The Makeshift Lineup

February 28, 2010

I have already written about my displeasure in the Mets’ decision to not move Carlos Beltran this off-season.  It is for this reason that we are discussing lineup options geared towards filling holes rather than writing something in that is strong and steady.  This was the Met brain trust at work once again.  I suppose you might call it the opposite of strong and steady.

Regardless of how you feel about this, we must now deal with what Jerry Manuel will have to pencil in on a day-to-day basis, even if it is far less than optimal.  I break this down into ideal versus inevitable lineups.  The ideal lineup lists where each player would most likely fall in a traditional batting order.  The ideal lineup will also be an incomplete one, as the Mets do not currently have players to fill all of the traditional holes that a batting order constitutes.  The inevitable lineup is the best case scenario for the Mets in order to actually plug all the holes needed to complete the batting order.  Let us begin with what is inevitable.  In parenthasis you will see the batting order slot that the player truly belongs in.

Inevitable Lineup:

1) Angel Pagan (bench/fourth outfielder)

2) Luis Castillo (8)

3) Jose Reyes (1)

4) David Wright (5)

5) Jason Bay (5)

6) Daniel Murphy (2)

7) Jeff Francoeur (7)

8) Rod Barajas (8)

9) Pitcher (9)

As you can plainly see, the Mets have players batting out of their ideal positions.  This is particularly true for Jose Reyes, whose capabilities project very well as a leadoff hitter because of his speed and the intangibles he brings to the game.  He does not fit the profile of a third place hitter very well, as that slot is defined as a team’s most patient, intelligent, and fundamentally sound hitter.  It usually is held down by someone who has a great eye for pitch recognition, and that with this selectivity, can fight off tough two-strike pitches before he eventually capitalizes on a mistake pitch.  I think that it is safe to say that Jose Reyes is not this type of hitter.  Would anyone argue with me?

The problem is that we do not actually have a hitter of this ilk on the roster, and that poses a large problem.  Who is the one guy that pitchers dread to face in a big spot?  Still thinking?  Believe me, you will be sitting there for a while until you eventually settle on someone who you know is not worthy.

If you sum it up, the Mets have one leadoff hitter, one potential 2nd place hitter, two fifth place hitters, one seventh place hitter, and two eighth place hitters.  Look below to see what the ideal lineup would entail.

1) Jose Reyes

2) Daniel Murphy

3) Player not on team

4) Player not on team

5) David Wright/Jason Bay

6) Player not on team

7) Jeff Francoeur

8) Rod Barajas/Luis Castillo

9) Pitcher

You can see my point.  Yes, I understand that not every team is the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox (even though we exceed one of the two in payroll…rapping head against the table).  I also realize that I have excluded Carlos Beltran, but that is what I do to players that are often injured….I pretend that they do not exist.  What other responsible thing can I do?

Jerry Manuel will have a tough time filling in his daily lineup card with the troops he has in his dugout.

The main point is this.  Not having a true number three or number four hitter on the Met roster makes it utterly impossible for me to have much confidence in the 2010 perspective lineup.

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According to Buster Olney on the Brandon Tierney show yesterday, Ike Davis may have a legitimate shot of starting at first base this year for the Mets.  This is interesting news to say the least.  Apparently, the Mets hold Davis in such high regard, that if he hits well this spring, it will make it “very difficult” for the decision makers in the organization to send him down. 

The one real positive point going in for Davis is his defensive capabilities at first, which already “far exceed” those of Daniel Murphy.  The downside is that Davis does strike out quite a bit, and this could lead to stretches of non-production during slumps.

Could Ike Davis actually be the starting first baseman for the Mets in 2010?

Brandon Tierney goes on to say that he is down on the Mets’ chances because he does not like the Mets starting pitching.  Pitching wins, and I whole-heartedly agree.  I really respect what Brandon Tierney has to say, and I often listen to his show for his opinions.  I recommend anyone who has not heard his show to give it a listen when you can.  Brandon picks the Mets to finish 4th, while Olney picks the Mets to finish a shocking second.  I would love to take a puff of what he is smoking.

Olney also feels that Rod Barajas will be the starter and is also not convinced that Jason Bay’s knees are healthy.  Olney compared the Bay signing to the Pedro signing by the Mets, where the Red Sox did not feel that Martinez would show long-term health, but the Mets took the gamble.  “Ooff”, to quote Mr. Tierney.

The podcast can be heard here.  Scan to 7:40 of the podcast to hear this portion of the show, but also give the rest of his show a listen if you have the time.  Good stuff.

Can’t this guy be optimistic about anything?

