Mets Merized Online » André Dobiey http://metsmerizedonline.com Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:29:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Mets Pitching Is The Key To Beating Preseason Projections http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-pitching-is-the-key-to-beating-preseason-projections.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-pitching-is-the-key-to-beating-preseason-projections.html/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 14:15:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=147264 Even if it´s tough to believe for Mets fans, the reason for rather modest projections for 2014 is the lack of trust that analysts have in the – mostly unproven – Mets pitching staff.

The Fangraphs ZiPS projection is a good indicator for that. The entire projected opening day pitching staff (i.e. rotation of Niese – Colon – Wheeler – Gee – Mejia) projects to combine for a mere total of an 8 fWAR. Which is by far the worst projected pitching staff in the divisision, well behind the Marlins & Phillies (both 13 fWAR), Braves (20 fWAR) and Nationals (21 fWAR).

wright murphyMeanwhile, the Mets´ projected offense is a lot closer towards contender status at a combined 19 fWAR, well ahead of the Marlins (12 fWAR) and Phillies (15 fWAR) and barely behind the Braves (20 fWAR) and Nationals (23 fWAR).

And if you look back into the rear view mirror (something all projection systems heavily rely on), the Mets offense averaged 634.5 runs between 2012 & 2013 – with very similar rosters except for Marlon Byrd replacing Scott Hairston and the C position being in flux and CF traditionally unsettled. The Phillies averaged 647 runs (in a hitter friendlier park), the Marlins averaged a terrible 561 runs, the Nationals 693.5 and the Braves 694. So, the Mets were 60 runs away from leading the division in runs scored. Since 1 win takes 10 runs scored or not allowed, the Mets were about 6 wins away on offense from contending for the division crown.

Meanwhile, the pitching was a lot further away at an average of 696.5 runs allowed.

The Nats – on average – allowed 610 runs while the Braves merely allowed 574 runs. So, the Mets were between 86.5 and 122.5 – thus on average 104.5 runs or 10+ wins – off the league lead. Even the Marlins (685 runs allowed) were better and the Phillies – in a much tougher homepark – allowed only 714.5 runs on average – 28 more than the Mets staff´s averaged.

Scott Hairston (2012) & Marlon Byrd (2013) now get replaced by Curtis Granderson while Travis d’Arnaud takes over at catcher for Josh Thole (2012) and John Buck (2013). CF remains unsettled but now features Juan Lagares & Chris Young as the main options instead of the revolving door of 2013 and Kirk Nieuwenhuis & Andres Torres in 2012. The rest of the roster essentially returns, though it appears only one of Duda & Ike Davis will play regularly. All in all, if d´Arnaud is better than Buck & Thole were, while the CF also produce more, expecting the 2014 Mets to score at least 650 runs seems reasonable and thus a gain of 1 or 2 wins as it is, not expecting any breakouts from Ike or Tejada or regression from Wright and Murphy.

zack wheeler 2But it all comes down to the pitching. If the Mets staff gives up 695 or more runs again – and thus on average 100 more than the Nats & Braves figure to give up – they won´t make up the difference. If the Mets give up 50 runs less by pitching better, that´s good for 5 wins and a .500 season overall (650 RS vs. 645 RA). If the Mets give up 100 runs less by pitching much better – both in the rotation and bullpen – they would make up another 5+ games and would project to end up right around 86 or 87 wins. And if you happen to like the depth that the Mets will finally have on both their pitching staff (Montero, Syndergaard, young relievers, etc) and offensively (mainly Flores but also some fringy outfielders like Nieuwenhuis & MDD), the upside may even be a little higher compared to the 2012 and 2013 teams that both lacked quality depth behind the regulars.

To summarize, the Mets figure to have a middle of the pack offense in 2014 and going forward. Which isn´t too bad, considering that Citi Field plays about neutral to slightly pitcher friendly. If the pitching remains below average like it has been in 2012 and 2013, the Mets won´t crack .500 and certainly won´t contend. If the young arms perform and the veterans remain solid, this is the big area of upside – both rotation & bullpen – where the Mets could improve significantly.

Presented By Diehards

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Featured Post: Current Mets Minor League System Compared To 2009 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/featured-post-current-mets-minor-league-system-compared-to-2009.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/featured-post-current-mets-minor-league-system-compared-to-2009.html/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:52:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=139622 syndergaard montero nimmo

The Mets minor league system is now among the deepest in the majors. The Pirates have more “blue chip” types at the top for now, which makes a difference for most analysts. The Mets on the other hand, only have two “blue chips” in Noah Syndergaard & Travis d’Arnaud with Rafael Montero not having reached that status with the consensus yet (wrongfully so).

But if one of Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera or Amed Rosario takes a major step forward in 2014, Syndergaard remains rookie eligible, and a couple of young arms really step up (say, from group of Steven Matz, Michael Fulmer, Gabriel Ynoa, Chris Flexen, Robert Whalen, etc.), the Mets system may well be Top 5 in the game next winter. For now, it’s probably No.10 +/- range.

Here is a link to John Sickels’ Top 20 Mets Prospects, entering 2009, exactly five years ago. 

The biggest difference between our system then and our system now is that entering 2009 the Mets had only five prospects who Sickels considered as better than C+, while the Mets entering 2014 have 13 (!) prospects who Sickels considers as better than C+.

sickels

Seeing is believing…

With the Marlins having graduated their top two prospects Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich, the Mets now have the best minor league system in the NL East.

Though the Nationals, Marlins and Braves may have better high-end young talent on their major league roster right now, they’ll all have problems trying to retain those players beyond 2015.

The most positive aspect of the Mets system is its depth, especially in terms of power arms. To give you an example, 5 or 10 or 15 years ago, Jack Leathersich and Jeff Walters both would have been in the mid to back end of our Top 10 Mets prospects. Today, they are borderline Top 20s.

This system has come a long way.

mmo

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MMO Exclusive: Debunking A Myth http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mmo-exclusive-debunking-a-myth.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mmo-exclusive-debunking-a-myth.html/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 16:12:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133737 Debunking a myth – how the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A´s have built perennial contenders as small market teams

With the Mets caught in a massive financial restructuring and – apparently – unable and / or unwilling to compete for high-end free agents this winter, the Tampa Bay Rays & Oakland A´s are often referred to as models of how you can win with a small payroll.

And indeed, both teams have had stunning success over the past couple of years, both winning 90+ games in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. The Rays did it with payrolls in the $57 to $70 million range,  and the A´s with payrolls of $59 to $68 million. Meanwhile, our New York Mets  – who haven´t won 90+ games in back to back seasons since the days of Mike Piazza & Bobby Valentine in 1999 & 2000 – finished 74-88 in each of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. A closer look shows that with payrolls between $90 and $100 million in 12-13,  almost half of it was allotted to sunken costs like Jason Bay & Johan Santana, so essentially if you leave out those two relics, the Mets actually spent a bit less than the small market Rays & A´s, but that´s not the point of this post.

What I´ll try to explain is that there´s a myth that these two teams were supposedly built in a miraculous way of signing inexpensive scrap heap veteran players  that suddenly outperformed all expectations. This is wrong. Sure, both teams have rarely spent significant money on veteran relievers, realizing that this is a place where it´s more efficient to go cheap – be it from within or the scrap heap. And both did well with a couple of inexpensive free agent pickups, most notably the A´s with RHP Bartolo Colon and 1B/DH Brandon Moss, and the Rays with 1B James Loney. But those players were certainly not the reason they succeeded. It was mainly done via drafting or trading for prospects and developing them properly.

David-Price

1. How The Rays Were Built

The Rays M.O. has been to build around pitching recently. And that´s not only in terms of winning with pitching on the field but using pitching to the advantage of filling holes via trades.

Take a look at some of the key members of the 2012 / 2013 staffs:

LHP David Price – Drafted  # 1 overall in 2007

LHP Matt Moore – Drafted in round 8 in 2007

RHP Alex Cobb – Drafted in round 4 in 2006

RHP Jeremy Hellickson – Drafted in round 4 in 2005

LHP Jake McGee – Drafted in round 5 in 2004

RHP Chris Archer – Acquired as a prospect from from the Cubs in 2011 in exchange for young RHP Matt Garza (after 4 years of team control) who had been acquired with the Rays 2003 first round pick Delmon Young a few years earlier.

LHP Alex Torres – Acquired as a prospect out of High-A Ball from the Angels at the 2009 trade deadline for LHP Scott Kazmir (after 4 years of team control) who had been acquired for…, err, won’t get into that.

