Mets Merized Online » Ed Leyro http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 25 Nov 2014 23:54:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 Featured Post: Who Should Be Traded, Jon Niese or Dillon Gee? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/featured-post-who-should-be-traded-jon-niese-or-dillon-gee.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/featured-post-who-should-be-traded-jon-niese-or-dillon-gee.html/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:33:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170590 dillon gee jonathon niese

I love watching Dillon Gee pitch.  Similarly, I am a fan of Jon Niese.

Although the Mets have been under .500 every season Gee has pitched in the majors, Gee himself has a won-loss record that is six games over .500 and he has never been more than one game under the break-even mark over a full season.  Jonathon Niese, on the other hand, is one of the few Mets left on the team who played at Shea Stadium (David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell are the others, although Murphy and Parnell may not be on this list much longer).  Niese is also the team’s only southpaw on a staff filled with right-handed pitchers.

As much as I enjoy having Gee and Niese on the team, I understand that the starting rotation currently has Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom taking up four spots, with Noah Syndergaard waiting in the wings.  Assuming Colon is traded at some point during the 2015 season (if not sooner), Syndergaard would be the obvious choice to replace him in the rotation.  That would leave one of the members of the Gee-Niese duo out of luck and perhaps out of a job in New York.

Knowing full well that either Gee or Niese will not be a Met by this time next year, I decided to see which player the Mets would be better off keeping.  One or both pitchers might be traded if the right deal comes along, but I think one of the two would be better off staying in the Mets’ starting rotation.  Here’s my reasoning for the player I would like to stick around.

Although he has a 3.91 ERA for his career, Dillon Gee has had only one full season in the majors in which he posted an ERA under 4.00.  Advanced metrics also have his lifetime FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) at 4.23.  For all you kids out there, FIP measures how effective a pitcher is at limiting home runs, walks and hit batsmen while causing strikeouts.  Basically, those are the four categories in which fielders do not determine an outcome.  Therefore, Gee’s 4.23 FIP is considered a little higher than what is expected from an average pitcher.

Jonathon Niese has a 3.87 career ERA, but has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of his last three seasons, going under 3.50 in two of the last three campaigns.  But on the FIP side, Niese has a lifetime 3.72 FIP and has posted a FIP under 4.00 in each of his last four seasons.  Niese has walked more batters than Gee, but has hit fewer batters and allowed fewer home runs per nine innings than Gee.  And when it comes to strikeouts, Niese is far superior to Gee, as Niese has surpassed 130 strikeouts in a season four times, while Gee has done it just once.

Speaking of strikeouts, although Niese is just 28 years old (he’s actually six months younger than Dillon Gee), he’s already in the Mets’ all-time top ten in career strikeouts.  Niese’s 713 Ks are tenth on the team’s lifetime leaderboard and he is just one strikeout behind Bobby Jones for ninth place.  Once he passes Jones, the only pitchers in front of him will be Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, David Cone, Ron Darling, Al Leiter and Jon Matlack.  You may also know that octet as arguably the eight best pitchers in the history of the franchise.   Niese’s strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.69; 713 K/265 BB) is also far better than Gee’s ratio (2.26; 464 K/205 BB).

Let’s look at another new metric to determine a pitcher’s effectiveness – ERA+.  This metric compares a pitcher’s earned run average to the league average and also accounts for park factors, with 100 being considered an average ERA+.  For example, Citi Field is generally considered a pitcher’s park.  However, Dillon Gee has never posted an ERA+ of 100 in any of his four full seasons.  From 2011 to 2014, Gee has posted a 90 ERA+, with a career-best 98 ERA+ in 2013, which is still 2% worse than the average pitcher.  Meanwhile, Jonathon Niese has a 97 ERA+ since he became a regular in the rotation in 2010.  But since 2012, Niese has a 104 ERA+, making him 4% better than the average pitcher over the last three seasons.  Niese’s career-best performance in this metric came in 2012, when he posted a 112 ERA+.

WAR (wins above replacement) is all the rage in this sabermetric era of baseball.  The higher the WAR, the better the player.  It’s that simple.  Looking at the WAR posted by Gee and Niese since 2011 (the year both pitchers were rotation-mates for the first time), it’s clear which pitcher has been more valuable to the team.  Gee has a 4.5 WAR since 2011, going above 1.0 just once in the four years (2013, when he posted a 2.2 WAR).  In the same time period, Niese has a 6.2 WAR, posting a 3.4 WAR in 2012 and a 1.7 WAR this past season.

WAR.  What is it good for?  For Niese, it might be good for keeping him in New York.

WAR. What is it good for?  For Niese, it might be good for keeping him in NY.

Finally, let’s look at one overlooked, but still important, part of the pitcher’s game – his offense.  When a pitcher comes to bat, he’s not expected to do much.  If there’s a runner on base, he’s expected to bunt him over.  If there’s no one on base, the best a pitcher is expected to do is not get hurt swinging the bat and maybe make the opposing pitcher throw a few extra pitches.  When it comes to proficiency with the bat, there’s no contest between Gee and Niese.

Since becoming a regular in the rotation in 2011, Dillon Gee has a .154 on-base percentage, reaching base 27 times (18 hits, nine walks) in 206 plate appearances.  Meanwhile, since Niese joined the rotation for good in 2010, he has reached base an incredible 66 times (38 hits, 28 walks) in 304 plate appearances, which is a .237 on-base percentage.  Of all pitchers with at least 200 plate appearances since 2010, only Zack Greinke (.274 OBP in 245 PA) and Mike Leake (.261 OBP in 338 PA) have a higher on-base percentage than Jonathon Niese and only Ian Kennedy has drawn more walks (32 BB in 342 PA) than Niese.  Kennedy and Niese are the only pitchers who have walked more than 20 times since 2010.

So let’s review.  Jonathon Niese has a better ERA, ERA+, FIP and WAR than Dillon Gee.  Niese is also much more adept at recording strikeouts than Gee and has a better K/BB ratio.  And while Gee is almost an automatic out with the bat, Niese gives the Mets a ninth hitter in the lineup, reaching base just under a quarter of the time.  Niese isn’t going to break into a home run trot any time soon, but he has proven to be one of the better handlers of the bat among National League pitchers.

Dillon Gee will blow out 29 candles during the first month of the 2015 campaign.  Jonathon Niese will be 28 all season.  Niese has more experience than Gee, having pitched at Shea Stadium.  Niese is also left-handed, something no other starting pitcher on the Mets can claim.  Although Gee is still arbitration eligible and will likely not command more than $5 million in 2015, Niese is due $7 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016, hardly amounts that would break the Wilpon family piggy bank.

If the Mets are going to trade one of their veteran homegrown pitchers before the curtains rise on the 2015 season, it should be clear which one should go.  Although I’ve always enjoyed watching him pitch and still believe he can be successful in New York, Dillon Gee will probably be the victim of an overcrowded starting rotation.  Jonathon Niese, despite all the question marks surrounding his health, has still made at least 24 starts in each of his five full seasons in the majors.  Gee has surpassed 22 starts just twice in his four full seasons with the Mets.  Also, Niese may not always utter the most politically correct statements, especially when it comes to Mets fans’ loyalty, but you can’t say he was pulling things out of his posterior.  If the Mets are going to draw the crowds Niese was used to seeing when he was a neophyte, then the team has to play better.  And right now, I believe the team will perform better with Niese on the team instead of Gee.

Of course, trading Gee or Niese will depend on the package the Mets would receive in return, but if each package was similar and the Mets had an option of trading either player, then that player should be Gee.  The future of the team would look a lot brighter if it held on to Niese.

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Doc Gooden’s Greatness On The Mound Extended Past The 1986 Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/doc-goodens-greatness-on-the-mound-extended-past-the-1986-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/doc-goodens-greatness-on-the-mound-extended-past-the-1986-season.html/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 14:00:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170153 doc gooden shea stadium

Dwight Gooden, the Mets’ hurler who helped exhume the team from Grant’s Tomb and brought Shea Stadium back to life in the mid-’80s, is celebrating his 50th birthday today.  When Gooden was at his peak three decades ago, the baseball cognoscenti agreed that his first three seasons in the major leagues were among the best by a young pitcher in the game’s history.  Gooden took the mound 99 times from 1984 to 1986, going 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 35 complete games, 13 shutouts and 744 strikeouts – reaching 200 or more strikeouts in each season.

But after off-the-field problems came to light prior to the 1987 campaign, Gooden went from being Dr. K to being Dr. Just OK.  Or did he?

From 1987 to 1991, Doc’s numbers were clearly not the same as they were during his first three seasons.  But they were still pretty darn good.  In his fourth through eighth seasons with the Mets, Gooden went 74-34 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 797 batters, completing 22 games and tossing eight shutouts.  He also finished in the top five in the Cy Young Award voting twice.  (Gooden was fifth in the Cy Young balloting in 1987 and fourth in 1990.)  He accomplished all of this from 1987 to 1991 despite making fewer than 28 starts in three of the five seasons.

Perhaps his greatest and most under-appreciated accomplishment occurred in 1991.  After seven consecutive seasons of winning 87 or more games, the Mets finished under .500 in ’91.  But Gooden still managed to finish with a 13-7 record, 3.60 ERA and 150 strikeouts in only 27 starts.  In 15 of those 27 starts, Gooden allowed two earned runs or fewer, but received losses or no-decisions in six of the games, mainly because he was surrounded by a putrid offense.

Keith Miller (.280) and Gregg Jefferies (.272) were the only players with 300 or more plate appearances to finish the year with a batting average north of .260.  Howard Johnson (38 HR, 117 RBI, 108 runs) was the sole Met with more than 16 homers, 74 RBI or 65 runs scored.  Gooden basically had to help himself when he was in the game, as he batted .238 with three doubles, a homer, six RBI and seven runs scored in only 63 at-bats.  His .333 slugging percentage was higher than the marks posted by Mark Carreon (.331 in 254 AB), Vince Coleman (.327 in 278 AB) and Garry Templeton (.306 in 219 AB).

In the five seasons immediately following the 1986 championship campaign, when Gooden supposedly went from being a great pitcher to just being a very good pitcher, the right-hander’s winning percentage was .685 in 137 starts.  That was the highest winning percentage for all pitchers who made 100 or more starts from 1987 to 1991.  The rest of the top five included Dave Stieb, Roger Clemens, Bob Welch and Dave Stewart – pitchers who combined to win 909 games over their long and successful major league careers.

Player W-L% GS W L ERA FIP BA OBP SLG OPS
Dwight Gooden .685 137 74 34 3.39 2.78 .249 .304 .342 .647
Dave Stieb .667 137 68 34 3.32 3.78 .226 .306 .332 .638
Roger Clemens .662 172 94 48 2.74 2.61 .227 .284 .329 .613
Bob Welch .662 174 88 45 3.47 3.93 .245 .313 .375 .689
Dave Stewart .629 181 95 56 3.54 3.66 .246 .314 .366 .680

The Mets averaged nearly 99 wins a season from 1984 to 1986, with Gooden accounting for 58 of the team’s 296 wins in those three campaigns.  Although several stints on the disabled list caused Gooden to miss significant time in 1987, 1989 and 1991, Doc still won 74 games in the five years immediately following the team’s championship in 1986.

Averaging 27 starts per season from 1987 to 1991 should have allowed other National League pitchers to finish well ahead of Gooden in wins, but that never happened.  In fact, only Doug Drabek won more games in the Senior Circuit than Dwight Gooden did during that five-year stretch, as seen in the chart below.

Player W G GS CG SHO W-L% IP H BB SO
Doug Drabek 77 165 162 26 12 .602 1106.0 1009 283 643
Dwight Gooden 74 139 137 22 8 .685 969.0 911 283 797
Greg Maddux 73 171 168 32 9 .549 1143.0 1107 374 718
Tom Browning 72 176 175 19 5 .576 1141.1 1123 297 573
David Cone 67 155 138 27 10 .620 994.2 829 336 945

When Gooden was at his best from 1984 to 1986, he was the league’s premier strikeout pitcher, fanning 200 or more batters in each of his first three seasons and averaging nearly 250 Ks per year.  Gooden’s propensity for throwing strike three earned him the nickname Dr. K, but just because he wasn’t leading the league in strikeouts from 1987 to 1991 as he did in his first two seasons didn’t mean he was no longer frustrating batters at the plate.

In his fourth through eighth seasons in the big leagues, the good Doctor struck out 797 batters.  Only one pitcher in the National League had more strikeouts than Gooden did during those five “post-dominant Doc” seasons – his teammate, David Cone, who won two strikeout titles of his own in 1990 and 1991.

Player SO SO/9 SO/BB K% GS W L W-L% IP BF
David Cone 945 8.55 2.81 23.1% 138 67 41 .620 994.2 4092
Dwight Gooden 797 7.40 2.82 19.8% 137 74 34 .685 969.0 4023
Sid Fernandez 733 8.40 2.55 22.8% 128 48 40 .545 785.2 3211
Mike Scott 719 7.13 2.72 19.4% 134 59 46 .562 908.0 3715
Greg Maddux 718 5.65 1.92 14.9% 168 73 60 .549 1143.0 4831

There’s one last thing that won’t show up in a boxscore or a chart that helps assess Dwight Gooden’s value to the Mets after his first three historic seasons with the team.  During the five-year period from 1987 to 1991, Gooden was outstanding at helping the Mets win games that immediately followed a loss, thereby preventing the Mets from suffering through extended losing streaks.

