Perhaps it has become clichéd to award somewhat arbitrary marks to members of this club at midseason, but just because something has been done far too often and by those more capable than myself doesn't mean that I won't make a futile attempt at it. I have reels and reels of film of my attempts to remake Air Bud with a duck. Unfortunately, YouTube's policy against explicit content makes it impossible to host them on the net.
Anyway, onward and upward:
C Paul Lo Duca: C
- This just in: the Duck has refused to discuss this grade with anyone who has ever set foot in New York State. Perhaps he had his money on a solid B. While he had an incredibly hot month of May, the Duck has slowed down somewhat and appears to be just your average catcher, though he's not hitting for any power. His .274/.321/.372 line is a disappointment compared to last year's, and he appears to have entered the same downward spiral that besets any 35 year-old catcher. His ten doubles to this point show a decrease from last year's 39, as we are more than halfway through the season. He won't be back next year, despite the slim pickings on the free agent market. Boy, I really do miss Jesus Flores.
1B Carlos Delgado: F+
- Carlos, I'm awfully sorry about this. You seem like a pretty nice guy, so I might otherwise be inclined to give you a semi-positive mark. But you have to get on base more often than your dreadful .305 OBP clip. Your career average is .386. Your slugging percentage is equally bad, compared to your previous numbers: a .435, compared to last year's .548 and your career .551. The doubles numbers are nice, but for someone who also lumbers around in the field at a position where offense is required, we might ask for a hint more. Thankfully, we have a nice capable backup in Julio Franco who can slide into the lineup in the second half. Groan.
2B Jose Valentin: D-
- We were all pretty impressed with what Valentin did last year, replacing the ineffective Kaz Matsui/Anderson Hernandez duo at second base when we had given him up for dead after his atrocious pinch-hitting. He hit for solid power, played very well defensively, and hit for an average better than his career clip. Perhaps the real JoVal caught up with him in the playoffs, as the pixie dust emanating from his magic mustache ran out when he failed to drive in anyone in Game 7. This season, Valentin hasn't done much of anything for anyone, playing defense with zero-range courtesy of a knee brace. He sustained something of a freak injury earlier this year, and we all would have understood if he had bowed out and retired or taken time to get surgery. Instead, he came back and displaced Damion Easley, the only Met hitting for much power in April/May, and has posted this season a wretched .243/.297/.388 in 164 plate appearances. Other scribes have mentioned the fact that Valentin has an option for next year which vests at 400 PA, possibly forcing Willie's hand. Whether Valentin is being selfish or courageous, we can glean that he is a far cry from the player that surprised us all last year.
3B David Wright: B+
- The Great Wright Hope has turned his season around after a powerless April where we quickly placed blame on the Home Run Derby and worried about that massive contract extension on the Mets' books. Although he may not be exactly where he was last year (SLG down from .531 in '06 to .506 in '07), he has been walking more and stealing more bases alongside improving defense and resurgent home run power. In the end, his numbers will be right around where they were last year, and, after all, he's just 24.
SS Jose Reyes: A-
- Regardless of whatever idiots like John Kruk might say, Reyes is the best shortstop in the National League, which is high praise given competition like Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Edgar Renteria, and J.J. Hardy. Ramirez might be superior offensively to Reyes, whose power is down from last year, but Jose has nearly everyone in baseball beat with his glove and his arm. Despite the aforementioned drop in power (after all, he hit 19 homers last season), Reyes' OPS+ is up, thanks to an incredible increase in walks. That is partially due to the fact that teams now intentionally walk Reyes often, but he is no longer the free-swinging player whose most valuable aspect was "excitement" or something. The recent situation with Willie appears to have blown over, and Reyes appears to be firmly entrenched on that depth chart. I might add that Reyes is still extremely young, and that, with time, perhaps he can homer, steal, walk, triple, and field with total proficiency, all in the same season.
RF Shawn Green: C-
- It's been something of a peculiar season for Green, who seems to be the least noticeable member of this team. He is quiet, rather average offensively, and often batting towards the bottom of the lineup. Maybe, though, quiet refers best to his bat since returning from the disabled list in early June. Green has hit barely above the Mendoza Line in that span, and save for a few notable games, hasn't anything power-related to his credit. His defense has been barely average, courtesy of a noodle arm and no range. Granted, the Mets didn't expect him to be a forty-homer player like he was in Los Angeles and Toronto, but a little bit more might be expected for the salary unloaded on him. Is it excessively optimistic for me to see a Gomez/Beltran/Milledge outfield next year? Maybe, but Green will be a platoon player elsewhere when he departs the Mets after this season.
CF Carlos Beltran: C+
- I like Beltran as a player, and what he did last year was amazing. The 2007 Beltran, though, has contained quite a bit more of the 2005 Beltran than we might have liked. All of his stats are down compared to '07, as we might have expected, but a 48-point decrease in OBP (.388 to .340) stinks. Perhaps that is especially evocative of his struggles as a hitter, since one who isn't seeing the ball well is probably going to walk less and hit less. With Beltran, though, one has to wonder why he seems to be dogged by some nagging injury each and every year. And unlike other players, who manage some sort of offensive effectiveness despite an injury, Beltran seems to lose it all when he wakes up with a little tweak in his quad. That being said, he has shown some signs of resuming production of late. But how many seasons of average baseball are we going to wind up with over the life of this contract due to a little pulled hamstring, strained quad, or whatever it may be? He's making an AAV of $17 million, and one would hope that he'd be outproducing Curtis Granderson. Not so much.
LF Moises Alou: INCOMPLETE
- It's tough to give any other grade to Moises, who has missed since forever with an injury that didn't initially appear to be all that severe. He was a constant for April and about half of May, but Endy Chavez (another injury case) and Carlos Gomez (ditto) have amassed almost identical numbers of plate appearances as Alou. We all knew that Moises would miss some time with injuries, but nobody apprised me of his insatiable desire to hang out at home during the baseball season. While he was on the field, he produced a decent .318/.374/.445 line that was somewhat short on the power. He also hit into a ton of double plays, for whatever that's worth. It would be nice to have him back healthy, but wherever Moises goes, he has to be followed by a capable sub. Count on a retirement or a minor-league deal with another club in 2008.
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