Celebrating Enemy Milestones

For some reason there is a lot of talk about how Mets fans should treat Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit on the off chance it happens at Citi Field. (I’ll be there Saturday, I doubt Jeter will) I’ll boo. I boo when opposing players get hits.  They’re the enemy.  I’m not a gentlemanly opposing player in the same ‘fraternity’ of baseball players.  It’s more important to me to see my pitcher’s WHIP be slightly lower than it is to see Jeter get a hit. 

Let’s get real here, this isn’t some historic achievement.   He’s not setting a record, he’s not even climbing into the top 10.  He’s looking to become the 28th player to reach 3000 hits, and just because he’s the first to do so as a Yankee doesn’t mean anything outside of the Yankees.  He’s not some all-time legend.  He’s not Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, or the best player on his team.   There is nothing inherently more special about Derek Jeter, or the Yankees.  He’s one player of 750 and the Yankees are one team of 30. 

Jeter doesn’t transcend the sport in any way.   Not at his position, not as a hitter, not as a fielder, and not even as a clutch hitter (which is simply a matter of being there a lot, he doesn’t boast better numbers in clutch situations).   His claim to fame is longevity and being a good player on a lot of good Yankee teams.   I hate the Yankees, therefore Jeter collecting a personal, or franchise, milestone means nothing to me.   Absolutely nothing.

Tip Your Hat, Get ‘Em In July

The Yankees won this round.  Some lucky breaks, grounders that found holes and inopportune walks combined with a rather disappointing offensive performance all around gave the Yankees the series win.  If I had to choose one culprit, it would be the offense.  Still stunted from losing David, Davis and Pagan and from the continued struggles of Bay and Thole , they had opportunities that they just couldn’t capitalize on.  So I’ll tip my hat to the Yankees here; for now they’re the better team as shown in head to head competition.  As a reward I’ll refrain from making Yankees jokes for a week, which is roughly how long it takes A-Rod to get down the line these days.  Oops, a week starting now.


The Mets lost their first series in a while, which was bound to happen.  It sucks that it was the Yankees, but they’re likely a better team, were at home, and have the DH advantage as all AL teams do in these interleague games.    The team is still playing pretty good baseball overall, 3-3 since Wright went on the DL, and is keeping themselves in games and in the playoff race.  Ike Davis and Angel Pagan may return somewhat soon, and hopefully David Wright just behind them.   Until then it’s up to these guys to keep battling, to keep playing good baseball and winning games where they can.

Upcoming is a couple of weeks of weak other-division opponents during the week, and tough divisional opponents on the weekends.  The Mets luck out and should miss Roy Halladay next weekend, which is definitely a boon.  The Mets need to avoid spiraling into a funk and continue to win more ballgames than they lose.  This keeps them in a position to make a run at things as they get healthier, and also helps Sandy Alderson figure out which of his role players and bench guys he needs to keep on this team, and which can be sent away. Z24DR8WQXYQQ

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 Have the Subway Series Advantage

The Yankees have righted the ship a little with a three game winning streak, but I still like the way the Mets are playing lately over the Yankees.  With the exception of the battering the Yankees gave the Orioles last night, they really haven’t been hitting the ball very well.  It took them 15 innings on Wednesday to score a second run and they’ve got a lot of aging players that aren’t quite hitting like they did in their prime.


The Mets are without three of their starting lineup, Angel Pagan, Ike Davis and David Wright.  So far Justin Turner has really provided the Mets with some good production, and Ruben Tejada and Jason Pridie have filled in pretty well.   They’ll be bolstered by playing in the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium, and if Jason Bay can have a nice hot streak, the Mets lineup can still score plenty of runs.


So what about the pitching?  If I had to pick the three pitchers in the Yankees rotation I’d want to face, I got them.   The Mets miss C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon.  Friday night is the briefly a Met Freddy Garcia versus R.A. Dickey.  Garcia pitched well to start, but he’s got a 4.63 ERA over his last four starts and a very high WHIP.  Dickey is due to have a good game, having recently reduced his walk total.  However, he has struggled with a high home run to fly ball ratio, and if he doesn’t get the break he needs on the knuckleball, Yankee Stadium might be cruel.  If you’re not going to the game and would rather be close to Citi Field, check out the Apple’s half priced drink special at McFaddens.


