Author Archive

Jerry Manuel is Smart

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I was just listening to the Mets Extra pre-game show on WFAN and heard this gem from Jerry Manuel on his manager’s show (paraphrased):

Chris Carter is going to play in left field. It’s always tough to get him in there with Dickey on the mound because of the fly balls.

R.A. Dickey came into Sunday’s start with a 54.1% ground ball rate.

BONUS MANUEL

Luis Hernandez pinch hit for Ruben Tejada in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. Hernandez is 26 with an MiLB triple-slash of .255/.302/.311.  Middle infield prospect Tejada owns a .273/.343/.353 line, despite being criminally young for every level he’s played.

Leave Castillo Be

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Luis Castillo shouldn’t be on this team. Three off-seasons ago when Ed Wade (who would’ve thought?) offered the then 32-year-old slap-hitter a three-year, $18 million to man the keystone in Houston, the Mets relationship with Luis should have ended right there. Say “thank you” and nab the compensation pick. Instead, Mets brass decided to not only match the offer, but enhance it by a guaranteed year.

Castillo’s profile was well-established at the time: outstanding contact hitter who uses speed to pile up infield hits; very disciplined at the plate; minimal power, but swings a stronger stick right-handed; an excellent bunter; a sure-handed second baseman with declining range. The Mets knew this and decided to lock him up anyway — until the age of 36! — when his knees threatened to deteriorate his already limited skills.

Still, I can’t help but feel sorry for Castillo sometimes — particularly, when he comes to the plate with a runner on second base. He takes his usual pitch or two or three, and generally finds himself ahead in the count. Almost on cue, one of Gary, Keith and Ron will complain about Castillo’s patience.

He takes the next pitch — either a ball or called strike on the corner.

“Luis has got to swing at that!”

Why? The man’s swung at 35.5 percent of pitches throughout his career. With that approach he’s hitting .291 with a .368 on-base percentage. That’s pretty good.

“With Castillo in the eight-hole, he’s got to look to drive in runs.”

Again, why? Luis often hits the ball so softly that he has a tough time driving in a runner in this instance. In 625 plate appearances in this situation, Castillo’s racked up 122 hits, yet has driven in just 52 runs. Meanwhile, he’s drawn 100 walks.

His mission in that situation, like in most, is to get on base. That’s what he’s always done. Castillo knows which pitches he can handle a lot better than Gary, Keith or Ron. Far be it for them, or anyone of us, to decide which pitches he should or shouldn’t swing at when he’s had a long, modestly successful career.

Look, Luis shouldn’t be on the team beyond this season. The Mets can’t suffer another year of his declining offensive production, speed and defense. But leave the man alone when he’s in the box. He knows what he’s doing.

The Peanut Gallery’s Emptiest Shout

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

To the pleasure of many, Alex Cora offered this to a laughing contingent in the Mets clubhouse last night, “A little respect please. They stuck it up our ass!”

Here’s a guy “hitting”.216/.274/.288, who possesses the range of SNY’s television signal last night, “earning” two million dollars for clubhouse leadership calling out his teammates in front of the media.

This is leadership?

“To be a leader for me, it’s not enough to talk all the time. You have to go out and do it yourself.”

That quote is from Jose Valentin three years ago — almost to the day — talking about the release of Julio Franco, the (then) 48-year-old pinch-hitter signed to a two-year contract for his purported clubhouse presence. Former Mets manager Willie Randolph added, “If you play, you have to produce. That clubhouse stuff is overrated.”

Major League Baseball players are a rarely-talented, gifted few with an ultra-competitive quality bred by years of trying to prove their worth. No professional ballplayer is looking to the worst player on the team for leadership. Leaders must be able to “back it up” in a way that Alex Cora – a 34-year-old utility player who’s been an irregular since 2004 – can’t.

The same holds true in all walks of life. How do you look up to someone in the same industry who isn’t nearly as good as you are? It defies reason.

 But such is life under Omar Minaya: an unreasonably expensive contract and a roster spot given to a scrub to deliver some vague ideal. Instead of assembling a team with a complete lineup, a good pitching staff and complementary bench players, he cobbles together a loose collection of superstars, journeymen, vanity projects, mistakes, scrubs and archetypes. And like clockwork, folks in Metsland find themselves having a variation of the same tired debates about “leadership”, “cohesion” and “attitude”. The team just isn’t good – end of discussion.

