Friday, August 31, 2012

Dickey Continues His Mastery Over The Marlins

Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus (not bad, huh?)

On Friday night, the Mets traveled to Marlins Park in Miami for the first time since May 13, hoping to win their third consecutive series after taking two of three from both the Astros and the Phillies.  If the Mets wanted to get off to a good start in the series, they had the right person on the mound for the series opener.

R.A. Dickey has been outstanding this season against pretty much everyone, but he's been especially at his best against the Marlins, and it's not just this year.  Dickey has become a different pitcher against the Marlins since the beginning of the 2011 season.

Prior to 2011, Dickey had made six appearances against the Marlins, with four starts and two relief efforts.  How did he fare against the Marlins in those appearances?  To be blunt, he stunk worse than rotting fish.

Although Dickey's 2-2 won-loss record against the Marlins in those six appearances was so-so, the rest of his numbers versus the Fish were no-no good.  In 26 innings, the knuckleballer allowed 20 earned runs for a 6.92 ERA.  He also allowed 33 hits and walked ten batters, giving him a gaudy 1.65 WHIP.  In addition, Marlins hitters hit .308 against Dickey (33-for-107) and reached base at a .361 clip while battering him to the tune of a .477 slugging percentage.  Simply stated, it wasn't pretty.

But since the beginning of the 2011 season, Dickey has become the thorn in the Marlins' side, filleting them every time he's faced them.

Including tonight's 3-0 complete-game shutout, Dickey has made seven starts against the Marlins in 2011 and 2012, winning all seven.  That's no losses, no no-decisions.  Seven starts.  Seven wins.  In addition to his 7-0 record, Dickey has allowed a total of four earned runs in 51 innings for a sparkling 0.71 ERA.  Over the past two seasons, Marlins hitters have batted a measly .204 versus Dickey, reaching base at a .255 clip, while slugging a Bud Harrelson-esque .280.  In 186 at-bats, the boys of South Beach have managed only ten extra-base hits against Dickey (eight doubles, two homers), while striking out 40 times.  Dickey has also walked only a dozen Marlins in two years.

Overall, Dickey is 9-2 against the Marlins in 13 appearances (11 starts).  He does not have more than four wins against any other team in the majors, going 4-2 versus the Tigers (2-0 as a Met) and 4-5 versus the Nationals (4-4 as a Met).

In Friday's game, R.A. Dickey won his 17th win of the season, becoming the first Met since Al Leiter in 1998 to win 17 games in a season.  But it was also his ninth career win against the Marlins, which is more than twice as many wins as he has against any other team over his career.

R.A. Dickey has already proven that he can beat any team in the majors.  But whenever it's the Marlins' hitters coming up to the plate, Dickey reduces them to fish sticks, especially over the past two seasons.  Pass the tartar sauce.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Sweep, But The Mets Still Made History In Philly

Scott Hairston (left) and Mike Baxter (right) both went deep in Philadelphia today.

The Mets failed to sweep the Phillies in their recently-completed three game-series at Citizens Bank Park.  But in winning two out of three games, they did accomplish some rare things.

Since 1976, only two teams have won at least seven road games in Philadelphia.  One of the teams is the then-Florida Marlins, who took seven of nine games at Citizens Bank Park in 2009 (while losing seven of nine in Florida).  The 2012 Mets have joined that Marlins team as the only teams to win seven road games in Philly, as they also took seven of nine in Philly.

For only the third time in franchise history, the Mets won every series they played in Philadelphia in a season (min. three series per season).  The first time this happened was in 1970, when the Phillies called Connie Mack Stadium home.  The defending World Series champion Mets swept a two-game series in May, won three games in a five-game series in July and swept another two-game series in September.  The other time this occurred was in 1989, when the Mets won two out of three games in each of their three series at Veterans Stadium.  (Note:  The Mets won eight of nine games in Philadelphia in 1972, but their one loss came in a two-game series.  Thus, the Mets split that series and could not win every series they played in Philly that year.)

By winning three games at Citi Field in two series earlier in the season, the Mets have defeated the Phillies ten times this year, with a three-game series against Philadelphia left to play in September.  The last time the Mets won 11 games against the Phillies was in 2008, when they went 11-7 versus Philadelphia.  If the Mets can win two out of three in their final series against the Phillies, they will have defeated Philadelphia a dozen times for the first time since 1989.  A three-game sweep at Citi Field would give them a 13-5 record against the Phillies this year, which would tie the franchise record for most wins versus Philadelphia in a single season.  The Mets had gone 13-5 against the Phillies four times before, doing it in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1987.

Obviously, being the die-hard Mets fans we are, we would have liked for our team to take the brooms out and go "Broom-shaka-laka" against the Phillies.  But even though that didn't happen, we should still be proud of what the Mets accomplished in Philadelphia in this series and all year.  It's about time the Mets put the Phillies in their place at their place.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mets vs. Phillies: The Battle For Turd Place

The New York Mets.  The Philadelphia Phillies.  As recently as four years ago, both teams were competing for the top spot in the National League East.  Now they're both far behind the first place Nationals and the second place Braves, just barely ahead of Ozzie Guillen and his Merry Marlins, who are 20,000 leagues under the East.

The Mets and Phillies will be meeting this week in a three-game series beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park in a series that will be a battle for third place in the division.  Battle for third place?  With the way these two teams have played in 2012, it's more like a battle for "turd" place.

The Mets started off well this year.  At the one-third point of the season, they were a season-high eight games over .500.  As late as July 7, they were 9½ games ahead of the then-last place Phillies in the NL East.  But since then, the Mets have gone 13-30 while the Phillies are 24-18.  After spending the majority of the season chasing the Mets, Philadelphia is now two games ahead of New York.

The Phillies have passed the Mets despite:

  • Trading Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Jim Thome, Joe Blanton and Chad Qualls in an in-season cost-cutting measure (otherwise known as raising the white flag).

  • Chase Utley and Ryan Howard missing a combined 165 games, then both hitting under .250 in the games they have participated in.
  • Jimmy Rollins being the only regular to play just about every day, but hitting under .250 and barely reaching base at a .300 clip.
  • A horrible bullpen with an ERA of 4.38, a WHIP of 1.32, and a Bastardo.
  • Cliff Lee winning three more games than Cliff Clavin at a salary that's far more than that of your average postal worker (although Mr. Clavin could probably tell you the origin of Mr. Lee's middle name of Phifer).

With that combination of misfortune and spending a fortune on misses, the Phillies should be buried in the depths of the division.  Yet not only are they in the middle of the division, they're ahead of the Mets, who have the league's top winner and strikeout leader in R.A. Dickey, two corner infielders that have combined for 41 HR and 146 RBI, and a year-long penchant for scoring runs with two outs (239 two-out runs, as opposed to 295 in all other situations).

Despite the Mets' recent woes, they have defeated the Phillies eight times in twelve head-to-head matchups this season, easily their best record against any NL East opponent.  (The Mets are a combined 14-22 against the other three teams in the division, not winning more than five games against any of them.)  They need to continue playing well against the Phillies this week to reclaim third place.

Games between the Mets and Phillies used to have so much riding on them.  Now with the two teams playing sub-.500 ball, the only thing they're riding out is the schedule.  It's a battle for third place in the city of Brotherly Love.  Hope it's not a stinker.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ike Davis Celebrates With His Timo Present

Did anyone catch the ending of Sunday's game?  After the Astros scored a run in the top of the ninth inning off Jeremy Hefner (who was brilliant for the first eight innings), the Mets batted in the bottom of the ninth, needing a run to win.  Up stepped Ike Davis, who was responsible for the Mets' first run with a long home run to right.

Reliever Wilton Lopez, who seemed out of place on the Astros by virtue of his 5-1 record for a soon-to-be 40-88 team, was on the mound.  But with one towering fly ball off Ike Davis' bat, Lopez doubled his loss total.  Davis' walk-off homer just above the outstretched glove of rightfielder Ben Francisco gave the Mets a 2-1 victory in the game and the series.

But that wasn't the top story in the game.  The top story occurred just seconds after the ball left the yard.  I'll just let the photo below tell the story for me.

As Tropical Storm Isaac churns in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mets' own Isaac twirled at Citi Field.

Ike Davis, who plays for the Mets, a team that puts players on the 60-day DL for getting a paper cut, decided to score Baryshnikov-style.  Inexplicably, as he reached his joyous teammates at home plate, Davis did a pirouette/cha cha cha move, carefully covering his mouth so that no one would see his white man's overbite. 

