Saturday, January 31, 2009

Which Mets pitchers will elicit groans at Citi Field?

The collapse of the 2007 Mets caused fans to be impatient with the 2008 Mets pitching staff. Audible groans could be heard at Shea Stadium when Mets pitchers fell behind 2-0 or even 1-0 in the count, no matter the inning or situation. Let's take a look at the projected 2009 Mets pitching staff's "Zone %" (percentage of pitches in the strike zone) and "F-Strike %" (first strike percentage) from 2008 to determine which pitchers may cause rumblings from the fans at Citi Field:

J.J. Putz's numbers look like a fluke, as his F-Strike % and Zone % have been outstanding throughout his career. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Francisco Rodriguez. As anecdotally frustrating as he was, Billy Wagner could come in and throw strikes. Johan Santana had a down year in both statistics, and was still terrific. Hopefully Mets fans will be more patient in 2009, though I fear they won't after 2008's finish.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Links: Mets catchers, Heyman = clueless, Heilman, and perception vs. reality

Here's some links to check out while you wonder why only one Mets blogger heeded my advice to shut up about Manny Ramirez:

1) Rob at Amazin' Avenue takes a look at the Mets catching situation, namely Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro:

"Basically, what I'm saying is that our catching situation is fine. It's not great, but it's not bad either. Like I said, its league average, which is more than enough to win. I have just been amazed by how many people consider it one of Omar's cardinal necessities to improve the catching situation."

I agree, and I'm glad that Met fans have dialed down the support for an upgrade at catcher. Schneider and Castro's contracts expire after 2009, so catcher will need to be addressed next offseason.

2) R.J. Anderson at Beyond the Boxscore quickly and neatly takes apart Jon Heyman's ridiculous statement that free agent OF Garret Anderson has "been among the more productive outfielders in the AL over the last several years." Heyman is pretty good at being a baseball "insider", even if there are 5 false rumors for every 1 he has right. However, he is simply embarrassing at analysis.

3) Poor Aaron Heilman. He was traded again, this time to the Cubs. He was one of my favorite Mets (less so in 2008), and I hope he finds success in his post-Mets career. The Cubs don't come to Citi Field until September - imagine Heilman starting a game against the Mets in the heat of a pennant race.

4) The blog What's A Tarrarel? picks apart the classic Hall of Fame argument that usually goes something like this:

"I don't need numbers to tell me a player is Hall worthy - I saw him play, and that is enough for me! Only math geeks and losers living with their parents think Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines should make it!"

The Hall of Fame voting process is something of a fascination for me, and I wish every voter who put Jim Rice, Jack Morris, or Andre Dawson on their ballot could read this great little piece.

Mets 2009 rotation: Could it be identical to 2008's?

It seems inevitable that the Mets will sign Oliver Perez, and Jon Heyman at SI reports that Omar Minaya's undying love for Pedro Martinez may lead to a contract. I know I've said it before, but it is time to cut ties with Pedro. There's nothing more to say about that possibility. Also, assuming Ollie is signed for $10 million a year and Pedro $4 million (plus incentives?), I'd estimate team payroll to be around $140 million. This just about confirms that no significant upgrades would be made at the corner OF position.

The strategy for the rotation appears to be similar to the corner OF strategy. Why sign an impact player (i.e. Adam Dunn) when you can have Cory Sullivan, Rob Mackowiak, and Angel Pagan? Why acquire a front-line starting pitcher (i.e. Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets, or Javier Vazquez) when you can have Oliver Perez, Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia, and Pedro Martinez? I liked the Redding and Garcia contracts, but only if coupled with a Lowe or Sheets signing. Lowe is now a Brave, and it doesn't seem like Sheets-to-the-Mets is likely.

If the 2009 rotation is Santana-Pelfrey-Perez-Maine-Martinez/Redding/Garcia, it projects to be identical or slightly worse than 2008's:

The projections seem reasonable except Pedro's, which I think is too generous. The bullpen has been upgraded, but not by as much as one would think. The lineup also projects the same or slightly worse than 2008. I'll hold off until the team is finalized before judging Omar Minaya, but at this point it doesn't seem like 2009 Mets will be better than the 2008 Mets.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fun with win expectancy: June 30, 2000 - Mets 11, Braves 8

A win expectancy graph is pretty self explanatory. It tells us the the probability that a team will win a game at any point in that game, based on score, innings, situation, etc. The graph above is from the Mets-Braves game on June 30, 2000 which the Mets memorably won 11-8. It was played on a Friday evening which also happened to be "Fireworks Night" at Shea Stadium. Through the first 7.5 innings it looked like only the post-game fireworks would be the only thing cheered that night. Heading into the bottom of the 8th, and the Braves ahead 8-1, the Mets win expectancy stood pretty close to zero. Then the following happened:

Derek Bell, single
Edgardo Alfonzo, flyout to CF (1 out)
Mike Piazza, single
Robin Ventura, RBI groundout (2 outs, 8-2 Braves)
Todd Zeile, RBI single (8-3 Braves)
Jay Payton, single
Benny Agbayani, walk
Mark Johnson, RBI walk (8-4 Braves)
Melvin Mora, RBI walk (8-5 Braves)
Derek Bell, RBI walk (8-6 Braves)
Edgardo Alfonzo, 2 RBI single (8-8 tied!)
Mike Piazza, 3-run home run (11-8 Mets)
Robin Ventura, groundout (end of inning, 11-8 Mets)

Other than Ventura making 2 outs in the same frame, wow, what an inning. It's pretty simple to locate the bottom of the 8th on the win expectancy graph. The Mets went from 0.5% to 96.7% in one turn at bat. I was fortunate enough to watch this game on TV in its entirety, and it's still of my favorites ever. Piazza's laser 3-run shot off Terry Mulholland must have gone out of the park in no more than 1.5 seconds. Best of all, most of the 52,000+ remained in to see it happen because they were waiting for the postgame fireworks. I'll post more win expectancy graphs (courtesy of Fangraphs) from memorable Mets games from time to time.

