Tuesday, March 27, 2007

LADIES & GENTLEMEN, YOUR 2007 N.Y. METS (PART I)

So here we are. After a long off-season filled with stories of Peyton Manning & the tree-dwelling primates that hung out on his back, the parade of liars who hang out at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and the former dictator who hung out was hanged in Iraq, we arrive at that most glorious moment in the 365 day event we call a year: The Countdown To Opening Day.

Awwwwwwww, yeah. In five nights, the Mets open the season. Reyes & Wright & Beltran, and all the rest.

(And Joe Morgan announcing, and Albert Poo-holes & friends hoisting banners & jack-ass Cardinal fans celebrating. Fuck! But, let's keep it positive . . . hope springs eternal & all that jazz.)

Spring. New season. Let's put it in context: Here's the entirety of my last baseball-related post, shortly after midnight on October 20, 2007:
Damn, that sucks. Yadier Fuckin Molina. Not much more for me to say right about now. I'll write about the series and the amazing season the Mets put together in a few days.

But right now, I need to put my head through the wall, which'll make it difficult to type.
And there I left it. I couldn't really stomach the promised review of the amazing season, and I typed not a word. And as the off-season grew colder, I had no interest in yapping about hot stoves, or about Zito (Baked Zito if one puts him in the Hot Stove?), or about those ridiculous pics of Reyes & Wright in GQ where it looked as if they were the two finalists for the "Baseball Player" role in a Village People revival act.

Nope. That's why it's called the off-season. I was off. But now we're on the verge of the on-season, bitchez. Shea rocking, Keith styling & level-swinging & tumbling, Jose dancing, Wright banging every chick in NYC, LoDuca cruising the Catholic schools. It's all good. So let's get to it. Today, the hitters.

First Base: Delgado's solid, even if he's getting a little old. He'll show up every day, pay attention in the field, approach his at-bats intelligently, jot down notes afterwards, you know the drill. When he's hot the ball's going all over the park with authority; when he's cold he'll strike out 5 times every 4 at-bats, try to pull everything, and do his jotting more immediately after the at-bat than otherwise. Good season: 4 hot months, two cold. Bad season: 2 cold, four hot. Average season, well you get the gist. We know what we're getting from him, and whether he hits .240 with 26 homers or .289 with 37, he won't make or break the season.

My prediction: .266, 29 HR, 64 BB. Let's say 266/345/490. Not great, but fine.

Second Base: 'Stache can't have the offensive year he had last year. It ain't happening. Let's all let out a nice sigh, repeat the following mantra a few times, and prepare for the season: His name is not Ponce de Valentin, he will not sip from the Fountain of Youth this year, I will not expect anything from him when he comes up with two men on and two outs, the magic in the moustache is gone, Willie is fickle and his love has moved on, he didn't hit his weight two years ago and he doesn't weigh very much . . .

There, that wasn't too hard, was it? In fact, it's likely that Willie'll pencil-in Easley quite often, or flat-out platoon him, creating a two-headed, 136 year-old second baseman. When this second baseman turns two with Jose-Jose-Jose, the ball will have to pass through a time machine. But that gets us to the real importance here: last year, despite all the flashy stuff like grand slams, two-homers in division-clinchers, and the cheesiest facial hair since John Holmes shot his big wad, Valentin played stellar defense. Great range, great hands, and some nifty pivots on the DP. That's what we need. Let him hit .235 with a couple homers here & there. Draw a few walks, steal a base or two. What I want is the leather.

And something tells me that a man with that 'Stache knows a thing or two about leather. My prediction: 365 ABs, .241, 14 HR, 42 BB. Sounds about 241/320/425. And I assume Easley gets about 200 ABs, with maybe 240/315/415. Just field well, guys. Just field well.

Third Base: Now this may come as something of a surprise to all who remember that I spent the entire 2nd half of '06 whining about Young Mr. Wright's power outage, but I'm neither worried about him, nor do I think he's one of the Three Offensive Keys™ for 2007.