He did this to celebrate a game-ending home run against a team that had won as many games as the 1962 Mets, a team that had already been mathematically eliminated from the NL Central race before the end of August.

I get that Davis was happy to win a game with his bat before the 25,071 in attendance and the 17,000-plus empty seats in the house.  But did he really have to bring back memories of 2002 with his home plate histrionics?  Did he really have to go all Timo with his team?

You know what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the Timo Perez home run celebration from August 24, 2002, almost ten years ago to the day.

This is tame compared to what Timo did on August 24, 2002.

On August 24, 2002, the Mets went into their game with the Colorado Rockies as the losers of a dozen straight games.  The team loaded with former superstars Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn, along with veterans Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, had not won a game in two weeks and appeared to be on their way to a 13th consecutive defeat.  The Mets were down to their final out in the top of the ninth inning, trailing the Rockies, 2-1.  But a two-out walk to Joe McEwing gave the Mets some hope.  And with one swing of the bat by Timo Perez, that hope was realized.

Perez hit a drive that went over the Coors Field wall, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.  Despite the fact that it was not a walk-off homer, as the game was being played in Denver, Perez lifted his arms high in the air as the ball left his bat, celebrating that he had given the Mets a late lead (probably forgetting that Armando Benitez was going to be given the ball to protect the lead).  Fortunately for the Mets, they tacked on two more runs in the inning, giving Benitez a three-run lead to protect, which he did. 

The 12-game losing streak was over, but the celebration by Timo Perez at the plate had just started to get the Rockies' blood boiling.  After all, Perez's non-walk-off homer had just helped defeat a 61-68 Rockies team that was out of contention.  That was then, this is now.

Like Timo Perez, Ike Davis was clearly excited after his ninth-inning homer defeated a poor team.  At least with Davis, his home run actually ended the game.  Oh, and here's one more eerie similarity about both homers.  Davis' ninth-inning homer and happy dance lifted the Mets' record to 59-69.  What did Timo's homer help improve the Mets to?  You got it.  59-69.  Here's the boxscore to prove it.

It just goes to show that you can't script baseball.  But I sure wish Ike Davis would have scripted his spin move a little better.  That white man's overbite?  Even Timo Perez was shaking his head at that.

Editor's Note:  For an even better story on Ike Davis' happy dance, please read today's post by the one and only Metstradamus.  You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Look Back At The Astros-Mets 50-Year Rivalry

In 1962, the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s made their National League debuts, the result of Bill Shea's promise to bring a third major league - the Continental League - into existence.  Once Major League Baseball made a deal to expand in 1961 and 1962 (Los Angeles and Washington were given American League expansion teams in 1961), the Continental League was put on the shelves and New York had a National League franchise again.

Except for the 1986 campaign, the Mets and Astros (the Colt .45s changed their name to the more politically correct Astros when they moved from Colt Stadium to the Astrodome in 1965) have never had a direct rivalry with each other.  However, they've still had many similarities and differences over the years.

With the Astros moving to the American League in 2013, today's game marked the final time the 1962 expansion mates squared off against each other in an intra-league game.  Let's look back at their rivalry over the years, doing our best to keep our tears from staining our scuffed Mike Scott baseball cards.

Mike Scott won 14 games in four seasons as a Met, but almost ended the Mets' championship dreams in 1986 as an Astro.

In 1962, the Mets finished the season with the worst record in modern baseball history, going 40-120 in their inaugural campaign.  They would go on to lose 100 or more games in each of their first four seasons, and five of their first six.  Meanwhile, the Astros never lost more than 97 games in any of their first six seasons.  In fact, they did not lose 100 games in a season until 2011, when they went 56-106 in their 50th year of existence.

The 1969 Mets won 100 regular season games en route to their first World Series championship.  It was the first time in franchise history that they did not finish with a losing record.  Although the Astros did not qualify for the postseason for the first time until 1980, the 1969 season was also the first time they did not finish with a losing record.  That team finished with a .500 record at 81-81.

The Astros didn't experience their first winning season until 1972, when they finished the year with an 84-69 record.  Interestingly enough, in 1973, the Astros also finished above .500, winning 82 games, the same total won by the Mets when they believed their way to the National League pennant. It's too bad the Astros didn't play in the NL East that year, where they would have competed for a division title.  In the NL West, their 82-80 record was only good enough for fourth place, 17 games behind the division-winning Cincinnati Reds.

Although the Astros have won six division titles and one split-season division title during the 1981 strike season, they did not win a playoff series in any of the seasons in which they finished in first place.  It wasn't until 2004 that the Astros finally won a postseason series.  In their 43rd year of existence, the wild-card winning Astros defeated the Atlanta Braves in five games in the best-of-five NLDS, before succumbing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the NLCS.  They advanced to their first World Series the following year, but they were swept by the Chicago White Sox.  In both 2004 and 2005, the Astros won postseason series, the only times in club annals that they were able to do so, even though they failed to win a division title in those years.  By comparison, the Mets have qualified for the playoffs seven times (five division titles, two wild cards) and have won at least one playoff series in all but one of those seasons, losing to the Dodgers in the 1988 NLCS.

The Mets have had more postseason success than the Astros, but Houston has fared batter during the regular season and in head-to-head matchups.  In their first fifty years of existence, the Mets have had 23 winning seasons (seasons above .500) and 27 losing campaigns.  Meanwhile, the Astros can claim 24 winning seasons, 22 losing years and four seasons in which they finished with a .500 record.  The Mets and Astros have rarely been good at the same time, as both teams have finished with winning records in the same year only 13 times in 50 years.

In head-to-head matchups, the Astros have dominated the Mets in the regular season.  Houston has won 308 times in 567 games, with the Mets winning 258 times and one game ending in a tie.  Even the World Champion 1969 Mets, winners of 100 games during the regular season, had trouble against the Astros, losing ten times in 12 games.  Of course, when it mattered the most, the Mets won their only postseason matchup against Houston, taking the 1986 NLCS from the Astros in six games.

Lenny Dykstra and the Mets raised the roof at the Astrodome in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS.

The Mets and Astros came into the National League together in 1962.  Both teams have experienced highs and lows over the years.  Both teams have had special players suit up for them, such as Nolan Ryan, Tommie Agee, Sid Fernandez, Dwight Gooden, John Franco and some guy named Mike Scott (all of whom were Mets before they became Astros) and Ron Taylor, Tommie Agee, Rusty Staub, Ray Knight, Carlos Beltran and Billy Wagner (who played in Houston before they came to New York).  Even Yogi Berra was important to both teams, managing the Mets to within one win of a World Series title in 1973 and serving as the Astros bench coach when they played the Mets in the 1986 NLCS.  But after this year, both teams will rarely play each other again, with the schedule makers determining how often they play each other in interleague play.

Although the Mets and Astros have rarely had a rivalry in the National League a la Dodgers-Giants and Cubs-Cardinals, it will be sad now knowing that the Mets will never play a National League game against their fellow expansion mates again.  The last 50 years have been full of similarities and differences between the Mets and Astros.  Today was no exception.

In the first-ever Mets-Astros game in 1962, the Mets came from behind to tie the game in the ninth inning, only to lose.  In today's final National League tilt between the two teams, the Astros came from behind to tie the game in the ninth, but this time the Mets pulled it out on Ike Davis' walk-off home run.  It was a fitting way to end the last intra-league game between these two teams.

It's a shame that this rivalry will never be the same again.

R.A. Dickey, 20-Game Winners And Losing Teams

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

On Saturday, R.A. Dickey pitched seven strong innings to defeat the Houston Astros by the final score of 3-1.  In doing so, Dickey improved his record to 16-4.  Despite the win, the Mets are still 11 games under .500 with a 58-69 mark.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on R.A. Dickey accomplishing two things that had never been done by a Mets pitcher in their 50-year history.  He could become the first starting pitcher for the Mets over a 162-game season to finish at least 10 games over .500 on a team with a losing record.  (Bret Saberhagen was 14-4 for the 1994 Mets, who finished three games under .500, but that was in a strike-shortened 113-game season.)  Dickey could also set a team record by winning the highest percentage of his team's games.  In 1975, Tom Seaver went 22-9 for a Mets team that finished 82-80.  Seaver was credited with a franchise-best 26.8% of his team's wins that year.  As of today, Dickey has 16 of the Mets' 58 victories, or 27.6% of the team's wins.

But now I'm looking at the bigger picture.  Barring a "ya gotta believe" 1973-style miracle, the Mets will finish the 2012 campaign with a losing record.  However, with approximately seven starts remaining on the season, Dickey still has a fair chance to win 20 games.  How rare has it been for a player to win 20 games on a team with a losing record?  It looks like it's time to put on my research shoes and tap out some stats for you.

