Monday, August 31, 2009

How Current Mets Fit Into 2010: Outfielders

Here is day 2 of the segment in which I talk about the future of the players currently on the Mets roster. Subject: Outfielders.

Carlos Beltran - I die a little inside every time the Mets announce that Beltran is still planning to come back this season. With his long history of knee problems, and the Mets 13 games under .500, there is no reason for Beltran not to rest and focus on getting healthy for spring training. He is not in a contract year and has nothing to prove. I hope someone finally gets the clue before it's too late. There is a lot of speculation that his bad knees will preclude a move to the corner outfield, but I believe Beltran will still be ranging the expanses of Citi next spring.

Gary Sheffield - Sheff has been a great comeback story this year, but I see no reason why he would be back in 2010. His power is diminishing and his outfield play is horrendous. I also get the sense that Sheff is not too happy with Jerry Manuel. I hope to see him finish his career on a high note, playing 4th OF and DH for an AL team.

Angel Pagan - Pagan has been nothing short of fantastic. His gap power and speed play perfectly in Citi field, as evidenced by his 7 triples. His fielding ability is average in CF, but he is a plus fielder in the corners (4.5 UZR/150 for his career combining all 3 positions). However, Pagan continues to have injury problems with 2 more DL trips this year. It's easy to see his talent, but he is not a very good baseball player. He makes some very questionable decisions on the basepaths. Pagan is an excellent 4th outfielder, and hopefully he will not be asked to be something more.

Fernando Martinez - F-Mart has some of the best tools of any young player in the league, but has yet to translate that to game situations. He definitely made some impressive plays in the field, but like a lot of young players who are rushed to the majors, he struggles with fundamentals. He also looked absolutely overmatched by major league pitching, and displayed little to none of the power he wows fans and coaches with in batting practice. If this was any team but the Mets, Martinez would start the year in AAA, and maybe even stay there for the duration. But of course this is the Mets we're talking about. I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting in RF next year.

Cory Sullivan - Sully is horrible. If he takes a roster spot away from Nick Evans next year, I just might scream. He'll probably sign a minor league contract somewhere, be it with the Mets or another organization.

Nick Evans - Speaking of Evans, he should definitely stick around. He actually should have been with the Mets for all or most of this season. As one of the few players in this system with power, he would make a nice platoon partner for a lefty 1B (Daniel Murphy?) and 5th OF. He mashes lefties. I'm not sure Evans will ever evolve into a starting caliber player, but he could be great in that role.

Jeremy Reed - I'm not sure if Reed is arbitration eligible this season, and to be honest, I'm still a little hazy on that whole process. From a purely statistical standpoint, Reed should hit the highway. He's a poor man's Endy Chavez. The Mets should have outfielders to make him pretty expendable.

Jeff Francouer - Saving the best for last. I'm not sure there has ever been a more controversial player since Sabermetrics became popular. His numbers look decent on the surface, and he is known for having one of the best outfield arms in baseball. He hustles, looks like he's having fun playing, and is a good locker room influence. But here's the catch: Francouer sucks. He has zero plate discipline and poor range in right field. His wOBA is a woeful .301. His career UZR/150 of 6.5 is entirely because of his arm. Unless he can magically rediscover the power he had in 2006 when he clubbed 29 homers (*cough* steroids), he is nearly worthless as a baseball player. With some speculating he could get $3-5 million in arbitration, there is not a single reason for the Mets to keep him. That said, I fully expect Frenchy to be starting in RF in 2010. Hooray for lowered expectations!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Current Roster Fits Into 2010: Infielders

Here's day one of a multi-part segment I'll be doing outlining how each current Mets fits into the plans for next year. First up: infielders.

1B: Daniel Murphy - For all the talk about Murphy's struggles in the plate, it's actually his bat that should draw the most questions this offseason. Murph has settled in nicely at first. His UZR/150 games is 2.0, while it was a dreadful -6.3 in left field. With the bat, however, Murphy has been been awful. Unless he shows dramatic improvement at the plate, he should start learning how to field other positions, because his bat more closely resembles that of a utility player, not a first baseman.

2B: Luis Castillo - Castillo has been good with the bat, but his range has become non-existent at second. With Omar Minaya regrettably getting a vote of confidence from the Wilpons, Castillo seems like a lock to be around next year. He is a perfect #2 hitter, with great bat control and solid bunting ability. The offense will benefit from his return, but ground ball pitchers like Mike Pelfrey should prepare for another year of embarrassingly bad infield play at second.

