Saturday, September 29, 2012

Top 3 Lefty Homegrown Starters: Koosman, Matlack ... Niese?

On Friday night, Jonathon Niese made his 30th and final start of the season for the Mets, holding the Braves to one run in seven innings to collect his career-high 13th win.  Niese also held Chipper Jones hitless in three at-bats on the night the Braves were celebrating the future Hall of Famer's career in Atlanta.  This was nothing new for Niese, as he held Jones to a .174 career batting average against him (4-for-23), with half of those hits coming before Niese became a regular in the Mets' starting rotation.

Since Niese joined the staff for good in 2010, Jones has batted 21 times against the Mets' southpaw and has only reached base twice for a .095 on-base percentage.  Niese has also never walked Jones in 24 career plate appearances.  That's not a typo, as every Niese-Jones confrontation has ended without the home plate umpire telling Jones to take his base.

Jonathon Niese's ability to retire Chipper Jones is one that eluded many Mets pitchers over the years.  But Jones is not the only batter who has struggled against Niese.  In fact, as Niese has matured from a 21-year-old rookie pitching at Shea Stadium in 2008 to one of the most reliable arms on the staff as a 25-year-old, many hitters have gone back to the dugout shaking their heads after failing to reach base against him.

In 2012, Niese enjoyed his finest season to date, establishing career highs across the board.  Niese achieved personal bests in wins (13), ERA (3.40), WHIP (1.17), innings pitched (190⅓), strikeouts (155), batting average against (.241), walks per nine innings (2.3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.2).  At age 25, Niese has been a Met for all or parts of five seasons, making his way up the franchise's all-time pitching leaderboards with every start he makes.

Those leaderboards are loaded with names like Seaver, Gooden, Darling, Cone, etc.  What do all of those pitchers have in common?  They were all right-handed starters.  Similarly, left-handed starting pitchers Sid Fernandez, Al Leiter and (ahem) Tom Glavine are also all over the Mets' all-time leaderboards for pitchers but none of them came up through the Mets' farm system and all of them made their major league debuts pitching for another team.

If not for Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack, the Mets' all-time pitching leaderboards would be bereft of homegrown southpaws.  So if Koosman and Matlack are the two best homegrown left-handed starters in franchise history, then who would be third?  Believe it or not, that third member might just be Jonathon Niese.  Don't believe it?  Let's look at where Niese ranks among all other homegrown left-handed starting pitchers in Mets history who had a minimum of 20 starts and made at least half of his appearances in a starting role.

Jerry Koosman
  1. Jerry Koosman - 346 
  2. Jon Matlack - 199
  3. Jonathon Niese - 94
  4. Pete Schourek - 47
  5. Eric Hillman - 36

Jon Matlack
  1. Jerry Koosman - 140
  2. Jon Matlack - 82
  3. Jonathon Niese - 35
  4. Pete Schourek - 16
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 5

Jonathon Niese
  1. Jon Matlack - 3.03
  2. Jerry Koosman - 3.09
  3. Jonathon Niese - 4.06
  4. Bill Pulsipher - 4.63
  5. Pete Schourek - 4.65

Eric Hillman
  1. Jon Matlack - 1.195
  2. Jerry Koosman - 1.219
  3. Jonathon Niese - 1.360
  4. Eric Hillman - 1.422
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 1.442

Pete Schourek
  1. Jerry Koosman - 1,799
  2. Jon Matlack - 1,023
  3. Jonathon Niese - 470
  4. Pete Schourek - 199
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 101

K/BB Ratio:
Bill Pulsipher
  1. Jonathon Niese - 2.73
  2. Jon Matlack - 2.44
  3. Jerry Koosman - 2.19
  4. Eric Hilman - 2.13
  5. Bill Pulsipher - 1.80

Did you notice anything interesting about each top five list?  In each list, the top three pitchers were always Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Jonathon Niese, although not necessarily in that order.  Also, when players such as Pete Schourek, Bill Pulsipher and Eric Hillman start cracking all-time top five lists for the Mets, it's fairly obvious that the Mets haven't had much success drafting, developing and calling up left-handed starters.

Say what you what about Jonathon Niese.  Say he's only a middle-of-the-rotation starter.  Say he hasn't fully realized his potential.  Say all of that, but then don't forget to say that he's also one of the best homegrown left-handed starting pitchers in team history.  And with the improvement he continues to show year after year, we may have to remove the word "left-handed" from the previous sentence before long.  Not bad for a southpaw who has yet to reach his 26th birthday.

