Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Evans-tually Everyone Has A Blog Written About Them

So tell me, Mets fans. Do you know how many players currently on the 25-man roster played for the Mets at Shea Stadium? Well, there are the obvious ones in Jose Reyes and David Wright. There's Angel Pagan, who played briefly at Shea in 2008 before missing most of the season due to injury. (Speaking of injury, Daniel Murphy does not count because he is not currently on the 25-man roster, although he did make his Mets debut in '08.) There are also a number of pitchers, such as Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, Bobby Parnell and Jason Isringhausen (who was a Met from 1995-1999).

There's one more player who played for the Mets at Shea Stadium and is currently on the 25-man roster. Can't figure out who he is? He's only one of the hottest hitters in the lineup.

The eighth player on the Mets' active roster who played for the team at Shea Stadium is Nick Evans, a man who's paid his dues and looks like he's finally moving in the right direction.

Things are looking up for Nick Evans, especially after his recent play with the Mets.

Ever since he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2004 amateur draft, Nick Evans has been the player who's racked up the most frequent flier miles between AAA and the majors. Whenever a hitter (non-catcher) has been needed, it's Evans who has made the trip more often than not. After all, his minor league numbers have always been very good.

Evans hit .300 or better in three minor league seasons (2008, 2010, 2011) and reached double digits in home runs in six consecutive seasons (2005-2010), a number that would have reached seven had Evans not spent so much time with the Mets in 2011 (8 HR in 64 games with AAA-Buffalo this year).

Of course, up until the past month, Evans' minor league success did not translate into similar success with the Mets. From 2008 to 2010, Evans made several trips to the majors, but his splits (.257/.298/.410) were nothing spectacular. In fact, they were similar to the numbers put up by former teammates Luis Hernandez in 2010 (.250/.298/.409) and Omir Santos in 2009 (.260/.296/.391).

Then Daniel Murphy was lost for the season and Jose Reyes was disabled for the second time. That meant more at-bats for Evans, who never got regular playing time prior to August. It looks as if that was all Evans needed to finally break free from Quadruple-A status.

During the month of August, Evans has hit .378, with a .429 on-base percentage and a .622 slugging percentage. His OPS is a whopping 1.050 during that stretch. The numbers are even better since he became an everyday player last week (.435/.480/.783).

No one is saying that Nick Evans is going to become a regular player in 2012. Like Daniel Murphy, he is a good hitter without a position. Evans can play first base and left field, but he is blocked at both positions by Ike Davis (assuming he's ready by Opening Day 2012) and Jason Bay, respectively.

But even if Evans doesn't play regularly next year, he should make more airplane trips with his teammates rather than by himself on the Buffalo-Flushing shuttle. Four years of peripatetic activity can be hard for anyone trying to establish himself in the major leagues. After proving what he can do over the past month, it may finally be time for Nick Evans to stay with the big league club past the 2011 season.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Batting Title Is Slip Slidin' Away For Reyes

A little over a week ago, I wrote a piece on the Mets' pitching staff needing to be able to keep Ryan Braun at bay when the Brewers visited Citi Field. Jose Reyes' batting average was stuck at .336 since he was placed on the disabled list in early August and Braun was beginning to creep up on the Mets' shortstop.

Of course, since they're the Mets, they failed, allowing Braun to hit .400 in the three-game series (in addition to scoring six runs, driving in three more, cracking a home run and stealing three bases, which I guess contributed more to the three-game sweep than the 4-for-10).

Since that series ended last weekend, Braun has continued to do everything offensively. In five games, he's ripped five extra-base hits (four doubles, one home run), crossed the plate four times, driven in five and stolen an addition four bases. Oh, yeah. He also hit .389 (7-for-18) over the five games, including last night's 2-for-2 performance that raised his average up to .333.

Don't slide, Jose! Just keep running! Ryan Braun is on your tail and he's gaining fast!

When Jose Reyes was placed on the disabled list for the first time in early July, he was hitting a robust .354. That number stayed unchanged until he returned to the Mets on July 19. When Reyes came back from the disabled list, Braun was only hitting .315, nearly forty percentage points behind Reyes.

In the time between his first and most recent DL stint, Reyes played in 18 games, hitting only .256. From July 25 until the day he re-aggravated his hamstring injury (August 7), Reyes hit a Mario Mendoza-like .208. The multi-hit game, which had become a staple for Reyes during the first half of the season had all but vanished, as he collected three multi-hit games (never getting more than two hits in any of those games) in his final 12 games before he checked back in to the DL Hotel. Over the same time period, Reyes was held hitless five times.

Since July 19 (the day Reyes returned from his first DL stint), Braun has taken off, hitting .374 (49-for-131). In addition to challenging Reyes for a batting title that appeared to be his in early July, Braun has transformed himself into the National League's leading MVP candidate. For the season, the Hebrew Hammer has a .333/.404/.592 split. That .592 slugging percentage leads the National League, as does his .996 OPS. He also leads the league in runs scored (91) and is in the top ten in hits (160), total bases (265), doubles (33), home runs (25), RBIs (86), stolen bases (30) and extra-base hits (62). With the Brewers opening up a commanding lead in the NL Central, Braun is clearly forging his way to the top of the MVP consideration list.

Ryan Braun lets David Wright know that he's about to pass Jose Reyes in the NL batting race.

