This player preview was co-written by myself and Corey Crocker, who posts here as palioc33.
At the beginning of the offseason Frank Wren said the Braves were looking for two starting pitchers and a left fielder. He more than solved the rotation spots, and took the consolation prize of Garret Anderson to "solve" the left field hole. Many people thought we were going to go with internal options for left field. We do have Matt Diaz already under a nice contract this year ($1.24 million), and many baseball people thought he could hold down the job. After all, he does hit right-handers (.288 career) just about as well as Garret Anderson does (.299), and he kills left-handers (.328) compared to Anderson (.291).
The 2008 campaign became a lost season for Matt when he crashed into the unprotected concrete wall at Miller Park and tore a ligament in his knee - he only had 3 more at bats the rest of the year. If we look at his stats from last year they don't look that good -- .244 AVG, 2 HR, and 14 RBI -- but lets also look at his two previous years with the Braves. In 2006 Diaz hit .327 with 7 HR and 32 RBI in only 297 at-bats, and in 2007 he hit .338 with 12 HR and 45 RBI (in 358 at bats).
If we take his 2007 season and project what he would do given a full season of 600 at-bats that would equate to 20 HR and 75 RBI. Of course, those two seasons were played in platoon roles in LF and some question whether he would put up similar numbers if given a full time job. If we look at the poor numbers last year when he was given a full time spot, we may have reason to say that he is a platoon player. But we shouldn't be too quick to judge little Matty Diaz. A look at his split stats from last year show that he batted .313 in April before he went into a deep slump in May, until finally hurting his knee. One poor month is simply part of the up and down of the major league season that most players go through. The reality is that no matter where Matt Diaz has played over his career he has done nothing but tear the cover off the ball.
As long as his knee is fully recovered, which all indications are that it is, Matt should get the opportunity to show us what he can do. At the very least he should be in the lineup every day there is a left-hander on the mound. With the amount of left-handed hitters in the lineup already, there's no reason to play Garret Anderson when there's a career .328 batter against lefties sitting on the bench. Diaz is the perfect platoon player, and he should be used accordingly. And someday someone might give him a chance to play everyday.
Thanks to Corey for a good start. I had to make some changes to his original writeup after we signed Garret.