Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Clutch" hitting

If you have a few minutes, read this excellent column from USA Today (via TheBigLead) which covers the topic of "clutch" hitting. It examines a point of view about clutch hitting that I happen to agree with: over the long term, players do not exhibit an ability to perform consistently well in the clutch. In the short term, sure, players can be clutch (see Craig Counsell, Bucky Dent) or not clutch (see Alex Rodriguez, David Wright). I believe that a .300 hitter will hit .300 in any situation, in the long term. It's a spirited discussion, usually pitting the scouting focused types vs. statistically oriented folk.

I'll leave you with some interesting stats:

Derek Jeter
Career: .316/.387/.458
w/RISP: .311/.405/.434
Playoffs: .309/.377/.469, 123 G, 495 AB
(These numbers suggest Jeter is the same hitter in any of these situations, more or less.)

Alex Rodriguez
Career: .306/.389/.578
w/RISP: .302/.404/.553
Playoffs: .279/.361/.483, 39 G, 147 AB
(A-Rod's numbers dip in the playoffs, but not as sharply as one might expect based on the media portrayal of his struggles; keep in mind that's in just 39 G, as opposed to 123 for Jeter)

David Wright
Career: .309/.389/.533
w/RISP: .300/.394/.501
Playoffs: .216./.310/.378, 10 G, 37 AB
(The playoff numbers are awful, granted, but 10 games is just too small a sample size to label anyone clutch or not clutch. Hopefully David can prove me right with a great October 2009, by adding 10-19 games to that sample size.)

And just for fun, Reggie Jackson aka Mr. October
Career: .262/.356/.490
w/RISP: .263/.375/.481
Playoffs: .278/.358/.527, 77 G, 281 AB
(Basically the same player in all 3 situations, with a little more power in the postseason.)

The next time you hear Mike Francesca or some other windbag screaming about how the Mets should trade Wright or Jose Reyes because they are not "clutch", simply re-read this post and remind yourself how ridiculous they sound.

The Billy Beane Award

The book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis focused on Oakland A's General Manager (and Mets 1st round draft pick) Billy Beane, and his quest to take advantage of inefficiencies in the baseball player market. Working with a limited payroll, Beane needed to maximize the value he received from his players. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Beane's A's consistently had strong seasons despite limited resources. To find out which team got the most value from its payroll, I calculated how much each team paid per win in 2008, using payroll figures listed here. (Note that I do not include game 163 between the Twins and White Sox, and also that the Orioles, A's, Nationals, Marlins, Cubs and Astros played 161 games instead of the standard 162.) Here are the results, and please pardon the formatting:

1. Florida Marlins______$259,958
2. Tampa Bay Rays_____$451,759
3. Oakland Athletics____ $639,562
4. Minnesota Twins_____$706,622
5. Pittsburgh Pirates_____$736,795
6. Kansas City Royals____$776,607
7. Arizona Diamondbacks__$807,350
8. Texas Rangers________$863,792
9. Milwaukee Brewers____$900,046
10. Colorado Rockies_____$927,777
11. Washington Nationals__$931,542
12. Cleveland Indians_____$974,939
13. Baltimore Orioles_____$988,180
14. Cincinnati Reds_______$1,003,753
15. Houston Astros_______$1,034,075
16. San Franciso Giants____$1,068,118
17. Philadelphia Phillies____$1,068,151
18. Toronto Blue Jays_____$1,147,000
19. San Diego Padres______$1,169,486
20. St. Louis Cardinals_____$1,170,052
21. LA Angels___________$1,192,163
22. Chicago Cubs_________$1,222,637
23. Chicago White Sox_____$1,376,735
24. Boston Red Sox_______$1,404,632
25. LA Dodgers__________$1,411,143
26. Atlanta Braves________$1,422,556
27. New York Mets_____$1,553,858
28. Detroit Tigers________$1,874,124
29. Seattle Mariners______$1,934,328
30. New York Yankees_____$2,349,231

The Florida Marlins, unfortunately, are the Billy Beane Award winner. Fun fact: the 2 Florida teams are the only current MLB franchises to have never lost a playoff series. Check back in a few weeks to see if that is still true. The Mets were the 4th least efficient team this season, though that's not surprising considering the humongous payroll. I don't think this list is much consolation for fans of the A's, Pirates, D-Backs and Royals. Also, if you haven't read "Moneyball", please go out and do so. It's a a must for any baseball fan, and reads quickly so that it can be started and finished in a weekend.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Jose Reyes - Week 4, Sept. 2008

This is the final installment of a 4 part series to track Jose Reyes's performance in September. Here are the important numbers:

Sept. 2008, Overall:
25 G, 119 PA, 107 AB, 26 H, 9 XBH, 3 HR, .243/.314/.402, 10/13 SB

Week 1:
6 G, 28 PA, 25 AB, 3 H, 2 XBH, 0 HR, .120/.185/.240, 1/2 SB

Week 2:
5 G, 25 PA, 22 AB, 7 H, 1 XBH, 1 HR, .318/.400/.455, 3/4 SB

Week 3:
7 G, 32 PA, 29 AB, 8 H, 3 XBH, 2 HR, .276/.344/.517, 2/3 SB

Week 4:
7 G, 34 PA, 31 AB, 8 H, 3 XBH, 0 HR, .258/.324/.387, 4/4 SB

It’s safe to say that Jose did not exorcise his 2007 demons this September. A strong final weekend vs. the Marlins would have done the trick, but it was not to be. Jose had 9 hitless games in September, including 4 games of 0-5. From March-August, Jose went 0-5 a total of just 6 times. However, he really had a great year overall, and his final numbers are more or less identical to his breakout 2006 season. Keep up the hard work in the off-season Jose.

***EDIT***: In Sept. 2007, Jose went .205/.279/.333, 2 HR, 10 XBH, 5/9 SB. So 2008 was definitely an improvement, but not up to Jose's capabilities.

Omar Minaya, feel the wrath of the sleeveless Met fan


The guy sitting in front of sleeveless Met fan looks like Jeff Van Gundy. Picture courtesy of The Sports Hernia.

The day after

I’ll start off the day-after post with a fun fact: Brett Favre threw more TD’s yesterday (6) than the Mets lineup had hits (4). Wow. (Side note: coming soon, jetstailgate.com….. just kidding)

I was surprised to see a lot of the Mets blogs take this loss pretty lightly. There seemed to be a lot of “focus on the positives” and “thanks for the memories” type sentiment. I don’t buy this. I was glad to see Metstradamus take a more angered approach to the collapse, mostly directed at the bullpen. I really don’t accept the idea that fans should be thankful that the Mets made it interesting this season after starting off so poorly. I look at the 2008 season from start to finish. In spring training, the Mets looked like a championship team. They added the best lefty in the game, Johan Santana, and projected to have a lineup among the 3 or 4 best in the NL. How could this squad miss the playoffs? They did miss the playoffs, and therefore the 2008 Mets, with the highest payroll in the NL, were a disappointment.

I plan to look forward to next season, and not dwell on 2008. Assessing what went wrong (the bullpen) and what went right (the offense and generally the starting pitching) is of importance. Determining which players will be back and those that will be sent packing is the task at hand for Omar Minaya. Check back here for my thoughts on this topic, as well as postseason awards analysis, playoff predictions and Mets top 10 lists.

Additionally, I kind of feel bad for batting Scott Schoeneweis leadoff in my Mets 25th Hour post, as he had a tough week. His wife gave birth to a premature baby this week, and Scott was basically in tears following yesterday’s game. My thoughts go out to Scott and his family.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Mets' 25th Hour

I'm usually reasonable and level headed towards the sports teams I follow. I'm generally able to retain my rationality, reminding myself that it's just a game when my team loses. However, the 2008 Mets have brought out the worst in me, perhaps because I was at the "Shea Goodbye" finale. I need an outlet for this frustration. The result is this one-time-only absurdly negative post. So, with a nod to this scene starring Edward Norton from Spike Lee's film "25th Hour", here is my soliloquy on the '08 Mets. Apologies for the excessive expletives, if that bothers you:

"Fuck the 2008 Mets.

Fuck Scott SchoeneweisOmar Minaya passed on re-signing Chad Bradford for you? If you don’t want to get booed on opening day, why don’t you learn how to get out righthanded batters and strand some inherited runners.

Fuck Pedro Martinez… $53 million for a 32-23 record, 3.88 ERA, and an absolutely awful 2008.

Fuck worthless Marlon Anderson and his transition from 'best pinch hitter on the planet' to 'worst hitter in baseball.'

Fuck meatball tossing Duaner Sanchez… your Florida cab ride happened 2.5 years ago – move the f*ck on!

Fuck emotionless, champagne-popping, “True Yankee” Willie Randolph.

Fuck Ryan Church… you can’t control bad-luck injuries, but you can control an atrocious .220/.305/.307 August and September.

Fuck Luis Castillo… you absolutely killed the Mets down the stretch with inability to hit the ball out of the infield and your non-stop rally killing outs. And don’t get me started on Argenis Reyes, cause he makes Luis Castillo look good.

