Monthly Archives: December 2009

>Matt Holliday vs. Jason Bay: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know and More.

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Because there has been no actual Mets’ news this offseason, short of the signing of hundreds of nameless, faceless backup catchers and a Japanese setup man, and because Matt Holliday and Jason Bay are both still free agents, I am going to attempt to beat the Holliday vs. Bay debate into a dead bloody pulp with this post. Relevant Simpson’s Quote: Stop! Stop! He’s already dead!
 
Amazin’ Avenue’s Sam Page wrote this on his twitter today, which got me started up on “Bay-Holliday” again:

“I didn’t think Mets fans could actually underrate Bay, but they have. In the rush to be smarter than O, every1 forgot what a good player is.”

I have previously been guilty of some Jason Bay bashing, here and here, but Page is absolutely right. Jason Bay is a good baseball player and would be a welcome addition to the 2010 Mets. In case anyone has forgotten, here is a list of everyone who has spent time in LF for the Mets from 2007-2009, with the terrible in italics, and the “wow, really?” in both bold and italics:

Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan, Daniel Murphy, Angel Pagan, Jeremy Reed, Fernando Tatis, Fernando Martinez, Nick Evans, Wilson Exxon-Valdez (!), Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, Moises Alou, Trot Nixon, Damion Easley, Chris Aguila, Brady Clark, Andy Phillips, Carlos Gomez, Rickey Ledee, Lastings Milledge, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, Jeff Conine.

That’s different 23 players for those of you keeping score at home, or a different player roughly every 21 regular season games. I also count 8 players I would consider infielders. Jason Bay has played in 145, 155, 151 games in each of the last three seasons, so his stability would be much welcome. To put it in math terms Jason Bay > all of those guys.

All that being said, my problem with signing Jason Bay has nothing to do with Jason Bay. Instead, it’s a problem of economics. Jason Bay is going to probably cost $16 million dollars a year for four years, or a lower annual salary for five years. Matt Holliday, and this again is just my estimation, is going to cost around $20 million dollars for 6-7 years. Here’s the thing though: Matt Holliday will be worth more than he is paid, whereas Jason Bay will be simply equal to the money he is paid. Jason Bay is a good investment, but Matt Holliday is a better one.

Of course, I could be wrong, so I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are a whole bunch of Holliday/Bay comparison graphs from 2007-2009, including batting, fielding, and base running.

First up, let’s compare batting.

A couple of points: First, as far as I know, Fangraphs wOBA is not park adjusted, so Bay is getting a boost from Fenway Park and Holliday is getting an even bigger boost from playing in Coors Field. Second, while Bay was a bit better in 2009, my guess is that Holliday will recover and continue to gobble up the weaker NL. However, you could make a strong argument for either player being a better hitter. Either way, both are an improvement over Wilson Exxon-Valdez.

Base running:

Both players appear to be decent-to-good base runners. Holliday was one of the major’s best in 2008 (28 SB and just 2 CS) but fell off a cliff in 2009, in part because his 7 CS and just 14 SB. Despite being on the slower side, Bay seems to run intelligently, so I’m going to call this a wash.

Fielding Part 1 – UZR and +/- Runs Saved:

UZR hates Jason Bay and thinks he is one of the worst fielders in baseball, and while Runs Saved is a bit kinder, it thinks he’s bad too. Holliday’s Runs Saved and his UZR agree that he is an above average left fielder. Whatever you want to use, I think it’s clear that Holliday is a better fielder.

Fielding Part 2 – Fan Scouting Reports:

I adjusted the 2007 and 2008 data from a 0-100 scale to the 0-5 scale the 2009 data is on and threw in Carl Crawford, one of the best LF in baseball, and Adam Dunn, one of the worst, to provide some perspective. Some of these numbers are based on 20 or so fan votes, so all kinds of small sample size warnings here.

Last graph – Fangraphs player value:

This is based on Fangraphs WAR, so all the problems with that should be taken into account here, mostly issues with wildly fluctuating UZR. If you substitute +/- for UZR, Bay is worth more than shown here, but Holliday remains way above him.
I think this last graph best illustrates my point: Jason Bay, a good player, might be worth $16 million a year, but Matt Holliday, a great player, is going to be worth more than $20 million a year. The Mets will get more bang for the buck out of Holliday. Just look at all the graphs. Holliday is ahead of Bay almost everywhere, fielding, hitting, base running, and overall value. Jason Bay is good; Matt Holliday is better.
Here’s one last graph, in case Just for Men is looking for another pitchman:

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>Everytime a Bell Rings, an . . . Well, You Know.

