For Alderson, Mets fans played role in Castillo’s release

New York Mets GM, Sandy Alderson, spoke with Kevin Burkhardt of SNY about the release of Luis Castillo. He made some interesting comments, one being on what helped to factor in the decision: Bad blood between fans and Castillo.

When Burkhardt spoke to Gary Apple on SNY he had this to say on what factored in the decision:

It was more the history.

I understand you want to make the fans happy. After all, you want to get as many people to the ballpark as possible. The more moves you make to appease them, the more likely they are to come. Sort of like “If you fire him, they will come”. However, if he is the best player you have, you cannot get rid of Castillo just to make the fans happy. You can make them just as happy, even more so, by getting rid of Oliver Perez. After all, Perez is public enemy numero uno.

Other factors included evaluating where Castillo is today offensively and defensively. Well, we all know defensively he has lost a lot of range. He is going nowhere with his defense. Offensively, you can make some type of argument. He did hit .286. A pretty good number by Castillo’s standards. I find it weird how even Alderson says nobody has really separated themselves in the race for the second base position. Yet Castillo managed to get cut. According to Alderson, this will just give the other players a chance to get more at-bats.

Do not get me wrong. I’m not trying to make a case for the Mets to have kept him. I’m just pointing something out that I think should have people thinking: Part of this decision was based on the past instead of the present.

Burkhardt had more thoughts about the Castillo release stating that:

“…even with the moves made today you can still say he is the best secondbaseman they had. He can turn the best double play…Was it fair that everything fell on Castillo? No.”

However, even Burkhardt was hard pressed to admit that Castillo was a big part of the negativity. So much so that it had been documented Collins was forced to reprimand him for it. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of negativity. Life is hard enough without having to deal with negative people. Yet, if you want to be rid of the negativity, wouldn’t that require getting a rid of some of your fan base?

Alderson did admit Castillo made a strong effort. Apparently it was not strong enough. Or was it and the past was just too strong to ignore? I have to ask that if the fans had been, even the slightest way, willing to see Castillo on the field, would he had still been released?

Another factor that actually left me scratching my head was looking at where the organization is going “not just this year, but in the future”. I’m sorry. I did not realize there was a future for Castillo with the New York Mets beyond 2011. That is news to me. From what I understood, there was only the immediate future. No matter. Alderson felt it was in the best interest of the Mets and Castillo.

No matter what the reasons were, Luis Castillo is officially gone. He will still get paid. So celebrate all you want. You are still paying him $6 million.

What if Oliver Perez’ expiring deal had trade value?

I am glad that baseball does not have a salary cap and what’s to follow should in no way, shape or form be construed as any type of argument in favor of any type of salary restriction.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Mets fan John Coppinger posted on his Facebook account:
“We live in a world where Oliver Perez is more untradeable than Eddy Curry.”

The only reason this is true is because expiring deals have value in the NBA. The Knicks have been trying to trade Curry since Donnie Walsh took over and it’s only now, with one-half a season remaining on his six-year, $60 million deal, that anyone was willing to take on his carcass, uh, I mean contract. Curry’s deal allowed the Knicks to take on the salary of Carmelo Anthony and stay under the cap.

But what if MLB had a salary cap? What would Perez and his expiring deal be worth to the Mets? I’m no expert, but I believe NBA rules allow trades up to 125% of contract value. So the Mets could take on a $15 million contract in return for Perez. Or a team could trade a $10 million dollar contract and receive Perez.

So, the Mets could trade Oliver Perez and his expiring deal to the Braves for Derek Lowe and the $30 million he is owed through the 2012 season. Both teams would probably say no to this deal but it is an example of what is possible. Maybe the Orioles would be interested in shedding the remaining $30 million owed Brian Roberts over the next three seasons.

Perhaps if the Mets packaged the expiring deals of Perez and Luis Castillo, a combined $18 million, which would allow them to take back between $14.4 and $22.5 million in salary this year, we would really have something.

It is not impossible that the Cardinals want to free up money for Pujols and would deal Matt Holliday and his $17 million this year and his remaining $103 million (including 2017 buyout) for our disgraced duo.

Or maybe the Cubs cut ties with Carlos Zambrano ($17.875/$35.875), who they feuded with last year. In his last 10 starts in 2010, Zambrano was 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA, with 57 Ks in 65.1 IP. While Holliday would be of dubious benefit to the Mets, Zambrano fills a definite need.

Do the Red Sox view the John Lackey ($15.25/$61 million) contract as an albatross? Would Boston view $61 million owed over the next four years as too much money for a pitcher who delivered just 1.9 bWAR last season? Would Mets fans be happy with a guy who averaged 201 IP the past eight years, rather than the collection of guys coming back from arm injuries that are battling for rotation slots now?

The Tigers have a lot of money wrapped up in problem child Miguel Cabrera ($20 million/$106 million). Would concerns over his drinking problems make a deal for Perez, Castillo and Ike Davis palatable from their point of view? Would Sandy Alderson sacrifice his payroll flexibility in 2012 to acquire a guy who could drink himself out of baseball, but who might be the best hitter this side of Pujols if he can stay on the field?

Let’s end with an off-the-wall idea. Would the Mets be willing to trade two guys they think have bad contracts for a guy who truly has a bad contract if something else was kicked into the deal as a sweetener? Who would say no to the offer of Perez and Castillo for Barry Zito ($18.5 million/$64.5 million w/2014 buyout) and Zach Wheeler? While Zito would give the Mets (very expensive) innings, would the inclusion of Wheeler, the sixth overall pick in the 2009 Draft and a guy who had a 10.74 K/9 last year, make this a trade worth doing?

*****

Certainly, all of these deals and others could be made without a salary cap. But the cap makes these deals more likely to happen, as we just saw in the NBA with Curry having trade value.

Mets should embrace platooning in 2011

After avoiding platoons for most of the past few seasons, the Mets could be moving back to this strategy in 2011, with potential platoon situations at both catcher and second base. With the LaRussification of bullpen usage, platoons have fallen out of favor throughout the majors in recent years, as spots that would go to platoon bats when teams carried 10 pitchers now go instead to sixth and seventh relievers.

Most people expect the Mets to go with a platoon at catcher, where Josh Thole has a lifetime .309/.382/.401 mark versus RHP in the majors and newly-acquired Ronny Paulino has a .338/.390/.491 career mark against southpaws. If these two can match these totals in 2011, the Mets could have one of the most productive catching tandems in baseball.

But what has gotten less attention is the possibility for a similar situation at second base. Daniel Murphy’s career numbers against righties – .282/.340/.436 – could team quite nicely with either Luis Castillo (.292/.361/.417) or Brad Emaus (currently sporting a .448 split in the Dominican Winter League) getting the at-bats versus lefties for an effective offensive duo.

The Mets have a long history of platooning. Casey Stengel, the team’s first manager, is generally credited with bringing platooning back to the majors in the late 1940s, after the practice had essentially been abandoned. Platooning has roots back to the early 1900s. Historian Bill James credits the 1906 Tigers as having the first platoon, with three people sharing the catching position.