In Gooden’s 137 starts during those five years, 65 of them came after a loss by the team.  The Mets’ record in those 65 contests was 41-24, giving the team a .631 winning percentage in post-loss games started by Doc.  When any other starting pitcher took the mound immediately following a Mets loss during that five-year stretch, the team’s record in those games was 147-148, for a .498 winning percentage.  That’s how valuable Gooden was to the team after he had supposedly lost his ability to dominate hitters.

Dwight Gooden never had a winning percentage under .650 in any season from 1987 to 1991, while the Mets never posted a winning percentage above .625 in any of those five campaigns.  The entire team stopped being as great as they were in 1986, but not Doc.  He just continued to find ways to win.  If anything, he was one of the main reasons why the team continued to be competitive for as long as they did, until the bottom fell out in the early ’90s.

Today is Doc’s 50th birthday, making it a perfect day to look back at how golden he was not just during his first three seasons with the Mets, but in the years immediately following the team’s World Series championship.  The baseball pundits might say Gooden wasn’t the same pitcher after 1986, but that didn’t make him any less valuable to the Mets.  The numbers don’t lie.  Doc Gooden never lost his ability to be among the best pitchers in the league even when his club stopped being one of the best teams in the league.

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October 25, 1986: Little Roller Up Along First… http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/october-25-1986-little-roller-up-along-first.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/october-25-1986-little-roller-up-along-first.html/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 05:19:13 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168653 apollo 11

Every generation has its defining moment. People who grew up in the 1960s know exactly where they were when President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. In the 1980s, every American knows where they were when the Space Shuttle exploded. It’s no different for Mets fans.

People who grew up rooting for the Mets remember every detail of the 1969 Miracle Mets’ run to the World Series. Fans of my generation well up with happy tears when you mention two words to them: Game 6. How can anyone forget the night of October 25, 1986?

The Mets were facing elimination entering Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. They fought back to tie the Series at Fenway Park after dropping the first two games of the Series at Shea Stadium. Then Bruce Hurst shut them down in Game 5 to send the series back to New York with the Mets down three games to two.

It was up to Bob Ojeda to save the Mets’ season. He was opposed by Roger Clemens, who was later given the 1986 AL Cy Young Award. Ojeda was also called upon for Game 6 of that year’s NLCS against the Astros, a game in which the Mets defeated Houston in 16 innings to claim the National League pennant. In that game, Ojeda struggled early, giving up three runs in the first inning before settling down. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was no different for Ojeda. He gave up single runs to the Red Sox in each of the first two innings, but then settled down.

When Ojeda was replaced by Roger McDowell to start the seventh inning, the Mets had come back against Roger Clemens to tie the score at 2. Although the drama that unfolded in the tenth inning is what Game 6 is most known for, a number of interesting events occurred in the seventh inning that are often forgotten.

With one out and Marty Barrett on first base for the Red Sox, Jim Rice hit a ground ball near the third base line that barely stayed fair. Ray Knight fielded it and threw wildly to first base, with the ball popping in and out of the glove of a leaping Keith Hernandez. That brought up Dwight Evans with runners on the corners. Evans hit a ground ball for the second out of the inning, but Barrett scored the go-ahead run and Rice was able to advance to second base. That was when Mookie Wilson became a hero for the first time that night.

Roger McDowell was able to get ahead of Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman by throwing strikes on the first two pitches, but Gedman then grounded the 0-2 pitch from McDowell between short and third for a base hit that appeared to give the Red Sox an insurance run. However, Mookie Wilson charged the ball and fired a strike to Gary Carter at home plate to cut down a sliding Jim Rice for the third out of the inning.

1986-ws-gary-carter-jim-rice

The defensive efforts of Wilson and Carter helped keep the Red Sox lead at one, a lead that would be erased when the Mets came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Roger Clemens had been pinch hit for in the top of the eighth inning, so the Red Sox brought in former Met Calvin Schiraldi to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. Schiraldi had been brilliant in relief for the Red Sox during the regular season, compiling a 4-2 record and a sparking 1.41 ERA. However, all that changed once Lee Mazzilli led off the inning with a base hit. Lenny Dykstra followed with a sacrifice bunt, but he reached first base safely when Schiraldi threw wildly to second base in a failed attempt to nail Lee Mazzilli. Now the Mets had two men on with nobody out for Wally Backman, who laid down a bunt of his own. His successful sacrifice moved Mazzilli and Dykstra into scoring position for Keith Hernandez, who was intentionally walked to load the bases. That brought up Gary Carter. On a 3-0 pitch, Carter had the green light and lined a sacrifice fly to left field. The fly ball allowed Lee Mazzilli to score the tying run. When neither team scored in the ninth inning, the stage was set for the most dramatic inning in Mets history.

The inning started with a bang, but not the one wanted by Mets fans. Dave Henderson led off the inning with a laser beam down the left field line that just stayed fair as it cleared the wall. The home run off Rick Aguilera silenced the Shea Stadium crowd of 55,078 and gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. They weren’t done yet. Aguilera came back to strike out the next two batters but then proceeded to give up a double to Wade Boggs and a run-scoring single to Marty Barrett. The latter hit gave the Sox an insurance run as the lead was now 5-3. The next batter was hit by a pitch. Who was the victim of Aguilera’s wayward offering? None other than Bill Buckner (more on him later). Now there were two men on base for Jim Rice. Rice could have redeemed himself for being thrown out at home in the seventh inning with a hit in the tenth. However, Rice failed to add to the Red Sox lead when he flied out to Lee Mazzilli in right. His failure to come through in two crucial spots set up the events in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Mets.

gary carter 1986 ws hit

Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were due to lead off in the bottom of the tenth inning. However, two fly balls later and the Mets were down to their final out with no one on base. The dream was one out away from becoming a nightmare. 108 regular season wins and a thrilling NLCS against the Astros would mean nothing if the Mets couldn’t start a rally against Calvin Schiraldi and the Red Sox. The Shea Stadium scoreboard was flashing “Congratulations Red Sox: 1986 World Champions” and NBC had already awarded its player of the game to Marty Barrett. Then Gary Carter stepped up to the plate and something special began to happen.

On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Carter singled to left. Then Kevin Mitchell, pinch-hitting for Rick Aguilera lined a hit to center on an 0-1 curveball. The tying runs were now on base for Ray Knight. If you recall, Knight had made an error in the seventh inning that led to a run for the Red Sox. Perhaps this game would never have gone into extra innings had Knight not committed his error. Knight didn’t care. All he cared about was getting a hit to continue the inning. Unfortunately for him, Schiraldi threw his first two pitches for strikes. The Mets were down to their final strike, but Ray Knight had something to say about that.

On a pitch that was headed for the inside corner of the strike zone, Knight fisted it over Marty Barrett’s head into short center for another base hit. Carter scored from second base and Mitchell went from first to third on the hit. The tying run was 90 feet away and the winning run was at first base. Red Sox manager John McNamara had made up his mind. He was going to Bob Stanley to try to win the World Series. Stanley would face one batter, Mookie Wilson, with everything on the line.

Stanley would throw six pitches to Mookie Wilson to get the count to 2-2. Hoping for strike three with his seventh pitch, Stanley let go of the pitch and at the same time, let go of the lead. The pitch was way inside, causing Mookie to throw himself up in the air to avoid getting hit. Fortunately, the ball didn’t hit Mookie or Rich Gedman’s glove (or home plate umpire Dale Ford for that matter). The ball went all the way to the backstop and Kevin Mitchell was able to scamper home with the tying run. The wild pitch also allowed Ray Knight to move into scoring position with the potential winning run. All Mookie needed to do now was get a base hit to drive him in, or perhaps he could so something else to bring him home.

During the regular season, John McNamara had always removed first baseman Bill Buckner for defensive replacement Dave Stapleton during the late innings. However, this time Buckner was left in the game despite the fact that he was hobbling around on two gimpy legs and had just been hit by a pitch in the previous inning. What was McNamara’s reasoning for the decision? He wanted Buckner to be on the field to celebrate their championship with his teammates. Instead, Buckner was on the field during a different kind of celebration.

Buckner was at first base as the count went to 3-2 on Mookie Wilson. A mountain of pressure had been lifted off his shoulders once he went airborne to elude Stanley’s pitch. A relaxed Mookie came back to the plate to finish what he came up there to do. After fouling off two more pitches, including a line drive that curved foul down the left field line, Wilson hit a little roller up along first, bringing Mets fans to their feet as Bill Buckner hobbled to the line in an attempt to field it. I’ll let NBC broadcaster Vin Scully describe what happened.

“Little roller up along first. Behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

A miracle had happened on the diamond. Perhaps Mookie’s grounder hit a pebble. Perhaps Buckner took his eyes off the ball as he watched Mookie sprint down the first base line. Perhaps God was a Mets fan. Regardless of what caused it to happen, Mookie’s grounder found its way under Buckner’s glove and the Mets lived to see another day.

bill-buckner

As a dejected Bill Buckner walked off the field, Shea Stadium was rocking as it never had before. Mookie Wilson was still running towards second base because he had no idea that Ray Knight had scored the winning run. Ron Darling, who was scheduled to start the seventh and deciding game of the World Series the following night (even though it was rained out and played two nights later), admitted that he could see dust falling from the roof of the Mets dugout because of the vibrations caused by the fans jumping up and down over it. Keith Hernandez had left the dugout to go into Davey Johnson’s office after making the second out of the inning, but never moved from the chair he was sitting in, even after the historic rally had begun because as he admitted afterwards, the chair he was sitting in had hits in it.

As the unbelievable events were flashing on the TV screen for those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to have tickets to the game, Vin Scully came back on the air after a long pause to tell the viewers everything they needed to know about what they had just seen unfold at Shea Stadium on that Saturday night. The Hall-of-Fame broadcaster said:

“If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words. But more than that, you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Mets are not only alive, they are well and they will play the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow.”

Game 6 didn’t give the Mets the World Championship as many baseball fans mistakenly believe. There was still one game left to play. Although it was scheduled for the following night, rain put a hold on Game 7 until the night of Monday, October 27. Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who had been scheduled to start the seventh game for the Red Sox, was scratched from his start to allow Met killer Bruce Hurst to pitch. But I’ll leave that blog for another night.

ray knight

For now, think of the memories you have of that unbelievable Game 6. Imagine how different things would have been if Jim Rice had not been thrown out at home plate in the seventh inning, or if Bob Stanley had relieved Calvin Schiraldi before Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell or Ray Knight produced base hits in the tenth inning. Mets fans who celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Miracle Mets this season might still be talking about that team as their only championship team.

A miracle happened at Shea Stadium 28 years ago today, on October 25, 1986. It is the single greatest Mets memory I have. I’m sure for many of you reading this, it’s your favorite Mets memory as well. Do Mets fans believe in miracles? If you watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the answer is a definite yes.

The rest, as they say, is a matter of history…

1986 mets win

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25 Years Ago: The Co-Captains’ Final Game At Shea Becomes The Undercard http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/25-years-ago-the-co-captains-final-game-at-shea-becomes-the-undercard.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/25-years-ago-the-co-captains-final-game-at-shea-becomes-the-undercard.html/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 17:44:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166765 This was the scene at Shea after the final game played there in 1986.  Three years later, the scene was just a tad different.

This was the scene at Shea after the final game played there in 1986. Three years later, the scene was just a tad different.

On Thursday, the captain of the New York Yankees played his final game in front of his home fans.  He ended the game in memorable fashion, by delivering a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Twenty-five years ago today, the New York Mets were bidding adieu to their co-captains, who were playing their final game at Shea Stadium as members of the team.  The ending to that game was also memorable, but it had nothing to do with the soon-to-be-departed team leaders.

Keith Hernandez (named Mets captain in 1987) and Gary Carter (named Mets co-captain in 1988) were the heart and soul of the 1986 World Champions.  Acquired by general manager Frank Cashen in 1983, Hernandez was the first piece that helped turn the team around from pretenders to contenders.  A year and a half later, Carter became the most important piece added by Cashen.

Together, Hernandez and Carter helped a team that had qualified for the postseason just twice in its first 24 seasons win two division titles in three years.  But by the end of the 1980s, both players were no longer productive and it had become clear that Cashen was not going to bring them back to the team in 1990.  Cashen had already traded away several fan-favorites in 1989, including Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell, hoping that the future of the team would be molded by younger players like Gregg Jefferies.

Cashen’s breakup of the championship team led to disarray in the clubhouse and the club’s first season with fewer than 90 victories since 1983.  Although the ’89 team had stayed in the hunt for the division crown for most of the season, by September 27, the Mets had been eliminated in the playoff race.  With nothing left to play for going into the final home game of the season, the Shea Stadium finale became all about Hernandez and Carter’s last hurrah at the ballpark they helped electrify for many years.

Neither player was in the starting lineup, as Dave Magadan and Mackey Sasser were starting at first base and catcher, respectively.  But both co-captains did make it into the game in the later innings, as Hernandez appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and Carter replaced Sasser behind the plate in the ninth.  Although just 18,666 fans attended the game, the roars for Hernandez and Carter were loud enough to drown out the airplanes flying into LaGuardia Airport.  But those vocal fans remained on their feet for a different reason once the game ended, and it had nothing to do with an extended ovation for their departing co-captains.

After Gregg Jefferies grounded out to end the game, a 5-3 loss to the Phillies, the Mets’ second baseman made a beeline toward his former teammate, Roger McDowell, who had earned the save in Philadelphia’s victory.  What happened next was not exactly the tribute Mets fans were expecting for Hernandez and Carter.

