Mets Merized Online » Mitch Petanick Sun, 01 Feb 2015 12:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Steven Matz Makes Grapefruit League Debut Mon, 03 Mar 2014 13:03:28 +0000 steven matz

Matz displaying the changeup grip.

You’ve heard the name before, but 2013 was the first real look at the Mets’ LHP prospect Steven Matz due to him missing significant time recovering from arm injuries.

I recently named him as my Mets’ pitching prospect to watch in 2014, as he seems to be on a path to be named a top-five prospect very soon. When a scout finds a left-handed pitching prospect that bring an electric 95 mph fastball, it’s like a fisherman landing an 800 pound marlin. It’s easy to see why the Mets protected Matz from the Rule 5 Draft, and added him to the 40-man roster—every angler looking to hook an 800 pound marlin would have cast their line into the water.

Not many Mets fans have gotten a chance to see this young man pitch and see why everyone is so excited. Unless you live in the Savannah area, odds are you are limited to the one video that can be found on YouTube that shows Matz throwing about 15 pitches—some better than others. You may have also seen a Vine of him spinning things on his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter. However, if you hung around long enough in the Mets game yesterday, you would have gotten a chance to see Matz on the bump.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 8.00.38 AM

Matz came in the fourth inning of yesterday’s matchup against the Cardinals, and gave Mets fans another glance of what the future holds. The first batter he faced was Yadier Molina—talk about pressure. He quickly got behind 3-0 in the count, as he couldn’t spot his fastball. But Matz battled back, and struck out Molina on six pitches.

Facing his second batter, he flashed two very good curveballs before giving up a base hit on a fastball.

Here is some further analysis of what we saw in Matz’s appearance yesterday.


This is a plus offering for Matz. The command was a little shaky yesterday, but it’s very early in the year. With more innings, the command will come. He wasn’t afraid to come inside on the right-handed hitters, and was very aggressive with his fastball, which was very nice to see from a guy who brings a mid-90s heater.

Curve Ball

I have heard that Matz has scrapped the slider in favor of a more effective curve ball, and yesterday was the first chance I got to see it. His curve didn’t have the 12-to-6 break you normally see, it was more like 11-to-5, but it was extremely effective. However, he stuck to fastballs for the majority of the pitches he threw.


Matz throws a very solid changeup that has plus-potential. It has excellent movement—tailing away from the right-handed hitters/in on lefties. He struck out a batter with a changeup to end the fourth inning yesterday and it looked nasty. With his velocity, he can pepper fastballs on the inside half, and changeups on the outside half to keep the hitters off-balance, and be very successful.

In all, Mets fans should definitely look for great things from Matz in 2014. It’s easy to see why he is creating a buzz and there is a ton of excitement building for the young fireballer again. He struck out over 28% of the batters he faced in 2013 and put up a FIP of 2.63, which is excellent. He will probably start the season in St. Lucie and be a nice replacement as the ace of the staff after Noah Syndergaard set St. Lucie ablaze in 2013.

Bold Prediction: After watching him pitch in yesterday’s game, he has the stuff to skip to Binghamton. If he doesn’t start there, he should join Binghamton right around the All-Star break. He could be in the mix for a 2015 call-up and possible bullpen option for late 2014 if he doesn’t exceed his innings limit.

Presented By Diehards


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Inside Look: Dead Arm Syndrome Wed, 26 Feb 2014 19:10:09 +0000 jon nieseHere is a little more information about what Jon Niese thinks he is experiencing, and why the Mets are sending him back to New York for a MRI. The following is taken from Wikipedia:

Dead arm syndrome starts with repetitive motion and forces on the posterior capsule of the shoulder. The posterior capsule is a band of fibrous tissue that interconnects with tendons of the rotator cuff of the shoulder. Four muscles and their tendons make up the rotator cuff. They cover the outside of the shoulder to hold, protect and move the joint.

Overuse can lead to a build up of tissue around the posterior capsule called hypertrophy. The next step is tightness of the posterior capsule called posterior capsular contracture. This type of problem reduces the amount the shoulder can rotate inwardly.

Over time, with enough force, a tear may develop in the labrum. The labrum is a rim of cartilage around the shoulder socket to help hold the head of the humerus (upper arm) in the joint. This condition is called a superior labrum anterior posterior (SLAP) lesion. The final outcome in all these steps is the dead arm phenomenon.

The shoulder is unstable and dislocation may come next. Dead arm syndrome won’t go away on its own with rest—it must be treated. If there’s a SLAP lesion, then surgery is needed to repair the problem. If the injury is caught before a SLAP tear, then physical therapy with stretching and exercise can restore it.

Here is an excerpt from a piece that was on, back in 2009, on Dead arm syndrome:

For Seattle starter Ryan Rowland-Smith and many other Major League pitchers, it’s mostly a Spring Training thing.

“You’re coming off an offseason where you have your own throwing program,” Rowland-Smith says.

“All of a sudden you get to camp and you’re throwing to bases, doing extra stuff. You’re on your legs all day, and that’s when you get that dead arm. You’re in the heat, with day games after day games. You’re up early in the morning. All those things factor into it.”

And when the dog days of August hit and teams are plowing ahead in the latter stages of a 162-game regular-season grind, dead arm can resurface and potentially taint a pennant race.

The key, most veterans agree, is to do the only thing you can do to get rid of it.

“Just pitch through it,” C.C. Sabathia says.

Easier said than done for a 6-foot-7, 280-pound perennial Cy Young candidate, but Linebrink says Sabathia’s dead-on about curing dead arm.

“You absolutely have to just keep going and pitching and you know it’ll come back,” Linebrink says.

And here is an excerpt from a piece written in the Wall Street Journal back in 2011:

Still, “dead-arm syndrome” varies so much in its degrees and its causes that even its name “has become sort of a bucket term,” said Dr. Michael Hausman, the vice-chairman of orthopedics at Mount Sinai Hospital. “It’s not a precise diagnosis.”

Usually, Hausman said, a pitcher who has a “dead arm” has a slight injury to his labrum, the rim of cartilage that keeps the shoulder’s ball-and-socket joint stable. The injury and the shoulder’s resulting instability might be so subtle that the pitcher wouldn’t sense any pain at all. “The brain is trying to protect your body,” Hausman said, “and it basically lowers your fastball in order to prevent you from damaging your arm.”

My experiences with pitchers and players experiencing dead arm (it’s not just isolated to pitchers), is that there generally isn’t pain involved with dead arm. As you can see from the Wikipedia description, nowhere is the word pain used in the explanation. Dead arm is simply fatigue—the ball doesn’t come out with the same snap as usual. It’s fairly common in pitchers early in camp as they do extra throwing due to fielding practice and adjust to the Florida heat…

But the pain scares me. Pitching coaches and trainers know the signs of dead arm, so to be sent for a MRI means there may be more to it. Let’s hope that Niese’s dead arm is not a result of an underlying injury, and his body’s way of protecting itself from further injury by lowering his arm strength, as Dr. Michael Hausman pointed out in the WSJ article.

Keep checking back with MMO for updates on the Niese situation.

Presented By Diehards 



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Bartolo Colon Held Out Of Workouts Due To Tight Calf Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:52:56 +0000 Terry Collins advised the reporters earlier today that Bartolo Colon is experiencing some tightness in his calf.

Colon was held out of team workouts on Wednesday, and instead, rode the stationary bike.

Adam Rubin reported that Collins said ”I just told Bartolo this morning, ‘Hey, look, stay in and get some treatment.’ He rode the bike all morning. He did all the stuff he always does. I just wanted to get him off his feet. And Eric wanted to be out there. I just said, ‘You’re going to play this weekend. Let’s get ready for the weekend.’”

Where Collins mentions Eric, it was in reference to Eric Young Jr who has been experiencing some discomfort in his side.

Neither injury sounds too serious.

