsui’s ground ball (GB), fly ball (FB) and line drive (LD) percentages on “balls in play” (ie non-strikeouts):

Month     GB%    FB%    LD%

April     56.7   22.2   21.1

May       61.0   26.7   12.3

June     55.2   17.2   27.6

SEASON     58.8   23.7   17.5

As long as I am looking at outcome percentages on balls in play, I might as well look at outcome percentages on balls not in play. Here are the percentage of ABs Matsui strikes out in and the percentage of plate appearances he walks in:

Month     SO%    BB%

April     15.1     9.4

May       11.8     4.9

June     19.4     9.8

SEASON     14.0     7.3

Just by looking at those numbers, here is what I think may be happening…



Matsui began his first season in the majors and focused on getting good pitches to hit and simply making good contact. He walked quite a bit, hit a lot of ground balls, his fair share of line drives and very few fly balls. For the first month he hit .255/.322/.368.



His struggles in the first month, particularly his lack of power production, caused Matsui (either accidentally or purposely) to change his approach at the plate. He started swinging at more pitches and stopped working long counts. His K rate dipped, his walk rate dropped in half and he was hitting almost zero line drives and everything on the ground. In other words, he was turning into Ichiro! (without the amazing speed). Matsui struggled even more than he did in April.



Then, about two weeks ago, he and the Yankees coaching staff made a real effort to again change his approach at the plate and Matsui has begun doing the things that made him such a great player in Japan. He is being much more selective at the plate, working long counts and walking (and K’ing) a lot. He is still hitting a significant amount of ground balls, but it is the lowest percentage of his 3 months and, unlike previous months, he is hitting a ton of line drives. Still, his home run production has not been great, because he is actually hitting fewer fly balls than he did in April and May.



So, what does all of this mean for the rest of Matsui’s season? To be honest, I have no idea. As I have already said, I still believe he will end up having a good season and, for that to happen, he needs to be very good for the rest of the season. But who knows if that will happen. Ichiro! suceeded almost immediately in the major leagues and, because of that, I think some of the expectations for Matsui (including my own) were too high and the timetables for his expected success were too fast.



Matsui has struggled thus far and, like any struggling player in his first taste of the major leagues, he needs to make adjustments to be successful. There are signs that he is doing just that - more walks, more line drives, fewer ground balls - but he is still hitting way too many balls on the ground for someone who wants to be hitting them over the fence and, until he can adjust his game to change that, I don’t think 35 home runs are even a possibility.

Perhaps sensing I was writing a blog entry devoted to his many ground outs, Hideki Matsui came up in the bottom of the 9th inning last night and grounded out to first base for the final out of what has to be the strangest no-hitter in baseball history. And I watched it. MLB Extra Innings on DirecTV - gotta love it.

 

Aaron Gleeman writes daily entries on his blog every weekday at http://baseballblog.blogspot.com”

 

Aaron Gleeman Posted: June 13, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. CFiJ Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:15 AM (#611484)
Well, I'll tell you Boris. When the Latin players form their own league, play in it for about 9 years, putting up a reliable statistical record, and then enter MLB as free agents with agents to negotiate their Major League contracts, then I'm sure you'll see a lot less payroll disparity.

There are a number of good examples: the Cuban players. They play in a stable league where their talent can be accurately assessed, they come over as free agents represented by agents, and they make lots of money. Or, perhaps you've heard of a young fellow by the name of Soriano? He was brought up in the Hiroshima Carp's Dominican Academy, was posted to the Majors after two seasons, and received a very nice multi-million dollar signing bonus to join the Yankees.

There certainly is some racism in MLB, but unfortunately this is not a good example. Japanese players negotiate from a position of power. Most Latin players do not. Consequently, they get the cheaper signing bonuses and labor in the minors.

With all do respect, your analysis of Japanese baseball is deeply flawed. You mention that Rhodes hit 55 but Matsui only hit 50 so therefore Rhodes is the better player. You also say Rhodes sucked. This ignores a few things.

First, Rhodes was never given a decent chance in MLB. His career high for games in a season was 95. A mere 269 at-bats. The big difference between Tuffy's career in MLB and in Japanese baseball? He got to play everyday. Plus (something everyone ignores when talking about Tuffy Rhodes in Japan), he didn't hit over 40 homeruns in a season until his sixth season in Japan, when he hit 55. What was his season total the following year? 46. Until he hit 55 in 2001, his typical output was 22-27 homers. And there's some belief that the Pacific League (which is Tuffy's league, but not Matsui's) used livelier balls that year. Home runs for all teams took a huge jump in 2001.

