Matsui, Martin, Hudson, Peralta all valued

December, 19, 2010
12/19/10
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Hideki Matsui, Orlando Hudson, and Joel Peralta all have skill sets that should benefit their new teams.


There were other free agents signings besides Cliff Lee's last week. Here's a quick take on a few whose value may not match Lee's, but may be quite meaningful to their new employers.

Two teams on opposite coasts each made a one-year commitment to bats with a history of performing best when it matters most.

There are multiple stats that measure clutch performance and all agree that Athletics DH Hideki Matsui’s numbers are very good.

He ranks first among active players by Elias’s performance in batting average in “Late-Inning Pressure Situations” at .335 and sixth via Baseball-Reference.com’s “Late-and-Close” metric at .318, seven points behind leader Joey Votto. His .955 OPS in the latter stat rates fifth-best.

Such a stat doesn’t value new Yankees catcher Russell Martin’s .737 OPS as highly, but another does. Statistician Tom Tango devised a means to look a player’s performance based on the importance of the situation (known as leverage).

A low-leverage plate appearance has little determination on the outcome of the game (say a turn in the fifth inning with a team up, 5-0). A high-leverage situation is one in which the probability of winning the game can swing widely (such as batting in certain innings with multiple men on base and the score tied or within a run).

High-leverage situations make up about 10 percent of a player’s plate appearances in a given season and they represent his most valuable turns. These appearances don’t necessarily have to come late in the game. They just have to be ones in which a team’s win probability can dramatically turn with success or failure.

Martin ranks 12th among all players in batting average (.324) and eighth in on-base percentage (.437) in high-leverage situations since 2002 (the first year for which Fangraphs has data), numbers that if maintained, will make him very popular among Yankees fans, perhaps almost as popular as Matsui, who similarly thrived in such situations.
-- Mark Simon
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While Orlando Hudson's offense might be in decline, his defense remains excellent and that's what appeals most to the San Diego Padres, who signed him to a two-year deal.

Hudson tied Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez for the major-league lead in the metric Defensive Runs Saved.

There was some concern entering 2010 that Hudson's defensive reputation had begun to outpace his performance.

Between 2008 and 2009, Hudson had fallen to middle-of-the-pack defensively after an extended run near the top of the leaderboard. The 2010 season served as a statistical bounceback.
-- Justin Havens
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This winter is turning into the Offseason Of The Relief Pitcher.

Eleven relievers have signed multi-year free agent contracts. Only three offseasons since the winter of 1990 have seen more such signings –- 1999-2000 (15), 2003-2004 (15), and 2005-2006 (16) -- and only two have seen more money spent than the current $127 million (2005-06 leads with $213 million).

But it’s a fiscally prudent signing that is most interesting.

Joel Peralta joins a depleted Tampa Bay Rays bullpen after dominating righties for the Washington Nationals last season, holding them to a .145 batting average and .174 on-base percentage -– both of which were topped only by the former closer in Tampa Bay, Rafael Soriano.

Peralta had career-best numbers last year -- a 2.02 ERA and .521 OPS, both of which ranked in the top 10 among NL relievers. A .219 batting average on balls in play (third-lowest in the majors), along with a strand rate of 84.9 percent (10 points better than his career rate), might suggest that a repeat performance in Tampa Bay is unlikely.

However, Peralta’s other peripherals –- his strikeout rate, walk rate and chase percentage -- also were the best of his career, indicating some improvement that made him, in the Rays view, worth the $900,000 investment. His fastball, against which opponents hit .140 and his split-fingered fastball (which got misses 49 percent of the time, according to Inside Edge) could be capable replacements for Joaquin Benoit's nasty changeup.
-- Katie Sharp

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