2009 Analysis: Carlos Delgado

delgado-fistImmediately after Johan Santana was acquired in February 2008, I made the bold statement that the “key” to the Mets’ season would be Carlos Delgado. Since the Mets started winning when Delgado began heating up, it seemed to me that the big man’s bat and health would be the key again in 2009.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the Mets’ fortunes seem to have paralleled the performance — and availability — of Carlos Delgado. His presence in the cleanup spot took the pressure off Carlos Beltran, gave protection to David Wright, and created a speed bump in the lineup where opposing pitchers had to slow down and proceed cautiously.

Delgado appeared in only 26 games in 2009, hitting .298 with 4 HR and 23 RBI and a .393 OBP in 112 at-bats. When he went on the DL, the Mets were 17-13 and in first place. From then on it was all downhill — into the dung pile.

In the games Delgado played, the Mets were 15-11. In those 15 wins, Delgado hit .382 with a .485 OBP, 3 HR, 16 RBI, and 12 runs. In the 11 losses, Delgado hit .179 with a .250 OBP, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 3 runs.

Similarly, in the 86 wins in which Delgado participated in 2008, he hit .304 with a .396 OBP, 28 HR, 84 RBI. In the 73 losses he hit .232 with a .298 OBP, 10 HR, and 31 RBI.

Before you read too much into this stark contrast in stats, the truth is, there are very similar trends with David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and most other players. Teams tend to lose when their players don’t hit well, strangely enough. But I wanted to make clear that when Delgado was anchoring the middle of the lineup, and hitting, the Mets usually did well.

Considering that Delgado is coming off major hip surgery and will be 38 years old next June, it’s unlikely we’ll see him in a Mets uniform again. He made $12M to rehab in 2009, and will likely find an incentive-laden deal to be a DH with an American League club this winter (Angels? Rangers? A’s?). Even though there is a good chance he’ll return to being at least a 25-HR, 85-RBI guy in the middle of someone’s lineup, it’s time for the Mets to move on — for so many reasons.

What should be learned, however, is the Mets need to find another Delgado-like presence this winter — at minimum. They were one slugger short WITH Delgado going into the 2009 season, so the shopping list should include at least two power bats when the Mets enter the offseason market.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude October 30, 2009 at 9:41 am
    I’m in agreement that the Mets may want to turn the page on the Carlos Delgado era. However, some questions arise, such as…
    1. Do the Mets offer Delgado arbitration? I’d have to imagine, coming off an injury plagued season, Delgado would not make as much or more than the $12-mil he ‘earned’ in 2009, but I’m sure he probably wouldn’t be awarded much less than $8.5-mil by an arbitrator. That’s still a hefty sum to pay for 38 year old to-be who’s coming off major surgery, especially for a team with so many other holes to fill. But the Met’s other options aren’t that appealing either. Dan Murphy is no lock to improve defensively or hit better than .270 w/15 HR power. The free agent class will produce Nick Johnson (injury prone), Russell Branyan (strikeout monster), Adam LaRoche (not fond of the Mets), Hank Blalock (DH in waiting), and Chad Tracy (yuck), all of whom have their own drawbacks. Adrian Gonzalez will be available via trade but at what cost? And Ike Davis isn’t ready for the big leagues yet. Suddenly a gamble on Delgado doesn’t seem so crazy. Plus, if Delgado is offered arbitration and declines, he’s a type B free agent so the Mets would reap a draft pick when he signs elsewhere. Seems like a decision that at least beckons some decent consideration.
    2. If Delgado lingers on the FA market thru the winter, like Abreu did last year, do the Mets throw a 1-yr, $5-mil bone his way, especially if Murphy is still the #1 1B option?
  2. TheDZA October 30, 2009 at 10:01 am
    Well that second point from ‘dude is an interesting one. If that did happen I would almost be inclined to do it (unless the 1B spot was filled by a Gonzalez or similar).
    I would hope that the Mets have learnt something last yr about not waiting on Abreu types who initially asked for big deals, then retreated as it became clear they weren’t going to get it.

    That said, on the flipside there is a definite need to clear out some of the 06-08 dust (for want of better word), and that includes the ‘benchleaders’ as Joe mentioned in the Cora breakdown. Too much money being spent on ageing (albeit fundamentally good ones) players when the Wolf’s, Eckstein’s, Uribe’s can do often doubel the good for half as much.
    All easy in hindsight of course…oh yeh…

  3. Harry Chiti October 31, 2009 at 11:16 am
    Coming off a major injury and not having played at all down the stretch, Delgado would jump thru hoops to be offered arbitration. It would be a bad move by the Mets. I expect it to happen.