Friday, November 30, 2012

The Wright Signing Reminds Me Of Santana's No-Hitter

After weeks of speculation regarding the future of the Mets’ franchise player, the team’s fans can finally exhale.  David Wright will indeed remain in orange and blue, as the third baseman has signed a seven-year, $122 million contract extension that will keep him in New York through the 2020 campaign. (Wright’s 2013 option that was picked up by the Mets in effect makes the deal eight years and $138 million.)  By the time his contract expires, Wright will have been a Met for 17 seasons, one year shy of Ed Kranepool’s franchise record for longevity.

Although I am happy that the Mets are finally keeping a homegrown player for the majority, if not the entirety of his career, I can’t get something out of my head.  What if David Wright’s signing is like Johan Santana’s no-hitter?  Allow me to elaborate.

On June 1, 2012, as we all know, Johan Santana became the first Met to throw a no-hitter.  But he needed 134 pitches to complete his gem.  Had Santana allowed a hit earlier in the game, manager Terry Collins likely would have taken him out of the game long before he reached that excessive number of pitches.  Also, if any other Met had authored a no-hitter in the team’s first 50 seasons, perhaps Collins would have removed Santana after six or seven innings, even with the no-hitter still intact.

But given the historic implications of the event, especially with everyone involved knowing that no Mets pitcher had ever hurled a no-no, Collins went against his usual modus operandi and left Santana in the game to chase history.  Santana did get the no-hitter, but at a cost.

The heavy workload, especially after missing the entire 2011 season and the final month of the previous year, brought about a marked change in Santana’s performances on the mound.  After keeping the Cardinals hitless through nine innings on June 1, Santana became quite hittable.  At the time of his gem, Santana was 3-2 with a spectacular 2.38 ERA.  When his season was cut short after 21 starts, his record had fallen to 6-9 and he sported a dismal 4.85 ERA.

Mets fans wanted a no-hitter badly.  They got one on June 1.  And they got it from a pitcher who was a fan-favorite.  But it came with a price, one that coincided with the team’s struggles in the second half.

That brings us back to David Wright and his long-term contract extension.

David Wright's tongue will be earning a total of $138 million through the 2020 season.

 For years, Mets fans have been wanting a homegrown player to remain with the team for his entire career.  The last homegrown player to spend as many as ten years with the Mets was Mookie Wilson.  And he’s been an an ex-Met player since 1989, when Juan Samuel (ugh!) replaced him in the outfield.

David Wright will become the first homegrown Met in nearly a quarter century to spend a decade with the team.  But will his contract end up becoming a financial burden for the Mets, especially once his skills begin to deteriorate?

Mike Piazza signed a seven-year contract to stay with the Mets after the 1998 season.  He was a shadow of his former self during the last three years of the deal.  When Piazza was entering the final year of his contract, Carlos Beltran was playing the first of his.  But Beltran’s seven-year deal was also one that produced a fine start (years two through four were among the best by any player in Mets history), but after Shea took its last breath in 2008, Carlos Beltran went down with the stadium.  Beltran missed huge chunks of the 2009 and 2010 campaigns due to an assortment of injuries before having a good bounceback half-season in 2011, which allowed him to be traded for über-prospect Zack Wheeler.

I understand that the Mets had to re-sign David Wright.  After all, attendance has suffered since Citi Field opened in 2009 and without Wright, Citi Field would have resembled Grant’s Tomb, which was the morbid name given to a mostly empty Shea Stadium after M. Donald Grant started counting his pennies in 1977.  But I only hope the Mets didn’t give Wright too many years to remain the face of a franchise that’s trying to save its face with the fans.

On June 1, Terry Collins kept Johan Santana in the game too long in pursuit of a moment fans had clamored for.  Santana gave the Mets a temporary moment of elation before going down for the count.  Now with the signing of David Wright through the 2020 season, the fans are getting another early present under their blue and orange tree.  Let’s hope this moment of elation lasts longer than the one Santana provided.  The Mets can’t afford to have another present break before its time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

B.J. Upton's Offensive Numbers Remind Me Of...

B.J. Upton's bubble will never burst after signing a lucrative deal with the Braves.

The Atlanta Braves made quite a splash on Wednesday, signing former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton to a five-year deal worth $75.25 million.  The 28-year-old is coming off a year in which he missed a 30/30 campaign by two homers (28 HR, 31 SB), but only hit .246 and reached base at a paltry .298 clip.

Upton is now the highest-paid Brave on a team that features veteran players like Dan Uggla, Brian McCann and Tim Hudson.  But let's look at his numbers since his breakout year in 2007, a year in which he hit .300 with 24 HR and 82 RBI.

In 2008, Upton only hit nine homers, but stole a career-high 44 bases.  He followed that up with a Beltran-like post-season, hitting seven homers and stealing six bases in 16 games for the American League champion Rays.  He also averaged exactly one run scored and one RBI per playoff game (16 runs, 16 RBI).  But over his next four seasons (2009-12), an average Upton season has consisted of a .242 batting average, .316 on-base percentage, 82 runs scored, 69 RBI, 32 doubles, 20 HR, 38 stolen bases and 162 strikeouts.

Let's put those numbers together with the five and six-year averages of three other players who will remain nameless at the moment.

  • Upton ('09-'12): .242 BA, .316 OBP, 82 runs, 69 RBI, 32 doubles, 20 HR, 38 SB, 162 K
  • Player #1 ('90-'95): .273 BA, .348 OBP, 95 runs, 95 RBI, 27 doubles, 29 HR, 30 SB, 103 K
  • Player #2 ('99-'04): .252 BA, .347 OBP, 87 runs, 81 RBI, 30 doubles, 23 HR, 28 SB, 148 K
  • Player #3 ('87-'91): .258 BA, .347 OBP, 96 runs, 95 RBI, 31 doubles, 31 HR, 32 SB, 113 K

Upton leads all three anonymous players in stolen bases and doubles, but not by much.  However, he has a lower batting average, lower on-base percentage, has scored fewer runs, driven in fewer runs, hit fewer homers and has struck out more than all three players.  In some cases, he trails the other players by quite a bit.

If Upton will be averaging a little over $15 million per season for the duration of his five-year contract with the Braves, then how much would Ron Gant, Mike Cameron and Howard Johnson make in this era?  (And yes, those are the identities of the formerly unnamed players listed above.)

HoJo can't believe the amount of money B.J. Upton will be making with Atlanta.

Here are four more things you may not have known about Upton.  He's never been an All-Star, he's never won a Gold Glove, he's never earned a Silver Slugger Award and he's never received an MVP vote.  Meanwhile, Gant, Cameron and Johnson combined to make five All-Star teams, win three Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards, while earning MVP votes in nine separate seasons.

Despite their impressive statistics and postseason accolades, neither player was considered the best player on his team nor was any of them the highest paid.  But Upton - who has a bunch of zeroes next to his All-Star selections, Gold Gloves, Silver Slugger Awards and MVP votes - can now brag about some more zeroes, namely the ones on his contract that make him the highest paid member of the Atlanta Braves.

Maybe B.J. Upton will play well in Atlanta.  But is he truly deserving of the $75-plus million he'll be receiving until he's 33, especially for a player who's never been the best at anything he does, and in various offensive categories, is well below average?

Ron Gant, Mike Cameron and Howard Johnson are probably shaking their heads right now knowing how much they could have earned had they been in their prime in 2012.  B.J. Upton is just shaking his checkbook.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Some Mike Piazza Video Love

Earlier today, former Mets legend Mike Piazza was among the dozens of players named as first-time candidates for enshrinement to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Piazza is one of a number of players who might be making a trip to Cooperstown next July.  Other notable first-timers on the ballot include Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling and a number of players who have the steroid cloud hanging above them, such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and a certain pitcher who was originally drafted by the Mets in 1981 but chose not to sign with the team.

I can go on and on about Piazza's unprecedented offensive numbers for a catcher, which should make him an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer.  (Of course, that's assuming the voters don't lump him in with the steroid class.)  But instead, I'd rather show you what made Piazza so great.  Perhaps a video or five might stir up those memories.

