Dec 07

Are the Mets any better?

I’ve been scanning some of the other blogs and was surprised some believe the Mets are better now than they were at the end of the season.

How?

Make no mistake, I always thought Jose Reyes would leave, but until they add quality from their savings, I just don’t see where you can make the argument the team is better without him.

They’ve lost the NL batting champion and replaced him with Ruben Tejada. I like Tejada’s potential, but it isn’t proven production. So, there is a downgrade at shortstop.

Gone from the rotation is Chris Capuano, replaced by …. you tell me. I’m not buying into Johan Santana until I see him pitch regularly.

Angel Pagan and Andres Torres are essentially the same player. Torres is better defensively, and the improvement is in shedding Pagan’s sometimes lackadaisical attitude. That’s not saying the Mets won this trade.

The Mets added two pitchers to their bullpen with strikeout capabilities, but you have to ask yourself if they were so good why would they have been available? I’m seeing it as exchanging one set of mediocre arms for another.

The Mets still have questions in their rotation, bullpen, first base, catcher, second base, left field and right field.

Other than shedding payroll for the promise of doing something later, I don’t see where they’ve gotten any better.

 

ON DECK (Today): The market for 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.

Nov 20

2011 Player Review: Daniel Murphy, IF

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 utility player Daniel Murphy. Saturday: Lucas Duda. Sunday: Justin Turner.

DANIEL MURPHY, IF

THE SKINNY: Murphy is a gritty, aggressive player with a high on-base percentage, but without a position and a propensity for being injured. Murphy, a natural third baseman, can’t play there because of David Wright. He didn’t take to left field, but seeming found a home at first base, but when he was injured it opened the position for Ike Davis. The Mets tried him at second base, but he sustained a knee injury at the position. Through it all, Murphy managed to hit, with a lifetime .292 average.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: Coming off an injury, the expectations were limited, but the hope was if healthy he’d play second base and come off the bench as a pinch-hitter.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Murphy was having an outstanding year offensively with a .320 average, six homers and 49 RBI in 109 games before he sustained a torn MCL in August while covering second base on a steal attempt and missed the remainder of the season.

JOHN’S TAKE: GM Sandy Alderson said at the GM meetings in Milwaukee that Murphy was available in a trade, but who would deal for him without knowing of healthy he is. Murphy has a propensity for getting injured and has limited defensive abilities. If every Met played as hard as him the team would be a lot better off. I can’t see the Mets dealing him now because of his baggage, but if he stays healthy and continues to hit, he might be attractive in July. Then again, if he’s healthy and hits, he would be valuable to the Mets. Probably as a second baseman if he finally takes to the position and Jose Reyes leaves.

JOE’S TAKE: I’m a big Daniel Murphy fan. He has a great approach at the plate and is one of the Mets’ most disciplined hitters. Just 26, Murphy has become a doubles hitting machine – collecting 75 of them over 1,030 career at-bats. It’s such a shame that a hitter this good doesn’t have a true defensive position he could call home. He’s a natural third baseman, but with Wright entrenched there, the Mets have tried to squeeze Murphy into a variety of other positions just to get his bat in the lineup. Rumors abound that he could end up being the Mets everyday second baseman in 2012, but I have a huge problem with that. It may very well be that Murphy’s greatest value to the team will ultimately be as component in a trade to a team where he could play third base or DH. Until that happens, enjoy Murphy’s at-bats and hold your breath when he takes the field. I’ll have more on Murphy tomorrow on MetsMerizedOnline.com.

Nov 17

2011 Player Review: Ike Davis, 1B

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 first baseman Ike Davis. Tomorrow: Daniel Murphy.