Short, semi-angry post: Enough with the Manny talk

If I read one more post by a Mets blogger about Manny Ramirez I'm going to scream. Yes, he'd fit in nicely in the Mets lineup and I'd be thrilled to have him. He'd also cost a boatload of money (he already turned down 2 years, $45 million from the Dodgers). As it looks right now, the Mets will not have enough $$ to sign Manny. Enough already.

**EDIT**: An e-mailer asked why I don't think Manny is a realistic option. By my calculation, the Mets payroll is around $125-127 million right now. I'm assuming they will sign Oliver Perez or Ben Sheets (more likely Ollie). That's $135-$137 million. Manny will cost atleast $22 million, which would send the payroll into the range of $160 million. I feel secure in saying that Omar Minaya does not have $160 million to spend on the 2009 Mets.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mets Geek column: Bracing for disappointment

Check out my latest Mets Geek column, where I take a look at 4 Mets who may regress from their 2008 performances based on statistical indicators and injury potential. They are Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Daniel Murphy, and Fernando Tatis. I hope all of them have awesome years, but there are definitely concerns about each of these players' production declining for various reasons.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A team composed of the remaining free agents

With about 3 weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, an astounding 90+ free agents remain unsigned. Here is a team composed entirely of these free agents, which I think would be a playoff contender in the National League:

Rotation
Ben Sheets, Andy Pettitte, Randy Wolf, Oliver Perez, Jon Garland

Bullpen
Juan Cruz (closer), Will Ohman, Joe Beimel, Russ Springer, Jason Isringhausen, Eric Gagne, Braden Looper (long-man)

Lineup
C - Jason Varitek
1B - Adam Dunn
2B - Orlando Hudson
3B - Joe Crede
SS - Orlando Cabrera
OF - Manny Ramirez
OF - Jim Edmonds
OF - Bobby Abreu

Bench
Ivan Rodriguez, Kevin Millar, Ray Durham, Ty Wigginton, Eric Hinske

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Links: Mets on SI covers, Strikeouts and the "Curious Case of Forrest Gump"

Some links to check out while you wonder why the Mets let Dwight Gooden pitch 744.2 innings before he turned 22 years old:

1) Eric Simon at Amazin' Avenue presents part 1 of a visual history of Mets who made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Check out the cover featuring Ron Swoboda from 1968. He bears a slight resemblance to David Wright, from the side atleast.

2) The always insightful Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts writes about the stat "K/100", which is strikeouts per 100 pitches. Lederer says this is better than K/9 for measuring a starter's effectiveness, as it combines strikeout ability with pitch count maintenance. The average starter has lasted about 100 pitchers per start in recent years, so I think he's on to something here. In 2008, out of 142 pitchers that logged atleast 100 IP, Johan Santana was 18th with 5.73 K/100. Oliver Perez was 30th with 5.35 K/100 and Mike Pelfrey was 122nd with 3.31 K/100. Improve that strikeout rate Big Pelf.

3) At mlb.com, Matthew Leach writes about the changing perception of strikeouts for hitters. Leach writes:

"A player who strikes out 100 or more times can still be thought of as a winning player if he does the other things right: specifically, getting on base and hitting for power. For a hitter, the key question is: Did you make an out, or not? Above anything else, "statheads" rightly boil things down to that fundamental issue. Outs are bad. Any plate appearance that does not end in an out is good."

This concept is not anything new to informed baseball fans, but it's nice to see such a piece on mlb.com. Leach also discusses fielding independent pitching stats (such as FIP and tRA), which are better for predicting future performance and assessing a pitcher's value. Analysts on the MLB Network cited ERA+ recently, so maybe progress is being made on the advanced-statistics-as-mainstream front.

4) Unrelated to baseball, but check out this video from Funny or Die comparing "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" to "Forrest Gump." I haven't seen Button, but after watching the video it looks like I can save my $9.75 and just re-watch the DVD of Gump instead.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mets sign backup OF Rob Mackowiak - Why?!

Lefty hitting OF Rob Mackowiak has signed with the Mets on a 1-year minor league deal worth atleast $600K. Mackowiak is yet another crappy corner OF the Mets have acquired or re-signed this offseason along with Jeremy Reed, Cory Sullivan, and Angel Pagan. I don't understand this signing and think it's a total waste of money. Apparently Omar Minaya's philosophy is "Why sign 1 very good corner OF (Adam Dunn) when I can have 4 shitty ones?" That is one crowded OF, with Ryan Church, Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy in the mix. Does Omar realize that a team can only have 25 players on its roster?

Anyways, Mackowiak can play a lot of positions decently and will likely put up a line around .250/.330/.370 if he makes the team. I just don't see where he fits in. I'd have much rather seen the money given to Sullivan and Mackowiak go towards the "Ben Sheets Fund."

