Do elite hurlers dominate the Mets?

Thursday morning, Dan Stack and I were talking about the 2011 Mets and how surprising the team was. Dan mentioned their two-out hitting and road record, certainly two of the areas where they are overperforming this season. I mentioned my theory that the Mets struggle against the elite pitchers but did better than expected versus the “good” pitchers.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Mets are 30-28 overall against teams that are greater than or equal to .500 this year and 15-15 against teams that are below the .500 mark. This means they are not beating up on the poor teams but instead are holding their own against the good teams. My theory is that they are doing worse than expected versus the elite pitchers but are cleaning up versus the next tier of pitchers.

But, how do you measure elite pitchers? You could do it by ERA but then you get guys like Jeff Karstens and Kyle Lohse in your survey, who really do not fit my definition of elite. So, I decided to use fWAR. Here are the top 10 hurlers by that metric who have pitched against the Mets this year. The first chart is their overall numbers and the second chart is their numbers versus the Mets.

  W-L ERA fWAR
Roy Halladay 11-3 2.44 4.8
Justin Verlander 11-4 2.26 4.0
Clayton Kershaw 9-4 3.03 3.9
Cole Hamels 10-4 2.40 3.9
Dan Haren 9-5 2.65 3.8
Cliff Lee 9-6 2.92 3.5
Tim Lincecum 6-7 3.14 3.2
Jordan Zimmermann 5-7 2.82 3.0
Jair Jurrjens 12-3 1.87 2.3
Gio Gonzalez 8-5 2.31 2.2
Total 90-48    

This seems like a pretty good group, although many might be surprised with the inclusion of Zimmermann. However, the Nationals’ young ace’s record is not indicative of how well he has pitched this year, as he is 4-5 in 13 games this year in which he has delivered a Quality Start.

Here’s how that group has done against the Mets this year, with some other categories included:

  W-L ERA IP ER HR BB K
Halladay 2-0 0.56 16.0 1 0 2 15
Verlander 1-0 1.29 7.0 1 1 2 6
Kershaw 2-0 0.61 14.2 1 0 5 17
Hamels 1-1 7.45 9.2 8 0 2 13
Haren 0-1 13.50 4.0 6 1 1 2
Lee 0-0 1.29 7.0 1 0 2 5
Lincecum 1-0 0.00 7.0 0 0 3 12
Zimmermann 1-1 5.91 10.2 7 0 0 5
Jurrjens 1-2 3.38 18.2 7 0 6 13
Gonzalez 0-0 1.29 7.0 1 0 1 8
Total 9-5 2.92 101.2 33 2 24 96

Overall, these 10 pitchers had a .652 winning percentage. Against the Mets, they had a .643 winning percentage. That seems to shoot my theory down.

But if you think I’m going to let go of one of my theories that easily, well guess again.

Four of these pitchers (Hamels, Haren, Zimmermann, Jurrjens) were significantly worse against the Mets than they are overall. Neither Jurrjens nor Haren are dominating strikeout pitchers. Instead of looking at the top pitchers by fWAR, let’s look at them by K/9. Here are the top 10 hurlers by that metric who have pitched against the Mets this year. The first chart is their overall numbers and the second chart is their numbers versus the Mets.

  W-L ERA K/9
Clayton Kershaw 9-4 3.03 10.13
Tim Lincecum 6-7 3.14 9.66
Tommy Hanson 10-4 2.52 9.62
Jonathan Sanchez 4-5 3.81 9.23
Bud Norris 5-6 3.46 9.08
Cliff Lee 9-6 2.92 8.91
Gio Gonzalez 8-5 2.31 8.75
Justin Verlander 11-4 2.26 8.67
Roy Halladay 11-3 2.44 8.65
Josh Johnson 3-1 1.64 8.35
Total 76-45    

Interestingly, we see the six elite pitchers who did well against the Mets on this list. Here’s how the group did only against the Mets:

  W-L ERA IP ER HR BB K
Kershaw 2-0 0.61 14.2 1 0 5 17
Lincecum 1-0 0.00 7.0 0 0 3 12
Hanson 0-1 5.40 5.0 3 0 2 9
Sanchez 0-1 9.00 5.0 5 1 6 6
Norris 0-0 4.73 13.1 7 3 4 14
Lee 0-0 1.29 7.0 1 0 2 5
Gonzalez 0-0 1.29 7.0 1 0 1 8
Verlander 1-0 1.29 7.0 1 1 2 6
Halladay 2-0 0.56 16.0 1 0 2 15
Johnson 1-0 2.31 11.2 3 0 4 6
Total 7-2 2.21 93.2 23 5 31 98

Overall, these 10 pitchers had a .628 winning percentage and against the Mets they had a .778 winning percentage. So, the Mets did do worse versus these pitchers than you might expect, but not by a significant amount given the small sample size of nine decisions.

But let’s take the six pitchers who were on both lists. Against Kershaw, Lincecum, Lee, Gonzalez, Verlander and Halladay, the Mets are 0-6. These hurlers have a 0.77 ERA in 58.2 IP against the Mets, with 1 HR allowed, 15 BB and 63 Ks. That’s a 0.15 HR/9, 2.30 BB/9 and a 9.66 K/9 from the Super Six against the Mets.

The other four hurlers in the K/9 group were 1-2 against the Mets with a 4.63 ERA. In 35 IP they allowed 4 HR, 16 BB and 35 Ks. That’s a 1.03 HR/9, 4.11 BB/9 and 9.00 K/9. Let’s put that in chart form to make the numbers stand out:

  W-L ERA HR/9 BB/9 K/9
Super Six 6-0 0.77 0.15 2.30 9.66
Others 1-2 4.63 1.03 4.11 9.00

Overall, the Mets are first in the National League with 310 walks. They have the third fewest strikeouts with 600 and the third fewest home runs with 55. When we look at the top K/9 pitchers, we understand they are negating one of the Mets’ strengths. The Mets are weak in HR, so we expect this group to follow form. The expected unknown is if they are going to keep their walks in check.

The Super Six do better than expected with HR and really limit the walks. The others do worse than expected with HR and are below average in walks. So the second group, even though they are selected because they neutralize one of the Mets’ strengths (and do well in this regard) they are still disappointing because they fail in two other categories.

So, I think I was on the right trail with my theory. But it needs to be amended somewhat. It’s not simply elite pitchers that confound the Mets, it’s elite power pitchers who completely handcuff the team. The Super Six have a .629 winning percentage against the non-Mets teams in baseball but are undefeated against the Mets.

Against the rest of baseball, the Mets are 45-37 for a .549 winning percentage. If the Mets did not face one of the Super Six over 162 games, they would win 89 games at their current rate. At least they won’t have to face Verlander, Gonzalez nor Kershaw anymore this season. They square off against Lincecum on Saturday night and then won’t see him again, either.

But they will undoubtedly have a few matchups against Halladay and Lee the rest of the way.

Tomorrow I’ll check to see how the Mets fare against the next 10 pitchers in fWAR and K/9 – the “good” pitchers.

4 comments for “Do elite hurlers dominate the Mets?

  1. Dan Stack
    July 9, 2011 at 5:30 am

    Good research Brian. Hmmn, The Mets have tagged Jurrjens with two of his three losses. Good article considering the stretch of pitchers the Mets have/will faced in the next week or so. If Bochy decides on Halladay to start for the ASG, I hope he pitches him five or so innings!

  2. Common Knowledge
    July 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

    The major problem is the FREQUENCY that the Mets are facing these elite pitchers now and in the forseeable future when Strasberg and Zimmermann are added in to the mix. What we really need to see is the frequency that the Mets are facing these pitchers compared to the frequency other teams are seeing these pitchers. While they ended up facing Worley and Kendrick this weekend, a week-and-a-half ago it appeared that the Mets would be facing seven consecutive All-Star pitchers in Kershaw, Vogelsong, Lincecum, Cain, Lee, Hamels and Halladay.

    • Brian Joura
      July 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting Common Knowledge and good point about the two guys from the Nationals.

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