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2007 & 2008 Mets vs. Phillies

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Or  how to fail at roster construction.  I referenced these stats in the previous post.  It looks worse itemized.


Phillies Mets
Core Position Players (FanGraphs WAR)
2007 2008 2007 2008
Utley 8 8.1   Wright 8.4 7.4
Rollins 6.7 5.3   Reyes 5.1 5.9
Howard 4.3 3.3   Beltran 4.9 6.7
Total 19 16.7   Total 18.4 20
             
Non-Core Position Players (FanGraphs WAR)
2007 2008 2007 2008
Rowand 6.2     Alou 2.1  
Werth 3.4 5.3   Delgado 1.5 2.9
Victorino 2.9 4.1   Castro 1.5 0.9
Burrell 2.3 3.2   Lo Duca 1.3  
Ruiz 1.7 0.5   Castillo 1.3 0.6
Iguchi 1.1     Easley 1.3 0.3
Dobbs 1 0.9   Gotay 0.7  
Barajas 0.7     Chavez 0.7 0.9
Bourn 0.7     Green 0.4  
Coste 0.6 1.6   Milledge 0.4  
Nunez 0     Gomez 0.2  
Helms -0.1     Valentin 0  
Feliz   1.5   Schneider   1.6
Jenkins   0.2   Church   1.6
Bruntlett   0   Tatis   1.6
Taguchi   -0.7   Anderson   -0.8
        Murphy   0.9
        A. Reyes   -0.2
        Evans   0.1
        Pagan   0.4
Total 20.5 16.6   Total 11.4 10.8
             
Pitching (pRAA via StatCorner)
2007 2008 2007 2008
Rotation -25 -23.4   Rotation 6.4 5.4
Bullpen -37.2 31.9   Bullpen -12.8 -22.7
Total -62.2 8.5   Total -6.4 -17.3

2009 World Series: Ire & Whine

Monday, October 26th, 2009

 Here is a list of questions I’d rather answer than the one I’m going to tackle:

  • Who do you love more – your mom or your dad?
  • How would you prefer to die – by strangulation or gunshot wound?
  • Which of Lady GaGa’s ‘organs’ most attracts you?

An excruciating 2009 Major League Baseball season just got a whole lot tougher for us to deal with. The Hades Series featuring the Mets’ most loathsome rivals – the Yankees and Phillies; or if you prefer, the Stankies and Sillies, the Yank-Me’s and Philthies — is an affair that’ll extract equal parts vomit and ire from yours truly and presumably, most of the fanbase.

 “Who to root for?” has been something of a moral dilemma for fellow Mets fans. For others, the answer is unequivocal. I’m rooting for the Phillies and I’d like to tell you why, in personal and unadulterated fashion.

It’s Visceral

Rewind the tape to 1996. The thirteen year old version of me sat in eighth grade home room the morning of World Series Game 1. I was born a Mets fan, allegedly watching games on my father’s lap at age two, reciting the roster on command for friends and family at age four and watching every game of the baseball season from age six and on. I loved baseball and especially loved the Mets.  Throughout my childhood, however, none of my classmates shared either of those loves. I could not so much as mention the sport without being reminded that it was boring and not as entertaining as basketball or football.

With shock and awe, I watched four of my classmates walk in with Yankees caps on. When the visual set in, I became livid. I yelled at them in my pubescent teen girly voice. I told them they didn’t know a thing about baseball. I told them the Yankees were going to lose and that I would laugh in their faces when they did. I rooted against the Yankees for the first time. And I loved it. 

This Phillies hate is just too new. Victorino, Rollins, Brett Myers: all contemptible, but it’s just not deep-seeded enough. This rivalry really began in 2007. Personally, the last three years doesn’t outweigh the last thirteen, even if there are extra hate points for recent scarring.

