Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gettin' Iggy With It: Up At The Crack of Ass To Talk About Trading One

"Hey, Cole Hamels!  What's that on your lip?"

Good afternoon, everyone!  This is Iggy Beartran, sister to Studious Metsimus roving reporter Joey Beartran and expert on all things Cole Hamels.  Normally, I like to sleep in on Saturdays, but upon hearing yesterday's news about the Phillies looking to trade their resident ass, I had to wake up early to discuss this news with our readers (assuming any of you are awake at this time).

On Friday, several reports had Hamels updating his no-trade clause, which currently includes 20 teams he cannot be dealt to without his consent (the Mets are on this list because he knows Citi Field is a "no ass zone").  Interim team president Pat Gillick acknowledged that he doesn't expect the Phillies to be competitive for at least three seasons.  Therefore, keeping a $24 million a year pitcher until the final years of his contract when he's in his mid-30s and not as tradeable - well, that would be (ahem) phoolish.  Almost as foolish as the team giving him a six-year, $144 million deal to begin with.  Not to mention Ryan Howard's albatross of a contract, which still has two years and $50 million left on it, plus a $10 million buyout for the 2017 season.

Let's look at what the Phillies' version of the "core four" has done over the past few years and see how tradeable those players are.

Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins is entering the final year of his four-year, $44 million contract.  His career numbers are excellent (479 doubles, 111 triples, 216 homers, 453 stolen bases, 1,325 runs scored), but his best seasons are behind him.  Way, way behind him.  Rollins has batted over .252 just once in the last six seasons and has a .318 on-base percentage and .397 slugging percentage over that same time period.  That means Ruben Tejada has a better chance of reaching base (Tejada has a .328 OBP in five seasons as a Met) and Daniel Murphy can outslug the former NL MVP (Murphy has a lifetime .419 slugging percentage in six seasons despite never hitting more than 13 homers over a full season).

Oh, and did I mention that Rollins has made the third-most outs in the National League since 2009?  I didn't?  Well, I am now.  In fact, let's compare him to some of those other "out-makers".

Player Outs Made From To Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Hunter Pence 2812 2009 2014 26-31 953 4056 3701 537 1042 183 143 537 .282 .338 .464 .803
Brandon Phillips 2703 2009 2014 28-33 877 3794 3468 482 960 180 100 470 .277 .326 .424 .750
Jimmy Rollins 2625 2009 2014 30-35 839 3724 3359 480 845 172 91 343 .252 .318 .397 .714
Justin Upton 2510 2009 2014 21-26 883 3745 3291 540 919 181 147 482 .279 .357 .482 .839
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2014.

From 2009 to 2014, the top four out-makers in the National League include Hunter Pence, Brandon Phillips, Justin Upton and Rollins.  Rollins has put himself on this list despite playing the fewest games of the foursome and having the fewest plate appearances, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, homers and runs batted in.  He also has the lowest batting average (by far), on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.  And most importantly, Rollins is the oldest player in the out-making firm of Pence, Phillips, Upton and Rollins.

If any team wants a soon-to-be 36-year-old shortstop who can learn a thing or two about reaching base from Ruben Tejada and slugging from Daniel Murphy, and who's only consistent about one thing at his advanced age - making outs - then Rollins is the man that team should target.  The bottom line is that Rollins is practically untradeable, especially if his decline continues in 2015.

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard was once known for being one of the most feared hitters in the league, averaging 44 HR and 133 RBI from 2006 to 2011.  But beginning in 2012 (the first season of his five-year, $125 million contract), Howard has been known for a few "s"-words - strikeouts, Subway sandwiches and suckitude.

Over the past three seasons, Howard has averaged 101 games played per year due to an assortment of injuries, but that hasn't stopped him from striking out at an alarming rate.  Howard has whiffed 128 times per season since 2012 despite missing 182 games.  He has also averaged 16 homers and 65 RBI per year since 2012, and hit just 23 homers in 2014 despite being healthy all season (153 games played).  Howard had a career-low .380 slugging percentage in 2014 and led the majors in strikeouts with 190.  That's what $25 million a year buys the Phillies these days.

But hey, at least that kind of green can buy Howard all the Subway sandwiches he can eat (or are those called hoagies in Philadelphia?).

(GIF courtesy of Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley)

Chase Utley

In 2014, Chase Utley played 150+ games for the first time since 2009, but his final numbers were nowhere near what he produced in the Phillies' last pennant-winning season.  In 2009, Utley produced a .282/.397/.508 slash line, hit 31 homers (his third 30-homer campaign) and set new career highs with 23 stolen bases and 88 walks.  Five years later, Utley's first injury-free season since 2009 saw him produce a .270/.339/.407 slash line, 11 home runs, 10 stolen bases and just 53 walks.

