It is no secret that I am a huge Matt Diaz fan. I think he’s the most underrated baseball player in the bigs, and I’m fairly certain he holds the cure to cancer. Since the news came out about Matt leaving Atlanta, it’s been a struggle for me to get out of bed and to be nice to people. I’ve been raving about Matty for the past 3 seasons. Most of Diaz’s time in Atlanta was spent platooning left field because of his “struggles” against righty pitching. Less intelligent baseball fans seem to obsess over Matty’s numbers against right-handed pitching. They would call him a “lefty killer”… which he certainly was. You see, Diaz is a .335 lifetime hitter against lefties, which rightfully deems him as a “lefty killer”, however his .269 lifetime avg against righties is not something to be frowned upon. Alex Gonzalez hits .250 against righties, Dan Uggla hits .267 against righties, and Brian McCann has a lifetime .267 avg against lefties.
After 2 seasons of platooning Diaz, Braves manager Bobby Cox finally came to his senses at the end of the ’09 season and played Diaz every day. Not only was Diaz finally starting every day; Bobby also had him hitting lead-off. It was nasty. Diaz was hitting both lefties and righties, running, stealing, and taking names. Braves announcers Joe Simpson and Jon Sciambi (we miss you Boog) raved about Diaz during those last two months. They compared him to the likes of Tony Gwynn and praised Bobby for not platooning him. Diaz single-handedly brought the Braves back into play-off contention during that last month. Joe Simpson along with Braves beat writer Mark Bowman both said that Matt Diaz has earned his right to play every day, and should be a shoe-in for the starting LF spot in the spring of 2010. Well, low and behold 2010 comes around and Diaz was found platooning again. He had an awful first month (just like B-Mac, Chipper I might add), he then got injured, was out for all of June, hit .340 in July and finished the year at .250. Not to mention he had a game winning HR against a righty in August against the Marlins.
Then there’s the defense. When I drop Matty’s hitting knowledge onto the Diaz haters, they start dogging his defense. Looking at his fielding stats, Diaz is in fact an average to below average fielder, but heck, he’s better than Melky Cabrera. There have been many great left fielders and right fielders who had middle-of-the-road fielding skills, but their plate appearances have made up for defensive scolding. The late Barry Bonds, Cory Hart, Adam Dunn, and Ted Williams. And yes, I just compared Matt Diaz to those people. Deal with it. His .269 avg against righties is no reason to platoon the guy. He’s a lifetime .301 hitter, hits a modest .444 down the stretch, and has a lifetime avg of .366 against the Phillies! I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again – If Matt Diaz gets a chance to start every day for an entire season, he’ll be an All-Star.
Yesterday the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Matt Diaz to a 2 year deal, and I’m happy for him. It’s sort of like putting your favorite dog to sleep… I know he’s in a better place now. At least my favorite baseball player did not go to the Phillies or the Mets. In the words of Natalie Merchant – I want to thank you, thank you, Matt Diaz.