“Little” guys Tejada, Cedeno and Torres making “big” contributions

Although small in stature, Ruben Tejada (5-11, 187), Ronny Cedeno (6-0, 190) and Andres Torres (5-9, 198) have all been making some big contributions of late and have played a key part in the Mets winning five out of their last nine games (after the team dropped 12 out of their last 13).

These diminutive, yet important sparkplugs have given the Mets a shot in the arm of late and their presence in the lineup has come at a good time, as some of the Mets’ big sluggers have been playing inconsistent of late (I’m looking at you Ike Davis).

The following are the key stats for Tejada, Cedeno and Torres in their last ten games:

Tejada: 15-45 with 1 home run, 1 double, 3 runs and 1 RBI.
Cedeno: 9-24 with 1 home run, 4 doubles, 10 RBI’s and 1 run scored.
Torres: 10-28 with 1 triple, 1 double, 1 RBI, 5 runs scored and 1 stolen base.

Tejada and Torres are providing their spark at the top of the order and are giving players like David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis and Scott Hairston ample opportunities for RBI’s. Meanwhile, Cedeno is biding his time while platooning with Daniel Murphy.

While Tejada has been good from the get-go, Torres and Cedeno have had their ups and downs during the season, but they are finally delivering on their talents. Plus, all three have had to battle back from injuries, as all three at one point or another have been on the DL.

For a Mets’ team that has been carried by David Wright and their starting pitching, it is great to see some of the “little” guys chipping in.

Tejada has done a marvelous job filling the giant shoes left by the departure of Jose Reyes and is doing everything that was expected of him and more. With a .319/.363/.389 line, Tejada is playing within his strengths and is firmly establishing himself as the Mets’ starting shortstop for the foreseeable future.

Torres, who was acquired with Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan in the offseason, got off to a rocky start. Of course, this was exacerbated by his trip to the DL after his first day with the Mets. However, Torres is now finding his groove.

Although not a great hitter from the left side, but when he hits from the right side, Torres is terror on lefties. Torres sports a .311/.436/.433 line as a righty compared to a .188/.292/.248 line as a lefty.

For a team with a very lefty-laden lineup, Torres (to go along with Tejada) at the top of the order vs. lefties is a key component for success.

Lastly, Cedeno is starting to earn his keep and has now raised his batting average to a healthy .291 and his on-base percentage to an impressive.361. It was always Cedeno’s glove that made him standout, but lately he is swinging a hot bat.

While the lumbering big boppers will garner the attention most of the time, it’s time we paid some credit to this thriving “little” trio.

While “chicks dig the long ball” (and Tejada, Cedeno and Torres’ combined four home runs will not win many fans over), they also do say women appreciate all the “little” things in life.

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Andres Torres helps the Mets in many ways

Is there anything Andres Torres can’t do?

Before we praise Torres, let’s take a minute to remember how he came to the Mets in the first place over the winter. Depending on your point of view, Torres was acquired:
A – Since the Mets were desperate to get rid of Angel Pagan
B – Since the Mets were eager to get Ramon Ramirez

But it’s been nothing but good things for the Mets and Torres, even if not in the traditional way. First, he got hurt in Spring Training, which allowed the club to take an extra long look at Jordany Valdespin, even getting him reps in the outfield. Then he re-injured himself on Opening Day, which forced the team to give a look to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. All Nieuwenhuis has done has been to hustle and excel on both sides of the ball.

Now, Nieuwenhuis and Torres are both in the lineup, as Jason Bay went down with an injury. And the Mets are learning they can survive quite nicely without their expensive 2014 option, uh, left fielder. Nieuwenhuis has continued to hit and Torres is off to a hot start. Bay was off to a respectable start and offered a RH threat in the lineup. But the reaction from fans has been pleas for Bay to take his time coming back and to make sure he is 100% healthy.

Torres went 2-for-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. In 10 games with the Mets he has a .333/.429/.500 slash line. And this coming from a guy whose defense was supposed to be his main asset. But it’s not like Torres has been a disappointment in the field. While it’s easy to get fooled by defensive numbers in the best of times, Torres definitely passes the eye test out in CF.

For what it’s worth, Torres has already notched 3 DRS and his UZR checks in at 0.8 after 10 games, both indicative of strong defensive play. For giggles, let’s compare those to the departed Angel Pagan. First, let’s recall that DRS and UZR are both counting stats (like RBIs) rather than rate stats. Pagan, by virtue of a 165.1 innings played edge, should have better numbers.

