Monday, April 25, 2011

The $66 Million Catalyst

The Mets began the 2011 season by drawing comparisons to the original 1962 team. Their abysmal 5-13 record (which included a franchise-worst 1-8 start at home) had put them in last place in the NL East and had made even the most optimistic fans wonder if the Mets would be playing meaningful games in May, let alone September. Then last Tuesday, Jason Bay returned to the lineup for the first time since last July. Since then, the Mets have yet to lose a ballgame. Is it a coincidence or something else?

Last year, when Ike Davis was called up to the major leagues on April 19, the Mets were struggling. They had lost eight of their first 12 games and appeared to be falling out of contention before the season got underway in earnest. With Ike providing the Mets another solid bat in the lineup, the team took off, embarking on an eight-game winning streak in late April. Over his first two-plus months in the major leagues, the Mets went 39-24, propelling themselves into the wild card lead.

Of course, once the second half began, the Mets went on their season-changing road trip, where they lost nine of 11 games and the services of their left fielder after Jason Bay ran head first into the fence at Dodger Stadium.

When Jason Bay played his last game for the Mets last year, the Mets had a winning record (50-49). The Mets played the final 63 games of 2010 and the first 18 games of 2011 without Bay, which is the equivalent of half a season of missed games. In that time frame, the Mets' record was 34-47.

Of course, when Bay was healthy, he was performing far below what was expected from him. However, his absence from the lineup made it easier for opposing pitchers to pitch around other batters in the lineup, particularly David Wright. Prior to Bay's injury, Wright was hitting .298 with a .372 on-base percentage. Once Bay's name was removed from the lineup, Wright's batting average fell to .253 and he reached base at a .321 clip.

The same formula continued over the first 18 games of the 2011 season. With Bay on the disabled list, Wright began the season by hitting .229. His on-base percentage and slugging percentage were .304 and .386, respectively. Wright also struck out at an alarming rate, with 22 whiffs in 70 at-bats.

Then Jason Bay returned to the lineup on Tuesday. David Wright had another bat to protect him in the batting order and he hasn't stopped hitting ever since.

David Wright gives Jason Bay a hand, but in reality, it's been Bay's return that has given Wright a hand.

In the four games since Bay's return, Wright has hit .429 (6-for-14) and has reached base in 10 of his 18 plate appearances. He has also banged out more productive hits, driving in six runs over the four games. In addition, Wright has picked up four extra-base hits with Bay in the lineup, three of which cleared the outfield wall. His slugging percentage over the four games is an eye-popping .889, giving him a 1.445 OPS. That's a far cry from the .690 OPS Wright was producing out of the three-hole over the first three weeks of the season.

The most important stat that has come out of Bay's return is not Wright's re-emergence as a potent bat, but the number in the win column. The Mets have won all four games since Jason Bay came off the disabled list. Similar to Ike Davis' addition the lineup in 2010, Bay's return has brought a winning atmosphere to the team. His presence in the batting order has given opposing pitchers something else to contemplate (Bay's batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage since his return is an impressive .333/.412/.667.) and has awakened a number of sleeping bats in the lineup, most notably David Wright's.

The Mets may have paid Jason Bay $66 million over four years to provide a powerful bat to a lineup that lacked firepower in 2009, but what they may have gotten as a bonus was a catalyst. Even if Bay doesn't come close to reproducing his 2009 numbers in Boston (36 HR, 119 RBI), his return to the Mets gives his teammates a better chance to put up the numbers expected from them. Jose Reyes might be considered by some to be the spark plug of the team, but Jason Bay, whether he knows it or not, is the one who's lit the fire, and the Mets are a better team because of it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: Do You Believe In Miracles?

Last night, I took a one-day sabbatical from watching the Mets. In lieu of watching the team with the worst record in baseball, I did some light reading, ate some Chinese food and went to bed without knowing the outcome of the game. This morning, I woke up refreshed and ready for my day's activities, which began with a quick check of the morning paper.

As I was perusing through last night's boxscores, something caught my eye. At first, I thought it was a typo, but upon closer inspection, I realized that it was not. Faster than I could say "holy chicken nachos, Batman!", it hit me. The Mets had actually won last night's game.

Click on the photo to enlarge the boxscore so you can see that my eyes didn't deceive me.

It's not just that the Mets won. It's how they won. The 9-1 victory over the Houston Astros represented the Mets' largest margin of victory of the season. It also gave the Mets their second one-game winning streak of the week (the team rolled off another such streak when they defeated Atlanta last Sunday).

Many things happened in last night's game that hadn't been seen in quite some time. If you didn't see the game, here are some small bites of what you missed.

Jason Bay returned to play in his first major league game since introducing his noggin to the Dodger Stadium left field fence last July. In four at-bats, Bay hit a ground-rule double and scampered around the bases when Hunter Pence made a Metsian error in right field.

David Wright proved that every once in a while (and by a while, I mean every hundred or so at-bats), he actually can provide a clutch hit. With the Mets holding on to a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, Wright's home run (which broke an 0-for-20 slump) ignited the offense. In the fifth inning, Wright's two-out double plated two more runs and knocked J.A. Happ out of the game.

David Wright is stunned that he could produce two extra-base hits in the same game at Citi Field.

