Jockbeat: Will the Mets have the best bats in baseball this year?
Of course, you can argue that they already have the best hitting team in baseball. In fact, I will argue it: last year, the Mets tied with the Phillies for the second highest total of runs scored in the National League, 799 (56 behind the Chicago Cubs). But the Cubs played their home games in Wrigley, a great hitter's park, and the Mets played theirs in a bad one, Shea. If you look what the Mets did on the road, they were first in runs scored (six ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals), and only five behind the major league's best road-hitting team, the Texas Rangers -- if you spotted the Mets a DH for a season, they surely would have passed up the Rangers. Now, if they had Ramirez this year ...
Okay, I'll drop the discussion of Manny except to add that there is no good reason why the Mets can't have the league's best hitting team. In fact, I'll go ahead and make a projection right here: no matter how Citifield turns out as a hitter's park, the Mets will have the best hitting lineup in baseball. Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado should hit 115 home runs minimum and steal 90-100 bases (despite Delgado's pushing 37), making them the best combination of lumber and lightning in baseball.
As of this morning, it looks as though Jerry Manuel has given up the silly experiment of batting Luis Castillo first, ahead of Reyes. Not that batting second would have cramped Reyes's style much anyway, but batting first give him his best chance of having his superstar breakout MVP season. Daniel Murphy looks to be the starting leftfielder and number two hitter, and if his on base percentage (.397 in 151 plate appearances in 2008) holds up over the season, the Mets' run scoring could be off the charts.
We're guessing that Wright will bat third and Beltran fourth with some occasional flipping to take advantage of Beltran's switch-hitting ability. Delgado should bat fifth, rightfielder Ryan Church sixth -- and if he can just maintain his career OBP of about .350 he'll do very well. Catcher Brian Schneider will be batting seventh, and Castillo (OBP of .355 last year with 17 steals in 19 tries) will take the eighth slot. The only possible drawback with this order is batting three straight lefthanders -- Delgado, Church, and Schneider -- but the first two hit lefties last year almost as well as righties.
Look for the Mets to score between 800 and 850 runs this season, and closer to 850 than 800. But damn -- if they had Manny ....