Six Lessons To Be Learned From The Mets Lost Season
"The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." — Albert Einstein
Thinking back to last season, or even the last two for that matter, this time of year was full of excitement, both good and bad, for New York Mets fans.
That is not the case in 2009. Even the most optimistic of Mets fans will admit that their favorite team has been playing meaningless baseball games the entire month of September. The team has not played well to say the least, making the final weeks of this season extremely difficult to watch, even for the most diehard of Amazin' fans.
Still, despite the almost unwatchable baseball being played out in Citi Field of late, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this disastrous season. Lessons that may help keep the Mets from having a 2010 that resembles 2009.
With that said, here are a few things to take away from this season.
1. Citi Field is way too big.
There's nothing wrong with playing in a so called "pitcher's park", however, there is a problem when you play in a ballpark that your players simply can not generate any offense in.
The dimensions of Citi Field are huge (415 to right-center), and the fences are full of quirks (15 foot high wall in left, an upper deck that over hangs the field in right), making the Mets' former home, Shea Stadium, look like Coors Field East.
Maybe that's an exaggeration, but Citi Field has killed the offense of a team that already wasn't great offensively. Think of it like this, in 2008 the Mets had three players hit at least 25 home runs, including two who hit 30. In 2009, no Mets player has hit more than 13 home runs (Jeff Francouer), and only three have even reached double digits.
Mets' team brass should really consider moving the fences in in 2010.
2. The Mets will never be able to rely on Oliver Perez.
Oliver Perez was so bad in 2009, that he may have been the only player Mets fans were happy to see on the disabled list. That's pretty bad.
Perez has always been an enigma, one day dominant, the next terrible, but when the Mets decided they would rather give Perez $14 million per year than Derek Lowe $16 million per year, they did so thinking that Ollie would finally step up and be the number two or three starter.
Oliver Perez responded with these numbers:
Win-Loss GS IP H SO BB WHIP ERA
3-4 14 66 69 62 58 1.92 6.82
Between walks, hits, and hit batsmen (4), Perez allowed 131 baserunners in only 66 innings pitched. That's almost two baserunners per inning, not exactly a recipe for success.
Because of his large contract, Perez will be given every opportunity to figure his troubles out, but if the Mets learned anything in 2009, it's that they simply cannot rely on Oliver Perez, period. They need to plan for 2010 without him, and just take whatever positives he gives the team as a plus.
3. Angel Pagan can play.
He's been a forgotten man for much of 2008, and the beginning of 2009, but when injuries sidelined many of the Mets stars, including center fielder Carlos Beltran, Pagan got his chance to prove he can be a quality Major League ballplayer.
One of the very few bright spots in Queens this season, Pagan has had to fill in for two of the Mets highest profile stars, batting lead-off for injured shortstop Jose Reyes and playing center field for injured Carlos Beltran, doing both fairly well.
Playing in 79 games in 2009 (a career high), Pagan's average has hovered around the .300 mark (currently .299). Pagan is also one of the few Mets who seems to benefit from Citi Field's vast dimensions, using the huge gaps to belt 33 extra-base hits, including 10 triples. He's played so well, in fact, Jerry Manuel has hinted at keeping Pagan in the lead-off spot even after Jose Reyes returns.
While he wasn't exactly the second coming of Willie Mays in the field, Pagan did fill in adequately during Carlos Beltran's absence. Since Beltran's return, Pagan has shifted to left, combining with Beltran and Jeff Francouer to form a very solid defensive outfield.
4. Fernando Martinez is not ready for the Major Leagues.
Fernando Martinez entered this 2009 season as the Mets prized prospect, but after looking totally over-matched by Major League pitching in 29 big league games this year, numerous defensive blunders, and a season ending injury, F-Mart hasn't looked the part.
With all of the injuries this year, the Mets were almost forced to bring up F-Mart to the big show early than expected. The experiment didn't work well, as Martinez looked outmatched and confused in almost every aspect of the game. The big league game almost looked to fast for him.
Martinez's numbers were not good. In 91 at-bats, Martinez batted only .176 with one home run and eight RBI. Six of his 16 hits were doubles, so he could eventually develop some pop, but it's not there yet.
Martinez is still only 20 years old, and could probably benefit from at least another season in triple-A, especially since he missed much of 2009 due to injury. There's no reason to label Martinez a bust yet, but another poor showing in 2010 should have team officials worried.
5. Josh Thole and Omir Santos should be the catching tandem in 2010.
Manager Jerry Manuel has made it clear that he was not in love with the Mets catchers who started the 2009 season, evidenced by the mid-season trade of Ramon Castro and the limited playing time of former starter Brian Schneider.
Schneider, who has struggled terribly in 2009, is a free agent after this year, and the Mets have made it no secret that he is not in their plans for 2010. The two catchers that the Mets have brought up this year, prospect Josh Thole and Manuel favorite Omir Santos have given very solid performances this season.
Scneider has become somewhat of a mentor to the young Thole, and Santos has proven that he can hit enough to catch at the Major League level. If these two players continue to play well, they should get the bulk of the catching load in 2010, giving the Mets one less hole to fill this offseason.
6. Daniel Murphy is not the answer at first base.
Mets fans have been divided on whether or not Daniel Murphy should be a starter on this team since day one, but the Mets seemed committed to letting him play in 2009. Murphy had his ups and downs in his first full season, but for a team with championship aspirations, Daniel Murphy is not going to cut it, period.
Murphy is hitting .266 with 11 home runs, 61 RBI, 59 runs scored, and a .425 slugging percentage. Decent numbers for a first year player, but those numbers are also a bit deceiving.
Despite playing more games than any other Mets player, Murphy was terrible at the plate until August and September, when the Mets were pretty much playing meaningless games. That has to be a concern for the Mets, especially since, when healthy, the team is expected to be a playoff contender.
Not to mention that .266, 11 HR, and 61 RBI is not what a team expects from a first baseman, especially on a team that struggles offensively. Couple that with his average-at-best defense (and that may be a bit of a stretch), and there is no reason to keep Murphy in the starting line-up.
Murphy is still young, so he may improve with a little more seasoning, but after two late season collapses and a probable 90-loss 2009, can the Mets really afford to let Murphy learn on the job? Probably not.
So maybe the Mets can learn from this debacle of a season. Maybe the Mets can take these six lessons and use them to improve for 2010, finally living up to the lofty expectations of their fans.
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