Amazine’s “Take it to the Bank” Scouting Report on the 2009 Mets
Identifying Where the Question Marks Are On the Team
Copyright 2© © 9 by Evan Pritchard
During Spring Training, the owners, managers and coaches work hard to try to identify the real question marks on the team. Will the team make the playoffs? Who will be in the starting lineup on opening day? Who’s ready to make the team roster? Who’s healthy and who’s not? What kind of year will each player have? This column will answer these questions with such certainty that you will be able to take it to the bank, but you better run, so you get there before the doors close and the “OUT OF BUSINESS” sign goes up.
Speaking of banks (no, not you Ernie!) for the Mets, this whole season is a big question mark. What will happen to Citifield now? Will their bailout put Citifield in jeopardy? Should we change the name to “Pity-Filled?” so that impoverished fans and the U.S. government will be sympathetic with the plight of poor little Citibank, ignoring some of their unsavory past? It is, as they say, a “question mark.” Citibank stock recently went from under a dollar to $1.45. This surge was not based on savings the Mets experienced by dumping Duaner Sanchez on March 10th.
Jerry Manuel: The first big question mark is the manager, Jerry Manuel. They say the owners will finally put him in charge, with real managing authority. What was he doing last year? Passing notes from the Wilpons to the players? If he is good enough to be a real manager this year, what would have happened last year if he had been the real manager then? If he wasn’t good enough those years, why is he good enough now? Now they are saying he’ll win 96 games this year because he had his hands tied last year. (He went 55 and 38 last year a .591 win percentage, which if extended over 162 games equals 96 wins) On the other hand, critics are saying he might be terrible without guidance from on high and win only 70 games. After all, he hasn’t been the official “boss” of a team in many years. Who knows?
Prediction: Jerry Manuel as a “real manager” will bring the team between 70 and 96 victories!
Marlon Anderson: Another question mark is left fielder/pinch hitter Marlon Anderson. In 2007, he hit .319 for the Mets with 25 RBI’s in only 43 games. In 2008 he batted .210 in 87 games with only 10 RBI’s. In other words, last year he hit less than half the RBI’s in twice the games and cut down those unsightly batting average points by 119. In fact, as a pinch-hitter during September’s last ten games, he batted all of .111 without batting in a run. If he continues where he left off, it’s going to be a long season. Let’s hope for 2007.
Prediction: Marlon Anderson will hit between .111 and .319 and bat in between zero and 25 runs.
Fernando Tatis: Left fielder and all-position player Fernando had a terrific year last year, batting .297 with 11 homers, 16 doubles and 47 RBI’s. During September last year he hit .333 only to be stranded on base more often than not. Last year he batted .350 at Shea Stadium–the problem is, there is no more Shea Stadium. It’s just a pile of rubble. This year, they plan to play him at every position. He may even have to pitch middle relief if Pelfrey can’t get through the sixth. If Manuel doesn’t work out in his new role as manager as opposed to last year’s role as manager, Tatis will come in to manage as well. Unlike the other Mets, he is a Dominican in his mid-thirties.
Prediction: The entire team will go into a slump in September and Tatis will play all nine positions simultaneously, like Bugs Bunny before him, and clinch the pennant with a no-hitter on October 4th versus the Astros at Citifield, on the 400th anniversary (plus a day) of Henry Hudson’s famed farewell to Manhattan in which he shut down the entire Delaware Nine singlehandedly.
Ryan Church: Ryan “The Deacon” Church, the right fielder competing with Dangerous Dan Murphy for press coverage, is the Question Mark Kid. He batted .276 last season, in spite of a problem with left-hand pitchers and a recurring concussion (“is that one fly ball coming towards me or two?) with 12 homers and 49 RBI’s. He made a premature comeback and struggled with midgame cognition issues. After September 18th he batted only .176 with 2 RBI’s, no homers and 13 strikeouts. If he picks up where he left off, he’ll be lucky to get 25 RBI’s and 6 homers. However, assuming he is healthy once again, he has the potential to match his 2007 numbers; a .272 average, with 15 homers, 70 RBI’s and 43 doubles, which is why Manuel is threatening him with Hellfire and Brimstone. Modern medical science is baffled by the behavior of his EKGs, but the Mets’ season dangles by its little zigzags anyway. We hope that all good Mets fans go to church in 2009, but that no devilish fly balls do.
