Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Review Time, Mets Style
By Ben Valentine

Well another Mets season has come and gone. It started out the worst way possible, with five straight losses. Then it rebounded with six straight wins. After that the Mets seemingly were at .500 the rest of the way. There were moments of playoff dreams; quite a few actually. There were also moments of extreme hate and loathing; such is the way of a .500 team. In the end the Mets finished 83-79, a marketed improvement from last season. There were things to be pleased about and frustrated by. Naturally I’m going to take you through them. And there’s only one place to start...

Wrighteous- Despite what most major news outlets and the Mets themselves may say, the Amazin’s MVP this season was none other than third baseman David Wright. I tend to think the desire to say Cliff Floyd was the Mets best player this season is an excuse to cover up the fact Willie Randolph refused to bat Wright higher than seventh for the first two thirds of the season. Pathetic. Still Wright took it as classy as could be and put up a spectacular year with splits .308/.390/.526/.916, while driving in 102 and scoring 99 times. The only 3rd basemen with a higher OPS this season were Morgan Ensberg, Aramis Ramirez and A-Rod. Considering age and ballpark, I think it’s safe to say Wright might be the second best third baseman in the game. Clearly he’s the bright point of this Met season and their MVP.

Don’t Walk, Run- Meanwhile, Jose Reyes had a breakthrough season of his own; he was healthy for all 162 games. It wasn’t as if Reyes eased up either, bringing home a share of the MLB stolen base crown with 60 swipes (84 percent success rate) and recording 17 triples. Yeah, he’s fast. Reyes also hit a respectable .273 while scoring 99 times. However, due to his shoddy plate discipline, his on base percentage hung around .300 all year. (.301 overall) With his defense and speed at short, Reyes can be a solid player even if he never improves from where he is now. But for him to be a truly impact player, he needs to get on base more. His walk rate did improve slightly the last month of the season and remember, he is still just 22. There’s reason to be optimistic here.

Youth Not Served- The biggest knock I can put on Willie Randolph this season was his outright refusal to play young players over struggling veterans. This is something that he brought over from the Yankees, where young players never get the time of day unless someone is hurt. The two biggest mistakes were with Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman. Had Heilman been closing for the Mets the second half of the year, then it isn’t impossible to think they might have had a chance at postseason play, considering how poor Braden Looper was. Mike Jacobs also should have seen more action over the garbage the Mets were throwing out at first base. Unfortunately, Willie has said repeatedly it takes young players time to earn his trust. That means the team has to suffer through the Loopers, Kaz Ishiis and Miguel Cairos of the world while potential talented players waste away on the bench or the minors.

Who’s on First? Or Second For that Matter?- For everything the Mets left side of the infield was this season, the right side was the complete opposite. Off season acquisition Doug Mientkiewicz failed to provide anything with the bat while struggling at times in the field. He also couldn’t stay on the field, forcing the Mets to send out a platoon of Chris Woodward and Marlon Anderson. Second base wasn’t much better as Kaz Matsui regressed in his second season. He was still light years more productive than Miguel Cairo however, who despite posting miserable splits of .251/.296/.324/.620, started every day from July through September. He must have been bringing that Yankee winning mentality with him cause he sure wasn’t bringing his bat. Matsui played well in September (.353/.382/.529) but once again got hurt. Anderson Hernandez had an excellent year in the minors but much like Danny Garcia was a few years ago, (all average, no power or onbase), he is most likely a stop gap at best.

How Did They Ever Hit Him?- That’s what I was left wondering many times this season as I watched Pedro Martinez make hitters look silly with an 85 mph fastball. I mean when he threw 95, how did anyone ever touch him? Well the new Mets ace enjoyed a great season anchoring what was a solid starting staff. He appeared to wear down some at the end of the year, which is a concern for future seasons. Still he posted a 15-8 record with 2.82 ERA and sick .95 WHIP. He also struck out 8.63 per nine and had a K/BB of 4.43. In other words, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Year One of the Pedro Martinez reign in NY was definitely a success.

