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.

Nov 15

2011 Player Review: Ruben Tejada

John Delcos of Newyorkmetsreport.com and Joe DeCaro of Metsmerizedonline.com will be doing more and more projects together with the goal of merging two successful blogs in the hope of giving our readers everything they’ll need in covering the Mets. We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free-agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. Today, we’ll start evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada.

RUBEN TEJADA – 2B/SS

THE SKINNY: Ruben Tejada’s reputation is that of a slick glove but a spotty bat. Tejada’s natural position is shortstop, but when Jose Reyes was healthy and Daniel Murphy wasn’t, he played a solid 50 games at second base in 2010. Tejada played both positions last year and his .284 was better than anticipated.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: Tejada started the season in the minor leagues to play mostly shortstop in anticipation of Reyes leaving this winter. The Mets also wanted Tejada to work on his offense.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: As expected, Tejada opened the season in the minor leagues as the Mets used Brad Emaus and Murphy at second base. However, when Emaus fizzled and Murphy was injured, Tejada was recalled. When Reyes twice went on the disabled list he played shortstop and Justin Turner played a lot of second. Tejada hit .284 with a .360 on-base percentage. He developed a reputation of not being flustered at the plate and drove in 36 runs in only 328.

JOHN’S TAKE: Tejada has a long way to go to be in Reyes’ caliber and there will be a substantial void to fill. Several scouts said the Mets should be encouraged by Tejada’s progress, but it should be remembered it was only half a season and early impressions can be misleading. With the Mets in full rebuilding and cost-cutting mode, Reyes is not expected to return and the team won’t spend or trade to replace him. With the Mets at least three years away from contending status, this will be Tejada’s opportunity to prove he’s capable of handling the job. The Mets don’t have any immediate options other than Tejada to take over shortstop. Under normal circumstances, a player of Tejada’s limited major league experience wouldn’t enter spring training as the frontrunner for the job. However, these are far from normal circumstances for the Mets.

JOE’S TAKE: No Met position player progressed more than Ruben Tejada did in 2011. Initially, Tejada was dispatched from last season’s second base spring training battle despite outperforming the field. He started the season in Buffalo while Brad Emaus began his very short-lived tenure as the Mets starting second baseman. On May 18, Tejada came up and for the most part never looked back, and guess what? The 22-year old delivered. He had one bad month in July, take that away and he batted .312 in 82 games and showed an uncanny ability to turn it up a notch when runners were on base. In fact his .305 average with “runners on base” was better than… Well lets not go there. I’m looking forward to seeing what this young kid will do for an encore. I’m a big fan.

Nov 10

Have resigned myself to Reyes leaving.

Let’s face it, Ruben Tejada isn’t as good as Jose Reyes. Then again, Reyes is far from a lot of the great shortstops who have played this game. Replacing Reyes isn’t like Mike Bordick replacing Cal Ripken.

Reyes is a very good player, but there have always been obstacles that prevented him from being great. He gets injured, he loses focus, there are times he loafs, his on-base percentage could be better.

Reyes, who makes his living with his legs, was a non-entity on the bases after coming off the disabled list. He was playing to protect himself so he could win his precious batting title and preserve himself for the free-agent market.

There’s always been a twinge of selfishness about Reyes that gets ignored by his endearing smile. The feeling projected is he’ll take the best offer because this is about money. Sure, he wants to stay in New York, but that’s only if the Mets pony up the most.

While Reyes wants the most possible, the Mets will lowball him. There will be some team out there willing to give Reyes the years and a contract north of $100 million. If he can get that, more power to him.

But, it won’t be the Mets. And, considering their position it shouldn’t be the Mets. Sometimes cutting ties is difficult, but it needs to be done. I’m at peace with Reyes wearing another uniform.