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A Quarter of the Way Through: Hitters

Posted By Howard Megdal On May 16, 2011 @ 8:57 am In Line-up,Today's Mets headlines | Comments Disabled

It was an encouraging weekend for the New York Mets- an encouraging week-plus, really. New York won its third consecutive series against Houston, and a 3-1 homestand against Florida and Washington can pull the team up to .500- erasing that 5-13 start with 116 games to go.

And while nothing is guaranteed, this is an awfully good time to be playing the Yankees.

But I thought it would be a useful exercise to take a look at some players through 40 games, and project what their totals would be over a full season. We will simply do this by multiplying by four, even though 162 isn’t precisely four times as much as 40 (we should actually be multiplying by 4.05). I’ll then give my over-under for how I think this projection will relate to that player’s actual final season totals. First, the hitters:

Josh Thole: .222/.298/.263, 0 home runs, 40 RBI, 12 extra-base hits: I think Thole improves considerably upon this, considering his career OPS was 168 points higher entering the season. With Ronny Paulino around, he’s likely to be even more effective, since he’ll be facing primarily righties.

Ike Davis: .302/.383/.543, 28 home runs, 100 RBI, OPS+ 155: I think it would be reasonable to expect some regression, but maybe not a ton. He checked in at 115 OPS+ last year, but 125 after the All Star break, 168 from September 1 on. So this may simply be a movement toward his true talent level. Obviously, how quickly and effectively he returns from his current injury will be key.

Daniel Murphy: .248/.311/.394, 12 home runs, 48 RBI, 40 extra-base hits: A few important things here. One is, I will take the over here, considering he’s at a 96 OPS+ so far, but came into the season with a career OPS+ of 103. But even if he doesn’t improve, would it surprise you to know that his OPS+ rankes tenth in baseball among primary second basemen? The point here is that if Murphy can hold his own at the position defensively- and the early returns are awfully encouraging- he is a valuable every day player without any further offensive development.

Jose Reyes: .310/.360/.471, 4 home runs, 60 RBI, 56 stolen bases in 68 attempts, 52 doubles, 24 triples: I’ll take the slight under here, though it doesn’t strike me as fanciful that a player with 115 and 118 OPS+ seasons should hit a higher level of talent in his age-28 season.

David Wright: .226/.337/.404, 24  home runs, 72 RBI, 36 stolen bases in 36 attempts: Obviously, I think he will finish well above these totals, though if he is truly injured, that could temper his improvement. Here’s something for the David Wright bashers out there- he’s in the worst slump of his career, and 11th in baseball among third basemen in OPS+, a 3-for-4 day from eighth. If he simply returns to his 2009-2010 production, he’d trail only Kevin Youkilis and Wilson Betemit in production among 2011 third basemen. So try and appreciate him, instead of ridiculously asserting that he is the problem.

Jason Bay: .216/.318/.338, 8 home runs, 24 RBI, 80 games played: Let’s put it this way: if Bay doesn’t significantly improve on every one of these numbers, His becomes the most immovable contract in baseball. Some signs of life this weekend were encouraging. Have to take the over on Bay, due to his career of excellence.

Angel Pagan: .159/.259/.246, 4 home runs, 24 RBI, 76 games played: Obviously, his setback in rehab is troubling. There’s ample reason to expect better production when he returns, with an OPS+ of 42 this year, 122 last year, and 108 in 2009. But remember that he’s had only one season with more than 88 games played in the major leagues (though this overstates things; four seasons of 113 games or more in the minor leagues). The point is, however, fragility is nothing new for Pagan- assuming he will return and play out the season unharmed may not be wise.

Carlos Beltran: .285/.373/.569, 32 home runs, 96 RBI, 52 doubles, 152 games played: The only player in the starting lineup who has clearly overachieved is Beltran. And even with him, he is playing at a rate in line with his performance as recently as 2009, and with durability he displayed as recently as 2008 (without the pounding of center field this time around). Point is that smart money is on the under going forward, but I’m not sure how far under is reasonable. One other thing: please look at Beltran’s performance throughout his career before making the astonishingly ignorant statement that his 2011 has something to do with playing for a contract.

Overall, the lineup has been strong, with the Mets at fourth in the National League in runs scored. My guess is that the lineup is better over the final three quarters of the season.

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