Inside Mr. Met's Head

June 29, 2010 10:46 PM

Mets Need to Capitalize on Injury Bug (Plus Lee)

dirty-utley.jpgDespite their little Puerto Rican funk, the Mets are playing surprisingly well. Considering my gimmicks this season have been a combination of perpetually bashing every level of the Mets organization, whining about player moves, and most recently terrible sports writers, I haven't had much to write about considering they're actually starting to play really well recently. Yet again, at the beginning of the season, I picked the Braves, Mets, Phillies one-two-three in the NL East and right now I'm right. You can all hold your applause.

Recently, the injury bug of the 2009 Mets has spread across the NL East. Jason Heyward, the Braves' 20 year old "scary good" outfielder (it's a baseball term I believe) is injured. So are the Phillies' Placido Polanco and Chase Utley. Mets fans should be hoping that each of these guys are hurt for a while considering that each are some of the biggest WAR players on each of their teams.

Perhaps most devastating of all is Utley's injury. Say all you want about Ryan Howard being the "preeminent slugger of our generation" (which he's not), Utley is the heart and soul of that Phranchise. 2B is not a premium offensive position but you wouldn't know that with Utley's production. His 3.2 WAR is 11th in all of baseball, tied with Kevin Youkilis. Just to compare, Heyward is at 1.8 WAR as of today.

It kind of goes without saying that the Mets absolutely need to make the most of these guys being injured. Lacking these bats in the lineup, barring some sort of epic replacement level madness (which I will now forever refer to as "The RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi Memorial Award"), will help the Mets out immensely. By the time these players get off the DL, the Mets could potentially lead the division and perhaps even bury those Fightin' Phillies.

I don't even think they need to play way over their heads to accomplish this. If the bats continue to stay above average, and even if Dickey and Takahashi regress slightly toward the mean, the Mets could have the lead by the time they all return from the DL. Even though WAR is cumulative and cannot be predicted over the course of an entire season, if these injured players were removed for the entire year hypothetically the Braves would be 1.8 wins worse and the Phillies 5.2 games worse. That's something the Mets absolutely have to take advantage of.

This especially holds true if the Mets are seriously going to make a run for a pitcher like Cliff Lee. Say what you want about losing top prospects for a rental but Lee is arguably one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball right now. He's third in WAR for pitchers, only 0.1 points behind Roy Halladay even though he missed the first couple weeks of the season. This is a no brainer trade to improve the team. Lee 1.97 FIP shows that this isn't some sort of flukey season. Also, (dare I say this running the risk of getting thrown out of the sabermetric community) he really is a "big game pitcher." I know, I know, sample size whatever but he was amazing last year during the playoffs.

Even though Santana's rapid decent toward league averageness has cooled my love for the top of this pitching staff, it would be a scary proposition for opposing teams to go against Lee, Santana, and Pelfrey in a short series. That's a (don't kill me for jinxing it) World Series caliber playoff pitching rotation. Don't scoff at me. I heard you. Upon the return of Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan becomes expendable. I liked Pagan but I think he's a severe injury risk and would have no issue shipping him off for a player like Lee. Throw in Mejia and you've got yourself a pretty good deal that doesn't entirely destroy the farm system.

This is a move that has to be made. If the Mets want to bury the division now, add Lee.

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