>To honor my third most-favorite holiday movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I want to pull a George Bailey, back away from the bridge for a moment* and remember to celebrate one of the things I did receive as a Met fan this year. I’d like to honor a Met player who performed well above my expectations in 2009, one of the few bright spots in this Hindenburg of a team. Outside this post’s honoree, only three other players exceeded my expectations for 2009: Pedro Feliciano (8.95 K/9 and 3.28 K/BB in 88 appearances and for just owning Ryan Howard), Wilson Exxon-Valdez (who played a solid SS and set career highs with a lofty .256/.326/.337 line, which indeed exceeded my low, low expectations for him), and *gulp* Jeff Francoeur (.350 wOBA with the Mets, and I do think he’s a better fielder than UZR gives him credit for. See? I have some good things to say about Jeff Francoeur. BABIP of .343. 3.7% walk rate. Makes weird faces when he hits, almost like a gopher trying to understand calculus. Oh, I there I go again.) These three players performed admirably, but I would like to take this space to honor the player who will be sitting on the bench while Jeff Francoeur hacks away at sliders in the dirt and overthrows first base trying to throw out a pitcher from right field in 2010. The player I want to honor the most is, of course, none other than the amusingly named Angel Pagan.

*Here’s my one problem with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” What exactly is George Bailey’s plan at the bridge? How does he plan on killing himself? Because a straight jump into the river below apparently isn’t enough to kill anyone. First Clarence jumps in without dying – and granted, he is an angel, so maybe he can’t die – but then George jumps in to save Clarence and also fails to die. So the jump off the bridge clearly isn’t enough on its own. I guess George could freeze to death or drown, but both of those options sound slow and excruciating, and neither requires the jump off the bridge, so he just as easily wade into the freezing water. Maybe he never was seriously contemplating suicide, but rather just thinking to himself, “what if I did kill myself”, and Clarence and the Pottersville scenes are just visualizations of the battle that is taking place in George’s mind? Or maybe he was going to tie a rock to his leg and then jump? I’m not sure.

And in case you were wondering, loyal readers, my top five holiday movies are:

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Possibly my favorite movie ever.
2. Muppet Family Christmas
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
4. Die Hard (which indeed does take place at Christmas)
5. Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer  

Honorable Mentions: A Christmas Story (which is #5 if you don’t want to include “Die Hard”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, The Santa Clause, Home Alone & Home Alone 2.

Angel Pagan was a shining star in the vast, dark vacuum that was the 2009 New York Mets. He was of course not immune to the many Met maladies this year, missing time due to bone spurs in his elbow as well as due to a groin strain. He also doesn’t like to pay his parking tickets. However, whenever Pagan was on the field and not on the DL (or in traffic court), he hit .306/.350/.487, mashing 37 extra base hits – including 11 triples, two off the Major League lead – in 376 plate appearances, and provided a 5.8 UZR combined between all three outfield positions, spending most of his time in center. Fan scouting reports backs up the UZR data, stating that Pagan has better range and hands than Francoeur but a worse throwing arm, which agrees with what I saw this year. Pagan brought back to the top of the lineup some of the excitement that went MIA with Reyes, and when David Wright was on the DL, Pagan was the best player the Mets had on the field. So yeah, it was a rough year.

Angel Pagan played a major role in some of the memorable moments of 2009, not that there are necessarily a bevy of good choices. Here are just a few:

August 1: With the Mets and Diamondbacks tied 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth at Citi Field, Clay Zevada, famous both for his pitching abilites and for tying women to the railroad tracks, walked Alex Cora and surrendered back-to-back singles to Omir Santos and Angel Berroa – was this even a Major League game? – Anyway, Angel Pagan came to the plate with the bases loaded and unloaded them with his first home run in two years, putting the Mets ahead 9-5. The Mets would win 9-6 and Frankie Rodriguez was paid $12 million dollars to earn one-out save with a three run lead.