When Stengel managed the Mets, he ran several platoons, including one at first base. Gil Hodges had great success as a part-timer in 1962, as he batted .390/.446/.712 in 65 PA versus southpaws. So, it is little surprise that Hodges used platoons extensively when he became Mets manager.

In the World Championship year of 1969, Hodges tinkered extensively with his lineups. By the end of the season, he was platooning at three infield positions. First base had Donn Clendenon and Ed Kranepool alternating; second base had Al Weiss and Ken Boswell splitting at-bats and third base saw either Ed Charles or Wayne Garrett in the lineup depending upon the pitcher.

The common perception is that Art Shamsky and Ron Swoboda platooned during the season but a look at the game logs does not support this. Shamsky missed all of April with a back injury and did not make his first start until May 13th. He was generally in the lineup for the rest of the season, although he saw time in both left field and right field and even saw a handful of games at first base. Swoboda was essentially the regular RF in September.

Shamsky and Swoboda did platoon in the World Series, with Shamsky’s only start coming in Game Three against RHP Jim Palmer. Shamsky’s .863 OPS during the season was the second-highest mark on the club, yet he had fewer ABs in World Series than Jerry Koosman.

The 1986 Mets also platooned, with Wally Backman and Tim Teufel sharing time at second base. By the end of the season, Kevin Mitchell was a semi-regular versus LHP and Mookie Wilson also saw considerable time versus southpaws.

Fans of the 2011 club should embrace the Thole-Paulino platoon. We should also be open to a time share at second base. While platooning has not been a staple of recent editions of the team, the Mets have had great success with the strategy throughout their history.

Perez Deal Is No Kazmir Trade

Just like us regular folk, Major League Baseball teams look towards the winter months for something special. The only difference is your mother would be happy with a $50 sweater and the Red Sox spent $20.3 million a year for Carl Crawford.

Now it’s common knowledge the New York Mets don’t have much financial flexibility for 2011. Despite some claims of owner Fred Wilpon being “cheap,” the team payroll is expected to be around $140 million – greater than last year. That leaves less than $10 million to obtain a starting pitcher, lefty reliever, second baseman and fourth outfielder.

Sure some of those moves could be made internally or via trade, the Mets are in this predicament in part due to former General Manager Omar Minaya’s generous 3-year/$36 million deal to Oliver Perez. But how does Perez’ $12 million debacle stack up against some of the Mets other worst moves: Luis Castillo signing, Scott Kazmir trade or Tom Seaver trade?

Perez

Perez came over to New York in a trade from Pittsburgh in 2006. Then a 25-year-old hard tossing lefty with a history of unrefined talent, Perez succeeded early with the Mets. During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, he finished 25-17 with a 3.90 ERA, nearly 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio and WHIP under 1.500 in 371 innings.

When the Mets needed to sign a starting pitcher in February 2009, the choice was between the lefty in his prime with signs of promise or Derek Lowe – an established righty with a lower ceiling and fewer years left. The Mets signed Perez for $36 million while Lowe went to the Braves for $60 million over four years.

That deal ended up an epic mistake as Perez sank to unheralded lows. He pitched just 66 innings in 2009 with a 6.82 ERA and 1.924 WHIP and was relegated to mop-up duty in 2010 after he pitched to a 6.80 ERA and 0.8:1 strikeout ratio through 46.1 innings. Lowe turned out to be overpaid as well, but has been an innings eater with a mid-4 ERA and nearly 200 innings each of the last two seasons.

Castillo

Castillo joined the Mets via trade in July 2007 when the team was in contention for the division. New York packaged catcher Drew Butera and minor league outfielder Dustin Martin to the Minnesota Twins for Castillo; neither has had more than a cup of coffee with a major league club. The trade worked out well as Castillo hit .296 and scored 37 runs in 199 plate appearances.

Minaya signed him to a 4-year/$25 million deal that November, which immediately went south. The soft-hitting infielder hit just .245, scored 46 runs and stole 17 bases in 298 PA, hampered by ongoing injuries. The younger Castillo returned in 2009 with a .302 average, 77 runs and 22 stolen bases through 486 at-bats, although old Castillo came back in 2010. He finished last season with a paltry .235 average in 247 ABs, scoring just 28 runs and stealing 8 bases.

His fielding percentage has never dipped below .982 in his tenure with the Mets, but his range is obviously worse than 2007. His range factor (putouts and assists per nine innings) was near or above 5 during his tenure with the Marlins; it dropped to 4.63 in 2006 with Minnesota, mid 4’s in 2007 and 2008, 4.79 in 2009 and 4.03 in 2010. But errors were apparent even in 2009, when he dropped a pop fly in the ninth inning against the Yankees to give away a win.

Kazmir/Zambrano

Kazmir, a two-sport star in high school, was drafted by the Mets in 2002. He boasted a great fastball in the mid-90s, a hard-breaking 10-4 curve, a mediocre changeup and an 11-5 slider that needed to be slowed down. Long considered the team’s best prospect and a future ace, former General Manager Jim Duquette traded Kazmir and forgettable reliever Jose Diaz to Tampa Bay for starter Victor Zambrano and reliever Bartolome Fortunato.

Kazmir broke into the majors in 2004 as a 20-year-old. He looked good his first four full seasons with each ERA never higher than 3.77, a strikeout to walk ratio well above 2 in all but 2005 and at least 144 innings in each season. The wheels started to fall off in 2009, when he started the season with elbow injuries. Later dealing with a leg strain, Kazmir sported a 5.92 ERA in 111 innings before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He finished that season very strong in 36.1 innings, but sported a 5.94 ERA in 150 innings with a strike to walk ratio barely over 1. He continues to suffer from various strains, ailments and fatigue, but will make $12 million in 2011 and $13.5 million in 2012.

The other major cog in the deal, Zambrano looked mediocre as a major league starter in his first three-and-a-half years with Tampa, sporting a 4.47 ERA. He looked solid in 2005, his first full season as a Met, earning a 4.17 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 166 innings. Unfortunately, 2006 brought a 6.75 ERA and near 1.70 WHIP in 27.1 innings, earning Zambrano his free agency. He signed with Toronto and Baltimore in 2007, but exploded quickly and was out of the league before the season ended. The starter was paid $5.1 million from New York for 2005 and 2006.

Seaver

One of the most infamous moves in Met history is known as “the Midnight Massacre” – when Hall of Fame starting pitcher Tom Seaver was traded to Cincinnati in 1977. Seaver broke into the league in 1967 and immediately was a star. He pitched to a 2.76 ERA in 251 innings that season. Seaver never sported an ERA above 2.82 in his first 10 full seasons with New York and always through more than 200 innings.

His ERA was around 3.00 come mid-season in 1977 when Seaver approached Board Chairman M. Donald Grant for a raise. Grant was reluctant to buy into the new free agency trend, but an unfounded story by Daily News columnist Dick Young claiming that Seaver’s wife wanted a raise because she was jealous of Nolan Ryan’s wife caused the star to break off all negotiations and demand a trade.