To summarize: This staff was mainly put together by strong drafting between 2004 and 2007 and by trading for prospects between 2009 and 2011.

Now, offensively, the Rays were more mix & match and not as deep structurally. That said, the M.O. remains similar:

3B Evan Longoria – Drafted  3rd overall in 2006 draft.

CF Desmond Jennings – Drafted in round 10 in 2006

IF/OF Ben Zobrist – Acquired as a prospect in 2006 from the Astros for former Rays All Star third baseman Aubrey Huff.

RF Wil Myers – Acquired as a top prospect in 2012 from the Royals for RHP James Shields (after 5 years of team control) who had been an undistinguished 16th round pick by the Rays in 2000; this trade has also brought in RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Mike Montgomery from KC who may eventually help the Rays pitching staff going forward.

LF Matt Joyce – Acquired as a prospect in 2008 by Rays for young RHP Edwin Jackson (after 4 years of team control).

SS Yunel Escobar – Acquired from the Miami Marlins in 2012 for OF prospect Derek Dietrich, the Rays 2nd round pick in 2010, reversing the prospect for veteran path for a change.

To summarize: This offense was built around drafting well in 2006 and trading major leaguers for prospects between 2006 and 2012, plus trading a prospect for a proven major leaguer last winter. And of course, aided by signing useful veterans like James Loney, Jose Molina and Kelly Johnson who rounded things out.

The Rays have been built around a plethora of strong players drafted 6 to 9 years ago and players mostly acquired as prospects turned into good major leaguers. It does serve as an indication for the time frame it takes to build a team like this, of course. By the way the 2004 to 2007 Rays won between 61 and 70 games per season…

Yoennis Cespedes

2. How The Oakland A´s Were Built

To avoid the post becoming too lengthy (and with my 2 year-old daughter about to wake up), I´ll try to keep myself short. But please remember that the post “Moneyball” (1999 to 2006) A´s finished at or below .500 between 2007 and 2011 and was widely expected to finish below .500 again in 2012 – before winning 94 games, seemingly out of nowhere. Unlike the Rays, the A´s 2012 / 2013 weren´t mainly built via the draft – but they were built by heavy trading for prospects…

Pitching:

Yes, Bartolo Colon was an almost R.A. Dickey type revelation, seemingly out of nowhere.

And half of the A´s rotation was actually drafted – A.J. Griffin (round 13 in 2010), Dan Straily (round 24 in 2009) and Sonny Gray (round 1 in 2011). But key pieces of the staff were acquired in trades:

RHP Jarrod Parker and RHP Ryan Cook in a trade for former 2006 2nd round pick RH Trevor Cahill

LHP Tom Milone in a trade for LHP Gio Gonzalez

LHP Jerry Blevins in a trade for C Jason Kendall, way back in 2007

Disappointing LHP Brett Anderson came in a trade of RHP Dan Haren  who himself can be tracked back to trading former stud LHP Mark Mulder to the Cardinals.

To be fair, another key contributor , RHP Grant Balfour was signed as a free agent. But overall, you can track the main pieces of the Oakland A´s staffs to drafting & trades of quality starters  Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren (and previously Mark Mulder) and Trevor Cahill.

Offense:

Trades. Trades. Trades. Oh, and Coco Crisp & Yoenis Cespedes as free agents for more than Sandy Alderson has paid to anyone as Mets GM so far and Brandon Moss as a nice scrap heap pickup. But again, you´ll see that the trades of Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren and others played a key role here:

3B Josh Donaldson – acquired from the Cubs in a trade of former ace Rich Harden (a 17th round pick by the A´s in 2000)

OF Josh Reddick – acquired from the Red Sox in a trade of former closer Andrew Bailey (a 6th round pick in 2006)

SS Jed Lowrie – acquired from the Houston Astros in a trade for prospect 1b Chris Carter who  had been part of the Dan Haren trade and for RHP Brad Peacock who had been part of the Gio Gonzalez trade; by the way, Gio Gonzalez had been acquired for “Moneyball” 2002 1st round pick Nick Swisher in 2008….

2B Eric Sogard – also acquired for a piece from the Dan Haren trade, OF Aaron Cunningham, Sogard was actually drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2007…

C Derek Norris – also acquired as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade after the 2011 season

OF Seth Smith – acquired in a trade with the Rockies of waiver pickup and LH Josh Outman (who himself had been acquired for “Moneybal” RH Joe Blanton)

OF Chris Young – acquired for SS Cliff Pennington, the A´s 21st round pick in 2005

So summarize:

Large chunks of the A´s offense can be tracked to the trades of almost an entire rotation of Dan Haren, Rich Harden, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Blanton and Mark Mulder essentially.

What to conclude from all this?

Inexpensive playoff teams aren´t built around picking up veterans from the scrap heap. They are built the traditional way by good scouting & player development. You can build a strong cost-efficient team by drafting well and some trades (Rays). You can build a strong cost-efficient team by drafting ok but trading very well (A´s).  It also shows that this approach takes quite a while. And that the groundwork of winning in 2012 & 2013 was mostly laid several years ago and actually the key contributors mostly entered pro-ball between 2004 and 2008. And if you´re asking for a reason why the Mets have struggled over the past 3 to 5 years ? It´s because they failed to add enough significant players between 2004 and 2008 AND have been unable to outspend those neglects recently.

But if you want to win without spending money, you need: a) patience – as it takes about 5 to 7  years before players that are brought in as amateurs will reasonably be productive in the majors. And b) to either draft and/or trade well to land those players.

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This Off-Season, Expect The Mets To Do The Expected http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/this-off-season-expect-the-mets-to-do-the-expected.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/this-off-season-expect-the-mets-to-do-the-expected.html/#comments Sun, 06 Oct 2013 17:39:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130784 stephen drewThe future is “now” – but won´t come in exchange for mortgaging the “future” in a future sense.

This off-season, the Mets will probably add a proven veteran SS – be it most likely Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta via free agency, or Yunel Escobar or Alexei Ramirez via trade. Each would represent a significant upgrade from the unproductive Omar Quintanilla / Ruben Tejada combo of 2013. With Wilfredo Tovar, Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario in the system, I doubt that the Mets commit to more than a 2-year deal with anyone. In any case, the 2014 shortstop doesn´t figure to earn significantly more than $10 million or cost us any of the Top 10 prospects in our system in a trade.

I also expect the Mets to add two corner outfielders, probably one LH and one RH bat. Shin-Soo Choo appears to be the lone “star” caliber player who seems like a fit, while Carlos Beltran seems like an unlikely, but very solid fit too on a shorter term deal. A “trade” for the somewhat questionable contracts of Andre Ethier or Nick Swisher could be options just like a “lower budget” signing of Coco Crisp or David DeJesus.

In any case, expect an outfielder who bats lefthanded, is solid defensively, and can reasonably be expected to get on base at a .350+ clip. Plus a righthanded corner outfielder with some power. With Cesar Puello being a front-office favorite apparently, I´d expect a short term contract for one or a max of two seasons. Targets could include Nelson Cruz, Marlon Byrd or Corey Hart. None would figure to exceed two years and there´s a chance that even a 1-year deal is enough. I doubt the Mets feel it´s the right time for a really bold move – such as trading for Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton if they become available.

Bronson+ArroyoI expect the Mets to target a dependable veteran starter who seems like a good bet to take the ball every 5th day and keep the team in games for 6 to 7 innings. One of the deep pool of “second tier” free agents like Bronson Arroyo seems like an ideal fit – but Scott Feldman or Ricky Nolasco could become targets too. Don´t expect more than a 2-year guaranteed deal to anyone though. In any case, the Mets will probably add at least one veteran insurance policy like Dice-K or Harang to compete with Jenrry Mejia and Rafael Montero for the # 5 spot out of spring training and/or serve as veteran AAA insurance.

I don´t expect a lot of movement in the bullpen, especially if Latroy Hawkins is indeed re-signed. Maybe one more veteran arm will be added, but I suppose the Mets will keep at least two roster spots open for Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Gonzalez Germen. They will bring back Scott Rice & Josh Edgin as the main lefties and Carlos Torres as a long reliever and spot starter. If Bobby Parnell is healthy and Hawkins is back, that´s a full bullpen already. Maybe the Mets will take a couple of flyers on veterans with past success, coming off a down year in 2013 who can be stashed away in Vegas for the time being if no opening arises.

All in all, expect an Opening Day payroll in the $85 to $95 million range and a team that will be expected to win about 85 games in a normal season, without being considered playoff bound in all likelihood. The key will remain growing the talent pool in the farm system and using an improved 2014 team that remains in playoff contention deep into the season as a spring board for 2015 when making the playoffs will be an absolute must.

