Without the Captain the Ship Would Sink

If you ask New York Mets fans which batter has the biggest impact on the lineup they would undoubtedly give the same response. He is known as Mr. Met, Captain America or simply the Captain. He is the leader of the Mets and has the most long-term contract of anybody on the team. He is the reason why fans go to Citi Field. He is David Wright.

He is the only Mets player casual baseball fans have heard of besides Matt Harvey. Wright does not receive as much national attention as Harvey only because he does not have the same appetite for fame as him. When CougarLife.com, a dating website that connects young men connect with older, mature women, reached out to him in June about a campaign to vote him into the All-Star Game he declined. Wright is humble, professional and only wants attention brought upon him if it is based on the Mets winning and his performance on the field.

David Wright has hit third in the Mets lineup more consistently than anyone else in the lineup throughout the entire 2013 season. Wright has a career batting average of .301, on-base percentage of .382 and .506 slugging. He is surpassing those numbers in 2013 so far with a .307/.395/.515 line. Not to mention that he is a two-time Gold Glove winner and has been playing spectacular defense at the hot corner this season.

At age 30 and going into his tenth season, Wright has developed a reputation as the toughest out in the lineup. What is extraordinary about his career-topping statistics is that he has prospered with little to no protection in the lineup this season. Wright is a highly intelligent hitter that generally restraints himself from pitches outside of the strike zone. His opponents tend to pitch him away because they know Wright can attack the strike zone. His patience leads to a high walk rate. He drew a career-high 94 walks in both 2007 and 2008 and already has 50 this season.

Wright has also been a threat on the base paths. He currently has 15 steals and is on pace for about 25 stolen bases on the season. Wright has improved on his running game compared to recent years. He swiped 15 bags last season, 13 in 2011 and 19 in 2010.

David Wright’s power numbers have declined from early in his career, but his lower RBI count is mostly incumbent upon his teammates not setting the table for him when he gets hits. He is still a considerable threat on an 0-2 count because his hitting zone is red hot on a ball down and over the plate, as well as dead middle and up and away, in that situation. His ability to produce on two-strike counts in multiple areas of the strike zone explains his high average

The New York Mets might be a long shot from playoff contention this season, but there is more hope for the future than there has been over the past several years. Pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero will eventually become strong young arms for the rotation, Zack Wheeler recently arrived and Matt Harvey is the ace. Sandy Alderson will finally have a sizeable budget to work with in 2014 and the crippling contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana will be off the books.

Wright is not quite as scorching as he was in 2006 and 2007 but he is still highly productive and a difficult out. Many superstars falter in the first year of a long-term contract. The Mets push for the playoffs next season will largely fall on the shoulders of Wright and the players general manager Sandy Alderson surrounds him with. 

The Curious Case of Daniel Murphy

Second baseman Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets is truly a Jekyll and Hyde hitter. He is known to fluctuate dramatically from month to month, but with second baseman prospect Wilmer Flores scorching in AAA general manager Sandy Alderson has to decide soon which one is part of the core.

Murphy hit a convincing .317/.345/.471 in May with 10 doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. Last month, however, he had an underwhelming .227/.274/.291 line with just two doubles, one home run and seven RBI. He is 7 for 34 throughout the first week of July.

Will he get hotter than July and help Mets fans forget about his recent woes? History suggests he will. After a subpar June 2012, he silenced his critics by hitting .360/.380/.528 the following month with 11 doubles.

Murphy’s batting average went up and down like the stock market in 2009, his first full MLB season, and he missed the 2010 season due to injury. He bounced back in 2011 with a .320 average and .362 on-base percentage and did not fall below a .280 average in any individual month of 2011. He fell to injury in early August 2011 in what arguably could have been his best full season in the major leagues.

Murphy is an automatic out one day and then drives in every runner in scoring position the next game. You can feel the frustration through his facial expression when he is out on two or three pitches. When he gets clutch hits he furiously claps his hands and shouts. He wears his heart on his sleeve.

Lately Murphy looks like he is out before he steps into the batter’s box. He often swings at the first pitch and struggles to hit the ball the other way. When he is at his best he sets the table for David Wright and keeps the line moving. Otherwise he has no impact on offense.

At this point last year he only had 3 home runs and did not go yard until June 27. He already has 6 homers this season. However, he is not a power hitter. His strength is hitting singles and doubles, especially with runners in scoring position. Murphy is dangerous when he is in the zone and uses all parts of the field.

He has also made great strides on defense at second base throughout his career. Murphy by no means has a stellar glove and is sometimes awkward when turning a double play. He will commit errors on occasion, some of them quite costly, and botch plays that a strong defender could make. He does not have a natural talent for playing second base but he gives his best effort. Luckily for him Flores has limited range himself and his defense is also a liability. Otherwise Flores might have been on the big league roster already.

Murphy hustles hard, sometimes to overcompensate for his mistakes and he inadvertently hurts the team. If he ends the season hitting around .270 with an OBP barely over .300 it is hard to imagine Alderson will offer him a multi-year contract, or even one more year. Since he lacks power and is questionable on defense his value weighs heavily on his hitting acumen. He lives and dies by his bat.

If he does not finish the season hitting at least .285 with a .330 OBP (assuming he does not get traded), it will be hard to argue that Murphy is the future at second base. Aside from third base, no Mets position is safe. Even if he plays to his full potential this month Alderson still has to decide if he wants such a streaky player on the team.

This town ain’t big enough for Flores and Murphy. One of them has to go.