Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yoenis Céspedes vs. Other Mets in Their First 162 Games

Yoenis Cespedes's 162-game start gets a big thumbs up!  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Yoenis Céspedes has meant everything to the Mets since he was acquired at the trade deadline last July.  But because of nagging injuries and a trip to the disabled list earlier this season, Céspedes didn't get to play in his 162nd career game with the team until Wednesday, as he has missed 28 games during the 2016 campaign after resting for only two games with the Mets in 2015, both of which came after the team had clinched the division title.

Céspedes's numbers with the team in those 162 games are astounding, as he has produced 34 doubles, 44 homers, 112 RBI and has compiled a .583 slugging percentage and .941 OPS in a full season's worth of games.  Those five categories are traditionally recognized as categories in which sluggers generally excel, and Céspedes ranks favorably with the team's all-time greats in all five.

In doing research for hot starts by Mets players to see where Céspedes ranked, I found some interesting names that I did not expect to find among those franchise legends.  For every time Mike Piazza was in the top ten - he's the only player to be ranked in the top five in all five categories within his first 162 games with the team - there were a handful of "did they really have that type of start?" players.

Here are five lists, one each for doubles, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage, that show just how good Céspedes has been in his first 162 games with the Mets and how fortunate some other players were in their first full season's worth of contests with the club.


Bernard Gilkey
Mike Piazza - 46
Bernard Gilkey - 45
Paul Lo Duca - 44
David Wright - 41
Mike Cameron - 40
Rusty Staub - 39
Eddie Murray - 38
Robin Ventura - 38
Todd Zeile - 38
Ike Davis - 37

Home Runs:

Kevin McReynolds
Dave Kingman - 48
Yoenis Céspedes - 44
Carlos Delgado - 39
Mike Piazza - 38
Mike Cameron - 35
Gary Carter - 34
Frank Thomas - 34
Robin Ventura - 32
Cliff Floyd - 31
Bernard Gilkey - 31
Kevin McReynolds - 31
Darryl Strawberry - 31

Runs Batted In:

John Olerud
Carlos Delgado - 126
Bernard Gilkey - 124
Robin Ventura - 120
Mike Piazza - 119
Dave Kingman - 118
Gary Carter - 116
Yoenis Céspedes - 112
Donn Clendenon - 108
John Olerud - 107
Kevin McReynolds - 102

Slugging Percentage:

Mike Cameron
Mike Piazza - .604
Yoenis Céspedes - .583
Bernard Gilkey - .544
Rico Brogna - .529
Robin Ventura - .525
Cliff Floyd - .523
Carlos Delgado - .518
Donn Clendenon - .512
Dave Kingman - .511
Mike Cameron - .510

On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage:

Rico Brogna
Mike Piazza - 1.005
Yoenis Céspedes - .941
Bernard Gilkey - .930
Robin Ventura - .902
Cliff Floyd - .890
John Olerud - .889
Rico Brogna - .880
Carlos Delgado - .870
Benny Agbayani - .867
David Wright - .865

As you can see, there are several players whose names you would expect to see in multiple categories.  Power hitters such as Céspedes, Piazza, Carlos Delgado, Dave Kingman and others can be found in at least three of the five top-ten lists.  But did you really expect to see a guy like Rico Brogna appear on as many lists as David Wright?  What about Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron showing up three times?  Or most surprisingly, what do you think of Bernard Gilkey and Robin Ventura joining Piazza as the only three players to rank in the top ten in all five categories?

Those unexpected players (Brogna, Floyd, Cameron, Gilkey, Ventura) all had sensational starts to their careers in Flushing, but they also suffered injuries (Brogna, Floyd and Cameron come to mind) or faded quickly (Gilkey and Ventura were both one-season wonders).

Meanwhile, a number of all-time team greats were absent from a number of these top-tens.  The late, great Gary Carter made it to the Hall of Fame and began a miraculous World Series rally that fueled the Mets to a championship.  But his excellent .490 slugging percentage and .861 OPS in his first 162 games with the team were both not high enough to appear on either category's respective top-ten list.  Darryl Strawberry may have won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1983, but his only appearance on any of the above lists is a ninth-place tie in the homer department.  And Carlos Beltran may be the greatest free agent signing in Mets history, but a poor start to his career in New York kept him off every list.

