Mets Merized Online » Mets Thoughts http://metsmerizedonline.com Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Several Teams Expressing Interest In Alex Rios, Mets Not One Of Them http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/several-teams-expressing-interest-in-alex-rios-mets-not-one-of-them.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/several-teams-expressing-interest-in-alex-rios-mets-not-one-of-them.html/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168797 alex rios

Several teams have already expressed interest in free agent Alex Rios already, but the Mets are not one of them reports Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com.

“The Mets have long been assumed to be looking to upgrade a corner outfield position this offseason and have been reportedly linked with several free agent outfielders. One outfielder on the market who could fit the profile is Alex Rios. The Rangers declined an option on him this month, making him a free agent.”

Rios had a precipitous drop in power this season, hitting just four home runs after averaging 15 homers and 32 doubles in his 11 year career.

Agent Paul Kinzer, who represents Rios, told The Dallas Morning News that the drop in production was due to injuries and that he played hurt during the second half of the season. He did not play after Sept. 4 because of a thumb injury. He also dealt with an ankle injury throughout the second half.

“His numbers were down because of the injuries. He stayed in the lineup and tried to do all he could because of what was happening with the team.”

October 28

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors profiled free-agent Alex Rios, concluding that the 11 year veteran would earn $8.5 million on a one year deal. As we’ve seen from Sandy Alderson, he always prefers short-term contracts over lengthy, multi-year deals. Rios will be on the market and could make a let of sense until players like Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto arrive in 2016 and beyond.

Rios batted .280/.311/.398/.709 in 492 at-bats this season, hitting only four home runs in 131 games. However, he has been a very consistent player over the course of his career, hitting .278/.323/.439/.762 and averaging 17 home runs and 78 RBI. Coming off such a down year is unfortunate for Rios who is in the final year of the seven-year, $70 million contract he signed in 2008.

Chris Young was a one year fiasco and was in a similar position. He was floundering as a player after being highly touted early in his career. The difference is that Rios has a proven track record. His career numbers blow Young’s out of the water. You have to believe that one bad signing that didn’t work out, won’t make Alderson gun shy moving forward.

If the goal is to build from within and wait for Nimmo or Conforto to break through in the bigs, then Rios on a one year deal could make a lot of sense. He’ll be a veteran leader in the clubhouse, hopefully providing a little bit of power to go along with a resurgent David Wright and Curtis Granderson.

Rios alone isn’t the answer, but at one year and $8.5 million he might be too good to pass up for the bargain hunting Sandy Alderson.

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Fielding Bible Awards: Juan Lagares Named Best Center Fielder In MLB http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/fielding-bible-award-juan-lagares-named-best-center-fielder-in-mlb.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/fielding-bible-award-juan-lagares-named-best-center-fielder-in-mlb.html/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:12:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168378 juan lagares catch

Juan Lagares has been named the top defensive center fielder in the majors for the 2014 season by The Fielding Bible Awards.

“His throwing arm in center field is superb and deeply respected by baserunners,” said John Dewan. “He had six Outfield Arm Runs Saved in 2014. But it’s his ability to cover ground that sets him above the rest.”

“He saved 20 more bases on deep balls than an average center fielder (+20 Plus/Minus), the highest total among all center fielders. This is true despite the fact that, generally speaking, he plays on the shallow side. He had a +11 total on shallow balls, second best among center fielders. His +9 on medium hit balls was fourth best. Lagares finished first on every ballot except one.”

Lagares will be up for the more popular Gold Glove Award which will be announced on Tuesday at 7:00 PM on ESPN2.

He was named one of the three finalists for the National League Gold Glove Award in center-field. The other two finalists are Billy Hamilton and Denard Span.

October 22nd

Later this fall, Juan Lagares hopes to win his first Gold Glove in center field and according to BillJamesOnline.com‘s John Dewan, he will get it done.

Dewan cast his ballot for the 2014 Fielding Bible Award earlier this week and chose Lagares. His 28 defensive runs saved were the most by center fielders. Here’s what he had to say about Lagares:

Entering 2014, there was some question of whether Juan Lagares’ impressive rookie season was something of a fluke. He saved 26 runs in 2013, second most among center fielders despite playing just 820 innings.

Much of that success was the result of a position-leading 12 outfield kills, which is an unusually high total for a center fielder. Lagares emphatically answered any doubters with 28 Runs Saved in 945 innings this season.

As expected, runners were less aggressive in attempting to take extra bases against him this season, which coupled with his five kills resulted in six Runs Saved with his arm. His range accounted for 22 more runs, 7 more than the closest center fielder to him.

No other Mets were projected to win a Fielding Bible Awards or a Gold Glove by Dewan. In the meantime, Lagares will have to sit and wait to find out just how many fielding awards he’ll take home in 2014.

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Gil Hodges Up For Hall of Fame Consideration In December http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/gil-hodges-up-for-hall-of-fame-consideration-in-december.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/gil-hodges-up-for-hall-of-fame-consideration-in-december.html/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:37:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168992 gil hodges bklyn

An MMO Fan Shot by Bill Hall

Gil Hodges is one of ten names on this year’s Golden Era Ballot the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced today.Players will be reviewed and voted on December 8 during the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego.

We support the election of Gil Hodges to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is fully qualified under every one of the criteria set forth in the Hall’s own rules:

“Voting shall be based on player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Gil Hodges was the premier first baseman in the National League during the Golden Era. He was an outstanding fielder, winning the first three Gold Gloves ever awarded in his final three seasons as a full-time regular. He was a dominant power hitter, topping twenty home runs for eleven consecutive seasons, and he totaled thirty or more homers in six of those years. He was an eight-time All Star. His on-the-field performance was a major factor in seven pennants and two World Championships during his fourteen seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was second in both home runs and runs batted in for the National League during the 1950s, was tenth on the all-time home run list at his retirement, and in third place among right-handed batters.

gil hodges aims

His career totals might have been even more impressive had he not spent three years in the Pacific with the U.S. Marines during World War II, where he earned the Bronze Star, which is awarded for acts of heroism or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Integrity, sportsmanship and character may be hard to quantify, but Hodges displayed these qualities in abundance. As both a player and manager, he won the universal respect of his teammates, the players he managed, opponents and fans. He was widely recognized as the only player never to be booed in Brooklyn. Hodges made his home in the heart of the community where he played and he was extremely generous with his time, showing a special dedication to youth. Jackie Robinson credited him as a key figure in easing his difficult role as the first African-American in the major leagues in the 20th century. As a first-time manager, Hodges dramatically improved the performance of the expansion Washington Senators. When he returned to New York as manager of the Mets, he brought 25 young men together as a unit that accomplished one of the most improbable and best remembered feats in baseball history: the 1969 World Series title.

gil hodges place 1969 Mets parade

His untimely death at age 47 in 1972 robbed baseball and its fans of many more years of his great skills and character. His reputation had endured and grown in the decades since that loss. He has earned one distinction his generations of admirers would dearly love to see become a historic footnote–accumulating more votes than any candidate not yet enshrined in the Hall. His achievements during the quarter-century he did spend in the game have richly earned him a place in baseball’s shrine.

Once more, Hodges boosters are hopeful that his time has finally come. Although whoever is chosen by the Golden Era Committee will be a member of the Hall’s class of 2015, the election and announcement will take place in December, so the campaigners have adopted a hashtag to help publicize their cause: #14in14.

Sign our petition now.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by Bill Hall. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Yasmani Tomas, RF/LF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-yasmani-tomas-rflf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-yasmani-tomas-rflf.html/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:39:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168433 yasmani tomas

Yasmani Tomas

Position: Right/Left Field
Bats: Right, Throws: Right 
Age on Opening Day: 24

2014 Snapshot

Compared to his 2012 and 2013 seasons, Tomas’ 2014 season saw a big drop in production in the Serie Nacional, the main baseball league in Cuba. In 68 games last season (seasons are significantly shorter in Cuba), Tomas hit .286/.343/.444 with six home runs, 16 doubles, and two triples. That’s solid, but nothing compared to his 2013 season in which he hit .289/.364/.538 with 15 home runs, 18 doubles, and three triples in 81 games. His 2012 season was even better than that, posting an OPS 20 points higher.

Pros

The most attractive quality for Tomas is his potential. At 24, he has already proven he is a star in the Cuban league, a league that is certainly nothing to scoff at. The successes of recent Cuban players is a sign of the strength of play there, and has people more confident in Tomas’ ability to hit in the majors.

With Tomas, and international players in general, the more certainty, the higher the price is. With more players from Cuba playing well in the U.S. right now, that adds some certainty that more will succeed in the future. There is definitely more certainty with Cuban players now than a few years ago, which is both a good and a bad thing. While it probably means Tomas will at least be a decent player, it also probably takes him out of Sandy Alderson’s price range.

Putting that aside, Tomas is the equivalent of a rookie who has just had a great first season. He’s young and there is still some question as to whether he can stick, but the tools are obviously there. Some scouts have said Tomas will be a slugger, regularly competing for the league lead in home runs. If that holds true, he is a perfect fit for the Mets, who need exactly that: a middle-of-the order bat who also plays a corner outfield position.

Cons

International players are risky.

Logically, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you would probably want to spend it on things that have a higher degree of certainty. Otherwise, you could blow everything on one acquisition. That is what Sandy Alderson has stuck to and is what all but completely eliminates the Mets from signing Tomas.

