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Offensive Ineptitude

Mike SteffanosWednesday, April 23, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Game 19: Cubs 8 - Mets 1

It would be redundant to enumerate the offensive shortcomings from yesterday afternoon's poor performance against the Cubs. In their 19 games played do far this season the Mets have scored 88 runs for an average of 4.6 per game. Not too bad, but if you take away the first 3 games against the Marlins, they have scored 64 runs in 16 games, dropping the average to 4 runs a game. Other than the opening series and a game here or there, the runs just haven't been coming easy.

Nelson Figueroa wasn't great yesterday, but he battled through 5 innings and kept the Mets in the game. You'd like to think that when your fifth starter goes 5 innings and allows 3 runs, you have a chance to win that game. The way the Mets have been scoring runs in the early going, though, a 3-run deficit looks like a mighty big hill to climb.

Let's look past this disappointing game to the long term implications of what we've seen so far. The return of Moises Alou, perhaps by this weekend, should improve the Mets lineup to a point. The problems of this offense, however, run much deeper than what one fragile 41-year-old can solve.

Some of the problems are fixable. Carlos Beltran is a streaky hitter who is due a hot streak. Although he has slowed down some the last two days, Jose Reyes looks more confident and ready to contribute.

Some problems may prove unfixable given the current composition of the roster. With firm belief that Beltran will get it together, I can't say the same for the other Carlos. I can see Delgado hitting better than he is right now, but with his SLG % only 42 points higher than Luis Castillo's, he can pick it up quite a bit and still not justify a spot in this lineup.

Actually, my biggest fear with Delgado is not that he will continue to suck quite as bad as he's done so far, but that he will show just enough positive to put off the Mets coming up with an alternative. Without a return to the form of two years ago, a Mets offense with Carlos Delgado in the middle of it is far from elite.

While I like the Mets pitching staff better this season than last, they are not an elite staff, either. I could easily see this season progressing in the way that 2007 did -- no long winning streaks, no huge losing streaks, with the end result of a club that is the very definition of a .500 team. Given the highest payroll in the NL, that could earn Omar Minaya a pink slip.

Minaya is taking a lot of criticism now, some of it certainly justified, some not. On one hand, I can't really fault Omar for the Delgado trade from 2 years ago, which gave the Mets an elite offense for the 2006 season. I don't think it was reasonable to expect Delgado's skills to degrade as quickly as they have seem to over the past 2 seasons.

On the other hand, signing Luis Castillo to a 4-year deal was a bad move. Even if Castillo rounds back into form he is still a limited player whose best years are far behind him. On a team that struggles for power, the slap-hitting Castillo was really bad signing. I'd be curious to know who, if anyone, was really bidding for Castillo's services hard enough to warrant the Mets handing him a 4-year contract. I suspect that Omar was bidding against himself.

Castillo seems to be a number eight hitter now. Two years ago Jose Valentin provided 18 HR and 62 RBI in less than 400 AB, primarily batting eighth. When you look for what has changed in the Mets offense from 2 years ago, that is as significant as Delgado's decline.

Maybe Delgado will rediscover enough of his old stroke to kick the Mets offense up a notch. Perhaps Moises Alou will avoid the serious injuries the rest of the way and provide the dependable mid-order bat he gave the Mets in limited duty last year. Mets fans would be ecstatic to see that play out.

If, on the other hand, things continue as they are right now, some tough and decisive actions may be required for this team to compete. It will be interesting to see if Minaya and his front office are up to that task.

View Nelson Figueroa's Full Season Stats

Box Score

Comments (6)

Mike, The Delgado trade was specifically for 2006. Omar must have had an idea he was going to be done before the contract ended. I thought that and I'm by no means am a qualified G.M. As for the Castillo signing, this was outright bad. All Mets fans were scratching their heads over this one. We can get by with Castillo but not in the 2 hole. The first base issue needs to be addressed now. With Beltran struggling, it makes it look worse.

I disagree. Delgado is younger than Chipper Jones, who is still productive. It certainly was reasonable to expect decent production through this season, after which the Mets could buy out his contract. Castillo is really tough to defend.

The real question with Delgado is will the Mets have the guts to eat the contract and look elsewhere if he continues to struggle.

to me it is incredible that minaya, seeing how delgado slowed down last year, didn't even go out and get a right handed bat to platoon with delgado.he is done.i don't think the wilpons will eat his salary and cut him.we have to hope that alou can give us 100 games and hit .285 to .300 with some power.

Re: the DelGado trade; the Mets certainly were trading a kid who had had a terrific hot streak for one of the most productive sluggers over the previous decade. Some of the rules of thumb applied here: the Mets were, presumably, trading to get the best player in the deal; and the Mets were perceived as being a player or two away from becoming one of the best teams in the League.

On the other hand, the Mets were trading to take on salary and contract years for a player who was no longer young; it doesn't exactly satisfy me that he might be younger than Chipper; he is younger than Barry Bonds, too, but why should we translate that into what Carlos can do late in his career? And the Mets, almost with the sole exception of the '80's team, have always been outgunned by their best opponents; there never seem to be enough bats on the bench.

My thought at the time, which I only haltingly mentioned for fear of playing too negative, was that the Mets should accept that Mike Jacobs was, say, 80% or the player he appeared to be, and to find him a platoon partner. It would have 1)provided about the same production at the first base position, 2)kept the team much younger, which is to say, it would have given Wright and Reyes some other strong complimentary components for deeper into their careers, 3)given the Mets another offensive threat off the bench for late in games, and 4)probably saved several millions, which could be spent elsewhere as needed.

It also would have been very, very difficult for Minaya to do, passing up on Carlos DelGado. I realize that; making such a non-move would have required that Omar saw things in that light, and that he would be willing to buck conventional wisdom and follow his judgement.

Let me just mention one other thing in passing: Mike Jacobs record in Florida would not necessarily be what he would have done for the Mets. As difficult as Shea is for a slugger, Joe Robbie or whatever they call it has been worse; the wind usually blows in from right field, and at least one stat guy claimed that Jacobs lost more home runs to his home park than any major league hitter in one of his years down there.

Delgado is a tough call, people are ready to write him off as a player in decline (which very well could be the case), but I think his injuries played more of a part in his soft numbers last year. However I do see concern for the present, average pitchers are blowing fastballs by him that 2years ago they would have never dared to challange him with, and he has gone away from the appraoch he was taking early in the season. He's looking to pull again, rather than going the opposite way, then mash a mistake if you catch one. I hope that Carlos D. can pull it together. Maybe a return by Alou will balance out the line-up. Castillo on the other hand was a question for me only with the length of the deal. 4yrs was a lot for a guy with gimpy knees. He is still good defensively, but I have to agree he is no longer a two hole hitter. I liked the move to put Church in the 2 hole, it worked and the Mets seemed to be hot up and down the line-up through and entire game. I would try a line-up like this:

Pagan (only til Alou Returns)
Beltran (just to get him going)
Wright (can hit pretty much anywhere)

Gary, if he could hit .285 to .300 with some power I'd be ecstatic. I'd settle for .260 20/80 at this point.
dd - Jacobs had some growing pains in his first couple of seasons in Florida, and I don't think the fans here would have been patient. It would take a very strong-willed GM to buck all of the flack over trusting young players. I don't think Omar is that guy, even though I like some of the things he does.

On the other hand, in 2005 the Mets desperately needed a middle of the order bat. Jacobs wasn't ready to be that. He would have filled a Nady-like role with the 2006 Mets, batting 6 or 7.

I was torn when the deal was made and still am, I guess.
LJ - I agree with your lineup, though I would probably leave Wright at 3 and Beltran 4.

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