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Getting Easier To Say Goodbye To Shea Stadium

Four years ago today, the Mets played their final game at Shea Stadium, losing the season-ending contest to the Marlins, 4-2.  The festivities that followed were poignant and bittersweet, especially considering that the game did not have to be the last one played at Shea if the Mets had won it or any of the other 73 games they lost that season.

Saying hello again to players like Dave Kingman, George Foster and Craig Swan (all of whom played in the first Mets game I ever attended at Shea on June 15, 1983), along with seeing Doc Gooden in a Mets uniform for the first time in nearly a decade and a half made saying goodbye to Shea Stadium all the more difficult.

When Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza walked arm in arm through the center field gate and symbolically closed the Shea Stadium era, a part of my childhood was also closed for good.  Unsanitary as it may have been, I kissed the brick wall outside Gate C when I left, knowing I’d never set foot through that gate again.

Watching the Mets plod their way through the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons at Citi Field did not make it any easier for me to let Shea Stadium go.  Where was the black cat crossing behind Ron Santo past the visitors' dugout?  Where were Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda making miracle catches for a miracle team?  Where was “Ya Gotta Believe”?  Where was the “K Korner”?  (For that matter, where was Kiner’s Korner?)  Where was Michael Sergio?  Where was the little roller up along first?  Where was Jesse Orosco’s glove (besides Buddy Harrelson’s hands, of course)?  Where was Todd Pratt, lifting Division Series-clinching homers into the air when he wasn’t lifting Grand Slam Singles hitters into that same air?  Where was Endy Chavez?  Where was memorable Mets baseball?  All of them had been left behind at Shea Stadium.

Shea Stadium has so many signature moments, many of which were detailed in question form above.  What did Citi Field have?  Gary Sheffield’s 500th home run,  Shake Shack and Ray Ramirez racking up the frequent jogger miles every time he ran onto the field to tend to the latest injury suffered by one of the Mets players.  In other words, Citi Field didn’t really have a signature moment.

Then 2012 came.  And Citi Field finally had its share of signature moments.

It all began on June 1, with the moment Mets fans thought they’d never see.  When Johan Santana struck out World Series MVP David Freese on his 134th pitch of the game, the Mets finally had their first no-hitter.  A sense of relief and elation enveloped Citi Field as it never had before as the no-hit monkey was finally lifted off the Mets’ backs after over 8,000 regular season games.

Santana didn’t make it through the season and neither did the Mets, but before the season ended, the team did give us two other moments to proud of at Citi Field.  First was David Wright, as he ended Ed Kranepool’s 36-year stay atop the franchise’s all-time hits list when he collected his 1,419th hit in the Mets’ penultimate home game.  That was followed less than 24 hours later by R.A. Dickey’s 13-strikeout performance in Thursday’s Citi Field finale, earning him his 20th victory and ending the Mets’ 22-year drought without a 20-game winner.

Johan Santana, David Wright and R.A. Dickey gave Mets fans a reason to get excited at Citi Field this season, even if the rest of the team couldn’t follow suit.  The Mets are about to lower the curtain on the 2012 season, but at least they gave us some defining moments at home, something that until this year was only reserved for games played at Shea Stadium (and perhaps a game or two at the Polo Grounds).

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to someone or something you love.  Whether it be a family member or an old teddy bear, those types of goodbyes are never easy.  But like everything else, we move on and accept what we’re given in life.  For the past three years, on September 28, I’d think of all the fun I used to have at Shea Stadium and the precious memories that came from those experiences, hoping that someday I’d be able to create new ones at Citi Field.  It took until the Mets’ fourth season at their new ballpark, but I now have some Citi Field memories I can be proud of.

I’ll always miss Shea Stadium, but for the first time in four years, I can now say that this year it’s been easier to let it go.  We still haven’t had a full season of success at Citi Field, but this year we were finally treated to several moments that reminded us why we became Mets fans in the first place.

We’ll always remember where we were when Johan Santana pitched his historic no-hitter.  And we’ll always be able to cherish the individual achievements of David Wright and R.A. Dickey, who both etched their names into the Mets’ record books with seasons that were decades in the making.  The best part of it all was that Santana, Wright and Dickey all accomplished their feats at home.  Not at Shea Stadium, but at Citi Field.

