By Mike Steffanos
Found an interesting piece on ESPN Insider ($) about David Wright's resurgence after that terrible start he got off to. According to the folks at Inside Edge, David's return to being the .300 hitter we know and love can be attributed to rediscovering his ability to hit breaking pitches:
... Wright hit just 5-for-58 (.086) against curves and sliders through May, but he has hit 22-for-73 (.301) with a .452 slugging percentage since then.
One reason for his newfound success against breaking balls has been simply putting the ball in play more often. Fifty percent of his at-bats that ended on a breaking ball were strikeouts through the first two months of the season. That is down to 30 percent for June, July and August.
While David has improved dramatically against breaking stuff, according to this same piece he is still only hitting .177 (14-for-79) on curves and sliders to the outside third of the plate, swinging and missing 60% of the time on those pitches. Interesting, but then again I wonder what the league average is on well-placed deuces on the outside of the zone. That's a tough pitch to hit for most batters. The trick is to work the pitcher for something you can hit rather than swinging at his pitch.
If you remember Wright's early struggles this season, he often seemed to be lunging and off-balance at the plate -- never a good approach to hitting breaking balls. When Carlos Beltran goes into one of those funks where he strikes out on a lot of bad breaking pitches we see the same thing. Beltran takes most of those pitches when he is going well.
Speaking of Wright and Beltran, I'm liking the Mets batting order with David hitting third and Beltran in the cleanup spot. I'd like to see them stick with this even when Carlos Delgado returns, with Delgado and Alou flip-flopping in the 5 and 6 spots depending on whether a lefty or righty is pitching. With Reyes and Castillo doing a nice job of setting the table, to me this presents the most formidable order for opposing pitchers. Even if Carlos Delgado isn't the hitter he was 3 or 4 years ago, he's still a presence in the lineup, especially moved down a bit.
Speaking of Castillo and Alou, the Mets have an interesting decision to make with these 2 veteran players next year.
Alou has been great since returning from his 2-month hiatus, and has been everything we could hope for in the middle of the order. In the 50 games he has played, his .316/.373/.519 line is the best of all outfielders, including our highly-paid yet enigmatic center fielder (.265/.343/.511). Moises can still rake, no doubt about it. Although no gold glove candidate in the outfield, he is no Shawn Green, either. He has good instincts and gets good reads and jumps on fly balls.
On the other hand, Alou will be 42 next July, and missed over 2 months of the season with a quad injury. Do you try to get him back on an incentive-laden contract with the hopes of getting 100-120 games from him, knowing full well that he might be out for large chunks of the season again? Perhaps the answer to that question depends on how the organization feels about Carlos Gomez in 2008, given that Lastings Milledge seems destined to replace Green. It would also hinge, of course, on whether Alou would even want to return next season after contemplating retirement before this one.
I think a lot of Mets fans would be dead-set against a 2008 return for Moises. For me, if it was part of a plan to phase in a young and talented kid like Gomez, it might make sense.
Castillo will turn 32 next month. Age isn't as much of an issue as much as some nagging injuries and a slugging percentage that's a throwback to the second basemen of my distant youth. The injury questions are alleviated somewhat by a return to the National League where natural turf rules. Still, you could probably count on Castillo to miss some games if you make him your starting second baseman. A solid backup option could alleviate that concern.
The other question is the lack of power. Castillo is a quintessential slap hitter with a lifetime slugging percentage of .358. In 420 ABs with the Twins and Mets this season, Luis has only 17 extra base hits -- 13 doubles, 3 triples and 1 HR. Some of those doubles could be attributed to the turf in Minnesota. In his years on grass in Miami, Castillo hit more than 20 doubles only once, and that was in 1999. There was a time when he would make up for that lack of power somewhat by stealing a ton of bases, but he's only good for around 20 a year now. In today's game where offensive production is emphasized, Luis Castillo is not your prototype second baseman. I'm sure many Mets fans would like to see Ruben Gotay and his .489 slugging percentage take over the second base job next season.
Maybe it's because I do go back to the days of Felix Millan, but I kind of like the idea of re-signing Castillo, as long as he'd accept a 2 year deal with an option. I like the defense with Castillo and Reyes together, and I like him in the 2-hole of the lineup. He can give the Mets what Lo Duca gave them in 2006, only with more speed. I imagine that the direction the Mets choose to go this winter will depend a lot on what they really foresee from Ruben Gotay. If they see that .489 SLG as more than a product of a hot 141 ABs (his previous SLG in 2 seasons with Kansas City was .375 and .344), they'll work with him on his defense and go with the younger Gotay in 2008.