Angel Pa-Outta Here

Hmmm… there was probably a better pun to be made there. Oh well, moving on.

I’m among the minority of Mets fans that, even after his 2011 season, still liked Angel Pagan. I could certainly understand why so many other Mets fans were frustrated with him. But I never understood the logic behind the non-tender rumors (a subject I went into some depth about in an earlier piece). Debating with other Mets fans about Pagan’s value and why I thought a non-tender made absolutely no sense probably made me a stauncher supporter of Pagan than I would have otherwise been. So late last night, when I heard that Angel Pagan had been traded to the Giants for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez, my initial reaction was disappointment. Followed by sleep.

In the light of day, however, the trade doesn’t bother me so much. I remind myself that Pagan wasn’t, in fact, non-tendered, which was the move I was most concerned about. Angel Pagan will be a free agent next fall and is not the type of core piece that a rebuilding franchise (like the Mets) should go to great lengths to keep around. He’ll also make something in the $4.5-5M range in arbitration, which for a cash-strapped team (like the Mets) isn’t exactly cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that he’s a good player who will have a big year in 2012, and I still think that he got a disproportianate amount of grief from Mets fans, but I can see the value in moving him.

The return on the trade is helpful for the Mets. In Andres Torres, they get a player who has actually been more valuable (per fWAR) than Pagan over the past 3 years. Even ignoring defense (Torres’ forte), they’ve been reasonably comparable hitters over the past 3 years. Torres will be 34 on Opening Day, while Pagan will be 30, so I don’t buy that Torres will be a better hitter than Pagan in 2012. But it’s not unreasonable to think that he will be adequate with the bat. And defensively, while I don’t think Pagan will be as bad as he was in 2011, Torres is flat-out superb. That’s particularly important when you’ve got an average fielder in left and a statue in right. Taking my own pro-Pagan biases and expectations out of the equation, it’s not hard to view Torres for Pagan as a lateral move for the Mets. Especially when you consider that Pagan is likely to make some $2M more than Torres in 2012 and that Torres is under Mets control for 2013, while Pagan is a free agent at the end of next season.

The real bonus here, though, is that the Mets got a second player from the Giants, RHP Ramon Ramirez. The 30-year old reliever has bounced around the league since making his debut for the Rockies in 2006. He’s posted an ERA under 3.00 in each of the last 4 seasons, he’s got decent K and BB numbers, and he’s been very durable, appearing in at least 66 games in each of the past 4 seasons (he ranks 5th in MLB in appearances over that period). Although we all know how much the durability tag was worth when the Yankees acquired Pedro Feliciano last year. Still, Ramirez, who will make something in the $2M neighborhood in 2012 (his final arbitration year before free agency), will be an asset for a Mets team that struggled to find a winning combination in the pen last year.

Ultimately, the trade helped shore up an area of concern (the bullpen), and didn’t create any gaping holes. Losing Pagan makes the leadoff spot a little more unsettled, but as a believer in the virtual irrelevence (or at least overratedness) of lineup construction, this isn’t a major concern for me. The trade also rid the Mets of a player who (despite my appreciation) was reportedly unpopular with the team (reports I take with a healthy dose of skepticism) and definitely unpopular with the bulk of the Mets fanbase. Bottom line: I still think that for the 2012 season, Pagan will be the best player involved in this trade, but it’s a move that made sense for the Mets to make.

*****

If you’re interested in Major League transactions, rules, and procedures, or if you just want to know which Mets have options left and what picks the Mets will get for Jose Reyes, be sure to check out tpgmets.blogspot.com and follow me on Twitter @tpgMets.

Six reasons Angel Pagan should NOT be non-tendered

1. For starters, 2009 & 2010 were better than you remember

In 239 games during the 2009 & 2010 seasons, Pagan hit .296/.344/.448 (.792 OPS) over 1009 plate appearances. Playing all 3 OF positions, but mostly CF, Pagan earned a UZR of +22.7 in 1952.1 defensive innings. All told, in a year and a half’s worth of games, Pagan was worth 8.4 WAR. And before you write that stretch off as a fluke or an anomaly, consider that more than 50% of Pagan’s career plate appearances and more than 50% of Pagan’s career defensive innings came in 2009 & 2010. Over this 2 year period, Pagan was not only one of the most productive Mets, but one of the most productive outfielders in baseball, ranking 10th in the Majors in WAR. And while it’s certainly true that he took a step back last year…

2. 2011 wasn’t as bad as you think (at least with the bat)

In 2011, Pagan struggled to meet the lofty expectations established by his breakout year and a half. He began the year in an awful funk, hitting just .159/.259/.246 (.506 OPS) in 19 games before landing on the DL with a pulled oblique. After a month on the DL, Pagan returned and hit .279/.333/.394 (.727 OPS) over the remaining 104 games of the 2011 season. His numbers from the last 85% of the season, while a step back from his excellence of the prior 2 years, still represented solid offensive production. While you can’t just write off those first 19 games, looking at the split adds some perspective to his full season numbers. Defensively, he was awful. No way of sugarcoating it. However, the good news is that fielding is fickle. He was a plus defensive OF in 2010. There’s no reason he can’t be again in 2012. Which brings me to…

3. Pagan is primed for a rebound year

Defensively, Pagan just needs to play better. Of course that’s obvious, but consider that prior to 2011, Pagan had a career UZR/150 of +13.1 in LF, +9.4 in CF, and +22.6 in RF. He was an above average to plus defensive outfielder. And then in 2011, he was a train wreck. That’s the year that’s fresh in our minds, but we don’t have to dig too far to see that his miserable defensive play in 2011 doesn’t necessarily predict miserable defensive play in 2012. After all, his good defensive play from 2006-2010 didn’t mean he was a lock for good defensive play last year.

