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.

Jason Bay < Francoeur and it's time for him to go

In his last 13 games, Jason Bay is 5-45 for a .111 AVG. Normally we would dismiss this as a slump. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to write off the entire tenure of Bay with the Mets. Since joining the club as a free agent following the 2009 season, Bay has a .246/.332/.366 line. That’s a .698 OPS and a 93 OPS+ mark in 708 PA.

Let’s make a comparison to one of my least favorite Mets ever. Jeff Francoeur had a similar number of PA with New York and was essentially run out of town for his poor production. In his career with the Mets, Francoeur had a .268/.311/.423 slash line. That works out to a .734 OPS and a 97 OPS+ in 755 PA.

In their time with the Mets, Francoeur has been the better offensive player.

That’s a really unpleasant thought to ponder. There was no shortage of vitriol coming from this corner (and many others) about how the Mets wasted $5 million on Francoeur when it was quite clear that he wasn’t any good. The Mets rectified that mistake by sending Francoeur out of town, making him a problem of the Texas Rangers.

So, how should we view Bay and what should be done going forward? Unlike Francoeur, Bay had a track record of being a fine offensive player. However, there were signs available that this wasn’t a great deal back when the Mets inked him to the big contract. The projection system ZiPS was very pessimistic on how Bay would perform over the life of his new deal. Here’s part of a Q&A I did with ZiPS creator Dan Szymborski prior to the 2010 season:

ZiPS likes Jason Bay well enough in 2010 but then projects a sharp playing time decrease the following year and a sharp drop in production. What causes that type of projection from a guy who has been pretty consistent in four of the past five seasons?

DS: He’s not the type of player that ages well and already, more of his offensive value has been tied up in home runs. Fenway kind of masked this somewhat by hiding the decline in Bay’s non-homer hitting. One-trick ponies don’t age well.

That projection turned out to be optimistic in hindsight as injuries have kept Bay from playing full time and even when he has been on the field, he’s been nowhere near his previously established offensive levels. Bay’s non-HR hitting has been lousy and his homer production has been nothing special for a middle infielder, much less a guy paid to hit balls out of the park.

There have been 31 different left fielders to amass 650 or more PA since the start of the 2010 season. Bay’s .698 OPS ranks 26th. In that same span, his 12 HR is only marginally better at 25th. His fWAR is 1.9, which places 23rd.

There is simply no way to sugar coat things in this situation. Bay has been awful and there’s very little indication that things are going to get better any time in the future. Coming into this season, Bay’s age-based comps at Baseball-Reference was filled with players like Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mitchell and Bobby Higginson who were essentially done as productive players in their early 30s.

And while there were some players like David Justice and Jim Edmonds who were still productive in their mid-30s, Bay’s 2011 season ensures that they will not show up as his comps heading into 2012.

Mets fans do not have to look too far to think of another OFer who stopped being productive. Kevin McReynolds was an MVP candidate as a 28-year old (he finished 3rd). Two years later he was still a productive hitter with a 121 OPS+. McReynolds had a 93 OPS+ as a 33-year old and his final season in the majors came a year later.

Bay is 32 and he has a 78 OPS+ this year.

Then there is the matter of his contract. Bay is pulling down $16 million this year and he is owed that much the following two seasons, as well. He has a $17 million club option for 2014, with a $3 million buyout. However, Bay’s option vests with 600 PA in 2013 or 500 PA in both 2012 and 2013. At the bare minimum, the Mets owe Bay $35 million after this year and it could easily be $49 million.

The combination of his production with the Mets, his age-based comps and his future contractual obligations leads in one direction – barring a tremendous turnaround in the remainder of the 2011 season, the Mets should actively shop Bay and be willing to pick up the majority of his contract to get any salary relief they can.

In 226 PA with the Mets, Lucas Duda has a .745 OPS and a 104 OPS+. He’s been better than Bay and is still at an age where he could conceivably improve. It’s possible the Mets could better their club by playing Duda over Bay, the uncertainty due to the fact that Bay’s been a good defender in his time with the Mets while Duda has impressed no one with his glove work.

Much like with Francisco Rodriguez this season, one of the goals of 2013 will undoubtedly be to make sure that Bay’s option does not vest. The Mets should do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. And I do mean everything. If they are unable to trade him while assuming 80% of his contract either this offseason or next, they should release him outright.

