Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday, August 31 Game Thoughts: Mets 6 - Marlins 2

A solid performance by Pedro Martinez and the Mets bullpen highlighted today's victory. The Mets are really rolling in August, and haven't lost a series since getting swept in Houston to start the month. Here are your game thoughts:

- Pedro has really struggled in first innings this year. In 16 starts, he's given up 17 runs in 1st innings (obviously in 16 IP). In all other innings, totaling 71 IP, he's given up 32 runs. It may just be a fluke, but I wonder if there's anything Pedro can do to improve this - more stretching, more warmup pitches, etc.

- Let's hope Carlos Beltran keeps hitting with power the rest of the way. I've always felt more confident when Carlos is up batting lefty, but his career numbers show that he's historically been the same hitter lefty or righty:

Right-handed: .288/.361/.500
Left-handed: .277/.354/.491

In 2008, Carlos's right-handed OPS is .875, and lefty it's .820.

- Nice job by the Mets bullpen today, which pitched 3 scoreless innings spanning 5 pitchers. The boxscore for the relievers had a couple 0.2 IP and 0.1 IP. This reminded me of the "Animal House" scene where the dean is reading off all their GPAs ("Zero... point... zero."). Brian Stokes continued to impress, even if Jerry Manuel is trying to send him to visit the esteemed Dr. James Andrews by pitching him 5 games in a row.

- I liked Keith's nickname for Manuel: "Captain Hook", because of his frequent pitching changes.

- I wish the Mets could combine the best abilities of the revolving door LF position into one player. This player would have Fernando Tatis's power, Dan Murphy's patience at the plate, Nick Evans's ability to crush lefties, and Endy Chavez's glove/arm. And Marlon Anderson's penchant for clutch inside the park homeruns.

The Mets hit the jackpot avoiding C.C. Sabathia for the Brewers series, as C.C. threw a 1 hit shutout today with 11 K's. The Brewers are actually appealing the hit, trying to get it turned into an error, and therefore giving him a no-hitter. How does one celebrate such a no hitter?

Johan Santana vs. Ben Sheets on a Labor Day afternoon. It doesn't really get any better. Welcome to September baseball.

Saturday, August 30 Game Thoughts: Marlins 4 - Mets 3

I shouldn't complain too much because the Mets are in first, but if you had to script a typical 2008 Mets game it would go something like this:

- Mets score early.
- Starting pitcher gives solid performance.
- Mets stop scoring after the 3rd inning.
- Bullpen takes over.
- Bullpen blows it.

Saturday night in Florida followed this script perfectly, with Aaron Heilman pulling a Kenny Rogers to give the Marlins a literal walkoff win. Here are your game thoughts:

- It's not good when your 4-5-6 batters go 0-10 with 5 K's, as Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and Ryan Church did last night.

- Church doesn't look like he's all the way back just yet. Since he returned, he's hitting .231/.310/.308, which is obviously way down from his early season production. The Mets are going to need a productive Church down the stretch.

- Mike Pelfrey pitched solidly, exorcising his Florida Marlins demons. However, his pitch count ran up to 116 pitches, which greatly upsets me. His pickoff of hothead Cody Ross was terrific.

- Bullpen horror show analysis: Jerry Manuel shouldn't have let Duaner Sanchez start the 8th inning. He is not reliable enough at this point to be effective for any longer than a hitter or 2. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think Manuel should've gone to Brian Stokes (who needs a nickname) or even Heilman. Speaking of Aaron, he gave up a run without the Marlins having to take the bats off their shoulder. I know 2 of his 4 BB were intentional, but what an ugly stat line: 0.1 IP, 4 BB, 1 wild pitch, 1 ER. Yikes.

-Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco looks like he's going to be a stud pitcher. How do the Marlins keep developing these guys? Look at the list: Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Dontrelle Willis, Ryan Dempster, Anibel Sanchez, Nolasco, and Friday night's starter Chris Volstad.

A win in the final game of the series would be a nice springboard into Milwaukee. The Mets can look forward to not having to face C.C. Sabathia, as he's starting today. (Completely unrelated sidenote: look at Jayson Werth's hideous picture on his player page. He looks like an alien from a Twilight Zone episode or something.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Game Thoughts Friday, August 29: Mets 5 - Marlins 4

I can't handle this the rest of the season. This is three stressful games in a row, the latest puncuated by a 9th inning grand slam BOMB by Carlos Beltran, down 2-1 with 2 outs. What seemed like a ho-hum lost game for the Mets turned into an inspiring comeback win. Here are your game thoughts:

- I feel a tiny bit for maligned Marlins closer Kevin Gregg. He found himself pitching with no one on, 2 outs in the 9th with a 2-1 lead, facing Luis Castillo. About 5 minutes later he's in the dugout down 5-2. Luis Ayala blew Tuesday's Phillies game in a similar fashion, minus the grand slam. Ayala finished tonight's game, but not before making it interesting in true John Franco/Armando Benitez/Braden Looper fashion. Holy crap Luis...

- Tonight's home plate umpire sucked. He was horribly inconsistent, as his strike zone seemed to change each inning. Jose Reyes was completely justified taking issue with the called strike 3 that went against him in the 5th inning.

- I enjoyed Gary Cohen's plug of Baseball-Reference, a website I spend roughly 8-9 hours a day on.

- Keith Hernandez is on the record - he thinks the Mets are going to the playoffs. I hope this isn't a jinx. Keith's quote of the night, completely out of context: "I never bought into that whole 'Pet Rock' thing."

Coupled with the Phillies loss, the Mets are 2 games up and in good shape to extend the lead. The Phillies face Ted Lilly and Crushin' Carlos Zambrano, while the Mets face the impressive youngster Ricky Nolasco, and the extremely erratic Scott Olsen.

