A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Shortstops Around the Infield

Before the 2004 season, Jim Duquette preached pitching, athleticism, speed, youth, and defense. Then they went into the season with two starters that were 38 years old and one that was 36 years old, a plan to put Iron-mit-Mike at first base with Ty Wigginton’s bad range (yes, I know he tried hard), Cliff Floyd in left, a decent fielding two headed monster in right, and Ricky Gutierrez at second base due to Reyes's injury.

They did upgrade vastly in center and thought there were getting a slick fielding shortstop in 2004, but things did not work out too well for Mets as both played below what was expected of them in the field. In reality, it was a two year program. An overhaul of team to attain the above goals could not have happened in one off season and Reyes' injury contributed to part of the problem while Duquette knew Wright was on the horizon. This season they've seemed to attain the goal for the most part. This 2005 infield has a shot to be really good. They can possibly be one of the best in the major leagues, if not the best infield. They can also rival the 1999 infield in my opinion.

John Olerud
Edgardo Alfonso
Robin Ventura
Rey Ordonez

Alright, maybe they will not be as good, but they certainly have the skills to be just as good and it comes down to Reyes and Wright maturing. This infield is however, far more athletic than the one in 1999 in my opinion and Doug can certainly match Olerud, while Wright should be expected to put up better than a .980% and should have a better ZR, while Reyes should fall short of Ordonez, he should be pretty damn good, and the wildcard is Kaz right now. He'll never give you Alfonso type defense, but it is not out of the question for a .980 FLD% . You will also have three guys who can play shortstop and one guy that JP Riccardi called a shortstop playing first base. Can it really get much better than that right now in terms of infield defense?

David Wright played shortstop in high school in the not so distant past and while shortstop is worlds away in the majors than it is in high school, he's got SKILLZ. The kid has been heralded by Baseball America has having Gold Glove ability and we all know he has the work ethic to be the best he can be. He did not exactly exhibit great range last season and made a quite a few errors, but it was his first time getting his feet wet as a 21 year old kid in the majors. Anyone that watched him has no doubt of ability with the glove. Jose Reyes is electric in everything he does, and fielding is no different. He could have the top arm in all of the majors when it comes shortstops and his speed and range are great. A little more experience and this kid will be the cream of the crop in terms of defensive shortstops and it will be extremely hard to get a ball by him. Between him and Wright on the left side, the only groundballs getting by Reyes will be to the right side of the second base bag and I hear Kaz is pretty quick over at second base. We all know Kaz's woes at shortstop last season and he committed more errors in 113 games in the field than he did in any season in Japan. To me, that that screams anomaly. Kaz had a sub .975% fielding percentage in only two of his nine years in Japan and one year was his rookie year. You can raise questions about him being able to field on grass, not charging balls, diving, etc., but fielding should translate to the US game. Perhaps the biggest weakness in Kaz's game was his lack of arm strength. It proved accurate when he had time to set up, but when he was rushed, that was a problem. Balls bouncing to first or slightly off mark happened all too often. I don't have the splits on throwing vs. fielding errors, but Kaz's switch to second will neutralize his biggest weakness in his noodle arm. Can he turn the double play? Sure, why not? He won Gold Gloves in Japan and is obviously a skilled player as was said to be one of the top shortstops in the world before he was on the Mets. As for Doug Mientkiewicz, there is no need to get into his fielding prowess. How many full time first baseman that are not utility guys would have the coaches vote of confidence to play second base or third base? I'd say probably only Doug. Sure you can count the innings on one had, but he was there and the guy's skill is not questioned.

The Mets are younger, faster, and more athletic in the infield and it could be the best in the Majors by seasons end with four shortstops around the infield. With the improved infield and two centerfielders in the outfield, Tom Glavine can finally keep his eyes open after the ball is hit.

* * *

  • Keith Foulke professes his man-crush on Pedro:

    "He was a well-liked guy on the team," Foulke said. "Some of his antics helped pull us through a long season. Stuff like that, a lot of times, you can't replace. You can probably go out and replace his record but his presence on the mound and the stuff he does behind the scenes, that's tough to replace. The guy came in and busted his tail and got ready to pitch.

