Saturday, March 31, 2007
Good news for this blog: its namesake, Lastings Milledge, is the 25th man for the Mets 2007 squad, at least for two weeks. Barring a sudden flash of light for Wille Randolph, or a timely injury to Shawn Green, Blastings!will be demoted to AAA upon the promotion of Mike Pelfrey. But for now, we can rejoice.
On the eve of Opening Day, however, I am disappointed to learn that Paul LoDuca will retain his #2 slot behind José Reyes, and not David Wright, as had been the tantalizing prospect.
The Mets, it seems, are not a team of new-school statistical gurus, but purveyors of old-school baseball wisdom. These are not the Oakland Athletics, nor the Boston Red Sox. This is the team of Julio Franco and Endy Chavez. Still, I am happy to root for the Amazin's, nervous about the difficult schedule, but confident nonetheless. Let the games begin!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Many Mets fans are hoping that Reyes will improve even more upon his breakout 2006 season, but the PECOTA forcasting system predicts a regression, with a "breakout" (offensive improvement of 20% or more) probability of only 18%. However, his "improve" (any offensive increase overall) rate is 32%, with a collapse (offensive decline of 25% or more) rate of 22%. Still a valuable player, his VORP is expected to decline from the mighty 58.8 to a merely good 36.1.
What is there to make us think that Reyes, 24, will not improve upon his eqOBP and eqSLG of .363 and .502, respectively? Has his pitch selection not gotten better? Were more of his '06 homers and triples the result of luck than skill? In BP's commentary, they note that while Rickey Henderson was brought in to teach Reyes how to draw more walks, and he did increase his walk rate from 3 to 7 percent, his pitches per AB actually fell slightly from 3.62 to 3.6. Thus, they conclude, the youngster has matured in his pitch recognition (i.e. he can now hit the breakingball because he knows it's coming and knows what it will do), NOT in his pitch selection. In a negative PECOTA card overall, BP positively notes that this is a "maturation" and not a "one-year change of philosophy," and "thus much more likely to be sustained."
Why, then, does Reyes, now a much better hitter, decline in his offensive totals back to somewhere in between '05 and '06? Isn't a young player like him likely to become even better? Isn't his better hitting going to result in more walks? It's difficult to say, but here's hoping that PECOTA is wrong.
As for defense, Reyes had a -16 for SS in '06, down from -11 in '05. BP projects this to be at -2 in '07. I'm not sure I understand their defense metric, but I'm sure it has something to do with FRAA and similar statistics. It was always my impression, however, that Reyes was good with the glove, but these impressions can be very wrong. Case in point- Derek "True Yankee" Jeter.
David Wright: .301/.385/.540, 29 HR, 18 SB, VORP 58.1
The sane folks at BP are not worried about Wright's power-weak ".305/.375/.469 'slump'" that ended the '06 season. Neither does PECOTA predict a collapse for David, who has shown steady progress and improving skills since his '04 debut, as opposed to Reyes' steady growth followed by a rocket-shot to stardom. He has an Improve rate of 53% and his VORP projection is his highest yet.
However, BP notes that Wright's #1 "comparable" is Jim Ray Hart, "a terrific hitter and defensive nightmare whose career floundered at age 26 amidst injuries and off-field problems." The Wikipedia article doesn't tell us what those problems were, but it does provide a source of amusement, as a conscientious editor has noted that a "citation [is] needed" for a statement about Candlestick Park, "where the legendary gusts of wind made folly of even the mightiest of shots."
Carlos Beltrán: .282/.377/.529, 31 HR, 17 SB, VORP 51.6
PECOTA predicts a decline in slugging, OBP and even defense for Carlos. The system does not incorporate promises to steal more bases, so his total remains sub-20.
Carlos Delgado: .269/.363/.513, 29 HR, 28.6 VORP
BP notes that we shouldn't expect the fatherly Delgado to return to 2005 form, when he had a park- and league-adjusted statline of .313/.408/.618 with 33 HRs. Despite hitting 38 homers last year, Delgado reverted to '04 batting, OBPing under .375 and slugging under .550. Now PECOTA is predicting a major drop in slugging, and an alarming "collapse" rate of 45%. However, in the sumary BP notes that Mets fans should expect something near '04/'06 performance for the final two years of his contract. Then, we hope that this Carp guy works out.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
It's not about fixing what isn't broken, it's about making a good team better, which is what good teams do, instead of getting stagnant and believing in fairy tales about "giving oneself up" and "RBI guys."
