Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts from The Citi: 4/27/2010: Mets Sweep The Dodgers in a Doubleheader

I was fortunate enough to attend two of the ten games in the Mets' recent record-tying 9-1 homestand. And both of those games were on the same day! Here's my photo album of Tuesday's doubleheader: please dont leave the room until I go through all of the slides, I don't want to have to repeat myself.

Apparently this dog is outside of Citi Field before and during every game. Animal cruelty Mets style! If you picture the tip jar as a beer jug marked XXX, it becomes funnier and sadder.

I'm a fan of them moving the old Shea apple to the parking lot. I was always jealous that Yankee fans can always tell friends to meet them "at the bat" before seeing a Yankee game. Not about the championships though. Just the bat thing.

Not many people were around when the first game started at four in the afternoon.

And by the middle of the second game the attendance wasn't that much better. It's a shame that not many Met fans actually got around to seeing a 9-1 homestand in person.

Other thoughts, without visual aids:

- One of Jeff Francoeur's at-bat songs is "So Hard" by Rihanna, which was especially humorous for the Dodgers games when you consider that Rihanna's boyfriend is Los Angeles center fielder/resident loafer Matt Kemp.

- The out of town scoreboard malfunctioned during the late innings of the second game in a very odd manner: for ten seconds it would show the current scores of the games, then display the scores of the games from ten minutes earlier. Wilson, a Mariners fan, kept getting frustrated because the Mariners were repeatedly winning 3-2, then losing 2-1, then regaining the lead, then losing it again, so on and so forth plus infinity.

- Citi Field this season added a video screen to the right of the right field foul pole for the poor saps like myself who happen to be visually obstructed from the corner of left field. It came in handy more than once.

- A group of fans asked more than one vendor if they had seen their friend "Fingers", who supposedly was a pretzel vendor. If anyone has seen Fingers, leave us a comment.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls

Hell must have frozen over.

The sun must be rising in the west tomorrow.

Heidi Montag-Pratt must have had something poignant to say.

A sabermatrician must have just agreed Jason Bay will earn his pay in 2014.

Because the Mets are in first place in the NL East.

And it's not Opening Day.

It's important to savor.

Let us savor.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fernando Martinez is NOT Alex Escobar

I wasn't planning on writing again tonight, but I saw something tonight that made me flip my lid. This isn't the first time either. I've started to see this a lot lately.

Metsblog had an update today about Fernando Martinez. F-Mart is injured again and missing a little time. There really is no word on the severity of the injury, and it's likely that the Mets are just being cautious as usual. But then I made the mistake of reading the Metsblog comments.

I'd ignore this comment if it was an isolated incident, but I have started to see comments like this a lot lately:
I’ve seen F-Mart before – his name then was Alex Escobar. Escobar never made it on the major league level and from all accounts, neither will F-Mart.

The Most Important Thing From... Mets v. Dodgers, April 27th

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all doing direct the other way." --Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Ike Davis is here, but David Wright has forgotten how to hit.

Mike Pelfrey has turned the corner, but John Maine might be finished.

Fernando Martinez is almost here, but Carlos Beltran is ready to leave.

The Mets won on Opening Day, then proceeded to lost 8 of their next 11. If that weren't confusing enough, they've now won 8 of their last 9.

The Mets finished one game short of the playoffs in 2008, then tanked in 2009. They started this season by plummeting to last place in the National League East...

... but tomorrow morning, if the Phillies lose to the Giants (they are currently losing) the Mets will wake up in first place.

When you watch baseball long enough, you come realize how little you really know. It is truly an amazing and bewildering sport -- and no team is more amazin' and absolutely confounding than our New York Mets.

The pitching has been phenomenal for the last few weeks, so we keep winning games. As many others have pointed out, the stretch that the starting pitching has been on has been legendary. The bullpen churns out scoreless innings night after night. If you can pitch, you'll be competitive in a lot of games.

The Mets never let you forget who they are watching -- how one team can be so many things at one time is truly incredible. Depending on the week, day, or hour that you stop to look, it is truly the best of times and the worst of times for this team. So we keep watching.

