Sunday, November 30, 2008

Raul Ibanez: An older and left-handed version of Pat Burrell

I'm a little late to the game here, as other Mets blogs have covered the Mets' strong interest in signing Raul Ibanez. The general consensus is that it really does not make sense to go after him to play LF. (Side note: About 2 months ago, I was in favor of signing him, but I changed my mind after doing some more research).

These are the facts:
1) Ibanez is 36 and bats left-handed. The Mets have a greater need for righties.
2) He's durable and consistent - put him down for 150 games and a .285/.350/.480 line.
3) He is awful defensively (4th worst LF in baseball from '06-'08)
4) Factoring offense and defense, he was the 14th best LF in baseball in 2008, behind luminaries like David Dejesus and Willie Harris.

I'm fine with the LF platoon of Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy in 2009. Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are free agents next off-season; wait until then to find a long term solution for the position. However, if the Mets are set on signing a poor-fielding LF for about a 3-year deal this offseason, why not go after right-handed Pat Burrell? Take a look at how they stacked up in 2008:

To recap:
1) They were almost exactly the same player, and their career numbers are very similar.
2) Burrell is younger and bats right-handed.
3) Burrell will likely be pricier, but not so much that he would break the bank.

Let me make it clear - I'm not advocating signing "Pat the Bat". I'm simply saying that if the Mets decide to sign a LF, they should go after Burrell instead of Ibanez.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Top 10: Mets named in the Mitchell Report

The Mitchell Report was released in December 2007, implicating 89 current and former players who allegedly used performance enhancing drugs. It's not surprising that a fair amount of these 89 have ties to the Mets, as former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski was instrumental in the distribution of PED's to players. I present the top 10 Mets named in the Mitchell Report, based on overall career performance and performance for the Mets:

10. Guillermo Mota

Mota was phenomenal down the stretch for the 2006 Mets (18 IP, 1.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP). I think we now know why - he was suspended for 50 games to start the 2007 season after testing positive for PED's.

9. Scott Schoeneweis

Current public enemy #1 or #2 for Met fans, Schoeneweis reportedly used PED's to help heal cancer. He had an awful 2007 season, but his 2008 was really not bad. He failed in a couple big spots, which is what sticks in most fans' memories. However, he was great against lefties, holding them to a .520 OPS against.

8. David Segui

Segui only played 125 games for the Mets, but enjoyed a solid 15 year career. He retired with a career OPS+ of 110, and was capable in the field.

7. Matt Franco

Along with Lenny Harris (and Marlon Anderson for 2 months in 2007), Franco is remembered as one of the best pinch-hitters in recent Mets history. He knew how to draw walks, and his OBP was usually 100 points higher than his BA. His biggest Met moment was hitting the game winning single off Mariano Rivera in a Subway Series game in 1999.

6. Todd Pratt

"Tank" was a gigantic human being, and his inclusion in the Report might explain why. He was a solid backup to Mike Piazza, and his series-ending homer against the Diamondbacks in the 1999 NLDS will never be forgotten.

5. Paul LoDuca

Loduca posted a SLG of .543 in 2001, then never produced higher than .428 after that. I'd say that's a telltale sign of PED use. I have favorable memories of LoDuca, and his 2006 was strong for a catcher. Mothers, lock up your teenage daughters when Paulie is in town...

4. Mike Stanton

For whatever reason, I had negative feelings about Stanton's performance as a Met. However, I looked up his stats and found his 2004 season in Flushing wasn't half bad. He'll be remembered for the 3 rings he won with the Yankees.

3. Mo Vaughn

I don't know what Steve Phillips was thinking when he traded for Vaughn before the 2002 season. Fat and slow first baseman do not age well, and Vaughn came to the Mets at age 34. However, from 1993-1998 he was one of the top 10 best hitters in baseball.

2. Lenny Dykstra

Dykstra was one of my favorite players, even on the Phillies. Learning of his probable PED use tarnished my image of him. I'm not old enough to have any conscious recollection of his days with the Mets, but I've watched the 1986 Mets video enough times to tell you how valuable he was to that team. His 1993 season with the Phillies was truly remarkable - .305/.420/.482 with 37 stolen bases.

1. Todd Hundley

Hundley is tied with Carlos Beltran for the club single-season HR record, with 41. The difference is, Beltran's 41 were likely hit without the aid of steroids. Hundley is a poster child of the steroid era - a light hitting catcher who all of a sudden mashes 71 homers over 2 seasons, and retires at age 34 due to injury.