But Pagan has a (-7) DRS and a (-2.4) UZR, numbers resembling his 2011 season with the Mets and not 2010 when he was above-average in the field. FanGraphs also lists a UZR/150 stat, which projects what a player would do at his current rate over 150 games. Pagan has a (-14.9) rate in this category while Torres checks in with a 38.3 mark.

There’s a long way between the second week of May and 150 games, so we certainly should not treat UZR/150 as gospel. Yet if the two players did end up with those defensive numbers, it would represent a difference of 53.2 runs or – as 10 runs equal a win – five wins, which is just huge.

Who would have ever guessed that with Ramirez being underwhelming and Torres limited to 10 games after five weeks that Mets fans would be *thrilled* with their offseason trade? It’s just another example of how baseball can surprise you. But there’s little doubt that the Pagan-Torres trade has played a key role in the Mets’ 18-13 start.

If the season ended today, the Mets would make the playoffs. While the season still has plenty of games remaining, the Mets are a combined 9-3 against the Braves and Phillies, the two teams expected to challenge for the division title. Additionally, the Mets are just 0.5 games out of first place. It leaves me wondering one thing:

Where are all the people who said in the preseason that the Mets were terrible and that they would challenge for 100 losses?

Andres Torres versus Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Well the Mets certainly had an interesting series in Denver this weekend. They got smoked in the first game losing 18-9, they were down twice in the second game but won 7-5, and today after blowing a 4-0 lead for Johan Santana, they won in extra innings 6-5 in spite of the bullpen’s worst efforts. As a typical series at Coors Field, the offense enjoyed the visit, and the pitching did not (except for Johan).

Now the Mets will had to Houston to take on one of the worst teams in baseball. If you’re the Mets the goal has to be to sweep, but they need to win at least two out of three. And as interesting as the series in Denver was, the series in Houston will be interesting for a different reason.

After the game today the Mets optioned Zach Lutz back down to the minors in order to make room for Andres Torres. He’s been on the DL since April 6th with a strained right calf, an injury he dealt with during Spring Training, and re-injured on Opening Day.

When Torres went down it was definitely a blow for the Mets, but Kirk Niewenhuis made the situation much better. He came in and immediately had a positive impacted on the club. Now Torres, who was suppose to be the center fielder and lead-off hitter for this team, comes back to see a guy who is thieving in the role he left.

The Mets need to decided three things now between Torres and Kirk: 1) who will play center field 2) who will hit lead-off and 3) where will the other player hit in the line-up. The whole situation is made easier by the fact that Jason Bay is not in the picture. If he was, then Terry Collins would have a much bigger bag of problems. He will have to deal with it eventually, but for now he can put it off.

So let’s address the questions now. My vote is for Kirk in center. Now I don’t think he is a better fielder then Torres, they are both very, very, good. The reason I go with Kirk is that Torres is coming off the injury, and in left field he wouldn’t have to cover as much ground, thus easing him back into action. Torres should reclaim his position as the team’s lead-off hitter though. Now there is the question of where to bat Kirk. There is really no easy answer. The line-up will probably look something like this for tomorrow:

Torres (S) – Tejada (R) – Murphy (L) – Wright (R) – Duda (L) – Davis (L) – Niewenhuis (L) – Thole (L)

The problem is that there are four lefties at the end of the line-up. Also, Kirk has to adjust from being a run manufacture to a run producer in that number seven hole.

The thing I don’t understand is hearing people not wanting Torres to come back into the line-up and that he is a fourth outfielder. First off, he hasn’t even really played this year so you have to give him a shot. Second, these people clearly didn’t watch Spring Training, and forgot all the great things he was doing down in the Florida. I know if doesn’t count, but you have to give him some credit. I even read somewhere that they should play Mike Baxter in favor of Torres.

It’s weird to see all his negativity towards Torres’ return when he will bring three things to the table that the Mets have been lacking; speed,  a right-hand bat, and defense. Anyway you look at it Torres returning to the Mets line-up is a good thing. The real question will be what to do when Bay comes back. I’m sure at this point most Mets fans would rather have Baxter than Bay.

Torres making his case for leading off

One of the main concerns for the Mets heading into this season was how they would go about filling the void at the top of the order that was left when Jose Reyes left for Miami.

