Elster's World

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rating the Boys of Summer

Before we begin my midseason review of the New York Mets 2006 season, let me first take a moment to acknowledge one of the greatest achievements in sports history, which took place today in Coney Island, New York. On this great Independence Day, Japanese eating legend Takeru Kobayashi at 53 and ¾ hot dogs in 12 minutes to win the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest for the sixth straight time, shattering his own world record set in 2004 (53 and ½ dogs). Think about that number. We may never see an athlete like Kobayashi again. The dude weighs 160 pounds. It’s utterly amazing. So as this Fourth of July comes to a close, I say hats off to you Takeru Kobayashi, we salute your eating greatness.

On a much more serious note, the first half of the 2006 season has been a magic ride for the Mets (49-34). The Mets sit 10.5 games up on the Philadelphia Phillies and 12.5 up on the Braves as the All-Star break looms. Despite a recent 2-6 struggle (including an ugly blowout against the Pirates on Monday night), you get the feeling that going .500 will get the Mets their first NL East title in more years than this author cares to count (or research for that matter). The offense has been explosive, the defense solid and the pitching better than expected, leaving the Mets a staggering 15 games over .500 with more than half the season in the bag. Absolutely incredible.

Since the team is playing so well (and I have not written a substantial pro-Mets article since Joe slapped the Elster Jinx on us all), I figured now would be the perfect time to break out the Midseason Team Ratings (Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com and all ratings are based upon my very own subjective formula which I will not divulge – but trust me it’s very complicated).

Catcher – Paul Lo Duca/Ramon Castro – Lo Duca gets the bulk of the work after coming over in an off season trade with the Florida Marlins. He responded by handling the pitching staff beautifully and providing the perfect stick as a number 2 hitter. The result – he’s your NL All-Star team’s starting catcher. His .292 batting average and 25 rbi are not eye popping but he has only struck out 16 times in 264 official plate appearances. That’s amazing. He makes contact and moves Jose Reyes into scoring position. As a catcher, his staff is totally in synch with him. See how many times a game a pitcher shakes him off. Almost never. That’s impressive. They trust him to call the right pitch. Castro provides a very adequate backup. Grade: A-.

First Base – Carlos Delgado/Julio Franco – Delgado was considered a clubhouse cancer when he came over, mostly because he refused to stand during the Star Spangled Banner as a protest to the war in Iraq. Instead, he’s been a clubehouse leader, as well as the big bopper in the middle of the lineup the Mets haven’t had since a healthy Mike Piazza. His 22 home runs and 55 rbi might be starting the All Star game if not for that slouch, Albert Pujols. His defense has been more than adequate as well. Franco provides a steady back up (more on him later). Grade: B+ (Loses points for getting into too many prolonged slumps and for refusing to go the other way against the shift).

Second Base – Jose Valentin. When the immortal Kaz Matsui was traded away for the immortal Eli Marero, fans all over the world wondered who the heck was going to play second base. Was a follow up trade for Alfonso Sorianno in the works? Was Anderson Hernandez and his .146 batting average going to play every day? Were the Mets seriously considering moving Victor Diaz back to second base? No, Jose Valentin was the answer. And after struggling mightily to start the season, Valentin is .280, 8 hr 27 rbi in only 164 at bats. And while second base has always been his worst position, Valentin has made only four errors so far this season there. Most importantly, by filling the position as well as he has, it has allowed Omar Minaya to now focus his attention to filling other positions in a trade (pitcher and pitcher). Grade A.

Shortstop – Jose Reyes – Yes, he isn’t a prototypical leadoff man. But, he leads the league in stolen bases and runs scored, while playing a wonderfully steady defense. His speed makes him dangerous. If he gets on, he wreaks absolute havoc on the other team. And he has 30 walks already this year. Did he even have 30 career walks entering the season? He’s the second of 6 all-stars. Grade: A.

Third Base – David Wright – Ladies and Gentleman, the face of the 2006 Mets. .320, 18, 66. His biggest weaknesses have been striking out too much and his erratic play in the field earlier this season. He has settled down at third and has been the best clutch hitter on the team despite the strikeouts. At this point he’s a legitimate MVP candidate. Third of six all-stars. Grade: A.

Right Field – Xavier Nady/Endy Chavez/Lastings Millege – Nady has been ok, if oft injured. He also has been Mr. Anti-Clutch. He’s also a fair defender at best. Millege is not ready for the bigs yet, but flashed some serious potential. Chavez is a fantastic defender who needs more at bats. Grade: B-.

Center Field – Carlos Beltran – What a difference a year (and a healthy quad) makes. Last year at this time Beltran was an unmitigated disaster – another huge mistake by the Mets. This year, he’s starting in the all-star game, he’s got 24 homers and 65 rbi. He still plays too deep in center, but who cares. Another legitimate MVP candidate. Grade A+ (extra credit for bouncing back after last year and a very slow start this season as well).

Left Field – Cliff Floyd/Endy Chavz – Woe to Mets fans waiting to see a healthy, hitting Floys batting sixth and protecting Wright. Alas, he’s played in 54 games, only now trying to get out of a season-long slump. Grade: B-.

