Sunday, January 03, 2010

Jason Bay and the New York Mets Injuries

posted by Jon Williams

Photo from fOTOGLIF

I hope you have all borne witness to my powers. A few days ago I wrote about the New York Mets and Jason Bay and the very next day they had completed a deal. For my next trick...

Matt Holliday needs to accept that he will not receive a better offer than the 100 million dollar one he received from the St Louis Cardinals. If he waits much longer he risks pulling a Jody Reed (or more recently a Juan Gonzalez) and end up with a much lesser deal from a much lesser team. But this is not the topic of discussion today.

The Jason Bay deal is a fair one in my mind. It comes with considerable risk in its later years for the Mets but they understand that. They are one of the few teams that can afford give out contracts with extra years and extra millions tacked on to get the deal done. With just the tiniest bit of good luck avoiding injuries (unseen in Queens in quite some time) the Mets should bounce back quite strongly in 2010.

Bay has had just one bad season in his last seven and even that was due to playing through injuries. He walks at a 12.9 percent career rate. He strikes out quite a bit but nothing unexpected from a player with his power, which is considerable. He has a career .240 ISO, which was .269 in 2009 for the Red Sox. He has good plate discipline measured by a career 19.4 swing percentage at pitches out of the strike zone (MLB average is around 25 percent). What does this all mean for your fantasy team (and to a lesser degree for the Mets)? Bay should hit for a decent average with lots of homeruns. With a decent lineup around him he should score runs and collect RBI in bunches.

The key for the Mets is better health and productive seasons for the following players who were certainly disappointments in 2009:

David Wright, Third Baseman
The Mets franchise player was shook by the dimensions of Citi Field Park, which according to the small sample size of one season, actually plays neutral for homeruns. He fiddled with his swing and changed his game dramatically. The result was not a horrible season just not one we were not expecting. He was one of the few players to stay healthy the entire season (well, almost - he missed two weeks with a concussion) and should be productive again in 2010. The question is if this was a one year change or have we seen the last of the David Wright that belonged at the top of the first round in any fantasy draft.

Wright's batted ball rates were in the normal range - he hits a ton of line drives 25.7 percent in 2009, and 35.9 percent flyballs. The flyball rate dropped a couple percentage points but the real difference was in his HR/FB percentage which dropped from a career rate of 13.9 percent to a low of 6.9 percent in 2009. His plate discipline stats were right around career levels. I'm afraid that we will have to wait for David Wright to show us that things are returning to normal before Fantasy Owners can draft him with their former confidence. I'd take him in the second round if he lasted that long but surely someone in every league will jump the gun.

Jose Reyes, Shortstop
With a few years separating him from the rash of injuries that he suffered to begin his career, we had stopped thinking of Jose Reyes as injury prone. I am not suggested we re-attach the tag. However, Reyes is obviously still sensitive about the designation. He repeatedly tried to test the injury in an attempt to return as soon as possible and that set him back further each time. It also did not help that the Mets medical staff seemed unable to figure out exactly what was wrong with Reyes or how to treat it.

This lead Reyes' agent, Peter Greenberg to attempt his own solutions. He pressured the Mets to allow him to take Reyes to Toronto to receive platelet-rich plasma therapy — a procedure that does not violate baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policies — from Dr. Anthony Galea. If that name is familiar it is because he has also provided his service to other high-profile athletes such as Tiger Woods. Galea was recently arrested for attempted to smuggle drugs (including Human Growth Hormone) into the United States where he is not licensed to work. Fortunately, the Mets were smart enough to have a team official with Reyes during all the testing and treatment done with Galea so there is no reason to suspect Reyes of wrong doing. Unfortunately, the treatment did not work.

Reyes was finally forced to have surgery on his hamstring, which the Mets believe will solve the problem completely. In mid-December Reyes claimed to be healthy, and was doing some light running leading up to full workouts in January. The Mets expect him to be at full health to start Spring Training. Fantasy would be wise to avoid drafting Reyes in the early rounds before seeing evidence that he is in fact healthy and ready to resume stealing bases at a high rate of success.

Carlos Beltran, Center Fielder
Carlos Beltran was assigned to the disabled list because of a bone bruise behind the right knee cap on June 22nd. He wouldn't play again until September 8th. Beltran seems like another victim of the Mets' medical staff's inability to properly diagnose injuries but there is no evidence (aside from a very long recivery period) that they did anything wrong. Like Reyes, the player and his agent began to seek second opinions from outside sources. Beltran visited Dr. Richard Steadman in Colorado. Steadman is the doctor who invented microfacture surgery but he agreed with the Mets that Beltran was suffering from a bone bruise. Steadman suggested a longer rest and recovery period.

If Beltran is healthy he is one of the better players in baseball and worthy of a first round pick. Fantasy Owners would be wise to avoid picking Beltran too early but at least he was able to play when the 2009 season ended. But as with the other names on this list Spring Training will tell the story. The Mets medical staff will return in 2010 largely intact. But they did release a statement in October regarding a new direction when it comes to treating and diagnosing injuries.

From the New York Post:
The medical staff will remain in place for 2010 but “we are changing our medical protocols to better treat and prevent injuries,” Wilpon said, declining to get into specifics. The son of owner Fred Wilpon also said he plans to take a more active role in how the club releases information about ailing players.

Injuries to Reyes, Beltran and Delgado became a season-long soap opera as they appeared to be close to playing again, only to remain sidelined. Beltran was the only one of the three who returned to the lineup.

Wilpon said part of the communication problems occurred when players were hurt on the road.

“We relied on visiting team doctors to diagnose,” he said. “When Jose had a hamstring tendon that was partially torn to begin with, the doctor in, I forget where it was, L.A., said it was his calf. Now the radiating pain was through his calf. It wasn’t really what happened.”
Carlos Delgado, First Baseman (presently a Free Agent)
Delgado is nearing the end of his career, of that there can be little doubt. But he was productive in limited time in 2009 and has just begun a stint as DH for Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League. The Mets are one of the few teams interested in adding a 39-year old first baseman, mostly because they do not have many options. Daniel Murphy was productive but with the Mets trying to put butts in the seats and get back to the playoffs, he'd fit better as depth for now.

Delgado missed most of the season due to a need for right hip surgery. Complications of the surgery delayed his winter league debut but he was able to perform as the designated hitter on Sunday (he went 1-for-4). Hip surgery has become all the rage, but older players like Delgado and Mike Lowell do not bounce back as quickly as Chase Utley and Alex Rodriguez. Fantasy Owners (and the Mets) are likely to see Delgado playing far less than full time and likely at a lesser level than they are used to seeing from the veteran slugger. I suggest fantasy owners avoid rostering Delgado unless they can bench him at minimal expense.

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