Reese Kaplan -- Reinventing the Mets

Through all of the will he or won’t he conversations that take place regarding the return of Yoenis Cespedes the talk inevitably turns to replacing his power should he depart.  After all, he’s a 30+ HR guy with 90+ RBI game changing potential.  The conventional wisdom says that the team will revert to an offensive mountain of Everest proportions without Cespedes or an equivalent in his place.

For those of us whose short term memory has not been adversely affected by either dementia or what’s now legal to smoke in many jurisdictions, do you remember the team that beat us handily in the 2015 World Series?  The Kansas City Royals had some excellent pitching (though some would argue not quite up to the Mets’ level of dominance, a killer bullpen (edge to them), but not a single hitter in their lineup with over 22 home runs.  What struck me even more when analyzing their success was the flip side of the offense – only two batters who eclipsed the 100 strikeout mark for the entire season (and just barely – Eric Hosmer and 108 and Kendrys Morales at 103).  Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that the big four in their lineup – Hosmer, Morales, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon – averaged more than 50 walks apiece. 

Now let’s take a look at some of the numbers from the 2016 NY Mets squad of players.  You had three players at the 30 home run mark, 2 more in the 20s and four players with over 100 strikeouts.  It’s no secret the team’s offense lived and died by the long ball.  The leading base stealer was Jose Reyes with a mere 9.  Compare that to KC’s Lorenzo Cain with 28 and Alcides Escobar with 17. 

What struck me is the possibility that should Cespedes depart for greener pastures and bank accounts elsewhere, rather than trying to replicate what he did, instead should the Mets look at it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves into a more balanced, high OBP club with not only some power but also with the ability to move runners along, take the extra base and test the opposing teams throwing arms? 

Towards that end, rather than focusing on the guys like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Andrew McCutchen and other bonafide sluggers, who’s out there that gets on base, works the count, steals some bases and generally disrupts the pitcher’s concentration the same way the Royals did it to the Mets?  Building on that formula, amassing a killer bullpen that takes pressure off the returning infirmary squad in the starting rotation will complete the Royalfication of the Mets. 

Granted, the players who are known for high OBP are not the “sexy” names that make people’s heads swoon with their potential.  Some of them don’t even get All-Star consideration.  But take the case of someone like Colorado’s D.J. LeMahieu.  Ever since he became a regular in 2013 his batting average and OBP has steadily risen to where he now sits near the top of the pack with a .416 clip for getting on base.  Do you want to know how that compares to the Mets?  Their primary leadoff hitter, Curtis Granderson, only managed to achieve a .335 mark. 

Now until you saw the World Series, you probably didn’t even know who Jose Ramirez of the Indians was, but all he did in 2016 was provide a slash line of .312/11/76 while providing an OBP of .363.

Crusty veteran and perennial thorn in the Mets’ side, Yadier Molina, also posted a .360 OBP last year.  Granted he’ll turn 35 this season, but might he provide a nice bridge for a few years to allow a Tomas Nido to develop?  2017 is the last year of his contract ($14 million and there’s a $15 million option or $2 million buyout for 2018).  They have a guy ready to take his place named Carson Kelly who won a minor league Rawlings defensive award (similar to Gold Glove).  Maybe it’s worth a call. 

Another player with whom you are most definitely familiar is the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey who, in a down year, still provided .288/14/80 with a .362 OBP.  He’s eclipsed the .400 mark in OBP during his career as well.  Now there’s not likely any way to lure the face of the Giants franchise to the Mets, but wouldn’t that solve a few problems simultaneously – upgrading the catching and having a hitter who is not a human fan?  His contract is for 5 more years at $21 million per year -- less than what Cespedes would cost (and he's younger).

Even role guys like Eduardo Nunez who kicked around the Yankees and Twins until finally settling with the Giants was able to produce a solid first full season of .288/16/67 with 40 SBs.  Think what that kind of contribution could do to the Mets offense.   Hernan Perez of the Brewers followed a similar career trajectory with parallel results. 

I’m not advocating that the Mets necessarily target any of these players but I wanted to get the idea out there that there are multiple ways to win games that don’t necessarily involve putting the ball over the wall.  Other teams have seemingly found room for these productive types of hitters and base runners, yet the Mets seem to be continuing down that all-or-nothing path once again.  