Looking at Utley's five-year peak from 2005 to 2009 and comparing that to his last five years shows that Utley is a shadow of his former self.

  • 2005-09: 151 games, .301/.388/.535, 39 doubles, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 111 runs scored
  • 2010-14: 117 games, .270/.355/.435, 23 doubles, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 65 runs scored

Because of Utley's injury-free season in 2014, his $10 million salary in 2015 jumps up to $15 million, as there was a clause in his contract that guaranteed the 50% increase if he did not spend time on the disabled list with a knee injury in 2014.  A similar campaign will cause a $15 million option to kick in for 2016.  The same option applies to the 2017 and 2018 seasons.  Utley will earn $15 million per year if he collects 500 or more plate appearances in his previous campaign.  For the record, Utley played in 115 games in 2010 and 131 games in 2013, but still reached 500 plate appearances in both seasons.  In other words, the Phillies might be rooting for a long stint on the disabled list for their second baseman just to get out of a contract that could pay Utley $60 million between now and his age 39 season in 2018.

How are the Phillies going to be able to trade a guy who hasn't had a great season since 2009 to a team that would have to pay him top dollar if he stays on the field?  Utley's staying, for better or for worse.  Probably for worse.

Cole Hamels

And that brings us back to Cole Hamels.  The smiling ass still has four years and $96 million left on a contract that will pay him until he's 34, which means he'll be younger at the end of the deal than Rollins, Howard and Utley are right now.

As much as Hamels sucks against the Mets (ha, ha!), he is very good against everyone else.  In 2014, Hamels produced a career-best 2.46 ERA, reaching 200 innings for the sixth time in seven seasons.  Over the last five years, Hamels has averaged a 3.00 ERA, 1.119 WHIP and 204 strikeouts per season.  He is one of six pitchers to have 1,000 or more strikeouts since 2010.  The others are Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price.  You probably recognize those names as pitchers who have won the Cy Young Award.  In fact, there are only three pitchers in all of baseball who have produced an ERA of 3.00 or lower, a WHIP not exceeding 1.12 and 1,000 strikeouts over the last five seasons.  Those pitchers are Kershaw, Hernandez and Hamels.

In other words, Cole Hamels might be an ass, but he's a mighty fine ass.

And this is a mighty fine picture of Cole Hamels.

Cole Hamels is just 30 years old (he'll be 31 in December).  Unlike his older homegrown teammates, Hamels is still quite productive, meaning he's actually earning his exorbitant salary.  But all of his quality starts have done little to help the Phillies win.  Over the last two seasons, Hamels has allowed two runs or fewer in 39 starts.  The Phillies lost 18 of those games.

Here is a list of every pitcher since 1901 who did not reach double digits in victories during a year in which he made at least 30 starts and produced a sub-2.50 ERA.

Cole Hamels 2014 2.46 30 9 30 PHI NL 9 .500 204.2 176 60 56 59 198 .235 .296 .345 .641
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2014.

Not exactly a long list, is it?  In fact, since the advent of divisional play in 1969, only two pitchers have come close to matching what Hamels did, and both names might look familiar to fans of National League baseball in New York.

Cole Hamels 2014 2.46 30 9 30 PHI NL 9 .500 204.2 176 60 56 59 198 .235 .296 .345 .641
Matt Harvey 2013 2.27 26 9 24 NYM NL 5 .643 178.1 135 46 45 31 191 .209 .248 .282 .530
Craig Swan 1978 2.43 28 9 27 NYM NL 6 .600 207.1 164 62 56 58 125 .219 .275 .321 .597
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2014.

Both Craig Swan and Matt Harvey failed to reach ten victories in their outstanding seasons, but each pitcher had a sub-2.50 ERA.  However, unlike Hamels, who made 30 starts in 2014, Swan and Harvey started 28 and 26 games, respectively, leaving Hamels all by his lonesome in the 30-start, 2.50-or-under-ERA, single-digit-victory club.

Imagine what Hamels could do for a team that, you know, actually scores runs.  It would behoove the Phillies to trade Hamels now, while he's still in his prime and is still putting up All-Star numbers.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels are the Phillies' version of the "core four", as the quartet was originally drafted by Philadelphia and have spent a combined 47 seasons in the city of Brotherly Love.  But Rollins, Howard and Utley are all past their prime years and are playing like it.  Hamels is not.

