Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 Preview: Outfield

CF: Carlos Beltran
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .280/.354/.496
Chinese Zodiac: Snake
The other day, Beltran made a nice, diving, out-of-nowhere catch in a meaningless spring training game. Beltran’s status as a running-into-walls/flinging-himself-at-the-ground-type outfielder belongs in the ongoing catalog of sports-journalistic omissions with vague overtones of racial bias. Guys like Aaron Rowand can win a franchise’s never-ending loyalty with that type of play, but with Beltran it somehow goes unnoticed—in fairness Rowand managed to injure himself more gruesomely than Beltran has, but are you really blaming Beltran for not missing playing time with broken bones in his face? In ’06 Beltran knocked himself unconscious for a few moments while catching a ball at the wall in Huston-- the team that he left for a larger pay-check from the Mets. After the game, he was asked how it compared to a time in ’05 when he knocked himself unconscious running into fellow outfielder, Mike Cameron. Beltran said it was better: “The first time, I didn’t know where I was, but today, when I heard the boos, I knew I was in Huston.” I don’t think he gets enough credit for his sense of humor, either.

RF: Ryan Church
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .271/.348/.462
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
In 2005, concerned over the soul of an ex-girlfriend, Ryan Church asked the Chaplin of the Washington Nationals if Jews were “doomed.” When the Chaplin implied that they were, he (the Chaplin) had his access to the clubhouse suspended-- and Church apologized. Church came to the Mets as part of the Lastings Milledge deal, where he will share an outfield with fellow Christian Carlos Beltran. In the last days of the ’07 season, Church talked trash as his lowly Nationals won games against the heavily favored Phillies and Mets, and might provide the club with some of the feistiness that they might have been missing last year. He also might make me feel really terrible for being so hard on Shawn Greene last season; Greene actually had a pretty good year—the Mets will be lucky to get that kind of production from Church.

LF: Angel Pagan
Career AVG/OBP/SLG:.255/.306/.415
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
At some point, when Pagan was at his hottest this spring, a rumor circulated that the Mets were in the process of trading him to the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Coco Crisp. Crisp is regarded as an exceptional fielder, but had only had one particularly impressive season as a hitter, and was underwhelming in Spring Training, while Pagan, owner of very few big league at-bats, was tearing up the Grapefruit League. Opinion on the internet was divided as to weather or not this deal would be in the interests of the Mets. A brief perusal of their statistics showed that Crisp was an established, big-league player, while, Grapefruit league aside, there was no way to tell with Pagan. Indeed, the numbers indicated that 1) the Mets should definitely take the deal if it was available, but the disparity was so great that 2) it seemed completely unlikely that the Red Sox would ever make such an offer. Sure enough, the Pynchon character for breakfast cereal trade turned out to be complete fiction. However, Pagan’s spring was good enough to earn him a job filling in for Moises Alou.

LF: Moises Alou
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .303/.369/.517
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Alou will miss the first months of the season recovering from hernia surgery. If he ever does get healthy, the Mets should freeze him in carbonite, ala Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, and thaw him out in case of a close pennant race, or appearances in the post season. Although he missed a ton of time with injuries last year, Alou is still the holder of the longest hitting streak in Mets history.

4th Outfielder: Endy Chavez
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .271/.311/.375
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Particularly with the constant threat of injuries to Alou, and with the rawness of Pagan, Endy will continue to be very valuable as the Mets fourth outfielder. Chavez will be used frequently as a late innings defensive replacement, and to give the regulars occasional days off. The Mets are probably wise in their commitment to keeping Chavez as the fourth outfielder, rather than using him as a starter: while his defense is some of the best in the game, over a large number of at-bats, his hitting would probably become a minor liability.

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