In order, we have Mike Piazza's debut with the Mets in 1998, followed by his game-tying home run against the Braves in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS.  The third video is his healing home run against the same Braves in the first game at Shea Stadium after 9/11.  Video No. 4 is Piazza's home run in 2004 that broke the all-time record for homers by a catcher, while the final video is of Piazza hitting his first two home runs as a visiting player in 2006, earning him a standing ovation from the Shea faithful.

I hope you enjoy all five videos.  Although the Hall of Fame vote won't be announced until January 9, you know I'll be seeing you in Cooperstown on July 28.  Just make sure to pack your No. 31 jerseys.  You know you'll be wearing them...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Davey?

The David Wright contract extension.  That's what on the minds of all Mets fans today, especially with conflicting reports that Wright has been offered a long-term extension.

Over at ESPNNewYork, Adam Rubin's sources claim that the Mets have offered Wright a seven-year extension that would allow him to remain a Met until 2020.  But MLBTR is reporting that no such deal has been offered.  In fact, Wright himself was quoted on the site, saying:

"I have said from Day 1 that I want to play my entire career with the New York Mets.  I remain hopeful that goal can be achieved.  However, I am disappointed by the reports that I have read today which are inaccurate."

Wright's "now you see the extension, now you don't" news comes a day after the Tampa Bay Rays gave homegrown third baseman Evan Longoria a six-year extension worth $100 million.  Earlier this year, the Nationals signed the man in their hot corner to a similar deal, keeping Ryan Zimmerman in Washington through 2019, with a team option for 2020.

Both six-year, $100 million extensions were signed after each player was coming off an injury.  Zimmerman's deal this spring came after he played only 101 games in 2011 and posted the worst power numbers of his career (12 HR, 49 RBI).  Similarly, Evan Longoria signed his extension after missing 88 games for Tampa Bay in 2012.  Both Zimmerman and Longoria were 27 years old at the time their new contracts were signed.

David Wright will turn 30 in three weeks.  He was not injured in 2012 and posted fine numbers (.306, 41 doubles, 21 HR, 93 RBI).  However, his production fell off during the second half, as it has over the past few seasons in which he was fully healthy.

Zimmerman and Longoria are just entering their prime.  Wright will soon be leaving his.  If the Mets do offer Wright a seven-year extension, which would not begin until the 2014 campaign, that would keep him in New York through 2020, his age 37 season.  Will he be worth the amount of money the Mets would be paying him that year?

Carlos Beltran was given a seven-year deal by the Mets at age 27.  He played well until he was 31, then started to miss large chunks of time with injuries.  Before Beltran, there was Mike Piazza, who also signed a seven-year deal to remain a Met after the 1998 season.  Piazza had his last .300 season in 2001 at age 32 (the third year of his seven-year deal) and his final 30-homer season at age 33 (his fourth year).

If the Mets are truly going to give Wright a seven-year deal, they have to make sure they don't backload it with a high salary that will make it difficult to bring in other players once Wright starts to slow down, whether it be through injuries (like Beltran) or age and a demanding position (like Piazza).

Is Wright going to remain a Met for life?  Conflicting reports are confusing the issue.  But one thing the Mets should not be confused about is letting Zimmerman and Longoria's deals affect what they're going to do with Wright.  Both players are younger than Wright and should get more money because of it.  But Wright's best season may already be behind him.  It's up to the Mets to notice that before they talk dollars and cents with their third baseman.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Worst Way To Lose A No-Hitter (The Sequel)

On March 13, 2010, I wrote a piece called "The Worst Way For The Mets To Lose A No-Hitter", which I have copied and pasted below this piece for your reading enjoyment.  Of course, since that piece was written, Johan Santana has become the first Mets pitcher to actually record a no-hitter.  (In a delicious twist of irony, Santana was used in the aforementioned piece as the pitcher who lost a hypothetical no-hitter in the ninth inning.)

In the above scenario, Santana lost the no-hitter in the ninth inning as the 27th out was recorded, but the Mets still won the game.  But what if a pitcher was one out away from a no-hitter, then gave up a walk-off hit, losing his gem and the game simultaneously?  It's actually happened, and it occurred when the whole country was watching.

Floyd "Bill" Bevens
On October 3, 1947, the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers were playing in the fourth game of the World Series, with the Yankees holding a 2-1 series lead.  Floyd Clifford "Bill" Bevens (not to be confused with former Met Cliff Floyd, who has no Bevens blood in his family tree) was due to start Game 4 for the Yankees and was a little wild, to say the least.

Bevens walked two batters in the first.  He then walked one batter in the second and third innings, before finally recording a one-two-three inning in the fourth.  In the fifth inning, Bevens walked two more batters, allowing one of them to score after a sacrifice and a fielder's choice.  The walk party continued with another base on balls in the sixth and one more in the seventh, followed by his second one-two-three inning in the eighth.

Eight innings.  Eight walks.  But still no hits.  And Bevens was allowed to pitch the ninth inning, despite his wildness and the Yankees' slim 2-1 lead.

Bevens gave up a deep fly ball to Dodger catcher Bruce Edwards, the owner of ten major league home runs at the time.  Two outs to go.  Bevens then issued his ninth walk of the game, issuing ball four to Carl Furillo.  Spider Jorgensen then fouled out to first base.  One out to go.

Bill Bevens was the architect of 40 major league victories at the time but had never pitched a no-hitter.  In fact, no pitcher had ever thrown one in World Series history.  All that stood between him and baseball immortality was Pete Reiser.  Perhaps Bevens had this on his mind as pinch-runner Al Gionfriddo was taking his lead off first base.  A lead that grew.  And grew.  Hey, where did Gionfriddo go?  Oh, there he is!  Gionfriddo stole second.

With the tying run now on second, Bevens went against the unwritten baseball book that has a chapter on how one should never put the winning run on base intentionally.  Bevens filled the open base by issuing his tenth walk of the game, putting Reiser on first while Gionfriddo remained on second.

Ten walks.  Still no hits.  One out away from immortality.

Up stepped the veteran Cookie Lavagetto to pinch hit for second baseman Eddie Stanky.  Lavagetto had barely played in 1947, collecting only 18 hits in 69 at-bats during the regular season.  But with one swing of the bat, he removed the immortal tag from Bevens and placed it on himself.

Lavagetto ripped a double to right field, scoring both Gionfriddo and Reiser to give the Dodgers a 3-2 victory.  The walk-off hit would be the only hit surrendered by Bevens in the game.

Whereas most pitchers who lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth get a chance to redeem themselves after their near-miss, Bevens never got that chance.  He never started another game in the major leagues.  But although the no-hitter and the game was lost with one swing of the bat, Bevens did go out on top, as the Yankees rallied to win Game 7 and the World Series title.

Johan Santana lost a no-hitter in the hypothetical situation I wrote about two years ago (see that post below), but eventually pitched one non-hypothetically on June 1, 2012.  Bill Bevens almost became the first player to pitch a no-hitter in the World Series, but then lost one in the worst way, one that could've cost his team a championship.  He got his ring, but never got another chance.  I'm sure he thought about his near-miss with baseball immortality every day for the rest of his life.

(Here is the original piece that inspired this one, written two years before the date no Mets fan will ever forget.  Enjoy!)

The Worst Way For The Mets To Lose A No-Hitter

Every young boy with aspirations of being a major league pitcher dreams of tossing a no-hitter. The thrill of recording out #27 before giving up hit #1 is one of the biggest joys in sports. However, this thrill has never been felt by a New York Met.

The Mets are one of four teams to have never pitched a no-hitter. Two of the other three teams are recent expansion teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies). The other team is the San Diego Padres, who came into existence in 1969. The closest they came to a no-no was in 1972, when Steve Arlin's bid was broken up by the Phillies' Denny Doyle with two outs in the ninth inning. That's closer than any Mets pitcher has come.