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Why Mets Need To Add A Veteran Starting Pitcher; Top Three Options http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/why-mets-need-to-add-a-veteran-starting-pitcher-top-three-options.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/why-mets-need-to-add-a-veteran-starting-pitcher-top-three-options.html/#comments Thu, 26 Sep 2013 12:28:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130049 Seaver-Koosman-Matlack - Copy

“Offense wins fans, pitching wins championships” is the old adage – and it remains true, considering the recent success of the San Francisco Giants, a team that has won 2 World Series in 3 years built around strong, mostly young & homegrown starting pitching and a solid but unspectacular and somewhat patchwork caliber offense. Generations of Mets fans grew up with the Mets being known around Baseball as an organization built around pitching. Seaver – Koosman – Matlack – Ryan or Gooden – Darling – Fernandez – Cone were exciting young frontline pitchers that helped the team to multiple playoff appearances and the two only World Series titles in franchise history. Once David Cone was traded in late 1992, the Mets´ got off track a bit. And even the 1999, 2000 and 2006 playoff teams were mostly known for their strong hitting, helped by a good veteran bullpen but somewhat sabotaged by merely ordinary rotations that ultimately weren´t good enough to deliver another World Series title.

When Sandy Alderson & Co. took over almost 3 years ago, the plan was to “develop the pitching” and “buy the bats”. That plan figures to remain in place and the Mets right now – arguably – have the deepest pool of young pitching up & down their organization, highlighted by Matt Harvey starting the 2013 All Star Game for the NL and top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero facing each other in the Future´s Game this past July. Zack Wheeler is one of the most promising young arms in the majors. Jenrry Mejia looked great during his 5-start cameo and with Jon Niese & Dillon Gee the Mets also control two very solid semi-young arms who have been successful on a consistent basis for several more years. So, with all sorts of obvious holes offensively, wouldn´t the smart money say to focus on addressing those needs instead of adding more pitching – possibly expensive – when you already have several high end options ?

No. While adding offense will have to be an obvious priority, if the Mets are serious about trying to win in 2014 without losing focus regarding their long term plans, adding a legitimate veteran starting pitcher this winter makes all the sense in the world.

Consider these numbers…

Matt Harvey (if healthy which remains a HUGE if):

2012: 169 IP combined between AAA and majors

2013: 178 IP

Zack Wheeler:

2012: 149 IP between AA and AAA

2013: 168 IP between AAA and majors (100 IP in majors)

Jenrry Mejia:

2012: 108 IP combined between a bunch of levels

2013: 51 IP combined between a bunch of levels (27 IP in majors)

Rafael Montero:

2012: 121 IP combined between Low A and Hi A

2013: 154 IP combined between AA and AAA + another 6 IP or so in the playoffs

Noah Syndergaard:

2012: 103 IP in Low A

2013: 117 IP combined between Hi A and AA + another 6 IP or so in the playoffs

Jon Niese:

2012: 13-9, 3.40 ERA, 190 IP in 30 GS

2013: 8-8, 3.74 ERA, 137 IP in 23 GS with maybe one more start left

Dillon Gee:

2012: 6-7, 4.10 ERA, 109 IP in 17 GS

2013: 12-10, 3.54 ERA, 193 IP in 31 GS with one start left

So, as of today, the Mets have seven legitimate candidates to pitch in the 2014 rotation at some point under contract. Only Gee & Niese have ever reached 190 IP in their careers (once).

None of the other candidates has ever reached 190 IP and none of them are likely to exceed it even in a best case scenario in 2014 considering the policy of not letting pitchers exceed a 30 IP bump and concerns about their health.

So, if the plan is to contend in 2014, that could be sabotaged by pretty much all SP candidates other than Dillon Gee and Jon Niese to be facing some sort of IP cap in 2014. And with Matt Harvey being a big question mark, Mejia never having completed a full healthy season and Syndergaard unlikely to be allowed to proceed far beyond 150 IP and thus not being a realistic candidate for an extended major league look in 2014, this puts enormous pressure on Zack Wheeler & Rafael Montero, plus Niese & Gee, the latter both having battled significant shoulder issues in recent years.

For that reason, a veteran rotation piece is needed. And fortunately, while lacking high-end pitching, this winter´s free agent pitching market is rather deep in solid veteran pieces. You can pretty much rule out Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, three quality, albeit volatile # 2/3 caliber SP in their primes who figure to receive contracts in the Edwin Jackson (4-years, 52.0 million) to Anibal Sanchez (5-years, 80 million) range. Not a fit as the Mets seem to have a shot at a very good rotation with no limitations by 2016 and should not hand out a long term contract for any pitcher now. Since the Mets already have a bunch of high risk / high reward arms that also rules out volatile former aces like Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum or Scott Kazmir who could certainly pitch great for 15 starts or totally collapse even if all 3 figure to receive shorter term contracts due to their checkered history. Disappointing former top prospects turned back-end starters like Mike Pelfrey, Edinson Volquez or Phil Hughes could be worth flyers for a good pitching coach to fix – but not for a team looking for stability. That also pretty much eliminates the idea of hoping for one final comeback season from former aces like Roy Halladay, Johan Santana or Chris Carpenter. Even in a best case scenario, they won´t provide 30+ starts and 190+ IP.

What the Mets need is a durable veteran who can be had on a shorter term contract of maybe two years. And that leads us to three names that could fit:

# 1 RHP Bronson Arroyo, age 36

2012: 12-10, 3.74 ERA, 202 IP in 32 GS

2013: 14-11, 3.60 ERA, 197 IP in 31 GS with one start left

Arroyo is a durable # 3 caliber SP who has pitched quite well in the pitcher unfriendly confines of Cincy. He could provide stability and is showing absolutely no signs of declining in spite of topping 195+ innings for 8 straight seasons. While he has been a steady force for the Reds, Cincy figures to move on thanks to the emergence of Rookie sensation Tony Cingrani who will join a strong staff headed by Mat Latos, Jonny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake.

# 2 RHP Ricky Nolasco, age 30

2012: 12-13, 4.48 ERA, 191.0 IP, 31 GS

2013: 13-10, 3.72 ERA, 198 IP, 33 GS with maybe one start left

Nolasco is well known to Mets fans after anchoring the Miami Marlins staff for several years before being acquired by the LA Dodgers. He also takes the ball every 5th day and keeps the team in most games.

# 3 RHP Hiroki Kuroda, age 38

2012: 16-11, 3.32 ERA, 219 IP, 33 GS

2013: 11-13, 3.31 ERA, 201 IP, 32 GS

After a long & solid career in Japan and emerging in his 30s as a fine SP for the LA Dodgers, Kuroda has been the most consistent and best SP for the Yankees over the past two seasons. Considering their rotation woes, they´ll probably try to bring him back. But just maybe, the Yankees will consider getting a bit younger after their disappointing 2013 season, so Kuroda might be available.

Last winter, similar veteran pitchers signed contracts of 2-years, 26.5 million $ (35-year-old Ryan Dempster with BOS) and 3-years, 33 million $ (34-year-old Kyle Lohse with MIL). Hiroki Kuroda himself signed a 1-year, 15 million $ deal with the Yankees. The three veterans listed here all figure to end up in that range. More dollar value on a shorter term or less dollars in a longer term deal. Realistically, a 2-year, 26.5 million $ contract – similar to the one Ryan Dempster signed with BOS – figures to suffice. Sure, that´s a lot of money. But the Mets should finally be able to spend thanks to their current payroll projection of barely 50 million $. Signing any of these three to a 2-year contract in that range will neither keep the Mets from eventually extending Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler & Co. a few years down the road nor from addressing their hitting needs either.

While nurturing a potential rotation for the ages, it would give the 2014 Mets one likely reliable constant to build their staff around short term. And with better than anticipated health, it could enable the Mets to make a blockbuster trade eventually for a superstar player such as Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez if they get moved. Enormous starting pitching depth can never hurt. And with all due respect to fragile scrap heap pickups like Shaun Marcum, Aaron Harang, Dice-K Matsuzaka or Chris Young, the Mets need a stabilizing force and not another lottery ticket.

baseball glove bench

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Which Young Arm Do The Mets Trade For A Bat? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/which-young-arm-do-the-mets-trade-for-a-bat.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/which-young-arm-do-the-mets-trade-for-a-bat.html/#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2013 18:45:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=122024 In response to which young arm or arms the Mets should trade for a bat this trade deadline or offseason…

I actually believe that Rafael Montero is the least likely to be traded among all pitching prospects in the organization right now, at least as long as this front office is in place.

