Archive for the ‘2010 Season’ Category

Suckond Base

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The offensive output from Mets’ second basemen has been pretty dreadful.  This should really come as no surprise to anybody who has watched a Mets game this year.  I’m not really going out on a limb by saying that Luis Castillo, Alex Cora, and Ruben Tejada have been bad hitters, this season.  The question I’m concerned with is, exactly how bad have they been in 2010?  How can we put their poor level of play in perspective?  Here’s an attempt to show just how badly they have hit this season.

After posting one of his best-ever line drive rates in 2009, Luis Castillo has crashed back down to Earth, hitting a career-high percentage of ground balls while hitting a career-low percentage of line drives.  The end result has been a .257 BABIP, which is about what you’d expect out of a player hitting line drives about 14.7% of the time. Castillo’s BABIP doesn’t usually stray too far from his batting average, as he pretty much always puts the ball in play; he rarely strikes out and never homers.  All told, Castillo has “produced” a .242/.336/.284/.620 line on the season.  This makes him the best hitting Mets second baseman by a fair margin this season.  For this production, Castillo will make $6 million this year.

Alex Cora is posting career-low totals in just about everything.  He’s struggling to hit above .200, he has provided no power to speak of (9 extra base hits in 187 PA), and he rarely walks.  This has produced a downright ugly .207/.265/.278/.543 line on the season.  His batted ball numbers are pretty consistent with his career lines, and yet he’s posted a career-low .226 BABIP, which does not vibe well with his line drive percentage, so it’s possible he’s due for an upturn in luck over the last two months. He’s still not going to get a whole lot better, and it’s borderline crazy that the team valued his contributions to be worth $2 million this season, with a vesting option for next season to add insanity on top of crazy.

I don’t want to rip Ruben Tejada, as he had no business being in the major leagues as a 20 year old.  He was overpromoted after injuries to Castillo and Jose Reyes forced the Mets to carry an extra middle infielder while Cora was forced into a starting role, which says more about the Mets’ depth issues in Buffalo than it does about Tejada’s own talents.  Still, it’s worth pointing out that Tejada has outhit Cora on the season with a .211/.297/.250/.547 line, though when there are several pitchers in the National League who have outhit Cora, I’m not sure if that’s anything worth bragging about.  

It is interesting to point out that despite a much better defensive reputation, it’s Tejada who has produced a negative UZR rating at second base this year, with a -1.5 in only 166 innings.  By comparison, Cora and Castillo have been about average defensively, with Cora producing a 1.3 UZR in 344 innings, and Castillo producing a 1.1 UZR in 438 innings.  Judging by my own eyes, though, I would like to see a larger sample size for both before conceding that either Cora or Castillo is a good defender.

Now that we’ve established that Castillo, Cora, and Tejada have been bad this year, let’s try to put thsi in perspective.  They are 26th in the majors in on-base percentage, thanks entirely to Luis Castillo’s batting eye, the one useful hitting skill held by a Mets’ second baseman. They are eleventh in walks, with Castillo leading the way (28 of their 42 walks came from him in roughly half their plate appearances). They are dead last in the majors in slugging percentage, ahead of only the sixth-best organization in baseball Seattle Mariners.  The Mets are the only team in baseball without so much as a single home run by a second baseman this season, and only two teams have fewer doubles this season than the Mets, which goes a long way towards explaining that league-low slugging percentage.

All told, Mets second basemen have produced a .232/.306/.289/.594 line on the season.  That .594 OPS is the worst in the major leagues at second base by over 30 points.  If you prefer more advanced statistics, their .273 wOBA, 8 points behind the 29th ranked Cubs.  That is a truly woeful wOBA.  Your eyes do not deceive you; Mets second basemen have been the worst hitting in the majors this season.  For the privilege, the Mets have paid $8 million, and are scheduled to spend another $8 million on the same cast of characters again next season.

To be fair, this isn’t the worst collective hitting performance by a team at a specific position this season.  The Mariners*, Nationals, Tigers, and Astros have had worse performances out of their catchers, the Mariners*, Astros, and Orioles have had worse performances out of their shortstops, the Mariners* and Angels have had worst performances from their third basemen, the Indians have seen their center fielders perform worse this season, and the Mariners* have gotten worse from their designated hitter spot.

* And you wonder why the #6org tag exists; that’s four separate positions where the Seattle Mariners have had worse offensive performances than 2010 Mets second basemen!

The front office simply cannot afford this type of production at second base again next season.  Most enlightened baseball fans felt that giving Luis Castillo $24 million over four seasons after the 2007 season was an unwise decision, as he was a no-power second baseman whose only skills at the time were legging out ground balls for base hits and batting eye, and he was gradually starting to lose his legs.  Today, his legs are gone and all that remains is the batting eye.  Whether it be Omar Minaya or (hopefully) somebody else, the team cannot afford to punt an entire position this badly next season.

