2013 Reds / Series Preview

Series Preview: New York’s “Other” Team

Meet the Mets
Greet the Mets
Head for the park and
BEAT the Mets

It’s not exactly how the tune goes. It’s merely how I sing it as I make my seasonal sojourn on the No. 7 train out to Flushing, Queens, where Citi Field resides. There’s a horse racing announcer whose name for the life of me I cannot recall. He has a wonderful signature call as the horses enter the home stretch:

AND NOW THEY COME TO ME! It precisely sums up how I feel each year when the Reds arrive in New York.

The penultimate subway stop at Willets Point reveals a long, dilapidated row of sad junkyards that run alongside the ballpark, where many a Dominican worker sits amongst the grease and worn out spare auto parts. It’s a veritable moonscape of graffiti, metal and misfit tires. It is also a fitting metaphor for the Mets in the post-Madoff era.

willets_point

For just inside the fresh brick walls of Citi Field are many a spare and unwanted part.

GM Sandy Alderson has had his work cut out for him, rebuilding a franchise on a strict budget necessitated by the millions lost by Fred Wilpon and family at the hands of Bernie Madoff. For starters, consider the outfield. The Metropolitans came to Spring Training with a chorus line of forgettable names vying for the privilege of idling their summer away on the manicured Citi Field grass: titans of the game with names like Nieuwenhuis  & Cowgill. Valdespin & Lagares. Baxter. Centerfielder Collin Cowgill, drafted out of the University of Kentucky, hit a grand slam on Opening Day and then seemingly didn’t get another hit until he was finally banished to AAA Las Vegas, along with once highly regarded prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose star has dimmed with Tebow-like speed.  Juan Lagares was brought up to the big club on the strength of some early power in Vegas. The Mets are so desperate for production in CF that they have taken a flyer on Rick Ankiel. Former Cub Marlon Byrd has stuck with the team in RF, splitting time with Mike Baxter and Jordany Valespin—a ubiquitous spare part who plays all over the diamond.

The infield is sketchy as well, and is anchored by the Mets lone-remaining everyday star, third baseman David Wright. Daniel Murphy has always been a hitter in search of a position to play. The Mets have long loved his bat, but couldn’t find a suitable location for him to play in the field. But, as scouts say, “the bat plays,” so Murphy these days is a second baseman. Catcher John Buck has been a huge surprise for the Madoffs. An ancillary part of the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, little was expected of the 32 year-old Buck, who had been an All Star in 2010, but was coming off two very mediocre seasons with the Marlins, before being dealt to Toronto in the Jose Reyes trade.

The player of whom much has been expected is first baseman Ike Davis. This is the second year Davis has gotten off to a horrendous start (.156/.238/.259) and lately it has begun to affect his play in the field. Word on the cold, unforgiving Manhattan street says AAA Las Vegas is in Davis’s near future. In the meantime, manager Terry Collins has doubled down by recently putting Davis back into the cleanup spot in an effort to, as Collins put it, “get Ike started.”

Where have we heard that before? In fact, during Saturday’s game against the Cubs, Keith Hernandez was explaining why another player couldn’t be slottted into the rocking chair between leadoff and the third spot in the order:  “he would clog up the basepaths,” declared the former Mets first baseman turned TV color guy.

Yeah, he really said that.

It’s a vivid reminder that more than a few people in Baseball serve the very same master that Dusty Baker bows down to. Unlike Baker however, Terry Collins is likely to make substantial changes in his lineup as he attempts to find some magic that will turn the fortunes of a team currently 10th in Runs and 14th in AVG in the NL. On any given day, Ruben Tejada is as likely to be batting 8th as he is leadoff–nevertheless, here is as likely a lineup as any:

Player Pos AVG HR RBI OBP SLG OPS
Tejada, R SS .219 0 10 .285 .278 .563
Murphy, D 2B .300 4 19 .335 .469 .804
Wright, D 3B .315 6 28 .416 .527 .944
Buck, J C .228 10 31 .287 .471 .757
Davis, I 1B .156 4 9 .238 .259 .498
Duda, L LF .214 8 14 .346 .452 .799
Ankiel, R* CF .300 2 4 .333 .700 1.033
Valdespin, J RF .221 3 11 .286 .390 .675

*thru 6 games as a Met

Starting pitching was dealt a blow late last season when following reconstructive shoulder surgery, Johan Santana was allowed to go out and throw 134 pitches en route to the Mets’ first no-hitter in franchise history. As important as the feat was to the organization, it ended up effectively ending the great pitcher’s career and has become a cautionary tale for those GMs thinking of handing out long contracts to starting pitchers, particularly those well into their careers.