Of the 33 one-hitters thrown by Mets pitchers (two of the 33 were of the rain-shortened variety), only two were no-hitters entering the ninth inning. Both were thrown by The Franchise, Tom Seaver, and both were broken up with one out in the ninth inning. Jimmy Qualls of the Chicago Cubs broke up Seaver's perfect game bid with a one-out single on July 9, 1969 and the Padres' Leron Lee singled to break up Seaver's no-hitter on July 4, 1972. Since then, the longest any Mets pitcher has carried a no-hitter is 7 2/3 innings.

Both Tom Glavine and John Maine had their bids for baseball immortality dashed with two outs in the eighth inning. Glavine's 2004 bid was broken up with a double into the right field corner by Rockies' catcher Kit Pellow and Maine's 2007 no-no ended when Marlins' catcher Paul Hoover hit a slow roller to third reminiscent of the excuse-me single hit by the Cubs' Keith Moreland to break up Dwight Gooden's no-hitter in 1984. (Side note: This Studious Metsimus blogger was present at the Glavine and Maine games. There is no truth to the rumor that I turned to my neighbor and said "do you think we'll finally see a no-hitter today?" in each game's eighth inning.)

As seen by the above examples, the Mets have lost no-hitters late in games by hard-hit line drives and little dribblers. But what would be the worst way for the Mets to lose a no-hitter? Studious Metsimus has the answer.

Say Johan Santana is mowing down the Phillies and becomes the first Mets pitcher not named Tom Seaver to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. (What, did you expect it to be Maine or Perez? Neither of them is capable of pitching into the ninth inning, let alone carrying a no-hitter into the ninth.) Santana retires Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco to start the ninth inning, making him the first Mets pitcher to come within one out of a no-hitter.

The next batter is Chase Utley, but he draws a walk. The Phillies now have a baserunner, but the no-hitter is still intact as Ryan Howard steps up to the plate. Howard hits a routine grounder towards Luis Castillo that appears to be the third out of the inning, but the ball hits Utley as he's running to second base. The umpires immediately call Utley out for being hit by a batted ball in fair territory and the game is over.

Could it be? Has Johan Santana become the first pitcher in Mets history to toss a no-hitter? The players on the field seem to think so, as they're celebrating with Johan on the mound. But let's borrow the Major League Baseball Official Rule Book from the official scorer and take a look at two rules.

  • Rule 7.08 (f): Any runner is out when he is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has been touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance.

  • Rule 10.05 (a) (5): The official scorer shall credit a batter with a base hit when a fair ball that has not been touched by a fielder touches a runner or an umpire, unless a runner is called out for having been touched by an Infield Fly, in which case the official scorer shall not score a hit.

While Johan Santana and his Merry Men were all celebrating his apparent no-hitter, the official scorer noticed that Utley had been called out because he was touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball was touched or passed Castillo (Rule 7.08 (f)). By Rule 10.05 (a) (5), the official scorer had to give Ryan Howard a base hit since there was no Infield Fly involved when the ball hit Utley.

Therefore, at the exact moment Johan Santana recorded the 27th out of the game, he also lost his no-hitter. Imagine the shock on his face when the scoreboard flashed the "1" in the hit column. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose would have been sick to their stomachs. If Bob Murphy were still alive, he'd be spinning in his grave while saying "and Santana loses the damn no-hitter", Ron Darling would have analyzed how losing a no-hitter this way would affect Santana's psyche and Keith Hernandez would have said that we shouldn't have female official scorers.

The Mets will pitch a no-hitter ... someday. But I wouldn't be surprised if they lost one in the way detailed above before they actually completed one.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Give Me Something To Write On..."

Hey, I heard you missed us, we're back! I brought my pencil Give me something to write on,

Hey, I heard you missed us, we're back! I brought my pencil Give me something to write on,

"Hey, I heard you missed us, we're back!
I brought my pencil.
Give me something to write on..."
-- David Lee Roth (who doesn't feel tardy)

So this is what it's like to be a Mets fan this off-season.  I have to resort to gimmicks like using classic Van Halen videos and lyrics to attract an audience.  And why do I have to do that?  Because the Mets aren't giving me anything to write on!

David Wright and R.A. Dickey have still not been signed to contract extensions.  As each day passes, I'm starting to believe that the NHL will have a resolution to its labor impasse before the Mets bring Wright and Dickey up to the podium to announce their new contracts.

Since Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and all the other former Mets on the San Francisco Giants completed their sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series almost a month ago, this is the extent of the Mets news:

See what I mean?  There are no trades to report on and no big-name free agent signings.  Basically, the Mets are putting the "off" in the off-season.  So all I can give you today is a Van Halen video and a false report on the Bad News Bears' roster.  (Contrary to my report, they actually did take a flyer on Jamie Hoffman when incumbent outfielder Kelly Leak left the team, riding away on his motorcycle.  Leak eventually returned to the team, having left only to buy a pack of cigarettes, thereby making Hoffman expendable.)

Unlike yours truly, other more talented Mets bloggers have found material to write on.  Below are links to a number of those posts:

  • In a post on Mets Merized Online, John Delcos discusses why Jonathon Niese is as "untouchable as any Met can get."
  • With the Marlins going through their semi-annual fire sale, Steve Rogers of Mets360 brings back painful memories of the times when the Mets shipped off their players without giving them any lovely parting gifts.
  • The always wonderful Metstradamus doesn't predict what will happen, but does toss around the idea of the Mets trading R.A. Dickey for a top prospect on a team desperately seeking a top-notch starting pitcher.
  • The Tom Seaver of Mets bloggers, Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing, reminds us that we'll have "80 other opportunities" to see the Mets at Citi Field in 2013, especially if you don't want to shell out three Andrew Jacksons and three George Washingtons to see one Lucas Duda and one Josh Thole.
  • And speaking of ticket prices, someone who writes on Kiner's Korner going by the obvious nom de plume "The Coop" (never heard of him/her) gives his/her take on holiday tickets, season tickets, and how the Mets are using the All-Star Game to get fans to pay up as soon as possible.

On behalf of David Lee Roth, the recently unemployed Jason Bay, all the former ex-Mets who have won World Series rings since leaving New York, Kelly Leak, and people who use pen names in their blog posts, I'd like to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Maybe I can be thankful soon for some new material, provided the Mets finally give me something to write on...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hoping The 2013 Mets Don't Turn Into The 1974 Mets

In 1973, the Mets won the National League pennant despite a mediocre 82-79 record.  They did so with a light-hitting catcher in Jerry Grote (.256, 1 HR, 32 RBI), a first baseman (John Milner) who led the team in home runs but left a lot to be desired in the batting average department (.239, 23 HR, 72 RBI) and a 29-year-old with multiple All-Star Game appearances (Rusty Staub) who led the team in doubles, RBIs and on-base percentage.  They also played musical chairs in the outfield, with only one player (Staub) collecting more than 400 at-bats.

On the pitching side of things, the Mets had that year's Cy Young Award winner on their starting staff (Tom Seaver) who led the league in strikeouts and complete games.  Unfortunately, they also had a bullpen that left a lot to be desired, as closer Tug McGraw's ERA was near 4.00 (a high number for that era) and six other relievers had ERAs north of 6.00.

The team did not do much to improve their roster that off-season, despite obvious flaws with the offense and bullpen.  As a result, the 1974 Mets faded miserably, finishing the year with a 71-91 record - their first losing mark since 1968 and their first 90-loss campaign since Tom Seaver's rookie season one year earlier.

Although the Mets recovered to post two winning seasons in 1975 and 1976, the cracks were clearly visible on a team that had won two pennants and one World Series championship over a five-year stretch.  The death of Joan Whitney Payson and the rise of M. Donald Grant to power ushered in a dark era in Mets baseball that lasted for almost a decade.

Why is this important now in 2012?  Because if the Mets aren't careful, history could repeat itself in 2013.

Like their 1973 counterparts (minus the pennant, of course), the 2012 Mets employed a light-hitting catcher (Josh Thole), a first baseman who led the team in homers but had a low batting average (Ike Davis) and a 29-year-old All-Star who paced the team in a number of the major offensive categories (David Wright).  In the outfield, only one player (Lucas Duda) reached the 400 at-bat plateau.  Similarly, the 2012 Mets also produced the Cy Young Award winner who led the league in strikeouts and complete games (R.A. Dickey) and had a bullpen that left a lot to be desired (you name him, he probably sucked).