He was shipped off to the Reds for infielder Doug Flynn, outfielder Steve Henderson, outfielder Dan Norman and starter Pat Zachry. While all four went on to have major league careers, everyone but Norman lasted more than 10 seasons, Seaver was a solid pitcher for the Reds. He racked up a combined 3.34 ERA in five seasons, although his WHIP was always over 1.

Seaver returned to the Mets in 1983, clearly no longer an ace, finishing with a 3.55 ERA in 231 innings. The righty stayed in major league baseball for three more years, putting up middle-of-the-order numbers for Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. He pitched for Mets Triple-A affiliate Tidewater Tides in 1987 despite never signing a deal, but left after getting rocked in three outings. The new Chicago White Sox took him in the 1984 free agent compensation draft. He finished his career in Chicago and Boston, earning $2.3 million in 1984-1985.

Nicknamed “The Franchise,” Seaver was a 12-time All-Star and three time Cy Young winner who retired with 311 wins. His number, 41, was retired by the Mets 1988.

Verdict

None of these moves ended favorably for New York, but one stands out as a worst than the others at the time – the Kazmir trade. In both the Perez and Castillo deals, the players put up solid numbers with the ball club for at least half a season before accepting their excessive free agent signings. With the Seaver trade, an external agent in Young added an unsolvable wrinkle to an ongoing dilemma. The move also introduced major league talent to New York, even if it wasn’t the caliber of their former ace.

Duquette’s trade, however, was the worst of both worlds. He traded away a top pitching prospect for a pitcher who would be out of baseball in less than three years with the Mets. Kazmir displayed potential to be a franchise legend who could be cheap and under contract of years, while Zambrano looked to be an average pitcher poised to break the $1 million mark. Despite the fact that Kazmir has turned into an expensive injury risk in the majors, Duquette should have netted a better quality pitcher with that one trade chip.

Christmas wishes for the 2011 Mets

The Mets have already had their team Christmas party but they must have decided this year not to exchange gifts. Now, you may be wondering what millionaires give as gifts or what millionaires want to receive as gifts. I cannot answer that question. But I can tell you what players on the Mets really need. So, with Christmas right around the corner, I’d like to hand out my presents.

Jason Bay – A home run on Opening Day. Last offseason everyone was worried about Wright’s lost home run power and the bomb he hit on Opening Day propelled him to 29 homers in 2010.

Pedro Beato – A spot in the Mets’ bullpen. This is a great story waiting to happen, the guy the Mets let get away who switches roles and winds back with his hometown team. Now it just needs a happy ending.

Carlos Beltran – A season of 650 PA in which he hits like he did at the end of last season. In his final 160 PA, Beltran hit .295/.369/.504 which is close to what he did in 2007-08.

Luis Castillo – A trade out of town. There’s still good baseball left in Castillo’s body, but Mets fans are so down on him that, much like with Kaz Matsui, it’s likely not to be in New York. After Matsui left the Mets, he posted an .896 OPS the rest of 2006, after opening with a .505 mark with New York. It’s easy to see the same thing happening with Castillo.

Ike Davis – A copy of The Fielding Bible. Any player who advanced fielding metrics rank so highly should understand what makes him good defensively. Hint: It’s not fielding percentage. The last thing we need is to develop another guy like Joe Morgan, who seems clueless as to what it was that made him great.

R.A. Dickey – Continued success throwing strikes.

Dillon Gee – Two free agent starting pitching signings. While I root for Gee, who gets the most out of his stuff, odds are stacked against him succeeding as a starting pitcher over a full season. He is a great guy to have as pitching depth, a guy to make 10 starts a year. Counting on him for more than that is just inviting trouble. Sure, he had a 2.18 ERA last year. Gee also had a 5.19 xFIP. It’s reminiscent of Fernando Nieve, who had a 2.95 ERA in 2009 but a 5.41 xFIP. Nieve posted a 6.00 ERA in 2010.

Daniel Murphy – No defensive gaffes in Spring Training. Murphy can be a nice asset offensively at second base and the possibility for an exciting platoon with Rule 5 selection Brad Emaus exists if both can hack it defensively.

Jonathon Niese – A normal year in LOB%. Last year Niese had three months with a strand rate over 79, including July when it was a whopping 98 percent. Conversely, he had three months below 63, including September when it was 54.1 percent. His July ERA was 2.48 and it was 7.11 in September.

Angel Pagan – A set position. Last year Pagan played all three outfield spots and batted in all nine slots in the order. It would be nice if Terry Collins brought some stability to Pagan’s life.

Bobby Parnell – A pitch to throw to lefties. Last year RHB had a .614 OPS against Parnell while LHB had an .806 mark. If only our pitching coach had a track record of adding to his troops’ arsenal.

Ronny Paulino – Contentment in a platoon role. Paulino is on record as saying he wants to be a full-time catcher and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play everyday. But a Thole-Paulino platoon has the makings of one of the best offensive tandems in baseball.

Mike Pelfrey – As many starts in Citi Field as the Mets can manage. The past two seasons, Pelfrey has the following home/road splits:

H: 16-8, 3.24 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
R: 9-13, 5.84 ERA, 4.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Oliver Perez – An early release. Sandy Alderson wants to give him a shot in Spring Training. May he pitch so poorly that the Mets release him in time for him to hook on with another club, preferably one in the National League East.

Jose Reyes – Better strike zone judgment. In 2004, 62.1 percent of the pitches thrown to Reyes were in the strike zone. Last year that number was down to 44.6 percent as pitchers knew they could get him to chase pitches. His O-Swing% was a career-high 32.1 percent last year.

Francisco Rodriguez – A “boo” holiday from the fans. Rodriguez pitched well before everything came crashing down last year. Now fans seem more interested in him not reaching his vesting option than they do in having him successfully close out games. While Rodriguez is far from the only player capable of finishing games, Mets fans would do well to remember what it was like down the stretch in 2008 after Billy Wagner was hurt.

Johan Santana – A calendar year without surgery.

Josh Thole – A quick start to the season. Last year he had a .172/.242/.259 line in April. With a new backup catcher who wants to be a full-timer, a hot start for Thole could ensure optimal usage for both players.

David Wright – A hitting coach that makes him stand close to the plate. Maybe he can’t stop swinging at high fastballs or low curves but at least this way he can reach the outside strike. May he and Dave Hudgens get off to a good start together.

Terry Collins – What he needs is 150 games from Bay, Beltran and Reyes. Of course, it would be nice to see him run a tighter, smarter ship than Jerry Manuel did.

Sandy Alderson – The courage to make the right deal at the trading deadline. Perhaps it’s pulling the trigger on a potential Beltran deal. Hopefully it’s to acquire a starting pitcher to bolster the rotation for a playoff run. But since Omar Minaya seemingly never made a key mid-season deal, may Alderson trump his predecessor in this area, too.

*****

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the readers of Mets360. Thanks for checking us out throughout the year and hopefully 2011 will be better than what we’ve experienced the past few years.