 

Four years before Nolan Ryan made atomic noogies the cool thing to do when he pounded away on Robin Ventura’s skull, McDowell sent the bratty Jefferies to his room with a few well-placed knuckles to the left side of his noggin.  The incident stemmed from a game earlier in the series, as recalled by manager Davey Johnson.

“It went back to Monday night,” said Johnson.  “Roger screamed something at Gregg after he broke Gregg’s bat.  Obviously there’s bad blood between them.”

Breaking one’s bat does not usually set off a bench-clearing brawl a few nights later, leaving some to doubt Johnson’s reason for the melee.  However, Phillies manager Nick Leyva had what was perhaps the real reason for the unique sendoff to Carter and Hernandez.

“There were 30 guys on our side rooting for Roger and 20 guys on their side rooting for Roger.”

Gregg Jefferies was never liked in the Mets clubhouse and his subpar performance on the field did not endear the supposed wunderkind to Mets fans.  But he did make headlines on a night that should have been remembered for the final appearances of two of his beloved teammates.

A few days ago, the Yankee captain ended his final game in his home park by walking off a hero in victory.  Twenty-five years ago today, the Mets’ co-captains ended their last game at Shea by separating teammates and opponents at the bottom of a pile of testosterone (McDowell) and puberty (Jefferies).

For the 1980s Mets, I suppose it was the only way the decade could end.

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Zack Wheeler Joins A Special Strikeout Club http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/zack-wheeler-joins-a-special-strikeout-club.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/zack-wheeler-joins-a-special-strikeout-club.html/#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 13:03:36 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166174 zack wheeler strikeouts

On Friday night, Zack Wheeler struck out seven Atlanta Braves in six innings en route to his 11th victory of the season.  In doing so, he upped his career strikeout total to 264, passing Matt Harvey by three.  It is worth noting that Wheeler has not yet made 50 starts in the big leagues, as Friday’s seven-strikeout effort came in his 48th start at the major league level.

While it is true that several Mets pitchers have struck out more than 264 batters in their first 50 starts with the team, for many of them, those weren’t their first 50 starts in the big leagues.  For example, Sid Fernandez had 297 Ks in his first 50 starts as a Met, but his first start in the big show came in 1983 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Similarly, Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana both had over 300 strikeouts in their 50 starts with the Mets (332 and 310, respectively), but of course, neither pitcher began their career in New York.

By posting 264 strikeouts before his 50th career start (with all starts coming as a New York Met), Wheeler has joined some exclusive company.  Here is the list of all pitchers in Mets history who recorded 250 or more strikeouts in their first 50 starts (or fewer, in some cases).  We are only considering those pitchers who made each of their first 50 starts as a member of the New York Mets, so a pitcher like David Cone – who made his major league debut with the Kansas City Royals in 1986 pitching exclusively in relief – can be included on the list, since each of his first 50 big league starts came in a Mets uniform.  Also, we are only looking at strikeouts recorded in starts.  Strikeout totals compiled in relief appearances (as well as innings pitched in relief) are not included in the chart below.

Pitcher

No. of Starts

Innings Pitched

Strikeouts

50

364.2

418

David Cone

50

356.0

297

50

372.0

270

Zack Wheeler

48

280.1

264

Matt Harvey

36

237.2

261

50

382.1

251

Zack Wheeler has become just the sixth pitcher in Mets history to fan 250 or more batters within his first 50 big league starts.  And look at the other names on the list.  You have the three winningest pitchers in franchise history in Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Jerry Koosman.  You have David Cone, who was traded away before his 30th birthday, but still managed to become the team’s all-time leader in strikeouts per nine innings and is also one of just four pitchers to make at least 100 starts for the team and finish his career with a .600+ winning percentage.  (The others are Gooden, Seaver and Rick Reed.)  And of course, you have Matt Harvey.  Barring any setbacks from Tommy John surgery, the 2013 All-Star Game starting pitcher should become just the second pitcher in team history to record 300 or more strikeouts within his first 50 starts in the majors.  He needs just 39 strikeouts in his next 14 starts to become Doctor K’s understudy in that department.

Now, as great as Wheeler has been in getting those whiffs, he has tended to throw a lot of pitches to get said Ks.  Gooden, Cone, Koosman and Seaver all averaged at least seven innings per start in their first 50 big league starts, while Harvey is just under six and two-thirds innings per start.  Even if Wheeler pitches complete games in both his 49th and 50th career starts, he will still be under 300 innings pitched.  That’s less than six innings per start.

Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman and David Cone are among the best pitchers in club history.  Prior to his injury, Matt Harvey appeared to be on his way to joining them.  Zack Wheeler still needs to work on his command before he can be considered one of the best pitchers to ever don a Mets uniform.  But for now, he is becoming one of the best strikeout pitchers the club has ever seen.  And by joining Seaver, Gooden, Koosman, Cone and Harvey, he’s certainly in a class that very few Mets starting pitchers have had the privilege to be a part of.

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Bartolo Colon: The 40-Year-Old Surgeon http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/bartolo-colon-the-40-year-old-surgeon.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/bartolo-colon-the-40-year-old-surgeon.html/#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 16:36:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162983 Bartolo Colon can afford to smile.  He now has 200 wins and a place in Mets history.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Bartolo Colon can afford to smile. He now has 200 wins and a place in Mets history. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

On Friday, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon earned his 200th career victory by pitching eight innings of one-run ball against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.  Colon needed to sweat out a three-run rally by the Phillies in their last at-bat, but the bullpen eventually recorded the third out before allowing a fourth run to score to give Colon the milestone win.

Colon’s 200th win was also his 11th victory for the Mets in 2014.  And in earning his 11th win of the year, he became just the third Mets pitcher to record as many as 11 victories in a season after his birth certificate turned 40.  See the chart below for the exclusive club joined by Colon.

Name W ▾ Year Age GS W-L% IP H ER BB SO ERA FIP BA OBP SLG OPS
Tom Glavine 15 2006 40 32 .682 198.0 202 84 62 131 3.82 4.30 .267 .325 .421 .746
Tom Glavine 13 2007 41 34 .619 200.1 219 99 64 89 4.45 4.86 .281 .338 .438 .776
Orel Hershiser 13 1999 40 32 .520 179.0 175 91 77 89 4.58 4.63 .260 .342 .401 .742
Bartolo Colon 11 2014 41 23 .550 154.1 159 68 20 117 3.97 3.50 .261 .287 .401 .688
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2014.

A 40-year-old (or older) starting pitcher has posted an 11-win season for the Mets four times, with Tom Glavine accomplishing the feat twice, and Orel Hershiser and Colon turning the trick once.  But what separates Colon from Glavine and Hershiser is that Colon has won his 11 games (and counting) for a Mets team that has been struggling all season to get to .500.  Meanwhile, both Glavine and Hershiser won their games for Mets teams that qualified for the postseason.  Glavine won 15 games in 2006 for the NL East champions, while Hershiser notched 13 wins for a Mets team that fell two wins short of a World Series berth.  Glavine’s 2007 squad failed to crash the postseason party, but the Mets still won 88 games that year.

Colon also has far better control than his 40-year-old brethren, as Glavine averaged nearly two walks per start in his two 11-plus win seasons and Hershiser walked nearly two-and-a-half batters per appearance.  This year, Colon has issued 20 free passes in 23 starts, an average of less than one walk per start.  Because of his surgical precision on the mound, opposing batters have a .287 on-base percentage and .688 OPS against Colon, as opposed to Glavine and Hershiser, who would’ve traded in their AARP cards just to have the opportunity to lower their OBP and OPS to .300 and .700, respectively, in their 11-plus win seasons.

In addition, Colon’s 3.50 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is by far the best of the three forty-something hurlers, dwarfing the 4.30 FIP posted by Glavine in 2006.  Colon’s FIP as a 41-year-old in 2014 in just slightly higher than the 3.45 career FIP posted by former Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander.  It should also be noted that Verlander is ten years Colon’s junior.  By contrast, the FIP posted by Glavine and Hershiser in their 11-plus win campaigns rivals that of former Met Kris Benson, who had a 4.54 FIP in his career (4.46 as a Met).

When Tom Glavine and Orel Hershiser had their high-win seasons for the Mets, both pitchers were beginning to show signs of wear, as they were allowing more opposing hitters to reach base than they had earlier in their careers.  However, they were constantly being bailed out – and therefore were afforded more opportunities to earn wins – by their explosive hitters.  The 1999 squad had John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura, to name a few, while the 2006 and 2007 teams scored aplenty with Jose Reyes, David Wright and the two Carloses (Beltran and Delgado) supplying the firepower.  Bartolo Colon’s offense consists of Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and a subpar Wright.  In other words, Colon has had to truly earn his wins.

Bartolo Colon is signed for one more season – his age 42 season.  Should he remain in the Mets starting rotation in 2015 (not exactly a lock because of trade talks and the expected return of Matt Harvey), he stands to become the first 42-year-old in franchise history to earn a minimum of 11 wins.  Considering what he’s done in 2014, and the fact that he’s not showing any signs of his age, who’s to say he can’t be productive for another season?  We’ll just have to wait and see if that productive season comes in a Mets uniform.

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Lucas Duda Is Finally Looking Like An Everyday Player http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/lucas-duda-is-finally-looking-like-an-everyday-player.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/lucas-duda-is-finally-looking-like-an-everyday-player.html/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 20:42:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160098 Duda may lumber around the bases, but it's his other lumber we care most about.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Duda may lumber around the bases, but it’s his other lumber we care most about.

Coming into the season, Lucas Duda found himself in the awkward position of being in a platoon at first base with a player who, like him, batted from the left side of the plate.  Over the first two-plus weeks of the season, Duda and Ike Davis shared starting duties at first base, with Duda penciled into the starting lineup eight times and Davis five.

Davis accomplished little during the first two weeks of the season.  Other than a walk-off grand slam he hit as a pinch-hitter on April 5, Davis managed to go 4-for-23 with no homers and one RBI.  Meanwhile, Duda managed a two-homer game on April 4, driving all four runs scored by the Mets in a one-run victory.  Eleven days later, Duda collected four hits and drove in two runs in another Mets victory.  It was clear that Duda was flourishing as a run producer during the first few weeks of the season, while Davis was not.  Before one-tenth of the season had been completed, Ike Davis was a former Met and Lucas Duda was the team’s everyday first baseman.

Duda is now thriving at the position.  In Friday night’s game, his two-run opposite-field homer off All-Star pitcher Yu Darvish gave the Mets a two-run lead over the Rangers.  It also gave him the team lead in home runs (13) and RBI (43).  Duda also leads the team in slugging percentage (.472) and OPS (.817).  Since taking over the position for himself in mid-April, Duda has not just become one of the Mets’ top offensive threats, he’s also become one of the top run-producing first basemen in the entire National League.

Through Friday’s games, Duda’s 13 homers and 43 RBI rank highly among NL first basemen.  The only players at the position with more home runs and RBI than Duda are Anthony Rizzo (17 HR, 45 RBI), Paul Goldschmidt (15 HR, 55 RBI), Adrian Gonzalez (14 HR, 53 RBI) and Ryan Howard (14 HR, 51 RBI).  Duda’s slugging percentage and OPS (.472/.817) are higher than Gonzalez (.447/.769) and Howard (.398/.708) and he compares favorably to young sluggers Rizzo (.493/.880) and Freddie Freeman (.497/.883).  And in case you were wondering, Duda’s former platoon partner in New York, Ike Davis, falls outside the league’s top ten in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS for first basemen.

Ike Davis started out well in Pittsburgh, but has fallen off over the past five weeks.  Since June 2, Davis is batting .197 with just four extra-base hits in 27 games (21 starts).  In addition, Davis has put up a pedestrian .276 slugging percentage and .602 OPS since the beginning of June.  Davis has fallen so quickly that he is now part of another first base platoon, this time with the right-handed hitting Gaby Sanchez.  As Davis has struggled in Pittsburgh, Duda has been a bright star in the Mets’ lineup.

Since June 13, Duda has batted .313 with seven doubles, five homers and 12 RBI in 18 games (17 starts).  Duda is also the proud owner of a .656 slugging percentage and a whopping 1.045 OPS over that time period.  In addition, Duda has been one of the team’s best clutch hitters this season, producing a .609 slugging percentage and 1.036 OPS with runners in scoring position, unlike Davis, whose numbers in those situations (.420/.877) aren’t even close to what Duda has produced.

ike davis piratesFinally, of Duda’s 13 HR this year, five have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead.  Why is five so important?  Because that number represents the total number of home runs hit by Ike Davis all season.  In other words, Davis has as many home runs this season as Duda has clutch homers.

There’s a difference between hitting a home run and hitting a key home run.  Since April 21, Ike Davis has hit three homers – all of them have been solo shots and none of them tied the game or gave his team the lead.  Over the same time period, Duda has hit ten home runs, with six of them coming with men on base and three of them tying the game or giving the Mets the lead.

Simply stated, the Mets traded the right player when they dealt Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In doing so, they finally removed the chains that had shackled Lucas Duda since he arrived at the big league level for the first time in 2010.  This is Duda’s fifth season with the Mets, but it appears that this will be the first year he doesn’t get sent back to the minor leagues for extra seasoning.  (Playing out of position in the outfield had a lot to do with that “extra minor league seasoning” as well.)  Duda has proven he belongs at the big league level and is quietly establishing himself as one of the top run-producing first basemen in the league.  All Ike Davis has done is become part of yet another platoon in Pittsburgh.

It may have taken him a while, but Lucas Duda looks like he’s finally here to stay.  Opposing pitchers in the National League are going to wish he wasn’t.

