Friday, October 31, 2008

Javier Vazquez: Available and underrated

According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times (via MLBTradeRumors), White Sox GM Kenny Williams's biggest priority this offseason is trading 32 year-old Javier Vazquez. Vazquez fell out of favor with White Sox manager/lunatic Ozzie Guillen towards the end of 2008 after pitching miserably in his final 3 starts. Williams reportedly seeks an infielder in return. Vazquez is owed $11.5 million a year from 2009-2010.

Based on this report, it seems as if the White Sox are willing to sell low on Vazquez. I would be in favor of his acquisition, assuming the Mets don't have to surrender Daniel Murphy, Fernando Martinez or some other comparable top prospect. Vazquez has been an underrated pitcher over the last 9 years or so, and had the bad luck of pitching for some terrible defensive clubs, namely the early 2000's Expos and the 2006-2008 White Sox. While his career ERA is 4.32, his career FIP, "fielding independent pitching" (what you would expect his ERA to be, based on K's, BB's, HR allowed) is 3.93. ERA as a stat is heavily influenced by the defense played behind a pitcher. FIP removes this factor. (Note: other defense independent stats include dERA and DICE)

Consider this excerpt from a post about Vazquez at FanGraphs by Eric Seidman:

"From 2000-2008, there are only six starting pitchers who made at least 190 starts, with a K/9 above 8.0 and a BB/9 below 3.0, and Vazquez has the highest inclusive ERA of them all at 4.11. For good measure, the others are: Pedro Martinez (2.99), Randy Johnson (3.25), Jake Peavy (3.25), Roger Clemens (3.34), and Josh Beckett (3.78)."

ERA is a useful stat, enabling one to gain a general understanding of a pitcher's success. However, peripheral stats and defense independent pitching stats should also be considered when determing a pitcher's expected future performance. The Mets are a great defensive club, as Baseball Prospectus lists their defensive efficiency in 2008 at 2nd in the NL and 6th in all of baseball. This fact would go a long way in improving Vazquez's ERA. To sum up, the Mets should look to make a play for Vazquez, as it appears he will be available for a fraction of what he's really worth.

Mets re-sign Fernando Tatis

Fernando Tatis signed a 1-year contract with the Mets on Thursday. This was a no-brainer in my opinion, as Fernando had a very productive 2008. By my calculation, he was the 5th most valuable position player, and 8th most valuable Met overall. He produced at a .297/.369/.484 clip before going down with a shoulder injury in late September. For those interested, he hit .392 with RISP in 2008.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but nonetheless this is a strong signing. Tatis is only 33 years old (yes, that's not exactly young, but for some reason I pegged him for 37 or 38), and even if he produces at a .275/.350/.450 pace in 2009, he will be valuable. Tatis says he is fully recovered from his injury, and has been playing well in winter ball. I think the injury worked in the Mets favor, as I thought Tatis would command a 2 year deal, along the lines of the Marlon Anderson and Moises Alou contracts. Tatis's role with the 2009 Mets is to be determined, pending future offseason trades/signings by the Mets.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies announcer: "See ya New York!"

Congratulations to the Phillies on winning the World Series. You earned it. I still hate you, but you earned it.

The Phillies' obsession with publicly mocking the Mets has hit an all time high. First, there was the Shane Victorino/Jose Reyes home run celebration thing. Next, Phillies GM Pat Gillick bizarrely claimed the Phillies success was aided by the fact everyone in the NL East hates the Mets' guts. Now we have Phillies announcer Harry Kalas publicly dissing the Mets. Bart Hubbuch from the New York Post writes:

"Longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas taunted the Mets during the on-field ceremony at Citizens Bank Park tonight after Philadelphia's 4-3 win over Tampa Bay in Game 5, screaming, "See ya, New York!" as part of a fan tribute shown on the Jumbotron."

Give me a break. I'd expect this from a 12 year-old who just won the town little league championship, not from a 72 year-old man who's been in baseball for decades. Not even at his most ridiculous would I expect this from even Keith Hernandez. Whatever. You stay classy Philadelphia!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Game 5: Battle of bullpens

Game 5 of the World Series presents a fun scenario. We almost never see a baseball game played in 2 separate installments, much less in the championship round. Tonight's play is likely to last about 1.5 hours barring extra innings, and has a special sense of urgency for both teams, moreso for the Rays obviously. The performance of each team’s bullpen will likely determine the outcome. Listed here are the regular season stats of each team’s “big guns” – the guys I expect to pitch tonight. Rays bullpen vs. Phillies bullpen – WHO YA GOT?

Rays:
Grant Balfour
– 58.1 IP, 1.54 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 3.42 K/BB, 0.46 HR/9
Chad Bradford – 59.1 IP, 2.12 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1.13 K/BB, 0.46 HR/9
J.P Howell – 89.1 IP, 2.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 2.36 K/BB, 0.60 HR/9
David Price – 14 IP, 1.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 3.00 K/BB, 0.64 HR/9

Phillies:
Chad Durbin
– 87.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 1.80 K/BB, 0.51 HR/9
Brad Lidge – 69.1 IP, 1.95 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 2.63 K/BB, 0.26 HR/9
Ryan Madson – 82.2 IP, 3.05 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 2.91 K/BB, 0.65 HR/9
J.C. Romero – 59 IP, 2.75 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 1.37 K/BB, 0.76 HR/9

I didn't realize how nasty Balfour was this year. Those are some stellar numbers. It pains me to say it, but I pick the Phillies to win it tonight. Lidge is outstanding, and Madson (AKA “The Bridge to Lidge” – I didn’t come up with it but can’t remember where I read it) has been stellar this postseason. Additionally, the game is in Philly, and the Rays offense has 9 outs available while the Phils have 12.

All that being said – go Rays! I wouldn’t mind seeing a recreation of the above picture, substituting Carlos Pena for Albert Pujols.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quote of the day, and Game 5 thoughts

Rays OF Rocco Baldelli had this to say about the Rays struggles in the World Series:

"It's such a small sample size in the playoffs. You can't judge a team by that. You can't play your best baseball every single game."

I couldn't have said it better myself Rocco. Players go through hot streaks and slumps throughout the regular season, and the playoffs are no different. Unfortunately for the Rays, they've hit a slump in the World Series. Yes, the playoffs are the biggest stage, the pressure is on, players have to be clutch, blah blah blah, but in the end the game is exactly the same from Opening Day through October.

I'm interested to see how the Rays and Phillies handle their pitching situations tonight. Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon have hinted that the game will be handed over to the bullpen, rather than starting pitchers like Brett Myers, James Shields, and Matt Garza.

Expect to see Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, and Brad Lidge for the Phillies, and Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Chad Bradford, and David Price for the Rays.

Scott Kazmir reminds me of John Maine

Scott Kazmir and John Maine are both great young talents. However, they share two unfortunate attributes - excessive amounts of walks and the inability to pitch deep into games. Attribute #1 is a big cause of attribute #2. Here are Kazmir and Maine's regular season BB/9:

Kazmir (2008): 4.14
Kazmir (career): 4.13

Maine (2008): 4.31
Maine (career): 3.91

These are not very impressive. Postseason walk rates are not factored in here. Note that Maine's BB/9 in the playoffs is 7.24(!), and Kazmir's is 6.31(!). Let's take a look at the number of regular season starts in which each pitcher lasted more than 6 innings, compared to total number of starts.

Kazmir (2008): 6 out of 27 starts
Kazmir (career): 40 out of 124 starts

Maine (2008): 5 out of 25 starts
Maine (career): 22 out of 81 starts

A couple caveats - a) IP/start might be a better barometer for this analysis; b) early in each player's career, their teams most likely exercised caution by limiting innings pitched, meaning they had less opportunity to pitch more than 6 innings. Nonetheless, as great as Kazmir is, and as solid as Maine is, neither has shown an ability to consistently last deep into games. Perhaps as they mature they will be able to control their walk totals, which would aid in lowering pitch counts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Manny Acta-o'-lantern

Check out this jack-o'-lantern carved to resemble Nationals manager and former Mets coach Manny Acta. (via Amazin' Avenue) Pretty good work by the carver right? Making posts like this one is all I can do to take my mind off of the World Series that's about to be won down I-95.

