Monthly Archives: December 2009

>Mythbusters: 2009 Mets Defense

>Last week, Dan Budreika wrote this sentence in an article about Mike Pelfrey getting hurt by the Mets defense for Rotographs:

“Interestingly enough the Mets were without a doubt the National League’s worst team with the leather as the Nationals had the second lowest mark in the NL at -26.7 which is over 20 runs better than the Mets.”

I want to Mythbust this idea that the Mets were some sort of miserable defensive team in 2009. It is untrue. The Mets were at least an average defensive team in 2009, maybe even a good one. Some of this myth comes from images of Fernando Martinez and Daniel Murphy falling down in the outfield, Luis Castillo dropping a pop-up, Mike Pelfrey falling down on the mound, Jeff Francoeur hiding himself from the ball, Luis Castillo falling down the dugout steps – just lots of falling down. Even more of it comes from Fangraphs UZR, which has the Mets as being -47.3 runs as a unit defensively, indeed the worst defensive team in the NL.

Let’s assume for the moment that this is true, and the Mets really were -47.3 runs below average defensively. If you ignore the Mets – and oh my, what a pleasant sensation that can be – the other 15 National League teams in 2009 surrendered an average of 725 runs for the 2009 season. The Mets surrendered 757 runs, 32 runs more than the average NL team – so we can say the combination of Mets pitching and defense equals -32 runs compared to the average.

However, if the Mets defense was indeed 47.3 runs below average, that should make the Mets pitching staff 15.3 runs above average: +15.3 pitching runs – 47.3 fielding runs = -32 runs. If you watched the Mets this year, you already know this is all kinds of crazy. The Mets did not have a good pitching staff this year – Livan Hernandez (read: a bad pitcher) was third on the team in innings pitched and Tim Redding (read: an even worse pitcher) was fourth. I should admit that I might be slightly misusing UZR here by comparing it to the actual runs allowed, but the point stands. If the Mets were as horrible defensively as UZR says, but somehow only allowed 32 runs more than the average team, their pitching must have been around average or better – which doesn’t make any sense. I haven’t even mentioned Oliver Perez yet. Let’s momentarily ignore all that and give UZR a shot by looking at some other defensive indicators.

If the Mets’ fielding was really this shoddy, we would expect the team’s FIP to be significantly lower than their ERA – if the defense is letting a lot of balls in play to turn into hits, the pitching staff’s ERA is going to balloon compared to what it should be. Only this Mets team FIP was 4.50, and their ERA was 4.46 – implying that maybe their defense actually saved the pitching staff a couple of runs. In addition, the Mets team FIP of 4.50 puts them 24th among the 30 teams – so I don’t think they can be called an average pitching team in 2009. On top of all that, the Mets’ defensive efficiency, the rate at which the Mets turned balls in play into outs, was 69.3%, good for 13th in the Major Leagues. This doesn’t sound like the worst defensive team in the NL ruining an average pitching staff. This sounds more like an average defensive team backing up some crummy pitching. All those extra runs the Mets allowed came from their pitching and not their defense.

I think it’s safe to call the Mets 2009 UZR data a bit wacky, but how do other systems view the Mets defense? If you add up all the +/- Runs Saved for the Mets, Dewan has the Mets as +18 runs defensively. Now we have a 65.3 run gap between UZR and Dewan – so depending on who you believe the Mets were either a horrible defensive team or a good one. What’s going on here? Let’s break it down further between the infielders and the outfielders, which will give us our answer.

UZR and +/- Runs Saved are in general agreement about the infielders, excluding Runs Saved’s torrid crush on Daniel Murphy – and in their defense, he can be quite dreamy, with all that business talk. This isn’t all the infielders, just the ones who played the most:

Both systems say the Mets infield defense is well below average. David Wright had a bad year, Luis Castillo is still the “The Rangeless Wonder of the NL East” in both systems, and there was a whole bunch of “. . .  meh” playing shortstop. If you look at some of the Mets ground ball pitchers – Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell, Jon Neise – that group has a FIP lower than their ERA. So yes, Mike Pelfrey was likely hurt by the Mets poor defense. The Mets did not have a good defensive infield, and it shows up in UZR, Runs Saved, and the ground ball pitcher’s ERAs. So if both systems are in agreement on the infield, that means all those mismatched runs must be . . .

You guessed it, in the outfield, which is indeed a tale of one Citi. Again these are just some of the outfielders, because I figured no one cared about Emil Brown and his 8 innings in the field:

 This disparity is harder to reconcile. The Mets have either a terrible outfield defense by UZR or a great one according to Dewan. Maybe this will help. I’ll give you the names of the four people who played the most inning in the Mets outfield in 2009: Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francouer, and Ryan Church. Those are four more-than-capable defensive outfielders, despite whatever madness 2009 UZR is spewing. I have to go with Runs Saved here – the Mets probably had a good defensive outfield in 2009, and it would have been even better if not for Gary Sheffield. I believe UZR is still using Shea Stadium park factors, and my guess is that therein lies the problem. All UZR data for Mets outfielders should probably just get defenestrated until park factors for Citi Field are determined. Citi Field has deep expanses and, more importantly, high walls, meaning the high number of unfieldable balls are probably throwing off all the outfield numbers.

The Mets outfield for next year will be Jason Bay*, Carlos Beltran, and Jeff Francouer – all of whose 2009 UZRs are much lower than their Runs Saved. This is no case for concern, as the low UZRs are just noise from their ballparks. Jason Bay was stuck in front of the Green Monster last year, while Beltran and Francoeur got to have their UZR destroyed by the expanses and high walls of Citi Field. Look for UZR to continue hating all three in 2010 and for Runs Saved to have the Mets 2010 outfield as again above average.

* Was anyone else in the Pepsi Picnic Area at Shea for the Mets-Pirates game in 2007 – the one where John Maine his a home run – when some drunk guy just screamed, “
Get on your horse, Jason Bay” at Bay for nine innings? And to think that some people wondered why it took him so long to sign with the Mets . . .

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>Top Mets Second Basemen by Decade.

>Since the 00’s are coming to a rapid close, let’s take a look back at this decade, and while we’re at it every Mets decade. Here are the top 5 Mets second basemen from this decade, as well as those from all five decades of the Mets’ existence, sorted by historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR), from baseballprojection.com. I left the WAR numbers out because I find staring at a list of WARs dry. I don’t feel it tells the story as effectively as putting a player’s other numbers. So, instead I list each player’s slash line and their HR and RBI totals, even though I have a bit of distaste for batting average and RBI. Here are the top 2B from each decade:

1960’s
1. Ron Hunt (1963-66, 1887 PA) – .282/.344/.379, 20 HR, 127 RBI
2. Ken Boswell (1967-69, 754 PA) – .268/.321/.364, 8 HR, 47 RBI
3. Charlie Neal (1962-62, 861 PA) – .248/.321/.364, 14 HR, 76 RBI
4. Chuck Hiller (1965-67, 635 PA) – .242/.286/.325, 7 HR, 38 RBI
5. Jerry Buchek (1967-68, 651 PA) – .219/.268/.325, 15 HR, 52 RBI

Most Watched Network Television Broadcast of the 1960’s – “The Fugative” Series Finale, August 29, 1967.

