Monthly Archives: July 2012

Matt Harvey’s pitching bible

It also has evolved into a hybrid between a mechanical book and a strategic one. In college and in the minors, when Harvey faced a batter he expected to see again, he made note of how he approached each hitter and how he fared. Now, as he faces each big-league team for the first time, he will make an entry for every hitter for future reference.

The book’s details are known only to Harvey, who won’t allow anyone else to read it. “It’s got a privacy lock on it,” Harvey said. “It’s for my eyes only.”

Excellent read from the Brian Costa in the Wall Street Journal detailing Matt Harvey and his pitching bible.

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Shane Victorino: new Dodger, frequent faller

Shane Victorino, an excellent and detestable Mets nemesis, has been traded to the Dodgers. Here are a bunch of .gifs of Victorino falling down.

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R.A. Dickey on short rest

So according to the MetsBlog, Terry Collins is once again considering using R.A. Dickey on short rest. This rumor has been floating about for the last two months, and I think it’s finally worth addressing. Because it’s R.A. Dickey. And who doesn’t want to talk about R.A. Dickey? So let’s break the argument down into its component parts.

The case for using R.A. Dickey on short rest:

By ERA and ERA+, Dickey is eighth-best starting pitcher in the National League this season. The Mets could, over the course of a full season, squeeze another eight starts and 45-55 innings out of Dickey by pitching him every fourth day. Those eight starts and 45-55 innings would no longer be thrown by Miguel Batista-type pitchers, and instead would be thrown by one of the league’s best starting pitchers. Getting another eight starts out of Dickey would be equal to the advantage gained from trading for an ace pitcher at the deadline: Either way, it’s another eight starts by an ace. Teams trade top prospects for eight starts down the stretch from CC Sabathia or Zack Greinke. The Mets could get those extra eight starts from Dickey for no prospects and no extra money.

The case against:

The advantage isn’t huge, and the risk outweighs the advantage anyway. If Dickey takes 45-55 innings away from a pitcher who would post a 4.50-5.00 ERA, and Dickey posts a 3.00 ERA in those innings, Dickey’s work saves the Mets 5-10 runs over a Miguel Batista-type. That’s it. It’s one game in the standings, maybe, at the risk of piling another 45-55 innings onto the 38-year-old arm of your best pitcher. And he’ll be on short-rest the entire time. Dickey already gives the Mets 200 innings per season, more than most pitchers. The benefits of pushing him don’t outweigh the meager benefits.

What the Mets should do:

I don’t know if the risk to Dickey’s arm over a full season is worth it, but I’m also not against experimenting here because the Mets could get an extra eight starts from a great pitcher. Here’s my possibly-bad idea for what to do with Dickey: The Mets should let Dickey pitch on three-days rest for a month — say, this August — monitoring him closely throughout. First sign of trouble, shut him down for a week (or the season) and then put him back on regular rest. But otherwise give it a month. At the end, the Mets will have a better idea how to manage a rotation with one pitcher working every three days and the others working every four or so, and Dickey will know how his arm feels working on regular three-days rest. If the Mets and Dickey feel good about the experiment’s results, Dickey pitches every four days in 2013 and the Mets get their extra starts.

OR

But if the experiment fails, there’s another, possibly safer way to squeeze more out of Dickey: Stick him in the bullpen on his throw day between starts. Terry Collins already does this on occasion, but I’m in favor of this becoming the regular thing. The Mets may only be able to get 15 innings out of Dickey this way, but they can make those 15 innings count. Pitch Dickey in the eighth and ninth innings in close games, let him protect one run leads, etc. If the Mets leverage Dickey’s use correctly, they could make those 15 extra innings in relief count as much as 20-30 extra innings in the rotation, without significantly altering their best pitcher’s routine.

Using Dickey out of the bullpen could also let the Mets carry six relievers for stretches of time, giving them the flexibility to carry six bench players. That has value, or at least makes it easier for the Mets to sit comfortably on wobbly benches that require even weight distribution or otherwise tip over like a see-saw.

Dickey is the Mets’ best pitcher and, dollars and contracts included, probably their most valuable piece. They shouldn’t mess that up. But there is value in experimenting cautiously to see if they can squeeze any more value out of Dickey, be it by pitching him every four days or using him out of the bullpen more often. If the Mets can find extra value in the team and players they already have, that’s a leg up on everyone else.

Also we’d get to see R.A. Dickey pitch more. Why is anyone against this idea?

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Mostly Mets Podcast

Last week we were all like “don’t worry, it’s just a bad week.” This week we’re all like “okay, so how about next year?” So go the Mets. ITunes link is here.

