Saturday, June 30, 2012

No June Swoon For The Mets' Starting Pitchers

(Photo by William Perlman/The Star-Ledger)

The month of June was very good to the Mets, but it was especially good to the starting rotation.  The quintet of R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Chris Young started all but one game for the Mets in June (Jeremy Hefner made a spot start on June 7) and pitched brilliantly.

June began with the most memorable pitching performance in Mets' history - a moment that was 50 years in the making - when Johan Santana tossed the first no-hitter in team history.  Santana wasn't the only pitcher to make history for the Mets in June, as R.A. Dickey became the first player to pitch back-to-back one-hitters since Dave Stieb accomplished the feat for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1988.

But the rotation wasn't just Dickey, Santana and pray for rain mañana.  The other three starters also pitched effectively throughout the month.  Here are the monthly stats for Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Chris Young, who each made five starts for the Mets in June.

  • Jonathon Niese: 3-1, 1.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 34 K, 5 BB
  • Dillon Gee: 1-3, 3.90 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 32 K, 10 BB
  • Chris Young: 2-1, 3.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 18 K, 8 BB

Niese, Gee and Young combined to go 6-5 with a 3.01 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 84 strikeouts and only 23 walks in their 15 June starts.  Those numbers are very good for a team's Nos. 3 through 5 starters, but when the top two starters in the rotation are R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, they make for a dynamic starting staff.  Consider what Dickey and Santana - who each made six starts during the month - did for the Mets in June.

  • R.A. Dickey: 5-0, 0.93 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 55 K, 8 BB
  • Johan Santana: 4-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 33 K, 17 BB

Let's take things a little further, looking at how opposing hitters fared against each member of the rotation.  We'll consider the opposing hitters' batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage against each member of the Mets' starting staff.

  • R.A. Dickey: .131 BAA (21-for-160), .181 OBP, .169 SLG
  • Johan Santana: .180 BAA (25-for-139), .269 OBP, .345 SLG
  • Jonathon Niese: .271 BAA (35-for-129), .309 OBP, .388 SLG
  • Dillon Gee: .230 BAA (28-for-122), .304 OBP, .369 SLG
  • Chris Young: .281 BAA (34-for-121), .323 OBP, .388 SLG

In the month of June, opposing hitters collected 671 at-bats against the Mets' starting quintet, which is approximately the same number of at-bats a regular player collects over a full 162-game season.  In those at-bats, they hit a combined .213 (143-for-671), reaching base at a .272 clip, while slugging a paltry .323.  That .213/.272/.323 line is comparable to what Henry Blanco did in his one season in New York (.215/.271/.300 in 2010).  Basically, the Mets' starting five has turned the opposition into a lineup full of Hank Whites.

July is about to begin for the Mets, to be followed shortly thereafter by the dog days of August.  But if June was any indication of what the starting rotation is capable of, then the summer of 2012 might become one of the hottest on record in New York, not because of the outside temperatures, but because of the heat being delivered from the starting staff that calls Citi Field home.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Frank Frank Goes On The DL DL

Don't count your chickens before they hatch, Mets fans.  Or else you might end up with egg on your face.  Just ask Frank Francisco, who has just been placed on the 15-day disabled list, according to the Mets' official Twitter account.

Francisco will be eligible to come off the disabled list on July 8, the last day before the All-Star Break.

The oblique injury has been an epidemic in the Mets clubhouse this year, as several players missed time during spring training with the injury.  However, all of the players afflicted with the injury were able to come back relatively quickly and were able to play without further pain or discomfort.

It's a shame that Francisco will now have to miss at least 15 days.  Although he is still not a lights-out closer, he has been far more effective over his last 14 appearances.  Since May 17, Frank Frank has saved nine games in ten chances and has held the opposition scoreless in 12 of those 14 appearances.  He also has a 1.26 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .182 batting average and .262 on-base percentage over that time period.

In related news, Little Jerry Seinfeld finally has a home.  Little Jerry, the chicken brought to the Mets clubhouse by reliever Tim Byrdak, has been adopted by the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, where he will live in a peaceful and media-free environment.

At least that's one chicken story that had a happy ending.

Hakuna Tejada! What A Wonderful Day!

Rejoice, all you Ruben Tejada lovers!  Your beloved shortstop is back!

The Mets' Opening Day shortstop has been activated from the disabled list (as was relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez) after being sidelined for the past seven weeks with a thigh injury.  Infielder Jordany Valdespin will be leaving 'Spin Citi to return to AAA-Buffalo to make room for Tejada on the active roster.

Tejada will be the starting shortstop and will bat second in tonight's rubber match against the Yankees, according to the Mets' official Twitter account.

Since Tejada was injured on May 6, the Mets have started four different players at shortstop, with Omar Quintanilla (21 games), Ronny Cedeño (16 games), Justin Turner (6 games) and the recently-demoted Jordany Valdespin (1 game) all taking turns keeping the position warm for Tejada's eventual return.

That return will come tonight.  Prior to his injury, Tejada was hitting .305 with ten doubles in 27 games, all while playing a smooth shortstop (only two errors in 111 chances).  Sabermetricians will also be quick to point out that Tejada is one of only two Mets this year (David Wright is the other) to rank in the team's top five in offensive WAR (0.9, 4th on the team) and defensive WAR (0.3, 3rd on the team).  For those not into the advanced metrics, that's pretty darn good.

Hakuna Tejada!  Ruben is back, well-rested and (hopefully) fully recovered from his thigh injury and embarrassing face plant that kept him on the sidelines since early May.  His presence in the lineup and on the field can only help the Mets as they try to continue their improbable run to the top of the division.

Decisions, Decisions: Jon Rauch Has Plenty of Them

On Saturday night, Jon Rauch allowed a go-ahead home run to pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.  Since the Mets failed to tie the game after Chavez's opposite-field shot, Rauch was saddled with the loss, his seventh of the not-yet-half-completed season.  He is on pace to lose 15 games, a staggering number for a starting pitcher, let alone a reliever.

Although it is not uncommon for a reliever to rack up wins and losses, Rauch is on track to do some things that have never happened in Mets history, and it has everything to do with decisions, decisions, and more decisions.

Jon Rauch currently has seven losses on the season.  If Rauch were to reach double digits in losses, he would become the first Met since Greg McMichael in 1997 to do so.  McMichael went 7-10 for the '97 Mets, with all 73 of his appearances coming in relief.

Rauch does not just lose games.  He has also been on the winning end on three occasions.  His ten decisions put him on track to finish the campaign with over 20 combined wins and losses.  Only three Mets relievers have ever racked up a minimum of 20 decisions.  Skip Lockwood became the first Met to do so in 1978 when he went 7-13 in 57 relief appearances.  In 1983, Jesse Orosco joined Lockwood by going 13-7 in 62 relief appearances.  Finally, in 1986, Roger McDowell set the franchise record for wins (14) and decisions (23) for a relief pitcher when he went 14-9 in 75 appearances.

With his seven defeats, Jon Rauch is currently the team leader in losses.  Only twice in the Mets' 50-year history has a relief pitcher led the team in losses.  As detailed in the previous paragraph, Roger McDowell lost nine games for the Mets in 1986.  That was enough to lead the eventual World Series champions in losses that year, as starting pitcher Rick Aguilera was second on the team with seven defeats.  One year later, Jesse Orosco duplicated McDowell's feat.  In 1987, Orosco went 3-9 for a team that had none of its starters lose more than eight games (Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez both finished the season with identical 12-8 records).  Not since Orosco a quarter century ago has a reliever led the team in losses.  Jon Rauch has two more losses than starting pitcher Dillon Gee (5-5).  No other Met has more than three losses in 2012.