I remember attending a Mets-Expos game in early 2003 when Acta was 3rd base coach for the Expos. I had pretty good seats, right behind 3rd base, and an annoying fat man sitting behind me screamed "ACTA!" about every 2 minutes when the Expos were up at bat. The Mets won 4-0, and David Cone notched his final career win that freezing cold night. Mo Vaughn led the offense, going 3-4 with a HR.

More stats posts to come in the near future, I promise.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Boo-Hoo: The Phillies are upset!!!

The Phillies are upset because only the starting lineups were introduced before Game 1 of the World Series. Reserves and coaches did not have their names announced. Let's here what "true Phillie" Matt Stairs thinks about this:

"It's disappointing and some guys were extremely mad about it," Stairs said early Friday evening after the team's workout at Citizens Bank Park. "I think it's bootleg when you have the World Series and guys are jogging out to the line and they don't take the extra five minutes to introduce the players... This should be a big issue."

Poor Matt. What does "Mr. 0-10" Jimmy Rollins have to say?:

"As far as each player being announced, it should be," Rollins said. "You worked this hard all year long and you're the last two teams left. "I thought it was kind of cheap those guys didn't get the chance to get recognized. It took 25 players to get here, and each one of them should have been recognized. Bottom line."

Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are also quoted, essentially saying the same sort of things. The article goes on to detail just how upset the Tampa Bay Rays were about this bigtime slight:

"The Rays' reserves and coaches also were not announced. But their player rep, Evan Longoria, said he was unaware of any displeasure about the slight."

Wait a second! The Rays players aren't outraged about this? You mean to tell me they most likely couldn't care less about pre-game introductions, as they are more concerned with winning the freakin' World Series? What a novel concept. If this doesn't make a casual fan root for the supposedly young and immature Rays, then I don't know what will.

Moneyball can save lives

I came across an interesting NY Times Op-Ed column, authored by Billy Beane, John Kerry, and Newt Gingrich, advocating the use of statistical analysis to develop a better medical system. The writers give a brief background of the book "Moneyball", which detailed Beane's use of data and statistics to field an absurdly successful Oakland A's team with one of the smallest payrolls in baseball. A similar approach to revamping the U.S. medical system is proposed:

"Remarkably, a doctor today can get more data on the starting third baseman on his fantasy baseball team than on the effectiveness of life-and-death medical procedures. Studies have shown that most health care is not based on clinical studies of what works best and what does not — be it a test, treatment, drug or technology. Instead, most care is based on informed opinion, personal observation or tradition....

...Look at what’s happened in baseball. For decades, executives, managers and scouts built their teams and managed games based on their personal experiences and a handful of dubious statistics. This romantic approach has been replaced with a statistics-based creed called sabermetrics... Similarly, a health care system that is driven by robust comparative clinical evidence will save lives and money...

...Evidence-based health care would not strip doctors of their decision-making authority nor replace their expertise. Instead, data and evidence should complement a lifetime of experience, so that doctors can deliver the best quality care at the lowest possible cost."

Beane, Kerry, and Gingrich go on to provide real-life examples from the medical world showing how a statistical approach has been successful. It amazes me how institutions such as professional sports and, more importantly, medicine continue to use intuition and anecdotal evidence when making crucial, possibly life-or-death decisions.

Ask an "old school" manager why he loves to bunt as early as the 4th inning and you'll probably receive an answer like "it's the right way to play the game" or "it's smallball". Ask a statistically oriented fellow why it's dumb to bunt as early as the 4th inning and he'll tell you "based on sophisticated empirical research, there's a 43.7% chance of scoring atleast 1 run with a man on 1st base and none out compared to 40.6% with a man on 2nd base and 1 out." I would prefer my doctor to be the statistical fellow (i.e. Theo Epstein) rather than the "old school" guy (i.e. Ozzie Guillen).

I also love the idea of Kerry and Gingrich discussing VORP, EqA, WPA and win shares in between sessions of Congress, when both were serving statesmen. Thank you to ShysterBall for the NY Times link.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Should a pitcher be considered for MVP?

In a post at Amazin' Avenue, Jessica Bader goes FJM on the latest Mets Mailbag from Marty Noble on mets.com. I'm not posting to call out Noble for his poor answers to questions (I already did that last offseason). I was struck by a great point Jessica makes regarding consideration of pitchers for the MVP Award. A common argument against doing this is that everyday players appear in 140-162 games whereas starting pitchers usually appear in 30-34 games. For instance, David Wright played in 160 games, while Johan Santana played in 34. Noble states that for this reason, Wright is the Mets MVP instead of Johan, and also more viable as a candidate for NL MVP. Jessica writes:

"This is the sort of argument that's usually advanced to justify excluding pitchers from MVP consideration, and quite frankly it's a load of bull. If you think of baseball as a series of pitcher/batter confrontations, it stands to reason that the more showdowns a player participates in, the more opportunities he has to impact the outcome of a game. In 2008, David Wright had 736 plate appearances. Johan Santana faced 964 batters."

This is fantastic, and something I had never thought of. Granted, it takes a truly special year for a pitcher to win MVP (Roger Clemens in 1986, Pedro Martinez in 1999 who should've won but didn't), and I'm not saying Johan or any other NL pitcher should be MVP. However, pitchers should not be discounted from consideration simply because they are pitchers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brad Lidge: "Comeback Player of the Year"

After watching him pitch last night, and about 10 other times this season, I’ve determined that Brad Lidge is absolutely filthy. The game is shortened to 8 innings with him coming out of the bullpen. He’s 47/47 in save opportunities this year, including the postseason. While reading about him today, I came across the fact that he was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2008. I’m not sure how I missed this, but it’s pretty ludicrous. Granted, this is an almost meaningless award, but it bugs me nonetheless. Why does it bug me? Let's take a look at his 2007 statistics compared to 2008:


2007: 67 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 11.82 K/9, 2.93 K/BB, 1.21 HR/9, 0.93 WPA, 19/27 Saves
2008: 69 IP, 1.95 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11.94 K/9, 2.63 K/BB, 0.26 HR/9, 5.37 WPA, 41/41 Saves

What exactly was he “coming back” from? His 2007 was pretty good, although the blown saves and high HR/9 were troublesome. His other stats are very good to outstanding. What changed from last year to this one? He figured out a way to stop giving up homers – he threw his slider 56% of the time in 2008 compared to 36% in 2007. Lidge deserves the “guy who gave up less homers than last year” award, but not the Comeback Player of the Year. This award should be reserved for guys who come back from injury, cancer, or some other serious problem like Andres Galarraga, Josh Hamilton, and Jon Lester.

***EDIT***: It turns out Lidge was named NL Comeback Player of the Year as determined by the Sporting News, and our very own Fernando Tatis was awarded the same prize by by MLB. This is a little more sane than picking Lidge, considering Tatis was out of baseball for a period and wasn't in the majors in 2007.

***EDIT #2***: Because I'm a nerd for this stuff, I looked up who The Sporting News named their pitchers and players of the year for recent seasons. GET THIS - they didn't pick Randy Johnson for NL Pitcher of the Year even once from 1999-2002 (when he won the Cy Young each season justifiably). Why is The Sporting News even in existence? Why am I obsessed with postseason awards voting errors when I know that such awards really mean nothing in the end?!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

LET'S GO RAYS!!!!


This youthful looking fellow is the Mets' - I mean Rays' - Game 1 starter. Pitch a gem tonight and Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano will have been worth it!!! Win it for Uncle Cliffy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Top 10: Celebrity Met Fans

I wasn't really sure how to go about ranking celebrity Met fans. Should it be based on how famous the celebrity is? How successful? How devoted a Met fan? My ultimate criteria was a combination of these factors, with preference given to those who reference the Mets in their work. Here goes:

10. Julia Stiles

The star of "10 Things I Hate About You", "Save the Last Dance", and the Jason Bourne trilogy threw out the first pitch at Shea in a game vs. the D-Backs in 2006. She is the first of 2 female fans on the list.

9. Matt Dillon

The brother of Johnny Drama was born in New Rochelle, NY, and has starred in some big time movies like "Crash", "There's Something About Mary", and "Wild Things." He is Oscar nominated, for his role in "Crash", and threw out the first pitch of Game 6 of the 2006 NLCS.

8. Viggo Mortensen

One of my favorite actors, the Oscar nominated Mortensen (for the great film "Eastern Promises") is less public about his Mets fandom. He was born in Manhattan, and is inexplicably a fan of the Montreal Canadiens and Argentine soccer team.