Ron Hunt placed second in rookie of the year voting in 1963, behind another second baseman – some guy named “Peter Rose”. Hunt hit .272/.334/.396 in 600 plate appearances as a 22 year old, which is decent for today’s game – but the National League hit .254/.316/.380 in 1963, the first year of the expanded strike zone. Daniel Murphy hit better than the 1963 Nation League this year – the league was batting closer to 2009 Jhonny Peralta territory. Hunt’s slash line translates today to .286/.357/.452 – fairly similar to what Baltimore’s Brian Roberts did in 2009.

1970’s
1. Felix Millan (1973-77, 2954 PA) – .278/.326/.337, 8 HR, 182 RBI
2. Ken Boswell (1970-74, 1605 PA) – .241/.307/.332, 23 HR, 146 RBI
3. Doug Flynn (1977-79, 1452 PA) – .230/.260/.286, 4 HR, 123 RBI

Most Watched Network Television Broadcast of the 1970’s – “Roots part VIII”, January 30, 1977

Only three guys for this list, because these three gobbled up almost all the innings. Felix Millan played in all 162 games in 1975 and manned second for every inning but 9 – John Olerud is the only other Met to play in 162 games, doing so in 1999, but Olerud only played the field in 160. Millan is the only Met to start all 162 games in a season, and the way players are rested today I think his record is safe.

In terms of total WAR, Millan was good, Boswell was replacement level, and Doug Flynn was awful, managing a -6.1 WAR in his three seasons in the 70’s. The .260 OBP says most of what needs to be said about Doug Flynn, but he did win a gold glove for the Mets in 1980, posting a total zone rating of +9. However, that year seems a bit fluky – his next highest TZ for a season is +2, and the three years prior to his gold glove season he was -7, -10, and -9 with his glove. 

1980’s
1. Wally Backman (1980-88, 2704 PA) – .283/.353/.344, 7 HR, 156 RBI
2. Tim Teufel (1986-89, 1231 PA) – .263/.346/.407, 24 HR, 138 RBI
3. Gregg Jefferies (1987-89, 683 PA) – .271/.325/.430, 18 HR, 75 RBI
4. Brian Giles (1981-83, 605 PA) – .233/.295/.297, 5 HR, 37 RBI
5. Doug Flynn (1980-81, 817 PA) – .241/.271/.303, 1 HR, 44 RBI

Most Watched Network Television Broadcast of the 1980’s – “M.A.S.H.” series finale, February 28, 1983

Wally Backman is a one man argument for the uselessness of switch-hitting. Backman hit .294/.364/.362 from the left side, and just .166/.259/.202 from the right. The idea behind switch-hitting is to overcome the platoon advantage, but most players end up having a platoon split anyway, and thus defeating the purpose of switch hitting. In Backman’s case, the split was huge.

Wally Backman also had a reputation for being “scrappy.” Part of this came from him hustling down the line on ground balls – and there were a lot of ground balls. Most baseball players hit fly balls and grounders at a similar rate, but some chop the ball into the ground – Backman was one of them. Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, and Luis Castillo employ a similar strategy today – this technique raises batting averages but lowers slugging percentages. Ground balls do turn into hits more often the fly balls, but don’t travel all that far, rarely becoming anything more than a single. This reflected in Backman’s .061 isolated slugging percentage* (ISO) with the Mets – Luis Castillo’s career ISO is .062. Not a lot of power between those two.

* Isolated slugging = slugging percentage minus batting average. The more you know . . .

1990’s
1. Jeff Kent (1992-96, 1992 PA) – .279/.327/.453, 67 HR, 267 RBI
2. Edgardo Alfonzo (1999, 726 PA) – .304/.385/.502, 27 HR, 108 RBI
3. Gregg Jeffries (1990-91, 1198 PA) – .278/.337/.407, 24 HR, 130 RBI
4. Jose Viscaino (1994-96, 1419 PA) – .282/.332/.356, 7 HR, 121 RBI
5. Willie Randolph (1992, 336 PA) – .252/.352/.318, 2 HR, 15 RBI

Most Watched Network Television Broadcast of the 1990’s – “XVII Winter Olympics” Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, February 23, 1994

I only counted Edgardo Alfonzo’s 1999 season because that was the year he moved to second to make room for Robin Ventura. I’ll have more about Fonzi when I get to third base – I’ll count his third base years there. His massive 1999 was almost enough to catch Jeff Kent’s five years – 5.7 WAR to 7.8 WAR.

Jeff Kent has a dead even OPS platoon split for his career – .855 from against lefties, .855 against righties, with more power against the right-handers (.506 SLG) and better on-base abilities verse the lefties (.375).

What do Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Trevor Hoffman, Mike DeJean, Darren Dreifort, Eric Gange, and Mr. Anna Benson himself, Kris Benson all have in common? They all held Jeff Kent to a sub-.500 OPS in at least 25 plate appearances.

2000’s
1. Edgardo Alfonzo (2000-01, 1169 PA) – .287/.379/.479, 42 HR, 143 RBI
2. Jose Valentin (2006-07, 615 PA) – .262/.322/.455, 21 HR, 80 RBI
3. Luis Castillo (2007-09, 1170 PA) – .284/.374/.339, 5 HR, 88 RBI
4. Danny Garcia (2003-04, 237 PA) – .227/.345/.361, 5 HR, 23 RBI
5. Roberto Alomar (2002-03, 957 PA) – .265/.333/.370, 13 HR, 75 RBI

Most Watched Network Television Broadcast of the 2000’s – “Super Bowl XIV” St. Louis Rams V. Tennessee Titans, January 30, 2000

Over his entire career, Edgardo Alfonzo started games in every batting order slot, 1-9. He started most of his games in the 2-hole, 574, and the least batting ninth, just 12.

Alfonzo’s first career home run was a two run, fifth inning inside-the-parker off Matt Grott in Cincinnati, on May 6th 2005. Alfonzo’s first career inside-the-park home run was his only one – His next 145 all left the ball park.

Luis Castillo, who has a whopping 28 career home runs, has hit them off only 25 pitchers. The only multiple offenders are both former Mets: Mike Remlinger (a 1994 Met) with 3 allowed and Tom Glavine (2003-2007), with 2.

