Mets Series Preview: Joe Janish

Fellow member of ESPN’s SweetSpot blog network Joe Janish was nice enough to get involved in a Q&A, previewing the upcoming series between the Phillies and Mets. His questions and my answers can be found at his blog Mets Today.

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1. Francoeur started the season 16-for-35 with a triple-slash line of .457/.535/.857. He then went into a slump where he went hitless for 22 straight at-bats. He then logged a hit in six of his next seven games though with not nearly the same level of success to open the season. Do you buy the Francoeur rebirth theories?

I think Francoeur’s issue in Atlanta was a combination of factors, one of which had to do with expectations. After hitting 29 HRs and driving in over 100 as a 22-year-old, there was the thought he was a future superstar. In truth, he benefitted from pitchers/scouts not knowing him and hitting in a high-powered lineup. Without the Jones boys, Adam LaRoche, etc. at the tops of their games, the focus was suddenly on Francoeur, and he didn’t make the necessary adjustments. Getting out of Atlanta was key to his “rebirth”, as the New York fans had low expectations.

He definitely has holes in his swing, and will never be a .300 hitter, but he’s slowing learning how to be a better hitter and I don’t see why he can’t finish with a .700 OPS, 18-22 HR, 80-90 RBI. That may not sound spectacular, but it’s enough for a Mets team that is supposed to be relying on the likes of David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, and Jose Reyes.

2. Can Jose Reyes rebound or is he going to flame out? He only has a .635 OPS so far in 2010 after missing most of ’09.

Reyes spent nearly all of spring training sitting on his couch. He literally was not allowed to do anything more strenuous than walking around at the mall. The Mets rushed him back into action in 3 weeks, and I don’t care who you are, it takes more than 3 weeks to get into the shape necessary to play any sport at a world-class level. Reyes will be fine, and in fact the early inaction may allow him to be fresh in August / September, and finish strong for the first time in his career.

3. How much rope does Oliver Perez have left? He has nearly as many walks (14) as he has strikeouts (16).

Oliver Perez has major problems with his mechanics, his focus, his velocity, and his confidence. Unfortunately he’s guaranteed another $24M, so I imagine the leash is much longer than it should be. Unless the Mets bring back a micro-manager type of pitching coach like Rick Peterson was, I don’t see any way Perez can be a valuable asset for the Mets.

4. Hisanori Takahashi has 21 strikeouts in just over 14 innings. How impressive has he been to watch on a daily basis?

Takahashi has been fun to watch, but I’m not expecting him to keep it up. I believe very strongly that “new” pitchers have a distinct advantage due to being “unknown”.

Takahashi’s success depends on his control, which is often pinpoint, because his velocity is in the high 80s and his breaking stuff is average. I believe he can continue to be strong in the role of long relief and would probably be better than Perez as a starter, but I don’t see the swings and misses as something that will continue over the long haul. Despite the early numbers, he is a “pitch to contact” guy.

5. The bullpen as a whole has had very good results in the opening month. Do you expect that trend to continue throughout the regular season?

Absolutely not. Jerry Manuel is managing for his job, and as such managing games and the bullpen accordingly — so I expect to see the relievers burn out early due to overuse. Additionally, I must again bring up the “unknown” factor, because the Mets have employed 4 rookies (Takahashi, Raul Valdes, Jennry Mejia, Ryota Igarashi)

and 2 somewhat underscouted (Fernando Nieve, Manny Acosta) arms. I’m concerned that the scouting reports will catch up to these relievers at the same time they begin tiring, and the roof will cave in.

6. Is Ike Davis overrated?

Yes and no. He’s definitely — so far — shown to be mature beyond his years as far as keeping an even keel and handling the New York media. Many inside the Mets organization compare him to John Olerud but I think that is a stretch; to me a better comp would be Adam Dunn.

He has a big, long, loopy swing that generates a ton of power and he seems to have a good idea of the strike zone. But his swing is unusual; he drops his hands and swings up, rather than the typical load behind the shoulder that takes advantage of gravity and leverage down to the point of contact.

Can it work? It has been so far, though I think he’ll be vulnerable to hard stuff up and in — but, hey, everyone has a vulnerability somehwere.

I do believe he will develop into a solid everyday first baseman, but whether he’ll be a star depends on how he adjusts. It will be interesting to see how he (and the Mets) handle his first prolonged slump.

7. Roy Halladay or Johan Santana?

Halladay, in a heartbeat, because he finishes what he starts.

8. David Wright’s power seems to have somewhat returned, but it still doesn’t appear to be at the level it was in 2008 and prior. Are you at all concerned about this, or do you think Wright will find his power sooner rather than later?

Wright’s power never worried me. His power outage last year was due more to his decision to shorten up his swing and hit the ball to the gaps, particularly in “hitter’s counts”, as well as a lack of protection in the lineup. There are some people who also have shown that Wright lost a few homers due to the dimensions of Citi Field, and the beaning he suffered in early September definitely affected the stats in his final month.

However, the lack of power seems to have gotten in his head, because he bulked up over the winter and is now swinging for the fences more often than ever before. The result is a low average (but high OBP) and a lot of swinging and missing.

If he ends up hitting 40-50 homeruns with the .400+ OBP, that’s OK, but I’d rather see him hit his usual .300+ with however many HR and the .400+ OBP, which has consistently resulted in 100 runs scored and another 100 driven in. Why fix what ain’t broke?

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Tip of the cap to Joe for being unbiased about his team. Now let’s hope the Phillies can sweep the Mets!

Video: Howard, Ibanez, Halladay Q&A

Per the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce:

Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Roy Halladay took some questions from fans at a meet-and-greet before the start of the season.

What would Halladay, Howard and Ibanez do if they weren’t professional baseball players? Did you know Halladay almost chose another sport to pursue? What musical instrument did Howard play in his high school marching band? Why does Ryan love hitting homers? And what’s his favorite $5 footlong?

Something I did not know: Ryan Howard was in his high school’s marching band. Nerd power!