Monthly Archives: February 2010

>Sunday Stuff You Should Read

>Here are some links for a lazy Sunday afternoon – it looks like some form of precipitation is going to fall again here in the Northeast, so yeah, you’re probably inside reading. I know March starts tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow seems so far away.

Sunday Morning Q & A with K-Rod.

David Wright sits down to talk with Adam Rubin about a lot of things. Jeff Francoeur, of course, works his way into the story as well.

In other David Wright news, he’s still ridiculously boring. I’ve read plenty of articles about him, and I get the feeling his day is: Wake up, video games, drive to stadium, play baseball, drive home, go to bed. That’s it. Boring. Nothing else.

Old school baseball guys who use sabermetrics? Do you mean like Jack Z? Why yes, they are the future of baseball.

I’m all for a Joe Beimel signing, mainly because he seems awesome. Ted Berg explains how Beimel is a YouTube sensation, Amazin’ Avenue passes along a great Beimel quotation.

This is a link to a whole bunch of other links, and a picture of what I immediately thought of when I found out K-Rod had pink eye, but Talking Chop did a fantastic job giving a rundown of news in the NL East this week.

Occasionally, yes, there is something worth reading on Deadspin. Will Leitch’s free form essays on every team in the league is one such example. Perhaps the only one.

Kyle Farnsworth as a starter. Oh boy.

***

Spring Training Games start this week. Get ready to read too much into small samples!

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>Catcher’s ERA and Rod Barajas.

>There has been some recent chatter about Rod Barajas having a particularly low catcher’s ERA during his time in Toronto, with the assumption that a low catcher’s ERA indicates that he works better with a pitching staff than an average catcher. Okay, maybe it was just Marty Noble that said it, but whatever. Pitchers put up an ERA of 3.31 with Barajas behind the plate, compared to a team ERA of 3.49 in 2008. They put up a 4.26 ERA, compared to the team ERA of 4.47 in 2009. So it’s true – in 2008 and 2009, pitchers had a lower ERA when Barajas was catching – but that doesn’t indicates anything about Barajas’ skill level behind the plate.

Here’s a list of people responsible for Barajas’ low catcher ERA, in order of responsibility:

1. Roy Halladay, 2.78 ERA over same period.
2. Roy Halladay, again, 154 ERA+ over same period. It’s mostly Halladay.
3. Shaun Marcum, 3.39 ERA
4. Jesse Litsch, 3.84 ERA
5-30. Everyone else who pitched for the Blue Jays over that two year span.
31. The other Blue Jay catchers
32. Rod Barajas

This isn’t to say that Barajas is a poor catcher or that he tells the batter what pitch is coming in advance, but rather that catcher ERA is an utterly useless statistic. It tells you if pitchers allowed more or fewer earned runs with catcher X in the game, but it doesn’t tell you why that happened. Blue Jays pitchers did have a lower ERA when Barajas caught, but that could be explained in numerous ways other than “Barajas makes pitchers better.” For example:

1. The other, non-Barajas – “Nahrajas” for short – catchers made the Blue Jays pitchers worse, and Barajas is just an average receiver who is made to look better in comparison. Sort of like when the only thing on TV is “Two-and-a-Half Men”, or the informercial for the Miracle Blade III. – Wait. I know what this is. It’s “The Odd Couple” with an inoffensive kid thrown in. Suddenly, watching that pineapple get smoothly cleaved in two seems much more appealing . . .

2. Personal catchers: Say Barajas caught Halladay, Burnett, Marcum, and Litsch, and the other Blue Jays catchers caught spot starters and AAAA players. Maybe not something as dramatic, but something similar would cause a disparity. (Read: Catching Roy Halladay more often than the other guys.)

3. Platoon possibilities. If the Blue Jays have a set line up against RHP which includes better defensive players than their lineup against LHP, the catcher in the RHP lineup is going to have a lower ERA because of the improved defense.

4. If the catcher is making a whole bunch of throwing errors, ERA isn’t going to account for that. So, if Barajas throws the ball into center field once a game and allows a runner to score an unearned run, catcher ERA isn’t going to charge him for that, even though he’s the one throwing the ball away.

5. Luck.

I’m not saying any of these examples happened in the Barajas/Blue Jays situation, because most of them didn’t, but I am saying they all could happened and they all illustrate why CERA is not useful. I’m also not saying Rod Barajas is a poor defensive catcher, and I don’t believe that he is – what I am saying is that if you are looking for the defensive effects of a catcher, CERA or CRA (catcher run average) is not the place to look for it.