Mets sign RHP Freddy Garcia - Rotation still needs help

The Mets signed right-handed starting pitcher Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal, according to Adam Rubin at the Daily News. Reportedly, Garcia can make as much as $8-9 million if he makes the team and reaches a bunch of incentives. Those better be some lofty incentives if the Mets are to pay $8 million to a guy who has pitched a combined 78 innings (majors and minors) over the last 2 seasons due to injury.

This is a good pick-up, especially if Garcia can return to his workhorse 1999-2006 form. He has a career FIP of 4.22 in 1700+ innings, and I could see him making 10-15 starts this year. I really hope Ben Sheets is signed as well. It doesn't seem like the Mets have any interest in Andy Pettitte (unfortunately), so I'll give up on that pipe dream. I've said it over and over again, but at this point Oliver Perez at any more than $9 million a year just isn't going to cut it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How much were Mets pitchers worth in 2008?

FanGraphs now has win value stats up for pitchers. The stat "WAR" (wins above replacement) tells us how many "wins" a player contributes over a replacement pitcher, which is defined as a readily available pitcher whose performance is well below league average. I understand the calculations of WAR for hitters, but I'm still trying to make complete sense of it for pitchers. Nevertheless, this is pretty high-level stuff and can decently pinpoint just how much a player is worth based on performance. Here are Mets pitchers' WAR, $$ worth for 2008 assuming a value of about $4.5 million per win, and actual salary:

A few thoughts:
1) Johan Santana is awesome. Hopefully he can keep it up for a few more years.
2) John Maine was worth more than Oliver Perez despite pitching 50+ fewer innings. Enough said. 3 years, $30 million Ollie - take it or leave it.
3) Sayanora Pedro Martinez, Aaron Heilman, and Scott Schoeneweis.
4) This stat suggests that middle relievers and closers are overrated and generally paid more than they're really worth. Interesting.

Again, this win value stuff isn't infallible but it's well researched by some smart people. Click here for an introduction to pitcher win values. Hopefully free agent signings will start to pick up soon - check out the impressive list of players still available.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Former Mets GM Steve Phillips to announce on Sunday Night Baseball

This has to be a joke right? According to Neil Best's Watchdog blog, Steve Phillips will be joining Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in the booth on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball to form perhaps the worst announcing trio in the history of sport (no exaggeration). Tuning in will be a painful experience, between Miller's "bel-TRAN!" and "SAFE!", Morgan's ignorance and Phillips's inane ramblings. Here are a few Phillips gems from over the years, courtesy of Fire Joe Morgan:

"You talked a little bit about the scouting reports and also about statistics. Where do the Cleveland Indians fall in this era where numbers have become more important than maybe the people?" - During an interview with Indians GM Mark Shapiro

"The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox could both score 1,000 runs this season." - The Tigers scored 821 runs; the Red Sox, 845

"Bonds is just like Giambi in that he walks a lot and hits some home runs, but when he's not hitting the home runs he's a baseclogger." - Baseclogging. Nice.

Quote of the day about Oliver "Overrated" Perez

My favorite line of the day, courtesy of Dave Cameron at Fangraphs. At the end of a post on win value statistics, he writes:

"Over the last four years, Oliver Perez has been worth a total of 2.5 wins in nearly 600 innings. And he wants $12 million a year for 5 years. Maybe he's the left-handed Gil Meche, and he's going to turn the corner immediately after signing a big contract, but there's about a 5% chance of that being true and about a 95% chance that he's the most overrated pitcher in baseball."

Anyone familiar with what I've been writing here and at Mets Geek over the last few weeks knows that I agree 100% with what Dave is saying. Perez may be the most overrated pitcher in baseball... wow. Do you think Omar Minaya reads FanGraphs? (Note: The 2.5 wins Dave mentions are not wins as in W-L record for a pitcher - it's wins above replacement. For comparison, Johan Santana has been worth 24.3 wins over the last 4 seasons spanning 900+ innings.)

Mets Geek column: Let's get Pettitte

Check out my latest Mets Geek column, where I further explore the merits of signing Andy Pettitte. As I wrote last week, I am very much in favor of a 1 or 2-year deal for Pettitte, should negotiations with Ben Sheets fall apart.

Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog thinks Sheets is looking for a deal of about 2 years, $18 million with incentives and a 3rd year option. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but if it's true Omar Minaya should sign him ASAP. That would be a great contract, even with Sheets' injury risk.

Monday, January 19, 2009

WBC rosters announced

The World Baseball Classic provisional rosters have been released. A number of current Mets are included, but aren't necessarily going to play. David Wright, Brian Schneider, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Alex Cora, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Feliciano, Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz, Nelson Figueroa, and Jose Reyes are on rosters. Here's a quick look at other notable players and their countries:

Australia - Grant Balfour, Ryan Rowland-Smith
Canada - Rheal Cormier, Jeff Francis, Eric Gagne, Rich Harden, Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Joey Votto, Jason Bay
China - ????
Chinese Taipei - ????
Cuba - ????
Dominican Republic - Jose Arredondo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Vladimir Guerrero
Italy - Mike Napoli, Sal Fasano, Frank Catalanotto, Robert Fick, Nick Punto,Val Pascucci
Japan - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Kenji Johjima, Akinori Iwamura, Ichiro, Kosuke Fukudome
Korea - Byun-Hyun Kim, Jae Seo
Mexico - Oliver Perez, Matt Garza, Luis Ayala, Joakim Soria, Jorge Cantu, Adrian Gonzalez
Netherlands - Jair Jurrjens, Shairon Martis, Sidney Ponson
Panama - Bruce Chen, Manny Corpas, Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Lee
Puerto Rico - Pedro Feliciano, Ian Snell, Javier Vazquez, Geovany Soto, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios, Bernie Williams
South Africa - ????
United States - John Danks, Brian Fuentes, J.J. Putz, John Lackey, Brian McCann, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Jimmy Rollins, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, Grady Sizemore, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Ludwick
Venezuela - Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana, Victor Zambrano, Carlos Zambrano, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Endy Chavez

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mets sign LHP Casey Fossum

The Mets signed journeyman lefty Casey Fossum to a minor-league contract. This signing is not bad as long as Omar Minaya is not planning on handing a major league roster spot to Fossum on Opening Day. He is basically a lefty specialist, evidenced by these splits:

Career
vs. RHB: .845 OPS against
vs. LHB: .722 OPS against

2008
vs. RHB: .920 OPS against
vs. LHB: .674 OPS against

The Mets are paying Scott Schoeneweis $1.6 million next season to pitch for the Diamondbacks. He was a terrific lefty specialist last season (.520 OPS against), so it would be pretty foolish for the Mets to add a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy) to the 'pen after trading Schoew. Who knows, maybe the former 1st round pick Fossum can get his act together in AAA and figure out how to get righties out. Until then, he should not be on the New York Mets 25-man roster.

Batting Stance Guy impersonates the Mets

Here is a video of "Batting Stance Guy" doing his impersonation of various Mets hitters, past and present. It's pretty spot on, and I like his impression of David Wright the best. (via NY Baseball Digest).


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Links: Mets free agent news, Carlos Delgado in 2009, Bert Blyleven vs. Jack Morris, and more Hall of Fame

Some links to check out while you ponder whether Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame case is helped or hurt by the shirt he's wearing in this picture:

1) Peter Botte of the Daily News (via MLBTradeRumors) had some thoughts/rumors about the Mets free agent pursuits. Here they are, with my brief thoughts as well:

- The Mets are probably not interested in Andruw Jones: Good!
- They're "not even in" on Manny Ramirez: The only way I want Manny is if they fail to land Ben Sheets or Andy Pettitte. In that scenario they would have to drastically upgrade the lineup.
- They won't have an agreement with Oliver Perez anytime soon: Hopefully the only agreement they have with Ollie is for 3 years, $15 million or less.
- They've been in contact with Randy Wolf and Jon Garland: Neither of these guys thrill me, but they aren't that big a step down from Perez.
- They've talked with Freddy Garcia: Meh. I say sign him, but only if Sheets or Pettitte is signed as well.

2) Brian Joura at FanGraphs writes about what to expect from Carlos Delgado in 2009. He thinks Delgado's poor 2007 and first couple months of 2008 were a result of his wrist injury. After some great LD% and BABIP analysis, he concludes that we should expect a similar offensive output from Delgado in 2009 as 2008. This means about 30-35 HR, and a .265/.350/.510 line. Works for me.

3) Joe DelGrippo at NY Baseball Digest wrote a hilariously awful piece yesterday about why he would vote for Jack Morris but not Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame. Joey D. manages to insult many readers in the process. He wrote the piece in response to a comment I made on a previous post of his, and it is just terrible. Joey D's main argument is that Morris had a higher win % than Blyleven. This, as we all know, is an awful way to evaluate a pitcher. Check out the comments section - there's 24 comments and the only one's not completely ripping Joey D. a new one are the 2 he made himself. Here is a snippet from the post:

"Too many people are so wrapped up in statistics, especially the new stats that seem to spew out of every sabermetric bloggers mouth. Those bloggers are guys who mostly never played the game at any decent level above Little League, but they know the OPS+ of every guy not in the HOF but should be based on WARP 3."

Right. So basically he's saying stats are stupid, then goes on to tell us about Morris's win % and average W-L record each season. These are, ya know, stats. For the last time, Blyleven pitched 1000 more innings than Morris, with a higher K rate, lower BB rate, lower HR allowed rate, and MUCH lower ERA. Blyleven had a 2.47 postseason ERA and Morris a 3.80 ERA. It's no contest. If Mike Silva, proprietor of the recommended NY Baseball Digest, had any sense he'd either have a little chat with Joey D. or kick him off the site altogether.

4) I'm pretty obsessed with this Hall of Fame stuff. I have an utter contempt for the sportswriters who vote on the HOF and refuse to learn about or use modern statistics to evaluate players for their ballots. King Kaufman at Salon shares my sentiments:

"It's one thing to criticize the new stats. But it's another thing to simply dismiss them without bothering to figure out what they're all about. And then to try to pass this off as wisdom. It's what's going on in the world we're covering. In what other profession do practitioners brag about their ignorance regarding current events and developments? In what other area of journalism is lack of awareness a mark of distinction? Cut it out, fellow writers. Do your job. Engage with your material. Stay current. Learn about things you don't understand. Ignorance isn't a virtue. It's not something to brag about. It's something to fix."