According to Ben Badler, Tomas has also shown some swing-and-miss tendencies, struggling against good breaking pitches. That could make him a high-risk signing.

Overall, I’d say the Mets have absolutely no chance of getting Tomas, but by some chance the Wilpons finally decide to spend money like real New York owners, Tomas shouldn’t be considered an automatic, sign-at-any-cost target. There is so much uncertainty surrounding him that it could get ugly pretty quickly.

Projected Contract

Due to the fact that Tomas can be had without having to give up a draft pick or any bonus pool money, there is a big incentive for teams to bid wildly on him. So man teams expressed initial interest in him, and I think enough will have serious interest to really drive up the price. Someone is going to get really desperate, seeing this as a chance to get an immediate star for no prospects and no draft picks. Jose Abreu got $68 million last year and Rusney Castillo got $72.5 million this year. The price is only going up, which is why I am predicting 7 years, $120 million for Tomas.

Previous MMO Free Agent Profiles

Colby Rasmus, OF

Nick Markakis, RF

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MMO Fan Shot: Could Juan Lagares Become the Mets Version of Lorenzo Cain? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-fan-shot-could-juan-lagares-become-the-mets-version-of-lorenzo-cain.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-fan-shot-could-juan-lagares-become-the-mets-version-of-lorenzo-cain.html/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:42:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168957 lorenzo cain

An MMO Fan Shot by yfern328

Fresh off an ALCS MVP where he batted .533 (8 for 15) with two doubles, two walks, and a stolen base, Lorenzo Cain has catapulted himself from “that-guy-who-plays-baseball-for-the-Royals” to an oft mentioned name in the national spotlight of the World Series. In addition to his sound batting, Cain has not disappointed with the glove either as he’s played spectacularly in the outfield tracking down balls in the gaps while making highlight-reel catches. Simply put, watching Lorenzo Cain during this postseason has been a treat, and if anything, it affirms my belief that stars can be born with organizational patience and commitment. As a Mets fan, I couldn’t help but wonder how awesome it would be to have a player like Cain leading off for the Mets. And then suddenly it dawned on me—perhaps the Mets already have a similar breakout candidate on the roster? Maybe that player is Juan Lagares?

Considering that Cain broke out big time in 2014 with a line of .301/.339/.412, I figured that maybe Lagares had a shot to best his STEAMER projections for 2015 if he too could take a similar step forward. When I began comparing Lagares and Cain, the first thing I was drawn to was Cain’s 2013 season and Lagares’ in 2014.

In 2013, Lorenzo Cain posted a triple slash line of .251/.310/.348 along with a wRC+ of 80 in 115 games. In many ways, Lagares had a better season in 2014. Lagares posted a triple slash line of .281/.321/.382 with a wRC+ of 101 in 116 games. Going back just another year, I found that in 61 games in 2012, Cain posted a line of .266/.316/.419 which was slightly better, but roughly just as bad as the .242/.281/.352 line Lagares had in 2013 over 121 games. Looking at just the stats from the past couple of years, it was clear that Cain had a slight edge in his ability to get on base, so I wondered if Cain had that reputation in the minors as well.

Turns out that was true. When I compared the cumulative minor league stats of Cain and Lagares, I found that Cain had a .294/.366/.430 line over 728 games which was just a notch better than Lagares’ .281/.322/.403 in 633 games. The interesting thing to note however was that while Cain performed pretty well at all the levels he played in the minors, Lagares seemed to show improvement over time. For instance in all levels below A+, Cain posted a .311/.387/.446 line in 206 games while Lagares only had a .255/.297/.372 line in 327 games.

However, Lagares showed marked improvement in the minor leagues from A+ onwards as compared to Cain who continued to produce stats in a similar fashion—in 728 games Cain hit .294/.366/.430 as compared to Lagares’ line of .308/.347/.435 over 306 games. If we consider these numbers, Lagares and Cain actually have a lot in common. Considering that Lagares improved over the course of his minor league career to eventually be comparable to Cain at the high minor league levels, is it that unreasonable to believe that Lagares could continue to make improvements at the plate in 2015 like Cain did this past year? It’s certainly reasonable to speculate that with Lagares’ steady improvement over the years, maybe he starts to trend more towards the hitter he was in the high minor leagues moving forward.

Again comparing Cain’s 2013 to Lagares’ 2014, what can be noted is that the two had nearly identical strikeout rates (20.4% vs 19.2%) and isolated power (.098 vs .101) while posting the same line drive rates (21.9%).

While Lagares did have a slightly higher BABIP compared to Cain (.341 vs .309), overall Lagares’ numbers were slightly better as a whole, so even if his stats regressed a little bit, the point is that Cain still ended up breaking out in 2014 with slightly worse numbers in 2013. One thing to note is that Cain had a much higher walk rate in 2013 (7.5%) compared to Lagares in 2014 (4.4%). Oddly enough though, in Cain’s breakout year he ended posting a 4.8% walk rate, so maybe there is hope for Lagares after all.

juan lagares claps

Additionally on the base paths, Lagares compares quite favorably. In 2013 and 2014 Juan Lagares stole 6 and 13 bases respectively. In 2012 and 2013 Cain respectively stole 10 and 14 bases, and in his breakout season Cain managed to steal 28 bases.It’s not crazy to think that Lagares could be a mid-20’s steal candidate in 2014 considering the ability he showed late in 2014 when he was given the green light. In fact, Lagares was no slouch in the minors either. Over his minor league career Lagares managed to steal 100 bases compared to Cain who stole 140.

Lastly there’s defense: both players are quite adept defensively, but Lagares is arguably the best centerfielder in baseball. Among qualified players, Lagares was the only one in baseball to be in the top 5 in DRS, UZR, and UZR/150 besides Alex Gordon. So assuming his defensive value remains constant, I don’t think it’s too lofty to believe that Lagares can have the same impact as Cain next year if his bat improves. In 2014 Cain was a 4.9 fWAR player while Lagares was pretty good himself at 3.8 fWAR. But what exactly does Lagares need to work on?

To me the big thing that stuck out was Lagares’ performance versus RHP. In 2014 Lagares hit a whopping .349 against LHP but only .264 against righties. While he showed improvement from his 2013 numbers where he hit .241 against LHP and .243 against RHP, Lagares has got to improve against RHP to even out his splits.

In 2013 Lorenzo Cain hit .238 against LHP and .256 against RHP but drastically improved on those figures this year by hitting .313 against LHP and .297 against RHP. If Lagares could hit righties with more authority, there’s every reason to believe that he can post similar numbers to Cain considering he already hits southpaws better. Outside of June and July, Lagares had a pretty solid year, but he’s got to build on this past season to really break out.

What is encouraging is that Lagares had pretty even Home/Away splits, so I’d continue to hope that Lagares can be a consistent player for the Mets in 2015. Another thing I do like about Lagares is that he had slightly better numbers with men in scoring position this past year, and that has been a trademark for Cain this postseason. That said, Lagares has got to improve upon hitting off-speed pitches. With more exposure to the league, and with more experience, I think Juan can greatly improve in this facet of his game as well. Moving into 2015, if Lagares continues to make steady improvements, he could be a very valuable hitter at the top of the Mets lineup.

Overall, do I project Lagares to become the next Lorenzo Cain? No. But what I am saying is that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to assume that Lagares can breakout like Cain did this past year. Currently STEAMER projects Lagares to hit .256/.298/.360 with a 2.6 fWAR in 2015. I think those figures are shockingly low. Lagares has the potential to put up that level of fWAR defensively alone. He’s a good bet to approach the 4.8 fWAR Cain posted this year, or at least get into 4.0 fWAR territory with some moderate improvement.

In closing, Lagares has always shown steady improvement at the minor league level, and has made adjustments while continually improving at the major league level as well. Everything points to a player that’s gaining experience and continuing to develop and evolve as time passes. Nothing would make me happier than to see Juan Lagares take that next step and become every bit as good as Lorenzo Cain – and that he can pull it off as soon as next season.  Let’s Go Mets.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader yfern328. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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More Trouble With Hemi-Roiders http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/more-trouble-with-hemi-roiders.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/more-trouble-with-hemi-roiders.html/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:27:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168922 It’s one thing for Jose Canseco to get pulled over with a goat in a diaper riding in his back seat, it’s quite another if he blows one of his fingers off cleaning a handgun.

jose-cansecoUnless he had bag of ice (or even a slushy) handy , the likelihood is that this little piggy is going in the medical waste bin. What a shame, fingers are handy, especially when you get cut off on an on-ramp by a muscle-bound idiot in a jacked up Ford pickup. The whole thing reminds me of a guy I knew in the service.

He was a shitbird. A shitbird is what we called guys who didn’t press their uniforms and didn’t get regular haircuts. Our unit was real big on personal hygiene and polished boots, because, well they wanted us to look neat and clean if we ever had to go kill people. I was introduced to this guy by a friend and I immediately thought “shitbird” when I saw him. A few months later I happened to see him on an operation in the desert. It was our first couple of days out in the field and we were still getting acclimated and I remember it was very hot. I finally understood what it meant when people would say, “it’s like a desert out here today.”

So I see this guy walking not far from a mess tent and he was carrying 6 MRE’s — MRE is an acronym for “meal ready to eat.” They are beyond nasty, they contain stuff like desiccated pork patties that taste how you’d imagine a pig that’s been through a wood chipper with a stack of cardboard boxes might taste after being dehydrated and cut up into patties. So I say “hi” and he stops and looks at me with this wide crazy eyes look like he’s got several lbs. of hashish duct taped to his ribs. He says, “hey what’s up man.” I say, “what’s with the MRE’s dude?” and he launches into an epic diatribe about calorie content and how they are packed with protein and nutrients and they help him gain weight (never mind that they taste like the wrong end of an ostrich).