To push this point along, here is a graph of Rod Barajas’ team’s run average, minus his catcher run average. I went with run average because it removes the possibility of errors making things weirder than they need to be. So now, with RA instead of ERA, if Barajas is making a whole bunch of throwing errors – and he does sometimes – he should theoretically be penalized for it. Here you go. The difference between Barajas’s RA and his teams RA:

So, does that look:

A.) Like a reliable statistic that is a good indicator of what a player will do in the future.

B.) Like randomness.

C.) Suspiciously like an EKG. I probably shouldn’t have made the line green . . .

You can see Toronto pitchers performed better with Barajas over the past two seasons, but pitchers performed worse with him when he was in Philadelphia and Texas for the two prior seasons. So, if you want to call him a better receiver because of his work in Toronto, you must then ignore his subpar work in Philly and Texas the two years prior.

If you compile the total difference between his CRA and his teams’ RA for his entire career, Rod Barajas has been worth  -3.53 runs over 6300 innings according to CRA. Over a full season’s work of about 800 innings, that comes out to .45 runs below his team’s average. Making Barajas a slightly below-average catcher. Which makes even less sense. See? CRA doesn’t make any sense – just Google catcher’s ERA, and every result is a blog post about how useless it is. Maybe this one will be there some day. In fact, maybe this is how you found this post. Hello future-reader. Welcome.

For present day readers, the best way to look at catcher defense is over at Driveline Mechanics, found here, which ranks Barajas as an above average defensive receiver, worth 4.2 runs defensively last season – he would have been worth more except that he made 8 throwing errors, tying him for first in the league, and knocking him down a few runs. For future readers living in a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic Mad Max world, you’re on your own for finding the best method of capturing catcher’s defensive contributions, but you should probably be worrying about other things.

Anyway, yes, Barajas is a solid defensive backstop, but he doesn’t making the pitching staff better just by being there, as CERA would imply. He’s not Rod “Falkor” Barajas, luck dragon, and Oliver Perez is not going to suddenly emerge from Fantastica because Barajas is hanging around, whispering words of magic and framing pitches well. Rod Barajas helps his pitchers by saving wild pitches and passed balls, and by controlling the running game, and that’s really all he can do.

Patrick Flood writes the blog you’re reading right now. Well, he does some other things too, but the only Mets-related thing is this. You can find him on twitter here, this blog on facebook here, or by email.

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>Why the Washington Nationals are Still in Recovery.

>Remember this everytime Jerry Manuel or Omar Minaya says something odd or poorly thought out, like “Jenrry Mejia could work out of the bullpen” or “Fernando Martinez should play center field because Bay is in left” or “We feel Gary Matthews Jr. could hit lead off if he wins the center field job” or “David Wright looks spiritually lighter.”

Remember. It could be so, so much worse.

In case you missed this as it made it’s rounds across the internet over the past few days – and hat tip to the internet in general for passing this video along – here is a video discussing sabermetrics, featuring three GM’s, two internet writers, one current player, and a whole lot of crazy.

Jim Bowden. The Gob Bluth of General Managers. Currently not employed by any major league baseball team, for what I feel are obvious reasons, he is currently, instead, doing whatever this is:

My favorite part? Probably whenever Dayton Moore says anything. Also Jim Bowden’s hair cut. Or maybe it’s the awkward cuts to the woman that push the video over the top. There’s just so much here.

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>How Would a Team of All David Wright’s Do?

>Did you ever wonder how a team of nine David Wright’s would perform? How about nine clones of Jose Reyes running all over the place? For you sadists out there, did you ever wonder how many games a team of all Alex Cora’s would win?

Well, there’s sort of an answer. Baseball-reference.com has a fun little junk stat called “Offensive Winning Percentage” on each player’s batting page. “Offensive Winning Percentage” (OW%), created by Bill James, gives an estimation of the winning percentage of an imaginary team where all the batters are the player you’re looking at, and the defense and pitching were league average – e.g. the winning percentage of a team where all nine batters were Barry Bonds, or David Wright, or Mario Mendoza, or nine whoever-you’re-looking-at’s. The player’s defense is not taken into account, just his batting. It’s not a particularly useful statistic, but it is a fun one. See, statistics can be both misleading and fun.