Mack Ade said...

Reese -

I don't happen to be one of the pundits that believes this team needs to reinvent the wheel.

The Mets made the playoff with Cespedes and most of their core pitchers injured. Return that rotation to a healthy status and you add at least 7-10 more wins to this season... if you resign Yo.

It's really one outfielder, an additional reliever, and possibly a new catcher.

Thomas Brennan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Brennan said...

I am on board with Mack there - and besides, I love the long ball, and think the ticket-buying fans do too. I hope plan C (Cespedes) is successful.

Zozo said...

I agree with you Reese. I believe the best way to build this Mets lineup playing 81 games at Citifield each should emulate the early 80's cardinals. Speed, OBP and defense is the way it should go. Yes Homeruns are sexy but speed disrupting the pitchers thinking while on the mound is even sexier....
I still want Cespedes but feel they should target Fowler no matter what. The Granderson project should be done and traded away for whatever we can get.

TP said...

I like Fowler and he certainly had a great year last season in that loaded lineup, but he is not a real speed player, he has not shown great defense when you look at his record over several years, and he is at an age where those skills will erode. He will be overpaid by someone, hopefully not the Mets. If they land the hammer in LF, or another power RH bat if he leaves, they should be ok. Sure they can use more speed, but by spotting Reyes and Lagares they can get a little bit. I'd also keep Grandy over Bruce since even though he is older he is more athletic.

bob gregory said...

Batting average. Batting average. Batting average.

If a batter is up 3 different times with runners on base:

Scenario 1- Batter walks. Yay! A walk! Next batters strikeout, or pop out, or ground out. Innings ends with no runs.
BUT 1.000 OBP. Terrific!

Scenario 2
Batter gets a hit. Runner scores.
Batting Average .333

.333 AVG > 1.000 OBP

Higher AVG + Lower strikeouts > OBP

Zozo said...

I believe he is better suited at lead off or the 2 hole than Granderson ever was. He can steal you 15 or more bases a year but the most important part is he can take the extra base. Where I feel Granderson is a base to base type of player and never showing enough speed to take that extra bag. Plus he can play Centerfield better than anyone on our team not named Lagares.

Reese Kaplan said...

I've always felt Fowler was something of an underachiever given his size and speed. He's not my first choice but would certainly be a step towards that higher OBP/AVG strategy.

Bill Metsiac said...

Since you used the KC comparison, did you notice how they did this season? The Mets, with all their injuries, still made the WC game, while the Royals were one-season wonders. Fowler is a decent player who would cost us a draft pick and high salary, while blocking off Conforto, Nimmo and/or Lag. Forget him!

A little or more patience is in order. We're one year away from payroll relief and the arrival of Smith, Rosario and others. Nimrod has been a high-OBP player since we drafted him, and Smith has been as well. No need to act in haste.

Reese Kaplan said...

Did you notice KC lost Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, too?

Gary Seagren said...

Just a question for all Mack's Mets reader's I was wondering if the effect of the NFL's concussion issue hasn't already affected MLB. When you look around baseball there's an amazingly large number of under 25 year old's from the 3 B's in Boston to Trout, Harper, Jones, Machado, both Seager's, Correa, Lindor, Kiermaier, Yelich, Herrera, Diaz, Villar, T.Turner ( a Mack pick), Bryant, Baez, Russell, Pederson, Story, Piscotty, Myers and I haven't even mentioned pitcher's so any comment's.

Mack Ade said...

Gary -

I think all sports has become a young man's game,especially since so much money is being paid to these guys so young in their lives.

I see lots of 'new millionaires' leave the games they play for a life easier on their body and more family-friendly in general.

Thomas Brennan said...

Gary, you mentioned 24 guys and not one is a Met. We need that caliber guy...if we can't grow it, sign it. Cespedes.

Reese Kaplan said...

I sound like a broken record, but you have to remember who fills out the lineup card. Did Justin Turner get a starting gig when he was here? Does Wilmer Flores or TJ Rivera or any other newcomer truly expect to get 550 ABs? Naturally the over-30 club will be penciled in for that, but what if you are Michael Conforto and happen to have a bad few games?

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