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>Top Mets First Basemen by Decade

>Since the 00’s are coming to a rapid close, let’s take a look back at this decade – and while we’re at, it every Mets decade. Here are the top 5 Mets first basemen from this decade, as well as those from all five decades of the Mets’ existence, sorted by historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from baseballprojection.com. I left the WAR numbers out because I find staring at just a list of WAR boring and I don’t feel it tells the story as effectively as putting their other numbers. Instead, I listed each player’s slash line and their HR and RBI totals, even though I have a bit of distaste for batting average and RBI. Anyway, here are the top 1B from each decade, and the highest grossing film of each decade just for fun:

1960’s
1. Tim Harkness (1963-64, 548 PA) – .228/.301/.356, 12 HR, 54 RBI
2. Donn Clendenon (1969, 226 PA) – .252/.321/.455, 12 HR, 37 RBI
3. Gil Hodges (1962-63, 167 PA) – .248/.329/.436, 9 HR, 20 RBI
4. Ed Kranepool (1962-69, 3165 PA) – .247/.301/.361, 62 HR, 292 RBI
5. Marv Throneberry (1962-63, 411 PA) – .240/.302/.418, 16 HR, 50 RBI

Highest Grossing Film of the 1960’s – “101 Dalmatians”

This is not a strong group of players. In fact it may be the weakest group at any position for the Mets over the course of a whole decade. Tim Harkness is the “leader” with a .7 WAR accumulated during his two seasons with the Mets, and Don Clendenon’s 226 plate appearances merits him second place. Ed Kranepool was a sub-replacement level player during the 1960’s – his .301 OBP was 17 points below league average, his .361 slugging percentage was 20 points below league average, and his defensive zone rating for the decade was -7. He didn’t hit for power, get on base, run or play defense well, yet he got more plate appearances than any other Met during the 1960’s – and I think that sums up the Mets teams of the 1960’s pretty well. In defense of the Mets all-time leader in hits and doubles, Kranepool was a much improved player during the 70’s.

1970’s
1. John Milner (1971-77, 2755 PA) – .245/.339/.415, 94 HR, 338 RBI
2. Ed Kranepool (1970-79, 2832 PA) – .276/.333/.394, 56 HR, 322 RBI
3. Don Clendenon (1970-71, 731 PA) – .272/.330/.473, 33 HR, 134 RBI
4. Joe Torre (1975-77, 794 PA) – .267/.327/.374, 12 HR, 74 RBI
5. Willie Montanez (1978-79, 1121 PA) – .274/.303/.362, 22 HR, 143 RBI

Highest Grossing Movie of the 1970’s – “Star Wars”

John Milner like to swing away with the bases loaded. In 79 plate appearances with three men on, he hit a respectable .308/.342 – but he slugged .785 with 10 grand slams. He homered once every 6.5 at-bats with the bases loaded, compared to once every 26.2 at-bats for his career.

Milner was part of an eleven player, four team trade that send Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates and brought back Willie Montanez, #5 on this list, to the Mets in 1977. Here’s how the trade turned out for each team involved. I took WAR of the players received and subtracted the WAR of the players traded to get the total WAR lost or gained by the trade:

Mets got Willie Montanez, Tom Greive, Ken Henderson (who was quickly flipped for a season and a half of Dale Murray, so I used his WAR instead) for John Milner, Jon Matlack = -16.7 WAR

Pirates got John Milner, Bert Blyleven for Nelson Norman, Al Oliver = 0.1 WAR

Rangers got Nelson Norman, Al Oliver, Jon Matlack for Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine, Eddie Miller, Tom Grieve, Ken Henderson, Bert Blyleven = 9.2 WAR

Braves got Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine, Eddie Miller for Willie Montanez = 5.3 WAR  

The Mets, because they gave up Jon Matlack and got nothing of value in return, were the big losers in this deal. Some things never change. The Pirates broke even, the Braves made minor improvements, and despite giving up six players including Blyleven, the Rangers were the big winners of the trade.

John Milner and Willie Montanez would be traded for each other again in 1981, when the Pirates shipped Milner to the Expos in exchange for Montanez.

1980’s
1. Keith Hernandez (1983-89, 3684 PA) – .297/.387/.429, 80 HR, 468 RBI
2. Dave Magadan (1986-89, 1046 PA) – .293/.384/.384, 8 HR, 103 RBI
3. Rusty Staub (1981-85, 702 PA) – .276/.350/.391, 13 HR, 102 RBI
4. Mike Jorgensen (1980-83, 670 PA) – .244/.336/.355, 13 HR, 75 RBI
5. Dave Kingman (1981-83, 1292 PA) – .208/.294/.429, 72 HR, 187 RBI

Highest Grossing Movie of the 1980’s – “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

I don’t have much more to say about Keith Hernandez that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just link to this amazing 20 minute movie entitled “I’m Keith Hernandez”. If you haven’t already seen it, and I hope you have, it’s a must watch for any Keith/Mets/semi-fictional-historic-film fan. NSFW-ish

I do have something to say about Dave Magadan, who is the third-best Mets’ first baseman of all-time. The top five by WAR looks like this:

1. Keith Hernandez – 26.5 WAR
2. John Olerud – 18.6 WAR
3. Dave Magadan – 15.2 WAR
4. John Milner – 10.1 WAR
5. Carlos Delgado – 6.9 WAR

Magadan never hit more than 6 home runs in a season for the Mets, never drove in more than 72 runs, never stole more than 2 bases – he didn’t do any of the flashy things. He did however, play above average defense – +17 runs for his Mets career – and more importantly, he got on base, having a .391 OBP for the Mets, 68 points above the league average for his time. Getting on base – and thus not making outs – is the most important thing a baseball player can do offensively.* Magadan retired with his slugging percentage lower than his on-base percentage, and first basemen without power unfortunately tend to get overlooked. Magadan was one of the best to ever play first base as a Met.

*I really believe that I should work that sentence into everything I write. On a similar theme, I propose that from now on, all slash lines should be written this way:

.280/.370/.450

1990’s
1. John Olerud (1997-99, 2018 PA) – .315/.425/.501, 63 HR, 291 RBI
2. Dave Magadan (1990-92, 1437 PA) – .292/.396/.387, 13 HR, 151 RBI
3. Rico Bronga (1994-96, 889 PA) – .291/.342/.495, 36 HR, 126 RBI
4. Eddie Murray (1992-93, 1284 PA) – .274/.330/.446, 43 HR, 193 RBI
5. David Segui (1994-95, 466 PA) – .257/.330/.403, 12 HR, 54 RBI

Top Grossing Movie of the 1990’s – “Titanic”

Olerud’s 1998 was the best season by a Mets first basemen, worth 8.1 wins above a replacement level player. He hit .354/.447/.551, with 22 HR, 36 2B, 96 walks against 73 strikeouts, and he was +14 runs defensively. John Olerud is the Mets all-time leader in OPS, OBP, and untrue Rickey Henderson vignettes.