Why? Because even if he's off, he'll still be good. If somehow, deep in the recesses of his cliche-quoting brain, The Prince of New York realizes that he's lost his power stroke, then he'll adjust. And if -- more likely -- he realizes that he lost his power stroke temporarily last year, then I bet he's spent the offseason figuring out why. And bulking up. And laying (off?) the chicks. And eating his Wheaties. Practicing the correct, cliche-riddled explanation for why he'll skip the Home Run Derby this season:
It's an honor to be selected by my peers to represent the National League in the Home Run Derby. But Mr. Wilpon, Willie, Omar, and all my teammates expect me to represent the NY Mets in August & September. So, for the good of my team, and in an effort to take it one day at a time, to stay within myself, and to spray my seed upon 34% of the young ladies in the greater NY Metropolitan area, I must decline the opportunity to enter the Home Run Derby.
We'll be fine. That said, I'd like to see him be a little more selective this season, draw a few more walks, and stop swinging at the first pitch, trying to loft it over the right field wall. 1 HR and 19 F9's for every twenty first pitch swings isn't the ratio I'm looking for.

My prediction: .311, 31 HR, 83 BB. Sounds like about 311/400/550. Nice.

Shortstop: Ahhhh, now here's the first of the three offensive keys. There is literally is NO LIMIT to what Reyes can accomplish. If he masters English, graduates from the Columbia School of International Affairs and becomes the Dominican Republic's ambassador to the U.S., I won't be surprised. Unless he only steals 34 bases that season. Then I'd be shocked.

If he stays healthy, I just don't know where it stops going up. His improvement last year was so dramatic, so extreme, that I can't even think what he can do for an encore. He doubled his walks while raising his BA significantly. He maintained gaudy triple and SB numbers while nearly tripling the homers and increasing the doubles too.

So why is he a key? Because he can single-handedly put a number of wins on the board all by himself. His upside is that good. But . . . even if he's merely good this year, or only ok, then even though he'll have put up good numbers, the gap between the potential and the actual could be significant.

(Huh? let's all say it together: "What the fuck does that mean, Mike?")

Translated into English: the "distance" from expected-to-possible is much greater for Reyes than it is for Wright or Delgado. Reyes could hit 275/325/425 this year. That's really good for a 23 year-old, excellent fielding shortstop with 50-70 SB speed.

But, would you be surprised if he did 335/380/550? Me either. Not likely, but possible. He's got a lot of pop in his bat and he looks bigger than last year. He could hit 27 or so HRs. A lot of extra runs, and extra wins in that scenario. And the truth will lie somewhere in between.

My prediction: .315, 23 HR, 59 BB, 63 SB, or about 315/375/515.

Catcher: Concerned a little, but not too much. LoDuca's probably not hitting close to last season's .320. (And probably not hitting as many teenage cheerleaders either.) He's getting older. But he'll probably hit .280 or so. And since he gets only about 500 plate appearences, and his power and walks are minimal, it's not like his offense drives the engine.

Just move him out of the two hole. As long as he can squat behind the dish and call a good game, we should be ok. And if I see Mota call him off, I'd better also be seeing LoDuca walk out to the mound to beat his face in.

(Freakin' Spiezio. Goddamn red landing strip on his chin motherfucker. Huh? Nah, I'm not bitter. Just . . . thinking things over.)

Right Field: Milledge, Green, Chavez, Johnson, Newhan, Swaboda, Hickman, who knows who's getting the at-bats here. I want Milledge and Chavez to get the lion's share, but last I checked, I'm not managing the squad. The Elders of Zion seem to be in charge, otherwise I have no idea who else wants Shawn Green playing. He's more than welcome at my Seder, just keep him the hell out of the line-up. But we're obviously gonna see him for a spell. This Johnson guy? I think he's just Xavier Nady back under an alias, which should mean a vicious fastball swing at every pitch. Chavez could hit .233 (which is about what I expect from him this season) and I'd still want him out there for his glove.