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It’s Clear That Ike Davis Is The Best Option At First Base For The Mets Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:38:46 +0000 MLB: New York Mets-WorkoutIke Davis is two seasons removed from his breakout campaign in 2012, where he belted 32 homeruns. It’s such a rare feat in major league baseball to hit 30-plus homeruns that only 5-10% of players do this, on average, any given season. You can’t hit 30 homeruns in a season by accident.

Davis gets a bad rap for his unorthodox swing. You didn’t have to be a hitting coach to see what was wrong with his swing at the beginning of last year—he started with his hands up above his head, then as the pitcher began his motion, he dropped them all the way down to waist level only to have to bring them back up to the hitting zone to take his swing.

Simply stated—Davis’ timing was off. The science of hitting is so precise, that the time that it takes you to blink your eye can turn a would-be homerun, to a weak grounder or even a swing and miss. A millisecond is all it takes to turn a potential All-Star into a player getting run out of town.

He eventually went down to Triple-A to work out the kinks, and came back with a tweaked version of his original swing.

While he still drops his hands, as was evident in the video posted by Adam Rubin of Davis taking batting practice the other day, it’s not as dramatic. He now keeps his hands at about shoulder height in his stance, cutting down the distance he drops his hands. This should allow him to get to the ball quicker.

It’s not the dropping of the hands that is the problem with Davis, it was the distance he was dropping them. Dropping the hands is the way Davis loads his swing, it just looks awkward because most hitters bring their hands straight back. It’s different from the way we were all taught growing up. The only difference is, you and I are sitting on our couch watching him play every week on our television, and he’s a major league baseball player. That means he is in the top five percent of baseball players on the entire planet—that deserves our respect.

Plenty of players have had successful swings with unorthodox swings—Gary Sheffield is the first player that comes to mind, and there are countless others.

After he made the adjustment to his swing down in Triple-A last season, he was hitting much better. Take a look at the splits below:

1st Half 63 239 212 21 35 3 0 5 18 2 0 25 73 .165 .255 .250 .505 .222
2nd Half 40 138 105 16 30 11 0 4 15 2 0 32 28 .286 .449 .505 .954 .351

After the adjustment, you can see that Davis really became an offensive threat again. Those second-half numbers are outstanding. He increased his walks and batting average while reducing his strikeouts (and I mean, he really reduced his strikeouts). He had almost as many hits, homers and RBI as he did in the first half of the year but with over 100 fewer at-bats. This turn around was all due to the slight tweak in the distance his hands travelled in his swing—he gained back that millisecond he was losing.

If we apply what he did in the second half of 2013, across a hypothetical 500 at-bats, he would have hit in the .280-range, with 20 homeruns, 100+ walks, and about 40 doubles in 2014. If we were in Boston, we would be saying he hit the ball wicked-hard, but in New York, we want to over-analyze his swing and run him out of town because of it.

If Davis can stay focused, there is enough here to think he can get his career back on track. He shouldn’t be concerned with what the newspaper writers, or anyone else for that matter, thinks about 2013. He has to put 2013 behind him for good, or he will never be able to move on with his career. I will leave you with a quote, from Keven Holmes, which summarizes the mindset hitters have to have at the plate…

“If you live in the past, you have no future. Forget what you did yesterday, and achieve your goal for today.”

Presented By Diehards

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Mets Still Unimpressed With Ruben Tejada Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:32:48 +0000 Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.23.54 AMThe Ruben Tejada saga won’t go away. The Mets have been linked to free-agent Stephen Drew, and now to Nick Franklin, evidentally because they are not convinced that Ruben Tejada is the everyday shortstop. We know this because if they were convinced Tejada was their man, we still wouldn’t be having these discussions.

Early news in camp seemed to be positive, but now it’s starting to look as if that may just have been a smoke screen, as the Mets and Drew’s agent seem to be in a standoff regarding his services. The latest story in the NY Post states:

Even though Tejada attended an offseason strength/conditioning and nutrition camp in Michigan, Mets management has not been overwhelmed by the shortstop’s “new’’ body.

“He looks pretty much the same,’’ one source told The Post on Monday.

Frustrated with Tejada, the Mets still have a strong interest in signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, two sources have told The Post. They also have shown interest in Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Another anonymous source leaking a story…what a surprise. But it all makes sense.

Sandy Alderson may have been trying to leverage the positivity around Tejada early in camp, and Franklin’s trade availability in his game of cat and mouse with Scott Boras. Boras has said that Drew is willing to wait until June to sign. I find that hard to believe. Unfortunately, the fact that we are even discussing Franklin and Drew, and the Mets willingness to give Wilmer Flores burn at shortstop shows that the Mets have no intention of starting the season with Tejada as their starter. That puts Boras and Drew in the driver’s seat.

Now they just sit back and wait for the Mets to cave. They know that the Mets would be wise to get a deal done before any games are played this spring, because every poor performance by Tejada gives Boras and Drew more leverage. Now we are hearing that the Mets are willing to discuss a trade with the Mariners involving their shortstop/second baseman, Nick Franklin.

Let’s take a look at this scenario.

The Mets have stated that the trade talks could heat up later this spring. Later this spring—meaning we will try to sign Drew before giving away an established major leaguer or top prospect for a second year player that hasn’t accomplished more than Tejada at this point.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.25.07 AMThe Mets can sign Drew and sacrifice a draft pick. For this, it will cost them a little extra (money wise) but they will get an established major leaguer to man the shortstop position. The draft pick is unknown, so they would not be losing much.

The Mets can also trade for Franklin. This will give them a potential 20/20 player that is under team control for the next six years—but it will probably cost them a Rafael Montero-like prospect. Many don’t think Franklin has the range to play shortstop at the major league level—the guy can steal 20 bases in a season but has poor range? When was the last time Jhonny Peralta stole 20 bases in a season? I’ll give you a hint: NEVER. Not even close.

Decisions, decisions.

Many baseball experts have Drew pegged as a future New York Met. Whether that happens is yet to be seen.

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Featured Post: Can Eric Young Have a .350 OBP If He Bunts More? Fri, 21 Feb 2014 14:54:47 +0000 eric young

“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gorp… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.” Crash Davis, Bull Durham

That’s all it takes. One hit per week to turn a .250 hitter into a .300 hitter. It just so happens that Eric Young Jr. hit .249 last year. That would mean that if he could manage one more hit per week…just one more ground ball with eyes…just one more bunt base hit…he could be a .300 hitter and probably get his OBP up in the .350 range.

Terry Collins advised the media yesterday that Young could have a .350 OBP if he bunted more. It sounds like they want Young to play more of a Willie Mays Hayes style of baseball in 2014.

Here is what Metsblog contributor, Maggie Wiggin, tweeted in response to the Collins quote yesterday:

This tweet is accurate. Gaining an additional 20 bunt hits seems highly unlikely, but it leaves out one important fact—Young’s speed puts added pressure on the defense. That means if he bunts, the defense has to field the ball cleanly, and make a strong accurate throw in order to get the speedy Young out. Odds are, while he may not be able to accumulate 22-25 extra hits from bunts, he may be able to accumulate 10-15 more hits and get on base an additional 5-10 times due to errors made.

That’s hypothetical, but possible.

If Young added 15 more hits (less than one per week), that’s a .276 average and .330 OBP (based on his 539 at-bats in 2013). That is more realistic than saying Young can have a .350 OBP simply by bunting more.

While reaching base on an error is helping the team, it isn’t factored into OBP because it is looked at as luck. However, when your speed is causing fielders to rush, that isn’t luck, it’s skill. Even if it’s not reflected in his actual OBP, Young is impacting the offense by getting on base more often where the Mets can take advantage of his speed. So if he bunts more, hypothetically he will get on base more, even if it’s not reflected in his stats.

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Noah Syndergaard and the “Hook from Hell” Tue, 18 Feb 2014 17:41:27 +0000 HOWARD SIMMONS NEW YORK DAILY NEWSIf you read some of the reports coming out of Port St. Lucie yesterday, you would think everyone just crawled out from under a rock. I can’t remember the last time a bullpen session caused so much buzz. Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, put on an incredible show yesterday.

