After a terrific first season with the Mets in during which he hit .265/.361/.548 and a .302 EQA, Carlos Delgado and his 35-year-old elbows and hefty paycheck took an offensive nosedive. His final batting line was .258/.333/.448 with an EQA of .270. (Interesting side note: While researching this piece I noticed something weird on Delgado's Baseball Prospectus page. Despite his clear offensive regression his WARP3 only declined marginally from 6.3 to 6.2. He was credited with a somewhat absurd 25 FRAR [fielding runs above replacement] compared to just 4 in 2006, accounting for the sizable discrepancy between his offensive value and his WARP).
It's actually hard to explain Delgado's 2007 season. He was a year old, but I don't think anyone expected such a precipitous decline. We are mostly in the dark about his actual health situation, and he has had elbow, hip, and now hand injuries in his short time with the Mets. Delgado's numbers this year could be reasonably be explained by those injuries, but who's to know?
Interestingly, none of his batted ball stats changed very dramatically. His line drive, groundball and flyball rates were pretty steady. The biggest difference was his walk rate, which plummeted from 12.4% last year to just 8.8% this year. Somewhat surprisingly, his strikeout rate actually went down slightly; with such a change in his walk rate I would have expected to see a jump in the strikeouts but that didn't happen. Somewhat encouragingly, Delgado hit .297/.383/.498 from July through the end of the year, so there is reason to be optimistic for next year.
I actually expect Delgado's 2008 to be more in line with his 2006 year, which would be a huge lift for the Mets. His BABIP was .276 in 2006 (compared to .311 for his career), so given an average BABIP and even some natural age-related regression from his '06 production would leave him plenty useful (not to mention the gold glove caliber defense BP's supercomputer seems to think he contributes!).
Delgado will be playing first base every day next year whether or not he bounces back at the plate. He is signed through 2008 at $16 million and carries a mutual (player/team) option for 2009 at $12 million with a $4 million buyout. The Mets might consider a deal for Cincinnati's Adam Dunn, long a strikeout-prone saber darling with his prodigious power and walk rate. Dunn managed to raise his batting average to a respectable .264 this year and will turn 28 in November. He could play a corner outfield spot for a year before taking over at first base in 2009.
Or the Mets could just give Lastings Milledge a chance to play every day. That is, if he isn't traded for Dunn, Johan Santana, et al.