I couldn't agree more. These men get paid to write about sports and have the privilege (not the right) to vote on the Hall of Fame. And many of them wear their lack of statistical knowledge as a badge of honor. Get with it guys. Modern medicine no longer practices phrenology or uses leeches as a cure; modern baseball writers should not be using W-L records, batting average and RBI to evaluate players.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How about Andy Pettitte?

My first choice for the Mets open rotation spot(s) is Ben Sheets. When healthy, he is a dominant, #1 type pitcher. I think Omar Minaya is reluctant to go after Sheets because he fears him turning into a younger version of injury prone Pedro Martinez and El Duque. I see Andy Pettitte as the next best option. Compare the FIP's of various pitchers:

Pettitte is not that big a dropoff from Derek Lowe. Forget Oliver Perez. The reason Pettitte isn't getting the respect he deserves this offseason was his inflated ERA (4.54 in 2008) due to bad luck and poor defense (see: Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano). He is a near lock for 200 IP even at age 36 and would be the #2 pitcher in the rotation. FanGraphs pegs Pettitte's 1-year contract value at $15 million and BtB said $14 million. He turned down 1-year and $10 million from the Yankees, and I would love to see the Mets offer as much as $12-13 million for 1 year of Pettitte's services.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Roundup: Mets sign Alex Cora, Johan and the WBC, Mota signs with Dodgers

1) The Mets signed 33 year-old utility man Alex "Joey" Cora to a 1 year, $2 million contract. Who needs Derek Lowe when you've got Alex Cora! Cora is an able fielder at 2B and SS. He's not much at the plate, but posted a career high .371 OBP last season. Expect a line of about .250/.320/.340. Also expect him to be better than Damion Easley or Argenis Reyes. It's an overpay at $2 million, but whatever. Cross this off the list of offseason priorities. The following areas still need to be addressed: starting pitcher, lefty reliever, corner OF.

2) Johan Santana says he will let the Mets decide if he plays in the World Baseball Classic for his native Venezuela in March. Remember he had knee surgery following 2008, so I hope the Mets advise Santana to pass. We'll see if Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez places a call to Omar Minaya about letting Johan play.

3) Former Met reliever Guillermo Mota signed with the Dodgers for 1 year and $2.35 million + incentives. This is an awful, awful signing. Mota posted a FIP of 4.45 and K/BB of 1.79 in 2008. According to the stat WAR, he was worth -$900,000 last year. That's right, he was worse than a replacement pitcher and therefore worth negative $$. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti continues to be one of the worst in the business. Just look at this laundry list of terrible free agent signings: Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones. Although he did acquire Manny Ramirez at the deadline last year, and the Hiroki Kuroda signing looks to be a good one.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Derek Lowe fallout

Derek Lowe signed with the Braves today for 4 years, $60 million. This is bad news because:

1) Lowe was the best remaining starter on the market and I wanted the Mets to sign him.
2) He signed with the Braves, who now have the best rotation in the NL East: Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, Kenshin Kawakami, Jorge Campillo and Tim Hudson (if he returns from injury)
3) This likely drives up the price for supposed "Plan B" option, Oliver Perez. As I wrote at Mets Geek today, Lowe is far superior to Ollie. I get the feeling many Met fans think they're close in value, but they simply aren't. Seriously, compare their FIP's and $$ value's based on the stat WAR over the last 2 seasons:

Lowe
2007: 3.97 - $13.1 million
2008: 3.26 - $15.8 million

Perez
2007: 4.35 - $8.5 million
2008: 4.68 - $5.3 million

I'd prefer it if Omar Minaya signed Ben Sheets, as Sheets is the last dominating pitcher left on the market. This seems unlikely. Apparently Omar is a huge fan of Ollie, so I think the Mets will go after him hard. This is not a problem, as long as the Mets do not overpay for him and have $$ leftover to sign Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez. However, if the Mets eventually sign Ollie for anything resembling 4 years, $52 million I plan to buy the URL: http://www.fiya-minaya.com/ (think "fire Minaya").

Mets Geek Column: Lowe vs. Perez

Check out my latest Mets Geek column, where I argue in favor of signing Derek Lowe over Oliver Perez. I think it's pretty clear Lowe is the better pitcher, even for the next 3-4 years. I'm dreading a scenario where the Braves sign Lowe for 4 years, $56 million, then the Mets lock up Ollie for 4 years, $52 million.

***EDIT***: Well Lowe signed with the Braves for 4 years, $60 million. This is bad news for so many reasons. More to come later.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Omar: Say NO to Michael Young

Yet another installment of my "SAY NO" series, it was revealed today that Rangers SS Michael Young has requested/demanded a trade after the team asked him to move to 3B next season. The Mets supposedly had interest in trading for Young last month to play 2B, and I wrote about it here. My stance against acquiring Young has not changed, and here are the reasons why:

1) He is 32 years old and owed $62 million over the next 5 seasons. That's $12+ million a year for a guy guy whose OPS+ has dropped like this:
2005: 138
2006: 107
2007: 106
2008: 96

2) He won a Gold Glove in 2008, but his defense isn't all that great. He's never posted a UZR better than -3.7 since becoming a regular major leaguer, and is a cumulative -22 on the Dewan +/- scale over the last 3 seasons. So that Gold Glove is kind of a sham.