While some petitioned for perhaps Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada to land the role, the odds on favorite was always Andres Torres. And if Spring Training games are any indication, Torres is off to a running start.

In seven games this spring, Torres has six hits in 18 at-bats thus far for a .333 batting average. As of Friday, Torres’ on base percentage (a major area of concern among his doubters) was a healthy .364. Torres also has collected two stolen bases and scored two runs so far. Not to mention Torres has also driven in four runs.

Of course, the sampling size is incredibly small and we’re only talking about Spring Training here, but Torres has shown a spark that was missing in his game last year. There appears to be more pep in Torres’ step as he tries to make amends for a poor season he had with the Giants last year.

If you read Brandon’s piece from Wednesday, you’ll realize Torres’ worth to the squad. Torres is an extremely hard worker whose passion for the game is contagious. Torres defense has never been questioned and he’ll undoubtedly be an upgrade over Angel Pagan.

Now it is up to Torres to keep it up and give the Mets a presence at the top of the order. While Torres has a little pop, his main asset will be his speed. No is going to confuse Torres with Reyes as they are completely two different players, but if Torres can get on base and swipe some bags and make way for the Mets’ hitters, he’ll endear himself to Mets’ fans.

Now, will Torres have enough mojo to keep this going all season? Maybe, maybe not, but at least his strong spring is instilling some hope.

Finding a capable leadoff hitter was always going to be a question mark for the Mets and if Torres can keep it up, it will validate the trade they made with the Giants when they shipped Pagan out of town.

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Brandon in PSL: Andres Torres your new favorite Met

Well there weren’t many positives to take away from Tuesday’s game. It was nice to see strong>Matt Den Dekker and Cesar Puello play next to each other in the outfield and Daniel Murphy keeps proving he’s going to be one of the best hitters in the league this year. The pitchers struggled as much as the hitters, and if Mike Pelfrey keeps giving up as many fly balls as he did today he won’t be on the team much longer.

The one nice thing to see was Andres Torres. What many didn’t see before the game (besides a very interesting rendition of The National Anthem), was the warm-ups. I got to the ballpark to see the Cardinals finish up batting practice. After they cleaned up the field of all the equipment, balls, and Cardinal players, Torres was the first player on the field for warm-ups. A couple minutes later Lucas May came up, followed by Pelfrey. Then Murphy, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Jason Bay, and the rest of the starters headed out to the 3rd base line for their pre-game warm-ups.

The whole time Torres was stretching, running, and taking the warm-ups pretty seriously. After The Anthem, a couple minutes past and the players finished up their stretches and went into the dugout to get ready for the game. Torres was the last player to finish up on the field, taking more time to loosen up and get ready than everyone else. He was also the only player to stay and sign autographs.

I was one of those people that love the Angel Pagan trade for this guy alone. The guy does everything right and I think he’s going to become an immediate fan favorite once the season starts and made people get to see him play. I just hope he can put up the numbers necessary to stay in the starting line-up because he has an amazing work ethic and really appreciates the fans.

Should Terry Collins bat Andres Torres leadoff?

In no small part due to injuries, Terry Collins was a lineup tinkerer last year. With the exception of Jose Reyes, every player moved around in the batting order, including Daniel Murphy who batted in every spot in the lineup except leadoff. Even Carlos Beltran did not have a stable spot, as he had 101 starts batting third and 36 batting fourth.

With Reyes gone, the question becomes who bats leadoff for the 2012 Mets. The default answer is Andres Torres because he’s fast and plays center field. Hey that’s the logic the Pirates used back in the late 1970s-early 1980s when they used Omar Moreno in the leadoff spot despite the fact that he finished with an OBP of .320 or lower four times in six years.

The dirty secret is that as long as you bat your pitcher in the bottom of the order, lineup construction does not make a huge difference. Still, there is a difference and while the Mets offense figures to be pretty good, there’s no reason to throw away 40-50 runs over the course of the season.

Here’s one guess as to the lineup that Collins uses on Opening Day:

Torres-Murphy-Davis-Wright-Duda-Bay-Thole-Tejada-Dickey

Using the average of the players’ last three seasons, I plugged in their OBP and SLG into the lineup analysis tool over at Baseball Musings and it calculated the above lineup would score an average of 4.581 runs per game over a full season. So, Jason Bay had a .356/.447 line because his big 2009 season still entered the equation.

Anyway, how do you like this lineup?