Jon Rauch is already in the Mets' record books for tallest player in team history.  But at his current pace, he might etch his name in those books in a few other categories.  Should he lose 14 games in relief, he would surpass Skip Lockwood's total from 1978 by one.  He could also become the fourth Met reliever to be credited with 20 decisions in a single season and the third Met to lead the team in losses out of the bullpen.

Fortunately for Rauch, all three relievers he would join or erase from the record books (Lockwood, McDowell, Orosco) were beloved Mets - players who were good enough to be nominated for best left-handed and right-handed relief pitchers on the recent all-time Mets team.  But surely Rauch would trade in those potential spots in the team's record books for more consistent pitching.  After a brilliant start to the season (no runs allowed in his first 11 appearances), Rauch has allowed the opponent to score in ten of his last 22 appearances, earning the loss in all but three of those ten games.

Jon Rauch is a very good pitcher.  But he can be better.  If he continues to pile up decisions, especially in the 'L' column, then Terry Collins might have to make a few decisions of his own when it comes to bringing in Rauch to pitch in a tight game or calling upon another member of the Mets bullpen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Frank Francisco Doesn't Choke Anything But Chickens

After providing bulletin board material earlier today, Frank Perdue, I mean Frank Francisco, plucked the competition in the first game of the Subway Series, helping preserve the Mets' 6-4 win over their crosstown rivals.

After a nearly one hour rain delay prior to the first pitch, the Mets kept the thunder rolling, scoring five runs off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte.  The big blow came off the bat of Ike Davis, who used Nick Swisher's glove to his advantage.  The Yankee loudmouth helped push Davis' high fly ball over the right field wall for a three-run homer, giving the Mets the big early lead.

As is what usually happens with the Yankees, the Bronx Bummers chipped away at the Mets' lead with three home runs.  All four of their runs scored on longballs.  Solo shots by Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones, followed by a two-run blast by Robinson Cano, cut the Mets' lead to 6-4.  That set the stage for Francisco to come into the game in the ninth.

Russell Martin, whose cheap Yankee Stadium home run helped defeat the Mets two weeks ago, sent another ball deep into the night.  But this time, the venue was different and Andres Torres was able to track the long fly ball down, flopping to the ground as he caught it in center field, Lenny Dykstra style.

Then Frank Squared allowed a couple of chickens to cross the road, walking Raul Ibañez and allowing a single to Derek Jeter.  The Yankees now had the tying runs on base, with Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira waiting to pluck back.  Instead, Frank Francisco roasted them.

Granderson struck out looking at a fastball down the middle and Teixeira popped up to the middle of the infield, where shortstop Omar Quintanilla did his best not to copy Luis Castillo, catching the ball for the final out.

It could have been a fowl moment for Frank Francisco and the Mets tonight.  But the closer backed up his words and sealed the deal on the Mets' victory.  Perhaps the great Metstradamus said it best when he tweeted the following:

Frank Francisco might have been foolish to say what he said.  In the past, those words would have come back to bite the Mets in their collective @$$e$.  But this isn't the past.  And these aren't those Mets.

The Mets are now 39-32 heading into Saturday night's middle game of the Subway Series.  Their 23 home victories are second in the majors to the Dodgers, who have an MLB-best 24 home wins.  The Mets are proving that they're not hanging on in the division race on a wing and a prayer (and a drumstick).  They really are a good team.  And they're not chicken to prove it to anyone who gets in their way.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Davey Johnson Over Gil Hodges Was The Correct Call

On Sunday night, the Mets announced their all-time team, which was comprised of the best players at each position throughout their half century of existence.  There were no surprises at certain positions.   For example, Keith Hernandez was voted the team’s best first baseman, David Wright took home the honor of top third baseman and Tom Seaver was the team’s best right-handed starting pitcher.  But when it came time to announce the team’s best manager, it came as a surprise to some people that Davey Johnson was named the top skipper over Gil Hodges.  I have one question to ask those people.  Why are you so surprised?

The people who disagree with the selection have made some good points in defense of their favorite field general.  They claim that Hodges changed the direction of the team, showing his players that they were good enough to win and that the team was far removed from the early “lovable loser” days of the franchise.  That is very much true.  Under Hodges’ leadership, the Mets went from a team that had lost 100 or more games in five of their first six campaigns (losing 95 in the other) to a World Series champion in two seasons.  In Hodges’ first year as the team’s manager (1968), the Mets improved from 61 wins to 73 wins.  It was the first time the team lost fewer than 90 games in a single season and set the stage for the Miracle Mets of 1969.

Those who favor Gil Hodges over Davey Johnson also point to Hodges’ impact on his players.  To this day, the men who played under Hodges get misty-eyed whenever they talk about his influence on them as individuals as well as his role in getting all of his players to use every ounce of their talent so they could perform to the best of their ability.

There is no question that Hodges was one of the best managers in Mets history.  After never finishing higher than ninth in the ten-team National League prior to Hodges’ arrival, the Mets soared to new heights under No. 14.  They surpassed 70 wins for the first time in 1968, then followed that up with a championship in 1969 and two third-place finishes in the six-team National League East in 1970 and 1971.  But despite the unprecedented success experienced by the Mets under Hodges, Davey Johnson was just as good, if not better.

Other than the 100-win campaign in 1969, no Gil Hodges-led Mets team won more than 83 games in a single season.  Meanwhile, no Mets team under Davey Johnson’s watch won fewer than 87 games.  Prior to Hodges’ arrival in 1968, the Mets had finished in last place or next-to-last place in all six of their seasons.  Similarly, Davey Johnson took over a long-moribund Mets franchise in 1984 that had just come off its seventh consecutive finish in the NL East basement or knock-knock-knocking on the cellar’s door.

Tom Seaver had already won 16 games for a Mets team that only won 61 times in 1967, before Hodges was brought aboard.  Similarly, Jerry Koosman had already made his first appearance with the Mets prior to Hodges’ arrival, as did Cleon Jones, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote and a handful of other key players that helped the Mets to the 1969 title.  Meanwhile, Davey Johnson brought Dwight Gooden with him from the minors, and was also instrumental in giving regular jobs and/or extended playing time to key members of the 1986 World Champions – players such as Wally Backman, Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, Sid Fernandez and Kevin Mitchell.

Both won championships as managers, but only one deserves to be called the best in Mets history.

Whereas Hodges had a similar cast of characters throughout his four-year tenure as Mets manager (this was prior to free agency), Johnson had to deal with a number of new players in his 6½ years as Mets’ skipper.  Johnson won 90 games in 1984 with Mike Fitzgerald as his catcher and Jose Oquendo and Ron Gardenhire splitting most of the time at shortstop.  On the mound, Walt Terrell, Bruce Berenyi, Ed Lynch, Mike Torrez, Tim Leary and Calvin Schiraldi combined to start more than half (83) of the team's games.  By 1986, the quintet of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bob Ojeda and Rick Aguilera started all but 14 of the team's 162 regular season games.  However, by 1989, mostly everyone was gone or on their way out.

Wally Backman was traded to Minnesota after the 1988 season.  The following June, Terry Leach, Roger McDowell and Lenny Dykstra were also sent packing.  July saw the departures of Mookie Wilson, Lee Mazzilli and Rick Aguilera.  Finally, in November, Keith Hernandez was granted free agency and Gary Carter was released.  Despite the extreme roster turnover, Johnson still won 87 games in 1989, remaining in playoff contention until the final week of the season.

