Looking at the attack ….

I’d like to thank those of you who read the blog and posted while I was away. It means a lot that you would do so.

Some miserable weather on the East Coast last night and I didn’t get back until today. I heard how the Mets did this weekend, and there’s something fitting about then finally winning a road series against a National League team but losing a chance to sweep behind Johan Santana because the offense disappeared again.

The offense has been dreadful this summer and is largely responsible for the Mets’ fade. It produced in June, but mostly because David Wright sizzled that month. It cooled in July, which is when the slide began.

Last year it was easy to blame the offensive problems on the injuries to Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Wright’s season-long funk. There’s more to it this season. Without getting into a lot of statistics, here’s the primary reasons for the Mets’ offensive decline this summer.

1) Jose Reyes: Let’s start at the top of the order. Reyes missed significant time in April, then was foolishly forced into the No. 3 slot in the order which took away what he did best as a player. I understood Jerry Manuel’s objective, but it was flawed thinking and disrupted the flow of the batting order. Manuel is known for how poorly he handles the pitching staff, but this showed he did not know how to best utilize his players.

Without Reyes on top, there was limited continuity to the order. Further complicating things was Manuel’s poor decision to rush Reyes back from his oblique injury. Three weeks were literally wasted. Reyes is healthy now, but except for a stretch when he was returned to the leadoff slot has largely been inconsistent this season. And, he’s not running wild on the bases. The Mets are always better when he gets on and runs and there have been too many stretches where he has not.

NEXT YEAR: Whomever manages the Mets next season it is hoped he won’t fool around with Reyes. The assumption is he’ll be healthy again and able to produce from the outset. Reyes remains prone to giving away at-bats and needs to increase his on-base percentage by walking more and striking out less.

WRIGHT: Needs to be more consistent

2) David Wright: His power numbers have improved over last season but not to where he’ll reach 30 homers. He should hit over 20 and drive in 100, but the expectations are 30 and close to 120. Wright remains too streaky and prone to the strikeout. There has been improvement, but not enough as he gives away far too many at-bats.

For the second straight summer, because of the loss of Carlos Beltran, Wright was asked to carry the offense, but I don’t believe he’s that type of player. He’s more of a complementary player in a complete offense, such as 2006, but he’s not one to shoulder the heavy load by himself. Wright is at his best when he’s disciplined and going up the middle and to right field. This is when his stroke is shortest and most compact, which reduces his strikeouts. Wright is on pace for 176 hits and 172 strikeouts.

Wright has also bounced around in the batting order, but he clearly produced best when he hit No. 3 in front of Ike Davis. His next best slot was fifth and his worst was cleanup where he hit .167 in 60 wasted at-bats. Again, a manager not knowing what’s best for his player.

NEXT YEAR: If Wright is able to discipline himself more and cut down on his strikeouts he can again reach the .300, 30, 120 levels. He’s still the best this club has to offer because we don’t know about Beltran.

3) Carlos Beltran: Beltran is moving farther and farther away from his days as an elite offensive force. He missed the first half of the season, which I believe in large part to the foolish way the Mets handled him last year, and has never taken off since his return. Until Beltran is fully healthy, and he’s not, he’s not the same player and will continue to decline. If the Mets’ could unload his $18.5 million contract they would, but since he’s not tradeable his value is in the hope of a comeback.

Beltran is also hitting out of place in the order. As he was rushed back he was force fed the clean-up slot. Truth is, the Mets were at their best in June when Ike Davis was hitting clean-up.

NEXT YEAR: He’s coming back, presumably healthy. It will be interesting to see if they move him to right field which should take a toll from his legs and consequently help him at the plate. Once a dangerous base stealer, I don’t see that anymore.

BAY: Way too little celebrating.

4) Jason Bay: It was a lost season for Bay, who’s likely won’t be back for this season. Year one, clearly was a bust, but he has produced before and I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt. The over/under for his homer total was 30, but he won’t hit 10. Bay hustled, but it still amounts to being thrown out by a step. Like Wright, he was a strikeout machine.

The decision to move Reyes was in large part to get Bay going. But, it amounted to screwing up two spots in the batting order. Initially, to jump start him he should have hit either second, fifth or sixth. There was just too much pressure for him in the clean-up slot.

NEXT YEAR: Assuming a healthy Beltran, Bay should hit fifth. I thought there were other priorities other than Bay last season and I haven’t changed from that spot. He has a track record of being productive, but he’s not a big bopper and won’t ever be at Citi Field. With a clear head, the numbers should get better. That he’s not an excuse-maker and hustles works in his favor.

5) Jeff Francoeur: Francoeur got off to a hot start because he opened the season with patience and selectivity. He ever walked a few times. However, as the season progressed he continued to fall into bad habits and gave away a lot of at-bats.

Francoeur strikes out roughly 20 percent of the time. And he’s an oddity in that he hits over .300 when swinging at the first pitch and less than .220 when the count reaches 3-0. At 3-1 and 3-2 he’s almost a sure out.

When the Mets traded for Francoeur, he immediately produced, but this year demonstrated why Atlanta thought he was expendable and why the Mets are sure to not bring him back.

NEXT YEAR: The assumption is Francoeur won’t be back unless there’s a re-injury to Beltran that changes everybody’s thinking. The Mets will need a fourth outfielder, but I don’t believe Francoeur wants that role. Hell, he could be gone on waivers by the end of the month.