To create an offensive winning percentage, Baseball-Reference takes the number of runs player X would create over 27 outs, and then creates a winning percentage for a team scoring that many runs per game based on Bill James’ pythag win-loss formula. For example, an average defensive/pitching team with nine Barry Bonds’s in the lineup would score 10.6 runs per game and win .815% of the time – a 132-30 record over 162 games. A team of all Babe Ruth’s in the line up would score 12.6 runs per game and win .858% of their games – that’s the highest in history. A team of Mario Mendoza’s would win .179% of their games (29-133), and a team of nine Bill Bergen’s – maybe the worst hitter of all time* – would go 20-142. You can go on for hours and hours (at work!) seeing how well a team that has just player X batting would do. It’s a flawed system, and it’s nowhere near as accurate as wOBA, or even OPS, but it’s way more fun. 

*Bill Bergen career OPS+: 21. Yeah, seriously. Bill Bergen put up an OPS 79% worse than the rest of the league over his career.
Cy Young career OPS+: 44

Here is a table of the 13 batters the Mets are most likely to use this season, Carlos Beltran included, with their career runs created per game, offensive winning percentage, and the win-loss record over 162 games formulated from that percentage. Remember, defense is not included. In real life, Beltran and Jose Reyes are more valuable than a better hitter like Jason Bay because they play elite defensive positions well. A team of nine Carlos Beltrans would perform better than a team of nine Jason Bays. Here are the Mets’ players OW%:

Okay, some explanations for some of the weird things that are going on here:

- Team Daniel Murphy and team Luis Castillo score the same number of runs per game, but Daniel Murphy’s team wins more games with those runs. That happens because Murphy hustles more.

Just kidding. That’s not why.

The reason, as always, is context, context, context. Offense has been on a downswing in baseball since 2006, though it’s still a historically favorable environment for batters. The fourteen seasons Luis Castillo has played in have been more favorable to hitters than the two seasons Daniel Murphy has played in. Putting it another way, it has been easier for Luis Castillo to produce runs than it has been for Daniel Murphy to produce runs, so the runs Daniel Murphy has created have been more valuable than the runs Luis Castillo has created. Team Daniel Murphy’s winning percentage is higher than team Luis Castillo, despite scoring the same number of runs because runs created in 2008-09 have been more valuable than runs created over 1996-2009. Murphy has been a useful offensive player over his entire Mets career thus far. And cue the irrational Murphy love/hate.

- Jose Reyes’ offensive winning percentage is lower than one would expect because of his struggles during his first three seasons:

Jose Reyes offensive winning percentage age 20-22:        .454
Jose Reyes offensive winning percentage age 23-present: .590

- Henry Blanco, Rod Barajas, and Alex Cora. Oh boy. Sub-.400 offensive winning percentages abound. Cora isn’t even a plus-defender anymore, unlike Barajas and Blanco, so Cora’s leadership skills are going to need to compensate for his inability to do any particularly useful things as a player. Basically, for the amount of money he’s making and the negative contributions he’ll make on the field, Alex Cora’s leadership abilities needs to be on par with King Leonidas (the actual one, not Gerard Butler) singing Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender”, then making the speech Bill Pullman makes as the president in “Independence Day”, followed by a dramatic slow clap.

- On the other side of the bench, Pagan and Tatis are both winning bats. In fact, 7 of the 13 players the Mets figure to use most this year are winning bats. The Mets are still top heavy with the big five of Wright’s left arm, Wright’s right arm, Bay, Beltran, and Reyes.

- Gary Matthews Jr.: -22.8 outfield UZR over the past three seasons. -26 plus/minus runs saved as an outfielder over the same timespan. He has an offensive winning percentage of .433% and an OPS+ of 85 over the same time period. And he’s signed for two seasons. But hey, he’s been a good base runner over that time span. That counts for something too, right?

Basically, Gary Matthews Jr. and Alex Cora take up two bench spots without adding any on-field benefits, short of the possibility of using Sarge Jr. as a intelligent pinch runner and Cora as Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker. This is probably not the best way to use two bench spots. It’s even scarier when Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are having a contest of “let’s see who can say the most ridiculous thing with a microphone in their face”, and both suggest that Gary Matthews Jr. and his .333 OBP could not only start, but even lead off for a team with Reyes, Pagan, and Castillo.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got on this. Offensive Winning Percentage is nowhere near as accurate as something like wOBA or OPS, but it is a fun way to turn offensive numbers into a more palpable win-loss record. Plus, you get to see how many runs a team of Mark McGwire circa 1998 would score per game (14), and how well they’d do (142-20).