2000’s
1. Carlos Delgado (2006-09, 2023 PA) – .267/.351/.506, 104 HR, 339 RBI
2. Doug Mientkiewicz (2005, 313 PA) – .240/.322/.407, 11 HR, 29 RBI
3. Todd Zeile (2000-01, 2004, 1631 PA) – .259/.348/.405, 41 HR, 176 RBI
4. Daniel Murphy (2008-09, 707 PA) – .275/.331/.427, 14 HR, 80 RBI
5. Jason Phillips (2001-04, 894 PA) – .262/.337/.389, 19 HR, 95 RBI

Highest Grossing Film of the 2000’s – “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”

Daniel Murphy shouldn’t feel alone. The Mets have a history of first basemen lacking the power traditionally associated with the position – Keith Hernandez, Dave Magadan, John Olerud. Before Carlos Delgado hit 36 home runs in 2006 and 38 in 2008, only three Mets first basemen had ever hit 25 or more home runs in a season, and only one had ever hit 30+: Dave Kingman hit 37 in 1982, Eddie Murray hit 27 in 1993, and Mo Vaughn hit 26
in 2002. Delgado is the only one to ever hit 25 or more twice, and no Met first baseman has ever hit 25+ in consecutive seasons. The Mets have had a player hit 25+ home runs in consecutive seasons at every other position except shortstop. Mike Piazza and Todd Hundley did it at catcher, Edgardo Alfonzo at second, David Wright at third, George Foster and Kevin McReynolds in left, Carlos Beltran in center, and Darryl Strawberry in right. A lack of power at first is an oddity of the organization, a proud tradition which will be continued by Murphy in 2010.

Up nest – top second basemen by decade.

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>Top Mets Catchers by Decade.

>Since the 00’s are coming to a rapid close, let’s take a look back at this decade, and while we’re at it every Mets decade. Here are the top 5 Mets catchers from this decade as well as those from all five decades of the Mets’ existence, sorted by historical Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is available on baseballprojection.com:

1960’s
1. Jerry Grote (1967-69, 1591 PA) – .243/.309/.319, 16 HR, 125 RBI
2. Chris Cannizzaro (1962-65, 657 PA) – .236/.312/.282, 0 HR, 30 RBI 
3. J.C. Martin (1968-69, 467 PA) – .219/.281/.316, 7 HR, 52 RBI
4. Jesse Gonder (1963-65, 625 PA) – .271/.325/.381, 14 HR, 59 RBI
5. Sammy Taylor (1962-63, 227 PA) – .228/.326/.326, 3 HR, 26 RBI

#1 song in America on December 31, 1969 – “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B.J. Thomas

This is by far the weakest group of Mets catchers. Sammy Taylor is fifth with a WAR of 0. Only three players here managed to have a slugging percentage higher than their on-base percentage. 

The best Mets catcher of the 60’s, Jerry Grote, faced Steve Carlton more than any other pitcher over his career, but the light hitting Grote was able to hold his own against the Hall-of-Famer. In 85 plate appearances against Carlton, Grote hit .347/.405/.413, with 8 walks against 7 strikeouts. He faced another Hall-of-Famer, Bob Gibson, the second most times, but those at-bats didn’t go as well – Grote hit .139/.173/.208 with 20 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances.

Grote’s favorite place to eat in New York City, according to his prehistoric-looking website, is the Stage Deli, located 834 Seventh Avenue. You can also join the Jerry Grote group on MySpace and Facebook, if you are a big fan of defensive-minded catchers – or of Facebook groups run by former ballplayer’s wives.

1970’s
1. John Stearns (1975-79, 1999 PA) – .247/.341/.376, 41 HR, 214 RBI
2. Jerry Grote (1970-77, 2774 PA) – .264/.328/.335, 19 HR, 232 RBI
3. Ron Hodges (1973-79, 868 PA) – .232/.316/.316, 12 HR, 77 RBI
4. Duffy Dyer (1970-74, 1084 PA) – .216/.290/.301, 13 HR, 85 RBI
5. Alex Trevino (1978-79, 245 PA) – .269/.336/.329, 0 HR, 20 RBI

#1 song December 31, 1979 – “Please Don’t Go” by K.C. & the Sunshine Band

John Stearns is the second best catcher in Mets history. Piazza is first, and then Gary Carter’s name gets often mentioned because A.) he’s in the Hall of Fame and B.) his two out single started the 10th inning rally in Game 6. However, Carter only played with the Mets for five seasons, most of which came during his career decline. Carter had a monster season in 1985 and decent ’86, but fell of a cliff for his final three Met seasons – OPS of .682, .659, and .515. Carter was just 3.9 runs above average offensively over his Mets career, while Stearns was worth 9.5 above average. Stearns was on the Mets for most of ten seasons, and accumulated a lifetime WAR of 18.5 with the Mets. Gary Carter had a career WAR of 11.2 with the Mets. Jerry Grote also places ahead of Carter by career Mets WAR, with 13.1. Mike Piazza is first with a Mets WAR of 25.6 and Todd Hundley rounds out the top five with a 10.9.   

If you want to take this argument a step further, John Stearns was also the best all-around catcher the Mets ever had. Mike Piazza was a great hitter – the best the Mets ever had – but he was an awful defensive catcher. Piazza lost about 6 wins off his lifetime total because of his defense, 5 of them during his time with the Mets. Now, if you are going to build an all-time Mets team, Piazza is obviously the catcher on the strength of his bat alone. However, if you want a catcher who can do a bit of everything, Stearns has Piazza beat. John Stearns was worth 3.6 career wins with his defense and 1.9 with his bat over his entire Mets career. He also stole 91 bases over his Mets career – he was caught 51 times, for a not so great 64% success rate, but he could run a bit. Piazza is the starter on the All-Mets team, but Stearns gets the nod to be the backup.

1980’s
1. Gary Carter (1985-89, 2448 PA) – .249/.319/.412, 89 HR, 349 RBI
2. John Stearns (1980-84, 1081 PA) – .282/.342/.374, 5 HR, 98 RBI
3. Ron Hodges (1980-84, 815 PA) – .248/.368/.329, 7 HR, 70 RBI
4. Mackey Susser (1988-89, 322 PA) – .289/.315/.407, 2 HR, 39 RBI
5. Alex Trevino (1980-81, 541 PA) – .258/.294/.292, 0 HR, 47 RBI

#1 song December 31, 1989 – “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins

Gary Carter had an career OPS of .873 against the Mets, his highest against any team.

Steve Carlton had problems facing catchers who played for the Mets – Gary Carter, like Jerry Grote, faced Carlton more than any other pitcher, put up a .309/.389/.682 line in 128 plate appearances against him, and hit 11 home runs. Carters next highest home run total against any pitcher is just 5. Carlton, who struck out 4136 batters, managed to strike Carter out only 7 times in 128 plate appearances. I guess there was just something about Carlton and Mets catchers – John Stearns faced Carlton more than any other pitcher as well, and put up a .897 OPS against the Hall of Famer – 180 points higher than his career OPS.

1990’s
1. Todd Hundley (1990-98, 2904 PA) – .240/.323/.438, 124 HR, 397 RBI
2. Mike Piazza (1998-99, 1039 PA) – .322/.385/.588, 78 HR, 200 RBI
3. Todd Pratt (1997-99, 352 PA) – .286/.355/.419, 7 HR, 58 RBI
4. Charlie O’Brien (1990-93, 659 PA) – .212/.289/.309, 8 HR, 59 RBI
5. Rick Cerone (1991, 258 PA) – .273/.360/.357, 2 HR, 16 RBI

#1 song December 31, 1999 – “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Is anyone noticing a trend here with the songs? Not a lot to be proud of here, America.

