Friday, January 27, 2006

Quick Note on Brian Bannister

And I agree that we’re getting ahead of ourselves with the prospect talk. I feel like Bannister, after posting this last season 2005 - AA - 109ip, 2.56 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.79 K/92005 - AAA - 45ip, 3.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9.53 K/9 is being VERY underrated. I would consider him a notch above Maine at this point.

As for Humber, Soler, and Pelfrey… I wouldn’t count on any of them seeing time in the Majors this season, and probably only one of them (my money is on Pelfrey) making any impact in the Show.

Edit -- October 5, 2009
Bannister, as we all know, has gone on to a successful major league career for the Kansas City Royals. He is only 30-38 on his career, playing for a bad team, but has posted an ERA+ of 93, making him slightly above average for a starter for his career. He has done so all while earning slightly more than two million dollars over three seasons. Would have been a nice cheap player to have.

As for Humber, Soler, and Pelfrey... I was on the mark again, with Pelfrey making the Mets and having an excellent 2008. He had a poor 2009, so we'll see if he gets over the sophomore slump or not.

Who is Steve Schmoll?

"Steve Schmoll, the right-handed reliever the Mets acquired from the Dodgers on Wednesday, had pitched in 15 games for the Zulia Agullas team in Venezuela, striking out 20, walking four and surrendering 18 hits in 19 innings. His ERA was 2.84."

I knew the PCL was a very offensive league, but I had no idea how much. Of all the players with 25+ IP on the PCL team that Schmoll was on, only ONE had a better ERA then he did, and that was Osoria, who’s a good prospect too.

For reference, the four leaders in IP on that team had ERA’s of: 6.48, 5.35, 7.17, 7.12. No wonder Edwin Jackson’s head is all messed up.

Schmoll is a little old, but it looks like hge got a late start… he got crushed in college and went undrafted, but every year has done significantly better. Maybe he’s just learning to control that submariner delivery. Maybe he has a shot.

About Schmoll again… he seriously got shelled in college. Pretty bad for three years, until as a senior he put up a 3.49 ERA and 12.73 k/9. He then continued that success in Rookie Ball (23), A and then AA at the age of 24, and then last season at AAA and the Majors. His last season in the minors OUTSIDE of the PCL, he put up a 1.83 ERA and 8.24 K/9 in AA.

Then, even while in the PCL, he struck out 10.59 per nine innings and allowed only 0.34 homers per nine. Those are pretty nice numbers for that league. For the moment, I can be a little less upset about the Seo trade.

Edit -- October 5, 2009

Steve Schmoll posted a 4.69 ERA in AAA for the Mets in 2006. He followed that up with an excellent 3.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 2007 for the same squad, New Orleans. Not star-caliber stats, but certainly useful. He posted a 47-18 K-BB ratio, and the high WHIP isn't as much of a problem for a guy who induces ground balls.

The Mets subsequently released/traded/non-tendered him, as he pitched this year for Washington's AA team. He posted a 3.07 ERA, again, only decent for someone his age (28) but way down in Double-A. I think he deserves a shot, but it doesn't look like he'll get one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why I Love Cliff Floyd

For those of us long suffering Met fans, Cliff Floyd was very symbolic of our recent struggles. He's a good player, but for some reason or another, had been falling short of expectations for his first three years here.

For a quick back story, Cornelius Clifford Floyd was drafted in the first round of the 1991 draft by the Expos. After crushing AA to the tune of .329/.415/.600 with 26(!) home runs as a 20 year old, everyone assumed he was on the fast track to the majors.

Fast forward four injury-riddled seasons to 1997, and Cliff found himself trying to break in as a regular with the Florida Marlins. Finally, at the age of 25, he was able to arrive, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 90, while batting a robust .282. His career had various stops and starts after that, including a 2001 All-Star Selection for his 31 home run .317/.390/.578 season.

Prior to the 2002 season, the Mets elected to let Edgardo Alfonzo sign elsewhere, and used that money to ink Floyd to a four season, $26 million dollar deal. Already, he's justified that contract. But now, entering his final season, everyone is wondering what we can expect from our fragile, now 33 year old left fielder.