7. Ray Romano

Ray played a Newsday sportswriter who never seemed to be working on his show "Everybody Loves Raymond". His character on the show had a dog named "Shamsky", named after former Met Art Shamsky, and lived on Long Island. In real life he is from Forest Hills.

6. Jon Stewart

The host of "The Daily Show" played soccer for William & Mary and frequently references the Mets (and their struggles) on air. I remember after the Mets won on opening day one year, he pointed out they were on pace to go 162-0. An unoriginal joke, but I'm all for discussion of the Mets on Comedy Central. He may have inadvertently jinxed the Mets in this clip prior to the final weekend of the 2008 season.

5. Glenn Close

The talented Miss Close sang the national anthem before Game 1 of the 1986 World Series, and sang God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch in the final game at Shea. The Mets lost both games in heartbreaking fashion, so maybe she should stay away from the microphone at Citi Field? She's been nominated for an Oscar 5 times (with zero wins), and is a pretty good singer.

4. Chris Rock

Chris was raised in Brooklyn, NY and his upbringing is the subject of the underrated show "Everybody Hates Chris." He is very public about his support for the Mets, and appears in a video shown at Shea Stadium leading a "Let's Go Mets" chant.

3. Tim Robbins

After watching his awful pitching mechanics in "Bull Durham", I'm glad the 6'5" Robbins is a fan and not a member of the pitching staff. He can frequently be seen attending Mets games, and pulled the number off the Shea outfield wall before game #57. (Side note: Did you know that Roberto Alomar pulled down #49, along with his father and brother??? ROBERTO ALOMAR pulled down a Shea number!! Think about that.)

2. Kevin James

Kevin made frequent references to the Mets on his great show "The King of Queens", and was seen wearing a Mets jersey in his 2007 movie "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." He pulled a Chipper Jones, and named his daughter Shea. Like Chris Rock, Kevin has a "Let's Go Mets" video shown on the Diamondvision, but it is more frightening than inspring...

1. Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry is the undisputed #1 on this list. The early "Seinfeld" episodes frequently had Mets references, which I give Jerry credit for given that the early '90s Mets teams were not very good. The 2 episode arc with Keith Hernandez is my favorite storyline from any episode, and that's saying something. Jerry immortalized Roger McDowell as "the 2nd spitter", and frequently attends Mets games.

Honorable Mention: Matthew Broderick (probably should've made the list), Bill O'Reilly (I considered including him to counter the presence of raging liberals Robbins, Mortensen, Rock, and Stewart), Hilary Swank, Hank Azaria, Howie Rose, Steve Somers, Gary Cohen, Patrick Bateman (Bateman isn't a celebrity, and is fictional. However, in the book "American Psycho" Bateman is said to be a Mets fan, and has a Mets poster in his apartment. I'm thinking he was a fan of the 1980s Mets simply because he "wants to fit in.")

Monday, October 20, 2008

Diabolical genius Billy Beane strikes again - Mark Ellis re-signs with A's

In my series off offseason recommendations posts, I advocated taking a serious look at free agent 2B Mark Ellis of the A's. I touted him as a slick fielding, about average hitter who would come cheaper than Orlando Hudson. Alas, it is not to be - Ellis has re-upped with the A's for 2 more years, with a club option for a 3rd. He stands to make $5.5 million per year.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and the great U.S.S. Mariner posted today about what a great bargain this signing is for Oakland. He conveys some high level statistical analysis involving fielding statistics, and sums everything as he writes:

"Mark Ellis just signed for about $1.67 million per win. This is one of the best free agent bargains in the history of baseball. In an environment where Ellis’ skillset was properly valued and he had a desire to test the market, he should have gotten about three times what he signed for."

He's totally right. First off, this signing shows how wise Billy Beane is to not let Ellis make it to the free agent market. Second, he makes a valid point about how undervalued defense is in the baseball player marketplace. Most fans view defensive ability as an added bonus - if a great offensive player is a good defender, that's a plus. If not, then who cares? He can make it up with his bat right? Most advanced defensive metrics (Dewan's +/-, RZR, FRAA) say this is wrong, and defense can be quantified almost as accurately as offense can.

The undervaluing of defense has lead the casual fan to severely underrate a player like Carlos Beltran, and overrate a player like Manny Ramirez. I've posted on this already, but be warned Mets fans: Manny, by all accounts, is the worst OF in baseball. Playing poor defense costs a team runs, just as good hitting adds runs. If he is already the worst right now, do we really want him 3 years from now when the only thing on his mind is 600 (700?) home runs and how quickly he can hit the beach when the season ends?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

While driving tonight, I was listening to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan call Rays-Red Sox Game 7 on ESPN Radio when Miller brought up former Met Ron Hunt during a long at-bat by Dustin Pedroia. Miller compared Hunt to Pedroia, for his ability to work counts and the fact that he's a fine 2B. Hunt was renowned for his all around peskiness and was particularly adept at getting hit by pitches (he once tallied 50 HBP in a season and averaged 27 per year - for comparison David Wright has been hit by 25 pitches in 4.5 seasons). Anyway, Miller then relayed a story, which I'll paraphrase here:

"Hall of Famer Steve Carlton was so frustrated by the 9 or 10 pitch AB's Hunt always seemed to work against him that he'd frequently just drill Hunt in the back with the first pitch if no one was on base. That way he could keep his pitch count low."

The magic of the Internet let me look up Hunt's career vs. Carlton. In 100 PA's, Hunt tallied - get this - exactly ONE hit by pitch. 1 out of 100. Any other tall tales you'd like to relay to the listeners Jon? Keep in mind it took under 30 seconds for me to find this info. Google search Ron Hunt, click on his Baseball Reference page, and go to his career vs. any pitcher he faced. Amazing right?

I think I've been influenced by websites/blogs like Baseball Prospectus and FJM to keep an eye out for stuff like this. It just boggles my mind that announcers continue to spout this nonsense, and I bet any broadcast with bad announcers features atleast 2 or 3 of these easily correctable falsehoods. Go Rays.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dwight Gooden vs. Rick Sutcliffe - 1984

What a better way to start off a Saturday than with analysis of the 1984 Cy Young Award race between Rick Sutcliffe and Dwight Gooden. While looking at Doc's Baseball-Reference page, I clicked on the 1984 Cy voting results and found that Sutcliffe was unanimous selection for 1st place that year. I eyeballed their stats and felt that Doc got screwed. I'm pretty sure he did, but let's take a look at the important statistics.

(Note: While even I acknowledge that the MVP Award should take certain other variables into account besides just straight up statistics, i.e. how well team performed, the player's position, performance in pennant race, etc., the Cy Young Award is as close to a "Who had the best statistics?" award as it gets. Also note that Sutcliffe was traded from the Indians to the Cubs on June 13th, in similar fashion to C.C. Sabathia this year. Only his NL stats count towards consideration for the NL Cy Young.)

ERA
Gooden - 2.60
Sutcliffe - 2.69

IP
Gooden - 218
Sutcliffe - 150.1 (granted Sut is at a disadvantage for pitching about 2/3 of the season, but why should Gooden have to suffer for this?)

WHIP
Gooden - 1.07
Sutcliffe - 1.08

K/9
Gooden - 11.39
Sutcliffe - 9.28

K/BB
Gooden - 3.78
Sutcliffe - 3.97

HR/9
Gooden - 0.29
Sutcliffe - 0.54

ERA+
Gooden - 137
Sutcliffe - 144

VORP
Gooden - 47.1
Sutcliffe - 31.2 (again, Sut is disadvantaged here, but again why should Gooden suffer)

Keep in mind no other NL starter is even close to these two for consideration. Bruce Sutter had a great year in relief, but Gooden and Sutcliffe each deserved the award more than he did. In my opinion, Gooden is the clear cut Cy Young Award winner for 1984. He was robbed. Doc had a lower ERA with 68 more IP, and beats Sut in just about every meaningful category except ERA+ and K/BB. The fact that Doc got zero first place votes is a joke. Sutcliffe won because his W-L record was 16-1 compared to Gooden's 17-9. However, I did some further research:

Run Support
Gooden - 3.76/game
Sutcliffe - 5.55/game

Perhaps their W-L records had something to do with the Cubs scoring almost 2 full runs more per game during Sutcliffe's starts? Just a thought 1984 voters!! It remains to be seen if 2008 voters will value C.C. Sabathia's 1/2 season performance for the Brewers as they did Sutcliffe's. My guess is no, and the award will go to Tim Lincecum or Johan Santana.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Manny wants to get paid

In a post to his blog, Adam Rubin of the Daily News writes:

"Free agent-to-be Manny Ramirez said his 2009 employer will be determined by the best financial offer. “I want to see who is the highest bidder,” Ramirez bluntly said. “The (price of) gas is up, so I’m up,” he added with a laugh.