Recently, there have been several pitchers who won 20 games for teams that were mediocre.  For example, last year Clayton Kershaw won 21 games for the 82-79 Dodgers.  In 2008, each league's leading winner played for so-so teams.  National League leader Brandon Webb won 22 games for the 82-80 Diamondbacks and American League leader Cliff Lee won 22 games for the 81-81 Indians.  But as mediocre as those teams were, none of them finished with a sub-.500 record.

You have to go back to 1997 to find the last pitcher who won 20 games or more for a team that finished with a losing record.  Two pitchers accomplished that rare feat a decade and a half ago.

Fifteen years ago, Roger Clemens went 21-7 for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Although the 1997 Blue Jays also had 15-game winner Pat Hentgen, who, like Clemens, was a former Cy Young Award winner (Hentgen won in 1996, Clemens won his fourth in 1997), Toronto didn't have other good horses to trot out to the mound on days when Clemens and Hentgen weren't pitching.  Despite Clemens' best efforts, the Blue Jays finished the 1997 season in last place in the AL East with a 76-86 record.

Even more outstanding than Clemens' mark was what Brad Radke did for the Minnesota Twins that same year.

In only his third season in the major leagues, Radke went 20-10 for the Twins in 1997.  But no other pitcher on the team won more than eight games that year.  As a result, the Twins finished the season with an abysmal 68-94 record, or 48-84 when Radke didn't get a decision.  Although it would mark the only time Radke won more than 15 games in a season, the lifelong Twin finished his career with 148 wins in 12 seasons with Minnesota, good for fourth place on the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins' all-time list (the Senators moved to the Twin Cities in 1961), behind Hall of Famers Walter Johnson and Bert Blyleven, as well as 283-game winner Jim Kaat.  Radke is in great company on the Twins' all-time wins list, but when it came to his company on the 1997 Twins staff, there was none to be found.

Both Clemens and Radke won 20 or more games for American League teams with losing records in 1997, but to find the last National League pitcher to do it, you have to go back a little further, before each league split up into three divisions.

In 1992, Greg Maddux finished his final season in Chicago with a 20-11 record.  Like fellow 350-game winner Roger Clemens did five years later, Maddux also had a fine sidekick on the staff in Mike Morgan, who went 16-8 for the Cubs.  The rest of the team didn't fare so well, going 42-65 in games that the M & M boys didn't earn a decision.  The 1992 Cubs finished the season with a 78-84 record, then let Maddux walk away to sign a lucrative free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves, allowing Greg Hibbard to become the team's ace in 1993.  Of course, the Cubs somehow improved in 1993, finishing six games over .500, led by Hibbard's 15 wins (Hibbard only won one game in the major leagues after 1993, which is probably why you don't remember him).  Maddux also improved, winning the Cy Young Award in each of his first three seasons in Atlanta, en route to what will likely be a one-way ticket to Cooperstown when he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Out of curiosity, since two pitchers won 20 games for losing teams in the American League in 1997, I decided to go back and see who was the last National League pitcher before Greg Maddux to win 20 games for a sub-.500 team.  That honor went to a pitcher who was far more popular than Maddux ever was (the "Chicks Dig The Longball" ad notwithstanding"), although his lengthy career failed to produce half of Maddux's career win total.

In 1986, Fernando Valenzuela had arguably his most complete season in the major leagues.  Although he was thrust into the national spotlight in 1981, winning both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards (not to mention the Silver Slugger Award) for a team that won the World Series, he only won 20 games once in his nearly two-decade major league career.  Valenzuela went 21-11 for the Dodgers in 1986, leading the league in complete games (20).  He also flashed the leather at his position, winning the Gold Glove Award for the only time in his career.  Despite a Mets pitching staff that featured four pitchers with a .700 winning percentage (Bob Ojeda, Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling finished 1-2-3-4, respectively, in winning percentage in 1986), it was Fernando Valenzuela who led the National League in victories, doing so for a Dodgers team that finished with a 73-89 record.

Valenzuela's 1986 season was also special in one other regard.  It was the last time a pitcher in either league completed 20 of his starts.  Since Valenzuela's 20-win, 20-complete-game season in 1986, no National League pitcher has finished a season with more than 15 complete games (Orel Hershiser and Danny Jackson each had 15 complete games in 1988, as did Curt Schilling in 1998).  The most complete games by an American League pitcher since 1986 is 18, which was accomplished by Roger Clemens one year after Valenzuela's 20-complete-game season.  Only one pitcher (Jack McDowell in 1991) has reached the 15-complete-game plateau in the American League since Clemens did it in 1987.  By comparison, R.A. Dickey is currently the National League leader in complete games with four.

I am Dickey, hear me roar!
(AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)

With that mention of R.A Dickey, we have now come full circle.  Dickey already has a good chance of becoming the first Mets pitcher over a full 162-game season to finish at least 10 games over .500 while his team finishes with a losing record, as well as recording the highest percentage of his team's victories over a single season.  But it's not just Mets history he might make this year.

Dickey is also in line to become the first 20-game winner to pitch for a sub-.500 team since Roger Clemens and Brad Radke did so for their teams in 1997, and the first National League pitcher to accomplish the feat in two decades.  Dickey would join Greg Maddux as the only pitchers in the last quarter century to win 20 games for a losing team in the National League.

R.A. Dickey has already become one of the best pitchers in the National League.  Now he has a chance to do something that hasn't been accomplished in the major leagues since the 20th century by pitchers who are among baseball's all-time greats (Maddux, Clemens) as well as pitchers who were all-time greats on their respective teams (Valenzuela, Radke).

The Mets team might not be winning as much as its players and their fans would like, but R.A. Dickey has shown that it's possible for a losing team to have a winner on it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Despite No-Decision, Still A McHUGE Debut For Collin

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Earlier today, I composed a short piece on how the Mets' dominance of the Rockies in New York was a fading memory, with the Mets having lost seven straight and nine of 11 to the Rockies in New York after winning 30 of 37 against them in the Big Apple since 1999.  It might be time to update that piece, as the Mets have now lost eight straight and ten of their last 12 games to Colorado after their 1-0 defeat in today's matinee.

But I'm not upset with today's loss or this week's Rockies sweep.  I'm actually feeling pretty good.  And I have two words to explain why I'm not ready to jump off the Shea Bridge.  The first word is Collin and the second word is McHugh.

For seven scintillating innings, Collin McHugh thrilled the kids and empty seats in attendance (as well as Scott and Teresa McHugh, who made the trip to Citi Field to see their son mow down the Rockies).  But with the Mets continuing to be sponsored by the number zero (especially when on offense), McHugh received nothing for his efforts.  No lovely parting gifts, no win, nada.

In McHugh's seven innings, he allowed no runs on two hits, striking out nine batters.  (After never having a Met strike out more than eight batters in his major league debut prior to this year, McHugh joined Matt Harvey in this exclusive club today.)  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McHugh became just the third pitcher since 1920 to post those numbers in his major league debut (seven innings, no runs, two hits or less, nine strikeouts or more), joining Hall of Famer Juan Marichal and non-Hall of Famer Steve Woodard.

But for the sixth consecutive game, the Mets scored two runs or less (mostly less), marking the first time since 1982 they had accomplished this.  However, the 1982 streak (which reached seven games) was not just due to an inept offense.  Six of the seven games were played in three days, as the Mets played three doubleheaders from September 17-21, 1982.  Blame that lack-of-scoring streak on tired players and too many rusty bench players getting starts.  What excuse do the 2012 Mets have?

But this post is not about the Mets' bats constantly hitting the snooze button instead of baseballs.  It's about Collin McHugh, a fellow blogger and now the latest Mets pitcher to have a memorable debut.  Scott and Teresa McHugh have been proud of their son since he was born.  Mets fans can begin to feel proud starting today as Collin McHugh gave us something to look forward to in 2013 and beyond.

Colorado Is No Longer Rocky In New York

For years, the Mets used to be safe at home against Colorado.  Not anymore.

In 1993, the Colorado Rockies played their inaugural game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.  Dwight Gooden, who was coming off his first losing season (10-13 in 1992), made the start against the Rockies and pitched a complete-game shutout, scattering four hits and one walk in the 3-0 victory.  Gooden's brilliant performance was topped in the next game by Bret Saberhagen, who pitched eight strong innings, allowing only two hits and a walk in the Mets' 6-1 victory.