Injuries were also a major concern for the Mets during Johnson’s tenure.  In 1985, Darryl Strawberry injured his thumb and missed seven weeks.  1987 was the year every starting pitcher missed time due to injury or drug rehab.  The Mets still managed to win a minimum of 92 games in each season.

Despite the injuries, the changes in personnel and the decline of veteran players such as Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, the Mets never finished lower than second place in any full season under Johnson.  They entered the month of September either in first place or within striking distance of the division lead in all of Johnson’s seasons.  Other than 1969, no Gil Hodges-led team finished higher than third place.  The 1968 Mets finished 16 games under .500, the 1970 squad finished six games out of first and the 1971 team was never closer than 10 games out of first after the All-Star Break.

Lastly, let’s take out Hodges’ best season (1969) and Johnson’s best year (1986) from their records.  How did they both fare when the team wasn’t at its peak?  It’s not even close.  Hodges was eight games under .500 (239-247) in his other three seasons as Mets manager.  Johnson was a whopping 124 games over .500 in his non-1986 seasons (487-363).

Gil Hodges had an outstanding year as Mets manager in 1969.  His leadership skills were certainly instrumental in taking the team from laughingstocks of the league to baseball nirvana.  But other than that miraculous season, the Mets were just mediocre at best.  Davey Johnson’s Mets were never mediocre in his six full seasons at the helm.  His teams were thrown curveballs from every angle.  Whether it was a drug suspension here or a rash of injuries there, Johnson always found a way to keep the team competitive deep into the season, and on two occasions (1986, 1988) well into October.  And he did that after taking over a Mets team that had not finished with a winning record since four years after Hodges’ untimely passing.

Although Gil Hodges did an exceptional job during his four years as the Mets’ field general, Davey Johnson earned the right to be named the team’s best manager over its first 50 seasons.  There should be no question about that one. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Is Ike Davis This Year's Dan Uggla?

Over the first two months of the season, Ike Davis stunk more than a zombie wearing limburger cheese cologne.  Through June 8, the Mets' first baseman was hitting .158 (29-for-183), with a .234 on-base percentage and .273 slugging percentage.  Just how bad are those numbers?  In 113 plate appearances, former Mets pitcher Jason Isringhausen had higher career numbers as a Met in all three categories (.196/.238/.299).  Yeah.  Davis was that bad.

But Davis isn't the only National League East infielder to struggle for an extended period of time over the past couple of seasons.  Anyone remember Dan Uggla's start with Atlanta last season?

Through games of July 4 last year, Uggla was hitting .173 (55-for-318), with a .241 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage.  Then he embarked on one of the most unexpected long hitting streaks in baseball history.  After his poor start, Uggla hit in 33 consecutive games.  From July 5 to August 13, Uggla batted .377 (49-for-130).  The Braves' second baseman reached base at a .438 clip and slugged .762.  Over the skein, Uggla also displayed tremendous power and drove in nearly a run per game (15 HR, 32 RBI).

That brings us back to Ike Davis.  After slugging the go-ahead grand slam last night against the Baltimore Orioles, Davis is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak.  In those nine games, Davis is smoking the ball at a .462 clip (12-for-26).  Davis also owns a .576 on-base percentage and .769 slugging percentage since June 8, driving in 11 runs over the nine games.  More importantly, he has shown better plate discipline, fanning a mere five times while drawing seven walks.  (Prior to his hot streak, Davis had struck out 59 times as opposed to 18 walks.)  This was not the case with Uggla during his streak in 2011, as he struck out 27 times but only drew a dozen walks over his 33-game bat-a-thon.

The Mets have been able to remain competitive in the NL East with their strong starting pitching and a tremendous ability to drive in runs with two outs.  But prior to June 8, they were playing winning baseball without a significant offensive contribution from Ike Davis.  That was then.  This is now.  And now is the time that Ike Davis is getting as hot as Dan Uggla was last summer.

The summer heat will arrive tomorrow in New York.  But Ike Davis has shown signs of heating up for over a week now.  The Mets will need Davis to continue his recent production at the plate if they're going to avoid melting this summer as they have over the past few seasons. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

R.A. Dickey's Recent Stretch Ranks Among The Best In Mets History

On Monday night, R.A. Dickey was in complete control of his craft.  He pitched his third complete game of the season.  He struck out a career-high 13 batters.  He extended his streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run (42⅔ and counting).  And oh yes, he became the first pitcher in Mets history to pitch back-to-back complete game one-hitters.

But this particular start should not have come as a surprise to any Mets fan who has been watching the recent stretch of lights-out performances by R.A. Dickey.  Over his last six starts, Dickey has been practically untouchable.  Since earning a no-decision against the Cincinnati Reds on May 17 (a game in which he struck out eight batters and walked only one in six innings of work), Dickey has won all six of his starts, allowing two runs (one earned) in 48⅔ innings.  That's a 0.18 ERA, folks.  He has also allowed only 21 hits over his last six starts (an average of 3½ hits per start) and has a 0.53 WHIP over that time period.

As amazing as that sounds, here's the best part.  Since May 17, Dickey has struck out 63 batters and walked only five.  That's a handful of batters who have seen ball four from Dickey over his last six starts.  We're talking about a knuckleball pitcher here.  A knuckleball control artist should be an oxymoron.  But there is nothing oxymoronic about R.A. Dickey or what he's accomplished recently.  In fact, it may just be the best pitching stretch in Mets history.

Let's look at some of the greatest individual seasons by starting pitchers in Mets history and dissect them to come up with some of the best extended stretches of dominance for those pitchers.  This is by no means a complete list of memorable months by Mets pitchers, just some of the ones that stand out above the others (minimum five starts).

  • Jerry Koosman (7/21/68 - 8/19/68): 7 starts, 63.2 IP, 1.27 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 47 K, 16 BB
  • Jerry Koosman (5/28/69 - 6/27/69): 7 starts, 60.0 IP, 0.60 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 62 K, 12 BB
  • Tom Seaver (8/31/69 - 9/27/69): 7 starts, 63.0 IP, 0.71 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 44 K, 15 BB
  • Tom Seaver (7/17/71 - 8/16/71):  7 starts, 60.1 IP, 1.04 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 66 K, 12 BB
  • Jon Matlack (7/12/72 - 8/5/72): 6 starts, 51.2 IP, 0.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 36 K, 13 BB
  • Tom Seaver (8/10/73 - 9/13/73): 8 starts, 75.1 IP, 1.31 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 69 K, 14 BB
  • Tom Seaver (6/5/75 - 7/9/75): 8 starts, 69.2 IP, 1.16 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 66 K, 15 BB
  • Jerry Koosman (9/11/76 - 10/1/76): 5 starts, 40.1 IP, 1.34 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 44 K, 7 BB
  • Dwight Gooden (8/11/84 - 9/23/84): 9 starts, 76.0 IP, 1.07 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 105 K, 13 BB
  • Dwight Gooden (8/20/85 - 9/26/85): 8 starts, 65.0 IP, 0.55 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 66 K, 14 BB
  • David Cone (8/23/88 - 9/20/88): 6 starts, 48.2 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 48 K, 10 BB
  • Frank Viola (4/11/90 - 5/12/90): 7 starts, 51.2 IP, 0.87 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 52 K, 6 BB
  • Bret Saberhagen (6/30/94 - 8/10/94): 9 starts, 71.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 62 K, 5 BB
  • Al Leiter (4/14/98 - 5/23/98): 7 starts, 49.1 IP, 1.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 44 K, 16 BB
  • Johan Santana (7/27/08 - 8/22/08): 6 starts, 45.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 33 K, 9 BB
  • R.A. Dickey (5/22/12 - 6/18/12): 6 starts, 48.2 IP, 0.18 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, 63 K, 5 BB

Note: For those wondering where Jerry Koosman's stretch from 1973 is (the one in which he pitched 31⅔ consecutive scoreless innings), it's not included here because he actually wasn't dominant during that stretch.  From August 19 to September 7, 1973, Koosman had a 0.22 ERA, but had a rather ordinary 1.16 WHIP and a less than stellar 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (26 K, 16 BB).  Koosman was more fortunate than dominant during that memorable stretch that helped the Mets claim their unexpected division title.