Let's look at the 1973 and 2012 Mets, position by position, to see the eerie similarities in their production:

Jerry Grote: .256, 1 HR, 32 RBI, .294 OBP
Josh Thole: .234, 1 HR, 21 RBI, .290 OBP

First Base
John Milner: .239, 23 HR, 72 RBI, team leader in strikeouts
Ike Davis: .227, 32 HR, 90 RBI, team leader in strikeouts

Second Base
Felix Millan: .290, 3 HR, 37 RBI, .332 OBP
Daniel Murphy: .291, 6 HR, 65 RBI, .332 OBP

Bud Harrelson: .258, 0 HR, 20 RBI, .348 OBP
Ruben Tejada: .289, 1 HR, 25 RBI, .333 OBP

Third Base
Wayne Garrett: .256, 16 HR, 58 RBI, team leader in stolen bases
David Wright: .306, 21 HR, 93 RBI, team leader in stolen bases

Cleon Jones, Don Hahn, Rusty Staub, Willie Mays (combined stats): .254, 34 HR, 170 RBI
Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Lucas Duda, Scott Hairston (combined stats): .233, 46 HR, 169 RBI

Starting Pitcher (Ace)
Tom Seaver: 19-10, 2.08 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 251 Ks, Cy Young Award
R.A. Dickey: 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 230 Ks, Cy Young Award

Starting Pitcher (Next Three)
Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, George Stone (combined stats): 40-34, 2.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 438 Ks
Jonathon Niese, Johan Santana, Dillon Gee (combined stats): 25-25, 3.99 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 363 Ks

Tug McGraw: 25 saves, 3.87 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
Frank Francisco: 23 saves, 5.53 ERA, 1.61 WHIP

Pretty similar in many categories, huh?  The 1973 Mets were fortunate to play in one of the weakest divisions of all time and used it to their advantage.  The 2012 Mets were not as lucky, as they were stuck in the same division as the team with the best regular season record in baseball (Washington) and the top wild card team (Atlanta).

After coming within one win of their second World Series title, the Mets went into the 1974 season with high expectations but the same players.  Almost all of them underachieved.

John Milner had fewer homers and RBIs in 1974 even though he had 57 more plate appearances.  Wayne Garrett's numbers went down across the board, except for his strikeouts, which went up by 30%.  Rusty Staub's batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage all decreased from his 1973 numbers.  No starter hit higher than Cleon Jones' .282, and Felix Millan was the only other starter who hit higher than .258.  The team finished last or next-to-last in the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases.  In other words, they stunk more than the swamp Shea Stadium was built on.

Even during the 1973 World Series, John Milner could tell that things were going to stink in 1974.

Because of the lack of hitting, Tom Seaver finished with his first non-winning season, going 11-11 despite a 3.20 ERA and his standard 200-plus strikeout season.  Jon Matlack tossed seven shutouts and had a stellar 2.41 ERA.  All that got him was a 13-15 record.  The bullpen was atrocious, with Harry Parker and Tug McGraw combining to pitch 61 games in relief.  They finished with seven saves and 23 losses.

The combination of weak hitting and subpar relief pitching caused the Mets to go from the penthouse to the outhouse in the span of one season.  The 2012 Mets were nowhere near the penthouse.  However, they only won eight fewer regular season games than their 1973 counterparts with a lineup and bullpen that was eerily similar to the pennant winners.

The 2013 Mets won't begin their season for another four months, but already there are rumblings that the team will go through another losing season.  The front office has to improve the offense.  They also have to put together a relief corps that will at the very least be serviceable instead of the human land mines that trotted out to the mound in 2012.

The 1974 team was a portent of things to come.  The 2013 team can't repeat history.  It's already been a dark first four seasons at Citi Field.  The light switch has to come on sooner or later (preferably sooner).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Charlie O'Brien Thanksgiving

In 1990, the Mets and Pirates were duking it out for supremacy in the National League East when New York acquired Charlie O'Brien from the Milwaukee Brewers to be the backup catcher to the incumbent Mackey Sasser.

Sasser was what we call a good-hit, no-throw catcher.  That meant he was a solid contact hitter (.307 batting average in 100 games in 1990) who had a little bit of a problem throwing the ball back to the pitcher.  Okay, it was a big problem, as opposing base runners would occasionally take advantage of Sasser's tap-tap-toss back to the pitcher by stealing a base.

Charlie O'Brien was an excellent defensive catcher who called a good game and had an outstanding arm behind the plate.  O'Brien would go on to throw out a whopping 30 would-be base stealers in 1990 and would erase a total of 95 men who attempted to steal during his four seasons in New York.

But O'Brien as a hitter?  That was another story.

This photo is almost as small as Charlie O'Brien's batting average.  Almost.

In four seasons with the Mets, spanning 659 plate appearances, the Bob Uecker look-alike was also a Bob Uecker hit-alike.  O'Brien had a .212 career batting average with the Mets to go with a .289 on-base percentage and .309 slugging percentage.  How bad was O'Brien as a hitter?  Over the same time period (1990-1993), his sometimes battery-mate, Dwight Gooden, hit .221 and slugged .336 in 318 plate appearances.  (At least O'Brien was a tad more patient than Doc, as Gooden "only" reached base at a .234 clip.)

Despite never being the team's top catcher (Rick Cerone caught most of the games in 1991 and Todd Hundley took over in 1992 and 1993), O'Brien remained a Met for those four seasons, even if his pitchers had a better chance to drive in a run than he did.

Fast forward two decades to the current Mets.  Josh Thole has been with the team for four seasons, although he didn't receive the bulk of the playing time until the second half of the 2010 season.  In 916 career at-bats with the Mets, Thole is a .261 hitter with a .331 on-base percentage.  He is not much of a power threat, as evidenced by his .333 slugging percentage, but then again, he was never counted on to be one.

Yet despite his decent batting average on on-base percentage, especially when compared to what O'Brien did 20 years earlier, the Mets are trying to replace Thole behind the plate.  To this I ask ... why?

Don't get Josh Thole angry.  You wouldn't want to see him angry.

Since becoming a Met in 2009, the team's ERA has been lower with Thole behind the plate than with any other catching option.  The following is Thole's "catcher's ERA" compared to the team's cumulative ERA for each season.

  • 2009: Josh Thole (4.10 ERA), Team (4.45 ERA)
  • 2010: Josh Thole (3.58 ERA), Team (3.70 ERA)
  • 2011: Josh Thole (4.25 ERA), Team (4.19 ERA)
  • 2012: Josh Thole (3.77 ERA), Team (4.09 ERA)
  • Total: Josh Thole (3.92 ERA), Team (4.10 ERA)

Simply stated, Thole makes his pitchers better when he's catching them.  And lest we forget, it was Josh Thole calling pitches for Johan Santana on the night of his historic no-hitter.

But no.  That's not good enough.  Thole is a decent hitter and a fine handler of pitchers.  But in this era, if a catcher can't hit 20 homers, then it's time to look for his replacement, as the Mets are seeking to do this off-season.

Just imagine what would have happened to Charlie O'Brien if he was catching in this era instead of the 1990s.  Four years with the Mets?  He'd have been lucky to just get four months on the team.

Charlie O'Brien toiled for 15 seasons behind the plate in the major leagues (1985, 1987-2000), hitting a measly .221.  Josh Thole, even if he slumps badly, will always be a better hitter than O'Brien was.  But do you really think Thole will be in the majors for 15 seasons if he continues to be primarily a singles hitter?

A certain Mets catcher from two decades past should be thankful he caught when he did.  He'd have no chance to stick around in Flushing in this era.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Will Kuroda's Contract Affect How Much Dickey Gets?

Earlier today, the Yankees re-signed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal with $15 million.   The right-handed starter, who will be 38 by Opening Day, had a 16-11 record with a 3.32 ERA for the Yankees in 2012.