Let's look at Tuffy and Matsui's career stats for the seven years they both played in Japanese baseball:

Matsui (1996-2002): .313 BA, 279 HR
Rhodes (1996-2002): .290 BA, 237 HR

Hell, let's be nice and remove both their best and their worst seasons for each during the same time period.

Matsui: 950 games, .313 BA, 195 HR
Rhodes: 943 games, .289 BA, 160 HR

For the sake of completeness, let's look at their OPS for the last three years. It's a blunt instrument, yes, but we don't have a complete enough statistical record available to make use of more advanced metrics...

Year Matsui Rhodes
2000 1092 OPS 815 OPS
2001 1080 OPS 1083 OPS
2002 1153 OPS 957 OPS

Three year averages: Matsui - 1108 OPS; Rhodes - 952 OPS

Now, actually, I think Rhodes is a very good player, much better than most give him credit for. But, for the time they played in Japanese baseball together, and inasmuch as the Central and Pacific Leagues can be compared against each other, I think Matsui was better.

You have a good point that the Latin players are exploited as a source of cheap talent by Major League baseball. But that is not the Japanese players' fault. Pujols makes less than Ichiro because Ichiro came into the Majors as a free agent and 9 year veteran of an organized league. Pujols was signed as a young prospect and brought through the minor leagues. He doesn't get paid less because he's Latin, he gets paid less for the same reason Barry Zito makes less than Pedro Martinez: he's a young player still under reserve. Teams pay more money for Japanese players for the same reason they pay more money for any free agent of any race: proven track record.

While your point may have some validity, your knowledge of both Japan and the Japanese leagues seems, frankly, quite limited. Thus it damages your argument to make outlandish and unfounded statements of limited and questionable fact.

Getting back to the original topic of Aaron's article, I agree with a lot of what he said. I've mentioned elsewhere that Matsui is actually showing the kind of period of adjustment everyone expected Ichiro to have his first year. Ichiro surprised everyone, and perhaps overinflated expectations for Matsui's first year.

My own feeling is that Matsui first wanted to focus on making contact. Contact hitting is still highly valued in Japan, even for sluggers, and is considered a fundamental. I imagine Matsui decided to first make sure he was making contact, and then he would add power later. I think this made him more hesistant at the plate. Second, I predicted Matsui would have difficulty with the moving fastball, as it is not commonly seen in Japan. Finally, I've started to wonder if he's worrying too much about the strike zone. He knew the umpires in Japan, and he knew the zone. Now he has to get used to a new umpire every game, some who call the high strike, some who call the "outside" strike. He may still be unsure of what is a strike and what isn't. These are all things that Ichiro, as a contact hitter par excellence, would not have to worry about. Because of his bat control, he could focus on whatever he could handle without focusing too much on the strike zone, and he would make better contact with moving fastballs. If he hit it on the ground he might beat the throw anyway. Matsui, as a more standard hitter, might require more time to make the adjustments.
   2. Jason Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611491)
Dare I say that all of Latin America could scarecely bring the kind of leisure dollar to bear that the 1 billion people of Japan can? Japan may have some race issues, but the little appreciated fact is that every country has race issues when it is forced to deal with minorities in significant amounts/ ways. I hardly think that has any bearing on how latin players are treated. It's hard to complain that Adrian Beltre isn't milking the system.
   3. CFiJ Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611492)
The population of Japan is only 120 million or so, but point taken. :-)
   4. Klobedanz Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611495)
I've seen 4 of Matsui's homers this year and they have all come off breaking balls, usually down and in. I think his biggest problem is he can't catch up to the inside rising fastball, the pitchers have already recognized this and are killing him with it. He will either adapt to this, or keep putting up Mark Grace numbers. Apparently, they don't throw the rising fastball in Japan, this info I have gleaned from others on this site and talking heads (Bobby Valentine, Joe Morgan), I could be wrong.
   5. CFiJ Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611506)
Again, there is the myth that Japanese players bring in additional revenue. First of all, the Japanese public is VERY finicky when it comes to players. Unlike the American media which declared Matsui the next big thing, much like it's Big Brother counterpart in the book 1984, it can't make a mistake, so instead it reverts to double speak, and we are told Matsui is amazing, when the stats show he sucks. In Japan, Matsui is hated now, and is a huge disappointment. Truly the Japanese media is more free than the one here. Because of this Matsui accessories are NOT selling.

Uh, well Boris your credibility is really going down, now. Matsui is hardly hated in Japan, and he is still a very big story (the Japanese media will report how Matsui did in a game while only mentioning the final result of the game in passing). Even if Matsui merchandise is not selling in the U.S., it is certainly selling in Japan, and what's more MLB receives revenue from the international broadcast rights.

