Terry Collins & the Spring Training Follies

A recent NY Post article by Kevin Kernan had me shaking my head in wonderment, “Mets look to clear up Davis situation quickly.”

First off, clear it up quickly?! That ship sailed long ago.

Secondly, let’s state the obvious. Terry Collins is excited. Because he’s always excited. That’s his thing. It’s what he does. Terry brings that puppyish energy 24/7.

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He claims that first base is “wide open” between Lucas Duda and Ike Davis (so, um, not really “wide open,” Josh Satin and Wilmer Flores might think).

Kernan writes:

If both of those players fail, the Mets could go to Plan C, moving second baseman Daniel Murphy to first and bringing Eric Young Jr. in from the outfield to play second.

Collins promised when the full squad is here, this will be a much different camp than he has ever run before with the Mets. He hopes to get Davis 90 at-bats in spring training before deciding who will be his starting first baseman.

The Mets are hopeful Davis will not uppercut as much, that he will forget about trying to hit home runs — less loop, more contact, more backspin.

None of this makes sense. Nothing will be resolved quickly if Ike needs 90 ABs, a number that would require a near miracle to attain (see: 2013 Spring Training stats, below).

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Okay, the Mets don’t want Ike to try to hit home runs. I know, I know. The concept is that “trying” is the problem, not the homers. But it’s a strange message, nonetheless, since every positive comment about Ike centers around the number “32.” The trying isn’t the problem; it’s the doing. Home run hitters look for pitches they can drive over the wall. It’s what they do.

Plan C would require, what?, a late Spring shift of two players to new positions, and would effect the outfield, too. That’s Plan C. Just to be nutty!

Terry says:

“In the past you look to get him 60-70 at-bats. Well, he’s going to get at least 90. Yeah, he might get a little tired but he’s too big a piece. We have to know what we have there. This is a huge spring training for us. We’ve got a lot of decisions to make. There’s going to be a lot more emphasis on at-bats and innings pitched. We’ve got to come out spring training ready to go. We can’t wait to June.’’

ike_davis-300x30016Right, because there’s going to be so much awesome information about Ike Davis acquired in six weeks of Florida ball. He’s been in the Mets organization since 2008. He’s embarking on his 5th season in the majors. The plan is to make decisions based on 90 ABs?

Here’s the stat the Mets care most about: Ike Davis signed a contract for $3.5 million. They didn’t non-tender him. Ike’s going to play. Terry loves Ike. It’s Joanie Loves Chachi.

Terry also says:

“As for the additions we’ve made, I’ve heard great things about Chris Young as a guy, we just have to get him off to a better start. We’ve been very impressed with Lagares. If we were to start today, he’d be the center fielder but if Chris Young comes along, heck, he was an All-Star center fielder three years ago. If Eric Young shows us in camp he can get on base, we have to find a spot for him, he changes our offense, as he did last summer. When he got on we scored runs. This guy creates runs. We have to get him on base more. We got to get him to layoff some pitches, we’ve got to get him to bunt.’’

That’s either a verbal tick of Terry’s, or a radical misunderstanding of his own ability to impact play on the field. Terry talks endlessly about “getting guys going.” This is the rationale trotted out to explain playing a guy who isn’t productive, or keeping him in a prime lineup spot despite poor results.

As for Chris Young’s “better start,” I hope they work on his “middle” and “end” too. He hit .200 for the whole of 2013. In eight seasons, he’s hit below .240 five times. I’m not sure that beginnings are his problem.

chris-youngThe Mets brain trust appears willing to ditch Juan Lagares for Chris Young’s 2014 audition for next winter’s free agency. They appear willing to ditch Lagares for Eric Young, because the almost 29-year-old with the career .663 OPS, in Terry’s thinking, “creates runs.” This is the mindset before spring training begins. In one season of his career, Eric Young delivered an OPS above .650. Once! Now he’s the guy we’ve got to get on the field.

Let’s review last season’s Mets 2013 Spring Training stats. Please note that hitters typically do well in Florida, since they face a lot of not-ready-for-prime-time arms. Established players use Spring Training to work on things, address flaws in their game. To pretend this is some kind of meaningful competition is foolish. To put undo pressure on Juan Lagares, for example, could undermine his ability to work on his game.

Note, too, the AB numbers. So when Terry talks about Ike getting “at least 90 ABs,” he must be counting batting practice.

