The Mets’ struggling lineup will receive a reinforcement Monday, as the team expects second baseman Luis Castillo to be ready for Monday night’s game against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Castillo has been on the disabled list since June 4 with a bruised foot, and was 2-for-13 with three walks in four rehabilitation games for Single-A St. Lucie.
“On-base is his big help,” Jerry Manuel said. “His ability to see a lot of pitches. It’s kind of something we have lacked. … There are not many guys that see many pitches. When Castillo is back there, there is that sense that the pitch count can go up from the opposition.”
Jerry’s spot on here. On-base is Luis Castillo’s big benefit to the Mets right now. For a while, I thought Ruben Tejada might be able to hold his own with the bat enough to make him a worthwhile play over Castillo thanks to his better defense, but Tejada has since slumped and the Mets can’t score runs.
It’s not hard to figure out why: Last night’s lineup featured three guys with OBPs under .300. Different personnel, but same deal on Saturday. The Mets have a number of good hitters in their lineup, but few teams can shoulder 3-5 out machines in their lineup every night.
Obviously these are suboptimal conditions. Castillo and Jose Reyes are hurt and Carlos Beltran cannot yet play in every game. Adding those three to the regular lineup will help, not only because of their offensive contributions, but because it will mean fewer at-bats for Tejada, Alex Cora and Jeff Francoeur.
And actually, if Castillo and Reyes are back tonight and Beltran and Angel Pagan start, the Mets will likely reduce the total to one out-machine in the lineup.
That’s kind of the thing: Everyone on the team and around the team raves about Rod Barajas’ contributions to the pitching staff, and those I don’t doubt. What I will continue to wonder, though, is if what Barajas adds defensively can make up for his downright putrid offense over the past couple of months.
Check it out: Since June 1, Barajas is hitting .169 with a .229 OBP and a .202 slugging. A .431 OPS. As a point of comparison, Mets pitchers have a combined .425 OPS in 2010.
It’s not good. It’s a burden the Mets might be able to carry if Beltran returns to being something like Carlos Beltran and David Wright remains awesome, but the frustrating thing is it appears the Mets actually have an in-house upgrade available. Generally when a starter struggles or gets hurt, the Mets must turn to guys like Cora and Tejada.
But young catcher Josh Thole has torn the cover off the ball in his short stint with the team, just as he did after a rough April in Triple-A. Thole’s not going to maintain his .524 batting average and isn’t even likely to match his cumulative .783 mark in Triple-A. But at this point, he’s a pretty safe bet to represent a significant offensive upgrade over Barajas.
Don’t get on me about the importance of a catcher’s leadership and game-calling and staff-handling. I know about that stuff. I promise. What I’m trying to say is that there are several ways to win baseball games, and scoring lots of runs is a solid one. The Mets would certainly lose something behind the plate by starting the inexperienced Thole more often, but they’d probably make up more than the difference on offense. That’s the point. Net gain.
Thole has options, so he’ll likely be shipped out of town at some point during the upcoming spate of roster moves. That’s a shame, as the Mets will likely be dispatching an upgrade to their Major League team.