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>Sunday Stuff You Should Read

>Meet the new Knicks . . . Same as the old Knicks . . . but they actually look a little bit better. Maybe it’s just the novelty of everyone. By the way, Tracy McGrady is only 29, but looks 45 and perpetually like he just woke up. Maybe he’ll make the rest of the season interesting. Here’s your Sunday Mets linkage:


First up: The New Beasts of the North. The Mets AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, are absolutely stacked. Blue and Orange breaks down the team. Ted Berg lists the powerful lineup here.

Yesterday, Fred Wilpon basically said that “If you want the Mets, you’re going to have to pry them from my cold dead hands – and even won’t be enough.” He then laughed manically while thunder cracked in the background.

The Tuscany Tile that is Rick Peterson continues his bio-mechanical work in Milwaukee.


The Mets’ pitchers are working on throwing strikes. I assume this is so the parents don’t have to pitch anymore. It may also be so that they won’t have to use a tee as well.

The Mets have lost the fourth most money to the DL since 2002.

***

Yeah, that’s it for this Sunday. Maybe this will finally push the Super Bowl halftime show out of your head.

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>Mike Pelfrey Talking About His New Pitch.

>In case you missed it, Mike Pelfrey was a guest on “Mets Hot Stove” with Kevin Burkhardt Thursday night. Pelfrey discussed how he lost 20 pounds during the off-season*, how began his throwing program earlier because he felt his seasons had gotten off to slow starts in the past, and how he worked more on his split-fingered changeup, which he now feels he has good control over. To watch the video over at Sny.tv, click here.

*Um – okay. Someone want to explain this one? Did anyone actually think Pelfrey’s problem last year was that he was too hefty? Did you say to yourself at any point last season, “Gosh. Pelfrey wouldn’t have balked there if he wasn’t so portly. The extra gravity from his tremendous pot belly probably carried him off the mound”? Or, “that single wouldn’t have slipped past Luis Castillo’s glove if Big Pelf had just laid off the Baconnaise, and gone with the Baconnaise Lite instead.” 

On the list of reasons why Mike Pelfrey failed in 2009, his weight is far, far down the list – Luis Castillo’s weight is much higher on that list than Mike Pelfrey’s weight. The negative effects from the gravitational pull of my body weight is probably higher on the list than Pelfrey’s weight.

Anyway, here’s a transcription of Pelfrey discussing his new split-change, which occurs near the end of the video:

Mike Pelfrey:  . . . a pitch that Dan Warthen and I started working on later in the year was the split finger [change-up], to substitute for the [regular] changeup. That was a pitch I really wanted to work on, and that’s a pitch, as of right now, that’s been pretty good in all my bullpens. There was even times back in Wichita where I threw to hitters a couple times. I think that’s going to be a big pitch for me this year, and I feel pretty comfortable with it.

Kevin Burkhardt: It’s a split-fastball, or a split changeup?

Mike Pelfrey: A split changeup.

Kevin Burkhardt: So do you feel more comfortable with that than you do with your curveball?

Mike Pelfrey: I would say yeah. I think being able to command it, which is always good, I’m able to put it pretty much where I want it around the plate, which is huge.

***

A third pitch would be big for Pelf, because he often relied too heavily on his fastball in 2009. Pelfrey’s entire game plan consisted of pounding the zone with fastballs, and then more fastballs, and then some more fastballs. And basically nothing else (a crummy slider, maybe a curveball for a ball just to see if he could still throw one – take that Rick Peterson!), but his fastball doesn’t induce enough grounders for him to be an elite ground ball pitcher in the mold of a Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe. Pelfrey has a 50.0% ground ball rate for his career, while Hudson sits at 58.6% and Lowe even higher (Lowe-r?) at 63.4%. Big Pelf is fantastic at preventing home runs, though he tends more to get slapped to death when hitters get all over his fastball – if you recall, when things go bad for Pelfrey, it’s never something dramatic like a three-run homer. It’s more often four or five sharp singles, a couple of walks, and maybe the occasional balk or three to break the monotony. A better infield defense would help turn some of those singles into outs, but if his fastball isn’t working, there really isn’t anything else Pelfrey can pull out of his limited bag of tricks – Pelfrey is sort of like my dog. She knows how to stick her paw out for shake when she wants a treat, but that’s really the only trick she’s got. Pelfrey has fastballs and more fastballs, my dog has shake. They both also lick themselves a lot.

So how does the changeup factor in?

