A couple of days ago, Andy Martino, surveyed the wasteland the Mets call a bench for Surfing the Mets. What he found was appropriately disappointing, yet so utterly typical.
In the case of Smithtown’s own pinch-hitting extraordinaire:
“Catalanotto, 36, is batting .143 in 21 at-bats. But the Mets, like many teams, prefer to use As a veteran pinch-hitters. Pinch-hitting is a specialized job, requiring different preparation than any other role. Younger players are not typically successful coming off the bench, meaning that [Chris] Carter’s gaudy triple-A numbers would not necessarily translate to a very limited big-league job.”
There you have it. The Mets are willing to carry an inferior player for the _________ experience brings. Never mind that Catalanotto, since 2007, has steadily traded line drives (LD% 2007-2010: 18.6%, 17.6%, 15.4%, 5.9%) for ground balls and infield flies, forcing his power to plummet to an unacceptable level (ISO 2007-2010: .184, .125, .104, .048).
A hitter, in his late 30’s, moves past the brink of usefulness. Billy Wagner’s got two words for you: “_______ shocker.”
Moving forward, Martino’s piece supposes that Chris Carter, upon being called up, would fulfill Catalanotto’s role as primary pinch hitter. If Carter is “The Animal” his AAA numbers suggest — or a reasonable facsimile — placing him in the same exact role would be foolish. The Mets, ranked 18th in runs scored and 24th in wOBA, could use the offensive help.
The team’s slumping corner outfield tandem, both right handed sluggers, could benefit from a left-handed compliment. In particular, Jeff Francoeur, whose career line .259/.300/.409/.709 vs. right-handed pitching suggests that he should sit against tough right-handed pitchers. Also, Carter doesn’t possess a dramatic platoon split — he generates more power right-handed, but his contact and on-base skills are virtually the same against left-handed pitchers — so he would be able to spell Ike against lefties. I readily admit that this scenario is less than ideal because Ike needs the exposure to left-handed pitching, but I offer it as a viable alternative.
The sticking point with Chris Carter has always been his defense. He plays 1B, LF and RF, but none of them well. His poor hands make him a better suited for the outfield. I posit that his suspect defensive ability can blend in, if handled correctly. That is, keep him away from the outfield when Santana, Perez and Maine are starting and keep him away from the infield when Pelfrey and Niese are pitching. Managing is all about emphasizing strengths and hiding weaknesses. Right, Jerry?
Now, what’s the deal with that corpse in the outfield?
“Mets brass has not been impressed by the Matthews, in particular, but they regard April and a few days of May as too small a sample to cut him or the other bench players.”
On one level, it’s refreshing to hear the Mets organization considering sample size with personnel decisions. But this isn’t Nick Evans; this is a 36 years old journeyman outfielder.
That’s three seasons, 1377 plate appearances, 2760 innings afield and one sizable chunk of suck. To put it a way that the front office understands, Gary Matthews Jr. signed his fifty million dollar atrocity when the Mets were the toast of the National League. Today they stand as one of baseball’s most impotent. How’s that for a sample?
Finally, I take issue with grouping Fernando Tatis with Frank Catalanotto and Gary Matthews Jr. Tatis has performed well in his role for the last couple of years, posting a wRC+s of 131 and 108. Defensively, he plays 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and RF adequately. When thrust into regular action, he doesn’t sink the team. And unlike Catalanotto and Matthews, Fernando received legitimate interest from other teams, but preferred to stay put.
To many fans, Fernando Tatis is symbolic of 2009 and representative of Omar Minaya’s lack of creativity. Don’t let that belief blind you; Tatis is a useful player. He shouldn’t have to answer for Omar’s sins.