Archive for the ‘Topics for Discussion’ Category

I solve crime (and talk baseball) with NUMBERS

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

As I type this, the numbers are flying all over the place. 7 years, $150.75 million at an apy of $21.5 million per.  Well, all those numbers sound nice in early February, but at this same time of year, I have a few more numbers to throw out there.

14 Days…1 Hour…12 minutes.  Yes, those are the numbers that matter the most to me.  You see, those numbers will get smaller and smaller until February 14th at 12 noon, when a 28, soon to be 29 year old Venezuelan arrives in a sleepy little town off the east coast of Florida known as Port St. Lucie.  That will be the time, when Johan Santana steps into the home teams locker room at Tradition Field, looks across the room, and sees yet another number, albeit a more firmiliar one. 57. However, this number won’t be on the back of a Minnesota Twins spring training jersey, it will be that of the New York Mets.

At that point, the numbers, the money, the potential of past prospects and the ghost of bad deals past will not matter.  At that moment, it’s all about an amazingly talented man and his ability to throw a baseball; and throw it as well if not better than almost anyone else on this planet.  The only numbers that will matter between that time and October will be the one’s that precede the letter “W.”  Even the numbers on the patch on his sleeve that will read “1964-2008″ will mean nothing.  This isn’t about the past, it’s about the future.  2008 will mean nothing without those numbers in front of that “W.”  And even though all year, Johan Santana’s numbers will be dissected more than a frog in a High School Biology class, it’s all about winning.  Winning is every bit as much of an attitude as it is anything tangible.  An attitude that eluded this Mets ball club in the dog days of last summer.

Monday, David Wright, The Carlos’, Jose Reyes and many others were probably still practicing their answers to the question, “What happened?”  By this coming Monday, they will be asking questions of their own and looking forward to introducing themselves to the one man who can potentially take the pain of game 162 away.  You see, Johan Santana brings more to this club that a stellar left arm and knee buckling change-up, he brings simple change.  He brings the 2008 version of the New York Mets onto the field, and while many of them still feel the pain of last September, make no mistake about it, Johan Santana didn’t come here to be a footnote on the worst collapse in baseball history.  He may not be the savior…but he also sure as hell isn’t Livan Hernandez.

Topic for Discussion – David Wright

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Since he has been mentioned a lot in recent blog postings, and in the comments section, I figured this would be a good time to break out the old Topic for Discussion.  Incidentally, if you know a better name for this feature, please drop a suggestion, as it seems to be a bit generic.

There have been two topics we’ve discussed here about David Wright the past few days:

1)  Should David Wright be hitting second, and

2)  Is there anything wrong with David Wright?

I have certainly said my fill on the first topic.  Yes, I think David Wright should be hitting second.  Stats have shown that when a team bats its best three hitters at the top of the lineup, it will score more runs, because their best players will get to the plate more (conversely, when teams put guys at the top of the order who don’t get on base simply because they are fast, they are giving away runs).  More plate appearances for the Mets’ second-best hitter will mean more runs for the Mets, and makes them less likely to give away outs than they would with Paul Lo Duca hitting second.

The “if it ain’t broke” adage has been brought out regarding Lo Duca hitting second.  First, just because the Mets won 97 games with Lo Duca hitting second last year does not mean that Lo Duca is the best choice to be hitting second.  It means they won 97 games when they may have won 98 or 99 with Wright hitting second. 

Secondly, Lo Duca had the best season of his career last year, at age 34.  The chances of him repeating that season as a 35 year old are quite slim.  Why should the Mets be complacent and hit Lo Duca second, just because it has worked in the past?  The odds of Lo Duca hitting over .300 again are slim (last year was the first time he had hit over .300 since 2001).  Why should the Mets be reactive instead of proactive?  Why should they wait until Lo Duca falters before looking to move a better player into that spot?