It remains to be seen whether Céspedes will go down the road traveled by the great sluggers in Mets history or if the nagging injuries continue to increase and he will just be remembered for the incredible 162-game start to his Mets career, which included helping the team reach the 2015 World Series.

For now, Céspedes is one of only three Mets to have at least 30 doubles, 35 homers and 100 RBI in his first 162 games with the team, joining Carlos Delgado and Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.  Whether or not Céspedes joins Piazza in Cooperstown or even in the Mets Hall of Fame won't be known for years, but one thing's for certain.

Yoenis Céspedes has been gotten off to one of the best starts of any hitter in franchise history.  And there's nothing fluky about that.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Curtis Granderson Chases Unwanted History One RBI at a Time

On Friday, the Mets' leaky bullpen turned a 1-1 tie into an 8-1 blowout loss in a matter of minutes.  Gone was Seth Lugo's valiant effort , in which he allowed one run in six and two-thirds innings while he was in the game and two additional runs after he was taken out of the game, no thanks to Jerry Blevins' craptastic performance.

The sole run for the Mets came in the second inning, when Curtis Granderson bashed and splashed his 20th home run of the season into McCovey Cove.  Obviously, Grandy's tater came with no one on base, something Mets fans have become accustomed to, as it was the 17th consecutive solo homer for Granderson this season.  And for those who would say that Granderson has so many solo shots because he's been used mostly as a leadoff hitter this season, you should be reminded that the only time Granderson is guaranteed to bat with no one on base as a No. 1 hitter is in inning No. 1 and that last year, he was used mostly as a leadoff hitter and still managed to knock eight balls out of the park with men on base.  Oh, and last night's four-base hit came as the Mets' sixth-place hitter, as did his previous solo homer two nights before that.

For the season, Granderson has 20 home runs and just 34 RBI.  You read that correctly, kids.  Thirty-four runs batted in for a 20-homer hitter.  And it's because of the paltry RBI figure that Granderson is chasing unwanted history.

The forever-smiling Curtis Granderson finally has something to frown about.  (Photo by Paul J. Bereswill)

Curtis Granderson is on pace to hit 27 homers and drive in 45 runs this season.  Only nine players in big league history have hit 20 or more homers while producing no more than 45 RBI in the same season.  But none of the players hit more than 22 home runs, as Chris Duncan (22 HR, 43 RBI in 2006) and Mark Reynolds (22 HR, 45 RBI in 2014) are tied for the most homers in a 45-RBI-or-fewer campaign.  With Granderson on pace for 27 homers, he stands a good chance to have the fewest runs batted in of any player with that home run total.  In fact, he could have fewer RBI than any player who hit at least 23 HR.

Here is the list of the fewest RBI recorded by players who hit 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 homers.

  • 23 HR, 48 RBI - Ruben Rivera (1999)
  • 24 HR, 51 RBI - Ken Phelps (1984)
  • 25 HR, 56 RBI - Fred Lynn (1988), Marcus Thames (2008), Luis Valbuena (2015)
  • 26 HR, 54 RBI - Ron Gant (2000), Joc Pederson (2015)
  • 27 HR, 56 RBI - Mark Bellhorn (2002)

Ruben Rivera is the only player in baseball history to hit 23 or more homers who failed to drive in 50 runs in that campaign.  Granderson, who has driven in 34 runs in the Mets' first 122 games, stands to join Rivera in this exclusive club while hitting more homers than Rivera and driving in fewer runs.  It should be noted that Rivera drove in his 34th run in 1999 on July 19 in his team's 92nd game of the season, while Granderson collected RBI No. 34 exactly one full month and 30 games later in his team's schedule.

With 20 homers and 34 RBI, Granderson has fewer then two runs batted in for every home run he has hit, or more precisely, 1.7 RBI/HR.  Only two other players with 20+ homers in a single season had RBI totals that failed to be at least twice the number of their home run output.  That gruesome twosome is:

  • Kevin Maas (1990) - 21 HR, 41 RBI
  • Chris Duncan (2006) - 22 HR, 43 RBI

Unlike Granderson, both Maas and Duncan needed just one additional RBI to have twice as many runs batted in as they had home runs.  They averaged 1.95 RBI/HR, compared to Granderson's 1.7 RBI/HR ratio, which means Granderson is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest RBI per home run among those players who hit 20 or more home runs.  But what if the bar was lowered from 20 HR to just reaching double digits in homers?  Surely, there should be many players who averaged fewer than 1.7 RBI per home run when they didn't hit too many homers to begin with, right?