Proposed 2011 Mets batting order

All of the speculation in Mets land recently revolves around who the new manager is going to be.  There is a debate going on about how much autonomy the new manager will actually have, but seemingly one thing he will have control over is setting the batting order.  Now, for the most part, lineup construction is overrated and studies have shown that the difference between the best and worst lineup is much less than many fans think.

Still, it is fun to think about and a good way to think about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various players.  Plus, with questions about who is going to be the team’s second baseman, and to a lesser extent, catcher, the batting order figures to change depending upon who mans those two spots in the lineup.

I am going to make two assumptions here.  First, the new manager will not bend over backwards like the previous two skippers to have opposite-side-of-the-plate hitters next to each other in the lineup whenever possible.  After all, the Phillies have done quite well with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hitting back-to-back the past few years.

Second, that the injured Mets hitters will all be back and ready to go on Opening Day.  This may be wishful thinking on my part, but it seems a somewhat reasonable position to take and if nothing else a more defensible one than this time last year, when we knew that Carlos Beltran was not going to be ready at the beginning of the year.  Hopefully, there are no Spring Training injuries like what happened to Daniel Murphy last season.

Here is how I would have the Opening Day batting order:

Jose Reyes

Luis Castillo

Angel Pagan

Carlos Beltran

David Wright

Jason Bay

Ike Davis

Josh Thole

The leadoff spot in the order is probably the only spot where nearly everyone agrees who should be the choice.  Last year’s failed experiment of having Reyes hit third is too fresh in everyone’s mind for the new manager to try something as idiotic.  Pagan is the only other realistic option to bat leadoff and I believe his bat is better suited to hit lower in the order.

Not many people expect Castillo to be on the team when Opening Day rolls around.  Everyone focuses on what he cannot do, rather than what he can.  Castillo gets on base and is comfortable taking pitches allowing Reyes a chance to run.  Plus, Castillo himself remains a very good basestealer and batting him second gives him chances to do that.  Many expect the Mets to run much less than last year.  However, I do think that Reyes will still get the green light more often than not.  Most likely, Pagan will end up hitting second, but I do not like that position for him.  If Castillo is not the starting second baseman, I would prefer to see Thole bat second.

Many will prefer to see Wright hitting third, but this is the one area where his increasing strikeout rate bothers me.  It is a tiny thing, but I prefer Pagan’s 16.8 K% to either Wright’s 27.4 or Beltran’s 17.7 strikeout rate in this position.  There is the prestige of batting third in the order, as this is the spot usually reserved for the team’s best all-around player.  And many feel that Pagan does not deserve that, especially after his second-half numbers (.263/.304/.374) last year.  But I like the combination of his contact, speed and ability to drive the ball here.

Bay might be the team’s best long-term choice for cleanup hitter, but on Opening Day I would like him to have a little less pressure so I have him batting lower in the order.  Besides, Beltran started to shake off the rust at the end of the year and showed the type of hitter he can still be.  In his final 23 games (91 PA), he had a .325/.374/.614 line.  That’s a pretty nice guy to have hitting fourth.

Last year, Wright quieted the doubters by hitting 29 home runs, putting the power outage of 2009 firmly behind him.  Here’s hoping he can do the same thing to those who worry about his increasing strikeouts.  After posting declining strikeout rates from 2006-08, Wright has seen an increase in both of the past two seasons, up to 27.4 percent last year.  Hopefully the new batting coach can get Wright to consistently stand closer to the plate and teach him to lay off the high fastball in 2011.

Much like Wright a year ago, Bay will have to address the people who wonder where his power went.  One thing Bay does have going for him as he attempts to return from a concussion is that his injury happened in the field, not at the plate.  Hopefully Bay does not have the issue with inside pitches that Wright had when he first returned from his beaning.

Most people would have Davis batting much higher in the order; I nearly hit him eighth.  Davis performed better than we had any reason to expect in 2010, a season where most figured him to get a September call-up, at best.  But it was hardly a dominating offensive performance.  He was very streaky and the overall picture showed a batter with a .791 OPS, despite a torrid September when a .375 BABIP led to a .952 OPS.  While Beltran has a long history of success in the majors, Davis is just starting his resume.  While I am rooting for him to build on his season, I still have doubts if he can hit enough on a consistent basis to be a middle-of-the-order force.

There has been talk that the Mets are looking for a catcher and this could be an indication that the club is not happy with Thole as the starting backstop.  This is crazy talk.  Thole needs to be the everyday catcher.  His defense was much better than advertised and he even showed some pop in his bat with three home runs, a surprising total given how much he chokes up on the bat.  His .357 OBP tied him with Jorge Posada for the ninth-best total among catchers with at least 200 PA last season.  Thole is an asset as the team’s catcher and he needs to be the starting receiver on Opening Day.

Many people are already writing off the 2011 season as a rebuilding/restructuring one for the Mets.  But any team with Reyes, Beltran, Wright and Bay in its lineup has a chance to put up a lot of runs on the board.  Last year the National League average runs scored was 701 and the Mets tallied 656.  With healthy years from their stars, the Mets could add 100 runs to their output from a year ago, no matter how the batting order is assembled.

In defense of Luis Castillo

Mets fans are torn on who the team’s new manager should be. They are also conflicted about who should be the new GM. There are questions if the team is good enough to compete as is or if the core should be broken down and sold off and view 2011 as another rebuilding year. But one thing most fans agree on is that neither Oliver Perez nor Luis Castillo should be back next year.

To hear fans tell it, Luis Castillo is a lousy baseball player with an albatross contract that is keeping the Mets from fielding a contender. Neither one of these ideas are true.

Since 2002, the first season that WAR is available on FanGraphs, Castillo has earned more Dollars (calculated as WAR converted to a dollar scale based on what a player would make in free agency) than his actual salary in each year in which he has played at least 100 games. So, in seven of nine seasons, Castillo has been an underpaid asset and the other two years he has been injured.

Unfortunately, two of those injured seasons came in the past three years. In 2008, Castillo suffered a hip injury that limited him to 87 games and last year he suffered a foot injury which sidelined him for 47 days. When Castillo returned in 2010, he found reduced playing time as the Mets gave Ruben Tejada an extended look. Castillo ended up playing just 86 games with 299 PA.

In his last two healthy seasons, Castillo put up a 1.6 WAR in 2009 and a 2.3 mark in 2007. The former mark came despite a -11.2 UZR mark for fielding, which significantly cut his overall value. In limited time last year, Castillo was a much better fielder. He posted a 2.8 UZR, which extrapolated to a 6.8 UZR/150.

Castillo has been all over the map with his defensive numbers. In both 2003 and 2005, he was a double-digit positive UZR fielder. In 2006 and 2007, he was 1.4 and 1.3, respectively. Then he was negative numbers in both 2008 and 2009 before last year’s comeback.

John Dewan’s Defensive Runs Saved shows a similar profile, although slightly more pessimistic one than UZR. He was good from 2003-2005, but DRS never pegged him as a double-digit positive performer. This system showed him basically the same in 2006-07, but both times in negative numbers. Castillo was horrible in both 2008 and 2009 according to DRS and then bounced back with a +1 last season.

