Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hard Times in April for Hardy

From Ben Shpigel's Monday notes on NYT:

There was nothing particularly unique about Luis Castillo’s winning hit Friday night in a 5-4 victory over the Brewers: (...) He bolted down the first-base line, his legs churning, his arms pumping, and beat J. J. Hardy’s throw by a step, allowing Carlos Delgado to score the winning run.

Shpigel offers this event as evidence of Castillo's resurgence since re-dedicating himself through intensive off-season workouts, and I'm not here to disagree that the Mets' second baseman of the present (and foreseeable future) certainly seems to be a fitter, happier version than we've grown used to.

But after watching the Mets-Brewers series finale at Citi Field -- a contest lost by the Mets, unfortunately -- it was hard to ignore the ways in which Milwaukee's shortstop of the present (and foreseeable future) must avoid struggling in the field in order to stave off concerns about his struggles at the plate in the early going.

To review Hardy's at bats in Sunday's game:
  • 1st inning, bases loaded, one out. Hardy strikes out swinging.
  • 3rd inning, bases empty, two outs. Hardy grounds out to 3rd on second pitch of AB.
  • 6th inning, bases empty, no outs. Hardy fouls out on second pitch of AB.
  • 8th inning, bases empty, one out. Hardy takes four pitches and pops out to 1b.

I know, I know, only four at bats.

But as of now, Hardy ranks 194th out of 197 qualified MLB hitters in batting average (8-for-54; .148) and 184th in OPS, which is buoyed by virtue of his three base hits which have cleared the fence.

The good news is, Hardy has been mostly reliable with the glove so far, which has helped Milwaukee achieve the 6th best UZR at the shortstop position thus far.

Hardy, along with Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gollardo, exemplifies the team's recent successful track record of drafting and development to provide the big league club with major league talent. Unfortunately for Hardy, the Brew Crew seem to have a nearly-ready SS replacement in Alcides Escobar, who is currently plying his trade in the Pacific Coast League and whose acumen with the glove could ostensibly inspire a call-up if he starts to hit, and the Brewers find a willing trade partner for their 26 year-old shortstop.

Hardy's career splits suggest that things will only improve at the plate, but if they don't, I wouldn't be surprised if Escobar is running the show by the trading deadline.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fernando Tatis chases Gibson

From Baseball Musings, the five active players who have the most active career HRs without a walkoff job:

Ty Wigginton - 110
Aaron Rowand - 108
Fernando Tatis - 103
Garrett Atkins - 91
Xavier Nady - 87

I can't help but notice that three of these players (Wiggy, Tatis, Nady) have logged time for the Mets...

Also, it surprises me that Tatis only has 103 career dingers, given that his sole claim to fame is related to the long ball. That said, his only standout season was the 1999 campaign, in which he cleared 34 balls over the wall. More recently (since 2002) Tatis has registered just 511 at bats, so it's not like he's had ample opportunity to build on his totals.

The last-minute surprise addition of Gary Sheffield and today's signing of Wily Mo Pena could clog up the Mets outfield reserve scene a little bit, but Fernando should still have plenty of chances to get that elusive walk-off homerun in 2009. He has been used as a pinch hitter three times this season and over the weekend made his first career start at second base to spell Luis Castillo, both of which seem to indicate Jerry Manuel is determined to work Tatis into the lineup.

I've never been terribly enthusiastic about Tatis' presence on the Mets roster. Sure, you could do a lot worse for a 4th outfielder -- just look at what the Giants were getting out of Dave Roberts the last couple of years -- and he's probably a little better than Endy Chavez at the plate, or Jeremy Reed, or Angel Pagan, for that matter. It's just hard to get excited about Fernando Freakin' Tatis, ya know?

