11 June 2007

Mets Preview

by Joshua Worley

The Mets win with good offense, defense, and pitching. They've scored the fourth most runs in the league and allowed the second fewest. The Mets are really good, but they're also 2-7 in their last three series, sending them to a record of 36-25. If the Dodgers were in the NL East, they'd only be 2 games back of the Mets.

The Dodgers and their fans shouldn't fear the Mets too much. The bullpen is good but can be scored on, as happened when the 'pen lost all three games against Philadelphia. The offense is good but there are a few holes in the lineup, and a good pitcher can hold them down. The playoff sweep last year means nothing now.

Shawn David Green -- RF

age: 34
bats: left

0.314 -- 0.373 -- 0.485

Green is scheduled to be activated from the DL for tonight's game. He was disabled for the first time in his career after suffering a broken right foot.

Aside from this injury, Green appears to be having a small resurgence. His batting average is higher than it's ever been, thanks in part to a career low strikeout rate. Still, with a line drive rate of 17%, he should be batting 0.290 or so, not 0.314. Green is a singles and doubles hitter now; he hasn't been a serious home run threat for a few years. His defense is by reputation really awful now. It seemed as if he was making a hideous error or misplay in every game of the NLCS against the Cardinals.

When I think of Green's tenure with the Dodgers, I think of all those weak ground balls to second base that he was hitting in his last few years with the team. It's a pity, because he was a great player for them in 2001 and 2002, and he wasn't that bad in 2003 and 2004. It was just so maddening to watch him bat in the later years, like watching a great hitter slowly turn into Juan Pierre. Green still has a very high ground ball rate, so I imagine he's still hitting his share of weak grounders to second base. I wish I remembered him more fondly, but I just don't for some reason. I think it's because when the Dodger so desperately needed his offense in 2003 he basically disappeared, by his standards.

Paul Anthony Lo Duca -- C

age: 35
bats: right

0.306 -- 0.357 -- 0.383

Paul Lo Duca, 0.300 hitter. That description seems to fitting, and yet in his six full big league seasons he's batted above 0.300 just twice, in 2001 and 2006. Lo Duca had a monster year in 2001, but he's never come close to that since. Lo Duca is famous for his September swoons, which have often taken his averages from above 0.300 to below by the end of the year. I think the reason Paulie seems like an eternal 0.300 hitter is that for the majority of days in his career, his season-to-date average has been above 0.300. We remember him hitting over 0.300 in July and June as much as we remember his final batting averages.

Lo Duca is another former Dodger I don't remember as fondly as I should. In this case I think it's mostly the lingering bitterness over the fall-out of the trade that shipped Lo Duca away from the team. I didn't have a problem with the trade, though at the time I did hate to lose Lo Duca. I just wish people hadn't been so angry about it, so irrational about it, so unwilling to see that there was a sound argument in favor of it even if they didn't agree with that argument. It became something that couldn't be discussed rationally.

The other problem is that a lot of Lo Duca's folk-hero luster has worn off since 2001. Stories about him being a jerk began to come out, and then there was his public split with his wife, all while Lo Duca never hit as well as he did in 2001. Just this offseason pitcher John Thompson said a reason he chose Toronto over the Mets in free agency was that he didn't want to pitch to Paul Lo Duca. Wow. That's bizarre, yes? Now, all these things are rather unfair to hold against Lo Duca. And I don't hold them against him ... it's just that when it came time to renew my fondness for Lo Duca, I let it lapse instead. If the marks against Lo Duca now are unfair or irrational, maybe it should be acknowledged that a lot of the reasons for his popularity were also unfair or irrational. Why was he so popular? Aside from his out-of-nowhere great 2001, I can't come up with anything.

All that said, if I was going to be at one of the games against the Mets this week, I'd cheer for him when he was introduced.

Lo Duca got two days off of catching by starting at DH in the Mets last series, so he may well start all three games against the Dodgers. LoDuca has hit poorly against the Dodgers in his career, with no home runs.

Jose Antonio Valentin -- 2B

age: 37
bats: switch

0.272 -- 0.341 -- 0.444

Call it Daryl Ward disease. When one looks at Valentin's career, one year stands out as particularly awful: his year with the Dodgers. Valentin was plagued by injuries that year, and played in only 56 games. I remember Griffster being so flummoxed by how Valentin was still able to draw walks at such a high rate when he demonstrably could not hit at all. Valentin's on base percentage of 0.326 in 2005 is actually above his career average. It was his tiny 0.170 batting average and mere 2 home runs that made it an awful year. I think I associate Valentin, more than any other player, with the debacle of 2005. But why him? Because he it was his only year with the team, he was so often hurt, the dominant theme that year, and he was just so awful.

Valentin has been hurt again this year. He was just activated from the DL last Friday after going on with a right knee injury in April. If human knees could fall off, I bet Valentin's right knee would have fallen off by now.

