Brooklyn Bat Control
By ALEX BRITELL
June 20, 2005
Mookie Wilson is remembered, perhaps unfairly, more for one late-autumn would-be groundout in 1986 than, say, his 327 career stolen bases. But as far as the Mets' future is concerned, the most pertinent element of Wilson's legacy as a player is neither - it is his role as a dynamically fast and frustratingly aggressive leadoff man. Does any current Met come to mind?
To gauge the similarities between Wilson and, you guessed it, current shortstop Jose Reyes, let's look at something called Isolated Discipline, which is derived by subtracting batting average from on-base average. For instance, a player who hits .330 but gets on base at a clip of .350 is hitting well, but clearly not drawing many walks. If a healthy portion of those hits weren't falling in, he'd be pretty ineffective
. Wilson had a career isolated discipline of .040; Jose Reyes's is a paltry .023; the National league average is around .069.
This is significant for two reasons. First, Reyes has been emblematic of what seems to be an organization-wide aversion to getting on base, as his .279 OBA and eight walks this season would attest. Second, and more important, the selection of Wilson as manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, who kick off their fifth season tomorrow, reinforces the suspicion that the Met front office is generally uninterested in the theory and practice of plate discipline.
Wilson, who managed at rookie level Kingsport for the last two years, maintains that the mostly developmental post of managing the Mets' Class-A team in Brooklyn needn't involve teaching the strike zone to his young hitters.
"You're talking to a guy who struck out a hundred times a year, and you're asking about plate discipline?"
Wilson said with a laugh on Saturday, when the Cyclones held their annual open practice to introduce the team to the press. "Really, it's very important, but it's not the beginning and the end here, because these kids are still learning, and there is not going to be the kind of discipline we would like to see."
If it's so important, shouldn't it be a fundamental part of how the Mets teach baseball to their prospects?
"Some kids, no matter how you stress it, it's not going be their game, so we have to take those kids for what they are, and make them be the best they can be, given what their given talents are," Wilson said. "We can't remake these kids; they are who they are. We can refine them, and make them more consistent."
Wilson is not alone, of course. He is really just echoing the belief expressed by Mets manager Willie Randolph that the team shouldn't take away Reyes's style of play. It all seems to parallel what Mets GM Omar Minaya once said when he was running the Montreal Expos: "I'm not in the on-base percentage camp. I'm in the athleticism-with-baseball intelligence camp."
Many would argue that drawing walks and taking pitches are crucial elements of baseball intelligence. One way or the other, this says a lot about the Mets' seemingly systemic refusal to acknowledge the truism that making fewer outs leads to more runs.
Cyclones hitting coach Donovan Mitchell explained things a little differently: "We don't talk to them much about taking pitches and all that. We want them to recognize what their pitch is, and once they recognize what their pitch is and what they can hit, then that's when the plate discipline takes over. When a guy knows, 'Hey, I can't handle this pitch,' then he won't swing at it."