Honorable Mention: Paul Byrd, Mark Carreon, Chris Donnels, Josias Manzanillo, Fernando Vina

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2009 Mets offense projection

The godfather of baseball statistics, Bill James, recently came out with his annual projections for major league players. The projections show up on each player's page at FanGraphs. Here is what James predicts for the Mets offense in 2009:

A few notes:
A) I included Damion Easley, despite the fact that I don't think he'll be a Met in '09. There was no projection for Argenis Reyes - I guess James realizes that he is not in the Mets' future plans. I omitted Marlon Anderson's projection as well.
B) I think Jose Reyes's projection is too low. I think Luis Castillo's is too high, but if he can produce like that in 2009, what a bonus.
C) James thinks David Wright will have another monster year, comparable to his outstanding 2007.
D) The Daniel Murphy projection is too generous. Also, I'd be very surprised if Murphy logs 456 AB's in 2009.

Is this a lazy post? Yes, but it gives us something fun to look at while no signings or trades are happening. Also, the total RsBI for these players is 770.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mets Geek column: Available and underrated starting pitchers

My weekly Mets Geek column is linked here, where I look at solid 2nd tier starting pitchers who may be available via trade or are free agents. I used the fielding independent statistic "FIP" for the basis of the analysis. No surprise that I recommend seeking a trade to acquire my favorite White Sox pitcher, Javier Vazquez.

While I'm glad Omar Minaya is being patient this offseason (compared to last year's trigger-happy Luis Castillo signing on Nov. 19), it's frustrating that nothing is happening. It's like the movie "Jarhead" - lots of waiting, not much action.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Omar: Say NO to Jason Varitek

I feel the need to shoot down one Mets offseason rumor. Jon Heyman wrote in his offseason blog:

"Should the Mets find a deal for their catchers, longtime Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, a free agent, could be a possibility for them. Mets GM Omar Minaya has always liked Ivan Rodriguez, but it isn't known whether they'd consider I-Rod, as well."

First off, how worthless is the sentence about Rodriguez? It adds nothing. He might as well write: "Omar Minaya has always liked sushi, but it isn't known if he'd consider it for dinner tonight." Second, if the Mets trade 32 year-old Brian Schneider or 32 year-old Ramon Castro and sign 36 year-old Jason Varitek, I might just give up. Here are some relevant stats:


There is no logical reason to do this. Schneider is set to make $5 million each of the next 2 seasons, and Castro costs $2.5 million next year. Varitek would likely cost more than that. Why trade a guy, only to replace him with a worse, more expensive player? Last time I checked, old catchers like Varitek don't often experience a career renaissance in their late 30's. The Mets got league average production from the catcher position this year. There are other areas to worry about.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mets eligible to appear on the 2009 Hall of Fame ballot

Voting results for the 2009 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame won't be released until January, but because this is a slow period in Mets-land, I took a look at former Metropolitans who are eligible this year. It turns out there are quite a few, each with a varying length of Mets tenure and impact. The full list is linked here. A screening committee weeds out guys who have no shot at induction. The final list of players on the actual ballot will be much shorter. Here are your eligible former Mets:

- Jay Bell
- Mike Bordick
- David Cone
- Rickey Henderson
- Todd Hundley
- Graeme Lloyd
- Pat Mahomes
- Jesse Orosco (still amazing how long he played for)
- Craig Paquette
- Rick Reed
- Rich Rodriguez
- Mo Vaughn

Rickey is the only one on this who is a no-doubt first balloter. I love to see the results of HOF voting, because there is always some ridiculous voter who gives the likes of Bell a vote. For instance, last year Chuck Knoblauch, Shawon Dunston and Todd Stottlemyre received votes. I'll probably post closer to the announcement of inductees regarding justification for my personal HOF ballot, but I would vote for the following players:

- Bert Blyleven
- Rickey Henderson
- Tim Raines
- Alan Trammell

The curious case of Aaron Heilman

Aaron Heilman has made it clear that he wants to be a starting pitcher. I believe he has earned the chance to start, but the Mets do not see him as a starter. I fully support trading him to a team which would give him a chance to start, especially if it means getting some bullpen help in return. Today on MetsBlog, Matt Cerrone writes:

"Last night on SNY’s Mets Hot Stove, SI.com’s Jon Heyman again referenced Heilman’s ‘high-back elbow,’ which Mets officials believe could lead to injury if he throws more than 100 innings in a season, similar to Mark Prior."

