11/30/07: Why Matsui? Be-Kaz He Can Run Fast

Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I (and about every other Astros fan) was talking about how often Astros pitchers would throw a quality start, only to lose because of no offensive support?

Yep, it was.

And wasn’t it me last year who was saying that it is difficult for pitchers to do well when they have terrible fielders? Sure was.

However, whether I like it or not, it isn’t the 60s any more, and the Box is most definitely NOT the Dome and the modern game is not all about small ball, it is about home runs – it’s why they have hard baseballs and small stadiums.

Apparently, we have signed Kaz Matsui to a 3 year/15 milliondeal to play second, which means that Chris Burke is out as a second baseman. I talked about Matsui several weeks ago, and unlike most other Astros fans, am unimpressed. For some reason, seems most fans are absolutely and completely unwilling to examine a players CAREER record and are only interested in the previous year’s record. And Matsui most definitely hit well at Coors, no question. Problem is that he did, well, not well everywhere else.

In 2004, his first year, his home/away splits were almost even and for the year, he hit .272/.331/.396/.727 with 14 SB and 3 CS in 460 AB over 114 games without any games at Coors. (Yes, better than Chris Burke last year, seeing as how no one is willing to agree that he ever had any AB in the majors before then.)

In 2005, his second year, again, no games at Coors, he hit .255/.300/.352/.652 in 267 AB over 87 games with 6 SB and 1 CS with fairly even home/away splits.

In 2006, he split the year between the Mets and the Rockies, so I’ll list his lines at Coors and away from Coors. It’s a bit different than “home” and away because he had 2 diffferent homes that year.

At Coors, he hit .411/.476/.500/.976 in 56 AB over 17 games. Away from Coors, he hit .225/.260/.320/.580 in 187 AB over 53 games. INteresting that all of a sudden, he had HUGE Coors/away from Coors splits.

Last year, away from Coors, he hit .249/.304/.333/.638 in 213 AB over 55 games. And, mind you, he only started in 2/3 of all games played last year.

To summarize, away from Coors, his line is, over 4 years in the majors, .256/.305/.367/.672 in 1127 AB over 309 games (he has 66 more games played at Coors, where he hits like crazy) with 46 SB and 6 CS.
INCLUDING Coors, his RCAA over the last 3 years are -20, -25 and -7. We are not talking great offense here, are we???

I keep hearing – oh isn’t it great we have all this SPEED!!! Well, you have to get on base first. Bourn is projected by ZIPS to have an OBP of .310 and Matsui’s non-Coors’ OBP is .304. You still can NOT steal first – and, by the way, Matsui can’t steal against lefties – has only 4 SB in his American career (neither can Bourn, but we won’t go there.)

And, by the way, no one has yet commented on the fact that the greatest number of games he has played in 1 year is 114, in his first year. Now we’re expecting 162? Well, maybe not. It’s possible that he’ll be facing rightys and Burke leftys, I’m not sure. But I AM sure that keeping Burke on the bench to pinch hit is a waste of a roster spot – he’s at his absolute worst when he pinch hits – in 58 PA, he’s hit .176/.288/.275/.563 with 3 RBI.

Poor guy. But I must say I love all the fan suggestions that we package him with Scott and some “prospect” for a #2 pitcher. Good grief.

But the thing is that unlike a lot of other Astros fans, I don’t think that doing something just to do SOMEthing is necessarily a a good thing, let alone a smart thing. At least McLane hasn’t told Tal Smith to tell Ed Wade to give out any more 100 mill contracts…

I at least hope McLane allows Tal to offer arb to Loretta, who is about to sign with the Yankees, to Jason Jennings and to Trever Miller. Yeah, they are all Type B, but at least we will get a little compensation and a few more picks. Hard to believe that Lamb isn’t even a Type B, but this is why I seriously doubt he’ll get a multi year, multi mill deal as a starting 3B for any team.

Anyway, because I am so depressed about my baseball team, I think I’ll tell all yall a nice joke (well, re-told a little…)

So this Astros blogger brought her very limp baseball team’s lineup card into a stat geek. As she laid her 25 man roster list’s OPS on the table, the stat geek pulled out his spreadsheet and Marcel and examined the team.