He later quipped: “I’m looking for a seven-year deal. I want Alex money,” refering to A-Rod. Asked how old he’d be at the end of a seven-year deal, Ramirez gleefully added: “Forty-three.”"

While I applaud Manny for being honest about what he's truly looking for ($$$$$$$$$), I am still torn if I want him on the Mets. Yes, even a Manny unmotivated by his contract year will still be good for .300/.380/.550 and 35 HR. However, he is a butcher in the field (Dewan's +/- system rated him the worst OF in baseball from 2005-2007 by a wide margin), and will likely require a 5-6 year commitment. Even a 41 year old Manny will probably go .280/.350/.500, but he will be an unmoving object in the OF by then.

To reiterate what I outlined in my offseason recommendations, if the Mets could sign Manny to a 3-4 year contract at $15-18 million a year, I wouldn't be opposed. However, he wants (and will undoubtedly receive) too many years and just too much money. If he doesn't wind up with the Mets, let's hope he doesn't sign in the NL or, God forbid, with the Phillies.

Ridiculous Red Sox comeback in Game 5

I went to bed last night with the Rays up 7-0 in the 7th inning. I woke up to Sportscenter proclaiming a miracle Red Sox win, 8-7. Whatever. I'm posting to show the "win probability" graph, courtesy of FanGraphs, for this game:



The Rays had a 99.4% chance of winning this game at one point. I'd venture to say at that point in the game, the Red Sox probability of coming back to win the Series stood somewhere south of 0.01%. To be continued this Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mr. Met gets political

I just have to post this video of Mr. Met hanging out at the Presidential Debate on Wednesday night. Which candidate does he support? He is a man of the people, so he may be an Obama guy. However, I bet he makes ballplayer salary, so he probably likes McCain's tax policy. (via Deadspin)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Apocalypse is upon us, Met fans

Sign #1 - The Philadelphia Phillies are in the World Series

Sign #2 - Scott Kazmir is starting Game 5 of the ALCS, with his team up 3-1 in the series

Sign #3 - Fox will again be broadcasting the World Series, featuring the one and only Tim McCarver in the booth

P.S. Did anyone else find the conversation between the NLCS Game 5 home plate umpire Mike Winters and Chase Utley that Fox aired a little strange? It occurred right before Utley's first PA, and went like this:

Winters: Hey Chase how's it going?

Utley: Umm, pretty good how are you?

Winters: I'm great - I read today that you're from Pasadena. Wow it must be fun to be playing so close to home.

Utley: Yeah, it's good..... where are you from?

Winters: San Diego. AND GO PHILLIES!!!

I made up the last sentence, but you get the picture. Is this standard umpire/player interaction? It seemed really bizarre, especially for a playoff game.

The quote of the postseason

Courtesy of The Fightins' (via Awful Announcing), I present to you my nomination for quote of the baseball postseason, and possibly quote of the year. Here is Matt Stairs of the Phillies, after hitting the game winning homer Monday in Game 4 vs. the Dodgers:

“When you get that nice celebration coming into the dugout and you’re getting your ass hammered by guys — there’s no better feeling than to have that done.”

Click the Fightins' link above for video of the press conference. Just an odd choice of words don't you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 Mets Team MVP

I’ve been inspired by a thoughtful post at Hot Foot Blog to do my own analysis of the Mets team MVP in 2008. I’ll look at 3 stats: VORP, WPA, and WARP, which I think are useful for making an MVP ballot. To save time, I’ll only look at Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright as candidates.

To start off, here are the important traditional stats for the fab 5:
Beltran: .284/.376/.500, 27 HR, 112 RBI, 25/28 SB
Delgado: .271/.353/.518, 38 HR, 115 RBI, 1/2 SB
Reyes: .297/.358/.475, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 56/71 SB
Santana: 2.53 ERA, 234.1 IP, 3.27 K/BB, 0.88 HR/9, 163 ERA+
Wright: .302/.390/.534, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 15/20 SB

To refresh memories, VORP stands for “value over replacement player.” A player’s offensive performance is compared to a “replacement level” player at the same position. This fictitious player is a low-level player who is readily available at cheap cost. A position player’s VORP represents how many more runs his team would score over the course of a season than if a replacement player was in the lineup instead. A pitcher’s VORP represents how many more runs his team would give up over the course of a season compared to the replacement pitcher.

1. Johan Santana – 73.4
2. David Wright – 66.2
3. Jose Reyes – 62.9
4. Carlos Beltran – 57.6
5. Carlos Delgado – 38.5

If Santana was switched with a replacement pitcher, the Mets would’ve given up 73.4 more runs. Reyes rates so high because great offensive shortstops are tough to come by. Delgado rates so low because great offensive first basemen are a-dime-a-dozen. Note that VORP doesn’t factor in stolen bases.

WPA, “win probability added”, is a fascinating statistic. It was created based on the concept that every play in a baseball game, whether it is a ground out, strikeout or homerun, will add or subtract from a team’s probability of winning a game. For different outcomes, a player’s WPA will increase or decrease based on how much each play adds or subtracts from his team’s chance to win. It is a rudimentary way to measure “clutchness”, as it weighs a player’s performance based on the situation. This is to say that a walkoff homerun will add much more to a player’s WPA than will a homerun hit when already ahead by 7 runs. A scoreless inning pitched in a blowout is not weighed as heavily as a scoreless 9th inning pitched in a 1-run game.

1. Carlos Beltran – 5.02
2. David Wright – 4.18
3. Johan Santana – 4.08
4. Carlos Delgado – 2.38
5. Jose Reyes – 1.32

This does not necessarily mean that Beltran was the most “clutch” player for the Mets this year. It simply means his offensive contributions resulted in a greater probability of the Mets winning than did the other players. Despite being 3rd on this list, it should be noted that starting pitchers’ WPA’s are generally lower than batters. Santana was 4th in the majors in WPA, while Beltran was 6th. Cliff Lee led pitchers with a 5.96 WPA; Manny Ramirez led all hitters with a 7.57 WPA.

WARP1 is a stat I don’t think I’ve looked at yet in this space. It’s similar to VORP, but measures “wins above replacement player”. It accounts for both offense and defense, and determines how many wins a player contributes compared to a fictitious “replacement player” at the respective player’s position. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate Santana's WARP1, so he will not be evaluated here. Based on a quick Internet search, I don't think a WARP1 leader's list for pitchers is readily accessible. If someone can find one, please let me know. At this point I think Johan’s spot on my ballot is pretty secure…

1. Wright – 9.6
2. Beltran – 9.3
3. Reyes – 8.8
4. Delgado – 7.8

Based on these stats, my ballot would look like this:
1. Johan Santana
2. David Wright
3. Carlos Beltran
4. Jose Reyes
5. Carlos Delgado

Santana led the league in ERA and was pretty impressive in VORP and WPA. I think this is a safe pick. When was the last time a Mets starting pitcher could convincingly be called the team MVP? Dwight Gooden in 1985? Bret Saberhagen in 1994? I’d have to look it up. There will be those calling me a fool for putting Reyes above Delgado based on Jose’s poor, but not downright awful, September. To them I say that I look at a baseball season as 162 games long. The overall contribution of a player towards scoring and preventing runs over a full season is more important to me than a 10 or 3 game sample. Also, while Delgado did have a very good season, the fact that he plays first base (and not very well defensively at that) hurt his standing on my ballot. The #2 spot is a virtual toss-up, and you can't go wrong with Wright or Beltran in this spot.

MLB Trade Rumors

No, this isn't a post to start spouting off ridiculous shot-in-the-dark trade proposals (i.e. that Carlos Beltran for Robinson Cano and Ian Kennedy nonsense last week), but rather to praise the website MLB Trade Rumors. The website posts daily, linking reports from writers and other guys "in-the-know" who provide generally reliable updates on each team's offseason transactions.