In fact, here is the complete list of players who hit ten or more homers and failed to drive in 1.7 runs for every homer they hit:

  • Wayne Gross (1985) - 11 HR, 18 RBI (1.64 RBI/HR)
  • Russell Branyan (2008) - 12 HR, 20 RBI (1.67 RBI/HR)

That's it.  I'm sure Curtis Granderson is pleased to be in their company.

So let's look at one last thing before you start the process of buying Granderson a one-way plane ticket out of town.  Let's review all the names we've mentioned above.  I'm talking about Chris Duncan, Matt Reynolds, Ruben Rivera, Ken Phelps, Fred Lynn, Marcus Thames, Luis Valbuena, Ron Gant, Joc Pederson, Mark Bellhorn, Kevin Maas, Wayne Gross and Russell Branyan, for those of you whose attention span is smaller than the difference between Granderson's home run and RBI totals.

Those 13 players averaged just 343 at-bats in their RBI-starved seasons, with Pederson (480 AB) being the only one to surpass 450 at-bats.  Therefore, it could be reasonably argued that because most of them didn't come up to the plate as often as an everyday player, they had fewer RBI opportunities.  Granderson already has 424 at-bats this season.  Barring injury or benching, he's on pace to rack up 563 at-bats.  And yet he's still not driving in runs.

It makes you wonder if that paltry .123 batting average with runners in scoring position (10-for-81) and that almost inconceivable .050 mark in two-out/RISP situations (2-for-40) has something to do with Granderson's low RBI total with all those home runs.  (Spoiler alert:  It does.)

When the Mets signed Curtis Granderson as a free agent prior to the 2014 campaign, they expected him to be a run-producer.  Instead, he became the team's leadoff hitter.  In 2015, Granderson produced 70 RBI, with 64 of those runs driven in from the leadoff spot.  This year, he's not even halfway to his 2015 RBI total even though the season is more than three-quarters complete.  And now, he's not even in the leadoff spot where he could use the excuse that No. 1 hitters aren't expected to drive in runs.

It's not unusual for a big-time free agent signing to make history.  It is unusual, however, for one to chase the kind of unwanted history Curtis Granderson is approaching - history he's about to make one well-spaced RBI at a time.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer Seem to Only Affect the Mets

If you've been living in the New York metropolitan area the last few weeks, you know it's been a hot summer, especially recently when temperatures have been in the 90s with heat indices soaring into triple digits.  In between breaths of hot and sticky air, you've probably heard someone mention that we're in the dog days of summer.  But what exactly are those canine 24-hour periods?

The dictionary definition of dog days is as follows:

  • The sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11.
  • A period marked by lethargy, inactivity or indolence.

Clearly, the second definition was created with the 2016 New York Mets in mind.

Just a few days after the astrological beginning of the dog days of summer, the Mets' record stood at 47-38 and they held a firm grip on the National League's top wild card spot.  Since then, the Mets have gone 10-20 and their players have developed those dreaded summer allergies - the ones that make them allergic to winning streaks longer than one game.

Since July 7, when the Mets were three games ahead of the Cardinals and Marlins, New York has the worst record in baseball.  Don't believe me?  Here, see for yourself.  Can't find the Mets?  Just look all the way down in the lower right hand corner - the spot usually reserved for last place teams.

The dog days have affected other competitive teams as well, as the Marlins and Cardinals have only been one game above .500 since July 7.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, who had the eighth-best record in the National League on July 7, are also just one game over the break-even point since that date.  But even that's been good enough to put them ahead of the Mets on the morning of August 13.  It should be noted that the Mets had the fourth-best record in the Senior Circuit five weeks ago, which means the Pirates only needed to be barely better than mediocre to leapfrog over four teams on their way to passing the defending National League champions in the wild card race.

