Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Season in review: What went right and wrong for the Mets in 2008

It would be wise to take an objective look at what went right and wrong for the Mets in 2008 before recommending roster moves this offseason. Most fans can determine just by watching the games that the bullpen was disastrous, and the offense and pitching were solid. Let’s take a look at the statistics and see if perception equals reality:

Offense
799 Runs (2nd in the NL out of 16 teams)
4.93 R/game (2nd)
.266 BA( 4th)
.340 OBP (4th)
.420 SLG (6th)
.761 OPS (4th)
172 HR (7th)
.253 BA w/RISP (10th)
.265 BA in "close and late" situations (4th)
.272 BA with runners on base (5th)

These numbers are excellent. The home runs are not impressive, but that is not an issue considering the team BA, OBP, and SLG were so strong. Interestingly enough, Baseball Prospectus projected the Mets to score 799 runs this year – they hit it right on the nose. The offense was not a glaring issue in 2008. This is not to say it can’t be improved. (***EDIT***: I added the last 3 listed stats, responding to a valued commenter's request. Again, I encourage comments/suggestions, especially when it appears that I'm twisting the stats to fit my supposed agenda.)

Starting Pitching
3.98 ERA (5th out of 16)
6.00 IP/start (3rd)
86 Quality Starts (3rd)
3 CG (3rd)
1.36 WHIP (6th)
105 HR (6th)
.253 BAA (2nd)
.725 OPS against (4th)

The rotation did a commendable job this year, pitching pretty well despite Pedro Martinez sucking, Oliver Perez’s inconsistency and John Maine’s injury problems. However, there are potentially 2 open spots in 2009 (if Perez doesn’t re-sign). Maine will be coming off surgery so he is not a given.

Bullpen
4.25 ERA (13th out of 16 teams)
1.40 WHIP (9th)
58 HR (6th most)
29 Blown Saves (2nd most)
60% Save Percentage (11th)
.258 BAA (10th)
.736 OPS against (10th)

The bullpen is biggest culprit in 2009, and the part of the team EVERYONE should be blaming more than the offense’s clutch hitting problems. In this column from last week, Jayson Stark at ESPN concluded, with the help of Bill James, that the Mets would’ve been 6.5 games up in the NL East on Sept. 22 if games lasted just 8 innings. That tells you all you need to know about the Mets relievers (but also a little about how good Brad Lidge was for the Phillies). If the Mets were 6.5 games up in the NL East going into the final weekend, they wouldn't have needed to rely on the offense to carry the team as it had for much of the summer.

The Mets’ priorities this offseason should be, in order:
1) shoring up the awful bullpen
2) figuring out the back end of the rotation
3) finding a power hitting corner OF and/or a 2B who can hit

FYI, here are the bullpen stats for the 8 playoff teams.
Phillies: 3.22 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 15 blown saves
Brewers: 3.89 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 26 blown saves
Cubs: 4.10 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 24 blown saves
Dodgers: 3.34 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 20 blown saves
Rays: 3.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 16 blown saves
Red Sox: 4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 22 blown saves
White Sox: 4.13 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 18 blown saves
Angels: 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 23 blown saves

Again, the Mets: 4.25 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 29 blown saves

The Mets bullpen is by far worse than any of these teams’. Even the Brewers bullpen, featuring the truly dreadful Eric Gagne and Guillermo Mota, was superior. I cannot say this enough – THE METS BULLPEN COST THEM THE PLAYOFFS IN 2008, NOT THE OFFENSE! Sportswriters, radio personalities, commenters: please stop saying the “core” of David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran is the problem and needs to be broken up. If the Mets front office does not make a significant attempt to fix the glaring bullpen issues, then fans have legitimate reason to be annoyed going into 2009. Stay tuned for my recommendations for the Mets deficiencies.

7 comments:

King of ReGo said...

you are absolutely right.

do you think it is worth spending a lot of money on middle relievers?

i feel like teams never spend that much on them, but they certainly can cost you a playoff spot.

Mets Tailgate said...

king of rego:

The market for middle relievers is a volatile one. We often see setup men who are solid one season, then just lose it the next (see Rafael Betancourt on the Indians, Manny Corpas on the Rockies, and Aaron Heilman on our Mets). That being said, there are boatloads of middle relievers who are free agents this offseason, and the Mets need to look into them.

I'm going to post soon about the FA relievers I'd recommend for the Mets. As a preview, here are some names I'll look at: Joe Beimel, Juan Cruz, Will Ohman, Jeremy Affeldt...

weesle909 said...

Dude, you're spinning the stats to tell the story you want.

Where's the stats for batting average with RISP?

In late inning situations?

Those count too.

Look, I'm not saying the bullpen wasn't the problem. (It was.) I'm not saying Rey and Wri and Bel are a problem. (They're not.)

I'm just saying you're telling a story here.

And for the record, '6th best' and '7th worst' ain't that far apart. Again, there's that nasty spin thing...

Marketing 101.