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What the heck just happened?

Here are some things that have just happened: The Mets have lost 10 of their last 11 games. They have plummeted to 300 games* out of first place in the NL East and six games back in the Wild Card. They demoted Lucas Duda, whom they expected to be a lineup cog this season, to Buffalo on Tuesday. Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are on the disabled list, and the pitching has been six-run-a-thon all July. The Mets are three games below .500 and after making some noise in the first half, look now to be on the fringes of contention at best.

*rounding to the farthest 300.

There’s a lot of unhappiness in Mets-land, so let’s start with the Duda and go from there. Lucas Duda was not playing good baseball. He didn’t hit left-handed pitching this season, batting .225/.275/.324 against lefties in 120 plate appearances. He was also one of the worst — if not the clear worst — defensive players in baseball, ranking by the numbers as the worst right fielder. He just wasn’t helping the Mets win games. Duda could be used as a break-even player against right-handed pitchers, maybe making up for his miserable defense with his bat. (Maybe.) But he was a huge negative against lefties. Position players need to hit or they need to field, and Duda was only doing half of one of those things. And so it goes.

This isn’t entirely Duda’s fault, of course. The Mets played Duda out of position in right field, and he failed. He didn’t appear to handle the transition well, and his defensive struggles perhaps affected his offense. Lucas Duda has a Major League future, but not as a right fielder.

So now the bigger picture. The New York Mets are in the second year of the Sandy Alderson era, and it’s worth looking at the returns for signs of something. What do the Mets have going forward? If we start in the lineup: David Wright has reestablished himself as an elite player. Ruben Tejada is an average to above-average Major League shortstop and only 22. After a slow first half, Daniel Murphy has proven he can fake second base as a real .300 hitter. Josh Thole has improved his defense enough to be an above-average catcher if he can pull his bat back together and just an average one if he can’t.

But then it’s question marks everywhere else. After crawling out of Bane’s giant prison pit to take a step forward in June, Ike Davis decided to jump back in for the month of July. And the Mets’ outfield is a mess: Duda we covered, Kirk Nieuwenhuis can’t hit lefties, Jordany Valdespin isn’t really an outfielder and is a .750 OPS hitter in the Minors, and Andres Torres has disappointed. Outside of Matt Den Dekker, who has struggled with his batting average in Triple-A, no outfield prospects are close.

The pitching staff looks a bit brighter, but perhaps only in comparison. R.A. Dickey is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, Jon Niese may have taken that elusive step, and the now-injured Dillon Gee can fill out the back end of a Major League rotation. Matt Harvey will debut later this week and Zack Wheeler could be special. But Santana’s health is a question again and Chris Young’s right arm is held together with silly putty and magic from his brother Hagrid’s umbrella. And Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia have had uninspiring seasons in the Minors.

Plus the Mets have one useful reliever pitcher in Bobby Parnell, and Terry Collins may have burnt out their only other, Tim Byrdak. The bullpen isn’t good. Did you guys know that? The Mets bullpen hasn’t been good.

The Mets have pieces though, maybe more pieces than they did two years ago. They have an infield, a decent catcher, a few starting pitchers, and . . . uhhh . . . one relief pitcher. They have a bunch of bench players because enough of their position players have proven themselves fringe bench types. So they need an outfield*, a bullpen and a few more starting pitchers.

*This is actually a huge problem. The Mets outfield has pieces – Baxter, Duda, Nieuwenhuis, Valdespin — but it doesn’t look like any of the pieces are everyday pieces. The Mets don’t have an everyday Major League outfielder in their organization.** Terry Collins can and does platoon like crazy, but the front office might need to bring in two everyday types this winter.

**For anyone curious: Fernando Martinez has destroyed the PCL with the Astros’ Triple-A affliate this season. The Astros did call up Martinez up last month. He went 1-15 before diving for a ball, hitting his head, and going to the DL for a concussion. He’s back playing in the Minors again. Some things never change? I don’t know. I think the Mets are going to regret this one.

The big question is this one: How far away are the Mets from contending for real? Although they managed to undo all the goodwill they built over the season’s first half in only 11 games, the answer seems to be: Not far. Strong first halves from David Wright, Johan Santana, and R.A. Dickey carried the Mets and made them seem serious contenders for the postseason through three months. With a not-terrible supporting cast, three or four players can make things happen. (See: The Wright-Reyes-Beltran 2006-2008 Mets) The Mets have at least one great player in Wright and maybe another in R.A. Dickey. They have enough elsewhere to make a not-terrible supporting cast. If one of the young pitchers or position players can take the step forward, or the supporting cast moves from not-terrible to decent, the Mets are right there.

