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David versus the Deuce

Mike SteffanosTuesday, August 21, 2007
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.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (10)

Mike:

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.

>
Exactly, and that is why I read some of those revealing statistics with less than full interest. A .177 average on outside curveballs is probably a GOOD average, but how would I actually know that, and no one wants Wright or anyone forced to swing at that pitch very often anyway.

I am less excited than you at the thought of Castillo at second base next year. Looking to the new season I expect the Mets to be a good team, but I don't know where the power is going to come from. Most of the secondary sources of power from the 2006 season are gone now, or will be gone next year; Valentin, Nady, Lo Duca even. Carlos Delgato is unlikely to rebound. And the new outfielders are toolsey line drive hitters, not sluggers.

It's all left up to David Wright and Carlos Beltran, with hopefully an assist from Castro and Reyes; and that's not going to be enough. Either the Mets bite the bullet with Delgado and spend for a power hitting first baseman, or else they're going to have to fill in the gaps piecemeal -- like re-upping Alou if he still wants to play, and looking elsewhere for a second basemen.

Hey, I like Castillo alright; I just don't think he will be a fit, as they say so often and irritatingly.

Dan - I would love to be a fly on the wall for all of the internal player discussions going on in the Mets offices this winter. How do they evaluate what they might get from Carlos Delgado next year? What do they expect to get from Milledge (or a Milledge-Chavez platoon) for a full season? They may have to sign or trade for a middle of the order bat. While I am not whole-heartedly in favor of a Castillo return, I like him in the right lineup, particularly if they don't believe Gotay is starting 2B material.

There will be a lot of interesting decisions to make. This will be quite the off-season, no matter what happens the rest of this season.

If Santanna is available a lot of names could be moved in order to get him. Just to add to the decisions with so many "if's".

True. I would think either Milledge or Gomez would be in that deal, along with young pitching.

I also want to see the Mets keep Castillo, because he really fits the #2 hole perfectly. He's a slap hitter that doesn't hit into double plays (Lo Duca, I'm looking at you) and he's gold in clutch situations. On the Mets, you'll see his RBI totals rise simply because he'll hit more often with runners on base- and as a Met so far, he's come through on a number of occasions. If he can overcome his nagging (turf-related) injuries, it wouldn't suprise me to see him return to form as a 20-30 SB kind of a guy.

As for the lineup next year, I think we'll see a Milledge/Chavez platoon, and the Mets will either re-sign Alou for another year OR get a bat through Free Agency or a trade. Griffey will probably be available via a trade, and Adam Dunn is a FA. If the Marlins make a good trade off for Cabrera, I'd jump at it as well. Beyond that, the Mets should also think long and hard about what to do with the catcher position.

Maybe sign Castillo to a one year deal and overpay-find a quality platoon arrangement at 1st( I love Delgado, but fear he is done)-trade for and sign for Johann

Sorry to jump the gun, and doubly sorry to drop what might be an inappropriate comment, but:

How gay are those pajamas/San Diego Padres road uniforms? Did they show up for a baseball game or a sleepover?

DD yes, the Padres uniforms are putrid. But then again, they always have been.

And Delgado's about the only guy out there for first base, unless the Mets want to trade Delgado in the offseason and bring in Adam Dunn for first base. While I'd love Dunn's hitting, I won't love his fielding. And say what you want about Delgado, but his fielding has been stellar. And in the 2007-2008 offseason, Scott Hatteberg, Sean Casey, and Shea Hillebrand are about the only "good" first basemen available. They'd have to trade for a first baseman (unless Matt Carp is ready)- and with Delgado's still good power numbers and glove, I'd rather keep him unless the Mets find a significant upgrade. Plus, about the only guys that I could see the Mets trading for are Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, Jason Kendall, Nick Johnson, and Lyle Overbay (and Konerko's not really available). I'll stick with Delgado until I see something better.

Jason - I agree that catcher is going to be the biggest decision next year. I obviosuly agree with you on re-signing Castillo.
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Luis - Delgado is probably done as a cleanup hitter, but hitting fifth or sixth could probably give the Mets enough production through the end of next season when his contract runs out.
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dd - You hurt Luis Castillo's feeling yesterday by saying he wasn't a fit for next year. He decided to stick it to you by getting the game winner. Could you take a shot at another Met for tonight? We need all the help we could get against Peavey.

Seriously, though, not only were those some seriously unattractive unis, but I think the beige color makes Heath Bell look fatter. He should lobby for something more slimming. I like the Padres home uniforms, and also their dark tops. I guess if I was a Pads fan I'd be grateful they weren't still wearing the brown and yellow ones.
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Jason - I agree on Delgado. He'd be tough to move, anyway.

Mike, I'm sure if the Mets offered the Yanks Delgado, they'd take him in a heartbeat. Andy Phillips isn't ready for first base, and Giambi absolutely sucks out there. Only thing is, is that the Yanks don't really have anything that the Mets want- and the Mets would need to find a replacement for him, anyways. I'd take Johnny Damon only if he's willing to stick it out in a corner OF position. And the Mets DO have Andy Tracy in the minors.

As for Catcher, the Mets have options. First would be to re-sign either/or Lo Duca and Castro, second would be to get a catcher via a trade, and third would be to go for a free agent not named Lo Duca/Castro. The best of the third option would be to go after Piazza, Kendall, Posada, and Pudge. Breaking them down, I'd say that the two best overall choices for the Mets would be Piazza/Posada:

Piazza: when healthy he's still a very good hitter who'd make the Mets lineup dangerous, and he catches a good game. His downside is that he's not the everyday player he used to be, and his throwing arm still sucks.

Kendall: good hitting catcher who can also play first, is a decent but not spectacular fielder, and doesn't have much power. His horrendous injury when he was with the Pirates set him back big time.

Pudge: He can still hit, is a fireplug for any team he plays for, is playoff proven, but is also not getting any younger. And while he has some power, he's not going to launch anything at Shea.

Posada: The best of the bunch, overall. He's having an awesome year all around for the Yanks, is an above average fielder, and despite being 36 years old, he didn't start catching until he was in his mid 20's, so he's actually "younger" at the position than most are. Plus, he'd have the added advantage of staying in NY. His bat and glove are definite improvements above Lo Duca, and he's got the kind of power and hitting prowess that would lengthen the lineup.

For a trade all I'd really want the Mets to get is Bengie Molina. He's got power, catches very well, and hits for average. And he's on a last place team that's basically bleeding money and needs prospects in the worst way. And he's only 32 or 33, which means that he's got a good few years left in him.

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