“Why do you want to gain weight?” I ask. “Oh yeah,” he says, “I did a cycle.” A cycle, I didn’t know what that meant. “Like a bicycle?” I said imagining him trying to pedal a Schwinn over the sand dunes. “No, dude, you know steroids,” said Private Shitbird dropping his voice to a whisper and shifting his eyes back and forth like someone was listening (there was no one within 1,000 feet of us). “Yeah man, I’ve put on blah blah blah …“ he goes into this litany of weights and measurements as my eyes glazed and I began to feel dizzy from the sun. He ended with, “I can get you some.”

I looked at him and thought, some? MRE’s? Oooooh, Steroids, the injectable kind.  “I’m good, I don’t really need to gain weight.” I said, still under the impression you could pop on a urine test for using. “ Aren’t you worried about getting caught?” I said, knowing this guy had already popped on a piss-test for smoking weed. “Nah,” he said. I got a Corpsman buddy at Division, he gives me a heads up, besides they don’t even pick up on that stuff. “Aahh,” I said, thinking that’s what they all say. I’d reached that point in a conversation with someone you don’t really know where you’ve run out of stuff to talk about and then you’re just looking around wondering why you’re standing in the blistering sun. “Ok well, gotta go.”

I saw this guy a couple of times after that, each time he was noticeably bigger. Then I heard about it one day after returning to Garrison, everybody heard about it. He’d rolled over onto another operation (shitbirds spent a lot of time in the desert because no one liked them) and he got bit by a rattlesnake. That wasn’t the end of it. Apparently he went into a rage after the thing bit him and he grabbed it (whereupon it bit him again) and then he tore into the poor animal with his teeth and ripped its head off. Something you might imagine from, oh I don’t know, Ozzy Osbourne on steroids.

roid rage

Needless to say he needed a medevac pronto and legend has it they even punched a breathing hole in his throat because the venom got into his mouth causing his face and throat to swell up to several times their normal size (I would have paid to see that). It was one of these stories that made it’s rounds around the barracks and you ended up hearing several different versions from several different people before the day was over, and every time it got crazier. Eventually you’d have believed he chewed his way out of a pit of vipers and they punched a hole in his throat with a Ka-Bar and a ballpoint pen. What was clear was the guy was an absolute moron, an evolutionary throw-back who should have been tossed out with the discards in boot camp like some sort of mutated trout. How guys like that made it as far as they did always amazed me. Shitbird survived only to get kicked out – bad papers and all – a few months later for failing a third urinalysis, positive for THC.

Anyway, that was my first real experience with steroids. I later actually worked for a platoon sergeant who was juicing. I began to realize that while they did supposedly check for hormone levels we never heard about anyone getting busted for steroids. They called this guy “the Beef” – as in “where’s the Beef?” He would eat like six cans of tuna for lunch, plain, no bread or mayonnaise or olive oil, not even a sprinkling of paprika and dill. Just gross tuna right out of the can. He was also moody like you wouldn’t believe. One day he’d be cool with three of us being so drunk at morning formation we’d literally be falling over each other, another day he’d have the platoon digging ditches because someone got some shaving cream on one of the bathroom sinks. It kind of sucked, in fact the entire steroid thing kind of sucks.

Sure, conceding that many recent lists of potential MLB HOF inductees are speckled with cheaters is upsetting, even though the Hall of Fame’s rolls are littered with drunks and rogues and some not very nice people, but the statistical integrity of the game is another story.

The users have made it really difficult to figure out what’s what. What does 30 homers mean? What does 40 homers mean? How dumb is Manny Ramirez? Would he bite off a rattlesnake’s head? I could totally see that actually. But getting back to statistical continuity, these roiders (incidentally if you drive a Dodge truck while doing “a cycle” does that make you a hemi-roider?) … anyway, Canseco & Co. have made it really difficult to put a finger on a baseline norm for offensive performance over the past 20 years.

Mark McGwireHow many of Mark McGwire’s gargantuan blasts were the result of testosterone? How many were due to improved nutrition and training? Ever look at a suit of armor from the 1500’s? They were tiny back then — like little kid tiny. I mean if I saw one of these munchkins coming at me in a medieval forest seriously I would laugh, thinking, “is this guy for real?” right before he’d run me through with a lance (not so funny now HA!).  But athletes have been getting bigger and stronger and faster with every generation so there are multiple variables at work here when you look at the ebb and flow of offensive production.

I look at my kids sometimes as they hack my wife’s Amazon account and think “evolution” right there, I can barely get into my email. The improvement in training methods and medicine is another variable. A hundred years ago a broken leg was life threatening, you could be put down … like a horse. Now-a-days they’re talking about bionic hands and total knee replacements. So guys are coming back from injuries that would have been career ending in the not so distant past. They also get paid a lot more, and don’t think that isn’t a factor, I know people who would do some crazy shit for twenty-grand let alone twenty-million.

The sad truth, however, is that the roiders skewed the statistical integrity of the game. There is simply no way to tease the effects of steroids from whatever natural increases we may have seen due to human progress and improved nutrition and exercise. Professional baseball players (and all of their enablers) who took it upon themselves to use performance enhancing drugs have largely taken something away from the game that we can never get back.

I don’t really care for most of these guys who didn’t make it into the HOF. Bonds was a misanthropic grouch with a persecution complex and a head that eventually generated enough gravitational pull to support small satellites (saltshakers and shot glasses and stuff like that). I know several small furry creatures that I honestly believe are smarter than Sammy Sosa.

Jose Canseco is a parody of himself, an embarrassment in his own time lifted from a really bad Tarantino flick. Clemens is a fat and arrogant bully who appears to be living in a world of his own fabrication where he is and always will be the greatest man ever to breath air and eat pancakes – if he even is a man – there are days when he really wonders if maybe he’s some kind of god??! So yeah, I don’t care for these knuckleheads and generally feel like they had the HOF snub coming. I’m convinced each one of these guys has a rattlesnake somewhere waiting around a bend ready to bite them in the ass.

mike piazzaI do, however, feel bad for Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio. Two stand-up players who seemed to stay clean and never really hurt anyone or said anything terribly stupid. I don’t know for sure whether Piazza used but I doubt it.  He doesn’t fit the “unbelievably self-absorbed and dumb enough to bite a rattlesnake” profile.

When I think of steroid side-effects, the moodiness also comes to mind. I remember “the Beef” and how incredibly different he was when he was in a roid-rage. Piazza as we all know was about as laid back and even keeled as you could be – maybe to a fault. Fans used to lament that he wasn’t enough of a “leader,” that he didn’t “get in people’s faces” and that he didn’t turn the broken bat into a Roger-popsicle, and that he spent too much time playing air guitar, but Mike just never struck me as a juicer. Mike also never tested positive.

Murray Chass may go on his witch-hunt and follow Piazza and his back acne into the very gates of Hades for all I care. Who knows why, maybe a young Piazza snubbed Murray in the locker room because he had to take a leak, maybe Murray’s wife called out “oh yes, MIKE!” during an intimate moment, maybe Chass decided to demonstrate the might of his pen by randomly destroying one of the most prominent talents on the NY sports scene just for the hell of it. I don’t know and I don’t care, I don’t have any Murray Chass journalist cards the last time I checked.

It is nevertheless something of a sad travesty that guys like Biggio and Piazza got lumped in with the swollen boils on baseball’s hindquarters — those who didn’t have the presence and wherewithal not to cheat are and always will be the snake-biter shitbirds who end up blowing off their own body parts and getting holes punched in their necks.

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MMO Roundtable: What To Do With Ruben Tejada http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-roundtable-what-to-do-with-ruben-tejada.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-roundtable-what-to-do-with-ruben-tejada.html/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:00:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168603 ruben tejada

Deciding what to do with Ruben Tejada is somewhat of a difficult decision this offseason.  He definitely improved from his horrid 2013 season to become serviceable defensively, and he has always hit lefties relatively well.

He’s not a starting shortstop option for the Mets going forward, but as I’ve stated in the past, he can have value in a platoon role, or strictly as a backup middle infielder.  The problem with him being in that role, is that I have never once seen Terry Collins bring in a defensive replacement for Daniel Murphy at second base, even in games when Flores was the starting shortstop this past season.

I’m also not sure if Tejada would be a positive clubhouse presence for the entire year as a backup. He’s clearly stated on several occasions that he thinks he should be starting, and it could cause an in-house issue at some point.

Sandy should see if  anyone is willing to take a chance on him taking a step forward this offseason, as he is still only 24 years old.  If nothing is available via the trade route, it would be beneficial for the Mets to just non-tender him and take the $2-3 million he will make in arbitration and apply it to another area of need.  There is a good chance that Matt Reynolds or Wilfredo Tovar could provide similar value at league minimum.

Here is what some of my MMO co-writers had to say on the matter:

Connor – The Mets should either cut him or trade him. The Mets need more offensive production, and wasting a spot on someone who hasn’t sniffed league average offense since 2011 is impractical.

