Mets Are Winning In Spite Of Their Acquisitions

photo by CeetarThe Mets acquired Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, and Yoenis Cespedes to help a struggling offense, and shortly after they started winning more games and scoring more runs. However, this was largely in part to players the Mets already had as the new guys haven’t really been pulling their weight.


Including Michael Conforto, the new guys have hit .198/.260/.333 going into yesterday’s game. That’s a 64 wRC+, significantly below average. During that time Lucas Duda has hit nine home runs and has a wRC+ of 234. He’s the main reason the Mets are where they are. Other players have contributed too, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy particularly. The Mets were always due to hit better than they were leading into the trades, dealing with some hard luck and some injuries. That they’re doing so now is not surprising.


This isn’t to rag on the new guys. The new guys are very good baseball players who won’t stay down long. THAT is the biggest thing about the trades in that it gives the Mets flexibility and eliminates holes in the lineup and allows everyone to find a way to contribute. It’s not that the Mets got some solid players, it’s that they stopped giving plate appearances to guys that weren’t hitting. John Mayberry Jr and Eric Campbell are gone, and Collins is picking his spots for Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores, the two guys who were making the most outs on the team. If someone starts to hit more, they’ll get to play more.


Things look to get better offensively–maybe much better. Cespedes, Uribe, and Johnson will definitely hit more. Michael Cuddyer so far looks much better, and if he can stay away from that knee pain, there’s little doubt that he’ll continue to contribute.


The biggest thing of all, the one that makes me most giddy, is the potential return of David Wright. Nobody added a better hitter than Wright at the trading deadline. Adding in a legitimate top hitter in baseball to a lineup like the Mets is going to make it scary. Even if Wright has to take a chunk of days off to ease back into not playing baseball for months. Even if he’s not vintage Wright. He knows how to play baseball. I can’t help but bet on David. I can’t help but look forward to him returning.

Are Yesterday’s Strikeouts Tomorrow’s Home Runs?

photo by CeetarIt’s not about how incompetent the hitting has been for the Mets so far this season, it’s about how competent, and healthy, it will be the rest of the season going forward. Health is a major factor, and a tricky one. It’s the hardest to predict and the biggest problem when it fails.


Juan Lagares has been, or had been, playing hurt for a swatch of this season. David Wright has barely played. Travis d’Arnaud missed a ton of time and now is hurt again. Daniel Murphy has missed time. Michael Cuddyer seems like he might be hiding an injury. These things hurt, no matter the depth you do or don’t have.


It’s hurt the Mets ability to win. Despite some great pitching, they do not score enough runs on a regular basis to win enough games to be truly competitive. You could point fingers to just about everyone except maybe Lucas Duda, and even he’s had a slump here and there. The ability of the Mets to return and stay healthy is going to be a big key of the second half.


Additionally some roster adjustment both on the prospect front and the trade front can go a long way. The Mets could use another bat, particularly one that could play SS or 3B. Admittedly, there aren’t a ton of options in this area. The Mets pretty much have the outfield locked down, at least as much as you’re not going to sit Cuddyer, Granderson, or Lagares enough to make it worthwhile to acquire a fourth regular. Wilmer Flores is driving the ball when he does hit it, but he doesn’t hit it enough to compensate for his poor defense or on base percentage. With Tejada and Murphy and the almost ready Herrera, the Mets can sorta make due at third base until David Wright returns, but it might be wise to acquire a solid upgrade there and worry about where to play him if everyone’s healthy later.


Guys like Herrera are interesting too. Can he take the next step forward and be of value in the majors? Can Darrell Ceciliani have a roll as a bench player and frequent outfield sub? What about Matt Reynolds down in the minors? The Mets have some offensive help on the horizon, both immediately and a little further away. Perhaps it’s not quite time to panic and reach out to the greener grass players on the other side of the fence. After all, that grass could be Astroturf.


The most difficult question facing Sandy Alderson is the existing roster. While it’s unfair to pinpoint a moment in time, particularly one during a slump, to judge a player on, various Mets hitters have not been great this season to this particular point. Michael Cuddyer is having a rough go of it right now, and Curtis Granderson has been merely an average right fielder. However, the question isn’t “Who’s been disappointing so far?” it’s “Who’s going to help out the rest of the way?” and the answer to the first question isn’t really a prediction of the second. Betting on Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, or Michael Cuddyer over counterparts is probably the safest bet, but it’s not a guarantee either. This is where Alderson needs to juggle the roster of who’s going to help, who can be moved for external help, and which guys are best to play where. Sometimes the smartest move you can make is to trust a guy you already have, but Alderson’s already been criticized for being too complacent. That doesn’t mean trading because you’ve been criticized is the right move either–there are shades of gray everywhere.


