Mets Merized Online » Baseball Thoughts http://metsmerizedonline.com Sat, 03 Dec 2016 14:30:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.16 World Series Re-Emphasizes Pitch Framing Matters http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/10/world-series-re-emphasizes-pitch-framing-matters.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/10/world-series-re-emphasizes-pitch-framing-matters.html/#comments Wed, 26 Oct 2016 15:55:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=225353 jon-lester-joe-maddon

Everywhere you turned last night, the major discussion was home plate umpire Larry Vanover’s strike zone. As it appeared by the fan watching at home on television, it seemed like Corey Kluber was getting a more favorable strike zone than the one Jon Lester was getting. The critique wasn’t limited to just fans. Lester had his own problems with the strike zone himself.

“I don’t comment on umpires. I’m a competitor. I think every ball I throw should be a strike. We talked it out, we hashed it out and moved on from there,” Lester said after the game.

It was actually the same refrain Mets fans had in the Wild Card Game. It appeared Madison Bumgarner was getting a larger strike zone than Noah Syndergaard. This was one of the reasons Bumgarner was able to go deeper into the game and help the Giants advance to the NLDS. In the World Series, it was one of the reasons why Kluber dominated the Cubs and why Lester left the game down 3-0.

In both cases, it appears the viewers and the teams were correct. One team was not getting the calls the other team was getting. It is not because the umpiring crew likes one pitcher better than another. It is not because umpires put bets down on the game. It is because of the art of pitch framing.

In the Wild Card Game, Rene Rivera struggled in that department while Buster Posey, the best at it in the game, was on top of that aspect of his craft. It made a big difference in that Wild Card game and it was also a big difference last night.

During the 2016 season, both Roberto Perez and David Ross were exceptional pitch framers. As it turns out, Perez was not only better during the regular season, he was also better last night. Perez’s pitch framing made such a huge difference in getting those borderline pitches for his staff. It allows them to get an advantage in the count and to get that called third strike. Indians backup catcher Chris Gimenez said it best:

“He is phenomenal. Blocking, receiving — he’s elite, in my opinion. His game-calling has gone through the roof just from the beginning of this year. And he is literally an elite pitch framer. Even [Andrew Miller] today was like, “It’s so nice having him back there. He makes those 50-50 balls look so good, in the umpire’s eye, that’s a strike.” (Fox Sports)

travis darnaud 2

If that quote sounds familiar, it should. Here is what Addison Reed had to say about Travis d’Arnaud:

“There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (Mark Simon, ESPN).

While many choose to discount pitch framing, and the importance it has, teams and pitching staffs don’t. There’s good reason for it. As we saw in Game 1 of the World Series, it was the difference between Kluber throwing six shutout innings with nine strikeouts and no walks and Lester walking three and barking at the umpire.

With the Mets, it was the difference between Bumgarner going nine, and Syndergaard going seven. It was also the difference between Reed being a pitcher with a career 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP to a dominant eighth inning reliever who has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP as a Met. In total, it helps the entire Mets pitching staff.

Fact is pitch framing matters, and it has a huge impact on the game. It was a big factor why the Indians won Game 1 of the World Series, and it was a factor in the Mets run to the post season in 2015 and 2016. It will be a big factor in 2017 when a healthy d’Arnaud is able to catch a healthy Mets staff.

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Roberto Clemente: The Legend Behind the Award http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/roberto-clemente-the-legend-behind-the-award.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/roberto-clemente-the-legend-behind-the-award.html/#comments Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:25:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=224139 St. Louis Cardinals vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Throughout Baseball’s glorious history there have been hundreds of players idolized in their hometown. Occasionally, but seldom, does a player come along whose greatness extends beyond the city where they play.

And then there’s Roberto Clemente, the first ballplayer to be revered on two continents.

On the final day of the 1972 season, September 30th, Roberto Clemente doubled off Mets rookie Jon Matlack. It was the 3,000th hit of his illustrious career, a watershed mark only reached by ten others. People across North America and Latin America cheered. Three months later, Roberto Clemente died. People across North America and Latin America cried.

He was the first Latin player to win an MVP and the first Latin player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was also the first Latin player to win a World Series MVP.

He retired with a .317 career BA, 240 HR, and 3,000 hits. He was an MVP, a four-time batting champ, 15-time All-Star, and winner of 12 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1961-1972.

Roberto Clemente was born August 18, 1934 in Barrio San Anton, Puerto Rico, the youngest of seven. To help his struggling family, Roberto worked alongside his father loading and unloading trucks in sugar fields. But he always had his eye on the game he loved.

Upon turning 18, he was signed by Pedrin Zorilla for the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League. He played some games at SS but mostly rode the pine. The following year, playing full time and batting leadoff for the Santurce Crabbers, Clemente batted .288. He was offered a contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Clemente followed in the footsteps of another trailblazer, Jackie Robinson, and played for the Triple-A Montreal Royals. Due to language difficulties, prejudice and ethnic clashes, Clemente struggled mightily and hit a disappointing .257. He was picked up by Pittsburgh in the rookie draft in November of 1954. Five weeks later, his older brother, Luis, died tragically on New Year’s Eve.

Roberto made his Pirates debut on April 17, 1955 and encountered much of the same prejudices he faced in Montreal. He was a Latino who spoke little English. He was of mixed-African descent. Just eight years removed from Jackie Robinson, Americans were still adjusting to breaking the color barrier. The Pirates were only the 5th team in the NL with a “minority” player. The young Clemente expressed frustration about racial tension, both coming from teammates and the Pittsburgh media. To lessen the impact of having a “foreigner” on their team, Pirates announcers called him Bobby Clemente.

Stress got to him throughout his career, manifesting itself in chronic insomnia. He once stated, “If I slept better I could hit .400.”

In his rookie season, Clemente managed a meager .255 betting average, but his defensive prowess caught everyone’s attention. Part of the reason for the lower than anticipated BA was that during that summer, Clemente was nearly killed when his car was plowed into by a drunk driver. He injured his back. It would plague him the rest of his career.

roberto-clemente

Pittsburgh sought out former Hall of Famer George Sisler to work with their young phenom. It paid off. The following year, 1956, Clemente batted .311. In a game against the Cubs, he became the only player in history to hit a walk-off grand slam inside-the-park home run.

1958 saw the Clemente-led Pirates finish over .500 and produce a winning season for the first time in a decade.

Each winter, Clemente returned home to play winter ball, reconnect with friends and to work with multiple charities. Except in ’58. That winter, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves and spent six months training at Parris Island.

In 1960, Clemente’s Bucs won the pennant for the first time in 33 years. They upset the heavily favored Yankees in a classic 7-game series. That season, Clemente batted .314 and was elected to the All-Star Game for the first time. There would be 14 more.

In 1964, Clemente led the NL in batting (.339) and hits (211) along with 40 doubles and scoring 95 runs. After the season he returned home with fellow countryman Orlando Cepeda where he was greeted by 18,000 adoring fans at the airport. The following month, as he and his bride Vera Zabala exchanged wedding vows, thousands cheered them outside the church.

The 1960’s saw some of the games’ most dominant pitchers ever, especially in the NL. The decade was controlled by legends such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn. But don’t tell that to Pittsburgh’s star right fielder. From 1960-1971 Clemente averaged .331 at the plate.

Clemente had it all. He played with the flair of Willie Mays, the swagger of Mickey Mantle and exuded the quiet confidence of Hank Aaron. His batting stance, the way he’d uncoil on a pitch like a cobra, was a sight to behold. The manner he rounded the bases with long loping strides, elbows and knees everywhere, was unforgettable. The way he’d wait in the on-deck circle on one knee and crane his neck hard to the right and left was mimicked by young kids on ball fields and backyards across America. He possessed one of the strongest and most accurate arms the game had ever seen. Vin Scully said of him, “He could catch a ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania.”

On July 24, 1970, the Pirates played their final game at Forbes Field, their home since 1909, and moved into Three Rivers Stadium. Management also decided to honor their greatest star since Honus Wagner with “Roberto Clemente Night.” It was an emotional evening for number 21. “I spent half my life here,” he said. He received a scroll of over 300,000 signatures from his native Puerto Rico. Clemente used the opportunity to put forth a plea for businesses to donate to local charities. They did.

In 1971, the Pirates won 97 games and captured the NL East crown. They defeated the Giants in four games in the LCS and faced the defending World Champion Orioles, winners of 100 games and fresh off a 3-game sweep of the up-and-coming young Oakland A’s. Before game one of the Fall Classic, the confident Clemente stated to a reporter, “Nobody does anything better than me in Baseball.” After losing the first two, Pittsburgh won 4 of the next 5 and captured the Championship. Clemente batted .414 in the series, made numerous stellar defensive plays, and hit a decisive home run in Game 7 that gave Pittsburgh the 2-1 win.

Age, however, was beginning to take its toll. In 1970, he amassed just 412 AB. In 1972, at age 37, he missed 54 games with nagging injuries, but in what would be his final season, Clemente still batted .312.

The man who once said, “I’m convinced God wanted me to be a ballplayer” would never again play baseball.

CLEMENTE

On December 23, 1972, less than 3 months after recording his 3000th hit, a massive earthquake rocked Managua, Nicaragua. Aid was not reaching the victims as supplies were being stolen by the corrupt Somoza government. People were dying. People were hungry. People were scared. And the man who tirelessly worked with charities his entire life refused to sit back and watch.

Roberto Clemente believed his presence and reputation would put an end to the pilfering of Nicaragua’s leaders. He chartered a flight from Puerto Rico to personally deliver aid. On December 31, 1972, the Pirates’ legend helped load a plane, just as he had helped his father load trucks decades earlier. He was assisted by an Expos pitcher named Tom Walker who happened to be playing winter ball. Walker wanted to assist Clemente with delivering aid but Clemente wouldn’t let him. Walker was single. Clemente told him to go out and have fun. It was New Years Eve after all.

The Douglas DC-7 had a history of mechanical problems and the flight crew was inexperienced. The plane was overloaded by more than two tons and shortly after lifting off, it fell to the ocean just off the coast of Isla Verde.