As you can see from the list above, Dickey has the lowest ERA and WHIP of all the pitchers who had five or more consecutive dominant starts.  He also has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (slightly ahead of Bret Saberhagen's K/BB ratio from 1994) and only Dickey and Dwight Gooden have averaged at least ten strikeouts per start during their torrid stretches.

Some of the best pitchers in Mets history have had extended runs of success in a particular season.  Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman had several of these month-long stretches of excellence.  Dwight Gooden had two of the most dominant stretches in club annals.  But for my money, I'd say R.A. Dickey is on his way to surpassing all of them.

No Mets pitcher has ever put together an extended stretch (minimum five starts) in which he averaged ten or more strikeouts per start, less than one walk per start, and had an ERA under 1.00.  R.A. Dickey is the only man in a Mets uniform who can claim those numbers for his own.  It truly has been a spectacular stretch for one of the most unexpected great pitchers in Mets history.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Memories of Baseball and Father's Day

As we reach another Father's Day, let's take a break from discussing the Mets' recent ups and downs and why Jason Bay can't seem to catch a break (other than in his body parts) to reflect on a special man in our lives.

He is the man who more than likely showed us how to throw our first curveball, took us to our first ballgame and showed us the proper way to order a ballpark hot dog (which I seem to have forgotten once prices passed the $4.00 mark). I'm talking about fathers.

As we have had many Father's Day memories, both pleasant and not so pleasant, the Mets and Major League Baseball have also had a number of noteworthy moments on Father's Day. Here's a small sample:


On Father's Day 2004 (June 20), Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. hit the 500th home run of his career at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. At the time, he was the youngest player to reach that milestone. Making it more fitting, Ken Griffey Sr. was in attendance to help celebrate his son's momentous occasion.

On Father's Day 1997 (June 15), Major League Baseball instituted its first Home Run Challenge to benefit prostate cancer research. Now in its 16th season, the Home Run Challenge has raised nearly $40 million in the hopes that a cure can be found for this devastating disease that affects millions of men worldwide.

(Note to all men reading this. Please go to your doctors and get checked. Early detection can save your life, enabling you to share many Father's Day moments with your loved ones.)

In one of the most ill-fated trades in Mets history, beloved members of the 1986 World Championship team Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell were traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Juan Samuel on Father's Day 1989 (June 18). Samuel would have a tumultuous time playing centerfield for the Mets during his short stay at Shea and was later traded for another dud, Mike Marshall. Dykstra would become an All-Star in Philadelphia and helped lead the Phillies to the 1993 World Series. McDowell pitched seven more seasons after the trade and would become famous to Seinfeld fans for his role as the man who spit the magic loogie on Kramer and Newman when they confronted Keith Hernandez after a Mets loss. 

Just as Tom Seaver's trade is known as the Midnight Massacre, this day should be known as The Day The Hotfoot Died. On a lighter note, sales of Jheri Curl products increased in the New York metropolitan area ... by one.

Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched a perfect game at Shea Stadium on Father's Day in 1964 (June 21) when he defeated the Mets by the final score of 6-0. Bunning struck out ten batters en route to becoming the first National League pitcher to pitch a perfect game in the 20th century and the first pitcher in the modern era to throw a no-hitter in both leagues. He pitched his first no-hitter in 1958 as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Please forgive the abundance of Phillies pictures in this post. It is unintentional and is not meant to dampen your Father's Day festivities in any way. If so, the photo beneath the next paragraph should bring a smile to your face, especially if you are a long-time Mets fan.

Ralph Kiner has always been the king of malapropisms. From classic lines such as "if Casey Stengel were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave" and "all of his saves have come in relief appearances", Ralph has mangled words and phrases with grace and dignity. One of his most famous quotes came on Father's Day as well, when during a Mets broadcast, he said "on Father's Day, we again wish you all a happy birthday!"

One final note before you go have a catch with your son or daughter. Mets fans are well aware of the fact that no pitcher in franchise history had pitched a no-hitter before Johan Santana turned the trick on June 1, 2012.  They have had numerous no-hitters pitched against them, including the aforementioned Bunning in 1964.  Prior to Santana's historic feat, the Mets weren't the only team who had never pitched a no-hitter.

The only team currently without a no-hitter to its credit has also been around since the 1960s. The San Diego Padres have gone 43 years since their inaugural season in 1969 and have never had a no-hitter pitched for them. Hmm, Padres. That's Spanish for Fathers. On that note, I can't think of a more fitting way to end this than by wishing all you fathers out there a Happy Birthday! (I mean, Father's Day!)


Seems Like It's Always Sweep or Be Swept For The Mets

On Saturday night, the Mets fell to the Cincinnati Reds, 4-1.  It put the Reds in position to sweep the series from the Mets today.  This is coming on the heels of the Mets' three-game sweep of the Rays, which immediately followed the Yankees' three-game sweep of the Mets last weekend.

Should the Mets lose to the Reds in the series finale today, it would be the seventh three-game series of the season to end in a sweep of the Mets or a Mets sweep of their opponent (three sweeps of the Mets, four sweeps for the Mets).  What makes this more interesting is that this is only the 17th three-game series the Mets have played this season (they've played a pair of two-game series and a trio of four-game series).  Almost half of the Mets' three-game series have ended in a sweep for one team or the other.

It doesn't just end there.  Out of all 22 series the Mets have played this year (including the five series of two or four games), the vast majority of them have had one team or the other looking for a sweep entering the final game of the series.  Here's a look at all 22 series.  You'll notice very few occasions in which no sweep was possible entering the final game of the series.

  • April 5-8:  Mets take first two from Braves; Mets win finale to sweep series
  • April 9-11: Mets and Nationals split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • April 13-15: Mets take first two from Phillies; Phillies win finale to avoid sweep
  • April 16-18: Mets and Braves split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • April 20-23: Mets and Giants split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • April 24-26: Mets take first two from Marlins; Mets win finale to sweep series
  • April 27-29: Mets and Rockies split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • April 30-May 2: Astros take first two from Mets; Astros win finale to sweep series
  • May 4-6: Mets and Diamondbacks split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • May 7-9: Mets take first two from Phillies; Mets win finale to sweep series
  • May 11-13: Mets and Marlins split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • May 14-15: Mets take first game from Brewers; Brewers win finale to avoid sweep
  • May 16-17: Reds take first game from Mets; Mets win finale to avoid sweep
  • May 18-20: Blue Jays take first two from Mets; Mets win finale to avoid sweep
  • May 21-23: Mets and Pirates split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • May 24-27: Mets and Padres split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • May 28-30: Mets and Phillies split first two games (no sweep possible)
  • June 1-4: Mets take first three from Cardinals; Cardinals win finale to avoid sweep
  • June 5-7: Nationals take first two from Mets; Mets win finale to avoid sweep
  • June 8-10: Yankees take first two from Mets; Yankees win finale to sweep series
  • June 12-14: Mets take first two from Rays; Mets win finale to sweep series
  • June 15-17: Reds take first two from Mets; result of finale to be determined later today

Of the 22 series played by the Mets this season, only nine have entered the final game of the series with no sweep possible by either team.  The last time the Mets participated in a series in which this was the case was back in May against the Phillies.  Today's series finale against the Reds marks the fifth consecutive series in which one of the combatants can potentially sweep the series entering its final game.

