I feel bad for Hideki Matsui, I really do. The poor guy wins the World Series MVP for the Yankees and then gets unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Then when the Angels scoop him up his arrival is totally overshadowed by the furor of the team losing out on John Lackey, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee on the very same day. To make matters worse, Matsui is now being asked to fill the shoes of one of the most beloved Angel stars in the history of the franchise.
Now the Angels have themselves a problem, they’ve lost the opportunity to sell their fan base on just what a great signing they have made. The Angel faithful are pissed and won’t take the dismissal of their favorite hero lightly, especially when he is being replaced by a player who just helped eliminate the Halos from the playoffs. Somehow the Angels must prove that they really did make a smart move, no matter how unpopular it might be. There is only one solution to this untenable situation… Godzilla Matsui must battle Super Vlad to determine who is truly the superior power!!!
Godzilla vs. Super Vlad! Which monster will win?
Average: This one is pretty simple. Vlad is a career .321 hitter who still managed to hit .295 this season despite being hampered for large chunks of the season with chest and knee injuries. Matsui is a .292 career hitter but hasn’t hit over .300 for three straight years now. – EDGE: Super Vlad. No matter what happens with Guerrero he can still put the bat on the ball.
Plate Discipline: From a strictly statistical point of view, this one is a tough call. Matsui has a career .370 OBP and Guerrero checks in at .386 and neither batter strikes out very much. The difference here is that Matsui actually works for his walks whereas Vlad just walked because pitchers were scared of him. Did you know that prior to this last season Guerrero led the AL in intentional walks for four straight seasons. Matsui has been walked around just 25 times in his career. Vlad has had three individual seasons where he has had that many intentional passes or more. Vlad won’t be getting those free passes anymore though as his career goes into decline, so his OBP is bound to suffer. – EDGE: Godzilla Matsui. Just watch their respective approaches at the plate. Vlad swings at literally everything while Matsui is incredibly selective. Bobby Abreu has shown Angel management the light and they are placing a focus on increasing plate discipline in the Angel line-up and that is a major reason Matsui was brought on board..
Power: Matsui is being brought in to add some pop to the Angel order but his power doesn’t compare to Vlad historically. Before this season, Vlad had only once failed to post a slugging percentage under .520. Matsui has slugged over .500 just twice, but one of those times was the 2009 season. Professional baseball is a world of what have you done for me lately and lately Matsui has been the superior slugger. – EDGE: Godzilla Matsui, barely. Hideki’s power might take a small hit moving from Yankee Stadium to Angel Stadium, but he clearly can still mash. That isn’t nearly as much of a certainty for Vlad who’s bat looks slower and slower by the week.
Baserunning: Hideki Matsui is a poor match for the Angels as he has never had much speed even before his knees started disintegrating. As for Guerrero, he used to be quite the burner and can still get it going from time to time now. Then again whatever edge in physical speed Vlad has over Matsui is totally canceled out by Vlad’s frequent brain farts on the basepaths. – EDGE: Godzilla Matsui. At least Hideki knows he’s slow whereas Vlad still seems to think he has 40-steal speed.
Defense: Matsui has two bad knees and can’t play the field anymore if he wants to stay healthy, though he was a decent fielder years ago. Vladimir Guerrero has one bad knee and a bum shoulder and can’t play the field anymore either. – EDGE: PUSH. Nobody wins if either of these two has to hobble around in the field for any period of time.
Economics: Guerrero hasn’t signed yet, so it remains to be seen how much more Matsui will make than him, but it is a virtual lock that Matsui will make more, making this a somewhat peculiar decision for a team with limited payroll to spend this off-season, at least on the surface. Don’t think for one minute that Arte Moreno wasn’t considering his bottom line when deciding where to let Tony Reagins spend his money. While Matsui will make more than Vlad, he will also open up a whole new revenue stream for the Halos with all the insane coverage Matsui generates from the Japanese. The Angels will make some easy money on the TV and merchandising revenues that come with the media coverage of Godzilla back in Japan, not to mention the local boost the Angels will see from the large Japanese population in Southern California. The Angels certainly got some additional money from having Vlad as a Latino superstar the last few years, but Guerrero was never marketing-friendly enough to really allow Moreno to cash in. – EDGE: Godzilla Matsui. Straight cash homey. Arte needs to line his pockets with some yen.
Reliability: The reason that Matsui is going to get a higher salary than Vlad is because Hideki is a known quantity. He is as professional a hitter as there is. So long as he stays healthy, he will produce no matter what the circumstances. Check out Matsui’s career splits, they are virtually identical whether he is at home or on the road or facing a lefty or a righty. He just plain hits. Guerrero though is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma. His body seems to be falling apart and because he is such a reactive hitter that everyone knows his production will erode along with his physical skills. Then again, a full season at DH might allow Vlad’s body to heal up and rejuvenate his bat speed, allowing him to put up monster numbers again. – EDGE: Godzilla Matsui. There is a certain value in knowing what you are getting and when dollars are scarce you can’t be spending too much of it on a boom-or-bust player like Guerrero, especially when all signs suggest he will be a bust.
Clutch Factor: Do you want the World Series MVP with the career .911 OPS in the post-season or the guy with a .740 post-season OPS and an infamous reputation for choking under pressure. – EDGE: Godzilla Matsui. This one isn’t even close. I’ve seen enough of Vlad overswinging in clutch situations and either popping up or grounding into rally-killing doubleplays to last a lifetime.
Welcome, Hideki. So long and good luck, Vladimir.
So there you have it, Godzilla beats Super Vlad to a bloody pulp. It will be sad to see Guerrero go, but Matsui is the better fit for this Angel team right now. But let’s never forget that Vladimir helped put the Angels on the map as a legitimate power player in Major League Baseball. Before Vlad, the Angels were just some scrappy upstarts who lucked their way into a championship, but when Vlad came to town he gave the team a face and instant respect. That will never be forgotten even if we welcome his replacement with open arms.