Sunday, July 02, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck

I'm hanging it up for a while. Over the last few months, I've become increasingly "distracted" shall we say by the political state of affairs in our country. Hamdan decision notwithstanding, it's a catastrophe, and it's taking up more mindshare these days than even my beloved Mets.

As well as the Mets are playing, at this point virtually guaranteed of a playoff berth, it seems like an odd time to jump off the bandwagon. I'm not off the bandwagon, I just need to take a back seat for a little while.

I had toyed with the idea of writing a lengthy diatribe in this farewell post, but that's not what anyone comes here for. Suffice it to say that at this point I feel debating the managerial decisions of Minaya and Randolph is fiddling while Rome burns. Plus, they seem to have done a much better job than I gave them credit for.

Thanks for reading. Lets go Mets!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mets win in high style

Keith Hernandez was talking about the DH rule the other night. It was pretty rough sledding. He's opposed to it, for reasons involving fairness and machismo. I also dislike the rule, mostly because it doesn't lend itself to interesting managerial decisions.

But I realized tonight that there's something else I dislike about the DH rule. It robs the game of one of its rarest and without question its most demoralizing event: the pitcher home run. No other sport has such a gross mismatch (pitcher facing pitcher) built into it. Thus, no possibility for the kind of public humiliation Elizardo Ramirez had to endure as Steve Trachsel touched 'em all.

Sure they're all professional athletes, but they're not all professional hitters. When a guy has a career .401 OPS in 614 ABs, it means he can't hit. When he does hit a home run, unlike when a position player does, it naturally calls into question whether the pitcher can pitch. I know it doesn't have any such real significance, but it's humiliating nonetheless.

As for the game: if my excessive and perhaps unseemly attention to the Trachsel homer left any doubt, the Mets won big.

It did get close briefly, as Trachsel left a mess in the seventh inning for Sanchez to clean up. But clean up he did, allowing one run to score on a sac fly and inducing a double play.

Offensively, non-pitchers Xavier Nady and Carlos Delgado had three homers between them, and Reyes got two more hits to raise his OBP on the year to .340. That's 40 points higher than it was last year, and his SLG is 61 points higher. He's getting much better.

Lastings Milledge had his third outfield assist of the season. It was pretty impressive. In case you didn't see it, Ryan Freel hit a liner down the left field line, the kind that speedsters like Freel can usually stretch into doubles because the left fielder's momentum is pulling him the wrong way.

Not our young phenom. Milledge not only cut the ball off, but took the textbook curved route to it (meaning he was pretty much running along the left field line when he got to it) and threw a perfect strike to second. Freel was still very much en route when the ball arrived.

Milledge has got the range, he's got the arm... let's give him a pass on the glove for the time being. I'm convinced he's pretty damn toolsy.

Of course it's a good thing Milledge is showing some spark, because sure enough, Cliff Floyd was placed on the DL. I point this out only because it's relevant to the size of Milledge's cup of coffee (if he gets sent down at all), and not because I take any satisfaction in having my suspicions of the "official story" legitimized. C'mon, Omar, don't pee on our leg and tell us Cliff's day-to-day.

In NL East news, the Atlanta Braves lost their eighth straight, and assumed fifth place in the standings. The Marlins, on the other hand, have reeled off nine in a row and are just three games behind the Phillies. I still like our chances.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Reds take opener

Theo Epstein might be kicking himself a little bit this evening, or whenever he gets word of tonight's game. Wily Mo Pena looked promising in April, but has been injured for weeks. Meanwhile the player he traded away is, as of this writing, very much in the NL Cy Young picture.

The Mets couldn't get much going at all against Bronson Arroyo tonight. He went the distance on 116 pitches. This is after his last two outings of 127 and 111 pitches. As you might expect for a good Cincinnati starter, he's getting yoked like an ox. Carlos Beltran drove in both runs, one on a solo shot.

Orlando Hernandez pitched a great game. He had to work around some trouble but for the most part did so successfully, and he struck out seven in as many innings.

I didn't quite understand Willie Randolph's decision to leave him in as long as he did. With two outs in the top of the seventh, it was a one-run game with two Reds on base. Hernandez had thrown over 110 pitches, and had to face Felipe Lopez, who was hitting .301 (with little power) against righties.

Why wasn't there anyone even warming up at that point? What's the point of having such a deep bullpen if you're going to use a visibly tiring Hernandez in that spot? As it turns out, he retired Lopez on a weak flyball, and runs 3 and 4 didn't score until the Feliciano/Bradford eighth. I still think it was a totally unnecessary risk, and one which was probably taken purely to put on a show of "total confidence" in the old warhorse.

This isn't a knock on Hernandez, who ended up throwing 119 pitches (more than Arroyo needed for his CG), and did get out of trouble. But that was a bad gamble in a very important situation.


Yahoo's Jeff Passan examines the ways in which is a terrible product. I guess we should consider the source (which also provides real-time baseball content for fun and profit), but the blackout restrictions are ridiculous. Especially when they advertise the ability to watch your team's games, which are always blacked out.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sweep avoidance bullet points

- The Mets took the third game of the Baltimore series by the score of 9-4.

- David Wright had a spectacular game, going 3-4 with five RBI. There was a grand slam involved. He's now hitting .336, and is on pace for 36 homers.

- Glavine gave up four runs, but it took him a while to do it, and his peripherals were very good. I think this is maybe the kind of outing we may have to get used to seeing from him. Not that they're that bad, but they seem disappointing after his recent stretch and they probably shouldn't.

- Heilman a good inning, which I didn't think would ever be that newsworthy but probably is now. His recent stretch has been ugly.

- Eli Marrero had quite a nice debut for the Mets, reaching base three times, stealing two bags, and making a few nifty plays in the outfield (only one of which I saw).

- Ramon Castro showed once again that he's better than Paul Lo Duca.

- Jose Reyes stole his 30th base of the season.

- Milledge took the size-4 collar.

- According to Baseball Prosepectus's "Playoff Odds Report," the Mets have a 96.9% chance of making the postseason as of tonight. Did I mention I'm not superstitious?

- With that figure in mind, I don't even know how much it matters that the Red Sox are probably going to beat the Braves tonight. Those poor bastards.

- Speaking of the Braves, Marcus Giles looks more like John Malkovich than Brian Giles.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Is this for real?

Yeah, they won again. It was closer this time, so Phillies fans can take some comfort in that.

There seems to be a pattern developing here: Mets score a bunch of runs, our starter turns in a respectable performance, and the bullpen gives up extremely little. Whether or not that's going to be the formula for the rest of the year, I think we can all agree that it's a good one. I'm just going to take a few sentences on the sustainability of each;

As for scoring bunches of runs, I think the Mets can do this on a pretty regular basis.

The team's OBP (.336) is not quite where I'd like it to be. In terms of league rank, we're just above the median, but it's a crowded field and only the Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers (in ascending order) really set themselves apart in the category. And how long can St. Louis stay there without the services of Pujols?

The SLG is in the sweet spot. The Beltran/Wright/Delgado-fueled .453 mark is just behind the Reds for league honors, and (besides employing Adam Dunn) they play in a bandbox on the Ohio River. They don't know what headwinds are.

Speaking of the Shea effect, it may deserve some of the credit for the home team's pitching performance, but certainly not all.

Pedro has been incredible, and I have a lot of confidence that it will continue. Glavine has also been incredible, but I don't expect it to continue. Trachsel is a known quantity. Hernandez and Soler are not (though I have my hunches).

I think the rotation is in the greatest need of a midseason upgrade... but a) that's what the pride of Wichita St. is for, and b) as long as the bullpen keeps doing this kind of work, the starters won't have to be any good.

To pick a totally arbitrary measure of pitching depth, the Mets have no fewer than ten (10) pitchers with an ERA of 3.33 or lower. All but one of them are currently active.

If I had been asked which two relief pitchers led the Mets in VORP, I would not have answered Darren Oliver or Pedro Feliciano, but there they are. The latter has been especially vicious. I had lost track of them in the Wagner, Sanchez, Bell and Bradford mix (Heilman's in the doghouse). Probably because they had all been so impressive, too.

Of course, there were also innings pitched by Bartolome Fortunato and Jose Lima, so the team ERA is 3.93 (maybe a few basis points higher after tonight's game). That's still good for best in the National League.

As for the original question: of course this start is for real. Just look at the standings, as I do more often these days. The record in one-run games (aka the '05 White Sox Luck Meter) has been unusually good, but the underlying performance is there, too. When the #1 pitching team in the league is also the #2 slugging team, that team should be expected to win.

Will it last? I hope so. The pitching has overachieved somewhat, but the offense hasn't.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Biggest lead since 1988

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of night shall keep this team from its appointed beat-downs.

The rain delay may have actually helped the Mets by knocking Orlando Hernandez out of the game. He did strike out three in his three innings, but also gave up two including a solo home run (Rollins, again). Of course, it didn't matter because once again the Mets built a healthy lead in the early innings.

I obviously made too much of the difficulty of getting to Brett Myers. The suddenly unstoppable Mets lineup, with a lot of help from the Philly defense, touched him up to the tune of six runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings.

Jose Reyes had four hits, Delgado drove in three, and David Wright hit a solo home run for the second consecutive night.

Heath Bell just put them out of their misery with a clean ninth inning. Final score: 9-3. Darren Oliver, who did a nice job in his three innings after the delay, picked up the win.


I don't even know what the baserunning mistake Lastings Milledge made tonight that drew the ire of Willie Randolph. Whatever it was, making a big show of berating His Royal Crunkness in the dugout struck me as characteristic drama-queenery.

Update: he looked over his shoulder at a fly ball with two outs, rather than just running all out. Yeah, it was an obvious mental mistake, but at least it wasn't laziness.


