Sunday, April 03, 2005

 

Maybe 'Roids Don't Work

So one of the lightest hitting players in baseball tested positive for steroids. Obviously, they don't work. In 1351 career at-bats, he has four home runs!!! Seriously, maybe steroids don't help you hit homers at all and maybe Bonds can use this as an argument in his defense.

Pedro on the hill tomorrow. Let's go Mets go.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

 

Spring Loose Ends

So we are almost their, the season is almost upon us. Is it just me, or does spring training seem a little too long? Maybe it is the anticipation of the season, but it is endless. Every minor story becomes a major story and it has gotten to the point where I have just stopped reading. Well maybe not stopped, but my enthusiasm has waned.

One story that has gotten some play is Willie's insistence on batting David Wright eighth. I've gotten into this before, and I don't want to repeat myself, but how many teams bat their second best hitter eighth? I want to give Willie every benefit of the doubt, but this is senseless. Maybe he is doing this to get the press' collective panties in a bunch, but if Wright is hitting before the pitcher next Monday, it is cause for concern and takes into question Willie's ability to evaluate talent. If he said he didn't want to put pressure on him because he is young, I wouldn't agree with it, but I would at least understand his rationale. However, since he has penciled Reyes in as the leadoff hitter even though he is younger and has had less success in the majors, that can't be the reason. I'd like for a Mets reporter to ask Willie this question, I would love to hear the answer.

In other news, Andres Galarraga retired as I'm sure you know by now. As a result, the consensus seems to be that Kerry Robinson has a spot on the team. I don't get it. The other four spots for the bench are earmarked for Cairo, Woodward, Valent and Castro. Was it really down to the Big Cat and Robinson? A slugging righty and a punchless fifth outfielder? Without Mike Cameron, Robinson has a purpose as the Mets would need someone else who could play center. Right now, their bench lacks any righthanded pop. Castro has some, but as the backup catcher teams are hesitant to throw them up in any situation. I don't like the fact that Luis Garcia, who hit his third homer of the spring today, didn't seem to get a legitimate shot at the job.

I am not saying Garcia should've gotten the job over Robinson, but you would think the Mets had a role they wanted to fill with the last bench spot. If they wanted another outfielder, take Robinson or Calloway. Another slugger, Galarraga or Garcia. Maybe I am reading too much into the press and it really wasn't between Galarrage or Robinson. Here is hoping that Garcia mashes in Norfolk, proving his stats in 2004 were not a product of Las Vegas and the PCL, and that Robinson turns out to be the useless player he has always been.

I'm getting tired of speaking in hypotheticals, bring on the games.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Ugh To Urbina

Mr. Gilkey raises a good point about the Mets talent evaluation. Are they delusional about how good their talent is, or are they just bad talent evaluators? I think it is a little of both and they have far too often fallen prey to the lure of the "proven commodity."

There is no better example of this then their supposed interest in Ugueth Urbina. Maybe this is not true, but if it is, it is a major red flag about how they run their team. Urbina comes with the "proven closer" label after some dominance in the late 90s and a great run for Florida in 2003, when he took the closers role from our own Braden Looper.

Have you looked at his stats? In 2004, he had a 4.50 ERA in 54 IP in the pitchers heaven that is Comerica Park. For his career, his ERA is 3.42 in 618 innings with 717 strikeouts and 268 walks. His K/9 is strong, but his K/BB is mediocre and with the exception of a couple of dominant stretches in 2002 and 1998, seven years ago(!), he has been extremely average. A 3.42 career ERA for a supposedly upper echelon reliever is an abomination.

Note to Mets: He does not provide an upgrade over anything they have in house and a trade for him would be a waste of resources. What does he have over Strickland or Bell other than that we have all heard of him? The thought of this trade makes me nauseous as the Tigers are supposedly asking for one or two prospects. It is same type of thing as the Ishii and Benson deals. The Mets continually fail to understand the concept of replacement-level talent.