As fans in the US and across Latin America mourned the untimely tragic death of the greatest Hispanic player to ever play the game, Clemente’s teammates gathered for his funeral. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said in his eulogy, “He gave the term ‘complete’ a new meaning. He made the word ‘superstar’ seem inadequate.” The following season, Major League Baseball began bestowing the Roberto Clemente Award to the major leaguer with outstanding skill who is also heavily involved in charitable work and active in the local community.

Noticeably absent from the funeral was Clemente’s longtime teammate and best friend on the Pirates, catcher Manny Sanguillen. Rather than attending the service, Sanguillen flew down to Puerto Rico and spent days searching underwater for his friend’s body. It was never found.

Roberto Clemente left behind a wife, three small children, millions of fans and an indelible mark on the game God wanted him to play.

He played 16 years at Forbes Field and two at Three Rivers. Now, outside PNC Park stands a statue of Clemente where old and new generations of fans can see and appreciate Roberto the man, Roberto the player, and Roberto the legend.

The Expos pitcher, Tom Walker, who Clemente talked out of joining him on that fateful night, would eventually marry and have a family. His son… Neil Walker.

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Bartolo Colon: One of Just Six MLB’ers Left From the 90s http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/08/bartolo-colon-one-of-just-six-mlbers-left-from-the-90s.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/08/bartolo-colon-one-of-just-six-mlbers-left-from-the-90s.html/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 17:55:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=220760 bartolo colon

How old does that headline make you feel? It seems like just yesterday you were listening to Sugar Ray on your Walkman. But it’s now official: The 90s were a long time ago.

Bartolo Colon has become the poster child of MLB dinosaurs left from this decade. He is the last active ex-Expo, recently became the oldest player to hit his first career home run and drew the first walk of his career a few nights ago. And now that Alex Rodriguez is no longer playing, Colon is the longest-tenured player in the majors: His April 1997 debut is farther back than any other player currently in the bigs.

In fact, the number of MLB players left from the 90s can now be counted on your fingers– and by next year, you’ll be able to count them on one hand. The only players left in the majors who played in the 90′s are Colon, David Ortiz (1997), Adrian Beltre (1998), A.J. Pierzynski (1998) and Carlos Beltran (1998) and Joe Nathan (1999). That’s six players left from the 90s. 

After this season, Ortiz said he will retire. Pierzynski is batting .218/.237.305, so it’s hard to envision him playing much longer. Nathan turns 42 in November, and recently came off of Tommy John surgery, so count him in that boat as well.   Beltran and Colon have said they will likely play no longer than 2017. Beltre is signed with the Rangers through 2018, so it seems as though he will be the last man standing from the 90s in baseball. But given Colon’s ageless status, maybe he’ll pull a Jamie Moyer and play another ten years. 

The last MLB player who played in the 80s was Omar Vizquel, who retired in 2012. The last players from the 70s were Rickey Henderson and Jesse Orosco, who each retired in 2003. Nolan Ryan was the last player from the 60s to retire when he did so in 1993. Willie McCovey was the last from the 50s when he played his last game in 1980.

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Is It Time To Focus On ’17 Regarding Matz & Syndergaard? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/08/is-it-time-to-focus-on-17-regarding-matz-syndergaard.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/08/is-it-time-to-focus-on-17-regarding-matz-syndergaard.html/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 16:00:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=220228 matz syndergaard

When Johan Santana was a Met, fans got used to the seasonal-Santana-September shutdown.

While fans have to hope it isn’t seasonal, it’s time to stop thinking about how many games back the Mets are in the standings, and to start thinking about shutting down arms like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Both pitchers have reportedly been dealing with bone spurs for months now, and while they have pitched moderately effective baseball, it is pretty clear that this just isn’t the year for the Mets to win the World Series.

Since June 24

Syndergaard – 43.1 IP, 4.26 ERA, .298 AVG, .798 OPS

Matz – 52.2 IP, 4.78 ERA, .296 AVG, .831 OPS

It seemed like the natural progression; lose the World Series and then bounce back to win one just as the Royals did in front of the Mets’ eyes last October. However, generally it doesn’t work that way.

The tea leaves all season have pointed to this simply not being the Mets’ year.

Between David Wright‘s injury, Lucas Duda‘s ailing back that just never gets better, Juan Lagares‘s thumb, Matt Harvey‘s medical issues, and the bone spurs that have held Thor and Matz back from dominance, it has simply been too much.  It has even gotten to the point where even the reinforcements like Jose Reyes and Justin Ruggiano have also joined the walking wounded.

With Yoenis Cespedes missing time, Asdrubal Cabrera also on the shelf, and having a lineup full of players that are more similar to the 2015 Mets’ of April – June than the ones that nearly shocked the baseball world in October, this has been too much for one team to bear.

So while the old “wait ’til next year!”, adage is tiresome and downright annoying, sometimes discretion  is the better part of valor.  Sometimes, you have to lose a battle to win the war.

So if I’m Sandy Alderson, I’m thinking less about who I can add to this roster, and more about what’s best for 2017. And what’s best for 2017 is giving Syndergaard and Matz a chance to get those bone spurs taken care of, have a full offseason to rest and recover, and show up to Spring Training with guns blazing. If that means shutting down these young arms early, then you should at least consider it.

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Greenies, PEDs, and the Grueling 162 Game Schedule http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/greenies-peds-and-the-grueling-162-game-schedule.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/greenies-peds-and-the-grueling-162-game-schedule.html/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 14:33:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=217990 Jim Bouton Releases "Ball Four: The Final Pitch"

I first remember reading about ‘greenies’ in Ball Four, Jim Bouton‘s eye-opening autobiography about the everyday grind of a ball player. He mentioned how ‘greenies’, better known as amphetamines, were readily available and used by players.

I was a teenager at the time and compared it to getting a Star in Super Mario Brothers – it made the character better for a time, but it slowly faded away. While it was a great experience, I couldn’t imagine playing the whole game like that but that wouldn’t stop me from searching for a Star for a quick pick-me-up.

OK, that’s a poor analogy of the influence of something that, according to Phillip Smith of AlterNet, has been inbred in the baseball culture since soldiers returned from the battlefields of World War II and took the same stimulants they were provided by the military.

Harold Friend of Bleacher Report mentioned the military connection to greenies, ‘restorative’ drugs to overcome the effects of fatigue. In 1985, retired outfielder John Milner testified in a federal court that he was first introduced to a liquid amphetamine from a bottle he took from the locker of the immortal Willie Mays when he wore a Mets uniform.

From a Los Angeles Times Newswire report,

“Management wasn’t giving me greenies or red juice or speed–Willie had the red juice,” Milner said. He added, however, that he had not seen Mays take amphetamines.

Mays, who joined the Mets in 1972, said that his locker “was an open book. Anybody could go into my locker because I never had anything to hide.”

Why this part of the sport’s history seems to be hidden in plain sight is beyond me. At the end of the day, baseball asks athletes to play at a high level for 162 games in just 183 days. Throw in the demand of the modern travel schedule, days games in another city after a night game and it’s easy to see how the idea of returning to a 154-game schedule looks appealing.

rob manfred

David Lennon of Newsday laid out the facts in a recent column but didn’t pick a side because there really isn’t a side to pick. Less games means less money, a loss that the players union won’t be quick to sign off on. Add to that the broadcast television masters who will demand something to make up for the lost games.

Finding a happy medium for a 154-game season (or any number less than 162) between all three parties – MLB, the players union – is something that will happen with the CBA expiring in December. But the happy medium might be looking the other way when it comes to greenies.

While it’s not the happy or healthy answer that plays well with mothers, concerned citizens and the like, it is a realistic answer that has historical data behind it – the years and years of players using greenies and performing 162 times a year in 180 days at a high level.

Pro sports probably shouldn’t be what Daniel Tosh wants, but where were reporters like Murray Chass of the New York Times when it was happening in front of their eyes? He wrote about greenies in a Mike Schmidt book a decade ago and scolds commissioners Peter Ueberroth and Bud Selig for willingly turning a blind eye to something that Mike Schmidt says has ‘been around the game forever.”

Rob Neyer of SB Nation questioned Chass for holding his Hall of Fame vote from suspected players without making a “meaningful distinction between the steroids of the 1990s and the amphetamines of the 1970s and ’80s (and ’90s).”

The biggest distinction I can make from all of this is this. There was little talk about shortening the seasons when players were using greenies. Now that MLB is policing down on the drug, it’s something the commissioner and player’s union president are considering.

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Know Your Stats: Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/know-your-stats-weighted-runs-above-average-wraa.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/know-your-stats-weighted-runs-above-average-wraa.html/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 16:00:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=125128 wilmer flores

We continue our widely-beloved “Know Your Stats” series with a “gateway stat:” Weighted Runs Above Average. wRAA is essentially wOBA converted into runs, but understanding wRAA is crucial to understanding Wins Above Replacement and Weighted Runs Created Plus, which we’ll be talking about this afternoon.

One of the biggest issues with rate statistics like wOBA and On-Base Percentage is that they don’t put the production into baseball terms. What does a .340 wOBA really mean? wRAA makes it easy by putting it into the “currency” of baseball: runs. Before we get started, here is the wOBA formula this year

wOBA = (0.688×uBB + 0.719×HBP + 0.878×1B + 1.245×2B + 1.576×3B + 2.030×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

The formula for wRAA is pretty simple. To convert a .350 wOBA to wRAA, you simply subtract the league wOBA (.313 in 2015), and divide that by the wOBA scale for that year, which slightly changes based on the particular weights for that season. Then, to adjust for playing time, you multiply by plate appearances. Here is the formula:

wRAA = ((wOBA – league wOBA) / wOBA scale) × PA

Now here is the formula for someone from last with 600 plate appearances and a .350 wOBA:

wRAA =  ((.350 – .313) / 1.251) × 600

wRAA = (.037/1.251) x 600

wRAA= 17.7 runs above average

Just as it sounds, this player would be worth 17.7 runs above average at the plate. How good is that exactly? Here is a “rule of thumb” chart for the stat, courtesy of Fangraphs:

wRAA chart 1Of course, it’s important to remember that like wOBA and any traditional rate stat, wRAA is context-neutral. Also, wRAA is critical for understanding Wins Above Replacement, since it is the offensive component. You won’t see it used much in articles because it doesn’t have all that much practical use on its own, but as you’ll see, knowing it makes it easier to wrap your head around a few more widely-used stats. That’s why it’s in some ways a “gateway stat.”

