Thursday, December 11, 2008

K-Putz! JJ-Rod!

Wow, the Mets have a bullpen. I'm a believer that a team with playoff ambitions should have a strong 1-2 punch in the bullpen. Now, the Mets have one of the best combos in baseball.

It's arguable that there are better ways to spend $37 million than on a closer, but I generally won't argue too much against acquiring the best available players at a given position; K-Rod and Putz were the two best available relievers.

The Putz deal is a very nice move. He's clearly a huge upgrade over Aaron Heilman. I'll miss En-dy Cha-vez, but not anyone else in this deal. Sure, Joe Smith is a decent arm, but groundball machine Sean Green seems to be an adequate replacement. Mike Carp had a nice year in Binghamton, but is far from a blue chipper. Jason Vargas is no loss. I've never heard of the other two guys.

My only fear about this trade is that Omar will have too much faith in Jeremy Reed as a 5th outfielder and not make any more moves. I'm okay with the Murphy/Tatis platoon in left, but we need another legit righty outfielder to serve in a platoon with Church or as insurance for Tatis. Someone like Juan Rivera or Marcus Thames. Omar's done a bad job building a bench in the past, let's hope he doesn't fall in that trap again this time.

Remaining priorities:
Starting Pitcher!!! - Lowe? Sheets? Perez?
Another Starting Pitcher - are we really sure Niese is ready? Garland? Moyer? Wolf? Marquis?
2B - I haven't heard anyone mention him, but how about Grudzielanek?
OF - see above

semi-related note: Endy probably won't start every day, but when he does, an outfield of Endy, Franklin Gutierrez, and Ichiro will be ridiculously good.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

October 6, 1985 - 
One day after being eliminated from the race, the Mets close out the season by benching all their regulars. A seven year old boy attending his first game at Shea watches a bunch of players he's never heard of lose in under 2 hours by the score of 2-1.

September 26, 2008 - 
A thirty year old man attends his final game at Shea, suffering for three and a half hours as the Mets stumble through a 6-1 loss to the Marlins on a cold misty night. Two days later, the team's season predictably ends in disappointment on the final day of the season. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Absurdity of the Day:

Mike Nichols of metsblog: "As Keith Hernandez mentioned during SNY’s broadcast last night, it’s time for Delgado to be mentioned in National League MVP conversation."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Over at BP and SI, Nate Silver has finally put out his annual list of the top 50 players in baseball for the next 5 (6 counting this year) seasons. The Mets fare very well, with three players in the top 10:

1. Hanley Ramirez
2. David Wright
3. Albert Pujols
4. Evan Longoria
5. Grady Sizemore
6. Jose Reyes
7. Joe Mauer
8. Alex Rodriguez
9. C.C. Sabathia
10. Johan Santana

Beltran also makes the list, at #45. There are more robust ways to evaluate teams, but it's hard to win in baseball without at least a couple of premiere players. Having 3 of the top 10 (or top 25 for that matter) players in baseball for the foreseeable future means the franchise is in pretty good shape. There are some holes that need to be filled next year, but the core of the team is pretty strong.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Great quote from Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman:

"Claiming Washburn two weeks after ditching [Livan] Hernandez is like going to Taco Bell for dinner after lunch at White Castle kept you in the bathroom all afternoon."

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Mets desperately need a corner outfielder. It appears likely that Ryan Church's season is over. That means that the Mets are going to go through the final two months of the season in a tight pennant race with a left field platoon of Dan Murphy and Nick Evans. Murphy and Evans were both having very nice seasons in AA, but neither has much experience in the outfield. Evans has played 22 games in the outfield during his minor league career; Murphy has played 4.

Is this really the best the Mets can come up with? Admittedly, I don't know what exactly was available at the trade deadline. I understand that they didn't want to pay the price that Bay or Nady would've required. I don't know what it would've taken to trade for Adam Dunn or Raul Ibanez.

Now there's news of a clear opportunity that Omar ignored: Brian Giles was placed on waivers by the Padres. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Red Sox are the team that claimed Giles, which means that the Mets did not place a claim on him. The Mets may not have been able to pull off a deal with San Diego, but wasn't it worth a shot? This team desperately needs a corner outfielder. Giles is still one of the better corner outfielders in baseball. Prospectus ranks him fifth among right fielders this year in RARP. Seems like Giles would've been an easy solution, but I guess Omar doesn't think there's a problem.

UPDATE - It appears that Giles used his no-trade clause to block a trade to the Sox. For the record, the Mets are not one of the eight teams included in his no-trade clause, so Giles couldn't have blocked a trade to the Mets.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Player A: 393 AB, 72 R, 111 H, 23 2B, 2 3B, 22 HR, 64 RBI, 7 SB, 59 BB, 86 K, .282/.375/.519
Player B: 365 AB, 66 R, 109 H, 22 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 68 RBI, 1 SB, 52 BB, 86 K, .299/.398/.529

All the talk-radio talk is completely off base. Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez have been virtually identical at the plate so far this year. Bay is much better defensively. He's a better baserunner. And he's less likely to sit out a game against the Yankees with a "knee injury."

Did I mention that Bay is under contract for $7.5 million next year?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Good news from the NYT Dining Section regarding CitiField:

"Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group will open a Blue Smoke barbecue restaurant; a Shake Shack stand; Pop Fries, serving Belgian-style hand-cut fries; and a taqueria.
[the Mets] are negotiating with other well-known New York restaurateurs to open elsewhere in the stadium."