Today, Tim Dierkes of MLBTR posted his suggestions for the Mets. He advocates signing Brian Fuentes over Francisco Rodriguez, going after a Randy Wolf, Derek Lowe or A.J. Burnett, and thinks Raul Ibanez or Juan Rivera for LF is a possibility. I like where his head's at - my offseason recommendations included Fuentes, Lowe and Ibanez. He closes with some wisdom that every Met fan needs to read:

"The Mets have an excellent core for '09 - three good starting pitchers plus Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Delgado all signed at arguably below-market rates. Minaya just needs to figure out how to allocate his money between a closer (and maybe a second reliever), a starter, and a left fielder."

He's right on the money. The core is terrific (and possibly underpaid). MLBTR and Tim Dierkes' work are now required reading every morning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mets 2008: The Movie

The Mets 2008 season was pretty epic. It had everything: manager and coach firings, washed up players finding new life, rookies making a big impact, a new stadium built, an awful collapse, etc. It would make for one long, over-the-top feature length film. I imagine it being 4 hours in length, and only the most diehard of Met fans would pay money to watch it. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of actors who would play each character in the film. My vision of the film has the season viewed through the eyes of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling. Naturally I picked some of the strongest actors around for these roles. Here goes, with runners-up in parentheses:

Announcers:
Gary Cohen – Kevin Spacey
Keith Hernandez – Daniel Day-Lews
Ron Darling – Robert Downey Jr.
Kevin Burkhardt – Christian Bale

Front Office/Coaching Staff:
Fred Wilpon - Ed Harris
Jeff Wilpon - Matt Dillon
Omar Minaya - a tossup between Terence Howard and Edward James Olmos
Willie Randolph - Ernie Hudson
Jerry Manuel - Don Cheadle
Rick Peterson - Willem Dafoe
Howard Johnson - John C. Reilly
Ken Oberkfell - Wilford Brimley
Luis Agoayo - Erik Estrada

Starting Pitchers:
Johan Santana - Benjamin Bratt (Joaquin Phoenix)
Mike Pelfrey – John Krasinski
John Maine – Ben Foster
Oliver Perez – Lou Diamond Phillips (James Franco)
Pedro Martinez – Jamie Foxx
Jon Niese – Anton Yelchin

Bullpen:
Billy Wagner – Aaron Eckhart
Aaron Heilman – Edward Norton (in the toughest, darkest role of the movie; Paul Bettany a close second)
Scott Schoeneweis – Mark Wahlberg (Sean Bean)
Joe Smith – Ryan Gosling
Pedro Feliciano – John Leguizamo
Brian Stokes – Freddie Prinze Jr.
Bobby Parnell – Topher Grace
Nelson Figueroa – Javier Bardem
Luis Ayala – Mario Lopez
Jorge Sosa – Alfonso Ribeiro
Matt Wise – Anthony Edwards

Infield:
David Wright – Zac Efron (Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jared Leto, Frankie Muniz)
Jose Reyes – T.I.
Luis Castillo – Naveen Andrews
Carlos Delgado – Dennis Haysbert (he played Pedro Cerrano in the "Major League" trilogy, and Delgado is basically a lefty Cerrano)
Ramon Martinez – Bobby Cannavale
Argenis Reyes – Jay Hernandez
Damion Easley – Kirk Acevedo

Catchers:
Brian Schneider – Josh Lucas
Ramon Castro – Jorge Garcia (Fat Joe)
Robinson Cancel – Jimmy Smits

Outfield:
Carlos Beltran – Michael Pena
Ryan Church – Matthew Fox
Fernando Tatis – Daniel Sunjata
Daniel Murphy – Shia LeBouf
Nick Evans – Justin Long
Endy Chavez – Wilmer Valderrama
Marlon Anderson – Harold Perrineau

Other:
Jimmy Rollins – Mos Def
Chase Utley – Josh Hartnett
Ryan Howard – Derek Luke
Charlie Manuel – Terry O’Quinn (Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland runners-up)
Tom Glavine – Guy Pearce
Chipper Jones – Brendan Fraser
Lastings Milledge - Lil' Wayne

Budget for the film will be upwards of $250 million, mostly comprised of the actors’ salaries. No title yet, but I’m thinking “The Departed”, because the ending is similar to the 2006 Best Picture winner. Feel free to comment on good choices, bad choices, or suggestions for roles.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mets entrance music

As a break from projecting rosters and looking at stats, here is the first of a couple “fun” posts. I’ve put together a list of the entrance music for the 2008 Mets based on my own recollections, with some help from sites like this one. Some have had multiple songs. Comment or email if you know of any I forgot, past or present players.

Pitchers:
Aaron Heilman – London Calling, the Clash; Paint It Black, Rolling Stones
John Maine – Seek and Destroy, Metallica; Posse on Broadway, Sir Mix a Lot (if he was a closer)
Mike Pelfrey – What I Like About You, the Romantics
Oliver Perez – I’m Gonna Get You, Bizarre Inc.
Duaner Sanchez – Wild Thing, Troggs
Billy Wagner – Enter Sandman, Metallica

Hitters:
Carlos Beltran – El Esta Aqui, David Y Abraham
Ramon Castro – Imperial March, John Williams
Ryan Church – Crazy Train, Ozzy Osbourne
Carlos Delgado – Rompe, Daddy Yankee
Damion Easley – Too Legit To Quit, MC Hammer
Daniel Murphy – Shipping Up to Boston, Dropkick Murphys
Jose Reyes – Encen, Jose Reyes(?); Rompe, Daddy Yankee
Fernando Tatis – Superman Theme, John Williams
David Wright – Never Leave You, Lumidee; Numb/Encore, Linkin Park/Jay-Z; Brass Monkey, Beastie Boys

Former Players:
Benny Agbayani – Bennie and the Jets, Elton John
Derek Bell – Big Pimpin’, Jay-Z
John Franco – Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
Al Leiter – 10th Avenue Freezeout or Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Chris Woodward – Sultans of Swing, Dire Straits
Mike Piazza – Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix

Again, comment or email any that I've omitted. In the meantime, enjoy the picture of the big pimpin' man himself, Derek Bell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Comparing players from different eras

Tonight on the car radio, I listened to a debate between WFAN host Richard Neer and some random caller about Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame candidacy. It's an interesting debate, but unfortunately Neer chose to focus mostly on Mussina's W-L record as support for Mussina's election to the Hall. That isn't what this post is about. Toward the end of the segment, Neer said something along the lines of:

"It's impossible to compare players across different eras."

Richard! There are ways to do this! The great although imperfect stats ERA+ and OPS+ are capable of such a comparison. I won't explain these stats too in-depth right now (see the "My Favorite Stats" posts on the top right of this blog for more info), but ERA+ and OPS+ tell us how good a player's ERA and OPS were compared to the league average, adjusting for park factors. Yes, ERA and OPS aren't the end-all be-all statistics for a player, but they are useful to get a general idea of how good a player was during his era. I wish there weren't 101 callers ahead of me on the WFAN phone line or I'd have let my voice be heard.

(side note: I rarely listen to WFAN and have never attempted to call in prior to tonight. I gave in, as I couldn't resist the chance to make snooty comments on live radio about superior baseball statistics.)

***EDIT***: A reader pointed out that perhaps Neer meant it is impossible to know how players would have performed in different eras, i.e. "How would Babe Ruth do if we put him in a time machine and stuck him in the 2008 Yankee lineup?" I guess it is possible that's what he meant. However, I think it's pretty clear such a scenario is impossible and is a pretty pointless thing to say on the radio.

Projected 2009 roster

The ideal 2009 Mets roster, based on my recommendations:

Rotation (5):
1 – Johan Santana
2 – Derek Lowe
3 – Mike Pelfrey
4 – John Maine
5 – Odalis Perez/Jon Niese

Bullpen (7):
Brian Fuentes
Jeremy Affeldt
Pedro Feliciano
Bobby Parnell/Eddie Kunz
Scott Schoeneweis
Joe Smith
Brian Stokes


Starting Lineup (8):
Jose Reyes
, SS
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Carlos Beltran, CF
Carlos Delgado, 1B
David Wright, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Ryan Church, RF
Brian Schneider, C

Bench (5):
Ramon Castro
, C
Endy Chavez, OF
Nick Evans, 1B/OF
Fernando Tatis, OF
**To be determined middle infielder

(**: My earlier suggestion of FA Mark Ellis is unlikely, as he will probably be classified as a Type B Free Agent. I do not have any backup choice for 2B, except for a few underwhelming options from within the organization and a few veterans off the scrap heap.)