If Pelfrey isn’t going to be a double-play churning, hand-licking, crazy-eyed ground ball machine, then he is going to need to strikeout more batters to become an elite pitcher. He struck out batters at a much higher rate in the minor leagues, but he has thus far failed to overpower major league batters in a similar fashion. Not having a secondary pitch will do that. Also, major league hitter are good – better than the ones in the minor leagues. So that doesn’t help either. It’s difficult to strike major leaguers out, more so with just one pitch, unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

A good, or at least a useful changeup, should it allow Pelf to strike out a few more batters, maybe keep them off the fastball, and could help him make the jump to the rotational innings eater* the Mets need.

*He’ll eat the innings despite the diet.

By the way, Exile on 126th St. / patrickfloodblog.com – whatever the name of this blog is – is now on Facebook. You can become a fan by clicking here or, if that link doesn’t work – it might not. I have no idea what I’m doing – by clicking on the Facebook link over to the right. Then you can tell your Met fan friends about this typo-ridden magical corner of the internet via Facebook. I’ve also been on Twitter for a bit – follow me by clicking here, or by clicking over on the right as well. Lastly, to RSS subscribe to this blog, click over there, on the top right of the page – the big orange thing that says “Subscribe.”

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>Before

>It’s still well before the final out of the 2010 World Series falls into someone’s glove and players pile up just in front of the mound. Before the 29 groups of tears and “next-year”, and that one group of foggy-breathed ecstatic smiles that lasts. Before the magic numbers and the mathematical eliminations which finally put hope into its yearly hibernation. Before the air just starts to nip again, before afternoon games on Labor Day, before the dog days start to stretch and sweat and simmer, before “sweet summer nights turn into summer dreams.” Before a few too many hot dogs and checkerboard-cut grass, and before the rotting low tide smell of Flushing Bay and the roaring of the airplanes which both fade as you move closer and closer to the stadium. Before the solemn seven train rides where the only sound is the lonely creaking of the wheels, and the jovial ones where a temporary family of strangers relives what just happened.

Well before the whispers and shouts of the trade deadline, and before the unknowns emerge as this-year’s heroes and last-year’s heroes succumb to injuries and age. Before “I can’t believe so-and-so was-or-was-not voted an all-star. He did-or-did-not deserve it.” Before the tied games that run so deep into the night you finally just have to give up and head to bed because you have to work in the morning – but you just end up sleepless, listening on the radio, wondering if Howie Rose is required to state whether or not Wendy’s drive-thru is still open every half-inning. He is, and you can still eat great, even late. Come on, someone score.

Even well before the guessing, and then the required second-guessing. Before “El Esta Aqui.” Finalmente. Before the late-night games during west-coast trips which seemingly mandate a helicopter shot of sparsely lit New York buildings accompanied by Gary Cohen stating that “it’s midnight in Manhattan” and Keith Hernandez repeatedly asserting how unlikely it is that anyone is still up watching. We’re there, Keith. Thanks for staying up with us.

And still before you seek cover somewhere in a drenched Citi Field for two hours during a thunder storm because you came to see a ball game and you think you see a break in the clouds just over there. Yeah. There. Past where the lightening just flashed. It is too there. Look closer. It’s just soft summer rain anyway. It’ll pass. They’ll play.

Before the symphony of late inning tension and release, and before the leads that just slip away when no one in the bullpen can seem to get a handle on the game, and before the ninth inning comebacks you can feel building from the first inning. Before, “why didn’t he go with Feliciano in that spot?” Before “wait until Independence Day” and before “wait until Memorial Day” and even before “wait until May.”

Still before “today’s starting pitcher for your New York Mets, Johan Santana” and before “now batting, Jose Reyes.” Before the 49th calling of the names on Opening Day. Before the equipment truck makes the long journey back up I-95 to Flushing. Before the temperatures up here finally draw closer to the temperatures down there. Before the parring down of the roster to the 25 and the reading-too-much-into-spring-training-stats. Before someone is out of shape and behind schedule, and before someone is ahead in their rehab. Before an exhibition game featuring players with uniform numbers in the 70′s playing against players with uniform numbers in the 10′s finally sneaks back onto your television some rainy March day. Even before all that.

Now, in the perpetual twilight of February, in a foot of snow, in the wind that blows right through you, and in days that blur together -

Hundreds of miles away, someone is playing catch. 2010 starts today.

Let’s Go Mets.

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>Two- Headed Platoon Monster: Catcher

>

So what happens when the catchers on your off-season shopping list want eleven dollar bills, but you’ve only got ten?