Unfortunately for Jose Reyes and the Mets, that's not the only thing Braun is forging his way to. Reyes' lead in batting race, which was once formidable, is now precarious. By the time Reyes comes back from the disabled list on Monday, he might be looking up at Ryan Braun on the batting race leaderboard rather than looking for him in his rear view mirror.

The Mets have never had a batting champion in their history. If Reyes is going to become the first player to do so, he's going to have to earn it, as Ryan Braun appears to be slump-proof. With the Mets out of postseason contention, a batting title for Reyes is all the fans have to cheer for over the final month of games at Citi Field. It's time for Jose Reyes to come back off the DL, stay off it for the rest of the season and become the multi-hit machine he was in the first half of the season. It might be the only way for him to keep Braun at bay and claim that long overdue first Mets batting title.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Historically Speaking, August Blows For The Mets

As we nervously anticipate the arrival of Hurricane Irene to the tri-state area, hoping not to be blown away by the strong wind gusts expected, we figured it would be appropriate to discuss another "gust", or rather, the month of Au-"gust".

The Mets have reached the postseason seven times in their half-century of existence, but there have been many other times when the Mets had playoff aspirations entering the month of August. Once August began, however, the Mets buckled under the pressure and were blown back from contention to detention. Let's look back at the Mets' history in the month of August to see just how many times the dog days have bitten the Mets' postseason hopes.

Ex-Met Brian Schneider knows a thing or two about things blowing around the ballpark, such as playoff hopes.

Since moving into Citi Field in 2009, the Mets have done fairly well in the first half of the season. They were in first place in 2009 going into the Memorial Day weekend. In 2010, the Mets led the wild card race as late as July. This year, the Mets were sparking talks of competing for the wild card after the All-Star Break as well.

Then August happened.

In Citi Field's inaugural season, the Mets were 10-19 in the month of August. They improved in 2010, although not much, going 12-16 as they were outscored 114-79 in the month. This year, the Mets are bringing August ineptitude to new depths, as they have only won six of 21 games in the month, with four of those wins coming against the last place San Diego Padres.

Quick math tells us that since moving into Citi Field, the Mets are 28-50 in all games played in August. Prior to August, the Mets were a combined 157-157 since 2009. Their .500 record wasn't great, but it was far better than the .359 combined winning percentage over the past three Augusts, which effectively took them out of legitimate contention.

It's not just the last three seasons in which the Mets have played like natural disasters in the month of August. When the Mets collapsed in 2007, they went 15-13 in the month of August, which was only one game better than their September mark that year (14-14). Fans who want to blame the Mets for their play over the final 17 games of the season could like at the seeds being planted in the month of August, when the Mets were swept out of Citizens Bank Park by the Phillies from August 27-30.

The 2004 Mets were only eight games out of first place at the end of July and even closer to the wild card lead, prompting then-GM Jim Duquette to make two separate trades for Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson. All they needed to give up was Scott Kazmir (who went on to win 55 games in five years for Tampa Bay), Ty Wigginton (who's posted four 20+ HR seasons and can play second base, a position the Mets could use some help with) and Jose Bautista (who led the major leagues in home runs last year and is doing the same this year).

So how did the Mets respond to those trades? They went from eight games out of first to 17 games out after their 11-17 August.

Just two years earlier, the 2002 Mets went 6-21 in the month of August, losing 12 straight games at one point, which dropped them from second place in the NL East to the basement.

The 1997 Mets weren't supposed to compete for a postseason berth after their 71-91 campaign the year before, but compete they did. Unfortunately, they saved their worst month of the season for August, going 13-16 in the month, allowing the Marlins to pass them in the standings to clinch the wild card. The Marlins went on to win the World Series that year.

Prior to 1997, the Mets had suffered through six consecutive losing seasons. But the first of those six sub-.500 campaigns did not start out that way. That is, until August came around. The 1991 Mets were in second place in the six-team NL East with a 55-45 record going into the month of August. They then went 8-21 in August, en route to their first losing season since 1983.

I could go on and on with more examples (the 1980 and 1982 Mets were surprisingly in contention at the All-Star Break before an 11-20 August brought them back to Earth in 1980 and a putrid 5-24 August produced the same result two years later), but there's a hurricane we have to prepare for.

So there will be no mentions of the 1972 Mets (who went 11-17 in August after starting the month with a 52-41 record), the 1970 Mets (who lost 18 of 31 games in August after producing winning records in each month from April to July) or the 1966 Mets (the first team NOT to lose 100 games, although you wouldn't have known it from their 11-21 record in August).

Hurricane Irene may be headed to Citi Field, but even the expected high wind gusts can't compare with all the blowing that's been going on in the month of August for the Mets over their history. A hurricane like this comes once every 50 years. Too bad the same can't be said for the Mets in August over the same time period.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Well, That Stinks - Angel Pagan Has Colitis

Were you present at the Mets-Phillies game last night in Philadelphia? If so, did you look behind you because you smelled something funny during the game? Apparently, the Mets' performance at Citizens Bank Park wasn't the only thing that turned up a few noses.

According to a tweet by Adam Rubin, Mets' centerfielder Angel Pagan has colitis and has had the condition since 2004. This was the reason for his early departure from last night's game (originally his exit was said to be due to a stomach virus), a game in which the Mets suffered a 10-0 defeat at the hands of the Phillies.