On September 28, 2008, I said goodbye to Shea Stadium for the final time.  Now on September 28, 2012, I can finally accept Citi Field as the place where my new Mets memories will be molded.  I’m not “calling it Shea” anymore.  I’m calling it Citi now.  It’s good to be home.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Joey's Recap: Sponsored By "R", "A" and "20"

Hi, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran and here is my recap of today's Citi Field finale, a game that featured a number of key moments in Mets history, both inside and outside the ballpark.

Since today was a day game, we headed out to the ballpark early, especially since today was going to be The Apple's Final Mets Tailgate Ever.  So after a few hot dogs (I think I had more hot dogs than Jason Bay has doubles this year - he has two in case you didn't know or can't count past one), we took some photos of friends, tailgaters and bloggers alike before moving on to another historic event - the shaving of Keith Hernandez's iconic mustache.

The crowd that gathered around the Home Run Apple before the stroke of noon for the shaving of the 'stache was quite large.  In fact, I'd wager a hot dog that the number of people with cameras in tow was larger than the attendance at Wednesday night's game.  But then again, this was no ordinary 'stache we were talking about.

Some fans, like Matt Falkenbury of The Daily Stache, were particularly moved by the moment.  After seeing Matt's sign, I couldn't help but be moved as well.

Shortly before noon, the barber began to work his magic.  There was music playing over the speakers, with all the songs having a common "gone" theme.  I was glad they didn't play any songs from "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", or else Keith might not have stuck around in the barber's chair very long.

But why am I still talking?  I'll just let these exclusive photos tell the story for me.

That was the pre-game show.  Now let's move on to the game itself.  Today's game came on the heels of David Wright's historic hit against the Pirates.  Wright's 1,419th hit in Wednesday's game moved him past Ed Kranepool into the No. 1 spot on the club's all-time list.  R.A. Dickey was also trying to make history today.

With a win, Dickey would become the sixth Mets pitcher to win 20 games in a single season, joining Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Frank Viola.  Things didn't start off so well with the Mets' resident knuckleballer, as Rod Barajas drove a long double off him in his first at-bat, followed by a home run his next time up.  Barajas' blast off Dickey gave the Bucs a 3-1 lead over the Mets, giving this bear and my 31,506 human friends in attendance a brief "oh no" moment.  But it was just brief.

An RBI single by Scott Hairston in the bottom of the fourth cut the deficit to one.  Then in the fifth, Daniel Murphy dropkicked a single to center to tie the game, which was followed by a titanic opposite field homer by David Wright.  The three-run blast could not be caught by Pirates' rightfielder Travis Snider, who made an Endy Chavez-like catch earlier in the game on a long drive by Mike Baxter.  And by Endy Chavez catch, I mean he made a highlight-reel catch in a losing effort.

Although Dickey admitted he "felt exasperated" and "was not himself today for the most part", he certainly didn't show it on the mound.  After Barajas' fourth-inning homer, Dickey did not allow another run, striking out a bazillion batters in the process.  Okay, so it was really 13 Ks, but it sure felt like a bazillion.

I guess "bazillion" didn't fit on CitiVision.

Dickey pitched into the eighth inning but with two outs, he walked Travis Snider on his 128th pitch of the game.  That was enough for Terry Collins, who removed Dickey and handed the ball to birthday boy Jon Rauch.  Rauch got the final out of the inning, but then had us all reaching for our Rolaids in the ninth.

A leadoff walk to Jordy Mercer (he of the .196 career batting average entering the game), followed by a two-run homer to Alex Presley (he of the 41 career RBIs in three seasons entering the game) cut the lead to 6-5.  But Rauch beared down (no pun intended) and got out of the inning without allowing another runner to reach base.  When Mike Baxter squeezed the final out into his glove, Dickey became the team's first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990.  Interestingly, Viola also defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates for his 20th victory, as did Tom Seaver , who turned the trick twice.  Seaver picked up his 20th win against the Pirates in both 1972 and 1975.

Congratulations indeed!  What a season by the great R.A. Dickey!

Today was a day filled with many "lasts".  It was the last tailgate by The Apple (unless if the Mayans were wrong).  It was the last day Keith Hernandez got Tootsie Pop residue stuck in his 'stache.  It was the last home game at Citi Field.  But it was a "first" that became the most memorable part of the day, as R.A. Dickey became the first Mets pitcher to win 20 games in over two decades.

Although the season wasn't exactly great, Citi Field did get to witness three great moments.  In June, the home fans were treated to Johan Santana throwing the first no-hitter in team history.  Then in a span of 24 hours, David Wright became the franchise's all-time hits leader and R.A. Dickey put the cherry on top of his remarkable season (the whipped cream will be added on the day the Cy Young Award winner is announced).

