Monday, November 29, 2004

 

Omar and The Yankees Son

After being gone for a week, I figured there would be loads of topics to comment on, but that is not the case as most of the same stories seem to be re-circulating and it is becoming clear that no big signing will happen until after December 7th, the last chance for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents. That being said, the one story that seems to be building steam is the Mets pursuit of Pedro Martinez.

Reports indicate that Omar Minaya had dinner with Pedro Martinez the other night in the Dominican Republic and that he could be making an offer soon. While it’s possible that two rich baseball guys wanted to have dinner together, it is fair to assume the Mets have some interest. The Red Sox have apparently offered two-years $25.5 million option with a vesting option for 2007. One has to figure that in order for the Mets to sign him, they would need to guarantee a third year which would make it a three-year deal for roughly $39 million. Is this smart? Let’s look at the numbers.

From 2002-2004 he has combined for an ERA of 2.84 in 603 IP and 674 K. In that time he has allowed only 46 HR while walking only 148. These are fantastic numbers and one might argue that rumors of his downfall are greatly exaggerated; however, looking solely at his 2004 numbers might be cause for concern as he posted the worst ERA of his career. A closer look at his peripherals reveals that while impressive, they were below his career norms. In 2004, his K/9 was 9.42 and K/BB was 3.72 as compared to his career average of 10.4 K/9 and 4.31 K/BB. Those 2004 numbers are obviously below his peak but even his 9.42 K/9 in 2004 was good enough for 7th best in the majors; however, the biggest difference in his peripherals in 2004 was HR allowed. He surrendered 26 bombs last year after allowing only 25 the previous three seasons combined. Pedro has been known to be gopher ball prone in his past as he also allowed 26 in 1998, but the big question to ask is if the 26 in 2004 is indication of his demise?

First of all, any discussion of Pedro’s numbers needs to take his home ballpark into account. While Fenway Park is a great hitters park, it wasn’t the case for Pedro in 2004 as his home ERA was 3.22 and his road ERA was 4.61 and he gave up more homers on the road in fewer innings even though
Fenway ranked as the 6th best hitters park in 2004. The best argument for this is that Pedro’s road numbers in 2004 were somewhat of a fluke as was his high ERA in general. In fact, his DIPS ERA (which is designed to measure a pitchers ERA independent of his defense) was 3.64, 13th best in the majors, which is an indication that he got very little help from his defense. It should also be noted that Pedro pitched in the AL, which will obviously inflate ERA.

When discussing free agent pitchers, Martinez is probably the best available. Carl Pavano is getting a lot of attention, but I don’t trust him. He pitched without the DH in the NL, in a weak hitting division and in the fourth best pitchers park in the majors. The opposite is true for Pedro. Unless Pavano goes to another NL pitchers park, I don’t think his 3.00 ERA from 2004 is going to stand up and he won’t look so hot while Pedro’s numbers will certainly improve if he comes to the Mets. Yes, Shea is a pitchers park so Pavano would theoretically stay at his current level, but he does not strike out a lot of guys and his K-rate is in decline. Hypothetically, Pedro for 3-years $39 million versus Pavano 3-years $30 million and I am going with Pedro.

Similar to my stance on Delgado, Pedro for no more than three years is not a bad move. If the Mets are determined to sign a free agent pitcher and “make a splash,” Pedro is a solid choice. If he comes to the Mets, I foresee an ERA below 3.00 with over 200 IP and 220+ Ks. From 1997-2000, Pedro Martinez was about as good as any pitcher ever. The current perception of Pedro is that he is not the same pitcher, and this is true; however, 80% of 1999 Pedro is still an elite pitcher.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

Some Bullet Points From the Road...

Normally I don't condone the use of bullets but I am going skeet shooting for the first time today so I am pretty excited.

Other than being a former #1 pick, it's not clear to me how Benson is four million bucks a year better than the class of guys who are out there with two-year deals in the $3 million range, guys like Jeff Suppan, John Thomson, Jason Johnson and Cory Lidle. There's just nothing in his performance record to suggest that he's more than a mid-rotation guy.

Mets fans will likely point to his 51/17 K/BB in two months under Rick Peterson, but it was 11 starts, and the improved control came packaged with a doubled home-run rate. Benson would have to improve to a level he hasn't reached yet to justify this contract. This looks like it will be yet another disappointing free-agent signing by a team that never seems to make the right
choices in the market.

Sheehan is correct. Benson would have to be better than he has ever shown for him to be worth the cash he was paid. For the same money, the Mets could have gotten Brad Radke, or anyone Sheehan suggested for a lot less. This raises the question again of why the Mets bothered trading for him when they could have signed him this offseason without giving up Justin Huber, Matt Peterson or Ty Wigginton? That's right, for their post-season run. Granted, they would have needed to give up draft pick compensation if the had signed him from the Pirates this winter, but that would not have been worth those three players, nor would they have needed to pay him as much because Benson and his agent knew the Mets had to sign him or they would have been giving up those three players for nothing. Give credit to Benson's agent for knowing he had the Mets by the proverbial balls and another poort job by the Mets allowing themselves to be put in that position.