After a moment or two, the geek shook his head sadly and said, “I’m so sorry Lisa, your team, the Astros, their hope is dead.”

The distressed blogger wailed, “Are you sure”? “Yes, I am sure. Numbers don’t lie – your team is dead,” he replied.

“How can you be so sure”? she protested. “I mean, you haven’t even checked the chemistry or speed. They might just be in a coma or something.”

The stat geek rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room, and returned a few moments later with a black Labrador Retriever. The dog trotted over to the computer, stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the table and sniffed the spreadsheet from top to bottom. He then looked at the stat geek with sad eyes and shook his head. He patted the dog and took it out, and returned a few moments later with a cat. The cat jumped up on the table and also sniffed delicately at the ZIPS and Marcel and CHONE projections from top to bottom. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The stat geek looked at the blogger and said, “I’m sorry grrrrrl, but as I said, this team is most definitely, 100 percent certifiably, dead.”  Then he turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the blogger, who took the bill. “$150!” she cried. “$150 just to tell me my team sucked itself to death?

The stat geek shrugged.  ”I’m sorry. If you’d taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the lab report and the cat scan, it’s now $150.

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38 Responses to “11/30/07: Why Matsui? Be-Kaz He Can Run Fast”

  1. Joel B. says:

    haha that was weak but im laughing
    So why does a guy like Rosenthal and some other national reporter think it is a good signing Mrs. Gloom?
    I mean I know what your looking at and he hasn’t performed well outside of Coors, but are they just being nice to Houston. Patting them on the back saying its going to be OK or is there something thats missing.
    I do think the Astros are a better team with him than with Burke.

  2. Lisa Gray says:

    well, i would guess that burke’s shoulder is that bad that he can’t swing very well. might could also be that the Organization was mad that he chose to spend the winter with his new baby instead of in venezuela/mexico. of course, a lot of good that did luke scott…the 2006 version of burke is better than the non-coors version of matsui, that is fer SHER.
    i have NO idea why rosenthal or anyone else would say it was a good signing. i have no idea why anyone thinks matsui would repeat his colorado numbers in houston. juan pierre is about the only guy i can think of who kept about the same numbers after leaving colorado.
    well, i guess it is a good signing compared to cesar izturis…

  3. Mark says:

    I agree with Lisa, as usual.
    I’ve written before that you have to assemble a team to fit your ballpark. Tal Smith is living in the past and putting together a team fit for the ‘dome. Ed Wade apparently doesn’t have enough sense to do anything other than overpay for journeyman relievers. Hard to say at this point, but I’m thinking that the 2008 Astros will be horrible–possibly even worse than the 2007 version.
    I’m sure the football idiots will blame Cooper and scream for him to be fired because he can’t win with a terribly flawed roster. (I was in favor of firing Purpura because of what he gave Garner to work with, but I thought it was dumb to can Phil.)
    I guess the one bright side is that Mike Lamb could fall back into the Astros’ laps.

  4. Michael says:

    I’m trying to think of a time when Ken Rosenthal ripped any team for signing a player.
    I could be way off on this but it seems to me he is the most genial of sorts and isn’t likely to publicly trash free agent signings.

  5. Joel B. says:

    I think the 2008 team will win more games. I think its a better team. I really do. I’m not saying its World Series but they’ll be above .500.
    Here is some hope, kinda.

  6. Austin says:

    For the record, Mark, I didn’t think that we should have canned Garner because of his record. I thought it was a bad hire to start with, and I thought he was underperforming with what he had even when he was winning. Those horrible first halves he kept having were inexcusable. The decisions he made within the game were inexcusable. And the Astros last year had a bad team, but they weren’t bottom of the Major Leagues bad. When your team goes from first to worst after improving the offense and losing a couple of pitchers, a large part of the blame falls on the manager. He was BAD at running the game, and he constantly misused pitchers.
    I won’t blame Cooper this year if he has a bad record, I’ll only blame Cooper if he makes bad decisions. The people who disliked Garner had reasons. They’re not all idiots.