6): An unsettled order: I’ve touched on it a few times, but the Mets were their best when there was some consistency in the batting order. Players hit out of position, and other players were buried. There’s a delicate balance to the perfect batting order and there was too much inconsistency. A early flaw was not taking advantage of Rod Barajas’ power in the early months by not batting him higher. Another was sticking with Bay at clean-up way too long when it was obvious he wasn’t going to produce. Yet another was not moving Angel Pagan to second earlier. He was obviously not a lead-off hitter.

NEXT YEAR: Things change, they always seem to for the Mets, but if everybody comes back healthy there should be more consistency in the line-up. Unless the impossible happens and they are able to unload Luis Castillo, the second baseman, Ruben Tejada, should hit eighth. We’ll also see more of Josh Thole next year, presumably seventh.

19 thoughts on “Looking at the attack ….

  1. I am amazed you could summarize the season so well and so concisely. Well done!

    So, if I have this correct:

    The Mets will have a team when we have a new manager, new GM, a healthy lineup and younger/ more consistent players.

    I couldn’t agree more..

  2. Was bay a #4 or #5 in boston?

    i thought one of the reasons they signed him was to take delgado’s slot? Bay did hustle, in the field and on the bases. I hope he contributes next year.

    you give a lot of nice reasons for why jerry should be gone this year. HoJo too. He doesnt seem to have positively affected any hitter.

    from this post i conclude ike is our #4 hitter next year?

    nice post john and welcome back.

  3. JD: Excellent analysis on Francouer who could be the worst hitting starting outfielder of all time. There is no way he will be on the team in 2011. If he is, I quit. Except I think you meant that the assumption is that Frenchy won’t be back. The Mets are relatively stuck with what they have in the OF because Beltran is unmoveable. You just have to hope that much like Reyes was when he came back, Beltran is going thru getting back into playing shape. Though the knees are tightrope. I expect we’ll see Davis/Tejada/Reyes/Wright/Bay/Beltran/Pagan/Thole. Santana/Niese/Pelfrey/Dickey with a bullpen uncertain. I think the only person back that is a given next year in the pen is Parnell. Alot depends upon if the Mets can get a sucker to take K-Rod off their hands. They are also hamstrung next year because you know they are going to waste a roster spot on Ollie giving the Mets a 24 man roster.

  4. dave (2): If Beltran is 100 percent, then he should hit clean-up. But, barring that, I have no problems with Beltran third, Davis fourth, Wright fifth and Bay sixth. Depending on the match-ups, I believe Bay hit fourth and fifth for Boston last year.-JD

  5. I wouldn’t mind trying to sign a guy like Austin Kearns to be insurance and the 4th OF..if they carry 5, Jesus Felciano is fine. The bench would be Blanco/Duda or Evans/and the 4th or 5th outfielders..I suppose Castillo will be on the bench too. I am also hoping for mass improvement by Ike Davis. Frankly he has not produced and in comparison, Daniel Murphy’s offensive stats were better.

  6. Steve O (3): The thought of Perez coming back again makes me ill. Maybe if he were to knock off a bank the Mets might have cause to get rid of him. They should, but won’t eat the contract.-JD

  7. Steve (O): Davis has hit the skids. But, considering he wasn’t supposed to be here until the end of the season what he’s done as a rookie is acceptable. …. I haven’t thought of Daniel Murphy in awhile. It would have been nice had the second base thing work out.-JD

  8. steve

    thanks.

    but it seems his rant didnt work. they got one run and i think 3 hits for santana.

    as you say, this team lacks fire.

    same as straw said months ago.

    the truth hurts and the team needs players like keith on it to kick butt.

  9. i like what i see of ike so far.

    yes. he needs to improve.

    but considering this is his second year out of college and he got thrown into the fire, i think he has done well. he has consideration for rookie of the year.

    he is 245 15hr 50/50 rbi/runs.

    he hits better at home and daytime.

    i would vote to stick with him and look elsewhere for improvement.

    his glove has been consistently good.

  10. (12) Dave: I like Ike too, but I think we overrate him because he is a homegrown player. If you can include him in a trade for a top ro. starting pitcher, you have to seriously think hard about doing it. But also remember, Ike’s scouting report has him with the upside of Adam LaRoche..a nice player, but certainly not a difference maker.

  11. i am not saying he is untouchable.

    i like his d, i liked what i saw earlier this year at the plate. he did not seem overwhelmed. i like his general attitude. he plays hard and we need to keep players like that.

    however, if it improves the team i would trade him, but not for marginal garbage.

  12. ditto. if we rebuild its with players that will learn and excel. otherwise.. we need real leaders to get these kids minds right.
    In the end its a no nonsense manager that will turn a team around.

  13. i hope not.
    I think we will see Bobby V before that happens. or Wally B. .. as he will wait until the seasons are over. minor and major to commit. plus have his replacement..

  14. very good article, JD. I think the mets really miss Delgado. As you have mentioned several times, the Mets have not got one good candidate to hit cleanup. they have not been the same since he went down last may. Too bad there are not many players out there who inspire the fear that he did in opposing pitchers. Dunn will be a FA but where would he play?