Jerry Manuel is Smart

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.

The K-Rod fiasco

August 13th, 2010

Once again the NY Mets have made the news. This time it wasn’t for a terrible, painful, excruciating, heart-wrenching loss. No it wasn’t for a Mets pitcher being accused of raping a woman on a golf course. No, it wasn’t a vote of support for the manager or the GM. This time it was for their closer punching out his girlfriend’s father after a loss. Most of us already hate K-rod. He has blown way too many games already this year and last year. Every time he comes in, he finds a way to scare the piss out of you. Now he’s a criminal so we can hate him more.

 

The Mets fined K-rod $125,000 for his actions in the family room at Citi Field after Wednesday’s bullpen blow-up loss after yet another fine performance by Jon Niese. Whatever may have happened behind closed doors, K-rod’s behavior is inexcusable. You can’t behave like that in front of your team mates and their families. I really  hope Bud Selig suspends him for his reckless behavior and the Citi Field faithful boo him more than they already do in future games.

Suckond Base

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Thank You Friends!

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.