During the 2012 season, it seems as if it's the Mets have always been in a sweep or be swept position, especially recently.  Let's hope that after today's series finale against the Reds, the "be swept" does not turn into a "sweep" for Cincinnati.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No One Can Have Just One (No-Hitter)

R.A. Dickey had the most amazing, most tremendous, most [insert your favorite superlative here] start of his career last night, coming within two David Wright muffs of pitching the first perfect game in Mets history.  His performance came less than two weeks after Johan Santana tossed the first no-hitter in club annals and on the same night that Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in San Francisco Giants history.

Before Wright's error allowed Elliot Johnson to reach base safely in the ninth inning (which led to the only run scored off Dickey in the game, ending his franchise-record 32⅔ inning scoreless streak), the only base runner allowed by the Mets' knuckler was a first-inning infield hit off the bat of B.J. Upton.  Upton hit a slow roller near the third base line that Wright tried to field with his bare hand.  The ball tickled Wright's fingers before dropping to the artificial turf, allowing Upton to reach base on what was credited as a base hit.  It became the only hit allowed by Dickey in the game and gave him credit for pitching the 36th one-hitter in franchise history.

But stop the presses!  There's a new story to report!

Apparently, Terry Collins thinks that there's a chance an appeal could reverse the call on Upton's infield single to an error by Wright, allowing Dickey to be credited with the team's second no-hitter of the month.  Collins goes on to say,

"We said in the ninth inning that we've got to appeal that play.  We're probably not going to win it, but ... what the heck?  What do you got to lose except to have somebody say no?  You've just got to give him his due.  He deserves it." 

It's great that Collins is sticking up for his pitcher.  But in all honesty, the Mets should have just settled for a one-hitter without trying to get an after-the-fact no-hitter for Dickey.  Besides, earlier this month, when Santana pitched his no-hitter, a call by third base umpire Adrian Johnson took a base hit away from Carlos Beltran.  So this pretty much evens it out.  Santana got a no-hitter in a game that should have been a one-hitter and Dickey gets a one-hitter in a game that could have been a no-hitter.

Notice how I said that Santana "should" have had a one-hitter while I said Dickey "could" have had a no-hitter.  It was an umpire's error that allowed Santana to keep his no-hitter intact.  But it was David Wright's non-error in the first inning that rightfully gave the Rays their first and only hit of the night.  And it should remain an error after the appeal is reviewed.

I understand Terry Collins wanting to reward his pitcher for a tremendous pitching performance, a performance that might have been more dominant (career-high 12 Ks, no walks) than Santana's, as Johan allowed five Cardinals to reach base via the base on balls.  But trying to get him a no-hitter after the fact is taking it a little too far.  It's not going to happen and it should never have come to this.

Collins should see it for what it is and what will remain in the record books.  Dickey pitched a one-hitter, retired 22 batters in a row from the first to the ninth innings, struck out a career-high 12 batters and set the Mets' all-time record for consecutive scoreless innings, supplanting Jerry Koosman in the team's record book by one inning.  It was a fantastic pitching performance by R.A. Dickey.  It was not a no-hitter.

The Mets already got a no-hitter that shouldn't have been.  They shouldn't get greedy and try for a second.  I guess it's true that no one can have just one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Is Daniel Murphy The Second Coming of The Bad Dude?

What do Daniel Murphy and former Met John Stearns have in common?  Not much, right?  John Stearns was a catcher and Daniel Murphy is a second baseman.  Stearns was a four-time All-Star - the first non-pitcher in Mets history to accomplish that feat - while Murphy watches the All-Star Game at home.  Stearns was known as Bad Dude; Murphy has no nickname (but he is the reason for the #ImWith28 hashtag on Twitter).

On the surface, they appear to have absolutely nothing in common.  But by the end of the season, they may have something quite odd in common.

In 2009, Daniel Murphy led the Mets in home runs with 12, tying the franchise record for lowest home run output by a team leader.  Who held the previous record?  The Bad Dude done did it.  In 1977, John Stearns led the team with 12 HR, tying John Milner and Steve Henderson, who also hit a dozen long balls.

Okay, so that's one thing in common.  Now, let's take a brief interlude to discuss those Mets players who didn't hit for much power.  In fact, let's narrow it down some.  Let's only look at players who failed to hit a single home run in an entire season, but still managed to collect at least 25 RBIs.  A total of seven players have driven in a minimum of 25 runs over a full season with nary a home run to their credit.  Those players are:

  • Buddy Harrelson (1971): 0 HR, 32 RBI
  • Doug Flynn (1978): 0 HR, 36 RBI
  • Frank Taveras (1980): 0 HR, 25 RBI
  • Alex Treviño (1980): 0 HR, 37 RBI
  • John Stearns (1980): 0 HR, 45 RBI
  • Bob Bailor (1982): 0 HR, 31 RBI
  • Ruben Tejada (2011): 0 HR, 36 RBI

Did you happen to notice which player had the most RBIs in a season in which he failed to hit a home run?  Of course you did!  It was none other than John Stearns.  He was one of three homerless wonders that helped bring the magic back to Shea Stadium in 1980.  Stearns completed his "record-breaking" season just three years after leading the team in home runs with 12.

Now let's fast-forward to the present day.  Remember how I said that Daniel Murphy led the team in home runs in 2009?  That was three years ago.  What has he done in 2012?  Absolutely nothing.  No, I really mean that.  Murphy has hit no home runs this year.  However, he has still managed to drive in 25 runs.  If the season were to end today, Murphy would become the eighth player in team history to amass 25 RBIs or more without the benefit of one stinkin' homer.

With more than half of the season left to be played, Murphy is more than halfway to Stearns' RBI total from 1980, putting him on pace to shatter the Bad Dude's mark if opposing pitchers continue to keep him in the ballpark.  And how many years after will have passed since Murphy led the team with his 12 HR total?  Uno, dos, tres.  Just like John Stearns.

No one would ever confuse Daniel Murphy for John Stearns.  They played in different eras, played different positions on the field and their style of play is different.  But Murphy and Stearns are on collision course to be mentioned in the same breath because of a unique statistical occurrence.  Who'da thunk it?  Daniel Murphy might have a little Bad Dude in him after all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Relief Isn't Coming ... And I Don't Think It Should

Much has been said about the Mets' bullpen woes in 2012.  Their 5.53 ERA is the worst in baseball.  So is their 1.56 WHIP.  They also have the most blown saves (13) in the majors.  That's not exactly something to be proud of.  But it's also not something that I feel should be replaced from outside the organization.

I believe the Mets' bullpen will either correct itself or will have new members courtesy of the team's minor league system.  Why do I feel the bullpen can correct itself?  I think the following numbers will answer that question for me.

The starting staff, which has been better than expected, has pitched 366 innings, which is more than twice as many innings as the bullpen has thrown (174).  But only 18 batters have reached on errors while the starting pitcher has been on the mound.  That's an average of one batter reaching via an error every 20.3 innings.  Meanwhile, ten batters have reached base against a reliever because of the Mets' shoddy defense.  That's one extra runner every 17.4 innings, making it all the more difficult for the bullpen to get out of jams their defense caused for them.

Let's also take a look at a category we don't consider much here - BABIP.  An average hitter will have a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) somewhere in the .290 to .310 range.  The starting staff has kept opposing hitters within that range (.294).  However, the BABIP against the bullpen is a whopping .333, well outside the average range.  That suggests that before long, balls put in play against the bullpen will eventually find gloves, not holes.  Of course, if those gloves have holes...