Even with a Rod Barajas signing – and that may only be a minor league deal anyway – the Mets find themselves going into spring training with four or five backup catchers, one Josh Thole, and no real pleasing options for the everyday starter because the group is either too old, too young, or too “not good.” Barajas, who was the starter for the Blue Jays last season and a plus defender, is still likely better suited for part-time duty due to a .286 OBP. Just because Barajas started last season does not mean that he is starter quality – although his defense may beg to differ. More on him later.

So it ain’t no use to sit and wonder who’s the best option. Don’t think twice – there is no good answer. But maybe there are two good answers. Or at least two less-bad answers.

Once again, the Mets can try to make the best with what they have thanks to the century-old sorcery of platoons.

The charts for the Mets catching options with the OPS splits are down on the right sides of the page – column A is the player’s career major league OPS, or major league equivalents (MLE) in italics for the minor leaguers. Column B is the same, only given a super simple age adjustment – this is just an estimation to account for the fact that the old generally get worse and the young generally get better. Generally. For a more detailed explanation of the methods, and for first base platoon suggestions, click here.

Vs. Lefties

Numbers Say: Shawn Riggans or Chris Coste.

Why That Makes Sense: Shawn Riggans, who the Mets brought into camp on a minor league deal after he being dropped by the Tampa Bay Rays, has hit .346/.405/.543 against lefties over 282 minor league plate appearances against southpaws – the MLE of that line is .298/.348/.458. Chris Coste has hit .294/.345/.476 over 254 major league plate appearances vs LHP. Both of those are +.800 OPS marks, which is nice because Met catchers hit for a .685 OPS last season.

Why That Doesn’t Make Sense: Shawn Riggans – and don’t let the face fool you into thinking he’s younger than he is – he will turn 30 this year and has just 188 major league at-bats to his name, during which he’s batted .202/.266/.356, and he missed almost all of last year with a shoulder injury. I also have no idea how he plays defensively – Riggans threw out 26.5% of would-be base-stealers in the minors, which is worse than Santos’ 29% rate in the minors. The NL rate was 29% last season. Of course, throwing is just part of the equation that makes a catcher competent defensively. Riggans is an unknown defensive quantity at this point.

As for Mr. Chris Coste, he is 37-years-old and coming off a season where he hit .224/.301/.317, including .222/.295/.389 against lefties. His power has dropped and his strikeout rate has risen steeply for two consecutive seasons – in other words, he’s got all the signs of someone whose bat is slowing down. In addition, he’s an old catcher, so Coste is more likely to be injured and see a decline in performance anyway because: A.) He’s a old and B.) He’s a catcher. I also imagine that the Mets plan is for Coste to play Jimmy Conway to Josh Thole’s Henry Hill in AAA Buffalo, so I’d be surprised if he made the club out of spring training, barring injury. Actually, with the Mets, I should probably count on an injury, shouldn’t I? So I guess I do expect Coste to be on the big club to begin the year.

Who It Should Really Be: Hesitantly, Shawn Riggans – if he’s healthy and rebounds to his old form. His major league statistics suffered from small sample size disease – he’s had some bad luck to the tune of a  .221 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in the majors, which is bound to improve. Also, the dude has just mashed lefties in the minors – .948 minor league OPS against pitchers who shop at Ned Flander’s Leftorium.

Unfortunately, a lot of things need to go right for Riggans to hit lefties for the team. The Mets already have Coste, Blanco, Thole, and Santos on the 40 man roster, plus maybe Barajas soon, so it’d be a difficult task for Riggans to break on through. Which is too bad, because him vs. lefties may be the best batting option in the group.

Henry Blanco, who seems to be the planned backup, has hit lefties better than righties over his career as well – but he’s even older than Chris Coste, and not as good of a hitter. On the other hand, Driveline Mechanics rated Blanco’s defense as the 7th best in the league last year, despite limited playing time and being hilariously old for a catcher. Blanco isn’t a terrible option for the platoon given the otherwise uninspiring group – but Riggans is a much better hitter.

Vs. Righties

The Numbers Say: The Mets need another catcher. Another better catcher. Not Barajas.

I guess I have to pick someone based on the numbers. Sigh. Omir Santos.

Why That Makes Sense: Winner-by-default Omir Santos is the only player to reach the .700 OPS barrier with the age adjustment, by putting up an exactly .700 OPS vs RHP in 2009. Chris Coste is the only other one to break .700 for his career against righties, with a .713 mark, the highest career mark in the group. That’s right. .713 is the highest career mark in the group. There’s no real standouts or even “adequate hitters” here like there were in the vs. lefties group. Mets catchers are not going to hit well against righties in 2010. Roy Halladay is probably already drooling.

