Mets Merized Online » Connor O’Brien http://metsmerizedonline.com Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:10:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Boomer and Carton Completely Out of Line with Murphy Comments http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/boomer-and-carton-completely-out-of-line-with-murphy-comments.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/boomer-and-carton-completely-out-of-line-with-murphy-comments.html/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 21:54:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=152461 For those who haven’t seen, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN stirred up some controversy this morning regarding Daniel Murphy‘s paternity leave this week, criticizing him for taking time off after his son was born. Murphy is expected to be back with the team on Thursday, but has been away from the team since the weekend.

“Now it’s one thing to want to be there for the birth of your child, which everyone of us totally supported one hundred percent… nobody can argue that, right?” said Carton, “…Assuming the birth went well, assuming your wife is fine, assuming the baby is fine… 24 hours… you get your ass back to your team and play baseball.” Esiason joined in, pointing out that Murphy is federally guaranteed two weeks, but then claimed Murphy should have scheduled the birth before the season started.

The radio duo normally make a great pair that is fun to listen to, but they are dead wrong on this one. In terms of family values, they are really dating themselves. That’s the type of rhetoric from forty and fifty years ago, not in today’s world. Paternity leave rights are expanding around the world, and in many European countries, new fathers can take leave just as long as new mothers.

There are only so many times in his life that a man can spend the first days of his child’s life with them, but there are 162 baseball games per year. Murphy will play over one thousand over the course of his career.

There are also numerous seriously anti-feminist tones in what the two of them said, but this blog is not the place to dive deep into those kind of social issues.

It’s critical to remember that baseball is a means of entertainment. Daniel Murphy is an entertainer. Staying with his wife a few extra days, or even a few extra weeks will not endanger any lives or property. He is not a public servant as Esiason and Carton imply. There is nothing critical that Murphy will miss by opting to spend time with his child. What’s more important, satisfying 25,000 New Yorkers who will boo him the instant his batting average drops below .250, or spending time with his first child? The answer should be obvious to everyone, but apparently it isn’t.

A long baseball career lasts ten to fifteen years. Fatherhood lasts a lifetime. Go ahead Murphy. Use every minute you are entitled to.

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2014 Mets Projection: Curtis Granderson, LF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/2014-mets-projection-curtis-granderson-lf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/2014-mets-projection-curtis-granderson-lf.html/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 21:06:40 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=151737 USATSI curtis granderson

Opening Day has come and gone, but there is always time for another projection. While I didn’t get to finish this series, I had written the majority of the Curtis Granderson projection, so I just decided to finish is and publish. Enjoy.

The Mets made an enormous splash this offseason, spending the most money on a single free agent since Jason Bay, inking outfielder Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract.

The 33 year-old posted a career worst 97 wRC+ in an injury-plagued 2013 season with the Yankees. Playing only 61 games, Granderson battled a broken pinky and broken forearm, both caused by being hit by pitches. However, the Mets signed him because of his previous track record, which includes two consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs in 2011 and 2012 as well as three seasons with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

It’s unrealistic to expect Granderson to repeat his 40 home run totals of two and three years ago, but in a full season, he can certainly be a well above-average hitter, even in the pitcher-friendly Citi Field. In Yankee Stadium, as a lefty hitter, he thrived. However, he still managed to hit for power on the road as well, hitting 17 road home runs in 2012 and 20 in 2011. Although his home run per fly ball ratios were higher in Yankee Stadium, a sign the park was benefiting him, he still managed to hit for power on the road.

Looking back at Granderon’s career, it’s more realistic to expect the kind of numbers that Granderson put up with the Tigers, albeit with a lower batting average. In terms of overall value, that means somewhere around 3 wins above replacament. That’s not fantastic, but it’s certainly significantly above average and with one win above replacement going for somewhere between $6 million and $7 million, that would definitely make Granderson more than worth the money.

For this season, most of the projection systems have Granderson somewhere between two and three wins above replacement. For the most part, they have Granderson near or below zero in terms of runs on defense, which will probably change due to moving to left field. His defensive numbers in center field have fallen in recent years along with his speed, but moving to a less demanding left field with a defensive whiz in Juan Lagares next to him (or even Chris Young), his defensive numbers should be positive. The projections are all pessimistic about his playing time, which also skews the numbers, but even the ZiPS creator admitted that himself. With a positive WAR, more playing time will add more overall value to Granderson’s season.

Here is what the projections have for him:

grandy projections

Oddly enough, it’s ZiPS, the Debbie Downer of projection systems that has Granderson playing the best and having the highest fWAR, despite playing the least amount of time. Again, it’s important to recognize sample sizes in this. Adjusting to 650 plate appearances, Granderson hits 26, 21, and 27 home runs according to each projection. His fWAR would also come out to 1.6, 2.2, and 3.0 respectively. I’m willing to take the over in each of these categories. The projection systems see two injuries from Granderson, specifically hand injuries, and may adjust not only sample size, but also quality of the numbers, depending on the injury. That, and I’m just optimistic that the Mets lineup will get him more plate appearances than expected with an improved lineup.

Overall, Granderson is definitely not in his prime years, but with the position the Mets are putting him in, he is more likely to age rather gracefully. The 33 year-old still has power and, despite two freak injuries last season, is poised to have a quality 2014 season.

2014 Projection

.235/.325/.520, 28 HR, 11.0 BB%, 27.5 K%, 10 SB, 3.0 fWAR

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MLB, MLBPA Announce Changes to Joint Drug Agreement http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/mlb-mlbpa-announce-changes-to-joint-drug-agreement.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/mlb-mlbpa-announce-changes-to-joint-drug-agreement.html/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 20:20:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=151988 (Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

Major League Baseball and the players association announced changes today to their Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program, lengthening suspensions for players caught across the board, likely in response to the PR nightmare the league experienced last summer.

Some of the notable changes are as follows:

  • First time offenders will now be suspended for 80 games as opposed to 50.
  • Second time offenders will now sit out an entire 162 games, and will not be paid at all for an entire 183 day league year. This is up from 100 games.
  • Players caught even just once will be subjected to extra testing for the rest of their careers.
  • Players testing positive will no longer be allowed to play in the postseason in that season.
  • Players will now have access to particular supplements that will not cause positive tests. These supplements will be supplied by teams.

Third time offenders will still be permanently banned from baseball.

All of this comes after a disastrous round of suspensions last season, which included Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, and Jhonny Peralta. Peralta’s situation was especially controversial as he was, after he served his suspension, allowed to return to his team for postseason play. Under the new rules, this type of situation can’t happen again.

League drug policies have come under intense scrutiny over the past year, with many critics saying the punishments aren’t harsh enough. Before today, the league and union hadn’t updated their drug policies since 2006, and players like Ryan Braun (and presumably others) have evaded the system. This still may not be enough to stop drug use completely (only a lifetime ban for first time use can do that), but it may deter drug use at least a little bit more, and every little bit helps.

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2014 Player Projections: David Wright http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/2014-player-projections-david-wright.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/2014-player-projections-david-wright.html/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:00:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=151267 wright

If I had to pick one position player from the National League East to anchor a lineup for a year, David Wright may just be my pick. While on the field, the 31 year-old had a monster 2013 season, one that was cut short by a pesky hamstring injury. Wright fell short of 500 plate appearances for only the second time in his career, but still managed to hit 18 home runs and steal 17 bases, as well as put up a slash line even better than his 2012 version.

Wright is not going anywhere. 2013 was his best season, pound-for-pound, since 2008, even better than last season. While his totals are deceiving, he hit more home runs per plate appearances than 2012 and would have hit three more had he stayed on the same pace and received the same number of plate appearances.

Besides his hamstring injury, which hasn’t resurfaced, Wright left no doubts about his 2014 season. Almost every facet of his game was as good as its ever been. His power is back and about as good as it’s going to get with Citi Field’s dimensions. His ISO, a measure of power (SLG-BA) was .207 in 2013, 21 points higher than the previous year and the highest it has been since 2010.

With the glove, Wright couldn’t match what he did in 2012, at least according to the metrics. His 17.4 defensive runs above average in 2012 was most likely a statistical anomaly and a product of the sheer number of innings Wright manned the third base slot. In 2013, he was 5.4 runs above average, still better than his typical career numbers, especially given the smaller sample size. Either way, it’s safe to say he is probably a better fielder than he was at the beginning of his career, as evidenced by both the defensive metrics and the video.

This year should be an interesting one for Wright. I honestly don’t see the fear of his getting injured. Really, his probability in his prime, having only two completely unrelated major injuries in his career, of getting hurt is the same as the average player. Two injuries in three years? Maybe I would reluctantly put the “injury prone” tag on him if I could see a correlation between the injuries, but I just can’t. Obviously it’s impossible to project injuries which is why this projection series doesn’t do it, but the odds of Wright getting hurt again are not especially high.

While on the field this year, Wright is likely going to have another season close to his 2012 and 2013 campaigns. There are no danger signs with Wright here, no real indicators that he’s destined for a sharp drop in production. His BABIP last season at .340, although high for a typical player, is right on his career numbers, as was his home run per fly ball rate.

The most most direct indicator for Wright has been his strikeout numbers. When he has struggled, it has been while his strikeout rate was high. The past two seasons, he has approached the level of the pre-Citi Field David Wright in this regard, punching out in 16.1% of his trips to the plate, down from 24% in 2010. We are witnessing Wright return to his peak production levels, even with some external factors limiting some of his numbers. As the following chart from Fangraphs will show you, while Wright is streaky, he is averaging a much better strikeout rate than he has in the past.

wright ks

If Wright can keep this up, his decline should be a slow and gradual one. If he descends into his old ways, it won’t be so sow. However, the past two years have given no real indication that this will happen, so Wright continuing this trend is a good bet.