In Context

wraa chart 2

Further Reading

Other installments

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Know Your Stats: Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/know-your-stats-weighted-on-base-average-woba.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/know-your-stats-weighted-on-base-average-woba.html/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 20:00:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=124826 yoenis cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes is the current team leader in wOBA with a .395 mark.

For the next few days, I will be bringing back my “Know Your Stats” series that I began a few years back to highlight some important sabermetric stats and concepts. Earlier today, we went through OPS and OPS+. Now we continue with wOBA…

Perhaps the best way of describing weighted-On Base Average (wOBA) is to describe the faults of some of the traditional hitting statistics first.

Batting average, for all its history, fails on numerous fronts. For one, it values all hits equally, from an infield single to a home run. It also doesn’t include walks, which, however unexciting, undeniably contribute to a team. On-Base Percentage does a little bit better, adding walks to batting average, but again values a walk and a home run as the same. Slugging percentage attempts to weigh certain hits as more valuable than others, but fails to include walks and doesn’t weigh hits properly. A triple, for example, is not worth three times as much to a team compared to a single. We know this because of linear weights, which show that a triple does not create a run expectancy three times greater than one created by a single. Before we get to wOBA, it’s important to understand one very important thing about linear weights, which will clear up the somewhat confusing formula. Take a look at this excerpt from Fangraphs’ library:

There is nothing arbitrary in the exact weighting we have of a home run relative to a triple, or a ground ball to a line drive. Years upon years of data allow us to convert back and forth, or up and down with ease. A common complaint with modern sabremetrics is the bewildering array of fractional coefficients that dot the scene, but if you look at a formula that’s based on linear weight, don’t see them as confusing numbers. Instead, look at them as relative values, derived through years of baseball being played.

Essentially, the coefficients in wOBA come from the decades of baseball history that show us how singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, and HBP affect a team’s run expectancy. When you look at the wOBA coefficients, they intuitively make sense before you even look at what the linear weights tell you. A walk is worth slightly less than a single because a single moves runners over two bases more often. Just as eras change, wOBA can slightly change from year to year, although nothing really changes that significantly. You can see the constants going back to 1871 here. Here is the current wOBA formula:

wOBA = (0.688×uBB + 0.719×HBP + 0.878×1B + 1.245×2B + 1.576×3B + 2.030×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

More Thoughts

  • wOBA is a context-independent statistic meaning a walk with the bases loaded and a walk with the bases empty are weighted the same, just like most traditional statistics we deal with.
  • wOBA and its park-adjusted, indexed counterpart wRC+ are the gold standard for publicly-available offensive statistics.

In Context

woba chart 3 woba chart 1   woba chart 2

Further Reading

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Know Your Stats: OPS/OPS+ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/know-your-stats-opsops.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/know-your-stats-opsops.html/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:00:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=124861 simpsons sabermetrics

For the next few days, I will be bringing back my “Know Your Stats” series that I began a few years back to highlight some important sabermetric stats and concepts. We begin this afternoon with OPS and OPS+.

OPS, or On Base Plus Slugging was one of the first sabermetric stats to go mainstream. It is, as the name implies, On-Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage. It’s crude and simple, but it’s a good quick and dirty reference tool

OPS is expanded on even further when made into an index, OPS+. OPS+ does something very important: puts the OPS into context. The stat makes it possible to compare players from different eras, different teams, and different ballparks.

OPS+ is set on a percentage point scale. Essentially it is the percentage of league OPS. 100 (or 100% of the league average) is the league average, while a 110 mark is ten percent better than league average, and 90 is ten percent worse.

There are many issues with the crude OPS and OPS+. Is one point of OBP worth the same as one point of SLG? The math says no. In fact, the math says a point of OBP is worth 1.7 times what a point of Slugging is. Neither OPS nor OPS+ tell you the composition of OBP or Slugging and thus overvalues extra base hits.

OPS as I mentioned, is crude and the most basic sabermetric stat out there. It has its flaws, but it is a great way to get people to start thinking about sabermetrics. OPS and OPS+ are solid stats and certainly better than batting average, although not as good as wOBA or wRC+.

More thoughts

  • Anytime there is a stat with a “+” at the end, that means it is an index and adjusted for park factors. I get a lot of questions and concerns about the fact that these park factors sometimes change from year to year. However, these changes are so miniscule from year to year that they don’t really effect the stat. Here are Yankee Stadium’s park factors going back to 2009:

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.44.30 AM

Formula

OPS= ((H +BB+HBP)/PA) + (TB/AB)

OPS+=100 x (OBP/lgOBP*+SLG/lgSLG*- 1) then park adjusted

In Context

ops chart 3ops chart 1

Further Reading

Up Next: wOBA

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Agony and Ecstasy Unfold as Dodgers Top Nationals in Wild Finish http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/agony-and-ecstasy-unfold-as-dodgers-top-nationals-in-wild-finish.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/agony-and-ecstasy-unfold-as-dodgers-top-nationals-in-wild-finish.html/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 11:42:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=215705 at Dodger Stadium on June 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

The look in the dugout said it all. The smiles, the joy, it was all there. And why not… After a pitching duel between two young and talented starting pitchers left the score knotted at 2-2, the Washington Nationals jumped out in front of the Los Angeles Dodgers in beautiful and balmy Chavez Ravine.

Let’s cut to the action… With Washington looking to snap a four game skid, up came catcher Wilson Ramos for the Nationals in the eighth inning. And just as he has so many times before, Ramos puts his team on top with a prodigious 435-foot solo homerun that split the night and sent his teammates in the dugout into a sublime ecstasy. A hero’s welcome awaited Ramos as he crossed home plate and went into the jubilant Nationals dugout.

But this was no ordinary night, and like a grizzled old backstop and former Met once said, “This is baseball, and it ain’t over til it’s over.”

Onto the bottom of the ninth…

With victory only three outs away, manager Dusty Baker and his motley crew were confident they had this one in the bag. But fate had something else in store for them on this particular evening.

After center fielder Joc Pederson whiffed at strike three for the first out of the frame, up came the veteran Howie Kendrick to pinch hit for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With laser focus, Kendrick strokes a line drive to right field in front of Bryce Harper and singles to put the tying run at first base.

Yasiel puig

And then it happened. The oft-maligned and enigmatic Yasiel Puig shoots a sharp ground ball through the infield and straight to Nats center fielder Michael A. Taylor.

But what started out as a nightmarish night already, having struck out five times in the game, was about to become exponentially worse for the young Taylor.

The ball rolls under his glove and darts by him for an error, as Kendrick motors around third base to score the tying run as Dodger Stadium erupts in boisterous pandemonium.

Taylor gives chase to the ball that rolls all the way to the wall as Yasiel Puig races around second base in full throttle and heads for third leaving behind him a cloud of dust and the roar of the crowd.

Finally, Taylor gets to the ball and fires it to second baseman and relay man Daniel Murphy as Puig sprints home with the speed of a cheetah in chase of a gazelle.

Shockingly, Murphy gets the ball and then freezes as if he’s in sheer panic. As Mets fans, we’ve seen this all too many times before.

Murph double clutches, but it was far too late as the electric Yasiel dives into home plate like a B-52 bomber to give the Dodgers an exciting and improbable 4-3 walk-off victory and their fifth straight win. Murphy never even threw the ball to home plate where a raucous celebration ensued led by another former Met – who else, but Justin Turner.

Justin, Turner yasiel Puig

And just like that, the Nationals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and the New York Mets gained a full game to cut their deficit to 3.5 games behind the first place Nats who have now lost five straight.

For Daniel Murphy, it was the classic Murphy flub. But for Michael A. Taylor, it was one of the worst nights for a player that you’ll ever see.

Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Daniel. Thank you, Yasiel. And most of all, thank you, Yogi Berra.

Hers the call from the legendary Vin Scully, who summed it up quite perfectly.  ”I don’t believe what I just saw.”

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A Father’s Day Tale: Heroes Don’t Always Hit Home Runs http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/a-fathers-day-tale-heroes-dont-always-hit-home-runs.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/a-fathers-day-tale-heroes-dont-always-hit-home-runs.html/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 13:00:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=215222 johnny bench tom seaver

It was my first baseball game. And it was almost my last.

In the summer of 1972 I was pushing Tonka trucks around the floor in a one bedroom apartment in The Bronx. I noted the wide range of emotions my Dad went through watching a 2 ½ hour baseball game. Happiness, frustration, cheering, despair. I’d casually glance up at the Zenith B&W. Slowly my toys became secondary and I found myself sitting on the sofa next to my father.

There were the multi-colored sport jackets of Lindsey Nelson, the malapropisms of Ralph Kiner and the velvety cadences of gray-haired red-faced Bob Murphy, who my dad said was, “As smooth as a duck’s tuchus.” That made me laugh.

But my dad was the one who taught me baseball. He explained the game to me, the game within the game, the intricacies. And I got hooked. I watched, I listened, I learned

The following season, with some apprehension, he decided to take me to my first game. Watching on TV was one thing, but would this seven year old become distracted and grow restless and impatient? After handing over some change to park our Plymouth Scamp, we got out of the car.

My chin hit the asphalt. I was blown away. The stadium was huge, enormous. It was like the Roman Coliseum and it was right here in Flushing.

shea stadium 2

Clusters of people–older, younger, boys my age and icky girls–were all walking toward something in unison, moving together as one cohesive unit. For the first time in my life I became a part of something bigger, something that extended far beyond my bedroom and my classmates. I was now one of tens of millions of baseball fans.

With Dad’s hand on my shoulder, he guided me between the throngs of fellow Mets fans, passing blue and orange panels hanging from cables on Shea’s exterior. Dad handed over our tickets to an usher wearing an orange jacket and blue slacks.

“Enjoy the game, son.”

I was too busy gazing around in awe when dad nudged me. “What do you say to the man?”

“Uh…Let’s Go Mets.”

Dad laughed. “Anything else?”

“Oh, yea, thank you.”

Seconds later I was bequeathed something in a wrapper. Whoa, cool! A real authentic plastic Mets helmet. Did they give these out every day? Or maybe just to me since it was my first game. Christmas in April. Little did I realize it was Helmet Day. I tore open the packaging, placed the item on my head…and my lips quivered. It was too big. Dad adjusted the interior settings and now it fit perfectly.

