The Once and Future King
Kings of Baseball Book 2Chapter 14מְלָכִים ב
Mets Going Through Catchers Like Kleenex at a Funeral, Find a Good One in Blanco
In the last few months, the Mets have gone through Brian Schneider, whom they
lost to the Phillies, Ramon Castro, who is now with the White Sox, Omir Santos, whom they sent down to the minors, Henry Blanco their new backup, and Rod Barajas, their new starting catcher. The question is, can any of these people throw out base stealers at a .400 or better pace? Henry Blanco can, and probably will in 2010.
Omir Santos was a good defensive catcher overall, but was not the best that ever played the game when it came to throwing guys out. In 2009 he threw out 15 out of the 50 runners who challenged his arm. That’s a .300 average, not bad as a batting average, but not good as a throwing percentage. Generally the great catchers kept their throwing stats 100 points higher than their batting stats, although that’s so approximate that the word ballpark doesn’t contain it. In Omir’s case, that.300 really was 100 points higher, but that’s not good news. He was a “Mendoza line” hitter.
His replacement, Rod Barajas has had a lifetime average of .340 when it comes to base-stealers; of 459 attempts, 155 have bit the dust. Barajas has been consistent over the years, hovering around that mark year after year. Ramon Castro had a remarkable .470 arm in 15 attempts in 2009 but was traded mid-season, but let’s not forget his lifetime average was .310.
The Phillies married our X, Brian Schneider, and they can have him, but only as a backup to Ruiz. I don’t have lifetimes on Schneider, but he slipped from a sensational .500 in 2004 to a poor to middling .345 in 2009. That means we run on him next time we’re in Philly.
Henry Blanco, who bumped the unlucky Santos as the backup catcher, outranked him for a reason; Blanco has a .404 arm lifetime, which is really sensational, especially for a guy I never heard of before (except that he replaced Michael Barrett after the “Who says Cubs can’t hit?” brawl of 2006). In fact, talk about
matching best seasons in 2010; In 2004 Blanco threw out 30 of 61 runners for a .492 gunning average. In 2005, he gunned down 19 of 39 for a .487 average. In ’06 it was .429, in ’08, .455. Last year he slumped to .400 in 45 attempts. That is still way ahead of most of the league’s active players, and ahead of a lot of catchers in the Hall. Mike Piazza had a lifetime throwing average of only .290, about the same as his worst season batting average. Jorge Posada to date also has a lifetime gunning percentage of .290. Bengi Molina lifetime is now at .320. J. Mauer has been stolen upon 204 times with 124 thrown out, for a .380 average. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, now with Washington, really is the one to beat; his throwing percentage is an amazing .460. Why isn’t he a Met?
Here’s a ranking of recent Hall of Fame catchers by gunning percentages. It’s surprising how Blanco measures up in this very important category.
Name …..steals ….caught ….percentage
J. Bench…. 610………471………440
Now if we could only find a catcher who could hit his throwing average!
“Mets Ready to Move Past 2009 Season” But In Which Direction?
Copyright 2010 by Evan Pritchard
The Mets want us to erase 2009. Fine. Where are those “men in black” when you need them? Those little silver flashing memory erasers would come in handy for Mets fans right now. 2009 was an experience that none of Omar’s abductees would want to go through twice.
But wait a minute, what does that leave us? They want us to think only of the future, and not look back, but its hard to write about the future; baseball history only exists in the past and we baseball beat writer types have nothing but the past to look forward to. So when we erase 2009, that leaves us with 2008, as if it was yesterday. Let’s hope we don’t pick up a coin outside Citifield dated 2009 and suddenly go into a time warp. That would be spooky.
If we are to believe that Omar can turn back the clock and make the Mets’ team members perform as well as they did in 2008, we have to consider both the good and the bad. In fact, Jeff Francoer and Luis Castillo were bad in 2008 and much better in 2009. Santos barely played in 2008, all we know is 2009. And newbie Escobar didn’t pitch at all in 2008, due to injuries. So let’s put those aside. Overall the Mets players WOULD in fact be a better team if they played as they did in 2008, regardless of what team they were playing on.
Here are the 2010 Mets as if it was 2008.
If Reyes were to forget 2009 and play exactly as he did in 2008, the All Star shortstop would have 688 at bats, his second highest mark, with his second highest ribbies, 68. He’d score his third highest runs, 113, and a career high 204 hits. He’d blast 16 homers, his second highest career numbers, and bat .297 his third highest batting average. He’d have a career high 37 doubles and career high 19 triples, with a respectable 56 stolen bases, his fourth highest tally. I think we’d be happy with that.
Luis Castillo only batted .245 with 28 RBI’s and 3 homers in ’08. We don’t want to erase his 2009 quite so fast.
We could forget Beltran’s shortened 2009 season, and happily relive his 2008 season. That year he had 606 at-bats, his highest since 2002. He had 112 ribbies, his highest except 2006, he scored a career-high 116 runs, and cracked 172 hits, the most hits for him since 2002. He hit 27 homers, his third highest mark career-wise, and ran out a career high 40 doubles. He had 5 triples and stole 25 bases, his highest since 2004. He batted .284 in 2008. We could all live with a Beltran with his 2009 memory surgically removed, with or without approval from “the team.”