The Mets only won 57 more games after the two-game season-opening sweep of the Rockies, but it began a 16-year domination of Colorado in New York.  From April 5, 1993 up to and including the first game of a doubleheader on July 30, 2009, the Mets were 49-20 playing the Rockies in New York for an amazing .710 winning percentage.

Those 69 home games were divided into 23 series, with the Mets winning 15 of those series, losing four and splitting three.  After losing two out of three to the Rockies at Shea Stadium in May 2002, the Mets did not lose another series to Colorado at home until 2010.  Over that eight-year period, they were an amazing 21-2 against the Rockies at Shea Stadium and Citi Field before losing the final game of a four-game series (the second game of the aforementioned July 30, 2009 doubleheader at Citi Field).  Although that loss might not have meant much to either team, as the Mets went on to post a 70-92 record in 2009, while the Rockies advanced to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, it was important in one respect.  It ended the Mets' domination of Colorado in New York.

Beginning with the Mets' loss to Colorado on July 30, 2009, the Rockies have played 11 games at Citi Field, winning all but two of them.  Entering today's series finale against the Mets, Colorado has won seven straight games against the Mets at Citi Field.  To put that in perspective, prior to the July 30, 2009 nightcap, the Rockies had defeated the Mets in New York seven times in TEN YEARS, going 7-30 at Shea Stadium and Citi Field in 37 games since late 1999.

The 1993 Mets finished with the franchise's worst record since 1965, but even they were able to defeat the Rockies at home.  The current version of the Mets should watch some old VHS tapes from that era to try to figure out just why they've been so rocky against Colorado at Citi Field over the past three seasons.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We Believed In Home Field Advantage

In 2010, the Mets were entering their second season at Citi Field.  After a brutal 2009 campaign in which they lost 92 games, the team needed something to get fans excited about the team.  That excitement came in a three-month stretch during the first half of the 2010 season, when the Mets were practically unbeatable at home.

Although the Mets were having tremendous difficulty winning on the road, they were 28-12 at home by the fourth of July.  After every home victory, the song "Uprising" by Muse blasted on the Citi Field sound system ("We will be victorious...") and CitiVision flashed its "We Believe In Home Field Advantage" graphic for all the smiling fans in attendance to be proud of.

That was then.  A lot has changed over the past two-plus seasons, especially when it comes to the Mets' performance at home.

Can you guess which home loss this photo is from?  Neither can I.  Too many to choose from.

During the second half of the 2010 campaign, the Mets returned to earth at Citi Field, going 19-22 at home to close out the season.  They followed that up in 2011 with a disappointing 34-47 record in front of the Flushing faithful.  Now, with tonight's 6-2 loss to the Rockies, the Mets have fallen to 28-32 at Citi Field in 2012.

Since Independence Day two years ago, the Mets lost their ability to win at home, going a combined 81-101 at home for a .445 winning percentage.  Even the woeful Houston Astros, who are an abysmal 105 games under .500 in all games since the beginning of the 2010 season (171-276) have been better at home over the same time period (100-124, for a .446 winning percentage).

There was a time when the Mets were a good team.  They played their home games at Shea Stadium then.  But as recently as the spring of 2010, the Mets were still a good team, as long as they were playing their games at home.  Sadly, that is also no longer the case, as the Mets have now lost 17 of their last 22 home games and are 20 games under .500 at Citi Field since the summer of 2010.

We believed in home field advantage.  Now that we don't have it anymore, in what should we believe?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jonathon Niese Finally Gets It Together

Jonathon Niese was drafted by the Mets in the seventh round of the 2005 amateur draft.  Niese was good, but not great in the minors, winning 11 games in each minor league season from 2006 to 2008 and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning.  But his ERA was just under 4.00 and he averaged over three walks per nine innings.  However, he went 5-1 in seven starts with AAA-New Orleans in 2008 and became one of the September call-ups in Shea Stadium's final season.

Niese pitched poorly in his first major league start, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks to the Brewers in only three innings of work.  But he was brilliant in his next start, pitching eight shutout innings against the Braves to earn his first major league victory.  In his third and final start for the Mets in 2008, Niese could not carry over the momentum gained from his stellar effort against Atlanta. He threw 78 pitches in only three innings versus the Cubs, allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks.  It was this kind of inconsistency from start to start that became the rule rather than the exception for Niese over his first four seasons in the majors.

In 2009, Niese made five starts for the Mets.  He pitched beautifully in his first start (6 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 0 BB) but was awful in his second (4.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 2 BB).  He followed the same pattern in his next two starts, pitching well in his third start, but allowing base runner after base runner in his fourth game.  Niese's fifth start was marred by a season-ending injury on August 5, when he collapsed on the mound while throwing a practice pitch. 

The 2010 season was the first in which Niese made the Mets' Opening Day roster.  Niese began the season poorly, winning one of his first eight starts before another injury felled him on May 16.  But once he came off the disabled list, Niese was a new man.  He won his first five decisions upon his return to the Mets on June 5 and enjoyed the best extended stretch of his career to date.  From June 5 to August 21, Niese was the proud owner of a 2.70 ERA, striking out 77 batters and walking only 25 in 96.2 IP.  Only twice in those 15 starts did he allow more than three runs.  He also pitched the best game of his career on June 10, allowing only a third inning double to the Padres' Chris Denorfia.  That hit was the only base runner of the night for San Diego, and the only blemish on an otherwise perfect pitching performance by Jonathon Niese, who sailed to a complete-game one-hit shutout.

But even after a two-and-a-half month stretch of excellence, Niese's inconsistencies were not completely behind him.  In his final seven starts of the season, Niese was battered by opposing hitters.  Niese allowed the opposition to hit .345 against him and walked 19 batters in 35.2 IP.  His ERA over that stretch was an abysmal 7.57, and as a result, he was only able to win one of his final seven starts, finishing the year with a disappointing 9-10 record.

The same formula was followed by Niese in 2011, as he started off poorly (2-4, 5.03 ERA in his first eight starts) before recovering in the middle part of the season (8-4, 3.34 ERA, 84 K, 20 BB in 86.1 IP), only to struggle at the end (1-3, 7.15 ERA in four August starts).  Niese was finally shut down for the season after a brutal start on August 23 in which he allowed eight runs on ten hits to the Phillies in four innings of work.  He would not pitch again until 2012, with the Mets not knowing what they were going to get from the inconsistent, oft-injured Niese.

But then Sandy Alderson and the Mets' front office gave Niese an unexpected present during the first week of the season, signing the homegrown lefty to a five-year, $25.5 million contract, with two team options that could pay him an extra $21 million and keep him in Flushing until 2018.  The security has clearly helped Niese, as he has responded with the best season of his career.

Jonathon Niese made the first-place Nats look like a Little League team with his dominating performance last night.

After last night's brilliant performance (7.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K) against the team with the best record in baseball, the Washington Nationals, Niese improved his season record to 10-6 and lowered his ERA to 3.49.  More importantly, he has been able to pitch effectively well into the latter part of the season, something that had eluded him over his major league career.  Since June 3, Niese has gone 7-4 with a 2.89 ERA.  But the best part of this stretch has been his control, as Niese has struck out 78 batters while walking only 13 in his last 14 starts, an average of six strikeouts and less than one walk per start.

Prior to 2012, Niese had never won more than 11 games in a season.  He is now one win away from matching his career high with six weeks remaining.  Niese is also 19 strikeouts from setting a new personal high.  But his ability to control his pitches is what has finally turned him into a quality major league pitcher.  From 2008 to 2011, Niese had never finished a season with a WHIP under 1.40.  This year, it's down to 1.15.  Niese has also improved his strikeout to walk ratio in each season he's been in the majors, going from 1.38 K/BB in 2008 to 2.00 K/BB in 2009, all the way up to this season's 3.39 K/BB ratio.  As a result, Niese has stayed in ballgames longer, giving his team a better chance to win.  Niese has pitched a minimum of six innings in each of last 14 starts, pitching at least seven innings in ten of the 14.

In a season featuring the exploits of R.A. Dickey and the no-hitter by Johan Santana, it has been Jonathon Niese who has been the most consistent starter on the staff.  Even Dickey, who could be on his way to the first 20-win season by a Met since 1990, has been inconsistent of late, going 3-3 with a 4.39 ERA in his last nine games (eight starts).