Heilman has had the same delivery as long as I can remember. I'm assuming he had the same delivery in college. Now take a look at his IP during the time he was a starter:

1999: 109 IP (sophomore year at Notre Dame)
2000: 103 IP (junior year)
2001: 152.1 IP (senior year and A ball)
2002: 146 IP (between AA and AAA)
2003: 159.2 IP (between AAA and the majors)
2004: 179.2 IP (between AAA and the majors)
2005: 108 IP (majors)

As far as I can tell, Heilman has never had arm trouble or made a trip to the DL. I'll accept the Mets saying they don't see him as a starter because he sucks or they don't think his stuff is conducive to starting, but please don't try to justify it by saying he'll get injured if he pitches more than 100 innings. This is an insult to Heilman. Additionally, take a look at his stats his senior year at ND:

15-0, 114 IP, 1.74 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 3.58 K/BB, 0.24 HR/9..... WOW.
(Note: I'm not presenting his college stats as support for his inclusion in the Mets rotation. I am just awed by those numbers)

***EDIT***: Eric Simon at Amazin' Avenue pointed out that I'm wrong about Heilman's delivery never changing - good catch. His current delivery is the same as the one he used in college and the early part of his Mets career. He switched to a more over-the-top delivery in the minors, but reverted back to his college mechanics in 2005.

***EDIT #2***: I found an old scouting report on Heilman from 2002, when he had the same delivery as he does today. It's linked here. Here's what the scouts had to say about Heilman:

"Strengths: His three-quarters delivery is easy and fluid, reducing the stress on his arm, a key trait for a pitcher who will be counted upon to eat innings at higher levels."

Assuming this scouting report is accurate, Heilman's delivery would not make him an injury risk if he became a starter. I honestly don't know what Jon Heyman is talking about, and he has been peddling this "high elbow injury" story about Heilman for awhile now.

George Steinbrenner's reign ends: Costanza relieved

I'm sad to see the George Steinbrenner era end, not so much because I'll miss him, but because I still miss the great caricature of him Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld created on the show "Seinfeld". He, along with Jackie Chiles, was probably my favorite minor character on the show. So I present YouTube compilations of every Steinbrenner appearance on the show. Each is 10 minutes long, FYI.

Part 1 is linked here.

Part 2 is linked here.

"We must get the calzones George!"

"You know as painful as it is I had to let a few people go over the years. Yogi Berra, Lou Pinella, Bucky Dent, Billy Martin, Dallas Green, Dick Howser, Bill Virdon, Billy Martin, Scott Marrow, Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, Billy Martin.."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The final word on MVP voting, from the great Joe Posnanski

Joe Posnanski is one of the best, if not the best, baseball writers in the country. He embraces sabermetrics and has a seemingly endless well of entertaining stories. I also link to his great blog. Today, he took a writer named Thomas Boswell from the Washington Post to task for a poorly written article which explained that Ryan Howard and not Albert Pujols was the deserving NL MVP. As most people with a brain can comprehend, Pujols was by far the most valuable player in the NL (and all of baseball) in 2008. If you have a few minutes, read Joe's blog entry linked here. I'll paste a couple of my favorite lines:

"And I know that Boz understands that Pujols is a much better player because he spends the next paragraph pointing out that, yes, Howard can’t field, and yes Pujols outhit him, and yes Howard strikes out a lot while Pujols walks a lot. He knows this to be true. But you know the Seinfeld line about how impressed he is that the Chinese are sticking with chopsticks (”Oh, they’ve seen he fork. They don’t care. They’re sticking with the chopsticks”). Well, Boz is sticking with those RBIs"

Brilliant. Another gem:

"King Kaufman over at Salon wrote something the other day that I really liked. He wrote that the methodology for some voters seems to be: “Figure out who you like as MVP, then fashion the current year’s definition of ‘valuable’ to fit.”

Also brilliant, although Joe himself didn't come up with the line.

I won't dive too deeply into specifics of this year's crop of horrible awards ballots, because it's been done ad nauseum elsewhere. Click here, here, and here if you'd like to read some well-written stuff that criticizes the voting. Suffice it to say that, for once, the voters got the award winners right.

Additionally, Check out Beyond the Boxscore's list of the top 50 position players in baseball this year, factoring in offense, defense, and position. Notice something? Howard is nowhere to be found. Wow.

***EDIT***: At Fangraphs, Check out Eric Seidman's well thought and objective (Eric is a Phillies fan) argument why Howard should not have sniffed the MVP Award this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Revised projected Mets 2009 roster

Shortly after the Mets season ended, I posted my offseason recommendations. After thinking about it a little more, and following the offseason developments, I've come up with a revised version of my recommended roster. Here it is, keeping in mind that I think putting together this roster is feasible and fiscally reasonable:

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

Bullpen (7)
CL - Francisco Rodriguez
J.J. Putz
Pedro Feliciano
Brian Stokes
Sean Green
Duaner Sanchez
Joe Beimel

Starting Lineup (8)
Jose Reyes, SS
Carlos Beltran, CF
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Delgado, 1B
Fernando Tatis, LF
Ryan Church, RF
Brian Schneider, C
Luis Castillo, 2B

Bench (5)
Daniel Murphy, LF/2B (platooned with Tatis in LF)
Jeremy Reed, OF
Ramon Castro, C
Nick Evans, OF/1B
Alex Cora/some other reserve middle IF, 2B/SS

Top 10: Best offensive seasons in Mets history

Check out my latest column over at Mets Geek for my top 10 individual offensive seasons in Mets history. Darryl Strawberry's 1987 was the best in my opinion. Feel free to disagree.

