added 12/16/2007 by Scott Barzilla
The first two positions were easy, but now we get to the fun part. Signing Kaz Matsui was Wade's second major move. In many ways, it could be his greatest risk. Immediately, folks all around the sabermetrical community busted a gut laughing at the move. I certainly respect those folks, but will utilize their own numbers to demonstrate why they are flat our wrong this time.
To begin we need to look at those Matsui is replacing. Some believed that Chris Burke should have gotten the job. Others believe Mark Loretta should have been given the job. Others liked the idea of going for Tadahito Iguchi of the Phillies. These suggestions all have their merits. Burke would have been a cheap option and Loretta ended up coming back anyway. As it turned out, Iguchi signed for less than Matsui. Obviously, Wade has a lot to account for.
OBP AB TB BR ATB ASLG AOPS Craig Biggio .285 517 197 +2 199 .385 .670 Chris Burke .304 319 114 +7 121 .379 .683 Mark Loretta .352 460 171 -14 157 .341 .693
There were nine second basemen (if you count Burke) that had adjusted OPSs under .700. The Astros had a third of them. That's a ton of ineffective plate appearances concentrated on one team. With each player there was a different tale of woe. Loretta was the worst baserunner among second baseman in the National League. Jeff Kent was the next worst at -4. Biggio's OBP was only better than the Cardinals Adam Kennedy. Meanwhile, Burke offered all around ineptitude.
Still, how much of an improvement could we expect from Matsui. This is where the debate insues. There are two camps and the Astros are clearly in the optimistic camp. The optimists claim that Matsui found himself in Colorado and was obviously lost in New York. This is possible, but the realists look at his road stats while with the Rockies and see the same player as the New York Matsui. Lets take a look at both options
OBP AB TB BR ASLG AOPS Optimistic .342 410 166 +44 .512 .854 Realistic .315 410 151 +41 .468 .783
The realistic numbers simply took the numbers he generated in New York and converted them into MMP numbers. Even with the adjustment of his baserunning advantage, Matsui still would have been the best baserunner among second baseman. Yes, the raw OPS numbers wouldn't look that good, but he is still a considerably better offensive player than what we had last season. Naturally, this isn't the only advantage Matsui brings to the table.
The fielding Bible voters (including eleven sabermetric lumanaries) rated Matsui the 11th best fielding second baseman. John Dewan (owner of the +/- system we are using) had him as the sixth best second baseman (+12). Theoretically, we could add those bases into the adjusted OPS. Craig Biggio was tied for the second worst rated (-17) last season.
So, while Matsui might not produce the most electric hitting numbers, he should be a signficant defensive upgrade over Biggio and there isn't a better baserunner out there at the position. Bill James rated the Astros as the worst baserunning team in baseball last season. Getting better baserunners seems to be a good idea. Having someone that can cover a little extra ground to help Tejada is a really good idea.