Kuroda's season was outstanding, especially considering that he was pitching in the American League East for the first time last season.  But prior to 2012, Kuroda was a sub-.500 pitcher in four years with the Dodgers.  From 2008-2011, Kuroda was 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA.  Those aren't the usual numbers posted by a $15 million pitcher.

Now let's look at R.A. Dickey, who, like Kuroda, will also be making his 2013 debut at the age of 38.  In 2012, Dickey had the best year of his career, going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and a league-leading 230 strikeouts, five complete games and three shutouts.  He will be earning $5 million in 2013.

Both Kuroda and Dickey had career years last year, but let's compare what the two pitchers have done over the past three seasons.

  • Kuroda: 96 starts, 40-40 record, 3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 487 Ks, 3.29 K/BB
  • Dickey: 91 starts, 39-28 record, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 468 Ks, 3.12 K/BB

Dickey has one less win and 19 fewer strikeouts than Kuroda since 2010, but Kuroda has five more starts.  Given five extra starts, it's not unreasonable to suggest that Dickey would have more wins and strikeouts than Kuroda over the past three seasons, to go with the better ERA and WHIP.  However, Kuroda's teams over the past three years have finished a combined 29 games above .500 (257-228), while the Mets have combined to finish 26 games below .500 (230-256).

If Kuroda is earning $15 million in 2013, then what's Dickey worth, especially after his Cy Young campaign?  After watching their crosstown rivals pony up for their 38-year-old starter, the Mets are going to have to break the bank to keep theirs.

Although Dickey is definitely the type of person who would give the Mets a hometown discount, especially since he's (in his own words) loyal to the team that gave him a chance in 2010, why should he settle for only $10 million per season?  If the Mets are going to offer Dickey a two-year extension that would keep him in New York until 2015, they might have to start with a $30 million offer for the two seasons, thereby having $35 million tied up in their knuckleballer ($5 million of that amount is for his 2013 salary) over the next three years.

R.A. Dickey is a loyal human being, but he's not a stupid one.  After watching Hiroki Kuroda get $15 million with the Yankees, the Mets are going to have to offer Dickey something in that neighborhood to get him to stay in Flushing.  Otherwise, Dickey might be playing in another neighborhood sooner than fans would like.

Ghosts of Metsimus Past: American Idol Judges Choose Next Mets Manager

Welcome to Ghosts of Metsimus Past, where we have a Dickens of a time bringing back classic Studious Metsimus posts from the past.  In today's inaugural edition, we'll conjure up a post that was originally published on November 13, 2010.

It was around this time two years ago that the Mets hired Terry Collins to become the 20th manager in team history.  But prior to the hiring, there was much speculation as to who the new skipper would be.  Everyone from Bob Melvin to Clint Hurdle to Wally Backman was being considered for the job that eventually went to Collins.   Things got so hectic in the Mets front office that the American Idol judges were called upon to help select the new Mets manager.  Even a special guest celebrity judge crashed the party.  Let's take a look at the original transcript from two years ago to see how they did.

The Mets have interviewed a number of internal and external candidates in the hopes of finding a new manager to replace the departed Jerry Manuel. There have been many rumors and speculation about who that man will be. New Mets GM Sandy Alderson has stated that he would like the new manager in place within the next few weeks, but has given no word as to who he's leaning towards as his choice.

So who should be the next Mets manager? There are many candidates, but only one will be the next manager. Perhaps we should have the judges at American Idol handle the interviews, since they are "experts" at deciding who in America has talent. Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, the floor is all yours.

Randy: Who's our first candidate?

Steven: I believe it's Bob Melvin.

Randy: Mr. Melvin.

Bob Melvin: Hi, I'm Bob Melvin.  I've managed the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks, winning 93 games in 2003, which was my first season in Seattle, and 90 games for Arizona in 2007.  In fact, when my Diamondbacks finished 90-72 in '07, that represented the best overall record in the National League.

J-Lo: I like that team, the Diamondbacks.  You know, I've got back too, and it's worth more than a diamond.

Randy: Sweet sassy molassy, girl!

Bob Melvin: I don't know what that means, but did I get the job?

Steven: We'll get back to you.  Right now, I want to talk about Jennifer's back.

Randy: That's a lot of back.  Speaking of back, our next candidate is Wally Backman.

Steven: Actually, I heard he's no longer a candidate.

J-Lo: Why not?  I remember liking him when I was a Fly Girl.

Randy: You're still fly, girl.

J-Lo: Ay, Papi!

Steven: We can continue this discussion later, but right now let's talk about Joe Torre.  He's had an incredible managerial career, winning four championships with the Bronx Bombers and then leading the Dodgers to consecutive NLCS appearances.

J-Lo: Did you say Bronx Bombers?  You know, I'm from the Bronx.  I'm from the block.

Steven: Which block is that?

J-Lo: You know, Papi.  The block.  The one right off the 6 train.

Randy: You can pull into my stop anytime.

Steven: Randy, we're discussing managers here.

J-Lo: Who's managing the Yankees now?  Isn't it that Joe Hibachi guy?

Steven: Joe Girardi.

Randy: I could go for some hibachi right now.

J-Lo: Whatever, Papi.  Yeah, that's who the Mets should get.  Joe Torre is kind of a viejo right now.

Randy: What's a viejo?

J-Lo: An old man.  What is he, like 50 now?

Steven: He's 70.  Actually, I'm 62.  Does that make me a viejo?

J-Lo: Whatever, Steven.   I know what you're trying to do.  You just want me to stop talking about Joe Torre because his teams always beat up on your Red Sox.

Steven: We took care of that in 2004.  I remember that year so well. In fact, I was just reminiscing about that season the other day with my fellow Red Sox fan, Ben Affleck.

J-Lo: Don't even go there, Steven.

Steven: Why?  Still bitter about Gigli?

J-Lo: Steven!

Steven: Or the fact that he found a better woman who actually cared about the Red Sox?

J-Lo: Steven!  Don't make me show you the Bronx!

Steven: Who are you?  J-Lo or Bobby Bo?

Randy: Ladies, ladies, ladies.   Please stop fighting!   We're trying to choose a manager here.

Steven: Dude, do I look like a lady?

Randy: Well, now that you mention it...

Clint Hurdle: Guys, I'm ready.  Can I come out now?

Steven: See, Clint Hurdle knows I'm a guy.

J-Lo: Did he call me a guy too?  He's fired!

Randy: Fired?  We haven't even hired him yet, dawg.

J-Lo: Dawg?  Oh, so you think I'm a b...

Clint Hurdle: Maybe I should come back some other time.

Steven: No, Clint.  Stay.   Tell us what you've got.

Clint Hurdle: Well, I managed the Colorado Rockies from 2002 to 2009 and led them to their first ever World Series appearance in 2007.

Steven: Where you were swept by my Red Sox.  Ga-ga-ga-ga-GOW!!

Clint Hurdle: Is that why you wanted me to stay?  To make fun of me for losing the World Series to Boston?  You know, I also know the Mets organization, having played for them in the '80s and managed in their minor league system.

J-Lo: That viejo Torre also played for and managed the Mets.

Clint Hurdle: What's your point?

J-Lo: Well, he ain't getting no Mets job, so why should you?

Clint Hurdle: Why is Joe Torre's past relevant to my candidacy?  What do you even know about baseball, Ms. Lopez?

Guest Judge: I've been saying it all along.  There shouldn't be any women allowed to judge who gets to be in the Mets dugout.

Everyone: Who are you?

Guest Judge: I'm tonight's Guest Judge.  Can I interest any of you in a Tootsie Pop?

Randy: Hold up.  Haven't I seen you on TV before?

Guest Judge: Yes.

Steven: You do those Just For Men commercials, right?  Not that I need Just For Men.

Randy: You don't need it because it's for men.

Steven: Dude, I'm not a lady.

Randy: Dawg, you look like one.

Steven: Well, I'm not.  Anyway, that is you in those commercials, isn't it?

Guest Judge: Yes.

J-Lo: Now I know who you are, Papi!  You're Walt "Clyde" Frazier!