In other news, thank goodness Albert Pujols won the MVP yesterday. The voters are 5 for 5 so far - AL MVP is announced today. I'm pulling for Joe Mauer, but if Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youkilis wins I'm OK with it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The difference between the Mets and Phillies in 2008

This post is about 1.5 months too late. David Wright and Jose Reyes could've used it when everyone wanted their heads on a platter following the final game of the season. I think calmer heads have prevailed, and Met fans generally realize that trading one of the "core" (Wright, Reyes, and Carlos Beltran) would be unnecessary and stupid. I present the hitting, starting pitching, and relief pitching stats for the Mets and Phillies in 2008. The Phillies postseason stats are not counted:


To summarize:
a) The Mets and Phillies scored the exact same number of runs.
b) The Mets starting pitchers were slightly better than the Phils', and pitched a few more innings.
c) The Phils' bullpen was far superior to the Mets' bullpen.

The Phillies had a great bullpen, made the playoffs, and won the World Series. They were praised as "gritty" and "determined" and whatever other meaningless adjective you want use. The Mets had a garbage bullpen and missed the playoffs for the 2nd straight year. They were branded "choke artists" and "un-clutch" and "TRADE REYES HE DANCES TOO MUCH OMG OMG" and "TRADE WRIGHT HE ISN'T CLUTCH THIS TEAM NEEDS A SHAKEUP."

This all said - go out and improve that pitching staff Omar Minaya!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

K-Rod rumored to be in NY; MetsBlog disses the reporting newspaper

According to the newspaper "El Universal", Francisco Rodriguez is in New York for a physical exam, possibly prior to signing a contract with the Mets. This in itself is not big news, as I don't really take much heed to any of the "hot stove" rumors floating around. However, Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog had this so say about the rumor:

"...I hate when this happens…time and time again, reports from foreign newspapers indicate items that never come true, when dealing with the baseball rumor mill…yet, i have to post them, because you just never know.."

Look, I love MetsBlog, and it has done a great job of keeping track of all the Mets rumors this offseason. I posted saying as much last week. But to make a statement like this is to imply that the rumors provided by Jon Heyman, Ken Rosenthal, etc. are 100% accurate simply because they are from United States publications. Why should this rumor be discounted just because it's from a "foreign" newspaper? There are a myriad examples of the mainstream UNITED STATES media being totally wrong or providing conflicting reports. Off the top of my head, I was able to come up with the following:

1) Hours before the Mitchell Report is released, NBC posts a list of players implicated in the report (including Albert Pujols and Jeff Bagwell) which turns out to be completely false.

2) Chris Mortensen of ESPN says that the Buccaneers are going to acquire Brett Favre. The next day, Favre is traded to the Jets. Mort is generally wrong on his "breaking stories."

3) My personal favorite, from MLBTradeRumors on Nov. 5th:
9:42am: According to Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox are aggressively shopping Javier Vazquez.
8:43pm: Ken Davidoff says the White Sox are not anxious to unload Vazquez.

The lesson in all of this is that these hot stove rumors should not be treated as anything but rumors. I feel like many fail to grasp this idea. Additionally, it is possible that some Met fans and blog readers are Venezuelan, and look to "El Universal" for their news. Heck, Johan Santana and Endy Chavez are Venezuelan. It can't make them feel too good to read that their country's newspaper (especially a reputable one that's been around since 1909) is being discredited simply for being foreign. Rant over.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The importance of 0-1 vs. 1-0 counts

The great baseball site FanGraphs recently added some new statistics to its already extensive database. One which I will look at today is "F-Strike %". For batters, F-Strike % is how often the player gets behind 0-1 in the count, or puts the first pitch in play. For pitchers, it tells us how often the player gets ahead 0-1 in the count. Again, it counts a ball put into play on the first pitch thrown as a strike. Let's take a look at the F-Strike %'s for the Mets' pitching staff members who logged 30+ IP, as well as their BB/9:


With the exception of Nelson Figueroa, it appears there is a decent correlation between F-Strike % and BB/9. This demonstrates something we've all heard since Little League - the importance of throwing a first pitch strike. It's a pretty obvious concept, but I think it's interesting to see the statistics that support it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

RIP Fire Joe Morgan (2005-2008)

A sad day, as one of my favorite blogs, Fire Joe Morgan, is calling it quits. Click here for the post by Ken Tremendous AKA Michael Schur AKA Mose Schrute explaining why.