Why That Doesn’t Make Sense: Home Run Santos’ famed compact swing enables him to catch up to fastballs, but his poor plate discipline and pitch recognition means that, eventually, pitchers are going to figure out that they should never throw him fastballs. Ever. That is, if they haven’t already noticed. The Mets as a team saw 63.2% fastballs last season, and 20.6% breaking balls. Santos saw just 56.6% fastballs, and 26.4% breaking balls. I’d expect Santos to see even less fastballs in 2010.

The corollary to Omir Santos only being able to hit fastballs is that he can’t hit anything besides fastballs. Fangraphs has him struggling mightily against anything that breaks.

Who It Sho
uld Really Be:
Despite all those negatives, Omir Santos might currently be the best signed choice offensively – or at least not the worst choice. Home Run is the only one that hits right-handed pitching better than left-handed pitching – the left-handed-hitting Thole has a reverse platoon split as well – so Santos is the winner by default. Driveline Mechanics liked his defense as well, so there’s that going for him.

Should the Mets pick up Rod Barajas, I’d give him the nod over Santos, but I’m not going to go so far as to call him the “winner” of this contest. Barajas is Bengie Molina lite – that’s not a good thing. He is on the older side and has the same poor offensive habits as Molina: rarely walks and has a horrible approach at the plate which leads to a low batting average.

Barajas hits a ton of fly balls, many of which fail to leave the infield, most of which fail to leave the ball park, and thus turn into easily caught outs. Even the power is an illusion of sorts. He doesn’t hit home runs because he’s a good hitter – he’s hits home runs because he hits a ridiculous number of fly balls. Some of them happen to leave the park. Most don’t. Barajas had a .229 BABIP last season, which usually screams out bad luck, but his career BABIP is just .253, so last year’s mark wasn’t even outside the usual range of luck. A ton of infield flies, which turn into outs almost every time, and soft-struck fly balls will do that to your BABIP. There’s a reason no one has signed him yet.

But, and it’s a big but, Barajas has a good defensive reputation and Driveline Mechanics’ system agrees with that assertion. He also doesn’t have a platoon split for his career, so he wouldn’t be any worse against righties than against lefties. His defense bumps him up to the no-doubt best candidate against righties. Barajas isn’t fantastic, but he is better than the other options.

All that said, the best offensive platoon would still be a Shawn Riggans/a-warm-body-in-catcher’s-gear arrangement. On the other hand, Thole is CHONE projected to be the best hitter in the bunch. Maybe it should be him for offense. I imagine Barajas-or-Santos and Blanco is the most likely combination, with Barajas/Blanco the best defensive grouping.

I’ll hop on the Shawn Riggans bandwagon anyway, with Barajas as the main catcher against righties. Rawn Rigrajas for catcher 2010.

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>Two- Headed Platoon Monster: First Base

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And you may find yourself letting the days go by as spring training inches closer and closer. And you may find yourself looking at the Mets roster. And you may ask yourself, “Why should the 2010 Mets settle on just one sub-par first baseman, when they could instead try to weld two sub-par first baseman into one slightly-less-sub-par first baseman?” And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”

Well, the same as it ever was – by platooning your lesser first basemen into an ugly two-headed platoon monster.

Let’s dive into the possibilities.

But first, an explanation of methods. Skip this part if you don’t care. To better examine the platoon possibilities for first base, I took the career OPS righty/lefty splits for the major leaguers (Murphy, Jacobs, Tatis, Catalanatto), and the career major league equivalent (MLE) righty/lefty splits of the mostly minor leaguers stats (Green, Davis, Evans, Carter). Then, I added a really simple age adjustment to compensate for the fact that older players are likely to get worse, and younger players are likely to improve. Basically, how ever many years younger than 29 the player will be in 2010, his stats are improved that much. Daniel Murphy is 25, four years younger than 29, so his stats are upped 4%. Ike Davis is 23, so his stats are bumped up 6%.

For players older than 29, their stats are decreased 1% for every year older than 29 they are – Frank Catalanatto, who will be 36 in 2010, has his numbers decreased 7%.

On the charts, the first column is the actual OPS for that platoon split, and the second column is the age adjusted version of that number. The MLE are in italics, actual major league numbers are not. Pretty straightforward, even if it may unfairly penalizes someone like Tatis. That’s why I left both numbers on the chart.

