Ch-ch-ChangesBy: Brendan Bilko
Getting swept by the Marlins following a series loss to the Nationals at home has been frustrating to say the least. Two weeks ago this team was overachieving and in sole possession of first place. Now the team’s starting pitching is in it’s regression swing, Jerry Manuel is making absurd managerial decisions (more of a constant I suppose), Oliver Perez won’t accept a minor league assignment (therefore wasting a roster spot), and our starting right fielder is posting a wOBA of .288. Utterly demoralizing? Nah. Frustrating? Sure.
This team is a .500 ball club that will need a ton of things to bounce their way in order to be anything more than that. The National League is looking awfully mediocre in the early season, and the potential to be above .500 is certainly there. However, right now the Mets aren’t even close to maximizing their chances for that to happen. I’m not one for writing armchair GM posts, but figured you only live once. Here are a few thing’s I believe could help put this team in a better position to win:
Optimize the lineup – I understand that many people think Jose Reyes is best used out of the leadoff spot. I also understand that he has performed better since being moved back there. But it’s been two games. Jose ain’t right and he’s currently hurting this team being at the top of the lineup.
The other big problem with this lineup? DAVID WRIGHT BATTING FIFTH! Jesus is it ridiculous that our best hitter is losing at bats to Luis Castillo and Alex Cora. While I know this lineup might look a little extreme, this is how I’d structure it at the moment:
1. David Wright
2. Ike Davis
3. Angel Pagan
4. Jason Bay
5. Jose Reyes
6. Rod Barajas
7. Jeff Francoeur / Chris Carter
9. Luis Castillo / Alex Cora
This is partially based off of the lineup optimization tool with a few switches I’ve made that take into account some assumed future regression. You can read our past post on lineup optimization here and a more detailed post here at BTB. The short of it though is that based on our current 25-man roster construction, this lineup will score more runs than the way things are now. People keep talking about a shake up. Here you have one.
Eat some salary - Much easier said then done when you aren’t writing the checks, but there are a number of players on this team with roster spots that just shouldn’t have them. If there is one player to be picked to go first, I’m sure we would all agree with kicking Gary Matthews, Jr. to the curb. It’s an insignificant sum of money in relation to the overall payroll, and with Jason Pridie in the minors there is no reason to have GMJ as the reserve center fielder.
The other guy I’m sure tons of fans are ready to cut would be none other than Oliver Perez. However his contract is about 10% of the Mets current payroll making it a much more difficult pill to swallow. I’m not sure if the organization has reached out to Ollie’s boy Scott Boras yet to talk about the plausibility of a minor league assignment, but if they haven’t they need to. If their camp doesn’t budge after Perez is banished and buried in the pen, cut him. No use in wasting a roster spot.
Play Jeff Francoeur less – Fernando Tatis or Chris Carter might just be a better option at the right field position than it’s current starter. Francoeur’s “renaissance” was statistical noise, a ruse, a sham. He’s a slightly below average defender being trotted out there under the pretense of “ZOMG HE HAS THE GREATEST ARM EVER!!” I understand he’s a good guy with an infectious smile that flies Delta, but he is of detriment to this team when in the lineup. By default, it couldn’t hurt to give either Carter or Tatis some playing time.
Fire Jerry Manuel – Though we know a manager’s effect on a ballclub’s performance is very slim, there are at least two areas where they can put the team in the best position to win – lineup construction and bullpen management. Jerry Manuel has failed miserably in both of these departments.
We’ve partially discussed his incompetence at filling out the lineup card above. As for bullpen management, you can read my post on Met’s relievers and their use based on leverage index here. Though the data in that post is a couple of weeks old, the concept holds steady – use your best relievers in highest leverage situations. If the player doesn’t succeed then he doesn’t succeed, but the process of putting your best player in the most important situation at that time is essential. Not only does Jerry fail at this, but he reuses the same mediocre relievers for days upon days in a row. “Nightly Nieve” and “Perpetual Pedro” should not be a part of our collective lexicon. End the bullshit and just can this guy already. It’s inevitable and the buildup to it is trite.
I’m sure a number of these things have been discussed around the blogosphere already and I apologize if any of this has been redundant. While any of the aforementioned changes would be nice to see, does anyone actually anticipate any of these ideas coming to fruition? Me neither.