Thanks to everyone who made this season special for me.  I'll miss seeing you all at Citi Field, but it'll just make me look forward to seeing you all again on April 1, 2013, when the Mets play their home opener next year.  I can't wait to see what the Mets have in store for us then.  Toodle-oo!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Evolution of The Mets' All-Time Hits Record

Although he finished his 18-year career with only 1,418 hits, an average of less than 80 hits per season, Ed Kranepool had remained the Mets' all-time leader in hits for well over three decades.  That's "had", as is the past tense of "has".  David Wright has now supplanted Kranepool as the team's all-time leader with his 1,419th hit, collecting the landmark hit off Jeff Locke in the third inning of Wednesday night's game against the Pirates.

But Kranepool wasn't always the team leader in base hits.  Just as Wright replaced him, Kranepool replaced someone else.  And that someone else replaced someone else.  And so on.  Let's take a look at the evolution of the Mets' all-time hits record, going from Day 1 in 1962 to David Wright's record-setting hit.

The Mets played their inaugural game on April 11, 1962 against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Rightfielder Gus Bell, who already had 1,746 hits to his credit in his first 12 big league seasons, became the answer to the trivia question, "who collected the first hit in New York Mets history?", with his second inning single off Cardinals starter Larry Jackson.  Naturally, that hit made him the first player in team history to claim the title of all-time team leader in hits.  It didn't last long.

In the fifth inning, Charlie Neal took over the just-established title of all-time Mets leader in hits with a home run off Jackson.  It was the second homer in team history (Gil Hodges hit the first one inning earlier) and Neal's second hit of the game, erasing Bell from the record books before the ink was fully dry.  Neal added a third hit that day, which helped him remain the team's leader in hits a little longer than Bell did.  But just a little.

On April 17, 1962, Felix Mantilla passed Neal with a sixth inning single.  Mantilla's hit gave him the team lead in hits with five, which was as many losses as the Mets had.  The Mets were 0-5 but had already gone through three all-time hits leaders.

In 1962, Felix Mantilla (left) passed Charlie Neal (right) on the all-time hits list and in this photo.

Two days later, on April 19, 1962, Frank Thomas became the first Met to hit two home runs in a game.  His second blast gave him seven hits on the season, which made him the team's fourth different all-time hits leader in its first seven games.  But the more things changed, the more they stayed the same, as the Mets were still without a win at 0-7.

April 23, 1962 was a memorable day in Mets history.  Not only did the Mets finally pick up their first victory (even if it took ten games), but it also marked the day Felix Mantilla retook the team lead in hits.  His tenth safety of the season broke a three-way tie for the team lead in hits (Charlie Neal had since jumped back into the mix by then).  For some reason, the Mets' first-ever victory overshadowed Mantilla's return to the top of the all-time hits list.  Go figure.

Four days after their first win, the Mets were still searching for victory No. 2.  On April 27, 1962, the Mets trailed the Phillies 11-1 before a furious rally got them within 11-9.  Their rally fell short, however, as the Phillies held on for the victory.  Just as the Mets' rally fell short, so did Mantilla's stay atop the team's all-time hits list, as Frank Thomas's 13th hit sent him back to the penthouse (or what passed for the penthouse on the 1962 Mets).

Thomas held on to the team lead in hits until May 12, 1962, when Mantilla's 28th hit allowed him to leapfrog past Thomas back to familiar territory.  That lasted all of one day, as Thomas' 29th hit on May 13, 1962 shot him back to the top.  He remained the team leader for the rest of the season.

At the end of the 1962 season, Thomas was the team leader in hits with 152, followed by Charlie Neal (132) and Felix Mantilla (128).  Thomas remained the team's all-time hits leader for the rest of his Mets career, which ended on August 7, 1964 when he was traded to the Phillies.  At the time, he had collected 311 hits in a Mets uniform.  Thomas was finally passed on September 30, 1964 by Jim Hickman.  Hickman's 312th hit as a Met was the final hit in his five-hit game against the Milwaukee Braves.