What was everyone expecting?

You can rewind to about 25 different articles on MMO covering his dominating performances in 2013. On April 1, 2013, I wrote a piece entitled Syndergaard Could Be Mets No. 1 Prospect By All-Star Break. Here is what I said about Syndergaard after seeing some bullpen video from 2013 spring training:

Syndergaard is a tall and imposing figure on the mound, and standing in at 6-feet 6-inches is an intimidating presence. I had the chance to watch a bullpen session on Syndergaard and love what I see. His mechanics are effortless and the ball explodes out of his hand (High-90s fastball). His changeup is great, and while there have been some knocks on his curveball in the past, it looks like it is developing nicely. This kid is the goods.

Sound familiar? The only difference is that his curveball is no longer getting knocks, it is being called the “hook from hell” by Mets’ manager Terry Collins.

Everyone was gathered around to get a glimpse of the pitching phenom yesterday. He did everything he could to back up his outstanding 2013—he was bringing the cheese, the knee-buckling curve, and showing to everyone that his stuff is for real.

Syndergaard’s first bullpen was an awesome display—even more impressive due to the fact that everyone was watching—coaches, media, owners, and other players. A pitcher can’t have more pressure for his first 40-pitch bullpen session of the season. But that’s what comes with the territory of being crowned the organizations’ top prospect.

While there was no hitter opposing him, Syndergaard rose to the occasion. His impressive bullpen session validated his outstanding on-field performance in 2013—and as Collins alluded, it’s what he does on the field that counts.

Photo by Howard Simmons, Daily News

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Mets Camp Almost At Full Attendance Already Tue, 18 Feb 2014 15:21:14 +0000 wilmer floresAccording to Adam Rubin of, “the Mets have pretty much everyone in camp, including position players, even though those players are not required to report until Thursday.”

The two players that were invited and still weren’t in camp are Omar Quintanilla and Wilmer Flores. Flores was due to arrive this morning, after finishing his second stint at the fitness camp in Michigan.

I’m sure the buzz surrounding Flores, when he finally arrives, will be as intense as it was around Noah Syndergaard yesterday. Everyone seems excited to see if the camp has helped Flores’ speed and agility—both of which have been question marks for years.

Flores is one of the players that Mets fans should keep a very close eye on this spring.

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The Mets May Look Great in Their Uniforms, But Can They Play? Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:49:28 +0000  (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

(Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

If the way the Mets look in their uniforms this spring is any indication of how well they will play, the Mets may be on pace for a playoff run this season.

The problem is, the correlation of a player’s waist size and the ability to hit a major league fastball…or curveball…or slider…or changeup, is minimal. In fact, it’s probably non-existent aside from a slight boost in power that comes from putting on muscle.

So why all the hype surrounding the Mets players attending a fitness camp this winter? This is what major leaguers are supposed to do. Being a professional athlete entails keeping your body in top physical condition—it’s part of the job description. Excuse me if I don’t get all excited because players are in great shape, because they’re supposed to be in great shape.

Does anyone think that Ruben Tejada couldn’t hit in 2013 because he was out of shape? Does anyone really think that because he seems to be the best shape of his life, he’s going to return to his 2012 form? It doesn’t. If you can hit, you will hit…period. Being in poor physical condition may alter his range at shortstop, or his speed around the base path, or even his likelihood of being injured during a grueling season, but it won’t affect his ability to hit.

The same goes for Lucas Duda. How good of shape does a player have to be in to walk from home plate to first base?

The player I’m most excited to see how this fitness camp impacted him is Wilmer Flores. Here is a kid that has never had time to dedicate to improving his speed and agility because he played baseball all year-round. A dedicated program for him could have worked wonders for him on the defensive side of the ball (where all of his question marks are). Offensively, the Mets have to find a way to get Flores in the lineup which is why it was critical for him to dedicate time this winter to developing his speed and agility.

The Mets look like they’re in great physical condition so far this spring. They’re getting rave reviews from the media for looking so trim. However, that is no indication of how they will play on the field…and that’s all that really matters.

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Can The Mets Win 85-90 Games In 2014? Fri, 07 Feb 2014 16:02:33 +0000 mets spring training 2013 Wally Backman leads workout

Most analysts have the Mets already penciled into third or fourth place in the NL East for 2014. They are looking up and down at team rosters, giving their projections based on the players on those rosters. A roster is simply a list of names. It can’t tell you if a player is going to have an up year or a down year. It can’t tell you if a player is going to get injured or not. It can’t tell you if the guys on that roster have the heart and determination it takes to win a championship.

So while the analysts make their predictions based on names on a roster because those names are associated with “better” baseball ability, there is really no telling what can happen over the course of a 162 game season. 

With the loss of Matt Harvey for 2014, and the amount of question marks on the Mets roster, ESPN recently predicted the Mets to have one fewer win in 2014. It seems that many have less faith in the 2014 Mets than they did in the 2013 Mets.

How can that be?

Heading into 2013, the outfield was in dire straights and the Mets were entering the season on the heels of trading away 20-game winner, R.A. Dickey. Nobody projected Harvey to have the type of season he did, so how can anyone think that the Mets are just as bad or even worse off heading into 2014? It just isn’t true.

How can the Mets win 85-90 games in 2014 and quiet the doubters?

The same way teams have been winning games for over a century: with solid pitching, getting on base, and timely hitting. It doesn’t matter who is on the roster if the team can’t accomplish those things.

The Mets have to break the game down incrementally into it’s simplest form: innings. They have to treat each inning as if it is a mini-game. The goal is to win more innings than your opponent. Many think the Mets are obsessed with on base percentage—well, they are, but it’s for good reason. If nobody gets on base, how can a team score runs? The most fundamental aspect of scoring runs is first getting on base.

All but one team that made the playoffs was ranked in the top ten for on base percentage in 2013—the one team that wasn’t in the top ten was the Pittsburgh Pirates. Also, keep in mind that seven out of the top ten teams in the league in walks made the postseason in 2013. While the Mets’ team philosophy may not be seem like the best fit for the current players on the roster, they are right with regard to walks and on base percentage contributing to overall team success.

The Mets were tied for third in the major leagues with strike outs in 2013—1384 total. That number was good for one in every four at-bats. The Mets also had the sixth-lowest on base percentage in baseball last season (.306). If they are to be competitive in 2014, they have to turn this around.

Halfway through 2012, the Mets found themselves ranked in the top ten of the MLB Power Rankings.

Halfway through 2012, the Mets found themselves ranked in the top ten of the MLB Power Rankings.

How easily we forget that in 2012, the Mets were on pace at one point in the season to win over 80 games. They were winning games with solid pitching and timely hitting. That’s the classic recipe for winning baseball games. The Mets were ranked as high as ninth in the MLB Power Rankings and Mets fans started to believe that there could be a playoff run in the future. However, after the All-Star break, the team never did get back on track. I’m sure one of Terry Collins‘ goals in 2014 will be to get off to a hot start like the Mets did in 2012, but keep his team motivated and finish the season just as strong as it starts.

The Mets also received virtually no offensive output from the catcher position in 2013. In 2014, this trend should change. Travis d’Arnaud should be the starting catcher out of camp, and should easily be able to out-perform the Mets catchers from 2013. He will inject at least fifteen home runs into the lineup over the course of the season, and the healing process for the fans that were heart-broken after another disappointing 2013 season will begin.

If the Mets players play to their potential, they can be a very dangerous team. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of question marks around this team. But if these guys come together, and we see Curtis Granderson and Chris Young return to form, Ike Davis get back to hitting bombs, David Wright and Daniel Murphy keep doing what they’re doing, Zack Wheeler and d’Arnaud take a step forward, and if the pitching staff can keep the Mets in games, we may have something special.

