Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Lineup

Now that Omar has done his job by obtaining the pieces of the 2005 Mets, it is my turn to get to work, and try to figure out how the team is going to look this season. Well, that starts with the heart of the team, the guys that will score the runs for you, the guys that will make highlight reel catches and hit tape-measure home runs (hopefully!): the every-day players.

Now that Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Delgado have signed, and Doug Mientkiewicz has been obtained, Mets fans finally know how their team is going to look in '05. A balance of speed at the top, power in the middle, and OBP at the bottom of the lineup seems likely. Let's take a look at the every-day players for the Mets:

C Mike Piazza
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
2B Kazuo Matsui
SS Jose Reyes
3B David Wright
LF Cliff Floyd
RF Mike Cameron
CF Carlos Beltran

The real question is, how will these guys be arranged in the lineup? Do you put Kaz Matsui 2nd, where he started going on a tear last year after adjusting to MLB pitching? Or do you put Carlos Beltran there, in the spot where he has thrived his whole career? Do you hit Wright in the middle of the lineup, as he is arguably your best hitter already, or do you put Mike Piazza ahead of Wright, to allieviate pressure and get the experienced veteran in the middle of the order?

I've compiled a starting lineup for Opening Day 2005 that is the best Willie Randolph can put onto the field.

1) Jose Reyes -- Jose has shown that, when healthy, he can hit. After adjusting to MLB pitching in his rookie season, he hit .343 in July and August before getting hurt. He has struggled with taking a walk, something that many young players do, but he has shown that he can take a walk when needed (in August of last season, his OBP was .053 points higher than his average). Even if he struggles to walk, his incredible speed and base-running instincts will cause his to be a demon on the basepaths.

2) Kazuo Matsui -- Kaz struggled early on last year, but as fellow countryman Hideki Matsui did, Kaz turned it on in the middle of the season. Since his 2 HR performance against the Yankees, Kaz turned it on, hitting .336 in July and .308 in August. Despite struggling early on and missing a significant amount of time with injury, Kaz finished the season with 32 doubles. He will do his part in letting Jose steal, or taking a fastball and poking it into a hole left by a middle infielder distracted by Jose. He should see a lot of fastballs, with Reyes diverting attention over at 1st or 2nd, and Beltran on deck.

3) Carlos Beltran -- Who to bat in the three-hole has been probably the biggest debate of the offseason. Should the Mets bat Wright, who has proven that he can hit for power and average, third, or should the power-speed combination of Beltran be put there? I for one believe that Beltran would do best in the three hole. Batting third, Beltran will see his fair share of chances to drive in runners, as two speedy guys are batting ahead of him in Reyes and Matsui. However, Beltran will also be able to maximize his speed, as once he gets on base, Mike Piazza, Cliff Floyd, and David Wright will be coming up to drive him in.

4) Mike Piazza -- This has also been a big debate: should Mike Piazza or David Wright fill the middle of the order with their bat? Mike Piazza would probably be the best choice for opening day, and the beginning of the season. Mike has something to prove this year, as he has struggled to put up the type of numbers he is capable of over the last few seasons. Another interesting fact is the fact that Mike hit much, much better as a catcher (.331/.419/.971) than as a first baseman (.229/.324/.707). While I doubt that Mike will hit .330 in 2005, the dramatic difference in numbers at each position show that the switch affected Mike mentally, and putting him back behind the plate will show a dramatic increase in offensive output.

5) Cliff Floyd -- Putting Cliff at #5 will break up righties in Piazza and Wright. If he can stay healthy, Cliff is a very solid bat, capable of hitting .280 and giving you solid OBP and SLG numbers. However, health has always been a big issue for Cliff, and he's struggled to stay on the field. Even when he has, his weak body has caused his play to diminish, and he's just a shadow of himself. Here's to hoping that Cliff can bounce back and have a solid, healthy season.

6) David Wright -- Wright is arguably the best hitter on the team, and that's saying a lot when you've got a future HoF and one of the best 5-tool players in baseball in your lineup. Wright hit .293 last season as a rookie, and was on pace to hit 35 HRs with 600 ABs. He showed better plate discipline as the season wore on, and didn't crumble under pressure. In fact, as the season wears on, Willie should move Wright into the 4 spot and move Piazza back to 5. However, early on, Piazza should be fresh and putting up great numbers, and Wright shouldn't be the center of focus, and shouldn't have any added pressure placed upon him. Wright will be the Mets' best hitter for many years to come, and they shouldn't have to rush him into being that.

7) Mike Cameron -- Even with a torn ligament in his hand last season, Cameron hit 30 HRs. His season was far from productive, though, as his .231 average was the lowest he's hit since hitting .210 with the White Sox in 1998. Now with the ligament healed, and his recovery from surgery of damaged cartilidge in his wrist going by very quickly, Cameron should hit better this year. Even if he doesn't, an .800 OPS and .240 average isn't going to kill the Mets in the 7th hole.

8) Doug Mientkiewicz -- Mientkiewicz has shown the ability to hit in the past, hitting over .300 twice in his career. However, last season he struggled through injuries and was demoted to late-inning defensive replacement by the Boston Red Sox. This hurt his average greatly, as he only hit .238 last season. If he can come in healthy and hit like he has in the past, then Cameron/Mientkiewicz can provide a 1-2 punch down in the order, with Cameron's speed and Doug's ability to take pitches and line the ball into the gap.

That is the best lineup the Mets can put onto the field in 2005. If they can stay healthy (it's a big "if," unfortunately), the Mets will score a lot of runs.


Blogger donmorf1 said...

You breakdown is sound but open to argument. The roster as it stands today cdertainly has more potential that any Met team in recent years. It also prsents Willie Randolph with some pleasent difficulties.
You mentioned that the lineup now contains one probably future HOF'er, five tool player. If Reyes stays injury free and plays up to the potential he has shown in the past, I believe he too fits that description. And while Wright doesn't have the speed of either Beltran or
Reyes, he too is a near five tooler.
So the lineup problem for me is that they don't have a real leadoff hitter. It's almost a shame to have to use Reyes there since he too could eventually be a number three hitter. But I agree that of those available for now he is the besthitter to bat first.
You could also argue that Wright could bat third and Beltran fourth with Piazza or Floyd in the five hole. But at this stage in his career it may be putting too much presure on Wright to place him in the number three spot.
I totally agree that Matsui should be the number two hitter. He clearly demonstrated his patience and ability to hit the ball to the opposite field when he was called on to do so. I also feel that he will continue to improve at the plate as he did in the second half last season.
If Piazza and Floyd reamin healthy and each is able to play 140 games in good health, the season should be very interesting for all of us Met fans.
If the entire teams remains healthy for the whole season we should all be able to watching some really great, competetive baseball this coming season.
If a trade is made for a player other than any kind of pitcher, I'd like to see them get a corner outfielder who has speed and the ability to be a leadoff hitter. Since they play at Shea, I'd rather see a high on base percentage speedster that another power hitter who strikes out a lot.

3:56 PM  

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