Offensively, Pagan had an unlucky year at the plate. His career BABIP entering 2011 was .325. His BABIP last season was just .285, a departure of 40 points from his career norm. And that drop came despite Pagan posting a career best 24% line drive percentage. In fact, Pagan’s batted ball profile suggests that his 2011 BABIP should have been much higher. Based on this formula from Beyond the Boxscore coupled with Pagan’s career batted ball distribution, his expected career BABIP was .307 coming into the 2011 season. However, his actual career BABIP was .325. The difference can be largely accounted for by his plus speed (which would result in more hits, particularly on ground balls, than the average player). Historically, Pagan had outperformed his BABIP expectations by almost 6%. In 2011, Pagan’s batted ball distribution produced an expected BABIP of .332. Applying his historical outperformance factor, we arrive at an expected 2011 BABIP of .352 for Pagan. As it turns out, that was a full 67 points higher than his actual 2011 BABIP. What this indicates is that with neutral luck, Pagan would have had an additional 28 hits over the course of the 2011 season. What effect would that have had on his overall numbers? Well, even if all 28 hits had been singles, he’d have seen his triple slash jump from .262/.322/.372 to .320/.375/.431. I wonder if we’d be talking about a non-tender then (spoiler: we wouldn’t).

But even if you don’t buy that Pagan is well-positioned for a bounce-back…

4. The Mets aren’t exactly swimming in in-house alternatives

The only CF candidate currently with the franchise who has even a semi-decent amount of Major League experience in center is Jason Pridie, whose contract can be renewed for roughly the league minimum. Pridie hit .231/.309/.370 in 2011, his first ML season with more than 6 plate appearances. Defensively, he was adequate (UZR has him a shade below neutral). Nothing in his Major or minor league history (aside from half a season in AAA back in 2007) suggest that he’s anything more than a 4th or 5th OF.

Prospect-wise, the Mets have Kirk Nieuwenhuis in AAA and Matt den Dekker in AA. Nieuwenhuis (2008, 3rd rd) was off to a hot start last year, hitting .298/.403/.505 in the season’s first 53 games. While the walks and power were very encouraging, his numbers were partially the product of an unsustainably high .407 BABIP. He also struck out at a fiendish 26.7% clip. There’s some question as to whether he’ll be able to handle CF defensively, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in that area. However, the big reason he’s not a serious option (at least right out of the gate) is that he missed the last two thirds of the season with a shoulder injury. He may well become an option midyear, but there will be too much rust to expect him to immediately make the jump to the Major League level. Den Dekker (2010, 5th rd) is an outstanding defender, and in 2011 he started making some noise with the bat. A .296/.362/.494 first half in St. Lucie earned him a midseason promotion to AA, where he continued to hit for power, clubbing 11 HR in 72 games and maintaining an ISO above .190. However, his BABIP fell from .369 to .305, and his K-rate spiked from a high 21.5% to a dangerously high 29.0%, leading to a AA triple slash of .235/.312/.426. If he can cut down the Ks without losing the power, he could also be in the CF conversation. However, given that he’s only logged half a season in AA and clearly has some things to work on, 2013 seems a far likelier ETA for him.

Without any viable internal alternatives, the Mets are forced to turn to…

5. A weak free agent pool

The 2012 free agent class of centerfielders is mediocre at best. Here’s how the group, including Pagan, has fared over the past 3 years:

Player 2012 Age PA CF Inn. AVG OBP SLG OPS WAR
A. Pagan 30 1541 2343.2 .284 .336 .422 .758 9.3
C. Beltran 34 1210 1193.2 .298 .384 .497 .881 8.5
D. DeJesus 32 1527 242.2 .277 .349 .417 .766 8.5
C. Crisp 32 1126 2171.1 .262 .326 .396 .722 7.0
C. Ross 31 1634 1734.1 .261 .323 .432 .755 5.1
M. Cameron 39 1077 2009.2 .240 .326 .420 .746 4.6
K. Fukudome 34 1635 1007.1 .261 .362 .406 .768 4.0
N. McLouth 30 1200 2179.1 .233 .337 .382 .719 2.4
R. Ankiel 32 1059 1778.1 .235 .297 .378 .675 2.2
S. Hairston 31 945 596.1 .242 .302 .420 .722 2.1
G. Sizemore 29 938 1555.1 .234 .314 .413 .727 1.9

The most attractive external option is probably David DeJesus. However, DeJesus made $6M last year as part of a contract he signed before he was even eligible for arbitration. I don’t expect that he could be had on a one-year deal, especially not at a pay cut. Coco Crisp made $5.75M last year and will also likely be looking for a multi-year deal. Cody Ross made $6.3M in 2011 in his final arbitration year and is a free agent for the first time. Grady Sizemore is a wild card, due to his former status as a young superstar and the injury-riddled mess the past few years of his career. There’s speculation he’s likely to sign for close to the $8.5M option his former team declined. Further down the talent ladder, we find guys like Rick Ankiel and Nate McLouth. They’re likely to be inexpensive, but they’re also not likely to produce much. Meanwhile, Angel Pagan, who has the highest 3-year WAR of the bunch, can be retained on a one-year commitment for an estimated $4.7M. A one-year contract costing $4.7M comes with a WAR expectation of roughly 1.0, and that’s without even considering…

6. Draft Pick Compensation*

If Angel Pagan had been eligible for free agency this offseason, he would have been a Type B free agent. In fact, he would have been the 3rd highest ranking Type B free agent in his group (NL 1B/OF), just barely missing Type A status. Compensation is based on the past 2 years of service, so Pagan would need to perform at 2010 levels in the requisite Elias categories (PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI) to have a shot at Type A. However, there’s a significant gap between where he is now and the bottom of the Type B qualifiers. So even with just a moderate bounce-back in some of those categories, Type B compensation seems entirely plausable. Victor Wang, in a fantastic series of articles for The Hardball Times, estimated the expected surplus value of a sandwich round draft pick (the compensation for a Type B free agent) to be roughly $2.6M, or a little more than half of the salary Pagan is expected to earn through the arbitration process.