“Jim E. Dimoni”

I’m not one to get bent out of shape about the Yankees payroll. As I covered last week with the Mets, a large payroll doesn’t guarantee anything. The real reasons why the Yankees have been more or less indomitable for the last decade-plus are that they have three freakish cornerstone players in Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Two of the three have been elite at the toughest positions on the diamond and the other is the best relief pitcher of all time.  They’ve been great for so long and would be irreplaceable in the free agent market.

With that said, it’s a little tough to stomach the likes of Jon Heyman calling Brian Cashman the Executive of the Year. He signed the top two free agent pitchers and the best position player on the market to deals that exceeded the rate at which free agents were signing last off-season. Spending at or above-market rate in a buyer’s market is neither novel nor shrewd. Cashman did the job he had to do and just call it that. Remember, this is the same guy who traded good prospects for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.

Hate Thy Neighbor

Philadelphia fans are generally difficult to deal with, boorish louts that behave badly and violently. For the purpose of this exercise, the most critical word in that last sentence is “Philadelphia”, as in that’s where they’re located.  They’re not in New York and you rarely have to deal with them – except for those of you in South Jersey. 

Yankees fans are entitled and arrogant, pompous and insufferable, trollish and annoying. It’d be somewhat – I stress, somewhat — gratifying to see the Yanks lose at the hands of a team that’s nettled the Mets for the last three seasons. Part of this is Schadenfreude. I want Yankees fans to hurt like we’ve hurt. Mainly, I’d just like them to shut up.

Maybe the Mets Could Learn Something*

Consider this: according to FanGraphs, the Mets’ core (Beltran, Reyes and Wright) was worth +18 and +20 wins above replacement (WAR) in the “collapse years” of 2007 and 2008 respectively; the Phillies’ core (Howard, Rollins and Utley) posted +19 and +16.7 in that same span. The two groups performed similarly; however, the Phillies fortified their stars with legitimate talent. The Phillies non-core players (not including pitchers) tallied +20 and +16.6 WAR in the “collapse years”, where the Mets non-complimentary talent was worth +11.4 and +10.8. That chasm more than bridged the nearly six win pitching edge (as per StatCorner) the Mets held in 2007 and cushioned the Phillies slight pitching advantage in 2008.

Maybe, just maybe, the Phillies rubbing a second consecutive World Series in the Mets’ faces will force the organization to reconsider their baseball operations. I realize that this sounds delusional, but it’s the only direct benefit either of these teams winning could have on the Mets.  A Yankees win would just be chalked up to a large payroll, but the similarities between the Phillies and Mets are real – same division, similar core, similar payroll. This team must realize the opportunities they’ve squandered over the last few years.

[*I must be fair and acknowledge that there’s a real possibility of the Mets learning the wrong thing from a Phillies win. That is, they’ll look to acquire “grit” instead of talent.] 

One Last Thing

I’m getting slightly annoyed with the way people are addressing this Yankees or Phillies conundrum. Who to root for is a matter of heart, so there’s no right or wrong answer. This doesn’t call for a movement or rally and nobody is “crazy” for thinking one way or another.  Simply put, it’s the worst possible outcome of a long, troublesome season.

The Imaginary Rise and Fall of Nick Evans

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Sometime during the 2008 season, I recall Omar Minaya gushing to the media about Nick Evans. I can’t find a quote, or recall enough to paraphrase, so I’ll just make something up within reason:

“We feel very strongly that Nick Evans could be a very good hitter for our club. With that said, it takes right-handed hitters a long time to develop than left handed hitters you know what I’m saying?”

Omar Minaya’s kinda-statement was likely after a game where Nick Evans had a few hits, or perhaps, after the team announced that he’d platoon with Daniel Murphy in left field. Regardless, Minaya and the Mets organization thought highly of the then-22 year old Evans coming off a .386 wOBA in the notoriously pitcher friendly Florida State League and followed it up with a .403 effort in the Eastern League. He hit a modest .252/.303/.404  in 199 major league PA’s, but mashed lefties to an .894 OPS.