He saved the day.

Before heading to our seats, we walked through the passageway in the Loge level. My eyes bulged out of my head, my heart leapt in my chest. Watching on WOR didn’t do it justice. I couldn’t grasp how gigantic the field was. It went on forever. The scoreboard was colossal. I’d never seen grass so green. The grounds crew watered down the infield, causing brown dirt to contrast strikingly with pristine white bases.

Thwack.

Thwack.

Baseballs, like little round missiles, were rocketing all over the place as players took batting practice. Yeah.., I could get used to this.

“Daddy, daddy!” I shouted, jumping in place nearly wrenching his arm out of his socket. “There’s Rusty!!!”

rusty staub square

Rusty Staub was my favorite Met. I don’t know why I took to him. I had yet to grasp the significance of confusing stats and complicated numbers. I didn’t quite comprehend batting average or Earned Run Average and didn’t know if Rusty was good or not. Maybe it was his unique hair color, or his strange batting stance which was upright and stiff with his backside sticking out. Maybe it was the fact he and I shared the same initials or perhaps it was simply due to his cool nickname, Le Grande Orange.

Yea, I definitely could get used to this.

We watched BP for a while before heading to our seats. We went inside the stadium and took the escalator up. And up. And up again. And up some more.

I don’t know what happened, don’t know if the guy who sold dad the tickets gave us the wrong seats. But we were sitting in the very last row in the grandstands, the upper deck. The grating was against our backs. Miles beyond my shoulder was the NYC skyline with the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers that had just opened two weeks earlier. It felt like I was closer to the cement sidewalk four levels below than to the field. Planes landing at LaGuardia were practically on eye level. The players were tiny. I couldn’t tell who was who. Which one is Rusty?

The seats in the stratosphere, however, was secondary. The date was April 21, 1973. It was cloudy, overcast, there was a crisp bite in the air, the wind whipped around with gale force ferocity. Baseball was played in the summer but winter seemed reluctant to release its grip. My hands were shoved deep in my pockets, my feet growing numb, my teeth chattered. I knew the words to the song but right now I didn’t want anyone to buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. I just wanted a hot chocolate.

Dad lit up a cigarette. (Hey, it was 1973) “You okay?”

“Ss-ss-sure, da-da-daddy, this is gr-gr-great.” I may have been fighting frostbite but I didn’t care. I was at my first ballgame.

Moments later, he tapped my shoulder. “C’mon.” He took my hand and led me down the steep steps. On the walkway he approached an usher. My dad was a salesman and went into selling mode. “Look,” he began pleasantly, “This is my son’s first game. And if I bring him home with pneumonia, my wife will kill me. She’ll never let me take him to another game and you’ll lose a fan for life. You gotta get us into better seats.”

The usher pointed to a different usher a few sections over. That guy told us to speak to someone else. The third guy directed us to someone in an office. We went inside the concourse and hurried to this other guy. My little legs had difficulty keeping up with my dad’s long loping strides.

This new guy informed us we’d need to discuss it with someone different.

Organ music emanated from massive speakers as Jane Jarvis began the opening notes to Meet the Mets.

Along another concourse we went. My dad now jogging, me running alongside.

Shea Stadium 1969

The voice of the PA announcer boomed across Flushing like the voice of God. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. Welcome to Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.”

A roar went up. Fans cheered. But my dad and I were running around like Matt Damon would be forty years later in the final twenty minutes of “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dad picked up the pace. “C’mon, Rob!”

We went into another office. This guy in a white shirt and tie directed us to an office on the second level.

We took off again.

“We ask you to remove your hats and please rise for the singing of…”

“Daddy!” I shouted.

“What?!” he clipped, understandably frustrated.

“It’s the National Anthem.”

He gave me a look, then couldn’t help but laugh

Oh, Canada, Glorious and Free….

“What’s that?” I asked, scrunching my face.

“We’re playing Montreal. That’s the Canadian National Anthem,” he explained.

“They have a different one than us?”

Moments later, the more familiar, Oh, say, can you see…

I stood motionless, respectfully removing my brand new helmet, patriotically placed my hand over my heart and sung.

And the home of the brave.

And off we went again.

“Here are today’s starting lineups and batting orders. First, the visiting Montreal Expos.”

Boo!

“Daddy, the game’s starting!” I cried out, gasping for air. My short legs ached, I had sticking pain in my side from running so hard and so fast. I liked running. I was one of the faster boys in my second grade class. But even this was getting excessive.

There was no one around, everyone already in their seats. We bulleted around a corner and were dashing down a wide ramp full speed.

My side was stabbing but not from running so hard. Instead it was cause of my Dad. He was really old, the ripe old age of thirty and I’d never seen him run before. I tried to keep up but was giggling so hard, I pulled up short and angled forward, laughing uncontrollably.

The hilarity of the moment quickly turned to tears when my helmet slipped off my head, hit the concrete and fractured.

Twenty yards ahead, Dad turned, came back and took a knee by my side. He sympathetically lifted my splintered helmet and embraced me. “I’ll get you another one,” he whispered while hugging away the tears.

I’m not sure how he did it but somehow he made sure everything worked out.

lindsey nelson ralph kiner bob murphy

With mere seconds to spare before the first pitch we ended up in our own private press box Reporters from local newspapers and TV stations close by. Three booths to our right were the Mets play-by-play announcers. Lindsey’s jackets were even brighter in person. “There’s Ralph,” Dad pointed reverentially, even at thirty somewhat awed by the presence of Kiner’s greatness.

I learned a lot that day.

During the middle innings, Expos manager Gene Mauch got ejected for arguing a call. Dad wasted no time in pointing out, “See what happens when you don’t respect authority.”

The Mets had a pitcher named Tom Seaver who was supposedly pretty good. Dad had stated repeatedly, “He’s gonna wind up in Cooperstown one day.” I guess if you’re good you go to Cooperstown, whatever that means. But Seaver didn’t pitch that day. Neither did Jerry Koosman who was on the mound when the Mets won their only championship four long years ago in 1969. It wasn’t even the lanky fella named Jon Matlack. Toeing the rubber this day was spot-starter Harry Parker.

But that didn’t matter.

My guy, Rusty, didn’t get any hits, but walked three times and scored twice.

But that didn’t really matter.

willie mays

I got to see some guy wearing number 24. He was supposedly pretty good, too, probably also going to that Cooperstown place. He used to play here in NY with a team called the Giants a long time ago and made some catch in a World Series. Willie Mays went 0-for-3.

But that didn’t really matter either

I got to see my first Home Run, a two run blast in the 8th off the bat of John Milner, The Hammer. The Mets defeated Montreal 5-0. Harry Parker pitched 7 shut-out innings before Tug McGraw recorded the final 6 outs

But no, that didn’t matter either.

What did matter was not the specifics–who won, who lost.

Over the next several decades I was privileged enough to see first-hand many great players. Some like Seaver, Mays, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza wore a Mets jersey. Others I saw like Mike Schmidt, Don Sutton, Willie Stargell and Pete Rose did not.

I saw Seaver and Rusty go away, only to return years later. And I saw Tug McGraw and Gary Carter go away, never to return.

Gary-Carter-John-McDonough-Icon-SMI

I went as a 7-year old with my dad. I’d go with my uncle, with friends from school, with buddies from college, with girlfriends and with wives. I saw one of Mookie Wilson’s first games and one of Jesse Orosco’s last. I went from eating chocolate and vanilla ice cream in little cups with wooden spoons to drinking beer. I saw Shea go from a ‘state-of-the-art’ modern sports venue to an archaic outdated relic. I saw rallies in the bottom of the 9th, bench clearing brawls, grand slam home runs, walk-off home runs, inside the park home runs, championships won, a no-hitter and I even caught a foul ball. I got to see Hank Aaron hit two of his 755 Home Runs.

But honestly, none of that mattered either.

What did matter is that this was my first Major League Baseball game. And despite seats up in the ether freezing my tuchus off, fighting frostbite, and my very first article of Mets attire breaking after only thirty minutes, my dad made it something memorable, something I’ll never forget, something I’ll always cherish. My dad saved the day and made everything better.

Sometimes heroes are not the guys who hit 700 Home Runs or get 4,000 hits.

Footnote:

I still have that same helmet forty three years later. It’s in a box, alongside yearbooks, scorecards, programs, old Mets caps that are frayed and tattered with age, my old glove, a signed Baseball by Davey Johnson—all stored away with memories of my childhood. Despite my dad’s offer to get me a new helmet, I refused. I wouldn’t change a thing from that blustery April day and if I could, I’d go back in time and relive it all over again, relive that very first baseball game I went to with my father.

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Michael Fulmer Making Most Of Opportunity http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/michael-fulmer-making-most-of-opportunity.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/michael-fulmer-making-most-of-opportunity.html/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 14:25:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=213790 michael fulmer 2

Steven Matz leads all rookie pitchers in wins, strikeouts, walks per nine, and WAR, clearly an early front runner for National League Rookie of the Year. In the American League, another starting pitcher looks to make his case for the award, and is a familiar name for most Met fans.

Michael Fulmer, 23, one of the arms dealt to the Detroit Tigers last season for Yoenis Cespedes, is having a very good start to his rookie campaign. Since making his Major League debut on April 29th, Fulmer has gone 5-1 with a 3.24 earned run average in seven starts. Fulmer boasts an arsenal of four pitches, four-seam and two-seam fastballs, change-up, and a slider. The hard throwing right-hander sits in the low to mid nineties with his fastball, averaging 95.08 on his two-seam fastball, almost three miles per hour faster then the MLB average.

Taking a look at the rookie starting pitcher league leaders, Fulmer is currently ranked second in wins behind Matz with five, third in strikeouts per nine (9.50), fourth in earned run average (3.24), fourth in swinging strike percentage (11.0%), and fifth in WAR (0.7). And remember, Fulmer didn’t make his debut until the end of April, so he’s two to three starts behind guys like Matz and Kenta Maeda.

Fulmer has been getting progressively stronger in his most recent outings, going at least seven innings in his last three starts against the Rays, Athletics, and Angels. His most recent performance on June 1st was exceptionally strong, throwing a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Angels on the road. His final line for the day was 7 2/3 innings, giving up two hits, walking two, and striking out eight, including a pair against All-Star Mike Trout, and one against pinch-hitter Albert Pujols.