Total Projected Payroll:
$145-$150 million

(This includes salaries due Billy Wagner and Marlon Anderson. I’ve included half of Luis Castillo’s salary, and the Mets will assuredly have to eat a lot of the $18 million owed him if/when traded.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Offseason Part 3 - The Bullpen

Here is part 3 of my offseason recommendations series. Next up is the bullpen.

Projected starting position players, prior to trades/signings:
1. (closer) - ????
2. Pedro Feliciano
3. Scott Schoeneweis
4. Joe Smith
5. Brian Stokes
6. Bobby Parnell/Eddie Kunz
7. ????

The first thing that will jump off the page for most fans is my inclusion of Scott Schoeneweis in next year’s plans. Please hear me out. Scott is tremendously useful, as long as he is not left in to face right-handed batters. Look at Scott’s career and 2008 numbers vs. right-handed and left-handed batters:

Career, vs. RHB: .294/.367/.469
Career, vs. LHB: .224/.299/.295

2008, vs. RHB: .333/.423/.532
2008, vs. LHB: .178/.243/.277

My plan entails cutting ties with Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman. Duaner lost 3+ mph on his fastball in 2008 from 2006. His HR/9 doubled, and his LD% increased from 13.2 to 25.4. Heilman was a very good relief pitcher from 2005-2007, despite a preference to be a starter. However, his 2008 was nothing short of disastrous (5.45 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9, 1.59(!) WHIP). Met fans’ ill-will toward Aaron is just too much to overcome, and I don’t think bringing him back as reliever or starter is wise. It’s time for a change of scenery. Unfortunately, the Mets will be selling low on a guy with talent. I think Bobby Parnell or Eddie Kunz should occupy a bullpen spot, as the Mets need to develop their young power arms. Parnell has been a starter most of his college and minor league career, but I envision him coming out of the ‘pen with his 95+ mph fastball. He and Stokes have the best arms on the team. Free agent options, with Type A or Type B projection:

Jeremy Affeldt, LHP (Type B): Affeldt was a promising young starter for the Royals a few years back, but kind of fell apart before converting to reliever. His peripheral stats are solid all around, though he struggled giving up the longball in 2008. However, 7 of the 9 homers he surrendered were at the Great American Smallpark in Cincinnati, so take that with a grain of salt. Additionally, his BABIP in 2008 was a very high .329, meaning he was probably unlucky this season. He is equally effective vs. lefties and righties.

Joe Beimel, LHP (Type B): I’m a fan of Beimel, maybe because I’ve seen him pitch well vs. the Mets throughout his career (13.1 IP, 2.02 ERA). He knows how to keep the ball in the ballpark (0.39 HR/9 from 2006-2008), and is a proven commodity.

Juan Cruz, RHP (Type A): Cruz’s rep as a high strikeout, high walk guy is justified – he’s averaged 9.35 K/9 and 4.65 BB/9 throughout his career. His 2006-2008 seasons were strong, as he posted WHIP’s of 1.34, 1.26, and 1.26 respectively. However, power pitchers who walk a lot of guys historically have not learned how to master the strike zone late in their careers.

Brian Fuentes, LHP (Type A): The lefty closer with a funky delivery, Fuentes appears ready to leave Colorado for greener pastures. To quote Fuentes, “I also understand the business aspect of it. If you only have $100 to spend on groceries, you can't go out and spend $200. That's just the way it is.” Sounds like the Rockies only have $100 to spend. He has a career 83% save percentage, striking out 10.24 per 9 innings. 2008 was his best season yet, and coincidentally it was also his contract year. He would likely command a 3-year, $30-$36 million deal.

Darren Oliver, LHP (Type A): Oliver has enjoyed a career renaissance as a reliever since his strong 2006 with the Mets. He is useful in multiple inning stints, as is effective against both lefties and righties. 2008 was his best relief season yet (2.88 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). I wish the Mets didn’t let him bolt after ’06, though I think they were a little weary of his age. He’ll be 38 next season.

Francisco Rodriguez, RHP (Type A): In late August, I would’ve shot down the idea of signing “K-Rod” this offseason. However, I was forced to atleast consider it after Collapse, Part Deux. Apparently, he wants something like $75 million for 5 years. He is a “maximum effort” pitcher, and looks like he’ll tear a muscle every pitch he throws. His fastball averaged 95 mph in 2006, but was at 92 mph in 2008. He still strikes out a ton of guys, but his K/BB, BAA, and WHIP were the worst of his career in 2008. K-Rod doesn’t let up homeruns at a high rate, and will be just 27 years old next season.

Recommendations:
(note: In a thoughtful column, SNY’s Ted Berg suggests trying to trade for J.J. Putz of the Seattle Mariners. Putz’s situation is similar to Brad Lidge’s after 2007. He had a poor year after a few dominating ones. He throws in the mid to upper 90’s, and is a strikeout pitcher. The rebuilding Mariners may be looking to trade him. I would be in favor of this, if feasible. Assuming that trade doesn’t happen, here are my bullpen recommendations.)

The market for middle relief is a volatile one, and is often a crapshoot from year to year. That being said, the Mets simply cannot stand pat, and must try to improve the ‘pen this offseason. I do not endorse pursuing Francisco Rodriguez, especially for the ridiculous 5-year, $75 million contract he supposedly wants. I feel the negatives outweigh the positives, and only Mariano Rivera is worth that kind of commitment. Instead I like the older, cheaper (and better?) Brian Fuentes. His 2008 season was superior to K-Rod’s in my opinion. Take a look:

K-Rod: 2.24 ERA, 1.29 WHIP,10.14 K/9, 2.26 K/BB, 0.53 HR/9, 90% saves
Fuentes: 2.73 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.78 K/9, 3.73 K/BB, 0.43 HR/9, 88% saves

It’s close, and I realize that looking at just 1 season isn’t fair, but it’s the most recent set of stats we have to look at. Additionally, I would make a run at Jeremy Affeldt, free agent from the Reds. He’ll be just 29 at the start of next season, and is coming off of two strong years in the ‘pen. His fastball touches the mid-90’s, meaning the Mets could potentially feature 4 guys who can hit 95 mph without sacrificing too much command of the strike zone (Affeldt, Fuentes, Stokes, Parnell - although Parnell has some control issues). He will not break the bank, and I think a 3 year deal at $3-4 million per is reasonable.

Projected 2009 bullpen, if I had it my way:
1. Brian Fuentes (closer)
2. Jeremy Affeldt
3. Pedro Feliciano
4. Bobby Parnell/Eddie Kunz
5. Scott Schoeneweis
6. Joe Smith
7. Brian Stokes

Feel free to agree or disagree with any of this. Check back tomorrow for a look at what the Mets 25 man roster would look like, and total estimated payroll, based on my recommendations.

Red Sox - Angels anger

Reasons why I went to sleep angry last night after watching Game 4 of Red Sox-Angels:

1) The Red Sox won, and played that annoying "Dirty Water" Boston song after the game.
2) Buck Martinez announced the game, and he is more annoying than Tim McCarver
3) Mike Scioscia called for a suicide squeeze in the top of the 9th, with Reggie Willits on 3rd and 1 out in a tie ball game.

I'm most angered at #3. Why does anyone think the suicide squeeze is a wise baseball play??? Announcers, writers, fans love it because it's called a suicide squeeze and it's perceived to be "exciting." Yes, it's exciting, but it's also incredibly stupid. Consider the situation: Erick Aybar is up with a runner on 3rd and 1 out. All you need is 1 run to take the lead, which should be enough for Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom half of the 9th. Aybar hasn't sacrifice bunted since August 23rd. If you call for the squeeze and Aybar misses the pitch, the runner from 3rd is dead and there's 2 outs, no runners on base. However, if Aybar fails to drive in Willits, atleast Chone Figgins is on deck and already has 2 hits in the game.

Of course, Aybar missed the bunt, Willits was dead coming from 3rd, and the Angels season was over about 15 minutes later. Everyone praises Scioscia for his "winning attitude", "smallball", and "culture of winning." They should be criticizing the gamble he took with his team's season in the 9th inning last night.

***EDIT***: VegasWatch posted on the same topic Monday night, though I didn't read it until after I posted. Same idea, but VW conveys the situation and boneheadedness more eloquently.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Offseason Part 2 - The Rotation

Here is part 2 of my offseason recommendations series. Next up is the starting rotation.

