The First True Casualties of the Season

I was at today’s game on Memorial Day against the Pirates. It was a good game until Jacob deGrom was pulled. He pitched well, if around the strike zone for the first few innings.  His two hits and a run scored, were half the offense the Mets put up until a solo home run by Lucas Duda. Meanwhile, the Pirates opened it up against Jose Valverde and won 5-3. 

After the game, Jose Valverde was released and hitting coach Dave Hudgens was fired. Valverde has been terrible since his second outing with the team. It sucks that they had to even think about employing him and Kyle Farnsworth to start the season. But Vic Black and Josh Edgin were so terrible in Spring Training, the front office had no choice. I guess we’ll see Black no matter what now, though I’m not sure he’s been pitching very well in Vegas.

Hudgens has the right approach to hitting. But if the team isn’t responding to it, then this is how general managers send a message to them. You fire the hitting coach. It’s a time tested tradition in baseball. And the message is, “you’re all on thin ice.” I don’t think bringing up minor league hitting coach Lamar Johnson is going to do anything. But stranger things have happened. 

What I’m not looking forward to will be the chorus of articles asking for Terry’s head on a platter. Wally Backman, while being my favorite player as a child, makes no better managerial decisions, especially with the bullpen. Sandy Alderson’s contract is up at the end of the season anyway. It might not matter who takes the helm if Alderson is out next year. 

Welcome to 1983!

It’s here people. The year you’ve all been waiting for. The turnaround year. The Omar-era contracts are off the books and the team is full of fresh young faces.

Now I’m not going to lie to you and tell you this is their year, and Alderson’s prediction of 90 wins will come true. But good, sound baseball will be played. Arms will be healed. Unproductive players will be cut/demoted. And new stars will rise.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Curtis Granderson can do. He seems to be a truly gifted individual who realizes this chance to prove himself cannot be squandered. He’s already become a great team ambassador and is all business at the plate. I hope I’m right. 

Now in the words of the Great Hambino, and the two sweetest words in the English language, PLAY BALL!

RIP Ralph Kiner

On the last day of the season, as usual, Gary Cohen said goodbye to Ralph Kiner. But there was something different about it this time. There was fear in Gary’s face, as though he knew this was his last opportunity to sign off with Ralph. I had seen hints of it in years past, but never like this. Sadly, Ralph passed today, I hope peacefully.

As a Mets fan, this is like losing a grandfather or great uncle. Ralph had always been there. From his stories about Elizabeth Taylor to his willingness to argue advanced metrics and hitting style with Keith Hernandez, he was ever present in the Mets broadcast booth. I’ll never be able to hear the game again the same way. Thank you, Ralph.

Mets destroy the Narrative

This entire offseason, I’ve been reading about how the Mets won’t spend money. The Granderson signing was the peak of their offseason, the Wilpons have no money, the sky is falling, and Joel Sherman, John Harper, and Bob Klapisch are here keep you company through your misery. 

Now I’m not saying that signing Bartolo Colon for 2 years and $20 million turns this team into a contender. They’re still a ways away from fielding an 85+ win team. And I’m certainly no fan of the Wilpons, who continue to shoot themselves in the foot every time Jeff addresses the media. But no writers predicted the Mets would be in on Granderson or Colon. None support the idea that Alderson & Co actually know what they’re doing. How can we continue to read their uninformed, speculative hyperbole? 

The gossip writers who cover this team have no clue what they’re about. They are only here to sell you papers and get you to click their links. 


Today, the Mets struck a deal with Curtis Granderson for four years and $60 million. It’s not a massive overpay and though he’ll decline, year four shouldn’t be “Jason Bay bad”. He’s a good guy and replaces Marlon Byrd’s inexplicable production last season. 

That said, I don’t think this move makes the Mets contenders. Nor should anybody actually think it should be. The team needs some massive upgrades, and some time, in order to truly be competitive. Alderson will likely look to upgrade through trades from here on out. But this team won’t actually upgrade until mid-season when we get to see Montero and Syndergaard. 

Baseball Between the Numbers

I’m in the middle of this seven year old book, and it’s way over my head. I understand it on a general level, but much of the math eludes me. I guess I won’t be a sabermetrician when I grow up.

But there are a couple of things that have really gotten me to this point. RBI isn’t a good indicator of hitting or “clutch” because it’s completely dependent on team performance instead of the performance of the player we’re evaluating. Isolated Slugging (ISO) is a better indicator of power because it focuses on extra base hits.

This morning’s chapter was about the five man rotation. I was surprised to read that Baseball Prospectus was against the five man rotation, instead favoring the four man rotation. My understanding of the chapter is pretty simplistic. If you limit starters to 100 - 110 pitches per start then it doesn’t matter if they have three or four days rest. The danger to a pitcher’s arm happens when you let them go past that. A team won’t “overuse” their bullpen any more with a four man rotation than they will with a five man rotation. And eliminating the fifth starter also allows a team to add a bench player or reliever.

If we bring this to the 2014 Mets as they stand today, you would have a rotation of Wheeler, Niese, Gee, and an un-named free agent. Jenrry Mejia goes to the bullpen and gives you a second reliever in the mold of Carlos Torres. Then you’re not scratching for spot starts and long relief appearances like at the end of last year.

I’m not thoroughly convinced of the four man rotation. But I do think it’s an idea that should be explored. It conveniently fills a major issue for the team in 2014. And, if the early hot stove reports are true, the Mets will need to platoon in many positions next season. Having the “extra” roster spot will go a long way.