October 4: On the final day of the season against the Astros, Angel Pagan went 4-4 with a triple and two doubles, scored two runs, and raised his season average to .306. Nelson Figueroa pitched a complete game shutout and Pagan fittingly caught the final out of 4-0 victory, securing a winning home record for the Mets in their first season at Citi Field. I attended this game, and I was watching the end of batting practice as the PA played “Thunder Road” and the sun made the day just warm enough to be comfortable, but not so warm where your back gets all sweaty and you try to avoid hugging anyone so they don’t feel your copious amounts of sweat that are soaking your t-shirt. In other words, paradise.

August 23: Oliver Perez fails to escape the first inning and the Mets fall behind the Phillies 6-0 before they even come to the plate. Angel Pagan leads off the bottom of the first with with a fly ball into the left field gap and never stops running, even after Shane Victorino decides the ball is stuck beneath the wall and daintily throws his hands in the air, trying to signal for a ground-rule double and saying “Oh, dear me, I can’t be bothered to reach all the way underneath the wall and pick up the baseball. There might be dirt on it!” This play was especially memorable because: A.) Pagan hit an inside-the-park home run and B.) Shane Victorino looked like an idiot. Pagan would also lead off the third inning with a home run, this one being of outside-the-park variety. The Mets would lose this game 9-6 after Eric Bruntlett single-handedly set up and executed an unassisted triple play to end the game, doing so mainly because the Phillies were bored and just enjoy messing with the Mets’ heads at this point.

May 18: With the Mets trailing the Dodgers 2-1 in the top of the eighth, Angel Pagan led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a Gary Sheffield single. The game would go to extra innings and in the top of the eleventh, Ryan Church singled to left with two outs, and then Angel launched a triple into center field, sending Church around to score the go-ahead run – only Church neglected to touch third base. Remember that? That was fun. In the bottom of the inning Pagan and Carlos Beltran had trouble remembering the basic tenets of “who’s got it?”, Jeremy Reed, playing first-freaking-base, threw the ball away, and the Mets lost without the Dodgers getting a hit in the bottom of the eleventh. My personal favorite Met game of the year.

Hey, I didn’t say they would all be good, just memorable. It’s really hard to find good moments from 2009. I came up with the four top Angel Pagan moments and two of them happened to be losses, but this team lost 90 games so there isn’t exactly a netflix-sized selection of wins to pick from.
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Looking ahead to next year, Pagan looks like he can be an average-to-slightly-below-average defensive center fielder and an average-to-slightly-below-average hitter (career .335 wOBA, Bill James predicts a .325 wOBA in 2010) – so something like what Aaron Rowand is now, only with triple power instead of home run. Basically, Pagan is an average-to-just-below-average player, but average players are of course valuable because they are better than below average players (Jeremy Reed, Cory Sullivan). If the Mets can flip him to a team in need of a center fielder and get a starting pitcher back in the deal, great. If not, Angel makes a great fourth outfielder, solid in center, good in right, and great in left, getting 350 PA spelling people and pinch hitting. He also provides much needed outfield depth should Beltran again succumb to his irreversible knee damage or Francoeur return to his old ways (which is likely. Seriously though, what is up with Francoeur’s swing face. Keith Hernandez mentioned it during a Mets-Braves broadcast in May, saying something along the lines of, “Dear Lord, get that man a glass of milk. Jeff needs to lay off the Red Bull!” when the camera showed a slow motion replay of a Frenchy hack.) Pagan should be about an average player at any of the outfield position, making up with his defense anything lost by his hitting (probably a 2 WAR player anywhere). His occasional cluelessness on the bases and in the field is compensated for by his tremendous athletic ability, so while he may get picked off occasionally, he makes up for it by going first-to-third better than most. Angel Pagan is a legitimate major leaguer and can be an passible starter in center field; he’s not Carlos Beltran, but being Scott Podsednik is well within his abilities.

The 2009 Mets were a George-Baily-losing-$8,000-dollar-disaster*, only it was more like misplacing $147 million dollars rather than just a mere $8,000 –  I don’t know, maybe it’s the same when adjusted inflation or something. Anyway, the team was plain ol’ disappointing, maybe the most disappointing Mets team ever when expectations are taken into account. However, there were some bright spots; Angel Pagan was the brightest. It was a jump-off-a-bridge-into-icy-waters kind of year, but in the spirit of the holidays, let’s remember what we did receive this year. Angel Pagan is an exciting player, and not just because he doesn’t know how to run the bases. He can steal, he plays a nice center field, he can hit an inside-the-park home run or lay down a beautiful drag bunt. Most importantly, he’s fun to watch. Sometimes Angel Pagan going 4-4, Nelson Figueroa pitching a shutout, Blue Smoke chicken wings and Bruce Springsteen on warm October day is enough to remind you that it really can be a wonderful life.   