Third, the argument that it would make the bottom of the order “too weak.”  Well, the bottom of the order should be weak.  It’s the part of the order likely to bat least.  You don’t want your seventh best hitter hitting more frequently than your second best hitter.  With the Mets’ current lineup, that’s what is happening.  Baseball is a game of outs; you only have 27 per game.  Putting Wright in the two spot ahead of Lo Duca makes them less likely to give away outs early, and would put them in position to score more runs.  In a year where the NL East will likely not be won as easily as last year, every out counts.

Then there is the issue with Wright’s performance so far.  People who look at stats will say that Wright has been fine.  People who watch the games will say something is wrong.  The truth probably lies somewhere in between.  Wright is hitting the ball well, and he’s hitting it hard.  Two great defensive plays are the difference between him hitting .276 and .345 right now, and the difference between him slugging 379 and .517.  If he was hitting .345, people wouldn’t be talking about how his swing looks slow.  If he was slugging .517, nobody would be talking about how he hasn’t hit for power this year.

Luck plays a part in hitting, so it’s obviously not an excuse, but luck tends to balance out.  There will be a game where the right fielder won’t be in a perfect position to make a play on a hard hit ball that will lead to a Wright double.  The home runs will come, too.  I’m not worried about Wright; he really isn’t even hitting poorly, but the talk on this site has been as if he had suddenly turned into a subpar player.  David Wright is not Kevin Maas.  He will be fine.

Topic for Discussion: Hate

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Perhaps hate is too strong of a term, but you get the idea. Surely, as Mets fans, thare are teams out there that we just don’t like. Obviously, you have the Yankees, the Mets’ cross-town rivals and their opponents for back-page headlines in New York. You have the Braves, who, like I mentioned earlier, have kicked Mets fans in the balls year after year since joining the NL East. You have the Phillies, whom maybe not every Mets fan hates, but speaking personally, I live close to Philadelphia and hate every single Philadelphia sports team with a passion. And there’s the other two division rivals, the Marlins and Nationals, who, while Mets fans may have trouble working up actual hate for those two teams, they’re still rivals and far from beloved. The rest of the teams in baseball…eh, who cares? Some may hold a grudge against the Dodgers for 1988; some may not like the Astros for ‘86; some still may remember the wars the Mets used to have in the NL East with the Cardinals and aren’t quite ready to forgive and forget, but generally speaking, there really aren’t any other teams you could call Mets rivals.

Now, onto the reason I created this topic. I was reading Matthew Cerrone’s excellent MetsBlog.com and saw an item about the Mets having interest in Greg Maddux. I read Cerrone’s comments, which were less than enthusiastic to say the least. I will infer, though he did not explain so himself, that Cerrone still harbors resentment towards Maddux for the years he spent helping to kick Mets fans in the balls as a member of the Atlanta Braves, and hasn’t quite forgiven him for this.

That’s what led me to this week’s TOD: how long can you hate a player for? Now, personally, I don’t care much about Greg Maddux at this point, and haven’t in a few seasons, since he’s no longer on the Braves. At the most, the Mets will face him twice a year, and may not face him at all. When I read rumors about the Mets looking into acquiring, say, Maddux, my first reaction is, “How will this help the team?”. My goal is to win a World Series, not hold onto a grudge from years ago, and while I personally don’t think Maddux will guarantee the Mets a ring, that’s pretty much where my resistance to the trade comes from.

For me, there are very few people playing the game of baseball who I can honestly say I’d never want to see in a Mets uniform. Derek Jeter, certainly, tops the list. Chipper Jones is right up there. Roger Clemens would certainly present an ethical quandry. I’d rather not see Bernie Williams trade pinstripes for blue and orange. Victor Zambrano can go fuck himself. There’s probably a few others out there, but those stand out to me as the big ones.

Other than that, it’s just players trying to win a game. It’s hard for me to take it personal when Greg Maddux beats the Mets year after year, because that’s why the Braves were paying him in the tens of millions. He wasn’t doing it because he hates the Mets, and wants all of us to suffer; he’s doing it because he is an amazing pitcher, and the Mets happen to be his opponents. Should he ever come to New York, which he probably won’t, I’m assuming he’d pitch his ass off in an effort to win another ring for himself and his teammates.