3) A man by the name of Luis Castillo is currently 1st on the Mets depth chart at 2B. He would have to be traded before Young could be acquired. The Rangers have a 26 year-old star named Ian Kinsler manning 2B, so Castillo would not be a fit there.

I don't take this rumor seriously, and highly doubt Omar Minaya is seeking a trade for Young. But just in case - say no to Michael Young.

Corner OF's Henderson and Rice voted into Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Rickey Henderson for being elected to the Hall of Fame. Rickey is one of the greatest players of all time and he garnered 94.8% of the vote (but should've had 100%). To be elected, a player must appear on 75% of all ballots.

Congratulations to Jim Rice for being wrongfully elected to the Hall of Fame on his 15th and final year of eligibility with 76.4% of the vote. Apologies to the following OF's, who are as good or better than Rice as all around players and will never be elected:

- Dwight Evans
- Frank Howard
- Dave Parker
- Albert Belle
- Reggie Smith
- Roy White
- Brian Downing

Rice may have been the 3rd best OF on his own team during much of his career (behind Evans and Fred Lynn) and he makes the Hall. Meanwhile Bert Blyleven garners 62.7%, Tim Raines 22.6% and Alan Trammell 17.4%. Whatever. I came across a great quote from Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus:

"Bill James once wrote that the further removed you got from a player’s career, the more that career became about the player’s numbers. In Rice’s case, the exact opposite effect occurred. As we looked more and more at the numbers and realized that Rice had a short career, and a short peak, and didn’t hit all that well outside of Fenway Park, and his peak was more about counting stats built in a great lineup than what he did himself, and that he didn’t contribute very much outside of the batter’s box…his vote totals grew."

The members of the BBWAA (who vote on the HOF, and postseason awards like MVP and Cy Young) continue to embarrass themselves with these results. A total of 28 voters left Henderson off their ballots. Let me write that again: 28 current or former professional baseball writers do not think that Rickey Henderson, the all time leader in runs scored and stolen bases, the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history, is worthy of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. To quote ESPN's Jayson Stark: "Stupefying. Embarrassing. Inexcusable."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Links: Closer Music, Schneider's Defense, Hall of Fame, and a Rickey Drinking Game

Here's some links while wondering if Francisco Rodriguez loves the smell of napalm in the morning:

1) SNY's Ted Berg makes some non-traditional suggestions for Francisco Rodriguez's entrance music. Here is part 1 and here is part 2. These are my favorites:

"1. 4'33" - John Cage: Cage's piece, for the unfamiliar, consists of four minutes and thirty three seconds of no music at all. This would require a whole lot of fan participation. If everyone -- every fan, every vender, every usher, every bathroom attendant -- could remain silent while the pitcher walked in from the bullpen and threw his warm-ups, well, that'd be about as badass an entrance as I could imagine.

1.
Ride of the Valkyries - Richard Wagner: As far as I know, no closer has even considered something classical and so, while using "Ride of the Valkyries" to herald impending doom a la Apocalypse Now may be old news in some settings, on a baseball field it'd be brand new. And triumphant."

Can't argue with his #1 choice - I wrote a few months back that Ride of the Valkyries would be my entrance music.

2) Adam Rubin at the Daily News posted a reader's email which claimed that Brian Schneider was the cause of the Mets bullpen failures in 2008. The stats presented seemed cherry-picked and strange to me, but before I could take a closer look samt at Amazin' Avenue posted a rebuttal. Needless to say, I'm with samt on this one - Schneider is not Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate, but he certainly did not make Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano serve up gopher balls last summer.

3) The 70 year-old Hall of Fame voter named Corky Simpson who left Rickey Henderson off of his ballot regrets doing so. He says it was just an oversight and not an attempt to make a statement. Apparently he does not regret including Matt Williams on his ballot. Additionally, Simpson has some choice words for the Internet and presumably bloggers:

"I think of the literature on the Internet in the same way that I think of the literature on the walls of public bathrooms. With the exception that the literature on the walls of public bathrooms is a little higher class."

And

"The Internet is like a sewer. It’s very necessary, but you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time there."

Someone please tell me why people like this are determining who gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

4) Fantasy baseball website Razzball gives us the "Rickey Henderson Hall of Fame Speech Drinking Game." It's pretty hilarious and my favorite is:

"Tells a story using himself in the 3rd person: chug a beer"

Better get a 30-rack ready for Rickey's big speech.

Mets sign Tim Redding - Rotation still needs help

The Mets signed Tim Redding to a 1-year, $2.25 million contract with incentives. I previously advocated signing Redding, and I think this is a strong deal considering the cost. Marcel and CHONE project Redding at somewhere around 160 IP and a 4.90 FIP, which I'll gladly take from my #5 starter. Fangraphs likes the deal and BtB pegged his value at about $5 million. Of course his spot in the rotation isn't guaranteed, as Jon Niese could win the job in spring training.