Cliff had somewhat of a renaissance last season. After playing in only 108 and 113 games in the previous two seasons, Cliffy banged out 34 home runs, drove in 98 runs, scored 85 times, and put up a line of .273/.358/.505. He had a great season, and was receiving chants of "MVP! MVP!" early on in the season when he was on a torrid pace. It was a good season.

What really struck me about Cliff Floyd’s 2005, however, was how many fans kept referring (and still keep referring to it) as a “career year”. For his career, Cliff has hit: .281/.361/.494. Last season's numbers were right in line those. As a matter of fact, Cliff was better on a per at bat basis in 2003 but played fewer games. His true career season came in the aforementioned All-Star year - .317/.390/.578 - wow.

So if he wasn't unusually productive, why was he able to set a career high in home runs and once again FEEL like a dominant force in the middle of that Met lineup? Take a look at the following:

Double/HR ratio
2001- 44 / 31
2002- 43 / 28
2003- 25 / 18
2004- 26 / 18
2005- 22 / 34

For some reason or another, more of Cliff's hard hits went over the fence last season. His slugging percentage didn't change appreciably, but the proportion of home runs to other hits increased dramatically.

Many players, as they age, will add muscle mass and lose speed. We've already seen Cliff slow down for a variety of reasons, but maybe now he is at a point in his career where he's becoming more of a slugger rather than an all-around ballplayer. An interesting comp, simply because he's another power hitting left fielder, would be Barry Bonds. Bonds, obviously, had his steroid-induced seasons in the 2000's, but earlier in his career exhibited the trend that we would expect.

For his first four seasons, he hit more doubles than home runs. Every season after that (except for two) he hit more home runs than doubles - sometimes by a very wide margin. His slugging percentage didn't shoot into the stratosphere until 2000, but the process obviously changed.

I think we can expect a decline in the number of home runs Floyd will hit next season both because of the exaggerated 2B-HR ratio and the unusually high number of games he played. As a Met fan, I can only hope that Floyd's competitiveness will keep him in the lineup for an entire season again.

He's a real competitor, and for the 2002-2003 campaigns, when we were depressingly out of the race, he shut it down at the end of the year. Coincidence or not, but the arrival of Willie Randolph and winning baseball happened at the same time as Cliff's first full season in a while.

You can tell he's driven and motivated by winning by the way he argued with Valentine, and when he spoke out to the media in 2004 by saying there was no light at tne end of the tunnel. I enjoyed that. So here's hoping that Cliff can keep it together for another season, because at the age of 33, he probably sees his window as a productive ball player closing fast (during the dark parts of 2004, he was even contemplating retirement).

I expect that he'll end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-27 home runs and 90 rbi if he bats in the #5 or #6 slot, and that David Wright will continue to carry his luggage all season. If he can do that, then this season may not end in September like too many have as of late.

This might be a little fanboyish... but how cool is this guy:

illflavored: What do you spend more time working on, hitting or defense?
Floyd: Hitting.

Anthony_Cocuzza: Cliff, what kind of car do you drive?
Floyd: I have an S500, a Flying Spur Bentley, SL500, Range Rover, Dodge Magnum, Cadillac EXT and Phantom Rolls Royce. And that's why I work so hard on the hitting.

yanksboy15: What is it like to see yourself in a video game?
Floyd: It's crazy. I always play with my team. I get really mad when I strike out in the game.

Also according to the chat, he bench presses 450 and has bowled a 290 in the past year. Impressive guy.

Hoping for a Soler Eclipse?

Baseball America’s John Manuel had this to say about Soler, courtesy of google and

“It’s kind of hard to say because the guy hasn’t faced live batters living away from a Latin American culture and nation. How Soler pitches might be affected by how he adjusts to being in the U.S., and he hasn’t been yet. The reports on him always have been interesting–90-95 mph fastball, very good slider, good power combo for the bullpen. Expecting him to contribute in New York in 2006 is too much. Jose Contreras was a super stud in Cuba, considered a lot better than anyone else who had defected, and it took him three years to get acclimated. Only El Duque and Livan Hernandez really adjusted fairly quickly to pitching in the U.S. among Cuban defectors that I can recall.”…

And here’s a article about Soler… with some pluses and minuses:

“I’m not worried about it,” said Soler, who went 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA in 125 1/3 innings for Pinar Del Rio of the Cuban League in 2003, striking out 102 and walking only 17.

