Do Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman deserve blame for having Hideki Matsui come to the plate with the game on the line again, and once again failing? Why does he keep getting important at bats? And should he even be on the roster?

The defense of Maddon and Friedman is that Matsui is but one bench player, and his at bat was just one in a game filled with bad at bats.

It is just one at bat, but it was also the most important at bat of the game, by far. Here are the most important at bats of the game yesterday, measured by Leverage Index (1.00 is average, see full list here)…

  1. Hideki Matsui, 2 outs, 9th inning – 6.33 (popped out)
  2. Jeff Keppinger, 2 outs, 9th inning – 4.80 (walked)
  3. Jose Molina, no outs, 8th inning – 4.15 (ground ball, advanced runner to 2B)
  4. BJ Upton, 2 outs, 8th inning – 4.10 (popped out)

But is Matsui’s one at bat in the most important point of the game more important than the collective importance of the 3-4 at bats other hitters had in the game? Here’s a look each players total LI (add up their LI for each at bat), and the average for each plate appearance during the game (pLI)…

What we see is that Jeff Keppinger’s four plate appearances, when added together, were more important than any other batter. In fact, BJ Upton and Jose Molina (thanks to their at bats in the 8th inning) also had higher total LIs than Matsui.

So who is right? Everybody! Woo hoo, everybody wins!

Yes, several other players had a bigger impact on the outcome of the game. But it does seem fair to question why the last guy on the bench, a guy that hasn’t had a hit since July 1, is being given, what is, the most important at bat of the game, by far.



  1. Beth says:

    Because there were no other options?

    I'm as miserable as the next fan to see him step up with the game on the line, but the real question is really what the other options are. Let Brooks Conrad hit there? How's Conrad been doing since those first few strong games with the Rays?

    And in the bigger picture, who from AAA would you prefer to see in his roster spot? If there were some Desmond Jennings type prospect in Durham whose spot Matsui was taking, I'd be livid that Matsui was still on the roster.

    Finally, Matsui's shortcomings would be less apparent to us if at least a few other guys were hitting. Not to defend Matsui -- just to say that there's plenty of blame to go around.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Well, I don't know if any of your points are off-base, but let me play devil's advocate.

      One reason there wasn't a better option was because Friedman and Maddon chose to go with an extra reliever this weekend and only 3 bats on the bench.

      And if Matsui is a better option than Conrad, why wasn't Matsui in the starting lineup? There was a righty on the mound to start the game and Keppinger at DH. Keppinger could have played 3B and Matsui could then have been the DH.

      And no, there are no Jennings-like prospects, and I don't know if either are a better option, but Leslie Anderson (a lefty) and Henry Wrigley (a righty) are mashing right now. Maybe they are just getting lucky or they are just red hot. But I think many fans would rather see one of those guys (or even Brandon Allen) get a shot at this point.

      • Beth says:

        I actually agree with you 100% -- there were many other decisions made that left Maddon with few better options than Matsui. That's the real problem.

        Let's face it, when the game is on the line and your options are an unproven Conrad or a faded Matsui, you've got problems beyond that single at bat.

        • Cork Gaines says:

          this is very true

          • MattP says:

            The fact is, we're paying for the off-season failings now. Friedman and Maddon are geniuses, and no one could have foreseen the injuries the Rays have been hit with this season, but it was apparent in the off-season that we needed better options off the bench.

            For whatever reason, Friedman passed on Damon, Thome and Ibanez. Any of the three would have been much better than Matsui and none would have cost much (Damon and Ibanez are both making just over $1 mil and Thome is making $3 mil). I'm sure the concern was lack of playing time, but as it turns out, any of the three would have been every day players.

            Matsui needs to go. I'd rather have a AAA player whiff and get experience than see a guy who can't get on base to save his life.

            I also hope Friedman learns from this season and sees how important it is for the team to break camp with an experienced guy in the dugout as an insurance policy just in case injuries strike like they did this year.

      • Chris D says:

        At this point it's inexcusable that Wrigley and Anderson haven't been given a shot. They're basically drop in replacements for Conrad & Matsui.

