Feb 21

Looking At Mets’ Leadoff Situation

The primary objective for the New York Mets in their quest for a leadoff hitter is the combination of speed, base-running ability and on-base percentage.

Eric Young has the first two, but manager Terry Collins wants him to improve his on-base percentage. Young’s career on-base percentage is .325, and Collins is thinking of at least 25 more points.

YOUNG: Should bunt more.

YOUNG: Should bunt more.

“Ideally, you’d wish he’d have a .350 on-base,’’ Collins said earlier this week. “I don’t know if he’s going to, but you hope he does.

“All I know is what an impact this guy made on our team when we got him. He got some big hits, made some great plays defensively in the outfield. And when he got on, exciting things happened and we scored runs.

“So we’re certainly going to focus a lot on trying to get Eric to bunt a little bit more, maybe be a little more selective at the plate.’’

Even at .350, that pales compared to Rickey Henderson (.401) and Pete Rose (.375), two of the greatest leadoff hitters in history.

The Mets want Young to improve his walks-to-strikeouts ratio, which was a poor 35-67 last season in only 418 plate appearances and to bunt more.

With his speed, if Young averaged one bunt hit a week, that would be 26 additional for the season. Give Young 26 more hits over the same number of at-bats last year and his average would have been .320.

Collins prefers Young in the leadoff role over Daniel Murphy (lacks speed), Chris Young or Juan Lagares (low on-base percentage and too many strikeouts), or Ruben Tejada (low on-base percentage).

 

Dec 31

My Hall Of Fame Ballot

10 METS FAYTOK

I just returned from the post office where I dropped off my Hall of Fame ballot. It’s a ritual for me that on Dec. 31 every year I’ll fill out my ballot. I like holding on to it, read all I can about the players on the ballot, talk to those in the game and also to other voters.

Like most kids I grew up with, and I imagine like most of you, I grew up a baseball junkie. I even logged on to check the box score from the first game I went to, July 19, 1965, in Cleveland, where the Indians beat the Baltimore Orioles. Chuck Hinton homered for the Indians. Rocky Colavito got a couple of hits.

I think back to watching the Indians with the father, to playing catch with my brother, to Little League, and from there, I get to vote for the Hall of Fame.

It is a privilege, which is why it pisses me off no end when I hear of my colleagues selling their vote to Deadspin, to leaving ballots blank, to not returning them, to not even caring whom they vote for. Shameful in my point of view.

I am sure there will be many who disagree with my ballot. I voted for the ten players I was allowed, and have some regret for those I might have omitted. I have no regrets for those I checked.

hof ballot

Jeff Bagwell: To my knowledge he’s like Mike Piazza. He’s never failed a drug test. He was never linked or accused in the Mitchell Report. Nobody on the record has ever charged him or testified to seeing him use PEDs.

Craig Biggio: Three thousand hits. Enough said. I read where one veteran voter accused Biggio of using PEDs, but offered no proof or time-frame.

Tom Glavine: Some say they’ll keep Glavine off and vote Greg Maddux ahead of him. Absurd. Three hundred wins is an automatic ticket punch for me. Glavine and Maddux should go in together.

Greg Maddux: A no-brainer.

Edgar Martinez: I know I’ll take heat for this, but I don’t mind. I didn’t invent the designated hitter position. And, as long as MLB plays with the DH, I don’t see why a player has to have his position work against him. Sure, Martinez played most of his games as the DH, but that is a legitimate position. How many of the numbers belonging to Paul MolitorGeorge BrettCarl Yastrzemski and Eddie Murray were accumulated at a DH?

Jack Morris: He’s been on the ballot for years and don’t understand the reluctance of some voters to shy away from him. Morris was a money pitcher who fell shy of 300 wins. The game has changed and eventually you’ll see the bar lowered to accommodate those who just missed 300 wins.

