Tonight’s Must-Win Mets Game

Well obviously it’s not a must-win, it’s May 9th and the 31st game of the season!


Still, there’s a certain symbolic worth to winning this game.  It’d be a sweep of the defending division champions.  It’d be beating their second ace pitcher.  It’d be answering a losing streak with a bigger winning streak.


And it’d put the Mets five games above .500, which is somewhere they haven’t been all season, nor all of last season.  They haven’t been five games over .500 since July 19th of 2010.   This was just after the All-Star Break when they rushed Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo back and got steamrolled by the soon-to-be World Champion San Francisco Giants at the beginning of their run.


The Mets should have a fair shot at this.  Dillon Gee hasn’t quite gotten the results he’d have liked, but he’s getting a lot more swinging strikes than previous years and walking fewer.  This should be a good recipe for retiring the weak-hitting Philadelphia Phillies.  They have Cliff Lee going, but he’s going to be limited returning from injury and the Mets have been beating on the Phillies pen the last two games.


So it’s not a must-win game, but it’s still a game you’d really like to see the Mets get.

Some Optimism For Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey pitches against the Marlins on May 16th, 2011Mike Pelfrey‘s FIP has actually stayed pretty steady over the last four years, and his xFIP was even steadier. The main difference being that he game up less home runs in 2008 and 2010.     So the question becomes what was it that caused the home run rate to be lower in those years?  Was it dumb luck, or some adjustments on Pelfrey’s part?  Personally I think his xFIP staying the same is precisely what’s wrong with the stat.  Pelfrey clearly pitched better in 2010, particularly in the first part of the year, than he has since.


There probably still is some luck to it.  The margin of error for flying out instead of hitting a home run is tiny.   Optimistically, Mike Pelfrey’s numbers in 2011 were probably at the far end of bad luck and it’d be pretty easy to see how even with changing almost nothing he’d probably have a better result in 2012.  Hoping for lucky bounces is not a good philosophy for a major league pitch to adopt however.


Pelfrey is working hard this Spring at his sinker.  This is something he admittedly struggled with in 2011, and harnessing it against should be a positive.  For one, it’s a different look than teams are used to.  Adding in a pitch provides a new wrinkle to the scouting report and helps keep hitters off balance.  Additionally, sinkers are harder to hit out of the park as they are harder to hit in the air.  So far the reports are positive on his feel for the pitch.


With luck and the sinker, Mike Pelfrey should be an improved pitcher again in 2012.  Throw in a likely improved bullpen and more of Pelfrey’s games should turn into Mets wins.  That only happened 12 of 33 times last season.

Redirecting the Optimism

I don’t quite want to eulogize the Mets just yet.  While the chances of making the playoffs just went on the DL with little hope of returning this season, there is still baseball that’s being played, and out of the playoffs is not the same as no longer playing.  There will be plenty of time to deconstruct and over-analyze 2011 in the offseason, while we’re rooting against all those evil teams that made the playoffs.


So where do we direct that optimism that failed us in 2011?  For starters, the rookies and prospects that will get some extra time will go a long way towards being able to make informed decisions about the 2012 roster.  How feasible is Lucas Duda going to be?  Has Josh Thole rebounded from a poor beginning to the point that we don’t need to look at other options?   There are enough guys that will get some playing time to have a lot of options for the future.


The other place to direct the optimism is at the teams we hate.  The Phillies, despite the pitching, tend to look like they can be had if the opposing team’s pitching is on.  Given that they may have to face the Giants and the Braves, they certainly could be looking at an early exit from the playoffs if they hit a hot pitcher in a short series.  The Yankees look more well rounded than the Phillies, but they also seem to lack a certain depth that may leave them exposed if everything is not clicking when they reach the playoffs.


Personally I’m rooting for Carlos Beltran and the Giants over the Red Sox in the World Series.

Biggest Week of Mets Baseball in Years

This next week or two may be the biggest games the Mets have played since the last week of 2008, and they also might be the biggest games they’ll play for years.  The Mets record, as well as the Phillies and Braves, will greatly determine the look of the team going forward this year, and maybe even next year too.

Sandy Alderson has said he would consider trading Carlos Beltran right now a white flag, but if the Mets play poorly over the next two weeks, that white flag is inevitable anyway.   It’s probably not just Carlos Beltran either; The Mets won’t get a ton for guys like Chris Capuano or Jason Isringhausen, but if the chances of contention plummet there will be little reason to keep them.   If they manage to climb closer in the race, the small return from trading those guys won’t be worth gutting the team.  In a way, the Mets could finish a handful of games above or below .500 based on how they do in these next bunch of games.

