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Managing Matsui to Fail

June 2, 2011

I frequently criticize and question manager Bob Geren and today is no different. Today’s topic: the use of Hideki Matsui. Bob Geren loves to bench Matsui and did so two times this series against his former teammates on the New York Yankees. He is presently on pace to play in 131 games this year with 460 at bats, which is surprisingly high given how sparingly he has been used. Why is it that Matsui is playing so little – Jane Lee addressed that very question yesterday on www.oaklandas.com.

She quotes Geren who said that Matsui,

“has been struggling a little bit right now, and we’ve got a couple other guys swinging the bats pretty good, so we’re just putting other guys in. We fully expect him to be fine and contribute and have a nice second half, but right now [Ryan] Sweeney‘s swinging the bat well, and [Josh] Willingham‘s driving the ball, and DeJesus has been one of our best hitters…

…I don’t see anything mechanically wrong right now. Everybody has hot and cold spells. I don’t think there are really any issues. I fully expect him to be fine. I’ll get him back in there, and I believe he’ll have a good year for us, I really do.”

Now, I just don’t see how Geren expects Matsui to improve while sitting on the bench. He is a designated hitter. He needs at bats. He can’t like a position player stay in the game by being in the field and then have his fielding successes turn into built up confidence at the plate or vice versa. Matsui won’t improve via osmosis somehow so you gotta play him.

Matsui himself agrees saying through his interpreter,

“In order to get out of a slump, you have to play.”

While with an interpreter things are up for interpretation (inflexion etc – and sorry no pun intended), it seems that Matsui is less than thrilled with the prospect of becoming a part time or platoon player. Geren doesn’t hit Matsui against lefties, and now he sits him all the time. So what do the A’s do?

They have two options, either play Matsui or trade him. One team that the A’s might be able to finagle a trade with is the Yankees, Matsui’s former home. The Yankees have Jorge Posada at DH and his production has been terrible. Joe Pawlikowski at Fangraphs had a good article outlining the problems the Yankees have at designated hitter. While he doesn’t offer the also struggling Matsui as a solution, there may be a match hoping that Godzilla can rekindle the great hitting he had for many years in the Bronx. The A’s need help at third base and in the infield, and while a reunion for reunion trade of Matsui for Eric Chavez is not something I am advocating, the Yankees also don’t really have anyone available who can make an instant impact for Oakland. So a Matsui for prospects (and they won’t be A-grade prospects but still) deal would seem to be a possible fit for both clubs.

So Geren, if this is how you are planning on using Matsui I hope Billy Beane starts looking for potential suitors.

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