  • Also from Sheehan's column, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to figuring out why Jose Reyes (career: 18 walks, 494 at-bats) shouldn't start 2005 in Triple-A." As I pointed out in a previous post (see: Jose Can You See, the Ball Out of the Strike Zone), Reyes lack of strike zone judgement is cause for major concern among Mets fans. Reyes to Norfolk is not going to happen but it isn't a bad idea. Unfortunately, the Mets have already pushed Reyes forward as part of their "youth movement," although it should be more accurately called, "David Wright and a bunch of mediocre, overpaid veterans."
  • The NY Times says Delgado's people have contact Minaya, but his evaluators have concerns about his defense. If the Mets are valuing defense, I can accept that. But if they bring in Richie Sexson, I can't.

Friday, November 19, 2004

 

Petit es Grande, And Other Gringo Mets

I’m a little worn out from discussing how the Mets might screw up their team, so I thought I’d focus on something positive the Mets have going for them, Yusmeiro Petit.

For those unfamiliar with his work, he is now the Mets best prospect. Petit began the year at Low-A with Capitol City of the South Atlantic (a.k.a. Sally) League. For the record, the Mets have moved their Sally League affiliate from Columbia, SC to Hagerstown, MD. They are now the Hagerstown Suns. In 83.0 IP, Petit posted a 2.39 ERA with 122 K, 22 BB and 8 HR. After this performance, he was promoted to St. Lucie of the Florida State League (High-A) where he was even more dominant. In 44.1 IP his ERA was a Bob Gibson-esque 1.22, with 62 K, 14 BB and zero homers allowed. Mets management, obviously impressed with his performance, moved him up again to let him finish the season at Double-A Binghamton. He only pitched 12 innings there and they were nothing special as the competition caught up with him a little as surrendered 6 ER in those 12 IP; however, he kept the K-rate up as he whiffed 16 while issuing 5 free passes. So for the season, across 3 levels, Petit had the following line: 139.1 IP, 200 K, 41 BB, 8 HR, 2.20 ERA. Petit=Nasty.

The performance at Binghamton was a little disappointing, as it would’ve been nice to see him continue his utter domination. Don’t fret. Any Mets fan worried about his progress should see what he has done thus far in the Venezuelan winter league. Playing for Magallanes B.B.C., which loosely translated means Magallanes Baseball Club, Petit has been brilliant. In 26.1 IP, he as allowed only 3 ER for an ERA of 1.03. He has 27 K and only 3 BB and one round-tripper allowed. From what I gather, this league is roughly equivalent to Double-A, the level at which Petit ended his season so he seems have hopped the Diamond 7 express to Flushing. Petit is barely six feet tall and a little chunky, leaving scouts to wonder how he has been so un-hittable without a dominating fastball, but as we know, scouts do not know all and everywhere he has been so far, he has been lights out.

If you want to see the Venezuelan league stats,
click here for pitcher and here for hitters, and the team roster is here. Click on each player’s name for their stats. While my Spanish might be rusty, it is good to know that IP, SO, BB and HR mean the same in every language! EFE is ERA while CL is earned runs and CP unearned runs. The other lines I am not sure of, so feel free to fill me in!

Petit was kind enough to bring some of his gringo teammates down from the Mets farm system to join him with Magallanes and thus far, they have seen mixed results.
Pat Strange for one, has been absolutely rocked. 21 ER in 21.2 IP is not the quickest way to Shea. Neal Musser has had a similar crappy experience, but both of these guys got rocked in Triple-A this year, so they are not likely candidates to ever help the Mets. Conversely, Blake McGinley has been sharp for Magallanes, with 18 K in 14 IP and a 1.93 ERA. McGinley was mediocre at Norfolk this year in terms of ERA, but maintained the strong K/BB he had at Binghamton that earned him a promotion. His ERA last year was not impressive (3.81 in 99.1 IP between Norfolk and Binghamton), but his peripherals were strong (111 K, 22 BB) so he is someone to keep an eye on for future bullpen help.

Despite the pillage of July ’04, the Mets farm system still has some elite prospects led by Yusmeiro Petit. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that he will be gone once Cory Lidle becomes available. Until then, we can fantasize about the future rotation of Petit, Humber, Hernandez and Kazmir. No, I’m not bitter.

Free agency thoughts (I couldn’t resist)...While the rumors indicate a Sosa deal could go down any day, Omar has to be smart enough to know there is no rush. He should at least wait until after December 7th to see which free agents were offered arbitration. Magglio Ordonez, for one, will most likely not be offered arbitration because he is waiting until the winter meetings (December 10th) to show GMs his knee is in good shape. Since the Pale Hose will not get a chance to see how the knee looks, they won’t offer him arbitration so the club who signs him will not have to give up draft pick compensation. Even if Omar is dying to make this deal, there is no reason to hurry.

