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It’s got to be hard to be the guy that replaces the face of the franchise. I don’t envy Hideki Matsui that task, although I’m sure a World Series ring and $6MM is really helpful in dealing with it. After spending the first seven seasons of his MLB career with the Yankees, Matsui moves over to the Angels to replace former AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, who the Angels let walk after a disappointing and injured 2009.
Matsui is obviously well-known from his time with the Yankees, but more than that he has a clear and obvious major league history we can look at to base our predictions on, which is always a nice bonus. In his time with the Yankees, Matsui put up a .292/.370/.482 line, while playing most of the time in LF. His defense has never been good, and sometimes has been quite terrible, which definitely caused his value to take a hit, and in the end Matsui averaged about 2 WAR per season with the Yankees.
He’s also not without injury problems, failing to break 150 games in a season since 2005. Signing him, then, to replace someone that has had his own injury problems lately is not without some risk, and it has to make the his value take a bit of a hit. The fact that Scioscia seems determined to work him into the corner OF rotation (because, really, what’s one more poor fielding OF?) is only going to enhance that inherent injury risk he carries with him.
CHONE seems well-aware of his injury risk, and is either expecting him to spend some time on the DL, or to get plenty of rest in an attempt to avoid DL time, projecting him at only 121 games, which would be his lowest total since 2008. As a result of his injury risk and another year of aging (Matsui will be 36 this summer), CHONE, ZiPS, Marcel, and all the other projection systems found on FanGraphs expect some decline from Matsui. CHONE, in fact, is expecting the second-worst wOBA or Matsui’s career, which is telling given that he’s also moving to a more hitter-friendly park than the former Yankee Stadium.
So, where do I see Matsui finishing 2010? I think Scioscia gives him around 20 games in LF, which is going to hurt the team since his defense is so poor (-61.7 UZR total for his career in LF, and not a single year in the positives), but if it’s only around the 20 game mark, it won’t be a significant detriment to the team. Offensively, I think Matsui hits 20 HRs, which is about his career average, and finishes with a .269/.355/.445, and plays in 120-130 games. If the Angels plan to return to October baseball this year, he’s going to have to be a big part of their offense, and his health is going to be a big question mark surrounding that. Either way, I think Matsui is a one-and-done for the Angels, and we’ll be looking for a different DH for 2011.