XtreemIcon – He should start. Simple answer. He’s the best shortstop the Mets have right now. That’s not to say the Mets shouldn’t look to upgrade, but that would have to come from outside the organization. If they trade for Addison Russell or Chris Owings, terrific. Tejada is then the backup or perhaps was included in the deal. But if it’s him or Wilmer Flores, it’s Tejada everyday and twice on Sunday.

Drew – His time with the Mets is probably at an end. He’s due a raise and there’s no chance the Mets will pay him $3 million to be a backup. He’s not nearly as bad as he’s been portrayed and at 25 he can still carve out an MLB career, but it won’t be with the Mets.

Gerry – Tejada should be retained as at least a backup infielder and get a shot at competing for the SS job in the spring barring no new additions. He’s still young enough to improve and has shown flashes of potential as a better and more consistent hitter than he has demonstrated to date.

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Mets Are A Bandbox Team Playing In A Pitcher’s Park http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mets-are-a-bandbox-team-playing-in-a-pitchers-park.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mets-are-a-bandbox-team-playing-in-a-pitchers-park.html/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:34:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168806 MLB Opening Day at Citi Field

An adaptation is a trait that plays a role in the survival of a given organism. Animals adapt to their surroundings by means of natural selection because those who are not well adapted to their environments die off — like a penguin in the Sahara. Humans adapt as well … my wife tells me I am well adapted to carrying stuff and she insists she’s adapted to telling me to carry stuff. She may have a point. The rule applies to most competitive habitats, even the baseball diamond. Some teams are more adapted to their environments than others.

The mark of any good team, however, is not only how well adapted they are to their surroundings but how well they perform against top teams, and in 2014 The Mets did not do so well. Out of all the playoff teams on the Mets schedule, the only one they had a winning record against was the Cardinals against whom they went 4–3. The Mets split against the A’s, lost season series against the Dodgers and Pirates (2–4 and 3–4 respectively) and lost badly against the Giants and Nationals (1–6 and 3–15). That comes out to a combined 15 wins and 34 losses against playoff bound opponents which is a .306 winning percentage for those of you keeping score at home. While the Mets did beat up on many lesser clubs, you aren’t going to get very far in this league if you do that poorly against the upper echelon … Bottom feeders tend to stay near the bottom.

Below is a breakdown of where the playoff teams on the Mets schedule ranked respectively for ERA, OPS and UZR … As you can see Mets pitching and defense ranked up there with some of the better teams, but the offense was abysmal. Also of note is that arguably the most balanced team in the league in terms of offense and pitching (the Dodgers) was promptly bounced from the playoffs, as were the Pirates and Nationals, with all three sporting bottom third in the league defensive rankings. The Giants, who are looking like they might win the world series, have done it with an average offense, an average defense, and very good pitching.

Mets vs ERA OPS DEF/UZR
(3–15)   Nationals 1st 8th 20th
(4–3)   Cardinals 11th 18th 6th
(1–6)    Giants 10th 14th 15th
(2–4)    Dodgers 6th 3rd 23rd
(3–4)    Pirates 8th 5th 27th
(2–2)    A’s 3rd 13th 8th
TOTAL (15–34) Mets 9th 26th 11th

The takeaway here is that with a little improvement to the offense the Mets should be able to keep pace with some of the better teams. As the Cardinals and Giants (and the A’s) showed, the Mets don’t even necessarily need a great offense. The league averaged a .700 OPS in 2014, so for the Mets, who had a .673 OPS, a .027 point bump might just do it.

The Giants and Nationals absolutely killed the Mets to the tune of a combined 4 wins and 21 losses and they did it by matching Mets pitching and outhitting them. Against the Giants it was particularly frustrating because they didn’t outhit the Mets by much, but they didn’t need to, which is an important point.

If the Mets had even a slightly better offense this past year they would have been in a lot more ballgames. Unlike the Giants, the Nats outhit the Mets handily, and they capitalized on all of the Mets’ weaknesses. Not only was their pitching better, they walloped the Mets offensively, and, to rub salt in the wound, it sure felt like they kept Mets contact rates down by striking the hell out of them thereby insulating the problematic Nationals defense. Had the Mets made more (or better) contact against the Nats they may have fared somewhat better … but nope, the Mets couldn’t even take advantage of their one true weakness.

The Mets simply need to make more contact. There is a general sense among fans that the Mets strikeout too much, but is there any truth to that?

The weird thing is that the Mets’ contact rates weren’t all that bad.

Plate Discipline: League Mets
Z Contact % 87.3 87.6
O Contact % 65.8 66.1
Contact % 79.4 80.2
F Strike % 60.6 61.1
Sw Strike % 9.4 8.8
Z Swing % 65.7 64.9
O Swing % 31.2 28.8

According to the above, the Mets made slightly more contact than the rest of the league on pitches inside the zone (z contact) and outside the zone (0 contact), and the Mets also had a lower swinging strike percentage and swung at fewer pitches both in the zone (z swing) but especially out of the zone (o swing), all good things. The league struck out 20.4% of the time while the Mets struck out 21.1% of the time which is less than a 1% difference. The Mets also walked 3.13 times per 9 innings to the league’s 2.89/9, so in general Mets plate discipline was pretty solid.

Mets batting average on the other hand was .239 and as a team they slugged .364 to the league’s .251 BA and .386 SLG — kind of a significant difference. They also had a BABIP of .286 to the league’s .299, so the Mets may have also been slightly unlucky, but I dislike BABIP for one important reason — low BABIP sometimes has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with poor contact (we’ll get back to that later). Additionally, the Mets had a 75.7% left on base percentage to the leagues 73% … they left a lot of guys on base.

Yes, the Mets did strikeout slightly more than the rest of the league (especially at home where they struck out 2.6% more than they did on the road), but they walked a lot more too, and, while their plate discipline was decent, they left a ton of guys on base. The Mets clearly got on base at a healthy clip, but they stalled far too frequently.

Why? What killed the offense? Was it the Mets’ marginally higher tendency to strike out? Was it a lack of aggressiveness? (I don’t think their plate discipline metrics support that at all). Was it bad luck? Turns out it wasn’t any of those things. The Mets didn’t strike out that much more than the rest of the league but they made outs a lot more on balls in play … which brings us back to BABIP and the real culprit.

The Mets had the 4th highest flyball percentage in baseball at 36.7%, and even more astonishing, they had the second lowest ground ball rate at 42%. The Mets are essentially a team built for a band-box playing in a pitcher’s park (which explains why they did so well against the Phillies). Now, I get the whole “chicks digging the long ball” thing, but the Mets are not really well adapted to Citi Field’s expansive dimensions … their flyball rates are way too high and they hardly ever hit the ball on the ground. Hopefully the Mets front office will address this disparity this off-season by signing a hitter or two with a knack for line drives and ground balls through the hole.

Will the fly ball problem be somewhat mitigated by bringing in the fences? Maybe … it doesn’t help that the Mets are an extreme flyball team playing in an extreme flyball park. What the Mets don’t need are more all-or-nothing flyball hitters.

The Mets clearly need to do a better job of adapting their roster to their home confines or they will suffer the fate of the dodo and the triceratops.

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Will Bartolo Colon Still Be With Mets In 2015? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/will-bartolo-colon-still-be-with-mets-in-2015.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/will-bartolo-colon-still-be-with-mets-in-2015.html/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:10:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168751 bartolo colon

One of the questions I get asked a lot is whether I think Bartolo Colon will be traded this offseason. I still feel the same way now as I did before the trade deadline and believe Colon will be in the 2015 Opening Day rotation.

Back in July, I took issue with this prevailing notion that the Mets would trade Colon to anyone that would simply take his contract off their hands – even for no players in return. One site continued to push that narrative all through the waiver period that followed, but when all was said and done Bartolo was still a Met. Big surprise to them, not to me.

Sandy Alderson would never just give Colon away especially after giving the fan base quite the sell job after signing him for $20 million dollars and then trying to justify that second guaranteed year that no other team was willing to offer.

Simply giving him away at the time, would also have fanned the flames that the Mets were STILL in financial distress, something they’ve been trying desperately to extinguish, albeit quite unsuccessfully.

Colon and his remaining $11 million should be easier to move this offseason, but I’m still convinced the Mets will keep him.

For one, Sandy Alderson could get a lot  more in return by trading Jon Niese or Dillon Gee who other teams view more favorably than Colon – who still carries a lot of risk.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Sandy Alderson could keep Colon because he’s a workhorse who stabilizes the rotation, serves as a hedge against Matt Harvey not returning at full strength, and he provides and insurance against injuries and innings caps.

The Mets would still have to kick in some money to facilitate any deal for Colon, something they would be very reluctant to do. When Colon passed through waivers without so much as one claim, it showed that nobody was willing to take on Colon’s contract even if it would have cost them nothing in return.

So to answer the question, yes, Colon will still be with the Mets in 2015.

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How Should Mets Handle Duda’s Struggles Against LHP? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-should-mets-handle-dudas-struggles-against-lhp.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-should-mets-handle-dudas-struggles-against-lhp.html/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:09:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168787 lucas duda

Coming off an incredible breakthrough season in 2014 that saw him hit 30 home runs while driving in 92 runs, Lucas Duda may participate in the MLB All-Star tour of Japan, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

While a final decision hasn’t been made yet, it’s quite an honor that Major League Baseball is looking at Duda to represent the best of the best for their team.

Duda prospered after the Mets traded Ike Davis and decided to stick with him as their regular first baseman. He posted an .830 OPS in 153 games and was one of the few bright spots for the Mets this season.