Personally, I agree with benny blanco from the bronx-- it doesn't matter where Wright bats. And that's what the "stat geeks" will all tell you, that it really doesn't matter. We could bat the pitcher leadoff the whole season and we would lose maybe one game total from that. Maybe more, maybe less. But still, to exploit every edge possible, it makes more sense to have guys with good OBP and speed at the top of the order, not low-speed, low-OBP, low-slugging singles-hitting catchers who 'give themselves up', i.e. make outs.
I don't really care about this year in particular where Wright hits, but it's good to see some teams finally coming to their senses in this department. The Reds, for instance, are batting the high-power, high-walk, high-strikeout Adam Dunn in the 2nd spot in their lineup.
"But he's an RBI guy!" What is an RBI guy? A guy who gets RBIs, right? And what is an RBI? A run batted in, right? And how do you bat a run in? By getting the guys on base to score either by a hit or a walk or a FC or some other means, right? So there needs to be guys on base for you to get an RBI, right? So a guy accumulates RBIs by hitting with runners on base-- am I correct? So by accumulating RBIs a player becomes an RBI guy, but those RBIs are only there because he has performed normally with players on base- a variable beyond his control.
Sometimes Barry Bonds hits home runs with no one on- it's 1 RBI. Sometimes there are three players-- 4 RBI. But he's done the same damn thing, performed exactly the same- no different.
A guy is not a "RBI guy" by something belonging to their nature, but only from external variables. Stick Jose Reyes in the cleanup spot, and he amasses 120 RBIs; Beltran in the leadoff spot gets 70. The production is the same. RBIs, like W/L, are fun, but analytically meaningless. The 116 RBIs that Wright and Beltran amassed in 2006 only mean one thing- that they had players on base in front of them.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Oliver Pérez (N.Y. Mets)
Luis Ayala (Washington)
Esteban Loaiza (Oakland)
Rodrigo López (Colorado)
Jorge de la Rosa (Kansas City)
Dennys Reyes (Minnesota)
Ricardo Rincón (St. Louis)
Elmer Dessens (L.A. Dodgers)
Oscar Villareal (Atlanta)
Edgar González (Arizona)
Jorge Campillo (Seattle)
David Cortés (San Francisco)
Ismael Valdéz (last played w/ Florida in '05)
Miguel Ojeda, C (Texas)
Erubiel Durazo, 1B (Oakland)
Jorge Cantu, 2B (Tampa Bay)
Juan Castro, SS (Cincinnati)
Oscar Robles, 3B (San Diego spring training invitee)
Benji Gil, LF (last played for Anaheim in '03; 1 career game in CF)
Alfredo Amézaga, CF (Florida) (75 career G at CF, 14 in LF, 2 in RF)
Karim Garcia, RF (Philadelphia spring training invitee)
Vinny Castilla, 3B (Colorado; just retired)
Gabe Alvarez, IF/OF (San Diego; last played in '00)
Humberto Cota, C (Pittsburgh)
Geronimo Gil, C (Baltimore; last played in '05) (PLAYER/MANAGER)
Friday, March 23, 2007
I was watching highlights of Mets games from early 2006 and I happened upon a moment where after a Carlos Beltran home run, the ancient warrior Julio Franco is seen very vigorously encouraging him to leave the dugout and acknowledge the fans loudly cheering for him.
I bought a pack of 1990 Topps baseball cards. Amongst them was a second basemen for the Texas Rangers named Julio Franco, set to begin his ninth major league season, seventeen years ago. The man drinks lots of egg whites or something, works out, keeps himself in shape, or so we've heard all the time. This does not mean, of course, that he is invincible, impermeable, or not subject to the laws of aging. He is nearly 49 years old, and slower that he was at 39. 29, 20 years less than 49m is about the age when most players are at their peak performance, the pinnacle of their careers, their most healthy and productive. Julio probably does not remember that time so well.