Mike Pelfrey is now officially dominating the Eastern League. Since his so-so early performances, he's improved his strikeout rate (10.2K/9IP) and ERA (2.83) considerably. Before I get accused of getting overly excited about a college pitcher's mastery of Double-A, his rate numbers are still not as good as Alay Soler's were (albeit in fewer innings) at the same level. While Soler has probably pitched well enough to stick, he hasn't yet looked like a real difference maker.

I still have concerns about the Soler/Hernandez tandem long-term, but they're not going to pitch us out of contention anytime soon, given the way the team is hitting right now. One nice thing about having a whopping 8.5 game lead in June is that Omar doesn't really have to rush him.

All the same, I think Pelfrey, with his polish and velocity and 6'7"-ness, would probably be an upgrade right now if pressed into duty. Of course, the team doesn't really seem to need one.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!"

The Mets just teed off on Ryan Madson, including back-to-back homers by Beltran and Delgado, and held on for a 9-7 victory. That makes six in a row, and the ample cushion in the N.L. East standings grows even ampler.

Though the run support made it less of an issue, Tom Glavine had his second bad start in a row. That's the first time that's happened so far this season; I almost feel ungrateful for pointing it out, he's been so good. But four home runs in four innings, including two to the non-beastly Jimmy Rollins, is at least a yellow flag.

The game would have still been a blowout if it hadn't been for Aaron Heilman's brief, disastrous outing. Ol' Aaron got just one out before surrendering a single, a double, and a three-run homer to David Delucci. I guess that's why we don't start him... Or was it because he's so good?

In any case things got a little bit interesting in the bottom of the ninth when Wagner walked Abreu to bring the tying run to the plate. Fortunately, David Wright made an outstanding play at third to initiate the crucial 5-4-3 double play.

As an aside, I think the loss of confidence in Wagner is ridiculous. Even if he had been bad enough to merit concern, Willie's decision to warm up Duaner Sanchez before Wags even started pitching couldn't have been much of a morale booster. The guy's ERA entering the game was 2.40! How much better to people expect him to be? This goes back to the marathon Pedro-Webb game I attended and noticed that the crowd was decidedly cool in their reception and started groaning loudly when our fireballing lefty allowed a baserunner (who didn't score).

In other promising news, which might be taken for a box score misprint at first glance, Jose Reyes walked three times in the game (one intentional). This brings his total for the year to 29, shattering his record for walks in a season. It was an embarassing record, to be sure, but it's nice that he's broken it and it's still June. He also rapped out a couple hits to improve that unsightly batting average.

How good is this team?

Monday, June 12, 2006

The new division rival

The Mets begin a three game series tomorrow night against Philadelphia, or, for those New York Times readers among you, "the new Williamsburg." While I think it would be funny to see the Mets take on an all-hipster team in an exhibition game, no such entertainment is in the offing, and the Phillies are no joke.

A brief rundown of the pitching probables:

Tom Glavine gets the ball in Game 1, hopefully fully recovered after getting battered on three days' rest his last time out. He'll be opposed by Ryan Madson, who may or may not be getting the hang of starting.

Madson has been a good example of a guy who's been much better as a reliever than he has been in the rotation. Though I'd still like to see Heilman get a chance to start at some point, I admit that there are guys like that out there.

Game 2 is to be started by Orlando Hernandez and Brett Myers. Advantage: Philadelphia.

Game 3 is a virtual push between Steve Trachsel and Cory Lidle. Both are perfectly competent but unlikely to put up dueling zeros.

As for the offenses, ours certainly appears to be clicking after the productive Arizona trip, but the Phillies lineup is pretty formidable. Jimmy Rollins has been a disappointment so far, but Howard, Utley, Abreu and noted Mets-killer Pat Burrell are as good a foursome as you will find in any lineup.


Just when I start to lose faith in All-Star balloting as a ridiculous exercise that rarely identifies the most deserving players, I read that David Wright is the leading vote-getter among N.L. third basemen. The system works!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mets bestride the N.L. like a colossus

The four game humiliation of the Arizona Diamondbacks is in the books. 37-9 on aggregate. The Mets have the best record in the National League at 39-23, and enjoy a 6.5 game lead on the Phillies.

This afternoon, The Team and the Time hung 15 on Russ Ortiz and friends, without benefit of a home run. Carlos Beltran is very locked in, going 2-4 with a double to raise his average to .297 (also still on pace for 50 homers).

The only starter to go hitless was Reyes, but even he drew three walks and stole two bases. The D-Backs managed only a solo HR against Pedro, who was more or less his usual self for five innings and 91 pitches. It was a low-stress affair.

On Saturday, Alay Soler threw a complete game shutout on 108 pitches, lowering his ERA from 5.00 to 3.33. It's good news that he has performances like these in him. I still worry about the poor peripherals, but maybe he's just got that Brian Bannister mojo.

Kaz Matsui was traded to the Rockies for Eli Marrero. I think it's a fantastic move.

For starters, Matsui wasn't doing anybody any good. Jose Valentin, whose head I was calling for after in May, has really come on strong at the plate. His defense is a little shaky, but not terrible.

I held out hope as long as anyone, but now it's time to make my peace with the fact that Kaz was really, truly awful. There was just no getting around, or past, the .504 OPS that was his swan song in a Mets uniform.

I agree with Joe McDonald that you can't really blame a guy for being terrible. I would even go a step further and say it's hard to blame the Mets (under Duquette, I think) for signing him. Remember at the time how huge a phenomenon Ichiro was for the Mariners, both on the field and financially. In Kaz, the Mets saw a guy who the scouts supposedly said could be one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. And most importantly, his offensive numbers in Japan suggested he could hit at least a little bit in the majors.

Obviously that wasn't the case, but who knew?

Meanwhile Marrero might have some real value. His average has fallen off precipitously in various part time gigs (for four different teams) in the last two years, but he appears to still have some decent pop. Encouragingly, his unconventional but wholly decent batting line of .217/.347//.467 owes more to his road games than those at Coors. Plus, he's played four different positions this year: catcher, both outfield corners and first base.

One question the trade does raise is whether the Mets are being a little disingenuous about the condition of Cliff Floyd. If he weren't going to miss at least enough time to warrant a retroactive move to the 15-day DL, this trade would make for a rather crowded outfield. I don't really understand why Floyd is expected to just shake off a high ankle sprain, an injury which has put far more durable players than Floyd out of commission for longer than two weeks.

Even if Floyd proves me wrong, the Matsui deal is something for nothing. At the risk of damning with faint praise, I think it's clearly Omar's best minor move for the Mets.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Milledge vs. Francoeur

The Mets won the rubber game of the Dodgers series, 9-7. Pitching on three days rest, Tom Glavine said afterward he felt "too good," which is a little strange considering it was a pretty terrible performance. But it was good enough thanks in no small part to Lastings Milledge.

Milledge's batting line through a mere 26 AB is .308/.321/.692. Except for the average being not quite as gaudy, it's more than a little reminiscent of Jeff Francoeur's debut last year, and I think the comparison holds up pretty well.

Both were highly touted outfield prospects who were drafted out of high school, put up great numbers in the minors, and were considered Five Tool players, but still had their weak spots: Milledge showed little home run power and Francoeur little plate discipline.

I don't know how long this comparison will look reasonable, but I think it's clear that you could say of both of them that on their best days they are capable of being tremendously valuable major leaguers. But you need only look at how far Francoeur has regressed this year (.701 OPS) to get an idea of why I'm still reluctant to get too attached to the idea of Milledge being the toolsy OF equivalent of David Wright.

That's exactly what he looked like last night, though, and the Mets now have the best record in the N.L. and lead the Phillies by four games. The Braves? Still "biding their time" seven games off the pace.

Grimsley Update

There's a post up on that identifies (or reports the identification of) strength and conditioning coach Chris Mihlfeld as one of the main suppliers. You'll never guess who his client list includes. The really damning article, if it is indeed Mihlfeld in the affidavit, is actually the one that it links to.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Grimsley drops a small fortune in dimes

The Mets are underway in Los Angeles, with a 5-1 lead in the second inning of the rubber game.

As for the injuries: Floyd has a sprained ankle, and is listed as day-to-day. He has said that he won't require a trip to the DL. I'm going to go ahead and cross my fingers just in case.

Beltran is showing no ill effects from his strained oblique, with two singles already tonight. Reyes is out of the lineup with his sore wrist.

Of course, the story of the day is Jason Grimsley.

I strongly recommend the IRS-Criminal Investigation (not a TV show, yet) agent's affidavit. Just incredible stuff. "Naming names" doesn't go far enough to describe the level of cooperation he provided.

He told them absolutely everything. He gave up as many prominent names as possible, the details of their use/distribution, even the names of people he just suspected were juicing. For extra credit, he even called his supplier with a bugged phone at the agents' behest to provide evidence of their past and planned activities.

A particularly jaw-dropping excerpt:

Grimsley identified, in his words, "Latin players," as a major source for the amphetamines within baseball. He stated that it was common knowledge that you could get amphetamines from "Latin players." He stated that he got amphetamines from "Latin players" whenever he needed them. He stated that "Latin players" had boxes of them.

One major "takeaway" from his statements, as they relate to the efficacy of the recently imposed testing regime, is that its effect was to confine his performance-enhancement to Human Growth Hormone alone.

Given that he had been injecting a variety of conventional steroids before testing began, a "glass-half-full" observer could call that a qualified success. Unfortunately, that qualification is a rather large one.

There's also the familiar refrain of the apprehended (or confessed) steroid user: "boatloads" of players are using them.

The names in question have been redacted from the document, but apparently it's only a matter of time before a clean copy gets leaked. In the meantime, you can try to figure out who he's talking about from the unedited details like what team a player was on or when they started using. I tried but failed.

Whether or not he's in any of Grimsley's little black books, I'm still trying to implicate Roger Clemens in this fiasco. I'll do it myself if I have to. Look at this picture of him and Koby and tell me that his kids weren't raised on peanut butter and Winstrol sandwiches.

One thing's for sure: Jason Grimsley is going to be much more famous (and useful) as a state's witness than he ever was as a relief pitcher.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Floyd pulls a Barbaro

Too soon?

