Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Mets are the worst fielding team in baseball.

Yes, the Mets are the worst fielding team in baseball and what's worse than that? The fact that if they weren't, we would be in first place and one of the best teams in either league. How do I arrive at this conclusion? It starts by looking at the Mets team UZR. UZR is a stat similar to WAR or RAR that estimates how many runs a player saves or gives up in relation to a replacement level player. For instance David Wright had a UZR last year of 1.5 meaning he saved 1.5 more runs than a replacement at 3rd base would have. We can also look at a team's UZR to see how they do compared to a team full of replacement players. Right now the Mets team UZR is -27.7. Meaning that a team of totally average players would have saved about 28 more runs than the current Mets. -27.7 is the worst team UZR in baseball about six runs worse than the Detroit Tigers.

If the Mets played average defense (meaning a UZR of 0) they would have about 3 more wins right now (10 runs usually equal 1 win). This would put our record at 31-20 instead of 28-23. 31-20 would put us at first place in the division and tied with the Texas Rangers for second best record in all of baseball. For all the great pitching performances, .400 batting averages and great bench performances we are getting we could in 1st by simply having average defense. Let's look at the worst offenders.

First which Mets have the worst individual UZR on the team:

Duda
-10.7
Murphy
-7.3
Bay
-3.3
Davis
-2.9
Baxter
-2.7

Yikes. Duda and Murphy have cost this team 17 runs through their poor defensive play. Duda is doubly painful to see because he has been bad offensively this season also and therefore is really doing nothing but hurting the team. Murphy has always been a defensive question mark and a concern at 2nd base, so far these numbers show he is not handling the position well despite a few flashy plays. For those who dislike advanced metrics, looks let at a more traditional stats, errors.

Murphy
7
Davis
4
Thole
4
Wright
4
Nieuwenhuis
3

Well Murphy tops this list as well which just adds to concerns about his defense. My biggest worry though is that Ike appears on both of these lists. First of all, first base is not a hugely challenging defensive position. You should not have four errors at first 50 games in. Secondly it bothers me because in past years Ike has been a defensive star. He was a leader in UZR his rookie year finishing with one of the highest runs saved among all first basemen. His poor defense and even worse offense have made Ike the disappointment of the year so far.

The two teams leading the league right now in UZR are the Dodgers and Rangers, coincidentally the two best teams in baseball. In the coming months the Mets are taking on several good offensive teams, solid defense (or at least average defense) is going to be needed to keep up our winning record.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gee/Lee Matchup part 2.

For the second time this season Dillon Gee and Cliff Lee are facing off, I somehow hope this develops into an Ali-Frazier like feud but something tells me that isn't super likely. A few weeks ago we examined this match up, which you can read here . Let's take a look at their numbers coming into tonight:


IP
ERA
xFIP
WHIP
k/9
bb/9
Gee
56.2
4.92
3.25
1.38
8.26
2.54
Lee
51
2.82
2.6
0.96
8.29
1.41

As  you can see the gap has really widened here but the premise of the last article remains true. Cliff Lee is outrageously good and Gee is way better than a sophomore 5th starter would generally be expected to be. What can you even say about Cliff Lee? He missed a few starts and still has almost as many IP as most other starters. His WHIP is under 1, his ERA under 3 and he essentially strikes out everyone and walks no one. I can't find a thing negative to say about him expect that he voluntarily chose to be a Phillie.

Gee has remained one of the many bright spots of the year and has been a solid anchor to this teams rotation. His strikeout rate is fantastic (about equal with Lee) and his defense independent stats show his ERA is far higher than he deserves, his 3.25 xFIP is the same shared by King Felix and Clayton Kershaw. The one thing I do know is that he is more than good enough to silence the Sillies offense tonight as the Mets go for the key series win.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Joe Blanton Paradox

Here's a question. Why did anyone ever have a high opinion of Joe Blanton? In researching his stats for this article it really struck me that he has never been very good yet people all seem to remember a time when Joe Blanton was an above average pitcher but no one can quite pinpoint when it was. Here was Blanton's best season ever in 2007 with the A's:

IP
ERA
FIP
xFIP
k/9
bb/9
hr/9
230
3.95
3.5
3.93
5.48
1.57
0.63

This is the definition of an above average season. He had an ERA just under 4 and pitched a ton of innings. He didn't strike out a lot of guys but also didn't walk too many. Now let's look at his career numbers:

IP (avg per season)
ERA
FIP
xFIP
k/9
bb/9
hr/9
144.5
4.33
4.17
4.23
5.92
2.44
1.03

Here we see a pitcher who is generally below average. He doesn't strike out many batters, he walks a decent amount, gives up about a home run a game and tends to not pitch full seasons due to injury. Joe Blanton is currently filling the exact role he is meant to fill, back end of the rotation guy. So where then, does the myth of the once good Blanton come from? I have a few theories:

1 ) He had the one good season. Anyone who follows baseball can tell you that a pitcher can pretty much make a career out of having one good season, just ask Ollie Perez.
2 ) He accrues a lot of wins. While the value of pitcher wins is debatable it is certainly looked on highly by many folks. Blanton has 77 career wins including 16 in his best year in 06 and a lowest of 9 in his worst year. Racking up W's is a sure fire to make yourself look good.
3 ) He won a world series. The 2008 Phillies were a pretty highly regarded team and he had multiple playoff wins with them.
4 ) He was an A. The A's are a good pitching team and people seem to love pitchers who come out of the A's system. Some continue their greatness, some flop but they all usually end up getting good deals coming out of Oakland. The mystique of Moneyball has done wonders for departing A's contracts.
5 ) He had a lot of media speculation. Have you ever noticed that in every off  season a slightly above average pitcher gets a lot of hype because all the other good pitchers already have deals? This year it was John Danks, MLB network talked about who might sign John Danks for like two weeks this year because they had nothing else to talk about. 2 years ago it was Carl Pavano. After 2007 it was Joe Blanton. Once the Mets acquired Johan we were treated to like three weeks of who might trade for Blanton and what Blanton could do for team X. I think these things stick with people and they tend to help inflate their value.

All of his is a long way of saying that I think the Mets are going to light up Blanton tonight. I will be in attendance and sitting behind the Sillies dugout, heckling them mercilessly.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yu Darvish Check-in

Regular readers of the blog will know that I occasionally venture outside of the Mets to take a look at other baseball interests. One of my big topics in the off season was how outrageously good I predicted Yu Darvish would be. I advocated at several points the Mets spend the money to try and bid on him and now more than ever wish they did.

Yu Darvish has been absolutely fantastic this season. My feeling is that Yu Darvish hasn't been seen as a massive success largely because he didn't pitch back to back no hitters in his first two starts. Like any other pitcher he gives up hits and walks and in he tends to do both in early innings which makes him seem less dominant, but his numbers show an elite level pitcher. His current ERA/xFIP is 3.05/3.78 and he is averaging about 7 innings per start. His k/9 is a fantastic... wait for it... 10.13! That's well over 1 per inning. He is also issuing a lot of walks with a bb/9 of 5.14 but that is to some degree to be expected. Japanese umpires and strike zones are significantly different than American ones, he is already walking fewer each game and I expect this number will settle as he becomes more accustomed to the new style. I think he has proven he can succeed in American baseball and will only continue to get better.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Padres Preview

The Mets return home from a long road trip to take on the third worst team in baseball, the San Diego Super Padres. For a crappy team the Padres actually have some decent pitching, their starting rotation features 4 sub 4 ERA guys and 3 below 3. Let's see who the Mets are up against.

First up is Eric Stults, not to be confused with the star of Some Kind of Wonderful , that was Eric Stoltz, who is not a pitcher. Stults was DFA'ed by the White Sox earlier this year then picked up by San Diego. In 13 innings he as a bb/9 and k/9 that are far too close (4.73/4.05) but has pitched to an ERA under 3. His career numbers are all bad and I don't expect much of him, which is good because we will have Hefner going that night who is more of a wildcard than Stults.

Next up is Anothony Bass who is pitching scary good. He has an ERA/xFIP of 2.94/3.11 and has been striking out more than a batter per inning pitched. This is his second year in the league and he is showing improvement, he had flashes of brilliance last year with a few glaring issues that he has seemed to work out. This is a guy to watch.

On Saturday we face Clayton Richard who is not so good. He has an ERA over 4 but an xFIP just under which could mean he is a little better than he is getting credit for. His strike out rate is low at 13.7% and his hr/9 is fairly high at 1.08. In a 5 year career he had one dominant season and has been below average the rest, I am confident the Mets can get to him.