Note: I will be out of town for the next week but I will try and check in when possible. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

Relatively Hot Stove Report

Well, the good news so far in the nascent free agent season is that the Mets are no longer the dumbest organization in the NL East. That title now belongs to the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals who gave Vinny Castilla and Christian Guzman, two of the biggest outmakers in baseball, two years $6.2 million and four years $16.8 million respectively. It will be hard for Omar to match the stupidity of his former organization with any of his moves. But based on the rumors, it looks as though he may be trying!

The latest murmurs seem to indicate that
Kris Benson will be re-signed before the end of the week. From an aesthetics standpoint, I am sure the Mets brass want to keep a pitcher they gave up a lot for, but it looked for awhile like Omar was going to stand his ground and not budge from his 3-year, $21 million offer which could have forced Benson to look elsewhere. Omar now appears willing to budge a little so 3-years in the $21 million to $24 million range seems likely. If Rick Peterson can get Benson to recapture his 2000 form (217 IP, 3.85 ERA, 184 K, 86 BB, 24 HR) than that contract is reasonable. But then again, that is a big if. Peterson’s reputation has been staked to Benson and Victor Zambrano. If he can coax three years of 200+ IP and ERAs in the 3.50 range out of these guys, he will have shown the Mets he is everything he was cracked up to be.

Sammy Sosa’s name keeps coming up in Mets rumors so it is safe to say that it is still a distinct possibility. If he does waive his option year that kicks in with the trade, and the Mets trade them Cliff Floyd, it isn’t as awful as I once thought. Instead of having my eyes gouged with a melon baller, it will be more like shaving with a vegetable peeler. Even if he gives up the option year, it is hard to believe that Sosa is willing to just give up $18 million dollars (which is what the option is worth) so you would have to believe that he would want some sort of extension if he comes to the Mets that would pay him some of the money he would be sacrificing. Whether or not this deal would need to be in place before the trade is consummated remains to be seen, but the Chicago Sun-Times says Sosa could be looking to negotiate before any trade.


I am fine with Sosa for one year, but can you imagine a player just giving up $18 million for nothing? I am lead to believe that there is more to it than meets the eye, but this is simply speculation. Then again, if he stays with the Cubs, they certainly wouldn't pick up the option so maybe Sosa just wants out. We'll have to wait and see, but if the Mets think Cliff Floyd is a pain, I’m sure Sosa can give him a run for his money. Omar should walk away from this deal and let Sosa remain the Cubs problem but he seems obsessed with reuniting with the player he once signed. Says one source in the Daily News, “In my mind, I have no doubt that this deal is happening.” I hope that is someone’s idea of a sick joke.

One of the more interesting notes I have seen is that Victor Diaz played a little catcher in a winter league game. I have no idea if the Mets asked for this or if he wanted to see what it was like, but it is an intriguing idea. The biggest knock on Diaz is that he is a man without a true position. He came up as a second baseman but didn’t stick and now he is trying his luck as a corner outfielder but may not be a good enough hitter to be an impact player there; however, as a catcher his bat could be a real asset. Additionally, since he has not been a catcher before his knees should be fresh so that he could handle the grind for a long time. Most guys who catch in the majors have been doing so for years and do not age well (see Piazza, Mike). Jorge Posada is an example of one guy who switched to catcher in the minors and he been more consistent as he has aged than the typical catcher. He is 33 and just had his 3rd highest OPS season. We don’t know how Diaz will handle the position defensively, but this is certainly a storyline to follow this offseason as the Mets look for Piazza’s eventual replacement. This is the type of “outside the box” thinking I like.

Other thoughts… As for Al Leiter, if he leaves, who is the 5th starter? First of all, as much as I like him, they should let Leiter leave. It is time to start moving on from the 1999-2000 "glory years." Do we want to see Aaron Heilman given another chance? Should the Mets be pursuing Matt Clement? If they re-sign Benson, I think Heilman deserves a shot. It may not be any different than before, but then we will know for sure to give up on him. Clement has his own flaws and won’t come cheap, although I do think he is undervalued. If the choice were between Benson and Clement, I would probably choose Clement all things being equal, but as discussed earlier they aren't. The Mets don’t want to lose Benson after giving up three players for him. Plus, there is no way Clement’s wife or girlfriend is hotter…The Mets still need a first baseman. Sexson’s injury worries me and Delgado’s perceived value seems low. If the Mets were to make one free agent signing, I think Delgado is the way to go as long as it is for no more than 3 years. What gets it done? 3 years $30 million?


Monday, November 15, 2004

 

The "CEO of Pitching, Part II

On Friday I investigated the effect Rick Peterson had on the starting pitchers, today it is the bullpen. The Mets were 7th in the NL with a team ERA of 4.09. The Mets starters were 8th in the NL with an ERA of 4.21 whereas their bullpen was 7th in the NL with an ERA of 3.87. In what be a surprise to some, the bullpen was the strength of the pitching staff and much of that credit has to go to Rick Peterson because in 2003, the bullpen ERA was 4.28, 10th in the NL.

