LADIES & GENTLEMEN, YOUR 2007 N.Y. METS (PART I)
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.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.
But right now, I need to put my head through the wall, which'll make it difficult to type.
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.