Ike Davis proved once again that Citi Field isn't as cavernous as some third basemen think. Davis' 456-foot eighth inning blast was hit so far to center field that the home run apple had to duck for cover. It eventually dusted off its cobwebs and made its third appearance of the game (Mike Nickeas had started the home run parade in the third inning with his first major league homer) as Davis rounded the bases.

Chris Capuano pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits. He walked two batters and struck out four to notch his second victory of the season, which leads all Mets pitchers. Not bad for a pitcher who was supposed to be the No. 5 starter on the team.

Terry Collins was ejected from the game before the tens of dozens of Mets fans in attendance had purchased their first Shake Shack burger of the night. The fiery manager was thrown out of the game after home plate umpire Doug Eddings had ruled that Mike Nickeas had not caught a foul tip cleanly. The Mets responded to their skipper's ejection by tying their season-high with nine runs.

Terry Collins doesn't look like he's arguing here. Perhaps he got thrown out for wearing black instead of the traditional blue and orange. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Daily News)

Tonight, the Mets will attempt to do something they haven't done since last October 1 and 2. If they can pull off a victory in tonight's series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, it will mark the first time since those dates that the team has won back-to-back games at Citi Field.

For a team that used to believe in home field advantage, consecutive wins at home have been hard to come by. I'll be watching tonight, hoping to see the Mets stretch that winning streak to two. Miracles do happen, right?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just In Time For Turner

Second baseman Brad Emaus has been designated for assignment by the Mets, less than a month after winning the job by default and because Argenis Reyes was no longer available. In his stead, the Mets have recalled Justin Turner from AAA-Buffalo.

Turner was hitting .300 (12-for-40) at Buffalo, with five of his hits going for extra bases (three doubles, two triples). In his minor league career, Turner has hit .309, never finishing a full season below .298. However, his prowess for hitting minor league pitching has yet to translate into major league success, as the 26-year-old second baseman has hit a mere .114 (3-for-35) in three separate short stints in the majors. (Turner was 1-for-8 in four games as a Met last year.)

It's obvious that the Mets need some offense from the second base position. The combined "talents" of Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy and Chin-Lung Hu have managed to produce as many strikeouts as hits (11 hits in 60 at-bats with 11 Ks).

In addition, the second baseman of the future (Reese Havens) can't stay healthy in the present. Havens has still not played in a game this year, as he is recovering from off-season rib surgery. No timetable has been set for his return, but when he does come of the disabled list, he will most likely play for AA-Binghamton, which is the highest level he has reached in the minor leagues.

As shown below (thanks to the Mets' official Twitter page) Justin Turner will be in the starting lineup for the Mets tonight, batting eighth against Astros' pitcher Wandy Rodriguez.

For now, the right-handed hitting Turner will be in a platoon with the lefty-swinging Daniel Murphy. So far this season, Murphy has been the most productive hitter at second base, if you want to call a .226 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage productive. Murphy has also not shown an understanding of the "fundies" that Keith Hernandez lives by, as he was thrown out trying to steal third base with no outs (well, one out after his failed attempt at a theft) in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader against the Braves.

So now the Mets are giving Justin Turner a shot as Jose Reyes' double play partner. The Mets showed very little patience with Brad Emaus at second base. How much patience are they willing to show for the new kid on the bag? And if he fails to impress Terry Collins, will Daniel Murphy be given the everyday job at the position?

Ike Davis was called up last April 19 and gave the Mets a much-needed spark after a 4-8 start to the season. Can Justin Turner do the same this April 19? One thing's for sure. If he doesn't, someone else will be given the opportunity. It's the way these Mets roll.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

If At Second You Don't Succeed...

Second base was a question mark for the Mets going into the 2011 season. After deciding to cut ties with the incumbent Luis Castillo during spring training, the team decided to go with Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus as their starting second baseman, with Daniel Murphy and Chin-Lung Hu serving as his backups.

So how has the second base experiment gone so far? Let's look at the game-by-game performances for Emaus, Murphy and Hu over the first 16 games of the season. (Note: Stats are for players while they were playing second base. Pinch-hitting appearances are not included in individual game stats.)

  • April 1 @Fla: Brad Emaus (0-for-2, BB)
  • April 2 @Fla: Brad Emaus (1-for-4, K), Chin-Lung Hu (0-for-1, K)
  • April 3 @Fla: Daniel Murphy (1-for-3, R, RBI, BB), Chi-Lung Hu (0-for-2, R)
  • April 5 @Phi: Brad Emaus (1-for-4, RBI), Chin-Lung Hu (1-for-1)
  • April 6 @Phi: Brad Emaus (2-for-3, BB)
  • April 7 @Phi: Brad Emaus (0-for-4, K)
  • April 8 vs. Was: Brad Emaus (0-for-3, BB, K)
  • April 9 vs. Was: Chin-Lung Hu (0-for-2, 2K), Brad Emaus (0-for-o, R)
  • April 10 vs. Was: Brad Emaus (0-for-3, 2K), Daniel Murphy (o-for-1)
  • April 11 vs. Col: Daniel Murphy (1-for-5, R, K)
  • April 13 vs. Col: Daniel Murphy (1-for-4, R, RBI, BB)
  • April 14 vs. Col: Daniel Murphy (1-for-4, BB)
  • April 14 vs. Col: Brad Emaus (1-for-4, R)
  • April 16 @Atl: Brad Emaus (0-for-4, K)
  • April 16 @Atl: Daniel Murphy (1-for-3)
  • April 17 @Atl: Brad Emaus (0-for-3, BB, K)

Over the first 16 games, the three men who have played second base for the Mets are hitting a combined .183 (11-for-60) with five runs scored, three runs batted in, seven walks and eleven strikeouts. It almost makes you wonder if Sandy Alderson still has Luis Castillo's number on speed dial.

