Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Quarter Recap: Things We Observed By Watching

Okay, so technically the first quarter of the season ended in the middle of the fifth inning on Monday, when the Mets had played 40½ games. But blogging isn't an exact science and my watch wasn't working, so let's just say the first quarter of the season just ended today. After their second consecutive shutout victory over the Washington Nationals, the Mets' record stands at 21-22. For a team that started the season by losing 13 of their first 18 games, they've made quite a turnaround.

So as we look back on those first 43 games and look ahead to the next 118 (because I'm still convinced that the Mets will have a game rained out that doesn't get made up), let's see what we observed during the first quarter and what we can look forward to over the next three-quarters of the season.

There are two things we noticed about Jason Bay. Neither one of them is very positive. Let's ignore that he banged out three hits today. Instead, let's focus on home runs and runs batted in, or the lack of them.

We still think Jason Bay is a nice guy who tries his best. Too bad his best produces strikeouts and pop-ups.

These are the career batting statistics of two former Mets, followed by Jason Bay's numbers as a Met (through games of May 18, 2011):

  • Player A: 17 doubles, 5 triples, 6 HR, 60 RBI, 70 runs scored.
  • Player B: 15 doubles, 5 triples, 7 HR, 65 RBI, 59 runs scored.
  • Jason Bay: 23 doubles, 6 triples, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 60 runs scored.

As you can see, Player A and Player B both have career numbers comparable to Jason Bay. Who are these players? Player A is Tom Seaver and Player B is Dwight Gooden. At least Bay can say that he has numbers that compare to two of the best players ever to put on a Mets uniform. Of course, those weren't exactly the Mets players fans had in mind when they envisioned the batting marks Jason Bay would approach.

So do you know which hitter Jason Bay resembles the most? How about Chico Walker? The man who made the final out AGAINST the Mets in the game that clinched the 1986 NL East division title and the final out FOR the Mets the last time they were no-hit, put up numbers stunningly similar to the Mets' current $66 million man:

  • Chico Walker: .268 AVG/.322 OBP/.382 SLG, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 21 SB in 440 at-bats.
  • Jason Bay: .250 AVG/.340 OBP/.388 SLG, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 12 SB in 428 at-bats.

Perhaps with a little surge in the second quarter of the season, Bay might approach Richie Hebner's career stats for the Mets (.268, 25 doubles, 10 HR, 79 RBI in 473 at-bats).

Richie Hebner hated New York and Mets fans. I wonder if he can claim John Rocker as a dependent.

What was the other thing we noticed about Jason Bay this season? In 23 games, the Mets' leftfielder has driven in seven runs. In the last four games alone, second baseman/third baseman Justin Turner has knocked in nine.

Here are a few other things we observed over the first quarter of the season that have nothing to do with Jason Bay.

One of the newest members of the Buffalo Bisons, Chin-Lung Hu didn't do very well in his time with the Mets. In fact, he finished the first quarter of the season with more body parts in his name (two - Chin and Lung) than base hits collected (Hu notched one safety in 20 at-bats).

Jose Reyes is back to leading the National League in stolen bases, a feat he accomplished three times from 2005 to 2007. His 16 stolen bases are two more than Astros' speedster Michael Bourn. What's amazing about Reyes' stolen base total is that he also has 20 extra-base hits on the year. For those who aren't aware, it's a little difficult for Jose to steal second base when he's already standing on it or past it because he keeps churning out extra-base hit after extra-base hit. Can you say contract year, kids?

What about Reyes' partner in grime, David Wright? The recently-DL'ed third baseman has struck out 43 times in 146 at-bats this season (an average of one strikeout every 3.4 at-bats). The Mets' starting rotation (Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee) has struck out 25 times in 65 at-bats. But Chris Capuano has struck out nine times in 12 at-bats. Therefore, the other four starters have gone down on strikes only 16 times in 53 at-bats, or once every 3.3 at-bats. Perhaps his time on the DL will remind David Wright that he should stop running away from good pitches and start making contact with them.

You can run, but you can't hide (from strike three).

Over the past two seasons, the Mets finished a combined 61-101 away from Citi Field (compared to an 88-74 record at home). This year, the opposite is true, as the Mets are 11-10 on the road and 10-12 at home. Their improvement on the road will come in handy during the second quarter of the season, as the Mets will play 33 of 49 games in their road grays (and blacks) from June 7 through July 31.

Upcoming Milestones Within Reach

David Wright is tied with Darryl Strawberry for first place on the all-time runs scored list (662). But with Wright on the disabled list, Jose Reyes should become the club's all-time leader in runs scored sometime this weekend. Reyes is currently third with 660.

Similarly, Wright and Reyes are both close to passing Cleon Jones for second place on the franchise's all-time hits list. Jones is currently in second place with 1,188 hits. Wright has 1,182 safeties and Reyes has 1,178.

Carlos Beltran is 12 home runs away from cracking the top five in home runs. Dave Kingman is currently fifth with 154 home runs as a Met, while Beltran has 142. With 22 RBIs, Beltran will surpass Cleon Jones (521, 7th all-time) and Edgardo Alfonzo (538, 6th all-time) in runs batted in. Of course, with each home run and RBI, Beltran becomes more attractive to teams looking to make a trade for the rightfielder.

Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 74th save as a Met today, good for seventh on the team's all-time list. However, with 13 more saves he will pass Roger McDowell (84) and Tug McGraw (86) to enter the top five. Of course, if he finishes 38 more games this season, he will get plenty of opportunities to go even higher on the all-time saves list, as he will reach the 55-game plateau needed for his 2012 contract to vest.

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