Nov 04

2012 Mets Player Review: Daniel Murphy

 

 

DANIEL MURPHY, 2B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: It was more a matter of hope than it was solid expectations for second baseman Daniel Murphy. After all, this is a player who has had trouble staying healthy, and was frequently in danger of hurting himself in the field.  At the plate, the Mets expected little power production, but a high batting average and decent on-base percentage. Defensively, an original third baseman, Murphy failed to make it in left field, has been erratic at second and was moved off of first by Ike Davis. Murphy has been the subject of trade rumors to American League teams where he could have most of his at-bats as a designated hitter. That concept never gained any speed because of his limited power output of only 26 career homers in 469 career games.   

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Murphy gave the Mets a career-high 156 games and 612 at-bats, but only hit six homers and had 49 extra-base hits. He also had a dropoff of 29 points in batting average (.320 in 2011 to .291 last year) and drops in on-base percentage (.362 to .332), slugging percentage (.448 to .403) and OPS (.809 to .735). These drops happened despite playing in 45 more games and 41 more hits. Murphy hit throughout the batting order, but when he started at least ten games at a position, had more success hitting second (.309 in 73 games) than anywhere else. Overall, Murphy did not hit to his expectations, but showed a dramatic improvement in the field. Make no mistake, he still has work to do, but Murphy was far from a butcher in the field. Murphy will never have great range, but he made most of the plays and was better at making the double-play pivot.

LOOKING AT 2013: Murphy’s improvement would preclude the need for shopping for a new second baseman. The Mets are trying Jordany Valdespin at second in winter ball, and if he makes it would add speed. There’s always the trade market, but expectations are Murphy will keep his position next season. Because the Mets have so many holes in the bullpen, the outfield and perhaps the back end of the rotation, they will stick with someone who, if he stays healthy, should give them a decent average, but not a lot of run production. It was hoped with the more he plays and gets to know the pitchers he would hit with more power. As he plays more he should become more adept defensively.

NEXT: Ruben Tejada

Oct 10

What Is The Market For David Wright And R.A. Dickey?

If the Mets believe they’ll keep David Wright and R.A. Dickey on the cheap they are sadly mistaken. If neither are signed in the next couple of months both are likely to enter the free-agent market, at which point they’ll likely go elsewhere.

I can’t see either coming back to the Mets if they let them enter the market.

There have already been reports the Mets will offer Wright a package for around $100 million and aren’t willing to go more than two years on Dickey.

Sandy Alderson said last week the Mets wanted to move quickly, but your definition and the Mets’ are different, as the club has proven to move at a glacier pace on other key issues.

Wright will make $15 million next season while Dickey is on the books for $5 million. If extensions are reached, they should make considerably more, although it is conceivable they could backload a contract for Wright. Because he’s 38 and this is his last chance for a free-agent market killing, the same can’t be said for Dickey. So, if the Mets don’t go more than three years for him, then he’s a goner.

There are difficulties in trading both, notably that they will be free agents after the 2013 season. No team would be willing to deal for them if they know they’ll leave after the season.

A team trading for Wright must consider his recent production. He had a solid, but not extraordinary season in 2012, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. His last big season was probably 2010 when he hit 29 homers, and he hasn’t hit 30 since 2008. Wright has always been a complementary piece rather than a centerpiece. His best years were when Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran with him and he hit fifth. Wright batting third or fourth hasn’t been as productive.

In explaining Wright’s power decline the past few years, it is part injuries and part hitting unprotected in the line-up. The percentage of each is hard to ascertain.

We must assume the Mets wouldn’t trade Wright to the Phillies or the Braves, both with a reported need for a third baseman. The Red Sox, however, are a different story as they are in the American League and no direct threat to the Mets.

That being said Wright has a greater value to the Mets than he would any other team. That could reduce his trade value to some degree.

Regarding Dickey, he has an extraordinary value to the Mets based on his story and what he did this year. The Mets shouldn’t be worried about his durability, but have to wonder if this season was a fluke. A journeyman throughout his career, Dickey had an ace-type season in 2012 winning 20 games.

Can he do it again?

That’s something everybody is wondering, including those teams that might want him. Do you break the bank for a pitcher who has had only three winning seasons since 2001?

When you factor all the circumstances surrounding Wright and Dickey, both have limitations that might make the return as lucrative as one might think.

 

Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.
 

Jul 04

Fourth Of July Good Omen For Mets

History dictates that whoever is leading on July 4th will make the playoffs. That’s a good omen for the Mets, who lead in the wild-card chase. By the end of the month, if there are trades, then the Mets will be buyers.

Their top priority is the bullpen as they have enough offense, despite limited power, to get the job done.

Let’s look at the other playoff contenders.

Washington has the best record in the National League and with its pitching could sustain it into the playoffs. The question here is what will happen if, and when, they shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Atlanta could make a run, but the Marlins and Phillies have too many issues.

In the Central, it would be nice to see Pittsburgh hold on, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers are still close. This division should be a scramble until the end.

In the West, it is the Dodgers and Giants, with Arizona 5.5 games out.

Things seem more definitive in the American League. I expect the current leaders to hold on, with Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Angels the prime wild card contenders.

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.