The star performer for the Mets pen in 2004 was their closer,
Braden Looper. When the Mets signed him last winter, I made numerous derogatory remarks to friends about this deal, dubbing him “Pooper Looper.” I was very wrong. I don’t know if it was Looper or Peterson but I assume it was a combination of the two. “Sooper Looper” went from an erratic hard thrower in the Kyle Farnsworth mold to one of the more reliable relievers in the league. Prior to 2004, his best ERA was 3.16 and in 2003 it was 3.68, but with the addition of a splitter and a tweak in his hands from the set position, Looper posted an ERA of 2.70 in 83.1 IP. While not a big strikeout pitcher for someone who throws as hard as he does (6.48 K/9), it was his highest K-rate in four years and his lowest walk rate to boot which led to a K/BB of 3.75, far and away his career best.

Another Mets’ reliever who rebounded to have a strong year was
Mike Stanton. 2003 was an atrocious year for the southpaw (4.57 ERA) but he came back to post an ERA of 3.16. It’s hard to pinpoint where the difference came from because his numbers are very similar, the one difference I see is that in 2003 he allowed 6 HR in 45.1 IP while in 2004 it was 6 HR in 77 IP. He also stayed healthy, another plus since he was the Mets only reliable lefty in the pen.

The closest thing Peterson had to reclamation projects was
Mike DeJean and Ricky Bottalico who posted ERAs of 1.59 and 3.38 respectively. DeJean’s ERA was only in 21.1 IP, but he has had some success in the NL before with Milwaukee and he was despicable in Baltimore in 2004 before coming to the Mets, so we can hope Peterson has made him functional again. While not dominant, Bottalico was far more useful than I ever could have imagined and since he appeared to be washed up, Peterson deserves some credit.

Peterson also helped the development of
Orber Moreno and Heath Bell, two of the younger arms in the pen who look promising. Moreno posted and ERA of 3.38 in 34.2 IP while Bell’s was 3.21 in 24.1 IP. Moreno has a solid K-rate (7.53 K/9) and he keeps the ball in the park as he surrendered zero homers. Bell, on the other hand, misses bats with the best of them (9.99 K/9)but gives up homers at an Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn frequency, allowing 5 in his 24.1 IP. These guys are both 27 so they are not really young by baseball standards. I hope to see them both as fixtures in next years pen.

While he didn’t make anyone a superstar, Peterson seems to have brought the best out of a lot of members of the Mets pitching staff. It is hard to argue with his work, now he will need to keep it up, developing the younger pitchers even further while keeping those he brought to the top, at the top.

Other thoughts…Now that Sammy Sosa says he is willing to waive the option in his contract that kicks in if traded, the rumored trade for Floyd is certainly more palatable; however, I still don’t really want to see him here and would prefer if they tried to trade Floyd to whoever will take him and target Ordonez or Drew for right with Diaz in left, my Aubrey Huff proposal notwithstandingCarlos Beltran is great, but not as good as his 2004 postseason. His perceived value is at an all-time high so whoever gets him is overpaying. Think of it this way, is Beltran a better hitter than Drew or Ordonez? When healthy, no. The Mets are better off with Cameron in center and one of those guys in right than Beltran in center and Cameron in right. Beltran is healthier and younger, but will probably cost twice as much, which is a lot more than he is worth.



Friday, November 12, 2004

 

The "CEO of Pitching"

While all the talk is about who the Mets are going to acquire this offseason, I figured I’d take a look at one of the Mets acquisitions fro last winter, Rick Peterson. Peterson arrived with much fanfare from Oakland as the most progressive pitching coach in the biz if not the best. Not only was he expected to maximize productivity on the mound, he was supposed to keep the pitchers there, and off of the disabled list. Since the Mets folded down the stretch, Peterson became somewhat of an afterthough but I wanted to examine how successful Peterson was in his first season with the Mets.

In the simplest terms, Peterson was definitely successful in 2004, the Mets ERA dropped from 4.48 in 2003 to 4.09 in 2004. Their K/9 went from 5.78 to 6.07, their HR allowed went from 168 to 156 and their WHIP went from 1.47 to 1.41. Conversely, the Mets walked 592 hitters in ‘04 as opposed to 576 in ‘03. While the peripherals improved for the most past, the drop in ERA has a lot to do with an improvement in defense. Their unearned runs dropped from 49 to 26 and while these don’t have a bearing on earned runs, it shows the Mets fielders took better care of the ball, but as we know, errors do not tell the whole story. Baseball Prospectus has a stat called defensive efficiency which measures a teams ability to turn batted balls into outs. In 2004 the Mets ranked 6th in the NL with an efficiency rating of .6964, while in 2003 they were 13th with a rating of .6810. While this may not seem like a large gap (.0154), the difference between the best team in 2004 (LA) and the worst team (COL) was .0338. This is not to say that Peterson did not do a good job, just a reminder to look past ERA. So overall, Peterson did a good job so let’s look at which individuals benefitted most from Peterson’s tutelage. I’ll start with the starters and do the bullpen review in the coming days.

