February 14, 2007

The Bench In 2007

Marty Noble at Mets.com, writes about the Mets bench and predicts how they will be used:

The 2006 Mets made the fewest pinch-hitting appearances in the National League, the sixth-fewest pitching changes and the sixth-fewest defensive changes. That came after their immediate predecessors used the fewest pinch-hitters and second-fewest pinch-runners, made the fewest pitching changes and used the fifth-fewest batting orders in the NL.

Whatever the reasons, they likely will exist again in 2007, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise if the Mets' reserves remain seated for much of the impending season. Aside from Endy Chavez, a quasi-regular last season, playing in at least 100 games, and Ramon Castro catching every fifth day or so, the understudies may be underused. Indeed, it seems the Mets' need for a deeper bullpen and the strength of their regular position players may prompt them to carry a seven-man bullpen and a five-man bench.

Chavez, the fourth and most defensively gifted outfielder, probably will start fewer games than he did last season, when injuries to Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady created a need for him to start 79 games, appear in 49 others and play more outfield innings than anyone on the team other than Carlos Beltran. If the bench is five players deep, Chavez probably will appear in more games than if the Mets carry six reserves, the sixth being a sixth outfielder (Ben Johnson?)

Castro, the masked backup to Paul Lo Duca, seldom pinch-hits, because he is the only alternative to the starter. Castro was productive in 2005 and when he wasn't injured last year. He throws well -- more effectively than Lo Duca -- and the pitchers enjoy pitching to him.

Julio Franco, the 48-year-old wonder, wasn't accustomed to playing as infrequently as he did last season -- 165 at-bats and 214 innings, compared with averages of 236 and 470 during his five seasons with the Braves. But so long as Carlos Delgado plays regularly, Franco's at-bats will be limited. Even when Delgado was struggling last season, Franco rarely played first base. Delgado batted .137 in 73 at-bats from May 13 through June 3. Franco had one start and 12 at-bats (and six hits) during that period.

To read the rest of the article as well as the rest of the Bench, use the link in the Header.

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