If the analysts projections were correct every year, then what would be the point of playing the season out? They could all save us a lot of time and hand out trophies based on rosters. However, this is not a contest for putting together the best roster on paper, this is about winning ball games. The Mets can win over 85 games in 2014 if they stick to the winning formula: solid pitching, getting on base, and timely hitting…oh, and stay healthy.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2014 as Mets fans. There are some exciting young prospects on the way and if the Mets stay healthy, they are going to sneak up on a lot of teams this year. This is going to be an exciting season of Mets baseball.

2014 New York Mets Prediction:

86-76, 2nd Place N.L. East

Presented By Diehards

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The Mets Can’t Be Done Spending…Can They? Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:23:34 +0000 wilpon alderson sandy

I called Joe D. shortly after I heard the news that Sandy Alderson told the Mets’ season ticket holders that he wasn’t against giving Stephen Drew a contract with a third year. There is no secret about it, I am for the Mets going after Drew.

Joe, on the other hand, wants to give Ruben Tejada one more chance. The conversation was passionate, and I wish I could have transcribed it because I’m sure it would have made for a good read. I keep telling Joe we should do a podcast, so maybe after that conversation he will finally give in.  :-)

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. In my conversation with Joe, I went on about a 45 second tirade that sounded a little like this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 9.21.13 AMThe Mets can’t be done (spending). I really think they are going to grab a couple more free agents this winter. They can’t be done. They are a couple of players away from being legit contenders, so why stop now? Why half-ass it? Why would they spend on Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon if they weren’t going to compete this year? They can’t stop now and use Matt Harvey‘s injury as an excuse. The payroll is under $90 million and that’s disgraceful for a New York team. Are you telling me that a New York team can’t afford a $110 million payroll? If they add two more players, that’s what the payroll would be…and they would be legit contenders. That doesn’t even seem logical. Why go half way? At this point, go for it. If they stop now, they have wasted another year of David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Granderson and Colon. They can’t just go half way and stop! It makes no sense.

What do you guys think? Am I wrong for thinking this way? I mean, are they trying to win a championship or saving their money for a rainy day? I’m not for frivolous spending, but I am starting to see an opening…a light at the end of the tunnel. Wouldn’t now be the time to punch the gas and go for it? Why go half way? It just doesn’t make sense. I would think the added revenue from putting a winning team on the field would offset some of that extra payroll (not that a $110 million payroll for a New York team is high!).

The draft pick compensation for some of the players with qualifying offers is not that big of a deal. The Mets have one of the higher rated farm systems in baseball. One season of sacrificing a second, third and even fourth round pick isn’t going to change that. And even if it did, it’s a sacrifice you make for being a contender again.

I wrote a piece the other day predicting the Mets would win 80-plus games. I stand by that, but admit that it would take the Mets being very lucky and having no injuries and every player on the field play the best baseball they ever played. For the Mets to rely on luck and everything coming together doesn’t make sense if they have the means to add a couple of more pieces. They need to add a couple of more pieces if they really want to make a push in the division.

The next week is going to get interesting as there are still a bunch of free agents still available that can help teams win, and spring training is right around the corner.

Presented By Diehards

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Should The Best Hitter In The Lineup Bat Leadoff? Fri, 07 Feb 2014 01:32:47 +0000 david wright

The question posed in the title has been a hot topic in the MMO comment thread lately. I decided to take a look at this idea from a little different perspective and compare two players — Mike Trout and David Wright.

I remember the first time I heard about this idea of the best hitter in the lineup batting leadoff. The year was 1988, and I was 10 years old when one of my Little League coaches explained to us how the lineups worked in Japan. He explained that they bat their best hitter (the hitter we would consider a No. 3 hitter in America) in the leadoff spot. We asked him why, since it made zero sense to us. He said it was because they want their best hitter in the lineup getting up the most times in the game.

We were only 10 years old, so that was about as deep as the conversation went. But I always remembered it. I don’t remember where I was exactly, or the people that were with me, but I remember not knowing anything about Japanese baseball and taking it at face value. I never found out if what that coach told us was true, but with the rise of advanced statistics, there is tons of evidence that now backs this up as a feasible option.

It goes against everything we have grown up learning, but the fundamental reasoning behind it makes perfect sense. The leadoff hitter gets the most plate appearances in a game and is only guaranteed to hit leadoff once in a game, so why not have my best hitter there? The more opportunities my best player has to hit, the better the team’s chances of winning — seems simple enough.

I mentioned earlier I was going to compare two hitters — Trout and Wright. Wright has been the Mets No. 3 hitter for the majority of his nine year career. Trout spent most of his time in the two-hole last year, but has been one of the best leadoff hitters (when used in that capacity) in baseball over the past two seasons. The question is why is Trout sometimes used as the leadoff hitter when he puts up numbers that are better than most three-hole hitters? Wouldn’t he be better served in the three-hole? If he were on a different team, would he be the best option to hit third, or would that team have him hit leadoff? And one more question — if Trout can hit leadoff, why not Wright?

Let’s look at some statistics. Here are Trout’s career numbers when he leads off a game and when he leads off an inning:

1st Batter G 157 157 143 35 40 9 5 5 10 40 .280 .344 .476 .819
Leadoff Inn. 252 403 355 88 120 25 14 14 44 84 .338 .417 .544 .961

When Trout leads off a game his numbers drop way below his career marks. However, when he leads off an inning, all of his statistics are on par with his career numbers. About one-third of his homeruns have come when he led off an inning. The majority of his homeruns have come in the leadoff hole, but oddly enough, his highest OPS comes out of the two-hole.

In fact, one can argue that Trout is a better hitter when he hits second. By the way, Trout has zero career stolen bases after leading off the game or an inning and getting on base.

Now let’s look at Wright’s statistics. Here are Wright’s career numbers when he leads of an inning:

Leadoff Inn. 847 1153 1033 229 307 64 48 48 114 207 .297 .370 .512 .882

When leading off an inning, Wright has hit .297 with a .370 on base percentage. His career OBP is .382, so it’s slightly lower when he leads off an inning. His power numbers also drop off drastically. Could this be because he is being pitched differently when he is leading off an inning? Is it a comfort level? Whatever it is, Wright’s numbers are much better when he hits out of the three-hole.

Is it worth it to get Wright approximately 100 more plate appearances in a season if his production will drop off?

Here’s a brief story about my experience of hitting leadoff. I was finishing up an outstanding freshman year of college where I spent most of the time hitting out of the 3-4-5 hole in the lineup. Going into my sophomore year, the team lacked a leadoff hitter. I volunteered to move out of the middle of the order and hit leadoff — the coach agreed it was a great idea. Unfortunately things didn’t go as smoothly as we planned. I started the season in a 1-for-20 slump, and it wasn’t long before I was moved back to the middle of the lineup.

Obviously, it was all mental for me. Hitting leadoff should have given me more fastballs, and there is nothing I liked more than seeing fastballs. My numbers should have improved hitting leadoff, but they didn’t improve until the coach moved me back to the middle of the lineup.

Oddly enough, when I was looking up Trout’s numbers on for this piece, I stumbled onto a post on Peter Gammons’ blog. In this post he covers a sabermetric book entitled The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. This book highlights the optimal lineup and states the best hitters should be in the one, two and four-hole. Wait, what happened to the three-hitter? I’m not sure because I haven’t read the book yet. But here is a brief breakdown of the book from Gammons:

Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin analyze the data and conclude that the optimal lineup has a team’s three best hitters in the #1, #2, and #4 slots in the batting order. They outline the skill set that determines how these players are positioned. The leadoff hitter should reach base most often and less home run power is preferred. Meanwhile, the #2 hitter should walk more than the #4 hitter, who ideally has the most extra-base hits.
The number two batter comes to the plate more frequently than any batter other than the leadoff batter, often with the bases empty, so think of him as having the characteristics of a second number one in the lineup.

