Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Fernando Tatis’

Nick Evans, And The Battle for Bench Spots

Posted by JD on February 27, 2011

Jack DiLaurio had a decent debut season with the 1969 Mets, a less-successful second season with the Astros, and was out of the majors (never to return) before his third season started. Reading his SABR Bio Project entry I was struck by his approach to his situation. I don’t know if “fatalistic” is accurate, but DiLaurio knew that his path to the majors was blocked in the Detroit organization by better pitchers. He realized that, at age 26, he was running out of time to realize his dream of making the majors and consigned himself to retiring if he didn’t make the team in 1969. Fate intervened (in the form of then farm director Whitey Herzog pushing to first trade for, then promote, him) and DiLaurio made some useful contributions to the Miracle Mets, but his struggle to make the majors really stuck with me.

In terms of the current roster, I can’t help wondering if Nick Evans feels that same desperation (again, not sure if that’s exactly the right word, but it feels close) DiLaurio felt. The Mets’ treatment of Evans has been puzzling at best. Originally an injury replacement for the concussed Ryan Church, Evans made the jump from AA on May 28, 2008 and it was impressive: 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He was sent down on June 4th after hitting just .174/.208/.304 in nine games, but came back on July 10th and steadily improved. His final line: .257/.303/.404 in 119 plate appearances. Not great, but not bad either (he was only 22 at the time).

Evans didn’t make the club out of spring training (Gary Sheffield took his spot at the last second) and split the season between AA Binghamton, AAA Buffalo, and the Mets. 2010 wasn’t much different: he opened the season in Binghamton, was promoted to Buffalo, and spent September with the Mets. What’s more, he spent most of his time in the minors even though it was apparent that Ike Davis was solidifying his claim as the first baseman of the future.

To this fan, it appeared as if the organization was neglecting his development. Yet, there was reason for him to be optimistic about his chances: not only did a new management team take over with a mandate to limit off-season spending, but Fernando Tatis was allowed to depart as a free agent. Tatis filled the role most suited for Evans: right handed hitter off the bench who had some power and could fill in adequately as a corner infielder and outfielder. With Terry Collins elevated from farm coordinator to major league manager, it seemed as if Evans had a clear path to the majors.

And then the Mets signed Scott Hairston. A second baseman who can play all three outfield positions capably, Hairston is a right-handed hitter who has good power, especially to pull. He doesn’t play first or third, but when you consider that both Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy play third and Murphy was an above-average first baseman for the Mets in 2009, Hairston’s versatility in the outfield suddenly loomed as a major road block for Evans.

I see the bench competition unfolding like this: Ronny Paulino (Mike Nickeas until Paulino’s PED suspension runs out) as back-up catcher, Chin-lung Hu as back-up middle infielder, the loser of the Emaus/Murphy second base competition, Willie Harris as back-up outfielder/lefty pinch hitter/pinch runner, and Evans or Hairston.

In my eyes, Harris’ presence negates the advantage that Evans has over Hairston, and vice versa. Evans advantage? Corner infield. Willie Harris has played 28 games at third. Hairston’s advantage? Center field. Harris has played 230 games in center. Evans is out of options, but Hairston was signed to a major league deal.

It will come down to who performs better in Spring Training, which is how it should be. The competition should bring the best out of both players and will strengthen the Mets’ bench. I just can’t help but wonder what Evans’ frame of mind is. He’s 25, which is young in real-life terms but dangerously middle aged for a baseball player who hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. Does he doubt himself at all? Is he hoping to be traded or released or claimed on waivers, to get a fresh start somewhere else? Is he feeling emotions similar to what DiLaurio felt? It’s not the biggest story in camp this year, not by a long shot. But it’s intriguing enough to merit watching.

I don’t know (can’t know, really) who will help the Mets more this season. Hairston has a longer track record and is more athletic, so it seems to me that he has to be the favorite. But I feel for Nick Evans, and hope he has an excellent spring training. And, I hope that he’ll be given a fair shot to win a job on the bench. If he gets a shot and fails, so be it. But given his performance and how well he’s handled being bounced around over the past two years, he’s earned a fair chance to win a spot.


Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets, Offseason Moves, Spring Training, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Star Returns, And A Role Player Departs

Posted by JD on July 15, 2010

Carlos Beltran is back! That’s the main story tonight as the Mets return from the All-Star Break. I’m sure he’ll be rusty and I’m sure he’ll need time to get his game back, but he’s an instant upgrade over Jeff Francoeur and a boost to the offense. It feels like forever since I’ve seen him play (or 10 months at least) and I can’t wait for his first at-bat tonight. It’s a much needed jolt of energy for me (as a fan): I look forward to watching him again.

This being the Mets that we’re talking about, of course there’s negative injury news to balance out my Beltran euphoria. Jose Reyes has again been limited to swinging from the right side only and is riding the pine tonight as the San Francisco Giants start Tim Lincecum tonight. I’ll admit to waffling on this one: half a Reyes is so much better than a whole Alex Cora that I can see why the Mets are reluctant to bench him. I can’t shake the feeling that this will end poorly, but I hearby waive my right to criticize the Mets for this move: I don’t think they’re wrong to keep him active. I’d much rather just continue to slam them for not signing Felipe Lopez instead of Cora in the offseason.

But I digress: the departure I refer to in my post title is that of Fernando Tatis, who was moved to the 60-day DL after he went under the knife on Wednesday. This move almost definitely ends his season, and most likely, his career. I know Tatis has been ridiculed by many Mets fans for the better part of two seasons, but I never quite thought that was fair. Signed to a minor league contract in 2008, Tatis was a revelation that year. He hit 11 home runs and had an 123 OPS+ while backing up in right and left field and first and third base.

He re-signed for $1.7 million in 2009, and while his 13 GIDPs earned him the wrath of many a Mets’ fan, he hit 8 homers and had a 105 OPS+ while adding second base and shortstop to his defensive resume. He wasn’t a whiz with the glove at those positions but he didn’t embarrass himself, either. Add in the fact that he served as the Mets’ emergency catcher and it’s clear that he was worth more than Cora, who had a 69 OPS+ last season while making $2 million dollars. Tatis was actually one of their better players during that lost season, and he took far more criticism than he deserved.

He re-signed again, this time for just $850,000 (or $1 million less than the aforementioned Cora). 2010 was admittedly a down year for Tatis, who found himself in Jerry Manuel’s doghouse, who limited him to a mere 72 plate appearances this season. Still, his 59 OPS+ is higher than Cora’s 58*.

*Can you tell I don’t care that much for Cora as a player?

When all was said and done, he was worth 3.3 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) for the Mets, not a bad return for the roughly $3 million they spent on him. By comparison, Cora has been worth -1.6 WAR. I’ll say it again: Tatis was worth almost five wins more than Cora. Think about that the next time you want to run him down. His career with the Mets may not be over, but if it is, this fan will remember him as a useful bench player acquired for a reasonable price. Tatis may not have helped them reach the playoffs, but he wasn’t the reason why they missed them either. I thank him for his service and wish him nothing but the best in the future.

That said, it’s time to watch the return of Carlos Beltran. The rest of the season starts today, and hopefully Beltran’s return key’s a successful road trip. Let’s Go Mets!

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Rubber Game

Posted by JD on May 2, 2010

After trading blowout wins (9-1 Mets on Friday, 10-0 Phillies yesterday), the Mets and Phillies face off on national television to determine the winner of their first series this season. The Mets have a half-game lead over the Phillies in the standings and Johan Santana on the mound. The Phillies will counter with the “wily-veteran,” Jamie Moyer.

It’s been an interesting series. The Mets came in hot and kept it rolling on Friday night. Mike Pelfrey started on Saturday but couldn’t withstand a couple of near-outs (Jose Reyes and Alex Cora dropped catchable balls in the fourth inning) and departed early after giving up six runs. The Mets never recovered against the Phillies’ ace, Roy Halladay, setting up today’s rubber match.

Jerry Manuel has decided to make things even more interesting, subbing Gary Matthews, Jr. in for Angel Pagan in center field (and the lead-off spot) and Fernando Tatis for Ike Davis. There may be a bit of a method to this madness, as Tatis is 8-22 (.364) vs. Moyer and Matthews Jr. is 7-23 (.304)*.

*Granted, they haven’t faced off in 2006. So, we have that going for us. I guess.

Ike Davis wasn’t going to start every game and he’s had an issue with left-handed pitchers, so it’s not crazy to sit him against Moyer. I guess. Tatis needs some at-bats, and his past success gives Jerry some cover here. Same for GMJ, I suppose. Call me crazy, but I’d love to see the Mets field their best lineup against their division rivals. Yes, it’s still early. I understand that it’s a long series, and the Mets will have plenty of cracks at the Phillies. But it would be nice if they put their best foot forward tonight, no?