However, there is one compelling reason to head out to Citi Field once every five days:  Matt Harvey. Harvey is the best thing Flushing has seen since the days of Dwight Gooden. He has been virtually unhittable this spring, dealing a 1.55 ERA while giving Mets fans a reason to believe in the future.

 

Pitcher W L ERA IP BB SO WHIP
Monday 7:10
Cueto, J, RHP 1 0 2.60 17.1 6 18 1.04
Marcum, S, RHP 0 4 6.75 21.1 7 13 1.69
Tuesday 7:10
Leake, M, RHP 3 2 3.72 48.1 13 34 1.49
Niese, J, LHP 3 4 5.40 48.1 24 24 1.66
Wednesday 1:10
Latos, M, RHP 4 0 2.91 58.2 15 51 1.18
Harvey, M, RHP 5 0 1.55 63.2 14 68 0.72

 

The Bullpen
The Mets have been prepping Bobby Parnell to be their new closer, and when Frank Francisco sustained a setback in his rehab from right elbow surgery, Parnell officially inherited the job and has looked good. Parnell aside, the worst part of this very bad baseball team may very well be the bullpen. The Met relievers (Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin, Scott Rice, Robert Carson, LaTroy Hawkins, Greg Burke) sport a league-worst 4.77 ERA. Get a Met starter out of the game early and you have an excellent opportunity to not only MEET the Mets, but, yes, BEAT the Mets, as well.

Pitcher W L ERA IP BB SO WHIP
Parnell, B, RHP 4 0 0.93 19.1 3 18 0.67
Chapman, A, LHP 3 2 3.32 19.0 9 30 1.21

 

Coming off yesterday’s shocking meltdown in Philly, the Reds can right the ship by taking the first two from an over matched New York club before having to deal with young Harvey in the Wednesday matinee. Hopefully, I’ll be singing the National Anthem along with Mr. Redlegs, as Mr. Met strikes a familiar forlorn pose.

And now they come to me!
Mr-Red-Legs-Mr-Met

29 thoughts on “Series Preview: New York’s “Other” Team

  1. I will be taking the NJ Transit from New Brunswick to Penn Station and then hop on over to Queens for Wednesday’s matinee, I really lucked out with the match-up! I wasn’t quite sure what would happen as I bought the two tickets and solidified the vacation day about 2 weeks ago.

    Should be a gem of a pitcher’s duel, Harvey/Latos, my type of game. :)

    Mr. Fitch, I love the vocabulary choice of “ubiquitous” and may I say that you’re anything but, when it comes to your writing style. Very well done.

    All of you Redleg gentlemen that write these series previews present it in such an interesting way, they are my favorite posts to read.

    Why would you ever again want to read an ESPN.com preview?

  2. Great writing, Richard. As someone who only takes a passing interest on what goes on in baseball outside of Cincinnati, these previews are invaluable.

    Harvey is bound to cool off. I like the Latos matchup there. This should be an easy series win.

    • @Sultan of Swaff:

      I’m sure Napoleon thought Waterloo was going to be a walk in the park as well.

      But in seriousness, yeah, if the Reds don’t take 2 of 3, I shall be very put out.

      • @CI3J: I’m already put out because of the Phils series.

        I really like the Napoleon comment. Well done.

  3. I wonder if the Mets would be willing to trade Ruben Tejada for Cozart and a prospect or two, like Soto or Winker? I’d like having him hitting second, he’s young and has a career .329 OBP compared to Cozart’s .278. His OBP is right around league average. His fielding isn’t bad either.