Again, the logic behind having your best hitters hitting as high in the order to get them more plate appearances is sound. Unfortunately, this is looking at it based on their performance of where they currently hit in the lineup. A large chunk of baseball, and hitting especially, is mental.

The stats won’t reflect the change that can happen to a hitter similar to what happened to me when I was moved to the leadoff spot. There is just no telling what can happen when a player is taken out of their comfort zone. There is a better chance that a player who is considered your best hitter hits just as good out of the leadoff spot, but there is also a chance it turns out to be the worst decision you ever made.

Long story short, you cannot assume your best hitter will still be your best hitter if you start putting them into positions they are not comfortable in.

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The Mets’ First Base Competition Thu, 06 Feb 2014 16:00:35 +0000 Who's on first?

Who’s on first?

Rewind to about a month ago — The Mets seemed fully prepared to head into the 2014 with Lucas Duda at first base, and possibly a platoon situation where Josh Satin would be in the lineup against left-handed pitchers. Ike Davis was on the trading block, and the Mets weren’t actually keeping it a secret. 

Here we are, about a week away from the official start of spring training, and it seems as if we are going to have an old-fashioned slober knocker to see who the starting first baseman for the Mets will be in 2014.

Mets fans will be divided…get the popcorn ready and enjoy the show.

It’s really anyone’s guess who will be starting at first base. Duda seems to have the inside edge because the Mets already seemed committed to making him the first baseman, but Davis’ power potential may be enough to earn him the job. If Davis gets off to a slow start, Duda may win the job by default. If Davis gets off to a hot start, I’m still not convinced that the Mets won’t use that success to try and get a buyer in the trade market for him.

Only time will tell, but let’s take a look at Duda’s and Davis’ performance at the plate the past couple of years to see if anyone has an inside edge.

Duda’s Pitch Types

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 12.40.10 PMIn 2011, Duda saw the highest percentage of fastballs that he has seen over the past three years. As you can see from the graphic, his fastball percentage (FA%) has dropped off by about four percent, while the amount of curveball (CU%) and sliders (SL%) he has seen has increased.

This is not uncommon. As scouting reports start circulating about hitters, the pitchers will adjust the way they pitch to certain hitters. A major increase came with the amount of curveballs that Duda is now seeing with compared to his 2011 season. Once the pitchers start changing the way they pitch to the hitter, the hitter has to also adjust. These adjustments will ultimately determine success of a player at the major league level.

Duda’s Aggressiveness

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 12.50.37 PMFor those who are upset with Duda’s approach, and his lack of aggressiveness at the plate, you’re right. Not only is Duda swinging a pitches out of the zone at a lower rate (O-Swing%), but he is also swinging at pitches in the strike zone at a lower rate (Z-Swing%). While it’s impressive to see him laying off pitches out of the strike zone, it’s disappointing to see that he is letting strikes go by, which has become somewhat of a pet peeve amongst Mets fans.

Another alarming stat is that his contact rate has dropped dramatically—by nearly ten percentage points. He was making contact with 90.1% of the pitches thrown in the strike zone in 2011 when he compiled a .292 batting average, and only 80.6% in 2013 where his batting average was .223.

Putting It All Together

After looking at both of the charts above, it’s easy to see what is going on with Duda. All of the information is tied together. Duda is, in fact, less aggressive at the plate. He is swinging less because he is seeing fewer fastballs. He is also making less contact with pitches in the strike-zone because he is seeing more off-speed pitches. Rather than adjusting, he is opting to wait for fastballs, and he is getting himself deep into counts. When he’s deep in the count, he is forced to swing at the off-speed pitches which causes more swings and misses than in 2011 (lower overall contact percentage).

This combination drives up his strike out rate, and decreases his batting average and the amount of damage he can ultimately do with the bat. While Duda’s walk rate has increased, that increase means nothing if it comes with a decrease in almost every other offensive category. What would be impressive is seeing his walk rate increase, while he also improved his other statistics.

When Duda makes contact, and puts the ball in play, good things happen. For how low his batting average was in 2013, his BABIP was .276—in 2011, it was .326. But for Duda to regain his 2011 form, he will have to adjust his hitting approach. The pitchers have adjusted to him, and rather than adjust, Duda seems to be going ahead with the same approach which is crippling him offensively.

I’m reminded of this quote from back in 2012, and wondering if Duda has progressed at all since then:

What Collins does know without a doubt is that Duda isn’t the same timid hitter that originally arrived in the clubhouse last year.

“He now believes in himself,” Collins said. “Where he came up with some doubts last summer, in the beginning he talked about it and vocalized it: `I’m not sure I belong here.’ Well I just think now he believes he belongs here.”

We can break baseball down to it’s simplest form and what you have is Darwinism—like animals striving for survival in the wild, players have to adapt or die. Some of them will do whatever it takes to survive, which is evident from them opting to use Performance Enhancing Drugs. While I’m not saying Duda should use PEDs, he does have to adapt.

If Duda can adapt, he could be the one standing victorious in this game of Survivor to see who is on first base for the Mets in 2014.

Davis’ Pitch Types

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.56.58 AMDavis’ best season as a major leaguer came in 2012, when he hit 32 homeruns and had 90 RBI. The power was there, but he didn’t hit for high average and his walk rate was the lowest it has been in his professional career. The odd thing is, the pitch types Davis saw between 2012 and 2013 didn’t change much. The major change seemed to be the amount of fastballs he saw increased, while the amount of curveballs decreased. Pitchers threw Davis more fastballs in 2013. Why wouldn’t they after looking at his swing? With all those moving parts, Davis became highly vulnerable to the fastball in 2013.

Davis’ Aggressiveness

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.56.29 AM

By taking a look at the graphic above, there isn’t much that would make us think that Davis should have had a major drop-off in production from 2012 to 2013. In fact, there is evidence here that should suggest the opposite. Davis reduced the amount of pitches he swung at outside the strike zone in 2013 (O-Swing%). Davis made the same amount of contact in 2013 as he did in 2013 (74.7%). Davis’ walk rate increased in 2013, which correlates with him swinging at pitches out of the strike zone less, but what can explain the drop off in performance?

The answer is in the types of swings he is taking which are changing the type of contact he is making. Check out this graphic below:

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.58.08 AM

In 2012, Davis hit the ball in the air much more than any other season. He hit 152 fly balls and 80 line drives. I didn’t show his infield fly balls, but in total, he hit the ball in the air a total of 250 times, 32 of which were homeruns. That means 12.8% of his balls hit in the air were dingers in 2012. In 2013, he hit the ball in the air 129 times and nine of those went for homeruns. His homerun percentage on balls hit in the air dropped to 7% in 2013.

Putting It All Together

While Davis made the same amount of contact in 2013 as he did in 2012, it was less authoritative. He also hit a higher percentage of ground balls in 2013, more than any other season. This is all due to mechanical flaws in his swing. He isn’t getting around on the fastballs, which was the pitch of choice for pitchers when facing Davis in 2013. By over-compensating for the fastball, he becomes more susceptible to the off-speed pitches, and he will make weaker contact as he takes defensive swings off his back foot. A more simplified swing could make Davis a lethal power hitter again.

Davis did a better job with plate discipline in 2013, as he swung at pitches out of the strike zone less often in 2013 which directly impacted his walk rate and on base percentage. His issue is with his swing. By limiting what he is doing before the pitch arrives, he will be able to trust his hands more and adjust to whatever pitch he sees. By keeping his hands between his shoulder and ear, he already has them in a good hitting position, and doesn’t have to make three movements before the pitch arrives to get them there. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

If Davis spent the winter working on his swing, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a 30-plus homerun hitter again, and the Mets first baseman in 2014.

(Charts from

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Mets One Of Three Teams In On Fernando Rodney Tue, 04 Feb 2014 22:01:31 +0000 fernando rodney

February 4, 2014

Free agent closer Fernando Rodney now has three teams who are expressing strong interest in his services according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. Those teams are the Mariners, Orioles and Mets.

