Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Case for 3rd Place

The conventional wisdom surrounding most Mets fans would have the team as a whole fortunate to finish in 3rd place in what has become a rather tight division. But that's not where I'm going with this one.

Around this time last season, the idea was bandied about to bat Jose Reyes 3rd, with Beltran 2nd, Wright 5th and so on and so forth. I don't remember who was supposed to hit leadoff, but that's really academic because it didn't happen. In fact, it was mostly poo-pooed as a stupid idea, which it may well have been.

What's strange is that for many of the reasons it wasn't a good idea last year, it probably is a very good idea for the Mets this season, particularly with Beltran out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.

The knock on this idea was twofold:
1) By removing Reyes from the leadoff spot, you create a gaping hole at the top of the order that the Mets aren't adequately prepared to fill.
Answer: True. But the Mets are probably more adequately prepared to fill that hole this season, with Beltran out and Angel Pagan more than likely going to get the bulk of the playing time in CF in the early going. There are knocks on Pagan, namely his poor fundamental skills, but, then again, Reyes plays like an idiot a good chunk of the time as well, he just makes his idiot moves look a little more exciting, like trying to stretch a double into a triple and getting thrown out. Luis Castillo is another option, albeit far duller than Pagan, but if nothing else, Castillo has markedly more patience at the plate than either Pagan or Reyes.

2) By putting Reyes in the #3 spot in the order, a BA/SLG spot, Reyes will more than likely get into his habit of swinging for the fences rather than hitting ground balls and line drives, which is where his game is better geared towards.
Answer: I just said Reyes is an idiot. He swings for the fences in the leadoff spot anyway. He already thinks he's a power hitter, so let's let him hit in a power spot in the order and see what, exactly, he can do. Plus, in the #3 spot, Reyes is more than likely going to see more fastballs with Bay/Wright behind him, and he won't have to have that stigma of taking pitches and trying to work walks and steal bases. Let him swing for the fences. Maybe he'll hit the doubles and triples he should be hitting in the process.

I'm not advocating a permanent switch to the #3 spot for Reyes. His future with the Mets really is as a leadoff hitter, after all. There is the concern that he's going to further screw up his swing hitting 3rd. Again, though, he seems to screw up his swing well enough hitting leadoff. Arguably, he won't have the opportunity to steal as many bases or score as many runs hitting 3rd. Normally, this is true. But, again, without Beltran, the Mets could probably benefit from having a speed guy hitting 3rd, who could single, drive in a run or move a guy over, and then steal a base behind him. Beltran always had the speed to do this, but he never stole bases. Reyes knows how to steal a base.

Maybe I'm just grasping at straws for a solution here. But given that the Mets real #3 hitter isn't going to be available for a while, this isn't such a crazy idea. Shake things up a little bit. It really can't hurt, can it?