    Probably no chance at all of it happening, but hey, as long as other teams are, why not trade off some prospects and go all in to win it? The Reds need an upgrade at SS, and Tejada would be one. Tejada’s power is even trending upward for his career while Cozart’s is trending downward.

    Again, I know there’s about 0 chance of this happening, but still fun to think about.

    • @CI3J: I don’t think any trade will go on involving more than one prospect unless it is for a definite impact player that we can and will resign. I just don’t see Tejada being that impact player to deplete our farm system any more than it is. And, also, yes, I first want to win it all, but I’m not interested in doing so in making the team and organization a weaker club. For, as we end up losing these great players, we are going to need other players to be able to step into their places. That’s not always easy to do. And, I don’t want a club like the Marlins, where they win a WS then immediately blow up that champion team, becoming a losing team for the next couple of years.

      • @steveschoen:

        This is why I want to target such young players. Stanton and Tejada are both 23, meaning they could hang around for a few years down the line. If you stock up on young players who are already performing at the MLB level, the farm system temporarily becomes less important and you get time to restock.

        Being that they are young, sure they cost a bit more, but when they are only a few years older than the prospects you are trading (who may not even pan out), it seems worth it. The Reds on a whole are fairly young team, so we shouldn’t need to look to our farm system for replacement players for at least a few years down the line.

        And, if Cingrani and Stephenson keep panning out, we can get some Latos-like hauls when we trade either Cueto or Bailey once they become too expensive.

  4. My friend in Tampa emailed me and says that Rays OF Ben Zobrist could be a Red in the near future. I guess the Reds are talking to the Rays. I haven’t heard his name come up before.
    Very versatile player though. Can play corner OF, corner INF and 2nd base. Two years younger than Ludwick, but puts up similar numbers, 20HR/75RBI. Is a switch hitter, had a .377 OBP last year and would slot in nicely at the 2 hole. Double digit steals in each of last 3 years. I don’t know what his splits are against RH and LH pitchers though. And he didn’t say what the Rays would get in return either. I hope this is true, or at least to the extent that WJ is making the calls and looking for LF, #2 hole help.

    • @WVRedlegs:

      I wouldn’t mind Zobrist, although he hits much better as a righty than a lefty. (831 OPS vs 774 OPS)

      I still would hope they’d get Stanton to play left, but Zobrist would not be a bad pickup.

    • @WVRedlegs: I can’t imagine the Rays letting Zobrist go. He’s one of their best hitters and his position versatility is crazy-valuable, especially to an open-minded, flexible manager like Joe Maddon. I also wonder what the Reds have to offer in a trade – the Rays are stacked with pitching. Maybe bullpen help, but the Rays are too smart to over-pay for that. Their organization is clear proof that teams can have success with lots of relievers as closers.

      Zobrist’s contract has extremely cheap team-options for 2014 ($7 million) and 2015 ($7.5 million).

      Would love to have Zobrist on the Reds, though. He would be the perfect #2 hitter in our lineup. Perfect.

        • @Hank Aarons Teammate: Me either. They are an extremely low payroll team though ($57 million) but they are going to benefit from the same baseball-wide revenue increases that the Reds are. I can’t believe they’d let him go for $7 million but it wouldn’t be the first time they’d been forced to do that. If they don’t plan on claiming the option, then the motivation is getting something for him. But they are so hitting-challenged I just can’t see them making the deal. Say the Reds sent back Cozart (cheaper SS), they don’t really have another impact bat to trade. As I said before, I doubt the Rays would be stupid enough to do it for bullpen help (like Hoover).

        • @Steve Mancuso:

          I remember before the Latos deal everyone in baseball was saying the Reds and Rays matched up because the Rays needed catching help and the Reds needed pitchers.

          Is that still the case? Could Tucker Barnhart or even (gasp!) Mesoraco be involved in these talks?

        • @Eric the Red: I’m very open to trading Mesoraco. I don’t think he’s going to thrive under Baker, and I think Baker’s here for a while.

        • @Hank Aarons Teammate:

          Yep, Mesoraco seems to be in kind of an Edwin Encarnacion situation, a manager who inexplicably hates him and even if he’s perfect, the manager will still find something to dislike.