IKE DAVIS, 1B

THE SKINNY: Davis became a Mets cult hero in 2010 with his eye-opening power and propensity for climbing the dugout rail to make circus catches. Davis missed most of last season with an ankle injury, but remains one of the franchise’s key prospects.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: After hitting 19 homers with 71 RBI in 2010, big things were expected last season. Perhaps 30 homers, which would have been a good complement to David Wright. There were little issues about his defense, so the Mets had themselves a star in the making.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Murphy’s Law: If it can go wrong for the Mets it will.  Davis got off to a good start with seven homers, 25 RBI and a .302 average before an infield collision with Wright  on a pop-up.  Davis said Wright and he couldn’t hear each other, and nobody heard Mike Pelfrey call for it as a pitcher should. Maybe he had his fingers in his mouth. Anyway, a couple of days became a couple of weeks became a couple of months.

JOHN’S TAKE: Ankle injuries are tough to come back from because so much of hitting is done with the legs. That’s what generates the power. Davis said he’s sprinting and will be ready for the spring training. We shall see. There’s a lot to like about a healthy Davis. Let’s hope he’s that.

JOE’S TAKE: Davis has quickly become one of my favorite Mets. He has an intensity and drive you don’t see in some of the other players and he absolutely hates to lose. I see him quickly becoming on of the leaders of this team in the mold of Keith Hernandez. His quick bat and the power he generates from from his lower body tells me we could see many 30+ home run seasons in his future. His defense is close to elite and it won’t be long until he starts racking up a few Gold Gloves. Get back on the diamond Ike, it’s what you were born to do.

Nov 16

2011 Player Review: Josh Thole, C

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 catcher Josh Thole. Tomorrow: Ike Davis.

JOSH THOLE – C

THE SKINNY: Thole turned heads in 2010 with his bat control and ability to work the count. The Mets had a young hitter who could draw a walk and take an outside pitch to left field. Who knew? Defensively, he was new at the position, but the pitchers liked how he handled a game and gave them a consistent low target.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: If Thole could make a good impression over 227 at-bats, imagine what he could do over a full season. And, as he developed physically and filled out he might be able to hit for more power. Also, his continued work with the pitching staff should make him even more comfortable behind the plate.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Not according to plan. Thole had 386 at-bats in 114 games, but a fulltime catcher should get more work than that. Ronny Paulino played more as a back-up than expected and that was a reflection on Thole. His defense regressed as he led the National League with 16 passed balls and he threw out just 17 attempted base stealers (21 percent). Offensively, his batting average (.268) and on-base percentages (.345 from .357) dropped. He hit three homers in both years despite having 160 more at-bats. In a word: disappointing.

JOHN’S TAKE: Thole might have benefited by more time in the minor leagues, but that wasn’t the hand he was dealt. He took a step back after a good first impression, but that was to be expected as the league found him out. Since his learning environment has been the major leagues it doesn’t make much sense to change that now. He would benefit from having a veteran back-up, and I don’t know if Paulino is that guy. The Mets will stick with Thole for the simple facts they have confidence he’ll develop and they want to spend their limited resources elsewhere. A tip: Have somebody else catch R.A. Dickey.

JOE’S TAKE: Call it a hunch, but I don’t think Thole is long for this team. The only reason he is still hanging onto his job is because quite simply the Mets positional depth at catcher is in complete shambles, and it has been that way for most of the team’s 50 year history.

On most teams, Thole is a backup catcher – maybe. On the Mets he’s the best they got, which says more about the state of the Mets than it does about Thole who was a good soldier when he was asked to ditch his first base glove and put on what Tim McCarver refers to as the “tools of ignorance.”

Thole has already had a few pitchers jaw about his pitch calling and you don’t need binoculars to see how miscast he looks behind the plate. His instincts are lacking and his offensive game leaves much to be desired. On a team that will have too many dead outs in their lineup in 2012, Thole is the worst one because he can’t field his position at a satisfactory level. When an opposing batter makes it to first base, they start drooling when Thole is behind the plate – even those who run as slow as John Olerud. Thole is a huge problem for the rotation, and for a team that is going to find themselves struggling to score runs and protect leads next season.