Friday, May 18, 2012

All-Time Bluefield Team - Luis Matos

Next up on the All-Time Bluefield-to-the-Bigs Team is center fielder Luis Matos. With 3.9 career bWAR, I was surprised to see him with more than someone like David Dellucci, who was one of those "professional hitter" types that played in the bigs for 13 years.

He only had three seasons as the primary center fielder in Baltimore, fighting injuries before retiring from MLB in 2006. He's been playing in the Mexican League ever since and is still playing today.

Matos was born October 30, 1978 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, sharing a birthday with Desmond Jennings, Jason Bartlett and Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty and Bill Terry. Jose and Yadier Molina were born in Bayamon, but Bengie, the oldest, was born in Rio Piedras.

Luis was only 17 when he was chosen in the tenth round of the 1996 draft by the Orioles. Doug Davis and Shea Hillenbrand were also selected in this round.

Unlike many players on the All-Time Bluefield Team, Matos did not debut professionally for the Baby Birds. He played in the Gulf Coast League in 1996 before moving up to the Appy League in 1997. In 61 games he hit .275 and tied for second in the league with 26 stolen bases, three behind the leader.

That year, the Orioles finished in a tie atop the Eastern Division with their hated Mercer County rival Princeton. Bluefield beat the Devil Rays in a one-game playoff before sweeping Pulaski 2-0 to win the Appalachian League title.

Matos made it to Baltimore in 2000, debuting on June 19 in this ridiculous game against the A's. He reached on a Jason Giambi error in his first at bat and promptly stole second. He later walked and scored a run. The Orioles lead 8-1 and 12-7 but Oakland came back to tie it and eventually won it in the tenth 13-12 when
Jeremy Giambi singled to bring home his older brother with the winning run.

On July 30 of that season, he notched career highs with four RBIs and four stolen bases.

Since 1918, here are the earliest four-steal games in a player's career:

Rk Gcar ▴ Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H RBI BB SB
1 6 Julio Borbon 2009-08-15 TEX BOS W 7-2 5 5 2 4 2 0 4
2 8 Alex Cole 1990-08-01 CLE KCR W 4-1 4 2 2 2 1 1 5
3 11 Tony Campana 2011-05-30 CHC HOU L 7-12 4 3 1 1 0 1 4
4 24 Kenny Lofton 1992-04-12 (1) CLE BOS W 2-1 4 1 1 0 0 3 4
5 25 Luis Matos 2000-07-30 BAL CLE W 10-7 4 4 2 2 4 0 4
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/16/2012.

Kenny Lofton swiped his four bags without the benefit of a hit, though he did walk three times.

Matos played 72 games in 2000, but only 48 combined during the '01 and '02 seasons.

2003 was his big year. He played 109 games and was the regular center fielder, hitting 13 homers and stealing 15 bases. His slash line of .303/.353/.458 was good for an OPS+ of 113. He had three ten-game hitting streaks, including a 15-gamer in late May/early June. His ten sacrifices were tied for the fourth-most in the AL. His Range Factor/Game in the outfield was also fourth-best in the circuit, right between Carlos Beltran and Torii Hunter.

Of his 30 career home runs, none were bigger than the one he hit on August 16, 2003. With the O's down 4-3 to the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, Matos led off and belted a 1-1 pitch from Mariano Rivera for a game-tying homer. Jason Giambi's solo shot in the 12th won it for New York. Still, Matos has one of only 24 home runs that ruined a save for the great Rivera.

Matos's career bWAR is 3.9, with 3.8 of it coming just from that '03 campaign.

He took a big step back in '04, hitting .224/.275/.333 while playing only 89 games. He hit .280 in 2005, and did well defensively as his Total Zone Runs in CF trailed only Grady Sizemore in the AL and his seven assists were tied for third among AL center fielders.

By 2006 Corey Patterson had been installed as the starting center fielder. Baltimore cut him loose in July, but he landed with another team a week later, moving just down the Beltway to the Washington Nationals. He went 3-for-15 for the Nats and was released within a month.

Luis split the 2007 season in the minors for both the Pirates and the Mets, but he never made it back to the major leagues.

He has played in the Mexican League since then, playing from 2008-10 with the Leones de Yucatan in Merida before switching to the Piratas de Campeche in 2011, then back to the Leones again this year. Over the last five seasons in the Mexican League, he's batted .326.

Luis Matos had one very good year and a handful of injury-plagued ones. Out of the majors at 27, it was nice to see him still active in the game and doing well in the Mexican League. Outfield is a bit of a weak spot on the All-Time Bluefield Team, with Don Baylor as the only standout. But Matos belongs as the starting center fielder.

All-Time Bluefield Roster
SP 1 Dean Chance
SP 2 Mike Boddicker
SP 3 Bill Monbouquette
RP Sammy Stewart
Setup TBA
Setup Arthur Rhodes
Closer Sparky Lyle

C Gregg Zaun

1B Eddie Murray
SS Cal Ripken
3B Doug DeCinces
IF Mark Belanger

LF Don Baylor
CF Luis Matos
RF Bob Bailor
OF David Dellucci

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