Starters vs. Bullpen

Here's a quick and admittedly rudimentary look at how the Mets' starters and relievers have fared, month by month. A look over at Baseball Reference showed me this (pardon the ridiculous formatting of the stats):





The Mets pitching in March/April was overall very solid. From May onward, Mets starters generally improved in performance each month, with July and August basically identical statistically. Over the same span, Mets relievers' performances have worsened every month, despite the fact that starters have lasted longer (and therefore the bullpen is needed less) in July/August.

What should this be attributed to? There are many factors, among them:

a) The bullpen sucks.
b) The bullpen is exhausted from excessive use.
c) With the injury to Billy Wagner, less effective relievers have been used in his stead.

I'd say it's a little bit of all 3, with an emphasis on letter b. The Mets have 3 relievers in the top 10 in games pitched in the NL - Pedro Feliciano (70), Aaron Heilman (69), and Joe Smith (66).

Let's hope the trend reverses itself, and the bullpen can improve down the stretch. Maybe Luis Ayala and Brian Stokes can reduce the workload for everyone else with effective innings. And, as bad as he's been in some HUGE games this year, it would be nice to have Wagner healthy and pitching again.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

David Wright and runners in scoring position

One facet of baseball statistics I love is they can be used to prove or disprove a personal perception of a player. Examples would be “I think Jose Reyes gets on base an awful lot” or “Seems like John Maine walks a lot of batters.” Today I’m going to take a quick look at my perception (which is shared by many Met fans) that David Wright has not hit well with runners on base/in scoring position.

Here are Wright's 2008 BA/OBP/SLG:

Overall: .291/.385/.517 for a .901 OPS
W/RISP: .242/.332/.385 for a .717 OPS – YIKES!

This is a significant drop-off, but nothing to be alarmed about in the long run. Take a look at these two figures:

Wright, career: .307/.387/.529 for a .917 OPS
Wright, career w/ RISP: .302/.398/.508 for a .906 OPS

These numbers are basically identical. In the long run, he should be just fine with RISP. I’m thinking (hoping) that this season is just an aberration.

He is currently tied for 2nd in the NL with 100 RBI. Now, after seeing his stats w/RISP, you’d have to wonder how he has so many “Ribeye Steaks” as Keith Hernandez says. Here is your explanation:

For the season:
Total runners on base during Wright PA’s: 314, 1st in NL
Runners on 2nd base during Wright PA’s: 134, 6th in NL (Carlos Beltran is 2nd)
Runners on 3rd base during Wright PA’s: 94, 1st in NL (and 2nd place has just 78!)

D-Wright is 2nd in the NL in RBI because he is given the chance to drive in runs more than any other player. He has driven in 12.7% of all runners on 2nd base during his PA's, and 43.6% of runners on 3rd base. The 2nd base % is pretty awful, though the 3rd base % isn't bad, and is good for 8th in the NL.

(Side note: Accumulation stats, like RBI and runs, are not nearly as telling about a player’s ability as percentage stats, like OBP and SLG. The RBI statistic is quite flawed, for the reasons you have read here. The NL RBI leader? Ryan Howard, who could end up with the worst 40 homer, 130 RBI season in history. )

I think David Wright is one of the elite players in the game. He has had an extremely productive season, and is making great strides in the field. He is on of my favorites, and I couldn’t be happier that he is a Met. However, the numbers say we should take his large RBI total with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday, August 27 Game Thoughts: Mets 6 - Phillies 3

This game singlehandedly reversed Tuesday’s nightmare, and then some. For a change, the Mets dominated innings 7, 8, and 9, at the plate, in the field, and, most importantly, on the mound. Here are your game thoughts:

- CARLOS DELGADO!!! - hitting like it's 1999.
- DANIEL MURPHY!!! - mashing against the best closer in the NL.
- BRIAN SCHNEIDER!!! - hitting the jackpot with the luckiest 2 RBI hit in recent Mets history.

- Right before Murphy’s big 8th inning double, I was thinking “It’s about time to induct Murphy into the small sample size hall of fame, along with Shane Spencer, Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez.” I was happy to be proven wrong.

- Brian Stokes, Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith and Luis Ayala shockingly combined for 3 scoreless innings, with Stokes looking impressive yet again. Jerry Manuel should keep putting Stokes out there in meaningful spots until he gives reason not to. In 17 IP, Stokes has a 3.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 13 K and 3 BB.

- If I’m a Phillies fan, I have to be upset at Charlie Manuel’s use of Brad Lidge. The guy is unhittable, and you leave Rudy Seanez in to face Delgado, who was 3-6 with 2 homers against Seanez in his career. You need to bring in your bullpen ace at that point of the game. Also, Lidge made Delgado look silly in last night’s game, striking him out with ease.

Despite my heaping praise of Lidge, great job by the Mets getting to him. He’s been having some injury problems recently, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him head for a DL stint a la Billy Wagner. (side note: this is not to say I wish physical harm on Lidge; I’m just saying if he was injured, I wouldn’t be heartbroken; second side note: upset of the series - Aaron Heilman outpitched fellow Notre Dame alum Lidge)

- David Wright’s play in the field during August could fill a highlight reel. His 8th inning catch and throw to beat the speedy “Phlyin’ Hawaiian” Shane Victorino at 1st was spectacular. David's performance at the plate in these 2 games left a lot to be desired, however.

This quote, from Ron Darling, perfectly captured the Mets experience: “Never has there been a team with a 14-6 record in their last 20 games, which was capable of creating so much angst."