  7. JDolla$ says:

    It makes me very sad that yet again Burke is getting the shaft. He’s a pretty good player, and I think that the Stros will regret not giving him a real, extended shot to let him do his thing. As far as trading him goes, I doubt they’ll do that, since their total lack of trust in him doesn’t exactly help his trade value much (see Luke Scott). So he’ll probably be the utility guy next season. Sad for him. I expect by midseason fans will be heckling the light-hitting Matsui, and he’ll probably not deal too well with that (see the Mets). I’m starting to think that the Astros were really secretly bought by the Cardinals, and their management team is trying to run them into the ground with bad trades and stupid free agent signings in order to give the Cards a shot at winning next year against the Cubbies & Brewers.
    Very bleak days ahead in Smog City.

  8. Michael Hurta says:

    This, in my mind; can only be a good deal if we trade Burke for an arm. The Rockies are apparently interested.
    It seems to me that Wade has reworked the bullpen nicely except for the 9th inning. We need at least one more starting pitcher, too. If Matsui can field like he has the past couple years and hit the way he did, say; his rookie year — than it would be alright with me. Oh ya; and again– as long as Burke is traded for an arm.

  9. Jack says:

    Back in October, when Kaz caught fire in the playoffs I thought it was funny, ‘cuz I knew some dumb team would overpay for him… Ouch…
    I think it’s possible that he’ll put up decent numbers, despite his Coors/Road split, but I don’t think it’s any more likely than, say, Chris Burke putting up 2006 type numbers.
    The one good thing is that at least he plays fantastic defense- from the numbers I’ve seen, he’s a significant upgrade over Burke, and a huge one over Biggio or Loretta.

  10. Kevin Bradshaw1 says:

    Signing Matsui is as dumb as it is pointless.
    Burke’s numbers on a bad year compare rather well to Matsui’s pre-Coors stats. Not to mention he’s free.
    And Burke’s ’06 was just as good, if not better than Matsui’s ’07 Coors season.
    Burke isn’t great, but Matsui is garbage. And Burke is free.
    I am so hacked off by this that I am considering protesting every game started by Matsui. Seriously. I am that pissed off.

  11. Dan says:

    Building a team for your ballpark has haunted teams. The Red Sox for years built offense-heavy ball clubs, because of Fenway’s hitter-park-ness and came up with nothing. Every year they were close to winning, and eventually winning in ’04 and ’07 they had great pitching. Matsui is not a great signing, but all year last year, the terrible defense gave this team 10 more losses than they should have had, and Matsui is good defensively (much better than Lorreta and Biggio).

  12. Austin says:

    “This, in my mind; can only be a good deal if we trade Burke for an arm. The Rockies are apparently interested.”
    Of course they’re interested! The last time the Rockies dealt with the Astros, they robbed the ‘Stros blind. I’d definitely want to deal with the Astros as much as possible if I were the Rockies or the D-Rays.
    “Back in October, when Kaz caught fire in the playoffs I thought it was funny,

  13. Lisa Gray says:

    i am really surprised how many fans actually think that we will be able to tracde burke + scott + some minor leaguer for an decent starting pitcher.
    there just are not that many stupid GMs. if the astros think that scott is so lousy that bourn is better, how on earth is he gonna get much of anything in trade?
    matsui is better defensively than loretta/biggio, but unless burke’s shoulder is toast, i think that playing matsui instead is pointless…
    the astros have made a LOT of dumb decisions since mclane stupidly threw gerry hunsicker out

  14. Jack says:

    The point wasn’t that we didn’t think Burke and Scott deserved a chance to start somewhere.
    The point was that teams aren’t chomping at the bit to take another team’s castoffs.
    If the Astros want to, they can trade them, but the general consensus is that we’ll pick up a good starting pitcher for them (ie. a #2 starter) and Lisa was saying that it’s not likely any team would be willing to do that.
    That said, I hope some team will see the value in an outfielder with a career .882 OPS, even if the Astros can’t.