    "When he wasn't pitching, he was the same every day. He came in being a goofy little 8-year old. I'll miss him. I don't think he's a prima donna one bit. Anyone in that locker room could go talk to him and ask him for anything and he was more than willing to help you out. If you wanted to talk pitching to him, he was right there. Especially earlier in the year when I was struggling a little bit, we talked quite a bit. I don't think he was a prima donna one bit, actually."

  • Is Reyes ready?

    "Everybody can watch me and him," Reyes said. "This year is my year."

    He thinks so. Reyes was the only reason I was watching games in 2003. The team was so bad, but he was a bright spot, like Wright was last year. If Reyes can stay healthy and squeak out 30 walks (seems like I'm asking a lot here) the Mets will be a good team and the offense will move.

    If anyone's interested, he has a 53 injury free game streak between last season and winter ball.

  • Alay Soler's agent speaks out:

    According to Cubas' e-mail, "In late December, a Cuban passport was delivered to my office purporting to be Soler's passport that he had obtained through his own efforts and family members in Cuba."

    Cubas had doubts about the passport's authenticity and wrote, "Soler confirmed that this passport did not belong to him but belonged to a family member and had been 'doctored' for Soler to use. I immediately informed Soler that I would not be a part of any intentions on his behalf to enter the United States with a fraudulent passport."

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Sports agents have become people with utmost honesty and credibility. I am 100% sure you were doing the right thing.

  • Not only does Reyes believe in himself, but he believes in Kaz:

    "The hardest thing at second base is turning a double play," said Reyes, who took part in an optional workout yesterday. "He's going to get it, because he's in great shape. He's an athletic player. He moves a lot. He's going to be fine

    Get this kid a skirt and pompoms. Could Omar have two better kids in Reyes and Wright to build this team around?

  • Isn't Bloomberg a Mets fan? After seeing Al sitting next to Bloomberg in Yankee Stadium I cannot help but not miss him more. Traitor.

  • During a game last July 24, Rodriguez reacted to being hit by a Bronson Arroyo pitch by screaming toward the mound. Catcher Jason Varitek responded by yelling at A-Rod, "Hey! We don't throw at .260 hitters. Shut the [bleep] up and take your base." That precipitated a brawl in which Varitek shoved his mitt into Rodriguez's telegenic mug.

    Classic Tek. That's worth the $40 million extension on it's own.

    What? Me slap? Never...but if I did, it was a great play that I'd do again.

    Jeter is staying far away from Nixon's comments to A-Rod:

    "That's between them," Jeter said of the Nixon flap. "I have nothing to do with that one. That's Trot and Alex."

    But wasn't Jeter offended by the brazen swipe taken at his fellow infielder?

    "Alex will be here soon," Jeter said. "Ask him if he's offended by it."

    As if Keith Foulke:

    "That has nothing to do with me," Foulke said yesterday. "Honestly, I don't know anything about what they said, I don't read the papers, I don't watch 'SportsCenter.'

    "So therefore it doesn't concern me.

    "I'm not saying anything about another player in the league. I'm definitely not getting into a verbal war with a guy who's probably a lot smarter than me."

    Smart move guys. I'm smelling a brawl this year with the Yankees and BoSox.

  • Jed Lowrie and John Mayberry Jr. are off to some solid starts. Lowrie is hitting .361/.429/.750 with four homeruns and 12 RBIs. He's averaging a homer every 9 at-bats. Mayberry is hitting .343/.452/.629 with three homers and 14 RBIs.

  • Ryan Zimmerman has yet to show some pop whatsoever failing to get one extra base hit in the first four games. He's hitting .385/.500/.385 with four RBIs.

  • Jeff's Clement is off to a bad start despite his team going 4-0. He's hitting .231/.375/.308. That Rey Ordonez-esque SLG% certainly will not last long.

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