  • Valdespin, 67 ABs,          .313/.361/.522
  • Lutz, 65 ABs,                 .308/.378/.415
  • Cowgill, 66 ABs,             .303/.378/.591
  • Duda, 63 ABs,                .270/.324/.571
  • Davis, 55 ABs,               .327/.431/.455
  • Tejada, 52 ABs,              .096/.210/.192
  • Baxter, 51 ABs,              .176/.348/.255
  • Quintanilla, 47 ABs,        .213/.309/.319
  • D’Arnaud, 35 ABs,          .343/.415/.457
  • Flores, 21 ABs,               .143/.143/.143
  • Lagares, 12 ABs,            .167/.167/.250

What does any of this mean?

Well, first off, there’s major sample size issues. Factoring in the competition makes the data even murkier. It’s noise with almost no signal, at least statistically.

Spring Training is not the time to “clear up” the Ike Davis situation, it’s a time for building preparedness. In fact, the Ike Davis situation has already been cleared up. He’s still the Mets first baseman, now earning $3.5 million.

That said:

* Juan Lagares was an afterthought last spring, with 12 ABs. They are already making plans to put obstacles in his way. When they brought Lagares up last season, they sat him while Rick Ankiel flailed around and the team floundered. Rinse and repeat.

* Wilmer Flores couldn’t get on the field, either. I remember, because I complained about it all spring. Daniel Murphy was hurt and the ABs went to Turner, Hicks, Bixler . . . nobody who is on the team anymore.

* Ike Davis had a wonderful spring, the narrative was joyous, and it meant nothing. Again: Ike Davis has a great spring and it meant nothing.

* Colin Cowgill was the hitting star of camp, along with Jordany Valdespin. Not so much in the regular season. But that’s to be expected: It’s only spring training.

* Lucas Duda had a terrific camp, too, slugging .571. Nobody noticed, apparently, that he couldn’t play the outfield. So while Ike was killing the team for two solid months, no one thought of trying Duda at 1B. Because? Outfield! (And it might have hurt Ike’s feelings.)

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10 comments

  1. Mack Ade says:

    James… you can’t listen to TC when there is a mike in front of him. He thinks it’s a brat…

  2. James, You’re completely right. There’s more than enough history here to know what these players will do once they actually take the field in meaningful games. Spring Training is the time to get these guys ready to go once the bell rings, not to be having meaningless competitions between position players for whom we can already predict with a great deal of accuracy what they are likely to produce on the field. Ike should be gone already, and Flores might have made good trade bait if we’d had a more imaginative GM. Too late now, but in the meantime, let’s stop pretending Ike will bat .270 and hit 35 homers. Or that there’s any reason to play Chris Young ahead of Lagares in CF.

    • wkkortas says:

      Well, said Bill. Ike has 1700 plate appearances in the bigs. Chris Young has almost 4000. If you don’t know them by now, you will never, ever, ever know them.

      It’s been reported that the Pirates and Kendrys Morales have “mutual interest.” I’m not sure that’s not a negotiating tack on the Bucs’ parts–parting with draft picks is not part of their modus operandi–but if the two get together, the music stops with Duda and Davis looking at one chair.

  3. Reese Kaplan says:

    Chris Young should be in one outfield corner with Curtis Granderson in the other with Juan Lagares of the four consecutive springs and winter averaging over .300 in CF and given a REAL chance to show what he can do.

    The contract given to Terry Collins ranks right up there in Jason Bay territory for money thrown out the window and negatively impacting the team.

    • Alan K. says:

      If the Mets had fired Collins they would have promoted either Bob Geren (who never finished over .500 in 4 plus seasons in Oakland before losing the clubhouse) or Teufel (whose minor league managerial record is 75 games under .500 over six seasons). Highly unlikely Sandy would ever hire Wally Backman.

  4. Alan K. says:

    Alderson has made it clear that he considers managers nothing more than middle managers whose job is to implement his team’s organizational philosophy. Keep in mind that Sandy replaced Tony LaRussa with Art Howe.

  5. Eraff says:

    When a GM Fires a Manager, the Clock STOPS ticking on the Manager—it STARTS Ticking on the GM

  6. bmfc1 says:

    Nice job using a small, yappy dog to represent our small, yappy manager.

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