Alas, the lineup is already set: these are the players that we have to root for tonight. Let’s hope the sum is greater than the parts, and Let’s Go Mets!

Sidebar: If you’re like me and you have no idea where the term “rubber game” came from, Wikipedia has your answer: “The use of the word “rubber” to describe a tiebreaker is believed to have originated in the English game of bowls.” So there you go.

Posted in Johan Santana, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flushing Frivolity – OPS+

Posted by JD on February 3, 2010

Out of curiosity, I used Baseball Reference’s Play Index to generate the Mets career leaderboard for OPS+ (minimum 540 plate appearences). Check it out:

Rk First Last OPS+ PA From To
1 Darryl Strawberry 145 4549 1983 1990
2 John Olerud 142 2018 1997 1999
3 David Wright 136 3665 2004 2009
4 Mike Piazza 136 3941 1998 2005
5 Keith Hernandez 129 3684 1983 1989
6 Carlos Beltran 127 2966 2005 2009
7 Bobby Bonilla 127 2040 1992 1999
8 Tommy Davis 125 621 1967 1967
9 Howard Johnson 124 4591 1985 1993
10 Dave Magadan 122 2483 1986 1992
11 Carlos Delgado 121 2023 2006 2009
12 Lance Johnson 121 1023 1996 1997
13 Rico Brogna 121 889 1994 1996
14 Kevin McReynolds 120 3218 1987 1994
15 Steve Henderson 120 2029 1977 1980
16 Rusty Staub 119 2965 1972 1985
17 Donn Clendenon 118 957 1969 1971
18 Bernard Gilkey 117 1567 1996 1998
19 Art Shamsky 117 1345 1968 1971
20 Cliff Floyd 116 1884 2003 2006
21 Rickey Henderson 116 650 1999 2000
22 Lenny Dykstra 115 1908 1985 1989
23 Benny Agbayani 114 1083 1998 2001
24 Daryl Boston 114 1016 1990 1992
25 Fernando Tatis 113 685 2008 2009

Look who cracks the top 25: Fernando Tatis. Granted, he checks in just behind Benny Agbayani and Daryl Boston, but still…top 25. Tatis has been 13% better than league average for the past two years. Not a bad signing for less than $1 million guaranteed.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Mets | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Subway Thoughts

Posted by JD on February 1, 2010

Riding the subway home and thinking about the Mets, this crossed my mind:

  • Ryan Garko signed with the Mariners. I was in the “Sign Garko” boat for most of the offseason, and I was wrong. He’s a nice player and all, but he’s older than I thought (I didn’t realize he was 29) and limited defensively to first base and the outfield corners. Fernando Tatis is no All-Star, but he’s played every infield position and left and right field. He has his flaws but his versatility and price tag make him a better choice than Garko. I’ve got no issues with signing Tatis over Garko.
  • Putz-Gate. Look, at this point we all know that the Mets’ injury strategy is fucked up. In almost any other organization, failing to give a pitcher a physical before acquiring him would be a fireable offense. But this is the Mets, a dysfunctional organization that seemingly cannot stay out of its own way: att this point nothing they do regarding injuries will surprise me. Here’s my point: they’re not firing anyone over this, they’re not changing their injury strategy, and Omar won’t take the fall, so I’m not getting fired up over it. I’m not trying to whitewash anything: this is an organizational black mark that’s not going away any time soon. I’m just not getting worked up over it. My ticket money is already paid, I’m locked in, and I refuse to waste more energy getting upset about the Wilpons’ boneheaded front-office. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get upset. By all means, hold their feet to the fire. I’m just saying that I’m numb to it now…you’ll have to go on without me.
  • Here’s a nice write up by Anthony McCarron on the Mets’ remaining rotation options. Well worth a few minutes of your time.
  • Hockey thought: What the hell is Darryl Sutter thinking? Maybe he doesn’t like Olli Jokinen anymore, but why would he take on the additional two years of Ales Kotalik’s contract? If you’re a Rangers fan, you should be keeping your fingers crossed tonight for two reasons: that Jokinen doesn’t get hurt, and that Sutter doesn’t come to his senses.

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