Finally on Sunday is our old pal Edinson Volquez who has been pitching OK this year and currently holds a .7 fWAR. His 2012 FIP sits at a respectable 3.55 with a very average k/9 of just above 7. He has never quite gotten back to the dominant level he was performing at for the Reds in 2008 but remains capable of throwing a good game. Come to think of it, he and Richard are very similar in as much as they both built careers out of one really great season. All this team needs is Ollie Perez for the trifecta.

The offensive star of the team is Chase Headly (what a great name) who is so good he actually got added to my SuperBaseball 5000 fantasy team (which is a great compliment you can read about here ). His 2012 WAR is 1.7 and his slash sits at .245/.366/.413 with 5 homers and three stolen bases. Will Venable is playing just a tick above average and Cameron Maybin is playing well below, although he is a stolen base machine with 13 on the year.

As a team the Padres are 16-29, they have scored 139 runs and allowed 182. This is an easy series for us that we can't let go. Anything less than 3 for 4 is a failure.



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What is up with Mike Baxter?

Mike Baxter is screaming for joy over his high .OBP

For the record there is also a Mike Baxter who plays scrummy for Rosslyn Park, but he isn't nearly as good as baseball Mike Baxter, who is having an outrageous year. Baxter, for those who have forgotten, is a local guy. He is from Whitestone and went to perennial city baseball powerhouse Arch Bishop Molloy.

This season Baxter has 53 plate appearances and is going .378/.453/.600 with 2 stolen bases and WAR of .7 good for 4th highest on the team. I know it has only been 50 PA but these numbers are just amazing. Obviously no one believes he will continue to have an OPS over 1.000 and he is currently aided by an outrageously high .515 BABIP. When his current numbers settle a bit, they should resemble his career and projection numbers, which we look at below.

His career numbers are pretty good with a slash of .299/.382/.494. These are numbers that would tend to make me believe he can keep up his current success. ZiPS doesn't have him doing quite so good but still putting up nice numbers: .276/.348/.435. Across the board he is a good hitter, a great on base guy and capable of putting up a decent number of extra base hits. I predict Mike Baxter is here to stay.





Monday, May 21, 2012

Ike Davis is the worst player in baseball.

Ike Davis has been a concern for Mets fans all season. After a great rookie year and an injury shortened second season, Mets fans were looking to Ike to be one of the stars of this years teams, what they have gotten, is the worst player in baseball right now.

Ike Davis has the lowest fWAR in baseball with a -.1.1. At this point, Ike has cost the Mets just over one game due to his poor play. No one other player has a negative WAR over 1, the closest are Marlon Byrd and Brennan Boesch. His slash line sits a paltry .162/.221/.304., he is striking out 26.9% of his at bats. Even worse is his defense, his UZR currently sits at negative 12.2, again meaning that his defense has cost the mets 12 runs this year.

What does all this mean? The thing to keep in mind is that we are still only a quarter of the way through the season. Among the other top 10 worst players according to WAR are: Eric Hosmer, Dee Gordon, Albert Pujols and Rickie Weeks. These are all guys capable of great player and most of whom will end this season with good to great numbers despite really bad starts, hopefully Ike will be among that group. We have been hearing some chatter about sending Ike to the minors and I for one am against it. If Ike is going to hit MLB pitchers he need MLB plate appearances. I am just not sure what he is going to get in Buffallo that will give him a huge improvement. We have seen much better from Ike in the past and I believe the way to bring it back is to let him work through his problems on the Major League level.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blue Jays Preview


The Mets pulled out a roller coaster late innings win yesterday over the Reds and head to the great north for a three game set against the Blue Jays. While we are on the topic, who else misses the Expos? I miss having two Canadian teams, I miss the Stade Olympique and I miss Youppie (the only mascot to be shared by multiple teams). Let's see what we are up against:

Pitching tonight is Ricky Romero who is an absolute walk machine with a bb/9 of 4.39 and a k/9 of only of 6.08, which is not horrible but not great considering his walk rate and hr/9 (over 1). This is pretty standard for Romero, his career bb/9 is 3.61 yet he has still had some success in the last few years. Some people will point to his pitching strategy or other intangible as reasons for that, I am more of the belief that his success is unsustainable and he will start losing a lot more.