After today's 3-2 victory against the Braves, the Mets have now played approximately 10% of their schedule. If they plan on having winning streaks that are longer than one game, they're going to need their second basemen to stop playing at 10% of their capabilities and contribute positively to the team's success.

Even former Mets' second baseman Kaz Matsui, who knows a thing or two about being booed in New York, could do better than the team's current second sackers.

Somewhere out there, Matsui is looking at this team and laughing. If the trio of Emaus, Murphy and Hu can't break free of their early season doldrums, Kaz won't be the only one laughing. The rest of the National League will be joining him.

A Look Back At Other Poor Starts In Mets History

The Mets have started the 2011 season on a low note, to say the least. After suffering their seventh consecutive defeat last night (their 10th loss in 11 games), the Mets dropped to 4-11 on the year. The last place Metropolitans now stand six games behind the first place Phillies and three games behind fourth place Washington.

For only the fifth time in franchise history, the Mets have failed to win at least five of their first 15 games. It is the first time the Mets have accomplished this feat in 30 years (see list below).

  • 1962: 3-12
  • 1964: 3-12
  • 1974: 4-11
  • 1981: 4-11

The 1962 Mets were the first team to start off poorly. That pattern continued throughout the season, as the team finished with a major league record 120 losses. They finished 60 games behind the first place San Francisco Giants in the National League. (The league was not split up into divisions until 1969.)

In 1964, the Mets replicated their start from their inaugural season, losing 12 of their first 15 games. This time, the Mets were able to turn it around and finish with the best record in franchise history up to that point. Of course, when a 53-109 record represents your best season, that's not saying much.

The 1974 Mets were coming off their second National League pennant. After overachieving for the final five weeks of the 1973 regular season and the postseason, the Mets took underachieving to a new level in 1974. Despite boasting a pitching staff of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack, the offense hit the snooze button all year, finishing last or next-to-last in the league in batting average, runs scored, doubles, triples and stolen bases. They parlayed that poor start into a 71-91 season, their first losing season since 1968.

The 1981 season was cut short by the players' strike, but the season didn't stop soon enough for the Mets. A year after the Mets proclaimed that the magic was back, the same old Mets popped out of the magician's hat in 1981. The Mets finished 41-62 in the strike-shortened 1981 season, their fifth consecutive season with a losing record.

No Met team since 1981 had started out with a record of 4-11 or worse until this year's edition. All four of the previous teams to start off so poorly finished at least 20 games under .500 and in last place or next-to-last place.

The 2011 Mets are now the fifth team in franchise history to win no more than four of their first 15 games. If they don't turn it around quickly, it looks as if the team that was supposed to pay homage to the 1986 Mets will end up honoring their 1962, 1964, 1974 and 1981 counterparts instead.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Open Letter To Brooklyn Dodger Lover Fred Wilpon

Dear Mr. Wilpon,

I was recently at the Mets Team Store on the Field Level at Citi Field looking for some Mets T-shirts. After being pleasantly surprised to finally see R.A. Dickey and Angel Pagan number shirts for sale, my jaw dropped when I saw yet another piece of Brooklyn Dodgers merchandise.

This wasn't yet another tribute to Jackie Robinson or Ebbets Field. This was something else entirely. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you photo documentation of the latest shirt for sale at the Mets Team Store.

A Sandy Koufax Brooklyn Dodgers shirt? Really? Let's look up a few things about Mr. Koufax to share with our readers.

Sandy Koufax had a great career in the major leagues. He finished his career with a .655 winning percentage (165 wins, 87 losses), pitched four no-hitters (a record at the time), struck out 382 batters in a single season (also a record at the time), won three Cy Young Awards and was the National League MVP in 1963. He also was a member of four pennant winners and three World Series champions. As a result of his outstanding career, Koufax was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, his first year of eligibility.

That's a lot of accomplishments for a pitcher whose career was cut short because of arthritis. But that's not what stands out most for me on his Hall of Fame plaque. Let's focus on Sandy himself, or rather, let's focus on the cap he's wearing in the plaque. What's that on his cap? Oh, yeah...


Now why is he wearing an LA on his cap rather than a "B" for Brooklyn? That's because Koufax did very little in Brooklyn as a Dodger.

From 1955-1957, the last three seasons the Dodgers played at Ebbets Field, Sandy Koufax's record was 9-10, or the same record compiled by Jonathon Niese in 2010. He was also very wild, walking 108 batters in 204.2 innings and posted a 4.00 ERA.

Once the Dodgers packed their bags and left Brooklyn for LA, Koufax blossomed into one of the all-time greats in baseball.

So why on Earth is Citi Field selling Sandy Koufax Brooklyn Dodgers shirts when he did practically nothing as one of Dem Bums? It surely can't be because the Mets appreciate pitchers who go 9-10 while pitching in one of the outer boroughs. If that were the case, then the store would also have a full stock of Jonathon Niese T-shirts (which they don't; what's up with that?).

No, Mr. Wilpon. You know the reason as well as I do. Sandy Koufax was a childhood friend of yours. The two of you went to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn together. Sandy comes to spring training as a favor to you to talk to your pitchers.

