The Great Phillies/Mets Debate: Part II, Hitting

Richard Marsh@RichardMarshSenior Analyst IApril 21, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 24: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets leads off first base against Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies on July 24, 2008 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In part one of these debates both Phillies and Mets fan writers exchanged their views on the Bleacher Report. To say it was a success would be modest at best. 354 reads and a whopping 248 comments had the New Jersey burning all the way from Delaware Memorial Bridge to the George Washington.

My partner in this Christian Karcole who is a brilliant writer in his own right, (lousy fantasy baseball manager) is the team captain for the Phillies, while yours truly, (baseball’s latest commissioner) took the side of the Blue and Orange.

For this segment Christian selected along with himself, Cody Swartz, Brian McCollum, and Shay Roddy.

For the Mets you will hear from Mike Kent, Travis Miller, The infamous “Drac,” and Phil Hoops. I also sent the questions to one of our youngest members on the BR, Nick Carlo, hoping to get his input in the form of comments.

For those of you who have trouble getting through long articles then frankly this may not be for you. These writers all worked hard on their answers so I feel obligated to give you their total words. What I am going to do is eliminate a couple f the questions for need of brevity. If this turns out to be successful I may just post a second article with the rest.

Christian and I made up the questions; (his were better) so let us begin.


Question Number One:  Will Carlos Delgado be able to regain consistency and perform on a day-to-day basis for the entire season? What kind of effect will his play have on the Mets?

Christian: While Delgado is not going to roll over dead tomorrow, his age is definitely hampering his ability to perform everyday. At 36, Delgado has not had a season with an average above .271 in three seasons. His home run totals in those three years have not been shabby, and the same goes to his RBI numbers, but his consistency sticks out.

Last season, his .248 average with 17 home runs before the all-star break was saved by 21 home runs and a .303 average after the break. 2007 was almost exactly the same, as his .242 average and 14 home runs before the break was helped by a .285 average and 10 home runs after it. 2006 is more of the same, as his average before the break was .252 while in the second half, it was .284.

Obviously, his best days are usually in the last half of the season. Yet, I could even go on more about his month-to-month struggles. Yet, most of you Mets fans don't like stats, so I'll just tell you how his average can be .250 in one month, .310 in another, and .220 the next. So to sum it up, no, he will not be able to regain consistency. It's just not how he plays. This shouldn't have a big difference on the Mets, because he has been doing this for the past five seasons or so. You would think the Mets would be used to it by now.

Cody: I think Delgado will perform at a consistent level for the 2009 season. Even though he's getting up there in age, he's still a feared power hitter and he does have his 500th home run to shoot for all season long. I expect maybe a.275 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBI out of him. 

Brian: For the first half of last season Delgado could not buy himself a hit. From March 31 2008 to the All Star break, the first half, Delgado's bat was practically silent hitting only .248 (86/347) with 17 HR and 52 RBI. But after the All Star break, his bat came alive, hitting .303 (76/251) with 21 HR and 63 RBI.

No I don't think Delgado will be able to regain and maintain a day-to-day consistency. It is proven in his career stats. Look at his first half numbers in his career. The splits for the first half say that he is a .270 hitter. The splits for the second half say that he is a .292 hitter. If Delgado does not maintain a day-to-day basis of hitting, the more pressure put on guys like Reyes, Wright, Beltran, and the players who are behind him in the batting order to get a hit.

Also age will catch up to Delgado. He is 37 and an important body part is in rather precarious health: his knees.I think the Mets better hope Delgado's knees hold up, before the day-to-day consistency. But it is too early to tell for me personally.

Shay: No one can doubt the impact Carlos Delgado can have on the Mets.  Obviously, he didn't get it done last year, but he's taken extra BP this off-season and is off to a great start. 

If the Mets want to compete for a division, or even a wild-card spot they'll need Delgado to provide offensive consistency through the entire season.  The Mets have been known to choke when crunch time comes and they need Delgado to produce if they want this year's outcome to be.

Mike: You guys are looking at this Delgado thing all wrong. Carlos Delgado is a very consistent career, and the start of 2008 was the low point. Every team this guy plays for he becomes the Co-Leader or Leader and is the number four hitter. So I don’t get why people take the start of 2008 to seriously. He has hit over 30 home runs in every season since 1997 other then 2007. This is a great player that ended up hitting 38 home runs and 115 RBI’s.  It does not stop here; he proved it in the WBC.