As I have mentioned in other various posts, I consider myself a realist.  If the majority of what comprises the Met roster appears to be sub-par in my eye, then the words I pen may be construed as negative.  I understand the perception here.  Regardless of how I come across, I will not apologize for my opinions.  After all, this is my blog, isn’t it?  Well, that is that.

I move on now to another shortcoming of the 2010 New York Mets, the bullpen.  I have already stated my low expectations for this year’s starting rotation as a whole.  With low expectations placed there already, the importance of the bullpen is raised tenfold.  Let us break down the current pitchers that will likely be a part of this intricate facet of the team.

Francisco Rodriquez – K-Rod is widely regarded as the one “sure thing” the Met bullpen has going for it in 2010.  I think that giving him this tag is a little dangerous.  If you glance over his career statistics, you will notice some disturbing trends.  One of those trends is a marked decrease in strikeouts over the past 2 seasons.  He still strikes out just over one batter per inning, but the average has slipped from the 1.4 average he posted from 2004 to 2007.  His batting average against and WHIP have also fallen off in recent years.  Some people want to chalk up last year’s poor second half to K-Rod mailing it in after the entire team went on the disabled list.  Listen, mental lapses happen in baseball, and last year certainly passes as an acceptable situation for one to occur.  However, I point to something a little more meaningful when it comes to K-Rod’s decline in production.   Pitching is a physical activity, is it not?  When a starting pitcher reaches a certain amount of innings, typically his production begins to falter.  This is particularly true for a power pitcher.  Why should it be any different for a reliever, especially one that is used as often as K-Rod.  Rodriquez’ pitching style is also quite violent as he twists and flails his body with his follow through.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that after having pitched 520 career innings, that there is the possibility of his smallish-frame showing signs of wearing down?  That is absolutely my belief and my major concern for K-Rod moving forward.  This is the best reliever the Mets have by the way.

Could K-Rod's violent delivery and excessive innings be the cause of his decline in productivity?

Bobby Parnell – Parnell was one of the few players that actually excited me going into last season.  He started out like a bullet fired from a shotgun in April and May looking rather dominant as the Mets’ seventh inning man.  He even had a brief period of success once J.J. Putz went down as the eighth inning guy before losing his confidence, and ultimately his meaningful innings.  The Mets could not stop the bleeding with this guy, and after his confidence was completely destroyed, he was further confused when the Mets made him their 5th starter.  That was a total disaster, because the Mets barely afforded him the time to stretch out his innings and get comfortable once again as a starting pitcher.   Instead, they fed him to the wolves without any confidence or comfort whatsoever.  I believe that Parnell still has some upside, which is more than I can say for most of the other members of the Met bullpen.  If the Mets are to have any success, it will unfortunately fall on Parnell’s inexperienced shoulders once again.

Pedro Feliciano – There was once a time where I did not like Feliciano.  That time has passed.  After all, a left-handed reliever who can pitch over 80 innings in a season with relative success is no one to feel dislike towards.  The only thing wrong with him is that he has no help yet again from the left side of the mound in 2010.  Seriously, why do the Mets continue to make the same mistakes over and over again?

Ryota Igarashi – We all know by now that you never know what you are going to get with a Japanese import, regardless of their success in Japan.  We know this especially well as Met fans, as we seem to take more chances on guys like this than any team in the bigs.  Therefore, I will not count on Igarashi at all for 2010, even though the Mets did when they signed him to a guaranteed 2 year, $3 million deal this off-season.  Once again the Mets like to guarantee contracts to unproven players rather than giving that same money to someone who is proven.  My head is in my hands right about now as I take a break from typing this.

Sean Green – There was an interesting article posted about Green here, where there are illustrations on how his delivery has evolved in the past 2 years.  There were thoughts that he might be following the development of Chad Bradford, who was a player the Mets should never have let go when they did after the 2006 season.   Whether the changes Green  has made in his delivery lead to more effectiveness or not remains to be seen.  Throughout his career, Green has been an average reliever at best, so any improvement would be welcomed.

Kelvim Escobar – Enough has been written about this guy to date that I do not need to mention anything here.  Until he actually pitches more than 2 consecutive appearances without getting injured, he deserves no additional chatter.

R.A. Dickey –  This is a guy who throws a knuckle ball with little success.  Not much more to say here.  He was signed to a minor league deal, although with the lack of depth in the bullpen, he actually has a shot of making the team.  Gasp!

Pat Misch – Another starter that could serve as a long reliever or spot starter for the Mets.  Unfortunately, his talent is also limited.

Jenrry Mejia – As reported here by The ‘Repolitans, Jerry Manuel went a little crazy over this kid after watching him pitch one day in training camp.  He has good stuff, but come on.  Let the kid go to the minors and hopefully develop into a real major league pitcher before we talk about him any further.