After he was finally moved up in the batting order, Duda stabilized the lineup from the cleanup spot and at times carried the team.

If there’s a knock on Duda, it’s that he needs to improve against lefties. He batted just .180 with two homers and a .516 OPS in 125 plate appearances against southpaws. But I’ll also point out he seemed to be improving in that regard during the final month of the season which included a clutch walk-off home run in the last series of the season off Astros lefty Tony Sipp.

On Sunday, I asked a few of our writers about Duda moving forward and here’s what they had to say:

Matt Balasis – He’s got to show he can do more against lefties, a .180 average just isn’t going to cut it. That being said he looked a little better as the year progressed and he needs to have the chance to be the everyday guy. Give him 6 weeks out of spring training and if he’s still under the Mendoza line pull the plug and platoon him.

Connor O’Brien – Duda is a really good hitter – against righties. As good as he is against RHP, he still shouldn’t be played against lefties. I don’t care what his final home run total is, a .180/.264/.252 line against lefties is unacceptable. Eric Campbell is already on the roster. Why not get more production out of first base if Campbell is already on the team anyway? Good overall numbers by Duda against righties should not force the Mets to just give up getting maximum production out of the position.

XtreemIcon – This is the first winter in Duda’s career he knows he’s the starter. While he can’t continue playing everyday hitting LHP the way he does, I think he deserves one offseason of being able to solely focus on improving against LHP because he doesn’t have to focus on winning a starting job. The Mets should give him three months into the season playing every day. If he’s still struggling against LHP, then get Campbell in there for now and next offseason look for a strict platoon partner if Campbell doesn’t grow capably into that role.

We’ll be hearing a lot more about Duda’s needed improvement against southpaws this offseason as both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson pointed to it as an opportunity in their end of the season press conferences.

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Morning Grind: What Do The Royals Have That We Don’t? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/morning-grind-what-do-the-royals-have-that-we-dont.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/morning-grind-what-do-the-royals-have-that-we-dont.html/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:07:43 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168574 royals hosmer

Rise and Grind everyone. This morning’s get up and go post comes from you. Again. I liked where this exchange started and where it was headed.

MyasDaddy:

I still look at both of these teams and I am not impressed. What’s missing from us that they have? I just don’t get it.

LMazz13:

It’s not what those teams have, it’s what they don’t have. The Wilpons.

coyote521

Everything that makes a team greater than the sum of its parts.

Managers who are entrusted to manage.

GM’s who make bold moves for guys like Hunter Pence, Tim Hudson and James Shields.

Hitters who put the ball in play and create runs.

Middle infielders who play good defense.

Depth, Heart, Soul, and the Intangibles.

Fast Eddie

Even with all the intangibles that Coyote listed, I still say we could be the Kansas City Royals just two years from now if all goes well. I see some parallels forming with the Mets that will make us Royals-like.

Metsfaninparadise

We could be better than they are by next year.

Fast Eddie

I agree we “could” be as good as the Royals by next year, but that still doesn’t mean we make it to the World Series like they did which is why I gave two years as a realistic goal…

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One Play, Two First Basemen, and the Elusive Third Out http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/one-play-two-first-basemen-and-the-elusive-third-out.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/one-play-two-first-basemen-and-the-elusive-third-out.html/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:39:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168826 keith hernandez

Even in hindsight the story is hard to fathom. The New York Mets came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning, at home, trailing the Boston Red Sox 5-3 in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. They were three outs away from losing the Series. Hold on, this isn’t the story you’re thinking it is.

Wally Backman led off the inning slicing a line drive into the glove of Dave Henderson. One out. Keith Hernandez then hit a hard line drive to center field for the second out. The Mets were, as Lenny Dykstra would later tell Peter Golenbock in Amazin’, “One out away from wasting the whole f—ing season.”

As Hernandez circled back to the dugout, the Mets first baseman — always intense, always encouraging his teammates to keep their heads in the game — never stopped. He went down the steps, into the dugout, down a second set of steps into the tunnel underneath Shea Stadium and straight to the team’s locker room. Game over, he thought. Depressed, disgusted, disappointed, Hernandez later confessed he just couldn’t bare to see Boston’s celebration unfold on his field, in front of his fans.

“I went into Davey’s [Johnson's] office and took a beer out of his fridge,” he told the Washington Post reporter (and Mets fan) John Feinstein.

Hernandez said he was dehydrated and downed a Budweiser in seconds. He proceeded to crack open a second beer, paying little attention to the television nearby. Hernandez sat down in his manager’s office, lit a cigarette and drank another beer.

His counterpart, Bill Buckner, was standing off the line at first base, anticipating what the spray of the champagne would feel like; seeing a beaming smile on Mrs. Yawkey’s face, and imagining the bedlam that would ensue in Boston’s clubhouse. The entire Sox dugout was like a mass of small children ready to rush the tree and begin tearing open presents on Christmas morning.

Buckner was 36 years old; his body was 75. The decade leading up to this moment were successful, yet painful, for Buckner. His body took a beating. Through the years Buckner tried acupuncture, herbs (DMSO) and holy water — yes, holy water (1978, Chicago, look it up). In 1986, he was given nine cortisone shots as he literally limped through the season. Then Boston Globe reporter and Baseball Hall of Famer Peter Gammons wrote, “it wasn’t unusual to see him before games with ice taped to his ankle, Achilles tendon, lower back, elbow and shoulder … he often looked as if he were running in galoshes.”

Now, Buckner stood alone, limping around first base, pushing dirt in his signature black high-top spikes that supported his fragile ankle, hoping for one more out.

The two first baseman — Hernandez and Buckner — couldn’t have been further apart in mind, body or spirit.

Underground, Hernandez watched the monitor as teammates Gary Carter and Kevin Mitchell delivered back-to-back singles.

“I opened a third one,” said Hernandez.

Ray Knight is reduced to a single strike separating Boston and their first World Series title since 1918, before lifting a single to center field, scoring Carter and advancing Mitchell to third base. Hernandez never moved an inch, his eyes locked on the television while he anxiously pulled on his cigarette, beer in hand.

Meanwhile, Buckner and the Red Sox stiffened. The crowd roared, stomping their feet, literally rocking Shea Stadium and leaving Hernandez wondering whether the ballpark would hold up under the circumstances. The Red Sox manager called on relief pitcher Bob Stanley to finish the job.

As Stanley warmed up in the cold late October night in New York, Buckner could only stand by, watching each smoky breath he took vaporize into the breeze. Back in the Mets clubhouse, Hernandez nervously chain-smoked from his manager’s chair.

Like Calvin Schiraldi did earlier, Stanley reduces Mookie Wilson to a single strike. Twice Boston pitcher’s were one strike away from finishing the Mets. Stanley fired a 2-2 wild pitch, scoring the tying run. Shea Stadium went ballistic.

“I’m still not thinking that clearly, so I finish the third one,” Hernandez told Feinstein. “That’s when it hit me: the score’s tied and I just drank three beers. I’m buzzed. I was sitting there frozen, trying to figure out how I’d go out and play first base when Mookie hit the ball.”

After Wilson’s ground ball skipped through Buckner’s legs, for a moment he stood with an expression of disbelief near first base, then slowly limped back to the Boston clubhouse.

“How lucky did I just get?” Hernandez asked Feinstein. “Thank God Buckner booted that ball.”

Buckner — not so lucky.

Time has not healed, as it so often does. History skips, like an old 45 record, replaying the moment over and over. And Hernandez and Buckner? The space between them is now eternal.

* * * * * * * * * * *

John Feinstein’s new book, One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game was published by Little, Brown and Company and is available from all your favorite booksellers.

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2014 Free Agent Review: The Peralta Effect (Part 2 of 3) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/2014-free-agent-review-the-peralta-effect-part-2-of-3.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/2014-free-agent-review-the-peralta-effect-part-2-of-3.html/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:52:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168645 Jhonny = Peralta

I reviewed  long-term free agent deals (7-10 years) last week, and today I’ll examine last off-season’s  mid-term deals (4-6 years) highlighted by the Cards’ Jhonny Peralta.

The Mets are close to turning a pivotal corner in the return to relevancy with a wealth of power pitching no less than a year away from being fully realized. Bartolo Colon was brought in to fill a portion of the black hole left by Matt Harvey who succumbed to a torn UCL injury, but anything behind Colon’s two year contract made little sense for the Mets in the long run.

The position players available to the club were former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, former Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, former Braves catcher Brian McCann and former Tigers second baseman Omar Infante.  The Mets anticipated a breakout season from their top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, so McCann made little sense at five years and $85 million. The organization’s deepest position, aside from pitching, is second base with Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera both waiting behind All-Star Daniel Murphy, so Infante was never a fit either.

Peralta had the best season of any mid-level free agent signed last offseason. He ended the year by posting a career high 5.4 WAR and quieted the critics who questioned whether he was worth the four year, $53 million deal that the Cardinals jumped to offer him. The majority of teams were hesitant to commit that amount of time and money to a 32-year old shortstop coming off a 50 game PED suspension, but St. Louis had faith in a different approach than the rest of the league and it certainly paid off.

The Mets instead signed former Yankee’s slugger Curtis Granderson, 33, to a similar four year, $60 million deal.  This satisfied a portion of the fan base that felt increased spending would hurdle the team into contention.  The minority view among the fans was that Granderson, despite having a successful career, would not regain his stroke in Citi Field after an injury shortened season a year before.  In the months of May, June, July and September, Curtis had 376 at bats, which represented more than 65% of his season total.  His produced a .272/.370/.860 slash line, along with 18 homers and 54 RBI.  The remaining 35% of the season (March, April, August), Curtis hit just .142/.241/.439.  The net result provided little value this season, but came with promising anecdotes headed into 2015.