Still, there is a value in leadership, experience, and the wisdom that can come with age. I am not claiming a quantifiable characteristic, anything that makes a team play batter on the field, score more runs than their opponents, win ball games, do-the-little-things, or even the big ones. I am not even citing an attribute that makes a team "gel," or play well together, or like each other, or anything like that. Quite simply, I'm talking about aesthetics.
It's why Steve Trachsel is so darned boring and José Reyes is so exciting. Old guys are interesting- they have character, they're full of stories. They are baseball. It becomes them, and it becomes us, who watch them. It is beautiful, seemly, wholesome and right that the baseball community should protect and cherish and care for those who have given so much, and are part of the family.
It is not right to cast our fathers and mothers into the cold upon receiving our inheritance, scorning them since they no longer are any use to us. To do so is to emulate the perverse actions of Goneril and Regan, who would give their father, the former King, no quarter. Let the dead bury the dead, the saying goes. Is that how it is to be? Move, or get out of the way, Grandpa. Is that it?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The Hicks: 9 Players
I know the new Omar-Mets are supposedly the all-Latino team, but in actuality there is a large group of twang-talkin' backcountry fishin', huntin' and campin' hillbillies on this the most urban of teams, the Metropolitans of Flushing Meadows, Queens. They are led by the grandest hick of all, Billy Wagner of Tannersville, Virginia. I get the sense hearing him talk about his new splitter-changeup that while he's having fun at that sort of tinkering, he could just as well be asjusting his four-wheeler to a particularly knotty and nasty stretch of backwoods trail.
This may be less true for Aaron Heilman of Logansport, Indiana, whose rough country ways have a more Midwestern flavor. But Heilman, like Wagner, displays a demonstrable lack of tact in discussing various team-related issues, such as his wish to be a starter instead of a killer bullpen setup man. We should not mistake such behavior for the characteristic swaggering pride of a Gary Sheffield or a Manny Ramirez.
Coming from Long Branch, New Jersey, Scott Schoenewis does not seem like he would be a hick-- until you hear about what he's doing with his free time. Fishing, hunting, smoking pipe tobacco. I don't know if that last one is true, but it's fine with me as it is. Welcome to the team , Mark Twain. To round out this tractor-wagon of bullpen yokels, we have the hopeful bullpen candidate Jon Adkins of Huntington, West Virginia. West. Virginia. John Maine, who has quickly launched himself from Anna Benson trade tack-on to lock for the #3 spot in the Mets' rotation, hails from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Now, David Wright comes from the fairly metropolitan locale of Norfolk, Virginia, and is extremely well-spoken and tactful with the media, but he isn't exactly enjoying martinis at 25,000 feet with Charles Barkley and Paris Hilton. He prefers hangin' out with his buddies. I think he makes the hick-squad.
Now for some stretches- Tom Glavine, born in Concord, Massachusetts, played most of his career with the all-hick Atlanta Braves, and seemed to fit right in. He is the quintessential Southern Gentleman, I guess. Count Dave Williams, who is still on this team, remember- he'll be back- comes from Anchorage, Alaska. And if you don't think Alaskans are hicks, well, I assure you- they are. I don't know much about Mike Pelfrey or Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where he was born. But his Wikipedia entry says he grew up in Wichita, Kansas. And finally, there is Ben Johnson, Mets' fifth outfielder bench-warming hopeful, who hails from Memphis, Tennessee.
The Metropolitans: 5 Players
First and foremost, there is Paul Lo Duca, who comes from Brooklyn and talks like he is from Brooklyn. Then, there is Mets' infield backup Damion Easley, also from New York. Shawn Green comes from Des Plaines, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. Blastings Thrilledge is from Bradenton, Florida, which may not be New York, but isn't Mississippi, either. The Mets' new scrapheap collection, in the long line of Joe McEwings and Eli Marreros, is David Newhan of Fullerton, California.
The Dominicans: 9 Players
In no particular order, they are: Ambiorix Burgos, Pedro Martínez, Guillermo Mota, Duaner Sánchez, Jorge Sosa, Anderson Hernández, José Reyes, Julio Franco and Moisés Alou.
