In the last  post Brian tells us why Jerry Manuel’s managing decisions so far have not been that controversial even though he says he would not bat Luis Castillo first.  I’m going to take it  a step further and say that I kind of like the idea.

I’ve always thought the best way to utilize your best players is to have them all bat in a row.  The New York Mets best players are Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.  Most people want Jose Reyes to bat first and then bat Luis Castillo, Ryan Church or Daniel Murphy second before Wright, Beltran and Delgado.  I think that is a waste of a spot in the order.  

I know that the idea for most people is to have somebody that can make contact or sacrifice the player to another base batting second and I think Daniel Murphy can do that, but why waste a spot in the order doing that?  Why not get Jose Reyes on base and then immediately have somebody that can knock him in come up to bat?  Jose Reyes is fast enough to score if David Wright or Carlos Beltran hits one in the gap and even if he doesn’t what is wrong with having Reyes and Wright on base for Beltran?  

I think that whatever the order is Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado should bat in consecutive spots.  If Jose Reyes bats first then those batters only takes the Mets through the fourth spot and you’re expecting somebody like Ryan Church or Daniel Murphy to bat fifth.  So I like the idea of batting Luis Castillo first so then when Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado all bat in consecutive spots it will take the Mets through the fifth spot in the order.

I also never understand why National League teams will have an offensively weak catcher bat, then an offensively weak middle infield and then a pitcher.  Why lump that many bad players together?  I know the idea isn’t so much to lump your bad plsyers together as much as it is to lump your good players together (although again you’re not doing that if you bat somebody inferior second) but it also seems like a waste to have three spots in the order where the Mets are okay to get no production.

Most Mets fans seem to think that Brian Schneider and Luis Castillo aren’t going to offer much offensively.  If that is the case then why lump them altogether and have the attitude of “well they’re  not going to score so we’ll just concede the last three spots?”  A much better attitude would be, “how can we use these players so that they can score, even though they’re not our best players.”  If Luis Castillo bats in the leadoff spot then he won’t be in a wasted position where every time he does get on base the pitcher is next.  Instead every time Luis Castillo gets on base he’ll have Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran coming to bat next.  

Everybody is down on Luis Castillo but let’s take a look at what he actually did last year.  Luis Castillo’s on base percentage was .355.  Last season was the first time Jose Reyes had an on base pecerntage higher than .355 and his was still only .358.  Luis Castillo also had a better steal percentage than Jose Reyes.  There was a big different in attempts (71 to 19) but Castillo was a pretty good 17 for 19 in steals.  This was in possibly the worst season of his career.  If Luis Castillo has an assemblence of a regular season by his standards then Castillo won’t be nearly as bad as anybody thinks.

It also bothers me when Mets fans say that Jose Reyes doesn’t need to drop past the leadoff spot becuase then he’ll try and drive the ball when he should be hitting the ball on the ground.  That’s nonsense.  Sure, nobody wants Jose Reyes to try and hit home runs, but he shouldn’t be hitting the ball on the ground either.  Do you think that Jose Reyes is first in triples over the last four seasons because he hits the ball on the ground?  Jose Reyes does need to drive the ball because his speed can lead to a lot of doubles and triples and then that makes the job of the next batter even easier.  Though Jose Reyes does not need to try and hit home runs, if he does because he is driving then ball then that is okay.

I’ve always thought that Jose Reyes was like Johnny Damon or Jimmy Rollins in his MVP season.  Reyes can lead off, score a lot of runs and steal a lot of bases but if he gets the opportunity he can also  have 80 – 90 RBI.  That’s not going to happen if the Mets concede the part of the lineup right before Jose Reyes bats.  If Luis Castillo bats before Reyes and has a .367 on base percentage (that is his career average) and then Reyes drives the ball and gets a double, triple or home run, then you’re looking at more runs for the Mets.  If the pitcher bats before Reyes then it’s likely Reyes will bat with no runners on base or if the pitcher does get on base then when Reyes gets an extra base hit he’ll probably be slowed down by the pitcher ahead of him.

Maybe the ideal order would be for the pitcher to bat 8th, Luis Castillo bat ninth and Jose Reyes bat first.  Then Luis Castillo will bat before Jose Reyes but Jose Reyes will still bat leadoff.  The only problem with that is that batting after the pitcher would probably be an insult to Luis Castillo.  After last season maybe Luis Castillo doesn’t deserve to have his feelings spared by I can understand trying not to make him feel even worse and possibly have Castillo play even worse.  Maybe batting leadoff would actually be a morale boost for Luis Castillo.

Overall I think the New York Mets are in much better shape than the experts are saying.  Jayson Stark has pointed out several times that if all the games least year ended after the 6th inning then the New York Mets would have won the National League East by 11 games.  Since then the Mets have fixed their 8th and 9th inning and the 7th inning should be better simply because they can use multiple relievers and not have to worry too much about the 8th and 9th innings.  I also think the Phillies won’t match what they did last year with the huge seasons that Lidge and Howard had and the downgrade of Pat Burrell to Raul Ibanez.  The Mets are good enough that they can experiment with something like Luis Castillo batting first and if it doesn’t work they can abandon it and still win the division.

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