I know there may be long lines and high prices, but at least there will be more than one decent food option at the stadium. Speaking of which, I'll be pissed if the Wilpons don't bring the Mama's stand over to the new park.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

There's a poll on MetsBlog asking whether the Mets should sign Barry Bonds. People are against it, about 2-1. Without rehashing the entire argument, I'll just post the following statistics:

Barry Bonds OPS in 2007: 1.045
Combined Mets LF OPS in 2008: .625

Just to put it into perspective, if Bonds played 2/3 of the time (which is what he did in 2007), the above difference would be worth about 6 wins over the course of a season (Bonds's defense might knock it down to 5 wins).

Monday, July 07, 2008

C.C., Bedard, Colon

The Sabathia trade seems like a clear example of a trade that helps both teams. Despite preseason expectations, the Indians are clearly out of the race; they no longer need Sabathia. The Brewers are in a tight race (they're currently tied for the Wild Card). Sabathia makes them the clear favorite to win the Wild Card and helps their chances in the postseason. Matt LaPorta is a great offensive prospect who could be a star in Cleveland, but was probably a poor fit on a team that already has a young star at first base; a young star who is defensively challenged in left field; and a very good right fielder who might be stretched defensively in center.

Next up on the trading block: Erik Bedard? The Mariners are out of the race and don't seem to pleased with Bedard, but they have a problem: it'll be embarrassing when they don't get nearly as much in return as they gave up to get him five months ago. The Mariners never should've traded Adam Jones (and Sherrill, etc.) for Bedard; their team simply wasn't good enough to compete this year.

The Bedard situation sort of reminds me of another portly Cleveland pitcher: Bartolo Colon. On June 27, 2002, the Expos traded Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips for Colon. The following January, they traded Colon and only received Orlando Hernandez, Rocky Biddle, and Jeff Liefer in return. Omar Minaya's excuse for dumping so much talent in the first place is that he thought the Expos wouldn't be in existence for long, so there was no need to hold onto the prospects. That always sounded a little dubious to me - there was clearly at least a chance that the Expos would be sold and moved to another city and that a strong farm system should've (at least in theory) resulted in a higher price for the franchise.
Another flaw in Omar's theory is that the Expos didn't really have a good shot at making the playoffs with or without Colon. They were 6.5 games behind the Braves in the East and they were 5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the Wild Card race. The Expos were also 2 games behind the Giants and tied with the Reds. The Expos had given up more runs than they had scored, so their 41-36 record was probably somewhat of a fluke. Not surprisingly, they went 42-43 the rest of the way, finishing 19 games behind the Braves and 12.5 behind the Giants for the Wild Card. Colon pitched as well as could have been expected, but the team just wasn't playoff material.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

During one of the Subway Series games last weekend, one of the announcers (possibly David Cone) theorized that the reason the AL has been so dominant in interleague games is the DH. For the last couple years, a lot of baseball "experts" have spend a lot of time trying to explain why the AL has been winning such a large percentage of the interleague games. For some reason, they rarely discuss the obvious explanation: AL teams have higher payrolls.

Last season, the average payroll for a National League team was $73.6 million; the average for an AL team was $92.8 million. So, AL teams are spending 25% more on payroll and writers are struggling to explain why the AL is better? Here's a rough calculation - it's generally estimated that free agent players should cost about $2 million per win they add to your team. I think salary inflation may have pushed that to something more like $2.5 million. So, depending on how you want to calculate it, the average AL team last year should have been about 7.5-9.5 wins better than the average NL team. Using the 7.5 number, you'd expect AL teams to have a .546 winning percentage in interleague games. They're actual winning percentage last year was .544. Bingo!

OK, this year, the AL winning percentage was .594 and it was a little higher in 2006. So, the difference in payroll doesn't explain everything. But, it gets us a long way to explaining the difference. The rest of the explanation may be random fluctuation, better personnel decisions made by AL teams, some structural advantage (which I'm skeptical of), or some combination of all 3. But, the payroll difference is large and I think anyone who's honestly trying to figure out why the AL has the advantage needs to start there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On June 24, 2007:

The Phillies were 39-36 and 3 games behind the Mets.
The Rockies were 38-37 and 4.5 games behind the Wild Card leader.
The Yankees were 36-37 and 6.5 games behind the Wild Card leader.
The Cubs were 35-39 and 7.5 games behind the Brewers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bye Bye, Willie.

I don't have much to say on the Willie firing. I've never been a big fan of his, but I don't think the team is going to suddenly play much differently for Manuel. The whole situation was handled poorly and seemed to be a distraction, so I'm glad it was finally resolved. I don't know much about Jerry Manuel, but it seems that he's a laid back, non-excitable manager like Willie. Seems to me that if you really wanted to shake things up, you'd go in the opposite direction.

For a much better and much longer take on the whole situation and the general state of incompetence in Mets management, read Faith and Fear in Flushing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm skeptical, but Nate Silver does some fancy simulating and concludes that Chipper Jones "has about a 12-13 percent chance of finishing with a .400 average."
I'm glad someone in the press is taking the Mets to task for the Church concussion fiasco. Seriously, the way the team handled the situation is inexcusable.

On May 20, Ryan Church suffered his second concussion of the year. Despite the fact that he was still symptomatic, he pinch hit in a game two days later, then flew from Atlanta to Colorado, pinch hit in two games there, flew back to New York, and pinch hit in a game the next day (the 26th).