We get it. You're BFFs. Fine.

But please. Sandy Koufax wasn't a Met. He was barely a Brooklyn Dodger. Stop trying to make it seem like he was. The Mets don't play at Ebbets Field. They don't have a "B" on their hats. Therefore, if you could, we'd like you to stop trying to shove the Brooklyn Dodgers down our throats. We know this is probably hard for you to do, so perhaps we can reach a compromise.

Do you remember which two players led the major leagues in home runs and RBI during the 1950s? Maybe the photos below will help.

The man in the photo on the left is Duke Snider, who played in Brooklyn for 11 seasons (1947-1957). The man on the right is Gil Hodges, who came up to the Brooklyn Dodgers for good in 1947 after playing in one game for the team in 1943.

Both men played the majority of their major league careers as Brooklyn Dodgers, winning six pennants and one World Series in Brooklyn. They also have one other thing in common. Let's roll out the photo album one more time to assist you.

Your eyes are not deceiving you, Mr. Wilpon. They were indeed both members of your New York Mets.

Duke Snider played one season for the Mets, making the All-Star team in 1963. Gil Hodges played parts of two seasons for the Mets (1962-63), hitting the first home run in franchise history on April 11, 1962. He also did something on a grander scale seven years later. It may or may not have involved winning a championship. I'll have to look that up.

Do you see what I'm getting at, Mr. Wilpon? Why are you selling Sandy Koufax merchandise when you can sell Duke Snider or Gil Hodges gear? They were both Brooklyn Dodgers far longer than Koufax was and contributed to more success in Brooklyn than your boyhood buddy did. Plus, they have the added appeal to Mets fans because they both donned the orange and blue at some point.

As of right now, there is nothing for Duke Snider at Citi Field and only a first base entrance named after Gil Hodges. I know I'm not the only fan who's appalled that you're trying to sell Sandy Koufax as a Brooklyn Dodger to Mets fans. In fact, my wife (you might know her as "The Coop") also has an opinion on the lovefest between you and the Brooklyn Dodgers, which she will share with you now:

Speaking of both teams for whom to pay homage, you also discredit the origins of the “orange” from the term “orange and blue” in your child-like fascination with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and that’s the New York Giants.

While the Dodgers were quick to embrace their new identity on the west coast with winning a championship in two years, the now-San Francisco Giants had to do nothing BUT embrace their New York roots. And why was that? Because prior to 2010, they had not won a championship in their 50 year old home and a lot of their rich history was based in New York. Even when the team won, they visited the old site of the Polo Grounds (where both the New York Giants and…oh some other team…oh yes, the New York Mets once upon a time played) with the Commissioner’s Trophy to pay homage to where their history originated. I don’t believe that the Dodgers visited the old site of Ebbets Field after winning a championship so quickly after switching coasts. The Giants embrace New York and the Mets need to embrace the Giants history as well.

It’s not so much the Koufax jersey or this blatant “to the victor go the spoils” attitude at Citi Field that is troublesome -- there is also no mention of New York Giants history. You’d like to be fair, then how about this? In addition to selling Brooklyn memorabilia, why not include the Giants as well in a nostalgia store? Not to mention, one of the most storied baseball players in history, Willie Mays, played for both New York and San Francisco Giants AND ended his career with the Mets. Wouldn’t it be great to not only acknowledge those teams but to also have an actual connection to the Mets? There’s no limitation to having Giants or Dodgers jerseys either in the nostalgia store – you can sell old Mets jerseys as well and even other items such as collectible yearbooks and souvenir cups.

My wife and I are just two people, Mr. Wilpon. But we're not the only ones who feel that you have overdone it with your homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers at Citi Field.

You're the owner of the New York Mets. You also love the Brooklyn Dodgers. If you absolutely must share that Dodger love with the fans who pay their way into your homage to Ebbets Field to see the Mets play, at least share it with players who have ties to both teams. Is that so hard to do, Mr. Wilpon?

Peace, love, Mets, y'all,
Ed Leyro and Taryn Cooper

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carlos Delgado Retires; Is He A Hall of Famer?

Former Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado announced his retirement from baseball yesterday after a 17-year career that saw him become one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball.

From his major league debut as a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 to his final game as a Met in 2009, Delgado gave pitchers headaches by hurting them when he swung the bat (473 career HR) and when he didn't (1,109 career walks).

But is Carlos Delgado a Hall of Famer? Let's look at a few of his career numbers and decide for ourselves.

Delgado finished his career with 473 HR and 483 doubles, falling just short of the 500 mark in both categories. Only ten players in major league history have reached that number in both categories: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, Ted Williams and Eddie Murray. Of those ten, six are in the Hall of Fame. The other four are either not yet eligible (Bonds, Griffey) or admitted steroid users (Palmeiro, Ramirez). As of now, Delgado has never been attached to steroids, so one has to believe his power numbers were all attained legitimately.

Only six men in major league history hit 30 or more home runs in ten consecutive seasons. Alex Rodriguez (1998-2010), Barry Bonds (1992-2004), Jimmie Foxx (1929-1940), Sammy Sosa (1995-2004) and Albert Pujols (2001-2010) have all accomplished this rare feat. The other player to do it was Carlos Delgado, who hit 30 or more blasts every season from 1997 to 2006.

