Give Me Factual Arguments, Not Boasts About Being Right

With over a month left of baseball it feels like a lot of people have already made up their minds about what the Mets should do.  Not only with the rest of the season and who gets playing time, but what they should do in the offseason and who should be the front runners for spots in 2013.  There is a lot of time to worry about the offseason, and the remaining games will still tell a lot about the Mets.  If we’re going to get a real sense of what’s going on this offseason, it’s important to pay attention to these next 39 games in addition to the ones we’ve already seen.

 

It’s so easy to jump the gun in today’s society of instant-reaction.  We’re in such a rush to be first to a topic, or to be correct in analysis, that we often run roughshod over facts and data to shout to the world that we told it so.   The Mets record sinks, or rises, to what we thought it would be and we’re quick to point out that it’s what we expected.  We’re silent two weeks ago when Andres Torres was hitting the ball and had a league average OPS+, but now riding a pretty bad slump we’re quick to call for Sandy Alderson to non-tender him in the offseason, despite the possibility that he could hit .350 the rest of the season and have very respectable numbers.

 

This week’s storyline is that the Mets have quit playing hard, even though there are still 39 games left.  They could go a rather pedestrian 21-18 and still finish better than last year.   The Mets fundamentals have been sloppy all season.  They’ve failed to advance on the bases, they’ve made bad throwing decisions, taken bad at-bats, and let balls fall in front of them that they got a bad jump on.  Simply put, they’re not real good in the field.  Them continuing to do these things is not indicative of effort but of talent.   On top of that, the other teams have learned that the Mets won’t throw them out at home.   That know they can expect the balls to drop in and be ready to take the extra base.  The scouting reports suggest that Josh Thole is not going to nab them at second if they get a good jump.  In the second half of the season teams take advantages of the weaknesses they saw in other teams in the first half while trying to patch their own.  The Mets failure to do this was a reflection of the talent level, roster depth, and injury, not one of how much they respect their manager.  Despite being four games over .500 on July 29th last year, the Mets fell to eight games under on August 23rd in less than a month and still played .500 baseball from that point forward.

 

The problem here is that the current state of the Mets is how they’re going to be perceived until the 2013 season starts.   Excepting the true die-hards most fans (and the media that’s going to be writing season recaps stories and season preview stories next year) will be refocusing some or all of their attention to other things.  There are plenty of pennant races going on elsewhere, the traditional television schedule starts up soon with new shows, the NFL starts it’s schedule pretty soon and kids go back to school and life moves on, leaving the Mets to play out the string with very little true analysis of what’s going on.  Even if the Mets win 22 of their last 39 games, they’ll be remembered as having gone into a tailspin in the second half.  Ike Davis, who’s had a good second half, could get his on base percentage over .300 and that’ll be quite an accomplishment, but his season will be remembered for the horrible start and when people look at his overall stat line, it won’t reflect the hard work he’s put in.  When everyone else around him was struggling to make second half adjustments, Davis did and the results are there if you look for them.

 

There is no prize for predicting how events were going to turn out in sports or how individual players would perform.  More important is thinking about why things turned out that way, what could have been done to fix it, and what are some of the ideas to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  “I told you Jason Bay sucked” is not analysis, and following it up with “Andres Torres sucks too, non-tender him” does not carry more weight because you were right about Jason Bay.

 

Here’s a piece of advice going forward:  Try making a coherent argument against what you believe.  If you think Ruben Tejada is a solid contributor for 2013, look up his baseball-reference page and try to come up with an argument for why the Mets should look elsewhere for a shortstop.   Then read your argument and see if it sounds believable.  If it doesn’t you probably aren’t making a thorough enough argument, because in baseball it’s pretty easy to make a case for the success or failure of most players.  It’s a game of percentages and probabilities.  Even perennial All-Stars have negative things to look at and pitfalls to worry about, but the chances that the things in the positive column happen are way more likely than the negative.  With other players the chances are smaller.   Ruben Tejada’s batting average on balls in play is pretty high, he’s walking less than less year and striking out more.  Those are all notable things and the chances are high that that some of his hits he’s been getting will stop finding holes and become outs.  That argument is, probably, out-weighed by the high line drive percentage and the increase in doubles.  It’s easy to look at both pieces of information and conclude that you think the chances are better that he’ll continue seeing the ball well and hit it hard for more doubles, but without the context of the batting average on balls in play and walk rate, it’s hard to guess what will happen the next time Tejada has a little slump.