*When the Mets blow all their money on Jason Bay and Bengie Molina this year, Omar Minaya’s replacement is going to have a heck-of-time trying to sign anyone else in the winter of 2010. It’s going to play out like the bank scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life”:


Joe Mauer’s agent Ron Shaprio: Well, my client Joe would really like to play with your team, Mr. Bailey. What do you think, 7 years, $140 million?


GM George Bailey: *stammering*  No, but, you’re thinking about this place all wrong. Well, well I don’t . . . I don’t have your money, don’t you see? It’s in Molina’s contract, and K-Rod’s contract, and . . . Oliver Perez’s contract. What are you going to do, foreclose on them?


Ron Shaprio: No, I, uh . . . what are you talking about?


Joe Mauer: *signs with Yankees*

Hey, I made it through a whole post about Angel Pagan with out having to resort to saying “Angel’s in the Outfield” . . . oh, blew that too.

Image of Pagan from wikipedia

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>A Bengie Molina? You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid.

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It looks like SI’s Jon Heyman found a copy of the Mets’ Christmas list:

“SI.com learned that the Mets’ hierarchy voted on their Plans A, B and C at the Winter Meetings and that Plan A was [Jason] Bay and catcher Bengie Molina, Plan B was John Lackey and Molina and Plan C was Roy Halladay and Molina.”

First, using the word “learned” without any citing any source makes it sound like Jon Heyman just hacked into Omar Minaya’s email account and “learned” everything that way. This is, of course, entirely plausible because I don’t imagine Omar’s password is anything more complicated than “Expos”, “beisbol” or just “password.”

Second, can someone write a letter to the Mets and let them know that Matt Holliday is a free agent? Maybe also throw in an explanation letting them know that means anyone can sign him. I’d do it myself but I’m a little bit swamped right now before the Holliday (see what I did there? That’s his name.)

Now, to make it easier to understand why the Mets wish list is all kinds of backwards, I’ll rephrase it in the form of an actual Christmas list.

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good boy this year. Here is what I would like for Christmas, in order of my preference.

A. Luke Skywalker action figure and a lump of coal. If you can’t bring me that then
B. Mark Hamill, dressed up as Luke Skywalker, and a lump of coal. But if that is also too hard, Santa, then I would like you to bring me

C. The entire cast of the original Star Wars, in their costumes, to reenact the whole trilogy scene by scene in my backyard – minus any part with Ewoks – while George Lucas is tied to chair and forced to watch this on repeat. Oh yeah, and I want that lump of coal.

So Santa, just to be clear, I want the action figure most, but if not that then Mark Hamill will be acceptable. If you can’t bring me either of those, then maybe the entire cast of Star Wars. Maybe. But I want the Luke Skywalker action figure first and foremost.

Sincerely,
Omar Minaya

If Heyman’s report is accurate, then it shows how wacky the Mets thinking is. The list doesn’t make any sense; it’s certainly not in talent order and Bengie Molina* is in every plan. Anyway, if the Mets’ goal is to win in 2010 at all costs then Halladay should have been option A. However, if the Mets’ goal is to win this year and win every year, than signing J-Bay (or better yet, free agent Matt Holliday) or Lackey allows them hang on to their farm system all while improving the 2010 team. Signing J-Bay or Lackey would have cost only money, whereas Halladay costs money, prospects, and the monthly hecatomb Halladay sacrifices to the Sun god who provides him with his pitching powers. But again, if the Mets are still in “win now, win every year” mode, Halladay shouldn’t have been an option at all because he would have depleted the farm system, as well as the Mets’ cattle farm with all those sacrifices.

*For review, Bengie Molina is a lump of coal because: He makes too many outs – .285 OBP, second lowest in the majors – and his power comes from excessively lofting the ball and not from making solid contact. Molina’s fly ball rate has risen and his line drive rate has fallen every year since 2006. He doesn’t really have any power to speak of, he just hits so many fly balls that some are bound to escape the park – he was third in the majors with a 52.5% fly ball rate. The only players that make lofting work are people with manly men power like Carlos Pena. Sadly, Bengie Molina might be the best of the remaining free agent catchers**, but that doesn’t mean the Mets should give him anything more than a one year deal. Josh Thole is hanging around in AAA and a certain batting champion catcher becomes a free agent after 2010. Yes, I am going to start banging the Joe Mauer drum now.  