Now, I'm no doctor and I don't know much about concussions. But, based on the little bit I've read, it seems that the general advice is to avoid any strenuous activity (including jogging and flying on an airplane) until all symptoms subside because such activity can exacerbate the problem. That was obviously ignored in this case - if Church wasn't feeling up to starting the game, then he shouldn't have been used at all. And he shouldn't have been flying. After the 26th, the Mets finally decided he needed some time off. After five days off, despite still being symptomatic, Church returned to the starting lineup, then flew to California and started three more games. Now, after all that, he's still symptomatic and the Mets finally put him on the DL.
Hopefully, after 15 days, Church will be all better. But, there's a chance that all this activity has made his situation worse and that his whole season could be fucked.

The Mets' handling of this situation is inexcusable and shows just how poorly run the team is. The Mets are a business. Ryan Church is an asset worth millions of dollars to the business. As soon as Church suffered the concussion, Omar Minaya should've had someone on his staff contact multiple experts in the field and get their opinion on how the situation should be handled. That's what Alan Schwarz did and the answer was clear: he shouldn't play until he's been symptom free, preferably for a couple of days. If a reporter could find these experts, why couldn't the Mets? If a reporter could find a player (Corey Koskie) whose career was curtailed due to concussions, why couldn't the Mets? I assume the Mets have greater resources for finding medical experts than I do, but how about just doing a Google search for "concussion experts?"

Monday, June 09, 2008

Now there's a manager.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Draft Day

Exciting day for the Mets, right? After two straight years with no first round picks, the Mets have two today. And with an early supplemental pick, they have 3 of the first 33 picks. Sorry, I'm still not excited. The Mets pick at 18, 22, and 33. What can we expect from pick #18? Well, the Mets had the same pick 7 years ago and nabbed Aaron Heilman. He's not a superstar by any means, but he's been a solid member of the bullpen for the last few years, so that's not bad. If they wind up with another Heilman at 18 today, I guess I'll be happy. Heck, maybe they'll do better, maybe Heilman is just a mediocre 18, maybe the sky's the limit!

Unfortunately, history hasn't been kind to players picked at 18. In fact, Heilman is probably the best 18th pick since... Joe Magrane in 1985? Magrane was a pretty good starter for a few years, but Heilman still has a decent shot at having a better career. The only clear cut superior player is the 18th pick in 1974, Willie Wilson. Here's the entire list of notable (and I'm using that word loosely) players taken with the 18th pick:

2004 Josh Fields
2001 Aaron Heilman
1985 Joe Magrane
1978 Rex Hudler
1974 Willie Wilson

Fortunately, players taken with the 22nd pick have done a little better. Here's that list:

2004 Glen Perkins
2002 Jeremy Guthrie
1996 Gil Meche
1992 Rick Helling
1987 Craig Biggio
1985 Rafael Palmeiro
1976 Bruce Hurst
1972 Chet Lemon

Biggio has a strong Hall of Fame case and Palmeiro would've if it hadn't been for the steroid issue. Still, there hasn't been much in the last 20 years.

33rd picks? I wish I hadn't bothered to look:

2000 Dustin McGowan
1998 Brad Wilkerson
1987 Dave Burba
1968 Milt Wilcox
Comforting fact from Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman:

"[Johan Santana]'s made a dozen starts for the Mets and is 7-3 with a 3.20 ERA. On average from 2004-2007, he went 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA through a dozen starts. In fact, seven wins and a 3.20 ERA are both the best marks Santana has ever had through 12 starts."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quick question: Is Willie trying to get fired? It's almost like he didn't know what the NY media was like before he got here. Either that, or he's sabotaging them from the inside for the Yankees.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Piazza officially retires.

In five years, Mike Piazza will enter the Hall of Fame. What team's hat will be depicted on his plaque? It's a tough call; I don't think there's a clear answer.

The case for the Mets:
1. Piazza played longer for the Mets. He came to bat 924 more times in a Mets uniform. Because of that, he had more hits, runs, rbi, doubles, homers, and walks as a Met.

2. His teams had greater postseason success in NY.
Piazza's Dodgers made it to the postseason twice, but never won a single game. Piazza's Mets reached the NLCS in 1999 before suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Braves. The following year, they reached the World Series.

The case for the Dodgers:
1. Piazza played better as a Dodger. Piazza's avg/obp/slg/ops
as a Dodger: .331/.394/.572/.966
as a Met: .296/.373/.542/.915
Even if we eliminate his decline phase and only look at 1998-2003 with the Mets (which results in about the same number of plate appearances as his LA career), he still wasn't quite as good with the Mets:
And the real difference is greater than that reflected by the 12 point edge in OPS because he played in LA during a slightly less offensive era.
So, his overall offensive performance was better as a Dodger. Furthermore, the best two seasons of his career were 1996 and 1997, his last two full seasons with the Dodgers. Also, while Piazza was always pretty atrocious at throwing out runners, he was a little better at it in LA (26% vs. 22%).

In the end, I don't think there's any "correct" way to balance these factors. He was a Met longer than he was a Dodger and he seems somewhat more identifiable as a Met because his teams had greater success. He achieved a higher level of greatness when he was a Dodger.
But, both franchises are close on all three measures: he only played about a season and a half's worth of games more with the Mets; his Mets teams never won a World Series and were far from a dynasty; he was still playing at an elite level with the Mets, even if it wasn't quite as impressive as his time with the Dodgers.

In the end, I think it's a tossup. In recent years, the Hall has taken the choice away from the players being inducted. I think this choice is so close that they should just leave it up to Mike.