Saturday the Mets have Chris Capuano going, who has been pretty solid and consistent for them.   The Yankees have their own personal version of Oliver Perez in A.J. Burnett who has his own definition of effectively wild.   He’s due for a high walk game and the Mets have been a pretty patient team.  This is definitely a winnable game, even if we have to suffer through Fox announcers for it.


The finale features Mike Pelfrey against Ivan Nova.  Looks like a mismatch on paper, although Nova has had the occasional gem.  Pelfrey has looked great lately, although he has given up a bunch of solo home runs.  If he can work the sinker more effectively and keep the ball out of the air, he should have no problem dominating the fly ball happy Yankees.

It’s time to have some fun.  The Mets are capable of having a better record than the Yankees after the weekend is over, and depending on the results of the other games, they could be closer to first place as well.  The Mets have been playing good baseball, and there is no reason for them to be dismissed as a chore for the Yankees.  Don’t believe people when they say it’s a lose-lose for the Yankees because they’re “supposed” to beat the Mets.  They’re just being curmudgeons.  Both teams are supposed to beat the teams on their schedule, regardless of the proximity of the other teams fans.  If the Yankees fall to 24-21 or 23-22, and more importantly fall further behind Tampa and let the Red Sox and/or the Blue Jays past them in the division the criticism and panic will be all over the place, regardless of the opponent.


Likewise the winning team will gain some legitimacy.  The Yankees would be keeping pace in a tough division, the Mets would have shaken off a rough start and injuries to get back above .500.


The people that say the Yankees are “supposed” to beat the Mets are under the illusion that the Yankees somehow deserve to make the playoffs, deserve to be the best team in the city and the other teams exist only as farm teams for their pennant run.   If the Mets were to beat them, which is certainly possibly and perhaps even likely,  they’ll remind everyone that they deserve equal footing and discussion in this city and that cuts into the divine right the Yankees have to dominate the back pages with their petty arguments about which steroid-addled aging star bats in which position in the batting order.


So here’s to a fun Subway Series weekend where everything in the city is about baseball and every player anyone wants to see is on the same field together.  I like the Mets chances, and can think of no better way to get back above .500 on the season than to beat on the crosstown rivals.

Statistics Rising

You can make yourself crazy over-analyzing baseball.   A week ago the Mets rotation wasn’t pitching deep into games, the bullpen couldn’t get anyone out, and people were all set to write the Mets off.  Now they’ve run off a stretch of five wins in a row, the pitchers have pitched well from rotation to bullpen, and they’re scoring runs in all sorts of ways from home runs to errors to simple clutch hits.


The last time a major New York sports team other than the Mets won a home game was last Sunday the 17th when the Rangers and Yankees did it.   Since then the Rangers and Knicks both got bounced from the playoffs and the Yankees are 3-3 including dropping the last two home games against the White Sox with each of their two closers, Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano, blowing saves.


An aside on the Yankees: For a team as old as they are, it has to be a little worrisome that they’ve postponed so many games already doesn’t it?  They’ve played far fewer than anyone else, and in fact only played four games last week.  Those three games will have to be made up, and it’ll eat into days off and rest time for some of these veteran players.


You could make excuses about the quality of the Mets opponents, but I could make excuses that they were a bloop or a lucky bounce away from winning some of those games they lost too.  Regardless of who is in the other dugout, the Mets are playing good baseball right now.  When this team is playing well, they’re capable of beating anyone.  The question has always been if they’re going to stay healthy enough to have the chance to play well, and can they sustain the success longer than the slumps they might go through when guys are struggling?


Also worth noting is that if the only reason the Mets are winning is because they’re playing bad teams, why can’t the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks?