  15. Steve Schramm says:

    I like the way Astros Management won’t give Luke or Burke a full time job in part because they believe they will get hurt or not maintain high performance through the grind of an entire season, and then they go out and spend $16,500,000 for three years of a guy who has played in 261 of the last 486 games (that’s 53% — a half-time player at best).
    For a 2-hole guy, he should have about 2200 plate appearances — he has 1011. That’s 45%.
    Drayton can waste his money however he wants, of course. But I’m glad it’s not *my* money, or I’d be ticked.
    (Hint: Luke AND Burke together cost $797K last year so we could afford 20 Lukes and 20 Burkes for Matsui’s salary.)

  16. Joel B. says:

    Matsui is costing $31,880,000! WOW!!

  17. Red Aaron says:

    duh. we didnt give any of these guys starting jobs. any team should show respect to these guys like we are by giving them a shot at another team. Like Ive said many times over if you want bigger players get ready to spend bigger numbers.
    You are missing the big idea. You overlook several good things these or any trades would offer and fail to see the potential good. Give these guys a shot with another team. Cant you cheer for them in another city like New York? Support your local Astros. Even agreeing with a sports writer show lack of respect for your own town. Know your roll and respect Houston Baseball.
    I want to take the time to thank the guys that brought us the Series in 05. I want to thank the guys that made an impression in 07. You cant put all the credit on guys who helped on the side of great pitching. Lets put some potential behind us and start looking at the potential of a new team. Who knows you may be shocked. Negative Nancies get no respect.

  18. Jack says:

    Steve’s math was right. He said they cost $797K together, so 20 of each would cost 15.94 million.
    You, uh, might want to double check your math before making fun of someone else’s…

  19. Joel B. says:

    ok you’re right.
    47.7MM over 3 years compared to 16.5
    matsui is costing 6.5 (not 15.94) the first year and 5 each of the next 2
    and its not like signing matsui is stopping them from signing somebody else. they still have a ton of money.
    either way relax and take a joke

  20. Lisa Gray says:

    i SINCERELY hope that burke and scott catch on with another team, get full time starting jobs and tear the cover offn the ball. the only ex-astro i root against is carlos beltran
    as for you tellin me “know your roll and respect houston baseball.” i tell you straight i am not real too crazy about some man telling me to “know my roll” – you ain’t my daddy and he’s the ONLY male gets to talk to me like that. so mind your darn manners dude
    couldn’t have said it better my own self

  21. Joe says:

    After Oswalt, who do the Astros have that can be reliable?
    4-5 innings of unreliable pitching before its back to overworking the middle relievers?
    Is Patton ready to face major league hitters on a regular basis? Can his body handle a full season of throwing? Or any of the other ‘top tier’ pitching prospects for that matter?

  22. Joel B. says:

    Wandy and Woody should be able to give you at least 6 innings.
    Backe can if he is 100%
    Albers, Patton and Sampson will not give you 200 inings each but combined they can carry the load.
    So they don’t need pitching, they need a #2.

  23. Steve Schramm says:

    You’re wrong — spending $6.5M on a second baseman absolutely stops us from signing someone else. Drayton has a budget, and now Wade has $5M less to work with. It will affect the team — we just don’t know who we would have had instead since that deal will now never happen.
    Furthermore, it distracts mgmt from solving the real problems surrounding starting pitching and run production from anyone in the infield not named Lance.
    Any finally, it shows that mgmt has given up on Burke and Luke. I’m more surprised that they’ve given up on Luke because he performed so well in the second half of ’06 and seems like a solid bat with an improving glove if allowed to play consistently. As for Burke, I can only conclude that the shoulder injury is a career ender, because Burke was strong in 2005 and before. The irony is if he had been playing his true position, he never would have run into the outfield wall and ruined his shoulder. Oh well. What a waste of a first round pick.

  24. Steve Schramm says:

    And before you [incorrectly] jump on my math again, I said $5M because that’s his salary for this year and the next two, not including the $1.5M signon this year.

