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March 18, 2009
Team Health Reports
New York Mets
Head Trainer: Ray Ramirez
Trend: Negative. It's hard to get to "neutral" when the team has nearly doubled the number of days lost that it had in 2006, but it's not as bad as it looked. The Mets took three season-long hits to pitchers they didn't expect much from (Orlando Hernandez, Matt Wise, and Ambiorix Burgos). Without those, they'd be in line with last season's ranking. Given what I had seen going into last year, the results weren't actually that bad. Ramirez and his staff are faced with numerous challenges, but it doesn't seem as if they'll have quite as much on their plates this year. They've done a great job with maintenance, and they're one of the best at keeping players at level.
The Shape of the Season:
Big Question: Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com asks: "Is Carlos Delgado healthy enough, mentally and physically, to prop up the middle of the Mets' lineup?"
I'm not sure about mentally-I try to stay out of that area, though with this team, it always seems to be a factor. His physical status however, I can address. It will surprise many people to see Delgado getting a green rating, but it really shouldn't. Over the past two seasons, Delgado has only had a few minor injuries. The first was a freak injury sustained when a broken bat cut him; that can obviously be discounted. He had a minor hip impingement that didn't seem to give him much trouble, though some have wondered if that was what might have held him back in the first half. There's no evidence of it, though people continue to look for an explanation as to why Delgado suddenly started hitting, especially in light of the series of hip injuries seen this offseason. Finally, he broke his hand at the end of 2007, and it's this that I think is the clear explanation. Players that break their hands or wrists tend to see reduced bat control and power until they've healed. It's my guess that at some point in May, the hand finally felt normal, and the hitting commenced. Now that it's healed, a traumatic injury like a fracture is discounted by the system. Delgado's green is a solid rating, and it looks to me as if he'll be healthy enough to make the team's picking up his option look good. Now if they'd only consider letting him catch again...
Fantasy Fact: There's a lot to like in fantasy terms here, but see all those reds and yellows? You'll pay with fantasy dollars, but you'll need real-world Maalox given all the risk you'll be taking on. Jose Reyes and David Wright come at a premium since they're both good and consistent. With the rest of the roster, especially the pitching staff, you'll be taking a lot of chances. I'd actually stay away from everyone except Johan Santana, though your risk tolerance might be higher than mine. Danny Murphy could end up being a sleeper if his playing time expectations become a reality, while Ryan Church is likely to be on the other side of the possibility scale.
2B Luis Castillo: The idea that many of his issues last year were a result of is lack of conditioning is getting some backup this spring. He's lost weight, and he just looks different in the field. He's still very risky, with hip, back, and leg problems, which tend to be interconnected in ways that make them very difficult to manage.
4C Fernando Tatis: A brutal shoulder injury ended his season early last year, but he avoided surgery and has looked fine this spring. He's still a huge risk if exposed to too much playing time.
SP John Maine: Maine tried to pitch through a bone spur in his shoulder last year. The off-season surgery worked out better than that did, and he's pitching well so far. I don't expect it to be a problem once he gets comfortable, but I wouldn't be surprised by a bad April.
SP Mike Pelfrey: Normally I'd say to ignore something as minor as a strained calf in the spring, but with Pelfrey's increased workload last season, nothing can be ignored. The Mets knew they were pushing him into uncharted territories at a young age, but they at least acknowledged and monitored the situation. What they saw was decreased velocity by the end of the year, but Pitch-f/x data is new-is losing one mph of velocity significant? We'll see whether they made the right decision if he holds together this season. Remember that the Verducci Effect is about fatigue, which doesn't necessarily show up as arm problems.
SP Freddy Garcia: It's not much of a surprise that Garcia is red. At this stage in his career, he's lucky he's even got a chance to be red. Given his problems coming back, his stamina could be the biggest issue. At best, he's a placeholder, but he's a better placeholder than Tim Redding.
CL Francisco Rodriguez: Rodriguez put up gaudy fantasy numbers that have distracted most observers from a real change in how he pitches. He's no longer a power guy, but relies more on his secondary offerings after losing more than three miles per hour on his fastball. He still doesn't throw his riding change to righties, but the only real difference in results is that he didn't strike as many people out. Knowing that he couldn't blow hitters away, he became more of a pitcher than a thrower. The velocity loss is worrisome, but the Mets understand that risk. There's no reason to think that he can't be effective unless there's another significant drop-off, which there's no sign of this spring.
LF Danny Murphy: Murphy had a few injuries in the AFL, but this is mostly a product of a player without a position being forced to deal with a workload that he hasn't established he can handle. In the Rumsfeld taxonomy, that's a known unknown, which can go either way. Your own view on how he'll handle it should ease the valuation. The Mets think he'll be fine.
RF Ryan Church: The handling of Church's concussion was a black eye to the Mets and their medical staff. He seemed OK later in the season, but with his age and minor league injury history, there's a possibility of a quick decline here.
SP Johan Santana: Santana's elbow issues are well chronicled, but the knee issue isn't as big a deal as most have made it out to be. I'd never say ignore the injury risk, but there's no way to adjust for it with Santana. He's still the best in the game right now.
SP Oliver Perez: Mr. Inconsistency was even more inconsistent with his release point after Rick Peterson was fired. His work in the WBC might be blamed if he doesn't look good early, but it's hard to tell what's cause or effect with Perez on a good day. He does seem to crush lesser opponents, so perhaps the Mets could look back to the old Yankee teams that used to adjust their rotation to send their aces against top-level competition and leave the scraps for their second-rank pitchers.
RP J.J. Putz: Putz was a textbook case of why pitching needs to be treated holistically. His ribcage problem led to the elbow problem, which led to him losing effectiveness even when he was healthy. If the Mets can protect him from himself, they'll have a good set-up guy who can keep Rodriguez from taking on too much of a workload.
1B Carlos Delgado: See today's Big Question.
SS Jose Reyes: It wasn't long ago that Reyes' future was a huge question mark. No one was sure whether he could stay healthy, or if the recurrent hamstring problems would end up always holding him back. The Mets responded to that question, and Reyes' level of production is the payoff. He's still a bit of a risk, but on this side of green, it's no wonder he's a fantasy monster.
3B David Wright: If this were "On The Couch" or some other psychological column, Wright would be a yellow, but physically, he's fine.
CF Carlos Beltran: At the age of 31, he's got some stiffness in his knees, but absent some trauma, he should be fine. The Mets' staff really seems to understand how to maintain him, though Jerry Manuel has made some rumblings about resting Beltran more often.