You always have to be wary whenever Sandy Alderson downplays interest in someone. It almost always seems like he’s doing the exact opposite of what he says he is.

Sneaky guy…

February 3, 2014

As first reported by Adam Rubin of, the Mets have signed right-hander Kyle Farnsworth to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.

Sandy Alderson has recently said the Mets were in the market for a low-cost, veteran relief pitcher, and Farnsworth fills that need.

Farnsworth had a 4.70 ERA in 48 appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates last season.

He also has experience pitching in New York after spending 2006-2008 with the cross-town Yankees.

Rubin also notes that according to an unaffiliated source with the club, the Mets have allotted some money to finding a closer-type relief pitcher to a big league deal.

The source believes that Fernando Rodney is high on the Mets list and the team’s favorite, but Kevin GreggRyan Madson or Joel Hanrahan could also be in the mix.

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Eric Young Says His Favorite Position To Play Is Leadoff Tue, 04 Feb 2014 19:33:39 +0000 Eric Young Jr. has helped solidify this outfield and provided a spark offensively

The Mets posted a short video of Eric Young, Jr today who said that his favorite position to play is leadoff.

While not exactly a position, his point was that he’ll play wherever the Mets ask him to as long as it’s everyday and he’s batting first in the batting order.

Terry Collins said Monday that if Young shows in camp that he get on base more frequently, the team will have to find a spot for him in the lineup because he has the ability to change their offense (Kernan, Feb. 3).

In the event Young does not hit leadoff, Chris Young or Ruben Tejada could end up in the top spot. Juan Lagares’ name was not mentioned as a possible leadoff hitter.

In 2013, Young batted .251 with a .318 OBP in 91 games with the Mets. Lagares, over 121 games, hit .242 with a .281 OBP in his first taste of the majors.

When batting leadoff last season, in 122 games between the Rockies and Mets, Young hit .254 with a .318 OBP.

The Mets really haven’t had a solid leadoff hitter since Jose Reyes left town. The latest news is that Collins has stated on multiple occasions that Eric Young Jr is his preference out of the leadoff spot in 2014. Not many fans were enamored with this news when it broke, mainly because it seems like this choice would come at the expense of current defensive dynamo and fan favorite, Juan Lagares.

Speed is extremely overrated when it comes to the leadoff hitter, and although it helps, is not necessary. The most important thing the leadoff hitter has to do is get on base so that the better hitters in the middle of the lineup can drive them home. Speed should be reserved for the areas of the lineup where manufacturing of runs is necessary (the back end).

Let’s remember that a leadoff hitter is only guaranteed to hit leadoff one time in a game, but will also see the most plate appearances, so you want a solid offensive player in that spot. The more successful they are, the more times your better hitters in the middle of the order will get to the plate.

After reading the previous two paragraphs, is Young really the best man for the job? If not Young, then who? The two names that come up the most are Daniel Murphy, and oddly enough, Lucas Duda.

When it comes to Murphy, he seems like a great option, but when you look at his on base percentage from last season, he was only one point ahead of Young (Murphy .319 and Young .318). If you give me the Murphy from 2012, when his OBP was .332, I would agree that Murphy should be leadoff over Young. But based on 2013, I would say Young’s speed gives him an edge when the OBP is that close. Murphy is also one of the Mets better hitters, so keeping him in the two-hole would be the best move.

Now let’s look at Duda. Duda is a leadoff hitter in a cleanup hitter’s body. There is just no other way to put it. Duda has the best OBP out of the three candidates listed in this post, and he had 55 walks in 384 plate appearances. To put that into perspective, Murphy and Young combined only had 67 walks between the two of them. If Duda were to hit leadoff for the Mets, he would be the largest leadoff hitter in history, by a hefty 35 pounds. The move would also bring tons of scrutiny from the media as they would be sure to complain about Duda’s speed every time he comes to the plate.

Please don’t take any of this as me saying I think Duda should be the leadoff hitter. I am truly perplexed, and I’m sure the Mets coaching staff is as well. It’s much easier to make a decision writing comfortably from my couch with my kids sitting here watching Dora the Explorer. Let’s call a spade a spade—the Mets don’t have a prototypical leadoff hitter. Everyone mentioned in this discussion has their flaws.

If you asked Bill James, he may say Duda is the best option. If you ask the fans, they might tell you Murphy is the best option. If you ask the manager, he says Young is the best option, and that’s really all that matters. Collins gets paid the big bucks to make these decisions, but I wouldn’t be totally against him thinking outside of the box and having Duda in the leadoff spot at this point.

Sometimes it takes thinking outside of the box and doing something completely out of the ordinary, like having Wilmer Flores at shortstop, or Duda hitting leadoff, to get to the next level.

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The Mets’ Offensive Philosophy: Discipline vs Patience Mon, 03 Feb 2014 17:03:23 +0000 wright murphy

There was a nice Q&A over on Metsblog with Mets’ hitting coach Dave Hudgens, who gave a little insight into what the Mets’ hitting philosophy is. Hudgens also spends a little time talking about Ike Davis and his recent woes, and seems pretty confident that he can turn things around.

Matt Cerrone highlights one quote in particular from Hudgens: “We want hitters to look for their strength, especially early in the count, from the first pitch to the fifth pitch, to the sixth pitch, when we’re in hitters counts we want to be aggressive on our pitch,” he said. “I mean, obviously, I’d rather see a double in the gap with two guys on than a walk. But, there’s sometimes during the game, David Wright‘s not going to get his pitch. I would rather him take the walk as opposed to swing at a marginal pitch and hit into a double play.”

I have one main concern with this quote—the player who qualified with the most pitches per plate appearance (P/PA), in 2013, was Mike Napoli, with 4.59. So nobody averaged five pitches per plate appearance last year. I was surprised to see that Eric Young Jr was the Mets’ player with the fourth-highest P/PA (minimum 100 games played). Young saw 3.74 pitches per plate appearance in 2013, which ranked him behind only Wright, Ike Davis, and Lucas Duda. I am starting to see why the Mets are enamored with him hitting leadoff—but he has to show me he can get on base more before I jump on board.

Here is my major issue with what Hudgens said—why is Hudgens talking about the fifth and sixth pitch in an at-bat? Simple math tells you that by the time a hitter see five or six pitches, they will have two strikes and naturally be more defensive, not aggressive. It’s impossible to get to the sixth pitch in a count without two strikes on the hitter.

Pitches seen and success varies greatly. Curtis Granderson saw just under four pitches per plate appearance in 2013 (3.99). Chris Young, Davis and Duda also averaged over four pitches per plate appearance. What do these four guys have in common? All four of them have a tendency to strike out.

lucas duda homersThe terms “discipline at the plate” and “patience at the plate” come up quite often when discussing hitters’ approaches at the plate—especially if you are a Mets fan. This notion that the organization is teaching their hitters to be more patient is a questionable one to say the least.

The two terms sound like they mean the same thing, but actually are quite different.

Patience refers to working a pitcher, seeing all his pitches, and waiting for the right pitch to jump on. The hitter basically is waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake. Some hitters excel using this strategy, while others flop. Patience naturally leads to a higher propensity to strike out, since you are taking at-bats into deep counts. The count itself is in the pitcher’s favor—three strikes versus four balls—which is more likely to occur?

You have to have an incredible amount of skill and mental toughness to hit using the strategy of patience. I would argue that this skill cannot even be taught. Being patient forces hitters to hit from behind in the count often, which also contributes to higher strikeout rates for patient hitters. So while patient hitters tend to pile up the walks, they also pile up the strikeouts. You either have what it takes to hit using this strategy, or you don’t.

Patience should be reserved for top-of-the-order hitters. The batting lineup is designed the way it is for a reason and is technically a division of labor. The top two hitters’ jobs are to work the pitchers and get on base. The middle-of-the-order hitters’ jobs are to drive in the top-of-the-order guys. The tail end of the lineup is generally reserved for defensive minded players, so not much is expected.

