Category Archives: Mets

Today in nitpicking

The Mets have scored 10 runs in their last seven home games, and — surprise — they’ve lost all seven of those games. They also lost two of three to the Brewers on the road somewhere in the middle, putting the Mets at 1-9 over their last 10 games. Also with a 66-81 record, the Mets are guaranteed their fourth consecutive losing season with one more loss. We can go on — have you seen David Wright’s second half numbers? — but enough is enough at some point.

Anyway, the one remaining good thing in this season is that the Mets resemble a competitive baseball when R.A. Dickey pitches. Or, at least, they should. Here’s the lineup the Mets ran out last night against Cliff Lee:

SS — Ruben Tejada
2B — Daniel Murphy
3B — David Wright
RF — Scott Hairston
1B — Lucas Duda
LF — Jason Bay
CF — Andres Torres
C — Mike Nickeas
P — R.A. Dickey

Terry Collins’ lineup starts out well enough. Ruben Tejada is the Mets’ best shortstop, Daniel Murphy their best second baseman, Wright their best third baseman, Hairston their best outfielder against left-handed pitching . . . and then things get weird. I generally like Terry Collins, but the idea of him setting lineups for important October baseball games make me quiver in my boots. This is, if I were wearing boots that were a little loose.

Let’s start here: Lucas Duda played first base, while Ike Davis sat. If you ignore defense, you can sort of see why Terry Collins might have done this. Duda has a career .672 OPS against lefties, while Davis has a .633 OPS. Duda was 4-for-12 against Lee with a home run, Davis was 1-for-11 — after the game, Collins said he set his lineup based on career matchup numbers against Lee. Neither’s a great hitter against a tough lefty like Cliff Lee, but all the numbers, no matter how reliable, point towards Duda as the better option of the two platoon-split sluggers.

Only you can’t ignore defense. And while Duda looked surprisingly sure-handed at first, Davis is a superior defender at first base. This may or may not make up the 40-point game in OPS, but it certainly narrows it. But it’s not like Duda can only play first — he’s a not-unbearably terrible left fielder. If the goal is to win the game and the Mets lack good right-handed options, I think Davis is the better option at first base and Duda should be out in left field. Only left field was occupied last night by . . .

Jason Bay, who owns a .492 OPS against left-handed pitchers this season (not the thing Collins was looking at) and a 4-14 career mark against Lee (probably the thing Collins was looking at), with a home run against Lee earlier this season. Do Bay’s decent-ish numbers over Lee make up for his terrible numbers against left-handed pitching this season, and for his dramatic decline in general?* He’s also a better defender than Duda, but the gap may be similar to that between Duda and Davis at first.

*No.

So the question for Terry Collins wasn’t Duda vs. Davis, it was really Davis-and-Duda vs. Duda-and-Bay, and which pair gave the Mets the best chance to win Monday with R.A. Dickey on the mound. I’m not sure Duda-and-Bay was the right answer. Though Bay did make a nice catch on a ball in left that Duda probably doesn’t catch. So what do I know.

This brings us to Torres, who is probably the best option in center against a left-handed pitcher. Torres has an .807 OPS against lefties this season and a .754 mark for his career. He’s the best defensive option, etc. Torres should play against left-handed pitchers the rest of the way. Cool? Cool.

And then we get to the catcher’s spot. Mike Nickeas has a .490 career OPS and a .511 OPS against lefties. Kelly Shoppach has a .739 career OPS and a .878 OPS against lefties. Nickeas started against Lee. I don’t see this one, so let’s try to think like Terry Collins: Nickeas was 0-for-3 against Lee . . . Shoppach was 0-for-9 . . . Jimmy Leyland. Nope, that didn’t work either. Nickeas would have to be not just a little bit better defensively, but WAY WAY better defensively for this to make sense. As in, Nickeas would have to be a seven-foot-tall robot knuckleball-grabbing vacuum cleaner to justify playing him over the better-hitting Shoppach. At least in a game the Mets are trying to win for Dickey.

Anyway, Bay and Nickeas went 1-for-5 combined — Nickeas did score the Mets only run and dropped down a surprise bunt single — while Shoppach and Davis went 1-for-2 as pinch-hitters. The Mets scored one run against Lee and Jonathan Papelbon and lost 3-1.

These are all minor points. But when the Mets are losing just about every game, that’s really all we have left: Minor points like rooting for R.A. Dickey to get more wins, a stat I don’t put much value in, so that maybe he’ll have a better shot at an award. But it’d be nice if Terry Collins ran out the Mets’ best lineups on the days R.A. Dickey is pitching. At the very least so the Mets could win a game now and then.

