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.

Monday, September 07, 2009

September Thoughts on the New York Mets

I've been checking in on the Mets, just to see how the players are handling this weird, out-of-the-race September. What I'm looking for is baseball instinct and work ethic, mostly, because non-pressure situations can produce misleading results.

The starters, primarily Pat Misch, Tim Redding, and Nelson Figueroa, have suddenly started pitching relatively well. The real talents--Mike Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell--are pitching erratically; one game they look like future Cy Youngs, the next, like Anthony Youngs.

What I want to see is how do the young guys handle challenges. When Parnell recently got out of a bases loaded, no out situation in the 7th inning of a close game, I was impressed. Whether he ends up a starter or a reliever, that kind of mental toughness bodes well for his future.

Pelfrey looked good in his most recent game, but his mental inconsistency scares me. I don't know if he will ever truly put it together, game in and game out, season in and season out. He needs to work with someone like Dr. Richard Crowley, who has had some success treating people with the yips (aka Steve Blass Disease). Ultimately, if he doesn't toughen up, he may be better off in a not quite as relentless environment as New York.

The other three deserve a chance to stick around, at least to be invited to Spring Training in 2010, unless they can get something useful in trade.

Judging the bullpen is harder in "meaningless" games, because adrenaline is such a huge part of reliever performance. The current mindset has produced relief pitchers that can only be their best under very specific circumstances. Even Mariano Rivera sometimes struggles in tie games, because he is programmed to thrive only in one inning save situations.

One of my priorities if I were in charge of an organization is to deprogram the pitchers completely and start over with a focus on thriving in any situation. Every time you get the ball you should be able to compete, whatever the situation. This is old school baseball I know, but there's a reason that mentality lasted for a very long time. Ask Goose Gossage about relievers then and now.

The position players are providing valuable clues to their strengths and weaknesses. One observation that I'm sure about is that Angel Pagan and Cory Sullivan should switch positions. Sullivan should play CF and Pagan LF. This pair reminds me a little of the Jose Reyes/Alex Cora pair in that Pagan has much more natural ability, but Sullivan has much more baseball instinct. Their numbers are pretty similar, Sullivan's OPS is .811 and Pagan's is .832; Sullivan gets on base a bit more; Pagan has a little more power.

Defensively, I'm not clear on why Jerry Manuel has decided Pagan should play CF when the two are in the lineup. I've been wondering about the defensive depth chart for a while now. On both CBS sports and Yahoo Sports, Pagan and Reed are listed as the top CFs, while Sheffield and Sullivan are listed in LF. After watching them this year, I would have Sullivan as the CF (behind Beltran, of course), and Pagan and Reed in LF. Reed can't throw as well as the others, and Pagan simply can't handle the responsibility of captaining the OF.

If I were in charge, I would look to trade Pagan in the off season, to help restock the prospect pool. His natural abilities and current numbers might be attractive enough for a team to offer a decent prospect. The Mets are very fortunate that there is no statistic for baseball instinct, yet. Over to you, Bill James.

I like Jeff Francoeur much more than I thought I would. His energy and enthusiasm, along with his power, have given the Mets a huge lift. I was wrong about this trade. It was a good move after all. If nothing else, Francoeur seems to have the grit to show up every day and play, whether he's hurt or not. That goes a long way on this team.

In the infield, I have not lost faith in Daniel Murphy. I believe he will be a good major league player. Now that he has been put in the proper position, first base, it is up to him to find a way to improve his offensive production. He needs to get back to having the great eye from 2008, while retaining his overall aggressiveness. I see 15-20 home runs, a .300-.320 batting average, and a high on base percentage as his typical year moving forward. In this new era of decreased performance enhancement, I think he would be an asset as a regular first baseman, as long as they got more power from the other positions.

Luis Castillo has had a terrific year, surprising almost everyone. The funny thing about Castillo is that his numbers this year are very typical for him. Last year was the aberration:

2008      .245  .355   .305  .660
2009      .311  .399   .361  .760
Career   .293  .369   .355  .725

Castillo is a better than average major league second baseman, and the Mets might be better off trading him at this point, as long as they can get a legitimate return. His flaws, from my perspective, are a tendency to get hurt fairly often, a maddening lack of effort on defense at times, and a general lack of energy and leadership. I think the team would be better off with Alex Cora playing second base most of the time, with Anderson Hernandez filling the rest. Hernandez is a tremendous defensive second baseman, and not a terrible hitter. Cora is a leader, and would be the perfect partner for Jose Reyes up the middle, if Reyes ever plays for the Mets again.

David Wright is fine. I've never considered him a home run hitter, as he puts too much topspin on the ball. Citi Field has just exaggerated things. Wright is much more likely to win a batting title than a home run title, which is fine as long as he keeps his average in the .330 range, and hits more consistently than he has so far. The team has too many extreme streak hitters, and needs to focus on improving consistency as much as anything else.

At this point, I would say the Mets have no choice but the keep Beltran, and to let Carlos Delgado leave as a free agent and take the draft pick(s) as compensation. They need to keep Reyes, at least until he proves he is back to his old self, which I sincerely hope is next April at the latest.

Catching is the easiest position: keep Josh Thole and Omir Santos, and let Schneider leave. Thole and Santos each hit both righties and lefties well enough that a strict platoon isn't sensible. I would rather assign the catcher to the Mets' starting pitcher, give Santos three guys to work with, and Thole two. Nurture the relationships to improve the starters' comfort levels. Most important is to find a catcher other than Schneider for Pelfrey. If they have to keep Schneider as a third catcher, just to work with Pelfrey, they should do it, or trade Pelfrey if he can't adjust.

I've said it many times, but I would start the front office from scratch and let the new GM to choose his manager. This won't happen, so the team seems stuck with Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya, and Jerry Manuel. In either scenario, though, the most important thing is to hire some better player development people, and change the team's philosophy to focus on acquiring youth, pitching, and defense, and just as importantly, work ethic, endurance, and baseball instinct/winning players.

© Judy Kamilhor 2009



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