 

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Don’t Blame The Bullpen, Blame The Bats http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/dont-blame-the-bullpen-blame-the-bats.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/dont-blame-the-bullpen-blame-the-bats.html/#comments Sun, 08 Jun 2014 19:02:09 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158048 Don't worry, Jenrry.  It's not you or your armpit that stinks.  It's the team's hitters.

Don’t worry, Jenrry. It’s not you or your armpit that stinks. It’s the team’s hitters.

Saturday night, the Mets took a 4-3 lead against the Giants into the bottom of the ninth inning.  Closer Jenrry Mejia was called upon to protect the precarious lead, but he proceeded to allow two runs to San Francisco, turning what would have been a satisfying victory into an ugly defeat.

The loss was the 16th suffered by a Mets bullpen that has combined to record 15 saves.  The Mets are one of just four teams in baseball whose relievers have more losses than saves.  The other three are the Colorado Rockies (12 losses, 11 saves), Chicago Cubs (12 losses, 11 saves) and Tampa Bay Rays (12 losses, 9 saves).  Prior to last night’s victory over the Dodgers, Colorado had lost eight straight games and 18 of their last 24.  As for the Cubs and Rays, no team in the National League has fewer wins than Chicago, and Tampa has the worst record in all of baseball.  But as unfortunate as the Rockies, Cubs and Rays have been with their bullpens, none of them can match the Mets’ 16 relief losses, which are the most by any bullpen in the big leagues.

In addition, last night’s game was the Mets’ 17th one-run loss of the year.  That’s 17 losses by the smallest margin out of their 34 overall defeats, or half of their losses.  The Mets lead all of baseball with their 17 one-run setbacks.  No other club has more than 14 losses by a single run.  And the team with exactly 14 one-run losses is Cincinnati, a team that made the postseason last year but is one of this year’s biggest disappointments with a 28-32 record entering Sunday’s game.  Another of baseball’s most disappointing teams is the Boston Red Sox, who are also under .500 after winning the World Series in 2013.  Not by coincidence, the Red Sox have the most one-run losses (13) in the American League.  But neither Cincinnati, Boston nor any other major league team can say half of their losses have come by a single run.  Only the Mets can claim that.

Six different pitchers (Jenrry Mejia, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Valverde, Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia, Daisuke Matsuzaka) have recorded at least one save for the Mets this year.  All six have also been saddled with at least one blown save in 2014.  And that’s not including Bobby Parnell, the team’s closer going into the season, who blew his only save opportunity before being lost for the year.

With all that negative statistical analysis, you’d think I’m blaming the bullpen for the Mets’ inability to put up a few extra wins this year.  But it’s the exact opposite.  It’s not the bullpen I’m blaming, it’s the bats.

Unlike recent seasons, the relievers are actually posting a lower ERA (3.51) than the starting pitchers (3.74).  And many of the relievers’ losses this year have come when they’ve pitched beautifully.  For example, when the Mets lost to the Phillies in 14 innings a week ago, seven relievers combined to allow two runs (one earned) in 9⅓ innings.  But the bullpen got tagged with a loss in the Phillies’ eventual triumph.  And yes, it was one of the Mets’ MLB-leading 17 one-run losses.

Similarly, on May 9, when the Mets entertained the Phillies at Citi Field, the bullpen was stellar, allowing just one run on three hits in 6⅓ innings of work.  But that lone run was the decisive tally in the Mets’ 11-inning loss to Philadelphia.  A one-run loss.  Again.

Those games are just two examples of how the Mets bullpen has been more than adequate this season even if the boxscore continues to show losses for the relievers and one-run defeats for the team.  The two losses to the Phillies have another thing in common.  The bats went to sleep after the starter was taken out of the game.  In the May 9 contest, New York scored one run on just four hits in the seven innings following the departure of starter Jenrry Mejia.  The team was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position once Mejia was sent to the showers.  Similarly, in last week’s 14-inning loss to Philadelphia, the Mets were shut out over the last nine innings, going 0-for-7 when they batted with runners in scoring position.

Last night’s game was no different, as the Mets went 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position.  However, all three hits came when starter Bartolo Colon was still in the game.  Once the bullpen was called upon to protect the Mets’ lead, the hitters decided to call it a night, going 0-for-9 over the last three innings.  As a result, the lack of an insurance run or two allowed the Giants to chip away at the Mets’ lead.  And the end result was a loss by the bullpen and another one-run loss for the team.

Here is the Mets’ recipe for playing baseball these days, a recipe that has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Mets fans.

  • Get an early lead.
  • Mix in a hit with a runner in scoring position.
  • Add a relatively strong effort by the bullpen.
  • Stop hitting when the lead appears safe.
  • Watch the bullpen allow no more than two runs in a one-run loss.
  • Repeat.

No team should have more losses from their bullpen than saves.  But the Mets can claim that dubious distinction.  Furthermore, no team should lose half of its games by just one run.  The Mets are alone in that regard.

New York’s bullpen is not perfect.  No team’s bullpen is.  But the relief corps shouldn’t have to shoulder the blame for what the real problem is with the Mets this year.  The team is just not hitting.  They hit enough to put several men on base, then they hit the snooze button just as it appears they’re putting a rally together.

Last night’s loss and the two losses to the Phillies in May were microcosms of what’s plagued the Mets all year.  The bullpen does its job, but the hitters don’t do theirs.  It’s the reason why players like Travis d’Arnaud (the only player in baseball with 125+ plate appearances who has yet to reach double digits in both runs scored and RBI) get sent down to the minors.  And it’s the reason why the Mets are struggling to remain relevant in an otherwise mediocre NL East.

If the Mets were 14-11 in one-run games instead of 8-17, they’d be alone atop the division.  Instead, they’re struggling to stay ahead of the Phillies for last place.  Batting .231 with runners in scoring position and having more strikeouts (143) than hits (129) in those situations have a lot to do with the Mets’ shortcomings this year.  And don’t get me started on the Mets’ .159 batting average with the bases loaded or their .128 average with runners on second and third – a situation that is easier to score a run on because there is no force play at any base, unlike the bases loaded situation.

Don’t blame the bullpen for the Mets’ late-inning losses.  The relief pitchers have done their job better than you think.  Direct your vitriol straight at what passes for the Mets’ offense these days.  The team’s lack of timely hitting is leaving a bad taste in all of our mouths.  And that’s most certainly a recipe for disaster.

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Quick Starts Don’t Always Guarantee Happy Endings http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/quick-starts-dont-always-guarantee-happy-endings.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/quick-starts-dont-always-guarantee-happy-endings.html/#comments Sun, 04 May 2014 16:20:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=154881 For Mets fans, Charlie Culberson is proof that Bichette happens quite often at Coors Field.

For Mets fans, Charlie Culberson is proof that Bichette happens quite often at Coors Field.

In 2006, the Mets rolled to a division title.  The turning point of the season came in early June, during a three-city, ten-game road trip.  The Mets had opened up a seven-game bulge in the NL East by late April, but their lead in the division had been halved to a more tenuous 3½-game lead by early June.

New York split the first two games of their long road trip in 2006, but then won each of the remaining eight games, scoring in the first inning of all eight contests.  By the time the Mets returned to Shea Stadium, they had increased their lead to 9½ games and had lost sight of every division rival in their rear view mirror.  By racing out to quick starts in each game, the Mets increased their chances to win ballgames, and they took advantage of the early leads throughout the road trip and for the rest of the season.

The 2006 Mets scored in the first inning in 61 of their 162 games.  They had the lead after one inning 44 times.  They won 33 of those 44 games, for a .750 winning percentage.  It’s not uncommon for a team to win a ballgame when it gets out to a fast start.  Even the 1962 Mets, who finished the year with a 40-120 record, went 16-21 in games in which they held the lead after one inning.  Their .432 winning percentage in those games was significantly higher than their overall .250 winning percentage.

That brings us to the curious case of the 2014 Mets.  This year’s squad has gotten out to a better-than-expected 15-14 record.  However, they have lost three straight following Saturday night’s heartbreaking loss to the Rockies.  The Mets scored three runs in the first inning, extended that lead to 6-0 two innings later, then watched the Rockies take the lead in the fifth.  New York came back to take a one-run lead in the ninth only to watch Charlie Culberson (who had never homered at Coors Field in 80 career plate appearances) blast a game-winning two-run homer to straightaway center field off Mets “closer” Kyle Farnsworth.

When the Mets scored three runs in the first inning, it marked the 12th time in 29 games they had crossed the plate in an opening frame.  But once Charlie Culberson touched home in the ninth inning, the Mets’ record dropped to 3-9 in those dozen affairs.  That’s a .250 winning percentage.  In other words, the 2014 Mets have had as much of a chance of winning when they score in the first inning as the 1962 Mets had of winning any game.  But even the original Mets were able to play better when they scored in the first than this year’s squad.

It’s still early in the season, and the Mets’ awful record when they score first could easily turn around.  But it’s become an alarming trend that starting pitchers are having trouble holding early leads and relievers also are experiencing technical difficulties protecting those precious leads.

The 2014 Mets have won 12 of 17 games when they haven’t scored in the first inning.  Their luck changes dramatically when they do score in the opening frame.  It doesn’t make any sense why this should be true.  But it needs to be corrected or else Sandy Alderson’s prediction of 90 wins will prove false.

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The Mets Are Experiencing A Home Field Disadvantage http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/the-mets-are-experiencing-a-home-field-disadvantage.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/the-mets-are-experiencing-a-home-field-disadvantage.html/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:53:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=153713 You don’t have to be a numbers-obsessed Mets fan like me to realize that the team has been playing pretty badly at Citi Field over the past few years.  But sometimes the numbers help to advance and enhance the narrative.

For example, since the beginning of the 2011 campaign, the Mets have gone 105-145 in games played at Citi Field.  Meanwhile, over the same time period, the team has posted a winning mark (128-124) on the road.  Should the Mets finish the 2014 season with a losing record at home, it would be the team’s fourth consecutive sub-.500 record in their home ballpark.  Not since the Mets posted six straight losing seasons at home from 1977 to 1982 has the team been so futile before its fans.

But as bad as it’s been at Citi Field for the Mets over the past three seasons, it looks like it’s getting worse before it’s getting better.  Please allow me to explain.

Through their first seven home games in 2014, the Mets have been outhit, 70-34.  They have failed to collect more than seven hits in any game at Citi Field, but their opponents haven’t had that problem, as they have mustered seven or more hits in EVERY GAME played at Citi Field this season.

The Mets have batted .160 at home this year, while reaching base at a .246 clip.  Never has any team in Mets history posted a lower batting average through its first seven home games.  To put those numbers into perspective, the league batting average is .248.  That’s two points higher than the Mets’ on-base percentage at home this year.  (And for the record, the average National League team is posting a .313 on-base percentage.)

But there is one thing the Mets do well at home.  They strike out.  A lot.

In seven games at home, the Mets have fanned 69 times in 212 at-bats.  That’s practically one strikeout every three at-bats.  And before you say, “Well, their pitchers have a lot to do with that, smarty pants, because they’re forced to bat in the National League”, allow me to retort.  Mets hurlers have struck out just six times at Citi Field this season.  (First-place Atlanta has played one fewer home game than the Mets, but their pitchers have struck out eight times.)  So it’s mainly the everyday players who have been heading back to the dugout soon after taking or swinging through strike three.

Shake Shack might have a tasty burger, but what Mets fans really want to taste at Citi Field are Big Kahuna victories.

Shake Shack might have a tasty burger, but Mets fans could really use a Big Kahuna victory at Citi Field.

Just four short years ago, the Mets believed in home field advantage so much, they used their Citi Field success as part of a marketing campaign.  But that was then and this is now.  For as bad as the Mets have been at home since 2011, they’ve become even more lethargic in 2014.

The trade of Ike Davis actually removed one of the few players who was hitting well at Citi Field and wasn’t striking out.  Davis was 4-for-8 with just one strikeout at home.  The rest of the team has gone 30-for-204 (for a .147 batting average) with 68 strikeouts.  If those numbers look familiar to you (which they shouldn’t), that’s because they’re almost identical to the ones put up by Oliver Perez at the plate in his five seasons with the Mets.  Perez hit .147 with 53 strikeouts in 156 at-bats as a Met.

So tell me, my astute Mets fans.  If it’s considered an insult for a Mets pitcher to be compared in any way to Oliver Perez, then what is it considered when a Mets hitter is compared to him?

The Mets used to believe in home field advantage.  But Citi Field has become a home field disadvantage for the team since 2011.  The Mets simply don’t hit at home.  And that translates into not winning at home.  Clearly, the only teams that are taking advantage of Citi Field are the ones who call the third base dugout home.

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Much Ado About Three-Homer Games At Home http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/much-ado-about-three-homer-games-at-home.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/much-ado-about-three-homer-games-at-home.html/#comments Sat, 28 Dec 2013 19:14:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=137151 If you’ve watched as many Mets games as I have over the years, then you’ve undoubtedly heard Gary Cohen make this statement whenever a Met has come up to the plate after hitting two home runs in a home game:

gary cohen mets

 

 

“You know, Keith, no Met has ever hit three home runs in a game at home.”

 

 

 

It’s true.  Nine Mets players have hit three home runs in a game.  But Jim Hickman, Dave Kingman, Claudell Washington, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Edgardo Alfonzo, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis all accomplished their prodigious displays of power on the road.

So naturally I started wondering if the Mets were the only team in baseball to not have a single player hit three home runs in a home game.  My research yielded an interesting answer.