Travis: The simple answer to this is absolutely not, but the more complex answer is both yes and no. Delgado's career average has steadily declined the last three seasons, and he is not a .280-.290 hitter anymore, but the Mets and their fans are not asking him to be that. Through three seasons in New York, Delgado has averaged roughly .265/33/105. Anything remotely close to those numbers this year is an absolute win.

As for the consistency, Mets fans should all understand he is no longer the dominant hitter he was in his prime. He will have hot streaks and he will have slumps. The key is just for the organization and fans to stick behind him through the tough times because we've seen first-hand how he can single-handedly carry a team through a grueling two-month stretch where nobody else can heat up their bat. Delgado also played 159 games last year, his highest total since 2003. If he plays 140 games this season, that will only mean good things.

“Drac”: Carlos Delgado was the Mets most consistently potent slugger after the All-Star Break in 2008. There has been a lot of speculation that his woeful first half of that season was largely due to his beleaguered relationship with former Mets manager Willie Randolph. With the distraction of Randolph behind him, Delgado put up MVP type numbers in the second half of the season and has continued his hot hitting throughout the World Baseball Classic and beyond.

If Delgado can continue to tear the cover off the ball like he has done, the Mets offense will be almost impossible to keep down. If Delgado has a mediocre season, by his standards, the Mets still have a potent enough offense to stay in contention all year long and perhaps win their division.

Delgado is the most feared hitter on the team when he’s going right, and he needs to remain consistent for the Mets to have the edge on the rest of the National league, and in particular, their closest competitors, the Philadelphia Phillies. I believe that he will have another stellar season and be that heavy bat in the middle of the lineup that will terrorize opposing pitchers all year long.

Phil: Carlos Delgado will be a huge factor in the team’s success this season. He is a part of the “Big Three” power hitters in the lineup along with Carlos Beltran and David Wright. If he struggles the team will suffer because the backend of the lineup isn’t particularly powerful. However, Mets fans need not worry Delgado has shown no signs of stopping where he left off in the second half of last season. He had a very impressive stint with Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball classic and also performed well in spring training with the Mets. Also, this is Delgado’s contract year so there is more on the line for him than just a championship. The only thing that could possibly hinder Delgado in my opinion is an injury, however historically Delgado has been able to stay rather healthy.


Question Number Two: Ryan Howard came into Spring Training 20 pounds lighter and more poised than ever to wear a second World Series ring, even if he is about to receive his first. Yet, his average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, among other statistics, have fallen season-to-season each of the past three seasons. Will the big man be able to break out of his recent ways in 2009?

Christian: Uh, no. Ryan Howard is not a great contact hitter anymore. It's just a fact of life we as Phillies fans have to live with. If he had stayed with his abilities to hit to the opposite field and drive in more runs with doubles than home runs, than we would be looking at one of the greatest hitters in the game. His strikeouts would even be driving in runs. Yet, his game has become power.

While his running, which is pretty decent for a big man and fielding, will improve, his contact hitting should not see a huge difference. He may move his average up a few points with a few more hits, yet his inconsistencies, much like Delgado's, are a part of his game. Losing 20 pounds will not make him an instant messiah. If anything, we should see fewer home runs than anything else.

Cody: I think Howard will get back on track this season. He is too dangerous of a
hitter to see another significant decrease in his percentages, namely on-base and slugging. Howard should be counted on for close to 50 home runs and over 140 RBI this season. I would love to see him put up an on-base percentage similar to Adam Dunn's, which would be a mark in the .380s.    

Brian: Howard's problem is he does not walk enough, but that's not what I'm going to talk about. If you look at his Home Run and RBI production from 2005-2008, he averaged 43.75 (roughly 44) Home Runs and 122.5 (roughly 123) RBI per season. I believe that Howard will be able to break out in 2009. Dropping those 20 pounds will speed up his swing among other things. Expect Howard's average to be in line with other power hitters in the Majors. Plus with a new contract, Howard has even more incentive to break out this season.

