As we head towards pitchers and catchers, baseball has found itself in a precarious spot due to the recent economic downturn. Many grade A free agents have been left twisting in the wind, watching their bloated salaries steadily dwindle. They are ready to pounce on lower offers to save themselves from their baseball purgatory. Despite this, the Mets have maintained that, two tragic collapses aside, their lineup will remain virtually intact.
Statistically, the Mets lineup fared extremely well last year, producing 799 runs and a .266 batting average. Good for second and fourth, respectively, in the National League. However, watching the Mets 2008 season unfold is very telling. The numbers were there, but they once again came up one win shy of the playoffs, squandering a first place lead with 17 games to go in consecutive seasons.
The bullpen took the brunt of the fans ire, which is fair. But when it came down to the final weekend of the season, the bats fell silent again. Jose Reyes and David Wright didn't prove they can handle the spotlight when it shines brightest. Carlos Beltran was the only bat that carried its weight to the final game (sendoff/funeral) at Shea. Even Delgado’s hot bat cooled considerably against the Marlins that final weekend.
So now we look to ’09, hoping the brand new relief corps can save enough games into September as a preventative measure. With that being said, The New York Mets lineup may shake out to be:
- Jose Reyes
- Carlos Beltran
- Carlos Delgado
- David Wright
- Ryan Church
- Fernando Tatis/Daniel Murphy
- Luis Castillo/Alex Cora
- Brian Schneider
This lineup will have a lot of interchangeable parts, and Jerry Manuel has shown no reluctance to shaking it up. For the sake of argument, if Tatis is anything like the Tatis of last year he could hit in the five hole and slide Church down to six. If Castillo can return to form—which won’t happen—he can drop to the two hole and slide everyone else down. If Murphy shows the same patience and keen hitting eye, he could be reliable in the two slot as well.
Going into the season the Mets biggest strengths will be the foursome of Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado. All four can provide MVP-caliber offense, and the big three of Delgado, Wright, and Beltran are the only threesome in the NL to produce over 100 RBI. Not even the great Phillies offense can boast about that.
The feat wasn’t easy, though. Wright, impressively, had 124 RBI with a .243 average with runners in scoring position. Beltran had 27 homers despite an 82 at-bat homerless streak—the longest of his career. Carlos Delgado’s career wasn't resurrected until June 27, when he hit two homers and drove in nine against the Yankees.
Still, question marks are abundant in this lineup. Can Carlos Delgado return to the same form as the second half of last year at 36-years-old? Can Reyes and Wright get the big hits in September? Can Tatis produce the same way in '09 that he did in ’08? And can his counterpart Daniel Murphy play like he did last year over the course of a full major league season? How much will the concussions effect Ryan Church? Better yet, don’t the Mets realize Luis Castillo is done?
A lot of questions remain. We can pontificate, make bold predictions, watch Baseball Tonight, and use computer-generated analysis to try to come up with some conclusion. Truth be told, we won’t have a clue what to expect until it all unfolds. Yes indeed, the 2009 Mets lineup is a curious case.