Fuck the Wilpons… these are the NEW YORK METS not the BROOKLYN DODGERS. Why is Citi Field becoming Ebbets Field North? You guys are the only ones calling for 4 more years of Omar Minaya.

Fuck $15 parking, $8.00 for a beer, and $5.75 a hot dog. You think Fred and Jeff Wilpon didn’t approve those prices? Give me a fuckin’ break.

Fuck Carlos Beltran… a great season, but when you guarantee 1st place in the NL East in spring training, you and your mates better back it up.

Fuck Luis Ayala for making Greg Norton look like Chipper Jones.

Fuck Luis Aguayo… you give every runner the green light for 3 months, then decide to hold up Carlos Delgado with the season on the line vs. the Cubs?

Fuck Citi Field… what use is a new stadium when no one wants to watch the team playing in it? Economic crisis? Let’s raise ticket prices!

Fuck tobacco chompin’, save blowing, always-got-something-to-say Billy Wagner.

Fuck Aaron “Home Run” Heilman… I was once your biggest defender, but this season was an unmitigated disaster. 5.45 BB/9 and 1.18 HR/9 ain’t gonna cut it buddy.

Fuck Brian Schneider for mailing it in from April to July.

Fuck Jose Reyes… an otherwise terrific season marred by a 2-13 final weekend. Get your shit together next September Jose.

Fuck Carlos Delgado… the MVP of the 2nd half, LVP of the 1st half. Your opening month .632 OPS didn’t help the cause.

While we’re at it, fuck Moises Alou and El Duque, they got off easy. A season on the DL, rehab at home, and comfortable retirement to look forward to.

Fuck Oliver PerezScott Boras wants $15 million a year for you? I’ve got exhibits A, B, C and D why you and your 98 ERA+ are worth less than half that.

Fuck Omar Minaya… the bullpen was the biggest culprit in 2007, so what did you do last offseason? You added non-factor Matt Wise and otherwise stood pat. Surprise, surprise, the bullpen was even WORSE in 2008. Ace in the hole Brian Stokes nearly saved your failure to improve the ‘pen.

And fuck David Wright… biggest star on the Mets, the face of the franchise. Yet somehow with none out, man on 3rd, bottom of the 9th, you can’t even lift a ball into the OF for a sac fly? Stare at that .243 BA w/RISP in the batting cage this offseason.

From the nosebleeds in the upper deck to the corporate field boxes; from the picnic area to the mezzanine; from the Home Run Apple to the skyboxes; from the 7 Train to the Loge; on the names of 4,000,000+ fans who came to watch Met baseball in 2008, let Shea Stadium burn to the ground."

I almost feel bad for putting this out on the Internet. A lot of these guys had really great seasons (Wright, Beltran, Delgado), and others had not-bad seasons (Perez, Church, Schneider). I'm glad to get that out of my system.

Sunday, September 28 Game Thoughts: Marlins 4 - Mets 2

This is my calm and mostly objective post about today's loss. (Check back here later for the post when I go ballistic. I don't want to dwell on this loss, and I'm trying to stay positive. However, please allow me one angry, rambling, expletive-laden post.) In a nearly identical recreation of 2007, the Mets blew a playoff spot on the last day of the season vs. the Florida Marlins. Here are your game thoughts:

- Oliver Perez pitched about as well as one could have expected him to. He was unlucky, as John Baker's RBI single was about as cheap as it gets. Also, Joe Smith pulled an Aaron Heilman, walking a run in with the bases loaded to account for the other run charged to Ollie.

- I'm putting this one on the shoulders of the lineup. It's easy to point to another bullpen failure (side note: the bullpen did suck today), but you cannot expect to win any game in which the offense produces 4 hits and 7 baserunners. David Wright: 0-4. Jose Reyes: 1-4. Ryan Church: an awful 0-4.

- Endy Chavez did his best to save the game with "The Catch, Part Deux" in the 7th inning. Amazingly, this catch did nothing to energize the Mets lineup, just as it failed in NLCS Game 7, 2006.

- The best the Mets could come up with to sing the national anthem was Marc Anthony? Seriously? I guess he was available. Glenn Close singing God Bless America was a nice touch, though all I could think of when she was on the Diamond Vision was "Madame Vice President.... We have retaken the plane!"

- Mets player jerseys/shirts seen at the game today: Joe McEwing, Mackey Sasser, a #10 shirt that said "Endy", John Stearns, Mike Cameron and my personal favorite, Joe Orsulak

I admit, I didn't stay for the postgame ceremony. I feel kind of bad, especially because today was not Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden and Robin Ventura's fault. From what I understand, it was a nice little ceremony, but I was in no mood to watch it. The memory of Shea Stadium will probably be tarnished for me, and that's a shame. I'll try to block this out, and remember all the great games/WINS I attended over the years. Shea Stadium, 1964-2008.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday, September 27 Game Thoughts: Mets 2 - Marlins 0

This day belonged to Johan Santana. He almost singlehandedly beat the Marlins, as the Mets had one legit rally vs. the impressive Ricky Nolasco today. The final out of the game made my heart stop, and I thanked the baseball gods that the Mets play in a pitchers' park. That ball is gone in Philly, Houston, and any number of other stadiums. Brad Lidge nearly blew the save and the game for the Phils vs. the Nationals, but Jimmy Rollins started a game ending double play that clinched the NL East. That was a lost cause at this point for the Mets anyways. The Brewers couldn't beat the Cubs and their JV lineup, so the Mets and Brew Crew are tied for the Wild Card with only game 162 remaining. Here are your game thoughts:

- See my previous post about Johan. He was lights out, and only had one tough inning. Where would the Mets be without him??

- I'm confident the Mets will bust out tomorrow and put up some big runs. They haven't scored 2 runs or less 3 games in a row since that awful Padres series in early June. Plus, they're facing lefty Scott Olsen. The Mets have tattooed lefties this season (.792 OPS vs. lefties, .764 OPS overall). Also, Olsen has struggled vs. the Mets in 2008: 22 IP, 6.95 ERA, 1.55 WHIP.

- Ramon Martinez has been a revelation. He can cement his status as a Mets cult hero if he has a big game tomorrow and the Mets clinch the wild card. Then he will inevitably be signed by Omar Minaya to a 4 year, $25 million contract, and immediately become worthless.

- For all of his well documented defensive troubles (-35 FRAA in 3 full seasons, -22 in 2007 alone), Hanley Ramirez made 2 great plays. He saved a run in the 1st inning with his robbery of a potential Daniel Murphy single. Hanley is one of the top 5 most valuable players in baseball, and if he played in a bigger market everyone would know it.

Oliver Perez gets the nod tomorrow, confirming that Mets decision makers are reading this blog. My suggestion to pitch Johan on 3 days rest worked out well, so there's no reason Ollie on 3 days shouldn't either... right??! Ollie has pitched well against the Marlins this year (31 IP, 2.03 ERA) so I really do feel confident. Plus I will be attending the game, and I fear that I might be arrested for inciting a riot if the Mets lose and are eliminated from the playoffs.

I think Lou Piniella will start his Varsity lineup tomorrow, as a last tuneup for his big guns before the playoffs. He pitched Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood today, so I suspect they will be unavailable. C.C. Sabathia starts for the Brewers on 3 days rest for the 3rd time in a row, and is definitely not on a pitch count. A Sept. 1 callup named Angel Guzman (7.93 ERA in 2008) will start for the Cubs, which is somewhat bad news. Carlos Zambrano was originally tapped to start Sunday. The Brewers game starts an hour after the Mets', so it would be nice to watch the Shea closing ceremonies as the Cubs finish off a win. I can't believe the season is down to 1 game. It feels like yesterday that Johan was starting and dominating Opening Day on March 31 (my birthday). Now Ollie needs to do the same on September 28 (my brother's birthday).

Unrelated to baseball: RIP Paul Newman.

Johan!!!!!!!

Suffice it to say that Johan Santana's performance today was the most impressive pitching display of my life as a Met fan, all things considered. Al Leiter's shutout in the one game playoff vs. the Cincinnati Reds in 1999 is up there too.

But wait, where have I seen this before? Almost one year ago today:

"Sept. 29, 2007: Maine's Near No-Hitter Gives Mets a Lift.
John Maine Carries No-Hitter Into the 8th, Mets Fight Back for 13-0 Rout of Marlins."

Game thoughts to come, following the end of Cubs-Brewers. Go Cubbies.

***EDIT***: On my list of impressive Mets' pitching performances, somehow I forgot to mention Bobby Jones's 1-hit shutout to clinch the 2000 NLDS vs. the Barry Bonds/Jeff Kent Giants. I was in attendance that day, and still have the ticket stub on display. My apologies Mr. Jones.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday, September 26 Game Thoughts: Marlins 6 - Mets 1

Did this game really just happen? Is this a team fighting and scraping for its playoff life? Jose Reyes: 0-5, game ending double play. Hanley Ramirez: 4-5, 2 SB, 3 R.

Brewers win.

Phillies win.

Mets lose.

Mets are 2 games back of the Phillies, 1 game back of the Brewers. Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia are set to pitch the Brewers' final games. Johan Santana pitches tomorrow. Good night.