Cliff Floyd had to be helped off the field in the first inning. He appeared to have turned either his left ankle or knee pulling into third base, and crouched immediately to take weight off it. Hopefully it's just a "tweak" that won't require a DL stint, but Floyd is no stranger to leg injuries, and I'd be surprised if he avoids one.

Disappointing. I thought he was a good bet to recover from his terrible start. He was hitting the ball hard, but usually at people, and in recent weeks he'd started to heat up. More significantly, the counter reading "214 Games Since Last Significant Injury" has to be reset to zero. It may not go that high again.

Assuming he does miss some time, Lastings Milledge's place on the team looks very secure, and Endy Chavez will probably get the majority of starts in left. With Beltran in center, it makes for a kind of irregular outfield in that most teams have power hitters in the corners and a speedster in center. We would have a power hitter in center and speedsters everywhere, which should prove especially helpful at Shea.

My confidence in the offensive production of both Chavez and Milledge is still low. I know they've been great, but think for a minute what your reaction would have been in spring training if you'd been told those guys would be starting in June. Nervous? Yeah. It's too early to throw caution to the wind.

Ideally, Victor Diaz would have been hitting well enough to be a respectable Plan B for the Milledge callup. Unfortunately, his numbers at Norfolk are just atrocious. I had thought that he had been passed over, but clearly there was very good reason to do so.

[Segue alert!] You know where OF help isn't going to come from? Today's draft. The Mets took a junior RHP from Villanova named Kevin Mulvey with the 62nd pick. With their next selection, the Mets shamelessly pandered to the growing legions of Mormon fans by selecting Joseph Smith, reliever from Wright State.

Seriously, I don't know who any of these guys are. Would you expect to see maybe one position player in the first five picks? I did, but in general I'm a fan of the college pitchers and supposedly this Mulvey guy slid.

As for the jewel of last year's draft (Pelfrey), I think it might be go time.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"We've fallen a long way from Mickey Mantle..."

The furor over Lastings Milledge's post-homer celebration is deeply, disturbingly stupid.

The idea that his celebration is made worse for the fact that he's a 21 year-old kid hitting his first home run seems exactly backwards. Is the issue really that, as a rookie, he hasn't "earned the right" to high-five fans, or is it just that such a celebration is a little over-the-top? I would hope it's the latter, and that under the circumstances you might cut the kid some slack.

But no, this us just too golden an opportunity for talking heads like Karl Ravech* to bloviate about how much the kid has to learn about humility and respecting his elders. It's part of the same "old school" seniority/hazing nonsense which kept David Wright in the bottom half of the order.

I would contend that if Wright had been the one to do something like this in his debut, the uproar would have been quieter. I don't think the scrutiny is coincidental to the fact that Milledge is black, has braids, and sported an unusually large cross pendant in his debut. There, I said it.

At gunpoint, I'll admit that concerns over excess celebration in sports have their place, but they should be relegated to short pieces on the very slowest of news days. It isn't the stuff of national controversy. I think this is just the sports media sniffing out the next Terrell Owens, who as anybody whose watched ESPN in the last two years can tell you is their No. 1 meal ticket.

Bill Madden is all over the story in today's Daily News. The article is less harsh than the headline (which he probably didn't write), but he gets bonus points for botching the Armando Benitez story too.

"But say this for Milledge: The kid has come here as advertised. He's a no-doubt-about-it talent who can do just about everything a manager could want on a ballfield - and a lot of other things that are going to need to be corrected if he wants to avoid getting a rep as a self-absorbed showboat."

Herein may lie the real crisis: I'm afraid that Milledge is still not a "no-doubt-about-it talent." At the very least, I don't think it's a given that he's already a major league hitter. But in the interest of putting the proverbial fannies in the seats, Mets management is probably going to be reluctant to demote him even if it becomes apparent (and I'm not saying it will) that he's not quite ready yet.

Should yesterday's showing buy him some time? Absolutely, but it's still too early to call him even a 20-HR (annualized) threat.

* Here's a paraphrase of the SportsCenter interview, in which Ravech mistakenly assumes that Joe Morgan is eager to participate in the Circle of Condemnation:

Ravech: What does a Hall of Famer like you have to say about a rookie doing something like that?

Morgan: I think it's great. It was just youthful exuberance and what's wrong with that?...

Clearly unprepared for the point of view that Milledge's behavior was non-horrible, Ravech looks confused and uneasy. Rather than taking the cue from Morgan's initial response and maybe adapting the tone of his questioning, Ravech makes the ill-advised decision to treat the witness as hostile:

"What about the fact that it was a tie game? You celebrate ties, not wins?"
I don't remember Morgan's response exactly, but he digs in a little, probably wondering what part of "I don't have a problem with it" he had left unclear, and basically reiterates that it was a big situation in his first game, etc.

I don't think I've ever written anything positive about Joe Morgan in this space, but this was great.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mets lose despite Milledge heroics

Damn. I suppose you can't win'em all, but still, damn.

Earlier in the game, I was actually wondering how long it would be before Lastings Milledge hit a major league home run. I was thinking more in terms of months than hours, but he just smoked the ball against an intimidating, hard-throwing pitcher at a crucial juncture.

It was pandemonium in the broadcast booth as well as certain living rooms in the SNY market. The word "karma" was used frequntly, as were shots of Ray Knight crossing the plate in 1986. The ability to consistently come back. The resiliency, chemistry and whatnot.

While extra inning games, one run games or "walk-off" games are definitely more fun to watch, they don't have any more value in the standings, or prove the winning team to be championship timber. The Mets have been very successful in these nailbiters, which is great, but at the end of the day it's something to be thankful for, not evidence that we're better than our record. In fact, it's the opposite.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited that the team is playing at this level. We're not lucky to be in first place. The pitching has been the best in the league by (the arbitrarily selected metric of) OPS-against, and second behind the Cardinals in the higher profile ERA.

But the offense has been a little heavy on the slugging (4th in NL) and light on the OBP (11th). The former number is impressive given the hostile home environment but the latter has to give some pause.

Anyway, it also occurs to me that I may not have been making a big enough deal out of how good it is to still have Pedro Martinez healthy. Whatever your take on how the rotation has been constructed and handled, I think the number of starts we get from Pedro is the greatest predictor of the Mets success. Concerns over the usage or availability of any other pitcher pale in comparison. Credit to Peterson, the Mets medical staff, Willie for keeping him in working order (can't blame them for the recent slip and fall).

Meanwhile, Steve Trachsel is an absolute stud of a fourth starter. I realize he's our third starter, but that's how I like to think of him. Does he have the occasional blowup? Sure, but he mixes in enough games like today's to keep the numbers pretty tidy. He's boring to watch, but I'd rather be bored than terrified.

Heath Bell was not sharp, giving up a single and a double (the walk was intentional). I wish he would really slam the door a few times in a row, both because it's preferable to letting inherited runners score and because it might get him a little breathing room on the roster.

In any case, it's disappointing to lose a series at home, but it's only the second such mishap this season. Pending the conclusion of the PHI-LAD game, we still have a five game division lead. This is in spite of some suprisingly bad offensive performances (Floyd, Reyes, Delgado recently), and that dark age when we were starting Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez. While it's way too early to crank up the '86 nostalgia machine (if only because Keith is insufferable enough as it is), I'm pretty happy with the first two months of the season.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Doubleheader underway + Stumpy responds!

The monsoon has stopped long enough for the first game of the twinbill to get started, about three hours late.

Orlando Hernandez had a rather shaky first inning, but thanks to Endy Chavez, whose defense is really noticeably awesome, only one run scored. He caught a line drive and then got the throw into first in time to double up Bonds, who had strayed waay too far.

Since it's early in the game, I might as well get the obligatory Bonds discussion out of the way. Here's an interesting article on Slate which at first I thought was going to be annoying but actually makes a lot of sense.

The headline is "Pee No Evil: Why Are Sportswriters Pretending the Steroid Era is Over?"

The first case is of course Pujols, who, while he is at least the right age to be doing it, is on pace for 76 home runs.

Is Pujols abusing steroids or human growth hormones? I don't know. But what's alarming in this era of deceit is that nobody seems interested in finding out. A little more than one year removed from congressional hearings that produced the most humiliating images in the game's history, baseball writers have a duty to second-guess everything. Instead, everyone is taking Pujols' test results at face value. Have we forgotten that Barry Bonds has never failed one of Major League Baseball's drug tests?

I disagree that no one is interested in finding out, but as long as there are ways of working around the MLB testing regimen (and it's my understanding that there are), you'd think that every 50+ HR threat would be under a little suspicion. Clearly that's not the case.

The thing that really gets me though is Clemens, who is now getting another round of fawning media attention for the "comeback" that everyone knows is just a return from a nice long vacation.

Here's a guy who just challenged Bob Gibson's single-season ERA mark at age 42. He's lowered his ERA each of the last three years. He had an incident, which Mets fans should remember well, which certainly seemed consistent with the symptoms of 'Roid Rage. His head seems wider than it was in his youth.

But what do we see on SportsCenter? Reel after reel of him running and lifting weights with his good friend Andy Pettitte.


