Blue & Orange Open Mic This Thursday

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

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

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.

End of the road

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?

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

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

Blue and Orange 2010 Season Preview

April 4th, 2010

Welcome to this year’s Blue and Orange Mets season preview!  We have a few different perspectives on the site, and the following tries to give time to different sides of the coin, to give you an idea where Mets fans expectations are going into this season.  Not surprisingly, all perspectives point towards another down year for the Mets.  Here now is the season preview; for ease of reading, the black text is Chris Wilcox, the blue text is Will Davidian, and the red text is Joeadig.

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Omar Minaya: I’m Just Saying

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?

Jerry Manuel’s short-term future should not outweigh the Mets’ long-term future

March 19th, 2010

In a word: desperation.  We are seeing it right now.  Both of them know that the Mets can’t have another year like they had last year, or else they are both gone.  At the same time, ownership did not give Minaya the keys to go out and drastically overspend on the free agent market.  In many ways, that was a good thing; it prevented the team from signing Bengie Molina, for one, and the team did not go crazy trading prospects for short-term solutions.  In many ways, it was also a bad thing; the starting rotation is perilously thin, and it led to the team bringing back Alex Cora as “the devil they know” rather than pursuing a better middle infield reserve like Felipe Lopez and Adam Everett, both of whom signed with teams for less money than the Mets will pay Cora.  It seems silly that the team would not pursue a better reserve shortstop with Jose Reyes coming off of injury, but that’s the New York Mets for you; such incompetence is sadly expected at this point, and will remain that way until Minaya and Manuel are gone.

Ironically, one area of the team where the Mets are not particularly undermanned is the bullpen.  Between Frankie, Feliciano, Igarashi, Calero, Parnell, Green, Nieve (assuming Niese wins the 5th starter job), Takahashi, and Figueroa, somewhere in there is a pretty good seven man bullpen.  They have enough internal candidates already to where a young, promising arm like Jenrry Mejia should only be concerned with going to Double-A (not even Triple-A) to master control of his secondary pitches, work on command, and keep stretched out as a starter to hopefully benefit the big league Mets, at the earliest, in the second half of 2011.

The middle infield is an area of a little bit more concern, though no thanks to the fools in charge.  Thanks to Alex Cora being retained as the middle infield reserve due to his great leadership abilities, (another good reason to fire Manuel; they value his leadership so little that they employ a player to help lead the team) the team doesn’t have a backup shortstop that they actually trust to start everyday should their starter, the great Jose Reyes, find himself injured.  Considering that Reyes was coming off of a severe hamstring injury in 2009, you would think that they would make it a priority to have a middle infield reserve that they trust should he miss time.  As it turns out, the hamstring isn’t a problem, but Reyes is suffering from a thyroid condition that will keep him out of action for the first month or two of the season. 

Since the team doesn’t actually trust Alex Cora, 20 year old prospect Ruben Tejada now seems likely to make the team.  While Tejada will almost surely be a huge defensive improvement over Alex Cora at shortstop, he will give a lot of that improvement back with his inability to handle major league pitching.  This is a guy who is only a year removed from a .229/.293/.296 line in Single-A, and while that may be an improvement over some of the reserve shortstops we saw with Reyes out last year, that is still in no way major league-ready.  It would be nice to see Tejada master the International League before being promoted to the major leagues, just to make sure that 2009 wasn’t a BABIP-inflated fluke.

Yet because Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel need to save their jobs, they need a success story or two, to hide their many failures.  That is what Mejia and Tejada represent; a chance for them to show that the farm system is producing players, that they can work within the restrictions that the Wilpon family has put on them.  They have nothing to lose; if Mejia and Tejada succeed, Minaya and Manuel look like geniuses for a minute or two.  If they fail, hey, Minaya and Manuel are likely getting fired at some point before October of 2010 anyway, so what do they lose?

It’s not as grievous a mistake with Tejada as it is with Mejia.  At least with Tejada, we can assume his stay in the majors will be short, only long enough for Reyes to return from the disabled list, assuming Cora doesn’t suffer some grizzly thumb-related injury before that can happen.  Whenever Reyes is back from injury, Tejada will be sent back to Buffalo after finding himself completely and totally overmatched offensively in the majors, even if he represents a huge upgrade defensively from Cora.  It’s still an ill-advised decision, and proof that this team has absolutely no idea how to build organizational depth (Russ Adams is 4th on the organizational depth chart solely as a token ex-major leaguer to appease the Bisons front office, not because he’s somebody the major league team would ever consider bringing up), but somewhat justifiable.  Playing in the majors for 2-4 weeks shouldn’t hinder his development.

Bringing Mejia to the majors as a reliever this soon, however, that is borderline malpractice.  Mejia can probably hold his own for a little while in the majors.  He may even be preferable to keep around over players like Bobby Parnell or Sean Green.  I don’t need to go into too much detail as to why, as dozens have done so before me.  The key point is, Mejia’s ceiling is too high to waste in a role where he won’t be forced to work on his secondary offerings, and he should only be used in the bullpen when he proves completely incapable of becoming a starting pitcher.  We may not know what he will become, but limiting his ceiling this early in his development is the work of desperate men.

And that’s the problem with keeping Manuel and Minaya around when management has a pretty good idea that they probably aren’t long-term solutions for the role.  Much like Omar Minaya has proven unable to handle sunk costs like Luis Castillo, so too have the Wilpons shown an inability to handle sunk costs like Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya.  Clearly, by the restrictions Omar had in free agency this offseason, they don’t view him as a long-term solution, so limiting his ability to do long-term harm in free agency was a wise move.  But he can still do long-term harm without making a single move by being trusted with minor league promotions when, in reality, the progression of minor leaguers are only important to him if the team wins and he can retain his job. 

The problem is even worse with Manuel; he keeps pushing for the team to promote Mejia because if Mejia’s ETA isn’t until mid-2011 at the earliest, Mejia can’t help him if the team sucks again this year.  But he sees that electric fastball, which is definitely major league ready, and that he can get batters out in a relief role once or twice around the league.  Considering that the bullpen has remained an issue for this team dating back to before Manuel was even the manager, Manuel needs every advantage he can find to retain his job.  The problem has become that, in the case of Mejia, Manuel’s short-term job security should not outweigh Mejia’s long-term potential, without even factoring in how much better this team would be if Manuel did get fired.  Yet that seems to be what’s happening.

The outside forces, the same outside forces that told Omar Minaya “Thou shalt not offer Bengie Molina a two year contract” need to step in here.  They need to recognize that Mejia is not ready for the majors, and that he needs far more developmental time than he is being given.  They need to see that Minaya and Manuel are only promoting him in a last-ditch effort to save their jobs, that the team’s future outweighs theirs, and they need to put a halt to the overpromotion game.  Supposedly, Tony Bernazard’s firing meant the end of prospects being promoted well before they were ready, but clearly, that’s not the case.  The 2010 Mets are a team built on desperation, but for once, can they show some caution here?

You Lost

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.