Finally, to the projections. The Steamer, Oliver, and ZiPS systems all have Wright in a sharp decline, and it’s easy to see why. For one, the age curve on these systems doesn’t fit all players. For durable players like Wright, the decline will be much less steep than what the computer projections tend to say. In addition, the defensive metric trend of the past two years, combined with the age, may lead the computers to think that he is going through a decline. However, as we mentioned before, the defensive metrics from two years ago, although Wright was fantastic in the field, are an overestimation. 2013 was more of a correction, which is why the systems see a decline in that category, which brings down his WAR significantly. Steamer has a +2.4 runs above average mark on defense for Wright net year, while Steamer has -0.8 runs and ZiPS at +2.9. I’m certainly taking the over on this one.

Overall, Wright is on a path that will please Mets fans this year. This may be the annual spring optimism talking, but the stats point towards another great year for the captain as his team inches toward playoff contention.

2014 Projection

650 PA  ·  23 HR  ·  .310/.395/.505  ·  25 SB

 11.0 BB%  ·  16.5 K%  ·  7.5 fWAR

mmo

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Oldies But Not Goodies: Discarding RBI, Runs Scored, and Pitching Wins http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/oldies-but-not-goodies-discarding-rbi-runs-scored-and-pitching-wins.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/oldies-but-not-goodies-discarding-rbi-runs-scored-and-pitching-wins.html/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 18:00:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=149716 While most traditionalist stats are all but completely gone from most Major League Baseball front offices, the casual fan and the older generations of die-hard fans have stuck with the statistics. Classic and easy to remember, a century of celebrating records has some people holding on to these numbers for good. Sometimes, classic theories and ideas can still be relevant, but in this case, that isn’t true.

baseball glove benchI have nothing against people who like these stats. Many of them have spent their entire lives having RBI records, batting average records, win-loss records, and other statistical feats drilled into their heads. These were the only options, so people didn’t question them.

There are three stats in particular, however, that need to go. This may be obvious to many fans but they can’t hold a candle to some of the new metrics that have popped up in recent decades. RBI, runs scored, and pitching wins and losses are arguably the most irrelevant and useless popular statistics.

Before diving in to each one, consider one thing. What is the goal of using statistics for individual players? The answer is simple: to isolate production. Simply, to tell how talented a player is. In theory, the best statistics are affected only minimally by other players, otherwise a statistic can be as much a measure of a team’s ability as the individual player’s. If you were a general manager signing a player from the Red Sox for $200 million, given only statistics that are significantly affected by other Red Sox players, would you consider making the deal.

Runs Batted In (RBI)

The Goal: Runs Batted in has two joint goals (or at least it is perceived to have two): to evaluate how good a player is in important situations and how productive he is overall.

The flaws: This statistic rose to mass use in the 1920s. This is not a problem, but it shows that the statistic was created before baseball was understood as much as it is today.

RBI is as much of a team statistic as it is an individual one, it’s main problem. There is only one method of getting an RBI without any baserunners and that’s hitting a home run. Say two hitters each hit home runs, except the second hitter did it with a runner on first base. Does the second batter deserve twice as much “credit” as the first? No, not at all. The second home run hitter probably had little to no effect at all on whether that runner reached base, but he still gets credit for “driving in” that person. Not only that, but players on better teams tend to get more opportunities to drive runners in. Two players may be driving in the same percentage of baserunners but one may have far fewer RBI than the other.

One more thing to consider about RBI is that it treats every situation equally. What good is a second inning RBI single when your team is down 9-0? Which leads me to…

Alternatives: There are a number of different alternatives for RBI but the most popular is probably Win Probability Added. Remember how every RBI is treated the same regardless of situation? That is where WPA comes in. Baseball has been played for over a century and almost every situation imaginable has repeated itself over and over again. One thing is certain: there are always calculable odds of who is more likely to win. Every action affects a team’s odds of winning a game, whether it is small or large. A walk-off home run obviously has a bigger impact than a one out single in the third inning with nobody on. WPA uses linear weights, a complex way of saying the odds of winning added (or lost) from each action. Players with a higher WPA tend to have had bigger impacts on games (although it is not predictive), specifically in high-pressure situations, which statisticians have debated the effects of with no real consensus yet. This is still a stat where a team must put a player into position to have a bigger impact, but it certainly quantifies that impact far better than RBI. (To read my article from last summer going in depth on WPA, click here.)

Runs Scored (Individual)

The Goal: This stat is rather murky in its presumed goal. Really, it is likely meant to measure both production overall and baserunning.

The flaws: Again, this is a stat in which it depends so much on the surrounding team, probably even more than RBI. A player can bat 1.000 and still never score a run. Of course, these theoretical situations aren’t relevant to the real world of baseball, but the idea holds true: teams set you up to score a run. Sure, the player may have successfully made it to home plate without falling flat on his face, or he could have even dove into home plate well. However, the hitting  team still had to do something to allow him to cross home plate and even the team in the field often time chooses not to throw to home, instead opting to hit the cutoff man and settle at that.

Alternatives: There are a ton of alternatives to Runs Scored, satisfying both purposes. Getting into them could take another thousand words, but there are plenty of viable alternatives. For overall production, OPS, OPS+, all the way down to wOBA and wRC+ do the job better than runs scored as they isolate that particular player more. For baserunning, there are complex metrics like UBR out there, as well as some of Baseball-Reference’s statistics that even include a player’s ability to avoid getting thrown out at first on a double play. There is some very interesting stuff out there that can even break down the type of baserunning a hitter is good at.

Wins and Losses (For Pitchers)

The Goal: To evaluate the performance of an individual pitcher

The flaws: Where to begin? There are so many flaws with wins and losses. As a general rule, I say that wins and losses are half affected by the offense and some by defense as well. A pitcher can be on his game striking batters and getting weak ground balls and still get the loss. In order to get a win, the offense of the pitcher’s team must score more runs than the other. Say what you will about pitching to the score, but that’s what it comes down to.

Additionally, a pitcher’s defense behind him can let him down, whether measured in errors or not. Even if the pitcher allows only unearned runs, the loss is still given.

There are also plenty of situations where the pitcher throws a great game but leaves tied, giving a reliever an opportunity to get credit, even if he comes in only to pick off a baserunner. It has happened before, and it is so often the pitcher with the best night that gets cheated.

Alternatives: Rate stats are the way to go here. Looking at game logs is fine as well, but not all wins and losses are created equal, but even an undeserved win will show up in rate stats. Specifically, FIP and xFIP are great alternatives as they take out the fielding aspect as well as the hitting aspect, which ERA does not completely do.

*   *   *

There are a number of statistics like these that are very flawed and should be essentially discarded from use by the average fan. As someone who’s skeptical of almost anything, I noticed early on that there were flaws. With baseball especially, it’s important to not let tradition get in the way of realizing the flaws of the different ways people analyze the game.

mmo

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2014 Player Projections: Daniel Murphy, 2B http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/2014-player-projections-daniel-murphy-2b.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/2014-player-projections-daniel-murphy-2b.html/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:00:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=149031 USATSI daniel murphy

Author Note: Apparently it’s been almost three weeks since I did my last projection. For a refresher (and my Travis d’Arnaud projection), click here.

A target of trade speculation all winter long, Daniel Murphy comes into camp this year as one of the most tenured position players on the Met roster. The 28-year old had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, posting a 2.8 fWAR, .320 wOBA, and 106 wRC+, all well above league average second baseman. There is something to be said for a middle infielder who is also an above-average hitter, which makes Murphy rather valuable.

Murphy’s overall improvement in production last year, going from a 1.3 fWAR in 2012 to a 2.8 mark last year in very similar sample sizes, was made largely through his defense and baserunning, although an uptick in his offense certainly helped.

As Murphy has learned the second base position, he has gone from horrible to tolerable in just a few years. He still makes the absurd blunder every once in a while and while that is what the fans will remember, his overall defense has nonetheless gotten better. His Fangraphs fielding rating, Ultimate Zone Rating, and Defensive Runs Saved all pointed towards a better season for Murphy last year with his glove, improving by over five runs in Fangraphs’ statistic. He also improved approximately three runs in his Ultimate Base Running (UBR) and 2.4 runs in the Weighted Stolen Bases (wSB) category. Those are just a handful of runs but a handful of runs in each of those categories contributed to Murphy’s value doubling over the past year.

Looking at his peripherals only solidifies Murphy’s year. His BABIP, at .315, was actually below his career average, meaning he likely wasn’t getting lucky with where ground balls rolled, or at least not enough to significantly affect his numbers. Interestingly, it was Murphy’s batted ball ratios that went through a dramatic change, as he hit a lot more fly balls than he has in the past. His fly ball percentage rose by an incredible 11.4%, and a rise in his HR/FB ratio, coupled with hitting more fly balls, explains why Murphy his a career-high of 13 home runs after hitting just six in 2012. How sustainable is this though? It’s impossible to tell, but seeing as Murphy’s plate discipline numbers stayed close to his career marks and pitchers were still approaching him the same way, the best conclusion is that it may have been an anomaly.

Looking at Murphy’s ESPN Home Run Tracker, Muphy had five home runs under 400 feet:

Again, this is no indication that his home run numbers will go down. Even Cris Davis led the league in “Just Enough” home runs, but nobody is doubting his power, so it’s just something to think about.

In terms of projecting this season, the computers like Murphy to come somewhat close to his season last year, but not be quite as. Here is a look at what they are saying:

murphy projections

The slash lines here are almost identical to each other. Each of the three systems released thus far show Murphy hitting very slightly above league average, which is great for a second baseman. However, you see the drastic difference in projected WAR due to almost entirely defense. Oliver has him about average, while Steamer and ZiPS regressing to even worse than last year.