3B: David Wright - Wright is the face of the franchise. He'll be back next season and hopefully back to his old ways with the bat.

SS: Jose Reyes - There have been rumblings suggesting Reyes be moved, but that seems incredibly unlikely. Jose's trade value is at an all time low, with questions about his health and desire popping up. He's going to the Mets starting shortstop in 2010. I stake my reputation on it.

C: Brian Schneider - Schneid is a decent fielder with good plate discipline, but he might just be the worst hitter in the Mets lineup, and that is really saying something this year. His future with the team could depend upon Josh Thole's performance, assuming he is called up when rosters expand in September. Worst case scenario, I see him back for 1 year at a greatly reduced salary.

1B: Carlos Delgado - Delgado's longstanding injury has made it difficult to predict his future with the team. In any case, the Mets will buy out his 2010 option (if they pick up his $16mm option, this will be a Colorado Rockies blog next year). I believe they'll offer him arbitration, but who really knows. Delgado is still a type-A free agent, so the Mets will receive 2 draft picks if they offer arbitration and he signs elsewhere. Delgado could also accept the one year offer and make a pretty formidable platoon with the right-handed Nick Evans, but then Omar's dream of having Daniel Murphy magically transform into John Olerud would be dashed. I have a hunch Delgado will be finding a new team this offseason, most likely an AL team where he can DH and rest his aging joints. Then again, the current front office regime has been prone to severe lapses in judgment. Call it a 50-50 shot.

Utility: Fernando Tatis - Fernando "6-4-3" Tatis has faceplanted this year after a delightfully surprising resurgence last year. The Mets were hoping he could platoon with Murphy in LF, but as we can see now, that plan was just a little flawed. That said, Tatis is still a decent hitter and can play every infield position and corner outfield (he's about average at first, and mediocre or bad everywhere else), and he could benefit from lowered expectations. I wouldn't be sad to see him go, but he's still a fairly valuable utility guy who I would welcome back at the right price.

SS / 2B: Anderson Hernandez - A-Hern is a bad hitter and an average fielder with so-so speed and plate discipline. He's a jack of 2 trades, master of none. If he's on the Mets opening day roster in 2010, something went horribly wrong.

SS / 2B: Alex Cora - Despite his struggles, I like Alex Cora. He's a good contact hitter with a short stroke and a good eye. He's a good bunter, a renowned clubhouse presence, and aside from his ridiculously bad range, a halfway decent fielder. When you thrust a guy like Cora into the starting lineup every day and expect him to replace Jose Reyes, trouble is sure to follow. As a backup, however, he's as good as they get. I think he'll be back in Flushing next year at a modestly reduced salary.

SS: Wilson Valdez -
Adequate glove, but Valdez is 31 and couldn't hit a beach ball with a cricket bat. I've seen better hitters in the Little League World Series. Valdez is so bad I think he dreams of being Angel Berroa. Under no circumstances should Wilson Valdez be a New York Met next year.

C: Omir Santos - A gritty guy who has come up clutch a few times this year, Omir has become somewhat of a fan favorite. Not a fan favorite like Mike Piazza or David Wright, but more of a lovable loser kind of fan favorite, like Todd Pratt or Tsuyoshi Shinjo. I expect he'll be back next year, and I pray to the heavens every night that it's as a backup.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mets Power Outage in Perspective

The Mets individual leader in home runs, Gary Sheffield, has 10 dingers. To add to the shame of having a 40 year old bench player lead your team in homers, here is a short list of some players who have more.

  1. Jason Giambi - Yes, that Jason Giambi, and he hit 11 in just 269 ABs. Granted he hit .193 in that time, but he still displays more power than Flushing has seen this season.
  2. Travis Hafner - The former slugger has fallen out of favor in Cleveland due to his slow bat and inability to play a single defensive position, but even he managed 11 homers in 234 ABs.
  3. Garrett Jones - The 28 year old Pirates rookie has been impressive, slugging 13 jacks in only 164 ABs. Over the long term he won't be any better than the flotsam the Mets have called upon this season, but heck, at least he's got something going for him.
  4. Albert Pujols - Ok, this one is a given, but I bet you didn't realize Big Al hit his 10th home run on May 5th. That one stings.
  5. Franklin Gutierrez - The Mets essentially traded Joe Smith to the Tribe for Gutierrez in the 3-way deal that brought J.J. Putz to New York. Considering the way this season has shaped up, it would be really nice to have Gutierrez and his 15 big flies right now.
  6. J.J. Hardy - The Brewers shipped the Shortstop back to AAA because of his poor play, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts the Mets would kill to have Hardy's 11 home runs in the lineup right now. On the bright side, he can likely be had for cheap come this offseason, in case Omar decides to make some more knee-slappers for guys who were good 3 years ago.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Parnell Stinks It Up

