Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jose2

This is #5 of 5 Key Mets for 2007.

I always saw Jose Valentin as little more than a middling infielder, some guy who I wouldn't have wanted on my fantasy team, except as a last ditch emergency pick, through most of the 90s, as he toiled with the Brewers. Unspectacular, didn't hit much, sparing power. Sure, he popped 24 HRs in 1996, but with a .259 Average that put you to sleep.

At some point when nobody was paying much attention, however, Valentin flipped the switch and became a perennial 20 HR, 80 RBI guy while playing for the White Sox in the early 2000s. Sure, the average never got much over .270, but suddenly, he garnered some interest.

Then he vanished again.

Then the Mets signed him before the 2006 season. I didn't think much of it at all. I was surprised that he even made the team. I wasn't surprised when he started the season at a Rey Ordonez-esque 3-for-22 in April. Kaz Matsui looked better by comparison.

I have no explanation as to how or why he then proceeded to blow Matsui out the door and all the way to Colorado over the rest of the season. Expected to do little or nothing and likely be released by midseason, Valentin instead started whacking key hits and popping Home Runs all through the summer, and was the galvanizing force at the bottom of the Mets lineup, easing the loss of Floyd and the trade of Nady, and providing some protection for guys like Green and Chavez.

And he was making his hits count. On July 8th, a grand slam and 7 RBIs helped Pelfrey win his Major League Debut. Another grand slam on July 21st was the big hit in John Maine's first career shutout. His bases-loaded single in the 10th inning on July 26th plated the lone run in a 1-0 Mets victory. And his 2 HRs paced the way in the Mets division-clinching game on September 18th.

The defense was good. Not great, simply good. Despite having never played second base, Valentin performed admirably well there over the course of the season. But there were often questionable decisions. Game 1, NLDS. Mets are ahead 4-1. With no outs and a man on first in the top of the 7th, a hot shot is hit at him. He bobbles the ball, but is able to knock it down. But rather than throw to first for the sure out, Valentin shuffles a hasty throw to 2nd. But it's too late. The Dodgers rally to tie the game. It's forgotten, because the Mets went on to win. But at the time, a costly mistake.


In the postseason, Valentin's offense also suffered. Although he worked walks and scored a couple runs, Valentin was hitless in the NLDS against the Dodgers. And he was far from productive against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Which was why I found it strange that the Mets were more than willing to bring him back, rather than bring in a younger option at second. Much in the mold of guys such as Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, players who had standout seasons in '06 after middling performances in other years, Valentin had a big year last year. But while others were let go, Valentin was kept in the hopes that he could repeat his strong season, even at age 37.

The options behind him don't excite you. Anderson Hernandez is a smart player with no punch. David Newhan is a mystery (why is a ragtag middle infielder getting so much ink?). We're riding with The Other Jose at 2nd this season, and I have a feeling we'll know pretty early on which Jose Valentin will show up. The lower part of the lineup isn't especially fear-inducing if we get the tired, aging Valentin hitting 7th or 8th.

We'll see what happens...

9 comments:

El Guapo said...

Just thought I'd share this letter from Jose Valentin's mustache I found the other day on another Mets blog.

kjs said...

After he stranded runners in Game 7 vs. the Poo's--and after "The Catch"--I can't stand the guy. 'Twas a shame Lugo passed over Mainaya's offer...

El Guapo said...

I think Jose is best summed up this way: he's a poor fielder who had an okay year in the field and a decent hitter who had a great year at the plate.

If you assume he regresses to the mean, to borrow Rob Neyer's favorite phrase, that means in '07 he'll be a poor fielder and a decent hitter. Until (unless) A-Hern proves he can hit, it's Jose's job. I certainly don't see Easley or Gotay taking it from him.

El Guapo said...

Oh, and one more quick note: David Newhan is a corner IF/corner OF. I don't think he's ever played second.

El Guapo said...

I stand corrected! Newhan has played 28 games at second, most recently in 2001 for Philadelphia. Since then, Baltimore used him as a reserve outfielder in all three spots and occasionally at 3B. I promise I'll stop commenting now.

Carl said...

*phweet*

Noob, you talk about possible substitutes for Valentin and you forget Ruben Gotay???

Twenty lashes with the Mike Jorgensen wet noodle, sonny!

Mets2Moon said...

That is a good point, Dr. Cox, however can Gotay really be considered a viable option? He didn't play at all in the Majors last season while toiling for the everything-starved Royals before being dealt for Keppinger in July, and his 2005 season in the Majors was miserable at best (.227 BA, .288 OBA). Sure, he seems to have a little more pop than A-Hern, but I have the feeling, from what little I know about him (and I did have him on my fantasy team for a portion of '05), is that he lacks Hernandez's tools and instincts on the field. Another option? Sure. A good option? Probably not.

John Peterson said...

José Valentín was the best defensive second baseman in the National League last year according to a number of different metrics. So I would say that he did better than "admirably well," than "good but not great."

Check out the 2006 NL Zone Rating statistics: http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/dialed_in/discussion/2006_national_league_gold_gloves_as_i_see_it/

John Peterson said...

err well:
http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/
files/dialed_in/discussion/
2006_national_league_gold_gloves_as_i_see_it/