Mike: I think Ryan will be great. But even if he is great it dos not mean he is the next Babe Ruth. He has changed his body a lot, and that will take time to get the hang of. I think that later this season you will see this really helping Ryan, kudos to him on the great job.

Travis: If this is asking if the listed statistics will all increase, I'll take a gamble and say yes. Though his strikeout total will rival Johan Santana's, it's going to be tough to have as bad of an on-base percentage as last year's .339 mark. It's up to Howard himself to level out his swing and help out the team by doing more than just hitting home runs.

In three full seasons, he has 99 singles (2006), 69 singles (2007), and 79 singles (2008), respectively. If he is willing to start hitting the ball on the ground to the left side of the field, his on-base percentage and batting average will skyrocket and managers will have to rethink the dramatic infield shift. If he keeps trying to park every pitch or rip a double through the shift, that's his prerogative, and the Phillies will enjoy the playoffs from their couches.     

“Drac”: Ryan Howard’s slight statistical decline over the last three years is practically insignificant as far as I’m concerned. Howard is a monster in the middle of that Philly lineup and his very presence changes games. Opposing pitchers have designated this guy as the one hitter in the lineup that they don’t want to beat them.

He will get a lot of walks, hit a lot of home runs and drive in a ton of runs. His only weakness is that he doesn’t make contact enough. Pitchers will strike him out a lot, but he seems to be extra tough in the clutch situations, which is always what you want from your teams greatest power threat.

Even if Howard’s numbers decline further this year, he will still be far from a liability in the cleanup spot. Reports of his decline are vastly overrated. His fearsome statistics are somewhat over-inflated because of the sandbox he plays in, but he’s a leader and gamer. I’ll take him on my team any day of the week.

Phil: Even with Ryan’s disappointing average he was still able to put up tremendous power numbers (48 HR and 146 RBI). Every projection suggests that Ryan will in fact improve upon his consistency this season and if that truly is the case other NL East contenders should be concerned.


Question Number Three: Both teams scored just about 800 runs last season. Which team will score more this year and why?

Mike: Mets will score more then the Phillies, and I will tell you why: speed. Carlos Beltran with 116 runs scored last season is one of the fastest players out there and Jose Reyes with 113 is the fastest man in the NL. They both have great power and speed and they will score many runs for the Mets. If you look at the two Phillies speedy guys you are left with Shane Victorino and J-Roll and they don’t have as much power as Beltran and Reyes.

Travis: The Phillies will score more runs because they have less question marks in the power production positions. While the Mets are very timid about creating expectations at first base, second base, and the corner outfield positions, the Phillies are flying high with confidence. The Phillies will absolutely maul mediocre right-handed pitchers this season with a lineup that starts S-S-L-L-R-L, and all of their left-handed bats are well above average against left-handed pitching.

We also know how potent the Phil’s' bench was last season and how bad the Mets were at scoring in late innings. Philadelphia outscored the Mets by 30 runs in innings 7-9 last year, and the Mets have shown no reason to have changed their tendency to score early and disappear late offensively.

“Drac”: Conventional wisdom says that the Phillies will score more runs because they play half of their games in a hitter’s paradise. Wait a minute…not so fast. Let’s go line by line to see how they stack up before we can automatically start giving the Phillies the title of best offensive club in the NL.

As good as Carlos Delgado is, the Phillies will likely get more run production out of their first baseman Ryan Howard. Second base is a complete mismatch, with Chase Utley easily burying Luis Castillo statistically. The shortstops are essentially even with regards to run production, and the Mets have a huge advantage at the third base position.

The outfield seems to be pretty evenly matched with Jason Werth, Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez matching up pretty well with Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church / Garry Sheffield and Daniel Murphy. The Phillies outfield production seems to be a little better balanced, at first glance, but Carlos Beltran is easily the best player of the seven outfielders in question, and a possible MVP candidate himself, so I think that the offensive production should probably be pretty even after everything is said and done.

Neither teams’ catcher is the second coming of Mike Piazza. Brian Snyder and Ramon Castro vs. Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste is not exactly Ali vs. Frazier. Ruiz hit .219 as a starter, so you can guess which way I’m leaning on this one. I would give a slight edge to the Mets, but none of these guys are difference makers by any stretch of the imagination.

Phil: I think both teams’ lineups are constructed very similarly and both should have a similar amount of run production.

