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2005 Preview: Right Field

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With actual exhibition games starting in just a few days, and a brand new blog with no actual content yet, I'm going to kick things off by previewing the 2005 Mets position-by-position. First up is right-field. Here is what Mets right-fielders did at the plate in 2004 (min: 40 AB):

2004 METS RIGHT-FIELDERS

                   AB      BA     OBP     SLG      OPS
Richard Hidalgo   306    .242    .311    .490     .801
Karim Garcia      180    .233    .270    .406     .675
Victor Diaz        49    .265    .294    .510     .804
Eric Valent        42    .214    .233    .476     .709
Shane Spencer      40    .250    .367    .275     .642
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All Mets RF       638    .243    .300    .451     .752
NL RF             611    .268    .352    .453     .805

"All Mets RF" are cumulative stats for everyone who played right-field for the Mets in 2004, including those with fewer than 40 at-bats. "NL RF" is the 2004 National League average for right-fielders, including the Mets.

Mets right-fielders, collectively, were not very good in 2004. They were 9% below the NL average in BA, a whopping 15% below the average in OBP, and 7% below the NL average in OPS. The huge difference between BA and OBP can be explained by a general lack of plate discipline among this group. In other words, they just didn't know how to draw a walk. A .300 OBP is completely unacceptable at any positon, let alone a power spot like right-field. National League catchers got on base at a .323 clip. Catchers!! Shortstops reached base at a .318 clip.

Richard Hidalgo came over mid-season in a trade from the Houston Astros, and was hot for a couple of weeks before cooling off considerably, perhaps due in part to a nagging groin injury. His slugging was solid, but he just didn't get on base frequently enough to be productive. Sadly, Hidalgo was the best the Mets had out there last year.

Karim Garcia was a complete disaster at the plate. The only good thing you can say about him is that the Mets landed Mike DeJean from the Orioles in exchange for him, who pitched extremely well last season.

Victor Diaz, Eric Valent, and Shane Spencer didn't really play enough in right-field to make their stats very meaningful. Diaz and Valent showed nice pop, but also had a tough time geting on base. Not shown in the chart above are the 15 strikeouts Diaz accrued in only 49 at-bats. He also only walked once. He should start 2004 at Norfolk to work on his pitch recognition, because he's not going to get much playing time once this next guy gets going.

Mike Cameron. Accustomed to playing center-field his whole career, Cameron will have to make the transition to right-field in 2005 if he is going to stay with the Mets. Considering there's a new Cameron trade rumor seemingly every day, he's certainly not a lock to be with the Mets come April. Considering the players he's been rumored to be traded for, the Mets will be much better off hanging on to him. He slugged .479 in 2004, which is terrific for a center-fielder and, based on the chart above, would be better than average for a right-fielder. He only got on base 32% of the time last year, but based on early projections (using Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA Forcasting System), Cameron should be closed to the league-average right-fielder in that category in 2005.

He also stole 22 based in 28 attempts for a 79% success rate and, despite an off-year defensively, can be expected to provide very good defense in right-field. He is an outstanding glove-man in center-field, which usually translates to an outstanding glove-man in right-field. The reasoning is that, despite having to learn a semi-new position, his speed and range as a center-fielder will help him make that transition. Plus, his performance will be measured against lesser defenders than when he played center.

Average OBP, above-average SLG, well-above-average defense, a bunch of stolen bases, 20-30 homeruns, $6.5 million? Unless someone comes along and blows the Mets away with a trade offer for Cameron, the 2005 Mets will be much better off with him than without him.