Mets Tailgate said...

weesle:

First off, I got an A in Marketing 101 (ha). Additionally, I wrote "2nd worst", "3rd worst" etc. because I found it easier to understand and process than "10th best" or "13th best." Thank you for the feedback, and to support the cause of objectivity I have changed the post to reflect this suggestion.

I also have added a couple other stats to appease those who believe avg. with RISP and runners on base is a product of some natural ability over the long term, and not dumb luck. If you're familiar with my blog, I believe that hitters do not show the ability to hit exceptionally well in the "clutch" over the long term. In the end, it evens out, and a .300 hitter will generally hit around .300 in any situation. Read my post from Tuesday for more info.

Batters' numbers with RISP will vary from year to year, not because of some "mental weakness" or "superior ability to hit in the clutch", but because of luck and pitching matchups. Don't believe me? Here are the Mets numbers with RISP in 2006, 2007, and 2008 (with essentially the same main core of players):

2006: .274 BA (3rd in NL)
2007: .277 BA (4th in NL)
2008: .253 BA (11th in NL)

If anyone can prove to me that batters hit exceptionally well or poor in the clutch compared to their overall numbers, maybe I will change my opinion. And an announcer or writer saying it is simply not enough evidence for me.

I'm curious: if the "story" I'm telling isn't accurate, then what is your own "story" of the 2008 Mets? What went right and wrong? I apologize if this comment came off as defensive or aggressive, I don't know how else to word it.

weesle909 said...

Tail,

Your comment was not too defensive or aggressive. Frankly, this was my first visit here, and after I wrote my comment, I went back and read some of your earlier posts. Based on those, I think I should have cut you a little slack and not had such a knee-jerk reaction to this one post.

So, apology out of the way, here are a couple of thoughts.

On the issue of clutch hitting, I DO believe that some hitters, over the long haul, are more often able to come up big in pressure situations. Of course me just saying that doesn't make it true. I need to do a little research to back that up, which I won't do just now. But like you, I believe in using facts and stats to back things up.

The definition of "clutch" hitting is subjective. Is it all late-inning-close-game situations? Or just in big games? Or just in must-win games?

The Mets had only one must-win game. And if not for a rain delay, even that wouldn't have been must win because the Brewers game would have finished later, and with a loss the Mets would not have needed to win.

But I digress...

Ok, as far as what I think went wrong:

I think people tend to try to point to one thing as the problem. That's never the case!

I've been trying to come up with an analogy, and this (sadly) is the best I can do:

Imagine you're driving. It's late at night. It's pouring raining. You're on the cell phone. Then, a car cuts you off. You lose control and crash.

Okay, so what caused the crash? Well, the car cutting you off was the 'immediate' cause. (Let's call this Reyes and Wright going 1 for 8 in the last game. Or Wright striking out with the winning run on third and no outs. I watched all or part of 162 games this year and I have to say that was the only one I knew we were gonna win...)

But you'd have been able to react in time if not for the other conditions. The cell phone certainly didn't help. (Let's call this the added pressure due to last year's collapse.)

The pouring rain was definitely the biggest issue, since it 'helped' the other car swerve and made you lose control. (Let's call this the poor excuse for a bullpen. And rain/bad bullpens are something a lot of cars/teams have to deal with.)

Lastly, it was night. Just maybe if this was day you'd have been able to see just well enough to avoid the accident. (Let's call this injuries. And night/injuries is something all cars/teams deal with. But did everyone forget how good a hitter Alou is? How well Church was doing before his injury?
)

Wow, long comment...

My point is, there are a lot of things that contributed to the Mets failure.

I say, 'contributed to' and not 'caused'. 'Caused' implies one single thing, and it was not.

So with a good stretch run by a couple of key players, we overcome the rest.

With a healthly Alou, or Maine, or Church, or Wagner, we overcome the rest.

And with a bullpen that wasn't one of the worst in baseball, we overcome the rest.


Ok, I'm done.

And, having said all the above, one thing is obvious:

IT WAS THE BULLPEN!!!!!

;)

Mets Tailgate said...

weesle:

You definitely set the record for longest comment, but it was a great one. I don't think the offense was flawless this year, and I have acknowledged their failure to produce in the "clutch" (see earlier posts I've made about David Wright's struggles with RISP, and also in some postgame thoughts). Maybe the wording in my post was too strong and suggested it's 100% on the bullpen. Of course it's not, but it was by far the biggest culprit.

I love your analogy. I guess I'm just disappointed that too many Met fans are equating the bullpen to the cell phone, and the lack of clutch hitting to the pouring rain.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to intelligently comment.

weesle909 said...

Right, the lack of clutch hitting hurt us a little through the year (as it does all teams). It was magnified in the last week, but it wouldn't have mattered if our bullpen didn't kill us all...year...long. We should have been comfortably in 1st.

One other thing, and I'm preaching to the choir here. But for the record, Wright hit .400 in the weekend series against the Marlins. Did he put the team on his back and carry it across the finish line? No. But .400? I'd have signed up for that going in...


By the way, I regularly read Mestradamus, RwR, and Toasted Joe. But I probably have room for one more Mets blog.

After all, misery loves company...