* Note – As of this writing, the terms of the new CBA have not been finalized. It is possible the structure or formula for determining draft compensation will change.

Bottom Line: I’ve offered these 6 reasons that the Mets should tender Pagan a contract and use him as their 2012 centerfielder. I think that given the Mets’ other deficiencies and constraints, he represents their best choice. However that doesn’t mean the Mets shouldn’t be looking at other options. They should absolutely be checking in on young, controllable CFs on other teams. They should perform due diligence on the high risk, high reward, outside-the-box options, like Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. They should be looking at guys like Andres Torres, who the Giants may nontender, and they should remain aware of the markets for the other FA centerfielders out there, in case there are any late offseason bargains to be had (if not as a starter, then as a capable backup). But the point is, on a 1 year, ~$4.7M deal, Pagan has value. So even if something better comes along, internally or externally, the Mets should have no trouble moving him. And even if they can’t move him and he’s terrible, it’s a one-year, low money deal that they can be rid of by next October. Despite his warts (and he’s certainly not without them), Angel Pagan an asset. And as far as I’m concerned, the Mets aren’t in a position to just dump assets.

*****

If you’re interested in Major League transactions, rules, and procedures, or if you just want to know which Mets have options left and what picks the Mets will get if Jose Reyes signs elsewhere, be sure to check out http://tpgmets.blogspot.com and follow me on Twitter @tpgMets.

Reyes, Pagan and the importance of SB for the Mets

The Mets have never been known as a team that steals a lot of bases. Yet if you look at their year-by-year stolen base totals, you notice that eight of the top 10 Mets teams in stolen bases also finished above .500 for the season. On the surface that may not seem so meaningful, but when you recall that only 20 teams in the franchise’s 50-year history have finished above .500, it is enough to make you sit up and take notice.

That factoid becomes even more interesting when you consider that the 2012 Mets may not have the top two basestealers from 2011. Jose Reyes, who led the club with 39 SB, is a free agent while Angel Pagan, who had 32 steals, is a non-tender candidate. Those two accounted for 71 of the team’s 130 SB.

Ruben Tejada is the most likely player to replace Reyes, and it would be a surprise if he reached 20 SB in a full season. There’s no clear-cut replacement for Pagan. Jason Pridie posted three straight seasons in the minors with 20+ SB but his career high is the 26 he stole in 2007 and it is very unlikely he would top that total in the majors.

The Mets figure to get little to no SB production from catcher, first base or right field, barring a shakeup in the roster. Tejada, Jason Bay and David Wright would likely vie for the team lead on a team without Pagan and Reyes. While Wright did notch 34 SB in 2007, he has been under 20 the past two seasons and seems unlikely to threaten 30 thefts in 2012.

Since making the World Series in 2000, the Mets have had six seasons where they had someone steal at least 30 bases and five where they did not. In the latter five years, they finished under .500 four times, the lone exception being the 2001 edition which went 82-80. On the flip side, the six seasons where they did have someone swipe at least 30 bags, they finished over .500 four times.

The stolen base does not hold the place in today’s game as it did during the 70s and 80s when artificial turf parks littered the baseball landscape. We know now that if you’re not successful at least two out of every three stolen base attempts, you’re hurting the club. But if the Mets are not going to hit a bunch of HR, they need to do other things well to help them score runs.

Since Reyes became a full-time player in 2005, the Mets have had a consistent speed threat. A 2012 lineup without Reyes will have the Mets struggling to find steals, especially if Pagan is not around to pick up the slack. Pagan has 69 steals the past two seasons and his 87 steals with the Mets is the 17th-best total in club history, three behind Frank Taveras. Reyes is the franchise’s all-time leader in steals with 370, which is the 92nd-best total in MLB history.

Mets Notes: Acosta v. Parnell, Pagan’s 2012 status and Duda magic

Manny Acosta pitched two scoreless innings last night and struck out five of the seven batters he faced. After giving up 9 ER in his first 7.1 IP with the Mets this year, Acosta has allowed just 4 ER in his last 27.2 IP. He has a 1.30 ERA in that stretch with 7 BB and 31 Ks. Manager Terry Collins has finally allowed Acosta to pitch more meaningful innings but that seemingly has more to do with the implosion of other relievers than the success Acosta has achieved.

The Mets continue to give Bobby Parnell every chance to be a successful late-inning reliever despite a track record no better than Acosta’s. Parnell was gifted the eighth-inning role out of Spring Training this year while Acosta was exposed to waivers. Both pitched well in 2010 for the Mets but Acosta had a 1.69 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in ST while Parnell had a 4.09 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.

Parnell blew the save in last night’s game and picked up the loss. He has a 4.18 ERA on the year with a 1.54 WHIP. But because he can throw the ball 100 mph he gets every chance to perform in key situations. Acosta cannot reach triple-digits with his fastball, but with an average fastball velocity of 94.4 and a K/9 of 9.0 this year, it’s not like Acosta has anything for which to apologize.

In the last two seasons, here’s how Acosta and Parnell have produced for the Mets:

IP ERA WHIP K/9 HR BB K
Manny Acosta 74.2 3.13 1.232 9.3 10 28 77
Bobby Parnell 82.1 3.61 1.482 9.4 5 29 86

When he was struggling earlier this season, Acosta allowed 4 HR in his first 7.1 IP. He definitely has some gopher-ball tendencies, but even with that, he still has a better ERA than Parnell. It’s time for Mets fans to embrace Acosta and it’s time for management to make sure he is on the 2012 team. While he did not come up through the farm system like Parnell did (and is four years older, too), Acosta has earned the right to be used regularly in key situations.

