Monthly Archives: July 2011

And the Window Begins to Open

Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies recalled right fielder Hunter Pence from their major league affiliate in Houston, sending back four minor leaguers to the Astros: pitcher Jarred Cosart, outfielder Jonathan Singleton, reliever Josh Zeid and a player to be named later.

I think this is good news for the Mets.

Now, on one hand, this trade makes Philadelphia better for the next three seasons. The righthanded hitting Pence, under team control through 2013, helps balance a lefty-heavy Phillies’ lineup that is batting just .237/.308/.356 against lefthanded pitching this season. He is also a boost to an offense that has been merely average. And with Raul Ibanez’s contract expiring after this year, Pence and Domonic Brown can fill in Philly’s outfield corners for the next two seasons and maybe even beyond. All that is good for Philadelphia.

But on the other hand Continue reading

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Carlos Beltran in Moving Colors!

Bill Petti over at Amazin’ Avenue has a great post examining Carlos Beltran’s Hall of Fame chances — using charts you can move! I really like this kind of stuff. Behold the true power of the Internet, interactive graphics. Go click over and play around.

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Things to Know about the Washington Nationals

The Mets head down to D.C. this weekend to play a three-game set against the Nationals. Here are some things you might want to know about them: Continue reading

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Mostly Mets Podcast, Episode Seven

Toby, Ted and I talk about the Carlos Beltran trade, the newest Mets prospect Zach Wheeler, and the weird things dogs will eat. The iTunes link is here, as always, or you can listen below. Send us feedback, let us know what you like and what we can do better.

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Did the Mets Get Enough for Beltran?

On Tuesday, I wrote:

If the Mets pay all of Beltran’s salary and the team trading for him is willing to pay a premium to make the postseason . . . that’s $10.5 million dollars of value for Beltran.

. . . $10.5 million dollars equals a couple of good-but-not-quite-can’t-miss pitching prospects. Something like Jeurys Familia and Armando Rodriguez, to name two pitchers in the Mets’ system right now. Certainly not Philadelphia’s Domonic Brown, Atlanta’s Mike Minor, or any of the other big prospect names thrown around recently. A good pitching prospect and another decent arm/young hitter is the maximum scenario for a fair trade, if the other team wants to overpay to make the postseason and the Mets pick up all of Beltran’s salary. But, again, it’s not going to be a top, top guy.

Yesterday, the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for Single-A pitcher Zack Wheeler. Reportedly, the Mets picked up $4 million of the $6 million owed to Beltran, meaning they sent something around $8.5 million dollars of player value to the Giants. (The on-field value of two months of Beltran, minus the $2 million dollars San Fran has to pay him.) Beltran is a bit more of an injury risk than most, which probably makes it a little less, but let’s say $8.5 million is our number.

So what did the Mets get in return for $8.5 million dollars of Beltran?

Zack Wheeler was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, the third pitcher taken, after Stephen Strasburg and Matthew Hobgood. Baseball America ranked Wheeler the #49 best prospect in baseball going into the 2010 season, while Baseball-Prospectus ranked him at #88. Wheeler struggled with blister problems in his first professional season, throwing just 58.2 innings, posting a 3.99 ERA and striking out 70 while walking 38 for the Giants’ Single-A affiliate in Augusta.

Coming into this season, Baseball America ranked Wheeler as the #55 best prospect in baseball, and Baseball-Prospectus had him ranked at #52, while prospect guru John Sickels gave Wheeler a B Grade. In 16 starts in High-A this year, Wheeler again has a 3.99 ERA, with 98 strikeouts against 47 walks in 88 innings. Baseball America bumped Wheeler up to #35 in their mid-season update to the top prospect list (and the 17th best pitcher). The consensus report seems to be that Wheeler throws hard and gets a ton of ground balls, but walks far too many batters.

So Wheeler is a top pitching prospect — though not a top, top guy — ranked somewhere between the #35 and #55 in all baseball. He’s probably not an A Grade guy, and more of a high B Grade. What’s that worth?

Guesstimating again with this little chart, a prospect like Wheeler is worth, on average, between $15.9 (for a #25-50 pitcher) and $7.3 million dollars (for a Grade B pitcher), probably erring more towards the higher side of those numbers for Wheeler himself. The Mets sent about $8.5 million dollars of stuff the Giants’ way. Conservatively, it’s a solid return for the Mets, and probably closer to a win. It looks like the Giants overpaid slightly for Beltran, which is why Sandy Alderson jumped for it.

Of course, there’s very little chance Wheeler actually ends up bringing the Mets exactly $13 or so million dollars of value. If he works out as a top of the rotation guy, he’ll be worth much, much more . . . but if he flames out, he’ll be worth almost nothing. The $15.9 or 7.3 million dollar figure is the average between the guys who work out and the guys who implode. There’s a chance Wheeler does either, and that risk is figured into these estimates.

Ultimately, the Mets traded two months of Carlos Beltran for a shot at a top of the rotation pitcher in a couple of years. Beltran will be missed, but the possibility of a young ace in 2014 is more than worth it — all prospects are a gamble, but this is a gamble worth taking.

Photo via here.

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Carlos Beltran Traded

Everyone is reporting to the San Francisco Giants, though no one seems to know what the exact return will be. I’ll have more on this later, but for now, let’s just let the dust settle. If you want to know more about the Giants’ farm system, check out Toby Hyde’s write up from today. El Esta Aqui forever.

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Carlos Beltran: What Would a Fair Return Look Like?