The Mets have done nothing but fall apart since Sirius started to rise at the same time as the sun.  I mean that figuratively and literally, as Matt Harvey, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and probably some other players you never realized were on the team (Justin Ruggiano, anyone?) have all been felled by the injury bug.  Still, even with the plethora of boo-boos, no one could have expected that this team would ever be the worst out of 30 teams for a period of just over a month.

Summer doldrums have affected the Mets in the past as well.  Just six years ago, the Mets' record stood at 45-35 on the morning of July 3, the date in which the dog days of summer begin in the astrological sense.  The team had the wild card lead and was only two games behind the first-place Braves in the N.L. East and three games ahead of the eventual division champion Phillies.  Five weeks later, they were below .500, behind the Phillies, and on the outside of the playoff race looking in.

Do you remember the 2002 season, when general manager Steve Phillips brought in a bunch of former All-Stars in Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz and Roberto Alomar to help the team go for its sixth straight winning season and third playoff trip in four years?  That team was 53-49 in late July and within striking distance of the wild card-leading Dodgers.  Then ... KABOOM!  That's the sound a Flushing Free Fall makes when the team proceeds to go 8-25 in its next 33 games, which included a 12-game losing streak in mid-August and the loss of every home game in the entire month.  For all you kids out there, that's an 0-13 record in August.

And what about the 1992 Mets, also known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy"?  That team was actually just four games out of first place on July 24 and appearing to be worth every penny invested in it.  But less than a month later, the team was 15 games off the pace in the division after losing 19 of 24 games.

The dog days of summer affect every major league team.  Players get tired over a long season and especially when the weather is hot and humid.  But over the years, those days have been particularly rough on the Mets.  This season has been no exception.

Last night's loss to the Padres was the Mets' 20th defeat in their last 30 games.  If you believe in astrological definitions, the dog days of summer ended two days ago.  Perhaps someone should tell the Mets that the Dog Star is no longer rising with the sun and hope that this information can help the team rise in the wild card standings.  The Mets could certainly use all the help they can get.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Joey's World Tour: Motor City Beartran

Metsies and tigers and bears, oh my!  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

What's shaking, everyone?  This is your friendly neighborhood Studious Metsimus roving reporter and culinary expert, Joey Beartran.  In this installment of my world baseball tour, I'm going to talk about Comerica Park and the city of Detroit.  Here's my tip to you.

Don't go to Detroit.  Like, ever.

Seriously, if you want to visit the city and the surrounding areas that gave us Motown, Axel Foley and the dude who starred in "Magnum P.I.", just play some Stevie Wonder records while you watch "Beverly Hills Cop".  There's a reason why Tom Selleck took himself and his Detroit Tigers cap to Hawaii.  It's because he didn't want to be in Detroit.  He was the smart one.  I wasn't.

You see, every year I like to visit an American League park since the Mets don't visit too many of them over the course of a season.  I had already been to eight of the 15 A.L. stadiums prior to this year and needed to cross Comerica Park off my list.  So I hopped on a plane and embarked on my journey.  The flight was short, just a few minutes over an hour.  Alas, I wish my stay in the Motor City had been as short.

After the 20+ mile cab ride from the airport to downtown Detroit (the airport is in a city called Romulus - it's not actually in Detroit), I was a little hungry, so I decided to feast on a coney.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a hot dog with chili, shredded cheese and onions.  Well, at least that's what it's supposed to be, as I had several of these delicacies last year in Cincinnati, the coney capital of the country.  In Detroit, the hot dog just had a glop of chili, a few pieces of onions, no cheese and a generous helping of mustard.  Just like Indiana Jones hates snakes, I hate mustard.  And that should have been a warning to me that Detroit was not going be my favorite world tour destination.

The Cincinnati coney (left) is a work of art.  The Detroit version?  It's a work of fart.  (EL/SM)

I attended two games at Comerica Park with my crew.  The first game featured a classic pitching matchup, as Noah Syndergaard faced Justin Verlander.  The second game was whatever the opposite of "classic pitching matchup" is, as Logan Verrett squared off against southpaw Matt Boyd.  Both games featured what's become a sad routine for the Mets, as they dropped a pair of one-run decisions to the Tigers.  The first game saw the Mets score a meaningless run in the ninth, while the second contest had a very meaningful run cut down at the plate in the final frame.