Projected starting position players, prior to trades/signings:
#1 – Johan Santana
#2 – Mike Pelfrey
#3 – John Maine
#4 - ????
#5 - ????

Despite the knee surgery, I think Johan will be healthy and have a season similar to 2008. Hopefully Pelfrey is not affected by the amount innings he threw this season, and continues to progress. Maine I’m not so sure about. He will be coming off shoulder surgery, and wasn’t having a great 2008 before his injury. I’m a fan of Maine’s so I want him to be a contributor, but he is not a definite. From reputable writers, I’ve read that pitchers like Zach Greinke and Matt Cain are on the trading block. Both will require packages with major league ready players, and I’m not sure what kind of deal Omar Minaya could put together. Otherwise, here are free agent options, with Type A or B projection:

Jon Garland (Type B): Please do not look at Garland’s win totals when evaluating him. He has played on some teams with strong offenses and bullpens, (2005 White Sox, 2008 Angels) capable of aiding that W-L record. Garland gives up a ton of hits and doesn’t strike out many (career K/9 of 4.71… yikes). However, he is durable, and has made atleast 32 starts and 191.2 IP every season since becoming a full member of a rotation. He will probably be looking for $10 million a year in a multi-year deal.

Derek Lowe (Type A): Lowe has been quietly strong since coming to the Dodgers in 2005. His 2008 was his best as a Dodger, as he posted 1.13 WHIP and tied a career high with 147 K’s. The K total is more impressive considering he is a sinkerball pitcher in the mold of Brandon Webb (career 64.4 GB% for Lowe, 64.3 GB% for Webb). A concern here is that Lowe is 35 years old.

Odalis Perez: I’m including Perez because he could be useful to take a flier on as 5th starter. I can’t imagine a big demand for a guy who averaged about 5 IP per start with a 1.49 WHIP in 2008, so he would probably come cheap. He is 31 years old, and hasn’t lost any off his fastball in the last 4 seasons (although that fastball is an underwhelming 88 mph).

Oliver Perez (Type A): Ollie and his agent Scott Boras are likely looking for $60 million over 5 years, according to Jon Heyman at SI. This is too much to shell out for a guy who led the league in walks in 2008, with a 1.40 WHIP and slightly below league average ERA. I’d be in favor of re-signing Ollie for about $15 million over 3 years but that's it.

C.C. Sabathia (Type A): C.C.’s performance 2008 did nothing but drive up his already exorbitant value this offseason. The latest figure is 6 years at $144 million. Obviously, a rotation featuring C.C. and Johan at the top would be the best in baseball, trumping Brandon Webb and Dan Haren in Arizona. There is concern about the number of innings he’s thrown, and the short rest he pitched on at the end of this season. A lot has been said about his desire to pitch closer to his home in California, but in the end I think he’ll sign with the team that gives him the most money – I mean – shows him the most “respect”.

Randy Wolf (Type B): Wolf has been a Met killer (3.34 ERA in 174 career IP) since his days in Philadelphia. He is 32 years old and has a history of arm injuries, but is nonetheless an interesting pitcher to consider.

Recommendations:
I think the Mets should make a serious run at C.C. Sabathia. It will cost a ton of money, but he is the best pitcher on the market and may prefer to stay in the NL where he dominated in 2008. The Yankees have deeper pockets, and I think he will ultimately sign in the Bronx. More realistically, I would look at Derek Lowe for a 3-4 year contract at about $12-14 million per. I like Lowe’s durability, low walk totals (2.53 BB/9 for his career) and few home runs allowed (0.72 HR/9 for his career). Plus he has playoff experience and a World Series ring, if that stuff matters to you. Oddly enough, I’m rooting for a bad playoff performance the rest of the way for Lowe, so his value isn’t driven up too high.

Additionally, I think Odalis Perez should be looked at as a potential 5th starter. If a trade can’t be executed to acquire a starting pitcher, the Mets are looking at Jon Niese or someone else from within the organization to be the #5. Why not give Perez a shot on a 1 year, $1-$2 million deal?

Projected realistic 2009 starting rotation, if I had it my way:
#1 – Johan Santana
#2 – Derek Lowe
#3 – Mike Pelfrey
#4 – John Maine
#5 – Odalis Perez/Jon Niese/Jose Lima
(note: obviously, I'm just kidding about Lima Time!)

The rotation was strong this season, but the loss of Oliver Perez must be addressed. I think this projected rotation is an improvement from 2008. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of this, and check back for my bullpen recommendations tomorrow.

I thought you were better than this, Jerry Manuel

Excerpts from Saturday's NY Times, following the re-signing of Jerry Manuel:

“What has been done in the past is that you get so many statistical people together — they put so many stats on paper — and they say, ‘Well, if you do this and you score this many runs, you do this that many times, you’ll be in the playoffs,’ ” Manuel said Saturday in a conference call after the Mets announced that he had agreed to a two-year contract. “That’s not really how it works. And that’s what we have to get away from.”

I added the bold. What exactly do the Mets have to get away from? Finding players with good statistics? Scoring runs? I'm happy Jerry has little to no say about which players the Mets are looking to acquire. Jerry should stick to what he's good at: promoting a loose atmosphere for his players and handling the media. Also, here are the NL teams with the best run differentials this season:

Cubs (+184) - Best record in NL
Phillies (+119) - 2nd best
Mets (+84) - 4th best
Brewers (+61) - 3rd best
Cardinals (+54) - 5th best (tied)
Dodgers (+52) - 7th best
(note: the Houston Astros were were tied for 5th best record despite a run differential of -31)

I would argue that if a team simply scores a lot more runs than it gives up, the team will be successful. Yes, the Mets missed the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion and that is unacceptable. But no, it did not happen because they had "so many statistical people". More Jerry brilliance:

“You don’t see a lot of guys that have statistical numbers play well in these championship series,” Manuel said. “What you see is usually the little second baseman or somebody like that carries off the M.V.P. trophy that nobody expected him to do."

World Series MVP, last 10 years:
1998: Scott Brosius
1999: Derek Jeter
2000: Mariano Rivera
2001: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling
2002: Troy Glaus
2003: Josh Beckett
2004: Manny Ramirez
2005: Jermaine Dye
2006: David Eckstein
2007: Mike Lowell

Only Eckstein and Brosius could conceivably be called "the little second baseman or somebody like that". Jerry, I'll take Glaus, Ramirez, and Dye, you can have Eckstein and Brosius.

NY Times link courtesy of ShysterBall.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Offseason Part 1 - The Lineup

Here is part 1 of my offseason recommendations series. I’ll start with the lineup. First, a couple notes. Per MLB rules, teams are only allowed to sign a certain number of “Type A” or “Type B” free agents each offseason, depending on certain circumstances I won’t delve into too deeply here. For the sake of this series of posts, I project that the Mets will sign up to 4 of these Type A and B free agents. Read here for a summary of these confusing rules. The complete list of Type A and Type B players is released after the postseason ends. Click here and here for last year’s lists as a point of reference.

Also, I realize the need for trades this offseason, but I’m not going to make proposals when I have no insider information if either team is actually interested (i.e. “How about we send Jose Reyes to Seattle for Felix Hernandez?”). This is a worthless endeavor, which I’ll leave to WFAN callers. I will instead comment on players I think should be traded, and what type of player they should look for in return. If I read confirmed reports of players on the trading block, then it is useful to discuss.

Projected starting position players, prior to trades/signings:
Catcher – Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro
1st Base – Carlos Delgado
2nd Base – ????
3rd Base – David Wright
Shortstop – Jose Reyes
Left Field - ????
Center Field – Carlos Beltran
Right Field – Ryan Church

Luis Castillo will almost certainly not return, leaving via trade in which the Mets will have to eat a lot of salary. Perhaps they can package him with expendable Nick Evans to acquire a young prospect or a major league ready starting pitcher. The Mets plan to pick up Delgado’s option, and they’d be foolish not to. If the bought him out, they’d have to pay $4 million, so his $12 million option only costs $8 million. Barring a “f*cking A” trade opportunity (i.e. Reyes for Albert Pujols), I wouldn’t trade any of the Mets’ Big 3. I’m apprehensive about anointing Daniel Murphy a starter at 2B. However, I’m a big fan of his (I sponsor his Baseball Reference page), and he earned atleast the opportunity to fail after his play in August and September. His progress at 2nd base in the Arizona Fall League will be monitored. Here are free agent options, with projected status (Type A or B):

Mark Ellis, 2B: Ellis is coming off of season ending shoulder surgery, and finished 2008 with an unimpressive line of .233/.321/.373. He is a strong fielder, and would probably garner only a 1-2 year contract wherever he ends up. He would come cheaply, freeing up more $$ for other positional needs. Ellis could be an insurance policy should Murphy fail to progress at 2nd base.