And Milledge needs to get the ABs, so why not now? Anyhow, between all these fellas and whoever else comes into Flushing this year, I figure something in the 250/310/425 range. No make-or-break here either way. Not like they got much out of right field last season anyhow.

Left Field: Offensive Key #2. If Alou, who's older than Julio Franco, El Duque and Tom Glavine combined, can stay healthy, keep the urine on his hands, stay away from Steve Bartman, and get somewhere in the 400-500 AB range, this'll be a huge improvement over last season when Cliff Floyd managed to play in about 6 games, somehow recording 450 outs in the process, while batting .074.

If Alou can't stay in the line-up, that may mean Green has to play, because 'Stings'll be taking the field in left. Alou. Must. Stay. Healthy. A lot of wins swing in the balance in my not-so-humble opinion.

My prediction: 110 games, 400 ABs, .284, 17 HRs, 43 BB. That should get him into the 284/355/475 range. Not great, but a big improvement over '06.

Center Field: Offensive Key #3. Beltran was the Mets best hitter last year. Beltran was the Mets best fielder last year. Beltran was the Mets best player last year, and with the arguable exception of Albert Pujols, he was the best player in the majors last year. That said, two things worry me: he missed 22 games due to a series of nagging leg injuries following a season where he probably should've missed about 122 games due to various nagging leg injuries. And last season saw him put up the best numbers of his career.

Simply put, it'll be hard for him to repeat last year's success and play 150+ games. But . . . the Mets need him to put up big numbers again. That's why he's a Key. Because he's capable of doing so, even if he's somewhat unlikely to. I just think he'll be somewhere between 2005 and 2006 level. But if the Mets hope to win 95+ again, they'll need the 2006 Beltran.

I just don't think we'll see him again (and maybe Beltran, Version 3.0 swings at two-strike curveballs). My prediction: 146 games, .268, 36 HR, 107 BB, for~ 268/395/545. Very good numbers, but a large drop-off in slugging.

As to Ramon Castro, Anderson Hernandez, the Ghost of Chris Woodward, Keith Hernandez, even some non-hitting Japanese "star," I'm not that concerned about the Met bench. They have 5 outfielders that'll get real playing time, and if any of the big three infielders go down, it doesn't matter who replaces them in the line-up. Seriously, if (god forbid) Reyes goes down, are you that concerned whether Hernandez hits .215 or .240?

Ugh, I just got sick. Let's not even talk about it. Shit, let's not even think about it.

(Hey! Yeah you . . . stop thinking about it.)

All-in-all, this should be a good offense. Not as good as last year, a season in which the Mets scored more runs than their composite numbers would've suggested (3rd in Runs while only 8th in OBP, for instance). I figure they'll end up around 5th or 6th in the NL in runs scored, which is normally quite good for a team in a ballpark like Shea. It all hinges on the pitching.

Back tomorrow with that half of the ledger & my season predictions.

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22 Comments:

Anonymous Danny said...

Mike, great to have you back blogging about our beloved Metropolitan Baseball Club! I think many of your projections are spot on. But I strongly disagree with your Delgado projection. That would be by far the worst season of his career if he put up those numbers. He will do much better than that I think. Not to mention shea most strongly affects righthanded power hitters, and doesn't really suppress lefthanded power. And Delgado played hurt last year. He should be fresh and ready to go for this season.

Reyes and RF are the biggest wildcards to me. Like you say, it would be no shame for a slight regression, or a flatline, to Reyes' numbers. But he could also very easily make another tremendous leap. I think your projection for him suggests a little more progression and I agree that is most likely.

It's a long season and rightfield will play itself out. Green will get his chance, and I am not the most optimistic about him performing well enough to hold onto the job. He could certainly play very well, but I don't see it as likely. Milledge is ready and will beast once he is given the opportunity.