Next up is Brandon Morrow who is pitching very well this year with an ERA/xFIP of 2.22/3.71 with a WAR of almost 1 which is impressive for a pitcher at this point in the season. Morrow is our biggest worry of the weekend.

Finally on Sunday is Henderson Alvarez who has a classic good standard numbers/bad advanced analytic numbers. His ERA this season is a slim 2.62 but a FIP of 5.18 and an xFIP of 4.56. His strike out and walk numbers are even worse, maybe the worse I have seen this year: k/9 of 2.45 (what!) and bb/9 of 2.13. This is a classic example of a standard stat making someone look great but advanced stats showing they are awful.

On the offensive side the good new is that Jose Bautista is playing terrible right now (.207/.329/.443) the bad news is, it won't last. Bautista is going to start getting better and playing closer to what is expected, at this point we should just hope he doesn't start this weekend. The other good news is that Brett Lawrie should be out of the lineup after dropping the appeal of his 4 game suspension. Lawrie was rocking a 1.5 WAR and was the biggest offensive tool the Jays had.

This is the first game the Mets are playing against the AL and will be using a DH. The obvious choice here is Hairston but my vote for the spot is Justin Turner, J Turn has displayed a great eye at the plate and has had some great pinch hit performances. He is only batting .234 in 51 PA but I think some more at-bats might be what he needs.

As a team the Jays are 21-18, they have scored 179 runs and allowed 154.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The NL East is ridiculously competitive

The Mets dropped to 4th place in the NL East last night after losing to the Reds despite being a usually competitive 20-17. They are 3 games ahead of the Sillies who are 19-19. Right now the NL East is the only division in baseball where every team is above .500.

Lets take a quick comparative look at the Mets record and those of the other five 4th place teams.

Blue Jays 20- 8
Mets 20-17
Brewers 16-21
Mariners 16-23
Royals 15-21
Rockies 15-21

Obviously the two eastern divisions are dominating this year. The Mets current record would put them in 2nd place in every other division besides the NL and AL East. Like most people I am very excited about this team but the current competitive level of the NL East is going to make things very tough.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reds Preview

After a 2 game spit with Milwaukee the Mets continue to battle the mid-west with another two game home stand against the boys from the Nasty 'Nati (people really call it that). Let's see what we are up against.

Pitching tonight is Mike Leake who is currently sporting a negative WAR (-.2) and is all around terrible. In six starts he has put up an ERA/xFIP of 7.11/4.50 and his strike out per 9 (4.55) and walks per 9 (3.13) are much closer to one another than anyone pitcher should ever have. My biggest fear here is that this level of incompetence is so bad that it might be unsustainable, in other words he might be due for a good start, let's assume he won't be.

Next up is Mat Latos who is usually pretty good and this year is pretty below average. His xFIP is 4.34 but he is he getting a decent amount of strike of outs (7.49 per 9). Career Latos is a sub 4 ERA guy who has displayed elite to above average level stuff in the past. I expect he will start pitching better and his numbers will get closer to what is expected, let's hope it happens after Thursday.

Offensively the stars of the squad have been Joey Votto, having a bounce back year (.311/.465/.571) and the always underrated Jay Bruce (.300/.343/.631). They also have the second best rookie in baseball in Zack Cozart. He and Capt. Kirk are currently tied in WAR but all of Kirk's individual offensive numbers exceed Cozart's. Their offense is capable of putting numbers up, fortunately for us we have Santana and Dickey going against them.

As a team the Reds are 18-17, they have scored 134 runs and given up 132.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mets Closer Analysis

I was not happy this weekend. The Mets should have had a series sweep against the Marlins and twice Frank Frank blew 9th inning leads and totally lost his cool on Sunday. I think at this point, I am ready to be done with Frank Frank as closer. I usually advocate giving a player a good long time in a role and am against hasty decisions but I think his career arc has shown he is not an everyday closer. He usually starts off well and falls apart, he appears to be doing so again. The question then becomes, if we replace Francisco, who do we replace him with. Let's look at a table that show us the value of the 2012 Mets bullpen using fWAR:

Player
fWAR
Byrdak
0.3
Parnell
0.3
Rauch
0.3
Ramirez
0.1
Carrasco
0
Hefner
0
Batista
-0.1
Francisco
-0.1
Acosta
-0.6

Does anyone else find this list totally unsurprising? Acosta has been awful and should not be appearing in pro baseball games until he has worked his issues out. Using this list the three candidates for closer would be the three guys tied for first: Byrdak, Parnell and Rauch. Let's take a look at some of their individual numbers.