Wright-Davis-Thole-Duda-Bay-Torres-Murphy-Pitcher-Tejada

That is the optimized lineup for the 2012 Mets and over a full season it projects to average 4.814 runs per game. That’s a difference of 38 runs over the course of the season over the lineup I speculated Collins actually would use.

It would have been interesting if the Mets had used David Wright as a leadoff hitter at some point after they moved to Citi Field. That way they could have told him to quit worrying about home runs, just worry about getting on-base and whatever homers you do hit will be a bonus. Perhaps then we wouldn’t have seen the massive increase in strikeouts which have robbed him of such a big part of his value the past three seasons.

Anyway, how about the worst possible lineup?

Pitcher-Thole-Murphy-Tejada-Torres-Bay-Davis-Wright-Duda

This lineup would average 4.324 runs per game or a difference of 80 runs from the optimized lineup over a full season. The calculator shows the top 30 and worst 30 lineups. In neither case does Torres bat leadoff. In the best lineups he bats either sixth or seventh. And this is calculating his OBP/SLG as .332/.436 when it was .312/.330 last year.

On the flip side, Torres batted second in six of the worst 30 lineups. He also batted third six times. The other 18 times he batted fifth.

Now, the point of this is not to trash Torres, who I’m glad will be playing CF for the Mets this season. It’s just to indicate that he should not be automatically considered to be the team’s best option at leadoff hitter just because Reyes is gone and no one else fits the established profile.

If we take the lineup first speculated but bat Josh Thole first and have Torres hit eighth, the projection is 4.605 runs per game. Remember, the lineup with Torres leading off produced 4.581 runs per game. There’s every reason to consider batting Thole first as there is Torres. If we instead bat Ruben Tejada first and Torres seventh, the projection is even better at 4.618 runs per game.

I hope Collins tinkers with his lineup just as much this year as he did in 2011. However, I hope he does it to figure out which combination he likes best, rather than being forced to do it due to a bunch of injuries. But I doubt that using Torres like he did Reyes in 2011, as the leadoff hitter every day he’s in the lineup, is in the best interest of the Mets.

Getting acquainted with the newest Mets’ CF Andres Torres

While the biggest impact acquisitions in the off-season for the Mets has to be the additions of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez to the bullpen, the addition of Andres Torres certainly is of equal importance to the franchise.

As you’re probably well aware of, Torres, along with Ramirez, was acquired on December 6 when the Mets shipped Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants.

Torres has talent. The problem for Torres is putting it all together and staying healthy.

After breaking through in 2010, positing career highs in home runs (16), RBI’s (63), runs (84) and stolen bases (26)-while being an integral part of the Giants’ world series run-Torres regressed in 2011, batting only .221 while hitting four home runs, driving in 19 runs and stealing 19 stolen bases.

It appears as if Torres is ready to start spring training healthy, though. As long as he his healthy, Torres will have a place on this team, as he is a good table setter, base stealer and best of all an above average defensive player.

With Pagan wearing out his welcome last year with his lackadaisical play and attitude, Torres offers the Mets a fresh new batch of blood.

The key for Torres is to get on base. While his power numbers are decent, no one is going to confuse him with a slugger. So it is imperative that Torres does his job as a lead-off hitter and get on base.

Last year, while battling injuries and with the Giants going through a rotation of several different outfielders, Torres never got settled in and only got on base at a .312 clip. That was a big drop off from the .343 clip he registered in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Also of significance to note is the drop off in OPS numbers from the 2009, 2010 seasons to last year. In 2009, Torres had a .876 OPS while in 2010 he posted a .823 OPS. In 2011, that number dropped to a woeful .643. For the Mets to get more bang for their buck, they have to get better OPS numbers from Torres.

While no one is going to mistake Torres for Jose Reyes at the lead-off spot, Torres is a competitive player that will always play hard and hustle. I know this won’t excite the masses, believe me I know, but Torres does give the Mets what they need when they lost Reyes: a strong passion to play and win, likability and being a threat with his speed and his glove.

Unfortunately, the Mets may not be going anywhere this season, so the pressure on Torres to have a solid season will not be that high. So, the transition for Torres could be seamless. The hope here is that Torres can bat over .270, hit 10-15 home runs and steal close to 30 bases.

No one should expect another Carlos Beltran in center, but if given the time and support, than Torres can become an appreciated player and welcome addition for the Mets in 2012.

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