I'm fairly certain the Mets will sign either Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez, and I really hope it's Lowe. A rotation of Santana-Pelfrey-Perez-Maine-Redding would be no better than last season's, especially considering the pitchers' health issues. Adding Lowe would be a significant upgrade, so let's hope the negotiations with Scott Boras go well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

FIP+ and the 2009 Mets rotation

A pitching statistic I have frequently used here is FIP (“fielding independent pitching”). It is superior to ERA for pitcher evaluation, as it removes the variables a pitcher has no control over – defense, bullpen, and luck. Instead, it focuses on outcomes the pitcher controls – strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. It is measured on the same scale as ERA and is better for predicting future performance. Read more about it in the pitching stat glossary section on the top right of the page. FIP+ adjusts a player’s FIP for league and park factors, similar to OPS+ and ERA+. A FIP+ of 100 is league average; a FIP+ of 110 is 10% better than league average. Let’s take a look at the 2008 FIP, FIP+, and ERA of the 2009 Mets starters and prospective Mets starters:

To summarize:
a) I hate to say it, but Johan Santana’s ERA in 2008 was somewhat lucky. His left-on-base % (LOB %) was unsustainably high. Coming off knee surgery, I think his ERA will regress in 2009. Then again, Citi Field may be a pitcher’s park in the mold of Petco Park so maybe his ERA will remain sub-3.00.
b) Derek Lowe was outstanding in 2008. His FIP was 3rd in the league behind Tim Lincecum and Danny Haren. He almost certainly won’t be able to repeat that performance, considering ’08 was a contract year and he’s 35 years old. I still think he’ll be a top tier pitcher for the next couple years – his 2009 Marcel projection has him at a 3.67 FIP. Compare to Santana, who is projected at 3.60 or C.C. Sabathia at 3.16.
c) Oliver Perez was 9% worse than league average in 2008, his contract year. This worries me. Tell me again why he’s worth $12 million a year? Don’t get me wrong – I like Ollie. I just don’t want the Mets to overpay for talent, especially in this off-season of bargains (Yankees signings excluded).
d) As I’ve posted previously, my ideal feasible 2009 Mets rotation would be Santana, Lowe, Pelfrey, Maine, and Redding, with Niese expected to make a few starts. Let’s see how this group’s FIP+ stacks up with those of the 2008 Phillies and Cubs, the top 2 teams in the NL last year:

Obviously we can’t expect these pitchers to perfectly match their 2008 performance. However, coupled with an improved bullpen and one of the top offenses in the league, the 2009 Mets would look pretty strong with this rotation.

Thanks to BtB for the FIP+ numbers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Links: Citi Field, Derek Lowe, Will Ohman and Rickey Henderson!

Here's some links to peruse while you ponder why Rickey Henderson's helmet always looked 3 sizes too small:

1) Eric Simon at Amazin' Avenue takes a look at how pitcher-friendly Citi Field will be. He interviews Greg Rybarczyk of the excellent home run tracking site Hit Tracker Online, who summed up his take on Citi Field in the Hardball Times Annual 2009 by writing:

"Citi Field, the new ballpark for the New York Mets, is poised to become MLB's new Grand Canyon." - YIKES!

2) Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog reports that today's meeting between Omar Minaya and Scott Boras (agent for Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, and Manny Ramirez) went well. Apparently, they only discussed Lowe and it looks like it will take some kind of 4th year option to secure the tall sinkerballer.
***EDIT***: Anthony DiComo of mlb.com now says Minaya spoke with Boras about Lowe, Perez, and Ramirez. Maybe a package deal for all 3?

3) David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via MLBTradeRumors) writes that free agent lefty reliever Will Ohman prefers to stay with the Braves "if offers are equal, etc." . This is code for "I'll sign wherever the money is." Last week I wrote at Mets Geek that the Mets need to sign another lefty reliever, just in case Pedro Feliciano gets hurt or is ineffective. Ohman is my top choice, especially because he's not just a lefty specialist - he held righties to a .700 OPS against in 2008.

4) Atleast one Hall of Fame voter left Rickey Henderson off of his ballot. This is sheer lunacy - even the biggest haters have to admit that Rickey is a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer. Check out Home Run Derby's compilation of the published HOF votes by sportswriters across the country. It's a quick and easy way to see which voters have a brain and which don't. Hint: anyone who votes for Jack Morris and not Bert Blyleven is brainless.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mets Geek column: Mets-Jets parallels

Check out my latest Mets Geek column, where I find some parallels between the 2008 Mets and Jets seasons. Here's a snippet:

"Mets: Johan Santana
Jets: Brett Favre (from Week 1 through Week 12)

Both of these superstars came to New York from midwestern teams with significant hype and expectations. Santana was brilliant from Opening Day through game 161. Despite a slight decline in his strikeout and walk rates, he was one of the top two best pitchers in the league along with Tim Lincecum. Favre was an MVP candidate through week 12, as he racked up 20 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. From that point onward, he became the Jets equivalent of Aaron Heilman, Luis Ayala and Scott Schoeneweis rolled into one.

Mets: The bullpen
Jets: Brett Favre (from Week 13 through Week 17)

The Mets bullpen wasn’t the only culprit in late 2008, but it was the biggest. The same can arguably be said of Favre. Yes, the Jets coaching staff made some odd play-calls and the dominant offensive line may have lost a step late in the season, but it’s tough to stay competitive when the quarterback is throwing pick after pick (nine interceptions in the final five games). Omar Minaya has blown up the Mets bullpen this offseason, but it remains to be seen whether or not Brett Favre will be back in 2009. Hopefully he’ll make a quick and definite decision to retire to the quiet life in Mississippi
."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Burrell and Bradley sign: How will this affect the Mets?