**Which is sort of like being the funniest person in the current cast of SNL. Not a lot of glory there, Bill Hader.

The order of this list can lead to only one conclusion: The Mets just want to make a splash, and they don’t care with whom. Or they just don’t have enough cows. Either one. Bay is the most cost effective splash in terms of costing no prospects and just dollar dollar bills, followed by Lackey and then Halladay. The list only makes some semblance of sense if was put together by that “logic”, or if the list is just in alphabetical order by first name. Are the Mets really making Bay their first target just because they think he’ll sign quicker than Holliday? Jon Heyman thinks so: “Mets believe Bay would be a better and quicker deal for them.”

Big splashes sell tickets for baseball games – as well as tickets for shows at Sea World – but splashes don’t necessarily make winning teams. Johan Santana and Frankie Rodriguez/JJ Putz* were big splashes, but the Met teams around them still were not good. This reported list makes me worry that the Mets are more concerned with making cannonballs in the deep end than putting together a quality team, both in 2010 or in the future.

*Mariner’s GM Jack Zduriencik, who has replaced Theo Epstein as my GM crush, traded an injured closer, a middle reliever, and an outfielder with no baseball skill set and got back the awesome Franklin Gutierrez (5.9 WAR and the best UZR in the majors last year by anyone at any position), the beloved Endy Chavez and five other players in his first trade as GM. Also, Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley. I want a poster of Jack Z on my wall – oh, nevermind, just did a Google image search for him. Cancel the poster, that is one shiny man.

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>Chatting with Frenchy

>Mets’ right fielder and noted Baseball Prospectus writer Jeff Francoeur held a chat with fans at Mets.com yesterday. Here are some of the highlights, in the form of a tribute to FJM, MST3K, and all who found fame through the mocking of others:

joem22: Q: Hey Jeff — you had such a good second half of the season with the Mets last season. What do you think made the difference?

Oh oh! I know! Luck. Randomness. His BABIP jumped from .281 with Atlanta to .343 with the Mets and his home-run-to-fly-ball rate doubled. He actually walked less, so his plate discipline certainly didn’t improve.

Jeff Francoeur: First a change of atmosphere was nice,

Oh right, I forgot who was being asked the questions.

 and working with HoJo made some adjustments in my stance and my swing. Getting out of Atlanta … I was born and raised there. …

So . . . many . . . periods . . . .

It was nice to have a change of scenery with some high energy fans.

Looks like Frenchy reached into the big bag of sports cliches and managed to pull out “change of atmosphere” and “change of scenery” for the
same answer. Nice work, Jeff.

Next question.

maineiac33:

Hold it right there. As if anyone likes John Maine enough to actually make a name like that. This has to be the real John Maine, or at the very least a close relative.

maineiac33: Q: Jeff we are so happy you are a Met! You gave us reason to smile in a tough year.

This is John Maine. Actually it could also be H.M. the Queen of England because of all that bizarre royal plural “we” and “us” stuff.

Have you been hanging out with your Mets teammates in the offseason?

Interesting. It looks like Jeff Francoeur and the other Mets haven’t been returning someone’s phone calls.

P.S. Still looking for places to eat in New York? Go to Freddy’s in Whitestone for the best pizza.

John Maine has no friends and eats every meal in agonizing loneliness. Someone please help him out.

Jeff Francoeur: Thanks! I love pizza.

In the words of Billy Wagner, “f***in’ shocker.” Someone likes pizza.

And I will for sure try it! Yes … I’m in a fantasy football league with all the players on the team,

except for that geek John Maine,

so we keep in touch through that. And Kurt Warner cost me the second round of the playoffs!!!

I’m honestly surprised that Frenchy hasn’t ended every sentence with multiple exclamation points.

maineiac33: Q: What song do you think you will use as your at-bat song this season? Also, I’m so lonely in the clubhouse. Will you be my friend?

Okay, maybe John Maine didn’t write those last two sentences.

Jeff Francoeur: I’m gonna have a couple country and maybe some rock or rap, but definitely “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band.