Hopefully this is all smoke, but I fear there is fire there as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Fun with Leverage

My overall feelings about the deal were very similar to Wally’s at first there was some anger and frustration, and then that slowly subsided, because I realized this trade isn’t actually killing the Mets.
The trade does sound alarms about the overall long-term plan of the team. Those alarms ringing basically signifying “we have no long term plan, we don’t know what the f we are doing.”
My view of the goal of this season was to build respectability with a possible outside shot at the playoffs, but for me that would’ve been gravy. I will gladly take an 86 win season from this Mets team, especially if it meant that Wright, Reyes, Matsui were all healthy and growing as major leaguers, and Beltran continued to establish himself as a superstar. Lay the groundwork, wait for Petit, Milledge, Humber to join the party and in a year or two the Mets will be ready for a long run of good times.
This move clearly signifies a win now attitude from management. While this move isn’t particularly detrimental to the team (like say trading away the best young lefty prospect in baseball, but who would do that?). I believe Phillips to be more like the player of 2003 than 2004, but that’s my opinion and the Mets clearly felt otherwise. As a backup catcher Ramon Castro is not a significant downgrade from Phillips because there will only be so many at bats for a backup catcher.
However, where I believe this really hurts the Mets is the 2006 season and beyond. With Piazza’s contract expiring and the Mets organization dry at MLB ready catching prospects (thanks Kris Benson!) the Mets are going to be stuck with Ramon Castro as their starting catcher as they are supposed to start their run of dominance.
Phillips could have at least bought them a season and played a league average catcher while they either waited for a prospect to develop or better ones to hit the market (I think Ramon Hernandez is the big name on FA catcher list for next year).
Regardless, holding onto Phillips whether or not they planned on using him, gives the Mets leverage in solving their long term catching situation. This “leverage” term is clearly something that Omar is still struggling to grasp. Additionally, Phillips makes peanuts, and it is invaluable to have a few good starters who make nothing.
While the immediate downsides of this trade are minimal, and hey, I guess it’s possible that Ishii reverts back to form (I’m not holding my breath) it signals that the new management still doesn’t get it. They are still stuck in this indecisive limbo position of waiting or deciding to go for it, and as a result will ensure themselves a long run of expensive mediocrity.
One last note, Similar to last year’s deals, this deal makes me question the Met’s organizations ability to realistically, and objectively judge the talent on this team. As a fan it is easy to overrate or be overly optimistic about players that you have a certain affinity for. As a fan it’s expected, except for those of a few teams, that you approach every season with optimism and excitement. As a GM or Owner it is simply unacceptable to approach players or expected team performance with anything other than objective analysis. So sadly, and I don’t know which is more sad, either they don’t realize this or their objective analysis is just really poor.

Monday, March 21, 2005

 

What Is Better Than One Guy Named Kaz? (Answer At Bottom)

It seems as though most of blogging community is split on whether the Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii trade is a good one so I figured I would weigh in on the subject.

My first instinct was that this was a terrible trade. After further deliberation I am not so sure it is terrible, but I am not a fan. I can understand why the Mets were not too pumped about putting Matt Ginter in the starting rotation because he is not a known quantity, but Kaz Ishii is not a reasonable upgrade.

I look at the trade and I see two teams with a need. The Mets felt they needed another starter and the Dodgers felt the needed a catcher. Phillips provides the Dodgers with a legitimate upgrade over David Ross and Paul Bako, while Ishii does not provide the same type of upgrade for the Mets. I am not opposed to trading Phillips because 2004 notwithstanding, he is one of the stronger back-up catchers and better than a number of starters in the league; however, Kaz Ishii is an erratic starter with questionable command whose numbers have not been great in one of the best pitchers parks in the league.

Maybe Rick Peterson can “fix him in 10 minutes” like he has with Victor Zambrano. If both of these guys post sub-4.00 ERAs, build him his plaque in Cooperstown now. The Dodgers were also looking to get rid of Ishii as reports indicated that manager Jim Tracy was tired of his endless innings and he was included in the first proposed Randy Johnson deal. In fact, it was supposedly the Dodgers who proposed the Phillips trade.