Back in July, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs said this of advanced metrics: At times, they’re flawed, but oftentimes they discover outliers in the data, or exceptions to conventional rules.

A concern regarding Peralta last offseason was his defense. Scouts who studied Peralta in the field felt that his range was limited and his lower body was too bulky, therefore defensive metrics in favor of the shortstop were inaccurate. However, Cameron argued that metrics that support Peralta, like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), are indeed accurate.

The stat line highlights him as an outlier, who replicated quality seasons on multiple occasions, despite the cautions of conventional wisdom.  Although written in July, the predictions held true as Peralta ended the regular season fourth among all qualified shortstops in UZR (12) and UZR/150 (12.7).

Wilmer Flores didn’t play enough games to qualify at shortstop, but his performance measured by UZR/150 ranked him 5th among those that did, with Ruben Tejada coming in at 7th.  The point being that, the same standards that deem Peralta a good shortstop, ranked our boys right behind him, so the Mets lost very little defensively by passing. The story at the plate turns into in an entirely different narrative with Peralta, especially if he was chosen instead of Granderson.

Offensively, Peralta was 2nd among qualified shortstops in home runs (21), RBI (75), slugging percentage (.443) and OPS (.779).  According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, at least 18 of his 21 homers went beyond Citi Field’s dimensions, so his long ball power would have translated well to Queens. By comparison at shortstop, Jhonny still outperformed his counterparts on the Mets in almost every offensive category, combined. He also accomplished this in 86 fewer at-bats.  Per his season totals, Peralta hit 10 more home runs, 11 more doubles and 30 more singles than the Mets contingent.  In that same comparison, Peralta’s isolated slugging percentage (.179), or ISO, was 48.2% higher than the Mets shortstop unit (.093).

Had the Mets chosen Peralta instead of Granderson, it would have had a huge impact on the makeup of the outfield and the team’s performance in 2014.  By August, a combination of Matt den DekkerJuan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis would have been patrolling the outfield grass together.  Not long ago, those three were the top center field prospects in the Mets minor league system. Given a full season together, it’s possible they may have developed into one of the best defensive units in baseball. Oftentimes rare, unforeseen circumstances, present opportunities to a combination of players who otherwise may never have discovered their talents as a unit.

Through 27 games in LF, den Dekker batted .295 with a .404 on base percentage.  The home run ball eluded him, but he showcased his ability to spray doubles around the park and found ways to keep the line moving. His 26 hits, 8 doubles, 4 stolen bases, 15 walks and 17 runs brought tremendous value during that span. Translated into a 150 game season, that pace is good for 144 hits, 44 doubles and 94 runs scored.

Kirk played 17 games between right and center, where he’s far more comfortable, and hit .288/.371/.909 with 7 doubles, 2 home runs and 12 RBI.  This year, the Mets played two full games with an outfield of den Dekker (LF), Lagares (C) and Nieuwenhuis (RF).  The first was on 8/31 against the Phillies and the second was on 9/3 versus the Marlins.  The Mets won both of those games decidedly, on the backs of that very outfield unit, who either scored or batted in 5 of the team’s 10 runs in those games.  Together, over those 18 innings, they put up a collective slash line of .667/.769/1.991.    

In the short run, Peralta was a huge miss on behalf of the Mets. He would have been an added threat in the lineup and his presence in lieu of Curtis may have altered the fate of the outfield. In the long run, signing Curtis could also prove harmless. Kirk has likely earned a spot on the bench after his stellar campaign as a pinch hitter and den Dekker still has an opportunity to win a starting corner outfield spot.

Sandy Alderson knew what Peralta could bring to the Mets. He personally met with him in the offseason and the only other player he met personally was Granderson. But the Mets’ GM likely believed a more elite player at a lower cost was available heading into next season.  Few GM’s have the patience and conviction to sit out a full year in order to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a World Series, but the Mets are a unique team defined by big market expectations and a small payroll.  Alderson saw 2014 as another year to evaluate the players he’s targeted as options and his own players he’d consider dangling.

As always, I look for feedback from other fans, what’s your take?  Was Peralta the right shortstop for the Mets short and mid-term plans?  Should Alderson have followed his initial instincts when he viewed Peralta as a key Mets target? Or was Granderson at a year older the right call for the future of the team? Or should he have passed on both of them?

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2015 Breakout Candidate: Kirk Nieuwenhuis http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/2015-breakout-candidate-kirk-nieuwenhuis.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/2015-breakout-candidate-kirk-nieuwenhuis.html/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:36:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167357 kitk nieuwenhuis

Wouldn’t it be nice to have another offensive breakout performance in 2015 akin to what we saw from Lucas Duda this season? How amazing would it be to have back to back breakthrough seasons of that magnitude? Could the power-hitting right fielder we so desperately need already be on the roster? Is it possible?

Kirk Nieuwenhuis certainly doesn’t have Duda’s power profile, few players in the major leagues do. But Kirk does pack some power and he did hit one of the longest home runs in the majors this past season, a mammoth shot over the fence in right-center in Marlins Park. Lets take a closer examination.

Kirk started 22 games in 2014 and in those games the Mets were 18-4. Is it coincidence? Maybe, but he had an .850 OPS and played outstanding defense in that small sampling. One way or another, his performance had a positive influence on the teams play when he was in the lineup.

Nieuwenhuis made his major league debut in April of 2012, when he batted .325/.386/.475. While playing plus-defense with a strong arm, he continued to hit, posting a .297/.358/.440 line through his first 209 major league at-bats. He went into a prolonged slump in July and was sent down to work on being more productive against left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, five days later his rookie season was over due to severe plantar fasciitis.

Injuries would continue to plague Nieuwenhuis in 2013. He was carted off the field during spring training that year with a knee injury and while he did manage 14 home runs and a .809 OPS in 282 minor league at-bats, all in all it was a lost season for Kirk

Kirk followed up his forgettable 2013 by posting an .828 OPS in 2014, bolstered by .482 slugging percentage. To put that number in perspective, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also slugged .482, Yasiel Puig .480, and the Mets own Lucas Duda, .481. Sure it was only 112 AB, but its not like Kirk is hitting in Yankee Stadium, Coors Field or the “Homer Dome” in Toronto. The guy hit the ball hard this year, was on base at a .346 clip. Moreover, he hit .262/.350/.505 against right-handed pitching. I can assure you that we’ll most likely do worse than an .855 OPS in RF vs RHP in 2015 if we go the free agent route.

Is it possible that what we are seeing now is the hitter that Kirk really is? Is it possible that Kirk just needed some time to adjust after his season ending 2012, and subsequent injury plagued 2013 season? It’s not out of the question. We’re talking about a player who has posted a .469 slugging and .819 OPS in seven minor league seasons. Duda had a similar .461 slugging and .841 OPS in his seven-year minor league career. Nimmo is at .397 SLG and .785 OPS in his four years.

Baseball Reference had him at 1.4 rWAR in his limited playing time this season. He could at least be the left-handed bat in a right field platoon with that kind of production, or maybe more. At worst, he’s a great fourth outfielder. But if you compare the numbers, his story seems eerily similar to a slugging first baseman that just happens to play on the same team.

Why not give Kirk 100 starts in right field in 2015 and add a right-handed complement to platoon versus lefties? It could stretch our limited funds, and allow us to pony up more dollars to upgrade at shortstop or address another area of need.

At a minimum cost of $22 million for two years, do we really want to take a chance that 36-year old Michael Cuddyer can stay healthy for two seasons when his last four years suggest it’s very unlikely? Or better yet, can Cuddyer continue his production with his home field changing from Coors to Citi?

Lets just move Curtis Granderson to left field, and give Kirk a shot. If it doesn’t work out we have Nimmo knocking at the door and not that far away. Cesar Puello is another fallback option. In fact he may even be the right-handed bat to platoon with Kirk. They could form a nice combination of homegrown prospects in RF.

In the last four years, we’ve gotten much better luck and production with our homegrown players than from anyone Sandy’s brought in from the free agent market. Why stop now? Here’s to a healthy breakout season for Kirk.

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MMO Mailbag: Will Mets Trade For Yoenis Cespedes? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-will-mets-trade-for-yoenis-cespedes.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-will-mets-trade-for-yoenis-cespedes.html/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 18:12:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168718 yoenis cespedes

Patrick G. asks…

I am sick and tired of hedging on young and available players who can help this team get over the hump and into the postseason. Yasiel Puig wasn’t major league ready. Wrong! Jose Abreu‘s power wouldn’t translate. Wrong! Starlin Castro doesn’t fit our approach. Wrong! The Mets and even the fans are LONG on excuses and short on answers. It looks like we have a prime opportunity to grab Yoenis Cespedes from the Red Sox and all you keep hearing is no way, costs too much, power won’t play at Citi, yada, yada, yada. How can you look at our MLB worst left field production since 2009 and still not do anything about it? Don’t you agree?

Joe D. replies…

The excuses are mostly cover for the fact that the Mets’ owners and front office lack the money, the resources, and the motivation to add the players you mention. To prevent any media or fan backlash, they typically leak negative information to the media or get the message delivered through their outlets, whether it’s true or not. It’s their way of trying to minimize fan outrage and apathy, and also subdue fan interest in particular players.