"We're not amused that Iggy Beartran thinks we're past out prime." (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For years, Cole Hamels has never endeared himself to Mets fans.  From calling the Mets chokers following the Phillies' 2008 championship season to costing R.A. Dickey a chance to toss the team's first no-hitter in 2010, Hamels has been the textbook definition of an ass.

During the 2009 World Series against the Yankees, Hamels admitted that he couldn't wait to go home while his teammates were trying to win a second championship.  If he wants to win more games, perhaps home for Hamels should be in a city that doesn't serve up steaks on a hoagie or poorly-timed quotes from its star pitcher.

Escaping from Philadelphia can help both the Phillies on a team level and Cole Hamels on a personal level.  Hopefully, if Hamels does get traded, it's to a team that has the Mets on its schedule.  That 8-14 career mark versus New York needs a few more 'L's on it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'm Keith Hernandez! And It's My Birthday Once Again!

Hello, my friends.  I'm Keith Hernandez.  And today is a special day for me.  You see, today is my birthday.  That's right, all you kids out there.  I'm now 61 years old.

In honor of my 61st birthday, the cast and crew at Studious Metsimus asked me to give you a brief recap of my life.  To be honest with you, I've never heard of Studious Metsimus, but the offer of unlimited Tootsie Pops was too much to refuse.  Plus, they promised me there would be no traffic on the Long Island Expressway so I could make a quick getaway.  How could I pass that up?

Anyway, I was born in San Francisco on October 20, 1953.  Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with a mustache.  The picture you see below is one of my early pictures.  Yes, the ladies loved me even then.  Can you blame them?  I mean, look at me!  I'm Keith Hernandez!

Unfortunately, I failed in my petition to get my own name on my Little League jersey.

After my days as a Little League lothario were done, I was drafted in the 42nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.  (Yes, I did go to high school between my Little League days and my high school graduation, but that was an awkward time for me, so I'd rather not talk about it.)  Clearly, the scouts back then were terrible judges of talent if they waited that long to draft me.  Unfortunately, I did nothing to earn that selection early on in my minor league career until I was promoted to Triple-A Tulsa in 1973, where I hit .333 and showed those other kids out there how a real baseball player was supposed to play the game.

In 1974, I hit .351 for Tulsa and was promoted to the big show on August 30 of that year against my hometown San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.  I reached base three times in my first big league game, drawing two walks before collecting my first big league hit and RBI in the ninth inning off Giants' starter Mike Caldwell.  Unfortunately, we lost that game 8-2, but I let it be known to my teammates and the rest of the league that I was here to stay.

Once I settled in to the big leagues, I made my presence felt in the clubhouse and on the field.  The Cardinals just had to keep me around.  Therefore, they traded incumbent first baseman Joe Torre to the Mets after the 1974 season (more on first basemen being traded to the Mets a little later ... after a few more paragraphs and my first Tootsie Pop).  I was a Cardinal now, and St. Louis was about to see what Keith Hernandez was all about.

It was in St. Louis that I let my trademark mustache grow.  That is also where I earned my first Gold Glove in 1978 and my first MVP Award one year later.  (Okay, so it was a co-MVP award that I shared with Willie Stargell.  But in Strat-O-Matic, I kicked Willie's posterior.)  St. Louis was also the place where I claimed my first batting title (also in 1979), my first World Series championship (1982), my first line of ... umm ... baseball cards (yeah, that's the ticket) and my first comparison to adult film thespian Ron Jeremy.

If you ask me, I don't see the resemblance.   He looks more like Mike Piazza than he does me.  Also, my acting skills are far superior to his.  Was he on "Seinfeld"?  I don't think so.  That was me.  Why did they choose me over him?  Because I'm Keith Hernandez!

Less than eight months after bringing home St. Louis' first World Series championship since 1967, I experienced one of the saddest days of my life, or so it seemed at the time.  On June 15, 1983, I was traded from the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals to the perennial cellar dweller New York Mets.  Shockingly, I wasn't even traded for future Hall of Famers.  I was shipped off to the Mets for Neil Allen, Rick Ownbey and a half-empty box of Tender Vittles.

It was already an insult to me that I was traded to the team known as "Pond Scum" and the "Stems" in St. Louis.  But come on!  Couldn't the Mets have offered some 9 Lives to the Cardinals instead of Tender Vittles?  After all, Morris the Cat was all the rage back then.  I mean, he was the O.G.  (Original Grumpy cat).   I would have accepted a trade for Allen, Ownbey and 9 Lives, not Allen, Ownbey and half-eaten Tender Vittles.  Sheesh!

