Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Fernando Martinez’

Fernando Martinez, Jay Payton, and Injuries

Posted by JD on December 20, 2010

The other day, Metsblog linked to this post from Mack’s Mets on Fernando Martinez. The gist of it is that Mack feels that Martinez’ arthritis moots his status as a prospect and ruins his trade value. I think I understand where Mack is coming from here: the hype surrounding Martinez just three season ago reached such unsustainable levels (remember the “Teenage Hitting Machine”?) that a healthy Martinez would have struggled to meet them. His subsequent injuries have both hindered his development and started to create a “bust” feeling about him. I can see that, yet I think writing Martinez off as a prospect/trading chip is very shortsighted.

First, the medical condition. Did you know that there are over 100 types of arthritis? I didn’t. The more familiar kinds are osteoarthritis (the most common form, acquired via wear and tear on the joint), rheumatoid (a disorder in which the body’s own immune system starts to attack it), lupus (a vascular disorder), and gout (inflammation caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in a joint). We know Martinez doesn’t have gout and it’s never lupus, but what about the other two? I’m no doctor, but it would seem safe to say that since the arthritic condition exists only in Martinez’ right knee, it’s not rheumatoid arthritis. And that’s just not as bad as it seems on the surface.

Let me be clear: I am not diminishing the suffering arthritis causes. My mother deals with it on a daily basis: I know the discomfort she deals with everyday. But it’s far from hopeless: better diet and increased activity have mitigated her pain and allowed her to use pain killers sparsely. My mother is 61 with arthritis in both hands, both wrists, and both knees (to start). Fernando Martinez is 22, with “minor” arthritis in his right knee. I hate to say this, but if she can deal with it successfully, he’ll probably find a way to manage it and keep playing.

Will he ever be as fast as he once was? Probably not, but to translate that into “he can’t be a productive major league player” is nonsense. However daunting Martinez’ injury history may be, other players have overcome similar challenges in the past and gone on to have productive careers. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Jay Payton is just such an example.

Drafted in 1994 out Georgia Tech, Payton played 58 games for short season affiliate Pittsfield and eight games for AA Binghamton. He followed that up by playing 135 games in 1995, 85 in Binghamton and 50 in AAA Norfolk. That season marked the start of his injury troubles: though he was named the Eastern League’s MVP, he played most of the season in pain from an injury suffered in spring training. That September, Payton had surgery to transplant a tendon from his wrist to his right elbow.

1996 saw Payton play in just 71 games for four Mets’ affiliates (55 were played in AAA Norfolk). This was largely as a result of a surgery in May to remove bone chips from the same elbow. A third surgery (in January 1997) was needed to remove scar tissue. The surgeries forced Payton to move to first base, but it was no use: Payton underwent a second reconstructive surgery that cost him the entire 1997 season. If you’ve lost count, that’s a total of four surgeries on the same elbow.

Payton reached the 100 game mark in 1998, only the second time in his career that he played that many games. He played 85 games for Norfolk, beginning the season at first base but moving back to the outfield after 25 games. He would end the season in New York, making his major league debut and playing 15 games for the Mets. However, the news was not all good: Payton underwent a pair of arthroscopic procedures on his left shoulder in January 1999.

Payton returned in time to play 45 games for Norfolk and 13 for the Mets. 2000 saw him play 149 games for the National League champion Mets, the first of nine consecutive seasons in which Payton would play at least 100 games at the major league level.

Was he the superstar many expected him to be? No, but he was largely a productive player: according to both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, Payton only had one season* of negative WAR and totaled roughly 14 WAR over his career. More notably for our purposes, Payton gave the Mets 3.7 WAR (2.8 if you go by Fangraphs) over parts of five seasons for around $866,000 dollars, excellent bang for their buck. While his Mets’ career never met the hype, he was a productive, cheap asset that was wasted in a bad trade (most likely brought on because Steve Phillips thought he was selfish).