Bench – The bench has been a real advantage for the team this year. Led by the ageless Franco, they have been terrific. Franco is a great clubhouse guy, not to mention a perfect pinch hitter. Endy Chavez has been filling in for injured player sin right and left, and Chris Woodward handles infield duties. And let us not forget the immortal Eli Marero. Grade: A.

Pitching: I’m getting tired, so less to say about these guys. Starters first.

Tom Glavine – Since he realized that the plate has 2 sides, he’s been a stud and deserving his all-star bid. Grade: A.

Pedro – Has struggled mightily since the hip injury in May. I’m officially worried. Most debatable all-star selection of the six by far. He makes it simply because he’s Pedro. Yet despite it all, he’s 7-4 and could easily been 10-4 if not for some bullpen breakdowns. AND he leads the league in K’s despite never going more than 6 innings in a start. Grade: B+ (gets extra points for being Pedro – and if you don’t like it, tough).

Trachsel.Hernandex/Soler/Maine/etc – Omar Minaya has his work cut out for him before the trade deadline. If he doesn’t get a reliable third pitcher in here, the Mets are doomed. Grade: B- (only because Trachsel brings them up).

Bullpen:

Bradford/Oliver/Feliciano/Bell – The early inning guys have been tremendous for the Mets – keeping them in games and holding leads. Grade: A-

Aaron Heliman – something is off with him The Mets need to figure out what it is. Grade: C.

Duaner Sanchez – Best bullpen pickup pf the off season (you hear that Mr. Wagner?) Grade: A.

Closer- Billy Wagner – Big off season splash has been all wet so far. He still has juice on the fastball, but the blown saves are worrisome. Simply put, I don’t trust him to be an automatic save like same-song counterpart Mariano Rivera. And the Mets paid Wagner to be Rivera. Grade: B-.

Coaching - Say what you want, Willie Randolph and the crew have been pressing all the right buttons. They are even trying to pull back innings from Sanchez and Heilman. Manny Acta has been too aggressive at third base. If you know the name of your third base coach – it’s bad. Three runners thrown out at the plate in the last 2 weeks. Grade: A-.

Overall, the Mets run has been phenomenal. I hope that the end of the year review gives us similar grades.

13 Comments:

  • Great post-- from beginning to end!

    By Blogger Sara, at 2:27 PM  

  • Thanks Sara -again - for your kind (though in this case phony) words.

    By Blogger Elster, at 3:10 PM  

  • Lasst NL East title for the Mets would be 1988. I have to agree they've been good. I don't see any NL team beating the AL, though. I have a soft spot for Tom Glavine, a long time Brave. With this strong year he ahas a good shot at 300 wins (I think he's at 286 now). I believe he's a Hall of Famer.

    By Blogger Jewboy, at 4:45 PM  

  • When I was in school, I always tried to take professors who graded like Elster.

    Here are my grades:

    1b - B+
    2B - B
    SS - A-
    3B - A-
    RF- B-
    CF- A-
    LF- C-
    Glavine - B+
    Martinez - B
    Trachsel - C+
    Hernandez - C
    Rest of starting staff - F
    Bradford/Oliver/Feliciano/Bell - B+
    Heilman - C-
    Sanchez - B+
    Wagner - C-
    Managers/Coaches - B

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 4:58 PM  

  • For starers, I graded on a curve - It's hard for me to be tough on the Mets who really have not been overly successful for many, many years. This season has been very satisfying.

    That being said - I see where Joe is coming from when he recently commented that he sees the mets failing to make the playoffs or flaming out in the first round. I sincerely hope he is wrong. i also believe that Minaya will swing a good startr to fill the most glaring weakness on this team - starting pitching.

    By Blogger Elster, at 5:04 PM  

  • "i also believe that Minaya will swing a good startr to fill the most glaring weakness on this team - starting pitching."

    Great, goodbye to more of our top prospects.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 5:08 PM  

  • I didn't say that - I think Pelfry is untouchable. I think the Mets woul move Mllege for the right player - Dontrelle Willis maybe?

    By Blogger Elster, at 5:27 PM  

  • For Dontrelle move Millege. I'm worried about trading him for someone like Zito who will leave after the season, or for a No. 3 or 4 starter.

    By Blogger Joe Schick, at 5:49 PM  

  • I agree - A package of Millege and Heilman for a hired gun who wants no part of NY is terrible.

    By Blogger Elster, at 5:54 PM  

  • I agree - A package of Millege and Heilman for a hired gun who wants no part of NY is terrible.

    By Blogger Elster, at 5:54 PM  

  • Hmmm...interesting post. Can't comment much because I havn't watched the Mets on a daily basis. As for Beltran, he was too good not to bounce back...fans just had to have some patience and some players need to adjust to NY.

    In 83 games the Mets went 49-34 and are in first place by 10.5 games, and in 81 games the Yanks are 47-35 and 4 games in back of the Red Sox for first place. They have just about the same record. But their positions are totally different.

    By Blogger bellanny, at 10:28 PM  

  • Bel - The NL is a wasteland filled with a number od mediocre teams. it cuts both ways, as can be seen from the series with the Pirates. The Mest have taken 2 of three so far (one to play) but they have done it in pretty ugly fashion. Complacency can be dangerous come playoff time.

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:26 AM  

  • very...just look at recent yankee history

    By Blogger bellanny, at 11:25 AM  

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