Of course, there are exceptions, as I mentioned. Derek Jeter is a douchebag. Chipper Jones named his kid Shea because he hits so well at Shea Stadium, which just makes me seethe. Roger Clemens threw part of a baseball bat at the most popular Mets player in twenty years. Bernie Williams is a lifelong Yankee, which is kind of like saying he’s a scumbag, but with more words. And Victor Zambrano is the reason why every time somebody says the name “Scott Kazmir,” I feel like I’m getting kicked in the stomach. But those are personal reasons. Greg Maddux, he was just an opponent who happened to be very good at his job. Hard to hate a guy for that. With only a few exceptions, I want players on the Mets who can help them win, and if they’re the reason they’ve caused them to lose in the past…hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

So where do other Mets fans stand on hate? Does anybody agree with me here? Are all of those mid- to late-90’s Braves worthy of hate? Am I being too leniant with Greg Maddux and other Mets killers? Am I being too harsh on Derek Jeter? By the way, if one person on here answers “yes” to that question, you are banned from MiracleMets.net for the rest of your life. Add your thoughts, I’m interested in what people have to say on the topic of hate.

Topic for Discussion: The Mets’ trade deadline moves

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

There seems to be almost no doubt in the minds of Mets followers that Omar Minaya will make some sort of move before the July 31st deadline. Minaya has shown a flair for pulling off the spectactular move; so far he’s made free agent acquisitions (Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner) and postseason trades (Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca). However, in his two seasons as the general manager of the Mets, he has yet to make the move at the trade deadline; there simply was no reason to do so last year.

This year is a little different. The Mets are in first place; barring a miracle from the likes of the Braves, Phillies, or Marlins, they will not be challenged for the NL East this season. In fact, there likely isn’t a team in the entire National League better, though in a short five-game or seven-game series, you never know who may come on top. But things would be different once they made the World Series. The American League has four teams among the elite in the major leagues this season; the Tigers, White Sox, Red Sox, and Yankees.

It’s questionable as to whether the Mets have the pitching to get through a series with any of those teams. Pedro Martinez’s health is a question mark; until he starts a game and shows he’s healthy, he can’t be trusted. Tom Glavine started the season brilliantly, but has been slowed of late. Steve Trachsel is Steve Trachsel; a solid guy who will eat 175-200 innings, and not somebody you’d want starting a World Series game if it can be avoided. Orlando Hernandez is old, and amazingly inconsistent. John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and Brian Bannister (when he returns from injury) are young and unproven at the major league level. I don’t think Mets fans are ready for a second go-around with Alay Soler, and Omar Minaya might get shot if he suggests a third go-around with Jose Lima.

So it would appear as though this Mets team could use a front-line starter. Unfortunately, there isn’t much out there. Dontrelle Willis’ name keeps coming up, but as long as he remains relatively cheap to the Florida Marlins, he will remain in Miami. This team would have to have some sort of talent base if/when they are moved. I think a lot of Mets fans would like to see them acquire Willis, if only because he is a Mets killer, but I’m not sure the Mets have the prospects to acquire him, since he would likely require more than Lastings Milledge. Despite the rumors, I see Willis staying put in Miami, and nothing short of the first born children of Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon, in addition to Lastings Milledge, would get it done.

The only other frontline starter on the market is Barry Zito. He would give the Mets another quality lefty starter, and assuming they resign him before he hits free agency, would give the Mets a quality left-handed starter to replace Tom Glavine, who I’m assuming will likely head back to Atlanta to win his 300th game in the offseason. The problem with Zito is, again, his availability. The A’s are in the middle of a pennant race. They’re leading the AL West, up a game on the Rangers, two and a half on the Angels, and five on the Mariners. One would think they would like to keep Zito if they plan to win the AL West, plus Billy Beane has never made a trade deadline deal to dump a player, often preferring to acquire the draft picks that would come with the free agent signing.