Below is a list of the last players to pull off home run hat tricks for each major league team while wearing their home whites.

Team

Player

Date/Opponent

  Arizona Diamondbacks

  Jason Kubel

  Atlanta Braves

  Mark Teixeira

  Baltimore Orioles

  Chris Davis

  Boston Red Sox

  Kevin Millar

  Chicago Cubs

  Dioner Navarro

  Chicago White Sox

  Paul Konerko

  Cincinnati Reds

  Joey Votto

  Cleveland Indians

  Jim Thome

  Colorado Rockies

  Carlos Gonzalez

  Detroit Tigers

  Miguel Cabrera

  Florida/Miami Marlins

  Cody Ross

  Houston Astros

  Morgan Ensberg

  Kansas City Royals

  Danny Tartabull

  Los Angeles Angels

  Torii Hunter

  Los Angeles Dodgers

  Juan Uribe

  Milwaukee Brewers

  Prince Fielder

  New York Yankees

  Curtis Granderson

  Oakland Athletics

  Miguel Tejada

  Philadelphia Phillies

  Jayson Werth

  Pittsburgh Pirates

  Andrew McCutchen

  San Diego Padres

  Phil Nevin

  San Francisco Giants

  Barry Bonds

  Seattle Mariners

  Edgar Martinez

  St. Louis Cardinals

  Albert Pujols

  Tampa Bay Rays

  Evan Longoria

  Texas Rangers

  Adrian Beltre

  Toronto Blue Jays

  John Buck

  Washington Nationals

  Adam Dunn

Editor’s note:  Barry Bonds was the last member of the San Francisco Giants to hit three home runs in a regular season home game, but the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, which was played in San Francisco.

Did you notice any teams missing in the chart above?  There were two – the Minnesota Twins and the New York Mets.  But prior to 1961, the Minnesota Twins were playing ball as the Washington Senators.  And on August 31, 1956, Jim Lemon became the first and only member of the original Washington Senators to hit three home runs in a home game when he clobbered his triumvirate of taters at Griffith Stadium against the New York Yankees.

With the Senators/Twins franchise having a member in the “three homers at home” club, that leaves the Mets as the only team in the majors without a player who has hit three round-trippers in a single game in his home ballpark.

It’s no wonder Gary Cohen continues to mention that fact ad nauseum in the same way he (and every other Mets broadcaster) used to discuss no-hitters before the events of June 1, 2012.

 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

In honor of the topic at hand, here are some other bits of “three-homer at home” minutiae for you.

  • Two players have hit three homers in a home game on four separate occasions.  Both accomplished their feats for the Chicago Cubs.  Ernie Banks had his three-homer games at Wrigley Field in 1955, 1957, 1962 and 1963, while Sammy Sosa slammed his way to history at the Friendly Confines in 1996, 1998 and twice in 2001.
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers are the only teams to have three players accomplish the “three-homer at home” feat in the same season.  In 1950, fans at Ebbets Field saw Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Tommy Brown go deep three times in one game.  Similarly, Miller Park season-ticket holders in 2011 witnessed Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Prince Fielder circle the bases thrice in the same game.
  • Although no Mets player has ever hit three homers in a game at home, four opposing players had three-homer games against the Mets in New York.  St. Louis’ Stan Musial was the first to do so, smacking three bombs at the Polo Grounds on July 8, 1962.  Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies became the first player to hit three home runs in a game at Shea Stadium on September 29, 1968.  A decade later, Cincinnati’s Pete Rose became the most unlikely candidate to have a three-homer game at Shea when he circled the bases three times on April 29, 1978.  It was the only time Rose hit three home runs in a single game in his 24-year career.  Finally, former Met Dave Kingman launched three long balls at Shea Stadium as a member of the Chicago Cubs on July 28, 1979.
  • No Mets player has ever hit three homers in a home game.  But seven players have hit three blasts in the same game against the Mets in their home ballparks, with one of the seven doing it twice.  Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants victimized the Mets at Candlestick Park in 1963 and 1966.  The next three times a player hit a trio of home runs in a home game against the Mets, those players were wearing Cubs uniforms.  Adolfo Phillips (1967), Billy Williams (1968) and Tuffy Rhodes (1994) gave a total of nine souvenirs to the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field, courtesy of various Mets pitchers.  The other three players to hit three homers in a home game against the Mets were Detroit’s Bobby Higginson (1997 at Tiger Stadium), Arizona’s Luis Gonzalez (2004 at Bank One Ballpark) and Florida’s Cody Ross (2006 at Dolphins Stadium).  Ross’ game remains the only time in Marlins history in which one of their own hit three home runs in a game at home.
Mets fans have always hated Cody Ross.  After reading this piece, they'll hate him even more.

Mets fans have always hated Cody Ross. After reading this piece, they’ll hate him even more.

Since the Mets came into existence in 1962, there have been 175 instances in which a player hit three home runs in the same regular season game at his home ballpark.  In all 175 instances, the player who circled the bases was wearing a uniform that did not say “Mets” on it.

Curtis Granderson was the last Yankee to accomplish the feat at Yankee Stadium.  Now Granderson is a member of the Mets.  Will he become the first Met to hit three homers in a game at home?  Hey, if the Mets could finally pitch a no-hitter, then anything is possible, right?

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Curtis Granderson Is About To Join An Exclusive Club http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/curtis-granderson-is-about-to-join-an-exclusive-club.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/curtis-granderson-is-about-to-join-an-exclusive-club.html/#comments Sat, 07 Dec 2013 17:39:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=134749 Mets Yankees

I am on board with Curtis Granderson becoming an outfielder for the Mets over the next four seasons.  But not everyone is.  So I decided to generate a chart that lists all the players in baseball history who have produced 200 doubles, 200 homers, 80 triples and 100 stolen bases in their respective careers.

For the record, Curtis Granderson’s first double for the Mets will be the 200th in his career.  When he gets it, he will join this group of players in the 200 double, 200 homer, 80 triple, 100 steal club.  See if you recognize any of the names listed below.

 

Rk Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Hank Aaron 3298 12364 2175 3771 624 98 755 2297 239 .305 .374 .555 .929
2 Willie Mays 2992 10881 2060 3283 523 140 660 1903 336 .302 .384 .557 .942
3 Dave Winfield 2973 11003 1669 3110 540 88 465 1833 223 .283 .353 .475 .827
4 Robin Yount 2856 11008 1632 3142 583 126 251 1406 271 .285 .342 .430 .772
5 George Brett 2707 10349 1583 3154 665 137 317 1596 201 .305 .369 .487 .857
6 Paul Molitor 2683 10835 1782 3319 605 114 234 1307 504 .306 .369 .448 .817
7 Joe Morgan 2649 9277 1650 2517 449 96 268 1133 689 .271 .392 .427 .819
8 Andre Dawson 2627 9927 1373 2774 503 98 438 1591 314 .279 .323 .482 .806
9 Steve Finley 2583 9397 1443 2548 449 124 304 1167 320 .271 .332 .442 .775
10 Johnny Damon 2490 9736 1668 2769 522 109 235 1139 408 .284 .352 .433 .785
11 Vada Pinson 2470 9644 1365 2757 485 127 256 1169 305 .286 .327 .442 .769
12 Babe Ruth 2457 8297 2156 2842 495 135 710 2193 123 .343 .475 .691 1.167
13 Roberto Alomar 2379 9073 1508 2724 504 80 210 1134 474 .300 .371 .443 .814
14 Goose Goslin 2287 8658 1482 2735 500 173 248 1619 175 .316 .387 .500 .887
15 Rogers Hornsby 2241 8115 1574 2916 539 169 301 1460 135 .359 .435 .579 1.014
16 Lou Gehrig 2164 8000 1888 2721 534 163 493 1997 102 .340 .448 .633 1.080
17 Curtis Granderson 1187 4438 780 1157 199 80 217 606 122 .261 .340 .488 .828
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/7/2013.

Thirteen of the players listed above are in the Hall of Fame.  Three others (Steve Finley, Johnny Damon, Vada Pinson) had outstanding careers that warranted Hall of Fame consideration.  The 17th member of that group – once he legs out his first two-bagger for the Mets – is Curtis Granderson.  And if he gets that double before his 13th game with the team, he will have joined that exclusive club before playing in his 1,200th career game.  Everyone else on the list played in at least 2,164 games.

Granderson already has as many triples and just seven fewer homers than Roberto Alomar, who is one of the players on the list.  In addition, Granderson’s on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (.340/.488/.828) are all higher than the numbers put up by Hall of Famer Andre Dawson (.323/.482/.806). And his .488 slugging percentage is higher than ten of the 16 other players on the list.

Many home run hitters can produce doubles.  But they don’t usually don’t have the speed to leg out triples or steal bases.  Similarly, great triples hitters who also steal bases aren’t usually among the league’s best power hitters.  That’s why only 16 players have ever produced 200 doubles, 200 homers, 80 triples and 100 stolen bases in their careers.  That’s also why all but three of those players have their plaques hanging in Cooperstown.

Curtis Granderson is about to become the 17th player to reach those career marks.  And now he has four years to add to those numbers as a member of the New York Mets.  Get used to it, Mets fans.  Come March 31st, you’ll be cheering for a very special player.

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Featured Post: Omar Infante Could Be A Smart Pickup For The Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/featured-post-omar-infante-could-be-a-smart-pickup-for-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/featured-post-omar-infante-could-be-a-smart-pickup-for-the-mets.html/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 17:46:39 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133667 Jhonny Peralta has signed a four-year, $52 million contract to play shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Stephen Drew is still out there, but is surprisingly not getting much attention. (Injury history, anyone?)  Ben Zobrist could be traded for, but Tampa Bay really loves him and would more than likely ask for a king’s ransom in exchange for Zobrist.

But there is one veteran middle infielder out there who isn’t getting much attention, but he should be getting lots of attention from the Mets.  That infielder is Omar Infante.  And despite the fact that he’s played only 225 games at shortstop in his career (he’s played over 700 games at second base), he might be the guy to target for the vacant shortstop position at Citi Field.

It would certainly not be considered baby steps for the Mets if they chose to sign Omar  Infante.

It would surely not be considered baby steps for the Mets if they chose to sign Omar Infante.

Omar Infante has played 12 seasons in the major leagues, but is still relatively young (he’ll be 32 in December).  He became a regular in the big leagues in his third season, when he hit .264 with 27 doubles, 16 homers, 55 RBI and 13 stolen bases for the Tigers.  But his first go-round in Detroit didn’t end well, and he was traded to the Cubs, who traded him to the Braves prior to the 2008 season.

In Atlanta, Infante became an All-Star.  He also quietly became one of the best contact hitters in the game.  From 2008 to 2010, Infante hit .309 for the Braves, striking out just 134 times in over 1,000 plate appearances.  But he didn’t hit for much power or steal many bases for the Braves, so Atlanta decided to move him to the Marlins for power-hitting second baseman Dan Uggla.

Infante hit with more power and stole more bases in 2012, splitting the season between Miami and Detroit.  Although his average dipped to .274, he hit 12 home runs, drove in 53 runs and stole a career-high 17 bases for the Marlins and Tigers.  He also legged out seven triples and produced his first 30-double campaign.

In 2013, Infante overcame a mid-season injury that kept him out of the lineup for six weeks.  Had he not been hurt, he might have had his best season yet.  Infante played in 118 games for the AL Central division champion Tigers, batting .318 with 24 doubles, 10 HR and 51 RBI.  Had he not been hurt, he probably would have surpassed his 30-double, 12-HR, 53-RBI totals from 2012.  He also would’ve finished fourth in the American League batting race had he qualified for it, as his 476 plate appearances kept him 26 short of being considered among the leaders in batting average.

So why am I making such a big deal about a soon-to-be 32-year-old middle infielder being a smart pickup for the Mets to take over at short?  One reason is economical.  The other is all about the ballpark.

Omar Infante made just $4 million as a member of the Tigers in 2013.  The two-year, $8 million contract he signed with the Marlins after the 2011 campaign was the richest he had ever agreed to.  That means he’d be a cheap signing for the Mets, as they could give him two years for less money than the Cardinals are committing to Jhonny Peralta per season.  Signing Infante would also leave approximately $15-$20 million for Sandy Alderson to spend on a starting pitcher and another outfielder.  Had they signed Peralta or continued to be in the mix for Stephen Drew, that dollar amount would be far smaller, as would the talent level of the players Alderson would have to settle for.

It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to think Omar Infante could be a fine player at Citi Field.

The main reason why Infante would be a wise choice for the Mets is because of the ballpark he would call home for 81 games a year.  Do you know which opposing player has the highest batting average at Citi Field for all players who have played at least 15 games there?  Would you believe the answer is Omar Infante?  And we’re not even talking about a small sample size, as the players with the second and third highest batting averages for visiting players at Citi Field (Matt Kemp, Reed Johnson) combined have 14 fewer at-bats at the park than Infante has by himself.

In 117 career at-bats at Citi Field, Infante is a .402 hitter, picking up 47 hits in 30 games (27 starts).  Infante has 11 extra-base hits, 13 RBI and 17 runs scored at the Mets’ home ballpark.  His batting average is nearly 100 points higher than the Met with the highest average at Citi Field (Jose Reyes hit .319 at the park before joining the Marlins in 2012).