Fulmer currently has a scoreless innings streak of 16.1 innings, and he’s only the second Tigers pitcher in history to have back to back starts with seven or more shutout innings, the last was Mickey Lolich back in 1968.

michael fulmer

Fulmer’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise to Mets fans, as he was highly regarded during his tenure with the club. Especially last season, when Fulmer was named the Double-A Eastern League pitcher of the year, and put up tremendous numbers in Double A Binghamton, going 6-2 in 15 starts with a minuscule 1.88 earned run average, and a 1.12 WHIP. When the Mets were looking to upgrade with a power bat before the trade deadline, Fulmer’s name came up with Detroit, who were looking to add prospects and concede that their season was over.

Fulmer finished out the 2015 season with Detroit’s Double A affiliate the Erie Seawolves, and went 4-1 in six starts, with a 2.84 earned run average, and averaged more than a strikeout-per-inning. He made three starts in their Triple A affiliate this year before getting the call in late April for the injured Shane Greene.

Fulmer already has a big fan in his teammate and former Cy Young award winner, Justin Verlander.

“I liked his mentality on the mound,” Verlander said. “He’s not scared and I love his stuff. He pitches, attacks guys, and I think he’s got a chance to be an excellent pitcher at the big league level.” (Detroit Free Press)

Fulmer has emerged as the Tigers number three starter, after Anibal Sanchez was demoted from the rotation and another former Met, Mike Pelfrey, continues to struggle with a near 5.00 earned run average and a 1.77 WHIP. Manager Brad Ausmus has been so impressed by Fulmer and his poise on the mound, he likened his mentality to that of a young Roy Oswalt.

“He’s not afraid of (guys) stepping into the batter’s box,” Ausmus said. “The environment doesn’t seem to bother him. I think it’s his makeup. He’s got good stuff.”

While Fulmer is having a breakout rookie performance with the Tigers, this is a trade the GM Sandy Alderson would make again and again, after witnessing what Yoenis Cespedes can do for a team and its lineup.

Cespedes is currently on pace for his best statistical season yet, and has been one of the more consistent contributors to the Mets lineup this year. This might turn out to be a rare trade where both sides got a good return. I’m sure I speak for most of us when I wish Michael success in his big league career.

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A Tale of Two Pitchers http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/a-tale-of-two-pitchers.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/a-tale-of-two-pitchers.html/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 13:00:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=213280 strasburg-harvey

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Sports Illustrated called it “The most hyped pitching debut the game had ever seen.” Retailers couldn’t keep his jersey in stock due to demand. And when Stephen Strasburg made his debut the 21-year-old phenom did not disappoint. He compiled a 2.91 ERA. In 68 innings he fanned 92 batters while walking just 17.

And then, like a meteor blazing across the sky, Strasburg flamed out. Tommy John surgery. He would not pitch again for 18 months.

In 2012, the Nationals at  98-64, had the best record in Baseball and were heavily favored to win it all. But manager Davey Johnson and team execs faced an agonizing decision: Shut down their ace his first year back or risk injury in an attempt to win the first championship in franchise history, a history that began over four decades ago in Montreal.

It was decided that with 159 1/3 innings under his belt the gamble to become champions wasn’t worth risking the possibility of a career ending injury. Strasburg was shut down.

Washington promptly got knocked out in the first round.

Meanwhile, in New York, fans were chomping at the bit anticipating the arrival of our own young phenom, Matt Harvey. Not since Gregg Jefferies had a Mets rookie undergone this much hype. In 2012, pitching in AAA, Harvey was erratic. Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins insisted Harvey would not be brought up anytime soon.

Then, they had a change of heart.

Johan Santana got injured, the fan base was in a malaise, there were plenty of empty seats at Citi Field. Despite the Mets going nowhere and being 11 ½ GB in late July, the earlier decision was negated and Harvey was called up.

mmo7

Like Strasburg two seasons earlier, Harvey was the face of a bright future, the tip of a sword. And like Strasburg, Harvey didn’t disappoint. He fanned 70 batters in 59 IP and compiled a 2.73 ERA.

In 2013, Harvey continued his dominance, but the innings were piling up. At 24 years-old he was not just the ace, but the workhorse of the staff. By the time he started the All-Star Game at Citi Field in July, Harvey was on pace to toss 235 innings, the most by any Mets starter since 1990.

Then it happened… Matt Harvey, The Dark Knight of Gotham, the new face of the franchise, the guy who packed the ballpark during every home start, the most electric Met starting pitcher since Dwight Gooden toed the rubber, the heartthrob who appeared in magazines and on late night talk shows, and most importantly, the pitcher who had a 2.27 ERA and whiffed more than one batter per inning for a team looking for a new identity…suffered a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.

Like Strasburg, Harvey would undergo Tommy John.

Despite the arrival of Jacob deGrom and the surprise of Bartolo Colon the next season, the Harvey-less Mets would finish under .500 for the sixth straight year, 17 GB.

In 2015, impelled by young power arms and a one-man wrecking crew named Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets found themselves in a pennant race for the first time in almost a decade. All the while Harvey, first year back from Tommy John, was again piling up innings.

We all remember the back and forth, the he-said-he-said that ensued between Scott Boras, Terry Collins, Dr. James Andrews and Sandy Alderson. And Matt Harvey, lightning rod for bloggers and fans alike, was caught in the middle. It was unwinnable predicament.

mmo2

If he decided to sit out and put his health above the team’s wants, it would fly in the face of the tough guy image he’d personified since his debut. The mixture of love and hate he’d gotten over his brief career would lean towards the latter. Fans would scorn him as a sham, all talk and no action. The media would tear the guy to shreds. Yet, if he kept pitching, he would put his career and future on the line, a career where he likely could earn hundreds of millions of dollars.

Like the Nats years earlier, the Mets now faced a similar dilemma: Shut down their star his first year back or risk injury trying to win the first championship in almost thirty years. Unlike the Nats, the Mets allowed Harvey to keep going, despite already tossing over 189 innings.

To digress for a moment, I will state I personally never was a fan of Harvey. Yes, he was good, damn good. But he knew it. Unlike Tom Seaver or Doc Gooden who understood their ability but remained professional about it, Harvey seemed to relish his own hype and delight in his arrogance how talented he was. Yet, all things considered, what had he accomplished? He never won a Cy Young or Rookie of the year like Seaver and Doc, he never won a championship like Seaver and Doc. I viewed him as a lot of bluster. And his prima donna attitude surely didn’t help.

But in the World Series, I jumped on the Matt Harvey train. In 40+ years of watching this game Harvey’s actions going to the top of the 9th in Game 5 was something I’ll never forget. The guy acted like an ace, like a star, like a true competitor. The guy has balls.

mmo5

Terry Collins reneged his earlier decision to pull his ace and allowed Harvey to take the mound with a 2-0 lead in a must-win game. Harvey, first year back from Tommy John surgery and with 216 innings under his belt, the most any pitcher in history ever tossed after coming back, walked the lead-off batter, Lorenzo Cain.

And Terry Collins didn’t budge.

The rest is history.

Seven months after losing to Kansas City, Harvey is yet again in the crosshairs of controversy. He is having the worst year of his career, many insisting he voluntarily request to be sent down to work on his mechanics. Some feel that blowing the 2-0 lead in the 9th got in his head. Donnie Moore and Mitch Williams, two great closers in their day, were never the same after allowing crushing post-season home runs. Is Harvey the latest casualty?

Fans are quick to blame him. And granted, his prima donna attitude and now, avoiding the press after a terrible outing doesn’t help. Yet, no one blames Terry Collins for sticking with him for too long. No one blames Lucas Duda for making an errant throw that allowed Hosmer to score and cement the Mets World Series loss. All the finger pointing is at Matt Harvey.

Maybe it is in his head.

Or maybe the fact that Harvey, with the Mets’ blessing, threw more innings than anyone ever had after TJ surgery, has reinjured himself. The fact that his stats are awful two months after throwing 216 innings is not a coincidence. He put his team ahead of his career, ahead of his livelihood, ahead of his own health. And is now suffering the scorn of a livid fan base and damning media.

A few years back, Washington looked long term and put the health of their ace ahead of the wants of their fans. Since returning from his surgery, the highest ERA Strasburg has recorded is a very respectable 3.46. Currently, he is 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA. He is averaging 11.4 K’s per 9 innings.

On the flip side Matt Harvey is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA.

matt-harvey-terry-collins-e1464236639363

You know things are bad when Bryce Harper, widely regarded by many as the biggest jerk in the game, upon hearing Harvey booed by Mets “fans” actually stated he “feels bad” for the guy. A new low. Opposing players are now pitying our one-time ace.

Washington recently awarded Strasburg with a 7-year deal worth $175 million. While Nats fans are thrilled to see Strasburg pitching for them until 2022, Mets fans are apprehensive about Harvey starting on Monday.

Last year Matt Harvey was pushed more than any pitcher in history. And now we are seeing the results. The man who represented the hope of the future may very well have his best days in the past. Was it worth it?

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MLB Feature: Why Steroids Aren’t Going Away http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/mlb-feature-why-steroids-arent-going-away.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/mlb-feature-why-steroids-arent-going-away.html/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:00:16 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=212821 MJS MJS brewers15, nws, sears, 6

Last spring I interviewed Steve Kettmann for Metsmerized Online following the publication of his book “Baseball Maverick,” and one of the questions involved whether he’d noticed any indication that the Mets front office was adjusting to a post-steroid era. I thought his response was interesting.

MB: Given this front office’s statistical predilections, have there been any efforts to establish post steroid era norms to your knowledge?

Steve Kettmann: I’m not sure that we have entered a “post-steroid” era or that we ever will. The cheaters are smarter and more sophisticated now than they were, and juicing is less prevalent; we’d be naive to think it no longer occurs.

The reality is there’s been a steady trickle of Major League Baseball players who continue to test positive for steroids with rumors of a freshly popped batch on the way. The problem persists — perhaps driven by desperation — in those who appear to exhaust all other alternatives. When put in a position where it is either this syringe (and the millions in earnings that accompany it), or a place on the car lot back in Topeka, the decision becomes … clear.

Ultimately the brunt of the responsibility rests with the players. They are, after all, the ones who willfully ingest these substances. But the owners and their cash-laden history of turning a blind eye are anything but blameless. The player’s union on its end has also played a role with years of opposition to more invasive testing.