The Mets do have a major trading chip on the table; Lastings Milledge. While conventional wisdom says he takes left field from Cliff Floyd in 2007, conventional wisdom also said the Mets would be in the playoff hunt, not running away from the field. With the Mets in position to secure their first World Series berth since 2000, they can’t hesitate to make a move if it’s the difference between winning the World Series and winning for the National League pennant. While I like Lastings, and would hate to part with him, if a team has a chance to have a special season, and complete the ultimate goal if it means parting with a key prospect, they have to make that move. Lastings is unproven at the major league level, and if he can be used to procure a player who is, they have to make the move.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the position they most need help, pitcher, appears to have few options. The only two pitching options on the market where the Mets should even consider trading Milledge are Zito and Willis, and they both look iffy to actually get moved. Anybody else, and they’re making a Scott Kazmir trade. Livan Hernandez has been lousy, and Jim Bowden, after ripping off the Reds, is probably full of himself to the degree where he won’t trade Livan without getting an A+ prospect in return. Greg Maddux would be interesting to reunite with Glavine, but he’s old, and how much would the Cubs want in return for an aging pitcher? Jason Schmidt is supposedly available, but why would the Giants want to move their ace when they’re in two playoff races at the moment?

After that, the market really takes a hit, with a slew of Gil Meches, Kyle Lohses, Rodrigo Lopezes, and the like available. If Minaya traded Milledge to acquire any of those players, he’d likely be stabbed in the heart with a trident. At this point, it’s doubtful any of those guys except for Meche would definitely be an improvement over what the Mets currently throw out there; I mean, is Kyle Lohse really better than John Maine? They’d be spending money, and trading a prospect, to get marginally better in the rotation, and it’s probably not worth it.

So with options limited on pitching, do the Mets go in another direction? One player that has been linked to the Mets of late is Bobby Abreu. A lot of Mets fans are down on acquiring Abreu. I’m not necessarily one of them. Bobby Abreu would be an instant upgrade in right field; Xavier Nady is likely a stretch as an everyday right fielder. He has good power, but can’t hit righties very well and doesn’t get on base much. With Abreu on the team, the Mets’ bench gets that much stronger, and gets some added pop to boot, and can play the four corners.

A lot of Mets fans have complained about Abreu’s attitude, and his lack of hustle. My opinion is, much like Carlos Beltran, Abreu wears his attitude differently than some. He may not play the smoothest right field, but he’s no better or no worse than Nady, only a much better hitter. While he doesn’t have Nady’s power, Abreu is currently fifth in the majors in on-base percentage, at .438, over 100 points higher than Nady. He’s very good at not making outs. On this team, where he could help keep innings alive, he’d be very valuable. Stick Abreu in the 2 or 3 hole, and this lineup would definitely improve.

But should the Mets trade Milledge for him? My answer is…only if they absolutely cannot get Zito or Willis. If they’ve pursued every possible avenue with the A’s and the Marlins, and still can’t get that big upgrade for the rotation, then Abreu is the way to go. There’s no other impact players on the market that could definitely make the Mets a better team now; maybe Alfonso Soriano, but that’s it. In a season like this, the Mets may not be in this position again, where they could possibly win the World Series. Being aggressive is the only choice they have.

The Soriano option is out there as well. He’s another guy that isn’t exactly beloved among Mets fans, but the Mets could give him something he’d want very badly; the chance to return to second base. While Valentin has been impressive, Soriano would be an upgrade at second, and the Mets could use Valentin in the bench role that was envisioned of him before the season. I’m just not sure the Mets are really interested in Soriano, mostly because his defense is atrocious. However, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

There are other players the Mets are interested in. Julio Lugo’s name continues to be mentioned, but that would be a mistake. Unlike Soriano, he would not improve the Mets’ second base situation. There’s some bullpen help the Mets are reportedly interested in, and while there is the worry that some arms are getting overworked, their bullpen is among the best in the majors, and a move to stregnthen it could wind up being too costly.