For those who don't know medical terms or didn't watch Doogie Howser, M.D. back in the day, colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine or colon. It's symptoms can include constant bowel movements, dehydration and (ahem) really bad gas. (That's not an attempt at potty humor; it's absolutely true.)

Pagan has taken pills for the condition and was even placed on the disabled list because of it in 2007 while he was a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Although the condition can be uncomfortable and occasionally embarrassing, Pagan will still be in tonight's starting lineup, batting leadoff for the Mets as they try to even up the series in Philadelphia.

For the past three seasons, Angel Pagan has been running like the wind, catching fly ball after fly ball in center field for the Mets. Since 2004, that's not the only thing he's been doing with the wind, as he's been breaking it as well because of his affliction with colitis.

All jokes aside, colitis is something Pagan will have to deal with for the rest of his life. Hopefully, with continued use of his medication, he will not be affected the way he was last night and will continue to produce for the Mets in the way he has been over the past few weeks. It would really stink if last night repeated itself.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mets Pitchers Can Help Jose Reyes Win A Batting Title

Jose Reyes has been on the disabled list for a week and a half now, his batting average frozen at .336 since injuring his hamstring on August 7. Despite this being his second trip to the DL, he has managed to maintain his lead in the National League batting race, although he is facing fierce competition from Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who is hitting .329 entering tonight's series opener at Citi Field.

The Mets have never had a batting champion in their first 49 seasons. John Olerud had the highest single season batting average for the Mets, hitting .354 in 1998, but he finished second to Colorado's Larry Walker (.363) in the batting race. Cleon Jones and Dave Magadan also came close, but fell just short of the crown. Jones hit .340 in 1969, finishing third behind Pete Rose (.348) and Roberto Clemente (.345). Magadan hit .328 in 1990, also finishing third in the NL batting race behind Willie McGee (.335) and Eddie Murray (.330).

So with Reyes clinging tenaciously to his slim NL batting lead, his teammates might be able to help him out this weekend. Ryan Braun, who has hit .375 (48-for-128) over his last 34 games, dating back to June 29, will be facing Mets pitching this weekend. If Mike Pelfrey, Chris Capuano and the Tweeter-rific R.A. Dickey can shut Braun down over the next three games, Reyes will increase his chances of becoming the first Met to win a batting title.

Braun is probably licking his lips with the knowledge that he's facing Mike Pelfrey tonight. Over his five year career, he is hitting .500 (3-for-6) against Pelfrey. (Then again, who isn't hitting .500 against Big Pelf?). However, he has yet to collect a hit against Capuano (0-for-3, 2 strikeouts) and Dickey (0-for-7). Against all Mets pitchers currently on the roster, Braun is hitting .245 over his career with only one home run in 56 plate appearances. The Mets will need to continue this trend against Braun if Reyes is to maintain his lead in the batting race before he comes off the DL.

Note: For a player to qualify for the batting title, he needs to accumulate 3.1 plate appearances for every game played by his team. Therefore, if the Mets play all 162 games this year (barring any rainouts not made up), Reyes would need 502 plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. At the time of his injury, Reyes had accumulated 462 plate appearances, leaving him 40 short of the magic number for batting title qualification, a number he should easily reach within the first week to ten days following his return from the disabled list.

Over their first half-century of existence, no Mets pitcher has ever been able to throw a no-hitter. At least if they can't pitch a no-no, they can help a fellow Met achieve something that no other Met has ever done. Holding Ryan Braun off the bases this weekend will go a long way towards making that a reality.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's A Hard Luck Life (For R.A.)

Quick! Which starting pitcher on the Mets has the lowest ERA? If you said R.A. Dickey, you'd be correct. Now if I asked you which Mets hurler of the starting five has the fewest wins, you probably wouldn't think to say Dickey's name again. But it's true, with a 5-11 record, R.A. Dickey has the fewest wins of the five pitchers in the starting rotation, one less than Mike Pelfrey's six.

R.A. Dickey is this year's hard-luck pitcher on the Mets, the man who pitches well more often than not, yet never seems to get credit for the victory. The Mets are 11-14 in Dickey's 25 starts, including Monday night's extra-inning victory over the Padres. That means the bullpen is more apt to pick up the victory in a Dickey start than Dickey himself. It's enough to make you scratch your head in disbelief.

It's okay, R.A. You may not be getting the wins on your record, but you're a winner to Mets fans.

Dickey is not the only pitcher in the majors to be having trouble earning victories despite pitching relatively well. Fellow National Leaguer Hiroki Kuroda has an 8-14 record, leading the league with his 14 losses. However, he is currently eighth in the NL with a 2.88 ERA. Kuroda has given up three earned runs or less in 19 of his 24 starts, but the Dodgers have managed to lose ten of those 19 quality starts. Incredibly, Los Angeles has scored two runs or less in exactly half of Kuroda's 24 starts, giving the 26-year-old righty little room for error.

In the American League, Doug Fister has pitched relatively well this year, splitting his time between Seattle and Detroit. After 24 starts, Fister's ERA is 3.59 and has never been higher than 3.86 at any point this year. However, Fister's won-loss record (4-13) does not seem right compared to his ERA. Like Kuroda, Fister has been highly effective in most of his starts, allowing two earned runs or less 12 times. Incredibly, his teams have lost seven of those 12 starts. Trading the Pacific Northwest for the Motown Mashers has done little to change Fister's luck, as he gave up two earned runs in his second start for Detroit on August 9, only to get a no-decision in a 3-2 loss to the Indians.