There´s a pretty obvious pattern. The front office wants pitchers who throw a lot of strikes and control the strike-zone. They want hitters who only swing at strikes and control the strike-zone.

That (and an emphasis on coachability / work ethic – however you want to measure that) has been a common theme for them when targeting prospects.

Montero is the biggest strike thrower of them all – though it seems that Matthew Bowman and Matt Koch also have pretty good control, even if their stuff isn´t as crisp as Montero´s and their command not as good (yet) either.

Noah Syndergaard & Michael Fulmer actually fit that mold too. They have posted unusually low walk rates for very young pitching prospects.

More likely trade bait could be someone like Domingo Tapia or Cory Mazzoni or even – eventually – Zack Wheeler if he doesn´t improve his control in a similar fashion like Matt Harvey has from the minors to the majors.

That´s the mantra – for pitchers: “Throw Strikes and good things will happen” ; for hitters: “Don´t swing at Balls and good things will happen”.

And I´d assume that this will also be an assumption as part of trades – unless an organization is really willing to pay a high price. If the Rockies want Montero and are willing to give up Dexter Fowler, sure, he´s gone. But all things equal, the Mets would try to use Tapia or DeGrom or Mazzoni or even two of them instead of Montero, I´m quite sure.

(Photo Credit: Gordon Donovan)

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An Open Letter To Sandy Alderson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/an-open-letter-to-sandy-alderson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/an-open-letter-to-sandy-alderson.html/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 12:48:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=120068 Dear Mr. Alderson,

A little more than two & a half years ago, you took over as the GM of this rollercoaster franchise. With the team coming off back to back sub .500 seasons which had been littered with failed expectations, injuries and disappointments prior to your arrival, most of us are generally aware – and were back then too – that you inherited a challenging situation: A rather high payroll that didn´t perform like one, a farm system that wasn´t exactly loaded with high upside & major league ready talent, and a difficult financial situation influenced by various factors outside of your control, certainly didn´t give you & your assistants a great starting point.

Sandy Alderson

I understand that a few difficult decisions had to be made in the meantime with the “greater good” of the franchise‘s long term in mind – both in terms of finances and roster construction. Even if they certainly hurt the quality of the team in the shorter term.

Scott Boras stated that these apparent financial restrictions forced you to go shopping in the “fruit & nuts” section of the “supermarket” instead of the expensive “meats” section. Regardless of whether it´s even a good idea to invest a lot of money in expensive meat or veteran high profile free agents, sometimes even “fruit & nuts” appeared a bit generous and actually it seemed you mostly had to plod through the waste bin behind the supermarket, searching for disposed assets beyond their date of expiration for virtually no cost.

In spite of these mostly inevitable measures, you never ever mentioned the “R”(rebuilding) word to the fan base. Maybe this happened in an effort to keep fans motivated to come to the park and / or watch games on TV and thus help to avoid the franchise losing even further revenue. Instead you decided to refuse to acknowledge that any season was going to be “punted” while stressing how much the focus supposedly is (or was in terms of 2011 and 2012) on competing in that respective season. Even if most measures – like stockpiling prospects and draft picks, holding them back a bit longer in the minors to get them better prepared for a hopefully long & productive major league career, trading or letting go quality veteran players, avoiding any sort of financial risks in free agency and spending very little on shorter term veteran replacements – clearly pointed in that “R”-word direction. Whether it came out of financial necessity or Baseball necessity or both.

While I understand that you can´t go out and say “we´re going to be terrible because we´re rebuilding – please come back in a couple of years”, I believe it´s important and the right time to get us fans back into the “boat” and make us “believers” (again ?). Maybe it´s time to share at least part of “The Plan” you apparently shared with David Wright in depth. You don´t have to lay out in detail which players you´ll target. But more in general how you expect the next Mets contender to look like and when you expect that team to be in place.

In retrospect there´s no way around it and no denying that we are currently right in the middle a major “REBUILDING” process – and already have been for a couple of years. And I believe we´re all grownup enough to hear the truth.

Especially since patience is not only wearing thin with your critics (they didn´t have it in the first place anyway) but also with those who were generally supportive of that idea but are now asking for leadership as we´re watching mediocre Baseball at best for yet another season.

However, please be more specific of your plan going forward. And please don´t try to sell intriguing pickups from the waiver wire as the supposed remedy for the Mets´ woes. Because while I´m sure you mean well and believe there´s some upside left in the Rick Ankiels, Marlon Byrds or Jeremy Hefners of the world, it does somewhat insult the intelligence of the “believers” and at the same time reinforces the skepticism of the critics who can rightfully point out that supposed “Moneyball” pickups have largely failed to make up for the loss of several star caliber players and the quality of the major league roster has gradually deteriorated. Which shouldn´t come as much of a surprise to anyone as there´s usually a good reason why such players are generally available for next to nothing in terms of Baseball economics. And while I´m sure you hoped for a better end result and are rightfully disappointed, you couldn´t seriously expect a much better outcome, or did you?

We are able to see the large number of promising young arms up & down the farm system and we are able to see that 2014 payroll obligations for 2014 – as of now – merely figure to be in the low 50 million $ range including all the arbitration eligible players, thus suggesting an enormous amount of available funds even if the payroll is to remain at the current – for a large market team rather modest – level of roughly 95 million $. However, a statement that you acknowledge that there´s a major need to add impact major league talent and that you´re not only able to but very much determined to get it and get it soon – be it via free agency or trades would certainly help us feel a bit better and remain understanding of the process. Just some more frankness and candidness about the current situation and what you plan to do in the future would be much appreciated.

I am afraid that the “honeymoon” phase will be over by the end of the 2013 season. From 2014 on, even those who have remained patient, understanding & optimistic throughout the past three years will expect results on the field. And even if that´s quite a challenge, at the very least we expect direction from the person in charge of steering this ship going forward.

Eager to hear from you and hoping our patience will be rewarded.

Best regards,

André D. (a caring & generally optimistic fan and member of the MMO team)

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MMO Featured Post: Can The Mets Win The WAR in 2013? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/mmo-featured-post-can-the-mets-win-the-war-in-2013.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/mmo-featured-post-can-the-mets-win-the-war-in-2013.html/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 03:07:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=108795 The New York Mets ended up winning 74 games during the 2012 season. Their Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey was traded and their most productive outfielder, Scott Hairston, has departed as well.

The farm system may be in much better shape, and their projected 2014 payroll will be in the bottom of the majors for now – potentially opening a lot of financial flexibility going forward. However, is doom and gloom in store for the 2013 edition of the Mets? Or can they win the WAR?

While I´ll acknowledge that Wins Above Replacement is a somewhat flawed method of measuring talent – especially considering the flaws of defensive stats in this metric – it is still a sound way to judge a team overall.

So, the question is, what kind of an impact have this offseason’s transactions had on the team’s WAR compared to 2012? And how will it evolve in 2013?

Let’s examine the situation, and for those of you wondering, I’ll be using Baseball Reference’s version of WAR to conduct my analysis.

harvey

2013 Rotation: Net Gain 0.5 WAR

RA Dickey and his 5.6 WAR is gone, as are Chris Young (0.7 WAR) and Mike Pelfrey (0.9 WAR). In all likelihood, Chris Schwinden and his -0.6 WAR won´t return either. So, overall, 6.6 in WAR have to be made up and accounted for – a daunting task indeed.

Newly acquired Shaun Marcum posted a 1.3 WAR in 2012 and a 2.9 WAR in 2011. Splitting the difference, let´s assume his 2013 WAR will  2.1 as one member of this rotation.

The rest will have to be made up in-house.

Matt Harvey posted a strong 1.6 WAR in one third of a season. Since I very much believe in him, let´s assume he doubles his 2012 totals (tripling it would seem a bit outlandish). So, there´s a 3.2 WAR and thus a gain of 1.6.

Jonathon Niese had a 3.2 WAR in 2012. Let´s assume he matches that again this season and doesn´t take a step forward. Thus,.no change.

Dillon Gee posted a 0.8 WAR in 2012 while missing almost half the season. Let´s say he´s 100% back and almost doubles his previous total to a 1.5 WAR in 2013.

That leaves Johan Santana and his 0.1 WAR for 2012.

