Appreciating an Angel

It was a few days before my 18th birthday in May of 2007 when I went to a Mets-Cubs matinee game. Donning my Oliver Perez jersey (who was pitching that day), I watched as a young Cubs outfielder named Angel Pagan stepped to the plate. With seats right behind the home dugout, it was then I first witnessed up close what coaches and scouts call a “whip-like” swing when Pagan took Perez deep for a two-run homer.

Moving away from the game (which the Mets won dramatically with a 5-run ninth inning), I want to take a minute to appreciate Angel Pagan, who never gets enough love (especially from his own team). Pagan, who will turn twenty-nine years old in July, was originally drafted by the Mets out of Puerto Rico and was re-acquired in 2008 after previously being dealt to the Cubs. Angel is off to a tremendous start this year. He’s hitting .291/.358/.424 for a .350 wOBA and 117 wRC+ after racking up 2.9 WAR in 2009. Combine those offensive numbers with a UZR/150 of 13.6 in center field (after a 13.8 mark playing all outfield spots last season) and you get 1.4 WAR thus far for Pagan, tied with David Wright for the team lead among hitters. Considering that Pagan was acquired for peanuts and makes that as a salary as well, he’s turned into quite the asset for the Mets.

However, there is a catch. If/when Carlos Beltran returns, the Mets will need to boot somebody from their starting job. Eno Sarris wrote about this the other day at Amazin’ Avenue, saying:

You see, when Carlos Beltran comes back, there will be an outfield log jam. If Beltran can play center field, he will form a productive tandem in center with Angel Pagan that should have the position covered. That leaves right field for Frenchy and Chris Carter. The easy answer is to release Gary Matthews Jr and leave Carter as the backup, but what’s the right answer? (Let’s just leave the question of what happens if Beltran can’t play center aside for now.)

Like a Supreme Court justice, I’ll dissent in part and concur in part. I agree that Chris Carter should see more playing time and that Jeff Francoeur and Gary Matthews Jr. should have their time limited (if not eliminated). However, instead of platooning both center and right field, I think it’d be optimal for the Mets to bench Francoeur for good and put Carlos Beltran in right field. Beltran will be coming off serious knee issues and declined defensively last year. The Mets can mitigate his stress back in the outfield by putting him in right, leaving Pagan in center, and of course having Jason Bay in left field. Chris Carter and Jeff Francoeur can sit on the bench, and Gary Matthews Jr. can go home and buy really cool stuff with his tens of millions of dollars.

Pagan’s a valuable player and the Mets currently have a right fielder who has been worth -0.1 WAR and has a wOBA of .282. Let’s not penalize good players for playing well and vice versa. It’s time Pagan was appreciated.

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Comments

  1. Metsfann said...

    Obviously, Gary Matthews, Jr. must be removed from the Mets. However, although Francoeur does not always produce at the plate, I think it would be a mistake to bench him because he is a tremendous defensive outfielder. The reason the Phillies failed to score during their game on May 26th is because they were afraid to run from 3rd because Francoeur has the ability, and has demonstrated it before, to gun them down from right field. If/when Beltran arrives back with the Mets (and I’m beginning to believe that situation is not a given this season, and even if it does happen I do not believe that he will ever be 100% again), perhaps the team would be better off easing Beltran back into the game by letting him ride the bench for a while.

  2. Pat Andriola said...

    Metsfann,

    Francoeur’s okay defense does not make up for his abysmal offense. Sure, Frenchy’s arm scared the Phils in one instance. Frenchy also has an OPS of .645, which is far too law for a rookie shortstop, let alone a supposedly-slugging right fielder.

    Fangraphs says Francoeur’s arm has been worth 1 run above average this year. Considering his bat has been worth -6 below average, I’ll take my chances elsewhere.

  3. DonCoburleone said...

    Francoeur sucks, how many terrible seasons and horrible at-bats is it gonna take for people to realize that?

  4. Matt S said...

    It’s hard to imagine Gary Matthews Jr being on any other team besides the Mets, who are incompetently run top down. He has been utterly useless in everyway. The sensible thing now would be to cut GMJ, platoon Carter and Francoeur in RF and have Pagan man ceter. If Beltran then comes back able to play center, Pagan should split time between center spelling Beltran and RF (RF at Citifield is huge and his range would be a great fit there). Playing time spent on Francoeur should be minimized to lefties only since he is a wasted at bat most of the time. His range limits his defensive abilities to being below average even with his great arm (he is hardly a tremendous or even good RF). The advantage of either Pagan or Beltran in right defensively would be several runs saved a year in comparison. Seeing as this is the Mets, none of these things will happen useless both Manuel and Minaya get canned.

  5. db said...

    If Beltran can play center, he should.  Pagan to right, with Francoeur to the bench.  Mathews should be dfa’d once Pride comes off the AAA dl.

  6. 3FingersBrown said...

    Here here. Pagan’s got to be on the field, whether in CF or RF. Frenchy’s arm is not worth his inability to get on base.

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