NY Prospects Breaking Out?

Reading into statistics, particularly minor league ones, this early in the season is rarely a good idea. That said, I'm going to do a little of it anyway; while checking out what kind of starts some prospects got off to I noticed three interesting players. A couple Yankee farmhands and one member of the Mets that I wanted to keep an eye on this year have come out of the gate on fire. It could just be a blip on the radar, or it might be a preview of things to come.

First let's talk about Wilmer Flores, the 18-year-old Met farmhand that

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Most Important Thing from... Mets v. Braves, April 25th

Dear Rain,

Thanks! You are awesome. Tommy Hanson was destroying us.


Friday, April 23, 2010

The A-Rod and Dallas Braden Thing

Courtesy of flipflopflyball:

Incredible Rain Delay Skits

I am not sure if this has made the rounds on the inter-tubes yet, but I figured it was worth posting here. Players from Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky each took turns putting on hilarious sketches during a rain delay before their game. My favorite is also the "shake weight" ... a product so bizarre I am amazed it was ever invented. But anyway, here's the clip of the rain delay:

And here is the bizarre, amazing Shake Weight:

I am ashamed to admit that I can't tell whether this is real or fake.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beltran's Recovery Seeing "No Progress"

Via Will Carroll:
Hearing that Beltran's exam was more negative than is being let on. "No progress, none at all." Curious if Boras will comment.

Bad news, kiddies. Not just for Beltran and for the Mets, but for baseball in general. Regardless of what you think of our chances for this season, having a talent like Carlos Beltran healthy and playing is good for everyone. He's a generational talent, and a joy to watch. If there has truly been no progress ... well ... one does not want to think of what happens next.

There Has To Be a Better Way To Say This...

Something has to be done until the return of Carlos Beltran, who was in Colorado this week for a post-op checkup. - David Lennon, Newsday

No wonder it's taking so long for him to get back to baseball activities.

The linked article is worth reading, however, because of what it ACTUALLY says - namely, that Manuel is considering having Angel Pagan bat third in the lineup.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Most Important Thing From... Game 14, Mets v. Cubs, April 20th

This series highlights each night's most important thing. Sometimes they will be significant individual performances. Sometimes they will be interesting team facts. Either way, each night's "most important fact" is something worth checking out.

I think the story tonight is fairly obvious. Mike Pelfrey was phenomenal. As you undoubtedly heard about 142 times tonight if you watched or listened to the broadcast, Pelfrey ran his scoreless inning streak to EIGHTEEN innings.

He lowered his ERA to 0.86 and his WHIP to 1.00. He induced a double play and kept the ball on the ground. He got through seven innings with a breezy 102 pitches. He got 8 groundouts and 6 strikeouts compared to only 5 flyouts.

As a general matter, there is nothing better for a team than a sinkerball pitcher who can strike guys out. They chew up innings better than any other kind of pitcher. If Pelfrey can continue along these lines, he could be *really* valuable to this team -- even moreso than a guy like Santana can, even if in a statistical vacuum Santana's numbers might look better.

Pelfrey now has HALF the Mets wins and ALL of the Mets saves. He's been a rock. The Cubs are truly struggling right now but that's no reason to take anything away from Pelf. A very impressive outing.


First Runner Up for Most Important: Jose Reyes' four hit game.
Second Runner Up: Mets win tonight makes first back-to-back wins of the season.
Third Runner Up: Jason Bay continues to struggle mightily.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Young Jon Niese is Old Andy Pettitte

Jon Niese is listed at 6'4", 215 lbs. Left-handed.
Andy Pettitte is listed at 6'5", 225 lbs. Left-handed.

Over the last few years, Andy Pettitte has featured an 89 mph fastball (55% of the time), a 84 mph cutter (22% of the time), a 75 mph curveball (13% of the time) and a changeup once in a while at around 80 mph.

Jon Niese has fallen in love with the cutter, and throws it more, but otherwise offers almost an identical repertoire. He's been throwing his fastball at 90 mph (56% of the time), a 87 mph cutter (34%), a 76 mph curveball (5%) and a changeup once in a while at 82 mph.