The face of inconsistency for the Mets over the past few seasons has finally gotten it together.  Although it took him a few years to get there, Jonathon Niese has become the pitcher the Mets expected him to be.  With Niese signed through the 2016 season, it's good to know that the team will have a dependable arm in the rotation for many years to come.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Davey Johnson And His Cooperstown Credentials

When Davey Johnson was hired to be the manager of the New York Mets prior to the 1984 season, no one expected much from the former major leaguer.  Although he had had some managerial success in the Mets' minor league system, he had never held a job as a skipper in the major leagues.  In fact, the only thing many Mets fans knew about him was that he made the final out of the 1969 World Series, lifting a long fly ball into that settled gently into the glove of a genuflecting Cleon Jones.

But Davey Johnson had a plan.  And his plan helped turn a moribund franchise around.  After a 1983 season in which the Mets finished with 68 wins under managers George Bamberger and Frank Howard, Johnson insisted on Wally Backman becoming his everyday second baseman.  He also convinced the front office that a raw, but über-talented 19-year-old pitcher was ready for the big show.  Johnson got his wish when Dwight Gooden became one of his five starters.

Behind the leadership skills of Johnson and the perfect combination of talented youth and grizzled veterans, the Mets won 90 games for only the second time in franchise history in 1984.  That number increased to 98 in 1985 and 108 in 1986, when the Mets won their first World Series title since Johnson flied out to Jones seventeen years earlier.

Eventually, the '80s ended and so did general manager Frank Cashen's patience with Johnson.  After the 42nd game of the 1990 season, Davey Johnson was relieved of his managerial duties, but not before leaving a legacy that has yet to be surpassed in Flushing.

Many people said that Johnson only did well as manager of the Mets because of the players he was given.  It's true that Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Ron Darling, Jesse Orosco and others were already wearing the orange and blue before Johnson managed them for the first time.  But it took a players' manager like Johnson to get them to become a team, something that hadn't been seen in New York since George Frazier was the Mets' manager in 1976.  The Mets were better because of Johnson.  And since he left New York, other teams have seen just how good a manager Johnson can be.

Following the exodus of Reds legend Tony Perez from the manager's seat nearly two months into the 1993 season, Johnson was hired to be the skipper in Cincinnati.  In his first full season as Reds manager in 1994, Johnson had the Reds in first place in the NL Central, but the players' strike wiped away any postseason dreams for the Queen City.  The following season, Johnson did lead the Reds into the playoffs, directing Cincinnati to its first postseason appearance since winning the World Series in 1990.  But alas, Johnson wore out his welcome once again and he was let go by Reds owner Marge Schott following the 1995 season.  The Reds would not return to the playoffs again for 15 seasons.

Although he was run out of two cities, Johnson did not have to wait long to find another managerial position in the major leagues.  Soon after his release from Cincinnati, he was scooped up by the Baltimore Orioles, who had not made the playoffs since 1983, when they won the World Series.  That all changed once Johnson arrived.  Baltimore made the playoffs in both seasons Johnson was at the helm, winning the wild card in 1996 and the AL East division title in 1997.  But once again, Johnson and ownership (in this case, Peter Angelos) did not see eye-to-eye on many fronts and Johnson resigned as Orioles manager following the 1997 season, a year in which he won the Manager of the Year Award, an honor never bestowed upon him prior to 1997 despite numerous postseason appearances.  Not coincidentally, the Orioles have not finished with a winning record since Johnson's last year in Baltimore.

After a year off in 1998, Johnson returned to a big league dugout in 1999, managing the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But for the first time in a full 162-game season, a Davey Johnson-led team finished with a losing record, going 77-85 in 1999.  The Dodgers did recover to win 86 games in 2000, but finished eight games behind the Mets for the National League wild card.  That was it for Davey Johnson as a major league manager, or so we thought.  It took him 11 years, but Johnson finally returned to the big leagues in 2011 as the manager the Washington Nationals.

His hair may be grayer, but his managing style isn't.  Davey Johnson has been a winner wherever he's managed.

The Nationals had never finished with a winning record since moving to Washington in 2005.  The Expos/Nationals franchise had also never finished a full 162-game season in first place in their first 43 seasons.  (The Expos made their sole playoff appearance in 1981, winning a split division title during the strike-shortened campaign.  They were also in first place in 1994, but a season-ending strike ended any chances of the Expos returning to the playoff stage.)  But that appears as if it's going to change in 2012, with Davey Johnson leading the way.

Entering Sunday's rubber match against the Mets, the Nationals own the best record in baseball, with a 74-46 mark.  With 22 wins in their final 42 games, Washington will set a franchise record with 96 wins, surpassing the 95 wins achieved by the 1979 Expos.  It would also give Johnson his fifth division title as a manager.

Let's review.

The Mets had finished with seven consecutive losing seasons from 1977-1983.  Davey Johnson took over in 1984 and led them to six consecutive winning seasons, including two division titles and one World Series championship.  The Mets have not won a World Series since Johnson left town.

The Reds had made one playoff appearance since the end of the 1970s before Johnson took over during the 1994 season.  Their playoff drought ended in 1995, when Johnson led them to a division title.  It was one of only two postseason appearances the Reds made in a 31-year span.

The Orioles went 13 seasons without making the playoffs before Johnson came aboard.  They crashed the postseason party in each of Johnson's two seasons at the helm.  They haven't sniffed October in a decade and a half.

The Nationals had never done what they're doing this year.  They are now.  And it's all with Davey Johnson taking them to unprecedented heights.

Only 33 managers have won more games than the 1,262 won by Davey Johnson.  Furthermore, only 18 managers have a higher career winning percentage than Davey Johnson's .563 mark.

Ten managers have won 1,000 or more games and had a winning percentage of at least .560.  Nine of them are in the Hall of Fame.  The only one who isn't is Davey Johnson.  But the way things are going for the man who started his major league managerial career with the Mets, that should eventually change once he hangs up his uniform for good.

Davey Johnson has taken teams to places they've never been or places they hadn't been in years.  When Johnson leaves those teams, they tend to suffer in the standings.  That's not a coincidence.  That's a testament to his skill as a leader, motivator and manager.  Davey Johnson belongs in the Hall of Fame once he retires from baseball.  His ticket is as good as punched.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Santana May Have Sucked, But He's No Virgil Trucks

Last night at Citi Field, Johan Santana came off the disabled list to make his first start in three weeks  Prior to his time on the DL, Santana had not pitched well, becoming the first Met since Pedro Astacio in 2002 to allow six or more runs in three consecutive starts.  The extra time recovering from his ankle injury should have given him enough time to sort things out.  It did not.

Santana picked up right where he left off, facing 13 Braves and allowing nine of them to reach base.  In doing so, he became the first starting pitcher in Mets history to allow eight runs and eight hits while retiring four batters or less.  (Calvin Schiraldi was the only other Met to accomplish this in 1985, but he stunk up the joint in a relief "effort".)

Since pitching his no-hitter on June 1, Santana has been absolutely awful, going 3-6 with a 7.98 ERA.  Santana has allowed opponents to hit .328 against him with 11 home runs.  He has also not been very durable, averaging less than five innings per start since since the no-hit gem (nine starts, 44 innings pitched).

It seems unconscionable that a pitcher could be as good as Santana was during his no-hitter and then be so bad, as he's been ever since.  It also seems unusual that Santana pitched his no-no during what's fast becoming his worst season since he became a full-time starting pitcher in 2003.  But it's not unheard of in major league history.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Virgil Trucks.

Virgil Trucks has already taken the road Johan Santana is currently on.

Virgil Trucks was never one of the best pitchers in the American League, but he was certainly not a back-of-the-rotation starter.  From 1941-1951, Trucks won 103 games for the Detroit Tigers (against 72 losses) and had a respectable 3.41 ERA.  In 1949, he had his best season up to that point, going 19-11 with a 2.81 ERA, leading the league in shutouts (6) and strikeouts (153), which earned him his first trip to the All-Star Game.

Things were looking up for Trucks as he entered the 1952 campaign.  But the Tigers stopped hitting for him when he was on the mound.  And he stopped winning.  In his first 20 starts, the Tigers were held to three runs or less in 15 of them.  Trucks lost 13 times in those first 20 starts.  However, in his fifth start, Trucks no-hit the Washington Senators, defeating them 1-0.  In his 17th start, he pitched a complete-game one-hitter, once again versus Washington and also by a 1-0 score.  If not for an Eddie Yost single to lead off the game, Trucks would have fired his second no-hitter of the season.  He wouldn't have to wait much longer to get another chance at a no-hitter.