Prediction: Ryan Church will hit between .176 and .276, with between 6 and 15 homers, and bat in between 25 and 70 runs.
Dan Murphy: The third player promised a starting position in left field is Dan Murphy. With all the hype you’d think Dan is the reincarnation of Don Mattingly. However, Mattingly was recently seen on Yankee TV looking fairly alive, so that’s out. Dan, 24 year old wunderkind left fielder, has only had 131 at-bats, but has 3 triples and 17 RBI’s, with 2 dingers. Manuel likes his swing, but in the September slide he batted only .152, bringing his season and career average down from .374 to a miserable .313. He got his first at-bat on August 2nd of last year, but already the Mets are giving him the keys to the Metmobile and plan to blame him if they don’t win the World Series.
Prediction: His batting average will definitely be between .152 and .374…for sure!
Nick Evans: The fourth player promised a starting position in left field is a bit of a question mark, Nick Evans. He was a Mets rookie last year, starting his first game on May 24th. He batted .257 on the year, and smacked 10 doubles, but is a big striker-outer, 24 strikeouts to 28 hits. He hit .302 during day games and only .227 at night; he hit .319 against southpaws, but only .135 against righties. During the September slide of ’08 he hit only .214, but was strong in May.
Prediction: If Evans plays only in day games against lefties in May through July, he should hit .305, but otherwise he’ll hit .200.
Carlos Beltran: Carlos is over the first-year New York jinx and is in his peak years as a Met. He just needs more post-season experience, just as we need more post-season experience as fans. The big question mark is, will he wear his goatee this year or not? Last year (2008) he achieved his highest batting average as a Met (.284) the most doubles as a Met (40) the most triples as a Met (5) the most hits as a Met (172) the most stolen bases as a Met (25) the second most RBI’s as a Met (112) the most total bases as a Met (303) and the least strike outs as a Met (96). He also had his second highest number of walks (92) in a Met uniform. He was too busy to hit a lot of silly homers (27). He batted .308 during the last ten games of the September slide, so don’t look to him to kill our chances this year either. Unlike the other Mets, he is a Dominican (not born there tho) in his mid-thirties.
Prediction: Beltran will continue to phase out homers and inch upwards in all other categories, hitting only 25 dingers but breaking .290, with 44 doubles, 7 triples, and 29 stolen bases. No one will think he’s on steroids.
Other question marks for center field: There’s no question about it, whoever plays behind the “Marquis” of Center Fielders, Carlos Beltran isn’t going to get a lot of playing time, but three guys are trying out for the job. Cory Sullivan , Jeremy Reed , and Angel Pagan. Cory Sullivan, a veteran of the Rockies organization is not a power hitter so he can’t phase out homers. Even with Coors Field as his home base he hit only 8 homers lifetime. The big question mark is, will he hit like he did in 2006, (.267) 2007 (.286)or 2008 (.217)? He’s hardly played much the last two seasons. Jeremy Reed from the Mariners had a good 2005, but has been struggling since. In 2005 he had 33 doubles and 45 RBI’s, batting .254. In 2006 he had 6 homers, but dropped to .217. In 2007 he batted only .176 in 17 at bats. In 2008 he batted .269, but only .115 versus lefties. Not surprisingly, he lost his job to Ken Griffey, Jr. who seemed like a better choice this year for Seattle. That leaves Angel Pagan from the Cubs, who batted .247 in ’06, .264 in ’07 and .275 in ’08, improving every year. Following that trend, he should hit .281 this year, or better. He also steals 4 bases every year.
Predictions: I predict that Angel Pagan will get the nod. He will bat between .247 and .281 and steal 4 bases.