*Due (I think) to differences in the way both systems weight defense, they differ on which season was negative. B-R.com has Payton’s 2001 season as -0.3 WAR while Fangraphs has his 2005 as -0.5.  Such disagreements are common. I think it’s safe to generalize that both systems have him at 14 career WAR.

Fernando Martinez is 22 and has only played in 349 games (not including fall and winter league games). Jay Payton was 21 when he started his career (27 when he played his first full major league season) and dealt with far more serious injuries (e.g. elbow reconstruction). While we may want to forget about super-stardom for Martinez, Payton’s career is more than enough reason to remember that we should not throw the baby out with the bath water: there is time enough for Fernando Martinez to help the Mets win baseball games.

Posted in Mets | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

The Rule 5 Draft and Elvin Ramirez

Posted by JD on December 8, 2010

On the eve of the annual Rule 5 draft, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York broke the news that the Mets expect to lose pitcher Elvin Ramirez. Buster Olney followed that up with a tweet stating that Ramirez is “the guy widely expected to be the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft”. Well, that sucks…especially because Ramirez has been hitting anywhere between 94 and 98 MPH on the radar gun in the Dominican this winter.

Or does it? I’m not so sure. Yes, given the Mets’ current shortage of major league arms and surplus of open spots on the 40-man roster (35 going into the draft), failing to protect anyone who can top out at 98 MPH raises eyebrows. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that his BB/9 has steadily risen from 4.0 in 2008 to 4.8 in 2009 to 5.5 in 2010 while his SO/BB has remained in the 1.23 – 1.72 range. Ramirez had a nice season at Savannah in 2008, and that deserves notice. But he’s done little to distinguish himself since.

And even if he had, how many Rule 5 picks actually stick with the club that selected them? Looking back at last year’s draft, in which 17 players were selected, reveals the following: nine were offered back to their original clubs (eight clubs accepted and the Braves declined the rights to Edgar Osuna), three were involved in deals that allowed the selecting clubs to keep them in the minors, and four stuck at the major league level. Yes, that equals 16: Kanekoa Texiera was claimed off of waivers by the Royals. And yes, one of the four that stuck was Carlos Monasterios, who was selected by the Mets and traded to the Dodgers for cash. My overall point is the same: the majority of the players picked were returned to their original clubs.

Sure,  Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, and Josh Hamilton were all Rule 5 draftees (to name a very select few).  But so were Jared Camp (selected ahead of Santana) and Ryan Goleski (selected ahead of both Soria AND Hamilton). Both Camp and Goleski were the “first player selected in the Rule 5 draft”. Where are they now?

To make a long story short, don’t focus on Ramirez’ availability. The Mets may well lose him tomorrow. But if you add the track record of previous Rule 5 picks to Ramirez’ performance over the past three years, you’ll find that it might not be much of a loss at all. At the very least, it’s nothing to lose sleep over.

Posted in Johan Santana, Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bay Done For Season

Posted by JD on August 20, 2010

The beat writers provided the news today via Twitter (here’s a representative sample from Newsday’s David Lennon): Jerry Manuel expects Jason Bay to miss the rest of the year as he recovers from a concussion suffered back in July.

Great. As if the team’s play of late hasn’t been depressing enough, now one of the more expensive pieces of the lineup has been placed on the sidelines indefinitely. His production hasn’t matched his paycheck yet, but he gave an honest effort throughout the season (and was far more productive than his counterpart in right field). It’s a shame to see his season end this way.

Looking for a silver lining, it’s may actually be a good sign if Bay doesn’t return (I’m not bashing Bay here…stick with me for a minute). If he’s struggling with concussion-related symptoms, sitting him indicates that management is implementing their Prevention and Recovery policy. Medical science is still struggling to understand the full impact of head injuries, but one thing that we’ve learned is that they are no joke. Unlike broken bones, concussions have no timetable for recovery. Benching Bay for the rest of the season ensures that he’ll be given every chance to return to health. Even if we can’t reliably predict that he’ll return to his previous levels of performance, this will at least give him the best chance to do so. Short-term sacrifice is in his (and the team’s) best interests, and I’m glad Mets management isn’t rushing him back* needlessly.

