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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Mets Expose Themselves 

No, the Mets didn't expose themselves a la Karim Garcia in a pizza parlor parking lot, but they did flash us their uglies in tonight's 7 to 4 loss to the Phillies nonetheless. The Mets were cruising with a 3 to 0 lead in the 7th inning when one of their primary weaknesses revealed itself in the form of yet another Kazuo Matsui error. David Bell pulled a ground ball to shortstop where Matsui had ranged to his left to get himself in a position to make the play. The ball skipped up about belt high but Matsui was playing back enough so that it should not have been a "bad hop." Instead of making the play, the ball skirted by Matsui into the outfield and Bell was aboard. The Phillies made the Mets pay for the error when Mike Lieberthal doubled to left and Bell sprinted home to score the first of many runs that would cross home plate this inning. Then, with the Mets clinging to a 3 to 2 lead with runners on first and third with one out, The Great Mike Piazza First Base Experiment (TM) went bad. And I don't mean Weird Science bad. Chase Utley hit a grounder to Piazza who tried turning two by winging the ball to second base to get the force out. However, Piazza's first to second throw did not look much better than his home to second throws, as the ball sailed over Matsui's head and ended up in left field. The tying run scored and the inning that seemed to never end marched on and by the end of the 7th inning the Phillies had scored 6 runs, only half of which were earned.

The three errors the Mets committed in the game were not atypical. Not counting tonight's follies, the Mets have the most errors in the NL with 36, are last in fielding percentage and are 14th out of 16 teams in range factor and zone rating. Kazuo Matsui is one of the usual suspects on this team of fielding felons, leading the NL in errors committed by shortstops, and is dead last in both fielding percentage and zone rating. You don't need fancy stats to see that Matsui is not the gold glove caliber defender he was billed as. And while an adjustment period should be expected because Matsui played the great majority of his career in Japan on artificial turf, that hardly explains why he has a shortstop's version of Mike Piazz's throwing arm and has less range to his right than Derek Jeter (.201), who many believe to be the worst fielding shortstop in baseball. ESPN's Jason Stark and an unnamed scout addressed Matsui's game thus far,
The Mets are a long ways from writing off Kaz Matsui, based on his first month and a half in America. But scouts are seeing very little of the tools Matsui was billed as having. "His defense is disappointing, and his range isn't as advertised," said one scout. "And his bat should be a concern. He doesn't get his lower body stabilized. He chases way too many pitches out of the strike zone. And he's going to get eaten up until he makes adjustments. He's not even as fast as advertised. We heard he was as fast as Ichiro, but Ichiro is way faster. I've seen him be out by a step and a half on plays I thought would be bang-bang." If this keeps up, you wonder how much hoopla there will be to move Jose Reyes back to shortstop when he finally gets healthy.
The hoopla actually started long before anyone ever saw Matsui play. Now that we have seen him play shortstop, or try to, consider the hoopla level on high.
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