Nice little tribute to Piazza on Yahoo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A couple of posts last week by the fine writers over at Me and Pedro got me thinking about stolen bases. Through the 90s and the first half of this decade, a combination of sabermetric influence and an increase in power has lead to a greater awareness of the negative consequences of stolen base attempts (getting caught). Over the last couple years, it seems to me that teams are starting to run a bit more, but have also gotten smarter and aren't making as many foolish outs on the basepaths. Is it true? I decided to take a look at the trend for two stats over time: stolen base attempts per game and stolen base %. I looked at all the data going back to 1951, the first year that MLB kept track of times "caught stealing."

Here's the average stolen base attempts per game per team across MLB:

The blue dotted line is the average for every season from 1951-2007. The purple line is a five year trailing average, which helps smooth out some of the random year-to-year fluctuations, so we can focus on the long-term trends. Basically, there was a steady, slow growth in the 50s and 60s, followed by a huge increase in the 70s. I won't try to speculate on what the cause was. The rate remained high through the 80s, but then fell slowly through the 90s, followed by a steeper drop from 2000-2005. Over the last two seasons, stolen base attempts increased slightly, possibly signaling an end to the long decline phase. That makes sense because overall offensive levels are down a little.

This next chart tracks the success rate of stolen base attempts over the same time period:

Interesting. Generally, it's considered that the break-even success rate in today's game is around 70%, but it varies a little based on the offensive level at the time (in other words, if homeruns are common, the cost of losing a baserunner is higher). This chart shows a surprisingly consistent upward trend over the last 50+ years. The 5-year average takes a few dips, but the general trend has been steadily ticking upward since 1951. Very interesting. One question this raises is whether this can continue to climb indefinitely. The rate has been pretty steady since the late 80s, at around 69-70%. In 2006, a new record was set at 71.4%. But, 2007 was almost literally off the chart, with a 74.4% rate. That's a huge increase! So far this year, the rate is 72.7%. It's a little early in the season to draw any conclusions, but it seems likely that there will be a bit of a contraction this year.

I think the most interesting thing about these two graphs is that they don't seem to have any relationship. It seems natural to assume that there's a relationship between how often players try to steal and how often they'll get caught. This certainly seems true on the individual level. Carlos Beltran has always had a high success rate, but that's because he chooses his spots wisely. I'm pretty sure that if you asked Beltran to double his steals, he'd respond that he could, but he'd get caught much more often. But, on the macro level, this hasn't happened. SB% has consistently risen whether teams are attempting steals more often or less often. From 1971-1976, there was a huge 64% increase in stolen base attempts, but those attempts were apparently no more risky than they'd been in the past - the success rate actually went up. I guess the explanation is that the change in attempts is mostly explained by the abilities of the players at the time, not by a shift in strategy. It seems that the players were just faster (or the catchers had worse arms), so they were able to steal more bases, while maintaining the desired success rate.

That doesn't answer the question of why the success rate has consistently gone up over time. I'm not sure what the answer is.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Out of Order
Kudos to Gary Cohen, who seemed to be the only person at Shea yesterday who understood what happens when a team bats out of order. For those who weren't watching, in the ninth inning of the Mets' blowout of the Reds, the Reds accidentally switched their #8 and #9 hitters. Dusty Baker was confused. Willie Randolph was confused. The umpires were confused. Lots of time was wasted as they all convened multiple times to figure out what was supposed to happen. Cohen, on the other hand, immediately understood what was supposed to be happening and was baffled as to why the umpires didn't. He also correctly pointed out that Willie screwed up by not waiting until the Reds got a baserunner before notifying the umpires.

Retrosheet has a history of past occurrences of players batting out of order. Assuming the Retrosheet list is complete, there have been 8 occurrences over the last ten years. Amazingly, Dusty Baker's teams have been responsible for three of the eight. That's pretty sloppy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

If I was the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays, I'd have already called GM J.P. Ricciardi into my office for a bit of a screaming session, starting out with "Why the hell did you throw away $8 million on Frank Thomas?"

During the offseason, the Blue Jays re-signed future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. The contract called for Thomas to make $8 million in 2008 and contained a $10 million option for 2009 that would automatically vest if Thomas amassed 304 plate appearances this year. This past weekend, the Blue Jays released Frank Thomas. They're still on the hook for the full $8 million, but no longer have to worry about him playing enough to earn the 2009 salary.

There are three possible explanations for this situation:

1. J.P. Ricciardi made a stupid decision during the offseason.
2. J.P. Ricciardi made a stupid decision this weekend.
3. Something significant happened in between those two points in time so that the contract made sense in the first place, but now seems so bad that it's not even worth giving Thomas a little more time to turn around his season.

And if I'm the Blue Jays owner and I'm out $8 million, I need to hear Ricciardi make a convincing case for #3. I don't see it. Was Thomas bad over his first 16 games? Definitely. But, Thomas has always been a slow starter; his career stats in April are significantly worse than for any other month. Over the last few years, he's been particularly bad. Before his release, Thomas had 72 plate appearances this season. Here are his stats through his first 72 plate appearances of each of the last three years:

year H 2B HR BB SO avg obp slg ops
2008 10 1   3 11 13 .167 .306 .333 .639
2007 12 2   2 10 13 .197 .319 .328 .647
2006 11 2   4   7 10 .169 .250 .385 .635

Those three lines are virtually identical. After a horrible start in 2006, he went on to have a very productive season, finishing with a .926 OPS and 39 homers, good enough for fourth place in the MVP voting and a contract from J.P. Ricciardi. After that horrible start in 2007, he went on to have another productive season, finishing with a .377 obp and a .480 slugging percentage, good enough for a new $8 million contract from J.P. Ricciardi. Now, after a virtually identical start, that same J.P. Ricciardi has decided that Frank Thomas is worthless?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This article on Slate makes it clear that the only reason I'm not in the major leagues is because I was born in May instead of August.