The Mets are in a difficult spot. Will they ever hit again? Should they explore a trade and at what cost, or should they promote more minor leaguers? Perhaps holding steady and making sure guys come back healthy is the best course. Whatever happens, you can be sure we’re in for a bumpy ride.


Matt Harvey’s Record Is Actually Very Good

photo  by CeetarPitcher wins mean next to nothing. They’re a factor of the offense, defense, the opposing pitcher and often times the bullpen. The best way to accumulate wins as a pitcher is to play on a team that scores a billion runs.  That team is not the Mets.


The Mets are 13-12 in Matt Harvey starts. He has nine wins and four losses, which is actually a pretty good percentage. The Mets are then four and eight after he leaves the game, suggesting that they are a team with a really good player and aren’t as good when he leaves the game. Additionally, they’ve been playing without their best hitter and best reliever for a couple of weeks now, the guys they’d need most in those post-Harvey innings. The Mets don’t score runs, and when they do they often do it in bunches. That is why they don’t win more Matt Harvey games. The less runs you score as a team, the less likely those runs are going to be scored for your ace.  This is especially true when you’re trying to build a cushion of runs to preserve a lead with the bullpen pitching at least two innings for even the best of starters in the league, of which Matt Harvey is one.


The Mets won 52% of Matt Harvey’s starts so far this year and 44.3% of their games otherwise.  Over 162 games that means they’d win 84 games if Harvey started everyday, and just 72 if he wasn’t on the team. That’s quite a difference, in fact it’s 17% better. Just for a reference point 17% better than a .500 team would get you to nearly 95 wins.


Of course, there’s a lot of randomness and luck in there because the Mets score runs independent of who they’re starting, so running into a lot of weak starters on one day, or a hitter happening to have a great day another can greatly skew these results, which is why a pitcher’s record mean so little. If Daniel Murphy gets hot and goes four for five with two home runs one day, that has nothing to do with how well Matt Harvey is pitching. There is no rhyme or reason to which batters happen to hit well on a given day, and it’s just luck if it happens on one pitcher’s starting day more than another’s. It’s safe to say the Mets aren’t quite wasting Matt Harvey starts, because he is making them much better. He’s helping them win games they’d have no business winning otherwise given how many runs they scored. In some ways, if they scored six or seven runs on a day Harvey started that could more be considered wasting his start, because they’d rarely need so many to cover what he gives up to the opposing team.



You know they’re not THIS bad right?

Mumbling the old adage “You’re never as good as you look when you’re winning, you’re never as bad as you look when you’re losing” to yourself while remember how the Mets have played over the last couple of weeks is small comfort, as true as it is. I promise you, they WILL score a boatload of runs again, they will start hammering the ball like they did early in the season and they will string good pitching performances into a winning streak.


No, really. They WILL score double digit runs again. Ike Davis WILL have a multi-hit game. Maybe the 11th outfielder is the charm. Lucas Duda WILL hit a home run with people actually on base.


It’s not that the Mets are a collection of bad players, because they’re not. If the Mets were to be disbanded tomorrow, most of the roster would find jobs in the majors on other teams. The problem is they don’t have enough talent across the board to balance out random bad luck and the ups and downs that all players experience. When you have a great player, a couple of good ones, and some decent ones you can win plenty of games..when most things go right. Most things don’t usually go right in baseball all at the same time, and when they don’t the team loses too many games to make up for when things are going good. A couple of players drift over the line from decent to bad for a week or two and the other mediocre players aren’t good enough to make up the deficit.


That’s where the Mets are now. Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada have been slumping fiercely, Ike Davis is mired in a ridiculous bad slump and while Duda’s managing to limit the outs he makes by walking a lot he’s not hitting much lately either.  There’s only so much David Wright can do with that. Davis will eventually get hot, or someone else will, and the Mets will start scoring runs again. Perhaps they’ll have found another outfielder besides Duda and Baxter that can at least approximate positive value, or Travis d’Arnaud will be ready for the majors and the team will improve. The Mets considered signing Michael Bourn, and while many of us weren’t thrilled with the idea, there’s no doubt that another good hitter would have done wonders for this offense.