Endy is perfect as a 4th OF and shouldn't be played everyday, where his weaknesses get exposed a little more. He will get extended time this year when Alou inevitably takes a month off. And regardless of how he performs, we will alway have love for him. A true fan favorite.

I agree about Wright. He is fine and he will have a very good year.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Danny -

Great to see you again too.

I strongly disagree with your Delgado projection. That would be by far the worst season of his career if he put up those numbers.

Actually, those numbers almost match up with his '96 numbers in Toronto. And since the AL in '96 and the NL in '07 (at Shea) are different beasts, this year would actually be much better.

But I get your point, I may have undershot a bit. I just think, however, that Carlos' 525+ slugging days are nearing an end. I hope I'm wrong, but again he's not my concern.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Mike, Delgado's 1996 season was also the first full season of his career, so some of that production is based on him just being young and still learning how to hit at the major league level. Keith still says stuff about Delgado this spring like "what a great hitter" with pride and respect, so I still have high hopes!

10:20 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I hope keith knows of what he speaks: 35 years-old was the age when he completely went off the cliff.

A level swing means something only if the bat travels faster than 43 MPH!

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Mike, I don't think Delgado did nearly as much, um, partying (to put it lightly) as our beloved Keith. He's probably better aligned for a longer career!

10:35 AM  
Blogger sheadenizen said...

Hi Mike,
In general, I think you're right. I do worry about Alou....along with his health, I worry about his defense. Carlos Beltran will be hospitalized by June with exhaustion from covering the entire outfield singlehandedly!
I agree with Danny that you're underestimating the new pappa (mazel tov Mr. and Mrs. Delgado. maybe he's waiting to return until after the bris....)
I do worry about Mr. Wright. Time to curtail all those off field activities and start concentrating on baseball. His defense this spring has frightenend me a bit.
The Mets defense in general has looked a bit shoddy this spring, but as they say...Hope springs eternal...so Let's Go mets!

10:55 AM  
Blogger Shane Rollins said...

Only thought is Delgado avg somewhere around .282 or so.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"or about those ridiculous pics of Reyes & Wright in GQ where it looked as if they were the two finalists for the "Baseball Player" role in a Village People revival act."

lol.

I agree with the others -- you're hating on Carlos D way too much.

My prediction: the Mets win 88 games this year.

Does that get them into the playoffs? I don't know because I haven't looked at the other teams. Based on last year, it should, but things change from year to year.

Appplesaucer

11:15 AM  
Blogger maurinsky said...

My mom shifted her allegiance to the Mets many years after her beloved Dodgers left Brooklyn. (She gave up baseball during the interim years - the Dodgers broke her baseball loving heart and it took a while to heal).

11:31 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Danny, Apple, Shane & Shea -

Ok, Delgado will slug .517 and sport a .361 OBP. Now everyone move on to another topic.

Shea -

I do worry about Mr. Wright. Time to curtail all those off field activities and start concentrating on baseball. His defense this spring has frightenend me a bit.

Your assignment is to sit him down and tell him so. And watch out when he does that little, tilt-the-head-and-smile thing, ok? It's engineered to weaken the defenses of members of the fair sex like yourself.

Remember, beneath the boyish charm he's cold-blooded & calculating.

Apple -

88 huh? Are "Price Is Right" rules in effect? That's pretty close to where I was going, but I'm not sure of the exact number til I look at the pitchers.

Maurinsky -

So does this make you an honorary Met fan this season? We have you on-board?

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"Are "Price Is Right" rules in effect?"

No! And just remember: last year I was gonna go with 94 but I didn't want to cheese you on your 93, so I picked 93 instead.

I think that forecasting etiquette requires a 2-3 game spread, or no spread at all (depending on when you pick -- if you're picking 3rd out of three people, putting someone else into the middle spot with anything less than a 3-game spread between yourself and them is PURE CHEESE; if you're putting youself into the middle or picking second out of three, maybe you've got more leeway to come in closer to the other pickers).

12:20 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

"Pure cheese," huh?