Ron Hunt
Hickman was the Mets' career leader in hits until 1966, when a wrist injury kept him out of action for nearly three months.  That allowed Ron Hunt to nudge his way past Hickman, which he did on July 7, 1966 when he collected his 415th hit as a Met.  Hunt finished his Mets career as the team's all-time leader in hits with 474.  Ironically, Hunt was traded to the Dodgers following the 1966 season along with the man he replaced as the team's all-time hits leader, as both he and Hickman were dealt to Los Angeles for the Brooklyn-born two-time batting champion Tommy Davis.  Davis went on to establish the Mets' single-season record for hits with 174 in 1967, but never approached Hunt as the team's all-time leader as Davis' stay in New York was limited to just that one season.

While Hunt was toiling in Los Angeles, Ed Kranepool was racking up hits in New York.  On July 2, 1967, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals, Kranepool surpassed Hunt when he collected his 475th hit.  The pride of James Monroe High School in the Bronx continued to be the team's career leader in hits throughout the rest of the decade but a poor 1970 season got him sent down to AAA-Tidewater.  Kranepool collected only eight hits for the 1970 Mets, and by the end of the season, he had Cleon Jones breathing down his neck for the team lead in hits.  In 1971, Jones finally passed him.

On May 25, 1971, with Ed Kranepool not in the lineup, Cleon Jones delivered a first-inning RBI double for his 750th hit as a Met.  The milestone hit pushed Jones past Kranepool as the team's all-time leader in hits after Kranepool had held the spot for almost four years.

Injuries limited Jones to 14 games in June, allowing Kranepool to retake the team lead in hits on June 11, 1971 when he collected his 763rd hit.  Less than a month later, on July 7, 1971, Jones passed Kranepool again, this time with hit No. 783.  This time, Jones would hold on to the career lead in hits a little longer than his first time.

On August 2, 1973, Cleon Jones became the first player in team history to collect 1,000 hits in a Mets uniform.  Kranepool didn't reach 1,000 hits until May 12, 1974.  By that time, Kranepool was being used primarily as a pinch-hitter while Jones was still an everyday player.  At the end of the 1974 season, Jones had 1,176 hits to Kranepool's 1,060 hits.  But a tumultuous season on and off the field ended Jones' Mets career abruptly in 1975, allowing Kranepool to make his move.

The 1975 season began with Cleon Jones on the disabled list nursing a knee injury.  But on the morning of May 4, Jones was arrested for indecent exposure while on extended spring training in Florida.  Although Jones denied he was in a state of undress and the charges were eventually dropped, he was fined $2,000 by chairman of the board M. Donald Grant and was forced by the team to publicly apologize for his arrest.  Jones eventually made it back on the playing field on May 27, but was released by the team less than two months later after a heated altercation with manager Yogi Berra.  Jones played his last game as a Met on July 18, 1975, finishing his Mets career with a franchise-record 1,188 hits.  Kranepool now had no one in his way on the way to the hits record.

Ed Kranepool
On May 4, 1976, Ed Kranepool became the team's all-time hits leader (again) when he delivered an RBI single off Reds' reliever Will McEnaney, just six months after McEnaney had recorded the final out of Cincinnati's World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox.  Kranepool's record-setting hit came just three days after Cleon Jones played what became his final game in the major leagues as a member of the Chicago White Sox.  After recording his team-record 1,189th hit, Kranepool went on to play three more seasons with the Mets, retiring after the 1979 season as the team's all-time hits leader with 1,418 hits, a record he had held ever since.

It took 36 years, 4 months and 22 days for a Met to do what Cleon Jones did to Ed Kranepool twice.  With his 1,419th hit, an infield single off Jeff Locke in Wednesday's game, David Wright has become the first Met since Jones to push Kranepool down to the No. 2 spot on the team's all-time hits list.  Should the Mets choose to sign Wright to a long-term deal, he could very well keep the No. 1 spot to himself for quite some time, perhaps longer than the 36 years, 4 months and 22 days it was held by Kranepool.

Over the first decade of the team's existence, eight different men held the distinction of being the Mets' all-time leader in hits.  Everyone from Gus Bell (who held the title for all of three innings) to Charlie Neal to Felix Mantilla to Frank Thomas to Jim Hickman to Ron Hunt to Ed Kranepool to Cleon Jones spent time as the all-time hits leader for the Mets from 1962-1971.  Then Kranepool didn't relinquish the title for more than three and a half decades.  As the Mets have evolved from expansion team to National League veterans, so has the team's hits record.  It'll be fun to see what David Wright does with it now that he's become the new hits leader for the Mets.