On August 25, facing the three-time defending World Champion New York Yankees, Trucks threw his second no-hitter of the season, holding the Bronx Bombers hitless in yet another 1-0 victory.  No-hitting the perennial cellar dwellers in Washington was one thing, but no-hitting a powerful Yankee lineup was something else.  Unfortunately, after his second no-hitter of the season (and third complete game allowing one hit or less), Trucks was a completely different pitcher for the rest of the season.

In his next seven appearances following his second no-hitter, Trucks was awful.   He did not win any of the games he appeared in after August 25 and allowed opposing batters to hit .303 against him.  Trucks also had a whopping 6.75 ERA and allowed 63 runners to reach base (47 hits, 16 walks) in 36 innings.

From 1941-1951, Trucks experienced only one losing season (1947, when he went 10-12).  In 1952, he was an abysmal 5-19 with a 3.97 ERA, which was more than half a run higher than his career ERA was up to that point.

Trucks did recover nicely after his poor season, going 20-10 with a 2.93 ERA in 1953 (his only 20-win season in the majors) and 19-12 with a 2.79 ERA in 1954.  But he was still remembered as the pitcher who threw two no-hitters and a one-hitter in a season in which he lost 19 of his other 21 decisions.

That brings us back to Johan Santana.  Entering the 2012 season, Santana was the proud owner of a 133-69 career record and 3.10 ERA (40-25, 2.85 ERA with the Mets).  But like Virgil Trucks sixty years before him, the team stopped hitting for Santana during the early part of the season.  As a result, Santana was only credited with two wins over his first ten starts despite having an outstanding 2.75 ERA.  Then he pitched his no-hitter.  And after that, everything fell apart.

It's not unheard of for a pitcher to pitch a no-hitter during an otherwise awful season.  In 2011, Francisco Liriano, a former teammate of Santana in Minnesota, pitched a no-hitter for the Twins in a year in which he finished 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA.  A year earlier, Edwin Jackson went 6-10 with a 5.16 ERA for Arizona, but he threw a no-hitter for the Diamondbacks during that otherwise lackluster campaign.  Heck, even Bud Smith pitched a no-hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001.  By the end of the following season, at the tender age of 22, Smith had thrown his last pitch in the major leagues, finishing his career with a 7-8 record and 4.95 ERA.

But as bad as Liriano, Jackson and Smith were (and yes, I'm throwing Santana into the mix), none of them were as bad or as unfortunate as Virgil Trucks was sixty years ago for the Tigers.  Johan Santana might be having his worst season as a starting pitcher, but it could be far worse.  All he has to do is read up on Virgil Trucks' 1952 campaign and he'll know that someone understands.

Ryan Howard Fears Oliver Perez

I know this is a site for Mets fans.  I also know Ryan Howard is a Phillie and Oliver Perez still gives Mets fans nightmares even though he is a continent away in Seattle.  But I needed a distraction from last night's debacle, when Johan Santana went from being No-Han to retiring No One (give or take four batters).  So today I'm focusing on a little tidbit I found in the Sunday New York Times.

In Joe Brescia's weekly "30 Seconds..." piece, he interviewed Ryan Howard, asking him various questions about his health, his performance on the field and the state of the Phillies.  (In case you hadn't noticed, the sellout streak is over at Citizens Bank Park.  Phillies fans will tell you they're just getting ready for the Eagles' upcoming season, but methinks the NL East standings have something to do with the dearly departed streak.)

One question at the end of the interview caught my eye.  The Phillies' slugger was asked which pitcher was the toughest he ever faced.  His answer was Oliver Perez.

Before you chuckle at Ryan Howard's inability to hit a pitcher who allowed everyone and their mothers to reach base during the latter half of his tenure in New York, take a look at how Perez has fared against the Subway sandwich shill.

In 25 career at-bats against Perez, Howard has collected only three hits, batting .120 against the former Mets left-handed pariah ... I mean, pitcher.  Perez has had no trouble finding the plate against Howard, walking him twice while striking him out 14 times.  That's 14 times in 25 official at-bats.  Even Jason Bay doesn't strike out that often.

Of course, this season Howard must think he's facing Oliver Perez every time he comes to the plate.  In 100 at-bats following his return from the painful groundout that wiped out the Phillies' 2011 campaign and the first three months of his 2012 season, Howard has struck out 40 times while drawing only ten walks.  He also sees the dinner plate more than he does home plate, as Howard has scored ten runs, seven of which came when he drove himself in by hitting the ball out of the yard.

Meanwhile, Oliver Perez has taken what he learned from facing Ryan Howard and has become a serviceable reliever in Seattle.  In 20 games for the Mariners, Perez has a low 2.00 ERA in 18 innings, striking out 18 and walking only five.  Compare that to what El Perez-idente did in 2009 for the Mets, when he made 14 starts and walked at least five in half of those starts.

Ryan Howard is a large hulk of a man.  Pitchers should be afraid of him, not the other way around.  But Howard fears Oliver Perez the way Mets fans feared the bullpen phone ringing whenever Perez was warming up.  It just goes to show that you can't script baseball, especially if Ryan Howard and Oliver Perez are two of your main characters.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

R.A. Dickey Could Set Two Records He'd Rather Not Have

On Thursday, R.A. Dickey pitched a complete game against the Miami Marlins to notch his 15th victory of the season.  Dickey is now 12 games above .500 (15-3) for a team that's five games under .500 (54-59, entering Saturday night's game).  How rare is it for a Mets pitcher to be that many games over the break-even point while pitching for a team with a losing record?  Also, how unheard of would it be for Dickey to finish with that great of a percentage of his team's wins?  To answer both questions, it would be rare and it would be unheard of.

Ten pitchers in Mets history have finished a season with at least 10 more wins than losses, accomplishing the feat a total of 14 times.  Those pitchers are:

  • Tom Seaver (1969): 25-7
  • Tom Seaver (1971): 20-10
  • Tom Seaver (1975): 22-9
  • Jerry Koosman (1976): 21-10
  • Dwight Gooden (1985): 24-4
  • Ron Darling (1985): 16-6
  • Bob Ojeda (1986): 18-5
  • Dwight Gooden (1986): 17-6
  • Sid Fernandez (1986): 16-6
  • Terry Leach (1987): 11-1
  • David Cone (1988): 20-3
  • Dwight Gooden (1990): 19-7
  • Bret Saberhagen (1994): 14-4
  • Al Leiter (1998): 17-6

No Mets pitcher has finished at least 10 games over .500 in the 21st century, a feat that R.A. Dickey can accomplish this season.  But let's look at one other thing regarding the pitchers listed above.

In 1969, when Tom Seaver became the first Met to win 10 more games than he lost in a single season, the Mets won 100 games and their first World Series championship.  The 1971 Mets also finished above .500, when Seaver repeated his 10-games-over-.500 feat, as did the 1975 Mets, the 1976 Mets, and so on.  It wasn't until Bret Saberhagen went 14-4 in the strike-shortened 1994 season that a Mets pitcher won 10 more games than he lost for a team that finished with a losing record.

In 1994, the Mets were 55-58 when the strike put the kibosh on the Major League Baseball season, giving Saberhagen the dubious distinction of being the only pitcher in Mets history to finish a season, albeit abbreviated, that many games above .500 while the team finished below that mark.  R.A. Dickey could soon be joining Saberhagen if his teammates don't start winning when he's not on the mound.

Yes, R.A.  That really is Bret Saberhagen's name above you.

Now let's look at Mets pitchers who won a high percentage of his team's games.  Once again, there aren't many pitchers on this list, as only five hurlers have completed a season for the Mets in which he earned at least 25% of his team's victories.  Those five pitchers have accomplished this rare feat a total of eight times.  Here is a list of the seasons in which these pitchers joined this exclusive club:

  • 1962 Mets (40-120): Roger Craig goes 10-24 (25.0% of the team's victories)
  • 1963 Mets (51-111): Al Jackson goes 13-17 (25.5% of the team's victories)
  • 1967 Mets (61-101): Tom Seaver goes 16-13 (26.2% of the team's victories)
  • 1968 Mets (73-89): Jerry Koosman goes 19-12 (26.0% of the team's victories)
  • 1969 Mets (100-62): Tom Seaver goes 25-7 (25.0% of the team's victories)
  • 1972 Mets (83-73): Tom Seaver goes 21-12 (25.3% of the team's victories)
  • 1975 Mets (82-80): Tom Seaver goes 22-9 (26.8% of the team's victories)
  • 1994 Mets (55-58): Bret Saberhagen goes 14-4 (25.5% of the team's victories)

Of the five Mets pitchers who completed a season in which he earned at least 25% of his team's victories, only Bret Saberhagen did it in the last 37 seasons, doing so during the strike-shortened 1994 campaign.