Infante also has the second-most number of hits of any opposing player at Citi Field, four behind Jimmy Rollins, who has 47 more at-bats than Infante has at the ballpark.  And for a player who is not a slugger and isn’t among the league leaders in walks, Infante’s .995 OPS at Citi Field has been bested by just two players, Joey Votto and Matt Kemp, both of whom are considered to be among the best players in the game.  The Met with the highest OPS at Citi Field is David Wright, but his .842 mark is nowhere near Infante’s OPS.

Mets fans have been waiting for years for Sandy Alderson to make a splash in the free agent market.  But it’s not always the free agent with the highest price tag that has the biggest positive impact on the team.  Sometimes, it’s the smart move that pushes a team in the right direction (see Red Sox, Boston, circa 2013).  Omar Infante isn’t a sexy signing.  But he’d sure be a smart one.  And he may just be the right guy at short and the player who would give the Mets the most bang for their buck in 2014.

Presented By Diehards

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If Only The Mets Could Trade For Ben Zobrist http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/if-only-the-mets-could-trade-for-ben-zobrist.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/if-only-the-mets-could-trade-for-ben-zobrist.html/#comments Sat, 23 Nov 2013 18:22:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133541 The Mets are looking for a shortstop.  The names that constantly pop up as potential free agent acquisitions at the position are Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew.  But Peralta is asking for a minimum of four years and $52 million and is supposedly getting attention from teams willing to give him that type of deal.  Stephen Drew could be had for less money and years, but he has an injury history that has caused him to miss nearly 200 games since 2011.  His production at the plate has also gone down, as his slash line has been .245/.322/.403 during those three injury-plagued seasons.

So if the Mets can’t acquire a free agent shortstop (which would not require them to lose their protected first round draft pick), they might have to look to make a trade.  And there’s one player who would fit in very nicely at short if the Mets could find a way to engineer a trade with his current team.

What do you think of Ben Zobrist starting at shortstop for the New York Mets?

The Mets would get an "A" if they could trade for a "Z", as in Ben  Zobrist.

The Mets would get an “A” if they could trade for a “Z”, as in Ben Zobrist.

Ben Zobrist is the longest tenured player on the Tampa Bay Rays.  He is the only member of the Rays currently under contract who has been with the team when they were still known as the Devil Rays.  He is also 32 years old and is earning $7 million in 2014.  The Rays have a $7.5 million option for Zobrist in 2015.  And we all know that Tampa doesn’t keep their players around once they enter free agency.  They failed to re-sign and/or were forced to trade players like Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, B.J. Upton and James Shields.  They’re also considering trading David Price – the only pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in a Rays uniform.

At $7 million, Zobrist would cost the Mets far less than the amount they would have to lock up to ink Peralta or Drew to deals.  But they would have to part ways with a few prospects and/or a major league player.  I have a deal in mind that might get it done.  Tell me, Mets fans.  Would you trade Rafael Montero and Ike Davis for Ben Zobrist?

Montero is an excellent control pitcher, averaging nearly five strikeouts per walk in three minor league seasons.  With half a season of Triple-A experience, he should be in the starting rotation very early in the 2014 season.  But the Mets have a surplus of good, young starting pitchers.  They can certainly afford to trade one of those hurlers, especially with a rotation that will include Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and a veteran starter or two yet to be acquired.  At some point during the year, Noah Syndergaard will also be a part of the starting rotation.  That makes a pitcher like Montero expendable.  And we all know how Tampa Bay values quality arms.

Ike Davis clearly needs a change of scenery.  And Tampa has a hole at first base, as veteran James Loney is a free agent who will more than likely seek a multi-year deal and a big raise after hitting .299 with 33 doubles, 13 homers and 75 RBI for the Rays on a one-year, $2 million deal in 2013.  First base is normally a power position, something James Loney is not known for.  Ike Davis would certainly give the Rays a powerful bat at first base.  Of course, Davis hasn’t been the same since the season-ending injury he suffered in May 2011.  But even with two poor first halves in 2012 and 2013, Davis has done fairly well after the All-Star Break in both seasons.  His second-half performances in 2012 (.255, 20 HR, 41 RBI in 66 starts) and 2013 (.290, 4 HR, 15 RBI in 32 starts) show that Davis can be a big power threat if he could ever combine those numbers over a full season.  Another plus is that Davis won’t be 27 until a week before Opening Day, while Loney will be 30 in May.  Davis will also be under team control until 2017, and team control are two important words in Tampa’s front office.

Sandy Alderson should not turn his back on my idea to trade for Ben  Zobrist.

Sandy Alderson should not turn his back on my idea to trade for Ben Zobrist.

Ben Zobrist is 32 years old and will soon be pricing himself out of the Rays’ future plans.  But he can play both middle infield positions and all three outfield positions.  He is also a switch-hitter who can be a great contributor at the plate.  Since 2009 – when he became an everyday player for the first time – Zobrist has produced three 30-double and three 20-HR campaigns.  He has also reached double digits in stolen bases every year, with a career high of 24 in 2010.  And of course, he draws a lot of walks, having surpassed 90 walks in a season three times since 2009.  Just eight players in Mets history have walked 90 or more times in a season.  Of those eight, only Keith Hernandez, John Olerud, Carlos Beltran and David Wright had multiple 90-walk campaigns.  None of them did it three times, as Zobrist has done for the Rays.

Now let’s look at the numbers for Jhonny Peralta, Stephen Drew and Ben Zobrist since 2009 and compare them to see which player has performed better at the plate for his respective team.

  • Peralta: 702 G, .267/.325/.414, 152 2B, 71 HR, 368 RBI, 293 R, 5 SB, 535 K, 228 BB
  • Drew: 575 G, .257/.329/.424, 125 2B, 52 HR, 266 RBI, 293 R, 26 SB, 469 K, 232 BB
  • Zobrist: 773 G, .269/.366/.446, 177 2B, 89 HR, 402 RBI, 432 R, 85 SB, 533 K, 429 BB

It’s not even close.  Of the three players, Zobrist has the highest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.  He also has the most doubles, homers, RBI and runs scored.  He has drawn almost as many walks as Peralta and Drew have combined and he has nearly three times the combined stolen base total posted by the other two.  Zobrist does have 64 more strikeouts than Drew, but it took him almost 200 more games to accomplish that whiff total.  And remember, Zobrist is only making $7 million in 2014, which is half of what Peralta will probably earn and surely less than the amount the injury-plagued Drew would command.  Oh, and did I mention that Zobrist plays five positions?  I did?  Well, it’s worth repeating.

Finally, let’s look at WAR, and show what it’s good for in the case of Ben Zobrist.  Since 2009, Zobrist’s 32.9 WAR is the third-highest in baseball.  The only players above him are Robinson Cano (34.2 WAR) and Miguel Cabrera (33.7 WAR).  Directly behind Zobrist are teammate Evan Longoria (31.5 WAR) and Joey Votto (30.5 WAR).  Cano, Cabrera, Zobrist, Longoria and Votto are the only players in baseball with a combined WAR of 30.0 or greater over the past five seasons, as Adrian Beltre has the sixth-highest WAR since 2009 at 29.4.  For the record, David Wright’s 20.7 WAR since 2009 is the highest of any Mets position player.  The second-highest WAR on the Mets over the same time period is 10.3, which is what Angel Pagan produced despite not playing for the team after 2011.  Needless to say, the Mets haven’t had many position players with high WARs since they moved to Citi Field.

If I were Sandy Alderson, I’d seriously consider doing more than just kicking the tires on this deal.  Tampa Bay has always prided itself on having lots of young talent in its starting rotation.  Rafael Montero would certainly qualify as a talented arm, something the Rays would need should they choose to trade David Price.  And Tampa could definitely use more power, as Evan Longoria was the only player on the team who hit more than 18 homers in 2013.  Ike Davis could provide a left-handed power bat to complement Longoria’s right-handed pop.

Jhonny Peralta is pricing himself off the Mets’ radar.  Stephen Drew is too much of an injury risk.  If only the Mets could trade for Ben Zobrist, they wouldn’t have to worry about the almighty dollar or the training room.  Zobrist has been a great, versatile player for a number of years now.  He’d be wonderful as a Met.

 

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Doc Gooden Was Great After He Stopped Being Great http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/doc-gooden-was-great-after-he-stopped-being-great.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/doc-gooden-was-great-after-he-stopped-being-great.html/#comments Sat, 16 Nov 2013 18:46:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133078 Photo by Ray Stubblebine/AP

Photo by Ray Stubblebine/AP

Baseball historians will say that Dwight Gooden‘s first three seasons in the major leagues were some of the best by a young pitcher in the game’s history.  Gooden took the mound 99 times from 1984 to 1986, going 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 35 complete games, 13 shutouts and 744 strikeouts – reaching 200 or more strikeouts in each season.

But after off-the-field problems came to light prior to the 1987 campaign, Gooden went from being Dr. K to being Dr. Just OK.  Or did he?

From 1987 to 1991, Doc’s numbers were clearly not the same as they were during his first three seasons.  But they were still pretty darn good.  In his fourth through eighth seasons with the Mets, Gooden went 74-34 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 797 batters, completing 22 games and tossing eight shutouts.  He also finished in the top five in the Cy Young Award voting twice.  (Gooden was fifth in the Cy Young balloting in 1987 and fourth in 1990.)  He accomplished all of this from 1987 to 1991 despite making fewer than 28 starts in three of the five seasons.

Perhaps his greatest and most underappreciated accomplishment occurred in 1991.  After seven consecutive seasons of winning 87 or more games, the Mets finished under .500 in ’91.  But Gooden still managed to finish with a 13-7 record, 3.60 ERA and 150 strikeouts in only 27 starts.  In 15 of those 27 starts, Gooden allowed two earned runs or fewer, but received losses or no-decisions in six of the games, mainly because he was surrounded by a putrid offense.

Keith Miller (.280) and Gregg Jefferies (.272) were the only players with 300 or more plate appearances to finish the year with a batting average north of .260.  Howard Johnson (38 HR, 117 RBI, 108 runs) was the sole Met with more than 16 homers, 74 RBI or 65 runs scored.  Gooden basically had to help himself when he was in the game, as he batted .238 with three doubles, a homer, six RBI and seven runs scored in only 63 at-bats.  His .333 slugging percentage was higher than the marks posted by Mark Carreon (.331 in 254 AB), Vince Coleman (.327 in 278 AB) and Garry Templeton (.306 in 219 AB).

In the five seasons immediately following the 1986 World Series championship campaign, when Gooden supposedly went from being a great pitcher to just being a very good pitcher, the right-hander’s winning percentage was .685 in 137 starts.  That was the highest winning percentage for all pitchers who made 100 or more starts from 1987 to 1991.  The rest of the top five included Dave Stieb (68-34, .667), Roger Clemens (94-48, .662), Bob Welch (88-42, .662) and Dave Stewart (95-56, .629) – pitchers who combined to win 909 games over their long and successful major league careers.

Despite his dropoff in strikeouts following the 1986 season, Gooden’s 797 Ks from 1987 to 1991 was surpassed by just one pitcher in the National League – his teammate, David Cone.  Cone struck out 945 batters over the five-year stretch.  Gooden’s 74 wins was also second in the NL to Doug Drabek, who won 77 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates from ’87 to ’91.

One other thing that Gooden was great at from 1987 to 1991 was something that never showed up in the boxscore.  During those five years, Gooden was outstanding at helping the Mets win games immediately following a loss, thereby preventing the Mets from suffering through extended losing streaks.  Doc started 65 games following a Mets loss from 1987 to 1991.  The Mets were 41-24 in those games.

Photo by Ed Leyro

Today is Dwight Gooden’s 49th birthday.  It’s been nearly three decades since he rocketed onto the major league scene with his blazing fastball and devastating curveball as a rookie in 1984.  It’s also been almost two decades since he threw his final pitch as a member of the New York Mets.

From the ages of 19 to 21, Gooden was arguably the best pitcher in the game.  Then, as his off-the-field habits started to come to light, he failed to approach his otherworldly numbers from 1984 to 1986.  But that didn’t mean he stopped being a great pitcher.  In fact, no one in baseball gave his team a better chance to win from 1987 to 1991 than Gooden, and only a handful of pitchers sent as many opposing batters back to the bench without putting the ball in play than Doc did.

Just because he wasn’t leading the league in strikeouts and threatening to throw a no-hitter in every start didn’t mean he wasn’t the Doctor anymore.  In fact, he continued to operate with surgical precision for quite some time after the 1986 campaign.

Doc Gooden never stopped being great on the mound.  It’s a shame that some people thought his greatness just wasn’t good enough.

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Do You Believe In Miracles? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/do-you-believe-in-miracles.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/do-you-believe-in-miracles.html/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 12:09:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131742 Here’s another great article originally written and posted back on October 25, 2009 by the always entertaining Ed Leyro. Ed has a great storytelling style and this particular MMO Flashback will appeal to most any Mets fan on the 27th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in franchise history. 

Every generation has its defining moment.  People who grew up in the 1960s know exactly where they were when President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.  In the 1980s, every American knows where they were when the Space Shuttle exploded.  It’s no different for Mets fans.

People who grew up rooting for the Mets remember every detail of the 1969 Miracle Mets’ run to the World Series.  Fans of my generation well up with happy tears when you mention two words to them:  Game 6.  How can anyone forget the night of October 25, 1986?

The Mets were facing elimination entering Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  They fought back to tie the Series at Fenway Park after dropping the first two games of the Series at Shea Stadium.  Then Bruce Hurst shut them down in Game 5 to send the series back to New York with the Mets down three games to two.