If I had to choose between "The Office" (the great TV show Schur writes for and executive produces) and FJM, I think I would choose FJM. Unfortunately for us, there is infinitely more money to be made in producing one of the most popular TV shows than writing for a widely read but non-revenue-generating blog.

Nonetheless, Happy Friday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Minor griping - NL Cy Young Award

Times are slow in Mets universe, but I can never pass up a chance to gripe at the BBWAA (the group of writers that votes on postseason awards) for their poor award voting. Yesterday, they rightfully voted Tim Lincecum the NL Cy Young winner. My ridiculously minor and borderline pointless complaint is with who came in 2nd and 3rd in the voting. Take a look at the stats of the following two mystery players:

X: 226.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.82 K/BB, 0.52 HR/9, 139 ERA+
Y: 234.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 3.27 K/BB, 0.88 HR/9, 166 ERA+

Somehow, player X finished 2nd and player Y finished 3rd. If you haven't guessed by now, player X is Brandon Webb and player Y is our own Johan Santana. I tried not to cherrypick my stats too much here, but these are some of the major stats I look at when evaluating pitchers. The only difference between these two was their meaningless W-L records: Webb went 22-7 while Santana went 16-7. It's nice to see some progress here, evidenced by Lincecum taking down the award. However, these voters really have to stop being blinded by W-L record. It's pitiful.

The two NY writers who voted were David Lennon of Newsday and Adam Rubin of the Daily News. Lennon's decent ballot went:

1. Santana
2. Lincecum
3. Brad Lidge

Rubin's questionable ballot omitted Santana completely:

1. Lincecum
2. Webb(!!!!!!!!)
3. Lidge

Seriously Adam, your Daily News page says you're a graduate of the Wharton School of Business at UPenn, and you really think Brandon Webb and Brad Lidge were more deserving of the Cy Young Award than Johan Santana, the guy who led the league in IP and ERA? Really?! Hopefully you're not voting again anytime in the near future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Self Promotion - Mets Geek column

Recently I was offered an opportunity by the good people at the excellent blog Mets Geek to write a weekly column. I took them up on the offer, and my first column, which takes a look at the 2008 Mets' plate discipline, is linked here.

Feel free to let me know what you think, and hopefully I can produce some relevant and interesting columns in the weeks to come.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Adam Dunn: Free agent steal?

Before everyone freaks out and thinks I'm an advocate of aggressively going after Adam Dunn this offseason, let me say that I'm not. However, if the Mets are still in the market for a LF after taking care of their pitching needs, Dunn might not be a bad option. Here is my case for the big (6'6", 245 lbs.) man:

a) He is ridiculously consistent. Put him down for 40 homers (he's hit EXACTLY 40 homers each season since 2005), 100+ walks, and a line around .240/.380/.520. Those home runs are not cheapo - he led all of baseball in average home run distance this season.
b) He is durable. Since becoming an everyday player in 2002, Dunn has missed just 69 out of a possible 1134 games.
c) For whatever reason, it seems like there's not too much interest in Dunn and his career .899 OPS. For comparison, Mark Teixeira's career OPS is .919. The Mets could sign him for below market value.

To be fair, there are significant negatives to Dunn's game:

a) He is a poor defensive OF. My only remedy is to move him to 1B in 2010 after the Mets presumably cut ties with Carlos Delgado.
b) He strikes out a lot. Some people think this is a big negative. I don't, as long as he puts up great OBP and SLG. In most cases, there is no difference between a strikeout and groundout/fly-out.
c) He has a low BA. For his career, he's batted just .247. Again, I don't think this is a huge problem as long as his OBP and SLG are solid.

Dunn is such a polarizing player - his detractors are always very vocal and have strong opinions about him. (See Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P Ricciardi's comments from this summer) However, I'm a big fan, and would love to see him, his 40 homers, and .380 OBP batting 5th or 6th in the Mets lineup next year.

The calm before the free agent storm

Things are slow in the world of the Mets right now, but the free agent signing period will begin soon. The Mets will certainly be active, whether it be signing free agents or making trades. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, click here for some pics of old friends Lastings Milledge and Manny Acta displaying the new Nationals uniforms (which look similar to the old Nationals uniforms). The young lady pictured below is modeling one of the new uni's.




Saturday, November 8, 2008

Willie Randolph is employed once again

Former Mets manager and "True Yankee" Willie Randolph has been hired by the Brewers as bench coach for new manager Ken Macha. Here is my favorite part of the AP report on Willie's hiring:

"Randolph said that he called Macha to congratulate him and catch up on old times. Macha offered him the bench coach job about four hours later. “I was really shocked and flattered he called me back,” Randolph said."