So that’s where I stand, with the Mets a little more than a week away from the deadline. I think they almost have to acquire a pitcher, preferably a front-line starter. The availability of such a player right now is in question, but there’s still another week or so to go. If they can’t get a top pitcher, they have to find another way to improve this team somehow, because as they are currently constructed, I’m not confident they can win the World Series. Doing nothing is not an option. What do you guys think?

Topic for Discussion: Trade Floyd?

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

I was watching the afternoon half of today’s doubleheader with my friends Joe and Travis, and we came to discuss the call placed by the Detroit Tigers regarding the availability of Cliff Floyd. Omar Minaya apparently turned the Tigers down cold, and that was the end of that conversation. We discussed the pros and cons of moving Floyd, without any real consensus, and I thought I’d bring it up here for the weekly “Topic for Discussion.”

Should the Mets trade Floyd or not? My stance is a definite, emphatic, absolutely, positively, NO. They can’t trade Floyd. My reasoning is, no, Cliff isn’t having the best season of his career. His batting average has been in the .230’s fairly consistently, and he’s missed time due to various ailments.

But here’s the deal; Floyd is going to miss time. That’s just part of the Cliff Floyd experience. Sure, I wish he’d be hitting better, but he’s getting on base at a .330 clip, which is pretty good considering he’s only hitting .230.

Plus, the question has to be asked…who plays left? Milledge isn’t ready. I think he proved that fairly well during his stint in the majors. He was, much like Floyd, hitting in the .230’s at the time of his demotion, but with less on-base than Floyd (though he did actually have the slugging advantage). Defensively, Floyd is better; he’s less likely to botch a routine play, and despite not having as strong an arm as Milledge, has a much more accurate arm (as Alfredo Amezaga found out this afternoon).

Plus, quite frankly, Milledge isn’t mature enough for the majors yet. He has a ways to go before he’ll be mentally ready. He needs the time in Norfolk to prepare himself for playing left everyday in 2007. The Mets need Floyd in the lineup every day because they’re in the middle of a pennant race, and Floyd right now in his career is the better player.

The ONLY way this trade makes sense is if the Mets get a starting pitcher back. They aren’t going to get one from the Tigers, and I don’t know what the rest of the league would give up for an aging slugger whose contract expires in October. To me, they’re pretty much locked into Floyd; let Milledge get some PT in the minors, use Endy Chavez and Eli Marrero as the outfield reserves, and go to war with what you have. The Mets do need a starting pitcher, but I don’t know where they’re going to get it. Besides, the only pitcher on the Tigers who is probably available for the Mets is Kenny Rogers…and do I really need to explain why that’s a bad idea? I say, keep Cliff.

Topic for Discussion: Mets vs Yankees

Friday, June 30th, 2006

This weekend is the second and final Mets/Yankees series of the year. Last time out, the Mets took two of three (and really should have swept the series, had Billy Wagner not blown the Saturday game in the ninth, but we’ll look past that for now). Will they be able to take this series? Let’s take a look at how it breaks down.

Infield

The Yankees have the edge at catcher. Jorge Posada may not be the same hitter he was three or four years ago, but he’s playing better than Paul Lo Duca in every possible way. At first base, Jason Giambi’s OPS is 1.055. Carlos Delgado is .883. The Yankees are actually starting Miguel Cairo at second base with Robinson Cano out; even if the Mets still had Kaz, they’d have the advantage there. I’m going to call third base a push, against all better judgment. Alex Rodriguez may be the best hitter to ever play the game, but he is not having a better year than David Wright this year. Finally, at shortstop, it’s actually real close stats-wise, but…any Mets fan who says they aren’t terrified if Derek Jeter is up in a close game is lying. I don’t think Yankee fans have the same fears; then again, all Yankee fans are going to hell, so what’s left in life to fear when you know you’re in for a life of eternal damnation?