Despite the huge difference in innings played, Rodriguez provided more value to the Mets during his career in Queens than Bay has. Rodriguez “earned” $8.4 million in 2010-11 with the Mets while Bay “earned” $7.8 million, according to FanGraphs.

The Mets could get that same production (likely better) from Duda at a minimum wage the next few years. It costs virtually nothing to switch them out in 2012 and it will save $14 million (less whatever Duda makes) in 2014.

Records on eating salary are sketchy, but it is believed that the most money a club has ever been responsible for is the $22 million that was remaining on Russ Ortiz’ deal when he was released by the Diamondbacks in 2006. Ortiz was picked up by the Orioles in 2006 and bounced around in the majors until 2010.

In 2005, Ortiz posted a -0.4 fWAR for the D’Backs, meaning he was worse than a replacement player. Before being released by Arizona in 2006, he put up a 0.0 fWAR, meaning he was a replacement player. In his career after the Diamondbacks, Ortiz put up a combined -0.1 fWAR over parts of four seasons.

The decision to release him was the right one. Ortiz would have been no better and likely worse than a Triple-A pitcher the D’Backs could have paid minimum wage. It’s bad enough to pay an exorbitant amount of money – there’s no sense compounding the problem by getting terrible production, too.

And that’s where the Mets are at with Bay right now. He may not be replacement-player bad like Ortiz was. But he’s been awful and the Mets have a suitable alternative ready to step in with Duda. Of course, Duda may be viewed by the club as the replacement for Carlos Beltran. If that’s the case, the Mets should use some of the savings from Beltran’s contract coming off the books to find a corner OF that can put up a 100 OPS+ to replace Bay.

Before any wiseguys chime in that Francoeur has a 114 OPS+ this season and the Mets should get him for 2012, I would like to point out that in his last 62 games, Francoeur has a .247/.295/.385 line, numbers remarkably consistent with what he did with the Mets in 2010. He had a .683 OPS with the Mets last year and a .680 OPS in his last 264 PA. That’s still “production” to be replaced, not acquired.

Mets Notes: Reyes, Turner and old pal Jeff Francoeur

So much has been made about the fantastic season Jose Reyes is in the midst of right now that it’s easy to forget that this is what we missed the past two seasons. In Reyes’ last full year before the assorted leg injuries that torpedoed his 2009 season, he set career highs in hits (204), doubles (37), triples (19) and on-base percentage (.358). And Reyes did this as a 25-year old.

Would we be surprised at his 2011 season if Reyes had been healthy and continued a “normal” aging process the past two years? Yes, he’s been terrific this season. But he was also fantastic before the leg injuries and what he’s doing now underscores what as fans we missed out on the past two seasons.

Right now Reyes is leading the league in runs (55), hits (105), triples (13) and average (.335). According to ESPN, Reyes is on pace for 119 runs, 227 hits, 43 doubles, 28 triples and 56 stolen bases. He currently sits with an .889 OPS. Earlier this year, owner Fred Wilpon declared that Reyes wasn’t worth Carl Crawford money. It’s fair to point out that Crawford, a left fielder, has never posted an OPS higher than .851 and never scored more than 110 runs. Additionally, Crawford’s career high in doubles is 37 and triples is 19.

Hard-luck Dickey: R.A. Dickey lost a win last night when the bullpen blew his lead in the ninth inning. While Dickey’s overall record looks lousy, in his last seven starts he has a 2.23 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP. In that span he’s thrown 44.1 IP and has allowed just 12 BB to go along with 37 Ks. But Dickey is just 2-2. He’s pitched well enough to have earned five wins in that stretch. If Dickey keeps pitching like this the wins will come eventually

Paulino punishes LHP: When the Mets signed Ronny Paulino, he seemed like an ideal platoon-mate for the lefty-hitting Josh Thole. And while it took awhile for Paulino to make his Mets debut, he has been just as good as advertised. In 42 PA this year versus southpaws, Paulino has a .342/.390/.368 line, which tracks nicely with his career line against lefties. Overall, Paulino has a .338/.390/.482 line against portsiders. Which means that Paulino could be thought to have underperformed against LHP this year, as his slugging percentage is 114 points below his lifetime average.

The RBI machine: No Met has been better about coming through in the clutch than Justin Turner. Last night he drove in the game-winning run when he turned into a ball and was hit by the pitch with the bases loaded. Turner now has 30 RBIs in 178 PA. According to Baseball-Reference, the average MLB player has 18 RBIs after 178 PA.