An Argument for Ike Davis

I was explaining the merits of WAR as a statistic to a friend, and ended up on the side of giving Ike his arbitration pay raise for next year. Here it is, for your approval:

Wins Above Replacement is a catch all stat. Think of it this way. A replacement player will give you a certain amount of production per year. Ike Davis was just below that this year, at -0.1 WAR. Fangraphs projects him to be a +1.4 WAR player next year. Here’s his Fangraphs page.

By playing Ike Davis next year for 97 games (again, projection) at first base, the Mets will win at least one more game next year than they did this year. The question is, who will they pair him with for the other 65 games? If that player can give you a 0.5 WAR performance, now you’ve got a league average platoon, which is understood to be 2 wins above replacement.

On the free agent market, a league average 2 WAR player would cost you roughly $10 million to $13 million per year. The only 2 WAR first-baseman available on the FA market this winter (according to Fangraphs) was Adam Lind from the Blue Jays (they just picked up his option, so he’s off the market). Corey Hart only played a few games last year, but he was a 2 WAR player before his injury. Fangraphs predicts he will be a 1.4 WAR player, the same as Ike Davis.

So here’s the question, and where WAR actually becomes valuable. If the dollar value of 1 win is between $5 million to $7 million, is it worth it to pay Ike Davis the $3.5 million he should get in arbitration? Or do you sign Corey Hart for $8 million + incentives like MLBTR projects?

My opinion is that you take the chance on Ike and spend the $5 million to upgrade another position.

No Albatross Contracts

We’re mid-way through one of the weirdest World Series I’ve ever seen and the Mets rumor mill is at its LOLMetsiest. And I realize that people need to write daily to keep their jobs, but some of this stuff is flat out ridiculous.

I don’t have a specific offseason plan for you. I can’t tell you to trade this prospect for that one. Or how to make certain three-way trades. But what I can tell you is that I think the Mets will have an $80 to $90 million payroll next year and they have multiple slots to fill.

The only guys who are truly slotted in for next year are Wright and Wheeler. d’Arnaud, Murphy, Parnell, Niese, and Gee should all be on the team too. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re packaged and traded for prospects either. Then you’ve got the tenders: Duda, Davis, Tejada, Turner, Satin, etc.; who will all get contracts. The only ones who shouldn’t are Quintanilla and Atchison. But everyone in that group could get moved in the right trades.

Though I’m not predicting anything, I could see the Mets make a trade for a guy like Peter Bourgos. Or signing a Jhonny Peralta type free agent. But what I absolutely don’t see is trading the farm for Troy Tulowitski. Or taking on 10 years of Robinson Cano, regardless of the price. Or going back after Jose Reyes for his triumphant (and expensive) return.

GMs have learned a lot about contracts in the past few years. Long term, high average annual value deals, do not work out for any team. Players get hurt and there are few players in the farm system who can truly take over because that star is a “given”. Teams with lower budgets are are locking up their young talent at “discount” salaries and not letting them get to free agency. So the way forward is the way that’s always been there. Draft well and sign free agents to fill the holes.

If you can afford to re-sign a home grown talent like a David Wright, you do it. But you don’t take him on a 10 year, $200 million deal to come to a new city and perform like he’s 25. it’s just not going to happen. You take that $20 million per year and bring in multiple players with a .325 OBP and 15 home runs. Those players won’t cost you a draft pick, which is especially important now that slot is tied to the maximum budget a team can spend before they face a penalty. The trick is drafting well, which is easier said than done.

The Immaculate Obstruction

What a way to end a ballgame. From what I’ve read, no World Series game has ever ended with an obstruction call. And it’s the first time since Mookie that a game ended in an error. 

The plain truth is that Saltalamacchia should never have thrown the ball to third base. Pedroia made an amazing play and Molina was a dead duck at the plate. Take runners on first and third and move on to the next batter. That Craig would likely have been out anyway is a non-issue. Middlebrooks blocked his path unintentionally and that’s enough to get an obstruction call. 

The umps got it right. Though Jim Joyce was just crowned Lucifer in Boston if the Sox lose this series.

Why I’m Rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS

Apparently, as a Mets fan. I’m not allowed to root for the Cardinals. Twitter told me so. But I just can’t root for the Dodgers in this series. 

Now I realize that last year I made comments like, “how can you root for the Cardinals?! They’re the Yankees of the National League!”. And on the surface, that is indeed true. The Cardinals have won 11 World Series and 18 National League pennants. And they’ve won the Central division 9 times since moving from the NL East in 1994. That’s ridiculous. 

However, they’re a mid-market team with the payroll to show for it. Since 2003, the Cardinals payroll has been north of $80 million. Team payroll in 2013 was almost $117 million. That number ranked #11 out of 30 teams. 

Now I could stop there. The Dodgers come in #2 (behind the Yankees, of course) at roughly $216 million. For $99 million more, the Dodgers had damn well better win. Based solely on payroll, the Cardinals are the clear underdogs. But they’re not actually. This is the team that started the minor league system as we know it (thanks, Branch Rickey!). This is the team that brings up polished, major league ready players. This is the team that had half their bench hurt, and still put down a streaking Pirates team with everything to prove. And this is the team that, yes, does it year in, year out. 

When you put all that together, you start to look at the Dodgers and see how they’re really just a bunch of hired guns. Took on the players Boston unloaded in the trainwreck of Bobby Valentine. Took on the Marlins players who weren’t giving their all for Loria (and really, can you blame them?). Won the Zack Greinke lottery. Won the Puig lottery, and destroyed the NL West (see what I did there?) after he finally came up mid-season. And yes, Clayton Kershaw is unbelievable and will get paid. But Matt Kemp is hurt and there’s little homegrown talent to really root for. With a former Yankee at the helm, this looks more like the Yankees than it does the Dodgers. Or anybody you’d actually want to win. 

So there you go. Cardinals. I even surprised myself. Now go A’s so I’m not beholden to this.