Therefore, what the Mets really need to do is improve their defense, especially in the late innings when the relief corps is called upon to hold onto leads or keep games close.  The Mets can make a trade for an established reliever to help out.  But what good is he going to be if his defense doesn't help him out?  Is he supposed to strike out every batter he faces?

The BABIP suggests the Mets' bullpen will fix itself.  Improved defense will also help them do their jobs.  Don't give up on the bullpen just yet.  They might end up providing relief to themselves without any outside help.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Today's Lineup Might Not Look Pretty, But...

After losing the first two games of this weekend's Subway Series, the Mets will try to salvage the final game of the series when they take their hacks against Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte.  They will attempt to do so by trotting out the following starting lineup, courtesy of the team's official Twitter account:

That doesn't look too imposing, does it?  There's no Kirk Nieuwenhuis, no Daniel Murphy, no Ike Davis (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and no Josh Thole to be found in the starting lineup.  But before you start waving the white flag, let's look at what each player has done against Andy Pettitte in his career, listing the number of hits that player has collected followed by his batting average, on-base percentage, extra-base hits (if any) and runs batted in (if any).

Five of the nine hitters in the starting lineup have never faced Pettitte.  The other four batters are hitting a combined .420 against him (29-for-69) and have reached base at a .467 clip, while slugging .696 versus Andy Pettitte.

So before you decide to throw in the towel for this series, have some faith in your team.  The lineup might not be the one you'd like to see when trying to avoid a sweep at the hands at your crosstown rivals.  But Terry Collins knows what he's doing.  He knows the numbers against Pettitte.  He knows that the Yankees might look at the Mets' lineup and think this game is in the bag.

It's not.  And nine innings from now, the brooms might have to be put away in deference to a Mets victory.

Joey's Small Bites: Expect The Unexpected

Hello, everyone.  This is Joey Beartran checking in with my latest installment of Joey's Small Bites.  And if you're like me, you just want to take a huge bite out of this series, kind of like what the recently deceased Pedro Borbon did to Buzz Capra's cap during the 1973 National League Championship Series. 

Everything that you wouldn't expect to happen in this series has happened.  The Mets entered the series with more wins than the Yankees.  That is not the case anymore, as the Bronx Bummers have taken the first two games of the series to surpass the Mets in victories.  But let's look at some of the other things that have occurred in this series that no one saw coming.

Johan Santana took the mound in the first game of the series, making his first start since holding the National League's premier offensive team hitless.  Of course, he gave up seven hits in six innings to the Yankees, four of which left the park.  Meanwhile, his mound opponent, Hiroki Kuroda, who had never fared well against the Mets in his career (1-5, 5.75 ERA in seven starts prior to Friday night), retired 17 batters before allowing his first hit.  His line over seven innings (one hit, one walk, seven strikeouts) was completely the opposite of what he had produced against the Mets in seven previous starts against them (36 innings pitched, 48 hits, 15 walks, 15 strikeouts).

The Mets have been incredibly productive this year when they have batted with two outs.  Prior to Friday night's series opener, the Mets had scored 124 two-out runs, which accounted for almost half of the 254 runs they had scored on the season.  How many two-out runs have they scored in this series?  One.  And it came in the ninth inning Friday night after the Mets were already down by nine runs.  Not exactly a pressure situation, if you ask me.

Speaking of runs scored, can someone explain to me how the Mets have only scored three runs in two games in that bandbox in the Bronx?  What, did they all suddenly enroll at the Kelvin Torve School For Scoring Runs?  (For those who only know Kelvin Torve as the player who accidentally wore No. 24 for the Mets after it had been taken out of circulation out of respect for Willie Mays, he also holds an interesting team record regarding runs scored, or rather, runs NOT scored.  Torve has the most career at-bats in a Mets uniform (46) without ever scoring a run for the team, beating out pitchers Mike Bruhert and Livan Hernandez, who both compiled 40 career at-bats for the Mets without crossing the plate at least once.)

Last but not least, Dillon Gee entered last night's game with a 4-3 record.  Those three losses caught the eye of my Studious Metsimus colleague.  He went through the team's roster and noticed that no Mets starting pitcher had lost more than three games this year.  He then went through the rosters of the other 29 teams in the majors (He was doing this when he should have been paying attention to the game - some Mets fan he is!) and noticed that all of them had at least one starting pitcher with four losses.  So trying to show off his research skills, he tweeted the following:

Of course, that got the attention of his Twitter followers, who retweeted his sagelike observation ten times before the game ended.  That tweet instantly became false once last night's final pitch was delivered, as Dillon Gee was saddled with his fourth loss of the season.  If I've told him once, I've told him a thousand times.  You do NOT talk about no-hitters while they are still in progress in the late innings (he heeded my advice during Santana's historic start against the Cardinals) and you do NOT tweet about something that hasn't happened because it will end up happening once you tweet about it (obviously, he paid me no mind on that one).  Sigh.  He'll never learn.

Well, that's it for this edition of Joey's Small Bites.  Hopefully, today the Mets can eschew what they learned from Kelvin Torve and chew on the Yankees' pitchers' ERAs, a la Pedro Borbon.  I'm hungry for a win today (not the only thing I'm hungry for).  Let's salvage this series and take those Yankee brooms and shove them up their...

Ahem.  Let's just win today, okay.  You have no idea what all these losses are doing to me.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Like Night And Day For Johan Santana

Two Fridays ago, the Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs and I passed a kidney stone the size of Mr. Met's head.  That was a bad night.

Last Friday, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in team history.  The only things coming out of my body that night were tears of joy.  That was a good night.

Last night, Johan Santana took the mound at Yankee Stadium for the first game of the Subway Series.  He allowed six runs on seven hits, four of which left the park, including back-to-back-to-back shots by Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones.  At the time of their missile launches, both Swisher and Jones were hitting under .250 for the season.  Needless to say, that was a very bad night.  (Although I'm proud to say that nothing left my body other than a few mumbled words directed at certain pinstriped players.)

It is high, it is far, it is ... ah, shut up, John Sterling!  We get it!

With the loss, Santana dropped to 3-3 on the year.  But what's more troubling is that this is not his first poor performance at the new Yankee Stadium.  In fact, after last night's debacle, Santana is now 0-3 with a 12.21 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in three career starts at the House That Juice Built.  Santana has pitched 14 innings at the new digs, allowing 19 runs on 24 hits.  Six of the 24 hits have allowed Yankee hitters to practice their 120-yard trots around the bases.

Santana's performances at the new Yankee Stadium have been quite the contrast from how he fared at the old Yankee Stadium.  At that hallowed yard, he was 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in five appearances (four starts).  Despite the fact that he pitched more than twice as many innings at the older park (30⅔ innings compared to 14 innings at the new park), Santana allowed two fewer home runs there.

Clearly, Johan Santana and the new Yankee Stadium do not agree with each other.  How can a pitcher go from no-hitting the best offensive team in the National League to being yes-hitted by the Yankees over and over and over again in his five innings of work?  No one has a clue why Santana channels his inner Oliver Perez every time he steps on the mound at the new Yankee Stadium.

One thing's for sure.  Just like the differences between my last few Fridays have been like night and day, so are Johan Santana's performances between the old Yankee Stadium and the new pinball model.  Santana's next start will be at Tropicana Field in Tampa on Thursday.  Let's hope he can pinball his way back to the Johan Santana we expect to see and not the one who almost got whiplash from craning his neck so many times to see the balls fly out of Yankee Stadium.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Got $50? Johan Santana Ticket Stubs Are Up For Sale

Hello, everyone.  This is Studious Metsimus ace reporter, culinary expert and non-scalper Joey Beartran.  Earlier today, the Mets announced that they will be selling reprints of the tickets used for the game on June 1, 2012, otherwise known as the game in which Johan Santana caused Mets fans to claim that they could now die in peace.