It was up to Bob Ojeda to save the Mets’ season.  He was opposed by Roger Clemens, who was later given the 1986 AL Cy Young Award.  Ojeda was also called upon for Game 6 of that year’s NLCS against the Astros, a game in which the Mets defeated Houston in 16 innings to claim the National League pennant.  In that game, Ojeda struggled early, giving up three runs in the first inning before settling down.  Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was no different for Ojeda.  He gave up single runs to the Red Sox in each of the first two innings, but then settled down.

When Ojeda was replaced by Roger McDowell to start the seventh inning, the Mets had come back against Roger Clemens to tie the score at 2.  Although the drama that unfolded in the tenth inning is what Game 6 is most known for, a number of interesting events occurred in the seventh inning that are often forgotten.

With one out and Marty Barrett on first base for the Red Sox, Jim Rice hit a ground ball near the third base line that barely stayed fair.  Ray Knight fielded it and threw wildly to first base, with the ball popping in and out of the glove of a leaping Keith Hernandez.  That brought up Dwight Evans with runners on the corners.  Evans hit a ground ball for the second out of the inning, but Barrett scored the go-ahead run and Rice was able to advance to second base.  That was when Mookie Wilson became a hero for the first time that night.

Roger McDowell was able to get ahead of Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman by throwing strikes on the first two pitches, but Gedman then grounded the 0-2 pitch from McDowell between short and third for a base hit that appeared to give the Red Sox an insurance run.  However, Mookie Wilson charged the ball and fired a strike to Gary Carter at home plate to cut down a sliding Jim Rice for the third out of the inning.

1986-ws-gary-carter-jim-rice

The defensive efforts of Wilson and Carter helped keep the Red Sox lead at one, a lead that would be erased when the Mets came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Roger Clemens had been pinch hit for in the top of the eighth inning, so the Red Sox brought in former Met Calvin Schiraldi to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning.  Schiraldi had been brilliant in relief for the Red Sox during the regular season, compiling a 4-2 record and a sparking 1.41 ERA.  However, all that changed once Lee Mazzilli led off the inning with a base hit.  Lenny Dykstra followed with a sacrifice bunt, but he reached first base safely when Schiraldi threw wildly to second base in a failed attempt to nail Lee Mazzilli.  Now the Mets had two men on with nobody out for Wally Backman, who laid down a bunt of his own.  His successful sacrifice moved Mazzilli and Dykstra into scoring position for Keith Hernandez, who was intentionally walked to load the bases.  That brought up Gary Carter.  On a 3-0 pitch, Carter had the green light and lined a sacrifice fly to left field.  The fly ball allowed Lee Mazzilli to score the tying run.  When neither team scored in the ninth inning, the stage was set for the most dramatic inning in Mets history.

The inning started with a bang, but not the one wanted by Mets fans.  Dave Henderson led off the inning with a laser beam down the left field line that just stayed fair as it cleared the wall.  The home run off Rick Aguilera silenced the Shea Stadium crowd of 55,078 and gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.  They weren’t done yet.  Aguilera came back to strike out the next two batters but then proceeded to give up a double to Wade Boggs and a run-scoring single to Marty Barrett.  The latter hit gave the Sox an insurance run as the lead was now 5-3.  The next batter was hit by a pitch.  Who was the victim of Aguilera’s wayward offering?  None other than Bill Buckner (more on him later).  Now there were two men on base for Jim Rice.  Rice could have redeemed himself for being thrown out at home in the seventh inning with a hit in the tenth.  However, Rice failed to add to the Red Sox lead when he flied out to Lee Mazzilli in right.  His failure to come through in two crucial spots set up the events in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Mets.

gary carter 1986 ws hit

Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were due to lead off in the bottom of the tenth inning.  However, two fly balls later and the Mets were down to their final out with no one on base.  The dream was one out away from becoming a nightmare.  108 regular season wins and a thrilling NLCS against the Astros would mean nothing if the Mets couldn’t start a rally against Calvin Schiraldi and the Red Sox.  The Shea Stadium scoreboard was flashing “Congratulations Red Sox: 1986 World Champions” and NBC had already awarded its player of the game to Marty Barrett.  Then Gary Carter stepped up to the plate and something special began to happen.

On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Carter singled to left.  Then Kevin Mitchell, pinch-hitting for Rick Aguilera lined a hit to center on an 0-1 curveball.  The tying runs were now on base for Ray Knight.  If you recall, Knight had made an error in the seventh inning that led to a run for the Red Sox.  Perhaps this game would never have gone into extra innings had Knight not committed his error.  Knight didn’t care.  All he cared about was getting a hit to continue the inning.  Unfortunately for him, Schiraldi threw his first two pitches for strikes.  The Mets were down to their final strike, but Ray Knight had something to say about that.

On a pitch that was headed for the inside corner of the strike zone, Knight fisted it over Marty Barrett’s head into short center for another base hit.  Carter scored from second base and Mitchell went from first to third on the hit.  The tying run was 90 feet away and the winning run was at first base.  Red Sox manager John McNamara had made up his mind.  He was going to Bob Stanley to try to win the World Series.  Stanley would face one batter, Mookie Wilson, with everything on the line.

Stanley would throw six pitches to Mookie Wilson to get the count to 2-2.  Hoping for strike three with his seventh pitch, Stanley let go of the pitch and at the same time, let go of the lead.  The pitch was way inside, causing Mookie to throw himself up in the air to avoid getting hit.  Fortunately, the ball didn’t hit Mookie or Rich Gedman’s glove (or home plate umpire Dale Ford for that matter).  The ball went all the way to the backstop and Kevin Mitchell was able to scamper home with the tying run.  The wild pitch also allowed Ray Knight to move into scoring position with the potential winning run.  All Mookie needed to do now was get a base hit to drive him in, or perhaps he could so something else to bring him home.

During the regular season, John McNamara had always removed first baseman Bill Buckner for defensive replacement Dave Stapleton during the late innings.  However, this time Buckner was left in the game despite the fact that he was hobbling around on two gimpy legs and had just been hit by a pitch in the previous inning.  What was McNamara’s reasoning for the decision?  He wanted Buckner to be on the field to celebrate their championship with his teammates.  Instead, Buckner was on the field during a different kind of celebration.

Buckner was at first base as the count went to 3-2 on Mookie Wilson.  A mountain of pressure had been lifted off his shoulders once he went airborne to elude Stanley’s pitch.  A relaxed Mookie came back to the plate to finish what he came up there to do.  After fouling off two more pitches, including a line drive that curved foul down the left field line, Wilson hit a little roller up along first, bringing Mets fans to their feet as Bill Buckner hobbled to the line in an attempt to field it.  I’ll let NBC broadcaster Vin Scully describe what happened.

“Little roller up along first.  Behind the bag!  It gets through Buckner!  Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

A miracle had happened on the diamond.  Perhaps Mookie’s grounder hit a pebble.  Perhaps Buckner took his eyes off the ball as he watched Mookie sprint down the first base line.  Perhaps God was a Mets fan.  Regardless of what caused it to happen, Mookie’s grounder found its way under Buckner’s glove and the Mets lived to see another day.

bill-buckner

As a dejected Bill Buckner walked off the field, Shea Stadium was rocking as it never had before.  Mookie Wilson was still running towards second base because he had no idea that Ray Knight had scored the winning run.  Ron Darling, who was scheduled to start the seventh and deciding game of the World Series the following night (even though it was rained out and played two nights later), admitted that he could see dust falling from the roof of the Mets dugout because of the vibrations caused by the fans jumping up and down over it.  Keith Hernandez had left the dugout to go into Davey Johnson’s office after making the second out of the inning, but never moved from the chair he was sitting in, even after the historic rally had begun because as he admitted afterwards, the chair he was sitting in had hits in it.

As the unbelievable events were flashing on the TV screen for those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to have tickets to the game, Vin Scully came back on the air after a long pause to tell the viewers everything they needed to know about what they had just seen unfold at Shea Stadium on that Saturday night.  The Hall-of-Fame broadcaster said:

“If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.  But more than that, you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  The Mets are not only alive, they are well and they will play the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow.”

Game 6 didn’t give the Mets the World Championship as many baseball fans mistakenly believe.  There was still one game left to play.  Although it was scheduled for the following night, rain put a hold on Game 7 until the night of Monday, October 27.  Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who had been scheduled to start the seventh game for the Red Sox, was scratched from his start to allow Met killer Bruce Hurst to pitch.  But I’ll leave that blog for another night.

ray knight

For now, think of the memories you have of that unbelievable Game 6.  Imagine how different things would have been if Jim Rice had not been thrown out at home plate in the seventh inning, or if Bob Stanley had relieved Calvin Schiraldi before Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell or Ray Knight produced base hits in the tenth inning.  Mets fans who celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Miracle Mets this season might still be talking about that team as their only championship team.

A miracle happened at Shea Stadium 23 years ago today, on October 25, 1986.  It is the single greatest Mets memory I have.  I’m sure for many of you reading this, it’s your favorite Mets memory as well.  Do Mets fans believe in miracles?  If you watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the answer is a definite yes.

The rest, as they say, is a matter of history…

1986 mets win

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Death. Taxes. Beltran. http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/death-taxes-beltran.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/death-taxes-beltran.html/#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2013 17:21:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131056 carlos beltran cards dodgers

Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!

Some people live for the big game.  Joe Montana saved his best efforts for the many NFC Championship Games and Super Bowls he won.  Michael Jordan was excellent at sinking clutch shots and the spirits of opposing teams in his six NBA Finals victories.  (I’m a Utah Jazz fan.  I should know.)  And then there’s one Carlos Ivan Beltran.

Carlos Beltran has never been a player who has sought the spotlight.  But come October, the spotlight has always found him.  And how could it not?  After all, he may just be the best postseason baseball player in history.

On Friday night (and early Saturday morning), Beltran provided all the offense for the Cardinals and prevented the Dodgers from producing some offense of their own.  In the third inning, Beltran doubled above the outstretched glove of Andre Ethier to plate the tying runs.  The game was still tied when Mark Ellis hit a one-out triple for the Dodgers in the tenth inning.  But Carlos Beltran caught Michael Young‘s shallow fly ball and fired a perfect throw to catcher Yadier Molina to nail Ellis at the plate.  Beltran kept the game tied in the 10th.  He untied it in the 13th.

With two men on and one out, Beltran line a Kenley Jansen offering down the right field line to score the winning run for the Cardinals – a hit that would have scored both base runners had the first run not ended the game.

That’s not the first time Beltran has driven in every run his team scored in a postseason game.  It’s actually the fourth time, and the second time he’s done it in a victory.   Beltran’s two-run homer in Game 1 of the 2006 NLCS gave the Mets all the runs they would need in a 2-0 win over the Cardinals.  (Without it, the Mets might never have made it to a Game 7.)  Beltran also drove in the only run scored by St. Louis in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS , a 2-1 loss to Washington.  In addition, Beltran homered and drove in all three runs for the Cards in their 5-3 defeat against Pittsburgh in Game 3 of this year’s division series.

Hey, someone’s got to pick up the slack when his teammates aren’t doing their part.  And who better to do that than Carlos Beltran?

Let’s look at Beltran’s career numbers in the postseason, or rather, let’s marvel at them.

Three is a magic number.  Yes, it is.  It's a magic number.

Three is a magic number. Yes, it is. It’s a magic number.

Beltran turned in a postseason performance for the ages with the Astros in 2004, batting .435 with 11 extra-base hits (eight homers, three doubles), 14 RBI, 21 runs scored and six stolen bases in 12 games.  He reached base a whopping 30 times in those dozen contests and recorded a 1.557 OPS – a number that looks like a typo if we weren’t talking about Carlos Beltran.

In 2006, Beltran continued to rake the ball in the postseason.  Beltran was held without a hit in his first two playoff games with the Mets, but still reached base four times in the dual victories over the Dodgers.  After his two oh-fers, Beltran batted .323 over the Mets’ next eight playoff games, collecting three homers and five RBI.  He also continued to score better than one run per game, as he crossed the plate nine times in those eight games.  And once again, his OPS remained at an otherworldly level, as Beltran registered an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.062 in those final eight games.

After a five-year playoff absence (which surely made opposing pitchers quite happy), Beltran returned to the playoffs in 2012 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.  What did he do in 12 postseason games with the Redbirds?  He absolutely raked it.  Beltran batted .357 with nine extra-base hits (six doubles, three homers), six RBI and eight runs scored.  He also reached base 22 times in the 12 games and had a 1.154 OPS.  And lest ye forget, in the fifth and deciding game of the division series, Beltran started the pivotal ninth inning rally against the Nats with a double and scored when Daniel Descalso hit a game-tying two-run single.  That leadoff two-base hit in the ninth was the fifth time Beltran reached base in the game.

That brings us to this year.  Fourth verse, same as the first (and second … and third).  In six games versus the Pirates and Dodgers, Beltran has reached base nine times and driven in nine runs, including all three runs in Friday’s Game 1 victory over Los Angeles.  He has also made excellent contact in this year’s postseason, striking out just two times in 27 plate appearances.

To sum it all up, Beltran is batting .345 in 40 career postseason games.  He has reached base an incredible 80 times in those 40 games and has 28 extra-base hits, including 16 home runs.  His .750 slugging percentage is the third-highest mark in postseason history and his 1.199 career OPS ranks fifth.  Only seven players have hit more postseason home runs than Beltran, but all seven (Manny Ramirez, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols, Jim Thome) needed at least 267 postseason plate appearances to show off their prodigious power.  Beltran has come to the plate a mere 178 times.  And just think, Beltran has never gotten the opportunity to add to those tremendous postseason numbers in a World Series game.  But that might change this season.  And Beltran might have a lot to do with it.

