Who Embodies the Mets?

In a story published on WSJ.com, Tim Marchman suggests that Kirk Nieuwenhuis “personifies” the Mets.

Do you agree?

Marchman’s piece starts out by establishing the following parallels: Jason Heyward symbolizes the Braves, Chase Utley the Phillies, Bryce Harper the Nationals, and Rob Brantly the Marlins. So it’s not necessarily the best player on a particular team, but rather, the player on that team that most closely resembles the team as a whole — for one reason or another (or several reasons).

Get it?

So, Captain Kirk personifies the Mets because:

Last year, Nieuwenhuis hit .252/.315/.376, so that his OPS+—on-base plus slugging percentage, adjusted for park and league effects and indexed to 100—was 91. Over the last three decades, 13 center fielders have hit within five points of that either way over at least 300 plate appearances at age 24. Every one was a success, or is right now a still developing and valuable property. … That a player who wasn’t quite good enough for last year’s lousy team has the potential to do this well says something about the value of youth and of a reasonably broad base of skills. And that goes not just for the player, but, in all its ingloriousness, the team he represents so well.

Like Nieuwenhuis, the Mets are fairly young and flawed in obvious, not easily correctable ways.

It’s an interesting way to look at the Mets (and other teams). Though, it’s a bit unsettling when Marchman states this about Nieuwenhuis:

He doesn’t do anything that well, but he also isn’t terrible at a variety of things. Not being terrible counts for a lot.

So there it is: the Mets won’t be terrible. Hmm …

Marchman also says this:

Like their maybe center fielder, though, the Mets also are not terrible at a wide range of things. The infield and the rotation are solid, maybe better than that; the bullpen looks passable in theory; the outfield has some promise. They’ll get on base and hit for a bit of power, the pitching will keep them in games and the defense won’t botch too many. That isn’t inspiring, but it’s something. Not being bad is important.

Sadly, I’m not quite as optimistic about the Mets as these statements suggest. For one, I don’t see the rotation as “solid” — especially with Johan Santana a huge question mark and Jeremy Hefner filling in as the #5, and also because I’m not convinced Shaun Marcum will stay healthy beyond 15-20 starts. In the outfield, I don’t see any promise, beyond the possibility that Lucas Duda might “figure it out” and become a beast. The stat comparison with which Marchman begins his story to me is a stretch; for me it’s one of those situations where if you look long and hard at enough different numbers, you’re bound to find SOMETHING positive. So Captain Kirk is one of 13 CFs with a 85-95 OPS over 300 PAs by age 24 — does that mean he’ll be Andruw Jones? Maybe Nieuwenhuis is also one of only 4 lefthanded-hitting CFs to hit 7 HR in his first 65 MLB games, and the other three guys are in the Hall of Fame — is that an indication of anything? What I saw from Nieuwenhuis was a kid who was hot when he came up, cooled off, and never adjusted after a rip-roaring debut. The adjusted and indexed OPS that Marchman alludes to was as high as it was based primarily on Kirk’s first 150 or so plate appearances — after that, his numbers are dismal.

But, maybe that’s why Nieuwenhuis DOES personify the Mets — maybe the Mets only look promising based on small sample sizes, or because of their inspiring first halves of the past three years.

If it’s not Captain Kirk, then who — if anyone — embodies the Mets, and why? Answer in the comments.

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. argonbunnies March 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm
    I think Marchman nailed it. Kirk is a likable guy who plays hard, will occasionally wow you with a great catch or opposite-field homerun, and is young enough to dream about, but ultimately doesn’t measure up to the competition. Sounds exactly like the Terry Collins Mets.

    Daniel Murphy is the other side of the Mets — one plus skill (in his case, hitting for contact and average), a host of shortcomings he’s worked on to make passable, but a limited ceiling. It seems like at any given moment the Mets might be pretty good at one thing, and faking it enough to get by on the rest… until they aren’t.