Stumped1: my name in lights, how cool is that? hey, maybe i came off a little strong as well. but ya, we do disagree a lot of the time and i love these heated exchanges. and no, you can hurt my feelings, im usually the minority in these things so im used to it. as far as all the moves go it seems you mostly get down on trades where the mets have to give up something. the nady deal, the loduca deal, benson, seo and these last ones. i know the argument about cameron bein a center fielder. but after fielding offers for 2 years on him dont you think omar knew what he could get, and just looked for some youth and potential? not to mention the money to get delgado, which you liked. while benson may have what would be the 3rd best vorp on the team, that is not sayin much with all those injuries. if he was here the rotation would still be weak, and we be waitin for that inevitable dead arm period. i can find the numbers to spin my feel on benson just as easily as you can using vorp. its just a matter of perspective. and when looking at this trade as well as many others, you have to take into account omar's scouting background. it seems to me he has more of an eye for potential than your average gm. that is why i think he goes after a guy like maine. take julio for example. he saw the stuff that guy had, and after a horrible start he has been doing very well. and remember he had almost no time in spring working with the coaches. its like people wanted him to be a lights out closer type, but imo, thats asking a little much for a benson.i have no problem with people passing judgement when a trade happens. but, lets be realistic when its done. benson and seo were both mediocre starters, something the mets had plenty of. benson was ripped for 2 years on these boards because of inconsistancy and dead arm, but when he is traded he all of the sudden becomes quality and is worth so much more. i never look at it that way, at least i try not to. in the last 2 years i cannot find 1 trade that i disagree with. even the phillips-ishii thing was to fill a need. they just stuck with ishii way to long. and if seo or heilman had a bigtime spring that year it probably would never have happened. i am first to admit that the kazmir deal was a botched trade. i originally didnt mind it that bad. i thought zambrano had a huge upside and i dont buy into every prospect panning out.(kazmir appears to 1 of the few that might) but it was by the prior front office. i dont fear every trade because of that one when its a totally different theme bein played by omar. to say that omar has to be smarter than other gms is hogwash. omar just has to be smart enough to know what his team needs. the idea of trading isnt to get the best of your trading partner, its to build your own team.feel free to look at the mistakes of the past by a different batch of guys. the alomars, vaughns and cedenos were all bad moves, and i thought so from the get-go. i would have loved for them to surprise me and turn out, but as each deal wound up sucking i got more down on that regime. but i dont see how anyone can compare that with what omar has done. different guy, different approach. how you cant think they are doing a good job is beyond me. a last place team has been built into a 1st place team in less than 2 years. they are younger and deeper, and yet you cant accept that they know what they are doing. you like the delgado thing. it wouldnt be possible if they hadnt traded cameron for nady, which in itself has been a good deal. loduca for gaby is a no-brainer as well. maybe omar the scout noticed that gaby was havin trouble in A ball too. id take hernandez and maine in a heartbeat for benson. id take hernandez alone for benson. benson has never had a stellar year and has never had to pitch under pressure. hernandez acually pitched well 2 years ago for the yanks and also came up big in the playoffs. i dont care what vorp says, that stuff matters. maine was guy a lot of teams were up on. he still has the potential which is what the minors are for. you seem to want norfolk to be loaded with 5 #3 types ready for the call. and then to call the williams trade acitivity without progress is insane. the guy is closer to being a help at the major league level than the no-name schmo that they gave up. the guy puts up great numbers against lefties(i think it was lefties) and could actually figure into a bullpen role. that my friend is progress. i too think this is an excellent team. you point out that they rely on the financial resources more than smarts. tell me then how omar changed this team from a doormat to a contender in less than 2 years without increasing payrole. ya, the money is still up there, but its being spent a lot smater than before. give credit where credit is due.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

An open letter to Stumped1

I'm reproducing here the full text of a comment [the second one] by regular reader Stumped1 on Thurday's post. Rather than confine the heated debate to the comments section, I've opted to give it the massive exposure that this space provides, along with my indulgently lengthy response.

As you can tell, it's not our first go-round, and now that I have to call attention to the thread, I'm embarrassed that I was as mean as I was in my initial response. He's one of a very few posters here (wonder why?) so I know he can take it. And in the spirit of Edward R. Murrow, I will grudgingly put any response he wishes to make in the main section of the blog.

The basic argument that we've been fighting on several fronts is whether Mets management is doing a good job. I'm usually on the "No" side, Stumpy on the "Yes" side. This thread is specifically about my criticism of the Benson-Seo deals and more recent Julio-Hernandez trade.


Stumped1: "I need no moment of vindication [I had mocked him for claiming one]. It just seems to me you'd complain about any move that this team does before you see any results. Is this how you make yourself feel good? It's like you can't wait to be the 1st to say I told you so when something goes bad. But guess what, it hasn't been going bad. Julio was an asset, which you hate to admit. Benson would still be a liability, look at his line. I'll say it again, every move doesnt have to be a major upgrade. In fact there doesn't have to be an upgrade as long as a need is being filled. MDK [the third poster on the thread], if the Dbacks use Julio as their closer is not relevent here. He was pitching well since those 1st couple of outings which may be attributed to no spring training. What irks me is when fans hate a guy from the get-go. Like Doyle did with Julio. Then they turn around and [whine] when those guys they hate are traded for something other than a Cy Young winner. Fact is, the rotation was hurting and you aren't going to get major help there when so many teams are still in the race. This filled the need with a decent starting pitcher, not great, decent. The D-backs traded Vazquez for him, so they must have thought he still had something left as well. Who are you going to believe? Doyle, who complains about trading for a guy [Dave Williams] to fill a hole at AAA, or the heads of 2 playoff calibre teams?"


Dear Stumpy,

On the charge that I'd complain about any move: I can see how it might seem that way, but remember I was very much in favor of the Pedro, Beltran, Delgado and Wagner acquisitions. I gave Omar full credit for those deals, and didn't scoff that they were rather obvious moves or whine at all about the size of the contracts (a little about the length, maybe). I wrote glowingly of the 2006 roster, and picked the Mets to win the division.

As for the deals which turned Benson and Seo into Sanchez, Hernandez and Maine, I wasn't a fan.

Sanchez has been lights out. His 12.3 VORP is better than such starters (the metric is playing-time dependent) as Maddux and Mulder. Meanwhile Seo has been less than a run better than replacement level. On that deal, so far, advantage Omar.

As for Julio. I have admitted that his K:BB had improved substantially, but it was only 21 innings, and he gave up four home runs and a 5.04 ERA. For all his apparent improvement, he was 1.4 runs worse than replacement level, and three runs worse than Heath Bell (whom you said needs to learn how to pitch) despite the fact that Bell has thrown a third as many innings.

In any case, his value to the Mets is now moot. It’s a question of whether Benson for Hernandez and Maine was an upgrade.

First of all, I want to point out that I do indeed pass judgment on transactions at the time they are made. It’s the best and really only appropriate time to do so. The advantage of hindsight is a big one, and I’ve never blamed Minaya or Phillips for unforseen injuries or bad performances (see: Beltran’s 2005). Plus, it’s very early in the season, and there’s a long way to go before the playoff run that I fully expect.

But as for giving the front office the benefit of the doubt, I’m sorry but I just can’t do that. Mets general management, going back well before Omar, has been incredibly inept. We regularly have the biggest payroll in the league, and yet we never, ever, win the division. I’ll spare you any further discussion of a certain recent high profile trade which has not helped matters in the least.

I don’t wish for them to screw up so I can call them on it. I want the Mets to win a championship. But the whole reason I write this blog is because I think I have an informed opinion about how best to accomplish that goal, and if I think a move was stupid, I’m going to write as much. As for the “He’s the GM and you’re not” angle, it’s quite true. He obviously wins because he has my dream job, but in this little corner of the internet, I get to critique his decisions. And don’t forget that there are equally qualified professional baseball executives on the other side of all these trades. He doesn’t just need to be smarter than me, he needs to be smarter than the guys in Arizona (not easy) and Baltimore (not hard).

So anyway back to the moves at hand… You’re right that Hernandez has been excellent away from Chase Field. 28 strikeouts against seven walks in 22 innings is nothing to sneeze at. But even though you can adjust his performance at home for the hitter-friendly environment, you can’t just ignore it. For one thing it was a comically bad 28 innings, including 16 walks and eight home runs. For another, it’s a lot harder to ignore stretches like that when they come from 36 year-old pitchers with a history of long ball issues. He hasn’t pitched a decent full season since 2002.

As for John Maine, one thing that’s hard to ignore about a 25 year-old pitcher is a lack of success above the Double-A level. Again, he may prove useful (nice rehab start) and I would be happy about that, but there’s not much evidence to suggest he’s ready to hold down a job.

So how bad has Benson been, really? I admit that his having been the ace of the Orioles staff says more about the Orioles than it does about Benson. But not only is his 7.7 VORP the best among Baltimore’s starters (remember when Bedard looked so good?), it would actually rank third behind Pedro and Glavine in the Mets rotation (not counting the injured Bannister who got off to what is widely considered an unsustainably good start). His peripherals have been poor, except for his decent home run rate, but given that he’s five years younger than Hernandez, and coming off a very respectable 2005 campaign, I would like his chances of being our number three starter, and would take him over El Duque and Maine.

As for Williams, I wrote a few words about him, just pointing out his acquisition as another example of activity without any progress.

In summation, I think in general the Mets are an excellent team which relies more heavily on its financial resources than in the executive talents of its front office. As long as they win, that's fine with me.

Pedro vs. Webb (postgame)

The pitchers' duel was as good as advertised, and it continued well into extra innings. Pedro, Wagner and Sanchez were all outstanding. The D-Backs did not advance a runner past second, that I can recall. It was just a question of finally tallying against an equally effective pitching performance by Webb and a whole slew of relievers.

Lastings Milledge did not look good at the plate. Sure, Webb is probably the best pitcher he's ever faced at this point in his career (i.e. game two), but he looked overmatched. However, he might very well have saved the game for the Mets with an incredible throw from right field to third base. It was a thing of beauty. My eyes tend to glaze over when people talk about tools, but that was a fantastic play that not many big leaguers make, and it was a major contribution to the win.

Willie Randolph did a nice job tonight. I like that he brought in Wagner in when he did, and that he stretched out Sanchez for three innings (that only took 27 pitches).

I will produce a more substantive post sometime soon, but it's getting very late.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pedro vs. Webb

Only slightly daunted by the washout of my last trip to Shea, I'll be taking the storied 7 train to see this matchup.

Brandon Webb is looking about as dominant as any pitcher in recent memory, and Pedro is one of the very few who can still claim to be better.