Jokes aside, this article actually contains some really interesting findings.
"Since 1950, a baby born in the United States in August has had a 50 percent to 60 percent better chance of making the big leagues than a baby born in July."
The reason for this is that July 31 has been the cutoff for "age" in little league, so kids born in August are the oldest in their leagues. It makes sense, but I'm surprised. I assumed that all future major leaguers would've dominated in little league even if they were a little young for their "age."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

There's an article on CBSSports about how amazing Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968 was.

Don't get me wrong, it was a great season. One of the best in the modern era, maybe the best. Gibson had a 1.12 ERA. He pitched over 300 innings. If he had thrown 1.3 more innings, he would have averaged 9 per start (he went over 9 on multiple occasions).

But, the 1.12 ERA mostly looks so amazing because of the depressed offensive levels that year. In the NL that year, the entire league had a 2.99 ERA; the AL had a 2.98 ERA. Just for a point of reference, the league ERAs last year were 4.43 and 4.50. If you make a list of the top ERA seasons since 1920, 9 of the top 50 seasons occurred in 1968, maxing out with Bob Veale and Stan Bahnsen at 2.05.

Baseball Reference has a statistic called ERA+, which adjusts ERA for league conditions and park effects. Gibson's season only ranks 4th in the modern era. Here's the top 6:

Pedro 2000 - 291
Maddux 1994 - 271
Maddux 1995 - 262
Gibson 1968 - 258
Pedro 1999 - 243
Gooden 1985 - 228

Pedro tops the list. In 2000, he had a 1.74 ERA. The league ERA was 4.91. Adjusted for Fenway, it's 5.07.

Gibson supporters will point out that he pitched far more innings than those other pitchers. But, he pitched in an era when everyone pitched more innings. In 1968, the average NL starter pitched 6.8 innings per game. In 2000, the average AL starter pitched 5.8 innings per game. Here's how the pitchers above did compared to their league (and how many games they started):

Pedro 2000 - 29 gs, 29% better than average ip/gs
Maddux 1994 - 25 gs, 33%
Maddux 1995 - 28 gs, 26%
Gibson 1968 - 34 gs, 32%
Pedro 1999 - 30 gs*, 23%
Gooden 1985 - 35 gs, 26%

Gibson does well here, the only pitcher who beats him on ip/gs% is 1994 Maddux, and it's very close. But, his edge against the rest of the pack seems a lot less significant than it does when you just look at the raw totals. Pedro also deserves to be knocked down a notch for his lack of durability. He only started 29 games in 2000, and had 29 starts and 2 relief appearances in 1999. Maddux's GS look low, but those were strike-shortened seasons. Does he deserve less credit? It's hard to say. It's not his fault that the seasons were shorter, but it's somewhat easier to deviate from the norm over shorter periods (in other words, if the season was only 1 day long, someone could have a 0.00 era).

In conclusion, Gibson clearly had one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time. There's a very good argument that it was the best. But, there's also an argument for 2000 Pedro or 1994 Maddux. Gibson had one of the best seasons ever; he was also lucky enough to have it during an incredibly favorable year for pitching statistics.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Why No Pedro?
I realize part of the blame goes to Delgado for his error, but what the hell was Willie thinking in the 7th inning? Why is Scott Schoeneweis his go-to lefty specialist? Where's Feliciano?
Then in the 8th, Utley and Howard came up again in a critical spot, this time against a struggling Heilman. And Willie still doesn't use Feliciano?

Here's everyone's OPS against left-handed hitters along with K/BB ratio over the last 2 years:

Feliciano ----- .541 - 74/16
Schoeneweis - .659 - 36/22
Heilman ----- .698 - 67/33

Feliciano has clearly been better against lefties. Why isn't he the one to face Utley & Howard in a critical spot? Isn't it an obvious decision?

[UPDATE - as indicated in the comments, it turns out that Feliciano went to PR on Monday to attend to a family emergency and a delay on his return flight caused him to miss the game. Sorry Willie, all is forgiven.]

Friday, April 04, 2008

This doesn't solve the short-term pitching problem, but I'm still glad to hear this news from Ken Rosenthal:

Come June or July, the Mets still figure to be the No. 1 choice of free-agent right-hander Freddy Garcia, who is recovering from major shoulder surgery. Garcia is good friends with Santana, a fellow Venezuelan, and they share the same agents. When Garcia visited the Mets camp this spring, Pedro Martinez grabbed a piece of paper, waved to Garcia and jokingly demanded that Mets GM Omar Minaya give him a pen, saying, "Here's the contract, here's the contract."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Credit to The MZA for finding this gem from 2001, in which Mets pitching coach Charlie Hough lavishes some- in hindsight- outrageous praise:
Bill James answers (lots of) questions at Freakonomics.
He made an interesting proposal:

My pet project is a rule to limit pitching changes in the late innings. My rule, specifically, would be this:
1) Each team is entitled to one unrestricted pitching change per game.
2) With the exception of that one unrestricted change, no pitcher may be removed from the game in mid-inning unless he has been charged with allowing a run in that inning. With an exception for injuries, of course.

