Now that the Mets have finally acceded to the constant fan drumbeat to replace Luis Castillo at second base, they need to make perhaps the more important decision of who should replace Luis Castillo as the second hitter in the lineup. Like Castillo or not, the Mets do not currently have any second basemen who represent a clear upgrade from Castillo. So, aside from pleasing the legions of anti-Castillo Mets fans and signifying that the new management has some leeway to undo the prior administration’s bad decisions, firing Castillo is not anticipated to lead to an immediate improvement at the position (certainly not defensively).
However, the best improvement the Mets could immediately make in the post-Castillo landscape is to think long and hard about who should occupy the second position in the lineup that Castillo so woefully manned last year.
The hope is that GM Sandy Alderson and his performance-based front office will work with new Manager Terry Collins to decide whom to bat second, not based on reputation (as was generally the case for the prior administration), but on how guys are expected to, and actually do, perform.
The vote here is for the 2d batter to be Josh Thole. Yes, new catcher Thole. Why?
Did you know that Thole led the Mets in on base average in 2010? Surely, the guy who reached base more often than any Met last year would be of value in the #2 hole. In fact, Thole is again leading the Mets in OBP so far this spring. Granted, it’s only the spring, but Thole is again finding ways to reach base. Plus Thole is a low-power, high contact guy who does not strike out a lot.
Thole batting second and seeing plenty of pitches would allow Jose Reyes time to steal a base and would give the Mets’ top hitters multiple looks at what the opposing pitcher’s offerings.
Plus, adding a high-OBP, low power guy would extend the Mets lineup, so that power hitters go “deep” into a lineup that might look like this:
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Josh Thole, C
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Angel Pagan, CF
5. Carlos Beltran, RF
6. Jason Bay, LF
7. Ike Davis, 1B
8. Daniel Murphy, 2B
9. Mike Pelfrey, Pitcher
All of a sudden, the Met lineup, although lacking in superstar hitters besides Wright, would go 7 deep, with Ike Davis as one of baseball’s better #7 hitters. Bay, too, could go from overrated cleanup hitter, to one of the league’s top #6 hitters (along with less pressure to perform in that spot). All in all, this lineup (if healthy of course) would have the depth, if not the star talent, to match most offenses in the National League.
Add in a starting rotation that, while currently lacking an ace, may go five deep, and the Mets are on their way to……improvement.