24 May 2011

Inspired Mets respond to owner's knocks by dominating 5th-place Cubs

Yeah, right.

Fred Wilpon sounds a lot like me

I'm a whole day behind on this, which may as well be an eon in internet time, but there's no way I can NOT address Fred Wilpon's quotes in the New Yorker which lit the Metsiverse on fire yesterday:

“We’re snakebitten, baby.”
"He won't get it." [in reference to Jose Reyes getting "Carl Craword money" as a free agent]
"Not a superstar." [in reference to David Wright]
and my personal favorite:
"Shitty team"

I'll let everyone else gasp and wring their hands over those words and the disastrous effect they'll have on the team (as if it's not in a train-wreck state of a affairs as it is), but let me offer you a fresh perspective: the owner, much like myself, has simply had it with this bunch.

It's important to keep in mind the context in which Mr. Wilpon said what he said.  His team was in last place (a position they're still only a game and a half ahead of as I type this this evening), losing to another last-place team, and in the midst of a horrendous start to a season which followed two other horrendous seasons which in turn followed two horrendous endings to otherwise respectable seasons.

Should the owner of a team be saying unflattering things about his players, knowing they could be made public and set off a media circus?  No, of course not.  Did Fred Wilpon honestly give a rat's behind about that at the time he uttered them?  I honestly don't think so.  He sounded like a guy who'd crossed the threshold, a man who'd resigned himself to the fact that his team is broken and is far beyond being fixed with a minor tweak or three.

Not that he gives two whits what I think, but while I don't condone Wilpon's lack of discretion, I respect his honesty about the situation.  He may be a fan, but he's not some doofus on a message board pretending a team with a below-average rotation and sitting 2 games under .500 at the end of May is somehow going to find itself in a playoff race just because its leadoff hitter is a fantasy baseball god and has a big smile.  And since Wilpon's the guy in the best position to do something about it (well, for now, anyway...), that's a good thing.

The vibe I get from that part of the New Yorker story is that Wilpon has similar feelings toward his baseball team as I do toward my lawn.  I water it.  I mow it.  I pay about $40 a month every few weeks for someone to come treat it with various fertilizers, insecticides and whatnot.  I do everything I'm supposed to from March through May, but by the middle of June, there are nonetheless bare spots and thin spots, and  it's overrun by that damned torpedo grass anyway.  It's frustrating.  Wilpon?  He's spent the money, hired execs who were supposed to be brilliant, built his team a snazzy new home, and given them a TV network.  Yet, he ends up with this, this, this, this and this.

Every Fall, I invariably accept that my only hope of my grass ever looking as good as I want it to is going to be to eventually kill it off, re-sod it, and start over. 

It sounds like Fred's reaching for the RoundUp, and I can't say I blame him.

15 May 2011

Identifing the problem prior to fixing it (Part One)

This little item over at MetsBlog this morning caught my attention.  It's kind of a "Well, duh..." type thing, but nonetheless it's sometimes good to see things in black-and-white and leave no doubt (kinda like the standings, no?).  The last-place Mets starting pitching so far has not unsurprisingly been below the mean.  Realistically, no one expected brilliance, but it's currently even falling short of passable.  The last-place Mets starting staff is 11th of 16 in the NL in innings pitched, 14th out of 16 in ERA, and 12th of 16 in wins.  Whether you want to call that expected, a little disappointing, or a lot disappointing, there's no way that gets you into the playoffs regardless.

Now let's take this a step further.  How are the last-place Mets doing on the other side of the coin, offense?  Here, the story is more encouraging, to the tune of 9th in average, 7th in home runs, 5th in on-base percentage, 6th in OPS, and the bottom line: 6th in runs scored.

Man, if only we had an everyday player we could trade for some arms, right?

I know what you're thinking...."You can't do that, because without [insert Golden Boy of Choice here], those hitting stats wouldn't be near what they are.  Au contraire, mon frere.  Just for the sake of not spending all day on this, I'll look at Jose Reyes first and come back and examine Wright's numbers later.

If we remove Jose Reyes from the equation as of Sunday morning (i.e., just eliminate his at-bats altogether from the team totals and don't even attempt to account for a replacement), some fascinating things happen.  (Fair warning: What you're about to read may proverbially shake the hell out of your snow globe.)

The "counting" stats (home runs and runs scored) are difficult to compare in this exercise because, if you subtract, say, Reyes' HRs or runs scored from the last-place Mets' totals, how many do you take away from the other teams' to keep the comparison relative?  I'm sure there's an answer, but I'm not going to spend all morning trying to figure out the equation.  Instead, I'll just rely on direct comparison for these, i.e. "how is our guy doing vs. the other team's guys?"

Regarding home runs, it's pretty irrelevant.  Reyes only has one, and that's not really his job anyway.  If your leadoff man jacks one out every now and then, great, because he is going to be in RBI situations during the course of a game, but still, it's not in his job description, so who cares?

In the matter of runs scored, Reyes is currently tied for 13th in the NL.  As there are 16 teams in the league and each of them only has one lead-off hitter any given night, that's not spectacular.  Sure, the argument is always that it's only Reyes' job to get on base and its up to everyone else to knock him in, but 1) see the OBP numbers I'm about to unleash, and 2) even playing devil's advocate, the rest of the team can not drive in one player just as well as they can not drive in another.  If the REAL problem is the heart of the order, what difference does it even make how good your leadoff hitter is?

The "averaging" stats are more easily compared.  You can subtract an individual's totals from the teams and still do the division, which then fairly compares to every other teams' averages.