It seems like Macha was trying to decide on a bench coach and said, "Hey, who was that dude who called me a few hours ago? Randolph? OK let's give him the job!" Terms of the contract are not disclosed, but he will be "double dipping", as he is still owed $2.25 million next season from the Mets. The Brewers make their first and only visit to Citi Field the weekend of April 17-19 next season. I expect the New York media to unnecessarily work itself into a frenzy re-living Willie's firing in June 2008.

Fun fact: Macha replaced Art Howe as A's manager prior to the 2003 season, and Willie replaced Howe as Mets manager prior to the 2005 season.

FIP and the importance of defense

I've touched on this before, but fielding independent pitching (FIP) is a stat that approximates what a pitcher's ERA would be based on outcomes that do not involve fielders - strikeouts, walks, and homeruns. The stat was created on the premise that a pitcher has little to no control over balls in play that are not home runs, and the rate of hits allowed on balls in play is a function of luck and the defense behind the pitcher.

To this end, FIP (and other defense independent pitching statistics) is a better way to project future pitcher performance than ERA, which depends largely on the defense of a pitcher's team. To demonstrate the importance of the defense played behind a pitcher, I took a look at the top 5 and bottom 5 teams in baseball at defensive efficiency for 2008, according Baseball Prospectus. I then looked the difference between FIP and ERA for these teams. If ERA is greater than FIP, I would expect that the team's pitchers had poor defense played behind him. If ERA is less than FIP, I would expect that the pitchers had good defense played behind him. The numbers next to each team are the difference between ERA and FIP, and the team's overall ranking in this category. Remember, a negative number indicates a team's ERA outperformed its FIP, and vice versa:

Top 5 Defensive Teams
1. Tampa Bay Rays: -0.41 (2nd)
2. Chicago Cubs: -0.22 (6th)
3. Toronto Blue Jays: -0.32 (4th)
4. Oakland A's: -0.18 (8th)
5. Boston Red Sox: -0.08 (12th)

Bottom 5 Defensive Teams
26. Seattle Mariners: 0.13 (23rd)
27. Colorado Rockies: 0.47 (29th)
28. Pittsburgh Pirates: 0.26 (26th)
29. Cincinnati Reds: 0.01 (14th)
30. Texas Rangers: 0.53 (30th)

This is not an exact science - I'm not implying there is a direct correlation between team defensive efficiency and difference between ERA and FIP. However, it appears there is some kind of relationship there. I'd need to look at historical statistics to draw some kind of definitive conclusion. Hopefully this isn't too confusing.

In 2008, the Mets' team ERA was 4.07, and team FIP was 4.32, for a difference of -0.24 (rounded). They were 6th in baseball in defensive efficiency. Do not underestimate the importance of defense - this difference between ERA and FIP would equate to about 39 runs for the 2008 Mets.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Baseball's Offseason: the "Hot Stove"

I've received a couple emails suggesting I provide updates on which players the Mets seem to be targeting this offseason. The main reason I don't is because other sites are much more capable of providing this information. The following are 3 of the best sources of this "hot stove" info:

- MetsBlog

- MLBTradeRumors

- Ken Davidoff's Baseball Insider column

All 3 post multiple times daily about the day's developments. MetsBlog is the best source for strictly Mets related items. As I have written previously, I won't make posts suggesting shot-in-the-dark trades, but I will write about trades/free agent signings that are reportedly being discussed or on the table, i.e. the Javier Vazquez post I made last week.

Happy Friday!

High comedy from Scott Boras

Superagent Scott Boras is known for putting together absurd presentations about just how superterrific his clients are. Oliver Perez is a client, so naturally Boras created a "book" on Ollie. Michael Smith of the New York Times writes about chapter titles in the book, including "Perez Is One of Baseball’s Top 5 Left-Handed Starting Pitchers" and "A Rare Young Left-Handed Starting Pitcher Available on the Free-Agent Market." (link via Amazin Avenue) On one hand, I applaud Boras for doing his job, which he is one of the best at. On the other hand, I have to laugh at how silly his representations about Perez are. Rob Neyer at espn.com writes about the contention that Perez is one of baseball's top 5 left-handed starting pitchers:

"With the "help" of Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, I made a list ranking, in order of ERA+, all the left-handed pitchers with at least 450 innings over the last three seasons. Is Ollie in the top five? Yes, he is. If you rank them in ascending order. Which is a problem for Perez, because when it comes to ERA+, big is better. Perez has actually been the fifth-worst left-handed starter from 2006 through 2008. Perez's ERA+ over that span is 94, in the same neighborhood as Jarrod Washburn and Nate Robertson."

In fairness, Ollie pitched poorly in 2006, but even if you look at 2007-2008, he was just 11th in ERA+ amongst lefty starters. (disclaimer: ERA+ is not the ONLY stat to determine how good or bad a pitcher is, but it's better than what Boras was using) I'm going to assume general managers are not dumb enough to read nonsense from Boras and take it as truth. Stories like this illustrate how important it is to use relevant statistics to correctly assess a player's worth.

