Nov 30

Shopping In The Fruits and Nuts Section Again

fruit-and-nutsThe Mets are now looking more at second-tier and third-tier free agents according to Buster Olney of ESPN. Anything can happen, but the three offseason predictions I made for the Mets before the hot stove season started, seem to all be coming to fruition.

Back in September amid all the high hopes and expectations I said:

1. The Mets would not go after any players who’ll cost more than $10 million annually.

2. The Mets would not pursue any of the players who declined their qualifying offers.

3. The would not spend more than $25 million this offseason.

They were my educated decisions based on many of the vibes I was getting from the team coupled with my belief that this team is still not out of the woods financially no matter what they would have us believe.

When they signed Chris Young I knew in my mind that it would be their biggest splash of this offseason. I’m sure Young will help a little, but not nearly enough to make difference. I don’t believe he’ll come close to the numbers Marlon Byrd produced out of right field last season. Byrd came out of nowhere to generate 34 doubles, 24 home runs, and 88 RBI while batting .291 with a .518 Slugging Pct. and a .847 OPS. Young has never posted an .800 OPS in his eight-year career and the closest he ever came to numbers like Byrd’s was four years ago in the band box known as Chase Field, and even then he batted just .237.

Andy Martino wrote before the holiday, that the Mets “spooked” by Byrd’s two-year, $16 million deal with Philadelphia. That deal was exactly what MLBTR predicted in early October and less than what Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman predicted he would get. So it’s amazing that they were spooked. But not surprising. I once went into a fancy restaurant with $200 bucks in my pocket and with a date I was trying to impress at the time. I remember being spooked when I opened the menu and there were no prices listed for any of the dishes.

Anyway, the Mets are now looking at third-tier options which is a nice way of saying they are scraping the bottom of the free agent barrel. There’s no such thing as fourth-tier options.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of the scrapheap guys I’d like to see the Mets take a shot on… Feel free to post your own in the meantime.

May 06

Lucas Duda Unfairly Criticized On Plate Approach

Ever since Lucas Duda burst into our consciousness in 2010, nobody has been satisfied with his plate approach. Too many strikeouts and not enough walks, I frequently wrote. He gives away too many at-bats. He tries to pull too much and doesn’t use the entire field.

All valid in the early Duda critique.

DUDA: Has the right approach (AP).

DUDA: Has the right approach (AP).

Now, unbelievably, he’s become too selective, too patient at the plate. No matter how hard I try, I don’t get this one.

Even Keith Hernandez, who has forgotten more about hitting than most of us will ever know, has been after Duda on his patience. Hernandez believes Duda should be more aggressive with runners in scoring position. Yesterday in that position, Duda worked deep into the count. And, as the at-bat continued and the talk was for him to be more aggressive, Duda lashed a 3-and-1 pitch through the right side of the infield for a RBI single in a perfect piece of hitting.

Until that swing, the conversation was about Duda’s growing patience, as if it was a fatal, fundamental flaw  instead of a strength.

Duda has a .417 on-base percentage, in large part to 21 walks. While the season is still young, his on-base percentage and OPS are the best of his career. For much of the spring he had more walks than strikeouts, but that has reversed.

However, what people are noting most are his six homers with only 11 RBI. Surely, with that much power, he should have more RBI. It it is a plausible argument, but not an all inclusive one.

Pitchers, wary of Duda’s power, have been exceedingly cautious and try to get him to chase. However, when he might have swung earlier in his career, he’s now waiting them out. Instead of giving away at-bats, he’s learned to take the walk, but that’s not a flaw.

Do you really want to see Duda be another Ike Davis, who gives away countless at-bats by flailing a pitches he has no chance of hitting?

The best thing for Duda would be to continue being patient and taking his walks. If somebody – are you listening Davis? – provided more protection behind him, then Duda might see more pitches, fastballs to be exact, in the zone.

Trust me on this one, the last thing you want is for Duda reverting to bad habits and chasing junk. The more walks he takes, the better he’ll become at recognizing pitches. He’ll waste fewer at-bats and eventually get his pitch to drive.

The expectations for Duda to walk less and swing more have been brought on by the Mets’ overall woeful offense.  The problem isn’t in Duda is taking too many pitches, but others in the batting order are not.

Feb 20

Don’t Ignore All The Old Baseball Statistics

I was talking with a friend of mine recently and the topic turned to baseball, and in particular, the overwhelming number of statistics in today’s game. Most are relevant, but others are too much. Does anybody really need to know David Wright’s slugging percentage on afternoon games played on Tuesday?

I’m old school, and my first three statistics in evaluating a position player are average, homers and RBI. The game has evolved and there are far more elaborate and sophisticated methods to measure performance. That doesn’t mean all the traditional numbers are obsolete.

I understand the significance of WAR and OPS, but sometimes that’s thinking too much and not as accurate as one might argue.