Niese throws harder than Pettitte does today at age 37, and trades some curveballs for cutters, but aside from that, they are mostly identical. I imagine that as the season goes on, Niese will begin to work more curveballs into his gameplan. It is a great pitch. In fact, he still claims that the curveball is his "best pitch."[1]

Signature Facial Feature
Pettitte: Funny nose
Niese: Funny nose

Distribution of Outs
Pettitte has always been great at getting ground ball outs. Since 2002, when we have batted ball data on fangraphs, Pettitte has induced ground balls 49% of the time as compared to 30% fly balls. Niese so far in his career has gotten ground balls 43% of the time along with 34% fly balls. As a young grasshopper with much to learn, one might expect that Niese is still learning how to get major league hitters to pound the ball into the ground.

Other Pitch Data
Pettitte has changed a lot as his career has progressed, pitching more to contact with the cutter as he has aged. As such, over the last four seasons or so, Pettitte has gotten batters to swing at pitches outside the zone around 25% of the time, while throwing around 60% first pitch strikes. Jon Niese has gotten batters to chase 25.7% of the time and thrown 61.8% first pitch strikes.

For his career, Pettitte has had a lot more swing and miss stuff than Niese. Since 2002, batters have only made contact with Pettitte's pitches outside of the strike zone 53% of the time they have swung at it, compared to Niese's 66%. However, Pettitte's contact percentage on those pitches over the last two seasons has been 58% and 63%.

It appears to me that Jon Niese pitches almost identically to the version of Andy Pettitte that we saw in Houston and while in his second stint with the Yankees.

Believe it or not, despite being a Yankee and a champion, I think Andy Pettitte has been largely underappreciated by the national media. A quick glance at Pettitte's performance while outside of the high-octane AL East really tells you all you need to know about how good his stats might have been: 519 innings, 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.4 k/9.

As the above indicates, raw numbers don't tell the whole story about how good Andy has been over the course of his career. The 231 career wins are great, but he's also got the 16th best adjusted ERA+ among all active pitchers in baseball, a list which includes relievers. Limit it only to starters, and he's tied for 14th. Limit it only to pitchers who have already seen their "decline phase" in their career, eliminating young studs like Haren and Sabathia, and he could be as high as 9th.

If Jon Niese continues to pitch as intelligently as he has pitched thus far, with a repetoire which is harder and more dangerous than Andy Pettitte's, we could really be on to something. To state the obvious, Niese would be lucky to have half the career Pettitte has. But if he can throw three pitches, and work both sides of the plate like he did against the Cubs, and show us that he'll pitch with his brain as well as his arm - he could have a long and successful career.

[1] He said so on WFAN last week.

The Most Important Thing From... Game 13, Mets v. Cubs, April 19th

In March, the New York Times ran a great piece on the Mets farm system entitled "The Mets Future Suddenly Feels Far From Barren." In it, there were a couple of great quotes, and a couple of great player profiles. Nothing, however, stood out to me more than a single line delivered by Jerry Manuel:
“The talent is on the doorstep,” Manuel said. “It’s not in the living room, but it’s right there waiting.”
Well. It is here. The talent isn't on the doorstep any more - it has beaten the door off its hinges and it's making it's way to Flushing. You can say what you will about the Mets chances this year, but tonight, the Mets youth put on an absolute display.

Link: A Season of Unexpected Pleasures

A truly great article by Howard Megdal today:
On the eve of the season, I had the Mets at 73-89. And that still seems about right to me. Simply put, assuming greatness (or even goodness) from a team that prepared to begin the season with Gary Matthews, Mike Jacobs and Alex Cora in the starting lineup, and with the return of both Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran uncertain, struck me as optimism bordering on foolishness.

So what's been enjoyable about the first twelve games?

The Most Important Thing From... Game 12, Mets v. Cardinals, April 18th

Sometimes the Most Important Thing (MIT) is a good thing. Sometimes it is not. Tonight, it is not.