Orlando Hudson, 2B (Type A): Known more for his excellent defense (average FRAA of +16 the last 6 seasons), Hudson is strong at the plate as well. Since learning to be more patient at the plate a few years back, Hudson has posted OBP’s of .354, .376, and .367 the last 3 seasons. He will be 31 next season, and is looking for a 3-4 year deal.

Bobby Abreu, LF (Type A): Even at age 34 this season, Abreu posted a very similar line to Carlos Beltran. (Abreu: .296/.371/.471; Beltran: .284/.376/.500) He still knows how to get on base, which would be useful in the 2-hole. This is not a Moises Alou-type injury prone older player – Abreu has played atleast 151 games each season since 1998. However, he is a butcher in the field, and won’t be improving anytime soon.

Milton Bradley, LF (Type B): Milton is known more for his hilarious name and insanity streak, but quietly put up one of the top 5 offensive seasons in baseball in 2008 (.321/.436/.563). He made it clear he is looking for a multi-year deal, which is problematic mainly because he is injury prone, averaging just 100 games played per year since 2003. One thing is for sure – when healthy and not bringing the ruckus, Milton is a very productive major league hitter.

Adam Dunn, LF (Type A): Probably the most polarizing player available this offseason, Dunn elicits more angry comments at MetsBlog than even Aaron Heilman. I am a Dunn fan, because he gives you 40 homers and 100+ walks like clockwork (seriously, he's hit exactly 40 homers each of the last 4 seasons). He is also quite durable. The downside is his poor defense, high strikeout rate and low batting average (which is not a big problem as long as he’s OBP is .380+, as it has been every full season of his career). I don’t think the Mets will aggressively pursue him, but if he’s still available late this offseason and the Mets need a left-fielder, he could come cheaply.

Raul Ibanez, LF (Type A): Ibanez reminds me of Abreu, in that he is very durable and is good for a solid OPS around .825 every season. He is also 36 years old. He was a late bloomer, as he didn’t start everyday until age 30. Historically, he has not been an exceptional defensive player, but had an acceptable 2008 in the field. I’m a fan of his, and maybe he’d want to come back to the city where he was born for a 3-year deal.

Manny Ramirez, LF (Type A): Even at age 36, Manny is just as good as he ever was. His work ethic is apparently maniacal, and his destruction of NL pitching in 2008 has been historically good (213 OPS+ in 53 games). The Mets lineup would be the best in the NL immediately upon signing Manny. However, I’m weary of him after the garbage he pulled this season with the Red Sox, and I think his production would slip after getting that desired 4 year, $80+ million deal.

Juan Rivera, LF: Newsday writer Ken Davidoff has recommended Rivera for the Mets. He’s had some recent injury problems, but would come cheaply after a subpar 2008 in which he OPS’d .720. One benefit of signing Rivera is that more money would be freed up to potentially acquire higher priced player, and he probably won’t be a Type A or Type B free agent.

Fernando Tatis, OF: Fernando must pass a physical after that nasty shoulder injury he sustained in September. He would be useful off the bench, or as a starter in the OF should the decide not to upgrade in the LF. A slight dropoff from his great 2008 performance would be expected, but I think he is a safe bet to OBP .350 and SLG .450, even in limited PA's.

Recommendations:
I would love for the Mets to sign Orlando Hudson to a 3-4 year deal at $7-8 million per. However, based on the projected Type A/Type B free agents they can sign, I don’t think Hudson would be the best way to go. Instead, I would look at Mark Ellis as a backup to Daniel Murphy at 2nd base. It may be tough to lure him from Oakland, as A’s GM Billy Beane is apparently a fan of Ellis. Also, it may be hard to get Ellis to switch coasts.

I don’t think the Mets should aggressively pursue Manny Ramirez. If signed, the Mets would have to go cheap in the rotation and bullpen. Instead, I like Raul Ibanez for 3 years and $24 million give or take a few million. Many fans will look at his age as a negative, but as I noted Ibanez is quite durable. For those interested, Ibanez is a career .305 hitter with RISP. If Ibanez is off the market, I would be pleased with Bobby Abreu or an undervalued Adam Dunn. Additionally, re-sign Fernando Tatis.

I would not be heartbroken if they signed Hudson rather than an outfielder. Ellis may be unavailable, and there are few other viable options at 2nd base. Plus, there are a number of solid OF free agents available following the 2009 season (Jason Bay, Matt Holliday), meaning a 2009 LF manned by Fernando Tatis, Murphy, and Evans may be serviceable. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This offseason, Omar Minaya will probably have to choose 2nd base or LF to commit major $$. Based on their other needs, the Mets probably can’t afford to sign both Hudson and a Type A OF.

Projected 2009 lineup, if I had it my way:
1. Jose Reyes, SS (2008 OPS: .833)
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B (.871)
3. Carlos Beltran, CF (.876)
4. Carlos Delgado, 1B (.871)
5. David Wright, 3B (.924)
6. Raul Ibanez, LF (.837)
7. Ryan Church, RF (.785)
8. Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro, C (.707/.753)
(note: I spent about 30 seconds with this lineup order, so it’s probably not the most efficient one possible)

Projected bench:
C Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro (.707/.753)
2B Mark Ellis (.694)
OF Endy Chavez (.638)
1B/OF Nick Evans (.706)
OF Fernando Tatis (.853)

As I've written previously, the lineup was not a huge problem this year. I think the big $$$ should be spent on the pitching staff. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of this, and check back for my starting rotation recommendations.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jerry "American Gangsta" Manuel back as Mets manager

I'm sure most have heard by now that Jerry Manuel will be back as Mets manager. He signed a 2-year deal with a club option for a 3rd. I am fine with this, although I was excited this morning about reports that Bobby Valentine was interested in the job. It would've been fun to have Bobby V. and his sly fox grin back at Shea. However, Jerry did a good job this season and has a managerial style more along the lines of Bobby V. then Willie Randolph. I'm glad this was sorted out sooner rather than later.

Now the Mets can focus on what's important this offseason: signing C.C. Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, AND Francisco Rodriguez. It would only cost about $60 million per season - what a steal!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Free agents for the Mets to consider

Over the coming week, I will take a look at free agents the Mets should look into this offseason. You can see a complete list of available free agents for the 2009 season listed here. The following are players I think the Mets should atleast consider:

Second Base:
Mark Ellis
Orlando Hudson

Outfield:
Bobby Abreu
Milton Bradley

Adam Dunn - (let the uproar begin; pre-emptively I'll tell you I don't think the Mets should seriously pursue him)
Raul Ibanez
Manny Ramirez
Juan Rivera


Starting Pitchers:
Jon Garland
Derek Lowe
Carl Pavano - (JUST JOKING!)
Oliver Perez
C.C. Sabathia
Randy Wolf


Relief Pitchers:
Jeremy Affeldt
Luis Ayala
Joe Beimel
Juan Cruz
Brian Fuentes
Will Ohman
Darren Oliver
Francisco Rodriguez

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun with statistics - Pedro's 4 year contract

Pedro Martinez has almost certainly thrown his last pitch for the Mets. His 4-year, $53 million contract is up. I was happy when the Mets signed Pedro, though I wish it could have been a 2 or 3 year contract instead of 4. There's a reason no other teams were willing to give an aging, fragile power pitcher like Pedro that 4th year. Nevertheless, he provided the Mets a truly dominant 2005, half a great year in 2006, and 1/6 of a good season in 2007. For fun, I figured out how much the Mets paid over the 4 years for Pedro's various statistics:

$114,224.14/K

$670,886.08/start

$1,656,250.00/win

$108,903.36/inning pitched

$7,061.96/pitch

Ability to make teammates crack-up at his wild antics: priceless

I wish Pedro the best of luck wherever he signs for 2009. He will certainly end up in Cooperstown as a 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer 5 years after he hangs it up.