Friday, March 11, 2011
30 A's in 30 Days: Hideki Matsui
Acquired: Signed as free agent (December 14, 2010).
Contract: Signed through 2011 (eligible for free agency after 2011).
Position: Starting designated hitter; formerly managed the career of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
2011 Projected BA/OBP/SLG: .254/.345/.436
2010 Season: Matsui alternated good and bad months with the Angels from April through July. Entering August, he was hitting, .251/.331/.418. Over the final two months of the season, he hit .329/.431/.557 (168 plate appearances). On a personal note, Matsui also ruined a father-and-son evening at the ballpark early in the year. My son Jalen and I drove up to Anaheim to see the A's and Angels play on Saturday night, April 10. Matsui went 3 for 5 with a walk-off single to win it. I've been attending baseball games since the 1980s and it was only the second time I'd seen my A's lose on a walk-off in-person. I haven't forgotten you either, Torey Lovullo.
2011 Over/Under: That projection would represent a slight decline from last year's numbers. Matsui will turn 37 in June, he's averaged 143 games played in three of the past four seasons and the A's medical/training staff hasn't had much recent success in keeping aging players off the disabled list. Every year it seems there's one A's projection I really, really like and Matsui's makes sense if he stays healthy. I'll take the UNDER, but only because career years at 37 are so San Francisco. What's that? The 1980s? Oh, I don't have any idea WHAT you're talking about.
By the Numbers: .266/.366/.474 – This is Matsui's slash line from the past four seasons (523 games, 2,091 plate appearances). He is ostensibly replacing Jack Cust, who posted the following numbers in his four seasons in Oakland: .247/.381/.457 (533 games, 2,142 plate appearances). From 2007-2010, Cust hit 97 home runs to Matsui's 83. But, of course, Cust also struck out 673 times in that span compared to just 293 for Matsui. Look, I'm not suggesting Matsui isn't an upgrade – particularly if anyone noticed how much trouble Cust had with decent fastballs last year. It's just that the difference between the two isn't as wide as some A's fans seem to think.
Surefire 2011 Prediction: Matsui will finally enter the Harold Baines stage of his career and assume DH duties exclusively. The Yankees didn't let him play the field at all during the 2009 season, but the Angels wheeled him out for 18 games in left field last year. No way he touches a glove in Oakland. Speaking of Baines, he started 19 games in the outfield for Tony LaRussa's A's in 1992 despite the fact that he was clinically without knees. I don't miss LaRussa's unique brand of genius.
Old School Rap Track for the Season: Come With Me, Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page