David Wright vs. Mike Piazza

Last night vs. the Cubs, David Wright tied Mike Piazza’s single season club record of 124 RBI, set in 1999. Ironically enough, it was on a sacrifice fly, which D-Wright couldn’t provide in the 9th inning on Wednesday. I am not a big fan of the RBI as a statistic for evaluating a player’s performance. I’ve covered this before, but to sum it up, the RBI depends too much on other player’s performances to be valuable as an individual player’s metric. To this end, here is a comparison between Wright’s and Piazza’s seasons, featuring statistics besides just straight-up RBI:

Overall:
Wright: 723 PA, .300/.389/.536, 33 HR, 42 2B
Piazza: 593 PA, .303/.361/.575, 40 HR, 25 2B

Total runners on base during PA:
Wright: 372
Piazza: 345

Runners on 2B during PA:
Wright: 152
Piazza: 135

Runners on 3B during PA:
Wright: 115
Piazza: 84

w/RISP:
Wright: .243/.328/.376
Piazza: .293/.356/.461

2 outs, RISP:
Wright: .247/.376/.416
Piazza: .323/.457/.585


Wright’s performance with RISP this season has been highly scrutinized, and justifiably so. Piazza’s 1999 was head and shoulders above Wright’s, as far as RBI efficiency goes. I really hope all of this “D-Rod” type criticism of Wright doesn’t stick, because he’s been just fine in the past with RISP. I’m calling this season an aberration. Additionally, “Piazza’s hands are SO STRONG”, as Fran Healy would have said – much stronger than Wright’s.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday, September 25 Game Thoughts: Mets 7 - Cubs 6

Carlos Bel-TRAN! (as ESPN's own Jon Miller might say) What better way to rebound from the worst loss of the season by winning the next night in the bottom of the 9th, in just about the most inspiring way possible. You can't make this stuff up. Great job Met fans, about 20,000 of whom stayed vocal at Shea despite hard rain and Ricardo Rincon. Maybe Jim Baumbach at Newsday can rescind this insulting column, where he called out Met fans for booing this season. Here are your less enraged game thoughts:

- Ryan Church must have read my post last night suggesting he be benched. How else to explain his 3-3, 1 BB, 2 RBI breakout night. His bob and weave with Cubs catcher Koy Hill to score the tying run in the 8th joins Johan Santana's broken bat single on Tuesday as the most bizarre but awesome plays of the season. Also, major credit to Fernando Martinez and Robinson Cancel, who made this win possible with 2 out hits.

- Where do I begin with my criticism of Daniel Murphy's disastrous AB in the 9th? Here we go:
a) Bunting is stupid in most situations. Why give up outs unless it's a pitcher batting?
b) This is the same Daniel Murphy who hit a triple last night, and is .325/.408/.496 on the season right? And you want him to attempt to give himself up to move a runner over?
c) Guess how many sacrifice bunts Murphy has successfully executed this season, between the minors and majors. I'll give you a hint, it's less than the number of Mets World Series titles (2), and more than Giuseppe Franco's financial interest in Procede (0). Yes, Murph has ONE sac bunt this year. And he goes up there to bunt in a stressful situation, against a guy throwing 95 mph in the pouring rain. Mindblowing. Luckily, Bel-TRAN redeemed him.
d) Murphy was born 1 day after I was, which has nothing to do with his bunting skill. It's just weird that a guy who's basically the same age as me is playing such a big role in this pennant race.

- My brother came up with a solid New York Post headline, had the Mets lost: "Cubs Scrubs Put on a Clinic". I would've gone with "Feel the Hoff-Power". Micah Hoffpauir had the greatest night of his life, going 5-5 with 2 HR, a 2B and 5 RBI. And he's supposedly fighting for a playoff roster spot. The Mets would gladly borrow him if the Cubs don't need him.

- I really hope the Cubs don't rest Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee, Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez this weekend vs. the Brew Crew. Lou Piniella: please give Carlos Marmol, pretty boy Jeff Samardzija and Kerry Wood plenty of much needed tuneup work this weekend.

- I admit, I turned the game off to watch the premiere of "The Office" following Hoffpauir's 3-run homer. However, I was following the game on ESPN Gamecast simultaneously. The Office did not disappoint, nor did the Mets.

- Boy does Keith Hernandez want the Mets to beat the Phillies for the division. It's his favorite discussion topic. Also, could you imagine Keith as a manager? Every AB would feature a hit and run, and every 3-0 count he'd have his batter swinging away.

Unfortunately Ryan "Lloyd" Braun (to credit an anonymous commenter) put a slight damper on the night's festivities, hitting a walkoff grand slam against the punchless Pirates. The Mets are 1 game back of the Phillies, and are tied with the Brewers in the Wild Card. I'm slightly nervous, given Mike Pelfrey's struggles this year vs. the Marlins (4 G, 19.1 IP, 7.91(!) ERA, 1.81 WHIP).

The Phils likely face John Lannan, Odalis Perez and Shairon Martis this weekend. The Brewers face a formidable trio of Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. The cardiac arrest Mets will be up against Chris Volstad, Ricky Nolasco, and Scott Olsen, who would love nothing more than to embarrass the Mets on the last weekend of the season for the 2nd year in a row.

Johan and Ollie on 3 days rest

The Mets rotation for the next 4 games is as follows: Pedro Martinez today, Mike Pelfrey Friday, TBA (Brandon Knight, Jon Niese or Nelson Figueroa) Saturday, and Johan Santana Sunday. All pitchers would be pitching on full rest. I’m proposing starting Johan on Saturday, and Oliver Perez on Sunday, both on 3 days rest.

Here are Johan and Ollie’s career regular season stats for starting on 3 days rest:

Santana, regular season: 3 G, 14.2 IP, 6.14 ERA, 1.36 WHIP (These starts followed relief outings)
Santana, postseason: 1 G, 5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 1.60 WHIP
Perez, regular season: 1 G, 2.2 IP, 13.50 ERA, 3.74 WHIP

Yes, these sample sizes are a joke, especially in Ollie’s case. However, there is not much else to go on, statistically speaking, when evaluating this option. Plus, Johan is coming off of a 125 pitch performance. Combine all this with the fact that this goes against my usual thinking, i.e. limiting pitch counts, giving pitchers rest, etc., and I really have no objective justification for this proposal.

The Mets need their best pitchers over the next 4 games, and the prospect of Niese facing the right-handed heavy Marlins lineup is frightening. I don’t want to go into a postseason-less winter wondering what might have been had Johan and Ollie pitched the last 2 games rather than Johan and Niese/Figueroa/Knight.

Of course, the weather could make all of this moot, as it looks like MLB may have to scramble to figure out when potential rainout games will be played.

***UPDATE***: According to Adam Rubin at the Daily News, Jerry Manuel has ruled out using Johan on 3 days rest Saturday. Oh well.

***UPDATE***: Santana goes Saturday, Perez goes Sunday if it's a meaningful game.

Fan reactions to last night

Here is a sampling of the text messages I received during last night's debacle, from the 7th-10th innings:

"A f---ing disgrace.. I can't believe this.. Church is killing us"

"It's a good thing I'm at the bar"

"UGH"

"This may be the worst loss I've ever seen" - (as far as regular season losses go, I concur)

"Way to go Mets"

"See you in November" - (referencing the crappy mood I'll be in throughout October if the Mets don't make the playoffs)

"I won't watch tomorrow"

"I literally wanna take a bat to my flat screen" - (you'd have a more productive performance than David Wright did in the 7th and 9th innings last night!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday, September 24 Game Thoughts: Cubs 9 - Mets 6

This has to be the most excruciating regular season Mets loss in team history, all things considered (someone please let me know another one they think is worse). Lascivious, salacious, outrageous - to quote Jackie Chiles, though in a much less funny tone. Where to begin? If you told me before the game that the Mets would make Carlos Zambrano look like Victor Zambrano, I'd be ecstatic. For once, the blame goes to the starting pitching (an awful Oliver Perez, possibly making his last career start as a Met), the lineup (runner on 3rd, none out in 3 consecutive innings, and 1 run to show for it), and the coaching staff (why is Jose Reyes not stealing 2nd in the 7th inning with 1st and 3rd, none out?!?!). The bullpen pitched OK, given the circumstances. Here are your outraged game thoughts:

- The enigma that is Oliver Perez allowed 11 baserunners in 4.1 IP. That's all you need to know about his forgettable night. I guess the faux-hawk haircut backfired.

- I can't repeat this enough: Why the hell did Jose Reyes not attempt to steal in the 7th inning with 1st and 3rd none out?!?!? I thought this to be a baseball strategy no-brainer. You want to get out of the double play possibility, and Reyes is your fastest runner. This isn't 20/20 hindsight - it was the first thing I said following Reyes reaching on his bunt single. Jerry Manuel and co. butchered that one. My sanity was temporarily saved in the 8th when Carlos Beltran stole 2nd with ease in an identical situation.

- Carlos Delgado, it's not your fault. Daniel Murphy, it's not your fault.