Christian: This is a very tough question. It all depends on whether or not the Mets' young guns and unheard-of's can produce or not. The Phillies certainly have a more stable lineup that is known to produce, while players like Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Ryan Church, Brian Schneider, and Luis Castillo for the Mets have inconsistency or injury problems. Ryan Howard is the only run producer that I believe can hurt the Phillies with either of the two. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, and even Carlos Ruiz are consistent. Ruiz may not be an all-star batting expert, yet he gives you enough to get by. You simply know what you are going to get from this club.

Think of it this way; the Phillies' lineup in 2007 was with a Shane Victorino who did not play full time, a Chase Utley who missed 30 games, a Jayson Werth who didn't play too much, and Pat Burrell, who struggled with consistency. For the Phillies to drive in 892 runs that year compared to the 799 driven in last season is just plain odd. 2008 was a down year for the Phillies' offense, who struggled to find consistency for a month and a half during the dog days of summer. If the Phillies can hit how they are supposed to hit this season, 850 runs is a possibility. But that's a big if, because all of this is very unpredictable. The Mets should be able to produce around 8250 runs, so both offenses will be among the league's best.

Cody: That's a tossup. No team clearly has a better offense than the other.
Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Feliz make up one of the two best infields in the game, and Delgado, Castillo, Reyes, and Wright compile the other best. The outfields are fairly evenly matched. I'll say the Phillies, based on experience.

Brian: Both lineups are potent, like a robotic killing machine in the movies that is waiting in the weeds for its first victim. I think that both teams will hit well over 800 a piece... but I giving this edge to the Phillies. The Phillies lineup and bench has some of the best hitters in baseball that no one knows about. The first six for the Phillies should produce the majority of the runs. By first six, I mean Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez. Feliz and Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz should produce enough runs to propel the Phillies over the Mets in scored. If, my research is correct, I which I believe it is, the Phillies not only came in second with home runs hit, but finished second in the runs scored department.

Shay: Both teams have a solid offense and seem poised to put up similar offensive numbers again this season.  The Phillies lost a serious run producer in Burrell, but the Ibanez signing so far looks to be terrific.  He has put up tremendous numbers, leading the team in home runs and is second in RBIs to only Chase Utley's 11.

The Mets will look forward to a better season from Delgado, and continued production from the rest of the lineup.  I see both teams having similar offensive production again this season, with the Mets scoring slightly fewer runs.


Question Number Four: Some say this year's Phillies-Mets finish will be decided by the bench. Dissect the bench and tell us who has the better bench and why?

Mike: I think that the people that say it will come down to the bench are totally wrong, it will come down to the starting rotation and bullpen. But I still think the Mets have a better bench thanks to the new guy Gary Sheffield.

Travis: Whoever says that is either a Phillies fan, out of their mind, or most
likely, both. If the Phillies are successful this year, the bench will play a big part like it did last year. Any new-found success the Mets earn this year will not be due to the bench, it will be due to the improved bullpen and solid contributions from the bottom half of the rotation. But I'll pretend the first part of this question doesn't exist.

The Phillies have a better bench. I don't know exactly how many times pinch hitters came through for the Phils last year, and don't care to look it up, but I do remember each of the bench players hurting us at one point or another, and I'm pretty sure Chris Coste went 3-for-3 or 4-for-4 after coming in as a pinch hitter one game. Miguel Cairo is one of the best utility bench players of this generation, and alongside Coste, Greg Dobbs, and Matt Stairs, I can't pick one I'd rather face in a big situation.

As for the Mets, the signing of Gary Sheffield was a very low-risk, high-reward transaction which really improves the late-game threat. It is unrealistic to expect Fernando Tatis to have a repeat of last year's numbers, so there aren't many threats on paper. However, the Mets have been notorious for getting quality bench production from unusual places (see: 2008 Tatis/Murphy, 2007 Endy Chavez/Damion Easley/Ruben Gotay), so who's to say what will happen this year? Maybe Nick Evans will hit 20 home runs (I'm not holding my breath).

“Drac”: Mets: Ramon Castro, Gary Sheffield, Alex Cora, Fernando Tatis, Jeremy Reed.

Phillies: Chris Coste, Matt Stairs, Miguel Cairo, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett.