Webb's ability to induce ground balls is not just "for real," it's the realest. For every ball that clears the infield, he gets at least four wormburners. That's not a fluke. It's been over four the last two years, and for his career it's 3.8. He's given up five home runs in 82 innings, which is a little less than half what your average pitcher surrenders.

His strikeout rate is only decent, but when you can "pitch to contact" and still get guys out (not many can), you get the underappreciated benefit of a relatively lower pitch count. His last two starts were complete games of 101 and 106 pitches against the Braves and Reds, respectively.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not rooting for Brandon Webb to establish himself as one of the game's elite pitchers. I certainly would like to see him take his first loss tonight at the hands of the home team. But he's really good, and I respect that.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Milledge gets the call

Sorry for the long hiatus. A lot has happened since my last post.

The trade of J. Julio for O. Hernandez is a little bit frustrating. I never quite came around on Julio, despite the legitimately impressive peripherals he posted in his fairly limited workload with the Mets. But El Duque hasn't been good for a very long time, and may not even represent an improvement over John Maine. And Dave Williams? I mean really.

It's early yet, but a substantive move still needs to be made. Steve Trachsel needs to be made our fourth starter. I'm not sure what will be available, especially since so far this season there appear to be an unusual number of contending teams. That's a bad thing for the Mets, both because the NL East is a good example of that parity and because it makes for fewer sellers come the trade deadline.

With Xavier Nady placed on the DL, Lastings Milledge made his debut with the big club tonight, going 1-4 with a double. He hit the ball hard in his first plate appearance, but right at Hanley Ramirez at short. I wasn't expecting him to be up so soon, but he may be ready.

Monday night's game was incredibly entertaining. Aaron Heilman's worst outing of the season almost cost the Mets the game, but Reyes, Lo Duca and Wright came up big in the bottom of the 9th to win it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Beltran is more animal than man

I have to go to bed. It's 12:15 AM on Wednesday, and they're in the bottom of the 15th at Shea.

Darren Oliver is taking his cuts at the plate, for the simple reason that he's last man standing in the bullpen. The Mets had the lead until Heilman gave up two in the seventh, but then tied on a Reyes three-run homer.

Ryan Madson entered the game in the ninth inning and has now thrown six innings of shutout ball, which he never did as a starter that I can recall.

Tomorrow Alay Soler (a "Cuban defect" to quote Darling) gets his chance to do his thing. My totally speculative prediction: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. He'll be opposed by Cole Hamels, who has been a big name prospect for a long time (delayed by sports and fight-related injuries) but is still four years younger than Soler.

Lo Duca just hosed Chase Utley at second base in the top of the 16th, which sounds heroic, but he's still got some making up to do for the ball he dropped at home plate.

In case the play doesn't get included in the recap, Shane Victorino hit a single to right field on which Pat Burrell tried to score from second. Endy Chavez threw an absolute seed to home plate, and it was pretty obvious that Burrell was dead to rights for the third out, but Lo Duca booted it and David Bell promptly cleared the bases.

All is forgiven! Beltran! Walkoff homer! Ballgame.

Bonne nuit chers lecteurs.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Weekend postmortem

Mike & Mike on ESPN are talking about the criticism of Willie Randolph for bringing Wagner into a non-Save situation. The Mike who isn't Mike Golic opined that it's absolutely ridiculous to blame the manager for his reliever's failure to preserve a four run lead, and it's even more stupid to do for the sole reason that even if he had preserved the lead, it wouldn't have qualified as a Save. He calls the Save rule "one of the dumbest stats in baseball."

Every once in a while, even elite Closers have really bad days. Do they hurt? Absolutely, and it's much worse because they're usually really highly paid and you always suspect that they've lost the Closer's Mentality. But the reason you get an elite Closer is because the meltdowns are so few and far between, and most nights it's 1-2-3 game over. In any case, I can't be convinced that the reason Wagner blew it is because he was so mentally thrown off by the score differential.

Let's just call Saturday's game "unlucky" and move on to Sunday's game, which was lucky. Really, really lucky.

The Yankees left 28 runners on base. The bags were juiced like... like something or someone that's juiced. I can't think of a topical analogy.

The Mets' combined pitching line: 9 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 6 K. It makes me wonder if maybe this was an elaborately conceived tribute to fallen comrade Brian Bannister. If you change the order of the Yankees' offensive events (double, groundout, etc.) ever so slightly, we lose 6-4.

Our offense, on the other hand, scored four runs on seven hits. That's what power hitting, in the persons of Delgado and Wright, can do for a team.

In the last three innings, all three of Heilman, Sanchez, and Wagner looked a little bit shaky. But Wagner struck out two while throwing 15 of 21 pitches for strikes. I think there's hope for him yet.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

NYM 7 - NYY 6

At first it looked like the game would be a lost cause. There aren't many pitchers who can be counted on to hold the Yankees in check, and Jeremi Gonzalez sure isn't one of them. As could be expected, that other N.Y. team beat him soundly about the face and chest.

But in the bottom of the first, Carlos Beltran launched a three-run homer off the suddenly awful Randy Johnson, and the battle was joined.

The bullpen has been incredible. Oliver righted the ship in the fourth and fifth, Heilman pitched three perfect innings, and Wagner struck out the side in the top of the ninth. Good job by Willie bringing him into a tie game.

Kaz Matsui's ribbie single was huge. I wish I hadn't just looked at his numbers and seen that it only raised his OPS to .605. Apparently he was due. At least he's been playing good D.

The bottom of the ninth was a thing of beauty. Torre decision to pitch to Wright instead of Delgado is hard to argue with. Both hitters have pronounced platoon splits this year, and Delgado's been slightly more beastly overall. But Wright is still so damn good!

Just a great win.


In other news, I just saw the clip of Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski in the face. I mean he really got him good. Having heard and read my share of Pierzynski quotes, I wouldn't be surprised if he had it coming. Square on the jaw. Suspension city.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bannister injured

Help is no longer on the way. Brian Bannister left his rehab start after injuring his leg. It's not completely clear from the article whether it's an aggravation of his original injury, but it sounds that way. It also doesn't sound good. He'll undergo an MRI tomorrow.

Assistant GM John Ricco is quoted:

"We don't know if he did more damage or if he just wasn't ready to come back. He felt some tightness and took himself out of the game... It could be that he was just being cautious and the muscle needs to get used to stretching again."

I guess that could be the case, but there is not a long tradition of pitchers removing themselves from games purely for the sake of caution. There's usually an injury of some sort preventing them from pitching without excruciating pain.

Apparently he "tweaked" the leg five pitches into the game, covering a play at first. That he wasn't injured in the regular course of pitching helps alleviate the suspicion that he may have been put back in action too soon, but it doesn't erase it entirely. Come to think of it, covering first could be considered part of the regular course of pitching, but to paraphrase Ivan Drago: "If it's blown, it's blown."

Meanwhile in St. Louis, the Cardinals took the rubber game of the series without any help from the Best Hitter in Baseball.

Submitted for your approval, my best guess as to LaRussa's thought process:

Let's see, when should I give Phat Albert a day off? Hmmm.... Glavine? No, probably need him for that game... Trachsel? Eh, ya never know.... ah-HA! Friday is "Lima Time," as the locals call it! Rest easy, slugger. We'll be just fine.

I know it was a day game after a series of night games, and LaRussa probably doesn't think of him as "Phat" Albert, but the reasoning makes sense.

Sure enough, J-Loss gave up five runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. Even .378 slugger Aaron Miles got a taste.

With Bannister on the shelf for probably weeks, at least, the Braintrust has to do something. One of the rules of thumb I think makes sense for a GM is to ask of every player under consideration: "Is this player going to be on our next championship team?" I think it's time to ask that of Lastings Milledge.

For all my criticisms of Mets management, I have been confident from the outset that the talent on our current roster is good enough to win it all. Unfortunately, so much attention has been given to the bullpen that the back of the rotation has gone neglected. It would be a concern even if this rash of injuries hadn't taken place.

The only rumor I've heard involves Dontrelle Willis. I'm not the biggest fan of the D-Train, but I think we need to get a good, if not excellent, starter. And I think we need to do it soon. It has nothing to do with his recent slump, but I think that in this legitimately "win now" situation, Milledge is a reasonable price to pay for such a pitcher.

Anyway a few highlights from today's game: Beltran and Valentin both went deep. The latter has pulled his batting line up from the depths faster than I expected. As a matter of fact, I didn't expect it at all. I called for his job, and I maintain that he's not much of an asset. But now he's at that .750 OPS level where it's hard to demand much more from a part time player. Here's hoping the old boy keeps it up.

Pedro Feliciano got four clean outs, and has still only allowed one run in 12.1 innings, with great peripherals. That's the kind of performance you can eke out of relief pitchers. Maybe he'll be the left-handed Roberto Hernandez. Sure, maybe not, but this front office needs to learn that getting quality starts isn't nearly as easy, and as things stand now they're going to be in relatively short supply.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mets almost score a run, but don't

The Mets loaded the bases in the ninth, but Jason Isringhausen struck out Wright and induced a Cliff Floyd grounder to first to preserve the Cardinals' 1-0 win.

Since Cliffy was batting an even .200 going into his final at bat, we'll continue to hear about his being "on the interstate" for at least another game. I understand the "Mendoza line" has fallen out of favor, but let's ease the new term into usage gradually, huh fellas?

As Cohen and Darling pointed out, Trachsel's performance was reassuring to say the least. The peripherals weren't great, but that's not an easy lineup to hold to one run. It has Albert Pujols in it.

Unfortunately, Mark Mulder was a little bit better. The ninth inning wasn't just the Mets' best opportunity, it was pretty much their only opportunity. I'm starting to realize that I had been thinking too little of Mulder. His ability to elicit ground balls is for real, and more than makes up for his unimpressive strikeout numbers.

In any event, he dominated our boys tonight, but at least we ended up taking game one eventually (I was fast asleep by the time that ended). And while it would have been nice to see him given a little bit of offense, Steve Trachsel gave us another taste of his intoxicating brand of adequacy.