Guest Judge (shaking his head): And you wonder why I think women shouldn't be allowed to judge.

Clint Hurdle: Wait, didn't I play with you on the Mets?

Guest Judge: There you go, Clintie.

Clint Hurdle: Clintie?

Guest Judge: Sorry, I forgot you go by Clint now.

Steven: We beat Clintie in '07!

Clint Hurdle: Shut up, Steven!

Randy: Oh, wait.   Now I know who you are.  You're...

Guest Judge: That's right.  I'm Keith Hernandez, legendary Mets first baseman.

J-Lo: Ha!   Legendary first baseman?  You couldn't get past first base with that chica from Seinfeld.

Keith: Miss Lo, that was a TV show and we were going by the script.

J-Lo: You can't fool me, Papi.  I wouldn't have kissed you either.

Clint Hurdle: You know what?  I don't even want this job anymore!  I'd rather manage in Pittsburgh!  Screw you guys!   I'm going home!

Steven: Thanks, Clintie.  And I say that for all of Red Sox Nation.

Clint Hurdle: Harumph!

Randy: So is there anyone left?

Steven: We have Terry Collins.

Randy: He's the guy Paul DePodesta endorses, right?

Steven: Right.

J-Lo: Endorsements?   Speaking of endorsements, have you tried my newest fragrance?  It's called...

Randy and Steven (in unison): No!

Keith: Doesn't anyone here care about hiring a manager?

J-Lo: Shut up, Walt "Clyde" Frazier!

Keith: I'm Keith Hernandez!

Randy and Steven (in unison): We know!

J-Lo: Just bring in Phil Collins already.

Keith: That's Terry Collins.

Steven: Su-su-sudio!

Randy: Sigh ... Mr. Collins, please.

Terry Collins: Thanks, Randy. I'm Terry Collins.  I've managed for six seasons in the major leagues, splitting my time between the Houston Astros and the Anaheim Angels.   In five of those six seasons, I finished with a winning record.  I'd like to bring that winning attitude back to New York.

Keith: Sir, have you ever won anything?

Terry Collins: My teams have competed for playoff spots almost every year.

Keith: But have you ever finished in first place?

Steven: My Red Sox finished in first place in 2007, when they beat out J-Lo's viejo to win the division title.

J-Lo: Joe Torre's not my old man.

Randy: I'd like to be your daddy.

Keith: Guys, guys!   You too, Steven.

Steven: Everyone's a comedian here.

Terry Collins: Um, did I mention that Paul DePodesta likes me?

Randy: I don't know, dawgs.  I guess we should hire Terry.  Every other candidate walked out on us.

Keith: That's because all of you are incompetent fools.

J-Lo: Who are you calling incontinent?

Keith: My point exactly.

Steven: Maybe we should just let the fans vote.

Randy: If Simon was still around, he'd probably throw every manager off the show.

Keith: He should do the same with the judges.

J-Lo: As long as I get my money, honey.

Randy: What's that?  Our time is up?   Sorry, fellas, but we've got to wrap things up.

J-Lo: But I haven't talked about my new fragrance.   It's called...

Keith: No fragrance is going to cover up the fact that these judges stink.

Randy: You got a problem with us, Dawg?

Keith: Did you choose a manager yet?

Randy: No.

Keith: Isn't that what you're paid to do?

J-Lo: Shut up, Walt "Clyde" Frazier!

Steven: Guys, I've got to get back on tour.  All this fighting is messing up my vocal cords.

Randy: Fine! Go!

Steven: Fine!

J-Lo: Fine!

Keith: Fine!

Randy: We're all leaving.   Let Sandy Alderson hire a new manager.   I've had it with this gig.

(Door slams shut as they all leave.  Moments later, the door opens up again to reveal an older gentleman with glasses and a salt and pepper goatee peering in cautiously.)

Jerry Manuel: Uh, hello?   Are you guys still hiring?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy 50th Birthday, Jamie Moyer!

At Studious Metsimus, we tend to make fun of Jamie Moyer.  We've written posts about him such as "Senior Citizens Appreciation Day" and "Rip Van Winkle Not Coming Back To The Phillies".  Our fav'rit AARP member has been attacked because of his age quite a bit on this site, but today we'd like to be serious for a change and wish him a happy birthday.

You see, Jamie Moyer was born on November 18, 1962, meaning that today he is celebrating his 50th birthday.

Most middle-aged men spend their time watching reruns of Matlock.  Jamie Moyer spends his time trying to hook up with a major league team.  That has to commended.  He also runs wild while raising the 12th Man flag for this blogger's fav'rit football team in the Pacific Northwest.  Pretty cool for a non-Matlock watcher.

So even though it would be easy to make fun of a man who was the elder statesman of a team Mets fans love to hate (the Phillies when they were actually good a few years ago), today is the day to celebrate him on his birthday.

From this Mets fan, I'd like to wish Jamie Moyer a happy 50th birthday.  I just hope he remembers to put his dentures in before he eats his cake.

Danger In The Outfield

Although the Mets bullpen was the worst in the majors this year, the top priority for Sandy Alderson this offseason (after resolving the David Wright/R.A. Dickey contract extension issues) should be to improve the outfield.  No Met outfielder has reached 70 RBI in a season since the team moved to Citi Field (Scott Hairston and Lucas Duda tied for the team lead in RBIs by outfielders with 57).  How sad is it that Angel Pagan's 69 RBI in 2010 represent the highest RBI total for a Met outfielder since Shea Stadium closed its doors for good?

Remember in 2000 when everyone said the Mets won the pennant despite having an offensively-challenged outfield?  Well, the trio of Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton and Derek Bell all hit at least 15 HR and drove in a minimum of 60 runs that year.  Believe it or not, that's the last time the Mets had three outfielders reach those numbers in the same season.

Bullpens are unpredictable from year to year.  As bad as the relievers were this year, they could be better than expected next year. But a revolving outfield of Scott Hairston, Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter (and perhaps Andres Torres if he's re-signed) just can't compete with the more powerful outfields in the league.  The Mets need a significant change in the outfield if they want to improve in 2013.

The Mets' competition in the division all have at least one, if not more, solid outfielders.  The Nationals have the best outfield in the NL East, with Michael Morse, Jayson Werth and Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper.  The Braves have 20/20 man Jason Heyward (betcha didn't know Heyward stole 21 bases to go with his 27 HR), while the Phillies have a tremendous outfield prospect in Darin Ruf, whose minor league numbers (.317, 38 HR, 104 RBI) carried over into the majors last September after he was called up (.333, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 12 games with the Phillies).  Even the depleted Marlins have a top slugger in Giancarlo Stanton.  The Mets have the guy whose Wikipedia page proudly features my wife's ass.  And that's only if the Mets can re-sign him.

It's been said that pitching wins championships.  That's true, as the Giants have won two of the last three World Series with a strong pitching corps.  But they had outfielders that came through more often than not.  In 2010, it was Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Andres Torres (with Torres producing a career year for the Giants).  This past season, the names of the outfielders may have changed, but the productivity did not, as Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence all contributed to the Giants' latest title.

The Mets did not have great outfielders when they advanced to the World Series in 2000.  But as a unit, they were more productive than any other outfield the team has put on the field ever since.  It's not a surprise that the Mets have failed to return to the World Series since the days of Agbayani, Payton and Bell.

Assuming the Mets don't trade R.A. Dickey before the beginning of the 2013 season, they'll have a formidable staff.  With Dickey leading the way, followed by the combination of a healthy Johan Santana, the ever-improving Jonathon Niese, the wünderkind Matt Harvey and the return of Dillon Gee (or even Mike Pelfrey if the Mets choose to go that route), starting pitching won't be a problem in 2013.

We know the Mets need to upgrade their bullpen.  But what the Mets truly need are dependable outfielders who are going to be out there 162 games a year.  The rest of the division already has them.  The Mets need to follow suit.  The 2000 pennant winners have been the team's most complete outfield for way too long.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

R.A. Dickey Ties A Mark You May Not Have Known

R.A. Dickey and record-breaking seem to go hand-in-hand these days.  From becoming the first knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young Award to being the first Mets pitcher credited with at least 27% of his team's victories (as reported here on Studious Metsimus), Dickey's name has been used in the same sentence as the word "first" quite a bit.