  2. Crozier March 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm
    If the Mets are to succeed, they’ll do it with pitching, as has historically been the case. So while I get where Marchman is coming from, I think of Matt Harvey as the embodiment of the Mets. I don’t expect him to be Tom Seaver (who certainly embodied the team for 10 years), but he’s capable of being a stellar pitcher. And if both he and Wheeler succeed, it could have the kind of impact R.A. Dickey couldn’t bring — however great his season was, Dickey neither represented the future, nor could he inspire a youth movement. Harvey holds that potential.
  3. friend March 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm
    No matter how many times I say it aloud while looking in the mirror, Tom Not Terrible just doesn’t have the same ring as Tom Terrific.
    • Joe Janish March 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm
      What about “Tom Not Bad” ?
      • friend March 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm
        Maybe I’ll try saying it to a fun house mirror.
  4. TexasGusCC March 20, 2013 at 2:03 am
    I think Daniel Murphy personifies the Mets. He is flawed as a player (defensively), but has some potential (hitter). However, we are still waiting for it all to come together as a hitter, just like we are waiting for the potential shown by the young players to become reality. He has shown some power, at times. He has shown some average, at times. However, when things are starting to trend upwards, he suffers an injury.

    Secondly, the Mets rotation is more solid than people will give them credit for, but it is no better than third in the division with or without Santana. The Nationals and Phillies still sport the stronger rotations based on track record and ability. However, the Braves rotation can very well become a catasrophe. As argonbunnies often points out, the Braves bullpen and the Nationals bullpens both show themselves as difference makers, but for the first six innigs, I like the Mets better.

    Let’s compare the Braves starters to the Mets starters:

    Hudson or Santana? Hudson because he’s healthy, but if Santana can be healthy by late April, they have the same stuff and I rate them close.

    Harvey or Medlen? Medlen was amazing for two months, but please excuse the skepticism. Where was he before that? The bullpen. Call it even here too, but I think I’d rather have Harvey

    Niese or Maholm? Maholm used to get knocked around, but has adjusted and now their numbers are quite similar.

    Minor or Gee? Minor on potential, Gee on results. Close again.

    Marcum or Teheran? Marcum is solid and has been consistant, Teheran is electric but his ERA last year wasn’t over 5.00 by accident. He gets wild and MLB hitters know what to do with a fastball.

    Hence, starting pitching is even to maybe a slight edge for the Mets. If Santana is out and the number five spot is not for sure either way (be it injury for Marcum or inconsistancy for Teheran), would you rather have Harvey, Niese, and Gee, or Medlen, Maholm, and Minor?
    I like the Mets side better.

    • argonbunnies March 20, 2013 at 8:49 am
      Great points on Murphy! The whole “injuries mess everything up” angle does need to be included. Though I guess Kirk’s injury history works for that too.

      As for the rotations, I like those comparisons. A few thoughts:

      I’d take Niese over Maholm by a good margin. I’m hoping Maholm’s been a bit lucky and could yet revert to his 2009-2010 form.

      The Harvey / Medlen comp is weird. Harvey has a chance to be the next Roger Clemens, and Medlen has a chance to be the next Greg Maddux. Harvey’s a big dude with great stuff and a bulldog attitude. Medlen’s a smart little guy with pinpoint control of his secondary stuff who never walks anyone. I think they’ll both be good for a long time, but I have to favor Medlen in 2013 based on his recent success.

      Hudson and Santana are both beat up old warriors without their former stuff, but with a few top-notch skills that can make them tough on a given night. Hudson’s sinker seems to have a bigger margin for error than Johan’s fastball/change up, though. I’d say Tim has the higher floor; he should be at least okay, while we’ve seen Johan can be awful when things aren’t right.

      I think any scout would take Minor over Gee, but yeah, Gee’s record of getting it done is better. Upside or reliability? I dunno. I’ve never actually seen Minor pitch.

      Teheran appears to have a ways to go before he’s as effective as Marcum. I don’t see him taking that leap in 2013.

      So where does that leave the two rotations overall? I don’t know. Pretty close, I guess. Right now the Mets seem to have more risk of injury, and the Braves seem to have more risk of healthy players being ineffective. I think the Mets’ edge may come down to their 6th and 7th guys. I want to have faith in Hefner…

    • TexasGusCC March 20, 2013 at 9:26 am
      I just noticed in the comments (as I had read them yesterday earlier in the day, but did not reread them before posting last night) that:
      1. I directly contradicted argonbunnies. Sorry argon, unintended, but I would have at least acknowledged the difference of opinion;
      2. I seem to come across as a cheerleader of sorts, but that was just the rotation, don’t think that I am excited about the lineup or think this team can make the playoffs…
      It seems dumping on the Mets is much en vogue. It has been said that even negative publicity is good. LOL, really?
      • argonbunnies March 20, 2013 at 10:08 am
        No sweat! I totally respect your take, just disagree on a few points. I actually typed a long reply to your rotation analysis above, but for some reason it’s “awaiting moderation”.