Interestingly enough, it is possible that only two of these players, Reyes and Alou, will be on the opening day roster. Mota is suspended for the first 50 games of the season, Sánchez showed up to camp out of shape and needs more time to get ready, Martínez is out until July/August while repairing from surgery, Anderson Hernández can't hit and has failed to assume his promised spot as second baseman of the future, and Burgos and Sosa remain questions for the bullpen- Sosa has not impressed and may yield the 'long man' spot to Park, while Burgos has been ridiculously wild and Benitez-like, and may start the season in AAA. Julio Franco will probably make the team, though it has been suggested that the Mets may "suggest" he accept a coaching position with the team to make way for a more productive player. So much for the Dominicans.
The Puerto Ricans: 6 Players
These guys are faring much better than the Dominicans: Pedro Feliciano, Juan Padilla, Ramón Castro, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltrán and José Valentín, all but Padilla being locks for the starting roster. Valentín and Beltrán were both born in Manati.
The Miscellaneous Hispanics:
Orlando Hernández, of course, is from Cuba. Oliver Pérez is from Mexico and Endy Chávez comes from Venezuela.
Token Asian Guy:
Chan Ho Park, from South Korea. He hopes to take his place next to the great Asian Mets' pitchers of the past, such as Dae-Sung Koo and Jae Weong Seo (both Koreans), and Kazuhisa Ishii, Satoru Komiyama, Masato Yoshii and Hideo Nomo, of Japan. He also replaces Kazuo Matsui as the potential Eastern scapegoat for Mets' failure.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
In response to an entry in John Delcos' Mets' blog, a reader's comment went thusly:
wow, I really hope Willie isn’t seriously considering using Wright in the 2 hole during the season. Wright is still a blossoming player, and hitting 2, you’re basicaly taking the bat out of his hands. Sure you say, he’s a patient hitter, gets to 2 strikes alot, so what? You want this guy with the bat in his hands when guys are on base. Thats his MO. Thats what he does, hes an RBI guy. Batting him 2nd is like saying, he can’t handle hitting in the middle of the order, so we’ll protect him and take the bat out of his hands occasionaly. Bullcrap. Let his kid blossom, let him grip it and rip it. Let him be David Wright.I just don’t get it. How the heck is batting a guy second “taking the bat out of his hands”? Do you realize that the leadoff hitter GETS MORE AT BATS THAN ANYONE ON THE TEAM, and that the second place hitter gets THE SECOND MOST AT BATS OF ANYONE ON THE TEAM. The point of the 3-5 positions being “cleanup” or “run producing” spots is that those players have high slugging percentages, meaning that they will hit for extra bases a good chunk of the time, allowing the leadoff or #2 player to score from first. So ideally, you put high on-base percentage (i.e., not Juan Pierre) guys at the top of the order, guys who may not have the power (low SLG), but will set the table.
The #2 hole is sort of a mix between those 2 roles- the best I’ve seen on the Mets in my short lifetime was Edgardo Alfonzo, who for two or three years was a perfect fit there. One of the worst, in my opinion, is Paul LoDuca, who is a great asset as a catcher and as a hitter, fitting well into the Mets’ offense, but poorly in the #2 hole. Why? First, he doesn’t draw walks, the skill of primary importance at the top of the order. Second, his slugging is bad- he’s a singles hitter. Not good for driving in the #1 guy, sets up double plays for the 3 and 4 hitters, etc. Third, he’s slow; he can’t run the bases well. That’s a necessary skill for a guy at the top of the order who needs to score from first on doubles by the 3-5 hitters.
OK, you say, what about those quintessential 2-hole jobs, going the other way, moving the runner up, sacrifice bunting, etc. I say, bleh. It has been proven to me that sacrifice bunts are what we call -EV, or negative expected value, i.e. it doesn't help the team to score runs, but actually hurts them. The feat should almost never be attempted. Sorry, Ozzy Guillen—sorry, conventional baseball wisdom. As for going the other way, DW does this naturally, so this should be no problem. Finally, there is the question of allowing the guy on first- namely Jose Reyes, to steal. I say if the guy hitting second (Paul LoDuca) has to give up his AB as a matter of course, so that the guy on first can have plenty of chances to steal, then the SB becomes really worthless. Let him do it on his own. If DW swings at a pitch when Reyes is running, so be it.