I'm going to name all of the lefty starters in baseball whom I would rather have than Oliver Perez. Can you name any others?:

- Johan Santana
- CC Sabathia
- Cole Hamels
- John Danks
- Cliff Lee
- Scott Kazmir
- Mark Buehrle
- Joe Saunders
- Jeff Francis
- David Price

Exciting as it sounds, I don't think I would enjoy being a baseball player agent. I could not meet with a client, and say with a straight face that Jason Varitek is worth 4 years, $52 million, as Tek's agent Scott Boras did. This is the same Jason Varitek who went .220/.313/.359 in 483 PA's this year. $13 million a year? That sounds about right.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Postseason Awards: MVP Award

This is part 3 of my postseason awards ballot. Again, the listed stats are not the only ones I considered.

NL MVP
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals - .357/.462/.653, 96.8 VORP, 13.0 WARP1, 6.39 WPA
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2. Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros - .312/.420/.567, 72.2 VORP, 10.9 WARP1, 6.71 WPA
3. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins - .301/.400/.540, 80.7 VORP, 10.3 WARP1, 4.74 WPA
4. David Wright, 3B, Mets - .302/.390/.534, 66.2 VORP, 9.6 WARP1, 4.18 WPA
5. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies - .292/.380/.535, 62.2 VORP, 10.4 WARP1, 1.47 WPA
Honorable Mention - Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, Carlos Beltran

The gap between Pujols and Berkman is intentional, to demonstrate how far ahead of everyone else Mr. Pujols was this season. He should be the unanimous MVP. His season at the plate was historically great, and he is the best defensive 1B in the game. Those who feel Wright's struggles with RISP warrant putting him lower on this ballot should note that he was 6th in the league in WPA (a kind-of, sort-of measure of "clutchness").

AL MVP
1. Joe Mauer, C, Twins - .328/.413/.451, 55.5 VORP, 9.6 WARP1, 4.88 WPA
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox - .326/.376/.493, 62.3 VORP, 9.8 WARP1, 3.29 WPA
3. Grady Sizemore, CF, Indians - .268/.375/.502, 62.7 VORP, 8.1 WARP1, 3.48 WPA
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox - .312/.390/.569, 55.8 VORP, 8.4 WARP1, 2.33 WPA
5. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees - .302/.392/.573, 65.6 VORP, 8.9 WARP1, 0.47 WPA
Honorable Mention - Carlos Quentin, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley

This race is much closer, but I went with Mauer mainly because he plays the toughest position on the field and led the league in WPA. If the award went to Mauer, Pedroia, Sizemore or Youkilis, I would not be surprised/upset.

Check out this link for the Internet Baseball Awards voting. I did not participate, although I gladly would have. Maybe I could take the place of the possibly braindead participant who voted Scott Schoeneweis #2 for NL MVP, and John Maine #1 for NL Cy Young.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Postseason Awards: Cy Young Award

Here's part 2 of my postseason awards ballot. It's also the only award where a Met has a legitimate shot. Again, these are not the only stats I used to determine my ballot.

NL Cy Young Award
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants - 223 IP, 2.62 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 72.5 VORP, 4.59 WPA
2. Johan Santana, Mets - 234.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 73.4 VORP, 4.08 WPA
3. Ryan Dempster, Cubs - 206.2 IP, 2.96 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 57.5 VORP, 3.54 WPA
4. Cole Hamels, Phillies - 227.1 IP, 3.09 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 56.3 VORP, 2.51 WPA
5. C.C. Sabathia, Brewers - 130.2 IP, 1.65 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 1.00 WHIP, 52.2 VORP, (don't know half season WPA)
Honorable Mention - Brad Lidge, Brandon Webb, Dan Haren

This was a coinflip. Lincecum's FIP and ERA were almost exactly the same, whereas Santana's FIP was almost a run higher than his ERA. This is due to the Mets' far superior defense (2nd in the league compared to the Giants who were 13th), and Santana's ability to strand runners. He led the majors in LOB%, at 82.6% of runners stranded. Maybe it's unfair to penalize Santana for having a far superior defense behind him. Put Lincecum in front of the Mets defense this year, and he might have had a historically great season. However, I did factor in Santana's incredible last start of the season, and performance in the pennant race. In the end, I chose Lincecum.