But by winning the Cy Young Award this year, Dickey accomplished another "first", becoming the first player in nearly three decades to attain an obscure mark that you may not have known about.

The 2012 season marked Dickey's tenth year in the big leagues.  The 38-year-old began his career with the Texas Rangers in 2001.  Although Dickey spent the entire season in the minor leagues in 2002, he returned to the Rangers in 2003 and pitched for them through 2006.  Once again, Dickey spent an entire season with being promoted to the majors in 2007, before finally getting a call-up from the Seattle Mariners in 2008.  Dickey then spent the 2009 season with the Minnesota Twins before finally coming to New York to play for the Mets in 2010, where he has remained for the past three seasons.

In his first nine seasons (2001, 2003-06, 2008-11), Dickey never came close to winning the Cy Young Award, combining to go 41-50 with four teams.  Not only did he not sniff the award, he failed to receive a single vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA).  But in 2012, his tenth go-round in the big leagues, Dickey not only received a vote for the first time, but he picked up a total of 209 votes to claim his first Cy Young Award.

How rare is it for a pitcher to win this award without ever garnering a single vote in previous seasons?  Let's look at the past ten winners of the Cy Young Award in each league to get an idea.  (The National League winner is listed first, followed the American League winner.)

Clayton Kershaw (4th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.
Justin Verlander (7th season) - received CYA votes in four previous seasons.

Roy Halladay (13th season) - received CYA votes in six previous seasons.
Felix Hernandez (6th season) - received CYA votes in 2009.

Tim Lincecum (3rd season) - received CYA votes in 2008.
Zack Greinke (6th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.

Tim Lincecum (2nd season) - had never received a CYA vote before.
Cliff Lee (7th season) - received CYA votes in 2005.

Jake Peavy (6th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.
CC Sabathia (7th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.

Brandon Webb (4th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.
Johan Santana (7th season) - received CYA votes in three previous seasons.

Chris Carpenter (8th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.
Bartolo Colon (9th season) - received CYA votes in two previous seasons.

Roger Clemens (21st season) - received CYA votes in ten previous seasons.
Johan Santana (5th season) - received CYA votes in 2003.

Eric Gagne (5th season) - received CYA votes in 2002.
Roy Halladay (6th season) - had never received a CYA vote before.

Randy Johnson (15th season) - received CYA votes in eight previous seasons.
Barry Zito (3rd season) - had never received a CYA vote before.

Over the past ten seasons prior to 2012, nine pitchers who won the Cy Young Award had never received a single vote for the award prior to winning it.  However, none of the nine award-winning pitchers had been in the big leagues for more than eight seasons prior to taking home the trophy.  Chris Carpenter was the "veteran" of the group, winning the Cy Young Award in his eighth season after never having earned a single vote for the award in any of his previous seven seasons.

Since 1967, when each league started giving out Cy Young Awards (only one award was handed out to the majors' top pitcher from 1956-1966), four men have surpassed Carpenter's mark.  In 1996, John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves won the Cy Young Award in his ninth major league campaign, after failing to receive a vote in any of his previous eight seasons.  Smoltz became the second ninth-year player to earn his first Cy Young Award votes in the same year he won it, joining San Diego Padres' closer Mark Davis, who accomplished the feat in 1989.  But Smoltz and Davis aren't the record-holders in this category.  That honor is shared by John Denny and Steve Stone.

In 1983, John Denny had a wonderful season for the pennant-winning Phillies, going 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA.  For his efforts, Denny was the recipient of the National League Cy Young Award, earning the hardware in his tenth major league season.  It would also mark the first and last time Denny earned a Cy Young Award vote, as he was out of baseball after the 1986 season at the age of 33.  Similarly, Steve Stone saved his best season in the majors for his tenth, going 25-7 with a 3.23 ERA for the 1980 Baltimore Orioles.  Like Denny before him, Stone was out of baseball by age 33, never receiving another Cy Young Award vote after having never received one prior to his award-winning 1980 campaign.

Editor's note:  In 1967, Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants won the National League Cy Young Award in his 12th major league season, after never having received a Cy Young Award vote in any of his previous 11 seasons.  However, as stated before, prior to 1967 only one Cy Young Award was given out to the major league's top pitcher, thereby limiting McCormick's chances to receive a vote.  The same can be said for 1959 Cy Young Award winner Early Wynn, who was in his 19th season the year he won the award.

That brings us back to R.A. Dickey.  In winning the Cy Young Award in his tenth big league season after never having received a single vote in any of his previous nine campaigns, Dickey has tied the mark set by Steve Stone and John Denny in 1980 and 1983, respectively.

Stone and Denny proved to be one-season wonders in their Cy Young campaigns, with both pitchers ending their careers prematurely, but Dickey appears to be in the prime of his knuckleball-twirling career.   At age 38, Dickey has already outlasted Stone and Denny by five years, and as a knuckleballer, he may have at least five more years on his right arm, especially given the longevity of his knuckleball-tossing predecessors, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and Tim Wakefield.

R.A. Dickey accomplished many firsts in 2012.  But he also tied a mark you may not have known about.  It took him ten years to get the respect of just one BBWAA voter.  But that one vote turned into 209 votes and earned Dickey his first Cy Young Award.  That's a whole lot of well-earned respect for a first-timer like Dickey.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You Can't Spell "Dickey" Without a "C" and a "Y"

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey!


For the first time since 1985, a New York Mets pitcher has won the National League Cy Young Award, as R.A. Dickey was just bestowed the highest honor at his position, earning 209 votes (27 first place votes) to beat out last year’s winner, Clayton Kershaw (96 votes, two first place votes) and Gio Gonzalez (93 votes, one first place vote).  Not since Dwight Gooden over a quarter century ago had a Mets pitcher taken home the coveted hardware.  Dickey is also the third Met in team history to receive the Cy Young Award, joining the aforementioned Gooden and “The Franchise” himself, Tom Seaver, who won the award in 1969, 1973 and 1975.

Dickey was at or near the top in mostly every major pitching category.  He led the league in innings pitched (233), strikeouts (230), complete games (5), shutouts (3), quality starts (27) and New York Times best-sellers (1).  The knuckleball artist also finished near the league lead in wins (20, 2nd in NL), ERA (2.73, 2nd in NL) and WHIP (1.053, 3rd in NL), while establishing a franchise mark by being credited with 27.0% of his team’s victories (Dickey won 20 games for the 74-88 Mets, surpassing Seaver’s 26.8% mark from 1975 when Tom Terrific won 22 games for a team that finished 82-80).

Prior to winning the Cy Young Award, Dickey was mostly known as the guy who gave yours truly permission to write the semi-regular Dickeypedia Word of the Week feature.  Now he’s known for so much more, and deservedly so.

The Studious Metsimus staff would like to congratulate R.A. Dickey on becoming the first knuckleball pitcher to win the National League Cy Young Award, an honor that had eluded a Mets pitcher for 27 years.  It couldn’t have gone to a better candidate or a better person. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gettin' Iggy With It: The Iggy Beartran Experience

Hi!  This is Iggy Beartran.  You may know me as the younger sister of Joey Beartran, who recently wrote a recap of our tours of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field in Seattle.  (If you didn’t read it yet, shame on you!  You’re either way behind in your Studious Metsimus reading or you’re a relative of the Safeco Field tour guide that Joey trashed because of her inability to share accurate Seattle Mariner facts.)   In today’s edition of Gettin’ Iggy With It, I’d like to share my thoughts on the Seattle trip.  In particular, I’d like to discuss why I couldn’t help but think of the Mets and a certain other “fishy” division rival while I was touring the stadiums and the city in which they were located.