Mike Mussina: He’s another who fell shy of 300 wins. If he hung on he could have made it. When you consider his body of work, he’s two blown saves a year from 300, which shouldn’t be enough to keep him out. I covered Mussina in Baltimore and with the Yankees, and have no doubts he did it cleanly.

Mike Piazza: If he gets the votes, he’ll likely go in as a Dodger. He’s on my ballot for the same reason as Jeff Bagwell. I don’t see where the accusations of several Holier than Thou writers who based their thinking on seeing several pimples on his back as being substantial.

Tim Raines: Along with Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock – both in the Hall of Fame – he’s one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters. Had he played the bulk of his career in the United States, especially New York or Los Angeles, he’d have been in already.

Frank Thomas: One of the outspoken critics of the PED era. He compiled massive numbers, and he did it cleanly.

Maybe next time:

The regrets on my ballot are Fred McGriff, who fell shy of 500 homers and Jeff Kent, the career leader of homers by a second baseman.

I never thought of Kent as a first ballot Hall of Famer, but several people have planted the seed for him. Maybe next year.

Mets on the ballot:

Mike Piazza: Voted for him.

Jeff Kent,: Maybe next year.

Moises Alou: Funny, when I think of him what I remember most is him pointing at Steve Bartman.

Paul Lo Duca: You must be joking.

Armando Benitez: His signature moment with the Mets was a 10-pitch at-bat in which he walked Paul O’Neill in the 2000 World Series. There’s also numerous blown save opportunities against the Braves.

Kenny Rogers: How about that bases-loaded walk against the Braves in the playoffs?

Apr 08

Mets Should Consider Mike Baxter At Leadoff

Six games into the season and the Mets have used three different leadoff hitters. Evidently, there are answers to be found.

One who should get a longer look is Mike Baxter, who started Saturday and reached base three times on two hits and a walk.

BAXTER: The catch that saved Santana. (AP)

BAXTER: The catch that saved Santana. (AP)

A lead off hitter needs to get on base, and if not then take the count as deep as possible to give the following hitters a chance to learn what they can of the pitcher. Baxter usually runs up the pitch count, and if he plays a full game can see as many as a dozen pitches. That’s an in-game scouting report to those following him in the order.

Little League coaches like to say, “a walk is as good as a hit,’’ and there are times it is the same in the major leagues.

“He takes a base on balls,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “If he was a genuine base-stealer, he’d be dangerous. You look up, and he’s got a .375 on-base. It seems like he’s on first base all of the time.’’

Actually, Baxter’s career on-base percentage is .360, but Collins’ point is well taken. It is an on-base percentage representative of a productive leadoff hitter, as good as they received from Jose Reyes.

The stereotypical leadoff hitter is a base stealer, the kind the Mets enjoyed with Reyes early in his career. However, Wade Boggs didn’t steal many bases and hit .321 batting leadoff in over 900 games in his career.

They all can’t be Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock or Maury Wills.

Although the game has changed and there isn’t an emphasis on base stealing as there once was, the basic fundamental of a lead off hitter has always been the same, which is get on base to set the table for the run-producers.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis was penciled in as the leadoff hitter going into spring training, but has a propensity for striking out. He is still very much a work in progress. Other candidates Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin never had full seasons as a starters.

Cowgill has homered twice and if he continues to flash power he might be needed lower in the order. Valdespin is fast, but can be an out-of-control free swinger. He doesn’t figure to last long at that position, and as a defensive liability, probably won’t get many starting opportunities.

Baxter has a decent glove – Johan Santana wouldn’t have his no-hitter without him – but has never had a full time chance.

So, as long as Collins is searching for answers, Baxter is worthy of an opportunity.

ON DECK: Contrasting pitchers Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 06

May 6.10: Return Reyes to the top.

It’s time for Jerry Manuel to call in the dogs on his batting order experiment and return Jose Reyes from third to leading off.

In theory, the switch was to provide Jason Bay with more fastballs with Reyes on base as a steal threat. In reality, neither is hitting and it is time to return to the basics … and that begins with Reyes.