Each system has his power (both his slugging and ISO) dropping a bit, although it’s nothing too serious. They see some regression to the mean with his fly ball rates and HR/FB percentage, which makes perfect sense. I would expect a slugging percentage about 15 to 20 points lower than the .415 we saw last season, back to where he was in 2012. Hopefully that will mean an uptick in line drives and ground balls.

That being said, I don’t see the doom and gloom predictions of Steamer and ZiPS in regards to Murphy’s defense. He still makes the astounding blunders every once in a while, but he’s been gradually improving each year and I think you’ll see him probably top out this year at just a few runs below average.

Considering Murphy’s strong offensive game, and where he started from, that’s not bad at all.

2014 MMO Projection:

640 PAs, 9 HR, 5.1 BB%, 13 BB%.285/.320/.400, 2.2 fWAR

mmo

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In Defense Of David Wright http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/david-wright-as-good-as-hes-ever-been.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/david-wright-as-good-as-hes-ever-been.html/#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 14:00:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=149370

(Photo: Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

There has been much debate among Mets fans over David Wright. How will he decline, his contract, and most importantly, how good he still is. They have all been controversial issues.

For many, the home run totals are enough to say Wright is getting worse. In fact, the slight decline in power has been almost the sole reason why Wright is considered by some to be a “shell” of his former self. (Well, that and the ridiculous RBI argument.)

The truth is that in the past two seasons, David Wright has been as good as he’s ever been. The mirage of a decline put forward by critics have only been a result of the new run environments, the lineup that surrounds him, and sample size.

The Effects of Citi Field on Wright’s Power

Home runs have never been the defining aspect of David Wright’s offense. He has always been a well-rounded player who can produce in a variety of ways. However, Wright’s home run totals have come under intense scrutiny the past few years. Per 162 games, Wright averaged 30 home runs from 2005 through 2008. Over the past two seasons, this number has been just 24.

The run environment at Citi Field have been what’s driven his home run total down. Let’s look at his home run totals at home going back to 2005 and the percentage of his yearly total it made up.

home hrs

So far, we see that Wright has seen a drop in his home runs at home. His home run dropped by 50 percent, but he has lost a few home runs per season, which matches up with the percentage pretty well.

Now let’s look at home runs per fly ball. If Wright is hitting more fly balls and getting fewer home runs out of them, that may speak to the dimensions of the ballpark. Let’s look at that number, split for his home games, going back to 2005.

hrfb wright

Again, this justifies the theory that fewer of his fly balls at home are going out of the ballpark.This trend isn’t due to Wright becoming a different type of hitter, either. Wright’s batted ball ratios have each stayed consistent, even in the switch from Citi Field, as the following graph from Fangraphs will show.

FB DWright

(Click for larger image)

Finally, for one last look at the decline in power, we’ll look at Wright’s ISO. For those who don’t know, ISO is the difference between a hitter’s Slugging Percentage and Batting Average. Generally, it gives a good sense of a player’s overall power, and not just exclusively home runs.

ISO DWright

(Click for larger image)

Here, we see a distinct decline in power at home. Wright used to have an ISO at home significantly above his yearly total and yearly road ISO. However, in recent years, specifically since the move to Citi Field, that number has moved below what it is on the road and for the year.

Obviously, Wright’s lesser power numbers can be attributed to the home park, as his power numbers on the road are no different than what they were in 2005 through 2008.

Wright Relative to the League

It’s always necessary to, when analyzing a player, put them in context of the league environment. During David Wright’s early career, he was playing in the back-end of the steroid era, where better hitters were easier to come by and the league averages for most offensive categories were higher. Today, the game is different. Pitching is much more dominant today and offensive numbers are sagging.

Relative to the league, Wright looks just as, and at times, more impressive than he was in those early years. In that first period (’05-’08), Wright’s OPS+ was 141. His OPS+ the past two seasons has been 149. In plain words, he is eight percent better compared to league average now than he was then.* wRC+, a stat that neutralizes some of the problems of On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage (the two most critical parts of OPS+), says roughly the same thing about Wright.

It’s easy to look at Wright’s raw numbers and say that he’s a lesser player than he was years ago, just as it’s easy to say, just by looking at out-of-context statistics, that Barry Bonds was better than Babe Ruth. Context is important, even in this case.

The Absurd RBI Argument

I’ll say it right now: I don’t like the RBI statistic. A traditionalist bread and butter stat, I give it no weight when talking about a player. RBI, just like pitcher’s wins, are so dependent on the team around you that it’s just not worth it. The point of looking at individual statistics is to isolate the production of that one particular player. This statistic, created by a cricket newspaper writer in the late 1800s (still baseball’s infancy), doesn’t do it for me. However, although stats like these are all but completely gone from MLB front offices, many traditionalist and casual fans still use it, and Mets fans especially use it to point to David Wright’s supposed decline.

Yes, Wright’s RBI numbers have declined. This can be attributed to two things: 1) his decrease in power (at home) thanks to the new home dimensions and 2) the team around him just isn’t the same as it used to be.

From 2005 through 2008, Wright was sixth in baseball in runners on with 1845. He “drove in” 18.05 percent of those baserunners. In roughly 40 more games from 2009 through this past season, Wright has had 1859 baserunners on and driven in 15.87 percent. Only in a bigger sample size of games did he reach the same number of baserunners.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not only is the number of baserunners on important, but also how they get on base. In a better offense, Wright had more hitters on second and third base than he has had in recent years. in the earlier period, hitters like Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were hitting and getting on base in front of him, while he hasn’t had quite the same quality hitters in front of him recently.

Sample Size

What’s the easiest way to twist data? For baseball statistics, it’s through sample size. One commentor pointed out that Wright’s average home run total from 2005 through 2008 was 29, while that number has dropped the past few seasons, specifically to 20 the past two seasons. While that’s true, it’s a complete misinterpretation of what has been given.

From 2005 through 2008, Wright averaged 158 games played. The past two years, he’s averaged 134. Neutralizing the difference in sample size would bring Wright to around 24 home runs, give or take one or two. That drop remains consistent with what we’ve explored so far.

Sample sizes are relevant for all the topics discussed and the idea is probably one of the most important things when it comes to evaluating Wright. His totals are lower, but they can not only be shown to be mostly out of his control, but those lower totals and averages shoved in the faces of Mets fans by his critics are often misconstrued by the fact that he has missed significant time due to injury recently.

*   *   *

If anything, Wright has been shaped into a different hitter than he was years ago. He hits for less power but his defense may be better than ever. His numbers have changed due to a number of things that he has very little control over.

To expect Wright to still post the same numbers despite all these obstacles (which effect almost every baseball player) is just irresponsible and completely ignorant of how baseball statistics are shaped jointly by both the player and the situation.

*OPS+ Explanation (written by me)

wRC+ (Fangraphs)

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MLB Advanced Media Launching Revolutionary Data Gathering Program http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/mlb-advanced-media-launching-revolutionary-data-gathering-program.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/mlb-advanced-media-launching-revolutionary-data-gathering-program.html/#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 04:37:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=149407 MLB Advanced Media announced today the launching of a new data gathering system to eventually be implemented in every MLB ballpark.

The new tracking system will gather data on every play of every game. For this year, systems will be ready in Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Citi Field, with every team getting systems by 2015.

The technology could revolutionize even further the way executives look at baseball. Hit F/x tools were already available for teams (for them to acquire on their own), but giving every team this technology is significant. We have heard, but not known too much about, Hit F/x and Field F/x.

The program could help teams evaluate players in a much more objective way than ever before. For example, fielders can now see the exact route they ran to a fly ball, how far their direct path to the baseball was, and how efficient their route was. Fielder speed and acceleration can also be evaluated, among other things. This could be especially important for positioning fielders as new data could, in theory, pinpoint the exact weaknesses of certain fielders, allowing the coaches to adjust accordingly.

Previous forms of this technology for hitter has already leaked out a bit, including through ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, in which fans can look at elevation angles and velocity of the ball for every home run hit.This new system will extend that to every batted ball, giving possibly even more information. Instead of relying on a 70 year old’s set of eyes watching from 50 feet away, batters, fielders, and pitchers can now see exactly what happened and exactly what they could have done better.

Dodgers All-Star Steve Sax praised the new system to MLB.com’s Mark Newman, saying: ”Really, the future of baseball and able to quantify the great things about this game is here now. For players and coaches alike, to be able to judge distances and speeds and ranges and how fast people get there is just an amazing tool that they’re going to be able to use going forward. I just wish they had this when I played.”

It will be fascinating to see how MLB teams either hide or publicize this new data. Pitch F/x has been around for a few years and proven to be a very useful tool. However, recent technological advancements have been kept under wraps away from the public eye. Hopefully this data, or at least some of it, will be available to the public to dissect so they themselves can expand their analysis of the game.

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Mets Land Four On Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-land-four-on-baseball-americas-top-100-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-land-four-on-baseball-americas-top-100-prospects.html/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 03:29:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=148582 bryan green

Dominic Smith came in at number 92 in Baseball America’s annual prospect rankings

Baseball America released its annual list of the top 100 prospects in baseball today, and unsurprisingly, the list included a few notable future Mets. The four who made the cut were Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Rafael Montero, and Dominic Smith. Here is what John Manuel, the editor of the publication, had to say about each of the youngsters:

16. Noah Syndergaard

Syndergaard’s secondary pitches flash above-average if not better. More consistent power on his curveball would complement his premium fastball and help him make a midseason jump to New York.

38. Travis d’Arnaud

Stay. On. The. Field. His first injury-free season since 2011 would help make d’Arnaud a Rookie of the Year contender.

