First Half Mets Grades: Hitters

Yes, we’re still here.  Sorry it’s been so long between posts here at Blue and Orange, but quite frankly, it’s been kind of a boring season.  The Mets are good, but not THAT good.  Jerry Manuel continues to defy logic left and right, but it’s no longer a story when he does something dumb; it’s a headline that he’s doing the right thing by starting Angel Pagan over Jeff Francoeur in right field, which makes me think he didn’t make that decision.  David Wright has returned to greatness, but that was generally expected, as was Jose Reyes eventually righting the ship.  Really, the only real surprises of 2010 have been the emergence of Angel Pagan as one of the best players in baseball and the front office cutting bait on retreads like Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, and Gary Matthews Jr sooner than most pessimistic Mets fans expected.

So what have we not written about during the first half?  Here’s a look at the hitters today, the pitchers tomorrow, and a look into the crystal ball on Thursday as I try to predict what we might see from this team in the second half.

David Wright: A

David Wright has been awesome this year.  He’s hitting homers again, he’s hitting for average, he’s drawing walks, he’s hitting doubles, he’s flat-out hitting, period, and he’s playing a great 3B after a subpar defensive year last year.  The only nitpicks you could make about his season is the strikeouts (and I think way too much has been made about that) and he’s not stealing bases at quite the success rate we’ve seen in the past.  But those are very minor quibbles; David Wright is an MVP candidate through the season’s first 88 games.

Angel Pagan: A-

Pagan might be the team’s most unsung player.  He’s victimized because he’s not excellent in any one category, but good in many.  He’s a good defender, hits for a high average, draws a fair amount of walks, is pretty good at stealing bases, hits a decent amount of extra base hits, and has good gap power.  It’s a damned travesty that he sat for Gary Matthews Jr on opening day, and by season’s end, it will look even more ridiculous if he puts up a ~6 WAR season while Matthews slums with the Louisville Bats.

Jose Reyes: B-

I’ll admit that’s probably a generous grade, considering that Reyes played terrible for much of the season’s first six weeks.  I blame that at least a little on rust; he hadn’t played baseball in eleven months and didn’t get a spring training thanks to the thyroid condition.  As long as the oblique is healed up, I expect Reyes to push that grade into the A-range in the second half.

Jason Bay: C+

Bay has experienced a severe power drop after going from Fenway Park, a pretty good hitter’s park, to Citi Field, a pitcher’s park, though that isn’t the entire story.  His ISO dropped around 100 points this year, and it’s actually been worse for Bay on the road than at home, slugging .459 at home (still down significantly from last year) and a mere .387 on the road, with seven doubles, two triples, and three homers in 172 road plate appearances.  He’s still hitting a fair number of doubles, tied a career high in triples, and is drawing a fair number of walks, so I’m hopeful the home run power will return in the second half.  We’ll see.

Ike Davis: C+

Something that has been overlooked about Davis; he has steadily been cooling off for much of the past six weeks.  His power is very real, though, and he should wind up with 20-25 homers out of first base and has a good glove there too.  His platoon splits look strange at first glance, but give you a look at his true talent level; a .246/.336/.434/.770 line against RHP with a .281 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), and a .292/.338/.444/.782 line against RHP with a .396 BABIP.  Given Davis’ struggles against LHP in the minor leagues, it’s probably a safe bet to see the performance against left handed pitchers drop like a brick in the second half, and his good batting eye and power should eventually pay off against right handed pitchers.  He’s probably up too early, and should have been given another 2-3 months to master lefties in the minors, but given the options (continuing to start Mike Jacobs at 1B) he was the team’s best option.

Henry Blanco: C

Blanco has been a perfectly acceptable backup catcher.  He’s probably a better option to start than Rod Barajas, or at least push a more equitable time share, but he’s also old and injury prone, and may not be capable of playing more.  Still, he reminds me of Ramon Castro, and considering how much I loved Ramon Castro, that’s a good thing.