Santana’s WAR through June would was closer to 2.0 prior to his collapse over his final ten outings of the season. Let´s assume, he pitches to a modest 1.0 WAR for half the season and then gets replaced by Zack Wheeler for the other half who does half as well as Matt Harvey did in his debut. Overall, we can expect a 1.8 WAR from both of them combined.

Finally, we have Collin McHugh who made a few starts and posted a -0.9 WAR in 2012, thanks to a couple of atrocious outings late in the year while due to fatigue. Let´s assume he performs at a 0.0 replacement level.

Taking all of that conservatively projected data into consideration along with the historical data leads us to this conclusion.

The Mets needed to make up for the loss of 6.6 in Wins Above replacement.

When you calculate Marcum’s 2.1 WAR, plus the net gains of Harvey (1.6 WAR), Gee (0.8 WAR), the 1.7 WAR we could get from the Santana and Wheeler combination, and McHugh (0.9 WAR), it results in a total net gain of 7.1 in WAR.

So, overall, the rotation gains half a win vs. 2012.

bobby parnell

2013 Bullpen: Net Gain 4.5 WAR

The Mets had one of the worst bullpens in the league in 2012.

Frank Francisco – in an injury riddled season posted a – 0.7 WAR and now seems DL bound for an extended period of time. Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Tim Byrdak (due to injury) are all gone from the 2012 cast and overall they combined for a 0.0 WAR last season. Manny Acosta and his -1.2 WAR is headed to Japan. Miguel Batista and his -0.2 WAR will write his poems for the Braves in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Mets have brought in Brandon Lyon (1.2 WAR in 2012), RH Scott Atchison (1.7 WAR in 2012), Pedro Feliciano (0.0 due to missing the season), Aaron Laffey ( 0.2 WAR) and LaTroy Hawkins (- 0.1 WAR). I´ll assume only Lyon, Atchison and Feliciano land a spot and replace Rauch – Ramirez – Byrdak. Conservative as I am, I´ll pencil in Lyon & Atchison for half as good a season and Feliciano as neutral. Gain: 1.5

Acosta is replaced in-house by either Jeurys Familia or Greg Burke. Since I like the latter ones quite a bit, I´ll project them as a +0.8 WAR reliever combined. Gain: 2.0

Finally, Josh Edgin posted a – 0.1 WAR in 2012 in his brief debut. Blessed with a power arm, he does modestly decent and finishes with a 0.4 WAR overall. Gain: 0.5

FF returns at some point and remains a disappointment. But instead of – 0.7, only is a – 0.2 reliever in 2013. Gain: 0.5

Parnell repeats his 2012 season as the new Mets closer.

Adding everything up, the bullpen turns from atrocious to a solid average. Yet, an overall gain of 4.5 Wins.

Tejada surprised many with his quality offensive production in 2012

2013 Infield: Net Gain 3.5 Wins

Most of the 2012 Infield is back. David WrightRuben TejadaDaniel MurphyIke Davis combined for a 10.5 WAR in 2012 – in spite of Murphy learning a new position,  Ike being limited by valley fewer, Tejada missing an extended stretch of time, and Wright being almost unprotected in the lineup most of the season.

The average age of the four regular infielders entering 2013 is 26.5 and thus pretty close to the prime years for a baseball player. Let´s assume Wright regresses slightly from 6.7 to 4.5, however Tejada improves from 1.9 to 2.5 over a full season, Murphy´s defensive improvements over the 2nd half of the season last to bring his WAR up from 1.2 to 2.0 while Ike finally has the break-out we´ve all been expecting and plays defense like in 2011 and 2010 to post a 3.0 WAR vs. 0.7 in 2012. Overall, that´s a gain of 1.5 Wins from these 4 players.

The backup infielder Cedeno (+ 0.3) is replaced by Hicks (-0.1) or Quintanilla (+0.5). Splitting the difference, this remains unchanged.

At Catcher, Josh Thole (- 0.1) gets replaced by John Buck (0.4 WAR in 2012) for a gain of half a win.

Backups Mike Nickeas (-0.7) and Rob Johnson (-0.2) are replaced by Anthony Recker (0 WAR in 2012) and Rookie Travis D´Arnaud. Being very conservative, I´ll give the latter two a combined 2013 WAR of merely + 0.6. Still, overall, that´s a 1.5 WIN gain vs. the terrible 2012 backup combo.

Adding things up, the catching improves by 2 Wins, the Infield by 1.5 wins for a total of + 3.5 wins.

mike baxter card

 2013 Outfield: Net Gain 3.0 Wins

Ah, the outfield. A collection of rejects and suspects that has lost Scott Hairston (+ 1.5) and Andres Torres (+ 1.2) and Jason Bay (- 1.3 WAR in 2012). Total loss: 1.4 WAR.

Among newcomers, Collin Cowgill (+ 0.3 in limited action in 2012) figures to double his AB for a total WAR of + 0.6. Marlon Byrd (- 0.5 in 2012 but 1.7 in 2011) and Andrew Brown (-0.1) are competing for a spot. Let´s assume, overall they post a 0.4 WAR, so the new guys combine for 1.0 WAR.

That leaves things up to returnees.

Lucas Duda combined disappointing offense and horrible defense in RF for a – 1.4 WAR in 2012. With an easier assignment in LF and a better offensive approach, he emerges as a modestly solid player to post a 0.6 WAR – for a 2 WAR gain overall.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis had his ups & downs and finished with a 0 WAR in 2012. At age 25, he´s poised for modest improvements and an expected WAR of a conservative 1.4 – which is still below average for a CF but certainly realistic.

Finally, Mike Baxter and his 0.3 returns to RF. He probably is what he is and remains unchanged.

Still doing the math, the outfield gains 3.0 Wins overall and “improves” from atrocious to well below average in 2013.

Overall Net Gain 11.5 Wins

Now of course, it only February 26 and a couple of the players here may change for a myriad of reasons as Spring Training battles are waged in St. Lucie, but we have a good case here to believe the Mets as currently constructed can out produce what they did in 2012. Even with the key losses of R.A. Dickey and Scott Hairston.

All included, the 2013 Mets gain 11.5 wins vs. their 2012 counterparts. Please note that these projections do not include monster-breakouts for anyone. Just gradual improvements which you´d expect for generally young players and no crippling injuries.

Adding 11.5 wins to a total of 74 wins in 2012, you get to 85.5 wins. Not good enough to beat the Nationals for the division and probably behind the Braves as well. But certainly good enough to challenge the Phillies for 3rd place in the NL East and thus compete for the second Wild Card in the NL. And if players such as D´Arnaud, Wheeler, Ike or Duda really happen to break out in a big way, there´s upside for an even higher total. But let´s stop dreaming and “only” look at a glass that could be a lot closer to “half full” than people realize.

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The End Of Mets’ Bullpen Follies? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/the-end-of-mets-bullpen-follies.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/the-end-of-mets-bullpen-follies.html/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 17:13:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=107081 bullpen phone - Photo by Clayton Collier

The Bat Phone (Photo by MMO’s Clayton Collier)

Sandy Alderson was quoted yesterday that he doesn´t think the Mets are “far away” from contending at this point. While pretty much everyone agrees that the Mets Infield looks pretty good now & going forward and the rotation at the very least has the potential to become a true asset, the outfield & bullpen remain the most troubling areas on the roster.

It seems apparent that the outfield situation won´t  get fixed from within but that the Mets -  be it sooner or later – will need to add talent from the outside via free agency or trades. Unless you believe that the current ownership group still remains in severe financial distress, there should be plenty of money available to potentially invest into the outfield for 2014 & beyond.

However, the bullpen may be an area where the Mets won´t need to invest a lot of money, yet still have the upside for a quick and massive turnaround. Just to point out how mediocre (or terrible and inefficient   the Mets bullpens have been for quite some time, take a look at the performances over the past 10 seasons:

2012: 458.2 IP, 237 ER, 4.65 ERA, 1.39 WHIP

2011: 474.0 IP, 228 ER, 4.33 ERA, 1.45 WHIP

2010: 481.0 IP, 192 ER, 3.59 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

2009: 501.2 IP, 217 ER, 3.89 ERA, 1.43 WHIP

2008: 493.1 IP, 234 ER, 4.27 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

2007: 511.2 IP, 229 ER, 4.03 ERA, 1.36 WHIP

2006: 542.2 IP, 198 ER, 3.28 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

2005: 413.0 IP, 180 ER, 3.92 ERA, 1.44 WHIP

2004: 520.1 IP, 226 ER, 3.91 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

2003: 492.1 IP, 236 ER, 4.31 ERA, 1.46 WHIP

During that time, the Mets have featured  a grand total of 3 (in words THREE)  relievers who came up through the Mets farm system (or were still quite young, regardless of where they came from) who provided 50+ innings of relief during any of those seasons, namely Aaron Heilman (from 2005 through 2008), Joe Smith (in 2008) and Bobby Parnell (in 2011 and 2012).