Baseball Prospectus shows Turner driving in 25.4 percent of the runners that were on base when he came to the plate. Not only is that the top mark on the Mets (Reyes is second with an 18.3 percent rate) but it is also the best mark in the majors among players with 100 or more PA. Last year Carlos Gonzalez led all major league players with at least 500 PA with a 22.3 percent rate. Angel Pagan had the top rate on the Mets with an 18.4 mark.

Rapid Robert Returns: Bobby Parnell has been extremely good this month. After returning from the minors, Parnell allowed 2 UER runs in his first outing on the last day of May. Since then he’s allowed 1 ER in 9 IP. In that span he’s allowed 2 BB and has 11 Ks. Parnell has limited opponents to a .558 OPS. And all of this comes about even though opposing batters have a .364 BABIP against him. Parnell has been pretty hittable in his major league career, with a lifetime .342 BABIP with the Mets. He’s going to have to limit the HR and keep down the walks in order to succeed. His results in June show what can happen when everything is clicking.

Finally, Frenchy: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Jeff Francoeur joins a new club, a bunch of stories make the rounds about how he’s made the adjustment that’s going to turn his career around and he gets off to a hot start. This year, Francoeur had a .980 OPS after 30 games and 130 PA.

Since then, Francoeur has a .222/.274/.302 line in 179 PA (.576 OPS). He still doesn’t walk and he still doesn’t hit for power, so when the singles stop falling in, there’s nothing left. Just in case you forget how his Mets tenure ended, Francoeur posted a .216/.267/.322 line in his final 404 PA (.589 OPS) with the team.

You’ve got to admire consistency like that, even if the only thing consistent is lousy hitting.

2010 Mets Dopplegangers

One of the difficult things when analyzing the Mets offense this year is to separate the names from the numbers they have actually produced. Sure, yesterday’s lineup had Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright in it but is it accurate to consider the performance the Mets are receiving from these players in 2010 to what our mind thinks of when it hears Beltran or Reyes or Wright?

So, in order to help separate performance from reputation, I took the players position, games played level and OPS+ and used the Play Index at to come up with a somewhat similar player in team history to substitute in for comparison purposes. So, here are the Mets’ leaders by position with a substitute from the team’s past.

Rod Barajas – 267 PA, 80 OPS+, .225/.263/.414
2003 Vance Wilson – 292 PA, 75 OPS+, .243/.293/.373

First Base
Ike Davis – 522 PA, 115 OPS+, .263/.349/.449
1995 Rico Brogna – 540 PA, 119 OPS+, .289/.342/.485

Second Base
Luis Castillo – 295 PA, 67 OPS+, .235/.338/.267
2005 Miguel Cairo – 367 PA, 64 OPS+, .251/.296/.324

Third Base
David Wright – 593 PA, 130 OPS+, .289/.361/.498
1987 Howard Johnson – 645 PA, 133 OPS+, .265/.364/.504

Jose Reyes – 524 PA, 101 OPS+, .286/.322/.427
2004 Kaz Matsui – 509 PA, 88 OPS+ .272/.331/.396

Left Field
Jason Bay – 401 PA, 103 OPS+, .259/.347/.402
2001 Benny Agbayani – 339 PA, 101 OPS+, .277/.364/.399

Center Field
Angel Pagan – 556 PA, 109 OPS+, .289/.342/.432
1986 Mookie Wilson – 415 PA, 115 OPS+ .289/.345/.430

Right Field
Jeff Francoeur – 449 PA, 79 OPS+, .237/.293/.369
2002 Jeromy Burnitz – 550 PA, 80 OPS+, .215/.311/.365

Carlos Beltran – 207 PA, 92 OPS+, .236/.338/.368
1997 Brian McRae – 162 PA, 92 OPS+, .248/.317/.414

Ruben Tejada – 201 PA, 44 OPS+, .188/.281/.241
1968 Phil Linz – 275 PA, 45 OPS+, .209/.243/.236

Alex Cora – 187 PA, 48 OPS+, .207/.265/.278
1963 Al Moran – 370 PA, 47 OPS+, .193/.274/.230

Josh Thole – 167 PA, 108 OPS+, .297/.377/.385
1963 Jesse Gonder – 134 PA, 110 OPS+, .302/.328/.405

Chris Carter – 155 PA, 86 OPS+, .259/.316/.371
1999 Matt Franco – 161, 88 OPS+, .235/.366/.364

The hardest position was shortstop, as the Mets have not had anyone play a significant number of games and record an OPS+ of 100 or more except for Reyes. There were players who were closer than Matsui to him in OPS+, but they did not have close to the SB or HR that Matsui did.

