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Just The Sports: Soriano and Matthews, Jr.

Just The Sports

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Soriano and Matthews, Jr.

In the midst of Alfonso Soriano's career best season last year for the Washington Nationals in his walk year, I cautioned any team against signing him for anything more than $10 million a year due to the fact Soriano has shown himself to be far from a very consistent hitter. During last season, in my mind but not on paper so you will have to take my word for it, I thought any team would be foolish to reward former Texas Ranger Gary Matthews, Jr. with anything even approaching $10 million a year for his career season that also coincided with his walk year since in addition to rarely playing a full season, he was not the kind of hitter or fielder a team should give a long-term contract to. Lo and behold, the Chicago Cubs gave Soriano a ridiculous eight-year, $136 million contract and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gifted Matthews, Jr. an equally ridiculous five-year, $50 million contract. Maybe the Cubs and Angels were banking on the fact that the two outfielders would be able to re-create their best season multiple times over, but with Soriano being 31 and Gary Matthews, Jr. turning 32 later this year, the likelihood of that happening is on the same level as pigs flying.

So far this season, the two players are lagging behind their hitting statistics from last season and they are doing so in similar ways. Last year through thirty-eight games played, Soriano had a batting line of .285 BA/.327 OBP/.544 SLG, giving him a .283 GPA (OBP*1.8+SLG/4; read like batting average). This season, in the same time frame, he has only managed to compile a line of .283 BA/.341 OBP/.459 SLG and a .268 GPA. The most glaring difference between these two lines is that Soriano has seemingly left behind his power in moving to Chicago. Soriano's isolated power (slugging average minus batting average) has decreased from .259 when he was playing for a contract to only .176 after he achieved financial security. For a corner outfielder, where high power numbers are demanded to warrant the player maintaining his position in the starting lineup, the drop-off should be especially troubling for the Cubs.

Gary Matthews, Jr. has decided to take even more of a vacation away from hitting well after signing his contract with the Angels. In his first forty-six games of the 2006 season, Matthews, Jr. was hitting .318 BA/.380 OBP/.547 SLG and a .308 GPA, which is far superior to the .296 BA/.350 OBP/.453 SLG and .271 GPA line he is carrying this year. Like Soriano, Matthews, Jr. has suffered a power outage with his new team, with his isolated power through forty-six games last year of .229, surpassing his cumulative isolated power this season of .159.

Unless both Soriano and Matthews, Jr. kick it into high gear and pretend they are playing for a new contract, which is highly improbable, the Cubs and the Angels will find themselves not witnessing more career years from the players, but instead a decline in the players' skills.



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