AL Cy Young Award
1. Cliff Lee, Indians - 223.1 IP, 2.54 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, 75.0 VORP, 5.96 WPA
2. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays - 243.2 IP, 2.81 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 1.06 WHIP, 71.5 VORP, 3.47 WPA
3. Jon Lester, Red Sox - 210.1 IP, 3.21 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 58.2 VORP, 3.04 WPA
4. Ervin Santana, Angels - 219 IP, 3.49 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, 50.3 VORP, 3.48 WPA
5. John Danks, White Sox - 195 IP, 3.32 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 52.8 VORP, 2.99 WPA
Honorable Mention - Mike Mussina, Scott Baker, Joe Saunders

This was almost as tough a decision as the NL race. Lee pitched fewer innings, but was slightly more effective in those innings. If Halladay won I wouldn't call for a recount.

Tomorrow: the MVP Award

Rob Neyer is a Javier Vazquez fan

Rumors of the Mets interest in Javier Vazquez have circulated from various reliable sources. What's known is that the White Sox are looking to trade him. What's not 100% known is if the Mets are interested and what it will take to acquire him. I posted last week that I fully support trading for Javi Vazquez, as he is a solid, underappreciated pitcher. Today, the great Rob Neyer from espn.com (subscription only) agreed:

"Here's a question: Which teams wouldn't have interest in Javier Vazquez?... The White Sox will trade Vazquez to any team that will simply take on the remaining $23 million on his contract? There's going to be a line around the block. But this is not a salary-dump situation. If somebody gets Vazquez it'll cost them $23 million and a solid prospect or two. Maybe he's not the guy to win the big game for you. But he's definitely one of the guys who will get you to the big games."

Neyer has long been the most rational and possibly best baseball writer out there. It's hard to disagree with him on most of what he writes, and this passage is no different. I've read on some Mets blogs today generally negative thoughts on Vazquez. However, none of these posts were based in statistical or objective thinking - they were based on Mike Francesca type statements, i.e. "he's not clutch", "he can't handle the limelight", "he chokes in big games", etc.

Go get Vazquez if you can, Omar Minaya. The thought of this rotation is beautiful:

1. Johan Santana
2. Derek Lowe
3. Javier Vazquez
4. Mike Pelfrey
5. John Maine

Yes, Vazquez is better than Pelfrey (right now).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Postseason Awards: Rookie of the Year

Over the next few days, I'll post my picks for the major postseason awards: Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP. Every sportswriter/blogger has weighed in by now with their picks, so I'll spare extensive analysis of each race. Keep in mind postseason performances are not weighed in the determination of these awards.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs - .285/.364/.504, 39.3 VORP, 7.0 WARP1
2. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds - .297/.368/.506, 34.0 VORP, 6.6 WARP1
3. Jair Jurrjens, P, Braves - 3.68 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 33.0 VORP
4. Hiroki Kuroda, P, Dodgers - 3.73 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, 31.2 VORP
5. John Lannan, P, Nationals - 3.91 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 25.1 VORP
Honorable Mention - Jay Bruce, Clayton Kershaw

The listed stats are not my only basis for the ballot, and I don't consider VORP the ultimate statistic for determining most valuable players. However, my list coincidentally suggests this line of thinking. Soto vs. Votto was a tossup, but I gave Soto credit for playing a tougher position and being on a playoff team.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays - .272/.343/.531, 34.8 VORP, 8.1 WARP1
2. Joba Chamberlain, P, Yankees - 2.60 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 32.3 VORP
3. Mike Aviles, SS, Royals - .325/.354/.480, 35.0 VORP, 5.6 WARP1
4. Armando Galarraga, P, Tigers - 3.73 ERA, 4.88 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 31.2 VORP
5. Alexei Ramirez, 2B, White Sox - .290/.317/.475, 20.7 VORP, 3.3 WARP1
Honorable Mention - Brad Ziegler, Greg Smith, Jose Arredondo

Longoria is the runaway winner here. Aviles had a solid season, but his .359 BABIP was quite lucky and unsustainable considering his 20.2 LD%. He didn't display much patience at the plate, as he drew just 18 walks. Look for him to regress in 2009. I didn't even realize Joba qualified as a rookie until I started looking at the stats.

Tomorrow: the Cy Young Award

Carlos Beltran is the best defensive CF in baseball

Congratulations to Carlos Beltran, who was given the Fielding Bible Award as best defensive CF in baseball by the for the 2nd time in the last 3 years (he came in 2nd in 2007). For a complete list of this year's winners, go here.

The Fielding Bible Awards are voted on annually by a panel of 10 writers, radio hosts, and researchers, including Bill James, Rob Neyer, and Joe Posnanski. These gentlemen are generally statistically minded fellows, and I consider the awards to be infinitely more relevant than the silly Gold Glove Award.

Beltran remains underrated, in my opinion. He plays the 3rd or 4th hardest defensive position on the field, and is the best at it. Other Mets who placed in the top 10 at their respective positions:

- David Wright, 5th (tied)
- Jose Reyes, 10th
- Johan Santana, 6th