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.