The comparison that surprised me the most was finding Agbayani show up for Bay. Most Mets fans have a soft place in their heart for Agbayani but few would go that far with Bay. And the most troubling one is to see Gonder show up for Thole. Gonder played 131 games the following season and had a 99 OPS+ as a 28-year old and then never had more than 174 PA the rest of his career.

This was a sobering exercise. To think that this year’s hitters are akin to Phil Linz, Kat Matsui and Rico Brogna is not anything Mets fans want to hear. For my own sanity, I’ll go back to thinking of them as Beltran, Reyes and Wright.

Mets RF: The curse of Bobby Bonilla

In the 1970s, Mets announcers talked about how the club had never had a long-term solution at third base. But since that point the Mets have put Howard Johnson, Robin Ventura and David Wright at the hot corner and you do not hear that anymore. Now the problem has shifted to right field.

Joe Barbieri touched on how the Mets have struggled to fill the position since Darryl Strawberry left as a free agent following the 1990 season. Strawberry put up eight consecutive seasons with an OPS+ of 125 or more. But even discounting Strawberry, the Mets – never known for being an offensive powerhouse – have had pretty decent production in right field throughout the years.

Here are the top OPS+ marks for Mets RF before Strawberry:

134 – Joe Christopher
131 – Rusty Staub
128 – Dave Kingman
121 – Claudell Washington
120 – Ken Singleton
118 – Rusty Staub
118 – Ron Swoboda
112 – Rusty Staub
110 – Ron Swoboda

But in the 20 years since Strawberry departed as a free agent, the Mets have received an OPS+ 110 or above from their RF just five times. Amazingly, one of those came last year, as Jeff Francoeur posted an OPS+ of 120 in his 74 games with the Mets. No wonder fans were so willing to ignore his lifetime numbers and drink the Francoeur Kool-Aid.

To put that 120 OPS+ mark in perspective, this year 10 RF in MLB have played at least 70 games and bettered that mark. So, while it is a good mark, it puts you in the bottom of the top third for the position. And for what it is worth, there are 28 RF on the list and Francoeur ranks 28th with a 78 OPS+.

Francoeur’s mark last year was the highest by a regular Mets RF since Bobby Bonilla posted a 132 OPS+ in 1993. The previous year, Bonilla put up a 121 OPS+ and he had a 128 mark the following season (albeit at 3B). In 1995, Bonilla, splitting time between 3B and the OF, had a 160 OPS+ before he was traded for the dynamic duo of Alex Ochoa and Damon Buford.

Why did the Mets run him out of town again?

So, while Strawberry gets all of the credit for being the last good RF for the Mets, it is actually Bonilla who should hold that distinction. He ranked fourth in the majors among RF in OPS+ in 1993. It seems like there has been a curse on the position for the club ever since Bonilla left. Here is a list of the Mets’ primary RF every season since 1994 and how they have performed:

Year Name Games OPS+
1994 Joe Orsulak 48 70
1995 Carl Everett 67 110
1996 Alex Ochoa 72 104
1997 Butch Huskey 68 114
1998 Butch Huskey 94 85
1999 Roger Cedeno 89 106
2000 Derek Bell 136 98
2001 Matt Lawton 46 90
2002 Jeromy Burnitz 131 80
2003 Roger Cedeno 100 84
2004 Richard Hidalgo 81 94
2005 Victor Diaz 74 108
2006 Xavier Nady 70 107
2007 Shawn Green 107 103
2008 Ryan Church 81 106
2009 Jeff Francoeur 74 120
2010 Jeff Francoeur 109 78

Since Bonilla was shipped out of town, the Mets have not had a player hold down RF for more than two years at a time. And even those times, the player in question did not top 109 games played. In a 20-year stretch, the best the Mets got was the 136 games from Derek Bell and the 120 OPS+ in 74 games from Francoeur. And so we have the curse of Bobby Bonilla.

It’s just a remarkable stretch of ineptitude; made even more mind-boggling by the fact the Mets have made the playoffs three times in this period, so it is not like this is coming from the expansion Mets or the current Pirates, who haven’t had a winning season since Bush the elder was in office.