One other thing: I have no idea what to make of Chris Carter. CHONE projects him to be the best hitter among the Mets 1B candidates, but his MLE are not impressive at all. I’m lost.

Vs. Righties

Numbers Say: Mike Jacobs

Why That Makes Sense:
Jacobs has a career .830 OPS against righties.


Why That Doesn’t Make Sense
: Mike Jacobs is the best option against righties only if you want to ignore defense completely. Despite his slugging prowess against righties, Jacobs gives back defensively about whatever he adds offensively, even if he only faces right-handed pitching. His power against righties is simply not enough by first base standards to compensate for his poor fielding.

To put it another way, Jacobs is called a first baseman only because when he’s in the field, he stands closest to the first base bag. You could also put an eye patch and a grisly beard on him and rightly call him a pirate by that same logic. He’s no more a first baseman than he is a pirate – he’s a platoon designated hitter who can mash righties. Like Bill James said, if you could split Rickey Henderson in two and have two Hall-of-Famers, then you could split Mike Jacobs into three and wind up with one useful player and two useless ones.

On that flip side, it would benefit all parties involved if Mike Jacobs never got another plate appearance against a left-handed pitcher. Jacobs has hit .221/.269/.374 against lefties for his career, striking out 31% of the time. The underlying problem may be that Jacobs can’t hit sliders – his Fangraphs’ page shows that he hits fastballs and curveballs about as well as the rest of the league, destroys changeups, but is miserable against sliders. Generally, pitches breaking away from the batter – such as sliders from a left-handed pitcher to a lefty batter like Jacobs – are more difficult to hit than pitches breaking into the batter. Thus, someone who struggles against breaking balls to being with may be more susceptible to heavier platoon splits.

Jacobs is a bad ball hitter who struggles against lefties and power pitchers – so how has he fared against a lefty power pitcher with a good slider? Sound like anyone familiar?

Mike Jacobs vs. Oliver Perez, career: 14 PA, 1-12 with a single, walk and plunk, six strikeouts.

Who It Should Really Be: Daniel Murphy. Because of Jacobs’ fielding issues, the best option for a first base platoon against right-handers is either Frank Catalanatto or Daniel Murphy, both of who are better fielders. Because young players are likely to improve and older ones are likely to decline, Murphy should get the nod for his age and defense. Though notice that Ike Davis climbs all the way to third place with the simple age adjustment . . .

Vs. Lefties

Numbers say: Uh, Daniel Murphy?

Why That Makes Sense: Oh boy. Nobody breaks the .800 OPS barrier in either column. Murphy may come as a surprise selection to some, possibly because his platoon split has been overstated. A 40 point OPS platoon gap does exists for Murphy, who struggles against lefties, but that’s nothing compared to the 200 point gaps for players that really, really can’t hit lefties, such as Catalanatto and Jacobs. Again, Murphy is young. He’s likely to improve against both lefties and righties, perhaps enough to make a platoon pointless.

Why That Doesn’t Make Sense:
And it’s no, nay, never for the Irish wild rover. Murphy a .732 OPS against lefties last year. That’s not very good.

Who It Should Really Be:
Fernando Tatis is the Mets’ best bet against lefties, if you don’t want to adjust for age – and you might not want to with someone like Tatis. He posted a .797 OPS against lefties in 2009, and there’s no reason he can’t do it again. Some players maintain their offensive abilities with age, and Tatis appears to be one of them, putting up two solid offensive years at age 33 and 34.

A Tatis/Murphy platoon works best at first. They’re both average hitters, plus-defenders, and Tatis is viable at multiple positions, adding to his value on the bench. Plus, this is a post about platoons, which would be rendered pointless if I came to the conclusion that it shouldn’t be a platoon.

Murphy/Tatis it is – a two-headed monster named Franiel Taturphy, if you will.

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>Sunday Stuff You Should Read

>Less than a week till pitchers and catchers report. Almost there.

Murphy, Murphy, Murphy, Murphy – Sam Page of Amazin’ Avenue looks at the first base situation, Ted Berg tales a look at Murphy vs. Jacobs here.

Metstradamus examines at the new Takahashi.

Toby Hyde reports in on the Mets new Takahashi as well.
Every beat reporter on the planet is going to or has already run a “biggest questions facing the Mets” piece. A Brian Costa’s article is here, misanthrope Marty Noble’s questions are here

Jay Payton still wants a job.

I love MLB.com’s holiday writings for all the wrong reasons.

Lastly, touche, Village Voice . . .

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