Back to Reality

April 7, 2010

Bad starting pitching?  Check.  Bad bullpen performance by anyone not named Feliciano or K-Rod?  Check.  Horrible baserunning blunder?  Check.  Bad managerial decision?  Check. 

Now that Johan Santana’s opening day start is in the rear-view mirror,  this combination of events is certainly troubling to witness.  After all, this was a game that the Florida Marlins were desperately trying to give away.  On a positive note, you have to give the Met hitters some credit for hanging in there against the Marlins untalented group of relievers.  However, on a night where the Met bats were a little sleepy, it takes more than quality at-bats that create walks to actually win a game.   

John Maine was very unimpressive in his first start of the season, as his fastball rarely broke the 90 mph mark.  This is awfully disturbing for a guy who has been injured for two seasons.  Jerry Manuel stated that we need to “throw this start away” due to the fact that it was Maine’s first start coming out of spring training.  We’ll see, but excuse me if I have my concerns.

We all know that the bullpen is going to be a mess this season, as the Mets will bounce back and forth between unproven and untalented relievers  trying to find a diamond in the rough.  If the Mets can not capitalize and win a game while Pedro Feliciano or Francisco Rodriguez are still in the game, we surely will see plenty more of what we saw tonight.

Fernando Tatis’ decision to break home on a wild pitch with limited real estate behind home plate, and late in a close game, is inexcusible.  This play just made us feel like 2009 never ended, as baserunning gaffes were the norm last season.

Lastly, how could Jerry Manuel take the bat out of Jason Bay’s hands by having Wright steal second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning?  His answer was, “We have good hitters behind Bay in Gary Matthews.”  This was followed up by the same reporter with the question of, “Why then is Jason Bay being paid sixty plus million to be here?  Wasn’t it to have him hit in these situations?”  Right on Mr. reporter, whoever you are.  Jerry just deflected this comment with the same nonsense that he originally stated, perhaps truly believing that Matthews is in the same league as Bay when it comes to hitting a baseball.

Ahh, welcome to 2010 Met fans.  Are you ready for more?

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The rumors have begun, and like most rumors, they can spread like wildfire.  I try to absorb this data as best as I can without treating it as the gospel.  It is sort of like dipping your foot in the water instead of jumping in head first. 

Even with the foot dip, you still get a feel for the water temperature.  This ultimately determines whether or not you like what you feel, or in this case, what you can see.  What do I see?  I see the possiblity of trading for someone who at one time would have been a tremendous upgrade over what we realistically have as our opening day first baseman.  I purposely exclude the best choice for the job.  That being Ike Davis, whose potential far exceeds anything Daniel Murphy has to offer.  Unfortunately, Davis will be spending the majority of this season in Buffalo.  It is the Met mantra, “Ike in 2011, Ike in 2011, Ike in 2011.”  If you say it enough times, you start to actually believe that this is the only sensible answer.  That, for lack of a better word,  is just crappy.

Mike Lowell's days of resembling Iron Man are clearly over

The question, therefore, is whether or not Mike Lowell is a better fit for the 2010 Mets than Daniel Murphy is.  If this were 2007, there would be no debate.  Unfotunately, this is 2010, and the reality is Mike Lowell is a different player until proven otherwise.  If he weren’t, then the Boston Red Sox would not have brought Adrian Beltre on board, and would not be rumored as “shopping” Mike Lowell to the highest bidder.  They are even rumored to be offering him along with the provision of eating the majority of his contract.  Does this sound like someone who is anything close to the 2007 version of Mike Lowell?  Common sense would dictate that he is not. 

Let us not forget that this man underwent hip surgery in 2008.  Degenerative hips are not exactly something that befalls someone in the prime of their career, and it is not something that one bounces back from after surgery. 

All I am saying is, do we really need to trade a minor league player for a guy whose best days are realistically behind him?  I know, I know.  Even if I am right, he would still be an upgrade over the pitiful Fernando Tatis, who would at best be one week away from his release if he were a member of any other major league team right now.   Lowell would then fill the role Tatis is ticketed to hold, which is backup first and third baseman, as well as a righty bat off the bench.  The financial cost is nothing as well.  I see the argument here.

I am just not fond of the idea of another guy on the wrong side of the hill as a member of this team.  The distinct possiblity of him spending time on the all too popular disabled list just makes me nauseus.  Besides, as much as I and everyone else is down on Daniel Murphy, he does hold one characteristic that Lowell does not.  Youth.

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?

I recently posted how shortstop was the most important position for the 2010 New York Mets, other than starting pitching.  There is, however, an overwhelming majority of bloggers who feel that this next position is the most important.  I am talking about third base.

David Wright – Of all the players on the Met roster, no one garners more attention than David Wright.  He is the face of the organization.  He also was the lone key player to actually play the majority of last season without injury, his several week absence due to a concussion aside. 

Image isn't everything, and Met fans know it.