Tomorrow’s day off will be much more enjoyable for the Mets and their fans after tonight. Rest up and recharge for a 3 game set against a struggling Marlins team this weekend.

Tuesday, August 26 Game Thoughts: Phillies 8 - Mets 7

I briefly considered texting my Philadelphia friends something to the effect of “now say goodnight” when the Mets went up 7-0 in the 4th. I came to my senses immediately, and realized that this is the 2008 Mets, famous for late inning hitting and pitching collapses. I could write an essay about this game. Wow, what a scary flashback to late August/September 2007. Here are your game thoughts:

- I personally feel for any Mets fan who made the trip to Philly. Hopefully Johan Santana can redeem you tomorrow.

- Congrats to Damion Easley on a HUGE night: on base 5 times with a bomb homer. I’ve been writing about Easley’s overrated play this season recently, so good job sticking it to me Damion.

- Jose Reyes made an amazing play in the 9th to temporarily prolong the game. Carlos Delgado made a great play to rob Ryan Howard in the 10th, also prolonging the game.

- I’m one of the only people left in New York who likes Aaron Heilman, so I was happy to see him pitch 3 scoreless, yet eventful, innings. It’s not often you see Aaron confidently striding off the mound after a job well done, but he earned it after striking out Chase Utley and Howard in the 12th.

- Heard on the broadcast: a creative Phillies fan yelling “CHAVEZ, YOU BUM” during Endy Chavez’s 13th inning AB.

- Keith and Ron let out a collective laugh in the 9th when Howard almost took Luis Ayala deep, as if to say, “My God I can’t handle this”. I had the same feeling. All 3 announcers got progressively goofier and started rooting for the Mets more and more as the game went on… which is fine with me.

This was just too much for one night. Good night Mets. Pick everyone up tomorrow night Johan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mike Pelfrey's Innings Pitched Concern

I touched on this in last night’s game thoughts, but the number of innings Mike Pelfrey is projected to throw this season is alarming. Jerry Manuel left Pelfrey in to finish the game, despite having a 7-0 lead in the 8th. Also, Manuel has made it clear he isn’t going to give Pelfrey extra rest, as a result of John Maine’s likely season ending DL stint. He will project to about 200 innings, not including playoffs (again *** fingers crossed ***).

Buster Olney at ESPN agrees with my assessment. Today he wrote:

"The Mets had planned to restrict Pelfrey's innings to protect him, and then scrapped all that Monday in the aftermath of Maine's injury -- so it was a little odd to see him take the mound for the eighth and ninth innings with leads of seven and then nine runs. It just makes sense to save the wear and tear whenever you can."

Kevin Davidoff at Newsday agrees as well, and links to a great Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci analyzing severe increases in workload for young pitchers from one year to the next. Guys like Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Kerry Wood, and Mark Prior have struggled or gotten injured after significantly increasing their workloads. Yes, CC Sabathia and Carlos Zambrano are exceptions to this phenomenon. Some guys have rubber arms (and weigh 280+ pounds).

Big Mike wants the ball every 5 games. He will not voluntarily sit, and I wish someone in the Mets organization would step in. Pitching a baseball is one of the most violent, unnatural motions the human body can perform. My arm would kill me after pitching just 35-40 innings in a high school season, and I didn’t throw very hard. Having Pelfrey pitch 200+ innings this season after 152.2 last year is abusive and dumb. I’m terrified of Pelfrey’s injury riddled 2009 and 2010 seasons, resulting in Mets fans and NY sportswriters labeling him to be “brittle” and “injury prone.”

Pelfrey is just 24 years old, and the best shot at a home-grown ace since Dwight Gooden. Many don’t realize that Doc ceased being a dominant pitcher after he turned 25. Yes, he had a few scattered above average seasons thereafter (1993, 1998), but he was truly dominant for just 4-5 seasons. Blame it partly on his drug use or work ethic if you like. I can’t help but think the 234 or so IP he averaged from the age of 19-23 took a toll on his young arm.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday, August 25 Game Thoughts: Mets 9 - Astros 1

Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Delgado were the story tonight. Big Pelf tossed his 2nd straight complete game, narrowly missing a shutout. Carlos clubbed a pair of 3-run homers, the 2nd one off of lefty-specialist Wesley Wright, who had been holding lefties to a .155 average and .489 OPS this season. I flipped a coin, and Carlos won tonight's game MVP award. Here are your game thoughts:

- The majority of Met fans will not agree with me here, but WHY WHY WHY was Pelfrey still in the game with the Mets up 7-0 in the 8th?!?! Yes, he had great stuff. Yes, his pitch count was relatively low. But Mike is now at 163 IP this season, with over a month left. With 30 games to go, this will give Mike about 6 more starts. Averaging a conservative 6 innings per game, he'll finish around 200 IP this season (not counting playoffs, ***fingers crossed***). This is too many for such a young player. Joel Sherman at the NY Post and Ken Davidoff at Newsday have addressed this issue. Jerry Manuel, why not put Brian Stokes or Aaron Heilman in this no pressure game to get them some work and rest Big Mike?

- Looks like Luis Castillo will need some time to shake that rust off.

- Also, it appears opposing teams have gotten together a scouting report on Dan Murphy, as he went 0-3 with 3 K's and is now 4 for his last 22, with 4 walks.