The switch hitting Todd Hundley hit 202 career home runs: 178 came as a right-handed batter against left-handed pitchers, 23 came as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitchers – and 1 came as a left-handed batter against a left-handed pitcher. Hundley’s reverse-platoon home run was a solo shot off Doug Simmons on April 19, 1992. I’m not sure why Hundley decided to hit lefty against the left handed Simmons in his first and only at-bat against him. Simmons was a Met the previous year, so I’m going to venture a guess and say Hundley knew what Simmons threw and did it to neutralize a cutter – that is, if he even threw one, and I don’t know that Simmons did. This makes sense though – Hundley would also bat left-handed against another cutter, Al Leiter’s.

2000’s
1. Mike Piazza (2000-05, 2902 PA) – .286/.368/.525, 157 HR, 455 RBI
2. Ramon Castro (2005-09, 785 PA) – .252/.321/.415, 33 HR, 121 RBI
3. Paul Lo Duca (2006-07, 1039 PA) – .297/.334/.404, 14 HR, 103 RBI
4. Vance Wilson (2000-04, 713 PA) – .254/.308/.384, 17 HR, 92 RBI
5. Brian Schneider (2008-09, 578 PA) – .244/.323/.377, 12 HR, 62 RBI

1# song right now – “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. Ouch. That one looks bad even now.

Mike Piazza hit 6 of his 427 career home runs against Pedro Martinez; three of them came against the Mets in 2006. Piazza homered in his first and last at-bats against Martinez, the first coming on April 24, 1994, and the last two twelve years later on August 8, 2006 at Shea Stadium. In between, Martinez knocked Piazza out of a June 5, 1998 Mets-Red Sox game in Boston when he hit Piazza on the hand in the first inning with a 2-2 fastball. Fortunately, Piazza’s replacement, Albert Castillo, did his best Piazza impression. He would be one of four Mets to homer off Martinez, propelling the Mets to a 9-2 victory.

Up next: First Basemen.

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>Hardcore Parn

>Do you know who pitched the fifth-most innings for the 2009 Mets? I’ll give you the first four and then see if you can get #5:

Tom Seaver – 273.1 IP
Jerry Koosman – 241 IP
Gary Gentry – 233.2 IP
Don Cardwell – 152.1 IP – hey wait, this isn’t right. These are the 1969 Mets. Sorry about that. Fast-forward to 2009:

Mike Pelfrey – 184.1 IP
Johan Santana – 166.2 IP
Livan Hernandez – 135 IP
Tim Redding – 122 IP

This mystery pitcher threw 88.1 innings, during which he struck out 74 batters, walked 46, surrendered 101 hits and 8 home runs.

He went 4-8 with a 5.30 ERA, partially because suffered from a .347 BABIP, but also because he walked 4.69 batters per nine innings. Combine both and you get a lot of baserunners, and thus a lot of runs surrendered.

The average velocity of this pitcher’s fastball was 94.6 MPH, 17th fastest in the National League (min. 40IP), second fastest on the Mets behind Brian Stokes. (Hint: this means that the mystery pitcher isn’t Brian Stokes.)

If you haven’t guessed by now, the “mystery pitcher” is Bobby Parnell, who spent more time on the mound for the Mets in 2009 than any of John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jon Niese, Frankie Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa, or Pedro Feliciano.

I want to bring up Bobby Parnell because the Mets have yet to sign any starting pitchers this offseason – unless you want to count former SP Kelvim Escobar, who the Mets claim will be used in a set-up role. Should the Mets not sign another starter – unlikely, but possible – the Mets rotation, as currently constructed, looks like this:

Johan Santana – The Ace  
Mike Pelfrey – The 7 of Clubs
John Maine – The 7 of Diamonds
Jon Niese – The Wild Card
Oliver Perez – Rules to Draw Poker.

Four of these five pitchers are coming off injury-plagued seasons, and two of them, Maine and Santana, are coming back from arm injuries. Mike Pelfrey, though seemingly ineffective, was more a victim of the Mets poor infield defense – Castillo is probably the worst defensive second basemen in baseball, the usually steady Wright was the worst defensive third baseman in 2009, and none of Alex Cora/Ramon Martinez/Anderson Hernandez are shortstops – than his own pitching abilities. However, I also don’t think he can be called a known quantity; Pelfrey is especially susceptible to the quality of his defense because he doesn’t strike out many hitters. So, whether or not you want to count big Pelf, the projected 2010 Mets starting rotation has four or five question marks instead of four or five reliable pitchers.

But maybe everyone stays healthy for the Mets. Maybe Maine and Perez regain their 2007 forms, Niese turns out to be a big league starter, Santana’s elbow doesn’t explode, and Mike Pelfrey has a big year after Luis Castillo wins the lottery and retires – or maybe none of that happens. The Mets are thin in starting pitcher depth (surprise), with their top prospects only reaching the AA level in 2009. Should a starting pitcher get injured – and due to the fact that the human body really isn’t designed to throw a baseball at maximum effort thousands of times over the course of six months, this is very likely – Bobby Parnell is high on the Mets depth chart.  On one hand, the Mets appear disinclined to go back to Parnell after he failed to impress during “True Life: I Want to be a Mets Starting Pitcher”, but on the other hand, who else is there? Nelson Figueroa? Then who? Parnell is at least #6 or #7 on the Mets current starting pitching depth chart.

So how would Parnell perform as a full time ML starter in 2010, however unlikely or likely that might be? I don’t think Met fans need to look that far to find a comparable player: Bobby Parnell and Mike Pelfrey are fairly similar pitchers. There are a couple of obvious differences: Pelfrey is physically much bigger (6-7, 230lb to Parnell’s 6-4, 200lb) and has the mega-Scott-Boras-prospect aura surrounding him. Pelfrey walks fewer batters (3.40 career BB/9 to 4.63), but Parnell strikes out more (7.43 career K/9 to 5.13) – because Parnell is a much harder thrower than Pelfrey.

Now for the similarities. All of these are career numbers:

Both Pelf and Parn are one-pitch pitchers: while most pitchers throw their fastballs 60% of the time, Pelfrey and Parnell rely on theirs about 75% of the time. Neither has strong secondary pitches. They have similar Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) numbers because their K/BB and HR/9, the components of FIP, are nearly identical; Parnell has a much lower tRA because of his suppressed line drive rate (16.2%). Both pitchers trend towards being ground ball pitchers, thus their 2009 ERA’s were much higher than their FIP’s in part because of the Mets’ infield defense. You know how NFL quarterbacks buy each one of their offensive linemen a gift, something nice like a watch, at the end of the year to say “thanks for having my back, big guy”? Ground ball pitchers Pelfrey, Parnell, and Sean Green should have gotten together and egged David Wright and Luis Castillo’s cars. Pelfrey and Parnell were both somewhat unlucky in 2009 – expect their ERA’s to improve in 2010, especially if the Mets can dump the “Range-less Wonder of the NL East”, Luis Castillo.