For 13 consecutive seasons, Delgado drove in at least 87 runs, including nine years of 100+ RBI and seven campaigns where he drove in no fewer than 114 runs. In two seasons that he failed to drive in 100 runs, he missed significant time with an assortment of injuries. Delgado picked up 99 RBI in 2004, despite not playing in 34 games. Then in 2007, as a member of the Mets, Delgado finished the year with 87 RBI. Although 2007 was viewed as an off-year for the slugger, he also missed 23 games, which denied him the opportunity to approach triple digits in RBI.

While on the topic of runs batted in, Carlos Delgado finished his career with 1,512 RBI, making him one of 51 players to surpass the 1,500 plateau. Thirty-six of those players have already received their golden ticket to Cooperstown, while the majority of the others are either still active or not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Despite his gaudy power numbers, Delgado never won an MVP Award, although that could be attributed to the fact that he never played for a playoff team until he played for the Mets in 2006. He also only made two All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger Awards, both numbers that are very low for potential Hall of Famers.

So does Delgado get elected to Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in 2015?

Rafael Palmeiro, whose power numbers exceed Delgado's, received support from only 11% of the voters in the most recent Hall of Fame election. However, he was found to have used steroids during the latter part of his career, which kept his vote total low. Jeff Bagwell was never directly linked to steroids, but only received 41% of the vote in January, despite averaging over 100 RBI and 100 runs scored per season throughout his entire career (1,529 RBI and 1,517 runs scored in 15 seasons). Both Palmeiro and Bagwell were contemporaries of Delgado. That could work against him in 2015.

Another thing that could work against him is the controversy he generated when he chose not to stand for the singing of "God Bless America" due to his personal convictions against the United States' involvement in Iraq. Although Delgado is entitled to his opinions, his silent protest came at a time when Americans were peaking with patriotism, and his stance was viewed by some as being unpatriotic and anti-American, although he has vehemently denied this on multiple occasions.

Despite the potential roadblocks, it cannot be denied that Delgado was highly successful as a major league baseball player. His power numbers are among the best of his era, if not all-time. But until players like Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza get into the Hall of Fame (the latter two will become eligible in 2013), it will be difficult for Delgado to get in.

For a power hitter to reach the Hall of Fame in this era, he'll have to bring more to the table, whether it be speed, Gold Glove-caliber defense, or regular trips to the postseason. Carlos Delgado stole 14 bases in his career, never won a Gold Glove Award and only reached the playoffs once (he was not on the postseason roster when the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993). Maybe someday Delgado will make the Hall of Fame, but don't expect it to be in 2015.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: While My Co-Blogger Gently Sleeps

Yesterday, I made my first appearance at Citi Field to "enjoy" the home opener . I invited my co-blogger and my fav'rit Studious Metsimus consultant to join me on Opening Day. After all, they could swipe me through the turnstiles with their MetroCards since I had no pockets in my hoodie to carry mine.

Unfortunately, my co-blogger decided to wear shorts and not wear his gray Mets hoodie on an overcast 40-something degree day. Now he's lying in bed with such a horrible sore throat and cough, you'd think he swallowed Keith Hernandez's mustache.

Therefore, since he's too sick to say it, I'll give you the rundown on what's happening today at Citi Field before the game. The aforementioned fav'rit Studious Metsimus consultant and I will be taking the field to meet and greet an unnamed Met before the first pitch. It will not be the first time I've taken the field at a ballgame, as I once stole second base last year.

Luis Castillo wasn't able to keep a hold on second base for the Mets. I found it quite easy to do.

In case you were wondering, I did not get injured as I slid into second base, but I did have a few pebbles up my...

As I was saying earlier, before tonight's 7:10 PM game against the Washington Nationals, I will be taking the field with Taryn Cooper. You know her from Kiner's Korner (the website, not the show that former Cardinals' pitcher Ricky Horton wanted to get on so badly that he would practice in front of his mirror as a youth) and Mets Merized Online.

If you're at the game, please look out for us wreaking havoc on the infield dirt or outfield grass. We won't know which player we'll be meeting or which position we'll be occupying. But we do know that it will be lots of fun and a once in a lifetime experience that we hope happens again.

(Note: For those of you wondering about the so-called "Joey Jinx", where I take a photo with a Mets player and that player subsequently gets injured and/or traded, we are taking all precautions so that that doesn't happen tonight. But the players are signing waivers just in case...)

Also, to my co-blogger, please feel better soon. As you know, I couldn't carry my wallet in my hoodie either, so it'll be up to you to carry the money for food. I hope you have my chicken nachos ready for me for when I come back to my seat. After all, if the Mets lose again today, I might need to drown my sorrows in shredded chicken and chips.

Nachos Grande, $7.75. Chicken Nachos, $9.25. The experience of eating them at Citi Field, priceless.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For Mike Pelfrey, The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

Mike Pelfrey is entering his sixth season with the Mets, compiling a 43-41 record over his first five seasons in New York (43-42 after his Opening Day loss to the Florida Marlins). Although Pelfrey is just 27 years old, there have been only 17 pitchers in franchise history who have won more games than Big Pelf.

More than likely, Pelfrey will continue to move up the all-time wins leaderboard as his career progresses, but how much longer will he pitch for the Mets, especially if he continues to give up base hits at an alarming rate?