My MLB Player Prop Bets

I made a couple more single dollar prop bets yesterday.   Nothing real fancy.
Jose Reyes – SB in the 2011 Regular Season
Over 33½ (-125)
Mariano Rivera – Total Saves in the 2011 Regular Season
Under 36 (-115)

Will any of the Big 4 win the NL Cy Young?
Big 4 include Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels
No -180
Cole Hamels – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Under 16½ (-120)

Carlos Beltran – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over .273 -115
Andy Pettitte – Will he pitch for the Yankees in the 2011 Regular Season
 No -200
How many of the Big 4 will win over 20 games or more in the 2011 Regular Season?
Under 1 (-115)
RA Dickey – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
 Over 11½ (-115)
Who will win more games in the regular season series between the 2 teams listed. Must play at least 15 games for action.
New York Mets +240
Competitor: Atlanta Braves

Letters to the NL East, Part 0, Dear Yankees…

To read previous letters, go here.
Letters to the NL East, part 0

Dear New York Yankees,

It’s April again.  It’s time to see how your collection of players that were good in the early part of last decade hold up in 2011.  The offense should be fine with mansion-building Jeter manning shortstop.  Even if he can’t quite man the position, at least he can make fine looking leaping throws since he lacks the arm strength of Jose Reyes to reach first otherwise.

The Mets released Oliver Perez, but if we still want to see his act we can always tune in to Yankees games when A.J. Burnett pitches.  Your bullpen looks good, sure, but Mariano is another year older and has presumably reached the stage where he’ll never have to audition for another contract again; the opposite of a contract year.  Soriano has been said to be a bit of a malcontent, we burned Pedro Feliciano out already, and most of us are tired of the Joba show.  Did you really add Luis Ayala, prominent 2008 collapsee, to the roster?

You’ve got steep competition in that division; the Red Sox are clearly better on paper and I wouldn’t count out the Rays.  The Blue Jays have managed to at least be dangerous in recent years and the Orioles are gunning for you.

Good luck trying to make the playoffs this year…you’ll need it.

You crosstown rival,

Optimistic Mets Fan

Mets Blasphemy List

These are statements that I  think most fans consider to be blasphemy.  What statements are on your Mets Blasphemy List?


Jose Reyes will not be a Met his entire career.


David Wright will not be a Met his entire career.


Yadier Molina is not the Anti-Christ.


It was probably time for Seaver to go anyway.


It’s okay to root for the Yankees too.  After all, this is New York right?


Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden are True Yankees™.


Blue and Orange don’t look good together.


#17 belongs to Kevin Appier, Fernando Tatis, or Luis Lopez.


The tomahawk chant that the Atlanta Braves Fans do is kind of cool.

AL Cy Young: Do Wins Matter?

Let us start with a common argument during September that will crop up again soon once the Cy Young awards are given out. How do we value C.C. Sabathia’s win total against Felix Hernandez pretty much putting up better numbers in virtually every important statistic? Sabathia was 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA. Hernandez was 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA. Wins have historically been the benchmark pitchers are judged by, but perhaps that’s not totally fair. Pitchers cannot win games, except in the NL with a bat. On the simplest level a baseball game is won by the team that scores more runs than the other team. A pitcher only can affect half of this.

While the voting for Cy Young is a little less of a sham than the Gold Gloves, there is always big disagreement over who the best pitcher is, and how to figure it out. I’d definitely be in favor of ironing out specific rules as to how the voters should think about the award, or which stats are more important. Should the award go the guy that threw the ball the best? That fooled the most hitters? That was the “most valuable” pitcher? One of the biggest problems is that every voter defines the award differently, and is actually voting for different things.

It should be obvious to most people that the Yankees scored a ton more runs than the Mariners, and as a result C.C. Sabathia had a better chance to win games. If Felix Hernandez had been on the Yankees, he would’ve won more games, but would he have won eight more to match Sabathia’s 21? Does it even matter? I think if these two pitchers swapped team, we’d be having no debate that King Felix was better in 2010, but there is no way to measure that. It’s as fruitless as trying to nail down exactly how a pitcher will do before the season. Hernandez would have to face different batters, with different approaches and with different scouting reports. He wouldn’t have to face the Yankees three times and would be able to face the weak Mariners lineup.

Some, such as Michael Kay, suggest that C.C. Sabathia’s numbers were hurt because of something called “pitching to the score.” It is inferred that Sabathia is capable to adjusting to the game and if his team scores 2, he’ll let up 1, but if they score 8 he’ll be okay with letting them score 6. The idea being that if the Yankees were up 8-1, he was less careful about his pitches. The stress of the game may be less, but Sabathia is not just chucking it down the middle of the plate and hoping a fielder catches it. Run support plays a huge role in whether or not a pitcher wins a game, and C.C. Sabathia got 5.89 runs a game to Felix Hernandez’s 3.07. The Yankees only scored less than 4 runs 7 times during Sabathia’s starts. The Mariners scored less than 4 runs 19 times during Hernandez’s starts.