The only other two useful  “homegrown” Mets relievers over that span have been Heath Bell & Matt Lindstrom who went on to have solid careers elsewhere but were traded away prior to their success. The Mets bullpens usually were made up of very expensive veteran closers in addition to a couple of – often  ineffective – and modestly  expensive setup relievers and several veterans or Quadruple-A pitchers that were brought in on the cheap and rarely made a difference.

The one bright spot was the 2006 Cinderella season during which Duaner Sanchez, Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano and Darren Oliver – along with Heilman – formed a very strong setup corps for Billy Wagner for one season until injuries, age, free agency and other issues led to a quick demise. Other than that – through four different GMs over that span btw – the results have been somewhere between mediocre to awful. And if you want to see one common theme that has plagued most recent Mets teams, it´s been a rather shaky bullpen.

Could the utter  lack of youngish / inexpensive / non-overused relievers be related to this lack of success ?

Take a look at the 2012 Oakland A´s bullpen which beyond veteran Grant Balfour featured a bunch of no-name guys, mostly youngsters who weren’t deemed capable enough as SP.

Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto or Evan Scribner among several others weren’t exactly household names prior to 2012, yet combined with the rest of the A´s pen produced a  2.94 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 512 IP, allowing 167 ER. And thus better numbers than any Mets pen of the past 10 years has ever posted.  For less cost than any Mets bullpen between 2003 and 2012, I might add.

Likewise, the Atlanta Braves bullpen of 2012, obviously led by the “super-season” of homegrown flamethrower Craig Kimbrel posted a 2.76 ERA in 486.1 IP (149 ER) and a 1.19 WHIP. Kris Medlen, Cristhian Martinez, Cory Gearrin and Johnny Venters – all young & homegrown pieces contributed along with inexpensive veteran scrap heap pickups Eric O´Flaherty & Chad Durbin. Again, at less combined cost than any of the last 10+ Mets bullpens  (thinking about it, probably less than any of the past 25+ Mets bullpens)…

Entering 2013, there finally seems to be help on the very near horizon. For now, 15 pitchers figure to compete for 7 bullpen spots out of spring training – about  half of them young / inexperience / inexpensive:

  1. Frank Francisco
  2. Bobby Parnell
  3. Brandon Lyon (apparently)
  4. Josh Edgin
  5. Scott Atchison
  6. LaTroy Hawkins
  7. Greg Burke
  8. Jeurys Familia
  9. Pedro Feliciano
  10. Robert Carson
  11. Elvin Ramirez
  12. Darin Gorski
  13. Alex Torres
  14. Jeremy Hefner
  15. Aaron Laffey

So, at the very least and unlike most past springs, the Mets have a bunch of options to choose from for a variety of roles. By the end of the 2013 season Gonzalez Germen, Jack Leathersich, Cory Mazzoni, Jacob DeGrom, Jenry Mejia (if he doesn´t start),  Armando Rodriguez or Collin McHugh (if he doesn´t start) also all could well emerge as viable candidates for bullpen roles going forward.

By spring of 2014, there´s a very strong chance that for the first time in decades (early / mid 1980s ?), the Mets could finally feature a young & inexpensive  group of relievers  instead of an aging, overpaid and mostly mediocre bullpen.  While there´s obviously no guarantee it works, there are plenty of options to choose from and it´s the one area – sort of under the radar – where a team can improve substantially in a hurry by easily shaving off 50+ runs allowed per season at small cost. That alone can be worth a 5+ win swing in any given season (general rule of thumb: 10 Runs – whether they are saved or scored  = 1 Win). . Compared to the awful 2012 version, that´s probably up to 8 extra wins.  And it doesn´t take a lot of wishful thinking to see it happen during the upcoming one or two seasons based on the depth of young pitching on the rise beyond the “big names”.

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MMO Featured Post: The Myth Of A Bountiful Inheritance http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/mmo-featured-post-the-myth-of-a-bountiful-inheritance.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/mmo-featured-post-the-myth-of-a-bountiful-inheritance.html/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 20:03:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=106278 While I´m quite tired of the “Omar vs. Sandy” debate, a recent post about the “strong farm system” Omar Minaya supposedly left behind in late 2010, got me thinking and looking.

To summarize, as of today, it doesn´t look as if the farm system left behind was all that good. And one  big reason for the Mets´ recent and even current struggles is directly related to the lack of quality (not quantity of ) higher end homegrown talent that Minaya left behind for his successor.  Don´t get me wrong, the system wasn´t barren either as some members of the media suggested back then. But if you take a closer look, it was mediocre at best – especially if you´re looking for potential short- and midterm help for the major league roster. And the effects are lasting.

Now, a few acknowledgements before I get into details:

  1. I very much respect Omar Minaya, one of the nicest persons you´ll find in all of Baseball.
  2. He did a good job, building what he was asked to do initially, i.e. a “quick fix winner” shortly after he took over. He had a “ Midas” touch for pretty much everything he did in the 2005/2006 off-season.
  3. Minaya inherited a great inexpensive duo of budding young stars in Wright & Reyes and a few solid MLB veterans (Floyd, Cameron, Benson, Glavine, Trachsel and what was left of Leiter) but little else and especially a terrible and dysfunctional farm system thanks to bad drafts in 2004 and 2003, giving away Scott Kazmir and an otherwise poor 2002 draft too and no International talent beyond Carlos Gomez.
  4. While Minaya wasn´t exactly prudent in terms of handing out longterm contracts to expensive veterans, especially backloaded deals that were bound to turn into ugly gorillas by the end, even with good luck, he couldn´t foresee Bernie Madoff being a crook and the cash pipeline drying up. Still, while it wasn´t his fault that the payroll got out of control and the Mets fielded a couple of very expensive .500ish type teams (that finished below .500 due to injuries), he does deserve some of the blame for that.
  5. His longterm legacy in the Mets´ history books may be a building a functional Latin American talent procurement and development pipeline that should help the Mets longterm  – even if the effects were quite small in late 2010 when he departed and may not be in full work until maybe 2015 or so. And it goes beyond signing promising young talents such as Domingo Tapia, Hansel Robles, Vicente Lupo or Wilfredo Tovar that were still signed under Minaya – but also for talent technically signed during the Alderson tenure – but on the groundwork that Omar Minaya laid there.

That said, the 2005 through 2010 draft record, i.e. the 6 drafts Minaya & his staff ran – for now – is rather pedestrian. Now, if Matt Harvey turns into the NL version of Justin Verlander or Jon Niese goes on to become the NL version of Jon Lester, then this will look a lot better a few years from now. However, if you want to know a key reason why the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are favored to win in 2013 and not the New York Mets, finances aside, you can look at the production of their 2005 through 2010 drafts and compare it to the Mets.

While “wins above replacement level” (WAR) is certainly far from perfect, it provides a useful & neutral tool to assess the quality of player procurement.

I looked at the drafts by the Mets, Nats and Braves from 2005 through 2010 and added up the “WAR” totals produced by those classes through the 2012 season. At least the classes of 2005 through 2008 can fully be assessed today. It´s still a bit early for a verdict on the classes of 2009 and 2010, though first results are already quite useful.

So, there you go, combined “WAR” totals of these 6 classes as of today:

  1. Nationals 74.8 WAR
  2. Braves 55.6 WAR
  3. Mets 23.5 WAR

See a trend ?

The Mets had their most productive “class” in 2006  for now with a combined WAR (including some negative WAR) of 11.1, mostly thanks to underrated Daniel Murphy (6.7) and Joe Smith (5.0). The class of 2005 comes in 2nd for now at 6.9 with Pelfrey (4.5) and Niese (3.8 – but improving fast) leading the way, with negative WAR backup C Drew Butera (traded for Luis Castillo) hurting the overall total a bit. 2007 has been a disaster for now at 0.6 combined – mainly thanks to Dillon Gee  at 1.9 but otherwise mostly “negative” WARs from Lucas Duda or even Eddie Kunz.

2008 has Ike Davis at 5.0, some hope for Kirk Nieuwenhuis at a neutral 0.0 but deductions for Schwinden, Satin and for now McHugh who have all provided negative value for a final total of merely  3.1 at this point.