I'm glad to see the Astros get out of town. Hopefully the Mets can build off of tonight's win going to Philly for a quickie 2 game series. The suddenly hot Phillies are coming off a 4 game sweep of the formerly hot Dodgers. Fortunately for the Mets, they won't have to face Cole Hamels or a resurrected Brett Myers. The matchups are:

- Tuesday, August 26 - Pedro Martinez vs. Jamie Moyer
- Wednesday, August 27 - Johan Santana vs. Kyle Kendrick

The longball has been Petey's nemesis of late, and a trip to the hitter's paradise that is Citizens Bank may not help the situation. Moyer has been hot of late, sporting an ERA of 2.51 and a WHIP of 1.19 in 9 July/August starts. A sweep, even in this short get together, would be a huge confidence builder and momentum boost for the home stretch.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday, August 24 Game Thoughts: Astros 6 - Mets 4

The return of the Bullpen Horror Show is the story of the game. Blame for the loss should be shared with the Mets' bats, who went down 15 straight times to end this 10-inning affair. I can't let Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano completely off the hook, but the lineup has looked pitiful at times against, outside of Roy Oswalt, an underwhelming Astros pitching staff. Here are your game thoughts:

- It looks like Carlos Beltran answered Jerry Manuel and my wakeup call, as he busted out with 2 big homeruns, both of which gave the Mets a lead at the time. Alas, a win was not to be.

- Oliver Perez allowed just 5 baserunners with 8 K's in 6.1 innings. Based on that line, you'd never guess he surrendered 4 ER. Outside of a mistake to Hunter Pence that landed halfway up the former Pepsi Picnic Area, Oliver pitched fine.

- Yankee castoff LaTroy Hawkins looked pretty darn unhittable in his scoreless 9th inning. I guess that ridiculous incident involving Hawkins disrespecting Paul O'Neill by wearing the overly intense former Yankee's #21 really affected him during his time in the Bronx. (side note: If the Yankees retire O'Neill's number, do you think big Paulie will bash a water cooler if he stutters during his speech?)

- My statistically-oriented head almost exploded watching Dartmouth alum Brad Ausmus (.288 SLG %) and Darin Erstad (3rd HR of the season) homer to win this game.

The Mets are now 1-5 against the 'Stros this year. Let's hope Mike Pelfrey's arm isn't exhausted after his first career complete game last week. A win tomorrow would be a nice shot in the arm for the Mets, as they head into an 11 game stretch against the Phillies, Brewers, and Marlins.

"I'm not trying to get you drunk, but that's a very fine Chardonnay you're not drinking."

This is hilarious. From the product description:

"Aromas of warm blackberry cobbler with currant, black plum, fresh earth, herb, cedar and a hint of anise. Flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum, mocha, spice and mineral with rips, firm tannin on the finish."

I'm sure you can taste every one of those 12 different flavors/spices in every sip! I can't decide between Caber Reyes or Brian Schneider's Schardonnay.

I do approve that a portion proceeds go to charity, and not entirely towards padding these guy's bank accounts.

Saturday, August 23 Game Thoughts: Astros 8 - Mets 3

A disappointing start by John Maine marred the final Saturday night regular season game in Shea Stadium history. Tonight's game ran my season record for games attended to 6-4. Here are your game thoughts:

- Maine is not himself. 12 baserunners in 5.2 innings is not gonna get it done. If he pitches poorly next time out, it may be wise to weigh some other options for Maine (bullpen, DL, etc.)

- David Wright made 2 spectacular plays in the field tonight, reminding everyone how great of an all around player he is.

- I hate to keep writing about this, but Argenis Reyes is just killing the lineup right now. How is he batting 2nd and Dan Murphy is batting 6th???!!!

- It was curious to see Fernando Tatis in the on deck circle ready to pinch hit for Carlos Beltran in the 8th inning. I guess Jerry Manuel feels Beltran needs a wake up call. He's 0 for his last 12, and and 6 for his last 34. If the Mets are to win the NL East, a hot Beltran will be necessary.

- Brian Stokes has decent stuff. His fastball was around 95-96 mph during 2 innings of work. In 14IP with the big club, he has 11 K's, 1 BB, and a 1.07 WHIP. Yes, very small sample size, but I think Stokes could prove useful, and not just in mop up work. He should get a chance in a meaningful spot.

- Lance Berkman is an elite hitter with a pretty swing, so when he goes 3-5 with a homer and 5 RBI you don't get too upset. However, watching David Newhan and his .597 OPS go deep at Shea is disconcerting.

Game 3 on Sunday afternoon features a matchup of lefties, as Randy Wolf faces Oliver Perez. Perez has been on fire, as every Met fan knows. Wolf has had an overall poor year (4.81 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), but in 12 IP against the Mets, he's given up 1 ER, going 2-0. Wolf has more wins (11) against the Mets than any other opponent, sporting a 3.25 ERA against them. I'd rather the Mets face Brandon Webb or Danny Haren than Randy Wolf.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Castillo, part deux

Luis Castillo will start tonight vs. the Astros in his first game back from the DL. This decision is apparently not sitting well with many Met fans and NY sportswriters who have grossly overvalued the Damion Easley/Argenis Reyes tandem. Not to go all FJM here, but take Larry Brooks of the New York Post (a paper with a usually strong sports section that has fallen off in recent years):

"Someone who doesn't deserve to sit will sit - Easley, primarily. And someone who doesn't deserve to be demoted will be demoted - Reyes, probably. This is all done to accomodate Castillo, who was a significant disappointment and more than a bit of a whiner before going on the DL with a hip flexor on July 3. "

Yes, maybe Castillo has been a bit of a disappointment, but how can you look at the 3 individuals' stats and not see that Castillo has been the most productive of the trio and should start consistently?? See my post from Thursday for a more in-depth look at the stats, but to summarize, here are the important numbers:

Castillo: .261/.365/.331, an .800 OPS with RISP
Easley: .262/.312/.347, a .679 OPS with RISP
Reyes: .264/.297/.299, a .274 OPS with RISP

Back to Mr. Brooks:

"They are 31-14 since Castillo went on the DL. No, he's not an NFL quarterback or an NHL goaltender with more than his share of the burden on his shoulders. The starting rotation has remade itself into a dominating force. Carlos Delgado has turned back the clock. Still, if you are what your record says you are, the Mets are a better team without Castillo than with him."