When you propose a rules change like that, people say, "Oh, you’re changing the way the game has always been." That’s nonsense. In 1970 major league teams used 1.75 relievers per game. In 1990 they used 2.02 relievers per game, and in 2007 they used 2.97 per game — and the rate of increase in this area is still accelerating.

I'm generally wary of any rules changes, but this would be a way of speeding up games a little and would merely be combating a very recent innovation in the game that is generally annoying. I think it's probably a little too restrictive, but some limitation on reliever substitution would probably benefit the game, even something as simple as requiring that a reliever face at least 2 batters (unless the inning ends).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cool feature on Baseball Reference that lets you look at the year-by-year Opening Day lineups for any team.

I realize a lot of fans aren't excited about Ryan Church being our right fielder, but here's the bunch of clowns that have manned the position on Opening Day over the last 14 years, along with their OPS+ for the season (100 = league average, and a starting right fielder should really be above average):

1994 Jeromy Burnitz 79
1995 Carl Everett 110
1996 Butch Huskey 101
1997 Carl Everett 91
1998 Butch Huskey 85
1999 Bobby Bonilla 48
2000 Derek Bell 98
2001 Darryl Hamilton 68
2002 Jeromy Burnitz 80
2003 Jeromy Burnitz 105
2004 Karim Garcia 68
2005 Eric Valent 50
2006 Xavier Nady 102
2007 Shawn Green 104
1 Down, 161 To Go

What more could we ask for on Opening Day? Johan delivers seven strong innings. David Wright hits a 3-run double. Mets win 7-2.

Can Pedro get the job done tonight?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Did Beane Blow It?

A few months ago, Billy Beane decided that the A's chances weren't good in '08 and went into dump mode. He traded ace Dan Haren to Arizona for a huge package of prospects and sent offensive stalwart Nick Swisher to the White Sox for two top pitching prospects. Both packages seemed like pretty good hauls, but most of the media coverage just took his word on the premise behind the trade. But, as Opening Day approaches, I think it's fair to ask whether the A's could've been a playoff team with Haren and Swisher.
Most people have treated the Angels as the runaway favorites in the division, but injuries are taking their toll. John Lackey is out until at least mid-May. Kelvim Escobar has a shoulder tear and may be out for the season.
Meanwhile, the Bedard acquisition got a lot of people excited about the Mariners, but their lineup is very weak. I don't think they're nearly as good as most people think.
On the other hand, the A's are better than most people think.
These PECOTA-based projected standings have the Angels at 87 wins, the A's at 80, and the Mariners at 75.
I'll be generous to the Angels and assume that Lackey makes the 25 starts he's predicted to. But, if we take Escobar out and replace him with Adenhart/Moseley, the Angels fall to about 85 wins.
The Mariners prediction seems low. PECOTA unjustifiably hates Ichiro. But, Ichiro doing his usual thing only brings them up to 79 wins. I still think that's a little low, but nothing about the projections seems totally out of whack, so I think it's fair to say this is a 79-84 win team.
So, let's look at these 80-win A's. Most of the projections look pretty reasonable. Adding Haren back to the team would add about 4 wins and adding Swisher back would add 3 or 4. So, if the A's hadn't gone into dump mode, it would be fair to project them as an 87 win team. They would be far from a lock to win the division, but there's an argument that they'd be the favorite. If they did make the playoffs, they'd most likely be the worst of the AL playoff teams, but Beane is a believer in the "crap shoot" theory regarding the postseason, so it seems they should have rolled the dice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"That's a good name."
-Omar Minaya on newly released Claudio Vargas
It seems like I identify some crappy player the Mets should sign on a daily basis. For once, the Mets seem to share my interest. According to the Post, the Mets "will have a strong interest" in Claudio Vargas. He's nothing more than a 5th starter, but that's all the Mets need right now. If the team signs him, we'll be spared the sight of Mike Pelfrey every five days. Vargas is a flyball pitcher, which works well in expansive Shea and seems to be Omar's kind of thing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

team wins for the season:
BOS 96
NYY 95
TAM 83
TOR 82
BAL 62
CLE 94
DET 93
CHW 75
KCR 73
MIN 70
LAA 87
SEA 82
OAK 78
TEX 71

NYM 94
PHI 89
ATL 86
WAS 72
FLO 70
CHC 90
MIL 89
CIN 82
HOU 75
STL 71
PIT 70
ARI 88
LAD 85
COL 85
SDP 80
SFG 63

Go to Sportsbook right now. Take the over on the Rays and the under on the Giants.
I'm still hoping Omar can somehow land a better right-handed outfielder, but MetsGeek makes the case for Reed Johnson.

Oh, there was some baseball played this morning. Congratulations to the Red Sox. Hooray baseball!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Are fans allowed to root against their teams in spring training? I think so.
I'm glad Pelfrey got lit up by the Cardinals yesterday. It seems that the Mets have finally realized that they have a hole at the fifth spot in the rotation. I still don't understand why Sosa doesn't seem to be under consideration.

Unrelated link - cool study at Met's Refugees showing that Randolph fails to properly take advantage of lefty/righty match-ups with his bullpen. Come on Willie, even Montgomary Burns knows it's what any good manager would do.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Nationals released John Patterson yesterday. This seems to indicate that he isn't close to ready, but he's still an intriguing reclamation project. And Omar Minaya is the one who acquired Patterson for the Expo/National franchise in the first place, so this might be an option for the Mets.