You can click here for the Mets' official press release or you could just do your best Lazy Smurf impersonation and scroll down for more (courtesy of

        Mets to sell tickets from Johan Santana's no-hitter

Fans Can Purchase Tickets From the Historic Game for $50 Each;
Season Ticket Holders to Receive Complimentary Reprints,
40-Game, 20-Game, 15-Game, 6-Game Plan & Pack Holders to Receive Discounts;
No-Hitter Ticket Offer Starts This Monday, June 11 at 10:00 a.m. on

The New York Mets today announced tickets from Johan Santana's no-hitter, the first in franchise history, will be reprinted for fans wishing to secure a pristine keepsake from the historic game.  Fans can purchase tickets reprinted on Season Ticket Holder stock for $50 each, plus order and shipping fees.  The tickets will be available starting Monday, June 11 at 10:00 a.m. on

Mets Season Ticket Holders will receive complimentary reprints of every seat in their account. An order and shipping fee will apply.

Mets 40-Game, 20-Game, 15-Game and 6-Game Plan and Pack Holders whose packages included the June 1 game will receive a discounted rate of $30 per ticket, plus per ticket and shipping fees.

Plan and Pack Holders whose packages didn't include last Friday's game, will be able to purchase reprints for $40 per ticket, plus per ticket and shipping fees, through an exclusive pre-sale on starting tomorrow, Friday, June 8.

The Mets will reprint all 41,922 seats at Citi Field. There is a limit of four seats per order. Fans can select a seating category and receive the best available seat in that location.

Visit for more information or call the Mets Ticket Office at (718) 507-TIXX.

So as you can see, non-plan holders will have to shell out fifty clams PLUS shipping, handling, order, and other extra fees they can manage to sneak in.  Plan holders will get a discount on their tickets and season ticket holders will get free ticket reprints.  However, they're not really free because that dreaded order and shipping fee applies to the season ticket holders as well.

Please note that these are ticket REPRINTS.  They're not the ORIGINAL ticket.  They might look the same as the tickets actually used on June 1, but they are not.  Of course, if you would like to have an ORIGINAL ticket, one that would have gotten you in to the actual game if you would have had it in your possession, we have two separate eBay auctions that you might want to take a look at.

You can click here for one of the auctions and here for the other.  These are the REAL tickets, not those cubic zirconia tickets the Mets are trying to sell for $50.  Who knows?  You might be able to score the actual tickets from the game for less than the price of the reprints.

So what are you waiting for?  Start bidding!

Met-ical Breakthrough! Ink Cures Elbow Debris!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to bring you a special medical report, courtesy of Jon Rauch's Instagram account.  If you click here, you can see what the Mets' injured reliever has been doing in New York while his team has been playing the first place Nationals in Washington.

That's right, Mets fans.  It appears that getting a tattoo over your right ribcage is the cure for right elbow debris.  Call your friends!  It's a miracle!

But seriously, what is Jon Rauch doing getting a tattoo while his team is playing their biggest series in years, especially when the reason why he is not with the team is so that he can recover from his elbow injury?

I know.  It's not the same as Josh Beckett's injury recovery activity of choice.  Unlike golf, a tattoo will more than likely not exacerbate Rauch's injury.  However, considering the negative reaction to Beckett's off-field choice and combining that with how poorly Rauch has pitched since April 29 (0-5, 8.53 ERA, .362 batting average against in 15 appearances), should he really be sharing these pictures over the internet?

Unless a player has specific language in his contract, he can do whatever he wants with his free time.  But when a player has been excused from the team to recover from an injury, especially when his hall pass has been issued during a crucial series against a division rival, that player should make better choices with what he does when he's not receiving treatment for that injury.  Better choices do not include getting ink that suggests he's enjoying his time away from the team.

Jon Rauch likes tattoos.  But no amount of ink is going to be able to mask the fans' reactions to this story.  Let's see how long it takes for the ink to dry on this one.

R.A. Dickey And The Quest For A 20-Win Season

Not since Frank Viola in 1990 have the Mets produced a 20-game winner.  In fact, the only Met to win as many as 17 games in a season since then was Al Leiter, who went 17-6 in 1998.  But that might change in 2012, and the man who might make it happen is R.A. Dickey.

R.A. Dickey, who just extended his personal scoreless streak to 24⅔ innings (just seven innings shy of Jerry Koosman's franchise record), is the proud owner of a 9-1 record with a 2.44 ERA through his first 12 starts.  With a full month left to the season's midpoint, Dickey is only one win shy of seeing himself halfway to win No. 20.

Will he finally end the Mets' 22-year drought of not producing a 20-game winner?  Let's look at all of the past 20-game winners in Mets history to see where they were after the first 12 starts of their 20-win campaigns.

  • Tom Seaver (1969): 8-3, 2.51 ERA through 12 starts (13 gm); finished 25-7, 2.21 ERA
  • Tom Seaver (1971): 7-2, 2.01 ERA through 12 starts (13 gm); finished 20-10, 1.76 ERA
  • Tom Seaver (1972): 8-3, 3.09 ERA through 12 starts; finished 21-12, 2.92 ERA
  • Tom Seaver (1975): 8-4, 2.16 ERA through 12 starts; finished 22-9, 2.38 ERA
  • Jerry Koosman (1976): 6-5, 4.03 ERA through 12 starts (13 gm); finished 21-10, 2.69 ERA
  • Dwight Gooden (1985): 8-3, 1.72 ERA through 12 starts; finished 24-4, 1.53 ERA
  • David Cone (1988): 9-2, 2.35 ERA through 12 starts (19 gm); finished 20-3, 2.22 ERA
  • Frank Viola (1990): 9-2, 2.04 ERA through 12 starts; finished 20-12, 2.67 ERA

Of the five pitchers who have produced 20-win seasons for the Mets, none had more than nine wins after his first 12 starts.  With today's win, Dickey has matched David Cone and Frank Viola with nine victories over their first 12 starts, although two of Cone's nine wins came in relief.

It appears that Dickey is on track to become the sixth member of the 20-win club, but there have been other pitchers in the past who got off to a quick start for the Mets, then failed to win 20 games.

In 1997, Bobby Jones had a spectacular first two months, going 10-2 with a 2.22 ERA through his first 12 starts to earn his first and only trip to the All-Star Game.  But after his quick start, he struggled the rest of the way, going 5-7 with a 4.85 ERA over his final 18 starts of the season.

Just two years ago, Mike Pelfrey got off to the best start of his career, going 8-1 with a 2.23 ERA over his first 12 starts.  But in addition to being snubbed for the All-Star team, he also failed to continue his hot start after June.  Over his final 21 starts in 2010, Pelfrey went 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA.  Both Jones and Pelfrey had to settle for 15-win campaigns in 1997 and 2010, respectively.

Johan Santana recently ended the Mets' long no-hitter drought.  Now it's up to R.A. Dickey to end another drought that no Mets pitcher has come close to ending over the past two-plus decades.  Can he become the first 20-game winner since the end of the Davey Johnson era?  Nothing is certain, but if Dickey can maintain his torrid pace, there's no reason why he can't join Seaver, Koosman, Gooden, Cone and Viola as Mets' 20-game winners.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fix The Cigarette Lighter

The Mets have a 31-25 record entering tonight’s tilt against the Washington Nationals.  With more than one-third of the season behind them, the Mets stand only 1½ games behind the first place Nats.  However, they could have been all alone in first place had the bullpen been able to hold on to not one, not two, but three late-inning and extra-inning leads last night.