  25. Joel B. says:

    They’re not being distracted from solving the starting pitching problem. That doesn’t make any sense. First that would mean these guys are simpltons and can only process one thing at a time. Highly unlikely. Second there is no significant pitching upgrade they can acquire. Its not out there, through free agency or trade. So thats a mute point.
    Money wise they have more than ever and currently have a payroll lower than the previous years. Including Matsui.
    So if you were to tell them here have Santana/Haren/Peavy/Willis/Nathan/Fuentes and sign him to an extension. They could afford any of those guys.
    They’re just not going to spend money on junk.
    Run production in the infield has been improved. You removed Biggio. That in itself is in improvement. Matsui may fail to reproduce last years numbers but if Biggio was worth 5MM last year Matsui is worth more. No Ensberg/Loretta platooning at 3rd. Thats another plus. Everett will be an improvement over Loretta. Defensively they will be great, offensively they will be better.
    They gave up on Burke and Scott a long time ago.
    On to another point related but not.
    Maybe Matsui is junk and you can throw in Bourn and everyone else Wade has got. At the moment it doesn’t matter how they will produce. What matters is that 10 weeks ago everyone was cying that there was no hope. This team was done for. Be prepared for 500,000 years of crapiness. Well there is a chance now that they don’t suck as much as last year. That will keep me watching.

  26. Steve Schramm says:

    Well the Bourn and Matsui deals are done, and we know the lineup, so I’ll just hope it’s better. But I’m not convinced. True, Biggio sucked. But replacing him with Matsui appears to be WORSE.
    Biggio OPS = .666
    Matsui OPS away from Coors = .637!!!!
    That’s so bad it is WORSE than every qualifying NL batter except Vizquel. (Biggio was 5th worst).
    And Matsui’s slugging percentage is 50 points WORSE than Biggio.
    So if you think our offense got better by removing Biggio, think again.

  27. Joe says:

    Wandy and Woody will give you 5-6 innings, that is a given. But how many runs will they give up in that inning span? And can the offense match the needed runs that they give up to win the game? Woody is getting a little long and the tooth and Wandy? Would Wandy even be pitching in the majors if he was a righty? I have my doubts on that.
    Outside of Pence, Berkman and Lee, I’m not sold on the run production of the rest of the lineup, which includes some of the new faces (Kaz, Bourne, etc).
    While I love the energy that Backe gives the team, i’m still not convinced he can pitch consistently over the course of a full season. But I do like what he brings ability wise when compared to Woody and Wandy.
    While I agree that the Astros need a #2 style pitcher, I’d also be willing to go out on a limb and say they need a reliable #3 guy as well (and a guy who can close out games).

  28. Austin says:

    “Wandy and Woody should be able to give you at least 6 innings.”
    Joe is right – you can actually count on those players to give you 6 innings, MAX. It’s pretty much an aberration for both of them to pitch past the 6th. Both of them averaged just about 6 innings per start (Woody barely over and Wandy barely under). Compare that to Oswalt, who averaged about 6.2 innings per start. Even Chris Sampson had a better average, and that’s with the Astros going soft on him and pulling him too early (only let him reach 100 pitches 3 times in his 21 starts – versus 15 for Woody and for Wandy).
    Woody had 31 starts last year and only went past 6 innings 11 times (and in 3 of those, he pitched into the 7th but didn’t finish). So, only 8 times did Woody give us 7 innings or better. Which, coincidentally, is the exact same number of times he pitched and didn’t even reach the 6th. Being able to count on your pitcher to go 5 innings just as often as he goes 7 doesn’t constitute a reliable starter.
    Wandy was able to pitch longer in more starts, as he had 12 games where he went past the 6th, including one complete game and another where he could have pitched 9 if Cooper had let him, as he’d only thrown 88 pitches after 8 innings. Also, only one of those 12 games is a game where he started the 7th but didn’t finish. HOWEVER (this is a big however), he did have 15 games in which he did not even reach the 6th.
    I like Wandy, but neither of those is very reliable. And, clearly, to say that you can expect AT LEAST 6 innings from them each start is very much a stretch.

  29. Joel B. says:

    I guess I’m a stretcher. Good point. You’re smart.
    “Both of them averaged just about 6 innings per start ”

  30. Joe says:

    Are they a quality 6 innings most of the time?
    The answer is….
    No. Too many walks, too many runs and too many pitches in general.

