At the start of Spring Training, one of the biggest questions facing the Mets was who was going to be the club’s starting second baseman. Nearly 130 games into the season, not much has changed. Sure, Justin Turner has held down the position for the great majority of the year but his hold seems tenuous, at best. Terry Collins has dropped him from second to eighth in the lineup and once Jose Reyes returns, Ruben Tejada may take over the position and force Turner to the bench.
In his last 94 PA, Turner has a .176/.255/.306 line. Since May 31st, Turner has a .228/.304/.316 line in 304 PA, all but 11 of which came with him batting second in the batting order. Perhaps the greatest difference between traditional lineup construction and an optimized batting order is how the two treat the second slot in the order. Traditionally, the second slot has been reserved for a player willing to give himself up and go the other way. The optimal lineup views the second spot in the order as one of the most important slots, one where you should consider putting your best hitter.
The traditional lineup made sense in the 1960s, when teams like the Mets averaged fewer then three runs per game. Give yourself up, make productive outs and help your team score one run. But when the average team scores over four runs per game like they do here in the 21st Century, that makes less sense. Unless it’s an end of the game situation, you want your hitters to, you know, hit the ball, preferably with authority.
And Turner just hasn’t done that on a regular basis since the end of May.
Meanwhile, since being recalled on August 8th, Tejada has a .358/.452/.472 line in 63 PA. He’s a more preferable option as a starter than Turner but it’s debatable if he should be hitting second in the order. On a good team he should hit eighth. It would be nice if the Mets could bat David Wright second although I am not holding my breath waiting for that. Daniel Murphy would be another good choice for that slot in the order, if he comes back healthy and is not dealt.
IDEAL IZZY USAGE – Now that Jason Isringhausen has recorded his 300th career save, the Mets seem willing to give Bobby Parnell a shot at closing games. Well, better late than never. Isringhausen has been one of the feel-good stories of the year and I’m hoping he will be part of the 2012 Mets, too. If he does come back, I hope the Mets investigate the best way to deploy him. There were worries early on about his ability to pitch on back-to-back days. But for the most part Isringhausen has been up to that task.
Where he hasn’t done very well is bouncing back after giving up a run. Five times this year, Isringhausen gave up a run in an appearance and then pitched the next day. Four times he allowed runs in the follow-up appearance, too. With a young pitcher, frequently the best thing to do is get him back on the mound immediately after a bad performance. But for an older pitcher like Isringhausen, rest seems to be the better option after a rough outing.
PRIDIE’S PINCH-HITTING PREDICAMENT – One of the hardest things to do in baseball is to be a successful pinch-hitter. It’s especially true for youngsters, who are used to playing every day and getting at least three trips to the plate per game. Jason Pridie is 3-19 (.158) as a pinch-hitter this season. When he was getting regular ABs in his normal position of CF earlier this season, Pridie had a .253/.321/.424 line in 112 PA.
OFFENSE BOGS DOWN WHEN POWER RETURNS – When the lineup was without Ike Davis and David Wright, the Mets were missing two of their top HR threats. After an initial period where they struggled to score runs, the Mets found a way to score without hitting many HR. From May 21 to June 26th, the Mets hit just 10 HR yet scored 157 runs and went 17-17. From July 31st to August 24th, the Mets hit 22 HR but scored just 92 runs and have gone 6-16.
NIESE HITS WALL AGAIN – Last season Jonathon Niese was 8-5 with a 3.33 ERA after picking up a win on August 21st. The rest of the season he went 1-5 with a 7.57 ERA over his final seven games. This year Niese was 9-7 with a 3.73 ERA after picking up a win on July 16th. Since then he is 2-4 with a 6.46 ERA. Niese’s peripherals are still strong, as he has 8 BB and 40 Ks in 39 IP. But he’s been victimized by the gopher ball (5 HR in 39 IP) and he sports a .411 BABIP in that span.