So, the 2016 Major League Baseball season kicked off this past Sunday. The Mets took on the defending champion Royals in what was an ironic and heart wrenching World Series rematch. But, the real story of the Metropolitans’ opening day is one which I believe will persist throughout the entire season. That is, their defense is at worst a complete joke, and at best veryyyyyyyy suspect.
Sure, some could label this as an overreaction to a single game. But let’s call a spade a spade. The defensive lapses for the Mets on Sunday were not isolated incidents. They are now mistakes that have characterized the team. And it seems pretty fucking strange to pair arguably the greatest fucking pitching staff ever with a suspect defense, no? For reference, here is a clip of Yoenis Cespedes being Yoenis Cespedes of the L-O-L funny moments that occurred last Sunday that would give any Mets fan instant PTSD.
This miscue was followed by a passed ball by Travis d’Arnaud and before you knew it, the Mets were trailing.
I would be VERY willing to put this off as an anomaly… But the facts are that it is not. Their match up against the Royals proved that in the Fall Classic, and Met fans should be even more cautious entering this season…
Consider this: Yo’ is somehow a gold glove winning outfielder. According to Baseball-Reference, he has a laser rocket arm that has allowed him to throw out 48 base-runners in his career. A total that ranks him 27th among active outfielders in only 4 years of major league service. And by all defensive measurements, he has been rated an average-above average defender. But, Yo’s problem does not lye in his immense talent, it manifests itself out of his complete and utter stupidity and lack of focus. He takes plays off, he will take bad routes to balls and he will somehow redefine the word “inopportune.”
d’Arnaud is a more than capable, and still improving catcher. Yet, his defense has always, and most likely always will, leave something to be desired. Let’s not front son, he is an offensive minded catcher. In 2014, he was tied for the league lead in passed balls, the only season in which he has played in over 100 games. He also ranked 4th in errors for a catcher that season with 9. For his career, he has caught a mere 33 of 144 base stealers. That my friends, is what we in the biz refer to as a noodle arm. And you saw the affect a noodle arm can have on your defense in the World Series last season. Admittedly, it is tough to judge d’Arnaud on his ability to handle a pitching staff. While there is staff cast data that can provide peripheral insight on that, it is under lock and key by the MLB mafia. But, as a still young player, it is safe to assume that d’Arnaud is a plus catcher offensively, and a fucking liability defensively.
These two represent only the latest of defensive blunders for the Mets. Consider also that Sandy Alderson decided to sign 30 year old and perpetual chubby man, As(s)drubal Cabrera, to play shortstop this season. Last year playing short for the Rays he had a -6 UZR!!! For those that aren’t well versed in baseball advanced metrics, that is BAD AND BORDERLINE HORRIBLE. Which is probably why he played second base for the Nationals in 2014. Methinks that this was an unnecessary move considering the SAME damn concerns were made for Wilmer Flores while they put up essentially the same value offensively.
David Wright has been a solid fielder for a majority of his career. But the dude is suffering from spinal stenosis, and can’t throw anything more than a lollipop to first base, let alone move more than a foot right or left. Lucas Duda (AKA Ducas Luda) isn’t making up for the shortcomings of either of these dudes because he is average, both statistically and perceptually.
The Mets do roster several players that are solid to even great defensively. The problem is that Neil Walker isn’t changing the world defensively and Curtis Granderson (more than serviceable in right field last year) is a former center fielder that was forced to move to right field because he was becoming absolutely dreadful. He is also thirty five years old and the ground he can cover will continue to shrink like the polar ice caps. The one dude that Sandy and Terry were hoping to rely on to make up for many of these problems, Juan Lagares, looked like bizarro Juanny Beisbol last season while dealing with a should injury that was probably more serious than management lead on.
So, what does it all mean? Maybe not much, granted the rotation is a stable full of studs as expected. If you rack up infinity strikeouts does it matter if you can play catch? But nonetheless, when you are team that is built around an elite pitching staff, it makes you scratch your head when you realize that there are potentially a bunch of New York Bozos running around on defense at Citi Field. They will be in the thick of the chase all season long unless things go drastically haywire. But when the difference between being champions is razor thin, perceived minutiae like defense makes all the difference. Expectations are as high as ever for the Metropolitans, it would be a Macbethian tragedy if they realized after the fact that their fucking defense (of all things) wasn’t up to snuff.