Thanks for making me dread your at-bats even more, Jeff.

jcthree03: Q: Hello Jeff. First, I hope this chat isn’t hurting your thumbs.

I’m confused by this. Is it possible that jcthree03 typed this entire question with just his thumbs, and he thinks Francoeur is doing the same? Go on, jcthree03.

As a huge fan of yours before you even came to N.Y. when did you first feel like a “Hey, I am officially a N.Y. Met.” Also, are you enjoying N.Y.?

The fact that jcthree03 used “N.Y.” three times in two sentences makes me wonder if he knows what the abbreviation actually stands for. EDIT: Realized that it’s actually supposed to be three sentences. Punctuation threw me off. Is it possible that jcthree03 has been living in New York City for a couple of years now and he can’t ask anyone what “N.Y.” stands for without horribly embarrassing himself?

Oh wait, I’ve got it. He’s using the abbreviations to save time because it takes him forever to type with only his thumbs.

Jeff Francoeur: My thumb is hangin’ in there!

Because, like most people, Francoeur only uses it for the space bar.

Jeff Francoeur will now cease using actually sentences.

 Probably about a month or so I felt like a Met.

He meant to say that he didn’t feel like a Met until he injured himself. Also, where did the missing “after” sneak off to?

After I played the Braves a couple times and really wanted to beat them bad.

Oh, there it is. Jeff Francoeur is 0 for 2 in his last two sentences. That’s okay, because they don’t put sentence average on the scoreboard.

xbignick: Q: Can you beat David Wright in a foot race? I heard he also wants you to play cards all the time.

This is more enjoyable if you pretend that xbignick is talking about Pokemon cards, or alternatively Yu-gi-oh cards, if you were one of those uncomfortably geeky kids.

Jeff Francoeur: I think it’ll be a close race, but I think my long legs will get him in the end. He is obsessed with cards!

Jeff Francoeur and David Wright play baseball, have foot races, and play Pokemon cards. In other news, Jeff Francoeur and David Wright are the eight year old version of me.

They also avoid talking to that loser Maine.

jgonz24: Q: How do you feel about possibly facing Halladay next season?

Jeff Francoeur: No biggie, I’m 1-for-3 with an infield single, haha.

I just checked that. He’s actually 1-3 with an infield single and 3 walks. But who cares about walks, right Jeff?

It will be a great challenge for us a team to face him 3 or 4 times a year. It’s always fun to face one of the best!

Just kidding. Of course he has no walks against Halladay. He’s really just 1-3. Still, Jeff Francoeur is a career .333 hitter against Roy Halladay! Look out Phillies!

Watch this at your own risk:

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>Is There Hope for Oliver Perez?

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Oliver Perez’s 2009 campaign is best re-imagined as the scene from “The Dark Knight” where the Joker soaks a giant pile of money with gasoline and sets it on fire. Oliver began his year by pitching for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic and throwing way too many pitches in a game for Mexico before sitting around for two weeks. Predictably, things did not go well after that. He got five starts before the Mets banished him to the phantom DL with “chronic ineffectiveness”, then returned in June to make 9 more starts before mercifully being shut down for the year. The $12mil the Mets paid Ollie bought them 66 innings of work, during which Perez allowed 131 base runners and 51 runs. 58 of those base runners reached via walks. Fangraphs has OP’s 2009 season as being worth -3.4 million dollars, so the Mets would have been better off taking their $12 million and:

A.) Launching the entire 40-man roster, the coaching staff, and 12 members of the front office into space on one of Richard Branson’s space planes.

B.) Buying 926,640 black, large “Three Wolf Moon” shirts from Amazon.com

C.) Making “From Justin to Kelly II”. The original “From Justin to Kelly” cost $12 million to make and brought in just under $5 million, which is actually
8.4 million dollars more than Oliver Perez was worth in 2009.

D.) Holding a “Back to the Future” night at Citi Field and giving 400 lucky fans their very own DeLorean.
  
E.) Letting Angel Pagan dress up as the Joker and actually reenact that scene from “The Dark Knight”.

F.) Saving it and signing Matt Holliday this year. This and “D” are the best options.

Perez was a sunk cost in 2009 and is still under contract for two more years. Do the Mets have any hope of getting some kind of return from him? Well, while it’s unlikely he will ever be worth $12mil a season, it’s possible the Mets can still squeeze some lemonade out of the lemon that is Oliver Perez.