Soler expects to arrive in St. Lucie sometime in late January, three weeks ahead of report time for Spring Training. He wants to continue working out and not lose any of the ground he has gained by pitching in Puerto Rico.

“It’s too bad because the young guys can’t come here and show everyone what they have,” said Soler, whose repertoire includes a fastball, sinker, slider, changeup and occasional knuckleball.


I also was at a website where these Cuban-Americans were keeping track of their countrymen’s performances, and found a link to a picture of Soler. He reminds me of someone, but I can’t remember who.

You know, I am actually a believer in scouting more than most people. Scouting and statistical evaluation should be hand in hand instead of diametrically opposed, and the first front office to truly figure that out will probably kick serious ass.

That being said, all that we typical fans really have to look at, other than on the field performance in the regular season, are stats. Even watching on TV can be extremely misleading. Watching in person can be misleading as well unless youre one of the fortunate few who can attend 40+ games from good seats.

I’m honestly not that impressed when the Mets minor league pitching instructor raves about Soler. What is the guy going to say, he sucks? If anyone can find me some Sickels, or someone else, who is equally high on Soler, I’ll be much more comfortable mentioning him in the same breath as Bannister and Pelfrey.

For now though, those are the facts. I’m certainly hoping he’ll be great, but there are a looooot of negative things against him right now, not the least of which is a transition to a new country with a new language, in a game he hasn’t played since 2004.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Anna Benson, we hardly knew you...

I know I'm behind the action here, but some thoughts about the Kris Benson trade. With this deal, and the Jae Seo deal that preceded it, the Mets have jettisoned themselves of approximately 375 innings of reliable starting pitching for 2006. I'm not here to argue the wisdom of these moves, as much as talk about what Omar might have in mind for future moves.

Many people would like to disparage Benson for falling apart down the stretch last season, but if you want to insist on KILLING him for his bad August and September, you have to credit him for his June and July where he looked like an ace:
3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 72.1 ip, 17 bb, 37 k

No matter what you think of him and Seo, that's a lot of innings which would be, at worst, league average. So what are our options?

1 - Sign a starter. The only real option there is Jeff Weaver.
2 - Trade for a starter. At this point, doesn't seem likely, though Barry Zito's name has been thrown about.
3 - Fill the #5 position internally. This is the option that is being publicly held by Minaya and company.

Personally, I’d like Weaver, because we are the Mets and we have money to spend. Here is another starter who was once projected for great things, but never reached his level of expectation. As such, he has a bad reputation, one thats probably a little harsher than is justified.

Jeff Weaver had his best season ever last season and is only 29. For a quick primer on who this guy is, he was a first round pick (14th overall) for the Tigers way back in 1998. Immediately upon debuting in the minors, he destroyed everything in sight. His stats for his age 21 season in A ball were impressive: 25ip, 4er, 1bb, 33k. That's hilarious.

Next season, after (I am not joking) ONE start in AA, Jeff Weaver found himself at the major league level, getting knocked around by the AL Central. As far as I know, this is the first time in his career that Weaver hadn't dominated. In consecutive seasons from 1999 to 2002, he progressed like this:

22 - 5.55 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 6.27 K/9
23 - 4.32 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.12 K/9
24 - 4.08 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 5.97 K/9
25 - 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.55 K/9

Then, midway through his age 25 season, he was dealt to the Yankees, and this is where the Weaver story begins to unravel. As you see, he has acquitted himself quite well for an American League pitcher given exactly 6 minor league starts. It's almost not fair.

In any event, at the tender age of 25, Weaver was thrust into the NY spotlight as the next great ace. He did decently in 2002, but the wheels fell off completely in 2003 when he posted a 5.99 ERA and was shown the door at the end of the year. He then picked up with the Dodgers and began the maturity process that I don't believe he was ever allowed to have.

He's always had good "stuff", as its called. Good sinking action on his fastball, good velocity, good off-speed pitches, but as you can tell, he has had some serious hiccups in his career. The last two seasons, however, it seems like Jeff may have been getting himself back on the "star" career path that he was intended for.