It is not uncommon for a good pitcher to suffer hard times in the won-loss column despite pitching well enough to win most of his games. It's especially not uncommon for Mets pitchers to live the hard-luck life.

In 1978, Craig Swan led the National League with a 2.43 ERA. However, Swan only managed to win nine games in 28 starts (losing six and receiving a no-decision in a whopping 13 starts). In 17 of his 28 starts, Swan left the game with the Mets in the lead (12 times) or tied (5 times). Yet, the bullpen couldn't help Swan out. Neither could his offense, as the Mets scored three runs or less in 16 of his 28 starts.

If Swan's 1978 season was enough to make you shake your head, wait till you hear about Jon Matlack's 1974 season. In that year, Matlack pitched 14 complete games (5th in the NL), threw 265.1 innings (7th), had a 2.41 ERA (3rd), recorded a 1.12 WHIP (3rd), struck out 195 batters (4th) and led the league with seven shutouts. He also made the All-Star team for the first time in his career. Sounds like a Cy Young Award candidate, doesn't it? So how many votes did Matlack receive for the National League Cy Young Award in 1974?


Perhaps it was one little stat that caused the voters to look away from Matlack at year's end. You know which one I'm talking about. In 1974, Jon Matlack's won-loss record was 13-15.

Since Matlack threw seven complete game shutouts in '74, that means more than half of his wins came in games in which he allowed no runs in nine innings of work. He basically had to be as close to perfect as possible in order to pick up a win. Of course, with the Mets scoring three runs or less in 19 of his 34 starts, it's no wonder why Matlack finished the season with a losing record.

So that brings us to R.A. Dickey. Why is Dickey allergic to victories despite leading the team in ERA for starting pitchers? It's actually a combination of three things. Dickey is being let down by his offense, the bullpen has been a little shaky, and he's been bitten by the bad luck bug.

In 26 games (25 starts), Dickey has left the game with the lead eight times (including Monday night versus the Padres). The bullpen has blown three of those leads. Dickey has also left four games with the score tied. He received no-decisions in all four starts, as the offense failed to take the lead in the next half-inning every time, thereby denying Dickey the possibility of earning the win. The Mets have also scored three runs or less in more than half of Dickey's appearances (14 times in 26 appearances), making it increasingly difficult for R.A. to chalk up the victory.

Luck also has something to do with it. In 2010, opposing hitters' BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) against Dickey was .280, well below the average number of .300. This year, Dickey's BABIP has risen to .293, which is more in line with the league average. Batters are finding more holes and placing their hits in better spots. It's all about luck with this statistic, and Dickey seems to be having nothing but the bad variety this year.

Sometimes all it takes is a clutch hit here or a solid bullpen performance there for a pitcher to rack up the victories. For R.A. Dickey in 2011, he's receiving none of that help. Baseball is a team sport. It's a shame that the team doesn't usually show up whenever R.A. Dickey is on the mound.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dickeypedia Word of The Week: Fodder

R.A. Dickey is a man who is not limited to one talent. He is a father, husband, author, pitcher, Christian, adventurer, Star Wars nerd, reader and cyclist. How do I know this? Because the man said so himself on his Twitter page. (You can add tweeter extraordinaire to his long list of credentials.)

Earlier today, I decided to send R.A. a pleasant morning greeting in 140 characters or less, while at the same time sharing a past Dickeypedia piece with the man who so lovingly named one of his bats "Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver".

Not only was he quick to respond to my tweet, but he gave me permission to continue writing Dickeypedia pieces, saying:

of course. I'll try to give you more fodder.

(You can read the entire conversation between me and R.A. Dickey by clicking here. Sorry, there was no discussion about Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver, or whether the bat used in the photo above was indeed Orcrist.)

For those who do not have a dictionary handy, I will provide you with a definition to the word that made up the last six characters of R.A.'s less than 140 character Twitter response (seven if you include the period).


  • 1. Feed for livestock, especially coarsely chopped hay or straw.
  • 2. Raw material, as for artistic creation.
  • 3. A consumable, often inferior item or resource that is in demand and usually abundant supply.

Of course, now that I have provided the link to R.A. Dickey's Twitter account, he will most likely be followed by all 4½ of our readers, a number that might grow to 5½ if the rumors are true that former Met malcontent Jeff Kent has occasionally read our work. (He claims he reads it for the pretty pictures.)

The second baseman with the mustache that should have landed him a role in "Boogie Nights" found out that Dickey was a fan of Star Wars and sent us an e-mail trying to convince us to tweet his love of the force to R.A. He seemed very pushy, especially after the tenth message. Finally, we gave in, basically as a way to prevent Kent from overloading our inbox and because we felt sorry that he had to go through life with that 'stache.

Anyway, in his effort to prove to R.A. that he was a big fan of his knuckler and the Star Wars films (I won't mention that he claimed his favorite character was Jar Jar Binks to spare him the embarrassment), he wanted me to pass along his favorite Star Wars quote to the Mets' hurler. Take it away, Jeff!

"Hey, R.A.! Remember that famous line in 'The Empire Strikes Back' when Darth Vader said "Luke, I am your fodder"? Remember that? That was awesome. Okay, bye!"

