Sunday, July 8, 2012

Need A Right-Handed Bat? Call Carlos Quentin

Entering the final game before the All-Star Break, the Mets are 46-39, tied with the San Francisco Giants for the second and final wild card spot.  However, after the Washington Nationals, there are seven teams separated by 2½ games vying for four playoff spots, with the Mets smack-dab in the middle of that crowded pack.

There are too many teams jockeying back and forth for playoff positions, so the Mets are going to need to do something to help them pull away from the competition.  Clearly, their top need remains in the bullpen, but Bobby Parnell has been stepping up recently.  Tim Byrdak has been solid all year.  Since returning from the DL two weeks ago, Ramon Ramirez has not given up an earned run in 5⅓ innings.  And Frank Francisco was finally doing well before he got hurt last month (1.35 ERA, .176 BAA in his last 13 appearances prior to his DL stint).  The bullpen could use a lefty here, a pitcher not named Miguel Batista there.  But getting a right-handed bat might be just as pressing a need for the Mets.

Earlier today, Twitter and radio personality (not to mention podcaster extraordinaire) Mike Silva tweeted the following:

Carlos Quentin has always had a strong bat.  However, he is prone to injuries.  Ever since his first taste of the big leagues as a 23-year-old in 2006, Quentin has never played more than 131 games in a season.  However, when healthy (as he is now), he can be quite productive.

Quentin began the season on the disabled list, not making his debut with the Padres until May 28.  But once he returned to the team, his bat came along with him.  In 32 games this year, Quentin has batted .273 with 7 doubles, 7 HR and 17 RBI.  He makes excellent contact, striking out 18 times in 110 at-bats, and also has a keen eye at the plate, as evidenced by his .403 on-base percentage.  He is also not afraid to lean in on the plate.  In 2011, Quentin led the majors when he was hit by pitches 23 times.  Despite the fact that he has yet to reach his 30th birthday, Quentin has been hit by 105 pitches, which would make Ron Hunt and Craig Biggio proud.

Although Quentin has a .253 career batting average, he has always been at his best in clutch situations.  With runners in scoring position, he has a lifetime .281 batting average.  He is also a .324 career hitter with a runner on third and less than two outs, meaning he doesn't just make productive outs to drive in runs - he extends rallies by getting run-scoring hits.

There is always a question mark with Quentin when it comes to his health.  But when he's on the field, he's an above-average player who makes solid contact and can hit the ball out of any ballpark.  Think about this.  In only 110 at-bats, Quentin has hit seven home runs playing half of his games at Petco Park.  That's second on the team in homers, one behind team leader Chase Headley, who has hit eight home runs in 311 at-bats.  Headley has needed almost three times the number of at-bats Quentin has to hit one more home run.  Imagine what Quentin can do playing half of the season's remaining games at the more hitter-friendly Citi Field than in spacious Petco Park.

Finally, as a right-handed hitter, Quentin would help improve the Mets' chances against left-handed pitchers.  The Mets are an awful 12-20 in games started by southpaws, as opposed to a 34-19 record when facing a right-handed starter.  Quentin would combine with David Wright and Scott Hairston (who would move over to right field to give Lucas Duda a day off against a left-handed starter) to form a potent right-handed middle of the batting order against southpaws.

Carlos Quentin is available and the Padres are serving him up on a trade bait platter.  The Mets should reel him in before someone else snags him away.  He could be the equalizer the Mets need whenever their opponent starts a left-handed pitcher.

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