Consider the facts. In his first two starts of the 2011 season, Pelfrey has given up 12 hits in 6 1/3 innings, a rate of nearly two hits per inning. Let's compare that to the 17 pitchers who rank ahead of Pelfrey on the all-time club leaderboard for wins.

  1. Tom Seaver (12 years, 198 wins): no seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  2. Dwight Gooden (11 years, 157 wins): one season with more hits than innings pitched.
  3. Jerry Koosman (12 years, 140 wins): no seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  4. Ron Darling (9 years, 99 wins): one season with more hits than innings pitched.
  5. Sid Fernandez (10 years, 98 wins): no seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  6. Al Leiter (7 years, 95 wins): no seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  7. Jon Matlack (7 years, 82 wins): one season with more hits than innings pitched.
  8. David Cone (7 years, 81 wins): one season with more hits than innings pitched.
  9. Bobby Jones (8 years, 74 wins): five seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  10. Steve Trachsel (6 years, 66 wins): two seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  11. Tom Glavine (5 years, 61 wins): four seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  12. Rick Reed (5 years, 59 wins): two seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  13. Craig Swan (12 years, 59 wins): four seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  14. Bob Ojeda (5 years, 51 wins): one season with more hits than innings pitched.
  15. John Franco (14 years, 48 wins): five seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  16. Tug McGraw (9 years, 47 wins): two seasons with more hits than innings pitched.
  17. Jesse Orosco (8 years, 47 wins): one season with more hits than innings pitched.

Dwight Gooden's sole season allowing more hits than innings pitched was 1994. That was his final season in a Mets uniform. Ron Darling also had one such season in his career, which came in his final full season as a Met (1990). In 1977, Jon Matlack suffered his first season with more hits than innings pitched. He never did it again as a Met because that was his final year in New York. The only year in which David Cone gave up better than a hit per inning was (you guessed it) his final season (2003), when he allowed 20 hits in 18 innings.

Bob Ojeda and Jesse Orosco also finished their Mets careers with only one season giving up more hits than innings pitched. In both cases, that season came in their final year with the Mets.

Of the seven pitchers who allowed more hits than innings pitched in multiple seasons (Jones, Trachsel, Glavine, Reed, Swan, Franco, McGraw), all but one of them accomplished the feat in his final full season in New York. The lone exception was John Franco, who barely missed, allowing exactly one hit per inning in 2004 (46 hits in 46 innings pitched).

So that brings us back to Mike Pelfrey. How many times do you think he's allowed more hits than innings pitched over a full season? Once? Twice? Take a look at his career numbers below:

  • 2006: 21.1 innings pitched, 25 hits allowed.
  • 2007: 72.2 innings pitched, 85 hits allowed.
  • 2008: 200.2 innings pitched, 209 hits allowed.
  • 2009: 184.1 innings pitched, 213 hits allowed.
  • 2010: 204.0 innings pitched, 213 hits allowed.
  • 2011: 6.1 innings pitched, 12 hits allowed.

Mike Pelfrey has allowed more hits than innings pitched in EVERY SEASON that he's pitched in the major leagues! Judging by his start this season, he might be on his way to his sixth consecutive season allowing more hits than innings pitched. Of the 17 pitchers who rank ahead of Pelfrey in career victories as a Met, none accomplished the feat more than five times.

Because of Johan Santana's injury, Pelfrey is now the de facto No. 1 pitcher in the rotation. But looking over his career numbers, the only thing Pelfrey is No. 1 in is allowing base hits. Considering the fates of other Mets pitchers who gave up more hits than innings pitched, especially late in their careers, Mike Pelfrey should be careful when he turns around. Another team's uniform might be gaining on him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Call This A Rivalry?

New York and Philadelphia are separated by less than 100 miles, making the Phillies the closest geographical rivals to the Mets in the National League. However, upon further inspection of the NL East standings over the past half-century, "rivals" might not be the correct word to use.

Since the Mets came into existence in 1962, both the Phillies and the Mets have finished with a winning record in the same season a mere eight times.

  • 1975: Phillies (86-76, 2nd place); Mets (82-80, 3rd place)
  • 1976: Phillies (101-61, 1st place); Mets (86-76, 3rd place)
  • 1986: Mets (108-54, 1st place); Phillies (86-75, 2nd place)
  • 2001: Phillies (86-76, 2nd place); Mets (82-80, 3rd place)
  • 2005: Phillies (88-74, 2nd place); Mets (83-79, 3rd place)
  • 2006: Mets (97-65, 1st place); Phillies (85-77, 2nd place)
  • 2007: Phillies (89-73, 1st place); Mets (88-74, 2nd place)
  • 2008: Phillies (92-70, 1st place); Mets (89-73, 2nd place)

Meanwhile, over the same time period, other well-known traditional rivals have had much more of a rivalry. Since 1962, the Red Sox and Yankees have both finished with winning records in the same season 30 times, including each of the last 13 seasons. The Dodgers and Giants have both been above .500 in the same season 22 times since 1962. Even the Cubs and Cardinals have both finished with winning records in the same season 14 times in the past half-century, which is remarkable considering that the Cubs have only had 18 winning seasons overall since 1962.

Prior to 2007, the Mets and Phillies never had a bonafide rivalry. Although the two teams finished in first and second place in the NL East in both 1986 and 2006, the Mets won the division handily each time. Not until the back-to-back collapses suffered by the Mets in 2007 and 2008 did the teams play for a division title. Unfortunately, those two seasons were the only two in which the Mets and Phillies had a legitimate rivalry in the standings, as the Phillies continued winning in 2009 and 2010, while the Mets forgot how to do so.