The Mets’ optimism continued into spring training when “Nasty” Nick slugged .488 in 80 spring training at-bats. Originally the team’s plans were to carry Evans on the roster until a fifth starter was needed. Gary Sheffield’s signing put the kibosh on that and instead, Evans went to Buffalo to start his season.

Nick struggled to begin the season hitting .093/.206/.226 in April and early May. On the surface, his slash stats are incredibly bad, but let’s take a closer look at the numbers:

87 plate appearances, 3 1B, 1 2B, 3 HR, 11 BB, 27 K, .089 BABIP (!)

That BABIP is just impossible to ignore. Of the 45 balls Evans put in play, only four fell for hits. A player trying to make weak contact couldn’t sustain that kind of BABIP over a larger sampling.  His real problem over this stretch was contact, striking out over 30% of his plate appearances, or nearly 10% higher than 2008. On the plus side, his walk rate jumped a few percentage points. As a whole, Evans was mired in a slump and a terribly unlucky streak over less than a fifth of season’s worth of plate appearances.

Unfortunately, support from the Mets began to waver. The organization felt, as expressed through whispers from choice media outlets, that Evans couldn’t handle his abrupt demotion to Buffalo. This tough guy — annoyed all season that the Indians left for Columbus — dubbed Evans ‘Ol 7-for-75′. He was eventually sent to to extended spring training to “get righted”. There he saw a sports psychologist and was eventually dispatched to Binghamton, the level he dominated last season.

Unsurprisingly, Evans hit immediately upon his return posting a .376 wOBA in his 80 plate apperances. The Mets, running short on healthy bodies, were forced to call Evans up in late June. He started eleven games and was returned to Buffalo once Angel Pagan returned.

Through the summer, however, it became clear his stock diminished with the organization.  Once he was called up for good in late August, Evans started only four games, receiving 22 total plate appearances and losing time to the 34 year old Fernando Tatis and 30 year old Cory Sullivan. Jerry Manuel explained his absence from the lineup as such, “I still have to be sure defensively how he fits.” Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post reiterated the Mets’ nascent lack of confidence in the 23 year old, Tweeting that the organization was down on him and felt he didn’t have a position.

What?  This player was going to make the team out of spring training, less than a year after Omar said right-handed hitters needed longer to develop! He’s 23 years old! He started Game 162 of the 2008 season in left field! Apparently, in the world of the New York Mets, 87 bad turns at the plate means a player can no longer hit or field competently.

Nick Evans’ Minor League Splits Total Zone Defense at First Base

Season League TZ TZ/150
2005 Kingsport (R-APP) +4  
2005 Brooklyn (SS-NYP) +6 +16
2006 Hagerstown (A-SAL) +9 +9
2007 St. Lucie (A+-FSL) -3 -4
2008 Binghamton (AA-EL) +5 +13
2009 Binghamton (AA-EL) -3  
2009 Buffalo (AAA – IL) +2  

Total Zone is the only objective measure of minor league defense available and it says Nick Evans can play some first base. His Major League UZR, in an extremely limited and insignificant sample, agrees with Total Zone.

Evans’ ability to play the outfield is more an unknown. He doesn’t have much MiLB experience there, but he’s tall, lean and athletic and possesses a strong enough arm to make good throws. According to UZR, Nick’s defense in left field rated very well in 2008 (+19.7 UZR/150 in 186 innings) and quite poorly in 2009 (-35.3 in 74 innings); however, the sample sizes are miniscule.

Abominably, it’s those small sample sizes that the Mets believe in. Daniel Murphy’s hot 130 PA’s in 2008 earned him the 2009 starting left fielder’s job. Jeff Francoeur’s goofy smile and ten post-trade home runs is enough to erase full seasons of suck. A couple of “clutch” hits in late September beget a lifetime of Ramon Martinez.