Over their last 29 innings of baseball, the Mets have managed only 13 hits. If you take away the hits collected against position players, they have only 10 hits in their last 27 innings. Truly awful.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

LiveBlog: Mets v. Cardinals, April 18th

Going to be recording some impressions from today's game ... so refresh to keep up.

Bottom First

A little bad luck for Maine with that blown strike call to Ludwick. But in general it looks like he's got nothing.

Bad News on Fernando Martinez Front

My love for all things Fernando Martinez is well chronicled. I've firmly stated my belief that he's underrated, that he's a stud, and that he's our best prospect. However, in the interest of unbiased and truthful journalism, I have to pass on an important nugget of information I discovered today.

Fernando Martinez has yet to walk this season in Triple-A.

Mike Jacobs Demoted, Tobi Stoner Promoted, Ike Davis on Horizon?

In the wake of last night's 20-inning marathon against the Cardinals, the Mets are shaking things up big time. Mike Jacobs has been designated for assignment (and may be claimed by other teams) and Tobi Stoner, a starter in Triple-A, has been promoted to the big league club. The big news resulting from this transaction?
Mike Jacobs second stint with the New York Mets has ended less pleasantly. And it also potentially signaled the promotion of prospect Ike Davis when the team returns to New York. -- Adam Rubin, ESPN New York
Well, surprise! I for one didn't think that designating Jacobs for assignment necessarily meant that Davis was going to be promoted... but Adam Rubin seems to have a strong feeling that it does. Personally, I would have promoted Chris Carter or let Tatis play every day because I'm still not sure Davis is the answer.

That Just Happened: Mets 2, Cardinals 1 (20 innings)

“I’ve never played 20 innings before in my life,” Reyes said. “That was a crazy game. Crazy game.”

Someone threw a no-hitter tonight. The NBA Playoffs began tonight. The Stanley Cup Playoffs continued this evening. The Mets however were first tonight on Sportscenter.

For a game in which the team did not score a single run in eighteen innings, the equivalent of two baseball games.

For a game in which they won.

They actually won this game. I still can't believe it. They had no right to. They actually struggled to score on Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather. I am rarely on the front lines in the "Fire Jerry Manuel" army brigade, but he actually made Luis Castillo bunt Reyes over with JOE MATHER PITCHING!*

* Look: Tony LaRussa totally screwed up more than Manuel: he double switched Matt Holliday out of the game in the 11th inning, enabling the Mets to have the option to pitch around Albert Pujols for nine innings, as well as managed to be forced to have two relief pitchers hit with the bases loaded in the 12th and 14th innings and still need to let position players pitch by the 18th. But he isn't our manager. I'll let a snarky and bitter St. Louis blogger rake him over the coals.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Most Important Thing From... Game 8, Mets v. Rockies, April 14th

It's after midnight here on the East Coast, so this is going to have to be a premature "Most Important Thing" tonight. There are, undoubtedly, a number of things vying for my attention tonight. Francoeur continues to hit the ball well. Jacobs put one off the wall with a broken bat. David Wright jumped all over a ball for his third home run of the young season.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Keep An Eye On: Dillon Gee, SP

From the series that brought you Jordany Valdespin...

One guy who I believe has gotten much less attention than he deserves while rising through our minor league system is Dillon Gee. Gee pitched 6 innings of shut out ball on Sunday for Triple-A Buffalo, and all signs indicate that he is closer to the show than people expected. He posted a sterling 4-0 K-BB ratio in the start, and he may be knocking at the door. So how did we get here?

The Most Important Thing From... Game 6, Mets v. Nationals, April 11, 2010

The Mets' bullpen continued its stellar performance, allowing only two hits and two walks over four innings while striking out three. So far in the young season, the group has been excellent.

Today's performance has come on the heels of several other impressive group outings:

April 10th: 3.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB
April 9th: 3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB
April 8th: 3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB
April 7th: 5 IP, 3 R, 9 H, 2 BB, Loss
April 5th: 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 Predictions Part 8: NL West

I apologize for this coming out a little later than it should have... been a bit busy these last few days.