Whatever the context, the onus comes back to the individual who uses these drugs unless they can somehow show that the choice, was not really a choice.

Take the case of Marlon Byrd. On May 21st 2011 while with the Chicago Cubs Byrd took a fastball flush to his left cheekbone from Alfredo Aceves of the Red Sox at Fenway Park. He was hospitalized and put on the disabled list the next day after his eye swelled shut. He’d been struggling since he hit .210 in 2012 when he tested positive for steroids. Marlon had not benefited the way you might imagine from performance enhancing drugs, in fact he was looking squarely at his own baseball mortality.

“Guys that don’t like talking about it are the guys that were trying to beat the system. I wasn’t,” he said. “I was just stupid, I took something, didn’t do my due diligence, simple as that. So it’s easy for me to talk about. First time I talked about it was easy.” (CSNPhilly.com)

Byrd still maintains that his positive test result for tamoxifen, a banned substance, was the result of a medication he was taking to treat a condition called gynecomastia (an enlargement of the breast tissues in men).  While the fact that he had surgery to address this condition supports Byrd’s alibi, the fact that the condition itself can be brought on by steroids, not to mention his continued association with Victor Conte of BALCO, do not.

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Byrd does not deny his error and he remains open about his past, which is certainly refreshing, but he has also enjoyed a remarkable resurgence as a player since that low in 2012.

“The big thing is,” Byrd said. “Why wouldn’t anybody question it? I’m 35 going on 36. Last year, I hit .210 with a home run and nine RBIs, in conjunction with testing positive.”

There would be nothing to question had Byrd not lost his effectiveness and his power in the first place. More interesting than the aftermath is the precursor — only a year after an All Star appearance Byrd’s mechanics were a shambles and his career was in a nosedive. It’s hard to imagine. You spend your life building something, a dream, a career, a livelihood, then poof, gone.

In the years leading up to 2012 Byrd earned something around 15 million over an eight year span, a virtual pittance by MLB standards.  It is simply naïve to presume ballplayers will neglect to perform a simple cost / benefit analysis and conclude they’d be crazy not to try steroids when the alternative is … the abyss. In the years since his suspension Marlon Byrd has earned over 20 million dollars (although he actually earned less two years post-suspension then he did in his two years prior to — something of an outlier in this regard).

Below is a chart detailing earnings (in millions) of suspended players on the Y axis with before/after comparisons of individual players on the X.  These are players for whom I was able to derive two years of salary figures both before and after a steroid suspension. I did not use players with multiple suspensions (as the consequences begin to encroach on the risks) or suspensions prior to 2012 (to coincide with MLB’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement).

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Alex Rodriguez was not included because his suspension wiped out all of his 2014 and he has not had two full years since. In all, there were 11 players and the results are eye opening. While you’d expect player salaries to rise with consideration to age and time in service, in the context of returning from a steroid suspension, the group did remarkably well even without Alex Rodriguez. In the two years leading up to suspension, suspended players earned 56.6 million, in the two years after? 137.9 million.

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Players earned a combined 81 million more in the two years following their suspensions than they did in the 2 years leading up to them. That’s a 144% increase. I don’t know about you, but if the penalty is a 50 game suspension and the benefit is a 144% pay raise either way, pretty much a slam-dunk. Again, you’d almost have to be some kind of baseball saint to resist the temptation if the alternative is a declining skill set and a slow painful exit. We hold athletes to a standard that very few among us would uphold. The lure is simply too enormous and the punishment too feeble.

MLB on their end is certainly culpable for welcoming suspended players back with a slap on the wrist and a massive chunk of change. In the chart below we look at cumulative WAR for these same suspended players in those same four years sandwiching their suspensions, and they perform more or less up to career norms post mandated hiatus. So they are at least a safe bet, provided they stay off the juice.

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In fact, if you take Ryan Braun off the list, your post-suspension players look even better. Players like Cruz, Colon, and Cervelli saw marked improvement while most others held their own. As a fan, you have to think long and hard whether a single suspension wasn’t worth the opportunity to enjoy Cruz’s prodigious power and Colon’s wily showmanship. Sadly I believe this isn’t lost on ownership. Is it a virtual free pass for a first offense? An implement for a select few who may use it to catapult back into form? Are there lingering positive effects years later?

We know what MLB’s Drug Prevention and Treatment Program isn’t, and that’s effective.

If MLB and the MLBPA are serious about ridding the game of steroids they have to enforce a policy that will compel players to genuinely question whether dabbling in performance enhancing drugs is worth it. Presently it totally is, to the tune of a 144% pay raise — and that’s if you get caught.

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Syndergaard Speeds Up Delivery, Felt Good Despite Loss http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/syndergaard-speeds-up-delivery-felt-good-despite-loss.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/syndergaard-speeds-up-delivery-felt-good-despite-loss.html/#comments Sat, 07 May 2016 13:00:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=211246 noah syndergaard

New York Mets pitcher, Noah Syndergaard provided another quality start in Friday’s 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres. Syndergaard was not the problem in yesterday’s loss as the offense could not solve a San Diego starter for the second consecutive night.

Syndergaard pitched six innings while allowing two runs on six hits. Thor walked none and struck out just five batters while taking the loss for a season record of 2-2. His ERA on the year stands at 2.58, creeping up just a little bit from 2.51.

“Overall, I thought it was OK,” Syndergaard said. “I like to go out there and have a goal to put up zeroes. Unfortunately, it’s not always like that.” (ESPN)

The Padres tried to continue the course of teams running against Noah, and they were successful in two out of three attempts. Syndergaard was encouraged by pitching coach, Dan Warthen, to speed up his delivery from here on out in order to stop runners from being able to swipe bases so easily.

“I feel like I was pretty good in the windup as far as mechanically,” Syndergaard said. “I’m still trying to get adjusted to being a little quicker toward home plate. I felt like I finally figured it out. … I felt great mechanically. My arm feels really good. It’s all about getting a little bit more comfortable as well as being quicker to home plate.”

Opposing teams have had big success against Syndergaard this year while stealing bases. Teams are now a combined 29 for 32 against him in his career. Manager, Terry Collins, is not worried about it.

“You guys are reading too much into this,” Collins said. “I mean, you’ve got to get on [base]. It doesn’t matter who is on the mound, when Melvin Upton gets on, he’s going. That’s his game. Weeks, that’s his game. What you try to do is keep those guys off the bases.”

Syndergaard could be seen during the game attempting to hold on runners as best he could. A weakness in his game has seemed to have been exploited and the entire league has caught on quick. It will be interesting to see the adjustments that are made to hold runners at bay, as messing with his mechanics is not something you want to do.

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MMO Game Recap: Cespedes’ Pinch-Hit Homer Sparks Stunning Comeback Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-game-recap-cespedes-pinch-hit-blast-keys-stunning-comeback-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-game-recap-cespedes-pinch-hit-blast-keys-stunning-comeback-win.html/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:04:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210566 bartolo colon

The New York Mets (12-7) defeated the Cincinnati Reds (9-12) in a wild comeback win by a score of 4-3. An incredible game from the Mets, showing a never say die attitude.

Pitching:

Bartolo Colon (1-1, 3.42 ERA) kept his team in the game by limiting the Reds to three runs over five innings of work. Colon was not working with his best stuff on the day and the Reds made him work throughout his start. Colon gave up eight hits while walking one and striking out four.

Logan Verrett (3-0, 0.55 ERA) picked up the win in just another clutch performance from the Mets’ do-everything pitcher. In two scoreless innings of work he allowed two hits, while walking two and striking out one. Addison Reed pitched a scoreless eighth, while striking out two in the process.

Jeurys Familia came in for the save in the ninth and pitched a scoreless inning. He picked up his seventh save of the season.

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Offense:

The Mets offense was dormant over the first six innings of the game, as Brandon Finnegan kept them scoreless. The Mets only were able to muster three hits over the first six innings.

Then came the seventh, and the return of the “Yo Show.”

It started off like most of the rest of the game, innocently, Wilmer Flores led off by striking out. Juan Lagares got it going with a walk and Kevin Plawecki followed suit with a single. Enter Yoenis Cespedes. Not even taking any practice swings, the mighty Yo stepped to the plate and drilled a ball over the fence in left-field, tying the game at three. What a return for Cespedes.

They weren’t done there though. Curtis Granderson hammered a triple to give the zombie known as David Wright a chance to put the team ahead. Wright, resurrected himself for the fifth time this year and did just that. A shot over the head of third baseman, Eugenio Suarez, scored Granderson for the Mets’ eventual winning run.

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Notes:

Today’s win clinched the Mets’ fourth series win in a row. The team has now won five consecutive games and are 9-2 in their last 11 games.

Yoenis Cespedes returned with a bang tonight, and was seen going nuts in the dugout cheering on his team. To see the way the team rallies around him truly shows the impact he has had on this club and raising the spirits of others around him.

On Deck:

The Mets go for their second consecutive sweep as RHP Matt Harvey (1-3, 5.24 ERA) looks to build on his previous start as he looks to get on track. The Dark Knight will be opposed by the Reds’ RHP, Jon Moscot (0-1, 5.06 ERA).

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Morning Grind: NYC Tobacco Ban Will Be Ineffective http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/morning-grind-nyc-tobacco-ban-will-be-ineffective.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/morning-grind-nyc-tobacco-ban-will-be-ineffective.html/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 11:00:35 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208273 05SMOKELESSweb-master675

Whether players like it or not, New York City has enacted a smokeless tobacco ban that will prevent them from using chewing tobacco at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. As we see from the quotes, there are players like Lucas Duda, to whom it’ll have no effect. There are others who do use it. We don’t know what, if any, impact it will have on them.

At this point, no one knows how this will work or how it can be enforced. No one knows how effective it will be. Remember this is the same city that has banned smoking indoors for over a decade, and yet, everyone looks the other way when Yoenis Cespedes sneaks into the clubhouse to have a cigarette. This begs the question of why even bother doing it?  These are grown men. No law is going to stop a player from using chewing tobacco. Most players who feel they need it to perform may do it anyway. So why do it?