Date Player Became Mets’ All-Time Hits Leader
Number of Hits At The Time Player Became Hits Leader
Gus Bell
April 11, 1962 (2nd inn.)
Charlie Neal
April 11, 1962 (5th inn.)
Felix Mantilla
April 17, 1962
Frank Thomas
April 19, 1962
Felix Mantilla
April 23, 1962
Frank Thomas
April 27, 1962
Felix Mantilla
May 12, 1962
Frank Thomas
May 13, 1962
Jim Hickman
Sept. 30, 1964
Ron Hunt
July 7, 1966
Ed Kranepool
July 2, 1967
Cleon Jones
May 25, 1971
Ed Kranepool
June 11, 1971
Cleon Jones
July 7, 1971
Ed Kranepool
May 4, 1976
David Wright
Sept. 26, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

R.A. Dickey vs. Gio Gonzalez: Stats You Didn't Know

R.A. Dickey.  Gio Gonzalez.  Both pitchers are gunning for the Cy Young Award.  Only one will get it (assuming we don't have a tie a la the 1979 NL MVP vote that got Keith Hernandez a co-MVP Award).

You can go to any site and find comparisons between the two.  Anyone will tell you that Gonzalez leads Dickey by one win and that Dickey leads Gonzalez in innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, shutouts and complete games.  But what about the stats you didn't know that should swing the Cy Young vote completely over to Dickey?

Here are those stats.  Once you read them, you'll have no doubt that R.A. Dickey should claim the top prize as the best pitcher in the National League.

R.A. Dickey is a knuckleball pitcher, but is only averaging 1.7 walks per start.  Only five pitchers in the National League (Edinson Volquez, Tim Lincecum, Aaron Harang, Yovani Gallardo, Carlos Zambrano) have walked more batters than Gio Gonzalez.

Despite not possessing a 90-mph fastball, R.A. Dickey has allowed only three stolen bases in six attempts.  Meanwhile, opposing base runners have a 92% success rate against Gio Gonzalez, going 11-for-12 against the Nationals' ace.

Gio Gonzalez has been lifted from three games this year in which the Nationals did not have the lead at the time of his removal, but got credit for the win when his offense gave him the lead in the half inning immediately following his removal.  Dickey has only earned one win in this way.  If not for the Nationals' timely hitting after his removal, Gonzalez would only have 17 wins, one less than the 18 Dickey would have if not for the sole occasion the Mets bailed him out.

The Nationals have scored seven runs or more in half of Gonzalez's 20 victories.  The Mets have scored five runs or less in thirteen of Dickey's 19 wins.

Gio Gonzalez has 21 quality starts (six or more innings pitched allowing three earned runs or less) out of his 31 starts.  He has also failed to get through the sixth inning in seven starts.  Dickey has 25 quality starts and has pitched at least six innings in all but two of his 31 starts.

Finally, Gio Gonzalez has 20 wins, but he's done it for the the team with the best record in baseball.  R.A. Dickey has won one less game than Gonzalez for a team that has 24 fewer wins.  Similarly, Gonzalez has two more losses on a 59-loss team than Dickey has for an 83-loss team.

When in doubt, always vote for the guy who makes a Dickeyface when he releases a pitch.

More often that not, the MVP Award goes to a player with the most impressive numbers on a team that's at or near the top of its division.  This is not always the case for the recipient of the Cy Young Award.

Five of the last six Cy Young Award winners in the National League played for teams that failed to make the playoffs, with the sole exception being Roy Halladay in 2010.  Two of those five winners pitched for teams that finished with losing records.  (Brandon Webb won the award in 2006 for the 76-86 Diamondbacks, while Tim Lincecum earned his hardware in 2008 for a 72-90 Giants team.)

The award is not called the Most Valuable Pitcher Award.  It's called the Cy Young Award.  It's given to the best pitcher in each league.  Gio Gonzalez has had an excellent season, one that is usually worthy of the league's top pitching honor, but R.A. Dickey has been the best pitcher in the National League this year.

Let's hope the voters consider every bit of statistical information available to them before they cast their votes and don't turn the Cy Young Award into the MVP (Most Valuable Pitcher) Award.  They're more than welcome to use the statistical facts from this piece to help them make their decision.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Terrific Tandems On Terrible Teams

Move over, Batman and Robin!  The Mets have their own Dynamic Duo in R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese.

R.A. Dickey picked up his 19th win of the season on Saturday, holding the Marlins scoreless into the ninth inning in the Mets' 4-3 victory.  Dickey's win came less than 24 hours after Jonathon Niese picked up his 12th win.  Combined, Dickey and Niese have an outstanding 31-15 record.  Unfortunately, their magic on the hill has not found its way to their fellow moundsmen, as the rest of the team is a combined 37-68.