It certainly makes sense that pitchers will pitch differently based on the score of the game. The margin for error is greater in a blowout, and it’s possible that a pitcher will risk a pitch catching a little more of the plate to avoid possibly walking a batter and giving the opposing team more chances for a big inning. If we look at games Sabathia pitched badly in, do they suggest that he let up a lot of meaningless runs that don’t necessarily mean he was pitching badly? Sabathia was 1-4 in 7 starts when he allowed 5 or more earned runs. Of those games, one he left with a huge lead and the bullpen exploded to give him a no-decision. You could reasonable claim that he wasn’t worried about the score and may have relaxed and let batters put good swings on balls. Maybe. The other no-decision was Opening Day, where he left a tight game with a one run lead and a batter on third that scored. In the game he won against the White Sox he let up all the runs early and the Yankees didn’t take a big lead until later in the game. The numbers just don’t support that he was pitching to the score.

Felix Hernandez had only 3 games where he let up 5 or more runs. He lost all three of them; his team never bailing him out when he struggled. He had one more game where he allowed 4 runs, and lost that one as well. Every other game he allowed 3 runs or less. He left three separate games with the score 0-0, one after 7 innings, one after 8 innings and one after 9. He faced the feared Yankees lineup three times, shutting them out twice and allowing one run over 26 innings and two complete games. He led the league in innings pitched, and in hits per nine innings. He had 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings for a total of 232. He was first in pitching WAR.

Ultimately I do believe that wins matter. They are the very essence of what a baseball game is. I do believe that there are levels of effort, and that it’s possible to take your foot off the gas occasionally during a long season, and that it’s possible to bare down and battle when you need to, in clutch situations. Wins don’t play a part in the 2010 AL Cy Young award however, Felix Hernandez is simply in a different class as far as pitchers go. The next best pitcher may have been David Price of the Rays, who’s numbers come a lot closer to Hernandez’s, but still fall short.

I’ve clearly shown here that I favor King Felix for the award, but what will the writers pick? That it’s even a discussion suggests to me that at least some voters are going to value the wins over Hernandez’s clearly superior stats. I suspect these voters will vote David Price first, Sabathia second, and Hernandez third. Others may look at the stats and vote Hernandez, Price, Sabathia. Or even another pitcher I haven’t mentioned here. I think when the votes are tallied that David Price will come out ahead. So that’s my vote and prediction. We shall soon see.

Letters to the NL East, Part 0/5

(To read past year’s letters, click here)

Letters to the NL East, Part 0 of 5. (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)


Dear New York Yankees, (Because while they are not part of the division, are still are rivals in a way)

Ugh.  You purchased your 27th World Series last year.  You made the team better by acquiring Javier Vasquez from the Braves, even if he’s struggled as a Yankee before.  But this doesn’t exactly guarantee the same success in 2010.

Your team looked old and over the hill last April but was able to bounce back.  Eventually the age on the team won’t be able to do that, although Jeter and Rivera will certainly be trying so they can get that extra bit out of you in contract negotiations.

However, just about everything went right for you last season, and it’s not likely to go that way again.  Will guys like Nick Johnson and AJ Burnett stay healthy?  Will Granderson hit lefties?  How many games can Posada play behind the plate?   As I write this, Nick Johnson and Posada have both already been scratched from spring games this week.

It’s fair to say that the Yankees don’t have a ton of holes, but you do have two talented teams in your division that can exploit even the smallest problem in your game.  The success of last year does mask a lot of possible problems that could open up and devour the team though.  The handling of the bullpen, Joba and Hughes.  The range and age of your shortstop.  A-Rod’s hip, which was supposedly going to need more surgery but somehow didn’t.  Are the Feds coming for A-Rod and why is he dodging them?  Will Yankee Stadium in 2010 become the setting of some sort of Bourne film with A-Rod dashing through the stands with Matt Damon chasing him?  It’s probably a safe bet that they all the holes won’t all open at once, and that the Yankees could overcome some of them, but that’s why we play the games. When the dust clears you may find yourselves in third place and playing golf in October.

Your cross-town rival,

Optimistic Mets Fan