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So many links!

Let’s start over on Grantland, with Rany Jazayerli:

Major League Baseball before the turn of the century was like a highway with a speed limit of 80 mph. Baseball today has a speed limit of 55 mph, seat belts are mandated, and air bags are standard. What the Nationals are doing is lowering the speed limit to 40 mph and arguing that it will reduce car accidents further.

I don’t know enough about any of this to feel strongly one way or the other, but just to advocate for Satan . . . Isn’t it possible the Nationals do indeed know what they’re doing with Stephen Strasburg? (Note: I don’t actually believe this to be true. But it’s possible, right?)

It’s difficult to make compelling arguments either way about protecting pitchers because disabled list and injury data and pitch counts haven’t been tracked as closely as the regular ol’ baseball statistics. So while we can say with confidence that a pitcher with a low strikeout rate and a good ERA is likely to see his ERA rise — because we’ve seen so many pitchers over the years follow that pattern and we’ve got the numbers to prove it — we just don’t have the same amount of info about pitcher injuries.

At least, we, people of the internet, do not that much info. My guess is that if you had the time to dig through newspaper archives for a couple of weeks, months, you could make a decent historical injury database and learn a lot about what really correlates with busted arms. If you had the time and resources. And while I don’t, who’s to say teams like the Nationals aren’t having a couple of interns and a statistician dig through the archives and tape, and they come up with something a bit more conclusive?

Or they have no idea what they’re doing. That’s probably just as good a theory.

How about some critique of MLB’s TV policies?

So this sets up a strange mismatch between what MLB customers want, and what their revenues tell them to do. MLB fans want to watch their favorite team on whatever device they prefer. But MLB’s revenue stream is depending more and more on their customers NOT being able to watch their team over the internet, forcing them to watch on TV.

This all sounds logical, but I don’t actually know enough about how . . . buziness? Am I getting that right? Biz-nas? How money-for-stuff-on-a-big-scale works to comment. But it’s an interesting read about the internet and how it changes business models.

And finally this:

Oh, uh and . . . Mets. How about those Mets? Yeah, I know. I don’t know either.

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Mets at home, Mets on road

For the sake of discussion and disgust, the Mets hitting home/road splits:

Split GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Home 68 2488 2220 241 538 103 9 52 28 13 217 524 .242 .311 .367 .678
Away 72 2805 2507 336 650 151 9 65 38 19 230 565 .259 .326 .404 .730
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/10/2012.

and their pitching home/road splits; that is, how other teams hit in Citi Field vs. elsewhere against the Mets:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS
Home 267 2581 2333 288 561 112 9 72 37 11 191 542 2.84 .240 .301 .389 .689
Away 295 2687 2398 329 628 123 18 64 46 12 216 534 2.47 .262 .325 .408 .733
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/10/2012.

Things to note: The Mets have hit 13 fewer home runs at home than on the road, but their opponents have hit eight more home runs at Citi Field than in other parks while playing the Mets. But that’s not the weird one. In the most dramatic split, the Mets have hit 48 fewer doubles at home while their opponents have hit only nine fewer. Why don’t the Mets hit well in their home ballpark, especially doubles-wise, or at least see a less dramatic split?

Well let’s start here. The Mets have actually been one of the better offensive teams in the National League this season, but only on the road. They’re second in runs scored on the road, first in doubles, third in on-base percentage, fourth in OPS, fifth in slugging, and third in walks drawn. Take the Mets out of Citi Field, and they’re a top-three, top-five offensive team. Ike Davis is having an All-Star season (.259/.330/.563), but only as a road player.

Stick the Mets in Citi Field, and that all goes away. They’re dead-last in the NL in runs scored at home. They’re 15th in on-base percentage, 15th in OPS, 13th in slugging, 14th in doubles and 12th in home runs. David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Lucas Duda have been above-average hitters at home . . . and then the six other Mets with 100 plate appearances at home have sub-.700 OPS marks.

So how do the same group of players show up as a top-three offensive team in one group of ballparks, and then a bottom-three team in their home ballpark?

That’s a serious question. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with the Mets, or how a team can hit so well on the road and also be this awful at home. The simplest answer is that Citi Field suppresses run scoring in ways that go beyond the distance of the outfield walls. Maybe it’s wind patterns caused by the design of the park. Maybe they caught an unfair number of aces at home this season. I honestly don’t have a better answer, and I’m not sure the Mets do either.

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No play for Mr. Gray?

