Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mets Problem: Who Should Hit #2?

The New York Mets are expected to have one of the best offenses in baseball in 2009. Between Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and David Wright; there is no reason why the Mets should not score at least 750-850 runs. There lineup could, and should, be that good.

At the same time, the Mets lineup has a gigantic problem already. Who will hit #2 in the order?

Daniel Murphy is the obvious choice. Murphy, one of the Mets best prospects, hit .313 in only 131 ABs and produced an impressive .397 OBP. He has a fantastic approach at the plate and has no problem working into deep counts and taking lots of pitches. There is no doubt that Jose Reyes would benefit greatly from having Murphy hit behind him. The lineup should be fantastic with Murphy in the #2 hole.

Unfortunately, the Mets still have Luis Castillo. The second baseman put together a miserable 2008 campaign where he only hit .245 with 46 runs scored and looked like a shell of his former self. Castillo is nothing more than a singles hitter and has virtually no ability to hit for power. Castillo was supposed to be the Mets #2 hitter in 2008 because he could take lots of pitches for Jose Reyes, get on base, execute the hit and run, and pinch hit. He is the prototypical #2 hitter and really should not be hitting anywhere else in the lineup.

And that's where the problem lies for the Mets. If they have Murphy hit second, they will have a very strong lineup 1-6 with:

Reyes
Murphy
Wright
Delgado
Beltran
Chruch.

However, after that, the Mets will have either Schneider/Castro, Castillo, and the pitcher. None of those guys are particularly good hitters and the bottom of the Mets order could become a quick and easy 1-2-3 inning. These guys have the potential to be automatic outs, which is obviously not good for the Mets.

So herein lies the dilemma: should the Mets have the best 1-6 possible by having Murphy bat second or make the lineup deeper by having the inferior Castillo bat second? It's going to be a tough decision, but ultimately I think the Mets will give Castillo the first crack the job. They have a lot of money invested in Castillo, and for their sake, they need to see something from Castillo.

Omar Minaya better be praying to his lucky stars that Castillo's 2008 season was simply an aberration and he produces in 2009. Lord knows, Mets fans will not take another three years of a .250, slap hitting, slow footed second baseman.

So who should hit second: the scrub Luis Castillo, or the wunderkid, Daniel Murphy? All opinions welcome.

4 comments:

Jason B said...

I would say the best option to hit nearer the top of the order is the highest OBP option, all things being equal. If you put a lesser option (presumably Castillo, or what's left of him) in the two-hole, then those additional PA's over the course of the season (versus batting him 7th-8th) become more outs. Outs are baseball's most precious commodity - protect them!!

(Hence the notion of a light-hitting but speedy leadoff man often looks disastrous in retrospect. 50-SB speed + .290 OBA at the top of the lineup is a surefire way to produce a ton of outs that no anount of speed of glovework can cover. *Paging Willy Tavares...paging Willy Tavares*)

Josh said...

Jason B,
Completely agree about OBP.

But I guess the argument that some Mets fans will use is that Castillo is actually a pretty good OBP guy, .355 for his career, so I'm not sure how big the drop off it would be if the Mets had a productive Castillo hitting second for the Mets instead of Murphy.

And on the other side, there is no guarantee that Murphy can produce a .390+ OBP again. I love his approach at the plate, but we must keep in mind that he is only going into his first full season.

And as far as Willy Taveras goes, if he is only able to bring a .290 OBP to the table, I guarantee that Dusty Baker will still leave him in the lead off spot...he's just that great of a manager...

Thanks for the great comment!

Jason B said...

Josh--

You're right, we're working from a lot larger body of work from Castillo than from Murphy, to be sure. Castillo is pretty well a known quantity at this point - decent OBP, zero punch, some speed (albeit not a lot anymore).

Castillo's career OBP (.367) is certainly not a bad one. Nor is his average over the past three years (.358), which is probably more indicative of what to expect next year. Not seeing a lot of decline there as he ages, except the ways he's getting on base are subtly changing - not many XBH these days, more BB. His SLG was a putrid .305 last year.

I'd probably just roll the dice on the youngster with some upside. See what he's capable of, and if that doesn't work out you can always turn to the veteran with the more predictable, declining skill set.

Maybe managers (excluding Dusty) are figuring out that speed for speed's sake doesn't mean much without the ability to get on base consistently. Juan Pierre is an expensive testament to that, gathering dust on the Dodger's bench.

Josh said...

Jason B: I would love to have Murphy hitting second, he is the perfect guy to hit there. But how bad you the bottom of the Mets order be? I just have this constant fear that the Mets lineup will be six quality hitters followed by three weak hitters...

It would be kinda hard to win with that, don't ya think?

thanks for the great comment