Jim Leyland on "clubhouse chemistry":
"All that is so far overrated. The worst word ever used is 'chemistry.' That's something you take in school. That's a class you take."

From Jon Heyman:
"As Dylan Ratigan of CNBC pointed out, the Yankees paid more for Alex Rodriguez than JP Morgan paid for Bear Stearns."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Goomzin Bros had company at all those Trashel games...
5th Starter

It's been pretty obvious since El Duque's spring training arrival that he's on his last legs. I think signing Kyle Lohse for $4+ million would've been a nice way to at least guarantee mediocre performance out of the fifth spot in the rotation. Bartolo Colon would've been a nice (if unreliable) option. I'm not sure if there are any trade candidates out there, but the Brewers seem to have excess pitching and I'm sure the new Pirates GM would be happy to be rid of Matt Morris's salary (happy enough to throw in Xavier Nady?).

If no trade is made, the assumption is that Mike Pelfrey will be the 5th starter. Why? Mike Pelfrey has done nothing in his career to make us think he's ready to be a big league starter. I say send him down to New Orleans and see how he does for a couple months. If he's doing well, give him a shot in the majors. If he continues to struggle, maybe it's time to move him to the bullpen where his lack of secondary pitches will be less of a problem.
So, who am I proposing for fifth starter? Jorge Sosa.
2007 stats in games started:
Pelfrey, 13 GS, 5.58 ERA, 69.1 IP, 43K, 36 BB
Sosa, 14 GS, 4.59 ERA, 80.1 IP, 46 K, 29 BB

Sosa has a 4.55 ERA in 88 career starts. That's not wonderful, but it's acceptable for a fifth starter.

For those who disagree and are ready to start the "Big Pelf" era, go buy one of these shirts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top 10 Players the Mets Drafted, but Failed to Sign

Roger Clemens
Rafael Palmeiro
Matt Williams
John Olerud
John Wetteland
Darin Erstad
Todd Jones
Aaron Rowand
Garrett Atkins
Rick Helling

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Former Mets Named Lenny

Somehow, I just noticed that Lenny Harris (the "greatest pinch hitter of all time") is the Nationals hitting coach.

There's an excellent piece in the New Yorker about Lenny Dykstra, who is planning on starting a magazine targeted towards athletes. I think it's a great idea; there must be a lot of companies selling silly expensive stuff who would love to place ads.

For the record, the Mets have only had two players named Lenny.

Friday, March 14, 2008

One of the more disturbing sentences you'll ever see:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Houston Astros second baseman Kazuo Matsui will undergo surgery to repair an anal fissure on Monday in Houston.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In 1986, you didn't need to be a dominant championship team to record a terrible music video, here's the long-lost Baseball Boogie from a team that went on to lose 89 games:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Great article from ESPN about Tony Gwynn Jr. and Trevor Hoffman.
PECOTA projected standings are up.
Mets and Yankees are both projected for 96 wins, tied for the best in baseball. PECOTA has the Mets 10 games ahead of the second place Braves.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Other side of the aisle: Me and Pedro. New ish.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

As much as I love the Johan trade, I'm still not convinced that the Mets are the best team in the NL. I mean, everyone after Johan is a question mark as I see it. Pedro and Duque are health risks, and Maine and Perez are always in danger of regressing. Delgado looked his age last year, although I don't know if it also had something to do with him having a kid for the first time (in my opinion, certain personal issues can have a positive/negative effect on a player). I know Castillo had surgery, and he doesn't have to play on the Minnesota turf anymore, so hopefully his knees hold up. Alou might have been our best player in the last 6 weeks (although that's not saying much) but he's going to be, what, 42?
My prohibitive NL favorite right now are the D'Backs. Their rotation is suspect after Webb/Haren, but that's a pretty damn good 1 & 2, and if Unit can give 200-225 IP and 10-12 wins, they should be sitting pretty. Their offense is young, but with the right mix of veterans. Right now I'm thinking 1. Arizona 2. Mets 3. Cubs 4. not sure, cuz there are alot of teams on the cusp like Milwaukee (love their offense), Philly (suspect rotation/best infield in majors), Colorado (I mean, they are the defending NL champs), LA, and SD (love their rotation, hate their offense).
One final piece of business:

The Mets roster seems to be pretty much finalized, but I think they need to make one small addition. As I pointed out back in December, Ryan Church and Carlos Delgado are both excellent candidates for a platoon. I realize that there may be some egos involved and that Church could probably use more time against southpaws to improve, but I still think it's worth having a righty bat on the bench who can fill in part time at both RF and 1B. My choice for the job is still Kevin Mench, who is still available and seems to be drawing little interest. But, it seems that the Mets are at least considering a decent alternative: Craig Wilson. Wilson performed poorly in limited action last season, but he has a strong track record against lefties, has played mostly RF & 1B during his career, and could probably serve as emergency catcher (his original position), allowing Castro to pinch hit more often.

Avg/OBP/Slg #s against lefties over the last three seasons:
Delgado .231/.309/.454
Church .259/.336/.406

Mench .305/.368/.558
Wilson .266/.368/.445

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Wow" - every Mets fan, yesterday.

