10.7.07

Mid-Season Report Card

Perhaps inevitable in all but style, its time to join the legions of bloggers looking back on the first half of the season, grading out the key players and results. As it turns out, this has been much more long-winded than I expected so to ease the eyes at times I will, in true Archie Bunker's Army tradition, give the eyeballs a well-deserved break here and there for what one might call a Fit Bird Break.

*****

Catcher: Paul Lo Duca - Hopefully there is no foreshadowing in his having finished the first half with an 0 for 8 night in the Mets' 17-inning victory over the Astros. That came on the heels of his two game suspension for an outburst the month before and for which he must earn at least a few bonus points for passion, however misguided. Hitting under his career average thus far this season owed in part to his horrific .217 average at Shea and his overall .150 batting average for July. He's hitting a meagre .194 with RISP although to his credit, he is hitting .414 against the Braves. His defence is still better than passable (ranked 7th amongst NL catchers) and although his arm is still light years better than Piazza's, he's thrown out a little more than 25% of runners attempting to steal, ranked 9th in NL. By comparison, Ramon Castro has failed to throw out a single baserunner attempting to steal, 0 for 18 thus far this season.(consider if we were left to the devices of Ramon Castro and 40 somethings the rest of the season...)My biggest concern is durability going into the dog days of the season but to date, I'd rate him: Grade: B (minus)

First Base, Carlos Delgado - Yes, we all know how much Carlos has disappointed this first half of the season. We also might bemoan this All Star break as given his .375 batting average in July it might appear that he is finally hitting his stride after a long wait. One would hope, if the Mets are to have a reasonable chance at defending their NL East title that his .202 average with RISP will greatly improve in the coming months. However, there's always a chance that his disappointing black hole act in the middle of the order may continue on after the break. If that's the case, I don't expect the Mets to be able to limp into the World Series sans their power hitter. Imagine, for example, what the Mets record might look like if Delgado had Prince Fielder's numbers by now...He continues to field respectably although one might point out that he has 4 errors this season, the same as Easley and Valentin have with about the same number of chances but whilst having a somewhat easier fielding job. Grade: D

FIT BIRD BREAK


Second Base, Jose Valentin, Damon Easley and Ruben Gotay - Over the last few years this has been a fill-in-the-gap sort of position and the first half of 2007 is no different. Valentin has appeared at second in 40 games, Easley 37 and Gotay, 13. Their range and fielding is remarkably similar despite the oft-repeated if somewhat unfounded rumours of Valentin's glove superiority. At the plate they are all more less functional, Easley demonstrated power (his 8 homers in about half as many at-bats s the troika of Beltran, Delgado and Wright ahead of him is a remarkable achievement). Valentin, gimping through his season as he is in fairness, has hit .080 in July. This trio has been as functional as it has meant to be. Grade: C

Shortstop, Jose Reyes - Whilst his lack of movement for one moment on one evening earned him a one game suspension there is little fault you can find with this kid's usual non-stop pace, joie de jouer and game-scrabbling efforts on the basepaths. Three years ago his hammies seemed to be crippling, two years ago we didn't think he'd ever learn any plate discipline and since last year we have simply counted the games watching him improve almost day by day. Whilst my pre-season prediction of NL MVP for him was probably a wee over-zealous, he's 1st in stolen bases, 6th in runs scored, and is tied for 9th in the NL in walks!, to name a few accomplishments. He's still got a ways to go but really, finding fault with his season to date is difficult. Ok, despite his speed his range at shortstop is a bit dodgy at times but he still ranks 4th among shortstops in the NL in fielding percentage. Grade: A

Third Base, David Wright - It's hard to knock David Wright; steady, positive and always there. Despite hitting safely in his first 14 games of the season, he was hitting just .239 on May 6 and I seem to recall a few worry warts wondering what was wrong with Wright(how's THAT for alliteration?!) Since then, he's hitting .321 and shows every sign of continued improvement going from .244 in April to .294 for May, .323 in June and .324 thus far in July. I do believe you can say he's hitting his stride. One caveat is his .132 batting average in 9 games against Atlanta. Considering his .270 average against the Braves lifetime in addition to his career number improvement post-All Star game, I expect that to improve. In the field we may wince at times or say ouch at his 10 errors (only four regular starting third baseman in the Majors have committed more,) but overall this guy is as steady as they come. Grade: B