The answer might be found in Curt Schilling‘s struggles with cancer as he describes in The Players’ Tribune. Schilling started at 16, and he could never stop. As a result, he faced a life or death struggle with mouth cancer. A fight he won; a fight others have lost.

Tony Gwynn died at the age of 54. He started dipping in rookie ball and couldn’t stop. He woke up, brushed his teeth, and then threw in a dip. He’d have a dip in his mouth the rest of the day. He dipped through every scare. He dipped right up until he had cancer.

These are the reasons for the laws. No one wants to see Curt Schilling go through this. This was a man who was unbeatable in October. He got sutures in his ankle just to pitch in the 2004 ALCS and World Series. During the biggest moments, he’s seemingly invincible. No one is invincible when it’s cancer. So whether we agree with the law or not, to a man, we can all agree that we hope it works. We hope it’ll stop people from starting. We hope it’ll get people to quit.

The problem is it won’t. Smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minor leagues since 1993. Despite this ban, minor leaguers come to the majors and use chewing tobacco. Whatever measures baseball has put in place has not stopped players from using it. So no, banning it will not reach the intended goal. Banning something rarely does.

Banning it hasn’t worked, and it won’t work now. Instead, what we have is an avenue for big leaguers to talk about their use and why preventing them from doing it is a bad thing. So in essence, this law is going to have the direct opposite effect of its intention, at least in the short term. Instead, everyone should be looking for real solutions to solve the problem.

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White Sox Dropped The Ball On LaRoche Situation http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/white-sox-dropped-the-ball-on-laroche-situation.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/white-sox-dropped-the-ball-on-laroche-situation.html/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2016 18:51:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207909 laroche

Being a father while being a big leaguer must be extremely difficult. You are effectively on the road nine months out of the year and often miss the formative years of your own children. That’s why we hear stories about how players like bringing their kids around whenever possible. There are the stories of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds hanging around their Dad’s clubhouses. There was Dusty Baker‘s son acting as the bat boy during the 2002 World Series. Now, we have the story of Adam LaRoche and his son Drake.

LaRoche has historically had his son hang around during Spring Training. His son would get his own locker allowing him to spend precious time with his dad.  With LaRoche’s job as a baseball player, this is making up for lost time. After Spring Training is over, LaRoche is on the road the rest of the year. He goes from city to city. He plays night games and gets home late. This is his best chance to spend quality time with his son. While you normally can’t put a price on that, LaRoche did. He determined this was worth more than $13 million dollars.

Before signing with the White Sox last year, Robin Ventura told LaRoche he would have no problem with Drake hanging around the clubhouse. In fact, Drake had his own locker during the regular season so he could even join his dad during home games. At no time was Adam’s son a distraction.

In fact, here is a quote from White Sox ace Chris Sale on that as told to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

“Drake is honestly one of the best kids I’ve ever met,’’ Sale said. “You can ask anybody, anybody, that’s ever played with Adam. I think that’s another part of the issue. We’re not talking about some guy and his kid. We’re talking about Adam LaRoche. Same thing with Drake.”

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“This kid is wise beyond his years. He’s mature beyond his years. And quite honestly, he was a blast to have around. For lack of a better term, he was our team mascot. He brought just as much energy to this clubhouse as anybody. And it’s a hard pill to swallow for someone outside the clubhouse to tell us what’s going to happen.”

That didn’t prevent the White Sox front office from asking LaRoche to only bring his son around half the amount of time. Instead, LaRoche decided to retire. He would rather retire than spend less time with his son.

The front office decision did not sit well with the players. As Karl Ravech said on Mike & Mike this morning, the White Sox players threatened to boycott yesterday. They were not going to take the field for practice. They were not going to play in Spring Training games. It wasn’t until Robin Ventura interceded that the disgruntled players finally agreed to go out there for practice and play in Spring Training games.

“We were rolling,’’ Sale added. “We had positive energy in here. Nobody saw anything as a distraction until all this happened.

Every take I see is that there’s no bad guy in this situation.  I disagree. When the players show a united front here, it’s the front office that’s the bad guy. We can have an honest debate as to whether children belong in the clubhouse at all. We can have an honest debate as to whether LaRoche’s son was in the clubhouse too frequently. However, the front office made a very poor decision here.

First, the front office caused the retirement of their first baseman. Second, it almost caused a team mutiny. Third, it undermined the manager who is in charge of the clubhouse. There is no scenario in which you can look at this decision and say it was the right decision.

Strange enough, the only good thing that arose from this situation was seeing how well Robin Ventura handled the situation. He kept control of the team and the clubhouse with an angry team on the verge of a boycott. He showed himself to be a strong leader who is respected by his team.  Seeing this, maybe the front office should’ve allowed Ventura to handle this whole situation. They didn’t, and now they are down a first baseman.

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The Chapman Suspension Is a Joke http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/the-chapman-suspension-is-a-joke.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/the-chapman-suspension-is-a-joke.html/#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2016 22:22:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207111 aroldis chapman

All the media and the fans were up in arms when Ray Rice received a two game suspension for knocking out his fiancée and dragging her out of an elevator. That weak suspension was 12.5% of the NFL season.

The same people had similar angry reactions when Greg Hardy only received a four game suspension. Hardy allegedly beat a woman, threw her on a bed of guns, and intervened with her testifying at trial. His suspension was 25% of the NFL season.

Aroldis Chapman is alleged to have choked his girlfriend causing her to flee Chapman’s house scared. After she fled the house, Chapman had to be convinced not to storm out of the house. Instead, he shot his gun off in his garage. After an MLB investigation, it was found Chapman had committed acts sufficient enough to warrant a suspension. He got 30 games or 18.5% of the MLB season.

And with that masterful strike Commissioner Rob Manfred has shown himself to be weaker on the issue of domestic violence than Roger Goodell. Do you know how incompetent and/or clueless you have to be in order for Goodell to look like the commissioner that gets it?

It gets better.  Chapman was rumored to have been able to reduce the suspension by cooperating with investigation. Bonus points. Some clueless people are actually commending MLB for this suspension. It’s an embarassment and a black eye on the sport.

If Chapman did nothing wrong, then he shouldn’t have been suspended. Case closed. However, MLB determined a suspension was warranted, and Chapman agreed not to appeal the suspension. Instead, Chapman is probably laughing.

Thirty games isn’t even a slap on the wrist. It’s hardly a “tsk-tsk” with a disappointing look. Better yet, it does nothing to delay Chapman’s path to free agency. If Chapman has a great year, he’ll certainly make-up the lost $1.7 million because apparently baseball has no problem with domestic violence. We know the Yankees don’t.

And yet somewhere this season, some player is going to test positive for PEDs and receive an 80 game ban.  It’s nice to know in baseball an attempt to make yourself a better player (even if it is cheating) is a far greater sin than choking a woman. Today, I’m embarrassed to be a baseball fan.

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Book Review: “The Closer” by Mariano Rivera http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/book-review-the-closer-by-mariano-rivera.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/book-review-the-closer-by-mariano-rivera.html/#comments Sat, 27 Feb 2016 03:54:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206892 mickey_mantle_JAY_62-846x974

I’m not sure if it occurs in the first, second or third trimester. But some time while we’re in the womb, all Mets fans—actually all New Yorkers who are fans of NL Baseball—receive the gene that makes us hate the Yankees.

However, maybe once every generation, a player dons the pinstripes who we hate…but who we also kinda love.

My grandfather grew up in The Bronx but bled Dodger blue. He hated the Bronx Bombers–Except when it came to Joe DiMaggio. Ya just had to love The Yankee Clipper.

My dad was born in The Bronx and like his father, grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Like his dad, he also bled Dodger blue.

I, too, spent the first several years of my life close to The House That Ruth Built. I fell in love with Baseball in the early 70’s. As I studied the game’s glorious history and read about the three great center fielders who all played in NY during the 1950’s, I asked my father one day, “Dad, was Mickey Mantle better than Duke Snider?” He smirked. “Oh, please. Mickey couldn’t carry the Duke’s jock strap.” (I then asked my dad what a jock strap was.) But I could tell my dad was embellishing. The Duke was his favorite player as a young boy but…Mickey? Well, he was The Mick.

In the late 70s’, I watched the Mets struggling to avoid 100 losses while Reggie Jackson’s legend grew to mythical proportions. I hated Mr. October…but yea, ya kinda had to love the guy.

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DiMaggio, Mickey, Reggie. Then came guys like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Yes, they were Yankees. Yes, they were good. And yes, we hated them. But at the same time, we kinda loved ‘em. We respected their ability.

Anytime we read a biography or autobiography, we hope to learn something about the individual. Get a feel for them. Get a sense that we know them. I recently read “The Closer” by Mariano Rivera, co-authored by Wayne Coffey. Sadly, after 265 pages, I knew nothing more about Mo than when I started. The book was a major letdown.

The first 65 pages or so were powerful, moving, and touching. Extremely personal as Mariano opened his heart and went into great detail. Born in Panama City, Panama, he grew up in Puerto Caimito, a small fishing village. He, his parents and three siblings lived in a 2-room cement house at the end of a dirt road. No electricity. No running water. They used an outhouse.

It’s hard to imagine that Baseball’s All-Time Saves leader and the greatest closer in post-season history, the fella who was always calm, cool and collected on the mound, was a bad kid. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade. His father, an alcoholic, abused him physically and verbally. He was nearly killed twice, once out at sea on his father’s fishing boat and a second time when a classmate chased him with a machete. Mariano Rivera, the guy who recorded 1,173 strikeouts in 1,283 IP, posted a career ERA of 2.21, a 13 time All-Star who holds the post-season record for saves (42) and lowest post-season ERA (0.70) hated math and didn’t have a head for numbers.

He expressed his feelings about being a young prospect in the Yankees system and living in a country where he didn’t speak the native language. The scene in which he described his initial tryout was extremely stirring.

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When he made the Yankees, his life changed. When he made the Yankees, the book changed, too.

Suddenly, by about page 65, the personal touch was gone. The book went from being an autobiography to a biography. It appeared written not by a guy who pitched for the Yankees for 19 years and won 5 championships but rather by an outsider, an observer.

Each chapter was a different season. However, it read not like a first-hand account, but rather like the Wikipedia page for the 1997 Yankees, 1998 Yankees, 1999 Yankees, and so on. Remote and detached.