Beltran will be out on rehab in April and maybe May, so we have to see how Pagan does. Angel Pagan was lousy in 2008, and better in 2009. The Mets have also acquired veteran Gary Matthews, another man you want playing like it was 2008. In that year, he had 426 at bats with 46 ribbies, 53 runs scored 103 hits, 8 homers, 19 doubles, 3 triples and 8 stolen bases. He batted .242. It was his last really good year. Let’s hope 2009 will be erased for him along with the Mets who were Mets last year.
David Wright could certainly use a trip on the time machine into the year 2008. That year he had a career high 626 at-bats, with a career high 124 ribbies. He scored a career-high 115 runs, with 189 hits (his second highest number of hits) and career high 33 homers. He batted a respectable .302 (he was better in 2009, so be careful what you wish for!) and had a career high 42 doubles versus a more sedate 2 triples and 15 stolen bases.
One player who would most dramatically benefit from the 2008 time machine would be the prodigal Mike Jacobs. In 2008 he had his best year, but it was with the Marlins! In a career high 477 at bats, he had a career high 93 ribbies, 67 runs scored, 32 homers and 2 triples. He just missed his career high with 27 doubles and 118 hits, but batted only .247.
New Met outfielder Jason Bay would not be harmed by going back in the “Way Back” machine to 2008, in spite of the fact that 2009 was a great year for him with the Red Sox. In 2008, he had 577 at-bats, a 2nd best for him, a third-best 101 ribbies, scoring a career-high 111 runs, a second best 165 hits, and 31 beautiful home runs. His .286 batting average that year was his second best mark while his 35 doubles and 4 triples were also second all-time best. He also stole 10 bases in ’08.
Danny Murphy was better in 2008, as you probably recall. Dan hit a marvelous .313 that year in 131 at-bats, with 17 ribbies, and 24 runs scored. He also hit 2 homers. He had 9 doubles and 3 triples.
Rod Barajas is our new catcher, in case you didn’t hear. He was not great in 2009 either. Back in 2008, however, he had 377 at-bats, with 49 ribbies, 44 runs scored, 87 hits, 11 homers, and 23 doubles and batted .249.
Nick Evans was not so bad in 2008 either. In just 109 at-bats, he had 9 ribbies, and scored 18 runs with 28 hits. He had 10 doubles with 2 homers and batted .257.
Fernando Tatis was pretty good in 2008. In 173 at bats he batted .297 that year, his second-highest mark overall, with 16 doubles and 1 triple, with 3 stolen bases. He had 81 hits, scoring 33 runs,11 homers and 47 rbis.
Alex Cora may see some action this year, perhaps at second base to cover for the aging Luis Castillo. Cora played for Boston in 2008 where, in only 152 at-bats, he hit .270, his second all-time best. He had 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 13 stolen bases with 41 hits, and 9 ribbies while scoring 14 times.
Line up, with batting averages and home run totals, if Mets matched 2008;
Reyes .297 16
Castillo .245 3
Beltran .284 27
Wright .302 33
Bay .286 31
Jacobs .247 32
Murphy .313 2
Barajas .249 11
Tatis .297 11
So batting certainly improves by erasing all memory of 2009. What about the pitching?
Johann (“best pitcher in the NL East”) Santana (but can he play “Smooth” as well as Carlos?) was great in ’08, with his third-best win-loss mark, registering a 16-7 record, and a stunning career-topping 2.53 ERA for the ’08 Mets, and was especially strong during the season-ending collapse, trying to keep things together. He had a career-high 3 complete games that year with an impressive 206 strikeouts and a career-topping 234 innings pitched. For Johann, it was a season to remember, that is, until the last week of the season. If we could have THAT Santana back, I’d be happy!
Oliver Perez was decent in ’08 with a 10-7 mark. His 4.22 ERA was okay, and his 180 strikeouts was his second best mark overall. His 194 innings pitched was also his second best by the way.
Let’s grab John Maine and use the gadget from “Men In Black” to help him forget 2009, where he was plagued with injuries. In 2008, his 10-8 mark was okay, but his 4.18 ERA was his second all time best, as was his 122 strike-outs and his 140 innings pitched. That’s a John Maine we wouldn’t mind seeing again.
Pelfry, ah Pelfry. So far 2008 was his career year, and ’09 a career smear. Back in ’08 he topped himself in all major categories, with a 13-11 win-loss record, a 3.72 ERA with 2 complete games, and 110 strikeouts in 200 innings pitched. We should expect to see him top those marks with new career highs, or expect to lose him in 2011.
PART TWO: THE DREAM TEAM of 2010
Since we’ve jumped on the Pipe Dream Express already, and imagined the Mets as if 2009 never happened, why not go one step further and imagine a New York Mets that, either out of chagrin or out of fear for losing every fan they ever had, manage to all match their all-time personal career numbers. That only happens of course in story books, but at least it is not totally pie-in-the-sky. David Wright has already bet on the team “going deep in the playoffs, and winning the World Series.” To do that, each Met would have to have a career year, seeing how no one is actually pitching right now.