HAS ANGEL EARNED HIS WINGS?: There has been a lot of speculation that the Mets will look to save money by non-tendering Angel Pagan in the offseason. Mets fans had high hopes for Pagan coming into the season and quite frankly he has not reached expectations. However, in his last 165 PA, Pagan has a .299/.323/.433 line. A .756 OPS would put him comfortably in the middle of the pack among full-time center fielders.

But it’s not his offense that may lead to the end of his Mets career. Baseball-Reference shows Pagan with a -0.9 dWAR this year. FanGraphs shows his RZR of .917 as ranking 15th among 20 full-time CF and his -17.8 UZR/150 ranks dead last. The Mets are 47-55 when Pagan starts in CF and are 16-9 when Jason Pridie starts there, despite Pridie’s inferior offensive numbers.

It should be pointed out that Pridie’s starts came while the team had Carlos Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the lineup and the Mets were playing their best ball of the season. But that does not take away from the fact that Pagan has had a poor defensive season. Under previous management, Pagan might be a cinch to return in 2012. But under Sandy Alderson, no one should take that for a given.

R.A. ROLLS ON: The Mets started R.A. Dickey on short rest Friday night and he responded with a Quality Start and picked up the win. It was the second straight victory for Dickey and the first time all year he had won consecutive decisions, much less back-to-back starts. Wins have been hard to come by for Dickey this season. After a rough beginning of the year, he has a 3.01 ERA in his last 20 starts but is just 6-6 in that span.

HOME SWEET HOME?: Of the remaining 25 games in the season, the Mets play 15 home games. For most teams that would be a welcome schedule; however, the 2011 Mets have played better on the road. This year they have a 37-34 road record, tied with the Diamondbacks for the fourth-best away record. But at Citi Field the Mets are 30-36, which ranks 13th in the 16-team NL. Last year the Mets were 47-34 at home and 32-49 on the road.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: Lucas Duda’s RBI single in the seventh inning snapped a 2–2 tie and plated the decisive run in the Mets’ 3–2 win over the Marlins on Wednesday night. Duda had a .517 batting average from the seventh inning on in August, recording 15 hits in 29 late-inning at-bats and driving in 13 runs. That was the most late-inning RBIs for any major-league player in August and the only major-league player with a higher late-inning batting average in the month (minimum: 25 plate appearances) was Casey Kotchman (16 for 30, .533).

2011 Mets record by individual games started

The Mets are 62-68 but they have been hit with a ton of injuries again. In fact, I bet you don’t know which player has made the most starts this year for the Mets. Carlos Beltran was leading the team until he got traded. Jose Reyes was leading until he went on the DL for the second time. Now the team’s leader in starts is Jason Bay with 100.

Fourteen different players have made at least 30 starts for the Mets this year. Here they are arranged by the team’s winning percentage in games that they start:

Player Record Win Pct.
Pridie 22-16 .579
Beltran 50-44 .532
Murphy 46-44 .511
Duda 28-27 .509
Turner 44-43 .506
Reyes 49-49 .500
Thole 37-37 .500
Bay 49-51 .490
Tejada 31-35 .470
Davis 16-20 .444
Pagan 42-53 .442
Wright 31-40 .437
Paulino 20-28 .417
Harris 10-23 .303

I think it’s easy to read too much into these numbers but at the same time there are some really interesting things. Here are three things that jump out at me.

Mets better with Josh Thole starting – This is even more surprising when you recall that Thole started nearly every day early in the season when the club got off to a 5-13 start. In those 18 games, Thole started 14 of them and the Mets were 3-11. Since then, the club is 34-26 with Thole behind the plate. That’s pretty impressive for a guy that the mainstream media and a bunch of bloggers will tell you is a poor defensive catcher and one who needs to step up his game if he wants to remain a starting backstop.

Center field defense is important – To the naked eye, Jason Pridie looks much better in center field than Angel Pagan has this year and the numbers above certainly seem to reinforce that point. And if we only consider the 25 games that Pridie started in center, the Mets are 16-9 (.640 winning percentage).

If we look at their time in center field only, Pridie has a +3 DRS in 244.1 innings while Pagan is at 0 in 831 innings. Total Zone has Pridie at +1 and +5 in 1,200 innings while it has Pagan at -10 and -14 in 1,200 innings. UZR has Pridie at -0.7 and -1.1 in 150 games while it shows Pagan at -12.4 and -17.8, respectively. I like Pagan but I think there’s little question his poor defensive play this year has hurt the club.

Lucas Duda needs consistent playing time – If asked before putting together this chart, there is no way I would have thought the Mets’ record with Duda starting was above .500 for the year. He’s been starting most of the games since Beltran left and the club is 7-15 in August. But the Mets were 8-2 when Duda started in June and he was a complementary piece to Beltran. If Ike Davis can come back close to the level he played this year while healthy, a Davis-Duda-Wright middle of the order may be enough to win games on a consistent basis.

A lot of people will latch on to the club’s record when Wright is starting and that’s certainly not anything to write home about. But Wright has been in the lineup here with Beltran, Davis, Reyes and Daniel Murphy missing and that has certainly hurt his numbers in this chart..

The Mets were 43-36 (.544) when both Beltran and Murphy started the same game.