You've anointed Matsui as a bad player with not even half the season over yet. Come back again and lets have this discussion after he's finished a full season.
   6. Aaron Gleeman Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611508)
Wow, well this is certainly not what I expected to see following an article about how Matsui is NOT playing well. To be accused of being brainwashed and insane and my article written "based on media influence" - I am sure where all that is coming free.

I am not sure why "Boris" is getting so worked up over what I say, since I make it a point to say how wrong I have been about Matsui hitting for power, how much he has struggled and then spend almost the entire article talking about WHY he has struggled.

As always, thanks for the comments guys...
   7. Robert Dudek Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611511)
Angry Boris,

We ask that those making comments take the time to reflect on what they are writing before they post. That doesn't always happen.

   8. Robert Dudek Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611513)
Mr Boris,

On behalf of the authors at Primer and the large majority of (sane) readers) I declare that your stupidity is almost matched by your misguided anger and venom. I almost never respond to insults with insults, but in this case I'll make an exception .
   9. Scott Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611514)
I predicted Matsui would have difficulty with the moving fastball, as it is not commonly seen in Japan

CFiJ -- yes, that may well be it. Matsui had some quote in the papers about hwo he was surprised how many sinkers he's seeing, or how he wasn't used to seeing them in Japan... sorry I don't have a more precise quote, but he was clearly saying that he's been surprised by the prevalence of sinkers in MLB. Slowness to adjust to sinking fastballs certainly would explain a lot of ground balls -- and maybe the May drop-off reflects that the word got around the league to throw him sinkers.
   10. tangotiger Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611523)
Aaron has taken great care writing what he did. That doesn't mean it's right, but at least the effort should be respected. Heck, even criticize what he's done. But, hijacks of articles? That's what clutch hits is about.

Angry Boris, you certainly have alot to say on the issue, so much that your words overwhelm many people's ideas or issues or whatever. Rather than flooding the comments section here to the point that now few people will want to continue posting on this specific article because some other agenda has taken over, why not prepare your thoughts in an article of its own? If Primer won't publish it, feel free to post it on a public website (like www.geocities.com), and I'd be glad to post a clutch link to it, and you can respond to your ideas in a targetted forum. People who don't want to be subjected to that topic will be able to skip right over it.

E-mail me when you are ready. Thanks... Tom
   11. Depot Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611524)
It's usually a good idea to tone down's one remarks and maybe consider that the other side might not be totally wrong. Or, at least, maybe not accuse an author of being brainwashed for simply writing an article that he wanted to write. Just a suggestion that "society" has brainwashed me into accepting at times.
   12. Evan Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611525)
Boris,

There are plenty of decaffeinated coffees out there that taste just as good as the real thing. You should try some.
   13. Robert Dudek Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611526)
Mr. Boris,

There was no need for me to address any of your "points" because the other posters had already refuted your basic position. To go into detail would have been quite tiresome for all concerned because you've shown no sign of addressing any counter-argument that has been presented here.

What you do is present blanket unsupported statements and ignore the substance of what others post. I've already wasted enough of my time on you, so I bid you good day.

   14. Depot Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611528)
I recant everything I said before. Angry Boris is a fantastic character and I'm really starting to dig his style. Continue!
   15. Steve Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611530)
I wonder if the start of interleague play has anything to do with Matsui hitting well again. Didn't he start off hitting pretty well before the scouting reports got around to throw the guy hard and in?

Is it possible the national league teams haven't adjusted to him yet?
   16. CFiJ Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611533)
Wow, thanks, kamatoa. To be honest I wasn't aware of any special respect gained by Primer readers; I figured I was still building credibility and "handle-recognition". I'm honored by your kind words, and will endeavor to not let them go to my head. :-)
   17. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611537)
"You say a player's ethnic background has nothing to do with how good he is. Yet why do all Japanese players with the minor exception of Ichiro, SUCK."

I'm sorry, but this is just not true. Say what you want about Nomo, he does not suck. Career ERA+ of 105.

Kaz Sasaki does not suck. Career ERA+ of 145.

Shigetosi Hasegawa does not suck. Career ERA+ of 124.

Tomo Ohka does not suck. Career ERA+ of 114.

I'm not sure if you are trying to use hyperbole or what, but it's simply careless to say that all Japanese players, "with the minor exception of Ichiro, SUCK."
   18. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:16 AM (#611539)
To expound on David's point regarding Primer's supposed support of Ichiro for MVP in 2001, I would suggest Angry Boris read this:

http://www.baseballprimer.com/articles/cdial_2001-12-03_0.shtml

Sorry, don't know how to post a link...
   19. Scott Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611552)
Just for kicks, I pasted this thread into Word and counted how much Angry Boris has written so far: 3834 words -- over 15 pages of double-spaced text.