I guess it's a little early to really pay too much attention to the horse race, but all the same: Philly lost to the Brewers, keeping them 1.5 games back for the time being.

Tomorrow Jose Lima gets his third start of the season. For the record, I do not care one whit how he pitches tomorrow. It needs to be his last appearance in a Mets uniform. He's a disaster in a hurry to happen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

To be continued?

Not long after suffering a rain-shortened loss in Philadelphia, it appears the Mets are going to be denied a rain-shortened victory in St. Louis.

Because the Mets took the lead in the top of the seventh inning, they can't be awarded the game until the Cardinals get their ups. If that doesn't happen tonight, it will have to be continued later (presumably tomorrow), and played to completion.

This rule, besides being highly inconvenient for the Mets tonight, seems a little bit stupid. I can see the unfairness of one team getting more chances to score than the other. But if a game gets shortened in any way, by definition the losing team is being denied the opportunity to come back. What difference does it make how long they've been losing for?

Jose Reyes was having a great game, not only homering but walking and stealing second in the seventh. He then scored the go-ahead run as Lo Duca delivered a timely double. It was really good to see.


Toby Hyde at Mets Minors isn't having this Mike Pelfrey nonsense:

"The absurd hype surrounding Mike Pelfrey in the NYC media continues unabated... Pelfrey has thrown 43.2 minor league innings so far. Were the Mets to bring him up in June, he’d almost certainly be shy of 100 in his first professional season. Right now, Pelfrey is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in AA. In 21.2 IP, he’s allowed 30 hits, walked nine and struck out 24. He’s not exactly rolling through the Eastern League. When he starts shoving down there, that’s the time to talk about a promotion to AAA."

I'd definitely agree that it's too soon to call up Pelfrey. But my objection would be primarily on the low innings totals alone. I'd like to see him get some more innings that don't count (unless you happen to be a huge Binghamton fan), before giving him ones that do.

Nonetheless, those 43.2 innings have been pretty outstanding. He's given up runs, but not many, struck out 50, walked 11 and surrendered just one home run (at St. Lucie). So while I do think some patience is called for, it's hard not to suspect that he is, even at his tender age, at worst the 5th best starting pitcher in the organization.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Relief pitchers are like cigarettes...

At some point, even the lucky ones get smoked.

Jeremi Gonzalez turned in a serviceable five innings on Saturday. He did give home runs to the dynamic young duo of Weeks and Fielder, but it wasn't a disaster.

Had scoreless inning machine Duaner Sanchez not surrendered a whopping four runs in 0.1 IP, it would have been a pretty easy win. I hope it (the sudden fallibility) doesn't jar his psyche too badly, but it was bound to happen sometime.

The Mets hit Dana Eveland hard, as you'd hope they would. Beltran went 3-5 with a 3R HR, and only Chris Woodward went O-fer.

As it happened, Paul Lo Duca had to take matters into his own hands with a game winning (but unfortunately non-walkoff) solo homer off Turnbow.

After double-checking the rulebook to make sure the conditions for a Save were satisfied, Randolph put Billy Wagner in to pitch a three-strikeout ninth.

Let's see, what happened yesterday... Pedro struck out 10 but gave up four runs, and Bill Hall ended up winning the game for the Brewers in the first extra frame.

So we split the weekend, which isn't that bad but it cost us another game to the Phillies, who just swept the offensively loaded Reds. Yesterday they won 2-1 on a pair of Ryan Howard homers, and are now just one game astern.

That's it. Just a kind of getting up-to-speed post more than anything else.


Joe Sheehan at BP($) , a Yankee fan, tears Scott Erickson to shreds. A Mets-related excerpt:
What do you think it’s like for a guy like Heath Bell, who
has pitched well in Triple-A for a while now, and intermittently well at the
major-league level, to get sent down whenever he has consecutive bad appearances
while watching Scott Erickson making three hundred grand again on nothing but

I agree that Bell has been given a ridiculously short leash. And even though Sheehan establishes beyond much doubt that Erickson is even less deserving of a roster spot than say Lima or Gonzalez (he's been unbelievably bad), I think the point applies to them too.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The nameless one gets shelled again

The failed reclamation project managed to (barely) avoid trouble for four innings, before blowing the Mets' modest lead in spectacular fashion. The home run he gave up to Prince Fielder was an absolute blast, measured at 478 feet. No word yet whether the showing will precipitate another change of hairstyles.

When I heard the Lastings Milledge for Dontrelle Willis trade rumor, I just thought about how not-worth-it Willis is. He's young, and certainly someone who would slot in ahead of Steve Trachsel, but the declining strikeout rates raise legitimate concerns that hitters have gotten used to his delivery.

Meanwhile Lastings Milledge has started to really look good. He still only has three homers in 124 at-bats, which is light, but he just turned 21 in April, and has a .436 OBP in Triple-A. I'm on the bandwagon.

But what if a really good starter becomes available? (If you feel strongly that Dontrelle is really good, then use him as the example.) I think Omar would have to pull the trigger. I think this is the team which he should be willing to sacrifice the future in order to improve. It's a contender for sure.

As a group, Mets pitchers have been the best in the league. The Cardinals recently passed us in ERA, but the other numbers are downright freakish for team averages.

Unfortunately, the distribution of the performance matters, and when it gets later in the season and time to contend in the playoff sense, they're going to need a bigger boat. Not just the return of the guys who are currently injured, but the arrival of someone better. I don't think this can be dismissed as pessimism. I think we have good reason to be uneasy that for the forseeable future, 40% of the Mets' starts are going to be started by Gonzalez and you-know-who.

Of course, maybe I should go easy on Gonzalez, who hasn't actually done any bad pitching this year (yet), and focus on Heath Bell, who was kind of a key component of my ever-evolving Master Plan to Fix the Mets. He got smacked around again last night. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is possible to give up zero walks and still do a crummy job. The hits will get you, too.

Billy Wagner pitched the bottom of the eighth, just because it had been so damn long. I know it's necessary to get him some work, but his appearance in last night's blowout, after being kept in the pen through some crucial innings in Philly, was just a monument to Willie Randoph's incompetence.

Things got moderately exciting in the top of the ninth, as the Mets tagged Danny Kolb and Rickie Weeks made one of the most hideous plays I've ever seen a second baseman make. Kaz Matsui came to the plate as the tying run, and Ned Yost finally had to bring in the hard-throwing (and unconventionally stylish) Derrek Turnbow to retire him.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Getting it off my chest

Jeremi Gonzalez has been pitching well in Triple-A. He's struck out 30, walked nine, and only surrendered one home run in 35.2 innings, with an ERA of 3.03. That's the good news.

The bad news is this isn't a prospect we're talking about. Gonzalez is a 31 year-old journeyman with a career ERA of 4.84 over 516 innings, most recently with the Red Sox but before that the Devil Rays and, in a former life ('97-'98), the Cubs.

Are there raw skills there that he never managed to harness in his twenties? The career 5.4 K/9 doesn't suggest as much.

Maybe there's more hope to be found in his minor league record. And what a record it is. Since making his professional debut in 1992, Gonzalez has logged no fewer than 818 innings in the minor leagues. Feel free to peruse the results over at the Cube (you may have to scroll depending on your screen resolution).

As you can see, his cumulative minor league ERA is 4.06. Though the highlights are few and far between, he was very good in 69 innings at Pawtucket last year. As for his 56 innings with the Sox? Not so much.

With all due respect to Mr. Gonzalez, who clearly loves the game and makes a good living at it: this is what the very bottom of the barrel looks like. Wondering whether he or Lima is the No. 4 starter is just no fun at all.

I don't mean to sound alarmist, and I'm not abandoning hope for the season or anything like that. We have a great offense, two of the top 10 starters and the best bullpen in baseball.

That bullpen also happens to include an excellent pitcher who had been a starter for pretty much his whole career. But Willie doesn't want to risk turning a strength into a weakness by giving Heilman the damn ball. Nor does he want to bring his closer into a tie game on the road, but I've already been over that (it still drives me nuts though, especially after his postgame comments confirmed my worst fears about his "philosophy.")

Anyway I think the writing is on the wall for a sooner-than-planned Mike Pelfrey callup, and that's something that I'm pretty excited about. It's not like he's 18 or anything, he's 22. As a matter of fact, he's a few weeks older than Scott Kazmir, just to pick a successful young pitcher at random.

... In other news, the Mets crushed Cory Lidle and the Phillies last night. Glavine turned in his first workmanlike (as opposed to spectacular) performance in a while, which was more than enough for the offense. As a rule, when just about everyone has two hits and Reyes goes deep, the odds of a W are high.

Straight Flushing fave Health Bell finally got a big league appearance, giving up a run on three hits. He did get two strikeouts however, on what looked like pretty effective breaking stuff.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Willie being Willie

That was a bit of a heartbreaker.

The game shouldn't have ended that way. For one thing, Heilman obviously should have let Lo Duca take that tapper in front of the plate. It didn't look like Lo Duca was as aggressive as he should have been in calling him off, but he did try and Heilman should have known how hard it would be to make the throw.

For another, once Heilman hit Rollins he should have been pulled. The pitch wasn't all that far inside, but it was enough to suggest he might not have his A-game. With that in mind, here is Chase Utley's platoon split from last season:

vs LHP: .219/.348/.469 in 128 AB
vs RHP: .313/.385/.561 in 415 AB

So Heilman walks Utley, bringing up Bobby Abreu. Here's his 2005 split:

vs LHP: .275/.353/.406 in 207 AB
vs RHP: .291/.430/.561 in 381 AB

Where is Billy Wagner? Bottom of the 9th of a tie game. Bases loaded. Two outs. Our left-handed, elite closer hasn't pitched since Friday.

Maybe Will Carroll is right about Wagner hiding a finger injury, because it's pretty much the only legitimate excuse for not using him in that situation. It's so simple: fail to retire Abreu, and you lose. Clearly you want to maximize the odds of getting him out, not the odds of seeing "Wagner (S, 8)" in the box score.