I guess since the Cardinals already had the Clydesdale Horses, they didn't need another animal in the barn.

Anyway, the Mets didn't do too well after I got traded there.  We finished 68-94 in 1983, but showed some signs of life.  Old punching buddy Darryl Strawberry came up in May and future broadcast colleague R.J. (that's Ron Darling for all you casual Mets fans out there) was called up when rosters expanded in September.

Big Brother didn't come around in 1984 like he was supposed to, but we had our own little Animal Farm at Shea Stadium.  Top pitching prospect Dwight Gooden was called up in 1984 and Davey Johnson became the new Mets manager.  The team responded by going 90-72 and giving the Cubs all they could handle in the NL East.  As a result, I was no longer saddened by my trade to New York and only occasionally did I wonder if Whitey Herzog had finished what was left in the box of Tender Vittles.

After falling short again in 1985, we put it all together in 1986.  That was the year I won my second World Series championship and helped bring the first title to Flushing since the Miracle Mets did the same in 1969.  I also paired up with another Ronnie after bringing the trophy home in 1986. 

What?  No Gary?  Fine.  Then we'll just have to make do with Keith and Ron instead.

After my tenure with the Mets ended in 1989, I decided to give acting a try.  I wasn't going to tell you this, but the Tootsie Pop dangling in front of my face has convinced me to do so.

Did you know that "Seinfeld" was not my first attempt at acting?  Before TV immortality, I wanted to be a movie star.  My time with former actor Ronald Reagan in the White House showed me that if he could be President and a movie star, then I could be a baseball legend and a movie star as well, so it was off to Hollywood for me.

I first gave acting a shot when I auditioned for the movie "Major League".  However, it ended up being a bad dream and instead of playing for the Cleveland Indians in the film alongside noted actors Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes, I ended up playing for the REAL Cleveland Indians.  It was not a good time to be Keith Hernandez.

There's no way I would've let Roger Dorn get away with not diving for ground balls.

I was injured for most of my time in Cleveland.  Because of that, I only played in 45 games for the Indians, batting .200 with one HR and eight RBI.  You know it wasn't a good season when my Studious Metsimus editor reminded me that I had to write out my home run and RBI totals in words (one and eight) instead of numbers (1 and 8).  Needless to say, I retired after the 1990 season and went back home...

...which didn't last long.  In 1992, I appeared on Episode #34 of "Seinfeld".  The special one-hour episode, named "The Boyfriend", featured me trying to date Elaine Benes, but not being able to get past first base because I used to smoke back then.  Another subplot involved me being accused of spitting a magic loogie on Kramer and Newman, when in fact it was my former Met teammate, Roger McDowell from the grassy knoll.

"That is one magic loogie."

My appearance on "Seinfeld" in 1992 and my subsequent cameo in the series finale in 1998 parlayed into several broadcasting appearances for the Mets.  When SNY debuted in 2006, I teamed up with former radio play-by-play man Gary Cohen and analyst/former teammate Ron Darling as the new broadcast team for the New York Mets.  My boothmates and I are also part of Gary, Keith & Ron, or GKR for short.  Together, we've raised money for our favorite charities, such as the Cobble Hill Health Center (for Alzheimer's care) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (hoping to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes).  In addition, we've also focused on helping victims of domestic abuse.  And for all you kids out there, there's nothing funny about domestic abuse.

Fans might know me for my baseball career.  Others might know me for my excellent acting on "Seinfeld".  Some of you might even know me for my Just For Men commercials with Walt "Clyde" Frazier.  Current Met fans know me for my unabashed analysis on SNY telecasts of Mets games. 

I'm all of those people. Although I'm a year older today, I'm still only 61 so I have plenty left to accomplish.  Maybe I'll mass produce my Mex Burgers or take on a side job as a Schick Hydro spokesperson now that my Just For Men contract has expired.  Who knows?  One thing is for sure.  No matter what job I have or what position I fill, I'll always be around.  Why wouldn't I be?  After all, I'm Keith Hernandez!

With or without a mustache, I'll always be Keith Hernandez!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Joey's Soapbox: My 2014 Not-So-Biased World Series Pick

Hello, everyone.  This is your favorite Studious Metsimus prognosticator, Joey Beartran.  Today, I'm sad to report that it's that time of year again.  The end of the baseball season is upon us, and it'll be the 28th consecutive year that doesn't end with the Mets raising the World Series trophy and Keith Hernandez recovering from a hangover.