At some point, Boris, can you say to yourself, "OK, I've said my piece many times, nobody appreciates what I have to say, so it's time to move on"? You're clearly persuading absolutely zero people on this site. I mean, we all spend too much time on baseball, but how much time do you have to spend on an enraged one-note tirade?
   20. Scott Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611555)
By the way, in June, Hideki's isolated power (if I'm calculating it right as (TB-H)/AB ) is about .330. His 7 doubles and 2 HR (in less than half a month) already surpass his XBH for April or June. I think we're seeing genuine, if incremental, improvement.

At the very least, we should give him a bit longer to see if he's for real, given that (a) the guy is new to MLB, (b) he's showing some signs of improvement, and (c) he hasn't been so atrocious that he's costing the Yanks that much production. It's akin to letting Nick Johnson get at-bats last year.
   21. blue Posted: June 13, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611556)
Let's go over the situation again. The Yankees paid top dollar to sign an elite veteran player from a foreign country. Since this country is far-off and exotic, has its own professional baseball league, and presents plenty of obstacles for players trying to make it to the U.S., the man in question was a novelty, and got tons of hype. But he's been a disappointment so far. Pisses you off, doesn't it?

So why aren't you ranting about Jose Contreras?
   22. Andrew Edwards Posted: June 14, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611570)
Thank you, Ted B.

I was really enjoying reading Boris call people racists for failing to recognize the racial inferiority of Japanese baseball players.

Boris: You're so wrong I don't even know where to start.

Back on the topic, that was an interesting piece, Aaron. I've been wondering what the hell was wrong with Matsui - whatever Boris says, any reasonable projection has Matsui playing better than he is right now.

This is a great case where, since the stats aren't helping us, we need to look for scouting info. Has he changed his approach? Why? Can he change it back? The groundball thing is an interesting first clue.
   23. good_ol_gil Posted: June 14, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611572)
I think Angry Boris may have one good point. It is possible that we are overpaying for Japanese players. Because first you have to pay the negotiating fee for some players, and then the salary. I don't think the production matches the investment most of the time. Of course that's ignoring the other factors of why you'd sign a palyer.
   24. CFiJ Posted: June 14, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611581)
I think Angry Boris may have one good point. It is possible that we are overpaying for Japanese players. Because first you have to pay the negotiating fee for some players, and then the salary. I don't think the production matches the investment most of the time. Of course that's ignoring the other factors of why you'd sign a palyer.

I don't agree. First, only two Japanese players have come over via the posting system: Ichiro and Ishii. No other money was paid for negotiating with the other Japanese players. The fee paid to negotiate with Ichiro was $13,125,000. The fee paid to negotiate with Ishii was about $11,500,000. Howard Lincoln of the Mariners said that the posting fee came not out of the payroll budget, but from the same money that would be used for services like fixing or making a new scoreboard, and it's likely the Dodgers did the same.

Here are the first year salaries for all the Japanese players who've played in MLB (excluding Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in MLB), found on Baseball Reference:

Hideo Nomo: $2,109,000 (2nd year salary was $600K, 3rd year was $900K)
Shigetoshi Hasegawa: $575,000
Hideki Irabu: $2,325,000
Takashi Kashiwada: No data (probably MLB minimum)
Masato Yoshii: $1,075,000
Masao Kida: $1,600,000
Mac Suzuki: $212,000 (was signed as teenager by Mariners, came up through minor leagues)
Kazuhiro Sasaki: $4,000,000
Ichiro Suzuki: $5,666,667 (undoubtedly pumped up by signing bonus and incentive clauses; salary dropped to $3,696,000 the next year)
Tsuyoshi Shinjo: $500,000 (MLB minimum plus $300,000 signing bonus)
Tomokazu Ohka: $225,000 (traded to Red Sox from Yokohama, came up through minors)
Kazuhisa Ishii: $900,000
So Taguchi: no data (reported as MLB minimum in Japanese press)
Hideki Matsui: $6,000,000 (according to ESPN.com)