2004 - 220ip, 219h, 67bb, 153k, 1.30 WHIP, 4.01 ERA
2005 - 224ip, 220h, 43bb, 157k, 1.17 WHIP, 4.22 ERA

He strikes out a decent amount of guys, his control seems to be improving, and he's about as close to a lock for 200 innings as there is in baseball. As a matter of fact, judging by WHIP (which is walks+hits per innings pitched, for the uninitiated) last season was his best ever, even better than his half season in Detroit. What else is there to like?

-He was 26th in the NL in Component ERA… or approximately a #2/#3 starter in the NL.
-He had 21 Quality Starts, or 62% of the time. That number was tied for 16th in the league with John Smoltz and Brett Myers. The only Met pitchers to have more were Glavine and Martinez, who each had 23.
-Although he allowed a ton of home runs last season, he has allowed 1.01 HR/9 for his career (which already has spanned 1300+ innings) which makes his 1.40 HR/9 last season a likely outlier.
-Also of note, Weaver has a .305 OBA last season, while Benson’s was .306. I think we’d be fine replacing one with the other.

I honestly feel that Weaver would be a great addition to our rotation. Given the fact that it seems like the Mets are making a run at the postseason sooner rather than later, the approximate cost of 7-10 million for this season would be almost nothing when compared to the peace of mind it would give us.

The state of the Met rotation right now is shaky at best, poor at worst. Pedro is amazing, but there are always doubts about him. Tom Glavine is 40-years old and no guarantee. Steve Trachsel, who used to be Mr. Dependable, wrenched his back last season and only returned for the final month. Our fourth starter, Victor Zambrano, is much maligned, although I feel like he is a decent pitcher.

Having an extra guy in the rotation in Weaver would be a huge help, especially because then Aaron Heilman, who turned into a relief ace last season, wouldn't have to step into the rotation. As it stands right now, Heilman would occupy the 5th starter role - a role he has not proven that he can succeed in. Last seasons performance as a setup man for Braden Looper was nothing short of miraculous, and I personally would prefer to see him there.

Also, if we were to sign Weaver, it would make the mechanics of the whole trade we just made with Baltimore look THAT much better:

Trade: Mets - Benson + Julio + Maine
Signing: + Weaver
Mets + Julio + Maine, and switching out Benson for Weaver

We would essentially have acquired a 99-mph set up man in Julio and a prospect for nothing. That, my friends, is good business.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lineup Construction Issues

[responding to a thread about Mets' lineup construction]

The majority of a player’s at-bats against pitchers of either hand will come versus starters, against whom there are much less significant splits usually.
The lefties that Delgado and Floyd will face at the end of games will be killer LOOGY’s… who usually have established and drastic splits, and probably would reduce Delgado and Floyd to below 800 OPS.

I used to think it wasn’t a big deal to bat them back to back, but if Chris in GA is right about Wright crushing lefthanders, I think we have no choice. I wouldn’t want to put the burden of cleanup on Wright either, nor would I enjoy wasting Delgado at the three-hole, but I think the LOOGY problem is larger than we would think from looking at career splits.

I hate to say it, but through the lens of Delgado-Wright-Floyd… it might even be wise to bat someone else second other than Beltran. Sure, it would push them back to 4-5-6, but I think the whole issue of losing a game while so-and-so is on deck is truly overstated.

Let’s see just how much Delgado will clog up the bases…
593 plate appearances
80 singles 72 walks 17 HBP= 169 times on first base, or 28% of the time
33 home runs 3 triples 41 doubles= 77 times he left first base open via hit
364 times leaving first base open via out

I don’t see it being that bad of a problem. One time out of four he’ll be on first base slowing DW down. One time out of eight he’ll do something excellent. If one of you guys wants to come up with his baserunning slwts or whatever it is, that might even paint a better picture.

In addition, Wright hit 106 singles last season and walked 72 times, ending up on first base 185 times when you include his HBP.

Let’s say that 28% of those times on base, Delgado is on first with a silly grin and being slow. That’s 51 times. If he repeats his 2005 season, and all my arbitrary other numbers hold true, that would be 134 opportunities to steal, give or take, if Delgado goes from first to second on every single.