          He may have to go elsewhere to reach his potential ala EE in Toronto.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Can’t help but be extremely skeptical of fan created trades (which this is unless someone can cite a source).

          Also, I’m never comfortable in the Reds making deals with organizations like the Rays….organizations that just seem to “get it”.

          Watching Reds fans deal with a guy like Zobrist would be highly interesting…the guy is boringly awesome. Marty and Co. like a little flash with their players.

      • @Steve Mancuso:

        My friend in Tampa is just a big Rays fan. Since I cannot catch the Reds in FL in spring training anymore, the Rays have become my AL team somewhat. If I don’t go to FL in March, I usually go down during the season and see a Rays game or two. He and I go way back to high school days. He got his info from radio or TV gamecast, or the local ESPN radio. He didn’t say which. Mostly speculation I would assume. But it is interesting in that Zobrist’s name hasn’t surfaced before with the Reds. You know how WJ keeps his cards closely to the vest.
        Rays needs are:
        The Rays are fairly set around the infield even when Zobrist isn’t playing 2nd base. They have a young speedy CF. Zobrist is 32 years old, maybe they want to get a little younger and cheaper player.
        2012 Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers has struggled alot at Durham this year, but has recently been playing better. Maybe they want some room for him. A future OF of Myers, Jennings and Lutz could be what the Rays are looking at maybe. I’d hate to give up Lutz though for him. But like you said, Zobrist would be a perfect fit in the #2 hole. But at what price??
        Or the old axiom of “You can never have enough pitching” is in the equation. I kind of doubt that though since the Rays have a rookie LHP starting today that came over in the trade with Myers, Odorizzi.
        Catcher, corner OF’s, a solid DH with power and relief pitching look to be their most pressing needs.

  5. Apparently Shin-Soo Choo isn’t in the lineup tonight. If this is just a standard game off situation, I sure don’t understand why Baker didn’t wait until tomorrow night. Marcum (Mets pitcher tonight) is a RHP, but tomorrow night’s pitcher is Niese (LHP). It makes way more sense to give Choo the night off against a lefty, given his extreme split. Just makes no sense unless Choo is sick or a little nicked up.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Unless Choo is a late scratch the lineup is:

      1. CF: Shin-Soo Choo
      2. SS: Cesar Izturis
      3. 1B: Joey Votto
      4. 2B: Brandon Phillips
      5. RF: Jay Bruce
      6. 3B: Todd Frazier
      7. LF: Xavier Paul
      8. C: Ryan Hanigan
      9. SP: Johnny Cueto

      • @LWBlogger: And for the Mets:

        1. 2B: Daniel Murphy
        2. CF: Rick Ankiel
        3. 3B: David Wright
        4. LF: Lucas Duda
        5. RF: Marlon Byrd
        6. 1B: Ike Davis
        7. C: John Buck
        8. SS: Ruben Tejada
        9. SP: Shaun Marcum

        Lineups from MLB.com

  6. Cozart was sick last night. Maybe it’s the flu?

    Also, I’d really like to have Zobrist on the Reds, but I can’t see it happening. He’s rather expensive for a team that sunk money into a LF that’s been hurt. I’d trade Cozart for him in a moment, but I just can’t see it happening. On the other hand, nobody saw the Reds trade for Choo before it happened…

  7. Oh, this is unrelated but I like Votto’s HOF chances. He’s had an excellent career so far, and if he continues to put up similar numbers, much less improve, for three or four years, followed by an excellent but slowly trending down 4-6 years, he should make it. I can see him at >300 HR (barring injury/collapse), with good BA and SLG. RBIs will depend on who hits in front of him for the rest of his career, which would be helped tremendously by the resigning of Choo (even more reasons to sign him!).

    Sorry. Started as a post asking how you’re article was doing lol.

  8. Who cares if Votto makes the HOF? The fact is, he’s one of the league’s best players and on our favorite team! Go Reds!

    • @Tourniquette: I’m sorry that I wanted to share my opinion on a topic that has been mentioned on this blog before. I suppose I should stick to generic “WOOT! REDS!” comments.

      ^^That is sarcasm.^^
      ^_^

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