    • RayBuc12 says:

      Step back a moment and take a long, honest look. Truly, is there ANYONE on the Rays roster you'd want up with the game on the line? Every last one of them is a flailer. They don't WATCH pitches, they HOPE for one and swing blindly for the fences. Or they beg for walks (Zobrist, Pena) like kids playing softball. Best hitters I ever saw watch the ball all the way to their bat, to the catcher's glove. Because of that, they can do something with a pitch outside the strike zone. These banjos feast their eyes on the fences and give it the heave ho, hoping for the best. And they most often get the worst. I heard Cliff Floyd on MLB Radio talk about how they hit,Upton in particular. Rays would be wise to bring him back to the org as a batting coach. And give him some clout.

  2. crazy says:

    Either the data-driven Rays are looking at different data or like a gambler down to his last few dollars they're doubling down because they're sure their luck is gonna change this time. OTOH maybe Matsui delivers some hidden revenue stream we don't know about. Nah, just saber-guessing.

  3. upthegut says:

    Matsui was ale to hit well for many years. Then he comes to Rays and is under the direction of hitting coach Derrick Shelton........whooopps we suck now!

    • Beth says:

      Yes, because I'm sure Matsui and Shelton have many long conversations about hitting, and indeed that Matsui has changed his entire approach at the plate thanks to Shelton's suggestions!

  4. Hal says:

    And why was Conrad an upgrade over Sutton? Rich Thompson brings more to the table than either Matsui or Conrad at this point - at least he can run.

  5. don says:

    Matsui was a experiment gone Bad, now the question is how long will mr stubborn ass (Thats Maddon for you fans that don't know) and Mr. smart guy (AF) will ride this mistake?.... along with their other mistakes this off season....we will see..could bring an early end to their season....then watch attendance..

  6. Rob says:

    ESPN is reporting that Ichiro was traded to the Yankees today for basically nothing. There are trades to be had out there. I would rather have Ichiro than Matsui, but I still think the play is Rodney for a stud prospect.

    • Brandon Rays Fan says:

      The pitchers were nothing (i guess, but that's what I am hearing also), but Ichiro still has something like $10 million left on his deal this year. No way Rays are doing that.

      • Rob says:

        Good point.

      • Dave L says:

        Report was Yanks got Ichiro + Money!

        One of my favorite all time players going to the dark side

      • Matthew says:

        According to Fox news the Yanks are only having to pay about $2 Million of his contract for the season. How much are we paying Pena again???

        • Dave L says:

          To the Yanks thats couch cushion money but we arent going pay a million a month to an Ichiro......willingly. They can afford that if he's strictly a pinch hitter. For us thats highest paid position player moolah.

          Ichiro 28 RBI , 49 runs scored, .642 OPS
          Pena 40 RBI , 52 runs scored, .669 OPS

          Well..... we EXPECTED more out of Pena at a million a month heheh

          Yanks last man on the bench puts up numbers equal to our linchpin of the offense (salary-wise). Yikes

          It ain't fair I say.

  7. Dave L says:

    There was no way for the brass to know that Matsui, who had a respectable 2nd half of 2011 putting up numbers we would gladly take this year was going to drop off the edge of a cliff this year.

    We can look at the Cuban and Wrigley putting up nice numbers but hey they arent even on the 40 man roster. Vogt is putting up similar numbers and he was 0 fer his entire stint with the Rays.

    One thing people have to remember is that the crappiest arm in the bullpen and the slumpingest weakest bat on the bench is going to get sent out there at some point its a loooooong season. And Matsui vs Conrad is still a tossup although I like when Conrad scoops up the dirt like its 1912.

  8. Grace says:

    I just want us to have fun out there. Matsui hasn't been fun. But he at least seems to be trying and hoping (unlike Pat the splat)..but this should not be a walk to the car pound. Have fun, guys..then we'll have fun. Cheer up. You are in the big leagues. I wish we had kept JD, too. I wish Evan would reappear.

    • Dave L says:

      I'm with you Grace. Matsui wants to play more baseball, he is making the minimum a 38 yo former allstar probably can make. Hes one of the top 2? greatest Japanese ballplayers ever.

      I am sure he has great pride in his craft and approach to the game. He is either going to finally start clicking and produce for the last months for the 2012 Rays playoff run or go down in flames like a WWII zero pilot and take the rays' personnel managements judgement down with him.

      I can only hope the bushido spirit carries him!

      Hey he has a Rays uniform on and I am an optimist!


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