Outside of getting a better defense behind him, Bobby Parnell can find success in the Majors by lowering his walk rate – 4.63 BB/9 is a lot of free passes. His minor league walk rate is about a full BB/9 lower – right around the major league average – so there is hope for Parnell. Outside of the walks though, I don’t see anything else holding Parnell back from being a successful major league pitcher. Despite pitching with basically just a fastball, Parnell’s strikeouts are higher than the major league average. Strikeouts are the best indicator of future major league success – so looking at Parnell and Pelfrey through just the window of strikeouts, there could be more hope for Parnell than there is for Pelfrey. Above average strikeouts and home run rate plus average walk equals an above average pitcher, and I think Parnell is capable of doing all those things.

Most of the time the Parnell in the rotation experiment looked terrible – but look at Mike Pelfrey’s starts in 2006 and 2007. You see a lot of the same things – 4/5/6 inning starts, 4 or 5 runs, an ERA around 5.50. Whatever it is one-pitch starters need to do to stay in games longer, Pelfrey seems to have figured it out and Parnell has not. Outside of that, Pelfrey and Parnell put up almost identical peripherals – granted, Pelfrey has done so in almost 500 major league innings and Parnell in around 90, making Pelfrey a more known quality, but they are otherwise similar. Excluding height and the prospect tag, I don’t see much separating Bobby Parnell and Mike Pelfrey.

Bobby Parnell image from here:

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>Upcoming Post

>I’m going to link dump today because I am working on a super-massive “2009: Mets Year in Review” post that should be ready for Christmas or just after. I guess I could split it into smaller posts but I think it deserves its own epic onet. It will contain:

The debut of my own statistic, TRAA (Total Runs Above Average), with the numbers for the 2009 Mets.
The Top Five Met Falls of the Year

Most Valuable Mets Person of the Year
Least Valuable Mets Person of the Year
Mets’ Person of the Decade

Plus much more.

Anyway, here is your recommended reading from today:

Matthew Cerrone proposed that the Mets should lay low this offseason. I lean towards agreeing with him. This free agent class is weak and getting massively overpaid. Two years for Jason Kendell? Come on.

James K at Amazin Avenue’ looks at Carlos Beltran’s top ten hits of the decade.

Sny’s Ted Berg shows some love for Pedro

Rob Neyer explains why the Mets should set a deadline for Bay and Molina.

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>Mets Looking at R.A. Dickey

>Oh Dear Lord, please let this be true. I love knuckleballers.

 via Metsblog

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>Matt Holliday vs. Jason Bay: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know and More.

>

Because there has been no actual Mets’ news this offseason, short of the signing of hundreds of nameless, faceless backup catchers and a Japanese setup man, and because Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are both still free agents, I am going to attempt to beat the Holliday vs. Bay debate into a dead bloody pulp with this post. Relevant Simpson’s Quote: Stop! Stop! He’s already dead!
 
Amazin’ Avenue’s Sam Page wrote this on his twitter today, which got me started up on “Bay-Holliday” again:

“I didn’t think Mets fans could actually underrate Bay, but they have. In the rush to be smarter than O, every1 forgot what a good player is.”

I have previously been guilty of some Jason Bay bashing, here and here, but Page is absolutely right. Jason Bay is a good baseball player and would be a welcome addition to the 2010 Mets. In case anyone has forgotten, here is a list of everyone who has spent time in LF for the Mets from 2007-2009, with the terrible in italics, and the “wow, really?” in both bold and italics:

Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan, Daniel Murphy, Angel Pagan, Jeremy Reed, Fernando Tatis, Fernando Martinez, Nick Evans, Wilson Exxon-Valdez (!), Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, Moises Alou, Trot Nixon, Damion Easley, Chris Aguila, Brady Clark, Andy Phillips, Carlos Gomez, Rickey Ledee, Lastings Milledge, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, Jeff Conine.

That’s different 23 players for those of you keeping score at home, or a different player roughly every 21 regular season games. I also count 8 players I would consider infielders. Jason Bay has played in 145, 155, 151 games in each of the last three seasons, so his stability would be much welcome. To put it in math terms Jason Bay > all of those guys.

All that being said, my problem with signing Jason Bay has nothing to do with Jason Bay. Instead, it’s a problem of economics. Jason Bay is going to probably cost $16 million dollars a year for four years, or a lower annual salary for five years. Matt Holliday, and this again is just my estimation, is going to cost around $20 million dollars for 6-7 years. Here’s the thing though: Matt Holliday will be worth more than he is paid, whereas Jason Bay will be simply equal to the money he is paid. Jason Bay is a good investment, but Matt Holliday is a better one.

Of course, I could be wrong, so I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are a whole bunch of Holliday/Bay comparison graphs from 2007-2009, including batting, fielding, and base running.

First up, let’s compare batting.

A couple of points: First, as far as I know, Fangraphs wOBA is not park adjusted, so Bay is getting a boost from Fenway Park and Holliday is getting an even bigger boost from playing in Coors Field. Second, while Bay was a bit better in 2009, my guess is that Holliday will recover and continue to gobble up the weaker NL. However, you could make a strong argument for either player being a better hitter. Either way, both are an improvement over Wilson Exxon-Valdez.

Base running:

Both players appear to be decent-to-good base runners. Holliday was one of the major’s best in 2008 (28 SB and just 2 CS) but fell off a cliff in 2009, in part because his 7 CS and just 14 SB. Despite being on the slower side, Bay seems to run intelligently, so I’m going to call this a wash.

Fielding Part 1 – UZR and +/- Runs Saved:

UZR hates Jason Bay and thinks he is one of the worst fielders in baseball, and while Runs Saved is a bit kinder, it thinks he’s bad too. Holliday’s Runs Saved and his UZR agree that he is an above average left fielder. Whatever you want to use, I think it’s clear that Holliday is a better fielder.

Fielding Part 2 – Fan Scouting Reports:

I adjusted the 2007 and 2008 data from a 0-100 scale to the 0-5 scale the 2009 data is on and threw in Carl Crawford, one of the best LF in baseball, and Adam Dunn, one of the worst, to provide some perspective. Some of these numbers are based on 20 or so fan votes, so all kinds of small sample size warnings here.

Last graph – Fangraphs player value:

This is based on Fangraphs WAR, so all the problems with that should be taken into account here, mostly issues with wildly fluctuating UZR. If you substitute +/- for UZR, Bay is worth more than shown here, but Holliday remains way above him.
I think this last graph best illustrates my point: Jason Bay, a good player, might be worth $16 million a year, but Matt Holliday, a great player, is going to be worth more than $20 million a year. The Mets will get more bang for the buck out of Holliday. Just look at all the graphs. Holliday is ahead of Bay almost everywhere, fielding, hitting, base running, and overall value. Jason Bay is good; Matt Holliday is better.
Here’s one last graph, in case Just for Men is looking for another pitchman:

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>Everytime a Bell Rings, an . . . Well, You Know.