Either way, I think it is safe to say that Castillo was really bad defensively in 2008 and 2009 and close to an average fielder last year. With age and the small sample from 2010, I think most systems would project Castillo to be a below-average defender again in 2011, although perhaps in the 6-8 runs below-average range, and not double that.

Regardless, if Castillo is to have any value, he has to recover his OBP skills. Last year’s .337 mark was 50 points beneath what he posted in 2009 and his lowest mark since a .307 season in 1998 as a 22-year old in 44 games.

Castillo has a career .368 OBP. If you are only going to bring one skill to the table, OBP is as good as any and better than most. But Castillo remains a good base stealer, too. Even though hobbled by the foot injury last year, he was successful on 73 percent of his steal attempts. In three-plus years with the Mets, Castillo has successfully stolen on 81 percent (55-68) of his SB tries.

In a full season, Castillo has a chance to be a 1.5-2.0 WAR player, or right about what his contract calls for, including pro-rated bonus.

And that is why it is so frustrating to see fans with pitchforks and lit torches when it comes to Castillo. Most fans see the dropped pop-up against the Yankees or the seemingly constantly-injured player and they want to run him out of town at all costs.

But if Luis Castillo is your biggest problem, your team is probably in pretty good shape.

Was it a mistake to give him a four-year deal? Unequivocally, yes. Should it be viewed as an albatross? Just as assuredly, no, it should not.

An albatross deal is one that prevents a team from making moves to better itself. The Castillo deal was for $24 million (and $1 million signing bonus) over four years. Last year the Mets, according to Cot’s, had a $126,498,096 payroll, which means that Castillo accounted for less than five percent of the Mets’ Opening Day payroll.

You want an albatross? Try Barry Zito, who accounted for over 19 percent of the Giants’ Opening Day payroll this year. Think Zito is an outlier? Then consider Alfonso Soriano, who accounted for over 13 percent of the Cubs’ Opening Day payroll. Or Gil Meche, who took up over 16.5 percent of the Royals’ Opening Day payroll. And you would shudder to learn that Vernon Wells was responsible for over 26 percent of the Blue Jays’ Opening Day payroll.

Those are albatross contracts.

If Luis Castillo can rebound to his 2009 numbers, he has a good chance of being worth his contract, depending on what his fielding is like. And the Mets can help neutralize his fielding issues by replacing him late in the game, either with Ruben Tejada or another defensive-first infielder.

I would rather see the Mets give Castillo the second base job to open the 2011 season than to release him or take on someone else’s problem contract. It is easy to see Tejada (or Reese Havens, if he can ever stay healthy) being the long-term solution at second base. But the future does not have to start in 2011 for the Mets at this position.

Assuming Castillo is completely over the foot and hip injuries that have plagued him recently, he is an acceptable major league second baseman. While Tejada’s hot September is encouraging for all Mets fans, it would not be the end of the world to have the soon-to-be 21-year old open the year in Triple-A, where he has all of 218 ABs.

So, if the Mets open the year with Castillo, try to focus on what he brings to the table. Yes, he has no power and is defensively challenged. But he also historically gets on base at a very good clip and steals at a very high rate.

In 1984, the Mets had a second baseman who posted a .360 on-base percentage and was successful on 78 percent of his stolen base attempts. Davey Johnson gave this guy a chance after previous Mets managers Joe Torre, George Bamberger and Frank Howard wouldn’t give him a shot because he was weak on defense and had no power.

Now Mets fans want Wally Backman to be their manager because they loved him as a player. They should extend that same shot to Castillo this upcoming year at second base.

End of season report card for the Mets

For a season that opened up with hope, and which was carried to the All-Star break, the Mets once again flamed out and disappointed their fans and had their second consecutive losing season (79-83).

Change is now on the horizon as GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were given their pink slips on Monday.

While this may be an exercise in futility, let’s look at the 2010 New York Mets and grade their performances on the field.

Catcher:
Josh Thole: B
With Rod Barajas breaking camp as the starting catcher, not much was expected of Thole this year. But when Thole was called up on June 24, he impressed the franchise with his ability to hit in the clutch and get on base. With the team fading from the playoff picture, Barajas was squeezed out and eventually traded to the Dodgers. Thole was given the starting job all to himself. He hit a few bumps down the stretch but hit .277/.356/.366.

Henry Blanco C+
As a backup catcher, you know what you are going to get from Blanco: good game-calling and sound defense. For the most part, Blanco did his job.

First Base:
Ike Davis: B
Davis arrived in late April and provided a spark with his pop and defense. He struggled in the middle months, before hitting well down the stretch. Davis needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but is a player Met faithful could rally around.

Mike Hessman D-
The power-hitting minor league journeyman was only good for one home run this year. He was lost at the plate en route to a .127 average.

Second Base:
Ruben Tejada: C
If Tejada wasn’t so impressive with his glove, his grade would have been much worse. Tejada, who had a fine September, will have to hit for a higher average if he wants to be the everyday second baseman for the Mets next year.

Luis Castillo: F
Castillo has officially worn out his welcome in New York. His numbers were atrocious (.234/.336/.267), and he has a history of injuries. Don’t expect Castillo back next year.

Shortstop:
Jose Reyes: B
Reyes had an up and down season while battling an oblique injury for most of the summer. In stretches, Reyes was unstoppable, but his inconsistency was maddening. It was refreshing to see him finish out the season. Hopefully a new coach can propel his game to new heights.

Third Base:
David Wright: A-
Wright had a renaissance season by rediscovering his power stroke (29 HR’s this year as compared to the 10 he had on 2009 while knocking in more than 100 runs). However, Wright’s propensity for striking out and falling into prolonged cold streaks, put a damper on an otherwise resurgent season.

Outfield:
Angel Pagan: A
Not much was expected of Pagan going into the year, but he far exceeded expectations by hitting .290 with11 HR’s and 69 RBI’s. Pagan was a terror on the base paths, stealing a team-high 37 bases. Pagan was also dynamite in the field and displayed his versatility by playing all outfield positions.

Carlos Beltran: C
Beltran had a rocky beginning coming back from the disabled list in July. He was worthless as the Mets made their second-half swoon, but did show promise that he still does have some life left in his bat as he surged towards the finish. Beltran, who missed the last six days of the season with a minor knee injury, hit .321 in September to go along with five home runs and 13 RBI’s. He’ll likely be back with the Mets next year, but could become trade bait if the team falls out of contention.

Jason Bay: D
Bay was a bust from the word go. You don’t like to see his year end the way it did with a season-ending concussion, but he was not what the Mets paid for. He ended his season with .263 average to go with a pathetic six home runs and 47 RBI’s in 348 AB’s. Hopefully he can recapture his power next year, much the same way Wright did.

Chris Carter: C-
You gotta love Carter’s will and determination, but he is nothing more than a bench player with a limited ceiling.

Lucas Duda: C-
Duda is a prospect who does possess some pop. He struggled mightily once he was called up going 1-33, but did finish strong with four home runs in his last 15 games. His role for next season is not known.

Nick Evans: B-
Evans is another role player who did well for the Mets in the final month, and was the only Met hitter to hit above .300 (albeit in 36 AB’s). Evans will challenge for a roster spot next year.