  31. Austin says:

    Wow, Joel, getting a little snippy. Once again, Joe is right. Which is kind of what I was trying to get at by mentioning how rarely they go up to six innings. A lot of the time, it’s not even a quality six. Also, you said they should be able to give you AT LEAST six. Those two words are the operative words. I was pointing out that going six was hardly a given, let alone MORE than six.

  32. Austin says:

    AND, again, that you couldn’t even count on it being a quality six.

  33. Kris says:

    Latest trade talks
    Astros turn down Cordero trade – they wanted Qualls and Scott
    Scott may be a Padre soon according to site
    Cheer up Scott, at least there are some OTHER TEAMS that want you !!

  34. Joel B. says:

    4s and 5s and to an extent 3s are doing there job if they get you through 6 innings. That’s what Wandy and Woody can do. Wandy has shown signs that he may go beyond that.
    If they gave you quality starts every time or the majority of the time they would be considered 1s and 2s.
    I said we have plenty of arms refering to 3-4-5. I still think thats true.

  35. Steve Schramm says:

    Scott Barzilla made some good points about how Matsui is not necessarily the disaster he may appear to be. So I’ve changed my tune a little and am slightly more hopeful. We’ll see how April and May go…
    [Barzilla excerpt]
    The 2008 Bill James Handbook contains a few new metrics designed to rate fielding and baserunning. According to Bill James new baserunning metric, Matsui is one of the top ten baserunners in baseball. This metric includes stolen bases, ability to go first to third, second to home, first to home, and every other situation one can think of.
    Additionally, John Dewan came out with his annual +/- fielding lists as well. Again, Matsui rated as one of the top ten second basemen. So, there are some redeeming qualities there. If only there were some way to reconcile OPS with baserunning and fielding. Well, the beauty of James’ baserunning metric and John Dewan’s +/- fielding metric is that they can be converted into bases. In other words, we can adjust his slugging percentage by adding to his total bases. Since we are adjusting only the road stats we will convert the James and Dewan metrics in half.
    TB James Dewan ATB AB ASLG
    2007 71 22 6 99 221 .448
    .335 .448 .783
    In other words, when you compare Matsui to people like Loretta, Burke, and even Biggio you should keep in mind his fielding and baserunning. Naturally, there is still some to criticize here. Your second hitter in the lineup might not be that proficient at getting on base. Also, people could claim that Tadahito Iguchi was a better choice. All of these are sound arguments, but the fact that sabermetricians are making them on both sides says something.
    Maybe Ed Wade couldn’t articulate the signing in the words that sabermetricians could embrace, but it doesn’t mean that this move is indefensible. Bill James Handbook rated the Astros as the worst baserunning team in the big leagues. They were also among the bottom fielding teams according to most fielding metrics. Getting someone that makes the club better with the gloves and better on the basepaths seems like a good idea.

  36. Joe says:

    No, my qualm with Wandy is the fact that he’s giving up at least 4-5 runs every time goes out there and pitches.
    This brings up my earlier comment: Can the Astro offense produce enough runs to counter this? Not likely.

  37. Joel B. says:

    I’d say as the team stand they should be .500. If things go well they could do better.
    I think with the new additions the Astros should produce more runs this year than last. The pitching will be at least at the level it was last year but I’m willing to bet better (Jennings subtract and adding Backe and Patton).
    Last year they averaged 4.45 runs per game, good for 13th in the league.
    They allowed 5.02 runs per game, good for 11th in the league.
    Obviously they sucked so it should be easy to improve.
    Now if your qualm is with Wandy, I don’t know what you are trying to get across. He’d be fine as a number 4. I think he has the potential to be even better. So they need a number 2. Everyone agrees with that. Everyone knows what Wandy can do.
    We don’t know what this offense will do. That will depend on the performance of Bourn, Matsui and Pence. Coincidently the 1,2,3 guys.

  38. Joel B. says:

    just adding a little hope
    sabernomics says they got a fair deal