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.

Tangents

Monday, July 26th, 2010

I have no coherent thoughts about the team these days, so here is a collection of incoherent thoughts.

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The next Mets’ manager

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Jerry Manuel got the dreaded “vote of confidence” from Omar Minaya yesterday, surely a sign that any day now, he will be relieved of his duties as Mets manager.  We will remember Jerry because of his love of the sacrifice bunt, his inability to properly handle a bullpen, his attack on sabermetric principles, and his ability to laugh his way through press conferences without being called out by Alex Cora.  Personally, I will remember Jerry because I can’t remember a manager I’ve ever disliked more, including Willie Randolph.

With Jerry Manuel almost out the door, it’s time to start looking for the next man to lead the Mets.  Bob Melvin seems to be getting the most pub out of the mainstream writers like Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal, but Melvin is a guy who has already failed in two other stops; what makes the Mets think he’s going to be any better the third time around?  Isn’t it time the Mets stopped hiring retreads?  Isn’t it time the Mets looked to their past?  Isn’t it time the Mets hired an ‘86 Met to manage the team?  In fact, right now managing in their minor league system, the Mets have a former 1986 Met, their second baseman from that team, so they wouldn’t even have to look very far to hire their next manager.

That’s right, the Mets should name Tim Teufel their interim manager through the end of the season.

Granted, the Binghamton Mets aren’t exactly setting the world on fire this season.  They are 51-48, good for third place in the Eastern League North.  Still, Teufel has done a good job helping along the minor league careers of Nick Evans, Reese Havens, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and he has a good reputation in the game for helping to develop young players.  That could be a key skill as the Mets’ minor league system continues to graduate players, with Ike Davis already on the team and young stars like Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez in the pipeline.

Here are some other qualifications that I think make Teufel a quality candidate:

Perhaps you are thinking “Since when is ‘not acting like a total sociopath’ an acceptable qualification for becoming a major league manager?  Millions of people every day manage to avoid acting like total sociopaths and are not qualified to be major league managers.  Heck, even Jerry Manuel manages to avoid acting like a sociopath, and he’s blatantly and unequivocally unqualified to manage in the major leagues.”

I don’t have a good answer for these hypothetical questions.  I merely support Tim Teufel’s candidacy as the next Mets manager because he’s not Jerry Manuel, and he’s not crazy.  I guess I could support Ken Oberkfell based on those grounds as well, but he never played for the Mets, and dammit, we need some history on this team.  Where else could the Mets find a former second baseman from their last championship team who manages in the system and isn’t crazy?  The answer is clear: Teufel.

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.

First Half Mets Grades – Pitchers

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Yesterday I looked at the Mets hitters and how they’ve performed in 2010, today let’s take a look at the pitchers. 

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First Half Mets Grades: Hitters

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Yes, we’re still here.  Sorry it’s been so long between posts here at Blue and Orange, but quite frankly, it’s been kind of a boring season.  The Mets are good, but not THAT good.  Jerry Manuel continues to defy logic left and right, but it’s no longer a story when he does something dumb; it’s a headline that he’s doing the right thing by starting Angel Pagan over Jeff Francoeur in right field, which makes me think he didn’t make that decision.  David Wright has returned to greatness, but that was generally expected, as was Jose Reyes eventually righting the ship.  Really, the only real surprises of 2010 have been the emergence of Angel Pagan as one of the best players in baseball and the front office cutting bait on retreads like Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, and Gary Matthews Jr sooner than most pessimistic Mets fans expected.

So what have we not written about during the first half?  Here’s a look at the hitters today, the pitchers tomorrow, and a look into the crystal ball on Thursday as I try to predict what we might see from this team in the second half.

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End of the road

Monday, April 12th, 2010
The patron saint of washed up Mets.

The patron saint of washed up Mets.

It’s no secret that Omar Minaya has preferred to acquire older players during his tenure as GM.  The Mets have spent many of the past few seasons with one of the oldest roster in the major leagues, despite the primes of relatively young superstars such as David Wright and Jose Reyes.  However, I noticed a trend with many of Minaya’s acquisitions. A good number of players acquired by Minaya were not only old, but were also completely washed up.  So washed up, in fact, that these players have never played another game of baseball at the major league level .  A high enough number that when I instant messaged Will last week with my idea for this item, he immediately reeled off three different names than I had in mind.