- Ryan Church, it IS your fault. Ryan's made a valiant effort to come back from his injury problems, but it just hasn't worked out. I feel more confident with Luis Castillo hitting at this point than Ryan. Just for the record, Church since coming off the DL in August: .216/.292/.303, 2 HR, 11 RBI. These are Argenis Reyes numbers. Sit Church and put Endy Chavez in RF.

- David Wright looked so antsy to hit the game winning RBI in the 9th that he changed his approach, chasing a pitch out of the strike zone to K. I hope for his sake that doesn't end up being the AB people remember for D-Wright's 2008.

- I think the Mets found their 2B. Ramon Martinez, the job is yours. If he doesn't atleast start tomorrow, Manuel needs his head examined.

The Mets would've been 1/2 a game back of Philly if they beat the Cubs, and 1 game up on the Brewers in the Wild Card. I want to stay optimistic but it's near impossible. The Brew Crew face the hapless Pirates and Zach Duke tomorrow, while the Mets face one of the top 5 arms in baseball, Rich Harden. Yes, the Mets have responded well following tough losses, but this loss is beyond tough. This is worse than Tom Glavine's 7 run 1/3 of an inning last year. This is worse than blowing a 7 run lead to the Phillies in August.
To Pedro Martinez: the Mets are paying you $11,813,351 in 2008, and you've paid them back with exactly 6 quality starts. Like Perez tonight, this could be your final start as a Met: don't be remembered the way Glavine is.

Omar Minaya's supposed contract extension

By now, most Met fans have heard that Omar Minaya has been given a 4-year contract extension. Suffice it to say I am unhappy with this, but not because I think Omar has done a poor job. I'm unhappy because it means that within the last week or so, someone at the top of the Mets organization (I'm looking at you, Wilpons) decided "You know what? Omar needs an extension RIGHT NOW, before the season ends." This is ridiculous.

Omar has put together a championship caliber team, in my opinion. Yes, the bullpen has been disastrous, but if Billy Wagner hadn't gone down, the Mets might be 4 games up in the division. I don't think he should be fired, even if the Mets miss the playoffs. He had 1 year left on his original deal, through 2009. Why not wait until then (or after this season at minimum) to discuss extensions? It will be tough to defend this extension if Met fans are subjected to another email like this one, from October, 2007:

"Monday, October 1, 2007
Dear Mets Fan:
All of us at the Mets are bitterly disappointed in failing to achieve our collective goal of building upon last year's success. We did not meet our organization's expectations -- or yours. Everyone at Shea feels the same range of emotions as you -- our loyal fans -- and we know we have let you down. We wanted to thank you for your record-breaking support of our team this year. Equally important, Ownership will continue its commitment inproviding the resources necessary to field a championship team. Omar will be meeting with Ownership shortly to present his plan on addressing our shortcomings so that we can achieve our goal of winning championships in 2008 and beyond. You deserve better results. Many thanks again for your record-breaking support."

Additionally, this is a distraction the Mets players and coaches shouldn't have to deal with at this juncture. It's yet another strange chapter in one of the most epic and eventful Mets seasons ever.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday, September 23 Game Thoughts: Mets 6 - Cubs 2

Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, and David Wright came up big in a game that was ABSOLUTELY a must-win (despite what Lee Mazzilli said on SNY). Yes, the Cubs lineup was without Jim Edmonds, Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez, but this is a huge win nonetheless. Guillermo Mota tried his best to help out his old club by giving up a go-ahead 2-run homer to the Pirates in the 8th (to Steve Pearce, career OPS .673, 2 career homers). However, a Brewers loss was not meant to be. Prince Fielder redeemed Mota in the 9th with a walk-off homer. In Philadelphia, Mike Hampton outdueled Cole Hamels to beat the Phillies 3-2. The Mets pulled to 1.5 back of Philly, and my finger is off the panic button for a day. Here are your game thoughts:

- Johan looked a little iffy at the outset, but settled down to pitch a really dominant game: 8 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 10 K. He even scored 2 runs at the plate. Let's hope he doesn't have to pitch again during the regular season...

- Wright and Reyes were on base a total of 6 times tonight, and each delivered one of the biggest hits of the season. Wright's 2-run single in the 5th and Reyes's 3-run triple were huge.

- Mark Mulder clone Sean Marshall looked like he was going to pull a Joel Pineiro
through the first 4 innings. He ended up K'ing 7 in 5 innings, but thankfully the Mets got to him in the 5th.

- I knew Gary Cohen would bring up the "black cat game" from Mets-Cubs in 1969 after Johan's bizarre infield single in the 5th. The similarities are kind of funny. The batted ball bounced off of the shard of Johan's broken bat on the infield grass near 2nd base. If the Mets make the playoffs this too could become a memorable Mets event.

The Mets announced that Sunday's Shea Stadium festivities will take place following the game. I think this is risky, considering the Mets haven't locked up a playoff spot yet. I guess it's tough to have the ceremony before the 1:10 start though. 5 games left, 1 up in the Wild Card. Finish the job Mets.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mets September playlist

I took about 15 minutes on the train ride this morning to come up with a September Mets playlist. I'm sure there are many other fitting songs for this team, but these are the best that I had on my iPod:

1. 'Til I Collapse, by Eminem
2. Panic, by The Smiths
4. Say it Ain't So, by Weezer
5. Streets of Philadelphia, by Bruce Springsteen
6. Oops, I Did it [collapsed] Again, by Britney Spears
7. Loser, by Beck
8. Nice Guys Finish Last, by Green Day
9. The End of the Line, by the Traveling Wilburys
10. Help!, by the Beatles
11. Running on Empty, by Jackson Browne
13. Sound of Silence, by Simon & Garfunkel
14. Don't Go Breaking My Heart, by Elton John
15. Killing Me Softly, by the Fugees
- and, last but not least -
16. Enter Sandman, by Metallica featuring BILLY WAGNER

Again, I came up with these songs in about 15 minutes. Feel free to suggest some other appropriate songs for the soundtrack of the Mets' annual collapse.

Naptime for Gary Cohen

Terrific screenshots from Sunday's Mets-Braves telecast. Link provided by Can't Stop the Bleeding.

Clearly Gary Cohen has seen enough of the 2008 Mets. He longs for his favorite Mets era, the late 1970s.

Monday, September 22 Game Thoughts: Cubs 9 - Mets 5

It's pretty hard to stay positive about this team after watching them roll over the last 3 games. I don't want to blame Jon Niese for tonight, but who else is there to blame? He looked like a deer in headlights vs. the NL's best offensive team. Oh, and he gave up a GRAND SLAM TO THE CUBS' PITCHER! This wasn't a cheapo shot either. Anyways, here are your brief game thoughts:

- Hopefully Niese and Johan Santana can laugh off giving up grand slams to pitchers this season after clinching the Wild Card. I think Niese will compete for a spot in next year's rotation, but only if he learns to not serve up $5 foot-long meatball subs to pitchers. See you in Port St. Lucie Jon.

- Playoffs or not, I still don't believe Carlos Delgado deserves NL MVP. However, he is not going down without a fight. He was on base 4 times tonight, and is now 12 for his last 25, with 2 HR and 4 BB.

- The Cubs lineup is ridiculously good. 6 of their 8 regulars have an OPS+ above 100. AND, they have Reed Johnson and Mike Fontenot off the bench OPS+'ing 100 and 128, respectively.

- This is the last of the Cubs praise, but man their bullpen is loaded. Carlos Marmol, Jeff Samardzija, Neal Cotts, Sean Marshall as the long man and Kerry Wood as the closer. How can this team lose in October?

- It's been asked a thousand times, but why are the Mets playing the Cubs 4 times in the last week of the season?

I'm terrified of a very awkward sendoff to Shea Stadium. If the Mets pull a 2007 and blow the playoffs on the last game of the season, I think there might be a riot. I will be in attendance at the last game, potentially leading the riot.

Tomorrow is the latest in a string of "This is the Biggest Start of the Season" games for Santana. It is also the best shot at a win in this 4 game set, as Sean Marshall is starting for the Cubbies. No-Hittin' Carlos Zambrano and Rich "2.03 ERA, 1.06 WHIP" Harden are set to start Wednesday and Thursday at Shea. Hopefully Lou Piniella will pull them after 5 innings to rest before the playoffs.

John Maine as reliever?

John Maine is scheduled to throw a simulated inning today, to see how his arm reacts to live throwing. I would love to have John join the bullpen this week, but only if he is throwing 90+ mph and pain-free. There is no reason to risk John's future for what would be at most 3 relief appearances (not counting potential playoffs). I am excited about the prospect of a healthy John Maine pitching in relief because of the following 2008 stats:

1st inning:
.228 batting average against, .633 OPS against

First time through the lineup:
.196 batting average against, .572 OPS against

In this way, John is like the reverse Pedro Martinez. Just for good measure, Pedro's 2008 stats in the same situations:

1st inning:
.366(!) batting average against, 1.064(!!!) OPS against

First time through the lineup:
.311 batting average against, .864 OPS against

Jose Reyes - Week 3, Sept. 2008

This is the 3rd installment of a 4 part series to track Jose Reyes's performance in September. Here are the important numbers:

Sept. 2008, Overall:
18 G, 85 PA, 76 AB, 18 H, 6 XBH, 3 HR, .237/.310/.408, 6/9 SB

Week 1:
6 G, 28 PA, 25 AB, 3 H, 2 XBH, 0 HR, .120/.185/.240, 1/2 SB

Week 2:
5 G, 25 PA, 22 AB, 7 H, 1 XBH, 1 HR, .318/.400/.455, 3/4 SB

Week 3
:
7 G, 32 PA, 29 AB, 8 H, 3 XBH, 2 HR, .276/.344/.517, 2/3 SB

This week, Jose was either brilliant (2-4, HR, 2 RBI Thursday vs. Nats; 3-4, HR, 2 RBI Friday vs. Braves) or awful (0-9 Saturday/Sunday vs. Braves). He did not have good AB’s during the 0-9. A bunch of popups and strikeouts marred what started out as a promising weekend.

