>After seeing the Mets once again create a 3-4-5 of David Wright/Mike Jacobs/Jason Bay in the lineup against the University of Michigan, I am going to assume that Jerry Manuel has indeed become enamored with the idea of using Jacobs’ power from the left side to break up the two righties, Wright and Bay. Based on that first assumption – as well as Adam Rubin’s report saying as much, and Adam Rubin knows more about the Mets than the Mets themselves – Mike Jacobs is likely heading for the final bench spot, and may slowly chew away at Daniel Murphy’s playing time at first base. And get to hit cleanup a lot.
There are a couple of ways to look at this.
One way is from the Mets’ presumed perspective. Put on your rose-colored glasses! Jacobs is a career .263/.325/.505 hitter against right-handed pitching, with 84 home runs in 1640 plate appearances, or a home run every 17 or so at-bats. He averages 29 home runs and 91 RBI over 162 games played, although he’s never player more than 141 games in a season. Then again, Jacobs is also a veteran of five major league seasons, having played in 549 big league games. He’s a slugging, veteran, left-handed home run hitter who can fill in at first, or be a power bat off the bench.
Though, really, Jacobs just does a decent impersonation of a left-handed slugger on a team that lacks anything resembling a left-handed slugger. So he’s getting a lot of points for that. It’s sort of like being the sole female or male survivor of a plane crash that happens on a desert island. Suddenly, you just got a lot more attractive.
But, Jacobs had a miserable season last year. He finished hitting .228/.297/.401, struck out more than once for every four plate appearances, and was released by the Royals in December. He can’t hit lefties, and he can’t play defense, and he’s already 29 and likely isn’t getting any better. That’s the other way to look at it.
Actually, for a moment, let’s just meditate on that one part: Mike Jacobs was released by the Royals. The Royals! Maybe that’s all anyone needs to know. Think of it this way: If your crazy neighbors with greasy kids and 13 dogs and thousands of smelly cats dumped their used couch out on the sidewalk, would you really want to drag the couch into your house and sit on it, even if it once looked like something resembling a serviceable couch, even just to try it out? Especially if you have a crazy, um, “couch manager” – or something – in your house that is often oddly drawn to the zombies of formerly useful couches, and likes to place them in the middle of your, er, couch . . . batting order at the expense of your newer couches? *Analogy takes a final gasp and dies from abuse*
OK. But let’s say, for a second, that 2009 was an aberration and Mike Jacobs’ actual talent level is closer to what he was in the NL East the previous three seasons: .258/.314/.483, 23 or so home runs in about 500 plate appearances. Jacobs was a just-slightly-above league-average hitter, and is even further above-average when facing righties on the mound. If we look at it that way, Mike Jacobs could have some uses. Like old, smelly couches have some uses, such as in the basement, or as firewood.
If we’re still pretending Mike Jacobs is far, far better than what last year showed – put those rose-colored glasses back on – and since he is going to be on the roster anyway, then Mike Jacobs Rules need to be set:
1. Mike Jacobs never, ever faces a left-handed pitcher. Ever. He is a career .221/.269/.374 hitter against lefties. That is the batting line you would get from taking Luis Castillo, spraying him with bear mace, and forcing him to swing at everything while throwing tennis balls at his head.
2. Mike Jacobs plays defense as little as possible. No matter what system you like to use to evaluate defense (plus/minus, UZR, just eye-balling it), Mike Jacobs is really, really, really bad. I saw an infield consisting of Mike Jacobs, Luis Castillo, and Alex Cora on Saturday against the Cardinals – if Wright doesn’t revert to his previous Gold Glove form, that fantastic four may make up the worst defensive infield ever. If you’re going to have those four on the field at the same time, you should probably just move an outfielder in as a fifth infielder as well, because you’d give up less runs that way.
At the same time, I get that some of the appeal in Jacobs at first is that Jacobs has experience there. But . . . Miley Cyrus has a lot of experience as an actor, too, and Eddie Murphy has experience as a singer, and Lady Gaga has experience as a normal human being. Just, you know, having experience doing something doesn’t necessarily indicate the ability to do that thing well. Experience simply supplies a track record that can be used to decide whether or not someone can actually perform such a duty. Politicians try to pull this trick all the time, saying that they have “experience”, implying that having experience is automatically a plus – even if the experience shows that they are incompetent ninnies. Mike Jacobs’ experience at first says that he can’t play first base at a level approaching competence. That’s what his experience should really tell everyone: that he can’t play first base.
3. Poor defense also means no Jacobs allowed when ground ball pitchers Mike Pelfrey or Jon Neise start the game. Unless you want them institutionalized.
Using the three rules, that leaves two acceptable situations for Jacobs to play in: (A) Jacobs only starts against right-handed pitchers on days when Pelfrey and Neise do not start, being removed for defense in the later innings, and (B) only pinch hits in situations when it’s not possible for him to face a lefty reliever. If he plays only in those situations, and reverts to his pre-Kansas City form, Jacobs becomes useful, and could help the Mets win a few games. Although those are some very specific situations.
There are other issues here obviously, such as if the benefits of using Jacobs in 2010 outweigh the cost of stunting Daniel Murphy’s development, and if the Mets will actually use Jacobs in the correct fashion. But since the Mets don’t seem to care, why should I worry about those things either. Then I’d have to be institutionalized.
Instead, I plan on keeping track of when the Jacobs Rules are followed and when they are broken in 2010 with a simple scoring system. I’ll award Jerry Manuel 2 point for every time Jacobs:
- starts against a right handed-pitcher
- starts when Pelfrey or Niese is not the Mets starter
and 1 point for whenever Jacobs
- receives a pinch hitting appearance against a right-handed pitcher
- is removed for defense, or for a right-handed pinch hitter against a lefty reliever.
So Manuel could earn 5 possible points for starting Jacobs against a righty, without Pelfrey or Niese on the mound, and removing him for defense later on.
On the flip side, Jerry loses 3 point if:
- Jacobs starts against a lefty pitcher (because there are fewer lefty starters)
minus 2 points if:
- Jacobs starts at first with a ground ball pitcher on the mound (Pelfrey or Niese).
and minus 1 point if:
- Jacobs pinch hits against a lefty
Jerry automatically loses (his job) if:
- Jacobs comes apparently only for defensive purposes.
So a Jacobs start against a lefty pitcher, with Pelfrey on the mound for the Mets, would net Jerry a loss of 5 points.
So those are the Jacobs Rules, and a scoring system. You can play at along at home!
Yikes. Maybe I need to be institutionalized.