        Basically I think the Mets’ starters are more likely to be solid if healthy, while the Braves’ starters may have an edge on upside and/or health.

        I’m mainly dumping on the Mets in an attempt to avoid more disappointment, and to develop a realistic picture of when we might be good again. I’m guessing 2016. If some consensus could emerge around that, then maybe it’d be easier for me to convince myself to watch the Blue Jays for the next few years.

    • Joe Janish March 20, 2013 at 10:35 am
      Gus, you have a much more optimistic outlook than I when it comes to the Mets rotation.

      Hudson vs. Santana, to me, is no contest, because I don’t see Santana pitching more than a dozen games (if that) — his shoulder is shot.

      Niese vs. Maholm – I’d lean toward Niese, but as you mention, their numbers are frighteningly similar.

      Medlen vs. Harvey – where was Medlen? He was Matt Harvey three years ago, then had TJ surgery, and now appears to be back on track toward being a very solid #2- or #3-type starter. Will Harvey be better than that? Maybe eventually, but I’m not expecting it in 2013.

      Minor vs. Gee – Minor is where Niese was this time last year, so there’s a chance he steps up as Niese did. I don’t see Gee evolving much more than he has at this point, and his labrum tear is always looming in the back of my mind. I’d call this even, but lean toward Minor having a more productive season.

      Marcum vs. Teheran – tough one, as there’s so much uncertainty with both pitchers. Will Marcum start more than 20 games? Is Teheran for real? But really, in my mind, I’m subtracting Santana from the equation, so it becomes Marcum vs. Hudson (Hudson wins) and Hefner vs. Teheran (Teheran wins).

      BTW the Braves may have Brandon Beachy returning from TJ surgery in the second half. I imagine they’ll follow the same path they did with Medlen, easing him back in the bullpen first.

      • DaveSchneck March 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm
        Gus definitely brings the optimism, which we certainly can use. Starting pitching can create optimism, especially a guy like Harvey. This group is real tough to project as there is a wide range of outcomes that can make the Mets a 60s win team or low 80s. I just wish Alderson provided more support in the pen and with the defense… as the team is constituted, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the starters.
      • Rob March 20, 2013 at 5:18 pm
        Joe everything I read about Teheran froms cout types like Kieth law is that he is a picture who has fallen dramatically from his once top prospect billing to the point now he has serious bust potential. I also might point out you failed to mention a guy named wheeler :) So if Marcum or santana do falter after 10 to 15 starts there is a guy with all the talent in the world to pick up the remaining starts.

        Right now behind Bundy who is the consensus #1 prospect pitcher you could make a case for Wheeler at #2. You can trow in a few guys like Skaggs and Cole, but wheeler is def a top #5 SP prospect who is in reality ready now. Remember wheeler was regarded much more highly by pretty much all scouts then Harvey was and look how Harvey performed.

  5. Dan B March 20, 2013 at 7:48 am
    Mr. Met. End of story. He is cheap, under team control for a long time. Easily top 5 in the league at his position. One of the hardest working mascots out there now that he has to hang out with minority owners in addition to his normal game activities. Kids, women, and men all love him. Will still be working CitiField when Kirk is starting for the Long Island Ducks.
    • DaveSchneck March 20, 2013 at 8:40 am
      Agreed. Did you ever see the hands on that guy? Much bigger than Parnell’s or FF’s. He should be able to spina a slider like no one else on the team…definite closer candidate.
      • argonbunnies March 20, 2013 at 8:51 am
        And have you noticed how he doesn’t let situations get to him? Win or lose, he’s the same guy every day.
    • Since1969 March 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm
      Love Mr. Met. For a guy with that big a head, he doesn’t have a big head. A great example for others to follow.
  6. Dan B March 20, 2013 at 11:41 am
    Gus, as someone who is down on the current Mets, I’d much rather read your optimistic view. I always learn more from listening to someone who disagrees with me then with someone who agrees. I appreciate that most people on Mets Today debate rather then argue and insult.
    • TexasGusCC March 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm
      Thank you Dan. It is appreciated. It’s just that Ralph Kiner has always said: “You’re never as good as you look when everything is going good, and you are never as bad as you look when things are going bad.” I think that applies here because although they have holes all over the place, if things work out they may finish .500. If not, the Marlins are going to have company.