Kazuo Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka

» 22 December 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb »

This caught my eye: Kazuo Matsui offered up some advice for Tsuyoshi Nishioka publicly in Sanspo. I’ve translated it here:

(1) The effect natural grass has on defense at second base is small. Don’t have negative preconceptions. (2) Be careful about getting spiked during double plays (3) Gather data on batters with speed.

(1)二塁守備に天然芝の影響は少ない。悪い先入観を持つな (2)併殺時の足下を狙うスライディングに要注意 (3)俊足打者のデータ収集

Interesting. Especially that first point. Kazuo is generally thought to have made a poor transition to grass infields, but according FanGraphs he hovered around league average after he got out of New York. Then again, he did specifically mention second, so maybe he’s implying the effect is bigger at shortstop. Or maybe I’m over-thinking it.

I’ve been asked several times this offseason if Nishioka is the next Kazuo Matsui. In each instance, my answer has been the same: Nishioka is not another Kazuo; Kazuo had a significantly better record of success than Nishioka has had. If I had been asked in 2002, I would have said that of the two Matsuis, “Little” had the edge on Godzilla as the better MLB prospect. Both Matsuis really were phenomenal in 2002: Kazuo hit .332/.389/.617 with 88 extra base hits, and Hideki nearly won the Triple Crown with 50 HR, 107 RBI and a .334 BA (Kosuke Fukudome overtook him in September and finished at .343). Personally I thought Kazuo’s athleticism and all-around game would translate better than Hideki’s Yomiuri slugging. MLB expectations were justifiably high for both players, which is why Kazuo’s lack of success Stateside was such a disappointment.

So what does that mean for Nishioka? For me, it doesn’t mean anything. Nishioka is joining a good team, in a less demanding home market, and won’t have a top prospect pushing him like Kazuo did with Jose Reyes. So he’ll be in a position to focus on his main competencies of playing good defense and getting on base. If he can stay healthy and do those two things, he won’t be a disappointment.

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  1. Patrick
    23/12/2010 at 8:09 am Permalink

    Not really related, but Nishioka is clocked at 142km here.

  2. Patrick
    23/12/2010 at 1:31 pm Permalink

    Before they head to the Major, career-wise, K. Matsui:
    .361 obp/.486 slg
    5162 pa: 376 bb-751 k

    T. Nishioka:
    3525: 328-463

    Matsui had significantly more power, but Nishioka walked a lot more. They both got on base on equal term (3 point diff. is not significant; I’ll say 10 point is). Nishioka had better plate discipline.

    I simply feel that they are different players. But if we want to get sabermetric about this, I must say the Seibu “fake Dome” is a smaller ballpark easier to knock some dingers, compared to the pitcher-friendly and wind frequently blowing-in’s Marine Stadium.

    But again, it’s not plausible to weigh ballpark effect on a translation from NPB to MLB, because there had been cases like Fukudome. He batted in Japan’s most pitching-friendly ballpark, and yet couldn’t translate those power to Wrigley Field. There must be other factors far greater influential, such as the player’s ability to read pitchers.

    Each side of NPB is a smaller league (6 teams) with less trades, and most minor guys weren’t ready, i.e. a lot less call-ups or other replacements. I think it’s tougher for a position player once he comes to MLB, seeing new opponents for each team, the pitchers and the runners.

  3. Patrick
    23/12/2010 at 1:53 pm Permalink

    Yeah, good points. Another thing to note — Kazuo played in every game for several years before moving to MLB, while Nishioka was only consistently healthy for the first time last year. Nishioka significantly outperformed his career averages in 2010, so if that represents a real step forward the Twins could have a lot of upside on their hands.

  4. Patrick
    23/12/2010 at 6:54 pm Permalink

    Kazuo was like many of the Dodgers prospects in the last decade. Good athleticism but lack of batting eye. Most of those guys have very high ceiling but unable to get past AA.

    I think Nishioka will make better adjustment because of his ability to drawn walks. He just needs to produce more pops.