>To honor my third most-favorite holiday movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I want to pull a George Bailey, back away from the bridge for a moment* and remember to celebrate one of the things I did receive as a Met fan this year. I’d like to honor a Met player who performed well above my expectations in 2009, one of the few bright spots in this Hindenburg of a team. Outside this post’s honoree, only three other players exceeded my expectations for 2009: Pedro Feliciano (8.95 K/9 and 3.28 K/BB in 88 appearances and for just owning Ryan Howard), Wilson Exxon-Valdez (who played a solid SS and set career highs with a lofty .256/.326/.337 line, which indeed exceeded my low, low expectations for him), and *gulp* Jeff Francoeur (.350 wOBA with the Mets, and I do think he’s a better fielder than UZR gives him credit for. See? I have some good things to say about Jeff Francoeur. BABIP of .343. 3.7% walk rate. Makes weird faces when he hits, almost like a gopher trying to understand calculus. Oh, I there I go again.) These three players performed admirably, but I would like to take this space to honor the player who will be sitting on the bench while Jeff Francoeur hacks away at sliders in the dirt and overthrows first base trying to throw out a pitcher from right field in 2010. The player I want to honor the most is, of course, none other than the amusingly named Angel Pagan.

*Here’s my one problem with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” What exactly is George Bailey’s plan at the bridge? How does he plan on killing himself? Because a straight jump into the river below apparently isn’t enough to kill anyone. First Clarence jumps in without dying – and granted, he is an angel, so maybe he can’t die – but then George jumps in to save Clarence and also fails to die. So the jump off the bridge clearly isn’t enough on its own. I guess George could freeze to death or drown, but both of those options sound slow and excruciating, and neither requires the jump off the bridge, so he just as easily wade into the freezing water. Maybe he never was seriously contemplating suicide, but rather just thinking to himself, “what if I did kill myself”, and Clarence and the Pottersville scenes are just visualizations of the battle that is taking place in George’s mind? Or maybe he was going to tie a rock to his leg and then jump? I’m not sure.

And in case you were wondering, loyal readers, my top five holiday movies are:

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Possibly my favorite movie ever.
2. Muppet Family Christmas
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
4. Die Hard (which indeed does take place at Christmas)
5. Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer  

Honorable Mentions: A Christmas Story (which is #5 if you don’t want to include “Die Hard”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, The Santa Clause, Home Alone & Home Alone 2.

Angel Pagan was a shining star in the vast, dark vacuum that was the 2009 New York Mets. He was of course not immune to the many Met maladies this year, missing time due to bone spurs in his elbow as well as due to a groin strain. He also doesn’t like to pay his parking tickets. However, whenever Pagan was on the field and not on the DL (or in traffic court), he hit .306/.350/.487, mashing 37 extra base hits – including 11 triples, two off the Major League lead – in 376 plate appearances, and provided a 5.8 UZR combined between all three outfield positions, spending most of his time in center. Fan scouting reports backs up the UZR data, stating that Pagan has better range and hands than Francoeur but a worse throwing arm, which agrees with what I saw this year. Pagan brought back to the top of the lineup some of the excitement that went MIA with Reyes, and when David Wright was on the DL, Pagan was the best player the Mets had on the field. So yeah, it was a rough year.

Angel Pagan played a major role in some of the memorable moments of 2009, not that there are necessarily a bevy of good choices. Here are just a few:

August 1: With the Mets and Diamondbacks tied 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth at Citi Field, Clay Zevada, famous both for his pitching abilites and for tying women to the railroad tracks, walked Alex Cora and surrendered back-to-back singles to Omir Santos and Angel Berroa – was this even a Major League game? – Anyway, Angel Pagan came to the plate with the bases loaded and unloaded them with his first home run in two years, putting the Mets ahead 9-5. The Mets would win 9-6 and Frankie Rodriguez was paid $12 million dollars to earn one-out save with a three run lead.

October 4: On the final day of the season against the Astros, Angel Pagan went 4-4 with a triple and two doubles, scored two runs, and raised his season average to .306. Nelson Figueroa pitched a complete game shutout and Pagan fittingly caught the final out of 4-0 victory, securing a winning home record for the Mets in their first season at Citi Field. I attended this game, and I was watching the end of batting practice as the PA played “Thunder Road” and the sun made the day just warm enough to be comfortable, but not so warm where your back gets all sweaty and you try to avoid hugging anyone so they don’t feel your copious amounts of sweat that are soaking your t-shirt. In other words, paradise.

August 23: Oliver Perez fails to escape the first inning and the Mets fall behind the Phillies 6-0 before they even come to the plate. Angel Pagan leads off the bottom of the first with with a fly ball into the left field gap and never stops running, even after Shane Victorino decides the ball is stuck beneath the wall and daintily throws his hands in the air, trying to signal for a ground-rule double and saying “Oh, dear me, I can’t be bothered to reach all the way underneath the wall and pick up the baseball. There might be dirt on it!” This play was especially memorable because: A.) Pagan hit an inside-the-park home run and B.) Shane Victorino looked like an idiot. Pagan would also lead off the third inning with a home run, this one being of outside-the-park variety. The Mets would lose this game 9-6 after Eric Bruntlett single-handedly set up and executed an unassisted triple play to end the game, doing so mainly because the Phillies were bored and just enjoy messing with the Mets’ heads at this point.

May 18: With the Mets trailing the Dodgers 2-1 in the top of the eighth, Angel Pagan led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a Gary Sheffield single. The game would go to extra innings and in the top of the eleventh, Ryan Church singled to left with two outs, and then Angel launched a triple into center field, sending Church around to score the go-ahead run – only Church neglected to touch third base. Remember that? That was fun. In the bottom of the inning Pagan and Carlos Beltran had trouble remembering the basic tenets of “who’s got it?”, Jeremy Reed, playing first-freaking-base, threw the ball away, and the Mets lost without the Dodgers getting a hit in the bottom of the eleventh. My personal favorite Met game of the year.

Hey, I didn’t say they would all be good, just memorable. It’s really hard to find good moments from 2009. I came up with the four top Angel Pagan moments and two of them happened to be losses, but this team lost 90 games so there isn’t exactly a netflix-sized selection of wins to pick from.
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Looking ahead to next year, Pagan looks like he can be an average-to-slightly-below-average defensive center fielder and an average-to-slightly-below-average hitter (career .335 wOBA, Bill James predicts a .325 wOBA in 2010) – so something like what Aaron Rowand is now, only with triple power instead of home run. Basically, Pagan is an average-to-just-below-average player, but average players are of course valuable because they are better than below average players (Jeremy Reed, Cory Sullivan). If the Mets can flip him to a team in need of a center fielder and get a starting pitcher back in the deal, great. If not, Angel makes a great fourth outfielder, solid in center, good in right, and great in left, getting 350 PA spelling people and pinch hitting. He also provides much needed outfield depth should Beltran again succumb to his irreversible knee damage or Francoeur return to his old ways (which is likely. Seriously though, what is up with Francoeur’s swing face. Keith Hernandez mentioned it during a Mets-Braves broadcast in May, saying something along the lines of, “Dear Lord, get that man a glass of milk. Jeff needs to lay off the Red Bull!” when the camera showed a slow motion replay of a Frenchy hack.) Pagan should be about an average player at any of the outfield position, making up with his defense anything lost by his hitting (probably a 2 WAR player anywhere). His occasional cluelessness on the bases and in the field is compensated for by his tremendous athletic ability, so while he may get picked off occasionally, he makes up for it by going first-to-third better than most. Angel Pagan is a legitimate major leaguer and can be an passible starter in center field; he’s not Carlos Beltran, but being Scott Podsednik is well within his abilities.