*However, I’m not ruling out his return this season yet: after all, they did let Beltran play last September. I hope he takes all the time he needs. Pardon me for waiting to see it before I believe it.

What makes this situation entirely unappealing is Manuel’s (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Omar Minaya’s) roster management of late. I have no doubt that if the medical staff gave Bay a green light, Omar would throw him out there (and bat him clean-up, to boot). It was just a few weeks ago when we were told Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada would be receiving increased playing time. That turned out to be a pipe dream: not only has Tejada been replaced by Luis Castillo at second, but Mike Hessman has seen an increase in playing time at the expense of Ike Davis and Rod Barajas has returned, sending Josh Thole to the bench and Martinez back to Buffalo.

Why? Because Manuel is desperately trying to save his job and, in doing so, he’s advanced the near-ludicrous notion that the Mets are still in contention for a post-season berth. 11 games behind the Braves, 8.5 games behind the Giants, only 41 games left to play, and our lame-duck manager is harboring dreams of reaching the playoffs. And management (and ownership) is allowing it or, even worse, encouraging it. Absolutely ridiculous, yet that’s what we’re left to deal with for the short-term future.

Losing Jason Bay for the rest of the season is disappointing. What’s absolutely crushing is watching near-useless veterans receive the bulk of the playing time in a vain attempt finish in the playoffs. While I applaud this implementation of the Prevention and Recovery mantra, it makes me wonder: how did the Mets get this one instance right while in the midst of making so many other fundamentally bad decisions?

Cliches are worthless, but I keep circling back to an old standard: “It is what it is”. The Mets will continue to spin their wheels, I’ll continue to watch (as will you), and the organizational inertia will continue to mire the Mets in mediocrity. I hope Jason Bay gets well and has a monster season next year, yet I seriously doubt it will change much.

———-

Update: I really should edit my posts better before publishing them. Upon re-reading this post, I realized I failed to make one key point: Jason Bay has done nothing wrong here. His effort on the field lead directly to his concussion: he ran face first into a fence to make a catch. Sure, I think we would all like to see more production than “6 home runs, 47 RBI”. Heck, Jason Bay probably wouldn’t argue that point. But he gave a consistent, honest effort in each game he played and you can’t ask for anything more than that. Maybe the numbers weren’t there, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.

My issue is with how the Mets have approached the past 20 or so games since he’s been injured, and how they appear to be approaching the rest of the season. The announcement that Bay is likely done for the season triggered my frustration with the Mets’ (read: Jerry Manuel’s) insistence that they are still fighting for a playoff-berth. At this point that’s utter nonsense, and it set me off. Allow me to summarize:

1. Bay’s injury is unfortunate
2. The Mets appear to be handling it correctly, however;
3. They are handling just about every other roster/lineup decision incorrectly.

Apologies for any confusion, and let’s all hope Bay returns to full health as soon as possible.

Posted in Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Jerry Manuel, Luis Castillo, Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The End Of An Error

Posted by JD on August 8, 2010

Well, that’s done: the Mets have released Alex Cora. The move, in conjunction with the demotion of Jesus Feliciano, was made to free up space for the return of Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez. It also comes after his 62nd game, leaving him 18 games shy of vesting the 2011 option on his contract, saving the Mets another $2 million next season.

I love these moves. Cora was well past his prime and the thought of bringing him back for more next year was aggravating me to no end. I’m sure he’s a good guy. He’ll probably make a good manager someday, too. But watching him play was seriously testing my patience, so I’m glad that’s no longer a problem.

Of course, these moves aren’t going to make enough of an impact this late in the season. Even if you factor in the decision to bench Luis Castillo and (maybe) platoon Jeff Francoeur and F-Mart, the Mets would still need returns to full health from Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (and a return to form from Jose Reyes) to make a run of any kind. When you consider how far they’ve fallen behind, it would also take some seriously average performances from the teams in front of them to make it a serious run.