Additionally, Jose made 2 errors this week, one of which led to an unearned run. 7 games left Jose - this is it, don't get scared now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday, September 21 Game Thoughts: Braves 7 - Mets 6

What a disappointing Saturday and Sunday. This game was almost identical game to last Sunday's 7-4 loss/collapse vs. the Braves. Both featured a disastrous bullpen performance, coupled with an offense that stopped scoring runs after the early innings. I'd love to say I'm not extremely nervous about the next 7 days, but I am. Here are your game thoughts:

- Recipe for disaster: Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy went 0-18 with 5 K's in the past 2 games. It's actually amazing the Mets scored 6 runs today despite this kind of production from the 1 and 2 hitters.

- Braves starter James Parr pitched rather poorly, (8 baserunners in 1.2 IP). In his defense, the home plate umpire was hitter-friendly today. The Braves bullpen was solid, and somehow gave up no runs in the 6th and 7th after the Mets had runners on 1st and 2nd, none out in both innings.

- Mike Pelfrey's failure to get a sac bunt down in the 6th turned out to be a crucial moment. My perception is that the Mets starters have been pretty poor at completing sacrifice bunts this season - I'll investigate another time.

- Jerry Manuel did not take my advice, and started Ryan Church again. He struggled again, grounding into an inning ending double play in the 7th that I think every Met fan saw coming. A serviceable Church would be useful over the next 7 games, so I hope he can get it going.

- The bullpen stunk, but I'm not putting this all on them like most fans will. The offense just didn't come through against a weak Braves pitching staff the last 2 games.

Reasons I am nervous about the next week:
1. The Phillies have a combined record of 22-8 vs. their remaining opponents (Nationals, Braves)
2. The best pitchers the Phils will face are Jair Jurrjens, Mike Hampton, and John Lannan.
3. The Brewers face the lowly Pirates this week, and the Cubs on the final weekend. The Cubs are unlikely to pitch Carlos Zambrano or Rich Harden in order to set up their postseason rotation.
4. The Mets will likely face the following pitchers: Zambrano, Harden, Ted Lilly, Ricky Nolasco. Yikes.
5. The Bullpen Horror Show.

Reasons I am not nervous about the next week:
1. Johan Santana will be pitching twice in the last 7 games.
2. All remaining games are at home, where the Mets have excelled this year. (.608 Win %)
3. ................

1.5 back in the NL East, 1.5 up in the Wild Card. Let's Go Mets.

Braves legend Kid Nichols

The Braves have pictures of their past great players on the Turner Field outfield wall. Hank Aaron, Cy Young, and Warren Spahn are on there. I noticed a picture of "Kid Nichols" on the wall, and decided to look up who he was.

Charles "Kid" Nichols was a pitcher who played for the Boston Beaneaters (who eventually became the Braves) for most of his career, which spanned 1890-1906. He was nicknamed "Kid" because of his young looking face and slight build. Now for the best part about Kid Nichols: his crazy-to-look-at statistics. Here are some of my favorite Kid stats:

- In 561 starts, he had 531 complete games.

- In his first 5 seasons, he averaged 427 IP. And I'm concerned about Mike Pelfrey pitching 200 innings this year.

- Amassed a career 2.95 ERA and 140 ERA+. His WHIP was also a pretty stellar 1.22. Yes, runs were generally harder to score in Kid's time, but not to the extent you might think. The league average ERA from 1890-1901 ranged from 3.51-5.90. In 2008, league average ERA is 4.12.

- He was the youngest pitcher to reach 300 wins. Despite this, he was not elected to the Hall of Fame until the Veterans Committee admitted him in 1949! Nowadays, the Hall admits the likes of Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Sutter. Standards were tougher back then.

Turn of the century pitching stats are entertaining to look at when you're bored. Check out Tim Keefe, Cy Young, and Pud Galvin if you've got nothing else to do. Enough nerdy statistical stuff - Go Big Pelf.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday, September 20 Game Thoughts: Braves 4 - Mets 2

In a tidy 2 hours, 38 minutes, the Braves pitching staff held a recently hot Mets lineup to just 6 hits. The only Met runs came on a 2-out, 2-run double by Pedro Martinez. Outside of the 1st inning, the Braves lineup wasn't too impressive tonight either. Here are your game thoughts:

- The Mets lineup just couldn't get anything going tonight. Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy went 0-8, though Murphy had a couple hard hit outs. Ryan Church is a mess right now. In 25 games and 95 PA's since returning from the DL, Church is .218/.284/.322, with 2 HR and 11 RBI. I'd give him the day off tomorrow and start Endy Chavez in right field.

- Pedro's 1st inning troubles are well documented. Including the 3 he gave up tonight, he has given up 21 1st-inning runs in 19 starts this year. For this reason, I don't see him being of much use out of the bullpen either in the regular season or potential postseason.

- I've seen enough of Braves closer Mike Gonzalez's pre-pitch full body shake. "I'm getting car sick watching this," commented Ron Darling. "It looks like he's casting a spell," added Keith Hernandez. Gonzalez vs. the Mets in 2008: 4 G, 3.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4 K. Maybe that's why I've had enough of him.

- For the 2nd night in a row, the Mets bullpen was strong. Scott "The Big Schoew" Schoeneweis and flamethrowing Bobby Parnell combined to pitch 2 scoreless and hitless innings. Schoeneweis has dominated lefties this year (.172 batting average against, .518 OPS against).

- Fun fact #1 that I learned tonight: Bernard Gilkey holds the Mets single season doubles record, with 44 in 1996.

Prince Fielder struck out with the bases loaded to end a game for the 2nd time this week. Being a Brewers fan right now probably feels a lot like being a Mets fan in Sept. 2007. The Mets remain 2.5 games up on the Brew-Crew for the Wild Card. No love from the Marlins tonight, who lost to the Phillies. The Phils took over 1st place, by .5 of a game.

Mike Pelfrey faces 21-year old James Parr in tomorrow's rubber game, while Jamie Moyer and 21-year old rookie Chris Volstad go at it in Phils-Marlins. Fun fact #2: Moyer made his major league debut 3 months before Volstad was born.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday, September 19 Game Thoughts: Mets 9 - Braves 5

Meaningful September baseball is a lot more fun when the Mets win, isn’t it? Daniel Murphy’s pinch hit 2-run double in the 8th opened the floodgates off of 68 year old Julian Tavarez, and the bullpen closed it out despite some sloppy defense. This was the Mets first win in Atlanta this season. Here are your game thoughts:

- Jose Reyes set the tone for the 2nd time this week with a homer to start the game. Minus his throwing error in the 7th, Jose had a brilliant game.

- “Daniel Murphy is unbelievable isn’t he?” – Ron Darling. That about sums it up. He’s living a blessed existence right now, and even made it safe into 2nd base after getting caught in a pickle following his pinch hit double.

- Lately, the Mets bullpen reminds me of an action movie, where one henchman after another go after the good guy and get unceremoniously peaced (the Mets relievers are the henchman). Movie scenes that come to mind: the Crazy 88 vs. Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill"; the Foot Clan vs. the Ninja Turtles; a bunch of gladiators vs. Russell Crowe in "Gladiator" ("Are you not entertained?!"); 118 soldiers vs. Christian Bale in "Equilibrium". I could probably go on all night with this. The ‘pen did pitch well tonight for a change.

- Aaron Heilman picked up probably his biggest out of the year, striking out Omar Infante (the only batter he faced) in the 7th with 2 men on. Maybe Heilman could be useful against righties the rest of the way?

- Funny sight #1: Murphy standing behind Jerry Manuel with a bat in his hand in the dugout during the 8th inning. He looked like a Little Leaguer who wants to be put in the game.

- Funny sight #2: The bullpen camera caught Pedro Feliciano doing some absurd stretching as Nelson Figueroa warmed up. Keith Hernandez on the funny looking stretching: “What is this, Swan Lake?”

The Mets are back in first – for now - after the Phillies lost. The lead is just a half game though. The Brewers got clobbered by the Reds, and are showing no signs of playing winning baseball. They’re bumping up C.C. Sabathia to pitch on 3 days rest, in a last ditch effort to destroy C.C.’s elbow before he departs for free agency, and also to try and win the Wild Card.

Pedro Martinez starts tomorrow. He has been dreadful of late, with a 7.29 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in his last 4 starts. His Braves counterpart, Jorge Campillo, has been just as bad. He has a 6.75 ERA and 1.87 WHIP in his last 4 starts. Look for a high scoring affair.