It's a fantastic trade that is receiving universal praise. I'm willing to forgive the other lousy moves Omar has made this offseason because this is much more important. He acquired the best pitcher in baseball: the leader in wins, ERA and strikeouts over the last four years. And he didn't have to give up the organization's best prospect to do so. Carlos Gomez and Deolis Guerra are both very nice prospects with a lot of upside, but they're not close to being in the elite category; I don't think either will rank in Baseball America's top 50 (which I think has been released to subscribers). Kevin Mulvey's upside is #3 starter, probably more of a #4. Philip Humber's a notch below that. This package is not as good as the DBacks' package for Haren, not nearly as good as the Mariners' rumored package for Bedard. More importantly, it's not nearly as good as the rumored offers from the Yankees and Red Sox, which apparently were off the table. Twins GM Bill Smith blew this situation big time. He should have taken one of the deals on the table back at the winter meetings. Instead, he held out and got burned. If this was all he could get, maybe he should've just kept Johan and hoped the Twins could contend in the ace's final season with the team. This was Smith's first big move as GM and it was a dud.

Minaya, on the other hand, deserves a lot of credit. Lots of Mets fans would've happily added Fernando Martinez to the offer. Minaya read the situation correctly and held firm.

Assuming the Mets finalize a deal by Friday (if they don't, it'll be the biggest PR disaster in team history), the Mets will be the clear favorite in the NL East and probably the best team in the league. They're a 95-win team in a division (league?) without any other clear 90-win teams.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What exactly is a top prospect?

With all the talk about whether the Mets should trade top prospects for Johan Santana, and with names like Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Phil Hughes, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Lastings Milledge in the news this offseason, it's worth thinking about how good we can expect top prospects to become. When prospects are mentioned, opinions vary from "we can't let this future hall-of-famer go" to "prospects are worthless until they actually produce." So, what's a prospect really worth? How likely is it that a top prospect actually becomes a top player? Here's my extremely unscientific study to try to quickly analyze the question:

Methodology: Baseball America is the preeminent publication when it comes to baseball prospects. Every year, they publish a list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. For this "study," I looked at the top 20 from every year of the 1990s to see how they turned out. Top 20 seemed like a pretty good compromise between sample size and not including mediocre prospects. 1990 is the oldest list on their website and including more recent lists would've resulted in players for whom it's a little too soon to say how their career turned out. For each of the 146 players in the sample (the reason there aren't 200 is that some players appeared in the top 20 multiple times), I rated their career by giving them a number between 1 and 4:
1 = Dud - never made it to the majors or played very briefly (i.e. Brien Taylor, Bill Pulsipher, Mark Lewis)
2 = Average - player was a regular in the majors for at least a couple years, but wasn't really above average (i.e. Wil Cordero, Ben McDonald, Arthur Rhodes)
3 = Good - either played very well for a brief period or was consistently above average for a decent number of years (i.e. Robin Ventura, John Olerud, Jason Schmidt)
4 = Star - a great player - not necessarily a Hall-of-Famer, but at least somewhat close (i.e. Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina at the low end)

I realize this seems extremely subjective, but it was a quick easy way for me to do it, and I don't think many of my rankings would cause much disagreement. All the "duds" are pretty clear cut, and I don't think any reasonable person would disagree with more than a few players in any of the categories.
Here's the breakdown of the 146 "top 20 prospects":
Duds - 40 (27%)
Regulars - 56 (38%)
Good Players - 30 (21%)
Stars - 20 (14%)

So, a little more than 1 in 4 of these prospects were total busts. More than 1 in 3 became above average players and more than 1 in 8 became stars. So, those prospects turned out pretty well.

It becomes more interesting if you separate the pitchers from the hitters. There are 56 pitchers and 90 hitters in the sample. Here are the percentage outcomes for each group:
Pitchers: 45% Duds, 38% Regulars, 11% Good Players, 7% Stars
Hitters: 17% Duds, 39% Regulars, 27% Good Players, 18% Stars

So, for pitchers, there's a 45% chance that the prospect (who was once considered on of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball) will be a total bust and only an 18% chance that the player will be at least "Good." For hitters, those percentages are reversed. Those trends are even more apparent if I just look at players ranked in BA's top 10. Among top 10 prospects, 41% of pitchers turn out to be duds, but only 10% of hitters; only 11% of pitchers make it to either "good" or "stars," while 53% of hitters do.
That's a pretty remarkable difference. I'm not going to try to elaborate too much on what this means, but I think this once again makes it clear that it's a lot easier to predict how hitters will develop than it is for pitchers. Beyond that, I don't think this is enough to draw any other major conclusions about how much a prospect is "worth".

Here's another interesting way to look at the relationship between top prospects and top players: in reverse. I decided to look at the top hitters and pitchers in baseball today and then check how they were regarded by BA when they were prospects. I chose 25 hitters and 20 pitchers, somewhat subjectively. I glanced at the VORP leaders for the last 2 years, but I don't have any specific numerical argument for why these guys make the cut and other players don't. I didn't include any Japanese players because they didn't come up through the minor leagues and I didn't include any players who are too old (Bonds, Smoltz) to have been ranked as prospects in the 90s.
14 of the 25 hitters had been in BA's top 20, 19 of the 25 were in the top 50, 23 in the top 100. The only "elite" hitters who never appeared on BA's lists are Matt Holliday and Jorge Posada.
For pitchers, there was much less of a connection between top prospect status and future stardom. 7 of the 20 pitchers had been in the top 20, 10 in the top 50, 12 in the top 100. 8 of the 20 pitchers were never ranked by BA: Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, John Lackey, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, Aaron Harang, Mark Buehrle, and Chien-Ming Wang.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Super Joe has retired. Mourn appropriately.