The National League West has fluctuated between being a joke and being loaded in recent years. Last season we saw three contenders emerge from this division and that number could actually increase to four in 2010. Colorado remains the most complete team, with a vastly underrated pitching staff, strong lineup and the deepest bench in all of baseball. Nipping at their heels are the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks, all with legitimate playoff hopes this season. San Diego remains a distant fifth team in the division and should have a rough year competing against a very talented group.

1. Colorado Rockies 88-74

The Rockies late charge last season caught the league off-guard but the reality is that they were a sleeping giant all along. This is largely the same team as last year, the only real changes are the departure of Jason Marquis (hardly a loss because of the presence of Jeff Francis and Jhoulys Chacin) and a different backup catcher. The root of the Rockies success is a pitching staff that gets a ton of ground balls and a defense that is among the best at converting batted-balls into outs.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Most Important Thing From... Game 3, Mets v. Marlins, April 8th

The most important thing was...

That Jon Niese was great tonight. Reading the box score in the morning newspaper tomorrow will not give a fair indication of how good the kid was tonight.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hoping For a Niese Debut

I know, corny title, but I didn't have time to work up a better pun.

I am very excited for the debut of Jon Niese tonight. I have been a big fan of his for a while, and I am glad to see that he is being thrust into the spotlight. I believe he is ready for it and, in fact, believe he might actually end up being our third best starter this season.

We took a very in depth look at Jon Niese in January, and determined that he wasn't getting the credit he deserved as a prospect. And he still isn't.

Impressions From Game 2: Mets-Marlins

-- John Maine looked like he had nothing at all today. In 2006 and 2007 his fastball was an above-average pitch (according to fangraphs) but since he's lost some velocity it looks just like batting practice. There isn't much hope here. Even on a night when his off-speed stuff is going well, and he's throwing strikes, he's not going to get anywhere if he can't beat guys with his fastball.

-- Sean Green, despite the home run, looks a lot better now than he did in spring training. His slider is pretty great. With a slider like that complimenting a fastball which rings in around 87, you'd think that he'd be a little more effective.

-- In the seventh inning against Nolasco, Francoeur has REALLY impressed me. Laying off the 2-2 slider (which was good) was very impressive. He got a bad call on the curveball but he hung in there.

-- Hanley Ramirez has looked poor defensively all night, as GKR pointed out.

-- Even though I have been lambasting the Mets all offseason for signing Jason Bay, I acknowledged in those articles that he'd probably be good this season. That said, I didn't realize he was going to be THAT good this year.

The triple on Opening Day was very impressive. He made a great running catch tonight. I knew he'd bring leadership, and some power, and all of that - but his speed and defense has been much better than advertised this year.

-- Alex Cora beaned again today - he's on pace for 162.

-- Why would the Mets have scarf day in April? Why? Only the Mets.

-- I just said to my Dad, "isn't it nice that Tatis wanted to play for the Mets?" His response? "What's that commercial? Milosch wants to play for Rome! Wants to play for Beijing!" Point taken, Dad.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2010 Predictions Part 7: NL Central

If there is one thing that prognosticators seem to be more or less in agreement on, it is that the St. Louis Cardinals will win the NL Central. After having a pretty easy time doing it last year and now having Matt Holliday for a full season, that seems perfectly logical, but while they are still the best team on paper, expecting an easy win would be foolish. Chicago remains loaded with talent and was among the unluckiest teams in the league last year. Milwaukee also finally has a couple players who can catch the ball, changing the dynamic of their roster completely. With Houston and Pittsburgh a bit of a mess and Cincinnati still not quite ready to compete the bottom of the NL Central may get a bit ugly.

1. St. Louis Cardinals 88-74

There are a lot of positives surrounding this team. They still have the best player in baseball, Albert Pujols and probably the best lineup surrounding him since 2004 when St. Louis featured three of the top five MVP vote-getters.