Alex Cora is in the wrong here and he should apologize. Assailing teammates in plain sight of the New York media, when you didn’t even play in the game, is a dick move. That’s a good way to diminish a reputation built largely on attitude and demeanor. Furthermore, the team played hard. They were just befuddled by a pitcher they never faced before. It happens.

If nothing else, Cora’s supposed to be a professional. He should have found a better way to deal with it.

Thank You Friends!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Blue & Orange Open Mic was a hit!  If you couldn’t make it, you missed a couple of virtuoso performances. Chris and good friend James Kannengieser re-enacted the Omar Minaya-Adam Rubin press conference. Eno Sarris performed “Oh, Frenchy”, a number sung to the tune of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy”. Mr. Sarris, named after Brian Eno, is well, um, named after Brian Eno.

“Open Mic” will be something of a recurring thing, so we look forward to seeing everyone again soon.

We appreciate everyone who came out to River last night.  Here’s a song that expresses our appreciation.

Blue & Orange Open Mic This Thursday

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

at River (riverhellskitchen.com)

500 West 43rd St (at 10th Avenue) – New York, NY

RSVP on Facebook

Though the vitals are  the same as December’s Hot Stove Huddle, this gathering will be different. There’s an actual baseball game to talk about! We’ll be watching the Mets take on the Nationals, in the finale of their eight-game road trip. There will be beers, cheers, uh,  jeers — and most importantly, a live microphone.

We urge everyone to come forward with their own comedic material (more Bengie Molina jokes?), mock play-by-play or personal analysis. It should be a good time…even if it does descend into bedlam.

Middle-Age Wasteland

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Gary Matthews Jr. ruining some perfectly good baseballs.

Gary Matthews Jr. ruining some perfectly good baseballs.

A couple of days ago, Andy Martino, surveyed the wasteland the Mets call a bench for Surfing the Mets. What he found was appropriately disappointing, yet so utterly typical.

In the case of Smithtown’s own pinch-hitting extraordinaire:

“Catalanotto, 36, is batting .143 in 21 at-bats. But the Mets, like many teams, prefer to use As a veteran pinch-hitters. Pinch-hitting is a specialized job, requiring different preparation than any other role. Younger players are not typically successful coming off the bench, meaning that [Chris] Carter’s gaudy triple-A numbers would not necessarily translate to a very limited big-league job.”

There you have it. The Mets are willing to carry an inferior player for the _________ experience brings. Never mind that Catalanotto, since 2007, has steadily traded line drives (LD% 2007-2010: 18.6%, 17.6%, 15.4%, 5.9%) for ground balls and infield flies, forcing his power to plummet to an unacceptable level (ISO 2007-2010: .184, .125, .104, .048).

A hitter, in his late 30’s, moves past the brink of usefulness. Billy Wagner’s got two words for you: “_______ shocker.”

Moving forward, Martino’s piece supposes that Chris Carter, upon being called up, would fulfill Catalanotto’s role as primary pinch hitter. If Carter is “The Animal” his AAA numbers suggest — or a reasonable facsimile — placing him in the same exact role would be foolish.  The Mets, ranked 18th in runs scored and 24th in wOBA, could use the offensive help.

The team’s slumping corner outfield tandem, both right handed sluggers, could benefit from a left-handed compliment. In particular, Jeff Francoeur, whose career line .259/.300/.409/.709 vs. right-handed pitching suggests that he should sit against tough right-handed pitchers. Also, Carter doesn’t possess a dramatic platoon split — he generates more power right-handed, but his contact and on-base skills are virtually the same against left-handed pitchers — so he would be able to spell Ike against lefties. I readily admit that this scenario is less than ideal because Ike needs the exposure to left-handed pitching, but I offer it as a viable alternative.

The sticking point with Chris Carter has always been his defense. He plays 1B, LF and RF, but none of them well. His poor hands make him a better suited for the outfield. I posit that his suspect defensive ability can blend in, if handled correctly. That is, keep him away from the outfield when Santana, Perez and Maine are starting and keep him away from the infield when Pelfrey and Niese are pitching. Managing is all about emphasizing strengths and hiding weaknesses. Right, Jerry?