You would think in this day and age that the Save would have been more thoroughly demystified as nothing but a highly arbitrary measure of reliever performance. It's about the least informative "primary" statistic in the game. Wins and losses are practically useless as well, but they do little if any harm in terms of changing the way the game is played. Tonight I think we saw Closer orthodoxy actually make a team worse.

Unhappy ending aside, it was a damn entertaining game. Pedro struck out 10 in seven innings, but allowed all three runs in a bad second inning. Brett Myers was dominant for seven plus innings, until Nady finally got to him for a line drive two-run homer. Carlos Delgado then launched a second one against Tom Gordon to tie it up.

It may have been a poorly managed game from the Mets' standpoint, but it was pretty well played.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Money well spent

Carlos Beltran wasn't good last season. There's no need to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that he was a page after Jason LaRue on the list of NL hitters by VORP. It was enough to make people either forget about his 2004 or conclude that Shea Stadium is such a miserable place to hit that there's no way he'll ever do anything like it as a Met.

To review: In 2004, Beltran hit 38 regular season home runs. Because of the seemingly pointless custom of restarting the counting-stat odometer at zero when a player switches teams midseason, it never really got presented as a 38 home run season (even ESPN's player page makes you do the math). But that's what it was. He also stole 42 bases while only getting caught three times, extending his lead in career SB%, which as far as I know he still holds.

Then came the postseason, when in 46 AB he hit .435/.536/1.022, with a record 8 home runs. This did not go unnoticed, nor did the fact that he would be a free agent at the end of the season. The "contract year" theory gets an awful lot of run, I think in large part because it appeals to our natural jealousy of millionaire ballplayers.

In any case when Omar signed Beltran to such a massive contract, a lot of the mainstream commentary was focused on how much Carlos had profited financially from his incredible October. While it undoubtedly boosted his market price, so too must have his calendar year totals at age 27: 46 home runs and 50 steals in 646 at-bats.

So what happened? Disastrously little. His debut in New York was worse than I would have thought possible. I think it's safe to say we all remember it, and felt our emotions go from confusion to frustration, with a brief layover at rage on the way to despair.

The skeptics had warned us that Shea Stadium isn't as hitter friendly as Kansas City or Houston. We knew he had a leg injury, and smashed heads with Cameron, but how could we be sure that that was the only problem. And even if it was, would he ever fully recover?

As I pointed out at the time late last season, Mike and the Mad Dog took to speaking of Beltran as a "role player," who was not the marquee talent that had been advertised and paid for. The high expectations themselves were blamed for the lack of performance. "He can't play in New York" was the consensus in the New York media (it's obvious how much pride they take in the city's powers of intimidation).

They were right in that he wasn't playing well in New York, but it was and always will be patently ridiculous to suggest that Beltran didn't deserve to be considered a franchise player in the first place, and that 2005 was just his forseeable regression to the "good" player he had been all along. But what's this we see in the 2006 row? It looks like a .286/.441/.671 line. He seems to have eight homers and four steals.

Maybe, just maybe, the four years before he came to New York are a better reflection of his abilities than his first year with the Mets. Maybe a few years from now we'll find it hard to believe he ever got booed at Shea.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jose Lima: Plan 9 From Outer Space

Watching the Braves score over a dozen runs at Shea is always a bummer. It's somehow made worse by the fact that they were aided and abetted by a total washout with a platinum afro; one whom a championship-caliber team really shouldn't have to run out to the mound.

I suspect that Lima's colorful personality is part of the reason why he's been allowed to give up 64 HR the last two years. At this point in his career, he's Eric Milton-light.

Bartolome Fortunato then made a compelling argument for Heath Bell's callup, surrendering 8 runs in 1.1 IP.

Jeff Francoeur paced the Atlanta offense, as he continues to hit the Mets very hard. He came within a double of the cycle.

Runs 6 through 13 didn't make too much of a difference, of course, as John Smoltz was in top form. This was probably to be expected. They must have been a little "hungrier" than the Mets to save some face, and this is sort of what happens when you match Atlanta's ace with "Lima Time" (a phrase which I don't get and isn't funny and lends brand recognition to a guy who hasn't deserved it for years).

It's just one game, but it's a good time to point out why people like myself hated the Seo and Benson trades. All 162 games counts equally, and that as important as it is to have a Pedro Martinez making 30-plus starts, it's also important not to have a Jose Lima making more than five or six. "Replacement level" is just another term for really terrible pitching. I know Benson was terrible today too, but that doesn't make the decision any better.

A lot of fans rush to Omar's defense by pointing out how flukish it is that Zambrano, Bannister, Iriki and Maine are all hurt. That's true, but why are any of those guys slated to start ahead of Aaron Heilman in the first place? They're not even the best of what's around after the trades for Sanchez and Julio.

On the bright side, Carlos Beltran has now homered in three straight games, bringing his total for the season to eight (where he's tied with a whooole bunch of people). It's starting to look more and more like people,were a little quick to dismiss his chances at superstardom.

Oh, and the Mets are 21-10.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Beating the Braves is like crack to me

I won't bother recapping last night's game, partly because you can get a thorough and properly AP-styled account of it here, and also because I didn't see the last two hours or so.

When I left it was 6-6 and Heilman was just about to enter the game. As an aside, I find his face really odd-looking, and the low lighting in the bullpen makes him look like some sort of unfinished golem, kept in total darkness and seclusion until his services are required.

Anyway, when I got back home, after midnight (I'm something of a party animal), Billy Wagner was addressing the media and explaining how shocked he was to have surrendered a particular home run.

His remarks and his body language suggested that the Mets had lost, which was disappointing. What was only slightly less disappointing was that our boys had in fact pulled it out in a marathon 14 inning game, and I missed it.

At some point in the middle innings, Keith Hernandez incorrectly described Xavier Nady as 25 years old. Would it were so! He's 27, which is a big enough difference to make me wonder how much homework Keith is doing. It may sound nitpicky, but not only is that two fewer years he has left on his, um, biological clock, but at "peak age" he also faces much longer odds of improving substantially from his current level of production. Mind you, there's nothing at all wrong with his current level of production (.918 OPS). I'm just saying that if he were 25 we probably couldn't have gotten him for Mike Cameron.

I never thought I would ever look at a line of .268/.336/.409 and think "now that's what I'm talking about!" But Jose Reyes is a unique situation, and the stakes are extremely high for a few reasons:

1) As last year proved, he will be our leadoff hitter come hell or high water. If he doesn't improve on his career .306 OBP, we're just going to have to eat all those outs.

2) As one of the very fastest men in baseball, he gets more leverage from his OBP, not only by stealing bases but stretching triples, scoring from 1st, etc.

3) Even if you reject the notion that a player "is who he is," and that there's little you can do to transform a free swinger into Kevin Youkilis, Reyes is still so young that I think it's definitely a little bit surprising how much he appears to have changed already.

Is it too early to declare him fully cured of hackatitis C? I guess so, but he's already about halfway to his 2005 walk total. There's nowhere to go but up.

Today's game is just getting underway, and I've realized that in-game blogging is not my core competency, so I'm going to sign off for the moment... Maybe make some eggs... I am the worst case scenario of Dan Rather's vision.


Wow. Cohen just made the observation that seeing as how last night's game ran so late, today's game could be influenced by the recently imposed ban on amphetamines. It's an entirely reasonable point, but not one that you necessarily expect an employee of an MLB team to make on the broadcast. Hernandez then agreed that this would be the kind of game where players would have been inclined to "go to the jar." Good stuff.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tom Glavine is the new Johan Santana

Ten (10) strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Un-bleeping-believable.

David Wright went 4-5, bringing his average back over .300. In his postgame comments, Willie Randolph acknowledged that Wright had been in a little bit of a "funk," but didn't want to characterize it "as a slump per se, because I don't really believe in slumps." I had been under the impression that funks were similar if not identical to slumps, but that's why they pay Willie the big bucks.

The Mets were not the only NL East team to complete a two game "sweep" tonight, the Phillies beat the Braves behind Cory Lidle and Ryan Howard, moving to 14-14. At this point, I don't know who to root for between these two teams. I picked the Braves to finish second in the division, but they have looked bad so far.

Meanwhile the Phillies' underperformance is a perennial storyline but their lineup is undeniably impressive, and people still haven't taken notice of Brett Myers. I've heard multiple commentators refer to Lieber as the ace of the staff without qualification. Lieber's been better than his ERA, but Myers is in the league's top 15 in both ERA and strikeouts, and I think he has a good chance to stay there.

Speaking of (once) young pitchers, I don't mind Ron Darling as an announcer, but he needs to stop bringing up how terrible he was as a rookie. The first time I found it self-deprecating, but he's brought it up three times now, that I've heard, and it's starting to sound more and more like his sly way of referring to his successful playing career by focusing on his uninspired (but not horrible, actually) debut. Maybe he's still embarrassed at having walked 104 batters when he was 23, but a) that would be kind of weird, and b) it took him 205.7 innings to do it, which is more than Victor Zambrano can say for his 2003.

I hate to do this, but now that the topic of Zambrano has been broached, I feel not tempted as much as compelled to put a link to Scott Kazmir and suggest that it's time for the remaining defenders of this deal to totally capitulate and admit that it was stupid, if not in writing than simply in the deepest recess of their poor misguided souls. Only then will I be willing to "let it go," as several bloggers have intimated is the most reasonable course of action. Forget that. I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand here, dude.

Incredibly annoying, constantly-aired ad du jour: the Michael Moore anti-smoking PSA. At first I assumed it was a very good imitation of Moore, but it's actually he.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Our new first baseman is much better than his predecessors

I attended tonight's game in person. Well, I attended the first three innings in person. I didn't think to bring a jacket, and was cold to begin with, and then it started to rain. It was pretty miserable, so my girlfriend and I went back home to watch from the warmth of our Brooklyn apartment. Plus I had only ponied up $5 each for the upper "reserved" seats, so the sunk cost was minimal.