Trachsel’s BP Projections


In the comments section on my last post, Bernard wanted to know if Trachsel had outperformed his PECOTA projections the last few years, which I’m guessing is Bernard’s way of asking if Trachsel may have some inherent quality that PECOTA cannot measure.

In 2003, his 50% projection was a 4.24 ERA with a 40% chance improvement in 155 innings and he put up 3.78 ERA in 205 innings, greatly exceeding his projection, particularly in terms of innings pitched. In 2004 his 50% projection was a 4.50 ERA in 147 innings and he had a 4.00 ERA in 2003 innings. As it says in BP, the PECOTA projections tend to be conservative but Trachsel has outperformed his innings projection by a ton in both years and his ERA as well, but to a lesser extent. Whether this indicates a special ability on his part, I don’t know.

Petit Is The Man

As if I didn’t have reason enough to love Yusmeiro Petit, I just got MVP Baseball for Playstation 2 which, on Franchise, Mode allows you to play with a team and you can play with their minor league all the way down to High Class A. I am early in the 2005 season with the Mets and I decided to play a game with Norfolk where they had placed Petit and Lastings Milledge. In my one game against Columbus, I pitched a perfect game with Petit. It was one of the greatest video game performances of my life, up there with 600 yard game I had with Bo Jackson in Super Tecmo Bowl. Although he only had six strikeouts, I think they had one hard hit ball all night. I may have to bring him up sooner than the Mets intended. If you have the game, Petit is known as T. Tucker and Milledge is known as B. Tyner. Fortunately, it isn’t J. Tyner.

Answer: If your response to title question was “Two guys named Kaz!” You were right. The Mets have now set the record for most guys named Kaz. This note is soon to be appearing in a Jayson Stark column, but you heard it here first.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

So Long Super Joe

Well, Omar must’ve finally read Metsmerized because Joe McEwing was cut. I have probably spent more time on this blog ripping McEwing than anything else. It isn’t personal, because he would be on the short list of current Mets I’d like to have a beer with. I guess he is no longer a current Met, but you get my point. In fact, I’ll take this chance to make a list of the Top 5 Mets of all-time I’d like to have a beer with. Feel free to enter your own in the comments section.

5. Eric Valent-Have to give some love to my current favorite Met.
4. Pedro Martinez-He is new, but is there any doubt he would be hysterical?
3. Kevin Mitchell-Just so I could pick a fight and watch him run the show. I wouldn’t bring a cat though.
2.Karim Garcia-It would be the same night Pedro and I were drinking. The two of them together would ensure some good Pedro one-liners.
1. Wally Backman-I’ve heard some stories of him as a minor league manager (and as a player), apparently he would out drink his players, once holding up the team bus for three hours while everyone sat on the bus waiting. That, coupled with him being my favorite Met ever made him an easy choice for the top spot.

But I digress. McEwing is a sucky major leaguer, and Chris Woodward does everything he does, but does it better. Tony LaRussa is obsessed with McEwing so he will probably end up there. As we all know, LaRussa is clueless when it comes to filling out his bench. If you want evidence, remember that he used Marlon Anderson as his DH in the World Series last October.

At one point, McEwing was useful for a few weeks, like when he came up in 1999 with the Cardinals and played every position, hit .300 for a while and was on every Smallworld baseball team in the country. Those who played Smallworld, you know what I’m talking about. So long Joe, I won’t miss you. At least on the field.

As for the Steve Trachsel debate, we may have to agree to disagree, but I will offer one more piece of evidence. While I don’t think it is gospel, I do find the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA forecasting system fascinating. PECOTA agrees with my assessment that Trachsel is a pitcher due for a fall. It has him pegged for 4.74 ERA in 152 IP and a VORP of 9.7. It has Ginter pegged for a 4.57 ERA in 90 IP with a VORP of 7.2. Ginter will obviously have more opportunity than this now so that would certainly change the looks of his projection. Can he throw 200 league average innings? I doubt it. Can he throw 150 league average innings? I think so.