It's anybody's guess how often and in what situations Tatis will continue to see action this season, especially given the plethora of other options on hand. But a walk-off homerun is an exciting enough event to hope for, and if nothing else, I now have a reason to hope Tatis is the next one to deliver one for the Mets.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hard to live down

From today's THT Daily Extremes, on how Milton Bradley's incipient two-game suspension may affect
fantasy value:

He will continue to play until an appeal is heard, if healthy, of course.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Redding aboard?

My gut reaction when I saw that the Mets were close to a deal with Tim Redding was disappointment tempered with fond remembrance. Either of the final two spots of the Mets rotation would seem to be open for Redding, who reached career highs in starts, innings and strikeouts as the only double-digit winner for the cross-division Nationals in 2008, and who should be perfectly capable of eating innings for the boys in orange and blue in 2009.

Although he racked up a 10-11 record for a team that finished 43 games under .500, Redding's other numbers last season were fairly unimpressive. His 110 runs allowed were the fifth most of any pitcher in the National League, so his bloated win total is pretty clearly a result of having received the ninth best run support among NL pitchers. Scoring runs doesn't figure to be a big problem for the Mets, so I'm not overly concerned about what will happen on the nights Redding starts.

Still, even though signing Redding shouldn't financially restrict Omar Minaya from chasing bigger fish like Andy Pettitte, Derek Lowe, or the Mets' own unsigned free agent starters (Oliver Perez and Pedro Martinez), Minaya's acquisition of talent that would seem to slot in behind, rather than in front of projected No. 3 starter Mike Pelfrey is tough to digest.

On one hand, I don't expect Redding to negatively impact my favorite team's fortunes in 2009 all that much because I don't even really expect him to be in the rotation for length of the season. Redding's salary will reportedly be $2.5 million and if his performance (or lack thereof) warrants it, the Mets can cut ties with Redding for a relatively reasonable payoff.

Even if he stays in the rotation for the whole year, I won't be too upset. Steve Trachsel held tenure with the Mets for six seasons and even though he seemed to be on the wrong side of a quality start most nights, his consistently mediocre performance was something to look forward to. In October 2006, I watched in a sold-out Dodger Stadium as Trachsel went inning for inning with Greg Maddux and kept the Mets in the game long enough for the Mets to break through to the Dodgers pen.

The Mets went on to win that game and advanced to the NLCS, where Trachsel was ineffective against the Cardinals, and the Mets lost the series in seven games. The Mets didn't bring Trachsel back in 2007, and I don't think he was missed by most fans, but my memories of Trachsel are mostly positive. He was never brilliant, but it wasn't his fault that he lacked talent. He took the ball when it was his turn, and never complained or lacked effort.

Two years of the Barry Zito era in San Francisco have been ample reminder that making long-term commitments can hamstring a GM's roster flexibility. A three- or four-year deal, which is what Scott Boras is seeking for Lowe and Perez, would provide either starter an opportunity to carry the Mets to a pennant, but either contract would also cost the team significantly more cash and could lead to a distastrous fallout should performance fall short of expectations.

Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and more recently Zito and Adrian Beltre are examples of players whose additions cost their teams millions of dollars but perhaps more costly was the hope lost among fans of the Dodgers, Yankees, Giants and Mariners who watched these players fail to live up to the hype. Mets fans remember the recent signings of Martinez and Billy Wagner and couldn't be blamed for having muted optimism as Frankie Rodriguez comes to town as the newest hired gun.

It was because Martinez and Orlando Hernandez were injured, after all, that Trachsel's number was called in Game 3 of the NLDS. Whereas the two talented, former World Series winning aces were sidelined for the Mets only postseason activity of the last eight years, slow and steady Steve Trachsel was ready when his number was called. The pricier, flashier pitchers that Minaya savors are still out there for the chasing, but there are no guarantees that Lowe will remain subtly effective, or that Perez can ever deliver on his potential.

Maybe Tim Redding will be the No. 4 starter the Mets never knew they needed, and if they're wrong, $2.5 million won't be too tough to stomach, I guess.