Friday, August 12, 2005

Not The End Of The World
By Ben Valentine

First let me say the Mike Cameron/Carlos Beltran collision was perhaps the worst one I’ve seen… well ever. I wish the both of them, as if they read this, a steady recovery. I hope to see them both back on the field soon, though in all honesty that’s probably going to be next season for Cameron.

Now to the unfortunate reality of the aftermath. Baseball goes on and the Mets have to as well. The immediate impact is that Victor Diaz will get another extended period as the Mets starting right fielder. This period will likely be for the remainder of the season, barring any trade the Mets might pull off between now and August 31st (the waiver deadline).

Most people are pronouncing the Mets season dead because of this injury, arguing the Mets can’t replace two bats in their lineup. Ironically, I’m going to disagree with that. Not because I believe the Mets will make the postseason; I didn’t think they would anyway, but because the difference between the outfielders and their replacements are not enough to decide a season.

Diaz this season has posted numbers of .241/369/.436 this season with the Mets along with a very solid .300/.353/.541 at AAA Norfolk (after a poor start). Those numbers are very respectable for a young player, though coming in only 124 ABs. Diaz has never been known as the most patient hitter, but he certainly has shown improvement this year. I would expect the average to go up into the .260-.270 range and the OBP to drop into the .320 range. It’s a nasty drop off, 40 points in OBP, but I think a conservative estimate is fair when judging a player who has little big league experience.

So Diaz will give you a little less than Cameron would have offensively. He will give you a lot less defensively of course, which hurts. But I think you would have a hard time arguing Diaz is going to kill the Mets if he posts based on the numbers there.

Now that brings us to Beltran. Nobody knows how long he’ll be out, but one figures that we should know if he’s placed on the DL within the next couple of days. If he isn’t then we can assume he’ll be back in the middle of next week. If he does go on, then your guess is as good as mine. But here’s the ironic part, Beltran should not be too difficult to replace in the lineup.

I’ve brought up Beltran’s numbers plenty of times in the last few days, but here’s the most recent set: .268/.325/.434. People have speculated Gerald Williams will get a lot of time in center (he’s starting tonight against the Dodgers), but while he might be the best defensive option, he can’t hit a lick. My guess is that Chris Woodward gets the majority of playing time as long as he doesn’t embarrass himself out there. In a bench role this year, Woodward’s batted .287/.338/.413. The other option is Marlon Anderson, though I cringe at the thought of his defense. His offensive numbers are .276/.324/.371. Not as pretty slugging wise, but he’s had more AB than Woodward and I put them equal in terms of offensive ability.

My point to all of this? Beltran wasn’t producing very well anyway. There’s no reason to think that Woodward/Anderson can’t hit around what Beltran was doing, give or take a ten or so points here and there. It does of course hurt the defense, but again Beltran’s defense wasn’t sparkling either. And that’s assuming the worst case scenario, that Beltran misses lots of time. There’s a good chance that since he’s not on the DL now, he won’t miss much more than a week.

Are the Mets worse today than they were at the start of the game Thursday? Yeah they are. But are they so much worse that it would mean the difference between a spot in the playoffs and a tee time on the links? Probably not. Remember David Wright, Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes were all more important to the Mets’ offense than Cameron and Beltran. And while Cameron will be missed, it can all be offset by a Beltran resurgence when he gets back on the field. The truth is if he comes back and hits like he should have been all season, the Mets will have as chance.

But as I’ve said before, I just don’t think that’s going to happen this season.


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