Mets Notes: Warthen’s pitching staff along with Bay, Duda and Pagan streaks

Eight pitchers for the Mets have thrown at least 20 innings in both 2010 and 2011. Here are their ERAs for those two seasons:

Name 2011 2010
R.A. Dickey 3.77 2.84
Jonathon Niese 4.05 4.20
Mike Pelfrey 4.58 3.66
Dillon Gee 3.92 2.18
Francisco Rodriguez 3.16 2.20
Bobby Parnell 4.20 2.83
Manny Acosta 4.00 2.95
Ryota Igarashi 5.56 7.12
Total 4.08 3.48

The 2010 group pitched 747.1 innings while this year’s collection has 719.2 innings. As a whole, the Mets’ pitching staff has a 4.13 ERA compared to 3.70 a season ago. And yet no one talks about the role of the pitching coach in the pitching staff’s struggles. This time last year, Howard Johnson was on the hot seat for his role in the struggles of the offense. But Dan Warthen sits pretty as a picture, seemingly with no worries about his future employment.

Last November I wrote an article where I expressed disappointment that Warthen was not among those to go in the offseason house cleaning. Since then, nothing has changed with my assessment. In the November article, I asked who could we point to as success stories for Warthen? And the only answers I came up with were Dickey and Pelfrey. Both have regressed significantly this season.

The closest you can come to for a success story in 2011 for Warthen is Niese, who has an ERA 0.15 lower than a season ago. But that is a bit misleading. Last year Niese really fell apart down the stretch, which dragged his overall numbers down. This time last year, Niese had a 3.38 ERA. Can you really point to him as a success for Warthen?

Despite playing in a pitcher’s park, the Mets rank 13th in the 16-team National League in ERA. Since the All-Star break, Mets pitchers have a 4.64 ERA, which is 15th in the league. No pitcher has taken a leap forward and no pitcher is raving about the new pitch that he learned from Warthen. So, what exactly is he doing for the team and why should he be here next year?

DUDA ROLLS ON – Many people were worried how the Mets would replace the big bat of Carlos Beltran in the lineup. But the Mets have missed little offensively with the insertion of Lucas Duda. Since he was recalled from the minors in early June, Duda has a .301/.368/.494 line. That’s an .862 OPS in 191 PA. If he hit that well the entire season, that would put him between Jay Bruce (.865 OPS) and Kevin Youkilis (.861) this year.

Since becoming a regular on July 27th, Duda has 4 HR and 15 RBIs in 66 ABs (78 PA). And he was robbed of a HR by 6-foot-6 Kyle Blanks in that stretch. Duda has been one of the bright spots for the team here in the second half and it looks like he can be an asset for the 2012 squad. Now the only problem is where to play him defensively. His best position is first base, where he seems to be about average defensively. But if Ike Davis comes back healthy next year, Duda will be in an outfield corner, where he is stretched defensively. In 320.2 lifetime innings defensively in the outfield, Duda has a -32.9 UZR/150.

A CHANGE OF PACE FOR GEE – Heading into Wednesday’s start, Gee had a 5.61 ERA in his previous nine starts. For some reason – perhaps inspired by his pitching coach – Gee started throwing fewer change-ups and more fastballs and curves. And the results were horrible. Wednesday Gee returned to throwing more changes and he allowed 1 ER over 6.2 IP and picked up the win. Here are his off-speed breakdowns for his last two starts:

8/12 – Gee throws 14 change-ups, 4 sliders and 7 curve balls and goes 5.0 IP and allows 4 ER
8/17 – Gee throws 29 change-ups, 2 sliders and 5 curve balls and goes 6.2 IP and allows 1 ER

In the earlier start, Gee threw his change 56% of the time when he didn’t throw a fastball. In his last start, that percentage increased to 81%.

AUGUST AGREES WITH ANGEL – In 14 games during the month of August, Angel Pagan has a .333/.365/.500 slash line over 63 PA. He’s hit safely in 12 of the 14 games and reached base in all of them. Additionally, he has 9 Runs, 6 RBIs and has 6 SB compared to 1 CS. Pagan has been batting leadoff for the club since Jose Reyes has been on the DL and it will be interesting to see where Terry Collins bats him in the order when Reyes returns. Pagan has done his best work of the year in the 5th spot in the lineup, where he has an .803 OPS this season.

BAY ON HITLESS STREAK – Over a 14-game stretch covering the end of July to early August, Jason Bay had 22 hits in 53 ABs (.415 AVG) and Mets fans were hoping that Bay was finally going to pay dividends. But since that streak, he is 0-20 with 6 Ks. He just looks hopeless against both outside pitches and pitches below mid-thigh.

FRENCHY CASHES IN – Old pal Jeff Francoeur inked a two-year, $13.5 million deal with the Royals on Thursday. Francoeur got off to a tremendous start and has a .793 OPS overall this year, good for a 119 OPS+. Of course the issue is that Francoeur always gets off to a good start with a new team. Here are the starts he got off to with all four clubs he has played for in his career:

Atlanta – 274 PA, .884 OPS in 2005
New York – 308 PA, .836 OPS in 2009
Texas – 56 PA, .848 OPS in 2010
Kansas City – 126 PA, .980 OPS in 2011

Since the first 126 PA, Francoeur has a .264/.320/.411 line in 91 games and 387 PA. If that line looks vaguely familiar, it’s because it fits so perfectly with his career numbers. Lifetime, Francoeur has a .269/.312/.430 line.

Kudos to the Rangers for getting the good start and then cutting ties with the charismatic Francoeur. And condolences to the Royals fans out there, who have to put up with him for two more seasons at an inflated rate.

Mets Then & Now: Steve Henderson and Angel Pagan

I’ve been a Met fan for as long as I can remember. I could say since 1967, but I was two-years-old and don’t really remember much. I could have been swayed to the Yankees at the time, since when people would ask me who my favorite baseball player was and I would reflexively answer “Mickey Mantle”: he was the only player whose name I knew. But my Dad was a Met fan, so he and 1969 made sure that didn’t take. I’m eternally grateful for that, but that’s one of the great “What ifs?” of my life. In any case, I was for sure a Met fan by the time I got to my first game in 1973.