If you subtract his one relief appearance, and his two awful appearances against the Yankees (maybe this isn’t fair, but the Mets do not regularly face a lineup as good as theirs) he threw 60.2 innings in 12 starts. That is an average of slightly more than 5 innings per start, not great; however, his ERA in those starts was 3.56. While I do not think he is capable of upping his innings per start and maintaining that ERA, it is realistic to think he can add an inning per start and keep his ERA in the low 4.00s, which is what we would be getting from Trachsel.

For all the talk about the Mets pitching, it has been their offense that has really been their shortcoming the last few years. In the last three years, they have finished 26th, 28th and 24th in runs scored in the majors. Upgrading their offense is really what the Mets needed and they should be a lot better there. Maintaining their runs allowed and adding 50 runs should make the Mets a winning team.

I digress again. I’d rather have Trachsel, but the difference between him and Ginter is not much.
 

Keeping Trach

I am less optimistic than Wally about what this Trachsel injury does to the Mets season. This is strange, because usually I am blindly optimistic while Wally tends to be the realist.

The first point I want to address is Trachsel's anti-pedro K/9 ration. While yes, last year it was 5.20 which is not very good, It was actually an improvement from the 4.86 he posted in 2003, and only a slight decline from his 5.44 in 2002. Nothing is pointing to an immediate or really any decline in Trachsel's numbers. He has been getting by on smoke and mirrors, but he has been getting by on smoke and mirrors for a long enough period that maybe he is just really good at using his smoke and mirrors. Christ, I know i would grow impatient waiting for him to throw the damn ball. Trachsel has established himself for a long enough period that one should follow his considerable service time numbers and say "well maybe this guy doesn't need k's" rather then assuming he's been getting by on luck the last three years.

That being said, I think in terms of ERA or RA(for you wally) Ginter will be a suitable replacement for Trachsel. The real area where this kills the Mets is that Trachsel was a lock for 200 innings, whereas Ginter barely could go 5 per start last year. He is going to be a phenomenal drain on the bullpen. Additionaly, It would have been really nice to spot start Ginter every few weeks to give Pedro an extra day off.
Here is hoping Koo will have some effect on Jae Seo. Maybe Seo will listen to him or maybe even the pitching coach for a change!

On a sad note, and I'm sure this is an especially trying day for Wally and David Wright, It appears as though the Mets have finally given Super Joe his walking papers. Wow. To lose two consistent performers like Joe and Trachs in a week is rough. Welcome 2005, the year of the Amazin' Unpredictables.
 

Trach This!

Maybe I am being too optimistic, but the loss of Trachsel may not be as bad as we first thought. Yes, as I outlined he has been excellent over the last three years, but when you look at his age, his "stuff" and his peripherals, he looks like a good candidate to start getting hit pretty hard one of these years. In fact, it is impressive his ERA has been as good as it has been considering his peripherals over the last few years.

Last year, he struck out 117 and walked 83 in 203 IP, not exactly Pedro-esque. While he has never been a great strikeout pitcher (his career K/9 is 6.06), the 5.20 figure from 2004 is cause for alarm. On top of that, Trachsel allowed 14 unearned runs, which is a lot and makes his ERA look a lot better than it is. Anyone who has read this blog knows how I feel about errors and the quick version of that is there is no difference between an error and not getting to a ball you could've. If it were up to we, RA would be the accepted stat and not ERA. A lot of unearned runs will often mask a pitchers shortcomings, and I think this was the case for Trachsel. The point here is that Matt Ginter is a decent bet to be about as good as Trachsel in 2005 when you figure that as a 27-year-old, he is more likely to have his best seasons than the 34-year-old Trachsel.

