Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What You Already Know: The Infield

You may think that writing a preview piece on the infielders could be pointless, what with David Wright and Jose Reyes providing a rock solid left side for years to come, and Carlos Delgado providing power from the other corner.

Yeah, you're probably right.

Quite simply, Jose Reyes is a stud. He's gone from having chronic injury issues that threatened to derail his career to being probably the most unique and versatile talent in the major leagues. Sure, he's a free swinger. But Reyes proved last season that you don't necessarily have to work counts all of the time to be an effective leadoff hitter. For Reyes, the key has always been to lay off the junk in the dirt and be aggressive within the strike zone. That's exactly what Reyes has done, and he still almost doubled his walk total from 2005-2006.

Reyes provides something for everyone. He enters 2006 as one of the top five fantasy players in baseball. Of course, if you believe Murray Chass of the Times (and I'm not saying I do), numbers ruin everybody's love of baseball. Well, Reyes' pure excitement and effervescent personality that are as key to his (and the Mets) success as any numbers would probably attract the likes of Chass as well as the defenders of the VORP.

David Wright is the face of the franchise. He's our golden boy. He's the guy that everyone is going to hate with a passion once the Mets win a World Series (if people don't hate him already for his good looks and his polished interviews). David Wright also has room for improvement. It's scary to think about it in those terms, but it's true. 20 HR's and 74 RBI's before the break vs. 6 HR's and 42 RBI's after the break prove that point. The good part about that is that the average and OBP numbers didn't dip all that much despite hitting .245 in August (dog days). It's being picky, but it is something to watch with David Wright in 2006.

Jim Thome: .288/.416/42 HR/109 RBI.
Frank Thomas: .267/.390/42 HR/105 RBI.
Fred McGriff: .310/.405/32 HR/104 RBI.
Jeff Bagwell: .278/.373/39 HR/100 RBI.

Is there a point to those numbers?

I'm glad you asked. Those three seasons came courtesy of players at the age of 35, which Carlos Delgado will be this season. So for those wondering of Delgado is all of a sudden going to get old and become Mike Marshall before our very eyes, take a deep breath and sleep easy. His numbers, now that his elbow is closer to 100 percent, may very well improve from last season rather than decline with the passing of age.

Paul Lo Duca is another Murray Chass exhibit, because he's much more than mere numbers can quantify. He works a pitching staff, he makes contact, he gets dirty, he spikes baseball's in umpires faces, he tags two runners in a single bound, he kicks ass, he takes names, he curses on SNY, he makes the tabloids...all without breaking a sweat. Now no disrespect to the quiet professionalism of Mike Piazza, but God Bless Paul Lo Duca. God Bless him and all that he stands for.

The best part about Lo Duca's prospects this season is that his backup, Fluff Castro, is more streamlined after losing a significant number of pounds, making him more fit and able to spell Lo Duca for one game a week, or longer if Lo Duca has injury issues, marital issues, or if he starts a bar fight and has to spend some time in the klink (can't you see it?) Unfortunately, it may make it harder for Castro's body to support that giant head of his, but one must make sacrifices for fitness.

Then there's second base.

I knew there was a catch.

If second base is the one question mark in the infield, that's not a bad problem to have. Jose Valentin (who will don the more familiar 22 this season having given 18 to Moises Alou) will get a chance to play as he did last season (18HR's and 62 RBI's in 384 AB's), or play his way out of a job. Considering he's 37 years old, you'd have to consider 18 HR's and 62 RBI's a bonus...even in a 550 AB season. But if there's some impatience or an injury (or if you're simply worried about all the errors Valentin has made during the spring), there's always Damion Easley, David Newhan, and Ruben Gotay. Easley would probably get the nod...first and foremost because he's old (oh Metstradamus calm down, he's only 11 months older than you!) Old seems to go a long way around these parts. But he'll probably get the nod because David Newhan's relatively higher power numbers than the rest of the bench would translate better as a late-inning pinch hitter.

Speaking of old, there's Julio Franco, who will probably need to work overtime on his intangible skills, because his on-field ability will always be in question until he discovers the secret to reversing the aging process (egg whites alone will not do it). If he's going to take a roster spot of somebody with more on field skills, he had better find a way to get Filthy Sanchez to be punctual, heal Pedro's arm, and build Citi Field with his bare hands to make up for it.

If anyone can do it...


Anonymous said...

You forgot to post Wright's postseason numbers. He's got a hole in his swing he's gotta fix before he's considered an elite player.

Unser said...

I see your point on Delgado, but it'd be nice if he jacked one or two out during the last few spring training games, just to give me that warm and fuzzy feeling again.

Reyes is a monster. Just wait and see what he does this year.