That’s kind of a long way to go just to say that I’ve seen a lot of men wear the orange-and-blue (and sometimes black). With that in mind, I’m starting a new – at least occasional — series here at the ol’ 360, “Mets Then & Now.” I’ll be looking back at Met teams of yesteryear – the great and the horrid – and comparing and contrasting individuals (mostly) or entire squads (sometimes) with the modern day counterpart, if not equivalent. To me, it’s not always a matter of hard statistics, but also of perception. This is where the fan in me will come out – player A of today reminds me a lot of player B from 1962-2010. This may or may not be backed up by fWAR or OPS+.

Which brings us to the two mentioned in the title.


A quick glimpse of Baseball-Reference.com tells me that these two players are nothing alike statistically. Steve Henderson would hit you more than a few home runs and steal you a couple of bases a year. Angel Pagan will steal you more than a few bases and hit you a couple of home runs a year. Henderson was a so-so defensive left fielder and Pagan is an occasionally brilliant centerfielder. Henderson finished second to future Hall-Of-Famer Andre Dawson for the 1977 Rookie Of The Year award; Pagan appeared on nobody’s ballot his first year.

And yet…

They look and play an awful lot alike to this untrained eye. The will both get a big hit when it’s needed – in Henderson’s case, a legendary one – and they can both make the surprising defensive play. They both have shown a disturbing propensity to lose their respective “baseball instincts” in the field and on the bases at the wrong time, but their overall games could both be considered exciting and entertaining. And, they both represent something to the franchise: the trying present and the promising future. Both players are fine as starters for a team going nowhere and could be valuable spare parts for a contender.

After four years, Henderson was dispatched to Chicago in exchange for the less-than-triumphant return of Dave Kingman, and while that was ultimately unsuccessful in result, the process was a good one. That trade was the first major splash of the Frank Cashen era – the first attempt to win back fans who had defected after the Midnight Massacre, ironically enough the night Steve Henderson arrived.

One can’t help but wonder if Angel Pagan will face a similar end to his Met days as Sandy Alderson upgrades the current squadron with a sensible process as well.

Mets Notes: Playing without Beltran, Pagan’s splits and April 21st

Now that a trade of Carlos Beltran seems imminent, people are coming out of the woodwork to defend him and his production in his time with the Mets. But where were these people at the beginning of the year? Mets fans pledged their allegiance to Jose Reyes and now it seems likely that the club will try to retain Reyes after his contract is up, due in some part to the support from the faithful.

Reyes is younger, plays a more important position and came up through the farm system – three pretty good reasons for fans to prefer him. But the deafening silence from most of the fan base (we felt differently) in regards to Beltran the first three-plus months of the year was inexcusable. Especially as Beltran was thought to be the most fragile Met at the beginning of the season and has instead turned into the team’s most durable player.

And of course there was the matter of production. While Reyes wowed the fans with all of his multiple-hit games, Beltran was simply leading the team in HR (15), RBIs (61), walks (52) and OPS (.917) while placing second in runs (56).

Also, the Mets missed Beltran more when he was out of the lineup than they did Reyes. While Reyes gets credit for igniting the team, the club is 7-8 when he does not play. Meanwhile the Mets are 1-4 when Beltran is out and is 2-7 in games he does not start. It could be ugly without his bat in the lineup the final two months of the season if Beltran is indeed traded.

ANGEL OF THE EVENING: Angel Pagan gave the Mets the win Wednesday night with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. So far this year, Pagan has a .750 OPS in night games (213 PA) compared to a .427 OPS in day games (82 PA). Additionally, 17 of his 18 extra-base hits have been under the lights, including all four of his home runs.

Pagan also has a big difference in his results based on where he bats in the order. When he’s in one of the top four spots in the lineup, Pagan has a .144 AVG (16-111) compared to a .289 AVG (46-159) when he bats fifth or lower. Obviously there is a lot of overlap in these two splits, as Pagan batted second in the order early in the season when the club played more day games.

However, when Pagan first returned from the DL, he played 34 games where he mostly batted fifth in the order. He had a .305/.379./.414 slash line in those games. Then he moved to the leadoff spot with Reyes out and in 12 games batting first he managed just a .192/.246/.288 line.

RAH RAH RAH FOR R.A.: Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey did not have his best stuff last night but he battled and gave the Mets a chance to win. Dickey’s record this year is just 4-8 but that’s not really indicative of how well he has pitched, especially here recently. Dickey got a no-decision last night in a game the Mets eventually won. In his last six starts, the Mets are 5-1. However, Dickey has recorded a 1-1 record in that span.

IZZY DURABLE ENOUGH FOR CLOSER?: Wednesday night Jason Isringhausen pitched two innings in the Mets’ extra-inning game and picked up the win. It was the first time all season he went for more than an inning and the first time in more than two years an outing extended into a second frame. He last pitched two innings on 5/27/09. Isringhausen appeared in just four more games after that multi-inning appearance in 2009 before being sidelined with an elbow injury, which kept him out of the majors until he resurfaced with the Mets this season.

DO YOU REMEMBER APRIL 21st?: That was the day the Mets came closest to fielding their expected lineup. The batting order that day was: Reyes, Pagan, Wright, Beltran, Bay, Davis, Turner and Nickeas. Doesn’t that look nice? They won that game, 9-1. Of course, Pagan got hurt in this one and ended up missing more than a month. By the time he came back, both Davis and Wright were sidelined.

