Hardball Times: 5 Questions For Mets

1. Is this team, um, cutting corners?

Along with first base, the outfield corners are usually where you find your big boppers. The current Mets plan for the outfield corners, as best I can tell, is to play Daniel Murphy (career total of 131 major league at-bats) full-time in left field and have Ryan Church platoon with Fernando Tatis in right. I don't want to sound negative, but these guys don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, do they?

Last year, the Mets used 12 different players in left field including Trot Nixon, Moises Alou, Damion Easley, Brady Clark, and so on. All told, Mets left fielders combined for a .273/.334/.396 line, which is well below league average for left fielders (.271/.350/.453).

Actually, the Mets left-field numbers would be even worse if not for the impressive play of Murphy, the 22-year-old who was called up in August last season and hit .313/.397/.473 in 151 plate appearances.

That stint has apparently earned the left-handed-hitting Murphy the full-time job in left field, pushing would-be platoon partner Fernando Tatis to right field in a time-share with Ryan Church.

The decision to take at-bats against LHP from Church and hand them to Murphy is surprising, or it should be. Jerry Manuel was quoted in The New York Times as saying Murphy was the better hitter against left-handers. Let's check the numbers—here are the splits of Murphy and Church against left- and right-handed pitching:

Murphy Church
OPS Against LHP .725 .724
OPS Against RHP .832 .830

They look very similar don't they? Except, I didn't tell you that these are Murphy's minor league splits compared to Church's major league numbers. Obviously, Church wins this comparison. How did Murphy fare against major league left-handed pitching last year? Why he hit .400! Right, he went 4-for-10.

Church, for his part, was off to a potential breakout season last year when he suffered his second concussion on May 21. He came back after missing a couple of months but did not hit well after the injury. Perhaps Manuel is still concerned about Church's health.

Nevertheless, you'd think a team with playoff aspirations would be manning one or both outfield corners with bigger bats. Then again, the Mets did win a World Series with Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda in the outfield corners.

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