Reyes is out of his element in the three hole and you can see that in every swing-out-of-his shoes at-bat. Reyes has become the pop-up king. It is clear he has adjusted his game mentally and is trying to lift everything.

Personally, I think when they go back Reyes will be so entrenched in bad habits that he’ll be totally lose.

As for Bay, he’s not hitting anything, fastballs included.

“I’ve been seeing more fastballs because I can’t hit them,’’ said Bay, who hit in nine straight then has fallen into a funk going hitless in his last 15 at-bats and is batting just .238 on the season and on pace to strike out 191 times.

The Mets knew when they signed him that he’d be streaky, so maybe he’ll figure it out. Then again, maybe he won’t and will have the kind of power year David Wright had last season. Only thing, Wright made up for it with average and getting on base.

For the past five seasons we’ve been told Reyes has the potential to be this generation’s Rickey Henderson. He, quite simply, has all the tools to be the game’s premier leadoff hitter.

Angel Pagan, however, does not. So return to the fundamentals and put Reyes back into the spot where he has the best chance to perform.

A No. 2 needs to be patient, he needs to exercise bat control and put the ball in play. Hitting second snapped Wright out of slumps before and it might be time to think the same might work for Bay. And, if Reyes snaps out of it, Bay should be seeing those fastballs Manuel promised. If nothing else, it will remove what has been a consistent out in the middle of the order.

Wright is the team’s best hitter in Carlos Beltran’s absence and should go back to hitting third.

Quite honestly, if you tinker with Bay hitting second – and I doubt they will – that leaves a hole at No. 4. If not there are four options: Jeff Francoeur, who has been spotty lately; Ike Davis, who might have the best plate presence in the line-up and Rod Barajas, who is tied with Wright for the team lead in homers.

As Reyes played out of his game moving to third, I’d be wary of moving Davis to clean-up for fear of picking up bad habits.

I’d try Francoeur – who has hit there before – and have Davis bat fifth followed by Barajas. Then I’d go with Pagan and Luis Castillo, which in theory would bunch the speed together and consequently help Bay.

Whatever Manuel does, something needs to be done because this line-up isn’t clicking. Manuel made the initial move out of desperate measures. Well, these are also desperate measures.

Feb 19

Feb. 19.10: Manuel likes Reyes third.

Manager Jerry Manuel, in talking to the press for the first time this spring, said he likes the idea of batting Jose Reyes third. I don’t understand why you’d want to take arguably the best leadoff hitter in the game and tinker with him.

REYES: Leave him alone.

REYES: Leave him alone.


Reyes, if he works on his game – bunting, hitting the ball on the ground, drawing more walks – could become one of the game’s all-time leadoff hitters. A modern day Rickey Henderson, perhaps.

The numbers suggest leaving him where he is. Over the past three seasons, Reyes is batting .293 leading off an inning and .295 with nobody on base. Conversely, he is batting .267 with RISP, .230 with RISP and two outs, and .205 with the bases loaded.

The offensive criticism of Reyes is he sometimes plays outside his game, and once he hits a home run or two starts swinging for the fences, which is away from his strength. Why put him into a slot in the order where he could become prone to bad habits?

The reasons I can fathom moving Reyes to third are two-fold, 1) the Mets don’t expect Carlos Beltran back soon, and 2) the Mets are more worried about Reyes’ running and speed than they are willing to admit.

For years, we’ve been told Reyes was the ignition to the offense, that as he goes so do the Mets. But, that was predicated on him batting leadoff. I have been critical of Reyes at times, but that’s when he takes plays off. However, the Mets’ inability to win since 2006 have nothing to do with him.

Another way to look at this are to examine the other options. There’s nobody comparable to Reyes as a leadoff hitter, but David Wright is capable of hitting third, followed by Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur. It’s not Philly, but it is a good 3-4-5.

There’s plenty of issues with this team, tinkering with Reyes shouldn’t be one of them.