Compare that to the lineup the Mets trotted out on July 18th, which was: Pagan, Harris, Murphy, Hairston, Duda, Bay, Thole and Tejada. Not surprisingly, the Mets lost that game, 4-1. Since then the Mets have gotten back Reyes and Beltran and Wright is expected back soon. However, it’s unlikely that Davis will return and Beltran could be traded any day, which means we will never get to see the expected 2011 Mets lineup.

I’M GONNA DJ AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Since being recalled in mid-June, D.J. Carrasco has made 14 appearances and 11 of those were games decided by three or more runs. The last time he was brought into a close game was July 10th, when he came on with the Mets losing 2-0. He promptly gave up two RBI singles to give the Giants a 4-0 lead in a game that ended up being 4-2. Here are the final scores in the games he has pitched since June 24th:

8-1, 14-5, 16-9, 5-2, 5-1, 6-0, 4-2, 7-2 and 8-5. That last game the score was 4-0 when Carrasco came on and he added a run to the deficit. Since the recall, Carrasco has a 4.50 ERA and has 5 BB and 6 Ks in 16 IP. Is there any wonder that Terry Collins has such little faith in him and uses him primarily in low leverage situations?

Mets struggle with 2nd spot in lineup

Fans often make big deals about who bats where in the lineup but in the overall scheme of things it does not matter very much. Now, that does not mean teams should pull their lineup out of a hat or start batting their pitcher leadoff. But the standard lineup does not come out much worse than the optimized lineup over an entire season and if Joe Star wants to bat third – that’s an easy concession to make.

But you will have to forgive members of the 2011 Mets if they check the lineup and then mutter if they see themselves batting second on a particular day. This year, the Mets have gotten less production from the second spot in the order than they have from the eighth. And it’s not any one person you can point to and blame for this, either. The Mets have had 11 different players get at-bats in the two-hole this season.

The National League average for hitters in the second spot is .258/.318/.370 for a .688 OPS. This is higher than the average for the either the seventh (.682) or eighth (.656) spots in the average NL lineup. Overall, the Mets rank 14th in OPS production from the second spot in the order, a point ahead of the Nationals. The Marlins bring up the rear with a .564 OPS, with most of the damage done by Omar Infante, who has a .575 OPS in 241 PA.

Here are how the Mets have done with the second spot in the lineup:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Justin Turner 35 163 143 15 36 8 0 1 19 12 19 .252 .333 .329 .662 .282
Dan Murphy 22 95 86 11 22 6 0 2 7 6 9 .256 .319 .395 .714 .267
Willie Harris 11 48 40 13 11 1 0 1 4 7 16 .275 .396 .375 .771 .435
Angel Pagan 8 35 31 2 2 0 0 0 0 3 6 .065 .171 .065 .236 .080
Josh Thole 8 32 27 3 5 0 0 0 4 5 6 .185 .313 .185 .498 .238
Ruben Tejada 2 9 8 1 2 0 0 0 1 1 2 .250 .333 .250 .583 .333
Chin-lung Hu 2 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .200 .000 .200 .000
Jason Pridie 3 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
Scott Hairston 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 .000
Ronny Paulino 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
Carlos Beltran 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
Francisco Rodriguez 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
D. J. Carrasco 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pedro Beato 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Team Total 100 397 348 45 78 15 0 4 35 36 64 .224 .314 .302 .616 .263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/5/2011.

Now let’s compare their OPS while hitting second compared to their overall OPS and their OPS at whichever position they’ve hit in the most outside of the second slot.

Overall OPS OPS batting 2nd OPS in other position
Turner .696 .662 .700 (6th)
Muprhy .774 .714 .745 (4th)
Harris .644 .771 .627 (7th)
Pagan .697 .236 .831 (5th)
Thole .660 .498 .734 (7th)

Of the five players who’ve batted the most in the second slot, only Harris has done better there than elsewhere. Most players have performed noticeably better when they hit elsewhere in the lineup, no one more so than Pagan. That .236 OPS is not a typo – he really stunk up the joint when he was hitting second.

The fact that the Mets have one of the better offenses in the National League is surprising given how many big bats have spent time on the DL for them this season. It’s even more of a shock given how poor they have been at the second spot in the lineup.

Hopefully, when David Wright returns after the All-Star break, he replaces Turner in the lineup and Pagan replaces Turner in the second spot in the order. I do not believe that Pagan will be the anchor he was earlier in the season and I expect him to provide better production going forward than any of the team’s numerous other candidates did in the first half of the year.

Undercover Angel: Pagan Quiet Key To Mets’ Surge

Last night (7/4) was one of those games that felt really bad, then suddenly euphoric. Not in the same sense that Sunday’s ambush of the TGMR (The Great Mariano Rivera) was, the 5-2 win over the Dodgers (I will refrain from any snarky nicknames referring to their bankruptcy filing: there but for the grace of Bud, and all that) was a satisfying and semi-dramatic affair that provided an emphatic clincher to a nice Fourth – even though I didn’t get to watch 1776 in the afternoon.

At the heart of it was Angel Pagan’s two doubles, one run scored and one RBI in five at-bats. He had one of those games where you look back and say, “He did pretty good.” And then – if you’re as curious a sort as I am – you back and look at his stats so far and say, “He’s been doing pretty good for awhile, now.” Angel’s contributions have been generally overlooked – with certain exceptions — in the glare of the offensive uprising in Detroit and the inevitable NYM vs. NYY circus. A few circumstances have conspired to keep Pagan’s season under wraps – a slow start, an injury that kept him shelved until the end of May and a slow climb for his offensive stats. But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t seem to be in the middle of every rally, with a big base hit, a slicing double, or a key stolen base. He has raised his batting average from a pre-injury low of .159 to a semi-respectable .250, coming into last night’s game and his on-base average from .259 to .335. In this lineup bereft of power in the absence of David Wright and Ike Davis, he’s hit anywhere from leadoff to seventh – even taking more than a few turns in the cleanup spot, despite a season-long OPS of .685 (hopefully his current residency in the leadoff spot will be short-lived – come back Jose!). He can run ‘em down with the best of ‘em in centerfield, as well.