With 31 of the team's 68 wins, Dickey and Niese can lay claim to 45.6% of the team's wins.  As amazing as that might seem, it's not the highest percentage in team history.  If the season ended today, the twosome's 45.6% total would rank fifth all-time in team history.  The top five are:

  • 1968: Jerry Koosman (19-12) and Tom Seaver (16-12) earn 47.9% of the Mets' 73 wins.
  • 1994: Bret Saberhagen (14-4) and Bobby Jones (12-7) earn 47.3% of the Mets' 55 wins.
  • 2003: Steve Trachsel (16-10) and Al Leiter (15-9) earn 47.0% of the Mets' 66 wins.
  • 1975: Tom Seaver (22-9) and Jon Matlack (16-12) earn 46.3% of the Mets' 82 wins.
  • 2012: R.A. Dickey (19-6) and Jonathon Niese (12-9), earn 45.6% of the Mets' 68 wins.

But Dickey and Niese do have one thing over the other four pitching duos.  At 31-15, Dickey and Niese have combined to post a .674 winning percentage.  The rest of the team's 37-68 record translates to a .352 winning percentage.  That's the largest difference in winning percentage between any two Mets pitchers in a single season compared to the rest of the team.  Here are the top five in this category (min. 12 wins per pitcher):

  • 2012: R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese (31-15, .674), others (37-68, .352), .322 diff.
  • 1994: Bret Saberhagen and Bobby Jones (26-11, .703), others (29-47, .382), .321 diff.
  • 2003: Steve Trachsel and Al Leiter (31-19, .620), others (35-76, .315), .305 diff.
  • 1973: Tom Seaver and George Stone (31-13, .705), others (51-66, .436), .269 diff.
  • 1968: Jerry Koosman and Tom Seaver (35-24, .593), others (38-65, .369), .224 diff.

R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese have been two of the bright spots on an otherwise lousy team.  But at least they're not alone.  The Mets have had a number of terrific tandems on terrible teams before.  And some of the pitchers in those tandems went on to become among the best in franchise history.

The 2012 season might not be one of the best in club annals.  However, with the tag team duo of R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese leading the way, they might someday become a terrific tandem on a not-so-terrible team.  Ya gotta believe.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why I Think R.A. Dickey Is Still A Lock For 20 Wins

Yes, you read the title right.  Despite the Mets' recent inability to score runs and despite R.A. Dickey suffering his first consecutive losses of the year, I still think the Mets' resident knuckleballer, author and documentary star is a lock to become the first pitcher since Frank Viola in 1990 to register a 20-win season for the Mets.

Call me crazy but I have three words that will explain why I'm making what appears to be a bold statement.  And those three words are:

The.  Miami.  Marlins.

For his career, R.A. Dickey is 9-2 versus the Marlins.  How great is he against the Marlins compared to other clubs?  Dickey doesn't have more than four wins against any other team in the majors.  But it's what Dickey has done against the Marlins since the start of the 2011 season that's really eye-opening.

Over the past two seasons, R.A. Dickey has made seven starts against Florida/Miami.  He's been the winning pitcher in all seven of them.  That's seven starts, 7-0 record.  Even with an 8-13 overall record in 2011, Dickey still managed to go 3-0 against the then-Florida Marlins.  And this year, he's won all four starts against Miami.

Of course, you might say that his seven victories over the Marlins over the past two seasons came at a time when the Mets were scoring more runs than they are now.  (Over their last 29 games, the Mets have scored 78 runs, an average of 2.7 runs per game.)  The lack of points on the board would make any pitcher struggle to get wins.  Just ask Matt Harvey.  But that shouldn't deter Dickey against Miami.

Since taking the mound for his first start against the Marlins in 2011, Dickey has allowed four earned runs in 51 innings versus Miami.  Four runs in seven starts.  That's an ERA of 0.71.  So basically all the Mets have had to do is scratch out a run and Dickey could put it in the books against the Fish.

R.A. Dickey will be starting against the Marlins at Citi Field on Saturday.  He will also be making a start against them in Miami during the final series of the season.  In between those starts, he will be facing the fading Pittsburgh Pirates, another team he has dominated since joining the Mets.  In four starts versus Pittsburgh as a Met, Dickey has a 1.71 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and two complete games.  Earlier this year, Dickey pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Bucs, striking out 11 batters while picking up the win.