Luckily, for the purposes of this analysis, the personnel of the Mets pitching staff did not change that much so it will be easy to compare performances of individuals from 2003 to 2004. Starting off with Al Leiter, I have no idea why his ERA in 2004 (3.21) was 78 points lower than in 2003. He had fewer Ks, more walks and more HR allowed in 7 fewer IP. He allowed 38 fewer hits, but an identical groundball/flyball ratio. When you pair this ERA improvement with his track record of success, it is hard to give Peterson the credit. It seems like Leiter got lucky with fewer balls dropping for hits and an improved defense. Leiter spent some time on the DL but it is hard to blame Peterson since Leiter’s arm has been more abused than a red-headed step child.

The same goes for Tom Glavine in terms of a track record of success. But he bounced back in 2004 to have a season in line with what he had been doing in his 5 years prior to coming to the Mets after having an awful 2003. His K/9 went up to 4.62 after a career low of 4.03 in 2003. He also pitched 212 innings up from 182 but that had a lot to do with effectiveness and not getting pulled early. He did miss some starts, but that was the fault of a yellow cab driver, if he wants I can hook him up with Arecibo Car Service, they do great work. Some good work from Ricky P. here in getting the Mets a little of their money’s worth here.

Steve Trachsel once again proved himself to be the model of consistency. His numbers were virtually identical from 2003 to 2004. The concern was that after the All-Star break his ERA was 4.80 up from 3.36 before it. In 2003 it was the exact opposite as his post break ERA was 2.80 and 4.61 before. Peterson changed little here.

As for the rest of the rag tag bunch that got starts this year, Peterson didn’t seem to create any stars Leo Mazzone style, then again, he didn’t have much to work with. Jae Seo and Matt Ginter are two soft tossing righties without a track record of success. Not surprisingly, Scott Erickson had nothing left in the tank. Tyler Yates has a live arm, so we will see if Peterson can turn him into a useful reliever but his run as a starter was a failure.

The best I can say for Peterson in 2004 is that I counted only 6 trips to the DL for pitchers. His biggest test will be putting his money where his mouth is and making Victor Zambrano a top of the line starter. The same can be said for Kris Benson, but he isn’t even re-resigned yet. SO in his first year, the Mets as a whole seemed to pitch better, for the starters, a lot of that comes from Glavine, we’ll see how much the bullpen chipped in. Next, I’ll examine the relievers barring any major transactions.




Thursday, November 11, 2004

 

Hey Fellas, Long Time Listener, First Time Caller...

At this time of year when it seems as though every player is involved in a rumor, it is hard to know which are for real and which are not. The one Mets rumor getting the most press is the Shawn Green for Mike Piazza trade. I am not excited nor depressed at the thought of this trade simply because I don’t think it changes the team very much. Beyond, that, both players need to approve the trade and both of their contract’s will be up after next season so it does not appear as if they are part of the Mets or Dodgers long term plans.

One note that has caught my eye came from
Wednesday’s Peter Gammons column. It said:

Tampa Bay is trying to clear salary and shopping SS Julio Lugo, 1B-OF
Aubrey Huff, OF Jose Cruz, closer Danys Baez and C Toby Hall. Lugo is a fine player, but his domestic abuse issue in Houston is scaring off teams such as Boston.

Aubrey Huff? I like the sound of that. He will be 28 in December, he has missed only five games over the last two years and he can hit. His numbers for the last three years are a line of .307/.364/.524 with 86 HR. He is a lefty who hits lefties well for average, but with diminished power as his slugging drops 61 points from righties to lefties but that is not unusual. He also put up similar numbers at home and on the road so he is not someone who is a product of their home field. He is signed through 2006 at a reasonable rate ($4.75 in ’05, 6.75 in ’06) so the Mets would have two years to decide if they wanted to bring him back. Sounds great, right? The problem is how to get him.

When I heard he was on the block, my firs thought was, “Why don’t the Rays just give him to the Mets as a sign of goodwill for fleecing us so badly with the Kazmir trade? That seems fair, right?” While us Mets fan might think it fair, we know it is not going to happen. Since the Rays are trying to clear salary, we know that they do not want any of our high priced mediocre talent and after the farm system purging of last July, the Mets do not have much depth in the farm system and I would hate to see them start trading away those guys. So in order to get him, the Mets would need to get creative.

To acquire Huff without giving up their best prospects (Lastings Milledge, Yusmeiro Petit and Gaby Hernandez) the Mets would need to take on another one of these players, if not more. Cruz is relatively enticing but he only makes $3 million for one more year so I doubt the Rays feel the need to dump him that badly, then again, he is not that great of a player. Baez on the other hand makes $3.5 million next year and guaranteed $1 million the following year with a $4 million dollar team option and if the Rays don’t want to pay that, the Mets are a team that could eat that salary. Would the Rays go for a package of Victor Diaz and Craig Brazell for Huff, Cruz and Baez? Are the Mets giving up enough? Is that worth it for the Mets in order to get Huff?