Sigh. Not only does Jeff Kent not know any of the proper definitions of the word "fodder" (or the reason why Mets fans disliked him so much), he even misquoted the line from the climactic scene in Episode V.

Any real Star Wars fan would know that Darth Vader said "no, I am your father" to Luke Skywalker after Luke was led to believe by Obi Wan Kenobi that Vader was his father's murderer.

Now of course, Kent might actually have said "father" instead of "fodder". It was actually tough to tell because he refused to take that bubble gum out of his mouth. However, there was no mistaking the fact that he clearly did not know his Star Wars trivia. For all we know, Kent didn't know the difference between the Imperial March and the Ides of March.

Et tu, Darth Vader?

It's a good thing we have R.A. Dickey around, who is not only capable of weeding out fake fans such as Jeff Kent (who's probably just a disgruntled Trekkie), but is also supportive of the Dickeypedia Word of the Week.

It's guys like R.A. who make it easy for bloggers such as myself to provide fodder for our 4½ readers!

You can follow Studious Metsimus on Twitter here: @Studi_Metsimus
You can follow R.A. Dickey on Twitter here: @RADickey43

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Duda Mets Give Lucas An Everyday Job In 2012?

Prior to 2010, Lucas Duda was a fringe prospect. From 2007-2009, Duda played in a total of 310 minor league games and combined to hit .277 with 24 HR and 151 RBI in 1,112 at-bats. Despite the relatively low amount of home runs and the so-so batting average, Duda showed a good eye at the plate, drawing 161 walks over the three seasons to give him a .374 on-base percentage.

That all changed in 2010, when Duda exploded upon the scene. He combined to hit .304 for AA-Binghamton and AAA-Buffalo, with 23 HR and 87 RBI. He improved his on-base percentage to .398, while slugging at a .569 clip.

Upon his promotion to the major leagues, Duda's production suffered, as he had difficulty adjusting to major league pitching, hitting .202/.261/.417 in 92 plate appearances. He did, however, continue to hit with power (when he did hit), picking up six doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI.

Duda began the 2011 season at the major league level but continued to disappoint at the plate, hitting a measly .100 and slugging a paltry .150 over his first month with the Mets. He was then sent back down to Buffalo and rediscovered his stroke, mashing minor league pitching while displaying a keen eye (.302/.414/.597 in 157 plate appearances).

But once July rolled around and the trade deadline approached, it became obvious that Carlos Beltran was going to be traded, opening up a spot for Lucas Duda to play every day, an opportunity that Duda has taken full advantage of.

Lucas Duda should be at the center of more celebrations for the Mets in 2012 and beyond.

Since the All-Star Break, Duda has played in 30 games (24 starts). In 95 plate appearances, Duda's batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.426) and slugging percentage (.577) have all improved exponentially. He has also made excellent contact while continuing to be selective at the plate (12 strikeouts, 12 walks).

Most importantly, Duda has taken Carlos Beltran's place in the batting order and has produced Beltran-like numbers. At the same time, Beltran has struggled in San Francisco, producing a .244/.261/.356 line in 11 games for the Giants. He has failed to hit a home run and has only driven in a pair of runs, after leading the Mets with 15 HR and 66 RBI. The injury bug that he escaped in New York in 2011 caught up with him in San Francisco, as a hand injury has kept Beltran out of the lineup for the past week.

The right field position has been like a game of musical chairs for the Mets since Darryl Strawberry left the team following the 1990 season. In the two decades since Darryl's departure, no Met has played more than 290 games in right field (Jeromy Burnitz has the honor of most games played in right since 1990). In fact, although third base used to be considered the revolving door of positions for the Mets, with 145 different players manning the hot corner, it's right field that has seen the most players. Including the 2011 season, a total of 205 men have played the position for the Mets, with seven of them doing it this year alone (Beltran, Duda, Jason Pridie, Scott Hairston, Mike Baxter, Willie Harris, Fernando Martinez and Nick Evans).

Lucas Duda is only 25 years old. He is just beginning to spread his wings in the major leagues. He hits with power, doesn't strike out much and knows how to take a walk. In other words, he is exactly the type of player Sandy Alderson likes (and that's not even including his low salary).

The Mets haven't had stability in right field in over two decades. Why not give Lucas Duda a shot to make the position his own? Ike Davis will be back at first base in 2012 (he is coming back, right?), leaving right field as the only position available for Duda to play. Duda has filled the hole in the batting order left by the departure of Beltran exceptionally well. Now it's time for him to fill the hole in right field as well.

"Now starting in right field for the New York Mets - Lucas Duda." Get used to it, Mets fans. You should be hearing plenty of that at Citi Field in 2012 and beyond.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Lesson In Mediocrity: The New York Mets Over The Years

It's a slow news day on the Mets front, so I decided to see if I could find something of interest to write about. I didn't want it to be boring, but I couldn't think of anything exciting to write about either. Basically, I was left with writing something mediocre. And that's when it hit me like an off-kilter slider by Jesse Orosco (47-47 as a Met) or a wayward fastball by Oliver Perez (29-29 as a Met).

This year's Mets team, especially since the All-Star Break, has been hovering at or around the break-even point. A .500 team is usually the definition of mediocrity. So are the 2011 Mets the most mediocre team in Mets history?

Don't worry, Mr. Met. Every team wins some and loses some. Of course, the Mets are experts at both.