What’s also lost sight of is the fact that he’s been around this organization from the beginning – an original Brooklyn Cyclone – and has seen ‘em come and go in the clubhouse. Having just turned 30 last week, he’s the closest thing to a sage, this side of Carlos Beltran. And don’t be terribly surprised if his accomplishments and clubhouse presence are brought further into the light if Beltran is wearing another uniform by the end of July.

Whether we know it or not, we fans actually do have a guardian Angel.

Who Are These Mets?

Four games, 52 runs scored, 69 hits, only three of which were home runs – all hit in a single game and two of those were grand slams.

As Casey Stengel meant to tell us all those many years ago, “The Mets are amazin’.”
Every cylinder of the offense is firing, the pitchers are unfettered by miniscule leads or any kind of deficits, the bullpen is getting rest, the dugout is happy and the sun is shining brighter. It’s been awhile since a stretch like this – five years, to be exact – and I’d forgotten what the feeling is like. The true orange ‘n’ blue in me doesn’t want to trust it, can scarcely believe what I’m seeing. Right now, there’s a pride in this team among its fans which has been missing since 2006. In 2007, there was five-and-a-half months of hubris/entitlement/arrogance and by the end of September…well, seven up with seventeen to play. 2008 was a miniature version of the year before – with the character flaws remaining entrenched. 2009 and 2010 was a deadly mix of bad luck and bad management. The fan base was flattened, the club ridiculed, the ownership in tatters. Enter Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J. P. Ricciardi and Terry Collins. Even in the face of injuries to two of their major offensive cogs, the 2011 edition seems to have pulled together in a way that those previous squads wouldn’t or couldn’t.

We as fans are starting to salivate, thinking of the day when David Wright returns from his broken back – and what a metaphor that is – and Ike Davis’s dented shinbone appears less catastrophic, but for now, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay and a bunch of guys named “Joe” are shooting line drives through any hole available. The names are Angel Pagan, Daniel Murphy, Ronny Paulino – a former Met antagonist in the gold and black of the Pirates – Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner and Jason Pridie. This band of merry men has taken wins from the defending American League champions and the leaders of the American League Central and given the fans thrills they weren’t expecting until 2013 or so. It’s beyond fun.

Now, this could all turn to dust at any minute, just as it arose from nowhere – the baseball gods giveth, the baseball gods taketh away: just ask the Florida Marlins. By the end of August, we fans could be left with no Beltran, no Reyes, no Francisco Rodriguez and only a few more wins than we have right now: in 2010 at this point in the season, the Mets were 44-34 before they basically went oh-for-July. We could still end up looking longingly at 2013.

But for now, I’m going to savor the play of Carlos, Jose and the other guys.

(PS – Since David Einhorn dropped his deuce on the Wilpons on May 26, the Mets have gone 18-14. I’m just sayin’…)

Return of a healthy Angel Pagan has become forgotten storyline

While Mets’ fans bemoan lingering injuries to David Wright and Ike Davis, as well as Jason Bay’s free fall, lost in their angst is the fact that the Mets are actually playing some good baseball of late.

The Mets are now 8-4 in their last 12 games and are just one game back of being .500 once again. They are also now just 4.5 games back in the wild card standings. (And still a respectable 6.5 games back of the Phillies)

While the ‘Buffalo Soldiers,’ i.e. Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, Dillon Gee etc. can rightly lay claim to some of the success the Mets are currently having, the return of Angel Pagan has gone rather unnoticed and under-appreciated.

Since his return on May 27, Pagan has gone 20-58 with five extra-base hits, seven RBI’s, nine runs and five stolen bases. Pagan has shown great burst in the field as well. Most of all, Pagan has brought back a stabilizing presence to the clubhouse.

With Wright and Davis out, it is up to Pagan-as well as Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes-to lead these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tots through the treacherous waters known as Major League Baseball.

The thing that separates Pagan above all other players (looking at you Jason Bay) is his confidence.

There is a calm resolve inside Pagan that is unmatched by few Mets’ players. Pagan is a good leader and is never one to step on toes.

One such instance was the way Pagan and Carlos Beltran had to decide who should play Center Field for the club in Spring Training. Pagan and Beltran amicably came to the conclusion that it was in the best interest of the Mets that Pagan man center field. There was no bickering or any contempt between the two.

Besides his leadership qualities, Pagan also helps the Mets out with his versatility. Pagan has batted in several spots in the order. To date, Pagan has batted lead-off, second, fourth, fifth and sixth. With his speed and moderate amount of pop, Pagan can be used in various spots in the lineup.

Currently, Pagan is at the five-hole and he should remain there while Bay works out his seemingly never-ending issues. Whenever the Mets get Wright and Davis back, then a move up to the two-hole would be a natural spot for Pagan.

While his season numbers don’t tell the story (.246/.310/.349 1 HR, 13 RBI’s, 16 runs), do remember that Pagan was battling an oblique injury for most of April, and since his return he has raised his batting average 87 points.

With each passing day, we are steadily seeing the 2010 breakout version of Pagan. It’s not a moment too soon, and it’s no coincidence that the Mets are 8-6 with Pagan back in the lineup.

So, while Turner, Gee, and Tejada (not to mention Jason Pride-who did an admirable job filling in for Pagan) should get a tremendous amount of applause, don’t forget to pat Pagan on the back too. Without Pagan’s experience, versatility and presence the Mets could be in an even bigger hole than they already are.

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