By Mike Steffanos
It's after midnight and I still have a couple of hours work to do before I hit the sheets, but here's some quick Mets-related thoughts for your pleasure (or displeasure.)
When I get really swamped with works, it's often e-mails from readers that keep me up on what's going on with the Mets. I had a couple this evening that brought up two items of which I've already given a lot of thought to this spring.
The first one was from someone I've developed an email quasi-friendship over the years. He sent me a link to a Rob Neyer column that had a link to someone else's analysis that was one of those "Daniel Murphy isn't as good as you think he is" columns.
My friend is a devoted Sabermetrician, and is convinced that I am anti-statistical analysis. Actually, that's not true. I believe sabermetrics is a tremendous tool to understand baseball. I just don't believe that these numbers tell us absolutely all that we need to know. I distrust those whose understanding of the game of baseball is based completely on numbers. Then again, I also distrust those who refuse to acknowledge the way statistical research has revolutionized baseball.
Anyway, the above is a topic for a day that I have more time but, needless to say, Murphy has been a topic of ongoing debate between me and my number crunching friend.
For what it's worth, I don't believe that I am guilty of overrating Murphy's potential. I agree that Murphy's minor league numbers don't scream "superstar", but I was impressed with the way he improved from his first full minor league season at High-A St. Lucie (502 AB, .285/.338/.430, 11 HR, 78 RBI) to his second at AA-Binghamton (357 AB, .308/.374/.496, 13 HR, 67 RBI). He improved a lot against lefties from his first season through his second, and that improvement is what gives me hope that his potential is more than just what can be read from less than 1,000 minor league AB.
I think a hitter that can control the strike zone always has an advantage over your typical undisciplined rookie. A lot of being a successful major league hitter is not getting yourself out. If Murphy continues to improve, I think he can be a solid major league hitter and draw enough walks to maintain a good OBP. The big question will be power, as he just might not have enough for a corner OF or 1B. If he tries too hard to hit for more power he might lose the approach that makes him promising.
I want to see what he does when he hits a prolonged slump and the local papers make it sound like it was his fault that the Mets didn't make a play for Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn. I want to see how he reacts when the pitchers find his weaknesses and he had to make adjustments. I think Murphy is going to be a fascinating story in 2009, and I'm looking forward to it, even if Rob Neyer thinks that there is only a "thin reed of hope" that Murphy justifies the team's faith in him. I think my hopes for him are reasonable and achievable, and either way, it will be fun to watch.
Next, on Duaner Sanchez, the speculation is really hot and heavy every time out that the Mets should release him, which is something that was the subject of more than one email today. I would only point out here that we are still 4 long weeks away from real baseball.
Some guys who look real good now will flounder between now and then, others will step up. I agree, as I've already written, that Sanchez needs to show more velocity. Still, the pitching coach seems satisfied so far, and I won't contradict him until I've seen more.
The same with Ollie Perez' dreadful performance in the WBC. It's not unusual for the lefty to struggle early in the spring. That's why the timing of this tournament just makes no sense for me.
Guys like Perez and J.J. Putz have to dial it up and get outs, and then eventually return to camp and dial it down before they dial it up for the season again. In Perez' case there is always some spring struggle to find himself, and I suspect pitching in the classic is going to hinder that a little.
Oh, well, back to work. It's going to be another late one.