I just wish the Mets believed in this small sample:

 

Nick Evans Running Catch

Money For Nothing

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Two weeks ago, during the “It Was All Luis Alicea’s Fault” Media Tour, Jeff Wilpon committed to a 2010 payroll in line with the $147M the team spent this season. To that, the average baseball fan says, “Mets fans are lucky! Their owners are willing to spend top dollar on talent.”  At the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that statement. Mets fans are lucky — and if given the choice between a high payroll and a low payroll, I’m taking the high one. In this case, unfortunately, $147M doesn’t buy what it used to (supposed to) and therein rests the primary failing of the Mets in 2009.

 The table below represents Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (WAR) calculations for each Mets player.  To the right of the overall WAR column is the value of each player’s contributions on the open market (Fangraphs determined that a win is worth ~$4.5), their total salary according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts and the ‘Net’ value of that player’s contract to the team in 2009 (derived simply by subtracting the player salary from their value).

(more…)

…And Let There Be Bostick!

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Bostick channeling Prince Fielder. A few days ago, Adam Rubin stated the Mets need for a second left-handed reliever, citing the team’s use of Casey Fossum, Ken Takahashi, Jon Switzer and Pat Misch to various degrees of failure in the LOOGY role.  The Mets likely agree with his assessment when you consider that trade deadline rumors centered on their quest for a left-handed reliever. Well what if I told you there was a left-handed reliever in Buffalo striking out batters at a clip of 9.76 per nine innings?  I wouldn’t be selling your city a monorail; I’d be telling you about the richness of Adam Bostick.

Bostick was acquired after the 2006 season with Jason Vargas (since dealt to Seattle in the J.J. Putz theft trade) in the oft-maligned Matt Lindstrom trade. In his best effort to show that Omar Minaya got more than tomato cans for the fireballing Lindstrom, Adam returned from micro-fracture knee surgery (what up Carlos Beltran?) that ended his 2008 season prematurely to post a 3.67 FIP in 57 2/3 innings pitched in Binghamton and Buffalo. Of the 74 left-handed hitters he faced, the 6′1″ left-hander struckout 23 and walked only 5. Granted, the sample size is small, but Bostick’s 2009 splits jibe with his career numbers:

2009 vs LHH: 10.02 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 43.1% GB
Career vs. LHH: 8.71 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 44% GB

The uptick in control is likely due to spending time in Binghamton and the 3.18 BB/9 mark from Buffalo is more in line with his true talent level.  It’s clear that Bostick has done a fine job handling left handers; let’s take a look at his performance against right-handers.

2009 vs. RHH: 9.73 K/9, 4.14 BB/9, 36.8% GB
Career vs. RHH: 8.27 K/9, 4.52 BB/9, 40.4% GB

What’s most intriguing about Mr. Bostick is his ability to handle right-handers, posting solid strikeout and groundball rates against them.  Obviously, the increased number of walks is a red flag and a sign that Bostick may not be an ideal “crossover reliever”, but a pitcher who can be trusted to navigate a left/right/left lineup configuration without mandating an intentional walk.  Most importantly, what Adam possesses are tools to become an effective relief pitcher.  Good relievers must strikeout a lot of hitters because the sample sizes in which they work are small and subject to the slings and arrows of batted ball luck.  His ability to generate ground balls neutralizes home runs and mitigates his spotty control.

In a season as disappointing and injury-plagued as this one, where the Mets have used eleven different starting pitchers and thirteen unique relievers, it’s a great mystery as to why Adam Bostick was not called up. Isn’t he a better use of innings and resources than Elmer Dessens and his quest for a full MLB pension? Isn’t he worth a look when you’re playing for next season? If it’s because the Mets are being cautious with his knee, kudos to them for finally having some foresight; if it’s because there’s ‘no room on the 40-man roster’ or ‘the organization doesn’t think he’s ready’, chalk it up as another Metsfail in a season full of them.

Toby Hyde feels Bostick should be added to the 40-man roster at season’s end — and the Mets better — or a smart organization will nab him, leaving the Mets in position to burn a couple of million dollars on a replacement level reliever (see Beimel, Joe).  Where have I heard this before?