68. Rafael Montero

Few minor leaguers throw more consistent quality strikes than the smallish Montero, and as long as he maintains his command he should get his first shot in New York in 2014.

92. Dominic Smith

Smith might make his full-season debut at low Class A Savannah, a decided pitcher’s park. He’ll have to focus on his hitting approach and avoid getting down if the results aren’t there this season.

Manuel also listed the estimated times of arrival for the prospects, putting Montero and d’Arnaud at 2014, Smith at 2017, and Syndergaard at 2015, although that is likely a typo, as the consensus is he will make his debut in June, July, or August.

The 25th edition of the list was topped by Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton, with Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, a postseason hero last year, coming in at number two, retaining his rookie status. Recent Yankees signee Masahiro Tanaka was fourth.

Other notable NL East prospects to make the list included Philadelphia’s Michael Franco (17), Washington’s Lucas Giolito (21), and Miami’s Andrew Heaney (30). The Mets had more prospects than the other four teams in the division, beating out the Marlins (3), the Phillies (3) the Braves (2), and the Nationals (1).

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2014 Player Projection: Travis d’Arnaud, Catcher http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/player-projection-travis-darnaud-catcher.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/player-projection-travis-darnaud-catcher.html/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 14:00:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=148136 Welcome to my annual player projection series. In this series, I will try to take a swing at estimating how each Met will do in the upcoming season. As the results of last year’s projections will tell you, I won’t be too accurate. So much happens over the course of a baseball season that without access to heavy data, (and the time and programming knowledge to analyze it), that even well thought-out projections could look laughable at the end of a season. Nonetheless, it is a great way to discuss in detail about each player. How will I go about doing this? Here are some of the tools I will use.

  1. Historical statistics of each player
  2. Computer Projections (Steamer, ZiPS, etc.)
  3. Indicators (xFIP, HR/FB, BABIP, Pitch f/x etc.)
  4. Visual analysis (Swing/Pitch mechanics and trends)
  5. News and notes

Hopefully, we’ll be able to get to each player this year. Enjoy the series!

Travis d’Arnaud, C

Photo: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are a team filled with promising young prospects, ones they hope will carry them to a winning future. One of the most important pieces for this year and beyond is Travis d’Arnaud, a 25 year-old catcher and top-rated prospect.

d’Arnaud was ranked the 30th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America before last season, and was the top position player prospect in the Met farm system. He was due to receive significant playing time with the big league club, but after fracturing a bone in his foot in an April Triple-A game, that got pushed back. After a few setbacks, he was finally able to join the Mets in mid-August, when he would take over for the soon-to-be-traded John Buck.

In 112 plate appearances with the Mets, d’Arnaud struggled, posting a .202/.286/.263 slash line, ending the season with just four extra base-hits.

There were some bright spots for the young catcher, however, as he impressed the coaching staff and pitchers with his game-calling ability and certain aspects of his defensive game. Specifically, he did an impressive job with pitch-framing, and, as ESPN’s Mark Simon and Adam Rubin pointed out, was among some of the best pitch-framers in baseball during his short time with the team.

Although he struggled at the dish, there is still plenty of optimism surrounding d’Arnaud. For one, the sample size from last year is very small, so small that he will maintain his rookie status this year. That sample size may have also been his adjustment period after his injury, playing 20 minor league games, most of them below Triple-A. While this may seem like I’m making excuses for d’Arnaud, it’s more so pointing out the circumstances in which those sliver of at-bats were a part of. He may have hit terribly in his limited time, but that hasn’t dismayed any of the scouts that have raved about him in the past.

To get a good idea of d’Arnaud’s potential, I’ve compiled a few snippets from expert reports on him.

John Sickels (Minor League Ball):

Offensively, his best tool is power. He was rather impatient early in his career but has made progress with the strike zone. He looked dramatically improved in that department for Vegas this spring and summer, when he wasn’t hurt anyway. His power usually comes when he pulls the ball, although he is more willing to take something the opposite way than he was earlier in his career.

I don’t see him as a .300 hitter at the major league level, but he should be good for a solid .250-.270 range, with an adequate OBP and better-than-average power. He could exceed those projections in his peak seasons.

Although I don’t see him in the Buster Posey or Joe Mauer class of superstar catcher, d’Arnaud produces quality play on both sides of the ball. If he can avoid getting hurt too often, d’Arnaud will be a fixture in the Mets lineup for years to come,

Mark Anderson/Brett Sayre (Baseball Prospectus):

D’Arnaud is a complete catching prospect, and the only thing standing between him and several All-Star appearances is his ability to stay healthy and on the field. Offensively, d’Arnaud has plus bat speed and a knack for hard contact that should allow him to hit at least .280 in the big leagues once he settles in. He likes to swing the bat and will chase out of the strike zone at times, but he demonstrates just enough restraint for his natural hitting ability to shine through. When he makes contact, he consistently drives the ball to all fields and has the potential to pop 18-22 home runs and around 30 doubles at his peak.

D’Arnaud does a good job of receiving the baseball, handling velocity and secondary pitches with aplomb and demonstrating an ability to block pitches in the dirt. He isn’t fast, but his feet work quickly behind the plate, and he can get in position to unleash his plus arm with ease. D’Arnaud has consistently popped in the sub-2.0 second range, making him a threat to control the running game. Overall, d’Arnaud owns a robust skill set that will play on both sides of the ball. His ceiling stands squarely in the plus regular range and he could be a perennial All-Star when it all comes together.

Jim Callis (MLB.com):

The 24-year-old d’Arnaud stands out the most for his prowess at the plate, and he keeps getting better and better. A career .286/.347/.476 hitter in the Minors, he has boosted his OPS from .726 in high Class A to .906 in Double-A to .990 in Triple-A. d’Arnaud’s best pure tool is his above-average right-handed power, which he generates with a combination of bat speed and strength, and he could smash 20 homers annually in the Major Leagues.

d’Arnaud shows a feel for hitting as well, and his compact swing and all-fields approach should translate to solid batting averages as well. He could stand to draw a few more walks, but he has made progress with his plate discipline as he has risen through the Minors. d’Arnaud very well could produce .275/.340/.500 lines year in and year out in the Major Leagues.

Yes, even after the injury, experts are still high on d’Arnaud, even, as we see with Callis’ thoughts, after his hitting woes last season.

The computer projections are just as, if not more optimistic than the prospect experts. While it’s still early for projections to come out as rosters aren’t quite set, the ones that are out have d’Arnaud as an above-average starter this year. Here’s a look at what the Steamer projections have him doing:

105 G, 428 PA, 13 HR, 8.3 BB%, 18.9 K%, .254/.320/.418, 2.6 fWAR

This is interesting, as it has d’Arnaud missing some time. Projections are never good for predicting injury, so what will it be if it is averaged out to 140 games?

140 G, 570 PA, 17 HR, 8.3 BB%, 18.9 K%, .254/.320/.418, 2.8 fWAR

That’s a very good season, especially for a catcher. In last year’s rankings, that fWAR of 2.8 would be 11th among MLB catchers, and his home run total would be ninth. Now let’s look at the Oliver projections:

143 G, 600 PA,16 HR, 9.0 BB%, 24.7 K%, .241/.312/.397, 3.1 fWAR

This projection is interesting, as it has d’Arnaud having a worse offensive season than what the Steamer numbers say, but also having a higher overall value. Looking deeper, that’s because Oliver has him six runs better defensively.

Finally, we have the always-conservative ZiPS projections. For some reason, these always undershoot, so bear that in mind:

336 PA, 9 HR, 7.4 BB%, 24.1 K%, .245/.307/.392, 1.6 zWAR

Averaged out to 550 PA: 15 HR, 7.4 BB%, 24.1 K%, .245/.307/.392, 2.6 zWAR

Even these projections, which have David Wright accumulating just a 4.4 WAR next season, are rather optimistic on d’Arnaud. Both the scouts and the sabermetricians agree: d’Arnaud is due for a solid season.

Given a full spring training with a roster spot in-hand, as well as a full, injury-free offseason, I don’t see any reason not to be optimistic for d’Arnaud this year. His defensive abilities are there, and although he didn’t show it in limited time last year, his hitting is too. Just because of the dimensions of Citi Field and having to go through a full-season, I’m going to be a little conservative on the power numbers, but still within the range of the computer projections. However, I’d like to come full circle and talk about d’Arnaud’s pitch framing one last time.

Measuring a catcher’s worth is still difficult for statisticians when it comes to defense. d’Arnaud’s pitch framing abilities as well as his game-calling have been lauded by the Mets coaching staff and pitchers. Neither of those are incorporated into WAR as of now, so he adds intangible value as well, or at least that’ what has been the case so far.

Tangibly or intangibly, this season looks to be a strong one for the young catcher.

MMO 2014 Projection:

550 PA, 15 HR, 8.0 BB%, 22.0 K%, .245/.310/.405, 2.8 fWAR

mmo

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Discussing ETAs of Keith Law’s Top Ten Mets Prospects http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/discussing-etas-of-keith-laws-top-ten-mets-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/discussing-etas-of-keith-laws-top-ten-mets-prospects.html/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:16:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=147669 Keith Law came out with his annual prospect rankings series recently, including his overall top 100, and his organizational rankings, both of which were rather surprising to some Mets fans. While the list itself has been gone over with a fine tooth comb, probably the most important thing hasn’t been discussed: when will these prospects actually help the major league team?

With a team that will be relying in the coming years on many of their top prospects, this question is by far the most important. Let’s take a look at Law’s list through this particular lens.

noah syndergaard

Top Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard

1. Noah Syndergaard

At 24, after dominating High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, it appears Syndergaard is likely moving up again. Even though he pitched well at both levels, he finished the season with only 54 innings in Binghamton under his belt, meaning a Triple-A promotion could be seen as rather aggressive if it comes right out of spring training. Regardless, there is no question that he will start off in Las Vegas this year, and the real issue will be when he comes up to the big league club.

