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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This position lacks the excitement that most of the other positions have.  That is because it will be occupied by a player who will never appear in an all-star lineup, but  at the same time will not have you scratching your head wondering why this player is your regular right fielder.  Let’s cut to the chase.

Jeff Francoeur – When the Mets parted ways with Ryan Church and acquired Francoeur, it was easy to see why the trade was made…from the Mets’ perspective for a change.  I believe that the trade was one-sided, with the Mets on the positive side.  Yes, I did just say that!  Hey, not EVERY move made by Omar Minaya is horrible.

Church had some ability.  He could field quite well, and handled right-handed pitching just fine.  However, his inability to hit a lick against southpaws was glaring, and this ultimately relegates him to a platoon player at best.  Sprinkle in his propensity to sustain injuries (AKA Met Disease), and you have a guy who could be out of baseball in the next couple of years.  Since the trade, the Atalanta Braves gave up on him after witnessing his lack of production first hand.  He has since been signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates to serve as their fourth outfielder.  I guess the path to baseball non-existence has already begun for Church.

As far as Francouer is concerned, he has suffered a bit of a fall from grace himself.  Here is a guy who was one of the jewels of Atlanta’s farm system.  When he arrived in the big leagues in 2005, he shot out of the cannon like a bat out of hell, looking like he could not miss meeting his high expectations.  He posted stats of .300, 14 and 45 on just 257 at bats.  2006 and 2007 were very productive full seasons for Jeff, posting at least 100 RBI in both seasons, although the rest of the numbers were lower than the scouts anticipated (.260 batting average in 2006 and only 19 HR in 2007 to name a few). It was 2008 that produced the most disturbing numbers for Francoeur.  With a stat line of .239, 11 and 71 in over 650 at bats, coupled with an obvious lack of confidence, it is easy to see why the Braves began to show some significant frustration.  He began to drop lower in the order, and even had a stint in the minor leagues that season to help regain his confidence.  This is not supposed to happen to a one-time blue chip prospect. Finally, after another slow start, the Braves could not hold back their disappointment any longer, and made the trade for Church with the Mets.

It looks like this cover was a bit off with its expectations

Fracnoeur had a decent showing with the Mets after the trade last year, posting numbers of .311, 10, and 41 in 289 at bats.  Not bad.  The ultimate positive with Francoeur is that he looks like a decent player.  The superstar label was trashed years ago now, and that is fine.  He does not take a walk and strikes out plenty, which relegates him to batting a bit lower in the order.  However, with projected numbers of .275, 22 and 95 in a full season, I think any Met fan would take that over what Church could offer as a platoon player.  After all, Francoeur’s splits versus right and left-handed pitching is not that bad.  In fact they are fairly typical of most big league right-handed hitters.  His defense will not stand out as either negative or positive, but with a strong arm in right, I think we’ll take that as well.

What else can I say?  It doesn’t make me nauseous to see him out in right field every day, so that is certainly something.  Isn’t it?