That is all there is to say about our bullpen candidates.  I have only listed the players that hold at least slight meaning going into April.  Like I said, the bullpen is certainly not a strength for the Mets this year.  Then again, after reviewing all aspects of the team, what area of the team really is?

“The Wilpon Dimension”

February 21, 2010

Yesterday’s annual interview with Fred Wilpon was simply on the docket for the beginning of spring training.  It was not as if the mounting pressure from his disenchanted fan-base spurred him to speak into a microphone yesterday.  If it had, we as Met fans would have seen something entirely unprecedented in the annals of the Wilpon ownership. 

You see, the Wilpons live in a different reality than you and I.  Let’s call it the “Wilpon Dimension” for conversation sake.  Forget what they say to the media about how they are fans and how they suffer as we do.  That is the ultimate farce. 

Let me also state for the record that yesterday’s interview was by no means a shock to myself or the majority of the Met fan-base.  We all know that the Wilpon’s are going nowhere, and that we have endless miles of bad management highway in front of us for years to come. 

Let’s break down how “The Wilpon Dimension” differs from the universe that we live in.  In our reality, we see a team that typically makes bad decisions due to an ever-changing front office that is hand-picked by our proud owners.  We see a team that is second in the majors in payroll, that just opened a new ballpark, and that has its own money-making machine in SNY going into its third season on the air.  In short, we understand that the revenues being brought in by our ownership are extraordinary.  We place these two observations together, sort of like A + B in a formula, and we come up with the final product of C.  The letter C represents a terrible team on the field and a decimated farm system with little hope of these things turning around.  If the product is equal to the sum of its parts, it is easy to see that the revenue part of the formula is not the problem, and that ownership and it’s “baseball people” clearly are.  Some things are easy to see, in our reality anyway.

In “The Wilpon Dimension”, however, things are not what they seem.  Kind of like the Bizarro World, where everything is upside down.  What is up is down, what is black is white, and what is seen is a reversed mirror image of reality.  To Fred and Jeff Wilpon, they realize things are not what they need to be.  They just do not realize that they, and the decisions they make on who to hire, are the source of the problem.  That is the one undeniable truth.  To them, everything that fails is just bad luck.  If failure persists, then it is the manager’s fault.  If failure continues after the manager is replaced, then it is the front office that is next to go.  You see how this goes.  The Wilpons never realize that the part of the team that needs replacing is themselves. 

The Wilpons occupy a different dimension than Met fans do

The Wilpons say that they are true fans, but if they were, they would warp back to our reality and fire themselves.

A Family Business

February 20, 2010

Hoo boy.  According to this article from the New York Times, Fred Wilpon plans on keeping it in the family.  Says Mr. Wilpon:

“I’ve always said, if it’s up to me, my family will be involved for the next generations…”

While it doesn’t bode well for the Mets, it means Dkresh1 has a shot at keeping this blog running well into his retirement.  It also gives him something to pass on to his own kids and grandkids.

Around the Horn – Bench

February 19, 2010

Predicting who will fill out a team’s roster at the beginning of spring training is like predicting which player will get hurt next for the Mets.  You know someone will, you just do not know who it will be.

For the sake of conversation, let me include the likes of Alex Cora, Gary Matthews, Jr. and Fernando Tatis, as we know they are shoe-ins to make the team because they were signed to major-league contracts.  These guys are shoo-ins?  Yuck!  Let me also place the catcher competition to the side, as I have previously discussed this battle earlier (sans Rod Barajas).  We know that there will be two on the opening day roster, although as of now I would be shocked if it is not Omir Santos and Henry Blanco.  With fourteen spots available for position players (and 11 spots given to the pitching staff minimally) to complete the twenty-five man roster, that leaves us with only two spots remaining after the starting eight and the aforementioned inclusions.  This also involves excluding Carlos Beltran, who will open (and perhaps close) the 2010 season on his personalized DL.  Let us give a review of who will be competing for those two spots.

Frank Catalanotto – I went into what Frank can bring to a team here.  He brings some positive contact production from the left side of the plate, and could make an ideal pinch hitter.  The fact that the Met bench is currently comprised of mostly right-handed hitters, it is apparent that they need a left-handed batter to step up.  As long as Catalanotto proves he still possesses the bat speed to handle big league pitching this spring, I think his chances are good to make the team.

