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
Category Archives: Mets
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
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.
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″]
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
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.
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?
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.