Because of amazing work by his agent, Bonilla returns to the Mets payroll in 2011. The Mets brought back Bonilla for a second tour of duty with the club in 1999 but it turned out to be a mistake. The Mets wanted to get rid of Bonilla to free up money to sign free agents and take on payroll in trades, but Bonilla still had a year on his contract and the club still owed him nearly $6 million.

In exchange for his $5.9 million salary in 2000, agent Jeff Borris worked out a deal for the Mets to pay Bonilla 25 equal payments of $1.193 million, which assumes an annual interest rate of 8% for the years 2000-2035. That offseason, the Mets added Mike Hampton, Todd Zeile and Derek Bell and made it to the World Series. Clearly, the Mets would not have advanced without Hampton. But was it worth roughly $30 million to lose to the Yankees in five games?

So, now that Bonilla will be back on the payroll in 2011, perhaps the curse will end and the Mets can get top-rate production out of right field for an entire season. Chances are that either Carlos Beltran or Angel Pagan will be patrolling RF for the Mets next year. Fernando Martinez and Lucas Duda remain longer-term options.

Right field is supposed to be one of the power positions on a ball club, along with first base. But the Mets have struggled to fill both of those positions in the last two decades. Right field in particular seems cursed. Perhaps the Mets should hold a ceremony when they deliver Bonilla his first paycheck in 2011. While he receives the check, Bonilla can publicly lift the curse he seemingly placed on the position back in the 1990s.

The last word on Frenchy

“Jeff Francoeur was one of the most pleasant men to walk into a baseball clubhouse in my 15 years covering the sport, and I’m happy for him that he gets to take part in a pennant race. I just wish he would’ve taken a pitch or two while he was here. And, you know, hit a few more of the balls he did swing at into play.”

Mike Vaccaro on the lightning rod. This was just a snippet in a sprawling column that started off on the senseless tradition of throwing back HR balls hit by the wrong team. Well worth clicking on the link.

Source: New York Post

Why Francoeur had to go

“This possibility assumes Francoeur creates any kind of standard against which to measure other players. Since his impressive April, Francoeur has a .605 OPS. Rey Ordonez had 3 seasons as a Met in which he hit better than that. Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Chris Carter, Jason Pridie, Val Pascucci, and a few choice corpses were all viable replacements at any point this season. Francoeur even started over Pagan sometimes in July, the month he had a .393 OPS.”

Sam Page trying to figure out why the Mets gave Jeff Francoeur so many at-bats. Here he speculated that it was due to a lack of better options.

Source: Amazin’ Avenue

Truth on sacrifice flies

“As an aside, sacrifice flies don’t count as a turn at bat and therefore don’t negatively affect a hitter’s batting average, but they’re almost always just regular fly outs with the singular and fortunate (from the batter’s perspective) distinction that a runner happened to be on third base (or second!) at the time. Occasionally a batter will shorten up and explicitly look to put the ball in the air to get the run home, but the vast majority of sacrifice flies don’t happen this way. On-base percentage corrects for this by penalizing the batter for not reaching base (this leads to the occasional small-sample anomaly of a player’s batting average exceeding his on-base percentage); batting average makes no such correction and treats it as it would a sacrifice bunt. Chalk it up to yet another case where on-base percentage exceeds batting average in usefulness.”

Eric Simon on David Wright’s pop up that ended up a sacrifice fly in Friday’s win against the Astros. Wright leads the Mets with 11 sacrifice flies and Jeff Francoeur is second with nine.

Source: Always Amazin’

Why the Mets came up short

Much has been made recently about how the Mets have not won a game this season when trailing in the ninth inning. But the Mets have never been particularly good in this department. Here are the team wins in this category the last five times the club made the playoffs:

2006 – 3
2000 – 3
1999 – 4
1988 – 4
1986 – 2

I think it is pretty clear the reason the 2010 Mets will not make the playoffs has almost nothing to do with ninth-inning comeback wins.

Instead, we will remember the dismal offense as this year’s downfall. We will recall the complete lack of production from second base, the worse-than-anyone-expected output from Jeff Francoeur, the disappointing seasons from Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes as they returned from injuries and the frightening lack of power from Jason Bay.

By now, we have come to expect the Mets to struggle with the bases loaded. You have to go back to 2006 to find a Mets team that had an OPS over .700 with the bases juiced. This year the MLB average with the sacks full is .286/.320/.448 while the Mets check in with a .208/.227/.281 line. It makes a fellow long for the halcyon days of 2009, when the team posted a .220/.250/.348 mark with the bases drunk.