The Mets were so bad in their first few seasons that they didn't reach the .500 mark for the first time until their fifth season. Compare that to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the World Series in only their fourth season of existence. And it's not like the Mets reached the .500 mark late in the season. They reached .500 exactly twice in 1966, when they were 1-1 and 2-2. (Their first above-.500 mark came after three games, when they were 2-1.)

The following year, the Mets once again reached the .500 mark exactly twice, registering a 1-1 record after the first two games of 1967 and a 4-4 mark after eight games.

The Mets showed "progress" in 1968, the first year of Gil Hodges' much-too-short tenure as Mets manager, reaching the .500 mark three times. Unfortunately, all three times occurred within the first six games of the season, when the Mets were 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3.

That all changed in 1969.

In that miraculous season, the Mets continued their early season .500 trend, going 1-1 and 2-2. They also went above .500 for only the second time in team history, when they were 2-1 after three games. But this time, they decided that mediocrity in April wasn't good enough. On May 21, the Mets reached the .500 mark for the first time after the sixth game of the season, when they improved to 18-18. They reached .500 again ten games later (23-23), then went above .500 to stay on June 3, remaining above the break-even point all the way to the World Series championship.

Unfortunately, the Mets returned to a life of mediocrity in the 1970s, never more so than the early part of the 1970 season, when the Mets reached the .500 mark 13 times in the first 28 games. In fact, the Mets were a .500 team after every even-numbered game of the first 28 contests except after Game 20. (They were 11-9 after 20 games, but were 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, all the way up to 13-13 and 14-14.) Overall, the Mets reached the .500 mark on 20 separate occasions in 1970.

That trend continued throughout the disco decade, as the Mets reached .500 seven times in 1971, twice in 1972, six times in their pennant-winning 1973 season, twice in 1974, seven times in 1975 and 15 times in 1976. Then came the Dark Ages (no, not the continued growth of disco).

From 1977-1983, the Mets reached the .500 mark a total of 28 times, with a high of eight during the strike-shortened 1981 season. (Note: The Mets were .500 on three separate occasions during the first half of the '81 season. When they returned from the strike, it was decided by Major League Baseball that each team would play a split season, meaning that every team would begin at 0-0 once play resumed. During the second half of the '81 season, the Mets reached the .500 mark five more times, giving them a total of eight for the entire season.) Other than 1981, no Mets team over a full season reached .500 more than five times during those post-Midnight Massacre campaigns.

Not including the wacky 1981 split season, the only time the Mets climbed their way up to .500 after the All-Star Break was in 1980, when the magic came back at 42-42 and 43-43. However, the team lost their next game on both occasions when they made it to .500.

From 1984-1990, the Mets finished with winning records every year, not stopping for long at the .500 mark in any of those campaigns. Over those seven seasons, the Mets were a .500 team on 29 occasions, and were never at or below .500 after June 13 in any of those seasons. (They were 30-30 on June 13, 1989 and 28-28 after the first game of a doubleheader on June 13, 1990.) Also, the Mets were above .500 throughout the entire 1985 season, which marked the first time since 1965 that they never had a .500 record after any game and the first time ever that they had a winning record after every game.

The next six seasons (1991-1996) were lean years for the Mets, as they finished below .500 every year. In 1991, the Mets resembled the 1985 team, staying above .500 for most of the season. That changed on August 15, when the team dropped to .500 (57-57) for the first time all year. That would be the only time the Mets were at .500 all season, as they lost their next game to drop to 57-58 and never climbed back to the break-even mark.

That trend continued in 1992 (six times at .500, reaching the mark for the final time at 48-48), 1993 (five times at .500, but not after they were 8-8), 1994 (11 times at .500, all in the first 52 games), 1995 (only reached .500 once, at 2-2) and 1996 (reached .500 twice, but only at 1-1 and 2-2).

In 1997, the Mets experienced another renaissance. After hitting the .500 mark for the second time on May 16, the Mets didn't drop below .500 again until 1999. They were at .500 on three occasions during the 1998 season but always won the following game. The 1999 Mets were exactly a .500 team on four occasions, while the 2000 Mets were at .500 on six occasions on the way to their fourth National League pennant. The 2001 squad spent most of the season below .500 before finishing barely above the mark, stopping at .500 three times along the way.

The 2002 Mets tied the 1970 team by being at .500 on 20 separate occasions. Unfortunately, the 20th time they hit .500 was during their season-changing 12-game losing streak in August. The following year, the Mets reached .500 four times in their first eight games, but dropped below .500 after their ninth game and did not return to the break-even point again in 2003. For the first half of the 2004 season, the Mets flirted with .500 many times, hitting the mark 16 times, before an 11-game losing streak late in the season ended all chances of reaching it for a 17th time.

In 2005, the Mets brought in manager Willie Randolph to guide the New Mets of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. That team reached new non-heights and non-depths in mediocrity, breaking the 35-year-old franchise record for most times at .500, achieving that so-so feat before the All-Star Break. When the Mets won their final game before the Midsummer Classic to improve to 44-44, it marked the 21st time they found themselves at exactly .500. At year's end, the Mets found themselves one exit north of mediocrity, four games over .500 at 83-79, but not before hitting the mark 27 times during the regular season.