So that’s what we have in front of us; watching a struggling team flounder on offense. It’s not fun, not at all. It’s a long season though, and they will be watchable again. It could happen as soon as tonight or take another week, but they WILL draw us back in.

The Best Offense In The NL East

The Mostly Mets Podcast discussed offense in the National League East in episode 33.   The Mets scored the most runs in the division last year, and Toby, Patrick and Ted agreed that they’d probably lead again this year, although the Marlins have gotten real close.


Speaking in terms of runs scored the Mets scored 718, the Phillies 713, NL Average was 668, Braves had 641, Florida 625, and the Nationals 624.   The Phillies offense is heavily influenced by the park they play in, and without Ryan Howard indefinitely plus another year of age for Rollins and Utley it doesn’t seem like the Phillies will score as many in 2012.  Can the addition (And subtraction) of Jose Reyes account for 92 runs of difference between the two teams?   The Marlins offense is heavily lopsided with Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton making up most of it.


The Mets drop off from Beltran to Duda shouldn’t be too great, and Andres Torres can probably give the Mets what Angel Pagan gave them last year.  Replacing Jose Reyes’ production is a little tougher.  Luckily most of his at bats will be made up with more at bats from Ike Davis and a little more Ruben Tejada.  David Wright will get more at bats as well, and all of them with a healthy back.  This will all keep the offense churning, even if Jason Bay exhibits no signs of life.


If I had to pinpoint one player to worry about, it’d be Tejada.  He’s still young though, so there’s still plenty of hope he’ll improve.  Last year’s OBP was partially BABIP/AVG fueled, but he did improve on his strikeout and walk rate.  Keep improving there and even if he gets lucky he’ll still maintain a very helpful rate at getting on base.


One other factor to consider that makes the Mets clear-cut favorites: power.  The Mets got on base more than anyone else in the National League except the Cardinals, but they had league average slugging.  This translates to a lot of runners stranded that otherwise would’ve been runs.  In 2012 the Mets will have more power.  Duda is already impressing people with his power this spring, and Davis will join him to tattoo the Pepsi Porch all year long. Add a healthier Wright and even a 20% bounce back from Jason Bay towards his career norms and the Mets will be a very dangerous threat.  This is all without even mentioning the walls.  The Marlins addition of Jose Reyes will likely raise their on base percentage, but not enough to make up the difference.


I’m confident the Mets will have the best offense in the National League East this season.  It’s one step towards a successful season, and it’s also a step that isn’t going anywhere.  The Mets offense is controlled through 2013 at least, with prospects prepared to fill in at some of the weaker positions soon.  The Mets offense is great and will stay that way.

Apparently Optimism Is Not A Sin

Ted Berg over at is doing a four part series on “If absolutely everything falls right” and looking at the upward bounds of expectations for the Mets roster.  It’s nice to know I’m not the only person looking at the optimistic avenue.  I was beginning to feel a little like Highlander as an optimistic Mets fan.


I think this post on the infield  is very reasonable, and it’s even possible that some of the players overshoot his proposed projections.   The most unrealistic part is them all staying healthy all year.  Still, health is not an unreasonable expectation.  I’m not expecting Wright to break his back again, or Ike Davis managing to fall in exactly the wrong way to ruin his season.


His second part, on the outfield, seems a tad more pessimistic to me.  Maybe Bay does rebound a little.  I’ve mentioned that here in the past, but  I think we’re doing a disservice to Duda in projecting his ceiling defensively as “not terrible”.  His outfield experience in the minors was mostly in left, and he’s only got about half a season of time in the majors.  Perhaps his hulking frame tends to make one  believe he’ll never be good defensively, but I think he can hit “not terrible” just by having all of Spring Training to start at the position and build on it as the year goes on.   He can clearly hit the baseball, and if he were to improve on what he did last year he could be our own version of Mike Stanton.  In fact, their offensive WAR on baseball-reference were very similar factoring in playing time.   Ralph Kiner and Keith Hernandez both love his swing, for whatever that’s worth.


Ted dreams of Jason Bay having a great first half and becoming a trade chip and Kirk Nieuwenhuis forcing his way up to the majors.  Personally I think that’s unrealistic, because I don’t think a half season of good baseball is going to yield the type of return to make it worth trading him.  He’s not Carlos Beltran and his trade would come along with 24 or so million dollars owed to him and a possible vesting option.  More likely if Nieuwenhuis does warrant a call-up, Andres Torres will become a fourth outfielder.  If this happens we’ll lose a little defensively, but gain a lot offensively, including some flexibility with defensive replacements.