As for Cespedes, we’ve discussed him and dissected that possibility from every imaginable angle. But it always leads to the same ultimate and logical conclusion.

Let me summarize it for you this way…

1. Cespedes is certainly available and is in the final year of his contract which will pay him $10.2 million in 2015.

2. The buzz from Boston beat writers is that the Red Sox are looking for high end prospects and particularly MLB ready starting pitchers.

3. With Cespedes having recently switched agencies to Roc Nation Sports, the logical conclusion is that he won’t agree to any extension and is committed to free agency after next season.

Here’s whats working against the Mets acquiring Cespedes…

1. First and foremost payroll limitations. On several occasions, both ownership and Sandy Alderson himself have said there will be no spike in payroll for 2015. The team is already tasked with having to consider trading their only All Star last season just to clear room for expected raises. One of Dillon Gee or Jon Niese may also be moved, just so they can squeeze out some flexibility to fill a need.

2. Sandy Alderson has been reluctant to move young arms like Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom for an impact bat with three or more years of team control in the past. That means there’s zero chance he moves either of them for a one year rental.

3. Jon Heyman predicts that as many as 10 teams will have serious interest in Cespedes this Winter. When was the last time you saw the Mets engage in a bidding war let alone win one? Even recent signings like Chris Young, Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson all came without any real competition from other teams. Nobody wanted Colon for 2 years, Granderson for 4, and Young was just extraordinarily inexplicable.

4. In the extremely remote possibility that Cespedes would sign an extension, in what alternate universe will the Mets have the resources to add another $100 million dollar player when they already have David Wright and Curtis Granderson set to earn $36 million combined annually for the next three years? That would mean over $50 million and nearly two-thirds of the payroll concentrated on three players.

Bottom Line?

Don’t hold your breath on Cespedes and just learn to deal with the reality of the Mets financial conundrum. I don’t have a problem with Cespedes, but I live in the real world. I’m not buying any blog-sourced buzz that there’s any Mets interest in him anyway. Thanks for writing in.

ask mmo 2

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Jerry Grote: The Man Behind The Mask http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/168700.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/168700.html/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 13:50:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168700 jerry grote

Winning was Jerry Grote’s bliss. In fact, his most joyous moment on the diamond was captured on film when teammate Jerry Koosman leapt into his arms after the final out of the 1969 World Series.

In 1976, Bob Myrick found out the hard way how Grote felt about losing when the Mets rookie pitcher beat his catcher in a game of Backgammon, causing Grote to explode, sending the board and its pieces across the room with a single swing of the arm.

“I just sat there staring at him – hard,” remembered Myrick. “He got up and picked up all the pieces, and we never had a cross word. He was a perfectionist.”

Grote’s desire to win led to unparalleled intensity on the field. During his 12-year career in New York, teammates labeled Grote surly, irascible, testy and moody. Then, there’s Koosman’s description: “If you looked up red-ass the dictionary, his picture would be in there. Jerry was the guy you wanted on your side, because he’d fight you tooth and nail ‘til death to win a ball game.”

Grote played with an anger and intensity that was, at times, intimidating to opponents, umpires, the media and teammates alike.

“When I came up I was scared to death of him,” said Jon Matlack, winner of the 1972 Rookie of the Year award. “If you bounced a curveball in the dirt, he’d get mad. I worried about him more than the hitter.”

“He could be trouble if you didn’t do what he said,” added former Met Craig Swan. “He wanted you to throw the pitches he called. He made it very simple. I would shake him off now and then, and he would shake his head back at me. If a guy hit a home run off of me, he wouldn’t let me hear the end of it.”

jerry grote catcher

Grote had a special way of letting his pitchers know he wasn’t pleased with a pitch. “Jerry had such a great arm. He could throw with great control and handcuff you in front of your belt buckle,” remembers Koosman.

Grote would get incensed when Jim McAndrew was on the mound. “McAndrew would never challenge hitters according to where Grote wanted the ball; so Grote kept firing it back and handcuffing him in front of the belt buckle, and we would laugh, because we knew what Grote was doing,” said Koosman.

The tactic didn’t go over so well when Koosman pitched. During a game when Koosman was struggling to find his control, Grote began firing the ball at his pitcher’s belt buckle. Koosman called Grote to the mound.

“I told him, ‘If you throw the ball back at me like that one more time I am going to break your f—ing neck,’” Koosman told Peter Golenbeck in Amazin’. “I turned around and walked back to the mound, and he never threw it back at me again. We had great respect for each other after that.”

He took his frustration out on umpires too. Retired umpire Bruce Froemming claims Grote intentionally let a fastball get by him, nearly striking Froemming in the throat. Because they had spent the three previous innings in a non-stop argument, Froemming accused Grote of intentionally moving aside in hope that the pitch would hit the umpire.

“Are you going to throw me out?” snapped Grote.

“He made no attempt to stop that pitch,” Froemming thought. The home plate umpire fumed but realized he had no grounds to toss Grote from the game.

National League umpires were well aware of Grote, and his on-field demeanor. In fact, in 1975, the league was discussing physical contact between catchers and umpires. Jerry Crawford was queried about his unique style of resting a hand between a catcher’s hip and rib cage and he said, “I ask the catcher if it bothers him, and only Jerry Grote has complained.”

“The writers never respected Grote, but they guys who played with him could barely stand him,” said Ron Swoboda. “He was a red-ass Texan who loved to f— with people but who didn’t like anyone to f— with him. It was a one-way street. Grote is Grote, and we would not have been as good without him behind home plate.”

“Grote had a red-ass with the media, but he didn’t care,” added Koosman. “All he cared about was what he did on the field. If you didn’t get your story from what he did out there, you either talked to him nicely or he wasn’t going to give you any more story.”

Grote did not return calls or respond to multiple email requests for an interview for this story.

This is who Jerry Grote is – and the Mets knew it from the day they traded for him for a player to be named later in October 1965.

Grote Ryan

“When we got him, I don’t think anyone else had that big of an opinion of him,” said Bing Devine. “Jerry was withdrawn and had a negative personality, but he knew how to catch a ball game and how to handle pitchers, and maybe that very thing helped him to deal with the pitching staff. He was great. I know he surpassed our expectations.”

He was exactly what the Mets needed to manage a young, extremely talented pitching staff, but he was clearly a handful to manage too.

“If he ever learns to control himself, he might become the best catcher in baseball,” former Mets manager Wes Westrum told the media during Grote’s first season in New York.

Then, in 1968, Gil Hodges arrived. After being briefed on the Mets roster, Hodges said he “did not like some of the things I heard about Jerry. He had a habit of getting into too many arguments with umpires and getting on some of the older players on the club.”

Hodges, known for his firm, but fair, demeanor, took Grote into his office for an attitude adjustment. The Mets manager realized the importance of Grote’s talents and how it would affect the pitching staff. Hodges made his expectations clear.

“I hesitate to imagine where the New York Mets would have been the last few years without Jerry,” Hodges told Sports illustrated in 1971. “He is invaluable to us. He is intent and intense and he fights to get everything he can.”

Grote batted .256 in his 12 seasons in New York. He is a two-time All-Star (1968 and 1974). In 1969, Grote threw out 56% of baserunners. He ranks third on the Mets all-time list for games played (1235), 11th in hits (994), 15th in doubles and total bases (1413).

Grote fractured his wrist after getting hit by a pitch in May 1973. The Mets recorded three shutouts the first month with Grote behind the plate, four more shutouts over the next two months (May 12-August 11) without Grote behind the plate and eight more shutouts over the final six weeks of the season with Grote managing the staff. Grote caught every inning of every playoff and World Series game in 1969 and 1973. Here’s a statistic for you: In the 20 post season games between ’69 and ’73, the Mets used 45 pitchers and one catcher. Those were the only two post season appearances the Mets made during Grote’s 12 years in New York.

“One of the advantages of playing for New York is that the big crowds at Shea Stadium help you tremendously,” Grote said in a 1971 interview with Sports Illustrated. “They make you want to give 115% all the time. In other places it cannot be the same for the players. Like in Houston, nobody seems to applaud unless the hands on the scoreboard start to clap. Once those hands stop, so do all the others. Real enthusiasm.”

Grote loved playing in New York, and New York loved his gritty style.

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Talent vs. Development: Are Mets Exploiting A New Market Inefficiency? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/talent-vs-development-are-mets-exploiting-a-new-market-inefficiency.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/talent-vs-development-are-mets-exploiting-a-new-market-inefficiency.html/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 11:17:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168577 sandy alderson

When Sandy Alderson was hired by the Mets as their new GM in 2010 there was a flurry of conjecture about what sort of effect he would have on the team. Words like “Moneyball with money” were being thrown around by Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, and everyone started speculating about what exactly this new version of moneyball would look like. Would it be high OBP guys like in Oakland? Would it be right-handed pitchers with durability profiles? Would it be defense up the middle and power from unlikely sources? Would it be outfielders with allergies to cat dander?

Since that time, most of us have settled into the realization that Alderson and his brain brigade didn’t really unveil anything unique in their approach to player acquisition. With the exception of a tendency towards high schoolers with good eyes at the plate (an eye for an eye!), there was little to satiate the masses who were waiting impatiently for Moneyball 2.0. It never materialized.