After Andres Torres gave the Mets their first lead of the game in the eighth inning, poor relief work and shoddy defense (I’m talking to you, Jordany Valdespin) allowed Washington to tie the game.  Once the game went into extra innings, Scott Hairston did everything he could to help the Mets win, singling, stealing a base and scoring the go-ahead run in the tenth inning (only to watch from right field as the Nationals tied it in the bottom of the tenth).  He then hit a home run off Ross Detwiler in the 12th inning to give the Mets another one-run lead, but Elvin Ramirez allowed two runs in the bottom of the inning to hand the game over to Washington.

The poor defense might have been somewhat of a surprise, especially when the normally sure-handed Ike Davis bobbled a potential double play grounder in the tenth inning.  But the awful relief pitching was not a surprise, as the Mets have had no rhythm in the bullpen, giving fans the blues with every putrid performance.

The Mets’ bullpen has the worst ERA in the National League by far, as their 5.39 ERA is over a full run higher than the 4.33 ERA posted by the bullpen of the last place Phillies.  Despite their repeated failures in the pen, the team has gotten by, hanging around the top of the division.  But imagine where they could be in the division with just a mediocre bullpen instead of the worst.

Basically, the bullpen has been playing Rawhide at Bob’s Country Bunker over the past two months.  (Go watch Blues Brothers if you don’t get the reference.)  They’re not exactly the guys the fans paid their hard-earned money to see on the mound, but as long as the end result (i.e. the win-loss record) appeals to them, they won’t get glass bottles thrown at them.  Figuratively speaking, of course.

It’s great that the Mets are 31-25 and near the top of the division.  No one could have seen that coming.  But right now, they’re just a cop car with a souped-up engine and a broken cigarette lighter.  Everything else is working better than expected, but it’s that one broken component (the bullpen) that’s making the machine stall.  At 31-25, the Mets are 106 games away from the end of the regular season, they've got a full tank of gas (sort of), half a dozen starting pitchers, it's dark and they’re wearing sunglasses.  But they're going to need to fix that cigarette lighter.  If not, their season could fall apart before reaching their final destination.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why We Like Kirk Nieuwenhuis Despite All The Ks

Kirk Nieuwenhuis has two Ks in his first name.  Unfortunately, more often than we'd like, he's also had that many Ks on his daily stat sheet.

Nieuwenhuis has seen action in every game the Mets have played since he was called up to the big leagues following the season opener, starting 43 games and coming off the bench in the other 11.  In those 54 games, the Mets' rookie outfielder has struck out 58 times in 177 at-bats, an average of approximately one strikeout every three at-bats.

One whiff every third at-bat is quite high, don't you think?  But it's worse than Ike Davis' strikeout rate (53 K in 171 AB, an average of one K every 3.2 at-bats).  It's also much worse than the strikeout rate posted by David Wright in 2010 when he set the team record for most strikeouts in a season (161 Ks in 587 AB, an average of one K every 3.6 at-bats).

Ike Davis has been booed quite a bit at Citi Field this year, just as David Wright was by a smattering of fans in 2010.  But Kirk Nieuwenhuis hasn't received the boo treatment from fans at all.  Why is that?  A quick look at the numbers will explain it all.

Two years ago, David Wright batted a then-career-low .283, after hitting over .300 in the five campaigns prior to 2010.  Despite driving in 103 runs that season, Wright could have done much more, as shown below:

  • Batting average with men on base: .261 (79 strikeouts in 264 at-bats)
  • Batting average with the bases loaded: .250 (6 strikeouts in 12 at-bats)
  • Batting average with a runner on third, 2 outs: .211 (8 strikeouts in 19 at-bats)

In all three scenarios listed above, Wright hit far below his seasonal average, while striking out at a more prolific pace than he did in other, less pressure-packed situations.  It can be understood why fans booed Wright in 2010, especially since he didn't come through as much as he could and should have.  Ike Davis' woes in 2012 are far worse (see below):

  • Batting average with men on base: .181 (29 strikeouts in 94 at-bats)
  • Batting average with the bases loaded: .000 (2 strikeouts in 6 at-bats)
  • Batting average with a runner on third, 2 outs: .158 (8 strikeouts in 19 at-bats)

That brings us to Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  Yes, he's struck out at a higher rate than David Wright in 2010 and Ike Davis this year.  But when we look at the same numbers we considered for Wright and Davis above, you'll see exactly why his strikeouts are being overlooked.

  • Batting average with men on base: .323 (16 strikeouts in 65 at-bats)
  • Batting average with the bases loaded: .600 (no strikeouts in 5 at-bats)
  • Batting average with a runner on third, 2 outs: .385 (4 strikeouts in 13 at-bats)

In addition to Nieuwenhuis' exceptional numbers in the three scenarios listed above, he is hitting .345 with a .400 on-base percentage when leading off an inning, thereby setting the table for the players behind him.  He's even better in "late and close" situations ( defines "late and close" as plate appearances in the 7th inning or later in a tie game, one-run game, or with the tying run on deck), batting a whopping .474 and reaching base at a .560 clip.

David Wright heard a few boos in 2010 after every strikeout, just as Ike Davis is hearing now.  But Kirk Nieuwenhuis hasn't heard a negative peep from fans at Citi Field despite having a higher strikeout rate than both Wright and Davis.  And why should he?  Wright and Davis seemed to whiff almost every time the Mets needed them to contribute.  It's been the exact opposite for Nieuwenhuis, as he's made better contact when the stakes have been raised.  Of course, it hasn't hurt that he's also been spectacular defensively.

Its not how often Kirk Nieuwenhuis strikes out; it's when he's doing it.  Or more appropriately, it's when he's NOT doing it.  David Wright and Ike Davis heard boos because they were producing empty outs when the situation didn't call for it.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis is just producing.  Period.  And as long as he does, he will not hear a boo directed toward him at Citi Field.

The Mets' Upcoming Rotation (Sponsored By Playboy)

The Mets have announced their upcoming rotation for the next two series.  Chris Young will be called up from AAA-Buffalo to start Tuesday's series opener in Washington.  He will be followed by Jeremy Hefner and R.A. Dickey in the series finale on Thursday.  Therefore, the Nationals will be facing Young-Hefner-Dickey in that order.  Playboy Magazine would be proud.

Following the series against the Nationals, the Mets will be traveling to Yankee Stadium.  Johan Santana will start the opener on Friday, giving him a full week's rest to bask in the glow of his historic no-hitter.  Dillon Gee will start the middle game on Saturday, and - be still, my beating heart - Jonathon Niese will also get a full week of rest, starting the final game in the Bronx on Sunday.

Basically, the Mets will be working with a six-man rotation this week, with no one getting more than one start.  It remains to be seen who will start the three games in Tampa next week, although my gut feeling says it will be Chris Young on Tuesday, the 12th, followed by Dickey on Wednesday and Santana in the series finale on Thursday.  At least, this is what I'm hoping, as the Studious Metsimus crew will be attending the Wednesday and Thursday games in Tampa.  (Yay, us!)

Once the Mets return to Citi Field from Tampa, the Mets should ease their way back into a five-man rotation, with Jeremy Hefner being phased out.  Of course, that's all contingent on Chris Young staying healthy and Johan Santana's arm not falling off after his Herculean effort last Friday.

Regardless, the Mets have put together quite the starting staff, and there's no reason to think they won't continue to pitch better than anyone could have expected.