So all David would have to do would be to steal successfully one out of every 4 times on first base, and thats if he never stole third. I think that won’t be a problem at all.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Juan Padilla - Quick Look

How about some love for this guy for once? Take a look, if you will, at the following.

2003 - AAA - 3.36 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 17 bb, 69 k
2004 - AAA - 2.02 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 6 bb, 52 k
2005 - AAA - 1.42 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 9 bb, 59 k

That's sick. But the baseball community refuses to accept him and his dorky glasses. Why? 2004 was his first season in the majors. He pitched 25.2 innings. He had a 7.71 ERA.

Well guys. I guess that carries more weight than the FIVE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN (thats 511) innings he's pitched in the minor leagues in his career. Maybe it matters more than the 200+ innings from the last three seasons alone. I don't think it does.

He had a bad cup of coffee in 2004, which incidentally was mostly in Coors Field Lite, Cincinnati. In six games with the Yankees, he had a 3.97 ERA. Granted, his peripheral stats for the Mets (walks, strikeouts, and batting average on balls in play) were not up to his AAA standards last season, and he did get lucky. But there could be a lot of reasons for that. His good luck outbalanced his surprisingly poor performance.

But even if both of those factors were to recede back to the norm, he would be an EXCELLENT reliever. He walked more guys than he should last year, but he induces a ton of ground balls and the worse preipherals could also have been attributed to a change of style ... pitching more to contact.

He's got the stuff to succeed at Shea, so I can't wait to see it. I'll take a 3.00 ERA for practically free.

2005: 1.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 13 bb, 17 k

Here is the article that prompted my response over at the Hardball Times

Mets 2005 Right Field Quandary

Right field is going to be one of the more interesting stories of the spring as the Mets break camp down in Florida. They have an incumbent in Victor Diaz, who had 280 at bats last season, mostly as a replacement for Mike Cameron in April and September... but they also have a new guy.

Early in the offseason, they dealt Cameron to San Diego for a former rising star named Xavier Nady. If you guys remember, Nady was a stud prospect coming up through the Pads system. He's a little old now, but he's been unlucky in his career with regard to timing and PT. I wouldn't be surprised if he put up something like .280/.330/.475 if he gets real at-bats this season.

He's coming into his prime, and check out the minor stats:
.297/.367/.525 and never too old for the level (except 2004 at AAA when he posted a 1020 OPS).

The only problem is, Victor Diaz is a legit player too, with not one, but two minor league batting titles. He won the Single A title at the tender age of 20, batting .350, and he won the AA title at the age of 21, batting .354 before coming over to the Mets.

His MLB career at the ages of 22 and 23 consist of an 805 OPSand 38 extra base hits in only 331 at bats. He hits for power. He's quick despite his size. He's got a great baseball personality. The only time he struggled to hit was when he was receiving hardly any playing time in midseason... if you recall, he crushed the ball early on when he had a real chance to play.

.292/.432/.538 in April, and then OPS of 965 and 616 in August and September, when he actually slumped (but so did all the Mets). I fail to see why he gets so little love. He'll be 24! Not every prospect is David Wright. Look for Victor to go something like .265/.330/.490.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do, if only because both players are very serviceable. It seems as if Nady is too old to grow into the player that San Diego thought he would be when they drafted him in the second round of the 2000 draft. Diaz, on the other hand, is three years younger, but has shown some weaknesses in terms of making contact and playing defense. Probably the worst part of this is that neither player holds much value right now, but given full playing time, would probably establish themselves as a good player. Each probably would hit 25 home runs and drive in 90 in a full season... but as of now, neither has had 600 at bats to PROVE IT. Hence, the quandary.

If I was the Mets, I would start Diaz in right field and have Nady be the super sub. Although he's not a super gloveman, he can play first base, right field, and left field. Between Diaz' and Delgado's defensive faults, and Floyd's frailty, Nady could probably get 350 at bats without starting every day. Diaz is the player with the bigger upside, though, and warrants a look in right field to begin this season.

Of course, things change all the time, and a hot March and April can change anything. I can only hope, for the Mets sake, that the lack of playing time won't hurt the development of the players, and as a result, the display of their value. They could both be starters on most teams, so the Mets should use this surplus to their advantage, especially before super-prospect Lastings Milledge is knocking on the door at Shea.