 

With so much information and so many stats out there, it can be pretty easy to find something that supports your preconceived notion of what you think of a certain player or team.  It’s important to stop worrying about trying to prove what you think and try to get a truer sense of what’s actually going on.  Because nothing’s more believable than a well-reasoned factual argument.

The Re-Sign Ronny Cedeno Campaign

Everyone knows about Kelly Shoppach and Scott Hairston and how they both could help the Mets next year if they’re re-signed, but Ronny Cedeno is not getting enough love.

 

Ronny Cedeno is the backup middle infielder and has gotten 140 plate appearances this season.  He’d probably have more if he hadn’t had a brief DL stint.  He’s got an .822 OPS with a .367 OBP.   Of Mets with 100 at-bats, he’s 3rd in OBP behind David Wright and Mike Baxter, and Scott Hairston overtakes him in OPS due to his awesome slugging.   Ignoring the obvious problem of having three part time players out-performing most of the regulars, Ronny Cedeno would be a really useful player for the Mets next year.

 

He’ll only be 30 next year and plays the middle infield positions pretty well.  He hits right-handed which is useful for the Mets if they continue to have a pretty lefty-heavy team.   He’s not really a stolen base guy (hasn’t attempted one all year) but he’s not slow.  He’s not really a power guy, but you can live with that from the backup in the middle infield, and he does have three in limited time this season.

 

Certainly he’s having a career year, and it’s been so few at-bats that it’s hard to rule out it being anything but luck, but he has increased his walk rate by over 4% to a very good 10.7% and raised his extra base hit percentage.  This seems to reflect the not swinging at bad pitches and waiting for ‘your pitch’ that has been Dave Hudgen’s philosophy.  His swing percentages are down, also suggesting he’s laying off balls and unhittable pitches.   So perhaps he really has learned something in New York, even if his .455 slugging percentage is probably unrealistic.

 

Given the option of believing Cedeno has made progress at the plate versus looking for another guy to fill that role that we hope can contribute, I’d definitely like to keep Ronny here next year.

Release Jason Bay! Unless…

There are very very few people that think Jason Bay should be in the plans for the 2013 Mets.  I’m not even convinced Jason Bay thinks it.   On the other hand, the Mets need outfielders and Jason Bay technically qualifies as such.

 

He hit a home run last night which I believe brings his SLG up to .297.  Luis Castillo is a better slugger than that.  I truly believe the concussions may have had a huge effect on Jason Bay and that he’s still not right.  There’s so much we don’t know about concussions and the things you need to do to be a successful baseball player require a level of focus and reaction time that is based in the brain.  Reasons and excuses aside, the question remains as to whether Jason Bay has any chance at returning to being a capable major league outfielder, and if he can do so by early 2013 for the next time the Mets expect to play games that matter.

 

The time remaining in this season is not substantial, but it’s just enough to plant the seed of hope.  So I ask you, what can Jason Bay do in the remaining games on the schedule to make you believe their is a chance he can contribute next year.   I’m not asking for you to be convinced the Mets should keep him around, just what it would take for you to think “Maybe he can be a Scott Hairston next year..” and believe it.  10 home runs?  20?  An OPS of .900 the rest of the way?  Watching him consistently identify and crush bad pitches?

 

Remember that the Mets currently have pretty much none of their outfield spots set in stone for 2013, so the floor to make this team is theoretically pretty low.  Is it Jason Bay low?  Answer in the comments or tweet @ceetar.

The Bridge Between Hope and Elimination

There are often two extremes to any situation.  One side will tell you the Mets playoff hopes are over, while the other might say they live on until the Mets are mathematically eliminated or at least further than 7 out with 17 to play.   Right now we’re bridging the gap between the two in a murky cloud where the Mets try to grasp at the last tendrils of hope before they flutter away.

 

53 games to play is a lot of games left in front of the Mets on the season.  With that many games left the Mets are still chasing a number of wins more than a Wild Card leading team.  After all, the team that’s leading today might not be the team that wins, meaning you’re not quite as far behind as it looks.  It wouldn’t even take a collapse to drop the number needed to qualify for the postseason to 88 wins, just a less than awesome second half by a couple of teams.  Currently the team occupying the low end of the playoff spectrum in the National League is the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 93 win pace, followed by the Cardinals with an 89 win pace.  There isn’t enough hope to bet on, but perhaps there is just enough to fill a dream.

