Ask any Mets fan to describe 2009 in one word and the answer is: injuries.  Ask the same fan to describe 2010 and you are likely to get a bunch of different answers.  But the lineup turnover has been just as dramatic this year as it was in the cursed 2009 season.  Here is the Opening Day lineup compared to what they used Thursday night against the Marlins”

Opening Day August 26th
Alex Cora Jose Reyes
Luis Castillo Angel Pagan
David Wright Carlos Beltran
Mike Jacobs David Wright
Jason Bay Ike Davis
Gary Matthews Jr. Jeff Francoeur
Jeff Francoeur Josh Thole
Rod Barajas Luis Castillo

Only three players – Wright, Francoeur and Castillo – remain in the lineup from the group that started the first game of the year.  Here is what happened to the other five players:

Cora – released after batting just .207

Jacobs – released after batting just .208

Bay – on the DL with a concussion

Matthews – released after batting just .190

Barajas – placed on waivers and traded to Dodgers after batting just .225

And this could easily be worse as both Castillo and Francoeur are hardly lineup regulars these days

Now let’s go back to 2009.  Last August the Mets had 11 players on the DL.  Not surprisingly, the lineup they trotted out on August 26th bore little resemblance to the one with which they opened the season.  Here were the respective lineups:

Opening Day August 26th
Jose Reyes Angel Pagan
Daniel Murphy Luis Castillo
David Wright Daniel Murphy
Carlos Delgado Jeff Francoeur
Carlos Beltran Cory Sullivan
Ryan Church Fernando Tatis
Brian Schneider Brian Schneider
Luis Castillo Anderson Hernandez

Only three players – Murphy, Schneider and Castillo – remained in the lineup by late August.  Here is what happened to the other five players:

Reyes – on the DL with leg injuries

Wright – on the DL with a concussion

Delgado – on the DL with an injured hip

Beltran – on the DL with a knee injury

Church – traded to Atlanta

The big difference in the two seasons was the ability of the Mets to look inside the organization for answers.  In 2010 Davis, Thole and Ruben Tejada have come up from Triple-A to help fill the lineup holes.  Last year the Mets had to go outside the system for Hernandez, Francoeur and Gary Sheffield.

In 2009 the Mets did a poor job of stocking their triple-A team in Buffalo with major league talent.  This hurt in two ways, as it got the club off on the wrong foot with its new affiliate and it left the major league team in a bind when injuries hit in waves.  The Mets simply did not have the upper-level talent that one might hope and then they compounded things by not bringing in adequate minor league depth.

This year the Mets brought in, among others, Russ Adams, Chris Carter, Kiko Calero, Elmer Dessens, R.A. Dickey, Jesus Feliciano and Mike Hessman for Buffalo.  The results have been a better ballclub in Buffalo and guys who have turned into useful parts for the Mets, especially Dickey.  The improvement in the Buffalo team this year was also aided by prospects lIke Davis, Lucas Duda, Thole, Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  It’s all added up to a club with a 70-61 record and a second-place spot in its division.

In 2009, Buffalo went 56-87, one that Buffalo News reporter Mike Harrington called, “a train wreck of a first season.”  Many felt Buffalo should shop for a new major league affiliate when its contract with the Mets was up after the 2010 season.

But in July of 2010, New York and Buffalo extended their player development contract for two more years.  Bisons President Jon Dandes told the Buffalo News:

Last year was interesting. It was obviously awful. We were not happy. The Mets were not happy. One could not say at any point in last year’s season that they didn’t try. In many ways, they were not capable of improving at the Triple-A level.

What they did in the offseason .‚.‚. was to say we’re going to create in our minor-league system a philosophy and a method of operation that is going to create winners up and down the line and provide a good pipeline for the major leagues. What we saw was a real change and philosophy for a commitment to get that done.

So, the Mets have displayed “real change and philosophy for a commitment” in at least one level of their organization.  Perhaps there is hope they can bring that “change” and “philosophy” to the major league level for 2011.  Change the manager and commit to stop filling up the roster with overpaid role players like Cora and Francoeur.

And maybe fans will use the word “exciting” when asked to describe the 2011 season.

2 comments on “Analyzing Mets lineup turnover

  • Dan Stack

    With the Mets under performing again, several outlets are calling for a breakup of the core. Brian, who do you think is untouchable? Reyes, Wright, Santana?
    It’s easy to say break up the team, but knowing that a player or two can really push this team over the top its not such a cut and dry theory.

  • Brian Joura

    As I like to say in my fantasy leagues – no one is untouchable in the right deal. That being said, I do not see how the Mets could trade any of their top guys.

    No one is going to take Beltran or Santana’s salary and give a decent trade return. Wright is the golden boy who seemingly does everything correct – how could they trade him? Reyes is one of the three top SS in the game and there is no replacement for him in the system. His $11 million option is not unreasonable. He’s the type of guy you trade for, not look to move.

    Instead of blaming their best players, I think what needs to happen is to stop giving away so many ABs to hitters we know are no good. Every team has no choice but to give some ABs to these guys but stop with the Barajas and Coras and Francoeurs and Matthews – guys whose track records indicated they had little chance to succeed in 2010.

    Those four guys have received 863 ABs so far in 2010 and have produced a .222 AVG. I didn’t include Mike Jacobs because they had to play him after Daniel Murphy’s injury. They didn’t have to give Francoeur a $5 million contract this year to stink when it was a likely occurrence.

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