Jesus Feliciano: C-
Feliciano was yet another Met who was good in stretches, but not one for consistency.

Starting Pitchers:
Johan Santana: B
Prior to Santana’s shoulder problems, he was once again a bright spot in the rotation with 11 wins to go with a 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Santana will battle for you every time he starts. Hopefully, he battles back from rehab and gets back to the Mets ASAP.

Mike Pelfrey: B+
Despite hitting a rough spot in the middle of the season in which Pelfrey had a 7.35 ERA in ten starts, which not so accidentally coincided with the Mets summer swoon, he rebounded to have a career year. Pelfrey had 15 wins to go with a respectable 3.66 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. The question going into next year is which Mike Pelfrey will show up?

R.A. Dickey: A+
What superlatives are left to describe Dickey’s phenomenal season? This was a pitcher who was left for dead and all he did was win 11 games to go with a sparkling 2.84 ERA. His knuckleball kept hitters off-balance all season. Can he carry it over to next season?

Jon Niese: B-
Niese had a fine rookie season, but hit a wall going down the stretch. Niese won nine games and had decent peripheral stats (4.20 ERA, 148 strikeouts). Niese will be counted on to step up next season.

Dillon Gee and Pat Misch: INC.
Gee was fantastic down the stretch, going 2-2 in his five starts and throwing a quality start in each game. Gee will battle for a rotation spot next spring. With the way he pitched in September there is no reason he can’t at least contend for the fifth spot.
Misch was also an adequate addition to the staff. In his six starts, Misch got little run support and lost four games while picking up no wins. He’ll have a tough time cracking the rotation next year.

Oliver Perez: F
Is there a worse grade than F? If so, Perez should have it. His ineffectiveness, wildness, and stubbornness to accept a minor league assignment destroyed club morale and spirit. There is no comprehensible way that Perez should be back in any capacity.

John Maine: D-
I don’t know what was worse, Maine’s troublesome injuries or his mis-communication with management about them. His future with the team is cloudy right now.

Bullpen:
Francisco Rodriguez: F
This grade is inherent solely on his off-the-field shenanigans. K-Rod embarrassed the club when he assaulted his girlfriend’s father after a game at Citi Field. K-Rod would injure his hand in the fracas and be out for the season

Hisanori Takahashi: B+
Takahashi was a jack of all trades pitching for the Mets. He was admirable as a starter, but was at his best when he pitched out of the pen. Takahashi even closed games, nailing down eight of eight save opportunities.

Bobby Parnell: B-
Prior to being shut down with inflammation in his elbow, Parnell was starting to capitalize on his potential. Parnell used his live jumping fastball to intimidate hitters. As with any young pitcher, he needs to get more consistent.

Pedro Feliciano: B
For the most part, Feliciano did his job. Feliciano is a workhorse that feasts on opposing lefties.

Elmer Dessens: B
Dessens was another pitcher to seemingly come out of nowhere and impress the club with his ability to eat innings and keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. While appearing in 53 games, Dessens had an impressive 2.29 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

Ryota Igarashi: D-
Igarashi was pitching well in April prior to a groin injury, but once he came back he was never the same. Igarashi finished the season with an unhealthy 7.12 ERA

Manny Acosta: B-
Acosta was solid in his middle-relief role, but was used in a lot of mop-up duty.

Fernando Nieve: C-
Nieve got off to a good start, but was overused and got designated for assignment in late July.

Raul Valdes: C
Valdes was good in stretches as well, but he was another guy who did not pitch much in pressure situations.

Jenrry Mejia: C+
Mejia should have never started in the bullpen this year. He should have been sent down to the minors to fine tune his career as a starter. Mejia was not awful in the pen, and the hope is he can contend for a rotation spot next year.

Tejada surges towards the end

So it looks imminent the Mets will be replacing GM Omar Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel when the season is over. Once the new GM is hired, he will have a lot of work to do along with some interesting decisions to make in regards to the makeup of the 2011 Mets.

While it may be way down on the list of priorities, the Mets sill have to figure out who their second baseman will be? And can they get rid of Luis Castillo?

Whether or not they get rid of Castillo, the real question is, can Ruben Tejada be the everyday starter next year?

You certainly have to love Tejada’s defense. The kid has poise on the field and is sure handed with his glove. On defense, the 20-year-old Tejada looks like a 10-year vet

However, can the Mets live with his offense?

Prior to Sunday’s game, Tejada was batting just a paltry .205/.295/.272. However, Tejada has been batting quite well down the stretch.

In his last 28 games, Tejada is batting .291. Tejada had a walk-off two-run RBI double off Milwaukee’s closer John Axford on Tuesday night. The homegrown Tejada is giving Mets fans some pleasure as the season mercifully comes to an end.

Is Tejada finally figuring out major league pitchers or is this just a fluky mirage?

I think the answer lies in the middle. Tejada will not likely ever be a .300 type hitter, but he’s definitely someone who will hit way better than just above the Mendoza line.

What kind of average can the Mets absorb from Tejada? SNY analyst Keith Hernandez believes that they can afford to live with a .260-type average. If that is the case, than expect the Mets to stick with Tejada next year. Tejada is gaining a lot of confidence as the season winds down, and the hope is that it should carryover into the 2011 season. Hitting .260 is well within reach for Tejada.

Tejada has a limited ceiling offensively, as he’ll never hit home runs or become a run producer, but he could give you a .260-.270 average yearly to go with his outstanding defense.

Sure the Mets could look to get a second baseman off the free agent market like a Jose Lopez (who has a 2011 option) or take on a contract like Chone Figgins in a trade. But, with the Mets tied up with the contracts of Castillo, Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez they will likely trim payroll.

The next GM will have some tough moves to make, but keeping Tejada around as next year’s second baseman seems like a logical move at this point. Tejada is not going back to the minors, and even if the Mets still can’t trade Castillo they’ll likely cut bait with him some way or another.

Castillo is a major headache right now. He’s aging and does not fit in with the rebuilding plans the Mets will have. Castillo wants out and all of New York wants him out too.

So, with Castillo having one foot out the door and no great options at second base in the free agent market, it looks like Tejada is the future at the position.

Top 10 ways Mets have frustrated followers

It has been another frustrating season for the New York Mets and their fans.

The Mets spent eight days in last place early in the season and last led the National League East on April 30. Their offense totally collapsed in July, they couldn’t get a big hit when needed and key pitchers slumped at inopportune times.

Below I explore the 10 most frustrating topics for the 2010 New York Mets. Stats are through Tuesday.

1. Inability to hit and score in the second half

During the Jul. 6-Sept.1 period in which New York went 18-31 and dropped from two games back to 13 back, it endured four separate streaks of between three and seven games of scoring three runs or less (3,4,4,7). New York endured only two 3-game streaks prior to the break.

New York averaged 2.84 runs and hit .178 with RISP, .143 with two outs in RISP and .161 (5-for-31) with the bases loaded. The Mets entered the period batting .284/ .231/.208 in those situations.