This is laughable writing. He actually lists out the BIGGEST reasons why the Mets have been resurgent, and even acknowledges that Castillo cannot singlehandedly win or lose games. Then he reiterates his ridiculous hypothesis. Unfortunately, Met fans read garbage like this and let it influence how they feel about the situation. I will now re-write this paragraph, and it will make just as much sense as what Mr. Brooks wrote:

"They are 31-14 since I started drinking only light beer. No, light beer does not taste as good, and doesn't get you as drunk. Still, if you are what your record says you are, the Mets are a better team since I started drinking light beer."

Additionally, Bart Hubbuch of the Post wrote essentially the same exact column, linked here. It is equally as silly.

Friday, August 22 Game Thoughts: Mets 3 - Astros 0

What more can you say about the job Johan Santana has done this year? Even on a night when he gives up 8 hits and a walk, he seemed in complete control, getting out of the few jams he was in with ease. Let's hope he continues to be a great 2nd half pitcher. For the record, here is where he stands in various important NL pitching categories:
  • ERA: 2nd
  • ERA+: 4th
  • IP: 1st
  • WHIP: 5th
  • K's: 6th

Here are your game thoughts:

- The Mets boxscore looks like a wasteland - a whole lot of zeroes, mixed in with a few ones. Brian Schneider's impressive 2 run blast off Roy Oswalt is the only real highlight for the lineup.

- Speaking of Oswalt, he was completely dominant, sending down every hitter he faced after surrendering the homer (20 batters in a row). If only Cliff Floyd was still around to put Oswalt in his place. To quote Uncle Cliffy, circa 2005, "'I'm not saying retaliation will come from this club. But sooner or later, somebody's going to hurt him (Oswalt)."

- All the people calling for Johan to go deeper into games may regret it if he shows signs of fatigue or injury this year or next. Yes, he's the ace, he needs to take control of the game, blah blah blah, but he cannot be expected to go out and throw 120+ pitches a night. That's abuse of a big investment, though not as egregious as Ned Yost's overuse of C.C. Sabathia in Milwaukee.

- Keep it up Aaron Heilman, and let's hope Luis Ayala has figured it out for real.

I don't think post-season awards like MVP and Cy Young are terribly important, considering the mistakes the voters have made in the past. However, this year is reminding me of 2005, when Johan Santana clearly had a better year than Bartolo Colon (Johan had Colon beat in literally every stat category except wins), but Colon won the Cy Young anyway. The only difference here is that Brandon Webb, Johan's competition, is not just having a great year as far as win-loss record goes, he's really been dominant. However, I would love to see Johan end up with better stats than Webb all around, except wins-losses, and watch how the Cy vote goes. Not to be excluded from the Cy conversation is wunderkind Tim Lincecum, who became the first pitcher to 200 K's last night.

Mets Tailgate will be in attendance at tonight's game, the final regular season Saturday night game in Shea history. John "The 5-inning Man" Maine starts tonight, against Brandon Backe. Backe has been nothing short of terrible this season, and he holds a 5.18 career ERA vs. the Mets.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21 Game Thoughts: Mets 5 - Braves 4

This was one of the most enjoyable, satisfying wins of the season. David ("MVP?") Wright went 3-4 with 2 doubles, a homer and a walk. He also made 2 exceptional defensive plays. Carlos Delgado went nuts, going 5-5 with 3 RBI, including the game winning "hit" off of Omar Infante's glove in the 9th. Here are your game thoughts:

- Infante playfully taunted the fans behind the leftfield wall after catching Fernando Tatis's extra base bid in the bottom of the 7th - a little karma since Infante then embarrassed himself trying to catch Delgado's 9th inning liner.

- Pedro Martinez was generally effective, save Yunel Escobar's leadoff homer and Brian McCann's 2 run double. His 6 K's and 1 BB were an encouraging sign for the rest of the season.

- Welcome to New York Luis Ayala!

- Mets pitching held Chipper Jones under wraps this week, as he went 2-10 with no extra base hits, although he did walk 5 times for a series OBP of .466.

- I loved D-Wright's unnecessary "Slip-n-Slide" dive into home to end the game, as well as the 9th inning team rally caps.

Break up the Nationals - their big win against the Phils puts the Mets 2.5 games up in the NL East. Life is good (for now) for Met fans. The pesky Astros come to town this weekend, and hopefully things will go better than the last Mets-'Stros series from a couple weeks back. The hopefully epic Johan Santana vs. Roy Oswalt duel is not to be missed tonight.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Castillo vs. Easley vs. A. Reyes

Luis Castillo will likely be joining the Mets today or sometime within the week. His return has sparked spirited debate about who should start at 2B upon his return. Mike Nichols at MetsBlog feels Castillo should not start, but rather should have to earn his way back via pinch hitting and fill-in roles. One of his arguments is that the Mets are 28-14 (29-14 after last night) since Castillo went on the DL. This is a faulty argument, considering that the resurgence of Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and the entire starting rotation should also be attributed to the team's improved performance.