So if you go with 88 and X went with 93, your 2-3 game spread doesn't leave me too much room, does it?

To paraphrase Aretha, who's cheesing who?

12:24 PM  
Anonymous applesaucer said...

"So if you go with 88 and X went with 93, your 2-3 game spread doesn't leave me too much room, does it?"

If you go with 90 or 91, that's perfectly respectable, since you've placed yourself between me and "X."

However, I think you would agree that it would be Rancid Cheese for you to go outside one of us with an 87 or a 94. It would be sorta like Velveeta Cheese to go outside one of us with an 86 or a 95 or to pick inside of us with an 89 or 92.

Highly respectable picks would be: 85-and-below, 88, 90-91, 93, and 96-and-above.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I feel like I'm in the presence of a douchebag filled with Velveeta.

12:58 PM  
Blogger George said...

Hard to jump into a comment thread when someone's already waved about a Velveeta-filled douchebag, but....

Mike, I'm worried about Delgado, too, as aging, slugging firstbasemen tend to find cliffs to fall off. Here's hoing his postseason carries through 2007.

It seems to me that the keys to this season are Milledge playing much more than Green, Alou staying healthy, and the Mets taking the secondbase time machine to go back to this winter and sign Marcus Giles to platoon with Jose Jose Jose Jose. Hey, I can dream.

I'll wait to talk pitching till you do. Hate to slime any of your predictions with fromage.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Here's your pitching. Five innings of Glavine, the bullpen closes out the game. Then rain for 4 days. Then 5 innings of Glavine and the bullpen closing the game, followed by 4 days of rain. And repeat.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

George -

Here's hoing his postseason carries through 2007.

True. He was a machine last October. Just awesome.

Marcus Giles

Now that'd be a serious move. I like it.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Here's your pitching. Five innings of Glavine, the bullpen closes out the game. Then rain for 4 days. Then 5 innings of Glavine and the bullpen closing the game, followed by 4 days of rain. And repeat.

Hey, John! Pitching's tomorrow. Speaking of rain, don't drop any on us; we're parading the sluggers, you hear?

1:24 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Well, your sluggers better do a lot of parading. Know what I'm saying?

1:40 PM  
Blogger Coop said...

Mike, I agree with most of what you are saying. I highly doubt Jose The Mack Daddy Valentin will provide the fluky offensive numbers he had last year (on a side note I was just watching highlights from the 07 regular season and I just had to laugh at every single at-bat he had, like the granny against the Marlins and bases clearing triple the next inning....yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhh!). I'm gonna have to go ahead and sort-of disagree with you there on Sugar Pants David Wright though. I do think he's one of the "Three Offensive Keys" (now that sounds vaguely familiar) and that if he tapers off, it could damage the momentum of the club. Judging by our pitching being iffy (except for Oh Pea of course, hee hee) and BP not being as strong as last year, the offense is going to have step up in a big way -- and I think we can depend on Big Carlos, Little Carlos and Jo-Z in a big way. They'll perform up to or exceeding expectation. DW on the other hand...I still think he believes his own hype.

Anyway well done my amigo.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Oh, they will, John. They will.

Coop -

Interesting thoughts on Young Mr. Wright. I hope I'm right.

And as to the "Three Keys," I wasn't sure what you meant, but I went back & checked. Indeed, I seem to have cribbed you -- though I swear it's unintentional. Sorry nevertheless.

At any rate, I added the "Offensive" to my keys, and amazingly, our three keys are completely different.

Let's say we're in a different key.

(Groaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnn.)

7:38 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I can't say that I disagree with you on the keys.
I do think Delgado will do better than you expect. If he matches last year, good. But with him being a little healthier, he could do even better.
DW will be fine. Stop swinging for the fences, doubles are all good.
Beltran is comfortable here now. He will outdo last year, at least in AVG and steals.
Alou > Floyd.
It's gonna be a wild ride, but a good one in the end.

9:43 AM  

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