Yesterday my copy of the Maple Street Press Mets 2011 Annual arrived in the mail. Maple Street Press puts out a host of annuals and they get some of the top names in the blogosphere to contribute to their magazines. The Mets guide features articles by Ted Berg, Toby Hyde, Howard Megdal, Sam Page, Dan Schlossberg and many others. Ike Davis is this year’s cover boy.

The cover is sleeker than a season ago.  Inside, the guide once again features 128 pages, uses all colors and is amazingly free of ads. Content aside, this lack of advertising puts it ahead of virtually any other magazine out there. And as you can imagine, there is a ton of content. Matthew Silverman and Greg Spira, co-editors of the guide, kick things off with an introductory letter and then Silverman does a 2011 preview.

Next up is a full page giving the Bill James projections for individual players for the upcoming season. While last year’s projections also included minor league numbers, this is limited to major league players.  What this does have going for it is the best layout of any chart in the book.  The text is the right size, there’s plenty of information and the color scheme is limited to blue and white.

Then comes the heart of the magazine; a full page devoted to each expected starter. This is one of the nicest parts of the annual. It is attractively laid out and contains a ton of information in the forms of text, charts and stats. At the top of the page is the player’s name and uniform number, which is a nice thing. In smaller type is his age, position and bats and throws information. Next up is his 2010 stat line. On the left side of the page is a nice color action shot, about the height of a baseball card but wider. To the right is an extended paragraph of text on the player.  Unfortunately, the contract information found in last year’s text is missing.

The charts contain some very useful information not easy to find elsewhere. There is a scouting report from 2010 in numerical format, which gives averages for the batters versus all types of pitches, although missing last year’s left/right splits. That’s made up for by including many FanGraphs type stats, like Swinging Strike% and contact percentage broken down by inside and outside the strike zone.  For the pitchers, this section also included additional breakdowns, such as average velocity and ahead and behind in the count outcomes.

The spray zones from last year are gone, replaced by a “Leading Indicators” chart.  More FanGraphs type numbers, but with the inclusion of where the player ranks overall in the category, along with the MLB average for the category – both very useful things.  The categories are: P/PA, Swing %, Contact % and Hard Hit%.  Davis ranked 43rd in MLB with a 19.0 Hard Hit %

Beneath the hit zones is a chart of Strengths & Weaknesses, which shows how a batter did in certain situations. There are four categories for each batter, individually tailored to show presumably his best and worst splits. It shows the player’s split in the category, the MLB average in that split and the MLB rank in that category. For instance, Daniel Murphy had a .398 SLG percentage with two strikes. The MLB average in that split was .290 and he ranked 18th in the category in MLB. The pink and blue theme was here again.

Hit Zones and Pitch Zones both return from a year ago, along with Ground Ball, Fly Ball and Line Drive breakdowns for both hitters and pitchers.  New for this year is the inclusion of HR/FB rates, which is a nice addition.  Unfortunately, the same color scheme also returns, with a player’s hot zone represented by pink.  Nothing says hot for a major league player quite like pink.

These pages are very, very nice. And my reservations about the color choices of pink and baby blue aside, the only thing missing here is raw numbers. The percentages given are handy, but I really wish they would have included the raw numbers, too.

The guide also includes several feature articles, including two on the new front office.  Megdal dives into the Citi Field dimensions while Spira examines Jose Reyes at the crossroads. The magazine also includes previews on other NL teams, a schedule and the team’s 40-man roster as of press time, complete with statistics. This year’s 40-man roster page was much better designed, with shorter margins and minus the blue background.

Hyde once again contributed top-notch minor league articles, including top 10 rankings for hitters and pitchers.  While he had Cory Vaughn ranked too low, these are nicely done, although I missed last year’s list of players 11-20, which were not included in this season’s guide.

One thing that will need to be addressed for next year’s annual is the chart layouts.  The one for the Mets 2010 Draftees was particularly hideous.  It took up way too much space, especially for the amount of information delivered.  And orange should be used in moderation, not splashed over lines that stretch for the entire width of the page.

John Moorehuse delivered a very nice feature on Kingsport, the longest-running affiliate of the Mets.  The Appalachian League team has been with the Mets since 1980 (with a one-year hiatus).  The article includes a Top 30 of Kingsport players, including Aaron Ledesma – everyone’s favorite Irish-Mexican.

The magazine also includes full-page schedules for Buffalo and Binghamton and quick hitters for the other teams in the organization.  And many other articles not listed here.

The annual retails for $12.99 and can be purchased on newsstands or online at https://www.maplestreetpress.com/osindex.cfm?products_id=129&action=buy_now

The guide is well-worth the price and is something to which Mets fans can refer to again and again during the season.

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