So what’s the highest fWAR we can expect from the Mets offense?  I’m going to say somewhere in the 28-30  range.  This would’ve had them 4th in the NL last year and best in the NL East.   I think this number represents of everything goes well.  It’s certainly possible that if one or two things turn out to go extraordinarily well, they could shoot past it.  Because fWAR heavily relies on fielding, if the pitching does better there will be less balls in play and less fielding damage to the values.  I assume part three and four of Ted’s series will deal with the rotation and the bullpen.

A Week Later: Hopeful for the 2012 Mets

No Met has made an error, hit a home run, or struck out looking in over a week.  With a week of the offseason under my belt to let the highs and lows of emotion mellow out with time, it’s time to take a closer look at what transpired in 2011 and what hope there is for 2012.


The team played harder than was expected.   They didn’t give in, whether because of a tough loss, a rough week, or a poor start to a game.  They’d battle back late in games, and bounce back from a tough loss with a solid win.  There were plenty of times late in the season where they did seem to be going through the motions a little bit, but they seemed to bounce back from that as well.  Hopefully 2012 avoids any long periods of being out of it and prevents the team from getting complacent.


The bullpen, while successful for some stretches of times, was mostly a failure.  Part of this was the trade of Francisco Rodriguez, part of it was the depression of Taylor Buchholz.   Part had to do with the starters rarely giving length, as was the main problem in April.   The Mets are aware of this problem, and with some good scouting and analysis, there are relievers out there that you can get for reasonable prices.   I would expect at least 2-3 new faces in the pen to compliment the ones that stay.  The Mets lost a lot of games late last year, and strengthening the pen will go a long way in 2012.


The starting rotation is what’s going to be the big deal in 2012.  This is what’s going to make or break the team as a contender.   Niese and Dickey are locks.  Mike Pelfrey is also pretty much a lock, although he does become a trade candidate as well.  I wouldn’t be against keeping Capuano, but I suspect he’s priced himself out of what the Mets want to pay him.  Johan Santana is supposed to be ready to go as normal during Spring Training, but I’d put the certainty of that at somewhere around 75%, and that may be optimistic.  Right now he’s penciled in, and it won’t be until February before we know if he’ll be able to progress normally towards an Opening Day start.   Therefore the Mets need a backup plan.  Adding Santana would certainly help, but it’s likely the Mets need to upgrade further.   Finding another quality starter and reassigning Dillon Gee to be depth for Santana could be the way to go.  However, Dillon Gee may have earned a major league job.   If the Mets can get to the regular season with a healthy Santana, and everyone else, having to send Gee to the minors to start the season would be a nice problem to have.  From there they could reexplore trading Mike Pelfrey.  Other teams will deal with injuries, and many teams could make good use of a guy that will throw 200 innings of slightly above league average value pretty consistently.


Then there is the offense.   The offense was very good last year, despite few home runs and a lot of injuries.  2012’s hinges on Reyes staying, but if he does the Mets offense again looks to be very potent.  The biggest concern would be if Pagan can shake off the bad defensive year, and if Duda can take a step forward out in RF.   Thole needs to improve as well, and there’s something to be said for having a veteran right-handed catcher to work with him.  The Mets are discussing moving the walls in a bit in right and left, which will probably help the home run numbers, although they may shrink the gaps a little bit.   It looks like the Mets should still have a top-flight offense next year, capable of dealing damage to opposing pitchers.


The Mets could be competitive next year.  A lot hinges on Reyes re-signing and Johan turning up healthy.  The Mets do need to revamp the bullpen, sign another starter, and address the bench, but those are all reasonable expectations.  It’ll be an interesting offseason, and hopefully it will be a launching pad for a good season to come.

Back to .500

The Mets came inches away from their third straight shut out as Teixeira’s home run just missed Beltran’s glove.  In fact, that would’ve been an easy fly out in every other ballpark in the majors.

You can't see the new building in this picture because it's blocked by that historic structure Babe Ruth once played in...wait, what?

Now the Mets are back at .5oo and 22-22 on the season.  They played poorly early on, but despite injuries have really settled down.  They’ve suddenly got a very potent bullpen.  That’s not an exaggeration either, their bullpen has been as good as you could want for quite a while now.  Beato’s back to try to continue his scoreless inning streak.  Jason Isringhausen, if they considered relievers for the award, would be on his way to comeback player of the year.   Francisco Rodriguez remains one of the best closers in the game, and may actually be the best this year.


