Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Replacing A World Series MVP [Part II]

Yesterday, Matt noted that for the third time since 1996, the Yankees will have to evaluate whether or not to retain a World Series MVP who is heading into free agency. In 1996, they opted to let John Wetteland walk in favor of an up-and-coming closer named Mariano Rivera. However, they decided to keep Scott Brosius after their legendary 1998 campaign instead of turning to Mike Lowell, who had just posted two excellent minor league seasons, the majority of which came at AAA.

Interestingly, 11 years later, Mike Lowell found himself playing the role of Brosius for the 2007 Red Sox with frightening accuracy. Lowell had a standout year at the plate that was driven by a batting average well above his career mark, played excellent defense at 3rd while putting up an OPS+ in the 120's, made the All-Star team, and drove in exactly 15 runs in the postseason en route to a team championship and a World Series MVP.

Membahs of Rex Sawx Nation were all, "Aw, you've gotta resign Mikey Lowell. Dood is fackin' moooooney!" And, yes, some people (presumably a group of 7th graders) even started a petition, which included this gem:
These statistics show that Mike Lowell has elevated his game since his coming to Boston. In the perspective of Red Sox Nation, he has been the team MVP the entire 2007 season. He delivered for the team when the team needed something big to happen. Mike Lowell has been "a clutch player" this entire season.

However, this past post-season, he has taken things to another level.
[cites 2007 postseason stats]
So how did Mike Lowell's incredible postseason carry over into the 3 year, $36M contract he signed with the Sox? What of his "Bostonian Game Elevation" and "Clutch Player-ing"?

Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Lowell has hit only slightly above league average for a third baseman, played no more than 110 games in either season at 3rd base, underwent hip surgery, watched his defensive skills erode and oh by the way, kind of sucked in the playoffs.

So what of Hideki Matsui, who finds himself in a similar situation this year? Matsui won't be looking for a deal anywhere near as long, and didn't even play defense this year, but both are older players coming off surprisingly strong offensive seasons, punctuated by productive postseasons and, of course, the WS MVPs.

Yesterday, Brian Cashman came right out and said that he wasn't going to be influenced by what Matsui (or Johnny Damon) did in the playoffs when it comes to deciding whether or not to hold onto them this offseason:
We’re thankful for the guys who did what they did, and if you had a great postseason, terrific.

What they are when they went into October, that’s what they still are, regardless of how good or how poor they played in the postseason.
I know Matt advocated bringing Hideki Matsui back yesterday (not because of his postseason, obviously), but I'm on the other side of this debate. There are certainly going to be offensive losses involved with giving Posada, A-Rod, Jeter and Damon days off by DH'ing them, but there will also be defensive upgrades. I believe those players are going to need the days off and having to sit Matsui by no fault of his own will make it more difficult for Joe Girardi to give guys adequate rest, regardless of how professional Matsui is about it. And if he's on he bench in 1/3 or 1/2 of the games, how effective will Matsui be when he finally gets to the plate?

Matsui's knees have become a nagging problem and he needed to have them drained multiple times throughout the season. They have already turned him into a full-time DH so I think it's fair to wonder how long it will be before they total kill his baserunning skills and begin to sap his offensive power as well.

He was a great hitter and a consummate professional in his time with the Yankees, but I think it's time to say "sayonara" to Godzilla and send him off on the highest possible note. Thanks for the memories, Hideki.


  1. I think you miss a major factor with matsui. Because of his knees he needs extra days off, these days are when you can easily rest an a-rod, jeter or jorge. If matsui only plays say 4-5 games a week, he stays healthy and the older yankees stay healthy. This is much smarter then having a pena or gardener bat 9th instead of retaining a 128 OPS+ #5 hitter.

  2. That's a good point, Taylor. I hadn't thought of it that way or heard anyone else say that. However, that assumes that Matsui is going to concede that he can only be a part time player at the time the contract is negotiated and agree to be paid like one. A part time DH is an extremely one-dimensional use of a roster spot and will necessitate him taking a major pay cut from $13M. It sounds good on paper, but do you think he's going to want to take $5 or $6M? I doubt the Yanks want to pay him much more than that, he's been tough in contact talks before and now has a WS MVP to wave in their face.