 

The Pirates have not had a winning record since 1992, as pretty much everyone is aware of these days.  The Pirates have long been held up as the example of the team you’re supposed to beat on the schedule.  The Pirates have not won a postseason series since 1979, which was before I was born.  Is it impossible that a Pirates team that won less games than the Mets last year falters a little in the second half? Andrew McCutchen may be the best player in baseball this year, but can he sustain this incredible pace all the way to the end and if he doesn’t can the Pirates  compensate for the drop in offense?  Look at the Mets since David Wright stopped batting .350.

 

It’s worth taking a moment out from my point here to suggest you take the opportunity to watch McCutchen if you have a chance.  He’s having an amazing year.

 

Even if 88 wins is the mark the Mets need to get to, they’d need to play to a 35-18 record the rest of the way.   That’s quite a record, but it’s not an insurmountable one.  It would require some very good baseball, quality baseball that the Mets have no sustained for that length of time all year, but it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world if it happened.  The schedule works in their favor too, as they’ll be able to affect the wins and losses of some of the teams they’re chasing, including the Braves, Pirates, and Cardinals.

 

Time however, is not on the Mets side.  If they’re going to make a run it has to be now.  The last remnants of hope lurking in the recesses of the Mets season will be cleaned out and packed away for next year of the Mets don’t start a serious winning streak over the next week or two.   Winning road trips or home stands are no longer enough.  They need to win series and mix in a sweep or two.  Until then, the Mets exist in this murky state where you know they can get back into the hunt but you can’t quite see the path they’d have to take to get there.

This Is When Everyone Tunes Out

Obviously the die-hards don’t tune out, but starting tomorrow most of the casual fans of the Mets will.

 

It’s a week worth of night games and one 3:15 start.   Even if 10:15 wasn’t already too late for most people to tune in to a belly-flopping Mets team, the Olympic games are on this week and provide an alternative form of entertainment…even on tape delay.  Even for more serious fans, if you’ve got a partner that isn’t a baseball fan and wants to watch the Olympics, this team isn’t exactly providing you a reason to say “but but but the Mets are on!” beyond the simple fact that watching something other than Mets baseball seems somewhat alien.

 

By the time this west coast stretch is over and the Olympics finish many fans will be drawn to the over-hyped football stories coming across in the mainstream media and will choose to root for the hope presented in teams that haven’t yet started their season over watching the Mets finish out the schedule.  In addition, the ‘regular season’ of television shows will resume soon, drawing more eyes away from the Mets.

 

This will undo much of the good work the Mets have done in terms of fan interest the last couple of months.  Just like in 2011, the fade down the stretch will lead to more disastrous predictions during the offseason and no belief in 2013.   The fans will question the amount of money the Mets have to spend, every decision will be criticized and questioned, and the Mets will again be picked for last.  Personally I think the Mets have made very good strides this season and are a lot closer than everyone thinks, but that won’t be readily apparent the way things are going.  Additionally, the lack of interest does lead to less attendance and less revenue, which means a smaller budget for 2013.

 

The Mets aren’t quite eliminated yet, it’s still pretty early in that regard, but barring something radical to capture attention, like winning 14 of 16, the Mets will soon fade into the background.

Bobby Valentine At Citi Field?

Many Mets fans wanted Bobby Valentine hired to manage the Mets again at Citi Field.  Well, there is still a chance he could manage here; The Boston Red Sox just need to make it to the World Series this year and he’ll be in the dugout managing the American League Club at next year’s All-Star Game.

 

It requires rooting for the Red Sox of course, which isn’t something I’ve ever had trouble doing.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend after all.

 

The perfect scenario is Valentine manages the All-Star Game as the losing manager from this year’s World Series, and that Terry Collins manages the other team.  An interesting twist would be if somehow the Nationals make the World Series and we get a Valentine vs. Davey Johnson matchup at Citi Field.

Why The All-Star Game (at Citi Field) Will Be Awesome

I know it’s popular to knock the All-Star Game and it all represents, but the truth of it is that it’s basically a party to celebrate baseball, and who doesn’t love baseball?  And like most parties, it’s much much better in person.