Each chapter/season read like bullet-points without any emotion:

“We started the season 8-3, then slumped in late April. We had a good May and early June, then hit a rough spot in late June. At the All-Star Break, we were 48-39, 2 games behind Boston. I had 21 saves and a 1.97 ERA. After the break, we went to the west coast and won 5 out of 8. But then we lost 4 of our next 6 against Detroit and Chicago.”

That’s not exact but you get the gist. The post-seasons were written with the same isolated, disconnected style.

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If you’re a Yankees or Mets fan, the 2000 World Series was special. It was the first subway series since 1956. It was the first time many of us experienced that. The city was spirted, energetic and alive. Yet, in “The Closer,” Mariano gave no more pages to defeating the crosstown Mets as he did to defeating the San Diego Padres.

Mariano spent his entire career in The Bronx. For many years he had the same teammates. However, he shares not one personal story, not one anecdote. I found that very peculiar. I wasn’t looking for a tell-all book, no juicy gossip. But he never allowed the reader an inside look at the Yankees on a personal level. He never shared a narrative about going to dinner with Derek Jeter. Maybe something funny Tino Martinez said during batting practice. Perhaps a story about shagging fly balls with Bernie Williams. Nope, nothing. Toward the end of the book, Mariano expresses his sadness when hearing his best friend, Jorge Posada, was retiring. Whoa, what? For 250 pages Mariano made no mention of having anything to do with Posada other than him being his catcher. The reader has no idea they are friends. Did they go to dinner often? Did their wives hang out? Did their kids play together? Who knows? We were never told anything about their friendship until they were going separate ways.

Joe Torre was manager for most of Mariano’s time in the Bronx. Yet, we’re told of only two conversations between them, both very short, both just one page. Longtime pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is mentioned only once. George Steinbrenner, love him or hate him, is arguably the most charismatic, most controversial owner of the last half century. Yet, by reading this book, it seems like the owner and his legendary closer were virtual strangers. We’re told of one brief conversation during the 2000 World Series that lasted three paragraphs. That’s it.

“The Closer” is also, in my opinion, over-the-top in political correctness. Mo pitched from 1995 through 2013, the height of the steroid era. Yet, he never really discussed his thoughts other than basically saying, “Cheating is bad.” He never allows us a sense of what he was feeling, what he was thinking. Mariano glosses over the infamous incident between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza. For the most part he never shares his insight about the time when Don Zimmer charged the mound and was brushed aside by Pedro Martinez.

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What was it like when he passed Trevor Hoffman as All-Time Saves Leader? What did it feel like to walk through the bullpen gate to “Enter Sandman”? What goes through your head when you’re on the mound for the final out after winning a World Series? On the flip side, what did it feel like when Luis Gonzalez came through in Game 7? Perhaps strangest of all was that when Boston became the first team to come back from down 0-3 and shock the Yankees, this historic comeback was completely omitted from “The Closer.”

One final thing—and I’m going to tread lightly here—is the religious aspect of the book. I was unaware of the degree faith played in Mariano’s life. That was eye-opening to me. But, at times, it felt like I was, no pun intended, being preached to.

Approximately every 8-12 pages, the story comes to a halt so Mariano can explain what role his faith played in regards to a particular event: injuries, the cut-fastball, an altercation with an irate fan. Everything that happened in his life is part of a Master Plan. If something good happened to Mariano, he is blessed. If something bad happened, it was the Lord’s way of teaching him a lesson in humility. I applaud the man’s faith, but if you choose to read this, keep that in mind. I found “The Closer” not so much a book about a ballplayer who was very religious, but rather a very religious man who just happened to be a ballplayer.

I’ve read numerous books about Baseball and baseball players. This one, to me, was very weak and disappointing. If you want to read a good book about Baseball, I suggest any of the following:

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Out of my League by Dirk Hayhurst

Doc: A Memoir by Dwight Gooden

Pedro by Pedro Martinez

The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman

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MLB Domestic Violence Policy: Manfred’s Not the One in No-Win Situation http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/mlb-domestic-violence-policy-manfreds-not-the-one-in-no-win-situation.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/mlb-domestic-violence-policy-manfreds-not-the-one-in-no-win-situation.html/#comments Sat, 20 Feb 2016 21:56:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206526 rob manfred

Due to the disturbing actions of a couple of players, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Rob Manfred is in a “no win” position when doling out punishment in these domestic violence cases.

Nonsense.

The only way that Manfred is in a no-win position is if he doesn’t come down hard on Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman. You want to know if he did his job in suspending these players?  He needs to be able to look Joe Torre, Baseball’s Chief Operating Officer, in the eye and explain to him he did the right thing.

For those that are unaware, Torre started the Safe at Home Foundation to help the victims of domestic abuse. It was started out of his experiences with a physically and emotionally abusive father. Torre saw his mother repeatedly beaten by his father. His father was never arrested. No charges were ever brought against him. It would finally end when Torre’s older brother, Frank, was finally able to stand up to his father at the age of 20 and kick him out of the house.

So when I hear about how Chapman’s girlfriend, the mother of his child, didn’t press charges, I scoff. It’s not a defense to his actions which allegedly included pushing her against a wall and choking her. After the alleged attack, she fled the house because she was scared for her life and her daughter. At the same time, Chapman was firing a gun off in his garage.

Of course, she didn’t cooperate with police. Domestic violence victims don’t always cooperate. Some would say they rarely cooperate. Reasons for the lack of cooperation include a fear for their own safety for cooperating with an investigation, wanting to reconcile, and/or the financial pressures that would ensue if there was a separation or conviction.  Don’t believe this is the case?  Look no further than Torre.

Yes, Chapman is innocent until proven guilty. However, that principle only applies in criminal courts, not in the courts of public opinion. More importantly, Major League Baseball is not held to such a standard.  They are not beholden to a victim’s refusal to cooperate. They can and are able to conduct their own investigation and implement their own punishment if warranted.

If there is any proof that Chapman did indeed choke his girlfriend, he should be suspended for the year. Let him appeal the suspension as he says he will. Let an arbitrator be the one to be weak on the domestic violence issue. Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t appear weak, he needs to show some backbone and prove that his new Domestic Violence Policy is legit. That doesn’t mean he’s in a no-win situation, it means he has an important decision to make.

That’s the job.

Unfortunately, he’s got a resource in Joe Torre. I say unfortunately because no one should have to live through what Torre did growing up. Hopefully, after his investigation and all the deliberation and analysis, Commissioner Manfred makes the right decision. He needs to be able to look his Chief Operating Officer in the eye and tell him he came down hard on the players that attack women.

The only person right now in a seemingly no-win position is Chapman’s girlfriend. Manfred has an easy decision to make. He just has to have the courage to do what’s right.

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NYC Ban On Smokeless Tobacco Won’t Help Without Culture Change http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/nyc-ban-on-smokeless-tobacco-wont-help-without-culture-change.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/nyc-ban-on-smokeless-tobacco-wont-help-without-culture-change.html/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:28:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=205744 smokeless-tobacco juan uribe

This is a whole new generation. When I was growing up, we had candy cigarettes (gone) and Big League Chew (still around). While playing baseball, we used to have the candy cigarettes so we could smoke like Keith Hernandez, or we would shove a ton of Big League Chew in our mouths to look like Lenny Dykstra. Dykstra was such a legendary chewer that he was said to have stained the AstroTurf at the old Vet. Juan Uribe has chewed his entire career.

As kids, we used this stuff because we thought it was cool to act like ballplayers. Did we also try the real stuff?  Well, not as kids. It’s s good thing too because it would’ve been like that scene in The Sandlot:

Personally, I never really had any interest. Part of the reason was my parents. Another part was I was a catcher. I’ve seen catchers who have used chewing tobacco, but to me that was a pain. I tried seeds, which is similar in principle, but it annoyed me. So I went without any of it for most of my baseball life.

smokeless_01Then I got older, got big, and was moved out from behind the plate. Part of “rookie” hazing was getting them to throw in a dip and watch the hilarity ensue. It wasn’t pleasant.

In any event, I found myself playing that dreaded DH position more and more, which means you spend a lot of time on the bench. Many of those guys throw one in, so you usually do as well. You practice that finger motion with your index finger so you can pack it better and tighter. One day, it all becomes second nature.

When I was in college, it was great. There were a couple of nights, it helped me get through the all-nighters. Also, there were some bars in the area where if you didn’t throw one in, you were out of place. Honestly, I wasn’t so much addicted to it as I loved doing it.

A good friend of mine and me used to love dipping while watching baseball games. We would not only watch the games, but we would also keep an eye out for who was dipping. You would see the finger going in the dugout. The circle shape in the player’s uniform pants. That ever so slight bump in the bottom lip. If you ever saw it in the top lip, you knew that guy was having real problems. Looking at the Mets now, I can tell you who does and who doesn’t dip. I can do that for any team if I watch them long enough.

Eventually, I quit. It really is a nasty habit. More importantly, it’s dangerous. We saw Tony Gwynn die too young because of it. We saw Curt Schilling battle cancer. As much as I enjoyed it, it really wasn’t worth it.

tony gwynn

The strange part is I never would’ve started had it not been part of baseball’s culture. No sport is as associated with smokeless tobacco than baseball. I thought about all of this when I saw Tim Rohan’s New York Times article about New York City looking to ban smokeless tobacco from being used in places like Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.

There’s a lively debate to be had here about whether this law is a good idea or not. It’s a debate that should occur. However, at the end of the day, I’m more concerned for that two-year old of mine that loves baseball. I realize that NYC can put every law in place they want, but it won’t matter unless baseball players take it seriously.

Heck, the MLB Players Association itself kills any talk of banning tobacco whenever they negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners and commissioner has wanted to ban it for decades.

Mark_DeRosa_tobacco_111336732

New York City already bans smoking, but we hear about Yoenis Cespedes smoking between innings. We see players using smokeless tobacco all over the field. Baseball players will find a work-around. You should hear how they work around smokeless tobacco bans and stigmas in other sports. Overall, players will always find a way to do it.

If that’s the case, it’ll always be associated with baseball, and that’s not a good thing. Baseball needs to help find a reasonable solution to this because what they have done so far isn’t working. They need to figure it out because one day that Big League Chew becomes Skoal or Red Man. That needs to stop before another generation of players starts using it. I don’t want to see another Tony Gwynn.

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