Mets-Nats trades

The Mets and Nationals completed 2 trades within the last year. One was last offseason, involving Lastings Milledge going to the Nats for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church. The other was in August, when the Mets traded Anderson Hernandez for Luis Ayala. Here’s a quick look at how each has performed against their former organization:

Church: 70 PA, .271/.362/.475, 3 HR, 13 RBI, .837 OPS
Schneider: 55 PA, .294/.345/.588, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .934 OPS
Ayala: 3 G, 2.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2 K, 0 BB, 3 saves

Milledge: 71 PA, .203/.282/.250, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .532 OPS
Hernandez: 19 PA, .235/.316/.294, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .610 OPS

Church and Schneider have torched the Nats this year, while Milledge has struggled mightily against the Mets. He did have a decent series this week though. I’ll hold off until the season is over to determine which team got the better of each trade for 2008.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday, September 18 Game Thoughts: Mets 7 - Nationals 2

In Johan We Trust. Johan Santana pitched the Mets to a series split with the Nats, and the offense showed up for the 2nd time in a row after taking a snooze the first 2 games. Here are your game thoughts:

- Santana has been brilliant all season. His reputation as a 2nd half pitcher is well documented, and this year is no different. If the season ended today, he would have to come in 2nd to Tim Lincecum for the Cy Young Award. However, Johan has 2 huge starts left. A couple dominant performances could push him over the top, although Lincecum will be pretty tough to beat.

- What got into Brian Schneider tonight? A pregame visit to Old Glory on M St. in DC? He has 9 HR overall now, and 3 at Nationals Park. His OPS is a respectable .726, and his FRAA is +9 (meaning he's been pretty valuable in the field). For what it's worth, his OPS since August 1 is .945.

- I'd like to see Daniel Murphy in left field the rest of the season. Nick Evans hits great against lefties, but Murphy is no slouch vs. them either: 11 PA, .500/.545/.875 (RIDICULOUSLY small sample size). Murphy was on base 3 times tonight.

- Jose Reyes is now 62/77 SB this year, for a 81% success rate. This is acceptable. His career rate is about 80%. At some point he's going to lose a step, and have to rely on technique if he wants to continue to be an elite base stealer. That won't be for awhile though.
(***EDIT***: A reader who is a better stat checker than I pointed out that Reyes was 51/66 in SB attempts following this game, for a 77% success rate. I'm not sure how I messed that up, but thank you for keeping a watchful eye. I appreciate any feedback, especially regarding mistakes.)

I'm always nervous whenever the Mets play in Atlanta. Things always seem to go poorly down there. However, they will be facing the "happy to be in the major leagues" trio of Jo-Jo Reyes, Jorge Campillo, and James Parr this weekend. To be fair, Parr has looked solid during his September callup, but gave up 10 hits in 4.1 IP on Tuesday vs. the Phillies.

As much as the Mets have struggled this last week or so, the Brewers are tanking even worse. They pulled a Red Sox in 1986 Game 6, losing in extra innings to the Cubs after being up 6-2 with 2 outs, nobody on in the bottom of the 9th. That, and Ben Sheets is hurt.

More on Luis Castillo

An astute reader and Met fan currently living in Washington, DC emailed the following about Luis Castillo:

"Watching Mets-Nats last night & the Nats announcers started talking about Luis Castillo. They said Castillo never studies any opposing pitchers, watches any tapes, or does any preparation for games. They also told a bunch of stories about times when Castillo said he just gets on the plane to the away games and often has no idea even where the team is going. They claimed he just likes to go out & play and not think about anything. Maybe thats why Jerry Manuel doesnt play him."

If this is all true, it is extremely disappointing considering Castillo is in year 1 of an awful 4 year, $25 million contract. Rumors have made the rounds over the last year saying Castillo is a party animal and bad influence on Jose Reyes. I am usually skeptical about things like this, and have yet to read anything showing hard evidence that this is the case. Anybody who has, please let me know.

Nevertheless, the lineup should be based on offense/defense ability - not off the field activity. Start Castillo over A. Reyes.
P.S. The reader in DC's all-time favorite Met is Royce Ring. He was devastated when the Mets traded Royce and Heath "Heater" Bell to the Padres for an autographed Tony Gwynn jersey.

Wednesday, September 17 Game Thoughts: Mets 9 - Nationals 7

No lead is safe, no game is easy. You’d think the game was being played at Coors Field or Citizens Bank the way the Nats came back from a 7-1 deficit. The offense came through early, and continued to tack on insurance runs which turned out to be crucial. Here are your game thoughts:

- Jose Reyes apparently had enough of the offense woes, and lead off the game with a homer to right center. Carlos Delgado added a one-handed 420 foot bomb in the 1st as well.

- Carlos Beltran busted out of a brief slump as well, hitting 2 homers. The Mets 1-5 batters went 8-21, with 4 HR, 8 RBI and 3 BB (including David Wright’s ugly 0-5).

- I’m a broken record here, but WHY IS ARGENIS “AWFUL” REYES STARTING?!?! Jerry Manuel must really hate Luis Castillo, or Awful Reyes has some blackmail dirt on him. Do not buy this “A. Reyes brings energy” or “The Mets just seem to win with A. Reyes in the lineup.” Here are the facts:

Argenis Reyes: .524 OPS, 41(!) OPS+, -5.2 VORP (2nd lowest on the team to Marlon Anderson), .190 EqA
Luis Castillo: .669 OPS, 80 OPS+, 5.3 VORP, .257 EqA

Reyes’s defense may be slightly better than Castillo’s, but the discrepancy is not glaring enough to warrant Argenis starting. I’m going to puke if A. Reyes is in the starting lineup tonight.

- Brandon Knight performed about as well as we could expect him to. He allowed 10 baserunners in just 5 innings, but worked out of jams. It would be nice if the Mets didn’t have to rely on him to start again this year though.

- The Mets used 7 pitchers to get 12 outs after Knight was pulled. Brian Stokes has come back to down to earth, and Elijah Dukes continued to mash against Met pitching. The rest of the crew followed, with mixed results. Joe Smith is officially the only Met reliever I have confidence in.

- Any reason Al Reyes has yet to pitch? Maybe the Mets are leery of his hard partying history.

Just assume every game from here on in is a must win. Tonight’s matchup of Johan Santana vs. Tim Redding is a matchup of the Mets and Nats respective aces. Redding is a tough pitcher and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Hopefully he’ll be more Shairon Martis and less John Lannan.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eerie similarities

Last night’s game reminded me of a similar Mets-Nats game from earlier this season. It was a Thursday day game, on May 15. The parallels between last night and that day are as follows:

1) Mets lose 1-0 to Nationals
2) Mike Pelfrey gives up 1 run in each, going 7.2 innings in May, and 7 innings last night
3) Willie Harris makes a spectacular game saving catch
4) The Mets made an otherwise poor pitcher (Jason Bergmann in May, Odalis Perez last night) look like Roy Halladay
5) The Phillies beat the Braves on the same day

So how did the Mets respond to the loss in May? They went out and beat the Yankees 2 games in a row. (The third game of the series was rained out) Of course, they proceeded to go 1-7 in the following 8 games, but we’ll forget that part.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday, September 16 Game Thoughts: Nationals 1 - Mets 0

Seem familiar? I could post Monday's game thoughts, replacing John Lannan with Odalis Perez, and it would describe tonight's game pretty well. This team is a mess, and it's painful to watch. I wish the Mets could pull a "Bull Durham", and turn the sprinklers on all night at Nationals Park to cause a "rain out" tomorrow. Here are your game thoughts:

- Perez, 2008 vs. the Mets before tonight:
4 G, 21.1 IP, 6.33 ERA, 6.33 K/9, 2.02(!) WHIP

Perez, tonight:
7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 0 BB

- Mike Pelfrey pitched his heart out, finishing 7 innings despite tiring towards the end. It's not your fault Mike. It's not your fault.

- Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado the last 2 nights: 3-37, 2 BB, 2 RBI

- It looks like Fernando Tatis is going to miss the rest of the regular season, after injuring his shoulder pretty seriously. This is the capper on a terrible night. Fernando has really been tremendous this year: .299/.372/.487, with 11 HR and a ton of clutch hits.

- I hate to be so critical of the guy, but Argenis Reyes simply is not a major league hitter. He is now 0 for his last 16, and basically an automatic out. For all the hatred directed at Luis Castillo, he is not nearly as poor a hitter as A. Reyes. (Side note: A. Reyes had a .672 OPS at AAA before being called up. That's not very good. Why has he been up with the big club so long? )

- Why did Ramon Martinez (who?) not go to 3rd in the 8th inning on Robinson Cancel's hit and run single??

- Joel Hanrahan throws hard, but he literally did not throw anything but a fastball in 17 9th inning pitches. Beltran hit a pretty good shot, but Wright and Delgado were pretty overmatched.