Byrdak
IP
ERA
xFIP
SV
BS
K%
BB%
Career
341.2
4.26
4.38
4
7
21.5
13.1
2012
10.1
3.48
1.94
0
1
41
7.7

Byrdak makes the least compelling case. His numbers are perfectly acceptable for an average middle relief guy, which has been his role for years but not for our everyday closer. He has almost never been in a closer role and I see no need to put him there now. He is excelling as a set-up man this year and we need him to keep that up.

Rauch
IP
ERA
xFIP
SV
BS
K%
BB%
Career
536
3.79
4.37
59
29
18.9
7.3
2012
15.1
2.93
4.43
1
2
11.5
4.9

I would like to see a higher K% from a closer and he certainly has blown a ton of saves over the years. I have the same fears with him as I do with Frank Frank and that is history. Rauch has never been able to successfully hold down a closers job in the past so what evidence do I have he can do it now? He has pitched well this season and might deserve a shot at the role and might surprise us and excel, however I remain officially wary.

Parnell
IP
ERA
xFIP
SV
BS
K%
BB%
Career
203
4.15
3.79
7
12
20.7
9.4
2012
16
3.79
2.65
0
0
22.5
4.2

Finally we have young Bobby Parnell. He has a low ERA/xFIP this year and sub 4 career xFIP. I like his K% but his career BB% is far too high for a regular closer. He has also blown more saves than he has recorded (although he hasn't had many opportunities to draw from). Bobby probably has the most upside here. His numbers are all OK and he is the only one who hasn't been given a chance yet. My vote would be to give him the job and enough time to get good at it. It's the move that seems to make the most sense to the organization right now, who is going to need a competent closer for years to come, not just 2012.



Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Mets Prospectus: Marlins Preview and Mets 5/11 Historical Records

The Mets head to the Miami tonight, home of the Dali inspired home run instillation for a three game series against the Marlins. Before we get into our preview of this weekend series I would like to thank Metsblog for linking yesterdays article to it's site.

The Marlins are 16 and 19 right now, placed 4th in the NL East. This season they have scored 111 runs and allowed 110. Let's take a look at the pitchers for this series:

Mark Buerhle: Buerhle is consistently ranked baseball's best defensive pitcher and one of baseball's fastest, both make pitching against never a fun task. He is pitching well this year with an ERA/xFIP of 2.83/3.95 over 41.1 IP. He isn't striking out many however with a k/9 of just 4.79%. He is definitely the pitcher who concerns me the most this weekend.

Ricky Nolasco: The oft underrated Nolasco is also having a good year with an  ERA/xFIP of 2.72/3.94 over 39.2 IP. His k/9 currently sits at 4.76. Wow. It's like I just copied the Buehrle section and pasted it here. These guys have eerily similar stats. The big difference is that Nolasco is 4-0 and Buehrle is 2-4, ah the wonderful vagaries of pitcher wins and losses.

Carlos Zambrano: The big Z! Remember last year when he stormed off the field and retired on the spot? That was awesome... Anyway I bet you forgot Big Z was even on the Marlins, well he is and he is pitching pretty darn well with an ERA at a svelte 1.98. He has struck out 32 batters over 41 innings and has been a very useful part of the Marlins rotation. His prolific batting has fallen off however, he has 1 hit for a BA of .83. His lifetime average still sits at a remarkable .238.

The Marlins offense was off to a slow start but is starting to rise to predicted levels. The strongest batsman has been Omar Infante, he of many positions, who is hitting .313/.343/.635. I am pleased as shoo fly pie to report that Jose Reyes is batting a laughable .233 and still has not cracked a positive WAR (he's at -.2).

Finally I got to wondering how this strong Spring start compares to other recent Met Springs so I compiled this table of the Mets standings on May 11 going back 6 years.


Date
Wins
Losses
5/11/2012
18
13
5/11/2011
16
20
5/11/2010
18
15
5/11/2009
17
14
5/11/2008
19
16
5/11/2007
22
12
5/11/2006
22
12

Well it isn't quite as good as those wonderful years of '06 and '07 but it is our best May 11th since 2008 and much better than last year. I think it shows that we still have some work to do and shouldn't get too excited just yet but also shows a marked improvement of this team over some of the recent years.