The bullpen is meaningless if the starters are going to let games get away, but they haven’t been doing that.  The starters have been keeping them in games.  The offense is crippled without David Wright, Angel Pagan and Ike Davis, but if they can continue to play the way they’ve been playing they’ll find themselves in a very favorable position as those guys trickle back into the lineup.


Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson both deserve some credit for what’s gone on.   Collins has this team focused and playing good baseball, and Alderson hasn’t been shy to shuffle the roster around and reward guys that deserve playing time; like Justin Turner.


I said yesterday I like the way the Mets match up this weekend, and I stand by that. The Mets can hit Burnett tonight and Pelfrey is a better pitcher than Ivan Nova.  Another series win, and perhaps a sweep, is within the Mets grasp.

Why The Mets Can Compete: Best Offense in the NL

Don’t believe everything you hear: The New York Mets can compete for a division title this season.


The Best Offense in the National League

The Mets have a surprisingly potent offense, and it’s getting glossed over with all the negativity surrounding the team.  I’ve been calling it the best lineup in the National League, and while it’s certainly premature to proclaim anything like that before the season has started, I think they can definitely make a case for it.  I’m not even the only one that thinks the Mets bats aren’t getting a fair shake. Here’s Ted Berg with his take on the lineup.

There are other good lineups out there.  The Reds scored a ton of runs last year and their lineup remains mostly intact.  Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen make up the meat of that lineup, and that’s pretty formidable.

The Cardinals have Albert Pujols.  You could almost end the discussion right there, as “They have Pujols” is often the deciding factor in which offense is better.  The Cardinals also have Matt Holliday, as well as Yadier Molina, David Freese, and Colby Rasmus.  Still, I’m not sold on Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman, or Skip Schumaker contributing that much to the lineup.

The Brewers have Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.

Perhaps more immediately dangerous to the Mets is the Atlanta Braves. Dan Uggla, Chipper Jones if he’s healthy, Brian McCann behind the plate.  An outfield of Heyward, Prado and McLouth.  The Braves can definitely hit the ball this year.

Now let’s actually look at the Mets.  Pagan has put up great numbers with the Mets and last year could play center as well as anyone.  Jose Reyes is healthy and prepared for the season this year, and already looks to be the Jose we know and love.  He actually had good numbers last year once he finally got up to speed after missing Spring Training.  He needs to walk more, but he’s a dynamic force at the top of the lineup.  Similar to the Braves with Chipper, Carlos Beltran needs to stay healthy and on the field.  It’s easy to forget just how good he is when he’s not playing, but having him in there for 130-140+ games is going to be a great boon.   You’d like David Wright to strike out less, but he’s still a talented frontline bat in the center of the lineup.  Jason Bay had a down year that was punctuated by a concussion, but it’s not hard to think that he’ll return to smashing home runs and getting on base at a great rate.  He doesn’t need to hit 40 to help this team either; if he can keep his OBP high and not make out, even if he only hits 25-30, that’ll be a great help.

Now the back end of the lineup is what will make or break my argument.  I think the Mets have a deep lineup, and unlike past years with guys like Jeff Francoeur, or Gary Matthews Jr, or Brian Schneider, the Mets don’t have an obvious glaring hole.  Ike Davis had an excellent rookie year, and the hope would be that he builds on it.  He’s got a lot of power and was perhaps rushed a bit last year with the injury to Murphy.  Now with a full season, starting the season in the majors and comfortable in his role, hopefully he can improve.  Josh Thole has had limited time, but everything we’ve seen from him has been good. He’s a guy with good bat control that doesn’t strike out and has an above average OBP for a catcher.  We’ve seen some signs that he’ll grow into some power as well.  He’ll never be Mike Piazza, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had a catcher that actually did any hitting.  The last guy in the lineup, right now, is Brad Emaus.  It’s hard to project what he’ll add, as he hasn’t had any major league experience.   He put up very good numbers in AAA last year, with a .397 OBP and 15 home runs.   So he’s a patient guy, and hopefully he can utilize some of that patience to draw walks in the majors as well.

If the lineup holds up as it’s constructed now, it’s certainly in the running for a dangerous lineup.  Will it be “the best?”  Only time will tell, but I like the Mets chances in that regard.