The 2009 class is a complete bust for now, with not a single major leaguer graduated and no prospects anywhere close to the majors or likely to even get there. Matt Harvey and his 1.9 WAR for starters may end up being the best pick in the entire Minaya draft era and is the leader of the still very fresh class of 2010. Deducting slight negative value for Josh Edgin gets us to 1.8 for that year as of now – hopefully rising very soon.

Overall, as of now, not a single “difference maker” was procured in those 6 drafts. Matt Harvey hopefully will change that. Ike Davis, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Daniel Murphy should end up with at least solid lengthy major league careers when the book is closed. Still, it´s tough building a legit contender through one potential stud pitcher (who had yet to throw his first pro pitch at the time Minaya left) and a handful of solid complementary players. And there´s not too much hope for future breakouts left in these college-heavy Mets classes either. Sure, Jacob deGrom, Matt Den Dekker or Cory Vaughn could still become solid major leaguers along with Edgin from the 2010 class. Nieuwenhuis & Duda may seize their chance in 2013 and also emerge as longterm complementary pieces instead of the merely “replacement level” fillers they have been for now. But this certainly is not what you´d call a “good farm system” in retrospect – regardless of 2010 rookie status – or a “strong nucleus of young talent” to inherit along with a bloated payroll.

And while I mentioned that I like the International pipeline installed by Minaya going forward , fact is, as of today, Ruben Tejada is the lone International signee of the Minaya era that has had any sort of impact at the major league level (career WAR of 3.3). Maybe Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Jordany Valdespin and Wilmer Flores will prove Jim Callis & friends wrong and  eventually make an impact. But do you see any building blocks there, realistically ?

Meanwhile, while the Nats lucked into high end # 1 overall picks, Stephen Strasburg & Bryce Harper, those two – for now – only make up 10.7 WAR of the lofty 74.8 total. Other key contributors are Ryan Zimmerman (28.7 !) , Jordan Zimmerman (8.6), Danny Espinosa (5.5), Ross Detwiler (2.1), Drew Storen (2.8), John Lannan (6.3) or a couple of youngsters that were traded for Gio Gonzalez like Tommy Milone (2.5) or Derek Norris (0.6).

The Braves – in spite of winning more games than the Mets over this period – have procured studs like Jason Heyward (14.3), Yunel Escobar (18.5 quite a player until he struggled), Craig Kimbrel (6.2), Kris Medlen (6.2), Tommy Hanson (4.7), Freddie Freeman (3.3), Andrelton Simmons (2.8) and Mike Minor (- 0.1 but very promising), most of which figure to generate a lot of future value too.

Oh, and by the way, none of the three teams has graduated any players from the classes of 2011 or 2012 to the majors yet. The Nats did use 2011 pick RH Alex Meyer to land OF Denard Span this winter.

To summarize, while the Mets currently have a 40-man roster mostly made up of players that were procured during the Omar Minaya era, most of these players – unfortunately – aren´t very good. Combine it with a shoe-string budget and you are pretty likely to end up with a pretty mediocre team.

Which doesn´t mean that Sandy Alderson hasn´t made his share of mistakes already – but may explain why this is a much broader procedure than it may seem. Regardless of who the GM is today or going forward.

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Do I Really Look Like A Guy With A Plan? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/01/do-i-really-look-like-a-guy-with-a-plan.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/01/do-i-really-look-like-a-guy-with-a-plan.html/#comments Tue, 22 Jan 2013 14:47:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=105468 The Plan - Joker

“The Plan” – or trying to see the future forest amidst a bunch of presently broken trees.

We may agree or disagree on whether the current rebuilding of the Mets was inevitable or necessary or strictly financially motivated or even a vicious attempt to alienate the fan base. We may agree or disagree on whether the current front office has done well in their dual task of a) saving the ownership group from losing the franchise – whether we like it or not –  and b) laying the groundwork of a longterm winner both talent wise and by creating a lot of payroll flexibility again.

However, what seems clear is that the future of this franchise over the next several years largely depends on the quality of pitching it will produce from within or acquire via trade & free agency. That seems to be the plan.  And we´re not only talking about Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler, but also about having enough depth and a strong bullpen to go with hopefully strong frontline SP.

Since teams like Washington & San Francisco have been mentioned as potential “role models” in all of this, I took a brief look at how those two teams did over the past 4 seasons in terms of scoring runs & allowing runs and what the actual difference between them and the Mets has been over that span. Also, let´s take a step back and look at the financial implications as well.

What´s pretty interesting is that all 3 teams have scored a very similar amount of runs over that 4-year span:

Washington: 2.718, i.e. an average of 679.5 Runs per season

San Francisco: 2.638, i.e. an average of 659.5 Runs per season

New York Mets: 2.691, i.e. an average of 672.75 Runs per season

None of these numbers is very high. However, all three teams play at least half of their games in at least slightly pitcher-friendly environments.

You guessed it – the main difference between the three teams has been the pitching:

San Francisco over the past 4 seasons has averaged 90 wins per season by allowing merely 2.418 Runs overall and thus 604.5 Runs per season on average.

The Nationals – after being terrible in 2009 and 2010, allowing 1.615 Runs in those two season and thus a whopping average of 807.5 per year – have merely allowed 1.237 Runs in 2011 and 2012 for an average of 618.5 Runs per season – or almost 200 less than before. Correspondingly, after averaging 63.5 Wins per season in 2009 & 2010, the Nats have now averaged 89.5 Wins per season in 2011 and 2012, while actually scoring a few runs less in those two years combined than in 2010 and 2009.

Finally, the Mets have given up by far the most runs among these teams over the past 4 years, a whopping 2.860 total and thus an average of 715 Runs per season. While the offense has been on par with the Nats & Giants, giving up 100 or so Runs more per year has been the back-breaker for recent Mets teams and thus has led to an underwhelming average total of 75.5 Wins per season during that span.

So, yes, using the Nats & Giants as role models may not be a bad idea. Building a strong & deep pitching staff over the next couple of years along with depth in the minors to be able to sustain it via trade or further promotions from within seems to be the formula to proceed with. And it has nothing to do with “Moneyball” but a lot more with common sense. And if it works, the Mets will be in a great position to sustain it financially over the long haul since revenue should rise significantly with a winning product on the field. Average 90 wins per season and I´m pretty sure Citi Field will be a crowded place again.

Oh, I almost forgot looking at finances which seem to be such a prevalent issue here these days:

The San Francisco Giants – who have won 2 World Series over the past 4 years while barely missing the playoffs in the other two – have spent an average of $107.442 million per season on their last 4 teams. Starting with an $82.566 million payroll in 2009 and recently culminating with $131.980 million spent on the 2012 World Champions.

The Nats – over their past two competitive seasons – have averaged payrolls of merely $82.681 million after being below $70 million in each of their dreadful 2009 and 2010 seasons. Even in the 98-win season of 2012, however, they spent merely $94.568 million in total salary on players.

The Mets – who have failed to even crack .500 in any of those past 4 seasons – had to spend a whopping total of $517.953 million over that span for an average of 129.488 million per year, starting with $153.550 million in 2009 to a mere $94.508 million in 2012 – or about the cost of one Rule V pick less than the Nats spent on their 98-win team.

And while you can witness a gradual rise in payroll for the Giants & Nats as their initially young team has started to age and become more expensive, the Mets have actually managed to remain a mediocre 75-win caliber team while cutting costs by almost $60 million per year total from their record in 2009 all the way to 2012. As of today, that total for 2013 figures to remain in the $95 to $100 million range, though the actual payout will be much lower due to deferred payments to Santana, Wright and Bay and probably in the $75 to $80 million or so range once the roster is completed. Looking at 2014, for now, we´re looking at a projected payroll in the $60 million range for the Mets – and thus plenty of room to get it into a range that is deemed necessary to start a competitive run again. Be it 85 or 95 or 105 million dollars.

Still, leaving out any individual decisions on players over the past couple of years or how good you believe the talent evaluation skills of the current front office are or aren’t, the general “Plan” sounds like a very sound strategy if you look at how the Nats & Giants have been successful with it, doesn’t it ?

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The 5 ½ Man Rotation: A Healthier and Winning Formula for Future Mets Teams? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/01/the-5-%c2%bd-man-rotation-a-healthier-and-winning-formula-for-future-mets-teams.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/01/the-5-%c2%bd-man-rotation-a-healthier-and-winning-formula-for-future-mets-teams.html/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 18:54:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=104849 generation k pulsipher, wilson, isringhausenFor the past 30+ years, the 5-man rotation has become a standard in Baseball. Initially, most teams used 4 regular starting pitchers making 36 or so starts per season (when healthy), with another 15 to 18 starts or so going to a “swing-man” (5th starter / long reliever) who only got a turn in the rotation when there were no off-days or (sometimes still scheduled) doubleheaders.