So this series of rumors on MLB Trade Rumors made me laugh when I read them this morning:

- Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes the Rangers are pushing hardest for Beltran, followed by the Braves and Red Sox. The Giants and Phillies appear to be fading, Sherman writes (on Twitter).
- The Rangers and Giants appear to be ahead of the Phillies and Braves in pursuit of Beltran, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). As Crasnick points out, everything can change quickly.
- The Giants and Phillies continue to be the favorites with the Braves still in the mix, tweets Yahoo’s Tim Brown.

Apparently, the Giants and Phillies are fading, while also remaining the favorites . . . oh, but the Rangers are also the favorites, ahead of the Phillies . . . and Atlanta is still in the mix somewhere. No, the Red Sox? This is like one of those logic questions, “if Jill is taller than Jack, but Jean is shorter than Jack, and it’s a Tuesday in June,” only there’s no answer and the question doesn’t make sense.

So even the experts are getting mixed signals, because that’s how these things work. No one really knows where Carlos Beltran is going to be traded, and no one will until it happens. And all it takes is 15 minutes on Baseball-Reference to figure out teams potentially interested in Beltran (competitive teams with an open corner outfield spot off — the top of my head: Braves, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox, Rangers, Pirates and Reds), so it’s not hard to start a rumor. But for the purpose of this post, I’m not interested where Carlos Beltran goes, where it’s likely that he goes, or what Carlos Beltran ate for lunch today. (Skyline chili? Okay, I’m sort of interested in that.) I’m interested in what would be a fair return for two months of Carlos Beltran. Continue reading

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Things to Know about the Cincinnati Reds

The Mets travel to Ohio to play a four-game set against the Cincinnati Reds this week. Here are some things you might want to know about them: Continue reading

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Things to Know about the Florida Marlins

The Mets escape to cooler waters, heading down to Florida to play the Marlins this weekend. Here are some things you might want to know about them: Continue reading

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Worry About Pelfrey’s Velocity Drop?

Yesterday, I attempted to argue in simple terms that Mike Pelfrey is a good candidate to bounce back sometime soon — using nothing but strikeouts and ERA, basically. Simple stuff. Reader-person David, in the comments section hereabouts, made a good argument that there are some things to worry about with Pelfrey that go beyond that, and maybe he won’t bounce back. Let me just quote him here:

His GB% and FB velocity have declined. Last year, he admitted to pitching hurt. Pitchers who don’t miss bats tend to fall apart quickly (CM Wang). Freddy Garcia is making 1.5M and he has an identical xFIP to Pelfrey.

Frankly, I think his downside is worse than his upside (3 WAR pitcher) at this point.

Good points. I countered, since we entered the world of advanced metrics, that Pelfrey’s SIERA (allegedly the most accurate future-ERA predictor) is a career low this season, and his fastball velocity declined from 2009 to 2010 and Pelfrey pitched better in 2010 anyway.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The point is that this got me thinking about fastball velocity, specifically declines in fastball velocity and how they affect pitchers. In 2010, Mike Pelfrey’s fastball averaged 92 MPH; this season it’s down to 91.5 MPH. Breaking it down further, his four seam fastball has dropped from 92.0 MPH to 91.4 MPH, while his two seamer has fallen from 91.7 MPH to 91.4 MPH. So he’s looking at a drop in 0.6 MPH on one pitch and a drop of 0.3 MPH on another. For the sake of this argument, we’ll assume that these declines are actually happening, and it’s not just pitch f/x registering his slower, not-sinking sinkers as four seamers (which I think has happened sometimes) or some other mishap on occasion this season.

I don’t know what a drop in velocity means, but thankfully, someone has already looked into this stuff. Last year, Mike Fast wrote an excellent piece for the Hardball Times about declines and increases in fastball velocity. You should check it out, but to quote a small part of Fast’s conclusion:

. . . a starter’s run average would increase by about 0.25 for every mph lost off his fastball, and 0.45 per mph for a reliever.

Pelfrey has lost less than a full MPH off his fastball, and let’s just go with the 0.6 MPH figure that’s fallen off his four seamer. Going with one MPH equals 0.25 runs per nine inning, that figure works out to a 0.15 rise in Pelfrey’s run average per nine innings, which should be a little less than 0.14 rise in his ERA. A 0.15 rise in his run average, over 200 innings, works out to three extra runs. Even if you figure a slight decline in fastball velocity affects Pelfrey twice as much as a normal pitcher, that’s just six runs over 200 innings, and his ERA should only rise 0.28 runs. Pelfrey’s ERA is a full run higher this season than last season.

Rhetorical question time: Does fastball velocity matter? Of course. Are declines in fastball velocity good signs? No. But I don’t see how a 0.6 MPH decline in Pelfrey’s fastball velocity explains much. Jered Weaver’s velocity has dropped 0.4 MPH this season; his ERA is a full run lower. CC Sabathia’s fastball velocity is down 0.8 MPH since 2009, and he’s having arguably the best season of his career. I see how a drop in velocity probably explains some of Pelfrey’s struggles this season, but it’s not as worrisome as his inability to get good sink on his two seamer:

Where Pelfrey threw his sinker to righthanded batters, 2010 (catcher’s view):

Where he has thrown his sinker to righthanded batters, 2011(catcher’s view):

Red is where a lot of pitches go, blue is where fewer go. I’m going to assume that low and inside is the happy area, and square in the middle of the plate is bad. Pelfrey has a lot of sinkers in the middle of the plate both seasons, but almost no low and inside pitches this season, which explains the home runs, the low GB%, ect. His sinker just isn’t sinking, and that’s the biggest part of his struggle. Fastball velocity matters for Pelfrey, but I don’t think anywhere near as much as movement — and it’s not like he’s lost four MPH or three MPH or even one MPH. He’s lost 0.6 MPH. It’s all about the sink, and I think he’ll figure it out and pitch better.

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