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El Duque and Hustle Win the Day

Mike SteffanosFriday, July 13, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 3 - Reds 2
Played Thursday, July 12, 2007

Watching Orlando Hernandez struggle through the second inning of last night's game, then walk Ken Griffey leading off the third, you had to wonder how long the veteran right-hander would last. It turned out that Griffey would be the last Red to reach base against Hernandez as he wound up giving the Mets 6 strong innings of work. They even managed to reward him with a win, which has been somewhat rare when he has pitched well for them.

When El Duque gets on a roll as he did last night, it's a pleasure to watch. One reason I've always enjoyed baseball is for the sheer beauty of the game sometimes -- Reyes running, Beltran tracking down a hard-hit fly ball, and Hernandez' delivery when he has everything in synch, with the high leg kick that generates the torque for those breaking pitches that can embarrass even good hitters. Those last 12 outs through the Reds' batting order were vintage El Duque.

Orlando Hernandez (Last 5 Starts)
Season (14 Games)84.13330616834103.201.138-6

View Orlando Hernandez' Full Season Stats

Offensively, the game opened up with a bang with the 2 home runs by Reyes and Gotay, but became somewhat disappointing again by the end. They let Bronson Arroyo off the hook a couple of times, and he wound up settling in and going 7 strong innings against them. There did seem to be more of an effort to work the count, but you still have to generate some hits to really put pressure on a pitcher and there wasn't enough of that. When they did rally, it always seemed to be with 2 outs. They were hurt by a couple of baserunning mistakes, and a failure to plate an insurance run in the eighth with second and third, no outs against that awful bullpen caused my stomach acid to churn.

Still, it was nice to see the hustle plays like Milledge busting it to score the game winner and Reyes turning a routine single into a double. Playing the game the right way will help them get out of their offensive funk for sure.

By the way, I've always liked Jose Valentin, and find some of the negativity directed his way by some Mets fans very puzzling. I think he has been a terrific presence on the team and has benefited Jose Reyes greatly. He did an amazing job at second base before he was hurt, and people just can't seem to grasp how hard it is to produce out of the eight hole in the National League when they don't give him credit for what he did offensively last season and before he was hurt.

Now that I've finished laying out my credentials as a Valentin supporter, I'll simply state that he hasn't been the same player on offense or defense since his return. I suspect that Ruben Gotay's future in the major leagues will be as a utility man rather than a star, but the simple fact is that he deserves a shot at the second base job this year based on what he's done, albeit in a platoon with Easley since he is not a good hitter as a right-handed batter (.218/.316/.267 in 118 career ABs with only 3 extra-base hits from the right side). Last year Valentin's play earned him the job over Kaz Matsui, this year same thing with Gotay. Case closed.

Having said that, what I find puzzling is those that see Gotay as a long-term solution for the job. I look back at his body of work in both the majors and minors and see nothing more than a guy having a very nice year in a limited amount of ABs (76) this year. I wish someone who sees Gotay as more than a utility player going forward would explain to me why. Be that as it may, unless Valentin turns it around dramatically when he returns or Gotay falls on his face, I think a Gotay/Easley platoon at second with Valentin as a bench player is the way to go right now in the best interests of the 2007 New York Mets.

Box Score

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Comments (9)

If Gotay's hitting is "real" in that he can continue to produce 90% of what he has done so far this season, then I think he will get a serious at a full time job.

I haven't decided how I would feel about that. I haven't been exactly inspired to heroic verse in watching Gotay field his position, and fielding is important from your second baseman. Maybe there's more in the tank, maybe he is better than I have seen.

I guess I am open to the idea, but not yet convinced yet. One thing, though: if he does prove to be the regular second baseman, do NOT pencil him in for the next five years. Gotay is 24 years old; prior to this year he hit .241 in 434 at bats. This year he's at .342 in 76 AB's. I am guessing that he's a low OBP .270 hitter (unless Rickey! can work his magic), and he's not good enough a fielder to play full time with that average.

So I am not terribly optimistic, predicting a return to earth, and a-shorter-than-we-imagine career arc. Like the Chris Jones of middle infielders, say.