There are very few sure things in life.  One is death, as it will come for all of us eventually.  Another is taxes, as even Jerry Koosman and Pete Rose couldn’t evade the IRS.  But if there can be only one other certainty in life, it has to be that Carlos Beltran will turn the postseason into a one-man wrecking crew.  He’s not perfect (who put that Crazy Glue on his bat before Wainwright’s 0-2 curveball?), but he’s as close to being perfect on the October stage as any player in baseball history.

Death.  Taxes.  Beltran.  Is there anything more certain in life?

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Daniel Murphy Appreciation Day http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/daniel-murphy-appreciation-day.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/daniel-murphy-appreciation-day.html/#comments Mon, 07 Oct 2013 14:28:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130780 This is where I tip my cap to Daniel Murphy.

This is where I tip my cap to Daniel Murphy.

Before I begin, let me preface this by saying that if you’re not a Daniel Murphy supporter, then in all likelihood you will not be a fan of this post.  (And for the record, the title of this piece was suggested by my Gal For All Seasons, so I’m not alone in my appreciation for the Mets’ second baseman.)

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look back at the great second baseman in Mets history.  There’s Edgardo Alfonzo and there’s … uh … well …  there’s not much else.  Sure, there were some second basemen who had good years, like two-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up Ron Hunt, but he was mostly a singles hitters who made as much contact with the ball using his bat (.282 lifetime average as a Met) as he did with his body (41 HBP in four seasons in New York).

In addition to Hunt, the Mets have employed other fine second sackers such as Felix Millan (who made Ron Hunt look like an extra-base hit machine), Doug Flynn (ditto) and Wally Backman (double ditto).  Ken Boswell had some pop, if you want to call a career-high nine home runs in 1972 “some pop”.

There have also been a number of second basemen who were great before they came to the Mets, then underachieved in New York.  Do the names Carlos Baerga, Roberto Alomar and Luis Castillo ring a bell?

Basically, after Alfonzo, the next-best second baseman in club annals might have been Jeff Kent, who had some solid years in Flushing when he wasn’t thinking about being on his ranch in Texas.  And Kent probably couldn’t concentrate much on that ranch with all those boos from the Shea Faithful permeating the daydream sensors in his brain.

But that No. 2 spot behind Fonzie on the unofficial list of greatest second basemen in Mets history might have a new resident taking off the vacancy sign very soon.  And that resident’s name is Daniel Murphy.

Make room for Daniel  Murphy at second base.

Make room for Daniel Murphy at second base.

Daniel Murphy had one of the greatest seasons ever recorded by a Mets second baseman in 2013.  He finished the year with a .286 batting average, 38 doubles, 13 homers, 78 RBI, 92 runs scored and 23 stolen bases.  Prior to Murphy, the only second basemen in franchise history to reach double digits in both home runs and RBI in the same season were Gregg Jefferies and Roberto Alomar.  But neither player matched Murphy’s totals in batting average, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases.  In fact, the only two players in team history who had better numbers than Murphy in all six offensive categories (batting average, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases), regardless of their defensive position, were Howard Johnson in 1989 (.287 average, 41 doubles, 36 HR, 101 RBI, 104 runs scored, 41 SB) and David Wright in 2007 (.325 average, 42 doubles, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs scored, 34 SB).

Murphy’s 2013 campaign saw him finish among the National League leaders in a number of offensive categories.  Murphy was in the top ten in games played (161; 2nd in the NL), hits (188; 2nd), singles (133; 2nd), doubles (38; T-7th), total bases (273; 8th), runs scored (92; 8th) and stolen bases (23; T-7th).  The only other player in the National League to finish in the top ten in all of those categories was MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen.  (Oh, and did I mention that Murphy finished first in the league in stolen base percentage, as he was caught stealing only three times in 26 attempts?  Andrew McCutchen, on the other hand, was caught stealing ten times, making him one of only nine players in the National League to reach double digits in that category.)

Offensively, there are few second basemen in the league who can match Daniel Murphy’s overall production.  However, there have been some questions posed about Murphy’s ability to handle the defensive side of the position.  It’s true that Murphy had an unfavorable defensive WAR (-1.5) and made 16 errors at second base.  But that doesn’t mean he was a complete wash at the position.

Murphy finished second in the league in putouts to three-time Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips.  In addition, Murphy finished third in the NL in assists (behind Phillips and Neil Walker) and third in double plays turned (behind Walker and MVP candidate Matt Carpenter).

Now let’s look at the 16 errors committed by Murphy, a total that was surpassed in the Senior Circuit only by Chase Utley, who made one more miscue.  Murphy played 150 games at second base in 2013 (his other 11 games were at first base and pinch-hitter).  The three second basemen who finished directly behind Murphy in errors committed were Dan Uggla, Marco Scutaro and Rickie Weeks, who made 14, 13 and 10 errors, respectively.  But Uggla, Scutaro and Weeks all spent time on the disabled list, combining to miss 119 games this past season with each player missing at least 26 games.  Had they all remained on the field, perhaps one or more of them could have committed more gaffes at second base than Murphy.

Doubles, stolen bases, death-defying leaps over catchers.  Is there anything Daniel  Murphy can't do?

Doubles, stolen bases, death-defying leaps over catchers. Is there anything Daniel Murphy can’t do?

For his career, Daniel Murphy has been known as a doubles machine.  He has the only 40-double campaign for a left-handed hitter in team history.  Murphy is also one of only two Mets (David Wright is the other) with three or more seasons of 35+ doubles.  And with 73 more doubles (about two average Daniel Murphy seasons), Murphy will pass Ed Kranepool to become the second-most prolific doubles hitter in franchise history.  But Murphy is more than just a producer of two-base hits.  He proved that (and then some) in 2013.

In my opinion, Daniel Murphy has not been appreciated enough by Mets fans.  Just like Carlos Beltran (who continues to be remembered more for keeping the bat on his shoulders as a Lord Charles curveball danced on by than for the complete player that he was), Daniel Murphy will always have detractors who will complain that he doesn’t take enough walks or that he’s a horrible defensive player.

To those detractors, I have one thing to say.  Be careful what you wish for.  Many players have been run out of town only to come back and haunt the Mets.  Don’t let Daniel Murphy become another one of those players.  Take time to appreciate what Daniel Murphy has done for the team and what he hopefully will continue to do for the team as its second baseman.  The Mets have not had many productive second basemen like Daniel Murphy in their 52-year history.

Not everyone can be Edgardo Alfonzo at second base.  It’s a good thing Daniel Murphy doesn’t try to be.

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Featured Post: Dillon Gee Has Pitched His Way Into An Exclusive Club http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/featured-post-dillon-gee-has-pitched-his-way-into-an-exclusive-club.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/featured-post-dillon-gee-has-pitched-his-way-into-an-exclusive-club.html/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 13:09:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=129788 dillon gee

Prior to his start on May 30 against the Yankees, Dillon Gee was on the verge of losing his place in the starting rotation.  The Texas native was 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA and was hearing Zack Wheeler‘s footsteps as the über-prospect was just weeks away from being called up for his first taste of big league action.

But everything changed for Gee with that late-May start at Yankee Stadium.  Gee pitched into the eighth inning, allowing one run on four hits.  He also set a career high by striking out 12 batters without issuing a walk.

After allowing four runs or more in six of his first ten starts, Gee has allowed two runs or less in 14 of his last 21 starts.  His 2-6 record is now just a bad memory, as Gee is leading the team with 12 victories.  Since Matt Harvey‘s season ended with nine wins and no other pitcher on the Mets has more than seven, it’s safe to assume that Gee will remain the team leader in pitching victories.  Therefore, the 2013 campaign will mark the second time in three seasons that Gee has led the team in wins, after finishing first on the Mets with 13 victories in 2011.

In doing so, Gee will become only the 14th pitcher in team history to lead the team or finish tied for the team lead in pitching victories multiple times.  The chart below lists the 14 pitchers who have accomplished this feat.

Pitcher

# of Times as Wins Leader

Years as Team Wins Leader

7

1967, 1969-73, 1975

5

1998-2002

4

1984-85, 1987, 1993

4

2001, 2003-04, 2006

3

1963-65

3

1968, 1974, 1976

3

1988-89, 1991

2

1965-66

2

1977-78

2

1979, 1982

2

1989, 1992

2

1995, 1997

2

2008-09

2

2011, 2013

With 33 major league victories under his belt, Dillon Gee has the second-fewest wins of the 14 pitchers who led the team in wins in at least two seasons.  (Nino Espinosa had 25 wins as a Met.)  But there are 30 pitchers in Mets history with more wins than Gee and most of them never led the team in wins more than once.  In fact, two of the top ten winners in franchise history never became two-time team leaders in wins.

Ron Darling had 99 wins as a Met – 4th all-time – but only led the team in wins once.  And when he did so (1989), he shared the team lead with David Cone and Sid Fernandez.  Similarly, Jon Matlack recorded 82 victories for the Mets – 7th all-time – but never led the team in wins.  (He can thank Seaver and Koosman for that.)

Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanDwight Gooden.  Sid Fernandez.  David Cone.  Johan Santana.  Those are some of the best pitchers who have ever taken the mound for the Mets over their 50-plus years of existence.  In addition to being six of the finest pitchers to wear the orange and blue, they also have another thing in common.  All six have led or tied for the team lead in wins multiple times.  Their exclusive club now has a new member, and his name is Dillon Gee.

Dillon Gee has come a long way to become a top starter for the Mets.  He was overlooked in the first twenty rounds of the 2007 amateur draft before the Mets selected him in Round 21.  After pitching well in the lower levels of the minor leagues, Gee had an ERA near 5.00 at AAA-Buffalo.  But he never gave up hope.  And now he’s accomplished something that Seaver, Koosman, Gooden, Fernandez, Cone, Santana and a small group of others have done.  Not bad for a pitcher who almost lost his spot in the rotation just four months ago.

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Get Ready For A Rock N’ Roll Pitching Matchup In Cleveland http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/get-ready-for-a-rock-n-roll-pitching-matchup-in-cleveland.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/get-ready-for-a-rock-n-roll-pitching-matchup-in-cleveland.html/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 15:37:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128362 BeatlesRockNRollMusicalbumcover

In 2004, general manager Jim Duquette thought the Mets were a playoff contender, as the team was just three games out of first place on July 22.  But one week later, the Mets were seven games off the pace and falling fast.  Not wanting to give up on the season, Duquette traded away the team’s top pitching prospect, Scott Kazmir, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for pitcher Victor Zambrano.

The Mets finished the year with a 71-91 record, a full 25 games behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves.  Kazmir went on to become a two-time All-Star (2006, 2008), strikeout champion (2005) and helped lead the Rays to an unexpected American League pennant in 2008.  Duquette was replaced by Omar Minaya by the end of the 2004 campaign.

Fast forward seven years later.  The San Francisco Giants were the defending World Series champions and had a 4½-game lead in the NL West on July 20.  A week later, the lead was down to three games.  At the time, Pablo Sandoval was the only player on the team with more than nine homers.  The Giants were also last in the league in runs scored.  They needed an offensive upgrade, and they needed it fast, especially with the high-scoring Arizona Diamondbacks closing ground.  They thought they had that upgrade when general manager Brian Sabean acquired Carlos Beltran from the Mets on July 27.  To complete the trade, Sabean sent the Giants’ top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, to New York.

Beltran performed well for the Giants, batting .323 with 20 extra-base hits in just 44 games, but his teammates did not.  San Francisco went 25-32 over the final two months of the season to finish eight games behind the Diamondbacks.

Both Jim Duquette and Brian Sabean parted ways with their best young hurlers, each of whom were former first-round draft picks, to acquire players they thought would help them in the short term.  Neither move worked.  But they did work for the teams who dealt for the minor leaguers.

Although Kazmir’s wildness cost him a job in Tampa in 2009, he finally made it back to the majors this year with the Cleveland Indians.  Kazmir is 7-7 with his new team and is posting the lowest walk ratio (3.0 BB/9 IP) of his career.  He is also playing for a team that has remained in contention for a postseason berth all season.  Meanwhile, Wheeler is off to a fast start with the Mets, going 7-3 with a 3.36 ERA in his first 14 starts.  Wheeler has been particularly effective over his last five starts, striking out 31 batters and walking only six.  The Mets have won four of those five games.

On Friday night, the Mets will be traveling to Cleveland to take on the Indians in their final interleague series of the season.  Barring injury or bad weather, the pitching matchup for the series opener will be Scott Kazmir vs. Zack Wheeler.  Yeah.

scott kazmir indians

Kazmir will be making his first start against the team that traded him before giving him a chance in the majors.  Wheeler will be taking his unblemished 5-0 road record (and 2.19 ERA) to Cleveland to face the Mets’ former hotshot prospect.

Scott Kazmir was once traded away by the Mets to acquire a player who was supposed to help the team make a playoff run.  That move failed for the Mets.  Seven years later, the Mets fleeced the Giants by sending them a player who was supposed to help them defend their World Series title.  That moved failed for the Giants.

Friday night, both storylines will collide in Cleveland, when the phenom the Mets traded away in 2004 faces the phenom the Mets traded for in 2011.  Huey Lewis used to remind us in song form that “the heart of rock n’ roll is in Cleveland”.  Well, from what I see for Friday’s pitching matchup, I believe him.

Scott Kazmir vs. Zack Wheeler.  It will truly be a rock n’ roll pitching matchup Friday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

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