But this year the problem extends from bases loaded to any situation with runners in scoring position. After posting an OPS of .763 with RISP last year playing with a Quadruple-A roster, the Mets have a .737 mark this season. Among players with 50 or more PAs with RISP, the three best are Angel Pagan (.994 OPS), David Wright (.839) and Bay (.826) while the three worst are Rod Barajas (.724), Francoeur (.605) and Luis Castillo (.543).

Chris Carter (1.156) and Josh Thole (1.152) have been very productive with RISP in small samples. On the flip side of the coin, Carlos Beltran (.630) and Ruben Tejada (.358) have not.

Since the All-Star break, the problem has extended further to just getting anyone on base. The Mets have posted just a .597 OPS overall in the second half. Their leading hitter in the category was Jesus Feliciano, who had an .800 OPS in 10 games and was sent to the minors so that Fernando Martinez could lose much-needed at-bats by sitting on the bench. Wright’s OPS since the break is .591 but that still beats Francoeur (.514) and Bay (.510).

And Mets pitchers have gone 5-55 here in the second half

The frustrating thing is there is very little to be done. Here are pertinent marks with RISP for key Mets players

Player	    Lifetime	         2010

Bay	        .924	         .826

Beltran	        .915	         .630

Castillo	.700	         .543

Francoeur	.755	         .605

Reyes  	        .830	         .756

Wright	        .878	         .839

Those six players combine to make $55 million this season. When the stars don’t produce, what options do you have? Francoeur and Castillo have already been benched while Bay is on the DL. Reyes and Wright have no reasonable replacements.

Only Carlos Beltran makes sense to bench. A defensible move at this point would be to move Pagan back to center and install Carter as the team’s left fielder. But it is hard to blame Jerry Manuel for not taking out Beltran, hoping that he can regain form after shaking off the rust.

Hopefully losing a series at home to a Phillies squad playing without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will convince the Mets that the 2010 season is over in terms of making a playoff push. The Mets need to play the people who hope to contribute to the 2011 squad and not worry about any hurt feelings from the proven veterans.

If Martinez and Tejada are in the majors, they need to play, regardless of how much Castillo and Francoeur may pout. There are serious questions if either belongs on a major league roster right now but hopefully we can all agree that riding the pine does neither of them any good at this point in their development.

Martinez and Tejada played their last game in the minors on August 5th. Since then the Bisons have played nine games and they still have 24 games left on the schedule. If Martinez played all 33 games (always a risky proposition given his health) he might have amassed 132 PA in that span. So far in the majors he has accumulated 17.

While the offense takes the lion share of the blame for the Mets not making the playoffs this season, Manuel has not helped out the cause, either. His curious handling of the roster has been well documented.

Ultimately, I will remember 2010 as the year that the offense and the manager kept us from the playoffs.

Fight to the end

The Mets find themselves in a precarious situation.

After a stellar pitching performance from Mike Pelfrey on Tuesday in which the Mets won 1-0 over the Colorado Rockies, they are again at .500 with a 56-56 record and eight and a half games out of first in the NL East, while seven games out of the wild card.

While the Mets have not instilled a lot of confidence in their fans (especially after coming back home from the Atlanta/Philadelphia road trip only winning two games), there is still no reason to throw in the towel.

While Jim Keller made a compelling argument on Monday, I am not ready to just give in to the youth movement and may go against popular opinion with this post.

Yes, the Mets have grossly underwhelmed the masses and the chances of catching the Braves and the Phillies will be yeomen’s work. However, as a franchise you should not tank the season and should always try to win every game like it’s your last game.

With that said, I want to end the season with dignity and want to go down fighting. The Mets will likely fall short of expectations, but as a fan base, let’s not just give up.

As the once great Met legend Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe!”

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So, while I like the youthful injection that a guy like Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez can give the team, I am not yet to write off the season and brush off a possible return of Jason Bay and have Jeff Francoeur just languish on the bench.

I realize that Bay and Francoeur have been terrible for the better part of the year, but it’s not like the Mets can get anything off the trade market of much value for any of their disappointing veterans (including Luis Castillo). So, just run them out there and roll the dice.

Anything can happen. Just look at the 2007 Colorado Rockies for inspiration. On Sept 1, 2007 the Rockies were six games out, and behind two teams in the NL West standings, and made a run all the way to the World Series.

