baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The baseball gods deliver Johan Santana to the Mets

Yi-hah! It took a while, but it was worth every agonizing minute, and now Johan Santana is the ace that the Mets have craved ever since Pedro Martinez started showing signs of age and an increased susceptibility to injury.

Every once in a while, a team is clearly one player away from being a legitimate World Series contender. It was practically unanimous around here that Johan Santana was that guy for these Mets. The last time this happened, it was Mike Hampton in 2000, and he did help the Mets get to the World Series, only to lose to the Yankees.

A lot of Met fans seem to have forgotten that Hampton did exactly what he was brought over to do, and then, fortunately for the Mets, he decided not to stick around. Met fans have never forgiven him for leaving for the better school systems of Colorado, but really, his career has been a disaster ever since.

Back to Santana and 2008. Pitchers are always risky, and even the best of them are never guaranteed to stay healthy and at the top of their game for the length of their contracts, but Johan Santana comes as close as anyone I can think of as a great bet to dominate and lead the Mets to great things. He's a great athlete, has a bulldog mentality, according to everything I've been reading, and he wants to pitch and win for the Mets.

In addition to his dominance on the mound, he won the 2007 Fielding Bible Award for the best defensive pitcher, and his career .258 batting average (with a triple and double) shows that he will likely contribute with the bat, as well.

Now that the 2008 Mets are basically set, other than the final bench spot(s), and figuring out the bullpen, here are some observations and recommendations:

1 Reyes SS
2 Castillo 2B
3 Wright 3B (and MVP)
4 Beltran CF
5 Delgado 1B vs. RHP; Alou RF vs. LHP
6 Alou RF vs. RHP; Delgado 1B vs. LHP
7 Church LF
8 Schneider C vs. RHP; Castro C vs. LHP

Chavez OF
Castro C
Anderson IF, OF, PH extraordinaire
Easley IF, OF
Pagan OF
Gotay IF, OF?

Starting Pitchers:
1 Santana
2 Martinez
3 Maine
4 Perez
5 El Duque (first half); Mike Pelfrey (second half)

Wagner Closer
Sanchez (fingers crossed)
Wise (or maybe Schoeneweis if he looks good in Spring Training)(Joe Smith by mid-season?)
Sosa (first half); El Duque (second half)

Ryan Church led all regular left fielders in putouts per 9 innings last year, and was 8th in the Fielding Bible Award voting for LF. Alou played play RF as recently as 2006, and last year, Ryan Church did not play a single inning in RF. So switch them, and have dominant defense in two out of three OF slots. Chavez is there to come in around the 7th inning for defense in place of Alou whenever the Mets have the lead. Please, Willie, do not play Alou until he gets hurt; give him a lot of breaks by resting him twice a week and replacing him early and often with Chavez.

Ruben Gotay, one of my favorites, really does not have a spot right now, but I would send him to Triple A and turn him into a super-utility guy if he had an option left, which I recently found out he doesn't. I've been saying this for a while now, but he would be really valuable as someone who could play most positions and, of course, pinch-hit. He doesn't look like he'll ever become a regular second baseman, for the Mets at least, but he is a good offensive player, and I think he's athletic enough to play just about anywhere.

Notice that I have recommended 11 pitchers and 14 position players. With Santana around, there is less need for the extra reliever, and maybe this will force Willie Randolph to let his relievers pitch to more than one batter in an appearance.

Similarly to Alou, I think it's time to plan ahead for Orlando Hernandez's inevitable injury. Instead of pitching him until he gets hurt, give him scheduled time off once or twice during the season. Also, I would like to see him moved to the bullpen for the second half and (hopefully) the post-season, giving Pelfrey a half season of Triple A to learn to dominate, and to pitch deeper into games.

The Mets could use one more bench player to replace Pagan. They should be on the look-out for a right-handed batter or switch-hitter that hits better from the right side, that plays above average defense at 1B, 3B, SS, LF, and RF (or as many of those positions as possible).

One player that comes to mind, and is available, is Brandon Inge of the Tigers. He can also catch and play CF, which is a nice bonus. He is a right-handed batter with decent power. If they could get him in the right frame of mind, he would be an awesome utility player, and he would allow Castro to be used more as a pinch-hitter. Mark DeRosa is another guy that fits the bill, but it looks like he will be the Cubs' starting second baseman this year. If they trade for Brian Roberts, the Mets should ask about DeRosa.

Caroms off the wall

If the players are determined to put last year behind them, and develop the killer instinct needed to get to, and win in, the post season, this team is talented enough to do it. Santana helps enormously in the killer instinct department, and the players have to be pumped up that Santana is on their team. Now they just have to get out there and focus consistently for six months and want to win more than everyone else.

© Judy Kamilhor 2008 revised 2/24/08


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