It's tough to say anything is a lock with the Mets these days.  But it's not tough to say this.  With three starts left, all against the Marlins and Pirates, R.A. Dickey will win 20 games this year.  You can put that prediction in the books.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Call The Mets "Tea Totallers"

If you were watching the first inning of tonight's Mets-Phillies tilt, you were reminded of many things.  Fans from my generation will recall the game between the Mets and Phillies on June 11, 1985, otherwise known as The Von Hayes Game.

In that debacle, the Mets set the franchise record for runs allowed in a game, losing to the Phillies 26-7.  Aided by two first-inning home runs by Von Hayes including a grand slam, the Phillies took a 16-0 lead after two innings en route to their lopsided win.  Three Mets pitchers (Tom Gorman, Calvin Schiraldi and Joe Sambito) combined to give up all 26 runs.  Amazingly, almost incomprehensibly, Doug Sisk pitched 2⅓ innings of scoreless relief, despite entering the game with a 7.68 ERA.

That's what I was reminded of.  But more mature fans (and by more mature, I mean fans who remember seeing Dave Schneck and Al Schmelz stinking it up in Mets uniforms) might think of tonight's first inning and be reminded of this:

The Mets weren't nearly as bad against the Phillies as the Tea Totallers were against the Gas-House Gorillas in that classic Bugs Bunny sketch.  But they were pretty close, allowing eight first inning runs to their division rivals.

Instead of batters doing a conga line to home plate, it was Mets fans making a beeline toward the exits.  That's just what happens when the team you root is playing like a cartoon.

Matt Harvey Gives Us Hope; If Only His Teammates Could Give Him Runs

On Wednesday, Matt Harvey made his final start of the season for the Mets, pitching seven innings of one-hit ball.  The sole hit given up by Harvey was a home run to leadoff batter Jimmy Rollins that landed just above Scott Hairston’s glove before he had extended it completely over the right field fence.

(Who knows?  Had a right-handed pitcher started for the Phillies instead of southpaw Cole Hamels, Mike Baxter would have received the start in right field and might have made the home-run saving catch.  We could have been talking about another potential no-hitter being preserved by an outstanding catch by Baxter.)

A home run by David Wright gave Harvey a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, which the rookie protected by retiring the Phillies in order in the seventh, the last two batters via the strikeout.  But Harvey’s fourth win of the season cruelly turned into his second no-decision when Josh Edgin couldn’t throw strike three past Chase Utley and then couldn’t hit his target against Ryan Howard.  Unfortunately, Howard was able to hit his target, which was located in the front row of the Pepsi Porch.

Harvey had an outstanding two months for the Mets after his late July call-up.  In ten starts, the right-hander had a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, striking out 70 batters in 59 innings.  Opposing batters had a difficult time against the rookie, hitting a mere .200 against him.  Of all Mets pitchers with at least ten starts in their rookie season, no one held opponents to a lower batting average than Harvey.  And only Jerry Koosman (2.08 ERA in 1968), Jim McAndrew (2.28 ERA in 1968), Jon Matlack (2.32 ERA in 1972) and Dwight Gooden (2.60 ERA in 1984) finished their initial campaigns with a lower ERA than Harvey’s 2.73.  (Tom Seaver finished his 1967 rookie season with a 2.76 ERA.)

Unfortunately, his success across the stat sheet didn’t translate into wins, as Harvey was only able to go 3-5 in his ten big league starts despite allowing three runs or less in all but one of them.  Last night’s 3-2 loss against the Phillies was a microcosm of what Harvey was subjected to during his two-month stay with the parent club.  After winning his first start against Arizona on July 26, Harvey could only muster two victories over his next nine starts.  His lack of ‘W’s can be attributed to the lack of run support given to him by his teammates.

In Harvey's ten starts, the Mets scored a total of 23 runs, an average of 2.3 runs per start.  Take out his 8-4 victory at Cincinnati on August 16 and the Mets scored 15 runs in his other nine starts, an average of 1.7 runs per start.  It’s hard for anyone to notch a win with that kind of run support.

Barring any setbacks, Matt Harvey should make the Opening Day roster in 2013.  His late season performance gives Mets fans hope that they will have a top-notch pitcher at the front of the rotation for years to come.  Whether he gets the wins to validate his status will depend on his teammates being able to push runs across the plate.

Matt Harvey came through for the Mets this year.  In 2013, it’ll be up to his teammates to come through for him.  They certainly didn’t this year.