Culprits with runners in scoring position

Wright, 5-for-39

Davis, 6-for-35

Pagan, 10-for-35

Reyes, 8-for-31

Barajas, 0-for-6

Francouer, 4-for-34

Castillo, 4-for-22

Bay, 2-for-7

Note: Wright was 30-for-91 with runners in scoring position prior to that stretch; Pagan 24-for-64 and Barajas 16-for-56.

2. Dysfunctional front office

There has to be a disconnect somewhere when injured stars Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes and management continually have breakdowns in communication over injuries, return dates, etc. And it happened again this season more than once.

Who is running the show?  The Wilpons?  Minaya?  Nobody seems to know, resulting in the Mets’ front office becoming a laughing stock.  Questionable long-term investments in Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Jason Bay, among others have helped the Mets’ decide to fly Minaya coach on airflights.  Minaya and Manuel seem to be dead men walking at this point.

The front office took hits for not being able to effectively handle the Perez mess at the most crucial time of the season and endured ridicule over the Francisco Rodriguez abuse situation and revelations of his past bad behavior.  And they couldn’t seem to pull the trigger on deadline trades that could have helped the club.

Manuel doesn’t escape scrutiny, blowing out Fernando Nieve, who pitched 20 times by May 9, and stagnating top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia’s development by adding him to the bullpen Opening Day instead of having him pitch every fifth day in the minor leagues.  Manuel lacked the presence and fire to get the most out of mercurial shortstop Jose Reyes and others, insisted on playing Jeff Francoeur and batting Luis Castillo and Ruben Tejada at the top of the order.

3. Jason Bay power outage

Boston GM Theo Epstein was ripped when he wouldn’t ante-up for Bay in the offseason, but whose laughing now?

Bay, who signed for four years and $66 million, hit .259 with a career-low .402 slugging percentage to go with a .749 OBA – second lowest in his career – with six homers and 47 RBI in 95 games before a concussion ended his season.

Among players with 400 plate appearances and a .400 slugging, Bay has the seventh lowest HR percentage (1.72) this season and by far the lowest among players who at one time hit 30 homers.

Bay hit two homers in his last 33 games (both in same game) and hit .170 with a .443 OPS in his final 14 games when the Mets were going through a July power drought.  He had a 6.72 HR percentage last season in Boston with 36 blasts.

One positive note for Bay-lovers.  The 32-year-old posted a.830 OPS at Citi Field.

4. Mike Pelfrey slump

I think everybody in Mets nation has bought into Pelfrey as a solid starting pitcher.  He’s the 10th right-hander in franchise history to post 15 wins, and Pelfrey started 2010 great and is finishing strong.  Unfortunately, however, most fans are fixated on Pelfrey’s slump, which happened to coincide with New York’s offensive woes in July and August.

And it was bad. After starting 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA, Pelfrey went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in seven starts from June 30-Aug. 4, getting tagged for 62 hits and 16 walks in 30 innings.

It was too late for the Mets by the time the 2005 first-rounder turned it around, going 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA in his last nine starts.

5. Second base production – or lack thereof

Check out these OPS numbers:  Luis Castillo, .606, Alex Cora, .543, Ruben Tejada, .561.  Among players with 169 TPA, Cora is third worst, Tejada 9th and Castillo, 15th.  The trio has combined for one homer, 50 RBI and 67 runs in 686 plate appearances.

Among major league second basemen, the Mets rank last in OPS (.583) and homers (1) and 29th in average (.222) and doubles (19).

With the Mets second basemen mostly batting second, New York ranks 29th in the majors in OPS (.652), batting (.246) and homers (4) from the No. 2 spot.

6. David Wright slump

When the Mets needed a lift most from their best player, Wright couldn’t deliver.

Wright was third in the NL in RBI with 64 in 82 games on July 1, batting .317 with a .941 OPS.

When New York went 18-31 from July 7- Sept 1, Wright hit .242/.710 OPS and 22 RBI.  He was 5-for-39 with runners in scoring position and endured skids of 3-for-27, 2-for-33 and 1-for-15 during that period.  He has added a 5-for-39 skid in September.

Wright is a few strikeouts shy of  Tommie Agee and Dave Kingman’s franchise record of 156 strikeouts.

7. Rod Barajas disappearing after great start

Of his 12 homers, Rod Barajas had three multiple-homer games and belted game-winning homers in the ninth inning on May 4 & 7.

Barajas hit .269 with an .844 OPS in his first 41 games through May 31 with 11 homers and 30 RBI.  He hit .163 with a .444 OPS in his last 33 games with a homer and four RBI.  He had one RBI in June.

In 2009 at Toronto, Barajas was batting .311 with a 823 OPS and 34 RBI in his first 44 games before finishing the last 91 games with .194 average, .598 OPS and 48 RBI.

Can Josh Thole take over full time?  Thole had four RBI in his first nine at-bats, but just nine in his last 162 at-bats.  He is batting .241 with a .564 OPS in September with two RBI in 54 at-bats.

8. The struggles of Pedro Feliciano

It’s hard to quibble with a man who is leading the NL in appearances for the third straight season and could have joined Paul Quantrill as the only pitchers in history with four straight 80-appearance seasons if he only had pitched in two more games in 2007.  But Feliciano has allowed 12 more hits and nine more walks in the same amount of innings this season as last.

Again, during the Mets’ biggest offensive swoon, Feliciano came up small.  In 26 games from June 29 to August 31, the 33-year-old was 1-4 with a 6.06 ERA and 27 hits and 10 walks allowed in 16 1/3 innings.

Overall this season, Feliciano has been hit at a .351 clip by right-handers (.285 career), .328 on the road (.263) and .303 with runners in scoring position (.226).  Only a great September run (2 runs, 5 hits in 12 IP) has given Mets fans hope that he hasn’t used up his effectiveness for 2011.

His OPS by days rest increased with days off:

.579 with no days;

.660 with one day;

.817 with two days;

.967 with three days;

1.750 with five days

.984 with six days.

9. Oliver Perez and John Maine

If New York was going to contend, it needed two of the three pitchers among Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine to come through.

For the most part, Pelfrey took care of business, but Perez and Maine didn’t.  Even before Maine got hurt, he didn’t pitch well. He was 1-3, 6.13 ERA and a 1.815 WHIP in nine starts.

Perez was even worse.  After a solid 2008 campaign and signing a 3-year/$36 million contract, Perez is 3-8 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.964 WHIP in 30 games.  After a knee injury shut him down last season, Perez was 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA this season and completely killed club morale by refusing an assignment to Class AAA.

10. Opening with Gary Matthews Jr. in CF

Jerry Manuel had Matthews in center field over Angel Pagan on Opening Day.

Matthews was less than underwhelming, batting .190 with a .507 OPS in 65 plate appearances. He drove in just one of the 50 batters he had on base – a 2 percent ratio that is the second worst in the major leagues this season behind only Ryan Langerhans (4/61; .164).

2010 Mets Dopplegangers

One of the difficult things when analyzing the Mets offense this year is to separate the names from the numbers they have actually produced. Sure, yesterday’s lineup had Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright in it but is it accurate to consider the performance the Mets are receiving from these players in 2010 to what our mind thinks of when it hears Beltran or Reyes or Wright?