I feel like one of those psycho callers on WFAN right now as I concoct a trade out of thin air but I am hoping that this makes a little sense. The Mets would be taking $18.9 million over two years off of the Rays hands while giving them a good prospect in Diaz and a future cornerstone of the company softball team in Brazell. I like Diaz, but the best-case scenario is that he turns into the hitter that Huff already is. Since he is a corner outfielder he is replaceable. Baez is serviceable (3.86 career ERA in the AL, 7.51 K/9), albeit overpaid, but could be worse and the Mets take Cruz and Baez off of the books after 2005.

Is this trade worth it? I think it might be and would be interested to hear your thoughts. I like it a lot better than the rumored Jose Reyes deals or the Sammy Sosa deal, but like I said, it is my concoction so maybe it isn’t even worth talking about. I am still in support of pursuing Delgado for no more than three years. Whatever happens, I don’t want to see the Mets giving up any of their best young talent and should only do it if it is a really good deal. In this case, I think Diaz is worth giving up. Do you? Most likely, the rumor mill will turn toward someone else and the Aubrey Huff talk will be yesterday’s news.


Monday, November 08, 2004

 

Remember the Alomar

With the GM meetings kicking off down in Florida, the hot stove season is picking up steam. As Mets fans know, this has been the most exciting part about being a fan these last few years because we will always believe that there is one move around the corner that can turn us into contenders. Unfortunately, every potential move I have read about so far is frightening me.

Over at Metsblog, the rumors are flying fast and furious. One has the Mets trading Jose Reyes for Alfonso Soriano (a trade that has been rumored before), trading Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza for Sammy Sosa and signing Orlando Cabrera. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they should not trade Jose Reyes under any circumstances, nor should they acquire Sammy Sosa under any circumstances. There may be not truth to this specific rumor whatsoever, but Reyes and Sosa are two names that keep coming up in trade talks and this is worrisome. There is also word from Ed Coleman at WFAN that it is likely the Mets will bring back Richard “Mr. July” Hidalgo.

The biggest problem with the Mets over the last few years is that the feel that because they are a big market club and they are struggling, they need to make a big splash in the offseason. Just because you have money, doesn’t mean you need to spend it. As any Knicks fan can tell you, these are the same problems that got them in trouble. If the Mets were a skyscraper, they should be knocking down the whole thing to build back up instead of knocking down a few floors and trying to build up from halfway up. I realize this is a weak metaphor, but it doesn’t mean it is any less true. Why pay big money for Soriano, Cabrera and Hidalgo when they can get the same production from Reyes, Matsui and Diaz for very little? Soriano, Cabrera and Hidalgo are known quantities, but part of what they are known for is being wildly inconsistent. Plus, the Mets could be forced to give up compensation if Cabrera is offered arbitration by Boston and turns it down. By the way, Cabrera is not that good, at least not offensively.

His career OPS is .725. He had what was considered a breakout year in 2003, but that had a lot to do with hitter’s paradise that was Hiram-Bithorn before they tweaked the fences. In 2003 his home numbers were .332/.380/.515 and his road numbers were .265/.316/.409. Granted, he also performed well at Olympic Stadium (.328/.381/.518) but that season is the outlier for his career. Beyond that, his next highest OPS was .752 in 2001. He is 30 and is most likely to get worse, not better and even though he has an outstanding defensive reputation, that is also going to severely decline into his 30’s. He is getting a lot of credit for turning the Red Sox season around with his defense, but his accomplishments should be kept in proper perspective. Cabrera is a slightly above average 30 year old shortstop, Reyes could be a real star.

I realize there may be no truth to any of this, but all the Mets talk seems to surround mediocre veterans with inflated reputations which are the types of acquisitions that have led to the Mets demise. The only big name free agents that make sense for the Mets are Carlos Delgado and Magglio Ordonez, and Ordonez will only work if they can get rid of Floyd. The Mets have a whole at 1st base so Delgado makes sense. There is talk of Richie Sexson but he worries me based on the following info from Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus

Some teams like facts, some teams like faith. It's like that in a lot of places, but putting millions on the line in hopes that someone will do something sounds to me like something I'd want facts on. The Mariners seem to be fixated on Richie Sexson. They'll point to Ken Griffey Jr., who was able to come back from more serious shoulder surgery, or Shawn Green who came back from similar surgery to hit well. It's Green that I would compare most closely to Sexson's situation. Green's still not all the way back, a combination of shoulder degeneration and the passing of time. If that's enough for the Mariners, well, that is their pattern.

If his injury is similar to Shawn Green, that is huge red flag because he is, at best, 75% of his pre-injury self. Also, Sexson is younger and will probably be commanding a longer deal so let the Mariners have him. Delgado, I’m guessing, could be had for three years which would be perfect. While he may not be around for the next Mets dynasty, he could help the Mets compete and a huge year from him along with development from Wright and Reyes could put the Mets into a wild card race. He finished strong and since he involked his no-trade clause to stay in Toronto made some GMs think that he doesn’t have the desire to play for a winner. That is fine with me because it will drive down his value.