Either way this season will likely be viewed as a step in the right direction, but if the Mets fall out of it here and restructure the team with next year in mind, the record and excitement levels will fall.   That probably won’t be enough to prompt many to invest in this team, raising projected income and in turn, payroll.  As the memory of the last Mets game fades, we’ll be subjected to more financial news regarding the Picard lawsuit and the Madoff mess.  Their will be speculations about Einhorn’s control, about how much the payroll can possibly go up, and if the Mets will actually field a competitive team.   So the only real news will be mostly doom and gloom again, which won’t help sell tickets.  Just today someone called into WFAN in the brief 20 minutes I had it on proclaiming there is no way the Mets compete for five or six years.

If the Mets climb back into the race and get closer, Sandy Alderson will be more likely to keep players like Beltran, and may even look to add a reliever or someone, especially if the player can be helpful beyond this year too.   Whether or not they can or will win a playoff race is not the point here, the point is that if they stay close and prove that they can play with anyone it suggests that the Mets may not be years from competing.   They could go into the offseason with fans thinking they’re getting close and with the right moves, including resigning Jose Reyes, the Mets could be a very good team next year.  

There’s going to be a lot of stuff to watch with this team this year, and if they remain competitive and winning games they’ll bring in fans to watch versus fans switching gears to what could be a returning NFL season or something else.  Jose Reyes could have a record breaking season, as despite spotting the opposition 11 or more games, he’s still got a commanding lead in base hits.  David Wright will be returning, one of the Mets franchising players who they’ve sorely missed.  Johan Santana may return, and while that’s still up in the air, as is his effectiveness, it will be nice to see him on the mound again.  I would like to be at his first game back if I can at least.

It all starts tonight against the Phillies with your hero in attendence.   The Phillies aren’t taking the Mets seriously, opting to give  Halladay and Lee some extra rest coming off the break and pushing them back until after the weekend.  Facing Vance Worley, Cole Hamels who the Mets routinely beat, and Kyle Kendrick is not a daunting task.  Hopefully the Mets can get a hot start to the second half, while exposing the Phillies pitching depth, and start catching both them and the Braves who are playing the Nationals this weekend.

Jose Reyes: An Easy Decision

This was originally a comment to a Mets Police post about ripping the Trade Reyes bandaid off, but I decided it deserved a post of it’s own. 

It’s really a simple decision.  Franchise players like Jose Reyes are very valuable, and it’d be especially silly to let him get away for anything but an absolute steal of a package, and even then I’d be reluctant.   This isn’t fantasy baseball; I, and other fans, develop emotional attachment to players and there is value and revenue in that.

Sign Reyes, and you keep a franchise player that the fanbase loves and will define and promote your franchise for, and this isn’t an exaggeration, 60+ years.  Keep one of the best players in the game at a premium position of which there is nothing close available on the market or in the minors. Finish the season at or above .500, regardless of if they can make a playoff push or not.   Have people believing 2012 will be better, that we’re already into year two of the ‘rebuilding’ process and things are good and people are buying season tickets.  The Mets (not the Wilpons) problem is not so much debt is it trying to get the revenue stream back above the level of what a competitive payroll is.  To do this they have to keep people interested in the Mets and coming to the park.  Who’s more interesting than Jose Reyes right now?

Or you can trade him or let him walk away, and finish below .500.  Show people that this is year one of the demolition process before rebuilding starts. Watch no one pay any attention to the Mets all offseason, and no one buy season tickets, or renew season tickets.  2.5million fans this year becomes 1.5million fans next year, and in 2013, and in 2014.. prices come down because no one’s going, revenue drops as a result, less demand on advertising space drops revenue there as well.  SNY becomes the Food Network; sure you’ll flip it on once in a while and see what’s cookin’, but it’s not worth DVRing.  In an age when it’s so very very easy to watch any team in the league, and with the Mets unwatchable, many fans start half-following the Giants or wherever Reyes ends up playing.  If MLB.TV existed when the Mets traded Seaver, how many Mets fans do you think would’ve purchased it to watch him pitch?  In 2013 the Mets sell out the Giants series at Citi with the stands awash of really faded Black Mets 7 shirts. The next series against the Phillies is empty, no one wants to see two bad teams play.  Citi Field feels empty without #7.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

I was going to rant and rave and vent and fume, but it looks like Jason Fry basically covered all the angles over there at Faith and Fear in Flushing so I’ll just throw in a little pointer here to there.


Ugh. After which we never, ever spoke of it again.


So let’s remind these American League teams that are coming to Citi Field why National League baseball is the way to go.  Let’s laugh at their pitchers trying to hit, and laugh at the managers that may botch a double-switch.  Let’s read all the Moneyball references made while the A’s are in town and watch the Mets play, and win, some baseball games at home.  It’s been a long road trip, and a successful one, so let’s go out to the park and watch Jose Reyes be Amazin’.