Zack Wheeler was in a similar situation to Syndergaard’s last year, having made only six starts in Triple-A in 2012. He ended up pitching 68.2 (for a total of 101.2 Triple-A innings) last season, getting a promotion in mid-June. Looking back at how they treated Matt Harvey, the organization may take a more conservative approach. Harvey started 2012 with no Triple-A experience, and tossed 110 innings before being promoted in July. For Syndergaard, the decision, unless he is dominating Triple-A, will probably not hinge on the Super Two deadline, and a timeline closer to Harvey’s is his most likely path.

2. Travis d’Arnaud

Having played a month with the Mets last season, there is no question that d’Arnaud will be the starting catcher from the get go. The organization is betting on him being the catcher of the future.

3. Dominic Smith

It’s extremely hard to project when an 18 year-old will debut, let alone what he will become, but so far, Smith has earned himself an aggressive promotion this year, possibly even to Single-A Savannah or High-A St. Lucie, skipping short-season Low-A Brooklyn altogether. However, as Law noted, he is not the kind of player that is going to jump levels quickly, at least not until his power develops. This seems to fit the organizational philosophy as well, as Sandy Alderson has been conservative with promoting players. Smith will likely make his debut in 2016, although he may not see significant time until 2017.

montero

4. Rafael Montero

This is a very tricky one, and depends on how well he pitches in the spring, as well as the health of other pitchers. Montero will be competing with Jenrry MejiaJohn Lannan, and others for the fifth starter spot. After seeing Mejia pitch well in a very limited sample size, the Mets may want to get a good look at him first. Mejia may be the most intriguing fifth starter candidate with his injury-riddled past after being so highly-touted as a prospect.

If Mejia falters or another pitcher gets injured, then Montero will get the promotion. Montero already has 88.2 Triple-A innings under his belt, so there is no need to keep him there much longer. If he is pitching really well, even if Mejia is still healthy, they could expand the rotation to six pitchers just as they did last year with Wheeler.

5. Brandon Nimmo

Nimmo was the biggest surprise on Law’s top 100 prospects list, coming in at 92. Law touted his ability to get on base, which, despite a wrist injury that Nimmo says altered his swing even after coming back, flourished,  shown by his excellent .397 on-base percentage. If he can develop some type of power (which doesn’t always show itself in age 20 seasons), he could move to a corner spot (which Law says he would be a plus-defender at), and move up much faster. Otherwise, the process will probably be slow for Nimmo, who, depending on how he hits this season, could make his debt in late 2015 or early 2016.

6. Kevin Plawecki

Plawecki had a huge breakout campaign this past season, showing power and a knack for getting on base in time with Savannah and St. Lucie. Posting an .884 OPS in Savannah, and a .783 OPS in St. Lucie is quite impressive for a catcher. Although he did lose the early-season power he saw with Savannah once getting his promotion, most signs point towards a positive future for the young catcher.

Plawecki’s timetable may be altered by how well Travis d’Arnaud plays on the major league level. If he is a success, and the team has faith that Plawecki could do the same, he may be converted to first base, which would likely delay his debut to late next season. If not, he will still certainly come up in 2015 (barring injury), but an early-season or mid-season debut could be in order.

7. Dilson Herrera

Herrera is still in the low rungs of the minor leagues, and even with his above-average power for his age and position, he isn’t likely to be a fast-mover. If the Mets try him out at shortstop again, which team officials have said they’ve considered in the past, his path may be even slower.

With a move to St. Lucie coming this year, I’d say he debuts in late 2016, either at shortstop or second base.

8. Wilmer Flores

As with d’Arnaud, Flores has already played at the major league level. Even so, the Mets may choose to send him to Triple-A to start the season if the team can’t find a roster spot for him. It’s hard to believe that a team would send someone who hit .321/.357/.531 last season in Triple-A back, hitter-friendly park or not. At worst, Flores will end up in a utility role, splitting his time between first, second, and third, and likely stepping in as the starter if David WrightDaniel Murphy, or Lucas Duda get hurt.

9. Cesar Puello

Puello’s performance-enhancing drug suspension brought into question the validity of his incredible season in Double-A, and in doing so threw off his path to the majors. Puello got 377 plate appearances in 91 games with Binghamton last year, putting up a fantastic .326/.403/.547 slash line with 16 homers and 24 stolen bases. While he had put up solid numbers in the past considering his age and experience, Puello had never come close to the numbers he put up in 2013, also the year he was connected with PEDs. Coincidence? Too early to tell.

Either way, Puello’s time in Double-A is over, so expect to see him sometime in September or early next year.

10. Amed Rosario

Scouts say to avoid looking at last year’s numbers and just look at the tools, which are raw, but nonetheless there with Rosario. However, the 18 year-old shortstop played 58 games in Kingsport last year, an aggressive assignment for a first-year international signee. This isn’t the type of player that will skip over levels in consecutive years, so he will likely end up in Brooklyn this year. Projecting a debut for someone this young and this undeveloped is a hopeless task, but Rosario is still a long way away, and a debut some time in 2018 is the best estimate right now.

(Photos by Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

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Debunking Three Myths About Sabermetrics http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/debunking-three-myths-about-sabermetrics.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/debunking-three-myths-about-sabermetrics.html/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 01:27:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=138981

There has always been a perceived tension between pro-analytics baseball fans and anti-analytics fans. The battle is already over and done with in front offices, as both have been able to coexist, but there are still fans who disagree. Really, most of the disagreements are caused by ignorance towards the other side or just a lack of knowledge. For people to understand sabermetrics, they must get past some of the biggest myths. Here are a few of those myths, debunked.

Myth #1: We ignore human emotion and intangibles.

Absolutely false. Intangibles, clubhouse chemistry, and more are all part of the thought process of a sabermetric front office (and the ideal sabermetric fan). Look at Paul DePodesta, known by some traditionalists as anti-intangibles, he talked non-stop after the draft about how he loved the personalities of some of the organization’s draft picks. He says it is a big part of how he drafts, even with the Mets being one of the most sabermetric teams in the game.

When you look at traditional statistics, it doesn’t incorporate intangibles or emotion either. Neither traditional nor sabermetric stats do, so it’s not just a sabermetric problem. Every organization has their own method for evaluating players, with some weighing personality, intangibles, and clubhouse chemistry more than others. That has existed much longer than sabermetrics has.

Myth #2: It’s all about the numbers — and nothing else.

Sabermetrics-BreakdownThis covers a bit of the first point, but also enters another important topic: scouting. Some think that sabermetric teams (which now includes all but one or two teams in baseball) don’t emphasize scouting, or rely too much on their metrics.

I can’t tell you how a front office operates in that regard, but I can tell you that as someone who embraces sabermetrics, I value scouting.

Just as statistics can be predictive of a player’s future success, a scout can see the mechanics of a hitter’s swing and see unlimited potential, even when the numbers might say otherwise. Sometimes it’s the players that don’t succeed at first, but go on to have great careers.

While some may think statisticians don’t take anything but numbers into account (They think this because former players never become analysts, they become scouts), it’s simply untrue.

Myth #3: The stats are subjective.

Here is where the importance of being informed comes in (if it hadn’t already). The purpose of sabermetrics is to look at the game of baseball in the least subjective way possible. The goal isn’t to take human emotion out of the game, but to take human emotion out of the way we evaluate the game.

There are often players who are “counted out” and cast aside. Take Josh Satin, for example. Satin didn’t receive any significant big league playing time until he was 28 years old, mostly due to his age. Satin played four years in college, and wasn’t aggressively promoted. That meant he eventually fell out of “prospect” status and was never promoted. He put up minor league numbers on par with David Wright‘s, yet he didn’t get a promotion until many years later. That’s what sabermetrics looks to eliminate. Players who are too fat, too old, too short, have unique/complicated mechanics, are frequently not given an opportunity. It really doesn’t matter if players have these traits if they can provide the same production as a “normal” player.

Back to the point. People tend to look at the coefficients of a statistic like wOBA (weighted On Base Average) and say it’s subjective, that the creator of the stat just chose the coefficients. But why would a group of people who strive to be as least subjective as possible arbitrarily choose coefficients to put into their equations? That answer is: they don’t.

Take my example of wOBA. The equation changes slightly every year, but here is the equation from the 2012 season:

wOBA = (0.691×uBB + 0.722×HBP + 0.884×1B + 1.257×2B + 1.593×3B +
2.058×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

Those numbers may seem random, but they are actually based on run expectancy, or how a particular event influence’s a team’s chances of scoring, which is what baseball is all about.

Slugging percentage tries to value events, but only does so for hits, and itself values the hits subjectively.

Is a team with a man on third three times as likely to score as a team who only has a man on first? Over one hundred years of baseball tell us no. Notice how an unintentional walk (uBB) isn’t worth the same as a single. This is because runners on base only advance one base (and only on a force) when the batter walks, while runners often advance multiple bases when the batter hits a single. This difference is statistically significant, and it is taken into account in this stat. See how this is all starting to come together?

* * * * * * * * *

There is a stigma surrounding analytics in baseball, just as there is in the rest of the non-sports world. People don’t like to believe that what they see (or how they perceive what they think) could be wrong.

It’s why people working for financial companies get frustrated when their economists put out bad projections, even when the economy is thriving. It’s really not about choosing one side or the other. It’s about acknowledging the pros and cons of each and using what you can see and what you can’t see together. That’s the best way to evaluate a baseball team.

mmo

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Mike Piazza and Faith in Hall of Fame Voting http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mike-piazza-and-faith-in-hall-of-fame-voting.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mike-piazza-and-faith-in-hall-of-fame-voting.html/#comments Sat, 04 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=138834 Another year, another batch of worthy players kept from the Hall of Fame.