Pat Burrell and Milton Bradley signed contracts today with the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Why should Met fans care? Because these signings, along with the previous Raul Ibanez signing by the Phillies, will affect the Mets pursuit of an upgrade in LF. The major options left on the market are Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez. Let's compare these 6 players based on what they're worth and what some of them have already signed for. The column "WV $ in '08" is how much each player was worth in 2008 based on the win value system at FanGraphs. The column "BtB $ Value" is how much Beyond the Boxscore valued the player at heading into free agency. Neither of these measures is 100% infallible, but they're pretty good for our purposes:


It looks like Burrell and Bradley were signed for less than what they're actually worth. Bradley is a perpetual injury risk (he's played more than 101 games just twice in the last 7 years) and head case, but when he plays he can dominate (163 OPS+ in 2008). The Ibanez contract is at best a fair contract. Though it looks worse and worse after the bargain signings of Burrell and Bradley.

Considering these facts, it appears the Mets are in the driver's seat should they decide to pursue a defensive challenged LF. Could Dunn be had for 2-3 years and $8-9 million per? How about Abreu for 1 year, $7 million? Ramirez already turned down a 2 year, $45 million offer from the Dodgers, so I'm pretty sure he can't be had at a discount. Another option that several other Met fans have kicked around is Rocco Baldelli. He's a right-handed hitter with some medical/injury problems, but might be worth a risk for 1 year and $3 million or so. Plus Rocco seems to have a decent understanding of statistics, which is a plus in my book. I'd love to have Dunn playing LF in 2009 and then 1B in 2010, as I've covered over and over and over again. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like Omar Minaya and the Mets have any interest.

Free agent market should pick up

Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors foresees a busy week of free agent signings, as over 150 players are still currently unsigned. Pitchers and catchers can report on February 14th, so Tim is probably right. Many of these players will have contracts before then. Here is a partial list of players I think the Mets will atleast consider signing:

Starting Pitcher
Jon Garland
Derek Lowe
Odalis Perez
Oliver Perez
Tim Redding
Ben Sheets
John Smoltz
Randy Wolf

Relief Pitcher
Joe Beimel
Juan Cruz
Eddie Guardado
Will Ohman
Dennys Reyes
Brian Shouse

Infield
Joey Cora
Mark Grudzielanek
Orlando Hudson
Ty Wigginton

Outfield
Bobby Abreu
Rocco Baldelli
Pat Burrell
Adam Dunn
Manny Ramirez

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ken Davidoff's Hall of Fame Ballot - Brilliant!

Newsday's Ken Davidoff is one of my favorite baseball writers because his work incorporates advanced baseball statistics in such a way that the casual fan can understand and appreciate them. In this manner, he is similar to Joe Posnanski. He keeps an open mind about new ways to evaluate players, unlike the stubborn and close-minded Jon Heyman and Bill Conlin. Davidoff posted his 2009 Hall of Fame ballot and I could not be happier with it. It's nearly identical to mine. He's voting for:

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

I'd add Mark McGwire but will not shed a tear if McGwire never makes the HOF. Davidoff's ballot is noteworthy because in past years he voted for Jack Morris and Jim Rice. He correctly removed them this year because in the last 12 months Davidoff gained an understanding of higher-level stats like OPS+ and ERA+. Basically, he took the time to learn about and embrace these better stats rather than stubbornly sticking with RBI, batting average, W-L records and unproveable assertions about players being "most feared" or "most dominant". Bravo Ken Davidoff - the world of baseball journalism needs more writers like yourself.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 10: Worst Mets losses in 2008

On this gloomy Friday I present the Daily News list of the top 10 worst Mets losses in 2008. Surprisingly the list made me laugh more than it upset me. I attended #7 (1-0 loss to the Nats on May 15), which saw Mike Pelfrey throw 6 no-hit innings and ended in a Carlos Delgado double play line-out. Whatever - it's a new year, new season and I'm confident the Mets will be better in 2009.

The last week or so has seen an explosion of support for signing Manny Ramirez. There's even an online petition to sign him. I've already covered Manny here, so I'll just sum up my stance on him. He is still an outstanding right-handed hitter, but is a total butcher in the field. He's worth about $17-18 million but is looking for $23-25 million (he turned down 2 years, $45 million from the Dodgers). I'm all for the Mets signing him, provided they:

a) Sign Derek Lowe/Ben Sheets first
b) Can get Manny for 2-3 years, $18-19 million a year (highly unlikely)
c) Do not give him a final year option so he can pull the same crap again as he did in '08

Bottom line - Manny is a $25 million hitter but an $18 million player.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Projected Mets 2009 Roster

I've updated my projected Mets roster about once a month this offseason, so here is where it stands on January 1st. Remember this is what I think the Mets 2009 roster will look like - not what I want it to look like.

Rotation (5)
1 - Johan Santana
2 - Oliver Perez
3 - Mike Pelfrey
4 - John Maine
5 - Tim Redding/Freddy Garcia

Bullpen (7)
CL - Francisco Rodriguez
J.J. Putz
Pedro Feliciano
Brian Stokes
Sean Green
Duaner Sanchez
Tim Redding/Freddy Garcia

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

Bench (5)
Daniel Murphy, OF/2B
Jeremy Reed, OF
Ramon Castro, C
Fernando Tatis, OF/1B/3B
Alex Cora, 2B/SS

Total Payroll: $145-150 million

Keep in mind the payroll figure includes $$ owed Billy Wagner, Marlon Anderson and Scott Schoeneweis. Payroll in 2008 was around $140 million.