FIT BIRD BREAK


CF, Carlos Beltran - Like Reyes, a few moments against Houston recently linger most - in particular that spectacular game-saving grab in the 14th inning of last Saturday's marathon. I will say, bordering the controversial, that I don't think his season to date really merits a starting All-Star selection and whether that is down to high expectations or simply his numbers I'll leave you to decide. He is certainly an asset in the field with great range, speed and an occasionally uncanny ability for producing marvelous grabs although his pair of outfield assists is hardly earth-shattering, especially when considering Aaron Rowand has nine this season. And that expectation thing, especially at the plate, can get a little bit dodgy at times. He started the season on fire, hitting .356 in April but since then, well, bar a few homers in bunches, his plate work has left alot to be desired. A .253 with RISP for starters, is not what you expect from a guy of his talents. I guess the best to expect is a continued, occasional outburst of the spectacular with a vague semblance of steadiness in between. Grade: C (plus)

Right Field, Shawn Green - Shawn most definately gets a few pity votes for those Dumbo ears of his being so brutally exposed after the head-shaving debacle earlier this season. He also gets points for his .371 average against the Braves so far this season. At the plate he is pretty much on target with last season's combined numbers split between Arizona and the Mets (although better whilst with the D'Backs than the Mets..) His .200 average against lefties is worrisome. And let's face it, he's no Shane Victorino out there in right field although I don't close my eyes every time a ball is hit out to him any more. I didn't expect much out of Shawn Green this season and considering how much exposure Lastings Milledge got in Spring Training, nor did many others it would seem. And yes, to be honest, if Endy Chavez were healthy (and not having to play left field,) considering Chavez's .333 average against lefties, I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Green sit more often against lefties. That's my lukewarm endorsement for the day. Grade: C

Left Field, Anybody but Moises Alou - If you've read this far I'd imagined you'd like to read something funny by now so I'll show you what I wrote back on November 11th after the Mets announced the Moises Alou signing. (Well perhaps "funny" only in an ironic sense...)

"Yes, I unnerstan' - a bat against the lefties, something the Mets were alleged to sorely need late last season, is what Alou stands for. In fact, a .349 average against lefties last season. I see the logic in that sense. Another saavy veteran on the bench, I see that, yes. 98 games played last season due to injury. I see that too. On the heels of 123 games the season before that and 155 the year before that. At the current rate of decline that means Alou will play about 62 games for the Mets next season."


Considering he's played all of 30 games so far this season I'd say that was perhaps overly optimistic.

But let's hope this position resolves itself before season's end. I'd like to see Moises in there cracking away as another live bat in the Mets batting order but I'm not holding my breath. Grade: Much like Daniel Simpson Day in Animal House... HAS no grade point average.

FIT BIRD BREAK


Starting pitching: Like many others I had my doubts about the starting rotation going into this season. Although I didn't care to see the Mets spend untold billions on Barry Zero, (oh, gowon, have yourself a collective larf at Mr Zero's expense for his 4.90 ERA and sparkling 6-9 record!), I have to admit to being well nervous about the starting rotation Omar was prepared to stand pat with. I admit to also being jealous of the Phillies' seemingly ominous offseason trade for Freddy Garcia, but look at him as well: 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA and looking like he'll be lucky to last the season. So kudos firstly to Omar for not flinching.

This rotation has been one surprise after another. First you had John Maine winning NL Pitcher of the Month for April. Then you had Oliver Perez and Jorge Sosa combining to go 8-2 during May. Yes, there was a bit of a swan dive in June but even then, Maine went 3-2 with a 2.66 ERA. (And for the record, John Maine was robbed off the All-Star team this season: 10-4 and a 2.71 ERA is about as good as it gets for any National League pitcher not based on the West Coast.)

There are currently three starters on DL but Maine, Sosa and Perez have been three very pleasant surprises. In the coming months we are likely to see the return of Pedro and if we're lucky, watch Tom Glavine earn his 300th victory.