Optimistic Stuff Going On

It often feels like the mainstream media has a story they want to write, and look for the facts to fit the story rather than watching the game and writing a story that matches the facts.  They can get hung up on narratives they like and beat them to death.  Part of the reason I named this blog what I did was to counter the idea that the Mets are cursed, never spend, are inept, or Latin-biased, etc etc.


One of the common stories this year was that the Mets are broke and can’t afford Reyes, so they will trade him.   They stuck to this; it seemed like every day there was another story about how they’d have to trade him, or who would be a good suitor.  As the season went on some of these writers had the occasion to glance down at the field, and happened to notice how unbelievably awesome Jose Reyes is, and how much he is adored by Mets fans.  Slowly but surely more articles came out suggesting, as many bloggers have been writing all along, that the Mets should and could keep Reyes.   It’s so refreshing to watch a player that’s just that awesome, that leads the league in so many categories, and is having a blast doing it.   That his great season has caused writers to use the delete button more than usual is just a bonus.


Speaking of which, here’s a post from Ed Ryan at Mets Fever that wonders if maybe the Mets should be thinking about adding, not subtracting, players at the trading deadline.  Personally I think the Mets will add someone.  Alderson has been known in the past to like to wheel and deal, and I suspect this year will be no different.  He’s claimed to this point to have the financial ability to do so.  This doesn’t mean no one will get traded though, it just means it doesn’t have to be a fire sale.   Sandy Alderson won’t need to trade major league pieces for guys that may or may not help the team at some future time.  He’s got the options of trading major league talent for equal major league talent, maybe shuffling off an extra bat for an extra relief pitcher, or trading prospects for a good player that’s still got a couple of years left on his contract to help the team out both this year and next.


Winning or losing, it’s never too early to start bringing in talented players.  Even if you don’t believe the Mets are one or two players away from making the playoffs, if you make them one better right now, that’s less work needed to do in the offseason.  I expect a lot of activity in July, and some of it will probably be pretty exciting.






Optimistic Notes for the Cubs Series

The Chicago Cubs are 20-25.  That’s not exactly much worse than the Mets, but they’ve been getting worse every year with plenty of drama along the way.


Their top player so far is Kosuke Fukedome, according to WAR.  They’re actually a team that can hit some, with Starling Castro, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.  Still, they have not won three games in a row all season which would give hope that the Mets at least won’t get swept.  Like much of baseball in the early months and the cold, tickets are available on Stub Hub for $3.


The Cubs flat out can’t pitch.  They’re second to last in ERA, last in runs scored and have walked the most batters in the National League.


The Mets will face Ryan Dempster ( 2-4, 6.91 ERA), Casey Coleman, (2-3, 6.03 ERA), and Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 4.88 ERA).  Zambrano is probably the best of the bunch and he hasn’t been great this year at all.  The Cubs might be a team the Mets could pick on to add a pitcher later in the year if/when the Cubs fall completely out of it, but so far none of them have looked that enticing.


Marlon Byrd and Geovany Soto are both injured and out of the lineup, although Soto may return Thursday.


The Cubs actually have a lower OPS with RISP than the Mets do.


The Mets are 343-343 historically against the Cubs.  Winning this series would go a long way towards having a winning record against another club.


The Cubs are 4-6 over their last ten and are 9-13 at home.  The Mets can take this series and it would go a long way towards getting them back to .500 and over the hump.   They’ll have a tough pitching assignment this weekend in Philadelphia so bouncing back after a series loss would be key.




They Come Home Winners

It’s  been a rough stretch for the Mets, but they’ll return home winners, having ended their losing streak Sunday in Atlanta.  For now it’s just one game, but they do face two of the weaker teams in the league during this six game homestand.


They’ve hopefully put the three games in 24 hours meme to rest, eliminating the need to juggle the roster, shuffle relievers and starters, and try to figure out how to keep everyone rested.  T hey can also get back into a normal routine of everyday baseball and hopefully eliminate some of these silly mistakes they’ve been making.


It’s the perfect time to start getting on a hot streak; the weather starts warming up, the starting pitchers arms have been strengthened a little, and Jason Bay may even be back as soon as Tuesday.


The bullpen has started to settle down as well, and has started to build up a sample size that Terry Collins can use when decided how and when to use different relievers to maximize success.


The Mets have played less than 10% of their games so far, and there is  plenty of baseball to be played.  I could give you a whole list of teams that have had poor Aprils that go on to have successful season as well as mention all sorts of statistics Mets player are posting that will get better. Right now we’re only look at one small sample of mostly under-performing data.   Many of those numbers will level out over the months to come, and many players will experience over-performing stretches that lead to more wins than losses.  It’s simply unfair to judge the team conclusively on this small sample of games.  They need to win games, but right now simply that they’re playing them is joy enough.


They return to Citi Field after an off-day on a one game winning streak with the path laid out in front of them to start making winning the trend, and losing the aberration.