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.

2013 Spring Training

About the Author

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.

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