The starting rotation is ranked third in the National League in ERA thus far (Atlanta 10th and Philly, 14th), and has allowed opposing hitters a mere .241 batting average against them (virtually tied with the Cubs for the best in the National League). The lone caveat, if we're looking for flaws is their 201 free passes, 4th worst in the National League. But all things considered, good job lads, keep it up! Grade: A

Bullpen leading to closer - There are plenty of miserable mutts in this lot. Guillermo Mota (6.65 ERA), Scott Schoeneweis (5.24 ERA) and Aaron Sele (4.41 ERA), if we're naming and shaming here. Joe Smith was shocking early with his scoreless streak that lasted until May 12th. Since then he's touched bsae with reality(7.36 ERA for June) but appears to have recovered with a 1.80 ERA in July. And hey, let's not leave him out there with the bases loaded any more, Willie. Batters are hitting .500 against him with the bases juiced! Aaron Heilman (3.00 ERA in April, 3.77 May, 4.40 June) has been about what you'd expect from a guy who wants to be a starter not a bridge. This is the weakest area (providing there isn't another injury to the outfield) to worry over in the coming months and would would naturally expect this issue to be addressed by Omar in the not-so-distant future. Grade: C plus

Closer, Billy Wagner: There isn't much that 17 saves in 18 chances, a 1.64 ERA, 51 k's 10 bbs over 38 1/3 innings of work doesn't say already. Grade: A

FIT BIRD BREAK


Bench - Having to fill the thre outfield positions at times in addition to second base over and over this season is difficult but the overall play of the bench in filling those gaps has been admirable. In pinch hitting situations, the Mets are hitting .220 which is 8th in the National League. Given Old Man River's fall from grace, like the bullpen, I expect this is an area that needs strengthening for the second half run for glory. Grade: B

Manager, Willie - He hasn't done much about pulling them out of these sudden, painful lulls although the continuing positive message combined with a fierce refusal to deal with any complacency spells good in the long run even if he is essentially powerless and uninspirational in stopping losing streaks by mere stoicism. His style isn't Lou Piniella however so you hope the steadiness holds serve over the instability. I could see him becoming scapegoat number two after Carlos Beltran real fast if things go sour. To date however, he's steadied our expectations. Grade: B

Team - 2 games above the rest of the NL East is not as good as last season going into the break but at times I have the feeling the Mets are merely gathering themselves for an explosive month that puts them over the top once and for all. It's fortunate for the Mets that the NL East has been pitiful for large gaps in the season to date and no one has really been able to muster an extended run on the Mets' hold on the lead. Injuries are never a valid argument but you'd have to expect a serious upswing if they get healthy later in the season. Something to consider - the three top-hitting Mets with runners in scoring position this season are in order, Rickey Ledee, Ruben Gotay and El Duque. They'll need stronger clutch hitting from more reliable sources if the Mets are going to continue answering the bell. Grade: B

9 comments:

sanchez said...

I don't agree with giving Beltran a C+ if you're giving Wright a B. Wright is a much more consistent and valuable hitter. Plus, look at that grab he made in the first inning of the All Star game last night!

Jaap said...

I'm still fascinated with how Reyes sparkled last night. That's the kind of excitement generation fans will want to see in October, not some hitless pitching machines like San Diego or LA.

As for Beltran, well, perhaps you're right. Perhaps he deserves only the average C and that enthusiasm for his catch and game-winning hit the other night still lingers too strong...

Itsmetsforme said...

fit birds! Brilliant!

i slightly disagree about stash though...his defense was markedly better than the other two, which was made apparent when easley started filling in for him.

also you put Alou in right field, which i have to imagine is not a typo--he has played right as much as left...not much at all!!

Jaap said...

cheers for the heads up on the typo, itsmetsforme (insert real name at your leisure as itsformemets is awkward way of addressing people.)

Was stash's defence better really? How can we measure it? The love of a gloved grounder tossed softly back to Carlos Delgado?

Itsmetsforme said...

well since my anonymity is now shot thanks to Metsblog, the name is Eric. Good to know you. I was searching for your email the other day to hatch one or another scheme, but couldn't find it. If you would be so kind to send it to me at itsmetsforme at gmail.com, we can continue to plot full spectrum world dominance.

Well maybe asserting Stash's defensive superiority to Easley is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic...

But I ask you good sir, how can you measure the appeal of a fit birds curves? How do you calculate the beauty of the sunrise? The pleasure of watching an Andruw Jones error?

You don't measure it. You just know.

Jaap said...

that email addy didn't seem to work, Eric. But you can reach me at jaapstijl@fastmail.fm

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