I'd have to disagree with your assessment of Gotay. He has shown three characteristics of being a mainstay at second base, at least on the offensive side:

1) A good approach at the plate. He sees a high number of pitches, takes a fair amount of walks, fouls things off, and seems to put the ball in play when necessary. Milledge also has evidenced this in his career in the minor leagues, indicating that he will probably turn out better than Gomez.

2) Legitimate pop from the strong side of the plate. He has launched 4 legit homers this year in that same limited sample size.

3) A decent ability to run the bases. Other than that one gaffe where he didn’t break on Delgado’s grounder late in the game, he’s been pretty good. Couple stolen bases, couple first-to-thirds, etc. His speed at this point is an upgrade over Valentin’s, especially with his age and injury.

His defense leaves something to be desired, but he is by far our best long-term option right now.

dd - I don't see anything in his minor league numbers that give any hint that he will be a star, either.


I think his fielding is a little better than I expected to see, given what I had read about him, but if he is to be a regular ML 2B, it will because he can hit. Your .260-.270, low OBP seems a decent guess. I like what the kid has done this year, but it seems to me people are projecting too much into it.
Matt - I'm not arrogant enough to call what I've written an assessment of Gotay. I don't pretend to have seen enough of him to make an assessment with any degree of confidence. However, he hasn't walked a whole heck of a lot in the minors, and 5 walks in 81 PAs this season isn't a large number.

He's had nice pop this season, no doubt, but I don't see that in his minor league numbers so much. Based on that, I would expect him to have no more than decent power for a middle infielder which is why my best guess (not assessment) is that he is a career backup. You don't have to convince me that he is an upgrade over Valentin right now, as I wrote that myself. I take exception with some of the silly negative stuff I've been reading and hearing about Valentin, however, but that has nothing to do with Gotay.

Gotay should be the starting 2B against RHP right now, period. I disagree with him as a long-term option, but would like nothing better than for him to prove me wrong.

I've never really liked Valentin, and I don't like Easley at all. I guess maybe as Valentin heals he could be acceptable, but right now, I like what I see in Gotay.

Maybe he's just having a good year, but playing every day will magnify that good year, and get the most out of it.

I'm not silly enough to think that based on the limited experience he's had that he will make him a full-time second baseman in the future(or that he won't), but for now I kind of want to see more.

I think his defense is fine actually.

Ceetar - I disagree with playing him every day unless he proves he can hit lefties, which he never has. Playing him every day may make him better or expose him, but he's earned the right to the job, at least against righties.

Could you see Gotay in a trade, is he worth something to somebody else to package him for a starter say? It seems to me when everybody gets back on this team from whatever, we will have allot of good bodys and choices to put on the field, so some can be packaged, and is Gotay a guy like that?

Oh really.

I might remind you that one David Allen Wright was considered a 'disappointment ' by pundits, then in 2004 busted out to a .363 Avg/10HR at AA and rode that streak to NY.

Gotay's closest comparison seems to be Robinson Cano, who is the same age, also Gotay is YOUNGER than Ahern. Gotay put up similar minor league numbers to Cano until he was rushed to KC instead of having that ANY season at AAA. He hit .289 at AA then beat out Grudzelanik to open the 2005 season. Ok he IS on a hot streak, but like Howie notes EVERY day , he has a clue at the plate.

Defense needs work. But that will come. I think Cano is the worst 2B i have every seen, after Jeff Kent (1995 edition).

Whats wrong with LoDuca?

Al - Right now he's the best choice to play second, so I wouldn't be looking to trade him.
Ed - So Ruben Gotay is David Wright? Wow, that's not premature or anything...

I say he's playing good, I say he deserves to start against RHP at 2B, and that's not good enough for you? I have to believe that he is a future star because some of you believe it? Funny, but no one feels they have to believe everything I think, and I'm fine with that.

He's a nice kid who's playing hard and deserves playing time. If he turns out to be a star, I will give him all of the credit in the world.

I think Lo Duca is really pressing right now. He needs to be moved down in the order and Castro needs to get more starts.

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