I feel that the best way to decide is to look at each player's performance objectively. Here are the relevant stats for the 2B options, in alphabetical order:

Luis Castillo: 3 HR, 26 RBI, .261/.365/.331, 13 SB, 88 OPS+, 4.26 pitches per plate appearance*, in 294 PA's, .800 OPS with RISP

Damion Easley: 5 HR, 37 RBI, .262/.313/.348, 0 SB, 77 OPS+, 3.39 pitches per plate appearance*, in 293 PA's, .688 OPS with RISP

Argenis Reyes: 1 HR, 3 RBI, .271/.303/.306, 2 SB, 64 OPS+, 3.65 pitches per plate appearance*, in 92 PA's, .274(!) OPS with RISP

*I included this statistic because on last night's telecast, Gary, Keith, and Ron were admiring A. Reyes's ability to work counts, and I wanted to find out for myself if he really has shown that ability, or if it just seems that way. If he had enough qualifying ABs, Castillo would be 4th in the league in pitches per PA, behind Adam Dunn, Fred Lewis, and Kosuke Fukudome.

I believe Castillo has generally been most valuable. His HR total and slugging are lower than Easley's, but his on-base % is over 50(!) points higher. He trumps A. Reyes in every category. Castillo is also most adept of the trio at working counts, stealing bases, and hitting with RISP.

A. Reyes's biggest asset is his glove. He's made some slick plays in recent weeks in big spots. Defensively, I'd rate A. Reyes the best, followed by Castillo, then Easley. However, he is not a productive major league hitter at this point in his career. He doesn't get on base or hit for power. Don't get me wrong, I like having him on the roster, especially come Sept. 1 when rosters expand, as he would be valuable as a late inning defensive replacement. He just hasn't shown ability at the plate to justify starting on a consistent basis.

The following non-statistical factors should (debatably) be taken into account: Easley has hit some big homers this year, fans don't like Castillo's bloated contract, Castillo will have some rust coming back from injury, fans love the fact that A. Reyes has the same last name as the other Reyes, etc.

After a week or so to allow Castillo to shake off the DL rust, I feel the ideal situation would be for Castillo to start every 5 games out of 7, Easley start the other 2 out of 7, with A. Reyes pinch hitting and serving as a defensive replacement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday, August 20 Game Thoughts: Mets 6 - Braves 3

This is the kind of game the Mets would be on the losing end of earlier in the season. It amazes me that the Mets can beat Jair Jurrjens, Tim Lincecum, and Tim Hudson, then look totally hapless against the likes of R.A. Dickey, Sidney Ponson and Bronson Arroyo. That's what makes baseball great I guess. Sloppy defense early on by the Braves (namely Chipper Jones) enabled the Mets to put up a five spot in the first, and Mike Pelfrey took over from there. Here are your game thoughts:

- I don't think Pelfrey had such great stuff tonight, but he ended up allowing just 6 baserunners in a complete game 3-hitter. Congrats Mike on your first of hopefully many complete games. He seemed to get stronger as the night wore on, striking out Chipper in the 9th.

- I shouldn't complain about the Mets offense, as they're 2nd in the league in runs scored behind the Cubs. However, their tendency to put up runs early on and inability to score later in the game could be a major issue in September/October, especially considering Billy Wagner's status. The Mets face the Cubs, Brewers, and Marlins in September - a far cry from the Nationals and Braves. Late inning runs are a must-have with the bullpen lacking an ace.

- I appreciate Argenis Reyes for what he is: a solid fill-in middle infielder. However, I have to believe that if his last name wasn't Reyes, he wouldn't be nearly as adored by the fans (and announcers) as he is. I'll cover this topic in another post.

For the 4th(!) series in a row, the Mets will have a chance to sweep. Petey Martinez faces off tomorrow against our old friend/rental player Mike Hampton. Look for Pete to give 6 solid innings before the well rested bullpen finishes the job. Look for Hampton to pull a muscle in his neck and leave the game after watching Jose Reyes's leadoff homer clank off the Dunkin' Donuts cup in the visitors' bullpen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday, August 19 Game Thoughts: Mets 7 - Braves 3

It doesn't matter how far out of first the Atlanta Braves are - it will always feel good to beat them. This was an extremely satisfying win for so many reasons: the bullpen pitched great, the Mets outscored their opponent 5-0 in the final 3 innings, Oliver Perez didn't have his best stuff (at all) but still kept his team in striking distance. Here are your game thoughts:

- It looked like Perez was all set for an early Budweiser (to quote Keith Hernandez), as he was all over the place in the early innings. However, he settled down a bit, and kept the game close with a little help from Luis Ayala, Aaron Heilman, and Scott Schoeneweis.

- By the way Oliver... can you, and the rest of the Mets pitchers, please practice your bunting?

- Nice call by Ron Darling, who commented in the first inning that Fernando Tatis is capable of hitting to right field with some power, and therefore Jeff Francouer shouldn't play as shallow as he was. Tatis ripped an opposite field RBI double a few batters later.

- When Carlos Delgado came up with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 8th, I forecasted to my brother "Guaranteed strikeout or a double play." Wouldn't you know it, the next pitch was blasted to left, with Carlos missing a grand slam by a few feet. Way to go Carlos, especially against a tough pitcher in Will Ohman, who's held lefties to a .170 average this season.

Big Mike Pelfrey looks to break his current string of alternating great and crappy starts (his last start was great) tomorrow vs. the very impressive Jair Jurrjens. Jair is just 22 years old, but has a 3.15 ERA this year as the lone bright spot in the Braves rotation. Hopefully the Mets can build on their late inning theatrics from tonight, and keep Bobby Cox as angry as he looks in the picture above.

Post Game Awards

After each Mets game, a player will be picked as the most valuable or least valuable player. The award will show up on the top right side of the blog. No prize will be presented to the recipient. I've name the awards as follows:

The Tug McGraw Award (pitcher of the game)
Tug was a great relief pitcher and fan favorite for the Mets in the late 60's and early 70's. The winner need not be a relief pitcher though.