As of January 3, according to Baseball Think Factory, only four players, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Craig Biggio, have appeared on 75 percent of publicly-released Hall of Fame ballots in one of the strongest classes in history. Approximately one-fifth of all ballots have been released.

Could Piazza be snubbed from the Hall again?

Of all the projected Hall of Fame snubs, the one that hits closest to home among Mets fans is certainly Mike Piazza. For fans of both the Dodgers and Mets, he seems like a clearly-deserving candidate. However, some voters, almost 30 percent so far, have left Piazza off their ballots. A few voters have kept Piazza off their ballots based on merit, arguing that in a year where the ballot is full of all-time greats, Piazza wasn’t great enough. However, although there are some voters for whom being far and away the best hitter at a position just isn’t enough, most voters who have left Piazza out have done so because of steroid suspicion.

Of all the players on this year’s ballot, only one, Rafael Palmeiro, has ever officially failed a drug test (Sammy Sosa reportedly failed an anonymous drug test in 2003, but it was never officially confirmed by Major League Baseball) . Only one other player, Mark McGwire, has admitted to it. There are suspicions about others, but no one else has been proven guilty. Players like Piazza and Craig Biggio, each deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame, have been punished simply because they played in the same era as suspected cheatersThis is voting at its ugliest.

I have always thought that players who have cheated do not belong in the Hall of Fame. A few years ago, had I been given a vote, suspected players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would not have been on my ballot. However, Piazza’s situation over the past two years has changed my thinking. The attempts to keep  cheaters out of the Hall, at the expense of clean players, has gotten way out of hand.

To punish steroid users, and mostly suspected ones at that, is hypocritical of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It will be the first time players will be kept out of Cooperstown en masse based on the “integrity clause.” To keep steroid users out of the Hall would be to not acknowledge the racists, bigots, criminals, drunks, and drug abusers already enshrined. The writers will vote for players who have a well-documented history of those offenses, but if there is any suspicion of a player using steroids, they won’t get votes? That’s not right. Maybe those voters would have some ground to stand on if we knew for sure who cheated, but with players like Piazza and Biggio getting snubbed, they have lost me.

Ty Cobb once  climbed into the stands to beat up a handicapped fan. It’s even rumored that he once beat a man to death with the handle of a pistol. Some Hall of Famers cheated on their wives. Others were viciously racist. Numerous players even admitted to using “greenies,” since banned by Major League Baseball, in their playing days. Gaylord Perry, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and Whitey Ford, all Hall of Famers were notorious for throwing illegal spitballs.

As much as I’d like integrity and character to be a part of the voting process, it hasn’t been done for the 75 years the Hall of Fame has existed. If the Hall was started all over again, then I would understand the fight to keep cheaters out. But now, after decades of voting in cheaters and generally bad people, suddenly deciding to embark on a massive witch hunt that keeps players out because of back acne and hat sizes is completely unfair. The Hall of Fame doesn’t have to be perfect, just as its members aren’t.

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Nelson Cruz Is Not The Answer For The Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/nelson-cruz-is-not-the-answer-for-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/nelson-cruz-is-not-the-answer-for-the-mets.html/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 18:30:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=134082 Even after last week’s signing of Chris Young, the Met outfield is still in dire circumstances. Although they have two starters set in place in Juan Lagares and Young, neither of them are sure bets at the plate. With the Mets presumably sticking with either Lucas Duda or Ike Davis at first base for next year, significant upgrades need to be made to shortstop and a corner outfield position (unless the Mets get even more creative than that) to improve power numbers.

Last season, the Mets ranked 27th in baseball in ISO with a .129 mark. They were also 26th in home runs with 130 and 29th with a .366 slugging percentage. While their overall offensive production was slightly better, ranking 23rd in wRC+, there wasn’t too much there to brag about in terms of hitting. While Chris Young, with a career ISO of .196 and .431 slugging percentage, will improve the offense, he alone or himself coupled with players like him probably still won’t put the offense where it needs to be. To do that, the team needs a major upgrade in the outfield.

One name that has been floated around as a candidate for the Mets outfield has been Nelson Cruz. The 33 year-old, who has spent most of his career with t he Texas Rangers playing right field, was in the middle of a career-best season in 2013 before getting suspended in the Biogenesis scandal in July. Baseball insiders predict he will get three to four years with an average annual value of anywhere from $12 to $20 million and with Jhonny Peralta‘s four-year, $53 million pact signed earlier this winter, probably closer to the top of those ranges.

On the surface, Cruz seems like a perfect candidate for the Mets. He has a career ISO of .228 and is coming off five straight seasons of at least 22 home runs. He is someone who can immediately be plugged into the middle of the Met lineup, immediately improving the offense’s home run capabilities. However, the other area’s of Cruz’s game make him a far less attractive option than some might suggest.

Nelson Cruz is a well below-average defender. Fielding Bible’s Defensive Runs Saved has him at minus 21 runs over the past three seasons in right field alone, and UZR has him at minus 14.1 runs compared to league average. On top of that, his baserunning has gotten progressively worse as Cruz has dropped to three runs below average. That’s not devastating, but it certainly isn’t going to get better for a 33 year-old that also happens to weight 230 pounds. The fact that he’s played 130 or more games once in the past five seasons doesn’t help his case either. All that added together puts Cruz at just 1.3 wins above replacement level, not even close to a player who will likely receive $15 million annually.

At best, Cruz is only a role player. If the Mets were an American League team, he would be a decent fit as a designated hitter. But in the outfield on a four year deal? Forget it. The Mets are much better off going after another free agent or even giving up prospects in a trade.

*Explanations of ISO, wRC+, DRS, and UZR (Fangraphs)

**All stats courtesy of Fangraphs

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Mets Can Still Get Creative With Trade Market http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mets-can-still-get-creative-with-trade-market.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mets-can-still-get-creative-with-trade-market.html/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 18:00:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133598 wilpon alderson sandyIt was a little disappointing for Mets fans last week when John Harper of the New York Daily News reported that Sandy Alderson would have a spending limit this offseason somewhere in the range of $25 to $30 million. While Jeff Wilpon came out later in the week, calling the spending cap a flexible one, this figure is significantly less than the $35 to $40 million that was originally tossed around.

With four to five major holes to fill, the Mets will certainly need to get creative. They already spend $7.25 million of their available funds signing Chris Young to man a corner outfield spot, solving one problem. However, if the front office wants to sign Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson, or a similar outfielder of their caliber, it will likely cost an additional $12 to $15 million, leaving them with less than $10 million to find a shortstop, a starting pitcher, and bullpen help.

It appears to be almost impossible to fill the holes on the Met roster with quality players through free agency exclusively, at least with the current salary restrictions the Mets are under. However, the trade market seems as active as it’s been in years, with a few major deals already taking place, including the swap of Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler. The Mets may be able to stay within their salary restraints if they use this market to their advantage, which will require some creativity.

The Mets have two players that can be dealt to free up sizable money: Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis. Murphy is projected to make $5.8 million through arbitration, while Davis is projected to receive $3.5 million. Together, the Mets can get $9.3 million off the books by dealing these two, canceling out the money spent on Young, and even adding a few extra million to Sandy Alderson’s funds. In the spirit of the offseason, with new rumors flying hour after hour, I put together a few trade proposals that could help keep the front office under its budget constraints (spending half or even less of what it would cost to fill the same need through free agency) while still significantly improving the team,.

These are just some rough ideas to get my point across. I’m sure some of these trades are ridiculously one-sided, but they are good starting points. Who is untouchable? Who would you target through the trade market? What needs would you rather spend free agent dollars on? Sound off in the comments section!

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Mets Get Bargain With Chris Young http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mets-get-bargain-with-chris-young.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mets-get-bargain-with-chris-young.html/#comments Sat, 23 Nov 2013 01:41:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133501

The Mets got a low-risk, high reward outfielder in Chris Young.

The Mets surprised the baseball world by making their first major league free agent signing of the offseason, inking outfielder Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million contract. The Mets now get a right (or left, depending on who else they acquire) fielder for Opening Day. While $7.25 million may seem to some like an overpay, especially considering Young batted a career-worst .200 this season with Oakland, this deal may actually be looked at, when it’s all set and done, as a steal for the Mets.

Young, 30, was sent to the Athletics before this season in the three-team deal that sent him to Oakland, Heath Bell and Cliff Pennington to Arizona, and Yordy Cabrera to the Marlins. Young’s numbers had been boosted slightly by the hitter-friendly Chase Field, adding roughly 70 points to his OPS away from Arizona. Nonetheless, he was a threat no matter where he went. From 2007 through 2012, Young averaged 22 home runs, 18 stolen bases, and a .239/.318/.438 slash line, coming out to a 95 OPS+. His stolen base threat and baserunning skills made him an above average offensive player. In fact, Young provided Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field, and although he will likely play a corner outfield spot with the Mets, it i believed that his defensive skills will transfer over to wherever he plays.

This season, hampered by injuries and getting inconsistent playing time, Young badly struggled. He finished the year with a meager .200/.280/.379 slash line with 12 home runs and ten stolen bases in 375 plate appearances. It’s easy to get down on the Young signing for this season, but there is even more to be optimistic about. Young’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) dropped to .239, 39 points below the .278 mark he had up until last year. This probably wasn’t due to any major mechanical changes in his swing. Young’s batted ball breakdown, walk, and strikeout numbers indicate that he is the same hitter he always was. Take a look:

chris young hitter profile

There are a few minor changes, but that’s what you’d have to expect. He isn’t all of a sudden striking out seven or eight percent more than ever before.