So, in order to help separate performance from reputation, I took the players position, games played level and OPS+ and used the Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com to come up with a somewhat similar player in team history to substitute in for comparison purposes. So, here are the Mets’ leaders by position with a substitute from the team’s past.

Catcher
Rod Barajas – 267 PA, 80 OPS+, .225/.263/.414
2003 Vance Wilson – 292 PA, 75 OPS+, .243/.293/.373

First Base
Ike Davis – 522 PA, 115 OPS+, .263/.349/.449
1995 Rico Brogna – 540 PA, 119 OPS+, .289/.342/.485

Second Base
Luis Castillo – 295 PA, 67 OPS+, .235/.338/.267
2005 Miguel Cairo – 367 PA, 64 OPS+, .251/.296/.324

Third Base
David Wright – 593 PA, 130 OPS+, .289/.361/.498
1987 Howard Johnson – 645 PA, 133 OPS+, .265/.364/.504

Shortstop
Jose Reyes – 524 PA, 101 OPS+, .286/.322/.427
2004 Kaz Matsui – 509 PA, 88 OPS+ .272/.331/.396

Left Field
Jason Bay – 401 PA, 103 OPS+, .259/.347/.402
2001 Benny Agbayani – 339 PA, 101 OPS+, .277/.364/.399

Center Field
Angel Pagan – 556 PA, 109 OPS+, .289/.342/.432
1986 Mookie Wilson – 415 PA, 115 OPS+ .289/.345/.430

Right Field
Jeff Francoeur – 449 PA, 79 OPS+, .237/.293/.369
2002 Jeromy Burnitz – 550 PA, 80 OPS+, .215/.311/.365

Bench
Carlos Beltran – 207 PA, 92 OPS+, .236/.338/.368
1997 Brian McRae – 162 PA, 92 OPS+, .248/.317/.414

Ruben Tejada – 201 PA, 44 OPS+, .188/.281/.241
1968 Phil Linz – 275 PA, 45 OPS+, .209/.243/.236

Alex Cora – 187 PA, 48 OPS+, .207/.265/.278
1963 Al Moran – 370 PA, 47 OPS+, .193/.274/.230

Josh Thole – 167 PA, 108 OPS+, .297/.377/.385
1963 Jesse Gonder – 134 PA, 110 OPS+, .302/.328/.405

Chris Carter – 155 PA, 86 OPS+, .259/.316/.371
1999 Matt Franco – 161, 88 OPS+, .235/.366/.364

The hardest position was shortstop, as the Mets have not had anyone play a significant number of games and record an OPS+ of 100 or more except for Reyes. There were players who were closer than Matsui to him in OPS+, but they did not have close to the SB or HR that Matsui did.

The comparison that surprised me the most was finding Agbayani show up for Bay. Most Mets fans have a soft place in their heart for Agbayani but few would go that far with Bay. And the most troubling one is to see Gonder show up for Thole. Gonder played 131 games the following season and had a 99 OPS+ as a 28-year old and then never had more than 174 PA the rest of his career.

This was a sobering exercise. To think that this year’s hitters are akin to Phil Linz, Kat Matsui and Rico Brogna is not anything Mets fans want to hear. For my own sanity, I’ll go back to thinking of them as Beltran, Reyes and Wright.

Inside the Mets' comeback win

The Mets figured to have a good chance to win Tuesday night against the Marlins because R.A. Dickey was on the mound. At Citi Field this year, Dickey entered the night with a 5-1 record and a 1.22 ERA. So, things looked bleak when Dickey allowed a 3-run homer to Gaby Sanchez in the seventh inning to make it 5-4 Florida.

At that point in the game, who were the least likely Mets to come up with key hits to drive a comeback? A reasonable guess would have been Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, who entered the contest with averages of .217 and .236, respectively. Both players have been subjects of scorn from fans this year, due to their contracts and lack of production.

Perhaps Beltran was not too much of a surprise, given his pedigree and recent production. Beltran already had a hit, two walks and an RBI in the game. But when he came to the plate with the tying run on second base, Beltran quickly fell behind 0-2 as he looked at first a changeup then a slider for called strikes.

Beltran stayed alive when he fouled off a curve from pitcher Clay Hensley. Hensley throws his changeup (21.2%) and curve (22.4) about the same amount of time overall according to FanGraphs, but the curve is his out pitch. The curve has a Pitch Type Value of 7.8 runs above average, the best mark in baseball among relievers.

According to TexasLeaguers.com, Hensley gets a swing and a miss 23.1 percent of the time when he throws his curve. Earlier in the inning he got to two strikes versus Jose Reyes and put him away on a strikeout with a nasty curve, the first curve he threw in nine pitches.

The key to the at-bat was Beltran fighting off the curve. Not only was it Hensley’s best pitch, it is also the pitch that Beltran has struggled with the most this year. His Pitch Type Values against curves this year is -1.0. Struggling against the curve is nothing new for Beltran, who has not had a positive run value against the pitch since 2007.

Still ahead 0-2, Hensley went back to his slider on the next pitch. In 2008, Hensley’s slider was his main off-speed pitch and he had good success with it, as it had a 3.2 runs above average Pitch Type Value. But in 2010, it was his fourth-best pitch. Hensley throws the slider less than 10 percent of the time and it is his only offering with a negative value.

Beltran turned on the slider and smacked a solid single to right field. Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton threw wildly to the plate and Angel Pagan, who one batter earlier hit a hustle double, slid across home untagged for the tying run.

After tying the game with two outs in the eighth inning, the Mets once again came through with two outs in the ninth. The Marlins had lefty Will Ohman pitch the ninth and he retired the two righties he faced but allowed the two lefties to reach base. That brought up Castillo with runners on first and second.

Castillo entered the game as part of a double switch in the top of the eighth inning and he led off the bottom of the frame with a flyout to left field. That brought his hitless streak to 17 consecutive at-bats.

Since being acquired by the Marlins at the beginning of August, Ohman had been used frequently as a lefty specialist. He faced three batters or fewer six times in nine appearances, including four times when he faced just one batter. Ike Davis and Jeff Francoeur had big-pitch ABs versus Ohman, bringing his pitch count to 15 after just two batters.

That count raised to 22 by the time Castillo came to the plate. After opening the at-bat with a ball, Ohman threw a fastball to Castillo, which the veteran guided into right field for the game-winning hit. While Beltran’s hit was a rocket, Castillo’s shot was much more of the bleeder variety.

The winning hit came on the 24th pitch of the night from Ohman, which was not only his highest total with the Marlins, but the second-most pitches he had thrown all season. Back on June 10th, Ohman threw 31 pitches against the Yankees.

So, the Mets notched only their second win all season when trailing after seven innings. They did it with key hits from two struggling players in Beltran and Castillo. They also had help from Hensley going to his fourth-best pitch and Ohman being asked to pitch his longest outing in 10 weeks.

So, that’s what has to happen for the Mets to pull out a late comeback win.