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, March 15, 2010

The State of the Mets, Slightly Revised

Midway through exhibition games, the team is starting to take shape. There are several position battles going on, more than the team expected before Spring Training started, due to the Jose Reyes thyroid situation.

Some battles are basically over, Angel Pagan will most likely be the opening day CF, and the starter until Carlos Beltran returns. At first base, Daniel Murphy will likely be the regular, possibly platooning with Fernando Tatis. As well as they have played, I agree with the idea of sending Fernando Martinez and Ike Davis down to Buffalo to get some more seasoning. If the Mets were soup, it would definitely need more seasoning.

Some expected battles are still very murky, especially the setup guy and the fifth starter. Kelvim Escobar's possible absence for at least the first part of the season opens this up to anyone who impresses enough. I expect Ryota Igarashi to be the guy on opening day, even though I think Pedro Feliciano is the best choice. If the Mets had other lefties to choose from, they could put Feliciano in as the "bridge" to Francisco Rodriguez, where I think he would excel. I've never seen him as a LOOGY, since he seems to pitch better with more batters to face. And he's probably their best reliever all-around, including Rodriguez. Certainly that was true last year.

The fifth starter competition is supposed to be between Jon Niese and Fernando Nieve (whose last names are exactly the same except for one letter, which is weird). Throw in Nelson Figueroa, the people's choice, and you have a good pool to choose from. When you watch them pitch, though, they look more like Triple A pitchers. There is one guy who looks like a major leaguer: Hisanori Takahashi. He's not only better than the other fifth starter candidates, but he may well be better than Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, and John Maine.

This, Omar Minaya, is why you should always bring in more starters than you need, even if you think your guys are just as good. You never know. Pitching is like weather: unpredictable, and goes from awesome to awful in the blink of an eye.

I would still love to see the team sign Yunesky Maya (sometimes spelled Yuniesky, incorrectly I have discovered). Send him to Buffalo to get acclimated to American life, and have him available as soon as the inevitable injuries/illnesses/slumps/yips occur.

The last expected position battle is for the last bench spot. The candidates are Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, and Chris Carter. While most baseball writers and sportscasters say it should be Jacobs or Catalanotto, I say it should be Chris Carter, at least to start the season. My main reason is that he is the only one that is in his prime, and it's time to see what he's got now, because he's probably never going to be any better. Jacobs seems to be starting the downhill portion of his career, and Catalanotto is just trying to hang on. Ideally, the two older guys are willing to go to Buffalo for a while, to see how things shake out, and Carter makes the team as the left handed bat off the bench and backup at 1B and the corner OF spots.

The unexpected position battle is the temporary (we pray) starting shortstop. Ruben Tejada and Alex Cora are the leading candidates, with Anderson Hernandez and Russ Adams looming in the background. The least likely starting shortstop is the one that started out as the most likely starting shortstop, Jose Reyes. I don't know about you, but I am beginning to rethink the whole Wright and Reyes being the starting left side of the infield for the next ten years.

Not only is Reyes unlikely to age well--given his almost total reliance on his legs for his talent--he is having a very hard time just staying on the field right now. I don't want to be an alarmist (I know "alarmist Met fan" is redundant), but the Mets need to at least consider a Plan B for the shortstop of the future title. It's too late now, but I was really hoping the Mets signed the young Cuban Adeiny Hechavarria (again, also spelled Hechevarria, incorrectly I believe).

Right now, Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, and Reese Havens are potential starting shortstops in the next few years, but all of them are projected to move to another position before reaching the majors. This is partially due to the presence of Reyes, but also to the lack of obvious defensive dominance at SS. Flores is projected to play 1B, 3B, or RF, and the other two are already being considered as second basemen by many around the team.

If I were the GM, I'd ask the White Sox about Omar Vizquel. He would be the perfect guy to start at SS while Reyes recuperates. And once Reyes comes back, Vizquel would be an excellent backup SS and mentor to Reyes.

Here's a post by Patrick Flood about Alex Cora, along with a couple of smart-ass remarks by me, bb gods. The good news is that Alex Cora makes up for poor range with excellent positioning and excellent baseball instinct. The bad news is that offensively, even with excellent baseball instinct, he still doesn't produce much. The challenge in choosing a starting (temp) shortstop is that Ruben Tejada is going to look like he covers more ground, because his range and speed are much better than Cora's, but his inferior positioning and knowledge of the league will cause him to not get to some balls that Cora will.

In other words, there are not enough defensive metrics available with Tejada to show which one is the better all-around fielder right now. This is a case where perception might win the battle: Tejada is perceived to be the top fielding shortstop available, so he will probably get the spot.

If the Mets can't get an obviously superior defensive SS, I would platoon Tejada and Cora, based on the Mets pitcher rather than the opposing pitcher. Santana, Perez, and Maine are flyball pitchers, so I would use Cora behind them; Pelfrey is a groundball pitcher, so I would use Tejada behind him. And I would look at the team's results for the first few weeks, to see if one SS is actually making more plays than the other, based on defensive metrics such as UZR, ground ball double play percentage, etc. You need to compare apples to apples as much as possible, and performance with the Mets over the first few weeks of the season is the best sample to look at.

Caroms Off the Wall

Don't you think Bob Ojeda would be a better pitching coach than Dan Warthen? I do. His analysis is so insightful, and I really enjoy listening to him.

© Judy Kamilhor 2010


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