Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I cannot understand...

This recent overwhelming outcry of support for Paul LoDuca.

Now, I should preface this all by saying that I'm not here to rip LoDuca. I love LoDuca. I've always been a fan of his and what he brought to the Mets in his time here cannot be overlooked.

But there are several glaring, obvious facts about Paulie that need to be taken into account.

First and foremost, and it's been well documented, but LoDuca is beginning to show obvious signs of age. While his HR and RBI numbers went up from '06 to '07, his BA, OBA and SLG all fell sharply. While Paul had a good end to the season (despite playing through some nagging injuries), he basically was a no-show for most of the middle of the season, as his splits indicate. Yes, he thrived in the #2 spot in 2006, but there was no guarantee that he was going to duplicate that in 2007. In fact, there was a great deal of support for Carlos Beltran to hit in the #2 spot, and LoDuca get dropped to 7th, which was where he ended up most of the season. Moreover, LoDuca did most of his hitting with nobody on (.282), and with men in scoring position, his numbers fell sharply (.261) and with 2 out and RISP, he was nonexistent (.190).

So, what does that matter?

Well, LoDuca will be 36 next April 12th. As we have seen with players such as Carter and Piazza, that's about when most catchers hit the wall. And once that wall is hit, Catchers tend not to come back.

I also don't understand the consistent need to bash Johnny Estrada for being worse defensively than LoDuca. Last time I checked, the Mets haven't exactly had a history of great defensive Catchers, Charlie O'Brien notwithstanding. I'd consider Estrada to be about on par with LoDuca defensively, and probably better offensively. Don't overlook the fact that Estrada has been an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger. And his offense, although it won't remind anyone of Piazza, has consistently been very respectable for a Catcher, peaking at .302/.328/.444 in 2006, and his splits from '07 better LoDuca's across the board.

Most importantly, Estrada will be 32 on June 17th. He's got a few solid, productive seasons left in him.

But for some reason, he's being written off as a worthless schlub who's barely capable of platooning with Castro. I know the fans loved LoDuca, and rightfully so. But now even the media, which has taken every opportunity to slam Paul, has begun to support him. Talk about a bunch of fair-weather phonies! Wallace Matthews brings up a lot of obvious weaknesses with the Mets in his article, but he's totally off base concerning Estrada.

Let's not be so quick to throw this guy under the bus. He's proven himself to be a fully capable starting catcher, and he'll be a good fit in the lower half of the Mets lineup. Just wait.

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