Rod Barajas: C-

I am being a bit generous here; Barajas has been absolute ass other than a shockingly impressive May.  You can’t discount the hot month completely, but his April and June months have been more in line with what Barajas has done for his career.  Josh Thole is probably a better hitter than Barajas right now, but it’s questionable if the front office will push Thole into a full-time role, especially since Barajas gets so many compliments on how well he handles the pitching staff.

Luis Castillo: C-

Castillo has been an albatross around this team’s neck for almost three years now.  That Castillo was considered one of the bright spots of 2009 speaks for how hopeless much of last season truly was.  He plays a lousy second base, he runs with a limp, and doesn’t even have doubles power (one double and two triples in 174 PA).  His only real skill is pitch recognition and his ability to draw walks.  The Mets simply cannot afford to bring him back as the starting baseman in 2011, the remaining $6m they owe him be damned.

Chris Carter: D

Carter probably isn’t very good, as his defensive limitations make him a strict left-handed pinch hitter.  He’s got decent power off the bench, and his low walk rate may be a result of his primary position of pinch hitter/DH for much of the season resulting in a more aggressive approach.  Still, doesn’t it feel like the Mets should have gotten more for Billy Wagner than a league average pinch hitter?  The Red Sox got two first round picks for him, and they only had Wagner for six weeks.

Jeff Francoeur: D-

Jeff Francoeur is simply not good at baseball.  He has only 24 extra base hits despite playing a premium power position.  Everybody knows he doesn’t draw walks, and he doesn’t hit for a high enough average to cover for it.  His range in right field isn’t that good, with his good arm being his only defensive asset.  He has a few specific tools (decent OF arm, good vs. LHP) that point towards him being a reserve and nothing more.  He should only be starting when Carlos Beltran, not Angel Pagan, needs time off.

Fernando Tatis: D-

Tatis’ BABIP this season is .227, which is almost unfathomably low for a guy who has generally been a good bench hitter over the years.  I think he’ll be better in the second half, but it’s probably no guarantee.  There’s a good possibility that he’s completely finished.

Gary Matthews, Jr: F

Seriously, screw this guy for getting even 65 plate appearances.  Pagan deserved every last one of those PAs.

Ruben Tejada: F

Tejada’s great defense at 2B isn’t enough to make up for his anemic bat, but it’s not his fault.  The kid is only 20 years old, he’s only been alive for one Mets division title for crying out loud.  He belongs in the minor leagues, but was called up due to a lack of second base options when Castillo went down.  Give him credit for treading water at first, but god bless the guy, he needs way more time in the minor leagues.

Alex Cora: F – - – - – -

F as in “FAIL.”  F as in “FANTASTICALLY TERRIBLE AT THE GAME OF BASEBALL.”  F as in “F*** THAT VESTING OPTION.”  Yeah, I’m not an Alex Cora fan and I continue to be appalled that Omar Minaya would include such an easy to obtain vesting option for a player who has never been much better than replacement level.  It is a puzzling way to use resources.

Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, Jesus Feliciano, Josh Thole, “Nasty” Nick Evans: Incomplete

Jacobs and Catalanotto were both thankfully cut before I could hand them their F’s.  Feliciano was a good story, making it to the majors for the first time at age 31, but failed to show that it had been a mistake for him to have spent so many seasons in the minors.  Josh Thole should probably be the starting catcher right now, and it will be interesting to see when, or perhaps if, they decide to pull the plug on Barajas.  Nasty Nick has had two plate appearances in the majors this season, but he remains a Blue and Orange favorite as I will take credit (perhaps wrongly so) as having discovered the guy and will continue to champion him.

Whoops – I forgot one incomplete.

Carlos Beltran: Incomplete

Welcome back to the major leagues, Carlos.  You’ve been missed.  If you’re able to perform anywhere near your past levels, you suddenly make this lineup a whole lot more potent and give this team hope.  You could be the difference for the 2010 Mets.

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