Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Hitting Preview: Have Mets improved?
By Adam Rubin
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated PressPORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets blew away their franchise record for strikeouts in a season last year, when they K’d 1,384 times as a team. Yet that mark certainly could be in jeopardy this season, with Curtis Granderson and Chris Young added to an already contact-challenged lineup.
Can Curtis Granderson perform as well as Marlon Byrd did in 2013 for the Mets?
Mets position players do not officially report to Port St. Lucie until next Thursday, although there already are plenty working out at the team’s complex, including starters David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis and Travis d’Arnaud.
Last year’s Mets ranked 11th in the NL in runs (619), 14th in average (.237), tied for 12th in on-base percentage (.306) and tied for 11th in homers (130).
Here are four questions concerning the 2014 offense:
1. Are the Mets better?
Ten out of 10 GMs, contracts being equal, would rather have Granderson than the departed Marlon Byrd. But arguably Granderson’s best-case scenario is producing the type of numbers Byrd posted with the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates last season: .291, 24 homers, 88 RBIs.
If that does end up a statistical wash, the Mets better hope Chris Young rediscovers his power numbers from his Arizona Diamondbacks days -- say when he hit .257 with 27 homers and 91 RBIs in 2010. If the numbers resemble last year’s totals with the Oakland Athletics (.200, 12 HR, 40 RBIs), his stay in New York undoubtedly will be one year, and it will be more of the same for the Mets in terms of the bottom tier of the NL in offensive statistics.
2. Are Ike and Tejada really starting?
Few would have bet Davis and Ruben Tejada would be in the Opening Day lineup when last season concluded. But Davis already has reported to Port St. Lucie and Tejada has spent time in Michigan this winter at a fitness and nutrition camp.
Could both be non-starters by the March 31 opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field?
But the momentum has definitely moved as the winter has progressed toward both sticking around.
Of course, the Pittsburgh Pirates or another team can always be dissatisfied with their internal options during spring training and swing a trade for Davis. And until agent Scott Boras places Stephen Drew somewhere, there’s always a chance he signs in Queens and displaces Tejada as the starter.
3. What to expect from d’Arnaud?
D’Arnaud certainly impressed behind the plate after his August promotion, but he hit only .202 with 21 strikeouts in 99 at-bats. The rookie is aware of his mandate: shorten his swing so he can start it later and have more time to recognize and react to pitches.
Can he succeed? That’s to be determined.
The best-case scenario for d’Arnaud is probably a .260 or .270 average with 20 homers. Given the lack of quality catching around baseball, the Mets would sign up for that in a heartbeat.
4. Who leads off?
Eric Young Jr. wants the job, and he may very well get it. Terry Collins has said he is the No. 1 preference.
But unless something radical happens, like Murphy ending up at first base and EY Jr. at second, the likelihood is Young would have to displace Juan Lagares as a starting outfielder.
That may happen, though. Sandy Alderson suggested offense will be the priority in selecting outfielders, since the GM feels there is a core defensive competency among all of the candidates anyway.
If it is not Eric Young Jr. in the leadoff spot, Chris Young would have to be a consideration. Perhaps Tejada would be an option too, although it would be a curious decision to try to maximize Tejada’s at-bats given the little faith the organization seems to have in him.