Young’s projections for next season look promising, and have him pinned as someone who will be well worth his $7.25 million salary. The Steamer projections have him hitting 14 home runs, stealing ten bases, and hitting .228/.315/.408 in only 434 games. Project the home run and stolen base totals out to 550 plate appearances and he has totals of 18 and 13. Spread out his projected 1.8 fWAR over 550 plate appearances and his value is up to 2.3 wins, worth more like $11 or $12 million as opposed to $7.25. Keep in mind he is 30, not 35, so this kind of season is more than possible. In fact, with Young’s track record, he is more likely to bounce back than to flop.

In comparison to other deals being signed, this one is a bargain. Marlon Byrd signed with the Phillies for two-years and $16 million, with a third year vesting option. Keep in mind that Byrd turned 36 in August and put together what was likely somewhat of a fluke. His .847 OPS was the highest of his career. That’s not sustainable for a 36 year-old, even in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park. Cody Ross signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Diamondbacks last offseason going into his age 32 season. Keep in mind that Ross has a career OPS+ of just 105 (and a 106 wRC+), meaning he is only five percent above average at the plate.While Young is slightly below average for his career in terms of wRC+ and OPS+, he brings so much more to the table on the basepaths and with his glove than Ross. In his best season, Ross had a 3.5 fWAR, while Young’s best is 4.5. Even Ryan Ludwick, in the middle of a rapid decline, got two years and $15 million before his age 34 season. Both of these players were older than Young and got more money, despite being as good at best as Chris Young.

Hypothetically, if Young had a similar season to the one he had in 2011, or even the one he had in 2012 going into a free agency year, he would certainly get close to what Nelson Cruz or Curtis Granderson will get this offseason. And the one-year commitment, although I would have liked to see an option year attached, doesn’t commit too much to Young who, despite the great case for him, is a risk. You can’t pay under $10 million for a starting outfielder and not expect some kind of flaw and with Young it’s the risk that he brings. He will bring as much, if not more to the table than Marlon Byrd would and at worst case, the Mets feel they won’t be able to re-sign him and they trade him at the trade deadline to a team desperate for outfield help. If the signing does work out, Young could be a contributing piece to a surprisingly-decent 2014 Mets team.

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Changes, Changes: My Offseason Plan For The New York Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/changes-changes-my-offseason-plan-for-the-new-york-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/changes-changes-my-offseason-plan-for-the-new-york-mets.html/#comments Sun, 27 Oct 2013 13:00:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131779 Sandy Alderson 2The Mets have a few glaring needs going into this offseason. Despite the numerous promising young players rising through the minor leagues and onto the 40-man roster, there are a few positions that will need to be filled for the team to be competitive in 2014 and beyond. The foundation seems to be there, with an emphasis on young pitching. Third base is locked up, catcher and center field look promising, and the bullpen has young hard-throwing arms that could minimize the amount the team needs to spend in that area going forward.

For my plan, I limited myself to a payroll of about $90 million, give or take a little bit. The Mets had a payroll of $93 million last season, which means they would technically be cutting payroll. It’s actually unclear whether they will actually get to $90 million, but for the purposes of discussion, we will set it at that. Frankly, despite a valuation putting the Mets at $2 billion, I am still not convinced the Wilpons are going to fork over enough money to fill the Mets’ holes.

Current Obligations

Here is a breakdown of the money the Mets owe to current and former players next season.

current obligaions

Arbitration Eligibles

The Mets face a few tough choices to make in terms of arbitration. There are quite a few players that are teetering on the edge of being non-tendered. Here is a breakdown of who I would tender a contract to, before making any trades.

arb players

Scott Atchison: The Mets did not quite get what they wanted out of Atchison. After a dominant season with the Red Sox, he posted a 4.37 ERA, 3.75 FIP, and 4.02 xFIP. With his age, he just isn’t worth the $1.3 million he is projected to get through arbitration.

Justin Turner: Turner puts up a decent batting average but not much else. He has served his purpose, but a .260/.323/.361 line isn’t good enough for a significant bat bench getting 200 plate appearances per season, even if he only makes $800,000.

Trades

1. Trade Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada to the Tampa Bay Rays for Yunel Escobar
Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox - Game Two

On the Mets’ side, they get a solid shortstop at a good price. He put upleague average production last year, hitting .256/.332/.366 with a 97 OPS+ and 100 wRC+. That isn’t great (although it’s above average for a shortstop) but the real value comes from Escobar’s stellar defense. He has played ten runs or more above average three out of the last four seasons, including 17.5 runs above average in 2013. At best, Escobar is a four-win player and at worst he is worth 1.5 wins. Either way, his two $5 million club options over the next few years make him a very attractive option.

Net Salary Change: +$2.2 million

2. Trade Wilmer Flores, Gabriel Ynoa, and Hansel Robles to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Andre Ethier (Dodgers pay half of contract)

The Dodgers will reportedly be shopping both Ethier and Matt Kemp this winter, and it makes sense for the Dodgers to eat at least a portion of both of their salaries. Enter the Mets, who have prospects to spare. Given the right situation, giving up Wilmer Flores makes sense, and this is definitely one of them. Ethier is signed for the next four years at $71.5 million. However, if the Dodgers pay half to ship him off, suddenly the contract is a good value for the Mets, with Ethier’s salary ranging from $7.75 million in 2014 to just $9 million in 2017. Not bad for a three-win player.

Net salary change: +7.25 million

3. Trade Ike Davis to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later

Sorry Ike, but you’re time is up here. The Mets should tender him a contract to at least get something out of him, however much that may be. His value is rather unknown at this point, but he doesn’t fit into the plan.

Net salary change: -$3.5 mm

Free Agency

1. Sign Mike Napoli to a three-year, $39 million deal
Napoli originally got this very same contract from the Red Sox last offseason, but due to health concerns, it was negotiated down to just a one-year deal with a base salary of $5 million. While he strikes out at a high rate, he can handle first base better than Kendrys Morales, who would just be a more expensive version of Lucas Duda. A three year deal worth $13 million per year would be more than fair for Napoli, who will turn 32 at the end of the month.

2. Sign Corey Hart for one-year worth $5 million, with $3 million in possible incentives
When healthy, Hart is a 25 to 30 home run hitter who can get on base at a decent clip. His health concerns will lower his price, but the Mets could score big by signing him to an incentive-laden contract with a low base salary to man right field. In 2012, Hart hit .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs with the Brewers.

3. Sign Tim Stauffer for one-year and $1.5 million

Tim Stauffer is another player who, when healthy, is worth far more than what he might get as a free agent. The 32 year-old could be effective either in the rotation or out of the bullpen, depending on who steps up. Last year for the Padres he put up a 3.75 ERA in 69.2 innings.

4. Re-Sign LaTroy Hawkins for one-year, $2 million

Hawkins definitely earned a spot on the 2014 Mets, posting a 2.93 ERA over 70.2 innings. Soon to be 41, Hawkins still has the velocity to pitch a few more years.

Minor League Contracts

Scott Rice- You’d have to be crazy to not offer Rice a minor league contract at minimum after the year he had last season.

John Lannan- Lannon had been a solid rock in the Nationals rotation until 2012 when he was unexpectedly pushed aside to the minor leagues due to the plethora of depth the Nationals had. Lannan had a 4.00 ERA in 128 starts for the Nats in 2007 through 2012. Since then, he has been on an off in the minors, but could be a steal if he returns to old form.

Aaron Harang- Aaron Harang may have struggled badly last year, but he is still a bounce-back candidate for 2014. In 2011 and 2012, he combined for a 3.62 ERA in 350.1 innings.

James McDonald- Another bounce-back candidate who could provide depth for the Met rotation is James McDonald. McDonald, 29, had a 4.10 ERA coming into this year in over 120 appearances until the wheels fell of in spectacular fashion this year. Nonetheless, McDoonald, unlike some of these other signings, is still relatively young and could easily bounce back.

Yorvit Torrealba- The Mets need a backup catcher, and Torrealba fits what they need: a cheap veteran. This isn’t where the Mets need to spend any more than the minimum, as Juan Centeno may make the team over any veteran that is signed.

Clint Barmes- Barmes would provide a solid backup up the middle.

Summary

Here is a breakdown of the proposed roster:

total plan salaries

In the end, I was able to put together a team with a total salary of $88.1 million, slightly below my original self-imposed cap. Under this plan, with major upgrades at shortstop, first base, and both corner outfield positions, as well as added depth to the starting rotation, the Mets could certainly compete for a playoff spot. In addition, keeping all but two significant prospects would still have the organization in good shape going forward, with the possibility of continued improvement after the debuts of Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Hopefully it will be a busy offseason for the Mets as they look to build on the foundation of young players currently in the organization.

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Is a Kazmir-Mets Reunion Possible In 2014? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/is-a-kazmir-mets-reunion-possible-in-2014.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/is-a-kazmir-mets-reunion-possible-in-2014.html/#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 19:15:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128657

Scott Kazmir has resurrected his career with the Indians this season.

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Scott Kazmir will make his first career start against the Mets tonight, nine years, one month, and eight days after the Mets traded the budding prospect for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato. The trade will always be remembered as one of the worst in Mets history, as Kazmir went on to have four very good seasons for the Devil Rays-turned Rays. Meanwhile, Zambrano had a decent 2005, but one day after striking out Andruw Jones in 2006, jogged off the mound and into the clubhouse after facing just four batters, never to be seen again, at least not in a Mets uniform.

After a few years with the Rays, however, the concerns that led the Mets to trade Kazmir flared up. He didn’t go deep into starts. He got repeatedly injured. In 2009, the roller coaster that was his career took a whole new turn. After posting a 5.92 ERA in the first half, he was dealt to the Angels where, at 25 years old, it became evident that his career was in danger. Over the next four years, Kazmir made only 55 starts, posting an ERA of 5.54 and striking out a little more than six batters per nine innings.

