Andres Torres’ big day, Mike Baxter hits .300, lefty relievers

Thursday did not figure to be a particularly good day for Andres Torres. He came into the game with a .183/.287/.239 line in 165 PA against RHP and the Marlins were throwing Josh Johnson. In his last three games, Johnson had allowed just eight hits in 19.2 innings for a .119 batting average against. But Torres came up big, going 3-for-3 with a double, triple, home run and a walk.

It was just the seventh time in franchise history that a Mets player missed the cycle by not hitting a single. Joe Christopher became the first player ever to turn the feat, with a four-hit game with two triples against the Pirates in 1964. Ron Swoboda went 3-for-4 in the second game of a double header against the Pirates three years later.

It was 20 years before another Mets player did it again, when Darryl Strawberry went 4-for-5 with a walk and two doubles in a 23-10 win over the Cubs. Gregg Jefferies then went out and did this three times in a two-year period, twice in 1988 and once more in 1999, each time finishing with exactly three hits.

Torres is now 5-for-5 lifetime versus Johnson, with three doubles and a homer after going 2-for-2 with a walk against the big Marlins righty. That works out to a 1.000/1.000/2.200 slash line in 7 PA. Torres entered the contest with just three hits in his last 18 ABs. But his nine-total base game upped his OPS 43 points.

BAXTER JOINS THE .300 CLUB – The top four batters in the order went 7-17 and reached base 10 times. Mike Baxter, hitting second in the order, went 2-for-3 with a walk and a HBP. For the season Baxter is now batting an even .300 and he joins Daniel Murphy (.302), Ruben Tejada (.323) and David Wright (.327) as .300 hitters on the club.

Baxter moved past Wright for the highest OBP on the team, with his .424 OBP topping Wright’s .419 mark. However, Baxter has just 99 PA for the season compared to 472 for Wright. Baxter started the season as a pinch-hitter, but did so well in that role (9-16 with 6 RBIs and 6 R) that he earned additional playing time.

Baxter now gets the bigger side of a platoon role. This year he is 24-71 versus RHP with a .338/.455/.521 slash line. However, Baxter is hitless in 9 ABs versus lefties. Instead of trying to revive the career of Jason Bay, the Mets would be better off finding out if Baxter can be more than a platoon player in the remainder of 2012.

I’LL TAKE “THINGS I’D NEVER IMAGINE” FOR $2,000 ALEX – Have you noticed how similar Dillon Gee and Johan Santana’s numbers are this year? With Gee out for the season and Santana’s return imminent, let’s take a look at how they stack up right now before Santana gets his next start:

Gee 463 6 7 4.10 109.2 108 50 12 29 97 1.249
Santana 464 6 7 3.98 110.2 102 49 15 38 105 1.265

ONE INNING ACOSTA – Since his recall, Manny Acosta has been given the Jon Rauch treatment and has been used mostly in one-inning stints. In seven games, he’s pitched exactly one inning five times, 1.1 IP once and 0.2 IP the other time. And the results have been good. Acosta has a 1.29 ERA since his recall, with 7 Ks in 7 IP. He’s limited batters to a .437 OPS. Acosta has walked more batters than you would like to see (4) but has compensated by not giving up a HR to his 29 batters faced. Before his demotion, Acosta had allowed 6 HR to his 116 batters faced, an average of one homer every 19.3 batters.

CEDENO CERTAINLY SURPRISES – When the Mets signed Ronny Cedeno in the offseason, it looked like a very good move by Sandy Alderson, giving the team a strong defensive middle infielder who would not be a zero with the bat. Meanwhile, Cedeno has been a valuable middle infielder, but his contributions have been mainly at the plate. He’s got a .356 wOBA, 75 points above his career average. But he has a (-3) DRS at second base and a (-2) DRS at SS. Last year he was a +5 at the two positions.

JORDANY’S DOWNWARD SPIN – After a two-hit game on July 22nd, Jordany Valdespin had a .299/.330/.586 line. Since then he has a .167/.200/.271 line in 50 PA, including 10 starts. While his BABIP has been poor what’s really hurting him is his lack of power. His ISO was .287 at the beginning of the year and is .101 in his last 50 PA. For the season, Valdespin has a healthy .222 ISO. For a player who does not figure to have a great OBP, he will need to post a high SLG to be effective.