There are weaknesses and their are holes. The Mets have a hole at first, and a hole in the outfield in Cliff Floyd. Omar Minaya’s main concern should be finding a way to get rid of Floyd and sign a first baseman. They should treat Floyd the same way they did Jeromy Burnitz and Roberto Alomar. They were bad acquisition so the Mets cut their losses and got whatever they could for them and moved on. I also think they should make a play for Delgado. I’m tired of the Mets spending a lot of money and getting little value simply because they can. It’s the reason they have been so bad the last few years.

Friday, November 05, 2004

 

At Least He Lasted Longer Than Belichick With The Jets

At least Mets fans can take solace in the fact that there is at least one organization in baseball a lot crappier than them. Channeling my inner Chandler Bing here when I ask, "Could the Diamondbacks be any worse?"

In the press conference Ken Kendrick (Arizona general partner) said that they were never make the same mistake of hiring someone in the organization without a background check. Hey Ken, you hired Wally to manage your Single-A team this season so this is already the second time the organization has hired him presumably without a background check.

Kendrick also said that no contract was in place so they have no financial responsibility to Backman. I haven’t passed the bar but I know a little bit and I have to think that Backman could consider a lawsuit here. They gave him the job, they had a press conference and then they took it away based on character issues they ignored in hiring him and then blamed his removal on those issues. It doesn’t appear as if he withheld any information so now he doesn’t have a job they hired him for and his character is destroyed. Whatever happens, Backman’s career is screwed thanks to the Diamondbacks. Trump has more discretion in hiring and firing employees.

Wally can now join the Bill Belichick hall of fame for coaches who have lasted less than a week. He can have a toast with George O’Leary and pour a little out for Eddie Stanky. Let's at least hope Wally raided the supply closet and stole some D-Backs merchandise. Then again, who would want anything with those silly colors?


 

That Was Quick

When I chose Wally Backman as my nom de plume, I was doing it as a tribute to my favorite Met of my youth, I didn't realize he would become such a controversial figure. But the East Valley Tribune is reporting that the D-Backs have fired Wally Backman and will hire Bob Melvin. Presumably, this is because of Backman's indiscretions that have been revealed. A domestic dispute with a female friend, filing for Chapter 11 and a DUI. What remains to be seen is if Backman lied on his application about his past problems. It's a important because if he lied, they won't have to pay him. It's also possible the D-Backs decided to cut their losses because they have enough to worry about without this bad PR coming from their manager and they don't care about having to pay him. More on this as details become available.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

Brooklyn's Finest

As I have advocated before, I think Willie Randolph is a great man for the job. He will command respect and is revered around baseball. When the Mets hired Art Howe, I thought it was smart because I hoped he could implement some of the principles that made Oakland successful. It turns out that he was simply Billy Beane’s puppet.

Critics of Randolph will complain that he has no major league managing experience and that he is a Yankee. Even though he has no managing experience, I am fully confident that he understands the game well enough to handle the job. Managing baseball is not that complicated relative to other sports and Willie has the ability to do it. As for him being a Yankee, I couldn’t care less. He brings a stoicism and confidence that the Mets sorely lack.

Mets fans can pontificate all they want about the new manager, but he won’t make that much of a difference on the field, it’s the players. Wille can be most effective by working with Omar on creating an intelligent long-term plan for the organization and implementing it. He should also be able to rejuvenate local interest since he is a Brooklyn native. If Minaya can make some smart personnel decisions, Willie is going to look like a great choice. If he brings in the Sammy Sosa and some other aging/overpriced veterans, Willie will be gone in two years.

On a purely frivolous note, Randolph wore the traditional Mets pinstripes and blue hat in the press conference and I hope that look returns as the Mets primary uniform this season. The Mets colors are blue and orange, they should be proud of them. If Randolph brings a traditional attitude from the Yankees and that attitude involves bringing back the blue hat and pinstripes, I will be at the team store soon picking me up one of those lids.


So far so good for Omar this off-season, now the real work begins. Let's Go Mets.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 

Stupid Voters

As we all know, Tuesday November 2nd was Election Day. Americans went to the polls to vote for president and other public offices. In baseball, there was also an election as the American League Gold Glove winners were announced. In the presidential election, it appears as though George W. Bush will get four more years, and in baseball, Derek Jeter won his first Gold Glove. Why these two victories are not on the same plane in terms of importance, they do have one thing in common; they show us how stupidity has permeated this country.

I will not get on my liberal soapbox and ramble on about how Bush sucks for two reasons. One, because that is not what this elections was about, to me it was about an incumbent not earning four more years with his performance in the first four and two, because this is a baseball blog. It just blows my mind how Bush could actually do better in 2004 than he did in 2000. What also blows my mind is that Derek Jeter, arguably the worst defensive shortstop in baseball, won a Gold Glove. These are two examples of people voting on everything besides evidence. What they used as their basis for voting, I don’t know but it was not the facts.