The 2009 Mets were a George-Baily-losing-$8,000-dollar-disaster*, only it was more like misplacing $147 million dollars rather than just a mere $8,000 –  I don’t know, maybe it’s the same when adjusted inflation or something. Anyway, the team was plain ol’ disappointing, maybe the most disappointing Mets team ever when expectations are taken into account. However, there were some bright spots; Angel Pagan was the brightest. It was a jump-off-a-bridge-into-icy-waters kind of year, but in the spirit of the holidays, let’s remember what we did receive this year. Angel Pagan is an exciting player, and not just because he doesn’t know how to run the bases. He can steal, he plays a nice center field, he can hit an inside-the-park home run or lay down a beautiful drag bunt. Most importantly, he’s fun to watch. Sometimes Angel Pagan going 4-4, Nelson Figueroa pitching a shutout, Blue Smoke chicken wings and Bruce Springsteen on warm October day is enough to remind you that it really can be a wonderful life.   


*When the Mets blow all their money on Jason Bay and Bengie Molina this year, Omar Minaya’s replacement is going to have a heck-of-time trying to sign anyone else in the winter of 2010. It’s going to play out like the bank scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life”:


Joe Mauer’s agent Ron Shaprio: Well, my client Joe would really like to play with your team, Mr. Bailey. What do you think, 7 years, $140 million?


GM George Bailey: *stammering*  No, but, you’re thinking about this place all wrong. Well, well I don’t . . . I don’t have your money, don’t you see? It’s in Molina’s contract, and K-Rod’s contract, and . . . Oliver Perez’s contract. What are you going to do, foreclose on them?


Ron Shaprio: No, I, uh . . . what are you talking about?


Joe Mauer: *signs with Yankees*

Hey, I made it through a whole post about Angel Pagan with out having to resort to saying “Angel’s in the Outfield” . . . oh, blew that too.

Image of Pagan from wikipedia

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>A Bengie Molina? You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid.

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It looks like SI’s Jon Heyman found a copy of the Mets’ Christmas list:

“SI.com learned that the Mets’ hierarchy voted on their Plans A, B and C at the Winter Meetings and that Plan A was [Jason] Bay and catcher Bengie Molina, Plan B was John Lackey and Molina and Plan C was Roy Halladay and Molina.”

First, using the word “learned” without any citing any source makes it sound like Jon Heyman just hacked into Omar Minaya’s email account and “learned” everything that way. This is, of course, entirely plausible because I don’t imagine Omar’s password is anything more complicated than “Expos”, “beisbol” or just “password.”

Second, can someone write a letter to the Mets and let them know that Matt Holliday is a free agent? Maybe also throw in an explanation letting them know that means anyone can sign him. I’d do it myself but I’m a little bit swamped right now before the Holliday (see what I did there? That’s his name.)

Now, to make it easier to understand why the Mets wish list is all kinds of backwards, I’ll rephrase it in the form of an actual Christmas list.

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good boy this year. Here is what I would like for Christmas, in order of my preference.

A. Luke Skywalker action figure and a lump of coal. If you can’t bring me that then
B. Mark Hamill, dressed up as Luke Skywalker, and a lump of coal. But if that is also too hard, Santa, then I would like you to bring me

C. The entire cast of the original Star Wars, in their costumes, to reenact the whole trilogy scene by scene in my backyard – minus any part with Ewoks – while George Lucas is tied to chair and forced to watch this on repeat. Oh yeah, and I want that lump of coal.

So Santa, just to be clear, I want the action figure most, but if not that then Mark Hamill will be acceptable. If you can’t bring me either of those, then maybe the entire cast of Star Wars. Maybe. But I want the Luke Skywalker action figure first and foremost.

Sincerely,
Omar Minaya

If Heyman’s report is accurate, then it shows how wacky the Mets thinking is. The list doesn’t make any sense; it’s certainly not in talent order and Bengie Molina* is in every plan. Anyway, if the Mets’ goal is to win in 2010 at all costs then Halladay should have been option A. However, if the Mets’ goal is to win this year and win every year, than signing J-Bay (or better yet, free agent Matt Holliday) or Lackey allows them hang on to their farm system all while improving the 2010 team. Signing J-Bay or Lackey would have cost only money, whereas Halladay costs money, prospects, and the monthly hecatomb Halladay sacrifices to the Sun god who provides him with his pitching powers. But again, if the Mets are still in “win now, win every year” mode, Halladay shouldn’t have been an option at all because he would have depleted the farm system, as well as the Mets’ cattle farm with all those sacrifices.

*For review, Bengie Molina is a lump of coal because: He makes too many outs – .285 OBP, second lowest in the majors – and his power comes from excessively lofting the ball and not from making solid contact. Molina’s fly ball rate has risen and his line drive rate has fallen every year since 2006. He doesn’t really have any power to speak of, he just hits so many fly balls that some are bound to escape the park – he was third in the majors with a 52.5% fly ball rate. The only players that make lofting work are people with manly men power like Carlos Pena. Sadly, Bengie Molina might be the best of the remaining free agent catchers**, but that doesn’t mean the Mets should give him anything more than a one year deal. Josh Thole is hanging around in AAA and a certain batting champion catcher becomes a free agent after 2010. Yes, I am going to start banging the Joe Mauer drum now.  

**Which is sort of like being the funniest person in the current cast of SNL. Not a lot of glory there, Bill Hader.

The order of this list can lead to only one conclusion: The Mets just want to make a splash, and they don’t care with whom. Or they just don’t have enough cows. Either one. Bay is the most cost effective splash in terms of costing no prospects and just dollar dollar bills, followed by Lackey and then Halladay. The list only makes some semblance of sense if was put together by that “logic”, or if the list is just in alphabetical order by first name. Are the Mets really making Bay their first target just because they think he’ll sign quicker than Holliday? Jon Heyman thinks so: “Mets believe Bay would be a better and quicker deal for them.”

Big splashes sell tickets for baseball games – as well as tickets for shows at Sea World – but splashes don’t necessarily make winning teams. Johan Santana and Frankie Rodriguez/JJ Putz* were big splashes, but the Met teams around them still were not good. This reported list makes me worry that the Mets are more concerned with making cannonballs in the deep end than putting together a quality team, both in 2010 or in the future.

*Mariner’s GM Jack Zduriencik, who has replaced Theo Epstein as my GM crush, traded an injured closer, a middle reliever, and an outfielder with no baseball skill set and got back the awesome Franklin Gutierrez (5.9 WAR and the best UZR in the majors last year by anyone at any position), the beloved Endy Chavez and five other players in his first trade as GM. Also, Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley. I want a poster of Jack Z on my wall – oh, nevermind, just did a Google image search for him. Cancel the poster, that is one shiny man.

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