Carlos Delgado: The big question is, will Delgado play this season like he did the first 2 ½ months of 08 or as he played the last 3 months of 08? If he plays like he did the first half of last year, he’ll have 5 homers and 30 RBIs and a batting average of about .200. If he plays like he did during those first 67 games under Manuel, he’ll lead the league in homers with 58 (based on 24 in 67 games) and knock in 165 RBIs,(based on 69 in 67 games) and sport a .285 batting average, while making brilliant saves every inning at first.
Prediction: Carlos Delgado will hit between 5 and 58 homers, knock in between 30 and 165 RBIs and bat between .200 and .285.
Luis Castillo: Another question mark is the one at second base; why did the Mets pay this guy so much money? During last September’s slide, he hit only .167 with one RBI over ten games to bring his season batting average down to .245. On the other hand, in 50 games with the Mets in 2007, he hit .296 with 10 stolen bases and 8 doubles. In fact he has a lifetime .292 average with 342 stolen bases, (Reyes has 290 lifetime) (Castillo swiped 25 bases and knocked in 49 runs in 2006, and batted.304 in 2007) Unlike the other Mets, he is a Dominican in his mid-thirties. If he bats like ’07, good, if he bats like ’08, bad.
Prediction: Castillo will steal between 10 and 25 bases, bat between .167 and .304, and knock in between 16 and 49 RBI’s.
Jose Reyes: The question mark is, can he hit more homers than Handley Ramirez? The answer is no, the Mets are steering away from home runs this year. That’s why the new ball park has long fences with no “sweet spots.” They’re turning into a pitcher’s team. Now all they need are some more pitchers. However, a few surprise home runs while batting third in visiting ballparks will be fun.
Prediction: Jose will finally hit 20 homers this year, but mostly on the road, and will appear at least once in every level of the batting order. He will finally steal 100 bases and collect 204 hits again.
David Wright: The question mark about David is, how far can that tongue stick out? Can he still hit homers in the new ballpark? Will he make MVP this year? Will he get to play in a World Series?
Prediction: Wright will not be caught taking steroids, will not hit 50 homers, and will not date Madonna. But a World Series would be nice.
The Catching Squad
Brian Schneider: The next big question mark is Brian Schneider, first string catcher. Stolen bases are nice, but it is rare for an entire team to slide into second, and that’s what the Mets did last September. Schneider, who only got one hit after September 18th of last year, contributed to that slide. He also can’t hit lefties (.187) but is pretty good against righties (.277). He did hit 9 homers last year. He is not getting any younger. He will be 33 this November. In fact, our entire catching squad is 32 years old, probably one of the oldest in the majors. If he is platooned and only faces righties, he could bat .277 and hit maybe 12 homers and break 40 ribbies, as long as the runners sliding into home don’t break his little ribbies. If he plays like he did the end of the season, he’ll be lucky to “hit a lick,” whatever that is. He only has 4 stolen bases lifetime.
Prediction: Brian Schneider will bat between .187 and .277, and hit between 6 and 12 homers and knock in between 25 and 50 RBI’s. He will never steal a base the rest of his life.
The entire catching staff: Given that Schneider is a big question mark the Mets have wisely chosen two other catchers to back him up. These two would be Ramon Castro, whose neck is bigger than his head, (who never takes steroids) and Robinson Cancel, a man who is not Robinson Cano, of the Yankees, but who would like to be him some day, and was apparently mistaken for same when hired by the Mets. This other catcher balances out Schneider in many ways. While Schneider is old, (32) Cancel is young (32). While Schneider is a long ball guy, Cancel has one lifetime homer (2008) and had 10 RBI’s last season. While Schneider can’t hit lefties (.187) Cancel can’t hit righties (.107). While Schneider will never steal another base, Cancel has never stolen a base previously (okay, one, but he was caught two other times). While Schneider hit .257 last year, Cancel hit a robust .245. While Schneider slumped last September, Cancel slumped in August, diving to .200 on the year. It must give Schneider comfort knowing that he can be platooned by someone who compliments his strengths so well.