I think there were a few busts thanks to Nomomania (Kida, Irabu, and to a certain extent Yoshii, although I think the Mets got their money's worth out of him his first year). But there are also some bargains: Ohka, Nomo, and to a certain extent Shinjo (who was signed so cheap all positive performance was gravy). Most were signed at right about where their value as free agents warranted. The jury's still out on Matsui (for most people who care about sample sizes anyway, and he hit another homerun yesterday and went 2-for-4 with 4 RBI today, BTW). Ichiro pretty much paid back his posting fee in merchandising and ticket sales in 2001, and I think $5,000,000 can be considered a good price for a batting champ and MVP.
   25. Scott Posted: June 14, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611582)
A proposal: everyone plesae completely ignore Boris. There's been an on-and-off discussion of Matsui that really interests me -- but that discussion has gotten back-burnered because there's one utterly illogical and deranged individual taking up lots of space. I've been as guilty as anyone of responding to him -- hey, it seemed worth a shot at first -- but at this point, everything he's said has been utterly refuted by many people, and it's clear that 100% of the other primates view his posts as worthless.

Aaron posted a really, really good article; let's not let the web's least common demonimator ruin it.
   26. Scott Posted: June 14, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611583)
Back to Matsui: if yo include today's game (6/14), his June BA is .417; his June SLG is .771. In 48 at-bats, so I'm starting to become a believer.
   27. blue Posted: June 14, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611584)
Boris-
Hey, this is a small point and I understand if you don't follow the Yanks as closely as I do, but contrary to your assertation, Matsui has had several good games this year:

April 10 v. Minnesota: 4 AB, 3 H, 1 2B, 2 RBI in a 2-0 Yankee win.

April 14 v. Toronto: 3 AB, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 HR, 3 RBI

May 7 v. Seattle: 5 AB, 2 H, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI

May 27 v. Boston: 5 AB, 2 H, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI

June 5 v. Cincinnati: 5 AB, 4 H, 2 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI

There. Five good games against some pretty good opponents- that's a lot more than Contreras' two moments of brilliance before he got injured. I realize the comparison isn't fair to Contreras because he's a pitcher and because of the injury, but if you deny that he's been at least as dissappointing as Matsui so far you're being a hypocrite. Or are you just more dissappointed in Matsui because he got more media attention? That means you're falling for the very hype you claim to hate so much. You want baseball executives to look past the Japanese hype and see players' performances for what they really are? Fine. But you'd better hold yourself to the same standards, Boris. You haven't so far.
   28. Scott Posted: June 15, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611586)
Stefan has a good point that, whatever the pre-season uncertainties about Matsui, the Yanks needed a LF, and Matsui seemed the best bet. The same goes now: especially with Bernie and Nick out, there's no better option than playing Matsui. If they had another OF/DH, they should bench not Rivera but whichever of Zeile/Trammell/Sierra is playing.

A side note about Matsui's salary is that I'm pretty sure I've read that Steinbrenner is making some serious money from Japan since signing Matsui. I'm not sure whether than money is from merchandising, Japanese TV broadcasts, both, or something else. But you can view his $7m annual salary as being much less than that, really -- maybe more line $4-6m, depending on how much money Japan is generating.
   29. Mr. Crowley Posted: June 15, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611593)
This is LONG overdue - It's a TRAP!
   30. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: June 15, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611599)
Say what you will about Angry Boris, but you can't accuse him of false advertising. That is one angry young man.
   31. Mike Emeigh Posted: June 15, 2003 at 02:17 AM (#611602)
Taking this back a little bit toward where Aaron started:

Matsui has been showing signs of hitting the ball harder each month. Some data points:

Generally, the rate at which ground balls become hits is dependent primarily on how hard they are hit. In April, Matsui was 12/57 (.211) on ground balls, with all 12 hits being singles. In May, he was 15/65 (.231) on ground balls, with two doubles mixed in. So far in June, he is 8/25 on ground balls (.360), with a double.

In April and May, 16.4% of Matsui's balls in play were line drives (33 of 201). Through June 15, 11 of 43 balls in play in June have been line drives - 25.6%.

Finally, in April and May, 3 of 46 fly balls off Matsui's bat left the yard; in June, the numbers have been 3 of 7.

I would suspect that Matsui had to make some adjustments to the pitchers and (probably) the strike zone in the States, and thus I'm not entirely surprised that he got off to a slow start. The adjustment period might be over, based on Matsui's recent performance - now let's see what counter-adjustments the pitchers make.

-- MWE
   32. Carl Goetz Posted: June 16, 2003 at 02:18 AM (#611632)
Angry Boris,
I don't know when Pujols current contract is up, but do you honestly believe that when it does, he won't be making 3 to 4 times Matsui's salary?
   33. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 09, 2004 at 04:08 AM (#614612)
My favourite Angry Boris line was this...

Do you really think that Matsui will hit over 15 homers EVER?

Matsui, of course, hit 16 homers *in 2003*. Nice one, Kreskin.

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