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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