The result is visible: with each passing Mets broadcast on SNY, the mustache has grown considerably grayer. Sometimes the mustache is more interesting than the game.

“I’m not totally happy with the gray,” he said. “It’s something I have to get used to. I have more people, on the female side, who tell me they prefer it gray.”

So, he must have surmised, there would be some play for Mr. Gray.

The first and probably only time a sentence in the New York Times caused me to laugh out loud. Via the Internet.

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The Mets are poor but wealthy where it counts, or something

They may have lost out to Magic Johnson and his faceless financial-services wonderfriends in the race to create a domestic version of Manchester City, but they also don’t owe nearly $200 million to a corner outfield comprising one badly injured speed merchant (Carl Crawford) and one should-be platooned should-be first baseman (Andre Ethier), both aging. For next year, the Mets are a small bit of luck away from being better than the Dodgers; after next year they will owe nothing to anyone, and will have so many good young players making so little money that they’ll be able to light cash on fire and still go head up with the fake Sheikh Mansour in a bidding war.

Excellent stuff in the Wall Street Journal from Tim Marchman on the Mets, their money, and fan apathy.

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Live! Blog: Matt Harvey start

I haven’t done one of these in a while — I’ll be watching tonight’s game FROM MY COUCH. Why don’t you join me? Well not on my couch. But on the internet. I’ll be live blogging — live web logging? liwoggin? libogging?– tonight’s Mets-Phillies game starting at 7:05ish. And we’re live! Continue reading

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What’s wrong with the Johan?

So maybe you’ve noticed, dear readers, that Johan Santana hasn’t been all that sharp recently. And maybe this is alarming. But I’m going to posit that maybe it’s not.

See most of you probably know that Johan Santana was one of baseball’s best pitchers in the 2000s and the early 2010s. Over eight seasons with the Twins, Santana posted a 3.22 ERA and a 141 ERA+ — that is, his ERA was 41% better than an average pitcher working in the same home ballpark. He was just about as good during his first three seasons with the Mets, when Santana posted a 2.85 ERA and a 143 ERA+. And then he was even better his first 11 starts this season coming off shoulder surgery. Santana posted a 2.38 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 68 innings, capping that run with a no-hitter June 1. Santana was consistently excellent for about for 10 1/2 years. Continue reading

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Edgin towards a better bullpen

But Edgin has impressed in his first 14.0 innings with the Mets. He already has 22 strikeouts — that’s 14.1 K/9 — and a 3.31 FIP and 2.27 xFIP that suggest he’s been significantly better than his ERA. Glen Perkins was in a similar spot early in his 2012 season. Edgin’s track record is, of course, not anywhere near as long as Perkins’s, but his ability to strike out opponents is more likely than not to make him stick as a viable late-inning option in the big leagues.

- Chris McShane, Amazin’ Avenue

I could write a lot more about this, but basically: Relievers who strike out ton of dudes tend to be good. For example: Bobby Parnell strikes out about a batter per inning and has a 3.26 ERA over the last three seasons. Between 2007 and 2012, there were 20 relievers who struck out more than a batter per inning and had below-average ERAs, and 71 who struck out a batter per inning and had above-average ERAs. So strikeout rate alone doesn’t get it done, but it’s a pretty good indicator that a pitcher may be successful. Plus our man Edgin struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors, so he’s not striking out guys at a rate way over his head. If Edgin can strikeout more than a batter per inning (maybe) and be left-handed (yes), the Mets have another useful reliever. Giving them, like, two.

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Should Valdespin play left field?

Poll question. The Mets have a handful of young left-handed hitters: Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin, Lucas Duda, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis is on the Triple-A disabled list and Lucas Duda, though healthy, has also been exiled to Buffalo, leaving Valdespin and Baxter to patrol the Mets’ outfield corners. So here’s what I want to know:[poll id="11"]

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2014 Power Rankings: August 2012

Oh how things change. I sort of meant to make this a monthly feature, but every-other-monthly gives us more information to play with. So here we are four months into the season, two months after the last update, with the updated 2014 Mets Power Rankings.

If you’re new, the idea behind the list is this: If you are an expansion team set to play baseball in 2014 with the sole goal of fielding a competitive team in 2014 – that is, you care about 2014 and nothing else – and you can only pick current Mets players, whom would you take and in what order? The only other limitation being that the player must be under team (Mets) control in 2014. (Also, for the sake of the exercise, the dollar value of contracts don’t count.) That’s the idea here. So the list is mostly young players and prospects, though our first old man has snuck in.

That’s the guiding philosophy. Here’s the list: Continue reading

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