The Mets are no longer in first place, as the Phillies held off the Braves 8-7. Thankfully, the Brewers are collapsing even worse than the Mets are, as they lost to the Cubs 5-4. The Wild Card is still a possibility. Brandon "Dark" Knight starts tomorrow, in the first of about 12 must win games the rest of the way.

John Maine's entrance music

According to Adam Rubin at the Daily News, John Maine says that his closer entrance music would be "Posse on Broadway" by Sir Mix-a-Lot.

Click here to listen to this ridiculous song. I couldn't think of a more hilarious and less intimidating sight than John entering in the 9th inning with this blaring over the loudspeakers. This likely will never happen, as Omar Minaya shot down the concept of Maine as closer.

My closer entrance song with be Wagner's instantly recognizable "Ride of the Valkyries." I think it would be a nice change of pace from the standard Metallica and AC/DC heavy metal that most guys use.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, September 15 Game Thoughts: Nationals 7 - Mets 2

The non-Met fans are celebrating at Chaminade High School and Siena College, as alumnus John Lannan neatly tied the Mets up in knots to the tune of 1 hit over 7 innings. Minus Jon Niese’s game Saturday night, the Mets have been unwatchable for over a week now. Here are your game thoughts:

- Lannan, 2008 vs. the Mets before tonight:
3 G, 15 IP, 6.00 ERA, 9.00 K/9, 1.67 WHIP

Lannan, tonight:
7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB

Lannan is playing the role of Joel Pineiro in this year’s version of the September meltdown.

- I never thought I’d write this, but the only Met starter who came to play tonight was Luis Castillo. Luis had a 2B and a BB, and started a pretty double play in the 1st inning.

- David Wright looked ready to cry after ending the Mets rally hopes with a bases loaded double play in the 8th. If you swing with a 2-0 count in that spot, you've got to drive the ball somewhere.

- Apparently Duaner Sanchez has been taking classes at the Aaron Heilman School of Pitching. He walked the first batter he faced on 4 pitches, and gave up a 3-run BOMB to certifiable nutjob Elijah Dukes 2 batters later. Hey Jerry Manuel, why not let Ricardo Rincon finish the inning, after sending down the 2 batters he faced?

- You can hear the frustration in the voices of Gary, Keith, and Ron.

Besides Phillies fans, the individuals enjoying this the most are Willie Randolph and Lastings Milledge. Your turn tomorrow Big Mike Pelfrey – stop the bleeding.

Jose Reyes - Week 2, Sept. 2008

This is the 2nd installment of a 4 part series to track Jose Reyes' performance in September. Jose had a rough start to the month. Here are the important numbers:

Sept. 2008, Overall:
11 G, 53 PA, 47 AB, 10 H, 3 XBH, 1 HR, .213/.288/.340, 4/6 SB

Week 1:
6 G, 28 PA, 25 AB, 3 H, 2 XBH, 0 HR, .120/.185/.240, 1/2 SB

Week 2:
5 G, 25 PA, 22 AB, 7 H, 1 XBH, 1 HR, .318/.400/.455, 3/4 SB

Despite his 0-5 Saturday against the Braves, Jose had a strong week, albeit vs. some weak pitching. This week is a great opportunity to score a ton of runs, as the best 2 pitchers the Mets will face are Tim Redding and John Lannan. For the second series in a row, the Mets will miss Jair Jurrjens's spot in the Braves rotation.

I should note that Jose has no errors in September, and is playing a pretty solid shortstop. Overall in the field, Jose is having a down year compared to his great 2007. His 2008 FRAA (fielding runs above average) is -5, and it was +10 in 2007. Every 10 points of FRAA translates to roughly one win or loss a year. Therefore, Jose's fielding in 2007 was good enough to contribute a Mets win all on its own, while this year it has contributed half a loss. Defense metrics are an inexact science, but FRAA is pretty legit.

The final post about this Magic Number nonsense

The Facts:
- Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog ran a poll last week, asking readers to vote on whether or not to post a Mets Magic Number. Poll results:

Never, DO NOT Post It (44%, 2,066 Votes)
Between 10 and 0 (41%, 1,907 Votes)
Between 20 and 15 (8%, 361 Votes)
Between 15 and 10 (8%, 355 Votes)

- Cerrone posts a Magic Number watch at 15 games, a decision which just 16% of MetsBlog readers endorsed.
- Mets bullpen goes haywire this weekend, fans (including myself) look to the Magic Number watch as a jinx.
- Cerrone posts this today:

"Last week, I ran a poll asking people when I should post the team’s Magic Number on MetsBlog.com – and, since 56 percent of you said, ‘Post It,’ I did so. Initially, I worried that you guys might be jinxing the team, since the majority said to ‘Post It,’ but that is decision that the majority of you made – and now we must live with it, like it or not. Personally, if it had been solely up to me, I probably would have waited until the final week of the season to ‘Post It,’ but you voted, the people spoke, and who am I to stand in the way of what the majority of this site’s readers wanted."

Analysis:

Matt, I would have no problem with you defending keeping the Magic Number watch up if you simply said, “Jinxes are stupid – the players on the field decide the games, not some silly website.” You didn’t say that though. You said MetsBlog readers made the decision, and not you. However, you didn’t follow what the voters wanted – you made the decision unilaterally, and are now twisting the poll results to deflect responsibility. If the poll question was “Should I put up a Magic Number Watch?” and 56% said yes, then you’d have a point. This is not the case though.

This is pretty silly, but I felt compelled to point this out. Matt, you might as well put up a Phillies Magic Number too, which is 15 right now. The end.

P.S. I love MetsBlog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Top 10: Single season performance by a closer

The role of “closer” has evolved in baseball over the years. The days of 3-inning saves by Goose Gossage or Rollie Fingers are over. The days of the 3 run lead, 1-inning save by Francisco Rodriguez are here. The Mets are no different from this standard, and the role of closer/game finisher has changed since 1962 through present day.

The Mets of the 1960s-1980s often employed dual closers. Tug McGraw is the best known of the late 60s-early 70s closers, but shared duties with Ron Taylor and Cal Koonce for several years. It should be noted that pitchers like Tug weren't considered exclusively closers, but he often finished games so we'll consider those type of relievers for this list. Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco memorably closed in the mid 1980s. Starting with Randy Myers in 1988, one pitcher was known as the closer. John Franco, Armando Benitez, Braden Looper, Billy Wagner, and lately Luis Ayala have followed since then.

To decide the top 10 best seasons by a Mets closer/game finisher, I looked at 37 individual performances which would reasonably have a shot to crack the top 10. The earliest is Jack Hamilton in 1966; the lastest Wagner in 2007. I did not consider postseason performance (to the delight of Benitez and Wagner), but did consider that closers from 40 years ago would pitch more innings than they do now. Here goes:

10. Armando Benitez, 1999
77 G, 78 IP, 1.85 ERA, 14.77 K/9, 3.12 K/BB, 1.04 WHIP, 240 ERA+, 42 GF

This performance is ranked so low because Benitez wasn’t the closer the whole year – John Franco started the season as closer. Benitez was ridiculously dominant in 1999, so much so that I couldn't ignore him. His ERA+ for the year is 3rd highest for a Met closer. Benitez is one of those guys that seemed to make every 9th inning an adventure (and he often did), but in 1999 he was one of the best in the game.

9. John Franco, 1996
51 G, 54 IP, 1.83 ERA, 8 K/9, 2.29 K/BB, 1.39 WHIP, 219 ERA+, 44 GF

John Franco – the bane of every Met fan’s existence during his rather long tenure as closer. I was surprised to look at his stats and see that he was probably more effective than most give him credit for. However, I cannot forget dreading every time he came in the game, as it would seemingly lead to 2 on, nobody out every time. He could’ve been even better in '96, as his BABIP was a very high .333.

8. Roger McDowell, 1985
62 G, 127.1 IP, 2.83 ERA, 4.95 K/9, 1.89 K/BB, 1.14 WHIP, 123 ERA+, 36 GF

Roger’s spot on this list is aided by the fact that he pitched a crazy number of innings out of the ‘pen. He pitched 255.1 innings in 1985 and 1986 – I’d be shocked if John Maine pitches that many in 2008 and 2009. His peripheral stats aren’t as good as some of the others, but he was quite effective for the 2 innings per appearance he averaged in ’85.

7. Skip Lockwood, 1976
56 G, 94.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 3.18 K/BB, 1.02 WHIP, 123 ERA+, 44 GF

Skip closed a few years during the dark age of Mets baseball – the late ‘70s. He posted the 3rd best single season WHIP for Met closers in ’76. His 1979 may have been more effective, but he only appeared in 27 games that season.

6. Bob Apodaca, 1975
46 G, 84.2 IP, 1.49 ERA, 4.78 K/9, 1.61 K/BB, 1.11 WHIP, 232 ERA+, 36 GF

Yes, this is the former Mets pitching coach famously fired in 1999 before the Mets playoff run. His peripherals in ’75 weren’t as good as most other guys on this list, but his ERA and WHIP are too good to deny. His ERA+ this season is 4th best for Mets closers.

