Both New York teams have played their exhibition games and, except for Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy and Carlos Beltran, all seems to healthy on the Mets front. With those guys on the DL, no other players had to see one of the Mets team doctors, and that is good.
History has shown that seeing the Mets doctors is one of the worst places a Mets player can probably be sent.
Both New York teams also have a new starting outfielder, both upgrades over their 2009 counterparts. The Mets signed free agent Jason Bay while the Yankees pulled off an old-fashioned trade as they acquired Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team, seven-player swap.
That trade also involved the Arizona Diamondbacks, and appears to be good for all three teams involved.
New York Mets fans demanded something be done about their lack of starting pitching depth, but General Manager Omar Minaya did nothing. Many fans wanted a new first baseman and a power hitting left fielder.
Well they got their wish in left field, but the most important thing, starting pitching, was dismissed out of hand.
Bay was given a four-year deal for $66 million, and is firmly planted in left field. Seeing him in a few games (live and on TV) far this spring, his OF play is shaky. There is the power in Bay’s bat to make up for his below average defense, but his ability to make consistent contact.
However, will there be enough power in Bay’s bat in new CitiField, the Mets home where deep fly balls go to die in outfielder’s gloves? Ask David Wright how bad the new home park plays. Will Bay’s rumored knee problems hamper him during the season in the field or at bat?
Bay had his best year last season, hitting .267/.384/.537/.921 OPS with 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s. Not that it was his best season statistically, as his 2005 and 2006 seasons were more productive, but that this season came in his final, walk year before his first free agency.
That was good for Bay’s bank account, but bad for the Mets overall.
Meanwhile, Granderson was coming off his most dismal season since becoming a full time player. His line of .249/.327/.453/.780 OPS became steadily worse that his last few seasons. His best year was in 2007 when he hit .302/.361/.552/ a .913 OPS with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 homers and 74 RBI’s. He also walked 52 times.
But his OBP and slugging percentage (SLG) declined over the last two seasons, mainly because his average dropped and, while his homers increased to 30, his other extras base hits declined significantly. C-Grand’s SLG of .552 in 2007 was due to his 38 doubles and 23 triples as much as his HR total.
When those other XBH declined to 23 and 8 last year, and his average declined, too, it made his OBP and SLG (and of course OPS) fall to these extreme lows. His OBP fell despite his walk totals increasing from 52 in 2007 to 72 last year.
Just goes to show that high batting averages are still a key to high OBP’s. A walk is NOT as good as a hit unless the team has other hitters in the lineup.
Granderson has worked hard with hitting Coach Kevin Long to improve his overall hitting, more going the other way to improve is recent number against left handed pitchers. It showed with improved batting average (.286) in spring training this year and boosted his OBP to .375, two stats the Yankees will sign on the dotted line for this season.
He also improved against lefties with a .250 BA this spring.
The one negative for Granderson is that he did not hit a home run at all this spring, and his SLG was only .388. That will improve, though, once Granderson gets to the Stadium with the short right field porch. He will not pull as much as the past, but will hit his share of home runs, probably around 20-25, much less than people expect.
They might not be as high as everyone expects, but Granderson’s SLG will be much higher than last year. While his HR’s will be normal, his other XBH will improve to that of his 2007 season.
Granderson’s work with Long will allow him to love the deep left field gap. With his speed, the doubles and triples will skyrocket, raising his slugging percentage to that of 2007, somewhere around .530 to .550.
Jason Bay will also hit share of home runs, but due to the expansive home park, it will not be the 30+ he hit in four of the last five seasons. His double rate will also decline as those balls off the Green Monster will be caught by the left and center fielders in the more spacious ballpark his plays half his games.
Plus, Bay is expected to hit fourth or fifth in the lineup, one that does not scare many pitchers. Don’t be surprised if teams begin to pitch around Bay to get to the freer swinging Jeff Francoeur. Once again, a walk is not as good as a hit, if there are no other good hitters to produce.
Therefore, Bay’s OBP may be a bit higher, but his SLG rate will decline from last season’s .537.
With the type of player each guy is, and with the dimensions of CitiField, wouldn’t Granderson have been a better fit for the Mets as the left fielder? And he could have been the center fielder while Beltran is out. For Minaya, another boat that left the dock without him doing anything or having a plan and he appeared to settle to the whims of the public in regards to what the team needed.
When all is said and done in 2010, Granderson will more important for the Yankees than Bay will be for the Mets.
In fact, with his new hitting approach, C-Grand will have a higher SLG rate this year than Jason Bay.
You can bank on it.