LEFTY RELIEF? – One thing we’ve learned about Terry Collins is that he loves to play the matchups, regardless of the quality of pitcher in his bullpen. For two seasons now, we’ve heard about his desire to have a second lefty in the pen. Tim Byrdak was excellent in his role last season and had mixed success before coming down with a season-ending injury this year. Josh Edgin has been outstanding since giving up a HR to Chipper Jones. But what about the other LHP that Collins has used in 2012?

Justin Hampson, Garrett Olson and Robert Carson have combined for the following line:

4.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 4 BB, 1 K

That’s incredibly poor production. It will be a good day when Collins gives more thought to the quality of the pitcher rather than the hand with which he throws the ball. Chasing the platoon advantage is a good strategy versus Ryan Howard. But not every hitter needs to be treated like Howard, who is a threat to take any RHP deep at any time. Roger Bernadina is a nice player but he doesn’t need to have a LHP face him whenever he comes to bat. He’s got a .761 OPS vs RHP and a .759 OPS vs LHP.

There are plenty of lefties who do show huge platoon splits. But how likely are they to take a RHP deep? If the hitter in question is batting .300 but with a .375 SLG – that’s not a guy who automatically has to face a southpaw late in the game, despite what the proponents of “LaRussa ball” will tell you.

Every pitcher will be more effective if he faces just one or two batters per game and has the platoon advantage 65 percent of the time. There’s nothing special about southpaws in this regard. The goal of the club should be to have a bullpen where each guy can pitch a full inning (preferably more) regardless of which hitters are coming to the plate.

8 comments for “Andres Torres’ big day, Mike Baxter hits .300, lefty relievers

  1. August 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I can’t imagine how Mets fans would react if Baxter evolved into a full-time outfielder for the boys in blue. First the hometown kid and then he saves the first no-no?

    Dunno who said it first a month ago, but Valdespin really needs to go back to AAA and refine his approach. He hacks away at everything and I’m getting sick of it. Let him face the guile of some older pitchers and learn what a ball is in AAA.

    Any LHP relievers on the off-season market?

    • August 10, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Here’s some from a preseason list compiled over at Cot’s. Some of these may have re-signed

      Sean Burnett
      Randy Choate
      Pedro Feliciano(!)
      Brian Fuentes
      Hong-Chi Kuo
      Will Ohman
      Hisanori Takahashi

    • steevy
      August 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Valdespin is unlikely to change.

  2. Name
    August 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    May 22,23,25,27,29 and June 1st. You know what is common about all those days? The Mets won all of those days. What else? Mike Baxter was hitting leadoff for all those games!

    Yes i’ve been saying it for a month now. The Mets need to instill Baxter as the leadoff guy vs RHP and see what happens. While you generally don’t want to mess with something that’s good(Tejada), i think he could take one for the team by moving to 2nd. Besides, with his peskiness, it might be better. Collins also hasn’t been afraid to bust Tejada’s chops so this move wouldn’t be out of ordinary for him.

    As for the “2nd lefty”, Terry always claims that he wants to have one, but he never has the guts to use them in the proper spot and ends up using them in mop-up relief and then they put together that sort of ugly line. Then they send them down and rinse and repeat. I agree it’s better to bring up a quality arm than a lefty.

  3. steevy
    August 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I like Torres leading off with Tejada or Murphy in the two hole.As long as Torres keeps hitting well from the left side.He gives them a leadoff man with speed.

  4. steevy
    August 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Harvey showed that he could fight adversity and give the team a chance to win.3 strong starts now out of 4,Mets let him down in 2 of them.No surprise there.You give up only 2 runs at least your team should get you a no decision.

  5. Metsense
    August 11, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Dillon Gee is a 5 starter who seemed to be improving into a 4. Santana was a shoulder injured question mark at the beginning of the year who was replacing the 2012 4 starter, Chris Capuano. To expect more from Johan than 4th starter numbers in 2013 would seem to be wishful. It was what should have been expected and not that hard to imagine.

    “The goal of the club should be to have a bullpen where each guy can pitch a full inning (preferably more) regardless of which hitters are coming to the plate.” Well stated Brian and what I expect for the future Mets that are stocked with good young starting pitching prospects that some will fall to middle relief.

    Mike Baxter should be given many AB’s in the next 2 months so that he can be properly evaluated. I would like to see if he could sustain an above .800 OPS.

    • Name
      August 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

      I thought Gee was pretty good consdiering he was pitching with that blood clot probably most of the year. Hopefully, next year he can be fully healthy and show us what he can really do.

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