Bobby Parnell was once again ineffective last night in his 3rd start of the season. Actually, ineffective is too nice a description. Parnell was downright terrible, the kind of awful that makes you wonder how he's even in the big leagues. Then you take a gander at the veritable treasure trove of crap that surrounds him. If you were a turd salesman, you'd start looking for houses in Flushing. And then it hits you: This is our future?

Bobby Parnell likely has no future as a starting pitcher. He relies too much on his fastball, a pitch with little movement that he struggles to locate. His slider can be nasty at times, but it's very inconsistent, and he doesn't throw it often. His changeup... well let's be honest, Parnell doesn't have much of a changeup. According to PitchFX data via Brooks Baseball, he threw the pitch only 3 times in last night's debacle. The average velocity: 88 mph, about 5.5 mph slower than his fastball. That's never going to get the job done.

Right now, I think Parnell projects as a Kyle Farnsworth; a hard thrower with bad command and no secondary offerings, who can be dominant, but could also leave a mess on your favorite rug. Sure he's young and needs time to mature, but at this point in the season, pessimism reigns supreme.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What will become of Santana?

In this tormenting (if not typical) season of ups and downs for the Mets, there has remained one constant: Johan Santana, our ace, our stopper, our prized Cy Young winner. On the surface, this might look like any other season in Johan's superb career. He's one off the league lead in Wins. His ERA is a rock-solid if not unexceptional 3.10. That he once again finds himself in the thick of the Cy Young race is nothing short of a miracle, considering the spare parts that now surround him on the diamond.

But this year has been anything but typical for Johan. In fact, he may be on the decline already at the tender age of 30. Every year since 2005 his walks have increased; he has issued 2.59 free passes per 9 this season, compared to just 1.75 in 2005. Perhaps most alarming is Johan's 1.07 homers allowed per 9 innings, higher than every year except 2007. For comparison, Santana's home run rate is equal to that of the nauseating Livan Hernandez. That 11 of those jacks were hit at the spacious confines of Citi Field is a little bit disconcerting. These stats, combined with his decreased strikeout rate, explain his increased FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of the three factors a pitcher himself can control: home runs, walks, and strikeouts), which has jumped to 3.76, up from his career low 2.80 in 2004. It may be time to put to rest all the theories about bad defense causing Santana's struggles. His inflated BABIP can at least be partially explained by a whopping 12% increase in his fly ball rate.

Santana lives and dies by his change-up. Unfortunately, his change-up lives and dies by his fastball. A drop in velocity on his heater has led to a higher contact rate (78.1% compared to his career line of 73.5%). One of the most frustrating things about Johan this year has been his inability to put batters away. His first pitch strike percentage is right in line with his career average, but his money pitch, the change, has been sub-par by his standards. Usually 20 or more runs above average, the offering is only 4.7 runs above average in 2009. Oddly enough, more batters are swinging at pitches out of the zone against Santana, and making contact at a 61.9% clip when they do (career average: 50.5% contact rate out of the strike zone). Clearly, though still an above-average pitch, the change has lost its bite. Instead of swinging and missing for strike three, batters are taking it for a ball, knocking it foul, or simply smacking it for a hit. This has increased his pitch counts and shortened his outings. Johan has lasted approximately 6.2 innings per start this year, and is still without a single complete game.

There is no question that Johan Santana is still an ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball. However, he is clearly not the stud he was in Minnesota. Should the Wilpons decide the Mets won't be competitive in 2010 (read: they sell the team), they owe it to the franchise and it's loyal (read: masochistic) fans to listen to trade offers, and build towards a 2011 or 2012 World Series. Or more likely, they'll use the free money to give Delgado a 3-year extension.