As far as the tours went, I actually didn’t have a problem with the Safeco Field tour.  I’m not into the history of the Seattle Mariners so I didn’t mind the mistakes made by our tour guide.  The Safeco Field tour reminded me of the Mets tour at Citi Field, where I spent an hour visiting things I didn’t care about (suites I can’t afford to sit in, the press box I’ll never write stories from because bloggers such as myself don’t get the love we deserve, etc.) and a minute or two on the field.  As with the tour at Citi Field, I was told that security wouldn’t be very pleased with me if I touched the grass because apparently, billionaire owners can’t spend a few bucks on replacing a blade of grass that might have been damaged by my eight-ounce furry body.  Then again, what would you expect from the Mariners and the Mets?  They need to spend their money on better things, like Oliver Perez.

The CenturyLink Field tour guide actually allowed us to stand on the turf, albeit just one corner of it, but at least she had a good reason not to let us frolic on the field.  The Washington Huskies were going to play a game on that same field just four hours after we placed our paws on it, so they couldn’t let us claim it for ourselves.  No worries.  We found other places to frolic!

The city itself was lots of fun!  We went to many places in Seattle, such as the Public Market (where guys throw expensive fish around like the Marlins toss around their high-priced players –  I mean, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to Toronto?  Great googly moogly!) and the iconic Space Needle, which looks quite a bit like the big syringe Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria must be using on himself before making these head-scratching trades.

The food in Seattle was even better than the food at Citi Field.  I never got to try the Ichi-roll (apparently, the Mariners don’t open their food courts during the off-season – bad business move in my opinion), but in downtown Seattle, I had the tastiest New England Clam Chowder ever made!!  Unfortunately, I ate it so fast that I don’t have photographic proof of this tasty meal so all I can give you is this photo from my breakfast trip to Denny’s.

So to recap this … uh … recap, I had great food in places other than Denny’s, the Marlins are selling off their players faster than you can say “the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire”, CenturyLink Field is pretty cool and bear-friendly, and Safeco Field wasn’t as bad as my brother described it, even if the team that plays there gladly employs Oliver Perez.  At least they’re not proud of the fact that they once had Rip Van Winkle himself on the team.  Oh wait, never mind.

That’s all for now, Mets fans.  I hope you enjoyed this edition of Gettin’ Iggy With It.  Till next time, keep your feet on the bases and keep an eye out for flying fish.  After all, you don’t want to get hit by a former Miami Marlin.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Joey's World Tour: Mr. Beartran Goes To Washington (State)

Hello, everyone!  This is your fav'rit roving reporter, culinary expert and sometimes tour guide, Joey Beartran.  So tell me, Mets fans.  Did you do anything interesting this weekend?  I spent mine taking a trip to the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, visiting not one, but two stadiums in not one, but two sports.

That's right, faithful readers.  I went to Seattle, home of such musical legends like Queensrÿche, The Presidents of the United States of America and Sir Mix-A-Lot.  I'm sure there were other musical geniuses from Seattle, but those are the ones most commonly associated with the scene there.  They "experienced" the heights and depths of musical success.  They put their "hearts" into their music whenever they "jammed" in the Pacific Northwest.  Some of them left us too early, but I'm sure they've broken the "chains" of the "pearly" gates and are now planting the seeds to a new "sound garden" in their musical "nirvana".

But enough with the musical references.  You're here because you like sports, especially baseball, right?  So let's stop with the jibber-jabber and allow me to take you on a tour of Seattle's two stadiums located directly across the street from each other in SoDo (South of Downtown Seattle).

First up, Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.

My colleagues and I took an early tour of the ballpark, and we were promised by the tour guide that it would take no more than an hour and twenty minutes.  Hogwash.  The tour took as long as it took Steve Trachsel to finish an inning after allowing a leadoff walk.  And it wasn't like she gave me interesting information.  In fact, not only did she keep repeating the same information over and over (how many times can a person mention the 1995 American League Division Series), but she got much of her facts mixed up.

For example, prior to the birth of the Seattle Mariners in 1977, Seattle had another major league team in 1969 known as the Pilots.  But that team lasted all of one season in the land of Sir Mix-A-Lot, moving to Milwaukee to become the Brewers in 1970.  Of course, our supposedly knowledgable tour guide told us they played in 1968 and 1969.  Strike one.

She also talked about the year Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. were teammates on the Mariners, making sure to say that the father-son duo hit back-to-back home runs in the same game in 1995.  Uh, no.  That happened in 1990, when 20-year-old Junior was avoiding a sophomore slump and 40-year-old Senior was finishing out his career.  Papa Griffey had already been out of baseball for four years by 1995.  Strike two.

Finally, with all her talk about the 1995 ALDS, which ended with Edgar Martinez driving in Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr. in the bottom of the 11th inning to eliminate the New York Yankees in the fifth and deciding game, she claimed that the Mariners' victory in that game earned them their first-ever playoff spot.  Wow.  Even a non-baseball fan knows that the ALDS is a playoff series.  The Mariners clinched the AL West division title in a one-game playoff versus the California Angels to advance to the division series against the Yankees.  Therefore, that moment she was so proud of did not actually clinch a playoff spot for Seattle.  They had already done that the week before in a game that capped a miraculous comeback by the Mariners for the division title.  Swing and a miss.  Yer out!

Attention, tour guide.  The play depicted above happened in the playoffs.  It did not send Seattle to the playoffs.

Besides getting her facts mixed up, our tour guide didn't really talk much about the players who came through the Mariners organization.  Whereas other tours I've taken discussed that franchise's iconic players and managers (Baltimore's tour talks about Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and the entire Ripken family), hardly anything in the Safeco Field tour focused on Mariners history.

The team store still sells Jay Buhner jerseys and T-shirts.  But not once was Buhner's name mentioned on the tour.  And this is the guy who would be the franchise's all-time leader in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs if not for players like Ken Griffey, Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez.  Heck, Buhner's career Mariner numbers of 307 HR and 951 RBIs would rank first all-time in Mets history, a team that has been around for 15 years longer than the Mariners.  But we don't want to mention Buhner's name in a Mariners tour.  Not when the tour guide would rather make fun of A-Rod every chance she got.

Oh, and since I just mentioned Edgar Martinez, I feel like I should bring up the fact that he was also never mentioned by the tour guide other than when she mentioned his hit to end the 1995 ALDS.  This is the same Edgar Martinez who still contributes to the Seattle community eight years after he retired from an 18-year playing career, with all of those years coming in Seattle.  For Tim Bogar's sake, there's a street called Edgar Martinez Drive located right outside Safeco Field!  But no.  Everything he's done for the city and the team got him nothing more than a side note in the Safeco Field tour.

Can you tell I didn't like this tour?  I didn't.  But that doesn't take away from the stadium itself.  It has one of only four hand-operated scoreboards being used in the major leagues.  It was also the site of Felix Hernandez's perfect game in 2012, which was one of a major league record three no-hitters thrown at Safeco Field this past season (two by Seattle, one against).  Let's not talk about the tour guide anymore.  Let's just show you some additional photos, okay?

(And yes, that is former Mets first baseman John Olerud in the final photo.  He played in Seattle after leaving the Mets following the 1999 season and led them to back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series in 2000 and 2001.  Apparently, he's also 6'5" tall.)

Across the street from Safeco Field is CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.  I don't pretend to like football, but my Studious Metsimus colleague is a big fan of that particular team, so we did a tour of that stadium as well.  Needless to say, it was superior to the Safeco Field tour.  Then again, anything would have been better than that tour...

I'll let the pictures do the talking for the CenturyLink Field tour.

Yes, Mr. Beartran did go to Washington (the state, in this case).  And yes, I did enjoy my time there.  But the next time I go to Safeco Field, I'll just go when the Mets are playing an interleague series there, when no tour guides can feed me false information and I might actually come away with a good taste in my mouth.

It's too bad they don't play baseball at CenturyLink Field.  That stadium was beautiful and the tour was exceptional.  Maybe I should watch a Seahawks game or two this season.  Hey, it beats talking about the daily David Wright/R.A. Dickey contracts that never seem to get signed.

Note:  A few years ago, I did a similar piece called "Mr. Beartran Goes To Washington", but that was referring to Washington, DC and not the state of Washington.  To reminisce with that piece, please click here.