In our hypothetical world without a Jose Reyes, the last-place Mets' batting average drops from .244 to .233 or from 9th to 15th.  Granted, we don't know what other teams' BAs would look like if you removed THEIR leadoff hitters, but I'm not going there.  Suffice it to say the last-place Mets team batting average suffers by 11 points in Reyes' absence.

It gets even more interesting as you carry the exercise out.  Turns out the last-place Mets OBP actually goes up to 2nd in the National League from its current .323 to .353 in a World Without Reyes (the team currently has 321 hits and 150 walks in 1316 ABs and Reyes accounts for 54 hits and 13 walks in 170 ABs; do the math yourself if you don't trust me).  Also, the team OPS bumps from its current .717 to .722, up a spot and tied for 5th (the last-place Mets have 518 total bases, 95 of which belong to Reyes).

None of those are enormous differences, but that in itself is the point when making an objective assessment.  I don't even much care if the BA, OBP, and OPS without Reyes went up or down, the lack of any earth-shattering change either way is what's important.  Under current conditions, there's not much difference in the last-place Mets offense with or without "The Most Exciting Player in Baseball/Most Dynamic Leadoff Hitter Since Rickey/etc. etc."  To assume there will be one and for that reason subsequently not make a trade that would upgrade the pitching--which is a bigger team-wide concern--would be foolish.

10 May 2011

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?

The one last-place Mets* player who can get an RBI (well, besides, the pitcher) had to leave the game tonight because supposedly major league infielders can't catch a fly ball between the plate and the mound without injuring one another.

Again, I'm flummoxed as to how this is possibly going to get worse if certain people are traded.

P.S. The black getup is at its absolute ugliest in the daylight with road pants.

*As a reminder to everyone who insists on pretending this team is better than it is,  it will henceforth be referred to as the "last-place Mets" for as long as they retain the position.  This message brought to you as a public service by ThirdCoastMetsFan.

04 May 2011

Did Terry Collins almost say "balls?"

In tonight's post-game news conference, someone asked Terry Collins if his team's lack of offensive production was more frustrating because there were times early in the game where the Mets had a chance to get some runs across.  Here is Terry's answer, as transcribed by me via DVR review:

[COCKS HEAD, GRIMACES, STROKES CHIN] Well, I think the stat, someone just said, is we're 2-for-29 or 2-for-something with runners in scoring position.  Not just tonight, I mean, that's exactly why we're sitting where we are.  Last night, night before, night before that.  You know, we had Doc on the ropes a couple of times, couldn't get a run in.  I mean, it's just...we've got, we've GOT to bear down.  We've got to have some [sudden, awkward pause].  And again, [throws up hands] you know, I'm the manager. I've got to get 'em better prepared in those big situations.

C'mon, Terry.  Say it.  Somebody has to.

UPDATE: Now with video!

I actually muted Gary, Keith, and Ron

I had to.  About 2 innings into my turning on the game, the topic in the booth turned to the possible trade of Jose Reyes.  Fair enough, but it very quickly devolved into a discussion of "Who can you get to replace what he does?" which of course is not a new question among Mets fandom, and one to which I honestly cannot bear being subjected to anymore.

Let me preface this by again saying I like Reyes.  He's a tremendous talent.  But what everybody--included the three wise men in the booth--keeps missing is that it's not a question of replacing Reyes and what he does.  Clearly, that's a tall if not impossible order.  What you do in that case is get other players who do--wait for it--other, different things that contribute to winning baseball games.

I feel like a jerk for continuing to say this, but it needs to be said: "what Reyes brings" has won this franchise very little.   The Phillies don't have anything close to What Reyes Brings, and they've won the damned division 4 years running.  The Giants barely had an offense at all, much less What Reyes Brings, and they're standing on the Citi Field turf as I type this with a freakin' "World Champions" patch on their sleeves.

I'm sorry, but there's no trophy for having the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the league.  I honestly can't recall a team in my lifetime that's even attempted to build a lineup around a leadoff man.  It's entirely possible for a team to win without What Reyes Brings, and that keeps getting proven over and over.  Hell, the Mets are sitting in last place WITH What Reyes Brings.  How valuable can it possibly be in the grand scheme of things?

02 May 2011

Uniform talk for an off day: How about you meet us halfway, Mets?

In another hit to the Ditch the Black movement, the Mets discovered last night that the overwhelming power of the lucky black jerseys can generate a 2 runs in 14 innings, so I guess we'll be seeing more of them.

Anyway, the past week or so got me thinking about the road set, the dreaded black, and how maybe--just maybe--the Mets could find a happy medium.  I propose this, which I'm pretty sure is a look we've never seen since the black sleeves and socks came to be prior to the adoption of the two-tone as a road cap:
Dave Howard and the merchandise people get to keep their black road hat (which everyone seems to agree is worst of the overabundant three, but that's a different issue entirely), but us old farts get to see the team wearing primarily its, well, PRIMARY color, which I'd like to remind everyone is theoretically still blue.

Wearing a dark cap with road greys while not tinkering with your sleeves and socks isn't unheard of.  The Red Sox have done it.  The Cardinals do it and have for a long time.  Yeah, I know...the Sox and Cards both wear darker belts in that situation, but when I Photoshopped (well, "freeware Photoshop Knockoffed" if we're being honest) the Mets uni that way, it just didn't look very good.  I'd certainly be willing to concede the belt, though, in exchange for the socks and sleeves.

C'mon, Mets.  If you won't get rid of the black, at least meet us in the middle.  This is just one of the many, many, MANY ways to do this better than you're doing it now.