Now, what’s the deal with that corpse in the outfield?

“Mets brass has not been impressed by the Matthews, in particular, but they regard April and a few days of May as too small a sample to cut him or the other bench players.”

On one level, it’s refreshing to hear the Mets organization considering sample size with personnel decisions. But this isn’t Nick Evans; this is a 36 years old journeyman outfielder.

Year PA AVG OBP SLG INN DRS UZR
2007 540 .252 .323 .419 1144.2 -11 -10.5
2008 477 .242 .319 .357 878.1 -6 -7.6
2009 360 .250 .336 .361 737.2 -10 -17.7

That’s three seasons, 1377 plate appearances, 2760 innings afield and one sizable chunk of suck. To put it a way that the front office understands, Gary Matthews Jr. signed his fifty million dollar atrocity when the Mets were the toast of the National League. Today they stand as one of baseball’s most impotent. How’s that for a sample?

Finally, I take issue with grouping Fernando Tatis with Frank Catalanotto and Gary Matthews Jr. Tatis has performed well in his role for the last couple of years, posting a wRC+s of 131 and 108. Defensively, he plays 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and RF adequately. When thrust into regular action, he doesn’t sink the team. And unlike Catalanotto and Matthews, Fernando received legitimate interest from other teams, but preferred to stay put.

To many fans, Fernando Tatis is symbolic of 2009 and representative of Omar Minaya’s lack of creativity. Don’t let that belief blind you; Tatis is a useful player. He shouldn’t have to answer for Omar’s sins.

Make Francisco Rodriguez Earn His Money Please

Friday, April 16th, 2010

The Mets finally won a game. Mike Pelfrey was awesome. David Wright is a superstar. Jeff Francoeur might’ve found himself a clue at the plate. These are all good things.  Here’s something that’s not:

  • 2012 option becomes guaranteed with:
    • 55 games finished in 2011, and
    • 100 games finished in 2010-11, and
    • doctors declare Rodriguez healthy after 2011

Those are the terms of Francisco Rodriguez’s outrageous 2012 vesting option. For the second time in this very young season, K-Rod picked up a “Game Finished” in a blowout win.  It’s one thing for his option to vest because he’s locking down close games; it’s quite another to give him “freebies” when he needs work.

Oh and if Frankie needs work so badly, maybe the manager should use him when it matters. Like — I don’t know — a tie game versus one of the best teams in the National League.

The Mets Didn’t Figure

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Carried away with Nelson Figueora’s background story and his desire to play for a team he rooted for, Mets fans and bloggers have been quick to overstate the impact of his DFA. Heath Bell 2.0, he’s not. Rather, Nelson is a fringe-average starter, who mixes an assortment of off-speed pitches with an 87 mile per hour fastball. Simply put a finesse pitcher who’s had more stops than the local ‘7’ train is hardly indispensable.

One could reasonably argue – though completely in vain – that Figueroa would be the third best pitcher on the Mets. Reality is that John Maine and Ollie Perez are making over $15 million this season to start games. Ryota Igarashi possesses a good splitter, Hisa Takahashi is left-handed and throws strikes and Fernando Nieve is younger and equipped with better stuff. The Mets preferring these pitchers is understandable, albeit a bit misguided.

What’s difficult to understand is how the Mets made it possible for Figueroa to go to a team they have designs on competing with – the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s clear that the Mets brain trust never intended to carry him on the 25-man roster, as evidenced by his inclusion in minor league spring games and various beat writer accounts throughout March. Management was content to place Nelson on waivers in hopes he’d slip through; however, his intentions were made clear: he would play in Japan before suffering another season in Buffalo.

So, why not attempt to deal him some place far away? With pitching attrition and uncertainty abound, Figueroa would’ve garnered interest from other clubs (he didn’t even make it out of NL waivers amidst roster crunch time). Hell, the Royals claimed Luis Mendoza and he’s barely AAA caliber.

This isn’t a replacement level pitcher. Figueroa’s average projection (see below) is a 4.45 FIP, which extrapolated over 150 innings, is worth 1.6 wins above replacement. Compare that with ~5.00 FIP projection for Phillies fifth starter  Jamie Moyer. Figgy supplanting Jamie Moyer would be a +1 win improvement (and +0.5 over Kyle Kendrick). In other words, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel have done more to improve to Phillies than the Mets in 2010.