A pitcher’s job can be broken down into two basic tasks: getting outs and not allowing runs. Taking the “getting outs” part first, the most reliable way for a pitcher to get outs is to get strikeouts. If one were to make a list of desirable ways for a pitcher to try to produce outs, it would read as follows:

1. Strikeouts
2. Infield Flies
3. Ground Balls
4. Fly Balls
5. Line Drives

Strikeouts require no luck and no work by the fielders, and infield flies require little of each –puts on Jay Leno chin – you know, unless you have Luis Castillo at second base. Am I wrong? Am I wrong? – wonders how career fell so far. Takes off chin. Ground balls and fly balls rely much more on the skill of fielders to turn into outs (see Pelfrey, Mike 2009), but whereas ground balls very rarely turn into anything worse than singles, fly balls have the unfortunate tendency to sometimes become home runs. Line drives obviously have the greatest likelihood of becoming hits, turning into outs only about a 25% rate.

Which of these methods of getting outs, if any, does Ollie do well? Perez, even in 2009, can still racks up the K’s. His 2009 K/9 rate of 8.45 was comparable to Josh Beckett’s and A.J. Burnett’s rates. A lot was made about the drop in the velocity of his fastball (90.0 mph from a career average of 91.2 mph), but it apparently did not effect his ability to strike out batters; Ollie’s strikeout rate actually slightly improved from his rate in 2008. This is good news.

End good news.

The rest of this post will consist only of bad news.

When hitters don’t swing and miss, they tend to hit the ball into the air against Oliver. If a pitcher is going to succeed with fly balls, they need to be able to limit home runs and create plenty of infield flies. Johan Santana did both well this year, thus he is good. Oliver Perez, who creates way more fly balls than Santana, – OP had the seventh highest fly ball percentage in the majors among pitchers who threw at least 60 innings-  did neither well in 2009, thus he is bad. Oliver found success in 2004 and 2007 by keeping about 12% of his fly balls on the infield, but that rate dropped to 8% in 2009. His HR/9 also jumped, from 1.12 in 2007 and 1.11 in 2008, to 1.64 in 2009. Oliver saw his fly balls being hit farther and farther this year, both out of the infield and out of the park. This is indeed part of his failings, although if you thought to yourself at any point during the 2009 season, “You know what Oliver’s biggest problem is? Not enough infield flies”, you may be suffering from undiagnosed “Bengie Molina disease”, an incurable affliction that causes you to ignore the importance of walks.      

Now we arrive at Oliver Perez’s biggest, most obvious problem in 2009: the walks. So many walks. “Not walking people” should be filed under the “not allowing runs” part of tasks a pitcher must accomplish. Whereas even line drives turn into outs about 25% of the time, walks turn into outs 0% of the time. Putting people on base for free is not a good idea. Oliver walked 7.91 batters per nine innings, which actually ties him with Carlos Marmol atop the leaderboards, but the third place finisher in this walkathon only walked 6.60 per nine innings. I don’t have much to say about the walks other than “way too many.” This is the thing Oliver needs to improve the most if he wants to become a Major League pitcher again.

The 2009 incarnation of Oliver Perez obviously had control problems, much worse than normal. He couldn’t find the strike zone most of the time, and whenever he did, people were able to hit the ball in the air and hit it far. That’s the bad news. I don’t know if these worse than normal control problems are attributable to his knee problem, pitching in the WBC, or just being more wacko. It could be any and all of those reasons. However, the good news is that Oliver still strikes people out. It’s the only thing he does well, but it is the most important thing for a pitcher to do well. The contract is a disaster no matter what; even good Ollie doesn’t pitch enough innings over the course of a season to justify the money, but it’s not all doom and gloom for Ollie. He strikes out enough batters where he can possibly once again become a useful pitcher in addition to just being an epically overpaid one.

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>What Could Have Been.

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This is not the post I wanted to write. I wanted to say that Roy Halladay is no big deal to the Mets, that he is only a marginal improvement over Cliff Lee. I wanted to say, hey look, Halladay was only 0.7 WAR above Lee in 2009. I wanted to say that it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom and teeth gnashing for the Mets, because this move doesn’t make the Phillies that much better, that it’s the difference between the Phillies having the ace of clubs and the ace of spades. I wanted to say that the Roy Halladay deal shouldn’t make anyone want to
immolate themselves in front of the Wilpon mansion.