Has it been an effective method to reduce injuries to pitchers ? I don´t know. One thing to keep in mind is that only for the past 10 to 15 years max, Baseball teams have started to really protect the arms of their prized pitchers, especially young ones in their first couple of seasons in the majors or post surgery. Remember how “Generation K” was “abused” by Dallas Green & friends in the mid 1990s before this became common knowledge ? 120+ pitch starts have become a rarity in today´s game – basically only when a pitcher has a no-hitter or at least a shutout going or is on historic strikeout pace. So, the historical evidence one may bring up from examples of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s as pros or cons for the benefit of 5-man-rotations vs. 4-man rotations seems flawed anyway. That besides much improved methods of detecting arm issues today (and handling them) than 20 or 30 years ago – so increased odds that arm issues will be detected – but not in career ending fashion like in old times.  To avoid boring you with possibly outdated data, I suggest you Google studies on the 5-man or 4-man rotations where plenty of stuff can be found on the Internet – but is not too helpful IMHO.

Now, no team in Baseball I can think of, has ever really tried going with a 6-man rotation or at least a modified “5 ½ man-rotation” for an extended period of time.  Except maybe for brief stretches of carrying a surplus starter here or there based on too many worthy rotation candidates with a DL returnee. Or at times late in a season with the team already out of contention to try out multiple options for future seasons. No team has specifically used this model over an entire season yet.

Before I explain why I believe 2013 would be a perfect time & situation for the Mets to give this idea an extended look, I will acknowledge that the main reasoning against the 5-man vs. the 4-man rotation obviously also applies to the 6-man rotation vs. the 5-man rotation:

“Your best starting pitchers get fewer starts and somebody who wouldn’t be good enough to even crack the rotation normally gets a bunch of starts instead”. Sure, if you have Justin Verlander or CC Sabathia, heck even RA Dickey on your staff, I very much get the point. And if depth is an issue anyway, it becomes an even larger one with 6 instead of 5 rotation gigs to fill.

However, the 2013 Mets as of today will have a starting rotation of mostly youngish pitchers, plus a couple of pitchers returning from shoulder injuries. In each case, one big goal has to be getting the arms as safely as possible through the typical injury nexus period (ages 19 through 24) and obviously try to avoid further injuries anyway, especially considering the financial implications.

One possible way to achieve that could be using a “5 ½” man rotation, i.e. 5 starters on regular turn and a spot 6th starter who chips in when there aren’t off-days or rain-outs to keep starters on 5 or 6 days of rest instead of the traditional 4 and otherwise serves as a long reliever.

While I acknowledge that the sample size is quite small, there are a couple of factors that point to a very significant upside in this approach. And given that the 2013 Mets may not be favored to go deep into October anyway, the downside seems pretty modest.

1. Higher Effectiveness and More Innings From Your SP

matt harveyLast season – whether it was by design or not – Jon Niese & Matt Harvey received an extra day or two of rest quite often. And the difference in performance was stunning (I only counted starts of regular 4-days rest vs. starts of 5 or 6 days of rest, leaving out starts with longer rest that usually won´t happen under normal circumstances).

Niese & Harvey made a combined total of only 13 starts on 4-days rest. Here are the combined numbers:

77.2 IP, 78 H, 49 R, 46 ER, 14 HR, 30 BB, 59 K´s, 5.33 ERA, 5.97 IP on average per start, 6.85 K´s per 9 IP

Meanwhile, the two made a combined total of 22 starts with 5 or 6 days of rest. Here are the numbers:

142.2 IP, 118 H, 38 R, 36 ER, 10 HR, 37 BB, 126 K´s, 2.27 ERA, 6.48 IP per start, 7.95 K´s per 9 IP.

And quite interestingly, the average number of pitches thrown per start was 98.2 on 4-days rest and 101,94 on 5 or 6 days of rest. So basically for half an extra inning per start you they needed to throw merely 4 pitches – and due to much higher success probably at lower stress levels – both mentally and physically.

So, basically,  these rather extreme results are the difference between a mediocre # 5 starter on regular rest and an ace on 5 or 6 days of rest for a similar number of innings – albeit less stressful ones.

If this isn’t merely a small sample sized fluke but rather a real effect of extra rest, let´s project the numbers over a full season:

Just instead of the standard 33 starts for a healthy full-time member at the front-end of a 5-man rotation, let´s do a projection for a member of a “5 ½ man” rotation who only gets  29 starts (162 regular season games would mean 27 starts average for each member of a 6-man rotation  – however with All Star break & off-days, 29 starts seems like a realistic projection):

29 starts x 6,48 IP per start = 187.92 IP – or almost the number of innings you wouldn’t want Matt Harvey to exceed over his first full MLB season anyway. And where Zach Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia (if he´s a SP longterm) could get in a best case scenario by the 2014 season…

So, compared to a 33-start SP who may only average  6 IP or so per start (i.e.198 IP over a full season), you only lose a dozen or so innings overall – but those you get may well be far, far more effective as  you also probably save 25 or 30 runs in the process, if not more.

Also, by going deeper into games, there´s lesser need for fringe average middle relievers such as Manny Acosta or Ramon Ramirez last year to enter a game in the middle innings. Basically, except for the dozen or so IP you lose in this projection overall and the 15 extra starts or so going to the new 6th starter / long reliever, you take away a bunch of innings from the middle relievers. And thus, overall, your team may not be worse off using a mediocre # 6 spot starter such as, say Jeremy Hefner or Aaron Laffey for example.

Obviously, you don´t want to bounce a highly paid or touted young arm around in such a role. But give it to a strike-throwing back-end type who may be happy to just pitch in the majors and the results should be acceptable. In the grander scheme of things, the number of innings, say Niese + Acosta + Ramirez combined for in 2012 stay the same – but instead they go to Niese + maybe Hefner. So, in all this, what you gain by having someone like Niese to be more effective has to be worth more than what you lose from Hefner pitching more instead of, whoever Acosta or R.Ramirez are on the 2013 Mets. Considering how mediocre and inconsistent most middle relievers are, not a bad risk to take and definitely worth a try.

2. Better Health

In the minors, the Mets have already been going with a 5 or 6 days of rest routine for most of their farm teams over the past two seasons. And the result  has been an unusually low amount of arm injuries to the young pitching prospects – a refreshing change from the past.  Again, the sample size is just as small here. But if 25 out of the 25 or so regular minor league SP manage to stay reasonably healthy getting 5+ days of rest between starts instead of 4, maybe it´ll also help keep arms healthier (and more effective) at  the major league level. So, this is already a widely used approach at the minor league level – and really the reason it got me thinking.

3. Depth

jeremy hefnerThe one big organizational strength right now is a deep pool of young pitching.

This entire thing only works if you have the depth to run out 5 qualified starters on a regular basis, plus have enough options for to serve as the  # 6  starter / long reliever (at times, you may need to move pitchers up & down from the upper minors if someone has to leave a start early or in case of doubleheader for example).

As of today, the 2013 rotation is Niese – Harvey – Santana – Gee and for now probably Mejia or C.McHugh or Laffey in the # 5 spot, though a free agent signing like C.Young or S.Marcum seems likely to get Mejia and McHugh a few more starts at AAA to work on their command and secondary pitches.

Along with Wheeler and Gorski, the Mets should have 4 pitchers in the Las Vegas rotation who could be longterm fits in the rotation – with all due respect to Chris Schwinden and Gonzalez Germen who probably won´t be full-time SP in the majors unless they develop an RA Dickey type knuckleball. McHugh, Gorski and Germen also have in common that they throw strikes. And even if Wheeler and Mejia eventually occupy spots in the regular rotation, McHugh, Gorski and maybe Germen could soon “challenge” Hefner or Laffey in the spot starter / long reliever role going forward.

And I´m not even talking about the next wave of young pitching in the mid & lower minors that could be ready to challenge by the second half of the 2014 season, now led by Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Michael Fulmer, Domingo Tapia and several others.

4. Summary

All in all, even based on this – granted small sample sized – evidence both at the major league and minor league with the 2012 Mets, going with a 5 ½ man rotation looks like a very intriguing idea – and quite possibly an invention that could lead to a lot more short term success than we anticipate right now and maybe healthier & more effective starting pitchers overall.  At worst, it´ll limit innings of our prized young arms for the time being.

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