The 2006 Mets were 1-1 after two games. After improving to 2-1 the next day, the Mets didn't see the .500 mark again until the second game of the 2008 season, when once again, the Mets stood at 1-1. The 2007 team become the second squad in franchise history to have a winning record after every game, tying the mark set by the 1985 Mets. The 2008 team spent so much time around .500 (14 times) that ownership felt Jerry Manuel would do a better job than Willie Randolph. Of course, Manuel didn't do as well in 2009 and 2010. The 2009 team spent most of the season below .500 (hitting the .500 mark seven times), while the 2010 model was the second-most mediocre Mets team of all-time, reaching .500 on 23 separate occasions.

That brings us to the 2011 Mets.

The Mets lost the final game of their four-game series to the Padres today, dropping them to 58-59. Entering the game, the Mets' record stood at 58-58. It was the 17th time this year the Mets found themselves at .500. Only four other Mets teams have been at the .500 mark more times during the regular season than the 2011 team (1970, 2002, 2005 and 2010).

This year's Mets stand a good chance to break the 2005 team's record for mediocrity in a single season (27 times at .500). Despite the Mets' recent ability to excel in mediocrity, no Mets team has ever finished at exactly .500 (81-81). The 1975 and 2001 Mets came closest to accomplishing the feat, with both teams finishing their respective seasons with identical 82-80 records. Only the 1975 team went into the final game with a chance to finish at exactly .500. (They entered the season finale with an 81-80 record, but won their final game to avoid the .500 mark.)

Some teams underachieved on their way to mediocrity (see the 2001 Mets), while others rode their mediocrity all the way to the World Series ("Ya Gotta Believe" that I'm talking about the 1973 Mets). The 2011 Mets are somewhere between those teams (which I guess makes them the most mediocre of the mediocre teams), with role players playing above their heads filling in for the injury-plagued starters, while other players have performed below expectations (Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey, to name a few).

For 50 seasons, the Mets have experienced extended periods of success, while also going through various periods of disappointment. The 2011 Mets don't really fall into either category. With 11 more games at the .500 mark, they will officially become the most mediocre Mets team of all-time. But if you've seen this team day in and day out this season, you probably knew that already.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fish Food

The date was September 18, 2006. The place was Shea Stadium. Josh Willingham hit a Billy Wagner offering to left field, where Cliff Floyd squeezed it for the final out of the game. The Mets had just shut out the Florida Marlins to win their first division title since 1988 and they were dancing on the field while the hapless Marlins watched.

Since that memorable night, the Mets haven't had much to celebrate when playing the Marlins. In fact, it's been the exact opposite.

Do you think the Marlins say "nom, nom, nom" when they see the Mets on the schedule?

In 2007 and 2008, the Mets faced the Marlins during the final weekend of the regular season, each time with a postseason berth at stake. New York had great pitching performances by John Maine in 2007 and Johan Santana in 2008, but they lost the other four games in each season-ending series, falling a game short of the playoffs both times.

Their late-season failures against the Marlins carried over into the following seasons, as the Mets went 7-11 versus the Fish in 2009 and 6-12 against them in 2010. Now, after dropping the first two games of their latest series with Florida in excruciating fashion, the Mets are 3-7 in 2011 against their division rivals.

Excruciating is the perfect word to describe the Mets' performances against the Marlins over the past five seasons. It's one thing to be blown out by a team. It's another thing to drop so many games to the same team in close fashion.

Yeah, this celebration took place against the Mets.

Since dropping the final game ever played at Shea Stadium to the Marlins, the Mets have played 47 games against the Fish. Their record in those games is 16-31. Of the 47 games, 28 of them have been decided by two runs or less. The Mets have claimed victory in only nine of those 28 contests.

Let's put it this way. Since the Shea Goodbye game, the Marlins' overall record is 223-212 (.513 winning percentage). They're 31-16 against the Mets (.660 win pct.) and 192-196 against everyone else (.495 win pct.).

The Mets are the main reason why the Marlins have been "winners" over their last 400-plus games. The Marlins were also instrumental in preventing the Mets from being winners in 2007 and 2008.

Face it. Until the Mets can figure out how to beat the Marlins, they will continue to be fish food for them. It's a reality that becomes harder to swallow with each tough loss.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Whole Team Is To Blame, Not Just Daniel Murphy

Earlier today, Joey Beartran posted a piece on Daniel Murphy and his recent lapses in judgment. In the piece, Joey seemed to blame Murphy for the recent losses by the Mets. As much as I support my colleague and the topics he chooses to discuss, I must say that he's just a little nuts for tagging Murphy with the blame.

How can he say that Daniel Murphy's two moments of "brain freeze" were responsible for the losses? Sure, they came at inopportune moments, but let's look at a few other things that occurred in the last two games.

On Sunday, both Willie Harris and Jose Reyes were thrown out attempting to steal. Harris also hit a foul pop-up on a bunt attempt that was reeled in by Nationals' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. In the sixth inning, the Mets had two runners in scoring position. With starting pitcher Jordan Zimmeran approaching 100 pitches and not needing to throw a strike (first base was open), both Angel Pagan and Jason Bay struck out.

Notice that Daniel Murphy's name was not mentioned in the above paragraph. Now let's move on to Monday night's game.

Jose Reyes was thrown out at home by a country mile when he attempted to score on a single to right by Justin Turner. The Mets put runners on base in each of the first five innings against Marlins' starter Javier Vazquez and scored only one run (an opposite field home run by Jason Bay).

