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The Exaggerated Legend of Kaz Matsui

Several hundred people outside of New England tuned in last night to watch the puck drop for Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, and each was treated to the inimitable broadcasting team of Joe Buck and Timmy McC. As insufferable as that duo can be, their biggest transgression upon the game of baseball is the revisionist history they feed to unwitting viewers. Case in point is this absurd notion being bandied about regarding the miraculous transformation of Kaz Matsui.

It goes something like this: Delicate flower arrives from Japan, ill-prepared for the suffocating media crush and the quick-to-judge fans of big city New York. After three miserable years of this, the sad, oppressed robin flees to the freedom of Colorado, spreads his wings and sprouts into full-blown baseball glory.

The problem, as FJM pointed out a few weeks ago, is that Matsui hasn't really gotten any better as his proximity to New York has increased. Matsui has actually had a very nice postseason this year, but the media has taken his performance over a span of seven games and spun a fabulous yet fanciful yarn about his miraculous rebirth as an offensive force. Simply, it isn't true. To wit:

2004 OPS+: 88
2007 OPS+: 87

2004 EQA: .257
2007 EQA: .259

You'll recall, 2004 was Matsui's first with the Mets after signing a three-year deal for better than $20 million USD. You'll also recall that 2007 was the season that just completed and to which the media in general and Buck & McCarver in particular use to illustrate just how far Matsui has come since his miserable time spent in orange-and-blue. Any CHUD can plainly see that Matsui has *not* turned a magical corner offensively since arriving in Colorado and that his offensive production is virtually identical to that of his first season with the Mets.

Matsui *did* hit .345/.392/.504 in 126 plate appearances with the Rockies in 2006 after being traded from the Mets with cash for Eli Marrero, which is great, but still represents only 32 games of work. Jay Payton hit .335/.376/.606 in 181 plate appearances in Colorado when he was shipped there midway through the 2002 season and he has a grand total of zero seasons of 100 OPS+ or better outside the Mile High Zone.

Let's also remember that Matsui is playing his home games at Coors Field which, for all of the hullabaloo about humidors and tighter baseballs, was still the third friendliest run-scoring environment in the majors last year, just behind Fenway and Wrigley. In 2006 it was the second easiest park to score runs in. It would be nice if these facts were mentioned when FOX throws up a graphic illustrating Matsui's batting average improvement from New York to Colorado (.300 vs .256).

There are far greater injustices than to manufacture a baseball feel-good story when one doesn't really exist, but in doing so, Buck and McCarver (and others) are providing fans of the game a disservice and making themselves appear grossly misinformed in the process. Kaz Matsui had a wonderful one-fifth season with the Rockies in 2006, but his full season in 2007 was no better than his first in New York, so let's stop trying to pretend that it was.