If you examine the Mets roster closely, you’ll notice they have a nice mix of promising youth( Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Josh Thole, Tejada, etc.) and veterans in their prime (David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Angel Pagan, etc.). With the exception of Castillo and Barajas (both 35), the Mets really don’t have many players whom you can consider over-the-hill and on the downside oft their careers.

Perhaps injuries are taking a toll on Carlos Beltran at age 33, and he can possibly be lumped in with this group , but the only other members on the team over the age of 32 on the team are R.A Dickey (who we can discount for the purposes of this post), Hisanori Takahashi, Henry Blanco, Elmer Dessens and Pedro Feliciano.

These are not a bunch of wounded dogs who need to be put down, but a bunch that needs to be given a new lease on their baseball life.

I know they have burned you before, but if the Mets can get Bay healthy (and who knows when you can expect that) and play up to their capabilities against a slightly less daunting schedule, anything can happen between now and October.

While trying to be optimistic, I do realize the harsh realities of the Mets franchise (shoddy coaching and a bumbling front office), but since when going down fighting ever hurt?

Platooning Martinez a mistake

With no return date imminent for Jason Bay, the Mets decided to promote Fernando Martinez from Triple-A to help fill Bay’s spot in the lineup. The lefty-hitting Martinez, originally out of the lineup as the Phillies started southpaw Cole Hamels, entered Saturday’s game as part of a double-switch in the eighth inning. Sunday Martinez drew the start and batted sixth against righty Roy Halladay, going 1-for-4.

While it is up for debate if promoting Martinez is a good move, it is a mistake to have him in the majors as a platoon player. Martinez, long the club’s top prospect, has been rushed through the system. Further hindering his development have been constant injuries which have kept him sidelined. Since beginning his professional career in 2006, Martinez has never topped 366 ABs in a season.

This year a hamstring injury sidelined Martinez. His overall numbers at Triple-A Buffalo were underwhelming at .255/.321/.466 but he had been performing much better recently, especially in the power department. Since the All-Star break Martinez had a .547 SLG mark with 5 HR in 64 ABs. In his last 10 games before the promotion, he had a .324/.425/.588 line.

No one doubts Martinez’ tools. Last year he finally started turning those tools into production at Buffalo, where as a 20-year old he had a .290/.337/.540 line in 190 PA. Injuries to the parent club forced a call-up and Martinez again looked overmatched before going on the DL himself, keeping alive his streak of getting injured every season.

Martinez needs to play. While a gifted athlete, Martinez still has many things to work on, ranging from improving his OBP to handling LHP, against whom he batted just .238 this season in Buffalo. In 354 lifetime ABs in the minors against southpaws, Martinez has a .234 AVG and a .689 OPS.

How is Martinez going to improve against lefties if he is sitting against them in the majors? As ill-advised as it was to turn Jenrry Mejia, the club’s top pitching prospect, into a reliever, it is equally head scratching to see the Mets turn Martinez, their top hitting prospect, into a platoon player. And now comes word that manager Jerry Manuel says that it is not a strict platoon, that Jeff Francoeur will play against some RHP instead of Martinez.

It is bad enough that injuries have kept Martinez from getting a full season’s worth of at-bats as a professional. The last thing the Mets need to do is artificially restrict his playing time. If Martinez is not going to play every day, send him back to the minors so he can receive much-needed playing time and experience.

But as bad as limiting Martinez’ playing time is, the idea that the club needs to create more playing time for Francoeur is even worse. I have talked over and over and over again why playing Francoeur is a bad idea. But it keeps being necessary to repeat, as both Manuel and the media continue their respective desires to keep the myth alive that Francoeur is worthy of additional playing time.

Yes, Francoeur has delivered game-winning homers in the last two victories for the Mets. He also has just 11 HR in 348 ABs and a .679 OPS. Omir Santos had some big clutch hits for the Mets last year but they signed every catcher they could in the offseason rather than suffer his .688 OPS again this year. Mets fans were up in arms when the club traded for Gary Matthews Jr. this offseason. He had a .697 OPS for the Angels in 2009. If an outfielder is giving worse production than Santos and Matthews, he really is not good.

The Mets need to commit to playing Martinez full time if he is going to be on the major league roster. Even the most optimistic fan has written off the team’s playoff chances after the 2-9 road trip to start the second half and this past week’s 2-4 showing against the Braves and Phillies. It is better to suffer the growing pains with Martinez rather than the “He’s just not that good” pains they get with Francoeur.