No, these moves do not a contender make. But they do make our team a little more competitive and a lot less frustrating to watch. Considering how this season has developed, I’ll take the good news when I can get it. And on that note, I’m going to make myself a nice cold drink and get ready to watch one of the more intriguing pitching match-ups of the season: knuckle-ball tossing revelation R.A. Dickey versus hard-throwing Roy Halladay. Let’s go Mets!

Posted in Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I Call It Messin’ with the Kid(s)

Posted by JD on March 5, 2010

Jenrry Mejia had a great outing today, throwing 19 pitches (17 for strikes) and striking out four of the seven batters he faced. Mejia, still just 20, is a tantalizing talent who’s had a nice Spring Training so far. This is one of my favorite parts of any spring: a prospect comes in a meets or exceeds our expectations, and we can all let ourselves get excited about his potential. Mejia looked like the real deal today and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be a part of the pitching staff for a long time to come.

That being said, let’s hope  the Mets exercise some restraint with him. There seems to be a growing sentiment towards using Mejia in an eighth inning roll. David Lennon of Newsday tweeted this after today’s game: “(Jerry) Manuel compares Mejia’s fastball to the great Rivera. Warthen says composure like Gooden. Adds Jerry, “Got to get him on the team!” And Adam Rubin of the Daily News echoed the sentiment: “Jerry, Warthen praise Mejia. Bullpen is crowded, but he could force his way on with outings like today’s”. Looks to me like the Mejia-bandwagon is getting cranked up.

That’s nice and all, but not at the cost of his development. As I mentioned, he still can’t legally buy himself a beer. He’s never pitched above the AA level and only threw 44 1/3 innings there. He’s never been subjected to late-inning pressure, having started all but seven of the 47 games he’s appeared in. Heck, he’s only pitched a total of 210 innings of any kind in pro-ball.

IMHO he’s better off starting the season in Binghamton as a starter, building his durability and learning how to deal with more advanced hitters in all type of situations. If that goes well, the Mets should give the fine folks of Buffalo a chance to see him pitch. This will allow him to steadily build innings against more experienced opponents while mitigating the Verducci Effect. While I’m not entirely sold on the theory, I think he needs to build on the 94 2/3 innings he threw in 2009, something which almost certainly wouldn’t happen if he is given the eighth inning roll with the big club. And, it’s better to let him hone his secondary and tertiary pitches in a steady progression rather than limiting him to his (apparently awesome) fastball.

Monetarily, the Mets should also be leery of starting Mejia’s service-time clock. Every day spent in the minors pushes out his arbitration eligibility and saves them money down the road. And there’s another factor to consider: the value of The Unknown. Remember “The Teenage Hitting Machine”? Fernando Martinez was an uber-prospect, a five-tool stud who could anchor a franchise (and he still may be). But his brief exposure to Major League Baseball showed that he wasn’t quite seasoned enough, which in turn may have lowered his trade value. Why risk that with Mejia? Last I checked, there was a pretty good catcher in Minnesota and a decent first baseman in San Diego who have yet to re-sign with their franchises. Why risk devaluing an asset that might be used to acquire them?

The same arguments can be applied to Ike Davis, though admittedly to a lesser degree. Davis is older and starred for Arizona State University, a major college program. But he only has 727 professional plate appearances, none of which has come at the AAA level. There’s probably less downside to letting him break camp with the big club, but there’s risk nonetheless. The Mets should proceed carefully with him as well.

Listen, I want these kids to force management to consider keeping them: there’s nothing better than watching home-grown players succeed. But even more than that, I want management to place the long-term benefits to the players and the franchise ahead of the three or four wins these kids will bring this year. Unfortunately, Omar Minaya has been on shaky ground this past year (and he knows it) and Jerry Manuel is surrounded by potential replacements up and down the organization. Hopefully, they can the resist the temptation to save their own skins, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They’re focus is probably going to remain set on winning today, future benefits be damned.

Posted in Jerry Manuel, Mets, Omar Minaya, Spring Training | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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