Again, do you see Murphy's name mentioned above? Exactly. You didn't.

Do you want to see the most glaring stat from the Mets' recent three-game losing streak, or should I say, the most MISSING stat? Let's review the batting averages and on-base percentages for a bunch of Mets players to see if you can catch what I'm getting at. (Players are listed alphabetically):

  • Jason Bay: .333/.333
  • Lucas Duda: .100/.100
  • Willie Harris: .167/.167
  • Angel Pagan: .083/.083
  • Jose Reyes: .231/.231
  • Josh Thole: .286/.286
  • Justin Turner: .111/.111

So do you see anything interesting up there? That's right. Each player's on-base percentage is the same as his batting average. I'll translate that into English for you.


Over the past three games, the Mets have drawn only three walks, with David Wright taking his base twice and Jonathon Niese showing his teammates how it's done. In case you haven't noticed, the Mets have been leading the National League in walks all year, averaging nearly four free passes per game. They're still leading the league with 384 walks, but Colorado (381) and St. Louis (379) are within striking distance.

The Mets don't hit many home runs (even though they've scored all of their runs in the last two games via the home run), so the walk is very important to their offense. When the Mets have had big innings this year, they've been more likely to do it with a walk or two than with the three-run homer.

So Joey, you can blame Daniel Murphy all you want. But looking at him as the scapegoat for the Mets' recent losing streak is just masking the real problem, which is the rest of the team. The things they were doing right before Saturday have not been seen over the past three games. When they remember how they got to where they are, perhaps the streak will end. Until then, blaming Daniel Murphy will not prove anything. It'll take the whole team to get out of this poorly timed slump.

Joey's Soapbox: On Daniel Murphy And Brain Freeze

Brain freeze. It's what happens when a person ingests cold foods or drinks too quickly, causing a shooting pain in the head (or the brain, if you will). Occasionally, the sharp pain can cause a momentary lapse of judgment, as the brain recovers from the unexpected sensory overload.

As you can see in the photo to the left, I always prepare for the possibility of getting brain freeze by wearing the hood of my Mets hoodie. That way I can have my ice cream and eat it, too, without worrying that my brain will freeze up at the most inopportune moment.

Preparation is key to preventing lapses in judgment. Without it, a person can place himself and those around him in precarious situations. On that note, I have a question to ask you, my fellow Mets fans. Do you think Daniel Murphy has been eating too much ice cream without wearing his hoodie?

My name is Joey Beartran and I'm about to get on my soapbox.

Daniel Murphy has been a hitting machine this year. He's among the league leaders in batting average, hits and doubles. Unfortunately, at times that machine has left the dugout without being properly oiled. Consider the following instances, which occurred in each of the last two games.

On Sunday, the Mets were involved in a scoreless game when they loaded the bases against Nationals' pitcher Jordan Zimmermannnnnn. (I always forget how many "N"s there are in his name.) David Wright lifted a short fly ball to overpaid rightfielder Jayson Werth, who naturally threw home to prevent Jonathon Niese from tagging up at third base.

Daniel Murphy was the runner on first at the time. Instead of looking at the runners in front of him or picking up his coach (since that's what they're there for), Murphy ran towards second base with his head down all the way. Naturally, Werth's throw was intercepted by the cutoff man, who ran Murphy back towards first before throwing the ball to second baseman Danny Espinosa, who tagged Murphy out before he could retreat safely. The brain freeze ended the scoring threat and the inning in a game the Mets would eventually lose by one run.

The very next day, Murphy committed an more egregious error, given the circumstances and inning of the game. After the Mets rallied to tie the Marlins on a two-out, two-run homer by Lucas (Howdy) Duda in the bottom of the ninth, Florida put two men on base against Jason Isringhausen in the top of the tenth.

Dewayne Wise then collected the Marlins' third consecutive hit, stroking a single to right field. The lead runner was held at third base, but Wise decided he was going to run towards second, similar to the play Murphy botched the day before. By all rights, Wise should have been a dead duck between first and second. There was only one problem. Lucas Duda's throw was cut off by Daniel Murphy.

Daniel Murphy's Law:

"Anything that can go wrong, will be done by Daniel Murphy."

Murphy took the cutoff throw from Duda, then ran with the ball in his hand towards Wise. For a split second, he took his eyes off Wise to check if the runner on third was breaking for home. In that split second, Wise dashed back to first, beating the tag by second baseman Justin Turner, as Murphy tossed a soft backhanded throw in a failed attempt to get Wise.

The next batter, Mike Stanton, crushed a grand slam, sending the fans to the exits and the Mets to their third consecutive defeat. Had Murphy been able to retire Wise, as 99% of cutoff men in that situation would, there would have been two outs, first base would have been open, and perhaps the Mets would have intentionally walked Stanton. Instead, Murphy's brain freeze cost the Mets another tight ballgame.

It's great that Daniel Murphy is hitting the tar off the ball. His bat has kept the Mets in games that he hasn't managed to blow with his baserunning and defense. However, a major league baseball player should excel not only in the physical part of the game, but in the mental aspect as well.

Daniel Murphy, as physically talented as he is, needs to use his brain in situations that don't require his bat. Brain freeze might be acceptable when a person is eating ice cream, but is unacceptable what that person is standing between the foul lines. A hot bat will never make up for a cold brain.