Second verse, same as the first.

At least I was able to walk around the park during the games to keep me from viewing the carnage.  And I saw some interesting features at Comerica Park that I hadn't seen at other ballparks.

Since the builders of the ballpark knew that no one really wanted to be in Detroit, they constructed a Ferris Wheel and a carousel inside the stadium.  The Ferris Wheel has a dozen baseball-shaped cars while the carousel has a streak of tigers to ride.  (See, you learned something today.  I'll bet you didn't know that a group of tigers was called a streak.)  I didn't get on either ride because I was too busy wondering why SNY roving reporter Steve Gelbs passed me by without saying hello.

O where, o where has Steve Gelbs gone?  O where, o where can he be?  (EL/SM)

But all was not lost, as my Studious Metsimus colleague sent Steve a tweet the following day and got an honest response (see below).

As a roving reporter myself, I should have known that Steve would be busy.  Plus, he had his mind on other things, like riding the tiger carousel while feasting on ice cream.  Looks like I'm not the only roving reporter/culinary expert around.

I forgive you, Steve.  Just keep doing what you do best, even if it doesn't involve a carousel or Ferris Wheel.

In case you were wondering, it was fairly easy for Steve to get ice cream near the carousel, as the ride is located in the center of an area called the Big Cat Court.

The food court with the Big name features everything from Greek fare to Mexican street tacos to something called elephant ears.  No, seriously.  They have elephant ears.  And apparently, they're edible.

Dogs and elephants?  I think I'll stick to gyros and tacos, or maybe some of Steve Gelbs' ice cream.  (EL/SM)

It's clear that Tigers fans really love their food.  Perhaps the only thing they love more is their tigers.  No, not "Tigers" with a capital "T", but lower-case tigers, as in the ones that adorn the outside of Comerica Park.

There are tiger statues, tiger tiles, tiger gargoyle thingies.  If there is an open space on the outside of the stadium, there is probably a tiger on it.  Here, see for yourself.

You don't look so big to me!  You're all roar and no bite!  (EL/SM)

Finally, Comerica Park has statues.  Lots and lots of statues.  There are also kiosk-like areas with displays devoted to various decades of Detroit Tigers baseball.

My photographer gravitated towards the 1980s and 1990s displays since that was the era of baseball he grew up with.  While he was doing that, I checked out the statues behind the center field wall, featuring players such as Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Willie Horton.  There is also a statue dedicated to the late broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who called Tigers games for over four decades until his retirement following the 2002 campaign, or one year before Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy hung up his microphone.

All photos of inanimate objects by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus

So let's recap what happened during my 48-hour jaunt to Detroit.  My cab ride from the airport to downtown Detroit took longer than my flight from New York to the D.  My coney was a faux coney.  Steve Gelbs didn't notice a fellow roving reporter/culinary expert because he was having too much fun on the job.  I saw tigers (and elephant ears) in my sleep as well as on the stadium.  And of course, the Mets lost both games I attended by the smallest of margins.

Some things I didn't already tell you that added to my misery included my photographer getting attacked by his bed in our hotel room (there was a jagged edge that wasn't visible that he backed into, causing his leg to bleed as if it were Matt Harvey's nose).  For a city known as the Motor City, there was road construction and detours everywhere, pretty much preventing people from motoring around.  And most importantly, there were no convenience stores anywhere, which presented quite an inconvenience for post-game snack seekers such as myself.

Thomas Magnum was right when he left Detroit to become a private investigator in Hawaii.  And I would have been right had I gone to another American League park instead of one that required me to stay in Detroit.  But at least Comerica Park is off my list of ballparks that I needed to visit as part of my world tour.  And I'm so glad I never have to go there again.

Until next time, when I visit a stadium in a city that won't be Detroit, this is Joey Beartran wishing you a pleasant evening and wishing the Mets can finally produce a winning streak longer than one game.  This month-long slump they're in is almost as bad as going to the Motor City.  Almost.

See you soon!

My sister, Iggy, and I are glad we don't have to go back to Detroit, even if the tiger behind us has other ideas.  (EL/SM)

For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)