5. Armando Benitez, 2000
76 G, 76 IP, 2.61 ERA, 12.55 K/9, 2.79 K/BB, 1.01 WHIP, 171 ERA+, 68 GF

Benitez is the only closer to make this list twice, although others (namely McGraw, Wagner, and Orosco) came pretty close. Including postseason, there is no way Benitez’s 2000 season would sniff this list. However, it’s tough to deny his stats here. His 2002 season was close to this one, but he pitched in 14 more games in 2000 with a slightly lower WHIP, and a higher K rate.

4. Tug McGraw, 1972
54 G, 106 IP, 1.70 ERA, 7.81 K/9, 2.30 K/BB, 1.05 WHIP, 197 ERA+, 47 GF

Tug just missed having multiple entries on this list. It was tough leaving off other seasons for one of the most beloved Mets ever, especially his 1971 season. Danny Frisella was the primary closer that year, so I took that into account. I wish the Mets had a guy like Tug, capable of pitching 100+ innings of highly effective relief. He had a rubber arm, and pitched for nearly 20 years.

3. Randy Myers, 1988
55 G, 68 IP, 1.72 ERA, 9.13 K/9, 4.06 K/BB, 0.91 WHIP, 189 ERA+, 44 GF

Myers was a hard throwing lefty who went on to win the World Series with the Reds in 1990. He was traded after the 1989 season to Cincinnati for Franco. It’s a tossup on who got the better end of the deal. Myers had more dominant years, but Franco lasted longer. Myers was a 4 time All-Star after leaving Flushing, and was an important part of the 1988 Mets run to the NLCS.

2. Billy Wagner, 2006
70 G, 72.1 IP, 2.24 ERA, 11.7 K/9, 4.48 K/BB, 1.11 WHIP, 195 ERA+, 59 GF

My emotional side remembers a Subway Series game he blew horribly in ’06, just 2 months into his Met tenure. My rational side realizes how important he was to the playoff chase. Billy gets credit for great peripheral stats, and was pretty unlucky too, with a BABIP of .321. Bill James and Rob Neyer’s “Cy Young Predictor” had Billy as the Cy winner in '06.

1. Jesse Orosco, 1983
62 G, 110 IP, 1.47 ERA, 6.87 K/9, 2.21 K/BB, 1.04 WHIP, 247 ERA+, 42 GF

It was a toss up between Billy Boy and Orosco for this coveted title. Jesse boasts the best ERA+ for his performance in 1983. Look at those numbers again: a 1.04 WHIP over 110 IP!?! Wow. One caveat here is that his BABIP was a fortuitous .244. Jesse’s 1986 season was very strong as well, but not good enough to make the cut. The deciding factors here were the staggering number of IP, and that Jesse's HR/9 was just 0.25, compared to Wagner's which was 0.87.

Honorable Mention: McGraw – 1969, 1971; Benitez – 2002; Ron Taylor – 1967, 1969; Cal Koonce – 1968; Danny Frisella – 1971; Doug Sisk – 1983, 1984; Orosco – 1984, 1986; McDowell – 1986; Franco – 1990, 1995, 1997; Braden Looper – 2004; Luis Ayala – 2008 (typo)

This was an extremely tough list to decide, and any of the top 4 could easily be the #1. Notice that the top 4 are all lefties as well. Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with the picks.

Sunday, September 14 Game Thoughts: Braves 7 - Mets 4

Despite the efforts of David Wright, Carlos Delgado, and Oliver Perez, the Mets couldn't win a 3 game series against a Braves team which threw in the towel a long time ago. We'll all hear plenty more about this year compared to the collapse of '07, and justifiably so. Here are your game thoughts:

- The Braves pitching staff, since the All Star break:

5.98 ERA, .822 OPS against, 1.58 WHIP

And the Mets managed 11 runs in 3 games this weekend. Brilliant!

- Oliver Perez gave a valiant effort, providing the 3rd straight excellent start by a Met lefty. He even got a hit today, scoring on a heads up baserunning play in the 4th inning. For all the talk of Ollie being a space-case free spirit, he sure as hell looked like he wants to win more than any other player on that field.

- D-Wright is having another great September. David's at .372/.420/.721, 4 homers, 11 RBI for the month.

- Ryan Church was great prior to his injuries, but he has struggled since coming back. He left 5 on base today, and has looked pretty helpless against lefties. The Mets as a whole left 12 on base, including 7 in scoring position.

- The bullpen. Ah yes, the bullpen. Luis Ayala had zilch today, and gave up a massive 3 run bomb to 36 year old journeyman Greg Norton. Norton's ESPN.com page lists his 2008 salary at $0, which is clearly inaccurate. However, it gives a funny idea of the kind of player the Mets bullpen is capable of blowing a game against. Add this game to the list which followed the 2008 Mets formula:

a) score a bunch early
b) great starting pitching
c) stop scoring runs
d) bullpen blows it dramatically.

I'm worried, because there are no off days between now and game 162. I'm a little less worried, because the next 4 are at Nationals Park, against a hapless team in a stadium which will be half full of Mets fans. Check back here for a list of the Top 10 single seasons for Mets closers. How appropriate I choose to make this list today. Go Brewers tonight vs. the Phillies.

An Open Letter to MetsBlog

Dear Matt Cerrone and MetsBlog,

I know you think the "Mets Magic Number" count with the Phillie Phanatic chasing Mr. Met is cute and all, but please: TAKE IT DOWN. There is no reason for a magic number watch when a race is so close. Please do not jinx the Mets in 2008 as you did in 2007.

Sincerely,
EVERY MET FAN

(Side note: Many will ask, "what does a website putting up a magic number have to do with the Mets play?" This is a valid question. In reality, it doesn't. But baseball is a game of superstitions. Silly or not, most players and fans believe in these superstitions.)

***EDIT***: See the Hot Foot Blog for a more in depth look at the MetsBlog magic number jinx.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday, September 13 Game Thoughts: Game 1, Braves 3 - Mets 2; Game 2, Mets 5 - Braves 0

For the second time this week, the Mets needed a dominating performance from a lefty starter to salvage a doubleheader split. Today it was Jon Niese acting as the stopper. No word on whether or not Jon used my post after his major league debut as bulletin board material. Good job, Jon. Here are your game thoughts:

Game 1

- For the second game in a row, I believe Jerry Manuel left Johan Santana in too long. Yes, he's the ace, he makes the big bucks, he needs to go deep into games, blah blah blah. However, what do you from expect a guy with 110+ pitches, most of which were made with runners on base? Johan didn't have his best stuff today, but was able to pitch 7 scoreless before being charged 2 runs after Scott Schoeneweis and Brian Stokes gave up 2 of his inherited runners. Manuel HAD to realize that Johan was laboring today - why try to push him that extra inning?

- Damion Easley and Brian Schneider grounded into huge double plays, killing potential big innings. Easley's in the 6th inning was especially damaging. He's gotta be able to produce atleast a sac fly in that situation. Shocking stat of the day: Easley has grounded into 15 double plays this year. That leads the Mets.

- Jose Reyes was downright brutal at the plate. He struck out twice (to start the game, and end the game) looking awful while doing it.

- It was great having Howie Rose call this game on FOX today. What a difference having a guy who's seen every Mets game this year announce. Compare him to his companion today, Mark Grace, who had no clue what he was talking about. A few times, Grace was saying something moronic (i.e. "during Mike Hampton's few great years with the Mets" or "David Wright has really been clutch this year, stepping up in big spots with RISP") and I just knew Howie wanted to jump in and correct him. He's too nice of a guy to embarrass Grace on national TV.

- Hampton was almost trying to give this game away to the Mets. He allowed 11 baserunners in 6 innings, and the Mets managed just 2 runs.

Game 2

- The nightcap was back where the Mets belong, on SNY. I was slightly nervous about this game, because of Jon Niese. However, his Braves counterpart, Jo-Jo Reyes, had been a disaster this season. His ERA coming into tonight was 5.26, with an outrageously bad WHIP of 1.60. Expect to see Mr. Jo-Jo pitching for the Long Island Ducks or Bridgeport Bluefish next season.

- Niese pitched great. However, look at the lineup he faced - Omar Infante batting cleanup? Jeff Francouer and his .643 OPS batting 6th? No Brian McCann or Chipper Jones in the lineup helped out too. I'm definitely being too hard on Niese.

- Second shocking stat of the night: Niese WALKED FRANCOUER. The guy swings at everything. Here are his OPS's the last 4 seasons, starting with 2005: .885, .742, .782, .643. He's just 24 years old and already seems to be experiencing a major decline. He's having a terrible season, so I don't understand why he felt so "betrayed" when the Braves sent him to the minors to work out his problems at the plate.

- Nice job by Wright and the Mets offense in the 1st inning. It was important to set the tone early, and let the Braves know that a sweep wasn't happening.

- It's feast or famine for Jose Reyes nowadays - he went 3-5 with a homer in Game 2 after his 0-5 Game 1.

Expect to see Dan Murphy in the lineup tomorrow vs. right-handed junkballer Jorge Campillo. Campillo's fastball has averaged 85.6 MPH this season, and he only throws it 36% of the time. Fernando Tatis played both games today (and went 4-6 with 2 BB I might add), so I think he'll get a day off. Tomorrow is a big scoreboard watching day, as the Phillies and Brewers are playing 2.