Here is a list of players whose careers have ended wearing the blue and orange.  I did set some criteria; players must have held a full-time job in the majors at some point in their career, or at least a long career as a part-time player (eight seasons or more) before coming to the Mets, and then never played in the majors again.  I’m not counting spring training retirees like Andres Galarraga or Bret Boone since they never took the field during the regular season as Mets.  Finally, I’m not including Julio Franco* because of his 45 plate appearances with the Braves after being dropped by the Mets, even if he belongs on this list in spirit.

* – I was originally going to include Livan Hernandez as “belonging on this list in spirit,” but after he completely shut down the Mets throwing absolute slop Sunday afternoon, that probably isn’t completely fair.  Fun season so far.

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Why is Gary Matthews Jr playing over Angel Pagan?

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I have made no secret of my dislike of the current Mets management team.  Omar Minaya and his front office did not make the necessary bright moves to make this team better for the upcoming season.  By giving an epic dumbass like Jerry Manuel so little help before the season starts, Omar is basically daring Jerry to make horrible decisions that result in poor results.  In order for Jerry to be good at his job, he needs stability; open competitions in spring training will almost guarantee that Jerry makes the worst possible decision that negatively affects the Mets’ short-term and long-term goals of playing meaningful games in September.  It’s like giving a monkey a gun; sure, you blame the monkey when he kills innocent bystanders, but the man who gave the monkey the gun deserves some blame too, right?

Much has been said about the Mets’ opening day lineup.  Here is a table of the top 10 worst position players in baseball last season by WAR, minimum 300 plate appearances:

Player WAR
Yuniesky Betancourt -2.2
Jose Guillen -1.9
Delmon Young -1.3
Aubrey Huff -1.0
Garrett Anderson -0.9
Gary Matthews Jr -0.8
Alfonso Soriano -0.7
Ronny Cedeno -0.6
Chris Davis -0.6
Mike Jacobs -0.6

Yes, two of the top ten worst players in baseball last year were players identified by Omar Minaya as players he should acquire to help bolster the 2010 New York Mets.  That’s pretty remarkable.  Even on a scouting level, I can’t imagine anybody watched Jacobs and Matthews last year and identified them as players worth acquiring, let alone starting, for the 2010 season.  Give Omar some sort anti-award for blatantly ignoring even the most basic of statistics and going with his gut and acquiring two of the very worst players in baseball from last season anyway.

It’s bad enough to acquire these guys; it’s another matter all together to be starting them over players who out-performed them last year.  Let’s focus on Gary Matthews Jr. for now, I’ll get to the Mike Jacobs/Chris Carter disaster another time.  Angel Pagan threw up a .306/.350/.487/.837 slash line last year, good for 2.8 WAR, or 3.7 more WAR than Gary Matthews Jr produced last season.  Is Pagan likely to repeat that sort of production?  Probably not, but he would have to regress pretty heavily to come close to being as bad as Matthews was last year.  Add in that he’s a younger player, and a much better defensive player, and the choice should be pretty obvious; Pagan should be starting, Matthews should be on the bench.

Yet after three games, Matthews has earned two starts and will likely earn more in the future.  The reasoning is stupid; Jerry believes Pagan is a top of the order player, and thus is utterly incapable of batting lower in the lineup when Alex Cora bats leadoff*.  Of course, Angel Pagan’s isolated slugging last year was .181, and Gary Matthews Jr’s was .111, and Pagan had two more homers, three more doubles, and eight more triples than Matthews last year, so I’m not really sure what Manuel’s point is here, other than “I don’t understand the game of baseball or how to identify a good player from a very, very bad one.”

* Which is crazy enough as it is; Cora’s career OBP is .313, his OBP last year was .320, and he’s not typically known as a fast player, so by any reasonable idea of what a leadoff hitter should be, Cora fails .

This problem figures to be worsened by the return of Jose Reyes in the lineup.  Reyes is, of course, a much, much, much better player than Alex Cora (who would rank 26th on that list above of “Worst Players in Baseball by WAR in 2009″), so overall, the lineup itself will be better.  But it will still be far from optimal, as Pagan will be sitting in favor of Matthews, with Reyes and Castillo holding down the top of the order.  Without an open position at the top of the lineup, Manuel will likely continue to sit Pagan, and the team will suffer for it.

This is why Jerry Manuel cannot be trusted to make any decisions.  This isn’t even a tough decision; Pagan was one of the Mets’ pleasant surprises last season, a player who by the end of the season, was one of the team’s most valuable position players.  Gary Matthews Jr was one of the worst players in all of baseball.  Yet Matthews has a name, and he was good enough at one point in his career to become grossly, grossly overpaid, and he made that one catch at an All Star Game, so he must be better than ordinary ol’ Angel Pagan!  It’s this type of decision-making, that starts at the front office level and permeates into the field manager level, that will doom Mets fans from seeing playoff calibre baseball in Queens as long as guys like Minaya and Manuel run the ballclub.

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