You cannot force your 3-4-5 hitter to be patient at the plate. Patience is not a strategy that can be forced on every player and that is why speed is not the only determining factor for guys hitting at the top of the order. Those middle-order hitters should show good plate discipline, but not be patient.

Discipline at the plate is the ability of the hitter to lay off pitches that are close, only swinging at pitches in the strike zone. This can be taught to hitters, and as they gain more experience at the plate, their plate discipline will improve. Of course, as with everything else, some hitters are better than others in this area.

So which is better to have, strike-zone discipline or patience at the plate?

The answer is that it depends on what slot in the batting order the hitter is in. For my one and two hitters, I would prefer them to be more patient. I want them to get on base as much as possible, see as many pitches as possible so the heart of my order gets a good look at what the pitcher is bringing. This also gets the pitcher tired. We know being patient comes with a higher propensity to strike out, but it’s a necessary evil.

The rest of the guys in the batting order should have good plate discipline. This means that they aren’t swinging at pitches out of the strike-zone, and not giving away at-bats.

The Mets were tied for third in the major leagues with strike outs in 2013—1384 total. That number was good for one in every four at-bats. The Mets also had the sixth-lowest OBP in baseball last season (.306). They gave away a ton of at-bats.

One could argue that the Mets are being overly patient, which is not attributing to the team getting on base more, or scoring more runs. They should focus on being more disciplined, which means not chasing balls out of the zone, and not patience, which has attributed to higher strike out rates and lower on base percentage.

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Building A Case For Wilmer Flores At Shortstop Fri, 31 Jan 2014 20:51:05 +0000 wilmer floresBy this point, everyone has heard that Sandy Alderson alluded to the fact that arguably the Mets’ best offensive prospect, Wilmer Flores, will be given time at shortstop this spring. We have been hearing for years that Flores was moved away from the position due to a lack of range. Flores, now 22, hasn’t played a professional game at short in two full years—St. Lucie in 2011.

Is it feasible for the Mets to move him back to short after two years of logging zero time? Is there a case for Flores at shortstop in 2014? Let’s take a look and see.

The Derek Jeter Response

Jeter is moving into his age 40 season. If the Yankees are willing to play Jeter at shortstop at 40 years old, I would have to think a 22 year-old Flores has better range at this point. Jeter was never considered a great defensive shortstop to begin with anyway. It’s not like Flores is an out of shape, heavy guy that has been sitting on the couch the past few years. He’s the same size as Jeter, and as the Mets have reported, he’s been doing agility drills all winter to improve his range.

Time at Position

Although Flores hasn’t played a professional game at shortstop since 2011, he has still logged more games and innings at shortstop than any other position on the field…a lot more. The second-most amount of games played have been at second base—so he’s spent the majority of his career in the middle infield. He’s spent 82 percent of the games played in the middle infield and 67 percent at short. In other words, the move back to shortstop is not like he is learning the position all over again. If anything, he’s moving back to his natural position.


Defense doesn’t change much as you move from level to level. There will be slow hit balls, and harder hit balls. There will be faster runners and slower runners. Defense is defense. The field is the same size in A-Ball as it is in the major leagues. It’s not like offense where there is an adjustment that has to be made at each level. If you’re a solid defender in the lower levels, you usually hone your craft and get even better.

Flores is a career .960 fielder at shortstop. That is unspectacular, and if that translated to the big leagues he would be at the bottom of the barrel defensively—among the likes of Jed Lowrie, Ian Desmond and Starlin Castro. But if Flores can put up offensive numbers like Lowrie and Desmond (top-five offensively), which he probably can, people will forget the errors.


Admittedly, I have never seen Flores play a single game at shortstop. I have, however, seen him play second base numerous times. In all the games I have seen him play at second, I never once said to myself “I can’t believe he didn’t get to that ball, his range sucks.” Not once. In fact, I remember thinking to myself, “why do people think his range is so bad?” Maybe watching Daniel Murphy at second base has reprogrammed my brain for middle infield range, but Flores didn’t look so horrible to me.

The beauty about the range at second base and range at shortstop is that they aren’t that different. The major difference is when the shortstop has to go to his backhand in the hole and then have a strong enough arm to get the runner out. Flores plays third base, so the arm strength is not a question. The question is can Flores get to those balls in the hole? See the Derek Jeter Response.


The Mets did something a couple of years ago that looked like it was going to be a total joke—they moved a slow-footed Daniel Murphy to second base—a position where Murphy would not be able to cover up any range issues. Why did the Mets decide to do this? Simple…his offense demanded he be in the lineup.

Murphy isn’t the best defensive second baseman in the league, but he gets the job done, and is considered one of the top offensive second baseman these days.

Murphy played all of 18 games at second in his professional career before being moved there permanently—he was a natural corner infielder. If a natural corner infield can be moved to second and do a good enough job, then a natural shortstop should be able to move back and do a good enough job.

The decision to give Flores burn at short again is a wise one. Even if he’s the worst defensive shortstop in the league, the amount of runs he would cost the Mets would easily be made up with his bat. Flores has the potential to hit .280 with 15 homeruns (if not better) which would make him a top-five offensive shortstop. Who wouldn’t sign up for that right now?

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Lagares May Be The Odd Man Out Fri, 31 Jan 2014 14:36:24 +0000 juan lagares

The news coming out of Flushing the past couple of days is starting to point to what may be a difficult pill for many Mets fans to swallow—Juan Lagares is starting to look like the odd man out in the Mets outfield in 2014.

For whatever reason, Terry Collins seems happy heading into 2014 with Eric Young Jr being the leadoff hitter in the Mets’ lineup. Adam Rubin, of, reports that Collins reiterated that EYJR is his favorite candidate for the leadoff role this season again on Thursday evening.

Rubin also notes that Sandy Alderson has stated that Lucas Duda will be used in an outfield capacity, and Collins used the word “platoon” when describing it. Collins also stated that he wants to get Ike Davis about twice as many at-bats this spring in order to avoid a slow start in 2014.

What the heck is going on here?

About three weeks ago, the Mets were trying to get Davis on the first train out of town, Duda was slated to be our starting first baseman, and Lagares was believed to be on his way to winning a Gold Glove Award in 2014. Fast forward to today, and now Davis looks to be the starting first baseman, Duda is going to platoon in the outfield, and Lagares may start the season in Las Vegas. Oh, and I almost forgot that Wilmer Flores will be getting a tryout of sorts at shortstop again this spring.

Am I surprised with any of this? Nope. Not at all. Nothing surprises me when it comes to the Mets anymore.

Here’s the deal. I stated it in a post earlier, and I will state it again in case you didn’t get a chance to read it. When I was being recruited to play college ball, one of the main questions I would ask was whether I would start right away. The response I often heard was “if you can hit, you will play.” In other words, the best offensive player with get the time—the coaches really never cared who the best defender was. That always resonated with me. This is how it is at any level of baseball.

I hate to break the news, but just because Lagares is a great defender doesn’t mean he has locked down the job. It doesn’t matter how many stats you point to that shows he saved X number of runs last year. The way the Mets are going to look at it now is how many runs will Lagares cost them by having him in the lineup? They aren’t forced to play him anymore because there isn’t a better offensive option.

Lagares got called up because he was performing outstanding offensively in Las Vegas in 2013—if the Mets had anyone else to play in center last season while Lagares was struggling offensively, he would have been sent back down. They didn’t call him up for his defense.

Lagares is an outstanding defender—there is no doubt about that. But he needs more offensive development. If you are going to make a serious run at the playoffs, you are not going to want a player that is an offensive project in the lineup.

juan lagaresDo I think EYJR is an upgrade offensively over Lagares? No. In fact, they were both pretty awful in 2013. Lagares had a wRC+ of 75 and Young was a 78. But the Mets need a leadoff hitter and they think Young Jr. is the man for the job. His slightly higher OBP and his ability to steal bases seem to be giving him an offensive advantage in Collins’ eyes.

