1) The Story of Matsui
By Daniel Paulling
They are all here for the same reason. Eight thousand miles from America, baseball scouts gather to watch one man: Kazuo Matsui.
They all say the same thing about him. As fast as Ichiro, as powerful as the other Matsui, strong arm, and unbelievable range. This is Kazuo Matsui.
First there was no-hitter throwing Hideo Nomo. Then there was slap hitting MVP Ichiro. Next was lights out closer Kazhiro Sasaki. Then the power of Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui. Finally there is Kazuo Matsui. Kazuo plays shortstop for the other team in New York – the Mets. He is 28-years-old and one of the best athletes from Japan in the major leagues. He has been called one of the top shortstops in the world. “I like him – a lot,” says one former player.
But why give up being a career .305 hitter in Japanese baseball? Why not continue the longest consecutive-games player streak (1,143) in Japanese baseball? Why give up living at home with all the endorsements he could want? Why move across an ocean and play for the Mets? This is Kazuo Matsui, remember.
“I have enjoyed it, and it’s been an honor. But you have a short time to play the game, 20 years at the most. I don’t want to regret anything. I want to play with the best players in the world.”
So now that Matsui has gone to New York amid all the hype, how is he doing? Well, Matsui put on quite a show during Spring Training, but that’s just Spring Training. Matsui hit a homer in his first at bat leading off in his first game. But how has he played since then? He has hit .253 with a .328 OBP in his short season, with five blasts and twenty two runs driven in. He has not, according to some scouts, displayed the great range or arm that was expected of him. These are passable stats, but remember this is Kazuo Matsui, the guy that every scout knew would be great. Given some time I think that Matsui will prove these scouts right!
2) Three Questions with Michael Lazarus
By Daniel Paulling
I recently had a chance to speak with Power Index creator Michael Lazarus. In addition to developing this formula, Mr. Lazarus writes for Fox Sports and appears on ESPN radio; he is one of the good baseball minds.
Here’s the brief interview that we had:
1. What is your exact formula for the Power Index?
The formula is Total Bases + Walks + HBP + runs + RBIs/ plate appearances
2. What was your thought process for choosing the things you did in the formula?
Three years ago a couple of us at Fox were talking about all of the "Sabermetric" Stats that were gaining in popularity...stuff like OPS, and other stats that sites like Baseball Prospectus were providing. We thought they were interesting but at the same time we were looking for something that the somewhat-casual fan could also grasp and didn't require an advanced education in mathematics. We wanted to use some "traditional" stats factored into one index that would rank baseball's best power hitters. We also included the runs and RBI because every hitter doesn't exist as a vacuum; we wanted to identify the ones who produced the most offense. If they benefited by playing in a strong lineup or strong hitting ballpark, so be it. Think of it this way, our list is probably compiled as the guys who make the highlights more than any other batters.
3. What's does a great (Bondsian or Pujols), good (Chipper Jones-like player), all right (Raul Mondesi), and bad player (someone without much offensive prowess) score?
We liked the index that we came up with because a score of 1.000 or more was attained by five or six players -- making a relatively short list of MVP candidate. A player who scores above .900 (think an A or A--) grade is a pretty definite all-star. Those at .800-.899 (B+ to B-) is a good starting player and in the upper end, perhaps an all-star reserve. .700-.799 (C+ to C-) is a marginal starter, you can survive with that player starting and hitting far down in your lineup. Those at .699 or below should worry about their stating jobs.