This season, the Clevland Indians took a chance on the journeyman lefty, signing him to a minor league deal, one which has paid off tenfold for the Indians. After winning the fifth starter job out of spring training, Kazmir now has a 4.36 ERA over 130 innings. Even more impressive, he has seen his velocity rise back into the mid-90s. When he auditioned for scouts in 2012, his fastball was clocked around 86 to 87 miles per hour. This year, according to PitchF/X, he is averaging 93.54 on his four-seam fastball this season.

With Matt Harvey‘s injury opening a big void in the Met rotation, a reunion with Kazmir may make sense for the team. He is a step up from the Mike Pelfreys and Chris Youngs of the world, meaning he will be more of a sure thing, yet still cheap, allowing the Mets to address needs in the outfield, and at shortstop and third base without having to spend a large chunk of their budget on a replacement for Harvey.

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Mets Minors: Top Underrated Pitchers In The System http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/top-underrated-pitchers-in-the-mets-system.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/top-underrated-pitchers-in-the-mets-system.html/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 14:00:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128530 With pitchers Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard rising through the minor leagues and dominating along the way, the hype surrounding those at the top has blocked out some of the performances of lesser-known prospects, even with a fanbase as critical and attentive as the Mets’. Last week, Vinny took a look at some of the most underrated hitters in the Met system. Let’s take a look at some of the most underrated pitchers in the organization.

  • Miller Diaz- After bouncing around the Mets’ Rookie Ball affiliates for parts of four seasons, Diaz is having a breakout season for Low-A Brooklyn. The hard-throwing righty has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. He doesn’t have good enough control to stick as a starter, but he has the tools to be a very good relief pitcher down the road. This year, he has a 2.01 ERA in Brooklyn, striking out 11.8 batters per nine and walking 4.3 in 62.2 innings. His ERA and WHIP are both among the league leaders and Diaz’s 82 strikeouts leads all NYPL pitchers.
  • Chris Flexen- Flexen has put up gaudy numbers for Kingsport this season. In his first full year, the 2012 14th-round pick has a 2.09 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 8.1 batters per nine and walking just 1.6. He has already tossed two complete game shutouts this season, and currently sits fourth in the Appalachian League in ERA. He has a decent low-90s fastball and secondary pitches, but his most impressive trait is his control, likely the reason the Mets took a flier on him in last year’s draft. Maybe this year’s dominance is a result of repeating Kingsport, but it’s certainly a promising sign when any young pitcher is competing for the ERA crown in his league while walking so few batters.
  • Matthew Bowman- Bowman, a 2012 13th-round pick, has already made quite an impression in his year and a half of professional pitching. The soon-to-be Princeton graduate (he will finish his degree this fall) is armed with four average pitches, with a changeup that could be above average eventually, and superb control. He has consistently gotten hitters out at every level he’s pitched, going form Brooklyn, to Savannah, to St. Lucie in one calendar year. This season, he has a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts with 116 strikeouts (8.2 K/9) and 35 walks (2.5 BB/9) in 127 innings. He is undersized at 6’0″ and less than 170 pounds, which may eventually force him to move to the bullpen, but Bowman could become a suitable back-of-the-rotation pitcher or middle reliever and make his debut sooner rather than later.
  • akeel morrisAkeel Morris- After blowing up last season with Kingsport, watching his ERA balloon to almost eight, Akeel Morris practically fell of the prospect map. A 10th-round pick out of the Virgin Islands in 2009, Morris had a solid first two seasons in professional ball, posting a combined 3.32 ERA between the Gulf Coast League and Kingsport, striking out over ten batters per nine innings. The big concern, however, was his control. In each season, he was walking well over six batters per nine, something that was going to catch up to him sooner or later. Although he brought his walk rate down to 5.2 in 2012, he fell apart, finishing with a 7.98 ERA in 38.1 innings. This season, Morris has flipped the script, putting up unbelievable numbers for Brooklyn mostly as a “piggybacker,” a long relief pitcher that comes in after a starter and is put on regular rest. Morris has brought his walks down further (4.6 BB/9), and has improved his already-incredible strikeout numbers. In 45 innings, he has 60 strikeouts (12.0 K/9), giving up only 29 hits (5.8 H/9) in the process.
  • Steven Matz- Anytime you get a lefty throwing in the upper 90s, heads are going to turn. Matz, 22, was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft. It took quite a while for him to actually get on the mound, as Tommy John Surgery delayed his arrival, and when he did arrive, we only got a short glimpse of what he could be last year with Kingsport. Even in a short time with Kingsport, however, earning a spot on the Baseball America Hot Sheet before going down with injury. He finished te year with a 1.55 ERA in six starts. This year, he has come back fully healthy and has been fantastic for Savannah. In 21 starts, he has a 2.62 ERA with 121 strikeouts (10.2 K/9) and 38 walks (3.2 BB/9) in 106.1 innings. Although his numbers may be boosted by the pitcher-friendly Grayson Stadium, he still has a 3.38 ERA on the road. With his stuff, he’s a keeper. You may not hear much about Matz now, but if he keeps this up, he will shoot up top prospect lists very quickly.

Check out more great information on the Mets’ minor league system over at MetsMinors.net.

Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst

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Prospect Spotlight: 2B Dilson Herrera http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/prospect-spotlight-2b-dilson-herrera.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/prospect-spotlight-2b-dilson-herrera.html/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 17:10:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128069 herrera

With Tuesday’s trade of Marlon Byrd and John Buck, the Mets got a very intriguing prospect from the Pirates, 19 year-old second base prospect Dilson Herrera.

Herrera is a converted third baseman out of Cartagena, Colombia who is three years into his professional baseball career, and in his second year playing in the U.S., after spending time in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011. He is listed at 5’10″ and 150 pounds, very small, even for a middle infielder. However, he has surprising power for his size.

It’s unusual enough to see a middle infielder hit with power like that at 18 and 19 years old, let alone someone of Herrera’s size doing it in leagues like the Gulf Coast League and South Atlantic League, where you normally don’t see much power. In addition, his walk rate at just below 8% is solid for a middle infielder. His strikeout rate has risen from 15.4% in the Venezuelan Summer League gradually up to 23%, where it sits right now. That’s a bit of a concern, but it’s not something to get too worried about at this point with Herrera being so young.

One of Herrera’s best tools is his speed, which many scouts rate a 60 on the 20-80 scale, making it a plus tool. Speed is odd because it peaks very early and lots of players with “plus” speed in the minors never end up stealing a ton of bases at the big league level. However, at this point expect him to be a 20-30 stolen base type player. He went 16-for-24 on stolen base attempts in 2011, 12-for-16 in 2012, and has gone 11-for-17 so far this season.

Despite being converted to second base, Herrera is improving at the position and could actually end up becoming an above-average second baseman.

Herrera represented the Pirates in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field last month, becoming the second-youngest player to ever play in the game.

Overall, Herrera is an underrated prospect with a good hit tool, speed, and solid power at a premium position. Not a bad return for a month of John Buck and Marlon Byrd.

What the experts say…

Jonathan Mayo:

Scouting Grades (present/future): Hit: 3/6 | Power: 3/5 | Run: 6/6 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/6 | Overall: 3/6

Some international prospects come to the United States and are, at least initially, overwhelmed. Not so for Herrera, who made his U.S. debut in 2012 and was among the Gulf Coast League leaders in a host of offensive categories. He continued his strong play in Class A West Virginia in 2013 until being traded to the Mets in August as a part of the deal that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pirates. While Herrera isn’t the biggest guy in the world, he’s shown he can really hit and projects to be an above-average hitter in the future, with more power than you’d expect from a guy his size. A well-above-average runner, the Colombian infielder should be able steal bases consistently, and that speed should also help him with his range as he continues to improve at second base.

Fangraphs Preseason:

If you’re looking for a player who could have a breakout season in 2013 similar to those of Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson from 2012, look no further than Herrera. The middle infielder generates surprising pop for his size, and that included 25 extra base hits in 60 short-season contests last season. The 19-year-old Colombian needs to tighten up his approach at the plate, including pitch recognition, if he’s going to hit for average as he moves up the ladder.

In the field, Herrera has a below average arm but has good actions and average-or-better range thanks to solid foot speed. He’s played third base, shortstop and second base in his young career but profiles best at the keystone. He should move up to full-season ball in 2013.

Baseball America:

Herrera hit .321 for short-season State College in 2012 and led the New York-Penn League with 22 extra-base hits, and despite a dip in his raw production this season at low Class A, he remains an intriguing prospect as an offensive-oriented second baseman. A compactly-built 5-foot-10, Herrera makes consistent line-drive contact and ought to develop at least average power to go with a solid average and on-base percentage. He lacks the type of flashy defensive tools to get a look at shortstop, though sticking at the keystone will be no problem thanks to solid range and quick hands. As such, South Atlantic League managers recently selected Herrera as the best defensive second baseman in the circuit.

Ben Badler on Twitter:

 

John Sickels:

Herrera is a right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 3, 1994. He’s not very tall at 5-10, but he is physically strong and generates good power given his size. His eye for the strike zone is uneven and he’s a rather aggressive hitter at this point, with a high strikeout rate. He is primarily a pull hitter at this stage of his career; he also has a strong platoon split, with an .829 OPS against southpaw pitchers but just .730 against right-handed moundsmen.

Defensively, he has good range around the bag at second base, but a mediocre arm precludes usage at shortstop and he’s never played a pro inning there.

Herrera will report to Savannah, where he will likely play out the season.

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