A lot of pressure rests on Wright’s slimmed down shoulders if the Mets are to rebound in 2010.  The level of scrutiny that Wright has received is mostly due to his fall off in production last season.  Whatever reasons you would like to suggest for his fall last season, the reality is that this is of major concern to everyone involved with this franchise and its future.  The Met poster boy fell off the proverbial cliff last season, and everyone knows it. 

Let’s dissect a bit here.  His batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, and stolen bases remained on his career average.  Unfortunately, all of his other statistics fell off at least moderately.  We all know how the home run completely disappeared for Wright last year.  However, his slugging percentage, runs, and perhaps most troubling, his strikeout numbers all went south.  Wright always contributed his fair share of strikeouts, but 140 in only 535 at bats (nearly seventy-five fewer than his average total of at bats) is far too many for a number three hitter.  Wright looked very uncomfortable at the plate for long stretches last season, and that makes any Met fan feel the same.  He stopped hitting to his strength as well.  No longer did Wright seem to drive the ball to right-center field with power.  Rather, we saw him pull the ball more often than not, often times pulling off with his swing.  The most disturbing trend that I noticed was that he was often beaten with inside heat, something that rarely happened in earlier seasons. 

Ultimately, the Mets will need David Wright to be more than a “soft” .300 hitter this season.  They will need him to drive the ball like the old David Wright, even if it only leads to more doubles and more contact.  If you are a Met fan, you would have to accept that offer if it were granted.  Forget the home runs from him, and hopefully, he forgets about them as well.  What this analysis also states is that perhaps he is not a middle of the order guy any longer, even though the Mets have no choice but to place him there.  Time will tell.

Fernando Tatis – I know you know what I am going to say here.  You are right.  If he plays even a little, forget this season and find a new warm-weather hobby.

I now embark on projecting the production from each position for the upcoming season (starting pitching has  been discussed previously).  We begin with first base.

Daniel Murphy – Daniel has essentially been given the keys to the ignition here.  This became undeniably true once the Mets decided to close the book on the Carlos Delgado era.  I for one believe that this was a good move.  I say this because I was only given two choices here.  Murphy or Delgado.  Of those two, Murphy is the better choice.  He is young.  He is healthy (a rare attribute for a player on this team).  He has some measure of untapped potential.  These are all characteristics that Carlos Delgado does not possess.  My reasoning is fairly simple to follow.

Will Daniel Murphy develop into a quality first baseman?

As far as what can be expected from Murphy, I think it is safe to say that he will hit for at least a respectable average.  Would anyone call me nuts if I thought his low water mark would be around .270?  Probably not.  I also like his 40 double potential.  He did hit 38 of them last year.  Not bad.  I like the double.  It is a very underrated statistic.  Power is certainly never going to be a large part of his offensive game.  He is all about contact as he put the bat on the ball a tick below 80% of his plate appearances last season.

The negative here is that his on-base percentage needs to improve, which it may as he gets more comfortable facing big league pitching.  He is not a guy who gives you much else, as his foot speed is only average at best.  His splits are not very encouraging in that his numbers really bottom out versus left-handed pitching.  This is the reason why many believe he needs a right-handed compliment to face the toughest of the left-handed starters he will face this year.

He either projects long term as a number two hitter (if his average and on-base percentage improve), or as a guy who hits down in the order.  This season he will see most of his time in the seven hole due to the presence of Luis Castillo in the two spot.

As far as defense goes, this is where we run into an area of concern.  I realize that Murphy had to learn a new position on the fly last season.  Fair or not, he still worries me as he looks considerably uncomfortable out there in certain situations.  You do not have to be a baseball expert to see this from a ballplayer.  You can just sense it.  His movement is not fluid, nor is it precise around the bag.  There remains the possibility for him to improve, but I am fearful that he may be a guy playing out of position for the majority of his career.

Fernando Tatis – As I previously wrote, I am not sure why the Mets decided to bring Tatis back.  There were better and younger options to back up Murphy in the free agent pool this year, namely the likes of Ryan Garko, whom the Mariners recently signed.  I happen to respect the hell out of the Mariners and what they have done to better their team this off-season.  However, I digress.

Tatis will get his 150-200 at bats this season if he stays healthy.  The positive is that he can play a myriad of positions.  I can not take that away from him, although I struggle to find much else to compliment him on.

Let’s pull for Murphy.  After all, he is the only choice we were given for first base.

Tatis? Really?

January 28, 2010

In the never ending quest to re-sign washed-up talent, the Mets are apparently about to re-sign Fernando Tatis, with the idea of him platooning with Daniel Murphy at 1B.  This is according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.

Why is it the propensity of the Mets to sign aging players as opposed to someone with a bit of upside?  Well, I think you know my opinion.

Granted, Daniel Murphy is a young player who you would like to see play often and develop.  This is true regardless of how you perceive Murphy’s upside or talent.

Why was Ryan Garko never considered?  Garko is six years younger than Tatis (29 to 35), and Tatis has had a resume littered with injury over the past two years.  Wouldn’t it be better to move on?

Time to celebrate?

What’s next, Sheffield?  Or, as BMF puts it, bring back Agabayani!  They are both right-handed bats as well you know.