You’re Not in Kansas City Anymore- If year one of Pedro was a success, then year one of Carlos Beltran was a colossal failure. I won’t rehash Beltran’s putrid season anymore; I’ve done it enough in this space lately. But with another six years on tap for him, the Mets better hope this was just him taking time to adjust to NY.

He Hit it to the Dark side of the Moon, But Don’t Call him Pink- Cliff Floyd enjoyed one of his best seasons in the majors this year, posting a new career high in home runs with 34. Not coincidentally, it was the second season in his career he stayed healthy. Floyd provided the Mets with their only left-handed threat and also gave the Mets solid defense in left field, staying in the league leaders in outfield assists all season. Ironically, I think this would be the perfect chance for the Mets to deal Floyd and get something good back. While a talented player, his health this season looks to be the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps Corey Patterson and Michael Barrett for Floyd? How about to the Chi Sox for Brandon McCarthy? Well I’ll do off-season speculation in another column.

On second thought, the idea of Reyes and Patterson at the top of that lineup makes me want to vomit. They might see a combined ten three ball counts all season. Forget I even suggested it.

He’s Better than Carlos- No doubt the Mets suffered a tough loss this season when Mike Cameron went out after that collision he had with Beltran. It would have been much better for the team had Beltran been the one out. Cameron was having a very good season when he went down (.273/.342.477/.819); though as a corner outfielder his offense isn’t as nice. If he were in center, his value would be much higher. With Victor Diaz’s promising offensive play (.256/.327/.458/.785), I tend to think Cameron will find himself a new team next year. However as I’ve said before, the Mets would be better off moving Beltran and putting Cameron back in center.

Managers Can be Rookies Too- That’s what Met fans have to hope for after watching Willie Randolph’s first year at the helm. A very likable guy and coming from “a proven winner”, the media in New York loves Randolph. The fans, however, are far less sold on him. A proponent of Bobby Valentine’s rehiring, Willie had to do a lot to impress me. And he failed for the most part. He showed too much patience with veterans while not giving young players a chance. His lineups were awful. However towards the end of the year, he did show more willingness to play the kids and change things up. Using Roberto Hernandez and Heilman for two inning saves late in the year was good, out of the box thinking more managers should use. If Willie manages more like he did late in September and less like he did early on the season, then I have faith he’ll be fine.

The Front End is Worse Than the Back- When talking about talking about the Mets bullpen of course. Seen to be a glaring weakness coming into the year, it proved to be less of that, with the emergence of Hernandez and Heilman. Unfortunately with Looper’s poor season, the Mets pen struggled at times to finish games. The key for any bullpen is the end of it; get a reliable guy to close out games and the rest will fall in place like clockwork. Too bad the A’s just locked up Mark Kotsay; I’d love to see if they’d have been interested in Cameron for Justin Duchscherer.

So Long Mike- This season, barring some colossal paradigm shift, spelled the end of Mike Piazza’s eight year stay in NY. It was clear throughout the season Piazza wasn’t the same player anymore. His bat was slower and his numbers suffered. Still, at time we were reminded of the Piazza of old. Who could forget the home run he hit off Blaine Boyer in the 8th inning against the Braves in July, back when the Mets were in the chase? It was like old times. Of course all good things must come to an end. As I’ve said in this space before, I will miss Piazza because he was the first truly great Met player I got to really witness and appreciate. But an ending can also be the start of a new beginning. Let’s just say it was the Wright time for the Mets and Piazza to move on.

All and all, the Mets finished right where I expected them to be; around .500. Their run differential suggests they were better than that, but it is little consolation at this point. The off season awaits. This team is still a few pieces away from truly being a contender. But with a bare bones free agent class, what can they do to get those pieces?

Of course up next, that’s what I’ll be looking into.


Blogger RotoAuthority said...

Just a thought on Reyes - I read a BP article describing the effect of being a very fast runner. I believe they said it essentially adds .20 to your OBP if you're very fast. I forget how they quantified that. So it's a point in Reyes's favor, anyway.

And yeah dude, you don't want Patterson. You just don't. Although that would make for incredible outfield D.

12:29 AM  

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