A few days ago I was contacted by a Mets blog, Brew and Orange, to answer some questions about the Braves and Atlanta’s beer scene. Those are the kind of questions I was born to answer, so I leapt at the chance. They were kind enough to do the same for me. Here follows a series preview of the Mets series, with questions current as of Monday, April 18.
Q: David Wright is still getting on base at a good rate, but his power outage is still continuing. How worried are you about him?
A: He’s been making some solid contact, so I’m not too concerned about the power quite yet. In fact he just hit one right off the top of the huge left field mini-Green-Monster in Cleveland on Saturday, and hit two cheapies in Citizens Bank on Monday. Certainly if my options are getting on base and staying healthy or power and continued trouble with spinal stenosis, I’ll take the former. As long as he bats second in a lineup that follows with Conforto, Cespedes, and Duda, there will be plenty of others who can get him in via home run.
Q: A year after silencing doubters with a terrific 2015 campaign, Curtis Granderson raising all of the old worries from 2014. He’s 35. Is this just a slump?
A: A lot of folks are comparing his 2016 start to his 2015 start, which was an equally horrific 1-27, using the old “and look how that turned out!” line. I think it’s going to be hard for him to replicate his 2015 success, and will more likely be pretty streaky this year. That being said, recent returns have been markedly better, slashing .286/.348/.619 in his last 6 games.
I think a lot of it can be explained by the old adage of how hard it is to his a spherical ball with a cylindrical bat. In 2014, Granderson had a BABIP of .265, well below his .300 career average, which is right on line with where you would expect it to be. 2015 saw his BABIP return to .305, and he had probably the third best season of his career. So as long as his luck is in line with where you’d expect it to be, he probably won’t regress too far off last year’s results.
Q: You’re the defending league champions, but you’re already four games behind the Nats. Obviously it’s way too early to panic, and you still have incredible pitching, but with only 37 runs scored through 11 games, is the offense this team’s weak point?
A: I do think that would be the area of concern, yes. It reminds me of June 2015 (which featured a Braves 4 game sweep in Atlanta), where a 2 run deficit felt pretty much insurmountable. Then again, there were a lot of at-bats going to the likes of John Mayberry Jr., Eric Campbell, and Michael Cuddyer at that point, so I think we’re better positioned this year. I suspect our one-run record is going to loom larger than it might for other teams.
Q: How good can Matz and Conforto be this year?
A: Matz is probably the best 4th starter in the Major Leagues. It’s been fun to watch Mets fan play the game of ranking our starters, because it’s such an embarrassment of riches. When he locates his fastball, his secondary pitches become very difficult to hit. I think he’s primed for a solid year.
Conforto, though, is a legit star in the making. It took Terry Collins all of 10 games to move him up to the 3 hole, and he should be there all year. He’s an incredibly natural hitter, and has surprised scouts with his average to above average defensive skills. It’s too bad he’s not eligible for Rookie of the Year (missed by 40 at bats) because he’d be a shoo-in for this year’s award.
Q: Who is the prospect you’re most looking forward to seeing later this year?
A: Interestingly, the cupboard’s a little bare on prospects with the graduations of deGrom, Matz, Syndergaard, Conforto, etc. Along with that, (happily) there’s not much of a specific glaring hole on the 25-man roster for a prospect to knock the door down. Of those waiting in the wings, I’m most excited to see what Dilson Herrera can do at second base in a full time role, but if that happens before Neil Walker’s departure for free agency this coming Winter, I’d have to assume something went very wrong. He’s shown decent range and some pop at the bat in limited cups of coffee, and it’s pretty clear he’ll be expected to take the reigns for Opening Day 2017.