But just because the Mets aren't playing for all the marbles doesn't mean I can't suggest which team you should wager your marbles on.

The 2014 World Series features a playoff-experienced San Francisco Giants team and the new kids on the playoff block, the Kansas City Royals, a team that has shown the right stuff in becoming the first team to win eight straight games to start a postseason.  It's the second time that both World Series participants are wild card teams (the Angels and Giants played in the first all-wild card Fall Classic in 2002) and the first time any wild card team has advanced to the World Series since the two-wild card format was instituted in 2012.

It's the culmination of everything the Giants and Royals have played for since the start of the season.  It's the 2014 World Series.  And it's time I stop rambling and give you my expert pick to help you make an educated wager on the winner.  Just remember to compensate me properly when my pick wins you lots of dough.  (And for the record, I prefer my dough in the form of pizza.)

You take my World Series pick and I'll take sausage and extra cheese on my pizza.

World Series

San Francisco Giants vs. Kansas City Royals

This is the third time the Giants have played in the World Series since the Mets moved to Citi Field.  The last time the Royals played in the Fall Classic, the Mets had just one championship to their credit.  Needless to say, this is a matchup between two completely different teams when it comes to playoff experience.  But they're quite similar in just about everything else.

Neither team was known for the home run ball, as both the Giants and Royals had just two players with more than 16 homers.

Both teams had great starting pitchers and even better bullpens, as the Giants and Royals' bullpen ERA was nearly half a run lower than what their starters produced.

San Francisco and Kansas City also hit better with runners in scoring position (.267 for SF, .271 for KC) than they did overall (.255 for SF, .263 for KC).

Both teams advanced to the World Series by winning a plethora of close games.  The Giants won all three of their games against the Nationals in the division series by one run, then defeated the Cardinals by three runs or less in each of their four NLCS wins against them.  Meanwhile, seven of the Royals' eight postseason victories were either one-run wins or games in which Kansas City scored the winning run in its final at-bat.

Finally, both San Francisco and Kansas City have played excellent defense during their respective postseason runs, as the Giants have made three errors in ten games and the Royals have committed three miscues in eight contests.

But there is one HUGE difference between the two teams.  And it's in their legs.  San Francisco stole 56 bases during the regular season, good for last place in the National League.  No Giants player swiped more than 16 bags, and one of them was team co-leader Angel Pagan, who is inactive for the postseason.  Meanwhile, Kansas City's 153 steals led the American League.  Speedsters Jarrod Dyson (36 SB), Alcides Escobar (31 SB), Lorenzo Cain (28 SB) and Nori Aoki (17 SB) all would have led the Giants with their stolen base totals.

The Giants allowed 107 stolen bases during the regular season, a number that was surpassed by just four National League teams.  All four of those teams (San Diego, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami) finished the season with losing records.  Giants catchers threw out a mere 32 would-be base stealers and had plenty of trouble with Royals' runners during their interleague matchup with Kansas City in August, throwing out just one base stealer in nine attempts.  In fact, in the final game of the three-game series sweep by the Royals, the Giants allowed seven stolen bases with nary a caught stealing to their credit.  It was just the seventh time in the last century that the Giants allowed as many as seven steals in one game and the fifth time it happened without any base stealers being caught.

Rk Date Team Opp Result SB CS
1 2014-08-10 KCR SFG W 7-4 7 0
2 2009-05-14 NYM SFG W 7-4 7 0
3 1999-04-13 HOU SFG W 7-3 7 1
4 1988-04-18 CIN SFG L 3-6 7 0
5 1983-07-27 STL SFG W 7-6 9 0
6 1946-09-08 BRO NYG W 11-3 8 1
7 1919-07-07 (1) PHI NYG L 5-10 7 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/19/2014.

Jarrod Dyson is one of many Royals who should make the Giants nervous.  (Denny Medley/USA Today Sports)

It goes without saying that Buster Posey and all Giants pitchers will have to keep an eye on Kansas City's speedsters once they reach base.  And if too many of them reach base, it'll be sayonara for San Francisco.

The Giants can win their third championship if they continue their timely hitting and keep the Royals off first base.  It's hard enough to continue to come up with clutch hits.  It's almost impossible to keep the Royals from running wild on the bases.  San Francisco tried in August and was embarrassed in a three-game sweep.  This won't be a sweep by the Royals, but it also won't be a third title in five years for the Giants either.

Prediction:  Royals in 6.