The Anthony Young Award (worst pitcher of the game)
Anthony was a not-so-great pitcher for the Mets in the early 90's, infamous for losing 27 consecutive decisions. I was at the game he vultured to finally break his losing streak.

The John Olerud Award (position player of the game)
Johnny O. is one of my favorite Mets of all time, even though he was only around for 3 seasons. John was a tough out, posting OBP's of .400, .447. and .427 during his tenure in Flushing. He was also saved countless errors at first base as part of "The Best Infield Ever." Additionally, he was a quiet, mild mannered guy who rode the 7 train to "work". His legacy to the casual baseball fan will be as "that guy who wore a helmet in the field", but Mets fans of the Bobby V. era know better.

The Rey Ordonez Award (worst position player of the game)
I don't dislike Rey Ordonez. He was a great fielder. However, the fact that the Mets sent him up to the plate 500+ times a season for about 5 full seasons is a joke. His career OPS was .599. His "career year" was probably 1999, when he slammed 1 home run, 60 RBI, and went .258/.319/.317.

There you have it. I'll pick one of these awards for each game to go along with game thoughts. Also, I may rotate the names of the awards, but it should be easy to tell which award is being handed out based on the player associated with it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday, August 18 Game Thoughts: Pirates 5 - Mets 2

When your bats and bullpen don't perform well, you can't expect to beat any team. This was the case for the Mets today, but I guess 3 out of 4 on the road ain't bad. Here are your game thoughts:

- John Maine had a typical John Maine start: high pitch count, few innings, few hits, many walks, inability to locate the strike zone. That said, he gave up no runs in 5 innings.

- Nick Evans continued to be strong against left-handed pitching, going 2-3 with 2 doubles vs. Pirates lefty ace Paul Maholm. Evans is a very respectable .317/.378/.439 vs. lefties this year (before today's game), so I applaud Jerry Manuel's decision to start Evans today. I like the Dan Murphy/Evans platoon right now.

- What I do not understand is Manuel putting Argenis Reyes in the leadoff spot. His OBP is an embarrassing (especially for a leadoff hitter) .316. He has shown no patience at the plate, nor an ability to steal bases. With Jose "Joe Kings" Reyes getting a day off, why not put Carlos Beltran or even Evans in the leadoff spot? It is simply illogical to put A. Reyes in a position to get more plate appearances than any other player in the lineup.

- Duaner Sanchez is glad to get the hell out of Pittsburgh. His statline in 2 games this series:
1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB. YIKES. Duaner had pitched well recently before this series, but there have to be serious concerns about his confidence at this point, and, more importantly, his severely decreased velocity.

Those pesky Braves come to town this week. They got shut out by Barry Zito (!!!) today, so hopefully their anemic offense (to quote Keith Hernandez) will continue to stink.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday, August 17 Game Thoughts: Mets 4 - Pirates 0

Johan Santana has earned his humongous salary this season, but today's game was by far his best statistical performance: 3-hit shutout, with 7 K's and 0 BB. WOW. (granted it was against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but still, it's a 3-hitter against a major league club). Let's hope Johan continues to live up to his 2nd half pitcher reputation... "savvy"? Here are your game thoughts:

- It's been a great weekend for Mets catchers. Ramon Castro went deep Saturday, and today Brian Schneider hit a bomb of his own, driving in 3 runs total. I'll give them some credit for the great starting pitching as well.

- Dan Murphy continues to impress at the plate, going 1-3 with a walk. It's not often a young player comes up and immediately shows the ability to work counts and take bases on balls. Of course he's been a big leaguer for about 10 minutes, so I'll hold off on deifying him until he gets some more plate appearances. Also, his OF play leaves something to be desired.

- The only hitters on the Pirates who look like they'll have any positive impact in the future are Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, maybe Jack Wilson, and maybe Adam LaRoche. Doug Mientkiwicz looks primed for a solid run as a bench/role player. Andy LaRoche is a formerly touted prospect and still has time to improve I guess, but besides that, it's slim pickins for the Pittsburgh lineup. Freddie Sanchez's 2006 batting title seems like it happened in the distant past. Learn how to take a walk Freddie.

The Metropolitans look to bust out the brooms for the second series in a row, with Mr. John Maine throwing against the Pirates' ace Paul Maholm on Monday afternoon. John needs to come out throwing strikes against this subpar Pirates lineup. Give 6 solid innings tomorrow John, and hope Eddie Kunz isn't brought in to pitch.

Damion Easley batting 3rd??!?!?!?

What in the hell is Damion Easley doing batting 3rd against the Pirates today?? This isn't the 1998 All Star version of Easley, it's the 2008 version who is OPS'ing .674! Check out the 2008 OPS and OPS+ of the following players, who are batting 5th - 7th today in the Mets lineup:

Carlos Beltran: .828/118

Dan Murphy: 1.195/216 (miniscule sample size)

Fernando Tatis: .861/127

Compare to Easley: .674/80

This is simply inexcusable. I could see if MAYBE the Pirates were throwing a lefty out there and Jerry Manuel wanted to take advantage of a lefty/right matchup (although Easley has only been slightly better vs. lefties).

So far, Easley is 1 for 3, grounding into 2 double plays.

Mets acquire RHP Luis Ayala from Nationals

According to, the Mets have acquired right-handed relief pitcher Luis Ayala from the Nationals for 2B Anderson Hernandez. Ayala was 1-8 in 62 games, spanning 57.1 innings with a 5.77 ERA this year for the Nats. Hernandez did not make it out of the minors to the big club this year for the Mets.