This brand of slipshod roster management is a patent of this regime. It’s the only intellectual property they own.

Nelson Figueroa IP FIP
2009 Season 70.1 4.31
2010 Bill James 53 4.42
2010 CHONE 155 4.38
2010 Marcel 83 4.47
2010 ZIPS 131.7 4.54
Average Projection   4.45
Jamie Moyer IP FIP
2009 Season 162 5.06
2010 Bill James 154 4.75
2010 CHONE 165 5.14
2010 Marcel 158 4.93
2010 ZIPS 173 4.98
Average Projection   4.95
Kyle Kendrick IP FIP
2009 Season 26.1 3.59
2010 Bill James 47 4.8
2010 CHONE 167 4.96
2010 Marcel 81 4.71
2010 ZIPS 173 4.82
Average Projection   4.77

Omar Minaya: I’m Just Saying

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Omar Minaya’s stated goal when taking the General Manager post in 2004 was to make the team “younger and more athletic.” While one can argue the merits of such a mantra, it was something to which he could be held accountable. Parsing his words, you would expect the Mets to consistently field fast, young teams that cover a lot of ground. With that, I submit the New York Mets opening day lineup:

Player Age in 2010 2009 UZR
Barajas, C 35 n/a
Jacobs, 1B 30 0.4
Castillo, 2B 35 -10.4
Wright, 3B 28 -10.4
Cora, SS 35 -3.8
Bay, LF 32 -13
Matthews, CF 36 -14.5
Francoeur, RF 26 -6.1

How athleticism manifests itself in baseball may be a tricky thing to gauge; age not so much. Rod Barajas is a good defensive catcher, but 35. Jacobs was above average at 1B in a microscopic sample size. He’s really a putrid defender. With the exception of a Wright and Francoeur bounce-back, the Mets will field a decidedly old, nonathletic team.

So, hey, Omar, what do you say?

You Lost

Monday, March 15th, 2010

This is several days late, but everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?

“You lost,” is something my friends and I will say to mock each other’s misfortunes and/or shortcomings.

It’s like:

You tripped and spilled your beer. “You lost.”

Nobody likes your shitty girlfriend. “You lost!”

You’re stuck in traffic. The doctor will see you now…two hours later. The restaurant screwed up your order. And so on. You understand how this works. So when you find out your superstar shortstop will miss up to eight weeks with a thyroid problem?

New York Mets, you lost.

Consider that Reyes played in only 36 games last season and came to training camp in excellent shape and bear in mind that the Mets 2010 motto is Prevention & Recovery season, yet Beltran and Reyes will miss Opening Day, this all days after it was reported that Jose could be back in Port St. Lucie within days.

YOU LOST.

Worse yet is the cascading effect of this injury: the team will either be forced to start the service time/option year clock on 20-year old Ruben Tejada or start Alex Cora, potentially allowing his insane two million dollar option to vest for 2011. The latter will again force Luis Castillo to (not) cover more ground up the middle, exploiting his complete inability to range left.  Most infuriating is that Omar Minaya refused to upgrade the team’s middle infield depth in an off-season when Felipe Lopez, fresh off four WAR in 2009, signed for less than Cora’s salary two weeks ago.

Mets, you really lost.

And we lost too. Mets fans will be denied the privilege of watching one of the most exciting players in baseball do his thing. What was supposed to be a new beginning will, instead, feel a lot like 2009, Game 163. Even if you’re a fan of the vigilante sort, rooting for failure to catalyze sweeping organizational changes, you’re not exempt. Massive injuries were used as an excuse last season, obscuring hideous roster construction and poor personnel decisions. Beltran and Reyes missing perhaps as many as the first six weeks of the season, reverts the team to mid-2009 form, potentially providing Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel another stay of execution.

Nobody wins here — well, except for Mike Francesa, who was able to flex his omniscience when some HIPAA-law violating doctor scooped him on Reyes’s condition last Wednesday. Oh, and maybe Phillies mongo Larry Anderson — he finally got his wish. Sorta.