Dobbs and Stairs both have legitimate power off the bench, as do Sheffield, Tatis and Castro. Sheffield is the X factor here. If he ever regains any resemblance of his former self, the debate over which team has the better bench becomes a lopsided mismatch in the Mets favor. If Sheffield does regain his form then Daniel Murphy might find his playing time start to diminish as the season goes by.

Cairo is probably the most versatile of the bunch, but Alex Cora and Jeremy Reed are the best defensive players on either side. Jeremy Reed is still relatively young and actually looks like he may be coming into his own. I see potential in Reed to be an extremely valuable fourth outfielder for the Mets. Tatis is no slouch in his own right, seems to be the forgotten man on a bench that, all of a sudden, looks pretty deep for the Mets.

The Phillies have a pretty solid bench, especially with Dobbs and Stairs as left handed threats, but the Mets seem to have the edge, at least on paper, with all their veteran threats and the seemingly better balanced squad.

Christian: I'm not too sure I would say the deciding factor will be the benches, but they certainly will be important. I am not particularly impressed with the squad the Phillies have on their bench. Greg Dobbs was the best pinch-hitter in baseball last season, yet after him, there isn't any great eye-candy. Chris Coste can be considered one of the better back-up catchers in the league, yet Matt Stairs, Miguel Cairo, and Eric Bruntlett don't quite get the job done. Stairs is only on the team because of his clutch home run last season, Bruntlett is mostly for defensive use, and Cairo has never been a terrific hitter.

Sure, these players are meant for the bench, and that is why they are there, yet there are better benches out there. The Mets have one of them. Fernando Tatis, Gary Sheffield, Alex Cora, Ramon Castro, shape up to be one of the best benches in baseball. There is not much to be said here, because I think most of us would flat out take Tatis, Sheffield, and Castro over Dobbs, Bruntlett, and Coste.

Cody: The Phillies have arguably the game's best pinch-hitter in Greg Dobbs, as
well as the game's most surprising power hitter in Matt Stairs, who seems to
have a bunch of clutch two-run home runs in him. Because of those two players, I'll give this one to the Phillies.

Brian: I'll take the Phillies bench any day over the Mets' bench. Greg Dobbs is arguably the best pinch-hitter in all of baseball. Dobbs should produce a .300 avg, 10 to 15 HR and at least 40 RBI season. Next is Eric Bruntlett. For a guy with that big and wondrous of a beard you would expect a few more home runs. Nah, but Bruntlett is one of the best utility men out there in the Majors. Bruntlett should produce (roughly) a .275-.285 avg., 5 to 10 HR and at least 30 RBI season.

Next we come to Canadian slugger, Mat Stairs. Yes, he’s old. Yes, he may just be over the hill, past his prime, etc. with the stupid baseball clichés. Stairs is a true one track hitter. Home Runs are all that matter. Stairs will definitely hit few dingers.

Finally we come to backup catcher, Chris Coste. Pitchers still have not quite figured him out, yet, and I use "yet" begrudgingly. Now I don't know what Coste will do. I'm thinking .275 to .290 avg, 10 to 12 HR and at least 30 RBI.

Who do the Mets have? I'll give them Gary Sheffield. Despite his personality, I'd take him any day over Coste or Stairs. Who else to the Mets have? Fernando Tatis and bunch of nobody’s. I give the edge to the Phillies on this on (again).

Shay: The Phillies have a solid bench, with versatility from Eric Bruntlett and Miguel Cairo, quality pinch-hitting from Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs, and an above-average back-up catcher in Chris Coste.  Their current bench seems to be an improvement over last year’s, which housed Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi.  If they could improve over Cairo, I’d have no complaints about their bench. 

The Mets on the other hand, fail to impress me.  It becomes a concern when your best right-handed pinch-hitter is also your back-up catcher.  Sure, Fernando Tatis is impressive, but I could certainly see him having a platoon role with Daniel Murphy, therefore not spending much time on the bench.

Well, there you have it. Eight very passionate fans trying as hard as they can to be objective. That you will all have to judge for yourself. In the meantime, neither of the teams has come out of the gate very impressive. It still remains to be seen what will be determined now, as not just a two team race for the NL East but, maybe a four team race. What a year!


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