Wednesday, November 30, 2005

 

Mets moves

This one's for you, Freakin Rican

A blogging friend of mind occasionally prods me to blog more about baseball. She's not a baseball fan at all, but, she argues, "You say you're a met's fan right there at the top of your blog. Blog about baseball, why don't ya!"

I'm guessing that among my couple of dozen readers, there may be 1-2 Mets fans and no more than 3-5 baseball fans, so "blog about baseball" seems to be a prescription for non-connection.

Yet I'm intrigued to see that Freakin Rican, a blogger with whom I have a few blog buddies in common but no direct links before today, is apparently a Mets fan. His sidebar has a link to the Mets home page under "Teams I like."

So I will say that I'm excited about the Mets recent, splashy acquisitions of slugger Carlos Delgado and top-flight closer Billy Wagner, even if those two players are about to enter the twilights of their careers (ages 33 and 34, respectively). With multiyear contracts of well in excess of $10 million per year, it's easy to argue that the Mets have overpaid, both in dollars and in number of contract years. And yet the concept of overpaying is relative to the team's overall budget. The Mets seem to have more money to spend, and the apparent "win now" approach to free agent signings seems to be part of a larger marketing plan to give the Mets a bigger identity and help launch their cable network.

So I'm happy just to sit back and say if Delgado and Wagner each produce solid seasons in each of the next two years, then they'll help the Mets contend for the next two years and be worth it.

What bugs me, however, is the persistent rumor that the Mets next crush object is slugger Manny Ramirez, another 30-something whose best years are behind him. You hear lots of talk about how would be sluggers in the lineup -- especially Carlos Beltran who underperformed in his first season with the Mets last year -- will do better "with good hitters behind them."

The "hitters behind them" theory holds as follows: With the fearsome hitter on deck, the batter is likely to see more hittable fastballs, the pitcher shying away from breaking balls and spotting pitches in hard-to-hit edges of the strike zone for fear of walking a batter to set up RBI opportunities for the on-deck man.

The problem is that slugging RBI guys also need good hitters in front of them. There need to be runners on base for the sluggers to have RBI opportunities. History has proven time and again that this means having 1-2 hitters with high on-base percentage. But the Mets, with Jose Reyes and his pathetic .300 OBP batting number 1 and a revolving door of low OBP hitters at number 2, posted one of the lowest 1st inning on base percentages in baseball last year. And they seem to be doing nothing to change that.

What they need is a second baseman and/or outfielder who hits for high average and walks a lot, at least one player with an OBP of .375 or higher. If they can't get two guys like that, then get one, and bat him leadoff with David Wright (.388 OBP in 2005) batting second, followed by Beltran, Delgado and Floyd.

Note that if the Mets 1 and 2 hitters in 2006 get on base 20% fewer times than the Red Sox 1-2 hitters did last year, then Manny Ramirez would experience something like a 20% drop in RBIs from that fact alone, independent of his own hitting performance. Not to mention fewer at bats because more outs made in front of him.

So if Ramirez joins the Mets as their cleanup hitter next year, look for him to come up to bat a lot in the 1st inning with two outs and David Wright on first.

UPDATE: I guess the game has changed on me. A quick check of MLB stats from last year shows that there are fewer than a dozen players in all of baseball who fit my profile for a 1-2 hitter -- OBP over .375 who don't hit for power. Virtually all of the high OBP guys are power hitters who get walks because they're being pitched around. Maybe the Mets should add a power hitter after all and try to turn David Wright into a leadoff hitter.

Comments:
I agree with you on Manny Ramirez. I don't think he's a good clubhouse guy and I'm not sure he's what the Mets need. They have enough pop with Beltran, Floyd and now Delgado. I was hoping for Furcal to play second base but that won't happen. Give Reyes some time and he'll develop into a quality leadoff hitter and draw a few more walks. He'll probably never be a .390 OBP guy, but .350 is manageable.

I also like the Delgado move, I'm not sold on Wagner but they needed an upgrade over the horrid situation last year with Looper. Lastly, I'm not sure I would consider Beltran's season as underperforming. He was given a HUGE contract but other than last year's postseason, he never put up HUGE numbers. Combine that with playing in a pitcher's ballpark and naturally his numbers decrease. Who knows, perhaps the moves made this year will catapult them into playoff contention, if not then as Cub fans always say, "there's always next year."
 
Finally! I'm loving this dialog about my beloved Mets. Keep it up.
 
BO-ring. Go back to pictures of squirrels.
 
I'm no baseball fan, but I liked this post. You gave great explanations of strategy so that a non-baseball fan such as myself could understand. Plus I like reading about something that someone's passionate about.
 
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