This could be wishful thinking, but the bigger concern as I see it now is Victor Zambrano. While I try not to read too much into spring performance, he has thus far been extremely hittable. While my proposed Barry Zito for Mike Cameron swap from yesterday might not be ideal, I still see Cammy as the Mets most valuable trade commodity. Miguel Cairo alone won't get it done and Cameron could potentially net a good starter. I am not saying the Mets should be in a rush to do this, but if push comes to shove, he is the one expendable player they have that other teams might want. Using him for Ugueth Urbina as some reports have suggested makes me shudder. Urbina is overrated based on name recognition, but that is a column for

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

 

Just a Teenage Dirtbag?

With all the babies on the Oakland staff I just can't see them trading Zito, who is at least a dependable innings eater(214, 229, 231, 213, jeez!) unless they are well out of the race. If they are out of the race, it wouldn't make a lot of sense for them to trade for someone with Cameron's age or contract.
Also, I think one of the more fascinating story lines going into this year for the Mets involves Cameron. Personally, I am curious to see what an outfield made up of two elite defensive centerfielders can do together. Gone are the days of Roger Cedeno circling aimlessly at pop-ups, Welcome the days of Cliff floyd sitting in a beach chair while Beltran and Cameron have daily contests of who can get to more balls. Yet I digress,
The trade Wally proposes essentially involves the Mets giving up Cameron and Ginter for V. Diaz and Zito. There are a number of things that need to be looked at when discussing this trade. The first being, How good is Zito? Opinions vary, clearly he is not the Cy Young pitcher he once was, but on the flip side he is probably better than the 4.48 era he put up last year. His peripherals, except for HRA, were actually better last year and it seems as though he suffered from some bad luck of balls dropping in. In my estimation, Zito is a dependable lefty who is slightly better than league average.
Ginter is clearly not as a good as Zito, but did post a respectable 4.54 era in 69 innings for the mets last year(sources say Ginter added a change over the winter and it is proving to be somewhat effective this spring). Ginter doesn't walk a lot of people and relies on his fielders to make plays behind him. Incidentaly, Zito's K rate isn't that good either and he also relies on his fielders to make plays.
Bringing me to my point. Since Diaz has no true position, It's hard to imagine that his left field could hold a candle to the (likely) awesome left field that Cammy will provide. Since neither are huge K guys, It might very well be that Ginter with a Cameron assisted outfield is a more effective pitcher than Zito with a Diaz assisted one.
This is a similar argument that some have made about the yankees off-season pitching acquisitions. That instead of spending tons of money on new "front line" starters they could've addded Beltran and some scrubs and the Yankee runs allowed would have been the same, plus they would be adding Beltran's bat.
Since we are talking about potential deals...and the yankees.... I like what I see from Woodward this spring, and considering his age and experience I think he will be a great backup middle infielder. This signing makes Cairo somewhat expendable. I'm guessing in a few weeks, The Yankees will grow tired of seeing Womack a) getting thrown out stealing second b) not getting on base in the first place c)muffing balls at second, and will yearn for the days of Cairo. In return for returning their savior they throw us a cheap lefty that's never cracking their rotation anyway, Alex Graman. Everyone is happy... except for Cairo's ex-agent that is.
 

Trachsel Is A Dirtbag, Seriously

The whole Trachsel thing is extremely unfortunate, particularly now that he looks like he is out for the season. Bernard is right, since 2002 he has been pretty fantastic with an ERA of 3.73. For comparisons sake, Mike Mussina's is 3.96 during that time. I know the AL has the DH, which hurts your ERA, but the two have been quite similar and at $5 million a year, Trachsel has been a bargain. It is somewhat amazing that he is able to have done this due to unimpressive strikeout (5.16 K/9) and walk (3.36 BB/9) rates. We can wax poetically about the glory years of our favorite Dirtbag (he went to Long Beach St., "The Dirtbags"), or we can figure out an alternative.

After this season, Trachsel's contract is up. If he is out for the season, his days at Shea may be over. Matt Ginter is a marginal alternative, so if the Mets think they are contenders, a trade is in order. As far as minor league depth, the Mets have little to offer and it is not worth trading one of their big four (Petit, Milledge, Humber and Hernandez) for a mediocre starter. As I see it, they have two options. One is squeezing as much as they can out of Ginter and hope that Petit dominates Double-A and bringing him up. The logic here is that Petit will probably see the majors at some point this season (most likely September), so a couple of months earlier won't be too bad. Heck, it worked for David Wright. I just don't like the idea of relying on Petit at this point and the Mets should bring him along slowly.