If you want to quote these numbers to your Yankee fan friends, and they say “And when have the Mets ever shown that kind of ability????” you can quote these years as well, and they can look it up. A season in which the Mets actually live up to their potential is an Amazine Year indeed!
Based on this principle: Here are my predictions for 2010:
Reyes (2006 Mets) at bats: 647, runs 122, hits 194, doubles 30, triples 17, homers 19, ribbies 81, walks 53 batting average .300, stolen bases 64. He did it before, sure he can do it again, and I’m sure he will, some time in the next five years, hopefully for New York.
Luis Castillo (2003 Marlins) at bats: 595, runs 99, hits 187, doubles 19, triples 6, homers 6, ribbies 39, walks 63, average .314, (!) stolen bases 21. Could he do it again? Did Moses part the Red Sea at 100 years old?
Beltran (2006 Mets) at bats: 510, runs 127, hits 140, doubles 38, triples 1, homers 41, ribbies 116, walks 95, average .275, with 18 stolen bases. Once his injury is healed, he should return to his old form, supplied with enough ham and cheese sandwiches to give him pep and energy.
David Wright (2007 Mets) at bats: 604, runs 113, hits 196, doubles 42, triples 2, homers 30, ribbies 107, walks 94 average .325, with 34 stolen bases. Super-David at third was actually pretty good last year if you ignore his lack of power, but ’07 he carried the team on his shoulders most of the way. The way he’s been talking lately, one would think he has figured out what he was doing wrong last year, and has found that magic formula Vitamin Water that propelled him to greatness in 2007.
Jason Bay (2005 Pirates)at bats: 599, runs 110, hits 183, doubles 44, triples 6, homers 32, ribbies 101, walks 95, batting average .306, with 21 stolen bases. What Met fan wouldn’t be happy with 32 homers from Jason Bay this season? And a .306 average? He did it in 05, and he’s still young and hungry for the Hall of Fame. I would love to see him steal 21 bases at Citifield.
Mike Jacobs (2008) See above.
Rod Barajas (2005 Angels) at bats: 449, runs 53, hits 104, doubles 24, homers 21, ribbies 60, walks 25, batting average .254. Don’t expect 21 homers from this old guy, but once upon a time, he had power to spare.
Alex Cora (2002 Angels) at bats: 258, runs 37, hits 75, doubles 14, triples 4, homers 5, ribbies 28, walks 26 average .291, with 7 stolen bases. Who wouldn’t want to see Alex Cora bat .291 this year?
Gary Matthews (2006 Rangers) at bats: 620, runs 102, hits 194, doubles 44, triples 6, homers 19, ribbies 79, walks 58, batting average .313, with 10 stolen bases. Gary Matthews may be over the hill, but he knows how to hit .313, and 6 triples is a lot.
Fernando Tatis: (1999 Cardinals) at bats: 537, runs 104, hits 160, doubles 31, triples 2, homers 34, ribbies 107, walks 82, batting average .298, with 21 stolen bases. 1999 was a different century, but in that year he hit more homers than Jason Bay ever did, and just missed the .300 mark. Awesome.
Jeff Francoeur: (2007 Braves) at bats: 642, runs 84, hits 188, doubles 44, homers 19, ribbies 105, walks 42, batting average .293, with 5 stolen bases. Jeff Francoeur was darn good last year, so if by erasing 2009 we have to make another choice for him to bounce back to, let it be 2007; 19 homers, over 100 rbis, and almost a .300 batting average.
Using this premise, all players matching their best years, we get a lineup with averages and home run totals like this:
Reyes .300 19
Castillo .314 6
Beltran .275 41
Wright .325 30
Bay .306 32
Jacobs .247 32
Barajas .254 21
Tatis .298 34
Matthews .313 19
Francoeur .293 19
METS PITCHING in 2010
If the Mets pitchers all matched their best years, we would see the following efforts this year at Citifield.
Santana (2004 Twins) win-loss: 20-6, era 2.61, complete games 1, strikeouts 265, innings pitched 228.
Escobar (2007 Angels) 18-7, era 3.40, complete games 3, strikeouts 160, innings pitched 195.
Maine (2007 Mets) 15-10, era 3.91, complete games 1 , strikeouts 180, innings pitched 191
Perez (2004 Pirates) 12-10, era 2.98, complete games 2, strikeouts 239, innings pitched 196
Pelfry (2008 Mets) 13-11 era 3.72, complete games 2 , strikeouts 110, innings pitched 200.
Green (2007 Mariners) 5-2, era 3.84 strikeouts 53, innings pitched 68.
The bullpen? Ah,yes the bullpen. I was hoping you’d forget. Did you know that at one point the Mets had the best bullpen in America? That was before 2009 fell from the sky. I will hold off on any speculation until the Mets actually HAVE a bullpen. They need to sign somebody, anybody, who can go three innings and hold the fort until we get to K-Rod, who always has a good year.