Therefore, although it is very early in the season, when the 3-1 Mets take on the 3-1 Phillies tonight at Citizens Bank Park, it will mark one of the few times over the past half-century that both teams have been in the top two positions in the NL East as they played each other.

It may be silly to say that tonight's game is a battle for first place, but why not say it? After all, battles for division supremacy between the Mets and the Phillies have been about as rare as the Cubs winning the World Series. But at least the Cubs have more of a rivalry with another divisional foe.

Enjoy seeing tonight's first place showdown between the Mets and the Phillies while you can. It might be the only time we can say that this season.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dickeypedia Word of The Week: Asphyxiation

After not being heard from in a few weeks, R.A. Dickey has provided us with another nugget that required the use of Dickeypedia to decipher.

According to a recent New York Times article by David Waldstein, Dickey revealed that he plans to scale Mount Kilimanjaro during the off-season. The knuckler (who is donating money to charity with this endeavor) claimed that his inspiration for the climb was the Ernest Hemingway book, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", which he read as a junior in high school.

Dickey is aware that the Mets might not want their recently re-signed starter to perform such a dangerous activity, but also noted that there is no specific clause in his contract that prevents him from climbing a nearly 20,000 foot mountain.

“There is some risk involved that we won’t summit. There is oxygen asphyxiation, there can be rock avalanches, boulders falling. Someone could fall and break a wrist. All of those are attributable factors for why people don’t summit. But I don’t anticipate those will be problems for us.”

There is no language in Dickey's contract that would disallow him from attempting his climb. There is also no language to define Dickey's language in the above quote. But with one quick check of Dickeypedia, we came up with the definition to "asphyxiation":

  • 1. the condition of being deprived of oxygen (as by having breathing stopped).
  • 2. killing by depriving of oxygen.

Well, that's something different. In the past, Mets pitchers have sometimes caused their fans to stop breathing. Now R.A. Dickey is willing to do something that could cause him to do the same.

Speaking of not being able to breathe, the recently released Oliver Perez (We haven't heard from him on Studious Metsimus in at least an hour. What's wrong with us?) was asked if he could use the word "asphyxiation" in a sentence. Surprisingly enough, Ollie said yes to this request, but only when we assured him that it was not a fancy term for "minor league re-assignment", which he most certainly would have declined. Take it away, Ollie!

"When I was a child, I had a pet donkey. But my family was concerned because they thought she would give birth to many donkey babies. We tried taking her to our family doctor, but he said he couldn't fix animals. Therefore, to get her fixed, we had to take her to a donkey doctor, where he performed the asphyxiation."

There you have it, Mets fans. Oliver Perez couldn't fix his career by throwing strikes, but apparently, he thinks "asphyxiation" will fix his ass.

Hey, at least when R.A. Dickey attempts to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro after the season ends, if he needs a donkey to carry his provisions, Oliver Perez has one that won't get pregnant along the way. It looks like Oliver Perez might finally be of use to the Mets' starting staff after all!

Joey's Small Bites: Things I Noticed On Opening Day

Greetings, Mets fans! This is your fav'rit roving reporter/culinary expert Joey Beartran. Welcome to the first semi-regular installment of "Joey's Small Bites", where I present my opinions on anything Mets-related. However, unlike my "Joey's Soapbox" series, these will be abbreviated opinions, or "small bites" if you will. There's also a chance I may be having a snack while sharing my thoughts with you, but I will probably be taking bigger bites out of those.

In today's first installment, I will discuss my thoughts on last night's season opening loss against the Marlins, which looked as if it should have been Game No. 163 of the 2010 season.

Last year, Mike Pelfrey gave up two earned runs in the entire month of April. Last night, he gave up four runs on one swing of John Buck's bat. This is the same John Buck who had a .243 career average in seven seasons entering last night's game. I see Pelfrey is already in mid-season form, and by mid-season form, I mean last year's mid-season, when he finished with a 10.02 ERA in his five July starts.

David Wright said he was going to embrace being the team leader this year. He led the team all right; led them in strikeouts, that is. Wright struck out in each of his first two at-bats against Josh Johnson en route to an 0-for-4 evening at the plate.

The two Rule 5 picks (Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato) made their major league debuts last night, and both performed reasonably well.

Emaus reached base once in three plate appearances and did not follow David Wright's lead (Emaus didn't strike out). It was Emaus' walk on the seventh pitch of his at-bat that ended Josh Johnson's night, after Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He also made a fine defensive play in the sixth inning, sliding to his left to prevent the runner on third from scoring.

Beato pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a long double to the first batter he faced (John Buck, who apparently wants to win the batting title this year) before retiring the next three batters he faced, then giving up two singles in his second inning of work, sandwiched around a timely double play. Oh, did we mention that Beato was also born on the same day the Mets last won the World Series (October 27, 1986, just like teammate Jonathon Niese) and lived most of his life in Queens, growing up in Woodside, home of Donovan's Pub, which serves the best burger in New York? No, seriously. Take a look at the photos below and see for yourself.