Ayala is famous for injuring his elbow on his last pitch of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, missing the entire 2006 season. However, he has been very effective out of the bullpen for the Expos/Nationals from 2003-2007. In those 4 seasons, he never posted an ERA above 3.19, or an ERA+ below 132, while eating significant innings.

He has killed the Mets, to the tune of: 39 IP, 33 K, 9 BB, and a 2.08 ERA. So that's one less reliever to shut down the Mets in their dreaded 7th through 9th innings. His 2008 has been disastrous, which makes me wonder if he's injured again, or just having a bad year. His career has been pretty similar to Aaron Heilman's (several above average years in relief with an awful 2008, as well as a propensity to give up the long ball).

Hernandez was expendable, considering Damion Easley, Argenis Reyes and Luis Castillo are ahead on the depth chart. If Ayala can produce any quality innings out of the 'pen this will be a good move for Jerry Manuel's Mets.

Saturday, August 16 Game Thoughts: Mets 7 - Pirates 4

Bolstered by the third solid start in a row by Pedro Martinez, the Mets beat the Pirates but not without some late drama. Here are your game thoughts:

- Pedro didn't have any velocity on his fastball, throwing in the high 80's most of the game. However, his offspeed stuff was filthy, and he was able to dominate the Pirates lineup.

- Jose Reyes led off the game with a homer and tripled later on. If he continues the way he's playing, and the Mets make the playoffs (fingers crossed), he'll have a legitimate case for M-V-P. That's for another post though.

- If only Ramon Castro wasn't so injury prone. Guy hits bombs.

- What would a Saturday night Mets game be without an appearance by the bullpen horror show? To think, I was calling for Jerry Manuel to bring in Eddie Kunz to close Friday's 2-1 win. He looked awful, unable to command any pitch. Kunz was throwing, not pitching. As Cosmo Kramer once said: "AIN'T GONNA CUT IT IN THIS TOWN BABE!"

- I'm happy for Michael Phelps setting the gold medal record. The only person in the U.S. who might be unhappy for him is Mark Spitz. How did that guy swim with a moustache? Didn't that hurt his swimmer's drag or whatever it's called?

Since his forgettable post All Star break start vs. the Reds, Johan Santana has been utterly dominant. In 5 starts, he's thrown 37.1 innings, with 25 K, 8 BB, and a 2.17 ERA. I won't mention his W-L record during these starts, as everyone knows what a worthless statistic that is for a pitcher...

Former Yankee farmhand Jeff Karstens goes for the Pirates, and he has been even more dominant since joining the Bucs at the trade deadline. Karstens nearly no-hit the D-Backs recently, and has 22 IP, 8 K, 7 BB, a 0.955 WHIP and 1.23 ERA in his small sample size Pirates career. His career 4.42 ERA is pedestrian, and his 1.07 K/BB ratio is atrocious. Look for the Mets to bust out the sticks.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15 Game Thoughts: Mets 2 - Pirates 1

The Mets beat the Pirates in a tidy 2 hours and 31 minutes behind a solid start from Big Mike Pelfrey. Here are your game thoughts:

- Pelfrey pitched 7 innings, giving up 0 runs, while scattering 7 hits. Big Pelf walked no one, and struck out 1. Not his most dominant performance of the season, but I’ll take no runs in 7 innings. Mike has the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher, but he isn’t at this point in his career. He’s averaging just 5.15 K’s per 9 innings.

- It seemed like the game would become a laugher early, as the Mets scored 2 runs before making an out. Alas, that was the extent of the offense’s damage, as the lineup went away quietly into the night after scoring early. Like this game. And this game. Anddddd this game.

- Carlos Beltran went 0-4, but contributed in a major way with his perfect throw home to gun down Adam LaRoche in the 7th.

- The bullpen horror show didn’t exactly occur, but Jack Wilson’s homer (his FIRST of the season) off Duaner Sanchez made me turn the game off to watch the Olympics briefly.

- I turned the game back on to watch Aaron Heilman close it out, but not without a little defensive help from his friends, namely Argenis Reyes.

- PNC Park looks like a great place to watch a game. I love the yellow bridge behind the outfield. It’s a slightly better view than the Iron Triangle and 7 Train featured at Shea.

The matchup tonight is Zach Duke vs. Pedro Martinez. Hopefully the Mets can score 10 runs in this one, and save Pedro Feliciano and Heilman's arms from falling off.
Duke is one of those guys who sucks vs. every team except the Mets. Crafty lefties seem to baffle the Mets (see Jamie Moyer, Randy Wolf).
- Duke, career, vs. Mets: 2-0, 26.1 IP, 2.39 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 18 K, 4 BB
- Duke, career, vs. everyone else : 23-35, 520.1 IP, 4.53 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 264 K, 152 BB

Friday, August 15, 2008

About Mets Tailgate

1. What is this blog all about?

I will write mostly statistically-minded posts about the Mets, covering stats which casual fans may not understand/appreciate (though they really should). Some of these stats include: OPS+, FIP, ERA+, WAR, and also the more recognizable BA/OBP/SLG. Additionally, I will write Mets top 10 lists, trade analysis, and general thoughts about the players, announcers, front office etc.

2. There are so many other (better) Mets blogs out there. Why should I read this?

Matt Cerrone’s METSBLOG has set the standard for Internet-based Mets reporting. AMAZIN' AVENUE is a great statistically-oriented Mets blog. I also write a weekly column for the excellent site METSGEEK. METSTRADAMUS is a funny blog. Read here for objective statistical analysis that isn't available at most other Mets blogs.

3. Why is it called “New York Mets Tailgate?”

I like tailgating at Mets games and there isn't another Mets blog called Mets Tailgate. Good enough for me.

(these people are having a grand old time at their Mets tailgate)