Mike Jacobs – Unless Jacobs beats out Daniel Murphy for the starting first base job this spring, and that is about as likely as Ollie Perez losing his erratic ways, he will be the primary competition for the left-handed pinch hitter job with Catalanotto.  He offers pop as we all know.  That can be valuable.  However, he is either home run or strikeout every time he steps to the plate, and in this ball park, that may not be the way to go.  Unless he is on fire this spring, I believe he will have a hard time making the club.  That might mean playing in Triple A until someone gets hurt, and we know that is going to happen anyway.  The other possibility is that he and The Cat make the team together if there are not better options otherwise.

Fernando Martinez – Who is Fernando Martinez anyway?  Well, for one thing, we know he is a Met prospect because of his history of injuries.  Every time you turn around, this guy is hurt.  Ultimately he has dropped off the radar of top prospects throughout the league because of this fact.  After a hot winter league showing in which he was named the MVP of the Caribbean Series, the spotlight once again shines on Fernando to see what he can do this spring.  Even though he has been around seemingly forever, he is still just 21 years of age.  Unless Fernando hits like an all-star this spring, he will certainly be ticketed for Triple A this year.

Ike Davis – At 6’5″, Davis is a specimen.  Having only played two season in the minor leagues for the Mets, he is already 23 years of age.  Unquestionably the future at first base for the Mets, Davis’ production improved dramatically at every level in the minors, finishing with a line of .309, 14 and 43 in 233 Binghampton (AA) at bats last season.  Scouts have rated him a very highly at this point, and I am talking about scouts that actually do not work for the Mets here.   However, I am sure the Mets will let him at least try his hand against Triple A pitching for at least a few months before they hand him the keys to the first base ignition.

Anderson Hernandez – The guy can field.  I’ll give him that.  However, he will never hit in the majors, and therefore has no place on this team.

Russ Adams – Once an everyday shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays, Adams has fallen into the land of dreaded baseball obscurity.  He has even less value than Hernandez at this point.

Jason Pridie – Pridie Was a decent prospect for the Minnesota Twins through last season.  He has some speed and extra-base hit potential, however, his plate discipline is rather poor, especially for a minor league player.  He struck out at an alarming rate his last few years in the minors, and did not offset that with the ability to draw a walk often enough.  He also appears destined to play Triple A ball and serve as organizational depth for the Mets.

Chris Carter – Here is a guy who actually hits for some power, even though he too appears to be a life-time minor league player.  With home runs of 24 and 16 the past two years in Pawtucket for the Boston Red Sox, he always seems on the cusp of a call up.  The Red Sox just never had room for him, but as we all know, the Mets might with their lack of depth.  I also like his walk to strikeout ratio, which falls just short of 1:1.  Another hitter looking to make it from the left side, Carter has the ability to make the team this spring with a good showing.

Could Chris Carter make the Met opening day roster?

Mike Hessman – About to turn 32 years of age, Hessman has always shown power, but little else in his minor league career.  Unless Tatis get hurt, forget about Hessman serving as the right-handed substitute at first base.

If you ask me, I believe that the winners will be Catalanotto and Jacobs.  I think Carter has a good shot, but I think it will come down to either him or The Cat because I can not see the Mets having six outfielders on the opening day roster.  That leaves the door wide open for Jacobs to make the team.  That is unless there are huge surprises awaiting us as the spring unfolds before us.  Either way, this is not an impressive bench for any major league roster.

Who do you see making the team from this group?

Escobar Shmescobar

February 18, 2010

On one hand, it’s silly to focus too much on spring training hype. You’ve read it already—tweaks and twists will happen before the season begins, so don’t pay this Escobar thing too much mind. Remember Mookie coming up with his eye injury in spring, ’86? Even before the advent of the sports blog, the media was abuzz and all were worried about the Mets’ hopes. Remember how that season played out?

On the other hand—OH MY GOD! HERE COMES THE NEXT ROUND OF INJURIES!!! Okay, I jest. But am I the only one who felt a jolt of nervousness when I read the phrase, “examined by team doctor”? That’s upper management’s fault. Their October announcement that medical gaffs are “unacceptable” was all spin and no substance, as evidenced by the Beltran debacle last month. They’ve instilled little confidence that their medical protocols have changed enough to make a real difference.

Back to the first hand: who cares about all this finger pointing? In the end, the important thing is what happens on the field, right?

The problem is this: the Wilpons have created a situation where there is very little trust in the organization, and the result is that some fans are planning on keeping their distance from Citi Field (Dave Matthews Band show excepted). This creates two real problems for the Mets: 1) creating excitement on their home turf and 2) earning enough cash to pay for salary needs in the coming years. If the Wilpons don’t right this ship soon, they’re going to see fans continue to flee (insert rats/ship analogy here).

Conclusion: Be Gone with Wilpon!