Only there is something really depressing about the Roy Halladay deal. It’s not that it puts the NL East out of reach; it’s more that it made me realize how far out of reach the Phillies already were. The Phillies aren’t just better than the Mets. The Phillies are Indiana Jones and the Mets are that guy doing sword tricks who Indiana Jones shoots for humorous effect; the Mets are no threat to the Phillies because it’s like they’re not even fighting with modern weapons. It has become clear over the past years that the Mets’ methods of player evaluation are inferior to those of other teams. While the Phillies surrounded their core with talent, the Mets surrounded their core with age and ineffectiveness. I don’t know if the Mets use advanced statistics, tradition scouting, or some combination of both. I suspect that they don’t like to look at numbers, but that’s not important. What is important is that whatever methods the Mets are using, they need to change them now because they are leaving them lightyears behind other teams. It’s painfully obvious that the Mets are still wildly flailing medieval weapons while the Phillies are loading up with Doc Halladay.

Look back to 2007, when the Phillies had their big three of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, and the Mets had their big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen – sorry, wrong big three – the Mets had David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran. The teams were about evenly matched back then, but look what has happened since. The Phillies have surrounded their big three with Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Placido Palanco, and Shane Victorino; the Mets have added Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Murphy, and Luis Castillo. The Phillies have Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and J.A. Happ in their rotation. The Mets have Johan Santana, Adrian Monk, Brian Wilson*, and the Mad Hatter in theirs. Metland can still claim that the Mets’ top four matches favorably up with the Phillies, but does anyone really want to claim that Pelfrey matches up with Hamels? Or that Jayson Werth, the best right fielder in the NL, is on par with Jeff Francoeur? It was maddening to watch the Phillies become the class of the NL because it so easily could have been the Mets. They both had talented cores, but the Phillies watered their core with more talent and the Mets doused theirs with Gatorade because Gatorade has electrolytes.

*the crazy Beach Boy, not the Giants’ closer. Mets should look at Dr. Frasier as their next pitching coach because there is some potential on that staff, but way, way more crazy.

I have a lot of critical things to say about Omar Minaya and his administration, but I will give him his due: Omar Minaya is exceedingly talented at getting his man. He was able to bring in the big names, Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Frankie Rodriguez, and Santana and make the New York Mets relevant again. However, today felt like such a dark day in Metland because it became certain that Omar wasn’t going to be able swoop in and save the Amazins, or for that matter himself. I had some vague hope that somehow he could figure out baseball alchemy and turn the Mets roster into gold, but that hope went away with Lackey and Halladay, and, to me at least, it became very clear what a mess this team will be in 2010. There are no longer any quick fixes for this team and the Mets are once again a joke. Whereas Santana approved a trade to the Mets just two years ago because he felt they were contenders, Roy Halladay reportedly wanted nothing to do with this organization because he was looking to play for a winner. Omar can’t patch holes with big names anymore because the Mets aren’t considered contenders anymore.

*Takes a deep breath* 


Of course it’s not all brimstone and sulfur. Any team with Beltran, Wright, Reyes, and Santana will be competitive, and with a few good moves the Mets should be in the wild card hunt. I’ll hope Omar Minaya accidentally bumbles his way into buying low on Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard, and I’ll hope that some even sillier team, if there are any, snatches Bengie Molina away from the Mets. Roy Halladay on the Phillies is not the end of the world. The sun will rise tomorrow, and it may even shine on Flushing. Still, every time the Mets play the team from down the turnpike in 2010, I’ll have to watch Utley, Howard, and Rollins play with Halladay, Werth, and Ibanez, while Wright, Beltran, and Reyes struggle to carry the Mets alone. I’ll feel that same twinge I felt yesterday. It’s the sadness of seeing what the Mets could have become but didn’t. And now it’s too late.

* * *
Because anything to do with Philadelphia is depressing anyway:

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>Johan Santana: Son of Jesus.

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From the NY times:

. . . a scout, impressed by Johan Santana’s performance at a junior national tournament, drove 10 hours to this small coffee-growing town 6,400 feet up in the Andes to knock unannounced on his parents’ door. . . “Mr. Andres arrived — I didn’t know who he was — and knocked on the door,” Santana’s father, Jesus, recounted Saturday. [emphasis mine]

This makes a lot of sense. Johan Santana being of divine birth would explain so much.

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