How bad is Jeter? It is hard to know where to begin because not only do statistics say he is awful, scouts say it as well so this is not even an instance where the stathead world and the scouting world don’t see eye to eye. Jeter’s defense has been of the greatest points of contention among fans, writers, announcers, players, coaches and sabermetricians. If you only watched the YES Network or listen to John Sterling, you would be led to believe that Jeter is as good at short as anyone in the game and the rest of the ignorant baseball world is quick to drink the Kool-Aid and accept that along with Jeter being a “winner.” When I first heard about Jeter receiving the honor, I was not surprised that the writers would give it to him. I subsequently learned that the coahces and managers choose the honor and was dumbfounded. They should know better.

While Jeter’s Gold Glove is theoretically for this season’s performance only, it is important to show how bad he has been over the years yet managed to maintain a good defensive reputation. For example, Tony Gwynn wrote this on ESPN.com. “It’s about time Jeter won a Gold Glove. With Omar Vizquel not playing everyday, and A-Rod at third, things opened up for Jeter. But if you watch him play, you know he has been a Gold Glove-caliber for awhile.” I’m not so sure Tony. From 2001 to 2003 he was last in the AL in zone rating each year. From 2000-2003 Jeter was
28 runs below average per 162 games based on Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). That means that an average defensive shortstop would save you 28 runs per season more than Jeter, that figure is the worst of any shortstop in baseball during that time. As for the scouting perspective, the following is from this season’s “The Scouting Notebook,” published by Sporting News. “…one thing is hard to deny, other shortstops handle balls that [Jeter] doesn’t.”

This season Jeter was middle of the pack in terms of zone rating as he finished sixth in the AL in zone rating and anecdotal evidence seemed to support improvement; however, according to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average, he was actually 2 runs below average which is a lot better than his previous 8 season average of 17.25 runs below average. So Jeter did have his best fielding season statistically, but at his best, he is still below average. I know fielding stats don’t tell the whole story, but there is no anecdotal evidence that would overcome these obvious statistical shortcomings. Not to mention the fact that his improvement could be a fluke and based on more balls being hit right at him this year. I will trust the poor statistics from 1996-2003 as evidence of what porous shortstop Jeter plays.

I will readily admit that I dislike Jeter, but he is a fine player. He is simply the most overrated player currently in baseball for reasons such as his supposed intangibles, which are immeasurable, and relatively worthless and because people believe he is good at defense when he is clearly not. Jeter winning a Gold Glove renders the award virtually meaningless.

Now that is off my chest, there will be more Mets posts soon.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Wally The Snake

Wally Backman, my favorite Met ever (as you can probably tell by my pseudonym) has just been hired as manager of the Arizona Diamonbacks. There is certainly a part of me that would have loved to see him as manager of the Mets, but that did not seem like a realistic possibility. Although he was scheduled to interview for the Mets job, he was considered a long shot all the way and it seemed as though Los Wilpones were only bringing him in to appease the Mets fans that are dying to reconnect the current crop with the ’86 Mets in some way.

As much as I love Wally, I don’t want the Mets to hire a manager based on what they think is good PR. Soon after Howe was fired, it seemed as though they were determined to do just that as a lot of the new manager talk centered around Lenny Dykstra and to a lesser extent, Backman. The cynic in me is surprised by this because if there is one organization that would hire a manager based on what they thought would be popular as opposed to helpful, it would be the Mets. The fact that they are considering Willie Randolph contradicts this theory because when I read the other Mets blogs, no one seems to want Randolph for the job.

Backman will have his work cut out for him in Arizona as he is entering a situation that is probably even worse than the Mets. His team has little major league talent and nothing fantastic on the farm. Trading Randy Johnson would be a positive step in rebuilding that organization. The following is from the New York Post.

Randy Johnson with the White Sox? The Yanks want him, but they might only be able to land him in a three-way trade. The Cardinals are the new darlings in the field. But the White Sox, with a package built around Carlos Lee and Jon Garland, could be most attractive.

Is Arizona getting GM tips from the Mets? While Garland is relatively young (25) he is not a stud with a career 4.68 ERA and only 4.98 K/9. He has also given up 62 home runs in the last two seasons. Carlos Lee is good, but for a corner outfielder, his numbers are nothing special. Then again, this might not even be a legitimate rumor but simple speculation from the Post. Either way, the D-Backs should use Johnson to acquire at least three good prospects. Not only would this help them in the long run, it would also keep the Big Unit away from the Yankees who have no worthy prospects.

Here’s hoping Wally has a successful managerial career, but most likely he will be the fall guy for Arizona in two years when they are still losing 95 games even though they have an awful team and there is nothing he can do about it. Then, he will get to join the Bob Melvin’s of the world in the elite club of retread major league managers. There are worse ways to make a living.


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