On a positive note, Carlos Beltran made his first start in right field and showed no signs of pain or discomfort. He went 1-for-4 at the plate, driving in the first run for the Mets on a seventh-inning double down the right field line and scoring the second run on a groundout by Ike Davis. He also played flawless defense and prevented a run from scoring by charging a ball in right field and throwing a bullet to Josh Thole at the plate to hold Omar Infante at third base.

Also welcome to this bear's eyes was Mookie Wilson wearing his familiar No. 1 as he made his return to first base coaching duties. When Mookie wore No. 51 in his first stint as first base coach in the mid-90s, it was because Lance Johnson was wearing No. 1. Of course, Johnson produced one of the best seasons in franchise history in 1996 (.333 batting average, 50 stolen bases and a franchise-record 227 hits and 21 triples), so he earned the right to wear No. 1 temporarily. But the last wearer of the number didn't earn a thing. Because Luis Castillo wouldn't give up his No. 1 to Mookie when the Mets legend was re-hired to coach first base, the Mookster had to wear the ungodly No. 53.

Castillo was eventually released before the end of spring training and Wilson got his familiar number back. On a night when not much else went right for the Mets, seeing Mookie wearing No. 1 was enough to make me smile.

I seemed to notice a lot on Opening Day, despite the fact that I was enjoying the game with one paw on the sliders and the other paw on the waffle fries. Yes, it was a tough loss, one that was reminiscent of many losses in 2010. After all, the Mets gave up 12 grand slams last season without hitting any, and last night, Pelfrey was victimized by the bases-clearing blast and the Mets didn't even come close to homering. But it was only Day 1 of a long season.


Baseball is not a sprint. It's a marathon. The Mets and their fans have to take it one game at a time. One loss does not make or break the season. They'll be back in Game No. 2, and will do their best to win the ballgame.


Tonight, Jonathon Niese hopes to build on his fine rookie season. Of course, last year the Marlins were a thorn in his side, as he went 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA in five starts against them.

Although I'm cautiously optimistic that Niese will be able to end his Marlin meltdown in Miami, I will be ordering an extra plate of sliders just in case. Considering all those fat, juicy pitches opposing hitters keep hitting for grand slams, I should have something fat and juicy myself.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Baseball?

The Mets will raise the curtain on their 2011 season tonight against the Florida Marlins, the team that finished ahead of them by one game in the 2010 National League East standings and won one too many games against them at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Despite the fact that most prognosticators (including this spherical one) have the Mets finishing around the .500 mark and no higher than third place, does that mean fans should give up on the season before the Opening Day player introductions are made?

Opening Day is the one day of the season when all teams are tied for first place, when every team believes this will be THEIR year. The Mets are no different. Why can't the Mets compete in the National League East or for the wild card? When the umpire tells the players to "play ball", is he writing it on paper? No, he is not. That's because the games aren't played on paper. So when everyone concedes the division to the Phillies and their R2C2 pitching staff (Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels), they're doing it because they're the sexiest team on paper. When so-called experts say teams like the Braves, Cardinals, Brewers, Padres and Rockies are all going to be contending for the wild card (if not their division title) come September, they're doing so on the proverbial paper.

No one foresaw the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series last year. They had good pitching, but they still had an offense that rivaled the 2009 Mets in futility, at least from a power standpoint. During the season, their good pitching became great and their supposed lack of power produced eight players who finished in double digits in home runs. The same could be said for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds hadn't made the playoffs since 1995 and hadn't been a serious contender since the Mets eliminated them in a one-game playoff for the 1999 National League wild card berth. They had good hitters, but atrocious pitching. How did people know this? Because they saw it "on paper". Naturally, Cincinnati won the National League Central because their good hitting became exceptional, led by NL MVP Joey Votto, and their so-called atrocious pitching was actually better than decent.

What teams look like on paper don't always represent what they look like between the foul lines. A team might have a great offense "on paper" and then sputter on the field (see 2008 Detroit Tigers). Similarly, a team might think they have the makings of a fantastic pitching staff "on paper", but once those pitchers step on the mound, they pitch like Charlie Brown. (Does Generation K ring a bell?)

So the Mets look like a team that will finish in the middle of pack or lower in the National League East. That's what people are saying right now. On paper. What if Jose Reyes reverts to his 2008 form, especially now that he's playing for a contract? What if Angel Pagan continues to improve in all aspects of his game and hits .300 with 15 HR and 40 SB, while winning the Gold Glove? What if Carlos Beltran stays on the field all season and plays like a man who's in his walk year? What if more of Ike Davis' bombs target the Shea Bridge and the Pepsi Porch? What if Jason Bay only misses one week and comes back as Jason Bay, pre-2010? What if R.A. Dickey wasn't a fluke and shows what he can do over a full season instead of just 26 starts as he did last season? What if the other members of the Brainy Bunch (Chris Young and Chris Capuano) give the Mets a combined 50 starts and pitch the way they're capable of pitching when they're healthy? And I haven't even mentioned Johan Santana...

On paper, the Mets probably can't compete with the Phillies and some of the wild card contenders. But when they take the field tonight against the Marlins, that paper will have found its way into the shredder. It won't matter what people think the Mets are going to do. The Mets will go as far as their players will take them. That's the beauty of baseball. Any team can surprise the experts, especially those experts with lifetime subscriptions to "the paper". Maybe it will be the Mets, maybe it'll be another team.

Don't give up hope just because some paper says we should. Just sit back, relax and enjoy watching the Mets as they try to make the authors of the paper eat their words.

Happy Opening Day, everyone!