COMMENTARY | With the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season underway this week, it's tough to know whether or not players off to fast starts will be able to keep up that pace over the span of 162 games. Most of the time, the law of averages take effect and those players on hot streaks will come back down to Earth, settling in somewhere around their respective career norms. John Buck likely won't continue hitting above .400 during his time as Mets starting catcher, but it's clear his value goes far beyond what he's done at the plate.
A year removed from hitting a disappointing .192/.297/.347 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI for the Miami Marlins in 2012, Buck knew what his role would be in Flushing this season once he was included in the package that yielded the Mets top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud; he would be the starter to begin the year, but once d'Arnaud is deemed ready to be called up from Triple-A Las Vegas sometime this season, Buck will become a bench player again.
Just five games into this young season, Buck has been the most consistent run producer for New York, hitting .421 with 2 home runs and 9 RBI, recording base hits in each of his starts. His quick start with the bat does a few things; not only does it give the 32-year-old confidence in his offensive abilities after a tough 2012, but it takes some relief off both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, who are expected to be significant producers. Buck provides much needed power from the right side of the plate, and splits up Davis and Duda in the order, preventing opposing managers from bringing in left-handed relievers late in games to face them, which they have struggled with during their young careers.
In addition to what he's been doing at the plate, it's what he's done behind it that is even more significant to how the Mets pitching staff has been performing thus far this season. Again, the statistics put together in the first week of the year is unlikely to be replicated in the long haul, but New York's starting pitching has compiled a 1.40 ERA through five starts. This was already projected to be a young rotation, but with the loss of Johan Santana for the year, and Shaun Marcum out for an undisclosed period of time, there is no true veteran hurler anchoring the starting staff. Unlike last year with Josh Thole and company, John Buck has gained the trust of New York's entire pitching staff with his big league experience, and they know they can lean on him to call the right pitches during certain points in a game.
What's even better is that Buck took d'Arnaud under his wing during spring training, being able to hand down some knowledge and wisdom to the young prospect. Whenever d'Arnaud makes his debut in the big leagues, it's likely that Sandy Alderson will try to shop Buck to a contender around the trade deadline, but it would be worth it to New York and to the development of their future starting catcher to keep him around to continue being a mentor.
During the winter, Buck was traded twice (once by the Marlins, and again by the Blue Jays), and seemed to be an afterthought, as those teams just wanted to dump his salary, but the Mets view him much differently. For right now, he's a valuable asset to Terry Collins, and even when his bat comes back down to Earth soon, his ability to effectively call a game behind the plate and take charge of game situations will still make a significant impact on a daily basis.
Matt Musico provides his Mets opinion as Senior Editor at Rising Apple, while giving his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.
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