Opening Daydream

In this writer's humble opinion, baseball is the greatest game ever invented. I could not imagine any other competition matching its blend of power and finesse, of strategy, of dull repetition somehow delivered in short explosive bursts.

It is beautiful in its symmetry (three outs per side per inning, every infield identical) and in its asymmetry (nine random innings, and each outfield unique).

It is beautiful in its democracy - every player must bat when it is his turn to bat. There is no feeding the ball to Kobe every time. You have no control over who the ball gets hit to. It is incredible that baseball will make heroes out of Endy Chavez, and DeWayne Wise, and Aaron Boone just as often as it will of Albert Pujols.

But most importantly, it is beautiful in that the game is not ever over until it is over. In football, you can kneel and run out the clock. Basketball devolves into a bizarre mini-game of fouling. In soccer and hockey you can try to keep possession of the ball until relieved by the clock.

But in baseball, there is no such luxury. You don't get to sneak away from the game until your opponent is completely vanquished. In fact, you must deliver to him his opportunity to come back. In every game, you must attain 27 outs to win.

The same can be said about the course of a long season. Although comebacks from deep in the standings are rare, you can still hope and pray while you remain mathematically alive. There is always hope. Until you are down to your final out and strike, anything can happen.

There is no time that this feeling is stronger than on Opening Day. And for no team is that feeling stronger than for the New York Mets.

Who can explain the Mets and what they do to us? Who can explain the white-knuckle finishes to so many of our seasons? How can you rationalize their incredible record on Opening Day except to say that they have an uncanny ability to provide hope in a way which no other franchise in any other sport can compare.

The Mets were great today, so please forgive me for my one quick tangent. I realize that most of you who read Fonzie Forever look forward to our thoroughly grounded perspective on things. I have been very proud of our willingness to even-handedly criticize the team, and to ground our opinions deeply in statistics, scouting, and other objective fact.

But not today. Today I will allow myself to dream.

Something Ron Darling said during the broadcast today was truly brilliant. At the time, he was discussing David Wright's troubles last year, but what he said is applicable to baseball in general. In fact, it crystallizes into one sentence exactly why hope springs eternal as a baseball fan.

"When you're a major league player and you are struggling," Darling said, "You are an inch away, not a mile away."

And he's absolutely right. On a micro level, he is absolutely correct about David Wright. Only in baseball does a microscopic hitch in your swing turn an All-Star into a journeyman. Only in baseball does a loss of 1 or 2% of your skills knock you out of the game entirely.

But Darling's point has a broader application than that. We wrote a post here in February where we discussed this ephemeral concept:

Baseball is so much more than just a string of isolated offseason transactions. And now, with the snow on the ground in Flushing finally beginning to melt, we as fans are transported to Port St. Lucie, clipboards in hand, listening to the sound of Johan Santana's fastball popping into the mitt of one of our thousand catchers.

And regardless of how underwhelmed you were with how the Mets did this offseason, you've got to find yourself thinking, if only for a moment, "can we do this?"

Tiny little incremental improvements make an enormous difference in baseball. So no matter what position your team is in, and no matter how disaffected you are by the long cold winter of disappointment, there is reason to dream.

In baseball, you can make the playoffs by winning 90 games. That is only eight more wins than a team that is a .500 team. That's eight lucky games, eight fortuitous bounces of the ball, eight great managerial decisions or bad umpiring calls.

So on a day when the Mets play such fantastic baseball, you might find yourself thinking about Darling's theorem. What if the Mets offseason plan executed itself perfectly? What if, for once, we were a little lucky instead of unlucky? Because it truly would not take much to make this Mets team, projected as a middle-of-the-pack team, to put themselves in the playoff picture.

What if...

... Reyes and Beltran come back according to schedule and play like All-Stars?
... Wright regains just SOME of his power and hits 25 home runs this year instead of 10?
... Angel Pagan maintains his level of play and becomes the best fourth outfielder in MLB?
... Just one of Pelfrey, Maine, or Perez takes their game to the next level? It is not so crazy to think that JUST ONE of these very talented young pitchers can elevate themselves to an ace. I wouldn't bet on any individual one of them doing so - but I wouldn't bet against one of the group doing so.
... Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas have decently good seasons, giving the Mets one of the deepest lineups in the entire National League?