What I think many of us failed to appreciate, however, was that exploiting market inefficiencies was nothing new in MLB. Ever since the 90’s when Oakland managed to piece together a winning amalgamate from overlooked and undervalued spare parts, teams all across the league hired numbers-crunchers in an attempt to find other players possessing favorable and overlooked competitive adaptations. Funny thing is that with the exception of OBP, not much else had been overlooked … Oh sure, some teams went after character guys while others tried to secure command and control pitching while still other teams went for power arms, but that had all been done before in the hundred-plus year history of the game.

But there was definitely something different at work with these guys. Sandy DePo and Ricciardi are not the sort to sit back and follow tried and true paradigms. They were advertised as innovators and the more I observed their often secretive machinations (especially on the part of DePodesta who I imagine still lives in his underground numbers bunker deep beneath Citi Field, coming out every few days to test new Frisbee designs and shake hands with his children), the more I felt they were up to something, I was certain of it.

I don’t think DePo would have been coy and evasive early on when questioned about what sort of organizational innovations he had in store if he wasn’t actually hiding something. He openly stated that he wouldn’t share his angle even if he had one … but the way he said it made me wonder.

Now I’m a words guy, language is my thing … I pride myself on my ability to read between the lines and derive whatever hidden connotation an inconspicuous comment may yield. The phrase that stood out for me when Collins first hit the scene was “muscle memory.” I swear that first spring I remember at least 4 or 5 players using the term “muscle memory” during interviews. That smacked heavily of an organizational initiative, a mantra.

At the same time Sandy Alderson was spouting loquacious on his desire to streamline the organization from top to bottom with an emphasis on adapting every level to a uniform set of principles. A complete overhaul of our player development program.

Lots of GM’s try to leave their mark by establishing a distinct organizational ethos … nothing new about that right? Only Sandy Alderson and his minions referred to this organizational cohesion as if it were the thing. Almost as if cohesion of purpose across levels was in fact their angle, as if it was the innovation that would somehow create that elusive “unfair advantage.” No, it couldn’t be, I thought. How boring would that be? The organizational stuff is simply a byproduct of Sandy’s military days. He knows how important uniformity and cohesion are for any successful organization … there had to be something else.

nimmo reynolds sand gnats

But as the years progressed this mantra persisted, and the minors saw a distinct resurgence with more wins from more of our minor league affiliates, fueled by the persistent drone of the same principles across every level. Muscle memory over and over and over.

Then there were the drafts … one high school player after another. Over and over the Mets drafted teenagers who were years and years away.

When you put all this together I think what you have is something akin to our
“new moneyball.” The Mets have designed what they feel is a system that will take raw youngsters with the right physical and intellectual temperaments and graduate them successfully to the majors by means of immersion in a uniform set of principles that they believe will give them a competitive advantage. Those principles of course involve getting on base, plate discipline, attacking the zone, all invoked with thousands of hours of mind numbing repetition.

Now it is certainly true that with younger players you have greater control over whatever developmental trajectory they happen to be on. Older players are what they are, they don’t have much time to put it all together before their bodies hit their physical prime years of 27, 28, and 29 (and for some reason 31) … With a high school player you have 8 to 10 years to make sure they get the reps they need before they hit their physical prime … which comes out to right around 10,000 hours of “practice.” With college players you have about half that time.

And that’s where the innovation comes in. The notion that talent isn’t some magical gift bestowed upon us by the gods or heredity, that given comparable physical attributes the more “talented” individual is almost always the one with the most hours of practice.

As Malcolm Gladwell in his groundbreaking book Outliers pointed out, the 10,000 hour rule is the single greatest predictor of “elite” performance, whether it’s playing a violin or striking out major league batters. On the Mets, “muscle memory” has become a catch phrase for expert status, and it takes 10,000 hours of practice (around 10 years) to achieve elite performance levels. It is a remarkable predictor with the highest levels of performance coming at right around the 10,000 hour mark across a wide variety of disciplines.

What Alderson and his assistants are attempting is a shift away from a scouting/talent paradigm to a tools/development paradigm … and Brandon Nimmo is their poster child. Now I’m not saying they’re actively seeking out blank-slate 18-year olds with solid physical attributes and little else. Naturally you’re going to draft the more talented player when available. But I think what’s interesting is the notion that the Mets might be inclined to draft a raw but physically gifted younger player over a perhaps more “talented” older player because by acquiring the younger player they control the trajectory and the progress, while “talent” at lower levels doesn’t always translate to higher levels.

The approach reminds me a little of the rifle range in boot camp. Our instructors loved guys who’d never fired a weapon because although they were raw, they didn’t have any bad habits, they were able to train us the correct way. I’d never touched a firearm in my life yet I shot high expert my very first try. Similarly this Met front office believes they are more likely to succeed by promoting a system that will produce elite performers from the scratch of raw physical aptitude rather than relying on occasionally finding the lightning in a bottle that is what we sometimes describe as “a natural.”

In the end the proof is in the pudding as they say, and the first batch of this particular confection will hit the stage late next summer barring some cataclysmic barrage of injuries or misfortune. It will be immensely interesting to see whether it was all worth the wait.

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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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MMO Mailbag: Where Are Alderson’s Draft Picks? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-where-are-aldersons-draft-picks.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-where-are-aldersons-draft-picks.html/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 22:34:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168259 Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta visited MCU Park Wednesday night, likely to check out first-round pick Michael Conforto. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Gregg asks…

I read that the Mets have drafted a greater percentage of high school players during the last three drafts, and have also passed over many supreme college talents in doing so.With many players who were drafted in the years 2011-2013 playing big roles this postseason, aren’t you the least bit worried that Sandy Alderson is one of a few teams that have yet to see one of their draft picks make it to the majors?

Andre replies…

The upside with high school prospects usually is that they can still be taught and trained in a way that the organization feels confident about. And in general, the majority of drafted impact players in the majors have come from high school and not the college ranks in the past 15+ years or so.

While, the risk may be higher, the upside often is also higher than with college picks. Of course, the aspect of player DEVELOPMENT is far more important with HS or young IFA talent than it is with advanced college players.

Now, the downside is that it generally takes longer to develop HS talent than college players for obvious reasons. So, if you have to be willing and able to give HS picks 4-5 years to develop in general before they reach the majors and probably another year before they have an impact.

A team that´s not able to sport a “large market” high payroll may be more inclined to go after college talent early in a draft during a window of contention than a team with a large market payroll OR during a rebuilding. That of course, is besides taking the best player available early in a draft.

The Mets have – rightfully – focused on HS talent and getting IFA signed that they´re now trying to develop – hopefully with better success than in the two previous decades. The problems of finding a legit young middle infielder ever since Jose Reyes was signed as an IFA in 2000 can directly be traced to both having a sub par development system in place AND not really drafting many – if any – players with a middle infield upside defensively in over a decade (from 2001 through 2011).

And while it remains to be seen if and how successful the “Alderson” drafts have been – and pretty sure Alderson hasn’t really been actively involved in these but at best listened with interest – the fact that none of “his” picks has appeared in the majors isn’t a problem at all. Besides the focus on HS talent, several college players such as Kevin Plawecki, Matt Reynolds, Cory Mazzoni or Daniel Muno could easily have appeared in the majors already. But mainly due to 40-man roster management and perhaps financial issues, they have been held back so far.

ask mmo 2

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Pitching and Defense Is In Our DNA http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/pitching-and-defense-is-in-our-dna.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/pitching-and-defense-is-in-our-dna.html/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:55:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168541 Seaver-Koosman-Matlack - Copy

Baseball is loaded with tradition, perhaps more than any other sport, and for good reason. The Mets have their own traditions, their own uniforms and stories passed down to them, their own sacred relics.

Mets tradition is rooted in the Miracle of 1969, and to a lesser degree the 1986 Championship season. Mets tradition is entrenched in the successes of the past, and that success has been, and more than likely will be (should we ever be treated to it again), grounded in lights-out, shutdown, overpowering pitching. Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanDwight Gooden and many other greats led our pitching heavy success stories. The lessons learned? We live and die by our pitching.

Building on previous success emboldens and prepares current generations with winning strategies, confidence, and important lessons. Traditions teach us who we are based on and who we’ve been. They teach us how to conduct ourselves based on how we’ve conducted ourselves in the past. They are an integral part of organizational success and as such should never ever be ignored. To do so is to invite failure.

The Mets of course play in the National League, and have always played their home games in pitchers’ havens. They were conceived during a pitching dominated NL “small ball” era and when you add Shea’s dimensions to their humble origins, you can see the where and why of our fine Mets pitching tradition.

The current generation of Mets is tasked with a monumental task — learning to win. What better way to do that than by looking at what has worked in the past? It’s a hard lesson, particularly after the horrendous failures of our recent history.

Pitching and defense are in our blood… 2–0 games should be ingrained in the DNA of every Met prospect in every Met franchise throughout the minors. This is our template, our formula, our recipe. Embrace the stinginess and the tension Met fans, I’ll take a traditional 2–0 win any day over a 7–3 slugfest.

Traditions are resilient, and I have to say there may even be something magical about them. There is a painful irony to the fact that 2006 ended tragically at the hands of a defense first backstop whose only home run vs. the Mets came in the postseason, against a power laden Met team lacking its traditional pitching first make-up.

Personally, I’ll take deGrom, Wheeler, Harvey, Syndergaard and Montero going forward over any host of boppers and mashers. Just get some great defense and a decent offense to support them. It doesn’t have to be a Murderer’s Row. Embrace the stinginess Met fans, embrace the tension!

mmo

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