R.A. Dickey currently has a 15-3 record for a team that's 54-59, accounting for 27.8% of the team's wins this year.  Should Dickey maintain this pace, he would surpass "The Franchise" himself, Tom Seaver, to become the Mets pitcher with the greatest percentage of his team's victories in a single season.

Tom Seaver and R.A. Dickey, two masters of their craft.

The 2012 season has been full of ups and downs for the Mets.  But one aspect of their season has been way up.  R.A. Dickey has given the team one of the best seasons for a pitcher in their 50-year history.  But unfortunately, the rest of the team has had a difficult time of replicating Dickey's dominance.  In doing so, they might help Dickey accomplish two things that Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Jerry Koosman never did.

If the Mets finish with a losing record and Dickey remains more than 10 games over .500, he would become the first pitcher in team history to finish that many games above .500 on a team that couldn't make it over that hump.  Similarly, no Mets pitcher can claim to have won more than 26.8% of his team's victories in a single season.  That could all change this year.

R.A. Dickey hasn't stopped making history since 2012 began.  Now he can make some more.  But oddly enough, had his teammates played better, this particular type of history-making achievement might never have been possible.  As much as Dickey would appreciate becoming the first Mets pitcher to achieve the feats detailed above, he would surely trade both of those records for more victories by the team on days he didn't pitch.  We all would.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Since The Mets' Last Win At Home...

Prior to today's 6-1 win over the Miami Marlins, the Mets had gone 33 days without a victory at Citi Field.  It was the team's second longest winless streak at home in terms of days in franchise history, falling one day short of their record 34-day skein in 2002.

Much has happened since the Mets' last victory at Citi Field, which took place on July 7, the Saturday before the All-Star Game.  That got me thinking...

Since the Mets' last win at home, they've fallen from a tie with the Giants for the second wild card to double-digit games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the same spot.

Since the Mets' last win at home, Dillon Gee has been placed on the disabled list and Bobby Parnell has lost his temporary hold on the closer role.  In that last win, Parnell saved the game for Gee, who was credited with the victory.

Since the Mets' last win at home, Matt Harvey has become the franchise's all-time leader for strikeouts in his first three starts (23).  At the time of their last win, Harvey was still three minor league starts away from getting his call-up to the parent club.

Since the Mets' last win at home, R.A. Dickey has been human, giving up 21 runs (17 earned) in seven appearances (six starts).  Despite his return to humanity, he's still leading the league in wins (15), complete games (4), shutouts (2 - tied for the NL lead), strikeouts (166) and WHIP (1.00).

Since the Mets' last win at home, Tim Byrdak has pitched in 14 games despite not having been on the mound in over a week due to a potential career-threatening anterior capsule tear in his left shoulder.

Since the Mets' last win at home, their 2013 All-Star Game logo has been unveiled, as well as more delicious food options at the ballpark.  All of these features still cannot hide the fact that the Mets had stopped winning at home.

Since the Mets' last win at home, Jason Bay has seven hits, which is seven more hits than most people expected him to have.

Since the Mets' last win at home, Jose Reyes began a 26-game hitting streak.  That streak ended today when the Mets finally got another win at home!

Just when you thought you'd never see this graphic again at Citi Field...

Reyes' streak wasn't the only one to end today, as the Mets snapped their nine-game home losing streak that covered 33 days.  R.A. Dickey pitched a strong game for the win, and he was helped by the bat of Andres Torres, who went 3-for-3 with a walk, double, triple and homer.

Much has happened since the Mets' last win at home.  But at least we no longer have to talk about it, as the Mets' last win at home is now the last game they played.  Period.  It sure feels good to have another happy recap at Citi Field again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Giancarlo Stanton Feels "Chipper" Against The Mets

For the better part of two decades, Chipper Jones has been notorious for being a Met killer.  Since making his first appearance against them in 1995, Mr. Larry Wayne Jones has saved his best efforts for when he plays the Mets.  In 237 games (230 starts), Jones is hitting .316 with 49 HR and 157 RBI.  He also has a .411 on-base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage in 833 career at-bats versus New York.

News of Jones' retirement at the end of the 2012 season led many Mets fans to breathe a sigh of relief because there was one less Met killer to worry about.  (Pat Burrell also retired earlier this year.)  But it appears as if there's a new player on a division rival who's ready to take Chipper's place.

Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton made his debut with the Marlins in 2010.  In his first-ever game against the Mets on June 28, 2010, he hit a three-run homer.  It would not be the last time he made mince meat of a Mets pitcher.

The career .268 hitter is hitting .287 against the Mets in 108 career at-bats.  But it's his power that has gotten the attention of the team.  Stanton has 9 HR and 25 RBI against the Mets in only 31 games (29 starts).  If Chipper Jones looks scary at the plate with his .505 career slugging percentage versus New York, then what do pitchers do when they look at the scoreboard and see that Stanton is slugging a whopping .583 against them?

For 18 seasons, Mets fans have had a good reason to hate Chipper Jones, serenading the Met killer with "La-a-a-a-rry" chants every time he steps up to the plate.  Now Giancarlo Stanton is taking over the role soon to be vacated by the retiring future Hall of Famer.  Will chants of "Mi-i-i-i-key" soon follow?

For now, the only thing Stanton is hearing is "oohs" and "aahs" from the Citi Field faithful, especially with each long home run he hits against the Mets.  Mets pitchers would rather he felt "Chipper" somewhere else.

The Mets Are Hoping To Avoid A Repeat of August 2002

Bobby V had this look in August 2002.  Will Terry C do the same in August 2012?

Ten years ago this month, the Mets did something they had never done before and have not done since.  They lost every home game they played.

In August 2002, the Mets became the third team in baseball history (and the first in National League history) to lose every home game they played in a calendar month (minimum 10 home games).  With an 0-13 record, the Mets equaled the mark of futility set by the 1969 Seattle Pilots (0-13 in August) and matched by the 1996 Detroit Tigers (0-16 in September).

The Mets also lost their first two home games in September 2002 to extend their home losing streak to 15 games, which set a new National League record for consecutive losses at home.  They did not win a home game for 34 days, going from July 31 to September 3 without a single happy recap at Shea Stadium.

Fast forward ten years to August 2012.  The Mets lost the middle game of their three-game series against the Marlins at Citi Field.  The 13-0 whitewashing was the Mets' ninth straight defeat at home, their longest winless skein since - you guessed it - August 2002.

Because of the four-day All-Star Break and the recently-completed 11-game western swing, the Mets have not celebrated a win at Citi Field since July 7, when they defeated the Cubs, 3-1, in a game started and won by Dillon Gee, who has been on the disabled list ever since.  Therefore, when the Mets take the field against the Marlins on Thursday afternoon, they will be searching for their first win at home in 33 days, just one day short of their franchise-record 34-day home winless streak from 2002.

Years ending in '2' have never been good to the Mets.  But this year was supposed to be different.  If the Mets lose the series finale against the Marlins on Thursday and Friday night's game against Atlanta, the 2012 season will be different in one respect.  It'll be the first time the Mets go 35 days without a victory at home. 

Let's go Mets.  But let's not go into the record book for futility at home.  A win - and soon - will make sure that ignominious distinction does not occur.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back To The Futile: Jason Bay

Last year, Adam Dunn had an historically bad season for the Chicago White Sox.  In 415 at-bats, Dunn batted .159 with 11 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 177 times.  It was the lowest batting average of any player in major league history with a minimum of 400 at-bats, breaking the record set by Rob Deer, who hit .179 in 1991 for the Detroit Tigers in 438 at-bats.

Over a century ago, in 1909, Bill Bergen of the Brooklyn Superbas (as the Dodgers were called back then) hit .139 in 346 at-bats.  This was nothing new for Bergen, who quite possibly was the worst hitter of any non-pitcher in history, batting .170 in 3,028 career at-bats for Cincinnati and Brooklyn from 1901 to 1911.

Why is this relevant to the Mets of today?  Because Jason Bay now has something to shoot for.

Jason Bay is looking down because that's where his batting average is.

Jason Bay came to New York after a year in which he hit 36 HR and drove in 119 runs for the Boston Red Sox.  He is now in the third year of a four-year contract.  He has yet to reach 36 HR and 119 RBI for the Mets.  I'm talking about cumulative here, as he only has 23 HR and 115 RBI in over 1,000 plate appearances for the Mets spanning 2½ seasons.