The other catcher on the squad to platoon with Schneider is Ramon Castro, a popular veteran Met with some heroic newsreel plays and key hits to his credit, most of them from 2007. While Schneider is old (32) and Cancel young (32), Castro is right in the middle (32). While Cancel is a 32 year old Puerto Rican, Castro on the other hand, is a 32 year old Puerto Rican. In 2007, he hit 11 homers, 31 RBI’s, and batted .285, including 6 doubles Castro batted .245 last season as opposed to Cancel’s .245. Whereas Schneider got only one hit after September 18th last year, Castro got only three after September 18th of last year. Whereas Schneider hits .277 versus righties, and .187 versus lefties, Castro hits .277 versus lefties, but only .218 versus righties. If Castro hits like he did in 2007, he will again have 11 homers, 31 RBI’s and bat .285. If he bats like he did in 2008 but sees a lot of righties due to injuries to the other two, he could hit 4 homers (like in ’06) and bat .218 if he’s lucky.
Prediction: Castro will platoon with Schneider, both get hot and hit .285 while hitting 12 homers, or he and Schneider will have off years, and both will hit 4 homers each and bat .218.
The Starting Pitchers
Carlos Santana: Another big question mark is Johan Santana. Will his left elbow be in shape to pitch opening day, against the Reds in Cincinnati on April 6th? And if he does pitch opening day will he ever pitch again? And if he pitches, will he pitch well? And if he pitches well, will he win any games? Why couldn’t it have been the RIGHT elbow?
Let’s look at the facts. Santana’s overall contract is worth $137.5 million, which works out to $23 million a year, the cost of running the School System for the Borough of Queens. The human elbow only has four muscles in it of any consequence: 1. the Biceps brachii, 2. the Brachialis, 3. the Coracobrachiatis and 4. the Triceps Brachii. That’s it. If his pitching elbow stops working for one year, that’s $5.75 million per muscle. Do we really want him pitching on opening day in a game that is not even in New York with stakes that high? And of course a permanent injury would cost the Mets $34.375 million per muscle, amortized over the space of five years.
If his arm falls off on April 6th, OR at the Citifield opener against the Padres on Monday, April 13th, he will win zero games this year. If his elbow is healed by some faith healer in southern Ohio, and pitches like last year, he could win 24 games. Really? Yes, if the Mets give him four runs per game. In his last 10 starts in 2009 he never gave up more than 3 earned runs, and went 7-0 during that stretch. Using that as an improbable standard, he could go 24-0 this year in 30 starts. The problem is the Mets don’t give him four runs and although he gave the team his all, a 2.53 ERA last year, he only went 16 and 7, not a Cy Young year. This is too bad, because that ERA was better than Met Saberhagen’s 2.74 in 1994, and just short of Met Tom Terrific’s 2.38 in 1975 when TT won 22. It was also much better than Santana’s own 20 win season in 2004 (ERA 2.61) and his 19 win season in 2006 (ERA 2. 77). I think we should take care of Mr. Sanatana, and use his foot cream as well!
Prediction: Johan Santana will win between zero and 24 games this year!
Mike Pelfrey: Young 6’7″ left-handed starter Mike Pelfrey may be one of the true question marks that will make or break the Mets this year. They keep expecting him to have a big year, which hasn’t happened yet. 2006 was so-so, and 2007 was a disaster; going 3-8 and sporting an ERA of 5.57. Though he struck out 45 in ’07, he also walked 39. Last year he lowered his ERA to 3.72 and reached 110 strikeouts, but also recorded 64 bases on balls and went 13-11 with 2 complete games. Lefties batted .307 against him, but he was strong against the right handers. If the trend of improvement from ’07 to ’08 continues to ’09, this year he should win 16 games, have 130 strikeout and have an ERA of 3.00.
Prediction: Pelfrey will win between 3 and 16 games, and have an ERA of between 3.00 and 5.57. He will register between 45 and 130 strikeouts. He could also be much worse or much better depending on the number of lefties he has to face.
Oliver Perez: Starting left hander Oliver Perez may be the least unpredictable guy on the Mets roster. He is the only player who had pretty much equal 2007 and 2008 seasons, although stats were rather different. He is awesome against lefties; they bat only .158 against him. Right handed hitters bat .258. He also handles more innings each passing season, 194 last year.