On Opening Day, you are allowed to dream about these things. Although when all is said and done, over the course of 162 games, the best team will probably win - it does not take much for a contender to put itself into the conversation.

And that's the beauty of baseball. You are always just an inch away.

Monday, April 05, 2010

2010 Predictions Part 6: NL East

The Phillies made it to the World Series in each of the last two seasons and after adding Roy Halladay seem like the favorites to do it again. However, the NL East remains loaded with talented teams. Atlanta has an incredibly deep and talented rotation paired with an improving offense while Florida should be taken very seriously as well. The Mets have had one of the most tumultuous spring trainings in recent memory, but can boast four legitimate stars in their lineup when everyone is healthy. Washington continues to lag behind but has taken baby steps in the right direction.

1. Philadelphia Phillies 93-69

Philadelphia's acquisition of Cliff Lee at the trading deadline last year gave them arguably a more complete team than the one that won the World Championship in 2008. It briefly looked like they would add Roy Halladay to that rotation and be overwhelming favorites to make a third straight trip to the World Series. Trading Lee for three middling prospects while simultaneously acquiring Halladay may be the move that comes back to haunt the Phillies even if they are still the class of their division. This team has no below average hitters and should lead the National League in runs scored this season.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Yankee Broadcasting Silliness in Midseason Form

As a Met fan, one of the things I know that I have been SPOILED ROTTEN with is the excellence of our broadcasting team. Gary, Keith, and Ron are funny, insightful, smart, interesting, and brutally honest when it comes to the Hometown Nine. Yankee announcers on the other hand, have not been as warmly received by Yankee fans, blogs, and writers.

If you were watching the game on YES tonight as I was, you may have heard the following nugget from the Yankee broadcaster:

"Curtis Granderson hit 28 of his 30 home runs away from home last year. As you know he played in spacious Comerica Park. But still, 28 away and 2 at home."[1]

My BS detector went off on that one. So I checked it.

Turns out that Granderson actually hit 20 of his 30 home runs on the road last season. So uh... okay guys.


[1] This is compeletely paraphrased. I have no way of getting the actual quote, but if you have DVR and watched the game maybe you can help me out.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Should Mets Consider Installing Windmills at Citifield?

The Mets trotted out today what may be a DH away from their starting lineup on Opening Day. And it is TRULY AWFUL.

Below is their projected lineup for Game One, and beside each player is the number of strikeouts they average over 162 games in their career.

Cora, SS - 56
Castillo, 2B - 82
Wright, 3B - 122 (140 last year)
Jacobs, 1B - 141 (132 last year in less than 500 at bats)
Bay, LF - 157
Matthews, CF - 107 (74 last year in only 360 at bats)
Francoeur, RF - 120
Barajas, C - 88

The Mets struck out 928 times last year, which, believe it or not, was the least of all National League teams. They also led the league in batting average, if you can believe that. Last year's team featured just an absolute ton of empty contact - low slugging, low on-base, etc.

However, from last year's lineup to this year's, we have effectively done the following, including injuries.

Pagan out, Bay in.
Murphy out, Jacobs in.
Beltran out, Matthews in.
Santos out, Barajas in.

All of those players out struck out pretty rarely. All of the replacements whiff a ton.

Just an observation. A windy one. Anyone care to guess how many Mets Roy Halladay will strike out in his first start against us?

Guest Post: The Case For Batting Reyes Second

We are proud to feature yet another guest post this Friday morning at Fonzie Forever. Our good friend Sergio, an avid Mets fan and ballplayer, advocates below for something I've never even considered. I like that outside the box thinking. Anyway, enjoy.

Lineuping is one of my favorite end-of-spring-training things to do. The roster is set and now the serious part of the discussion turns from who should be on the team to where in the lineup the player should bat. I guess the idea in lineuping is to come up with a way to maximize the strengths of players, minimize weaknesses, and when there is a choice between two competing schemes that would each maximize two different players, to ask which one gives you a larger net gain in offense. It is an inexact science and all, which is part of the fun.

