In this morning’s New York Post, Mike Puma wrote a column based on a person “with direct knowledge of (Terry) Collins’ plans” saying that the Mets are going to name Luis Hernandez as the team’s starting second baseman.
How many people saw that one coming two weeks ago?
The last time we saw Hernandez, he was limping around the bases after hitting a home run off Tim Hudson. Previously in the at-bat, Hernandez fouled a ball of his right foot and had actually fractured a metatarsal bone. So if nothing else, we know that he is tough.
We also know that Hernandez has a lifetime .255/.302/.331 line – in the minors over 3,324 PA. The overwhelming majority of evidence screams that he cannot hit major league pitching. In 290 PA in the majors, Hernandez has a .245/.286/.298 line.
There is no reason to think that Luis Hernandez is the answer at second base.
If the Mets are so concerned about defense at the position, they should simply play Ruben Tejada there. It’s hard to imagine Tejada doing worse than he did last year, when his .588 OPS was percentage points better than what Hernandez has done in the majors. The difference is that Tejada did it at age 20 while Hernandez put up his marks over his age 23-26 seasons. Tejada has room for growth while Hernandez is what he’s going to be at this point.
Puma says that Collins is the one pushing for this move and he has to win a battle with the front office to get his guy. If putting a no-bat, questionable glove (UZR does not love his range at either 2B or SS in his limited time in the majors) is going to be the first defining moment for Collins as a manager, well I am extremely unimpressed.
My first choice for the position is Daniel Murphy. My second choice would be Luis Castillo. My third choice would be a Brad Emaus-Murphy platoon. My fourth choice would be Tejada. Which makes Hernandez (at best) the fifth choice at the position, and it’s not clear that he’s a better pick than Justin Turner, who significantly out-hit Hernandez at Triple-A last year.
Now, it’s possible that this story about Hernandez was floated as a trial balloon to motivate the others in camp to step up their game. So far, every single word out of Collins’ mouth this Spring has been positive. It’s easy to see him being underwhelmed about what he’s seeing so far in the second base competition and using this as a motivational tool for Murphy, Castillo and Emaus.
I hope that’s what this is. Because if Collins really has Hernandez in his Opening Day lineup, there’s only one way this story unfolds for the Mets. Last year Gary Matthews Jr. was in the Opening Day lineup while a far better player in Angel Pagan rode the pine. Matthews was finally released in mid-June.
Last April, I wrote the following about Matthews and Pagan, “If the choice is between a guy we know is no good (Matthews) and a guy who may or may not be good (Pagan) – always, always, always go with the guy who at least has a chance to be good.”
That same thing applies to Hernandez and Murphy. We know Hernandez is not a major league quality hitter. We can easily deduce that from his minor league numbers and his brief time in the majors backs that up nicely. Murphy has generally hit in the majors and is doing so once again this Spring (.303/.455 SLG in nearly 3X the playing time as Hernandez).
Murphy will be an asset offensively at second base. We do not know if he would give that back on defense. There’s a chance he will. There’s also a non-zero chance that he won’t. Hernandez would have to be the equivalent of Bill Mazeroski defensively to make up for that bat and there’s nothing in his record to say that he would.
Forget the whole Bernie Madoff mess. Forget the possibility that Carlos Beltran won’t be ready to play on Opening Day. Forget the fact that Johan Santana may not pitch at all this year. Choosing to start Hernandez at second base is worse than all of those things.
The Mets have no control over the Madoff fiasco. They can’t make injured players be healthy. But they can put the best players on the field that they have under contract. And sitting Murphy for Hernandez is not only a mistake, it’s one of huge proportions.
Just like starting Matthews over Pagan.
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