Valentin has done fairly well since 2005, though he has to be considered one of the weaker hitters on the Mets right now. I remain amazed that a team like the Mets can't come up with something better at second base than Jose Valentin, though he did have an OPS of 0.820 last year.

Jose Bernabe Reyes -- SS

age: 24
bats: switch

0.310 -- 0.396 -- 0.452

In 2005, Reyes was Juan Pierre at short with a small amount of pop. In 2006, Reyes was more like Omar Vizquel in his prime with great speed. In 2007, Reyes has truly come into his own as one of the great players in the NL.

Well, probably. After a scorching April, Reyes hasn't been quite as good in May and June. The power he flashed in 2006 seems to have mostly disappeared this year, so there really is no reason to walk him except wildness. Walks have become a big part of his game and I hope the Dodgers won't give him any this series.

David Allen Wright -- 3B

age: 24
bats: right

0.279 -- 0.374 -- 0.511

Wright has been the opposite of Reyes: middling April, scorching May and June. He's really good, one of the reasons the Dodgers may lose this series.

Carlos Ivan Beltran -- CF

age: 30
bats: switch

0.284 -- 0.371 -- 0.486

I'm so jealous of teams with center fielders who can hit.

Carlos Juan Delgado -- 1B

age: 34
bats: left

0.227 -- 0.299 -- 0.412

I'm so jealous of teams with first basemen who can ... hey, wait a minute!

What's up with Delgado? This season he's still a threat to hit a fair amount of home runs and doubles, but that batting average is so low. He's striking out 20% of the time, but he's always done that and still posted an average around 0.275. His line drive percentage is down to 17% this year, which may account for some of his struggles. Like Nomar, Delgado has the name but not the game so far this year. I'd give Delgado a better chance of bouncing back, though.

Ricardo Alberto Ledee -- LF

age: 33
bats: left

Another ex-Dodger. I'm rather neutral toward him, because how much emotion can one invest in a fifth outfielder anyway? Ledee actually had 237 at bats in 2005 for the Dodgers, which is way too many for a player of his mild skill. Another indication of the disaster that was 2005.

He was just called up to play left field part time because both Moises Alou and Endy Chavez are on the DL. He's only played in two games, which is why I haven't shown a batting line for him. He'll share time with Benjamin Joseph Johnson, a righty hitting 25 year-old with only 9 games played so far. The Mets just can't get all their outfielders healthy at once.

Orlando Hernandez Pedroso -- P

age: 41
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
1.94 -- 51.0 -- 35 -- 18 -- 5

Those don't look like the stats of a 1.94 ERA pitcher to me. His ERA the previous two years was above 4. His fielding independent pitching is above 4 this year. His batting average allowed on balls in play is 0.180, absurdly low. I think the Dodgers can hit him, though if they will is an open question.

El Duque was out for the first half of May with bursitis. In his last three starts since coming off the DL he's given up just 2 runs.

He goes up against Wolf tonight. Wolf is likely to strike out many more batters than El Duque does. I just hope that translates into Wolf allowing many fewer runs than El Duque. Since both El Duque and Wolf are historically fly ball pitchers, the game could turn on outfield defense, which would likely be bad news for the Dodgers.

John Kevin Maine -- P

age: 26
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
2.78 -- 74.1 -- 66 -- 34 -- 6

He'll give up a few walks. I predict the Dodgers will load the bases at least once against him. But what will they do once the sacks are packed? Upon that question may hang the balance of the game. Maine is another fly ball pitcher.

Maine goes up against Kuo. I think Kuo will do well again, and the game may be decided by the bullpens.

Jorge Bolivar Sosa -- P

age: 30
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
2.64 -- 44.1 -- 27 -- 15 -- 4

The Mets defense must be really good, because all these pitchers have too low batting averages on balls in play allowed. Sosa has pitcked up the two wins during the Mets current 2-7 stretch.

Penny is the Dodger starter in the Wednesday game against Sosa. I think if he can keep his home run voodoo going and keep the Mets sluggers in the park the Dodgers might be able to crack Sosa for a few runs and steal the likely rubber game of the series.

1 comment:

Griffster said...

You know, the Dodgers could be a good team. Not great, but good, with occasional flashes of greatness.

I just wish they'd go out and play like that. I'm sick and tired of the inferiority complex our lineup has. It is like they've gone and read all the season previews and sportswriters writing about them and the fact that the lineup doesn't have pop and will struggle, and took it all to heart.

I hope last night's little closed door meeting thing blows those cobwebs away so these guys can play better and be more fun to watch. That said, June is a simple brute of a month, like I speculated in my last post.

Being a baseball fan is not all series wins and sweeps, it is hard times too. Now that the hard times are here, I'll try to knuckle down and keep my expectations realistic and try not to knock the team too much.

But Pierre, oh dear, Pierre ...


I just can't do anything else. His numbers are so pathetic.