Also a bullpen. The Mets need a real bullpen. There’s like seven relievers down there at a time, and another three shuffling between the Majors and Minors. That’s ten guys. How are all ten bad? How does that happen? How do the Mets keep finding ten guys who are all bad? What’s going on out there in the Mets’ actual, physical bullpen? That has to be the answer, right? Maybe the relievers play really competitive Jenga in the bullpen during the early innings and just don’t have the adrenaline left for relief pitching later.

Anyway. The past two weeks have been a pretty obvious low-point for the Mets. They suffered injuries, a team-wide pitching collapse, and knocked themselves nearly out of the playoff race in only 11 games. The Mets got everyone to believe just enough to make this part hurt. But if it hurts, it’s because you did believe. That’s nice in its own way. The Mets may not be there yet, but they’re getting closer.

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Some links

Hey, how about some links before I post some Mets stuff later.

Dave Cameron (Fangraphs, not UK) has a post over on Fangraphs about Hanley Ramirez’s potential trade value:

The primary issue with trading Ramirez is that he simply hasn’t been very good for a couple of years now. Since the start of last season, he’s hit just .245/.328/.405 in 776 plate appearances, good for a .323 wOBA that puts him in the same class of hitter as guys like Jeff Francoeur, Bobby Abreu, and Johnny Damon. That’s a far cry from the .393 wOBA he posted from 2006 to 2010, when he was on the same level as Mark Teixeira, Jim Thome, and Ryan Braun.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the Marlins TRADED FOR CARLOS LEE just a few weeks ago. They are now in full fire-sale mode and maybe looking to trade away everyone signed to a long-term contract. After trading FOR CARLOS LESS. In terms of first-year-in-new-stadium seasons, is this better or worse than the 2009 Mets season?

Anyway, you should read Cameron’s piece because he’s better than anyone at gauging a player’s value in an informative and easily-digested manner. Really. You can print out the blog post, eat it, and a few hours later your digestive tract will mail you a hand-written thank you note.

Second link: There’s a really long, non-hagiographical, and generally awesome profile of Bruce Springsteen on the New Yorker’s website:

Springsteen arrived and greeted everyone with a quick hello and his distinctive cackle. He is five-nine and walks with a rolling rodeo gait. When he takes in something new—a visitor, a thought, a passing car in the distance—his eyes narrow, as if in hard light, and his lower jaw protrudes a bit. His hairline is receding, and, if one had to guess, he has, over the years, in the face of high-def scrutiny and the fight against time, enjoined the expensive attentions of cosmetic and dental practitioners. He remains dispiritingly handsome, preposterously fit. (“He has practically the same waist size as when I met him, when we were fifteen,” says Steve Van Zandt, who does not.) Some of this has to do with his abstemious inclinations; Van Zandt says Springsteen is “the only guy I know—I think the only guy I know at all—who never did drugs.”

Love the Boss. The Mets’ sky is falling, and more on that later. For now calm yourself with some Jungleland.

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Never forget

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Mostly Mets Podcast

Hey ya’ll. Here’s this week’s Mostly Mets Podcast, “the end is not neigh” edition. And here’s the iTunes link, for iTunes things. Hugs and kisses.

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DePo to ESPN New York

I don’t know if ya’ll missed these, but the Mets’ VP in charge of Player Development (I’m like 85% sure that’s his actual title) Paul DePodesta talked with ESPN New York about the Mets farm system and player development stuff. DePodesta always has plenty of interesting, if phrased diplomatically, things to say about both the Mets and baseball in general. He doesn’t disappoint here. Part 1 is here, Part 2 here.

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The Bob-o-pedic curveball

Bobby Parnell threw roughly 700 curveballs in the ninth inning last night. (And gave up two hits on fastballs. Go figure.) Rob Castellano over on Amazin’ Avenue has a breakdown of Parnell’s pitch selection, so go check out there for more on that.

For my brief take: Parnell’s curveball was his best pitch last night. He got into good counts with it, but he couldn’t command his fastball and put hitters away when he went back to the heat. Thole would set up on the outside corner, but Parnell put his fastball right in the middle of the plate.

Parnell is really, really close to being a dominant reliever, but only if he can use his curveball and fastball interchangeably. His curveball’s developed enough where he can use it effectively and almost-exclusively, as he did last night. But he needs to be able to put his fastball in the right spots after setting it up with curveballs.

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