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.

Continuing our trip around the bases, we arrive at second base and the expectations that come from the position in 2010. 

Luis Castillo – I can not believe that I am about ot say this.  Luis Castillo was one of the few bright spots for the 2009 New York Mets.  

There.  I said it.  I know others have said the same when reflecting back at last season.  However, since I was one of his biggest critics, I feel that this speaks volumes.  

Let’s take a look at why this is true.  He finished second on the team, behind only David Wright, in runs scored.  He was fourth on the team in batting average, behind two players who only played half a season in Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan.  He was also third on the team in on-base percentage, once again trailing just Beltran and Wright.  More importantly, he led the team in walk to strikeout ratio, posting 69 walks to only 58 strikeouts in nearly 500 at bats.  This facet of his game is nothing new, as he has always shown the propensity to foul off a pitch when needed.  His speed has deteriorated due to nagging injuries, as he only swiped 20 bags while being caught 6 times.  A 77 % success rate for steals is not terrible, but nothing to write home about either.  His inability to drive the ball with any authority whatsoever (a .346 slugging percentage) is something every Met fan will point to with anger.  However, I believe that he has been a major league player for reasons other than power throughout his entire career.  The truth is that it was the lack of production behind Luis that decreased his overall productivity, mainly keeping his runs under 100 for the season.  A .387 on-base percentage with 500 at bats usually leads to nearly 100 runs scored with any semblance of productivity behind a given player.  If Luis can produce these numbers this year again, I think Met fans should take it and run to the bank. 

Now we get to the negative side of Castillo.  Defense.  His defense has taken a nose dive in recent years, unfortunately coinciding with when he became a New York Met.  The stats will not illustrate this point at all, as his fielding percentage was quite good.  I am also not talking about that Yankee game disaster either.  He was torched enough for that by everyone that there is no need to expand on the topic any further.  It is in the range that he displays, whether it be to his left or his right that is most troubling.  He has clearly lost a significant first step when breaking on a ground ball.  This is a man who was once one of the best defenders in the league for many years.  We all know it as Met fans, seeing him on the Florida Marlins for ten years.  He seemed to rob us on a nightly basis back then.  He is no longer that player, nor is he close.  What he is now is an average defender who will be portrayed as well beneath that level by Met fans for that Yankee game gaffe. 

Alex Cora – Cora is a nice utility player.  He filled in admirably before falling to the epidemic of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  If he is healthy, his defense is solid enough that you do not cringe when he is in the game.  His offense is below average however, with 2008 being a bit of an offensive aberation. 

Anderson Hernandez – This is not a player that you want to see on the field for the Mets in 2010.  If he does play, chances are someone of significamce is injured again.  He does not excel in any given area as a baseball player. 

Luis Castillo was the least of the problems for the 2009 New York Mets

If Castillo can stay healthy (something that can be said for nearly every Met player), than I believe that he will produce well enough as the number two hitter and second baseman for the Mets to compete in 2010.  I respect what he brings to field enough to say that.  It is everyone else that I am quite unsure about.

Wow, did I just say that?  I just slapped myself to see if I was thinking clearly.  What is particularly scary is that I believe I am.