Once again, Pedro really did it to 'em. The home run he gave up to Freddy Sanchez in the first was crushed, right into a strong headwind, but that has been the extent of the Pirate offense to date. 7 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. He will get a no decision, which tells you how significant a pitcher's record is.

Endy Chavez is having an incredible game. He just made a downright shocking play in shallow right center field. On the replay he comes from completely out of the frame to make the diving catch on what probably shouldn't even have been his ball. I had said earlier that it would take some superheroic defense to make up for his bat. Well that was the kind of play a mutant would make, and he's also 4-5 with two doubles.

Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez were both outstanding, again. Heilman lowered his ERA to 2.3o, and raised his K:BB over 3. Sanchez's ERA is still a clean 0.00.

Billy Wagner, unfortunately, squandered his two run inheritance in the top of the ninth. Cohen et al were discussing whether he was having difficulty with the wet mound (the rain had been steady for most of the game). Cohen said that Wagner's stride to home plate is longer than Randy Johnson's. That's kind of hard to believe.

Ramon Castro made a great defensive play, picking Chris Duffy off first base to get the second out of the 10th inning. He then struck out looking to make the second out of the bottom of that inning. The Toad giveth, the Toad taketh away.

"... and it's OUTTA HERE!"

It's a walkoff. Carlos Delgado takes lefty Mike Gonzalez deep to left to win the game in the bottom of the 12th. He has 11 home runs on the season, and the Mets are now 18-9. Drawing the foul, and once again it counts.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This hurts to watch

"Who the hell is Mike O'Connor and why is he dominating my Mets?" That's the question I've been asking myself, until I made the long, hard slog over to the Baseball Cube to find out. Turns out he's not without some pedigree. 7th round pick out of GW, solid minor league numbers but he was getting kinda ripe for High-A. I'm not sure why he's suddenly in the majors but, with the exception of Paul Lo Duca, homeboys could not hit him.

John Maine got hit pretty hard, especially by Soriano, whose shot hit the left field mezzanine. He gave up four runs, but it wasn't a disaster and he did manage to strike out six. I think he might be what people mean by Quadruple-A, at least for the forseeable future.

The disaster was the offense, which through 8 innings has produced only two hits: a home run and single from Lo Duca. Beltran and Wright managed walks. I'm not big on booing, especially a team at 17-8, but how frustrating would this game be in person?

Darren Oliver's new car smell faded quite a bit in the time it took Damian Jackson to round the bases.

Bottom of the ninth... a home run by Beltran, and that's all she wrote. Mets lose 6-2.

I just bought tickets to see Pedro tomorrow night against the Pirates, who I'm hoping offer little in the way of resistance. The way the Mets are hitting at the moment, it's probably still going to be close.

Elsewhere in baseball...

- Johan Santana is turning in a vintage performance through 7 IP.

- Edwin Encarnacion (950 OPS) is a big reason why the Reds are winning. Apparently the defense is brutal, but what are you going to do? (see: D. Wright)

- Charlie Manuel and Willie Randolph apparently went to lineup school together: he's batting Ryan Howard sixth, behind Aaron Rowand.

- The Texas Rangers lineup is incredible... and the pitching is incredibly bad. It's not just the park.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Assist: Majewski

The Braves came alive against Steve Trachsel, winning 8-5 and avoiding the historic sweep. Francoeur had a very big day, including a home run off of Jorge Julio, who to his credit struck out five in his two innings to raise his K:BB for the season over four (22:5). Kyle Davies didn't dominate the Mets, as he has in the past, but he didn't give up many.

It's disappointing, especially since the Mets did manage to put together a couple late-inning threats, but not a disaster. There were bright spots: Endy Chavez apparently didn't read my discussion of how bad he is, hitting his first home run of the season. I'd still rather not have him start too many games in right field, if we can avoid it.

Plus Ramon Castro had two hits, also gunning down the larcenous Ryan Langerhans. If Castro could be said to embody one of the syles in "The Five Deadly Venoms", it would have be the Toad, but he can play a little bit. Bottom line: if you're already shocked to see the Mets lose a game played in Atlanta and started by Steve Trachsel, you've let your expectations get a little too lofty.

As I'm writing this it's the bottom of the ninth in a 1-1 tie with Los Nationales. Billy Wagner came in at the top of the inning, struck out Nick Johnson and then just absolutely broke Jose Guillen. I mean the poor guy actually hurt his ankes trying to chase the slider, which would have hit his right heel, and had to walk it off for a second. Wagner was hitting 98mph on the SNY gun.

Game Over! Mets win 2-1 on a walkoff error. Gary Majewski snared a comebacker from Lo Duca, but threw high and it went into center field. Chavez came around to score the winning run. A little flukish, but I'll take it.

Victor Zambrano did a very good job. Six clean, efficient innings and certainly deserving of a win. Feliciano, Sanchez and Wagner were almost perfect in the 7th through 9th: 0 H, 1 BB, 5 K. Carlos Delgado hit an opposite field home run, into the wind, for the Mets' first run.

John Maine gets the start tomorrow. He's been quite effective at Norfolk.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Finish them!

I haven't read "Win Shares", but believe the idea is that you can divide each win into three "shares" to be attributed among 1-3 players on the winning team according to how much they contributed to the victory (if one guy does it all he can receive two or even three). I think credit for last night's 1-0 gem could be pretty evenly split among Glavine, Lo Duca, and Floyd.

Tom Glavine has been dazzling. You have to go back to 1994 to find the last season his K/9 exceeded 7, and there were only two of them. It may not stay there, but there's a trend to go along with the spike: he's lowered his ERA and improved his K/BB each year since his rather unimpressive debut with the Mets. I did not see this coming, but it's quite a pleasant surprise.

I do think it's worth mentioning that showing improvement past the age of 35 has been taken as evidence of steroid use in a lot of players. I don't think anyone would suggest that Glavine is juicing, but maybe someone should just to be fair.

Seeing the wide range of players and pitchers who have tested positive, it's obvious that the drugs aren't just for transforming early Sammy Sosa into late Sammy Sosa, and conceivable that a diminutive, aging pitcher might need chemical assistance just to keep on truckin' (I know he's not quite hippie-aged but I'm trying to make a point). I also think that the media are a lot more credulous of the "intense work ethic" as an explanation for the longevity of white athletes than non-white athletes. Again, I'm not actually suggesting Tom Terrific is slathering himself in the Clear, but he's obviously doing something right and I sure hope he keeps it up.

Lo Duca's contribution was obvious enough: his first and by far his most timely home run of the season. Not a cheap one, either. It's pretty much axiomatic that he was the difference in the game. But Cliff Floyd is the reason why Lo Duca's HR stayed the difference in the game. He made two brilliant catches in left, one diving, one sliding, that saved at least two runs.

Kaz Matsui is off to a very good start. I don't think our season rises or falls with the production we get from the keystone, but how nice would it be if there were actually some production to speak of?

In other news, the Henry Owens whispers are growing in volume. Mike Pelfrey joined Owens at Binghamton this week, and continued to put his thing down. These two are both doing phenomenal work. I'm still calling for Julio's head (and Zambrano's removal from the rotation), but there are options at Norfolk, and sitting on a seven-game division lead, the Mets should be in no real hurry to call these promising youngsters up... boy was that fun to write.

This afternoon Steve Trachsel will attempt to execute his personal finishing move on the Atlanta lineup. I've heard it takes a while to develop, but can be quite spectacular.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Eyes Wide Shut

Pedro Martinez treated the Braves like 7-up, improving to 5-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.94. David Wright ripped two home runs. God's in his heaven. All's right with the world.

If you look at Wright's record, you'll see that he continues to improve in every offensive category. This is what his projected season line looks like:

Wright: 604 AB, 44 2B, 15 3B, 37 HR, 44 SB .329/.392/.634

This can't continue indefinitely, but don't confuse this for mere precociousness. He's one of the five best offensive players in baseball, and instead of reverting to some kind of normalcy he's just getting better. He needs to tighten up the defense. A lot. At the same time, there's raw talent there too, as the barehanded catch among other plays has demonstrated. I'm not saying he'll ever quite outhit Albert Pujols, but if he's not already that inner circle of truly unique players, he's making a B-line for it. I no longer think Scott Rolen should be held out as his best case scenario.

I saw on this afternoon's Mets Weekend Special or whatever on SNY, and saw that they had the authors of Eddie Kranepool Society, Faith and Fear, and I think maybe one other blogginghead doing commentary on Piazza in San Diego and other subjects. It's good to see them getting some pub.

Kranepool does a good job, but I find his take today on Endy Chavez to be very different from my own. He expresses indifference for the return date of Carlos Beltran, because Endy Chavez is opening a lot of eyes. He calls him the best centerfielder in the game right now, and that he is "even growing in confidence with the bat as well. His ability to lay down a bunt and beat it out is outstanding and a lost art. Chavez is a throwback player."

Yeaahhh. I've been impressed with his defense too, and would even concede for the sake of argument that he's better than Jones, Hunter, Cameron and Edmonds with the glove. It's not enough. The only people whose defense could possibly be good enough to make up for Endy Chavez's hitting are all comic book characters. Watching him take his hacks is just infuriating. It's nice that his speed allows him to beat out bunts and infield singles, but he's clearly not doing it frequently enough to keep his OBP above .285. He can make all the catches he wants. I want Carlos back ASAP.


McConnell does a great job with Tim Marchman's heretical claim that "Lastings Milledge is a fraud." First of all, I didn't read Marchman's whole article because it requires a subscription to the Sun which I just won't do, but he's basically pointing out that Milledge hasn't hit any home runs. McConnell finds some very good centerfielders (headlined by Edmonds, power-wise), who were also not clearing many fences in their age 20 seasons. I still give Marchman credit for calling attention to a rather important number which has been really glossed over for a long time, all the more so now that Milledge is looking great.