The best offensive players will be on the field, period. The Mets would feel very comfortable with Chris Young in center (he’s no slouch defensively), and Eric Young Jr in left. In fact, it’s looking more and more like this is exactly what Collins wants.

The Mets just dished out over $20 million for Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, so you know those guys will be in the lineup. I’m sure the Mets are expecting 45-50 home runs combined between the two of them. That last outfield spot is coming down to EYJ, Lagares and now Duda is back in the mix. It actually sounds like Duda may get more playing time than Lagares, which just goes to show what coaches and executives think about offense and defense. Offense will always prevail.

The Mets love Duda’s offensive approach. Collins loves EYJR as the leadoff hitter. Lagares plays awesome defense. Who do you think will be the odd man out?

Check out this potential lineup for opening day in the Grapefruit League…

1. Eric Young Jr, LF

2. Daniel Murphy, 2B

3. David Wright, 3B

4. Curtis Granderson, RF

5. Chris Young, CF

6. Ike Davis, 1B

7. Wilmer Flores, SS

8. Travis d’Arnaud, C

I don’t think anyone had that in mind a couple of weeks ago.

Presented By Diehards

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Is The Mets’ Farm System Too Pitcher-Heavy? Thu, 30 Jan 2014 01:02:58 +0000 syndergaard monteroIf there is one thing the Mets have going for them it is the very exciting crop of young pitchers in their farm system. The Mets have made some highlights this week after Keith Law, of ESPN, ranked the organization’s farm system as sixth-best in baseball.

It seems that the strategy to stockpile as many promising young pitchers as they possibly can is paying off, and now some of the offensive players are getting more recognition.

The question is whether or not it is a smart move to build your farm system around pitching, and there are a number of reasons why one would question it.

Nothing excites Mets fans more than thinking about Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jenrry Mejia, and Zack Wheeler joining Matt Harvey in the rotation in the coming years. But the truth is, as Matt Harvey has shown this year, your ace can be lost for an entire season in the blink of an eye. In fact, a study conducted during 2010 found that pitchers are 34% more likely to hit the disabled list than a position player, and pitchers also spend more time on the disabled list (62.4% of the time versus 37.6% for position players).

The old adage states that good pitching beats good hitting, but there should be an asterisk next to that statement. There should be an asterisk next to that statement because I don’t care how good your pitchers are, you can’t win a game if your offense doesn’t produce runs. Now depending on who you speak to, there are many different schools of thought on how to generate runs. However, the best formula for scoring runs is having good offensive players in your lineup.

Hitters are more predictable over time. Hitters tend to produce pretty consistently until they start getting up into their early 30s. Pitchers, on the other hand, are a lot more difficult to predict. R.A. Dickey, although a knuckle baller, is a prime example of that unpredictability. That is because much of a pitcher’s success can be determined by many more outside factors than a hitter’s can—like the defense of their teammates.

Is it cost effective to develop as much young pitching as possible?

When looking at the average salaries of position players taken from the Associated Press in 2010 (shown below), you would think not. By not developing offensive players, you are forced to go shopping in the free agent market, and susceptible to some of the costs displayed in the graphic. From looking at this chart, I could sign two pitchers for the cost of signing one first baseman (on average)—so why wouldn’t I opt to develop my own offensive talent and instead add pitchers in free agency?

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.27.13 PM

There was an article on MMO awhile back regarding Theo Epstein and how he is always trying to get one step ahead and trying to stay ahead of the curve (no pun intended). I had the opportunity to cover the Chicago Cubs last year as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and the truth is, the Cubs farm system is the total opposite of the Mets.

Instead of being stocked with pitchers, they have some of the more exciting offensive players in the game today in their farm system—Kris Bryant, Dan Vogelbach, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Albert Almora are a very solid foundation to build their future around…very solid. They have some nice pitching prospects, but they have an abundance of offense.

Which system is better?

Keith Law had the Cubs ranked No. 4 on his recent list of top farm systems. As Mets fans already know, he had the Mets ranked sixth, and that was much higher than what many people thought it would be—I haven’t heard many complaints about where the Cubs’ system is ranked.

Offense sells tickets. And while pitching may win you a World Series, offense will get your team to the playoffs. If you don’t get to the playoffs, you can’t win a World Series.


When taking everything into consideration, is it wise for a team build their system around pitching?

The Mets have some promising young offensive players, but even those prospects have some pretty big question marks hanging over their head—Wilmer Flores doesn’t have a steady position defensively and didn’t even crack Law’s top 100 list, Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t played a full season since Double-A, and now we’re hearing that Mets’ scouts don’t even consider Cesar Puello a prospect. The remainder of the Mets big-time offensive prospects (like Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith—both named to Law’s top 100) are still a couple of years from helping out the team at the big league level.

So what the Mets have is good pitching, and lots of it. We are left wondering what the Mets will do with all this pitching since there are only a limited number of pitchers you can carry on the major league roster, and how many insurance policies are you going to carry in case someone gets hurt? Will the Mets start flipping some of these pitchers while they are hot to reap some offensive rewards? All it takes is one injury to destroy the value of one of these young pitchers.

If the Mets were smart they would sell high, and bring in some offense now. The only Mets pitcher that should be untouchable in the farm system right now is Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard is one of the brightest Mets pitching prospects I have seen in awhile, and the Mets would be wise to keep young Thor and transform Citi Field to a virtual Aasgard in the near future.

If the Mets continue to build around pitching, and a few of those guys get hurt and wash out, they are left with nothing—no offense and no pitching. The odds of a pitcher getting injured is about 40% more likely to occur than a position player. Not only that, but a position player helps my organization every day, and pitchers can only impact about 30 games per year.

The Mets have their philosophy in place, and a bank account full of young pitchers which many believe leaves Sandy Alderson sitting on a stack of gold bars. But pitchers aren’t like gold bars, they are more like internet stocks—their value can come crashing down in one pitch, and the Mets pitching prospect bubble will burst leaving them with a whole bunch of nothing. It’s time to start unloading some of this volatile stock and get some long-term value in offense in return.

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MMO Mailbag: Should Mets Pursue Aledmys Diaz? Tue, 28 Jan 2014 23:03:40 +0000 images

We’ve received a dozen emails lately asking about Cuban shortstop Aledyms Diaz who will soon be eligible to sign with any MLB team. After falsifying his age, Diaz had been prevented from signing with any team, but his punishment is up Feb. 19.

There has been plenty of interest in him and he’s considered one of the top international players available, especially now with Masahiro Tanaka signed, sealed and delivered.

I’ll leave the rest of this to our MMO Senior Editor and Minor League Analyst, Mitch… Joe D.

(Pretend drum roll)

Thoughts from Mitch Petanick…

There will be no shortage of teams that are interested in Diaz. An offensive-minded shortstop, Diaz’s swing is compact and powerful. He’s well rounded offensively—patient, and hits for average and power. Defensively, he has a tendency to make errors, but has solid range and a cannon of an arm. If he doesn’t clean up the defense he could always survive in an outfield role due to his bat and his strong arm.

I would expect that whatever team signs Diaz could start him in Double-A due to his advanced bat. If the Mets signed him, he could be in a position to help the team as early as this season. A short stint in the minors to acclimate Diaz would be all that is necessary.

When the Athletics signed Yoeonis Cespedes, he was 26 years-old, so the team felt comfortable throwing him into the major-league mix immediately. Diaz is a slightly different case—he’s a little bit younger, and due to the defensive question mark, the team that signs him will probably opt to start him in the minors to give him a little bit of polish before promoting him. Make no bones about it, I think this guy can be a very solid major league ball player and he should definitely be on the Mets’ radar.

Below is a brief but excellent clip of Diaz showing off his arm strength. Notice how he chases the slow roller into the hole to his right, throws off his back foot, and has enough arm strength and accuracy to nail the runner with about three steps to spare. That is a major league play.

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