His power isn't the only attribute of his game that has faded over the years.  In his final season with the Red Sox, Bay batted .267.  That dropped to .259 in his first year with the Mets.  Last year, Bay's average fell to .245.  And this year?  Well, let's just say Bay's 2012 campaign has made Mario Mendoza look like Mr. Wade Boggs.

Although injuries and days off have kept Bay off the field for all but 41 games this season, he has still accumulated 134 at-bats, collecting 21 hits for an average of .157.  How disappointing has Bay been this season?  He's been so bad that nearly 40% of his hits came during a seven-game hitting streak from April 13-21.  Since coming off the disabled list on June 8, Bay has nine hits.  That's 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9.  And that's in 84 at-bats.

Jason Bay will probably not reach 400 at-bats, as Rob Deer did 21 years ago when he set the record for lowest batting average that was broken by Adam Dunn last year.  But he should definitely reach 200 at-bats and has an outside chance of reaching 300.  Should Bay remain under .200 at season's end, he'd be joining a club that has very few members in Mets history.

Since the Mets' inaugural season in 1962, only ten batters have hit below .200 while accumulating 200 at-bats in a season.  Those players are:

  • Al Moran (1963): .193 average, 331 AB
  • Choo Choo Coleman (1963): .178 average, 247 AB
  • Bobby Klaus (1965): .191 average, 288 AB
  • Chris Cannizzaro (1965): .183 average, 251 AB
  • Jerry Grote (1967): .195 average, 344 AB
  • Al Weis (1968): .172 average, 274 AB
  • John Milner (1975): .191 average, 220 AB
  • Doug Flynn (1977): .191 average, 282 AB
  • Bud Harrelson (1977): .178 average, 269 AB
  • Dave Kingman (1983): .198 average, 248 AB

Ten players.  Ten awful seasons at the plate.  But none of those ten players hit under .172.  Jason Bay is 66 at-bats away from joining this group and his batting average is only .157.  Think of it this way.  If Jason Bay hits .197 over his next 66 at-bats (which seems to be beyond him right now), his average would only climb to .170, which would still be the lowest batting average of any Met with at least 200 at-bats in a season.  He'd have to hit .288 over his next 66 at-bats just to reach an even .200.

Let's take it a bit further.  Only two players (Al Moran, Jerry Grote) failed to hit .200 in a season where they accumulated over 300 at-bats, but no one has hit under .193 with that many at-bats.  Barring injury or extensive pine time, Jason Bay has an outside chance of making it to 300 at-bats.  But he would need to hit .223 (37-for-166) just to equal Al Moran's .193 batting average for the season.

It's not your armpits, Jason.  It's you that stinks.

For nearly half a century, Al Moran has held the team record for lowest batting average in a season with a minimum of 300 at-bats.  In addition, it's been 44 years since Al Weis posted the lowest batting average for any Met with at least 200 at-bats.  Not since Dave Kingman nearly three decades ago has a Met with 200 at-bats hit under the Mendoza Line.  All that could change in 2012, courtesy of Jason Bay.

It's true that Mets fans don't dislike Bay as much as they should because he gives his best effort and hustles all the time.  But right now, his best effort is earning him a spot among the worst hitters in Mets history.  And if he doesn't turn things around soon, he's going to hustle his way to Mets infamy.  

Jason Bay used to be a good player.  Now he is the picture of futility at Citi Field.  The end of his contract can't come soon enough for this Mets fan.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chasing Mets History: Daniel Murphy

At first glance, one look at the title of this piece might elicit a sarcastic chuckle or a roll of the eyes.  After all, what could Daniel Murphy possibly do to make Mets history?  Well, it’s not just what he’s already done that’s historical in the Mets universe.  It’s also what he’s poised to do.

Through the Mets’ first 108 games, Daniel Murphy is batting .307.  This comes on the heels of a season in which the Mets’ second baseman hit .320 in 109 games.  Should Murphy finish the season above .300, he would join a short, but impressive list of players who hit .300 or more in back-to-back seasons for the Mets (minimum 100 games played).  Those players are:

  • Keith Hernandez (1984-1986)
  • Mike Piazza (1998-2001)
  • Edgardo Alfonzo (1999-2000)
  • David Wright (2005-2009)

Note:  Some of you may be wondering why John Olerud is not listed here.  After all, his .315 career batting average as a Met ranks No. 1 in franchise history.  Even though Olerud hit well above .300 as a Met, he only hit over .300 in a season once as a Met.  In 1998, Olerud set a single-season franchise mark by hitting .354.  However, in his other two years as a Met, Olerud failed to reach the .300 mark, batting .294 in 1997 and .298 in 1999.

Murphy is third in the National League with 33 doubles, earning him the nickname “Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine” by a certain Mets blogger on Twitter.  Those 33 doubles put Murphy on pace to become the first Met to collect 50 doubles in a single season, which would break Bernard Gilkey’s franchise mark of 44, a standard he set in 1996.  Even if Murphy doesn’t break Gilkey’s team record, he should still set a more obscure doubles record.

Six Mets have collected 40 doubles or more in a season a total of ten times.  However, all six were either right-handed batters (Bernard Gilkey, Edgardo Alfonzo, David Wright) or switch hitters (Howard Johnson, Gregg Jefferies, Carlos Beltran).  In 1999, John Olerud set the franchise record for most doubles in a season by a left-handed batter when he smoked 39 two-base hits.  Teammate Robin Ventura, also a lefty swinger, finished one double short of tying Olerud that year, hitting 38 doubles.  Should Daniel Murphy reach 40 doubles, he would become the Mets’ all-time single season leader for doubles by a left-handed batter.  He's already in the top ten for most doubles by a left-handed batter in Mets history, as his 108 career two-base hits rank seventh behind Ed Kranepool (225), Darryl Strawberry (187), Keith Hernandez (159), Rusty Staub (130), Dave Magadan (110) and John Olerud (109).

Put your hands together for Daniel Murphy, Doubles Machine!

Through the Mets' first 108 games, Daniel Murphy has 48 RBI.  He has amassed this RBI total with only three home runs to his credit.  It’s quite rare for a batter to drive in a large amount of runs with a home run total in single digits.  In fact, only seven Mets players have ever driven in a minimum of 60 runs in a season without reaching double digits in homers.  These are the magnificent seven, listed in order by RBI total:

  • Dave Magadan (1990): 6 HR, 72 RBI
  • Joel Younglbood (1980): 8 HR, 69 RBI
  • Lance Johnson (1996): 9 HR, 69 RBI
  • John Stearns (1979): 9 HR, 66 RBI
  • Gregg Jefferies (1991): 9 HR, 62 RBI
  • Doug Flynn (1979): 4 HR, 61 RBI
  • Rey Ordoñez (1999): 1 HR, 60 RBI

Barring any unforeseen injuries, if Murphy maintains his current pace, he will finish the season with 72 RBI while keeping his home run total in single digits.  That would tie him with Dave Magadan for the highest RBI total of any Met who hit fewer than 10 HR in a single season.

Throughout the years, Daniel Murphy has acquired a legion of dedicated fans.  These fans have made the #ImWith28 hashtag one of the most popular on Twitter.  But not all fans are with 28.  For all the love Murphy has received over the years, he has also been a topic of discussion for Mets fans who feel the Mets would be better off if Murphy was traded.  Those fans in the latter group should be careful for what they wish.  They may not realize it, but Daniel Murphy has been one of the better hitters the Mets have seen over their 50-year history.

Daniel Murphy is a doubles machine.  He amassed 100 career doubles faster than any other Met, reaching the century mark in 1,479 plate appearances.  (The previous record holder, David Wright, needed 1,617 plate appearances to reach 100 doubles.)  Murphy's doubles per at-bat ratio is better than any Met who reached the century mark in two-base hits.  But he’s not just a doubles hitter.

Murphy’s .296 career batting average is the fourth-highest mark in franchise history, behind only John Olerud (.315), David Wright (.303) and Keith Hernandez (.297).  He also has one of the best strikeout per at-bat ratios of any hitter in team history.  With 189 strikeouts in 1,418 career at-bats, Murphy’s K/AB ratio is better than such great contact hitters like Keith Hernandez and Mike Piazza.

So the next time you find something to complain about Daniel Murphy, whether it’s his defense (which has been improving as he’s become more acclimated to second base) or his lack of power, take a look at what he has given the team over the years.  His name can be found alongside some of the best and most respected hitters in franchise history in a number of categories on the Mets’ all-time leaderboard.  That’s not a fluke.  He’s there because he’s a very good hitter.  We should be thankful the Mets have been with 28 for as long as they have.