Continue reading

Nov 05

2012 Mets Player Review: Ruben Tejada

RUBEN TEJADA, SS

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Perhaps no Met endured as much preseason scrutiny as shortstop Ruben Tejada. Although he played well in 2011, hitting .284 in place of the injured Jose Reyes, this year the job was his and he would be judged as a starter. Tejada played a combined 105 games at second base in 2010 and 2011, but would be the fulltime shortstop last summer as the Mets began a new era. The Mets were satisfied with Tejada’s defense, with some in the organization favoring him over Reyes. However, Reyes is an offensive presence and the Mets were pleasantly surprised at Tejada’s average and .360 on-base percentage in 2011, but didn’t know if his numbers were a fluke or a real indicator of what could be expected. A player with no power, Tejada should help himself by being patient, but strikes out too much and draws too few walks.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: With so much going on with the 2012 Mets, they were fortunate not be saddled with a shortstop hole. It would be foolish to say Tejada completely replaced Reyes, but considering the void left the Mets got more than they could have expected. Tejada committed only 12 errors with a .974 fielding percentage. Tejada has good range, which is especially important considering he needed to shade towards second to compensate for second baseman Daniel Murphy. Tejada hit .289 after hitting over .300 for much of the season. However, his on-base percentage fell 27 points to .333 and his OPS dropped 11 points to .685. Tejada provided little run production (one homer and 25 RBI) and struck out 73 times compared to 27 walks. Tejada hit mostly first or second in the batting order, and was equally effective, hitting .293 and .292, respectively. Like most Mets, Tejada had a dramatic drop-off in the second half. Tejada hit .325 with 30 strikeouts in the first half, but fell to .269 with 43 strikeouts after the break.

LOOKING AT 2013: Tejada gave the Mets enough this summer to where they don’t need to concern themselves with shortstop in 2013. The Mets realize Tejada’s offensive limitations as far as run production. Andres Torres did not show anything as a leadoff hitter and likely won’t be brought back, so expect Tejada to get a shot at that responsibility. Hitting .289 again would be welcomed, but Tejada must increase his on-base percentage by cutting his strikeouts and walking more. Tejada should also attempt to be more aggressive on the bases. Considering the type of player Tejada is, he must also cut down on his frequency of fly balls, which is almost equal to that of balls hit on the ground.

NEXT: David Wright

Nov 22

2011 Player Review: Lucas Duda

We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. We started evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada and continue today with Lucas Duda. Tomorrow: Justin Turner.

LUCAS DUDA, RF

THE SKINNY: Duda is power personified. When he gets one, it goes. He’s the last Met who needs the fences brought in. Duda was brought up to play first base after Ike Davis was injured, and finished the season as the candidate to play right field this year.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: After a brief display of his power in 2010, Duda started the season in the minor leagues as expected with the anticipation he would be brought up eventually in case of emergency, but definitely when the rosters were expanded.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Duda’s opportunity came when Davis injured his ankle in a collision with David Wright. After a slow start, Duda finished with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 347 at-bats. First base was totally his after Daniel Murphy was disabled, but with right field forecast as a hole because of the Carlos Beltran trade, Duda eventually got 46 games in the outfield (42 in right). He closed the season with the expectations of being first in line for right field in spring training.

JOHN’S TAKE: Personally, when it became apparent the Mets wouldn’t make the playoffs – and that came pretty early – Duda should have gotten more games in right field. He’s not a great defender and a case could be made for moving him to left and shifting Jason Bay to right field, which is a difficult position at Citi Field. The brought-in fences should help Duda at the plate, but also in the field as there will now be less room to roam. I like Duda for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was his decision to bunt when he was on a roll because that was the team thing to do. The man plays hard and deserves a chance. With his power he should at least double his home run production over a full season.

JOE’S TAKE: For some odd reason, I’ve found myself having to defend Lucas Duda on a number of occasions this offseason. Many Mets fans don’t seem to believe in him as I do as an offensive presence in the lineup. Here are the facts…

Lucas Duda was leading the league with a .597 SLG and 1.100 OPS prior to his promotion to the Mets. In his last 153 minor league games, Duda slugged 33 home runs and drove in 111 runs. He also had 48 doubles in that span. In other words 550 AB, 48, 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 96 RS, 83 BB, 111 K. In five years in the minors Duda has a .286 batting average, .383 OBP, and a .473 SLG. Fluke?

After Duda was promoted this season he batted .292 in 300 AB with 21 2B, 10 HR, 50 RBI, .370 OBP and .487 SLG. As he got acclimated to the majors he kept getting better posting OPS of .711, .910, .911 and .929 from June to September to finish third in the National League that final month of the season.

Now I’m not saying Duda is the next Jim Rice or Manny Ramirez, but he could be the next Carlos Lee. It’s no coincidence I’m using left fielders as a comparison, but ultimately left field is where I see Lucas Duda settling in. And while his routes to balls and his overall defense leaves a lot to be desired, I believe he’ll get better as he becomes more acclimated.

The kid’s a keeper.