Prediction: Perez will jump over a lot of foul lines this season to increase his wins to between 11 and 16, pitching over 200 innings for the first time in his career. He will do well in the post-season especially against left-handed hitters during day games. His ERA will be between 4.22 (as last year) and 6.38 (2006 regular season).
John Maine: Right hander starter John Maine is a question mark this year. His ERA has been rising steadily since 2006; 3.60, 3.91 and 4.18 last year. By that trend, his 2009 ERA should be 4.40. His other stats have been all over the map, but in general 2007 was better than 2008. He won 15 in 2007, and only 10 in 2008. Perhaps he can repeat or top 2007’s performances, with an impressive 180 strikeouts against only 75 walks. Otherwise, the current trend is going to get him benched. His spring training is not off to a great start.
Prediction: Maine will win between 10 and 15 games, and have an ERA of between 3.60 and 4.40. He will record between 100 and 200 strikeouts, and top 200 innings pitched.
Pedro Feliciano: The question is, will Feliciano pitch like he did in 2006, 7-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 54 strikeouts? Or like he did in 2008, 3-4 with a 4.05 ERA and 50 strikeouts? During September of ’08, his ERA was 8.10, a major factor in the Mets self-destruction that month. Overall, right hand hitters had a .357 average against him in ’08, but he was strong against lefties.
Prediction: Pedro will win between 3 and 7 games, have an ERA between 2.00 and 8.10 and get about 50 strikeouts to 25 walks.
Duaner Sanchez: This guy was the biggest question mark in Mets history when he was in a car accident just before the trade deadline in 2006. He didn’t play in 2007, but made a nice comeback in 2008, with a 5-1 record. He had a 4.32 ERA, with 44 strikeouts versus 23 walks. However this was not good enough for the Mets who dumped him, apparently in favor of Bobby Parnell, who is 0-0 in 5 innings of major league play. The important statistic of course is missing; Sanchez’ salary is $1,687,500, Bobby Parnell gets stock in Citibank at $1.45 a share. For our evaluation of Bobby Parnell, see “cattle call.”
If Wagner suddenly gets better, we’ll have three closers who only “do” ninth innings, and only pitch for “saves,” and only two real middle relievers. The question mark is, how did this happen?
J.J. Putz: The question about J.J. is, the minute he throws his first home run ball, how will Mets fans, trained in Yiddish and four other street languages, resist yelling out, YOU PUTZ? More importantly, will he pitch like he did in 2007 or in 2008? In 2007, as the Mariners’ closer, he went 6-1 with a 1.38 ERA with 40 saves, with 82 Ks versus only 13 walks. These are good stats, folks! On the other hand, in 2008 he went 6-5 with 15 saves out of 23 opportunities, with an ERA of 3.88 and 56 Ks versus 28 walks. In other words, between ’07 and ’08, his ERA almost tripled, his saves were cut to a third, his strikeouts lowered by 26, while his walks increased by 15. Which will show up? The Total Putz of ’07, or the total putz of ’08?
Prediction: J.J. Putz will enjoy an ERA of between 1.38 and 3.88, and strike out between 56 and 82 batters, while walking between 13 and 28 men. He will earn somewhere between 15 and 40 saves.
Billy Wagner: Question–What if…just what if the Big W had a miraculous recovery from arm surgery and reported to the bullpen back to his old high velocity tricks? Do you think the now iffy-hitting Mets would ignore his pleas to get his old job back? I think not. Wagner had a 1.64 ERA in his last 10 appearances in 2008 with 10 strikeouts to 1 walk. His ERA at Shea for the year was 1.40, but then, Shea is now a pile of rubble. The problem is, what do you do with three great closers with three big egos? Only one pair of feet can fit on that little white piece of rubber at a time, and a team can only award one save per game.
Prediction: I predict that Wagner will either play or not, and will get between zero and 20 saves and between zero and 60 strikeouts working part time as a Met and part time as a busboy at Bobby Vee’s.
Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez: The big question about K-Rod, is will he go on a pilgrimage to see Madonna, and then confess all his sins and steroid use to the embarrassment of all New York, like the other Something-Rod in this town? Or will he use other kinds of drugs like the other K-Met, Dwight Gooden? I really doubt it. In fact, K-Rod is a very consistent pitcher. While the Mets were losing many of their last ten games, K-Rod gave up no runs in his last ten appearances with the Angels. His day game ERA for all of last year was 0.46. Right handers batted .205 against him, and on the road his ERA was just two. If we can send him out only during day games against righties on the road, he might finish the year with a perfect record. It’s too bad Citifield does not have Astroturf: he never gave up a run on Astroturf last year, but then he doesn’t tend to give up many runs. Lifetime he has 587 Ks versus 198 bases on balls, which is why they call him K-Rod instead of W-Rod. In 2006, his ERA was 1.73 with 98 strikeouts in only 73 innings pitched. In 2008 with the Angels, he had 62 saves. He just turned 27. The other question is, will he have a first year jinx in New York like Beltran and the other Rod? Of course not.
Prediction: Wagner, Putz, and K-Rod will all be healthy in 2009 and will all compete for the closer’s position, trading off 7th, 8th, and 9th inning appearances, giving the Mets a 1.000 winning percentage in games they lead entering the 7th.
Cattle Call for Pitchers: The biggest question marks on the spring roster are all those pitchers from nowhere who saw the ad in the Village Voice and are trying out, just so they can brag when the get back to the farm
Connor Robertson, had an 18.00 ERA with Oakland. No.
Brian Stokes had a home game ERA of 5.17 with Tampa Bay, and a 6.75 ERA down the pennant stretch. His 2007 ERA was 7.07. Sorry. Next.
Rocky Cherry: This guy’s name sounds like a hermaphroditic wrestler/stripper with an ice cream business on the side. However it is his real name and he had a decent year with the Cubs back in 2007, with a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings, with 13 K and 6 W. He is Hell on left handers! However he had a 6.35 ERA last year with an 0-3 record; a 10.80 ERA on artificial turf. Ooops. Bye.
Tim Redding: This is the guy who had a 54.00 ERA with the Yankees back in 2005, then went 0-5 with the Padres to round out the year. In ’06, he couldn’t land a job. Then in ’07 he went 3-6 for the Nationals but had a 3.64 ERA, his best ever. Last year he had 120 Ks to 65 Ws, and went 10-11 with a 4.95 ERA. Try us back next year.
Bobby Parnell: This young rightie has only pitched 5 innings in the majors, but gave up 3 earned runs. Keep in touch.
Darren O’Day: This rightie played his first major league game for the Angels on March 31st, 2008, and threw 43.1 innings, but gave up 22 earned runs for an ERA of 4.57. He also had 29 strikeouts. Interested in working for tips?
Brandon Knight: This right-hander has pitched 31.1 innings lifetime, with an ERA of 8.62 , with 24 strikeouts to 15 walks. He is 1-0 for a lifetime winning percentage of 1.000. Maybe he’s good luck on hitters.
Eddie Kunz: This guy’s first game was August 3rd, of last year. He only pitched 2.2 innings in 4 appearances, but now has a life time ERA of 13.50. DCUWCY (Don’t call us we’ll call you)
Carlos Muniz: He pitched 2.1 innings for the Mets in 2007 in 2 games, for an ERA of 7.71. In 2008 he pitched 23.1 innings and kept his ERA at 5.40, with a 1-1 record. Last year he had 16 Ks and only 7 W’s. There may be some promise here. Here’s our business card.
Sean Green: Wasn’t he an outfielder? Oh, different guy. This 30 year old threw a lot for Seattle and has a lifetime win-loss of 9-7 and an ERA of 4.32. His 2007 was good, but last year was not the greatest. Been there done that. Take a number.
Final Prediction: Even with all the question marks surrounding this team, I’m willing to go out on a limb and predict that the Mets will win between 60 and 120 games this year and end up somewhere between first and last. I personally think they will do well in the playoffs, but the Royals will give them a hard time in the Fall Classic.