 

I was there for the 2006 All-Star Game and had an absolute blast in Pittsburgh despite driving back after the game to New York and going to work Wednesday morning.   Click the link to read my take on the experience, including the Home Run Derby.  It was really a lot of fun, and I’m truly looking forward to getting to experience it at home.

 

So expect a lot of thoughts and reactions about the game, particularly as the more exciting details come out about All-Star Villages, first pitches, and potential celebrations.   Now a note to the 2012 Mets: Get to the World Series so Terry Collins can manage and the proper (too many) amount of Mets get represented in the game.

Stop With The Rebuilding Year Excuse

Playing the Mets MarketA quote by Terry Collins “I don’t want these guys ever to come in that clubhouse where they’re not expected to win the game,” conflicts with what many fans feel; That the Mets aren’t expected to do anything this year.

 

The thing is, they ARE expected to do stuff this year.  Win games, play hard and play baseball.  No professional organization goes into a season, particularly the staff in the clubhouse, with the attitude that it’s a throwaway year.  Terry Collins expects the Mets to win.  David Wright expects the Mets to win.  Maybe they have their reservations about the likelihood of them finishing first when all the chips fall, but until they do they’ll be trying their hardest and doing their best.  They certainly don’t believe it’s a done deal that they can’t win anything.

 

This is the best quality of Terry Collins in that he doesn’t let anyone play the woe is me card.  He demands effort and hard work from his players and I think that leads to a good clubhouse and a positive atmosphere.  He’s not making excuses and not making decisions with anything but how to win as many games as possible in mind.

 

Since the Mets don’t do this, it’s silly for fans to suggest they should.   No one should bring Harvey up immediately after he’s had two good minor league starts in April just to see how he looks in the majors.  They shouldn’t shut guys down for the first hang nail or muscle twinge because it’s a rebuilding year and it’s better to be safe than sorry.  They shouldn’t just let Andres Torres play out the string to keep Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ arbitration clock from starting if he’s the best option for the Mets.  Sandy Alderson is not making moves solely with the hope that his acquisition will lead to a greater return on investment when he trades him in July.  That’s not to say he’s not cognizant of the option, particularly for guys like Frank Francisco, but to think that was his main motivation in signing him is misreading the situation completely.  There’s a big difference in building a flexible roster that gives him lots of options and playing the MLB free agent market like it’s Wall Street.  The Mets roster is not actually a NASDAQ ticker.

 

This does not excuse failure either.  It’ll be easy to dismiss the Mets after a game they lose with the comment, “They aren’t good anyway”, but there is no reason to ever excuse failure.  Terry Collins certainly isn’t going to accept that as an excuse for a poor stretch of games, so why should we?  To view the entire season as some sort of strategic set-up for 2013 and 2014 takes all the actual joy of watching baseball and gives it the importance of a Spring Training game.  There is a reason why the awards aren’t given on paper before the season after all; no one really knows what’s going to happen.   Rather than prematurely write off 2012 and analyze everything and everyone based on their value in 2013 and beyond, watch the games and enjoy the ride.   If ultimately the ride doesn’t take you to the heights you want by the time it ends, you’ll still be able to get on again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that..

Pondering The Delay in the 2013 All-Star Game Announcement

This post is dedicated to the memory of Gary Carter, a true Mets All-Star.

Wright touches home after homering in the 2006 All-Star GameMets Police has been pondering why there has been no official announcement of where the 2013 MLB All-Star Game will be played.  Unofficially it’s going to be at Citi Field, but that news is been pending for a long time now, and it’s past the time we usually have these things announced.

 

I had speculated that it was related to first Bud Selig’s pending renewal of his term as commissioner, and then not wanting to announce things during the Giants Super Bowl run.  Now it’s almost Spring Training and we’ve heard nothing.

 

But something else is happening in 2013: interleague play and realignment.   This will probably add more interleague games, and all year long.  Perhaps Major League Baseball is considering changing the All-Star Game from an AL versus NL to something akin to the NHL with captains picking teams.  Or perhaps they’ll go with something they did for the Home Run Derby a couple of years ago; teams based on country of origin.  Coincidentally 2013 will also be the third edition of the World Baseball Classic, so the game will already be in an international mode.

 

I have no idea why something like that would need to delay the announcement though.  Maybe they just want to have more details about it when they do eventually let us know.