There has been a lot of talk about the Mets trading Mike Cameron because he was unhappy but now he says he wants to stay. As I see it, he may know be the Mets most valuable commodity in a trade. Here is what I propose. Let Ginter start the season in the rotation and see how he does with Cameron in right and Diaz in Norfolk playing every day. If Ginter is fine, roll with it. If not, put Cammy on the block and plan to slot Diaz into right upon trading Cammy. Cameron is reasonably priced and could net a solid starter. There has been talk about the Mets reuniting Barry Zito with Rick Peterson and the A's were interested in Killer Cam, with Zito a free agent after 2005 and the A's guaranteed not to re-sign him, doesn't this make sense? The Mets could then ride Zito for a season, see how he does and then re-sign him or net a first round pick when he leaves as an FA. I hate to get into the habit of hypothetical trades, but this makes too much sense. No?
 

Let Me Introduce Myself

With slightly less fan-fare, yet shockingly more literaracy, than Scoop Jackson on Page 2, Bernard Gilkey (a rare 3rd person reference) announces the second stage of his career for the Mets.
The past couple years for me have just kind of rolled by in drunken haze. Getting that call from Wally was like finding out that 1996 did in fact happen, and that they had not been confusing me with Ray Lankford as many had thought.
Some quick things about me:
1) I don’t like Joe Morgan. In fact, I had a previously failed blogging career last October at Joemorganfactcheck.blogspot.com. If anyone is interested in partnering or purchasing send me a note.
2) 1996 did happen
3) I believe that as bad as the Mets have been/are, it is still infinitely better than being a K.C., Pitt, Detroit, or Yankee fan.
4) I’m pretty uninteresting… so that’s about it about me.

Onto some baseball…
This Trachsel thing is just devastating for the Mets. The PR machine that runs the Mets have been billing Trachsel, even before the injury, as the 4th or 5th starter on this Mets team. While this might be the case if you were to rank the Mets pitchers in terms of potential upside (I would go Pedro, Zambrano, Benson, Glavine, Trachsel), this is not the case in reality and/ or actual performance.
Trachsel over the last 3-4 years has arguably been the best pitcher in New York, and this includes that other AL team. He is not flashy and he is not winning any awards but Trachsel has been consistently effective for a long time. Consistent, unfortunately is not the word to describe the rest of the Mets staff, Pedro excluded.
Glavine is aging, his strikeout rate is declining and the chance of him putting in a full season of #2 quality is nil. Benson because of his #1 overall status and his hot wife makes people forget that he has never been good enough to be at the top of a rotation. Zambrano has shown the ability to be dominant and at times is unhittable; unfortunately half the time that he is “unhittable” it is because he is hitting the backstop or the dugout. Maybe Peterson should spend $100 at lens crafters for Zambrano instead of the thousands at his high performance institutes?
Excluding Pedro from this discussion, Trachsel is by far the most consistent and effective performer on this Mets staff. In reality the Mets are not losing their #5 starter, but one of the very few guarantees on this team the last couple years.
The Trachsel loss is especially painful for the Mets, because even though they don’t need a 5th starter for a couple of weeks because of the early off days, every extra day off for Pedro is huge.
As Wally mentioned, throwing Humber on a Major League roster before he has thrown a professional pitch in his career is a mistake even beyond the idiocy of Mets management. I could see Petit getting a call after the break, if he is again dominant in the minors, but that help is months away at best.
As for mixing up the rotation in different ways… I would think that it would still be beneficial to have your best pitchers pitch as many times as possible. Also, you would have to redefine who is a #1, the guy who is most effective? The guy who eats the most innings? The guys who does the best combination of both? Anyone feel like doing some math?

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