Advantage: Yankees

Outfield

This is a pretty easy win for the Mets, assuming Floyd plays. If Floyd and Nady play, the Mets have the first, third, and fourth best outfielders in this series. Only Johnny Damon can stake a claim to being better than anybody in the Mets’ outfield, and he’s certainly not better than Beltran. Even if Floyd and Nady don’t play, the Mets still have the best outfielder in this series, and with the Mets’ outfield reserves and the Yankees’ outfield reserves basically a wash, that gives the Mets the edge. One caveat; Bernie Williams, no matter how terrible he is, always kills the Mets. It never fails.

Advantage: Mets

Rotation

It’s Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, and Jaret Wright vs Orlando Hernandez, Steve Trachsel, and Alay Soler. Even accounting for Wright, this isn’t even worth discussing. By the way, the pitching matchup for the nationally televised Mets/Yankees game Sunday night is Alay Soler vs Jaret Wright. Let’s just say I don’t think that’s what ESPN will choose to focus their marketing efforts on.

Advantage: Yankees

Bullpen

But here’s where the Mets can make up for their shitty rotation. Despite last night’s ineffectiveness, the Mets’ bullpen is a lot better than the Yankees. The Yankees’ bullpen has Mariano Rivera and nobody that is even remotely frightening. Does the idea of seeing Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Proctor, Ron Villone, or anybody else scare anybody? Of course, if Heilman pitches in a close game at all this series, all bets are off.

Advantage: Mets

So it’s a pretty even series, maybe more even than most Met fans want to admit. This may be the worst Yankees team in some time, but they can score some runs, and as the Mets found out all too recently, a team that can beat up on their pitching can win against the Mets. Of course, the Mets can score some runs, too, though they haven’t the last three games, but I feel good about facing Johnson and Wright. The Mets will need at least one really strong pitching performance out of the back end in this series if they are to have a shot at winning it, and their best hope for that is probably tomorrow, when Trachsel faces Johnson. I’m concerned about Hernandez tonight; after the way Pedro pitched against the Red Sox, I’m worried about players facing their former teams at home. No matter what, it should be an entertaining series, as it always is when the Mets play the Yankees.

It’s a close series, with both teams matching up well against each other. Who’s going to win the series? C’mon, you didn’t visit MiracleYanks.net, did you?

Prediction: Mets take two of three.

What do you think? Let’s get the discussion ball rolling.

Topic for Discussion: The Mets’ Starting Lineup

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

What I wrote last night about trying to get David Wright more at-bats by moving him up in the lineup has got me thinking. What would you think about moving David Wright into the #2 hole, moving Nady up to the #5 hole, and moving Lo Duca down to the #7 hole? Here’s how the lineup would look, assuming Floyd comes off the DL by the time the Mets are back to playing in NL parks. All stats are as of the start of the Mets’ series against Toronto.

1) Jose Reyes (Bats S, .286 BA, .349 OBP)
2) David Wright (Bats R, .338 BA, .405 OBP)
3) Carlos Beltran (Bats S, .287 BA, .401 OBP)
4) Carlos Delgado (Bats L, .261 BA, .344 OBP)
5) Xavier Nady (Bats R, .266 BA, .325 OBP)
6) Cliff Floyd (Bats L, .238 BA, .330 OBP)
7) Paul Lo Duca (Bats R, .274 BA, .317 OBP)
8) Jose Valentin (Bats S, .301 BA, .345 OBP)

Here’s what I think: Paul Lo Duca’s .317 OBP is just too low to be batting second. He makes good contact, but Wright makes better contact and gets on base more, plus occasionally draws walks. It would preserve the symmetry in the lineup that Willie seems to like, by splitting up righties and lefties. Nady in the 5 hole gives them more slugging than they’d get out of Lo Duca (.501 vs .383) in addition to slightly more on-base percentage (though less batting average). Now, obviously, there’s the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I believe this lineup would better utilize the tools in their lineup, mainly because it would give Wright more at-bats to do his thing.

What do you all think? Is this lineup idea crazy? Do you think it’s nuts to tinker with a good thing? Do you have a lineup card you’d rather see? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.