When it comes to the Mets, all offseason and spring training the question has been where to bat Reyes – and really the rest of the lineup falls into place when that question is answered. Most threads have argued for or against Reyes batting leadoff or Jerry Manuel’s idea of batting him third. And yet, surprisingly, hardly anyone has suggested batting Luis Castillo leadoff and Jose Reyes second. So after a winter and early spring of hearing a million lineup schemes – and I spent a lot of time on these threads – I say batting Reyes second is the way to go, but let’s look at all the arguments anyway.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Adventures in Juxtaposition and the Ridiculous Mets Media Coverage

Defending Oliver Perez is one of my hobbies. Even if the ship has sailed on him becoming a great pitcher, there is still a lot of value to be had in Perez being a so called "average" pitcher. I think Perez, if healthy, is basically a lock to put up an ERA of 4.50 of better and win 10-12 games or more. A lock.

But despite what you think of him -- even when he is pitching well, this is true -- Perez gets hammered in the media. When he pitches like an almost-ace, it isn't good enough. When he pitches poorly, well, it is to be expected. When he turns in a series of good starts and then a poor one, people lament his lack of consistency. There is truly no way for Perez to "win" with the media unless he turns into a bonafide ace and never has a bad game ever.

With all of that said, it definitely caught my attention tonight when, on two consecutive pages of the New York Post, I saw the following:

Consecutive pages!! You cannot make this stuff up.

In the first article, Kernan goes on and on about how Perez has had a bad spring. And he's right. Ollie has had a rough time so far. But then Kernan continues on to say things like:

This is what the Mets should do this weekend: Take Jose Reyes north and leave Oliver Perez behind.

* * *

Numbers don’t mean much in spring training, but three home runs are telling, one to Ryan Ludwick another to Matt Holliday and a third to shortstop Brendan Ryan. Good thing King Albert Pujols wasn’t here.

The New Ollie is throwing more strikes, but they’re hittable strikes. Batters are comfortable.

It continues on in that silly, passive aggressive manner for a while. Contrast that, if you will, with the article ON THE NEXT PAGE about CC Sabathia:

If a body part was barking, the Yankees would be sweating. If there were 10 more years on the big guy, a large amount of concern would smother the Yankees’ universe.

* * *

“CC is CC, he will be fine,” Joe Girardi predicted after a misbehaving change-up and a two-seam fastball that didn’t pay attention resulted in the Braves spanking Sabathia in a 9-6 win at Champion Stadium.

* * *

Chances are strong Sabathia will be better than yesterday, when he gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 2⁄3 innings during his final spring start.

Again, numbers don’t lie — he was 1-1 with a 7.23 ERA in five spring games — but we are talking about a pitcher who is 136-81 in 288 big league games and isn’t bothered by anything on or off the field.

It's no secret that Sabathia is going to be better than Perez this year - but that is not what the articles are about. The articles are completely opposing views to the meaningfulness of spring training statistics. And like any other charged, political topic, people make their decisions based on WHO they are talking about, rather than taking a principled stand on the issue.

Truth is, if you are an established major league starter, spring training statistics don't matter. For a fringe player or a prospect, sure, you can look into them. But for a guy like Sabathia, or even Perez, the spring is a time to try new pitches, fine tune your mechanics, and practice new gameplans or sequences. The statistics mean little to nothing.

But don't tell that to Kevin Kernan. Kernan, like the other journalists circling the Mets like vultures this spring, is more interested in getting people to read his articles than reporting responsibly (or writing complete sentences).

The journalists covering the Mets should be taking the high road here. Instead of piling on a player who is a popular target on a team associated with failure, maybe he should listen to this guy:

Everyone wants instant analysis and an instant fix. Spring training is still run the old fashioned way. Results don’t matter. It is a time to get in game shape, get your legs under you, have some fun with your teammates and then work into a groove.

Sounds reasonable, right? Author? Kevin Kernan, March 9, 2010.