Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday - In The Park - A Win Before The 4th of July

It has happened!  The Mets won a game on a Saturday, defeating the Washington Nationals by the final score of 5-1.  And why is this so significant?  Because it had been a loooooooooong time since the Mets last emerged victorious on a Saturday.

After taking the season's first Saturday game, a 7-3 victory over the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on April 6, the Mets improved their Saturday record to 2-0 one week later.  Matt Harvey added extra chill to the Twins' bats on that Saturday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning at a frigid Target Field in Minnesota.  Before Harvey earned full membership in the No-Decision of the Week club, he was winning all of his starts.  He did just that in the Twin Cities on April 13, defeating the Twins, 4-2.

And that's when Saturday became a black Sabbath for the Mets.

The Mets dropped nine consecutive Saturday games after Harvey's win on April 13.  And that doesn't even include the conclusion of a suspended game between the Mets and the Braves that began on Friday, May 24 and ended with a loss the following night - a Saturday.  Here is how the Mets have fared following their April victory on Saturday, the 13th:

  • Saturday, April 20 - Mets lose to Nationals, 7-6.
  • Saturday, April 27 - Mets lose to Phillies, 9-4.
  • Saturday, May 4 - Mets don't lose!  (They were rained out...)
  • Saturday, May 11 - Mets lose to Pirates, 11-2.
  • Saturday, May 18 - Mets lose to Cubs, 8-2.
  • Saturday, May 25 - Mets lose to Braves, 6-0.
  • Saturday, June 1 - Mets lose to Marlins, 8-1.
  • Saturday, June 8 - Mets lose to Marlins, 2-1.  (A 20-inning loss)
  • Saturday, June 15 - Mets lose to Cubs, 5-2.
  • Saturday, June 22 - Mets lose to Phillies, 8-7.
  • Total - Zero wins, nine losses, one rainout.  Mets are outscored, 64-25.

That brings us to today, June 29, the Saturday before the Fourth of July.  Two and a half months after the Mets defeated the Twins on a winter-like day in Minnesota, they're finally off the Saturday schneid, defeating the Washington Nationals - the team that put them on their winless Saturday streak in the first place.

The Mets still lose too many games - today's win moves them back to 11 games under .500 - but at least they're no longer guaranteed to lose on one particular day of the week.  Until today, it had been 11 weeks since the Mets last won on a Saturday.  Now it's up to them to not begin a new streak once next weekend arrives.  Today was a good day to be in the park on a Saturday.

Matt Harvey Is The Bizarro Bobo Newsom

When Matt Harvey left Friday night's game after pitching seven outstanding innings, it appeared as if he had a great chance for a victory.  After all, the Mets were nursing a 4-1 lead and only needed six outs from the bullpen to wrap up their 33rd win of the season.  But how quickly things changed.  The Nationals scored five runs in the final two innings to complete a 6-4, come-from-behind victory, denying Harvey his eighth win of the year.

The not-so-shocking turn of events gave Harvey his ninth no-decision of the year.  Going back to his major league debut last July, Harvey now has more no-decisions (11) in his career than wins (10), despite posting a spectacular 2.25 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 176⅓ innings.

Eventually, Matt Harvey will get his share of wins.  But seeing spectacular performance after spectacular performance wasted by a lack of offense or a faulty bullpen has got to be weighing on him.

Harvey is not the first pitcher whose win total doesn't jibe with his other statistics.  In fact, there was one particular pitcher whose numbers were so awful, he should have lost 20 games.  But he won 20 instead.  Such was the 1938 season of Bobo Newsom.

Everything Matt Harvey has been, Bobo Newsom wasn't - except for one thing.

Bobo Newsom was a well-traveled pitcher nearly four decades before the advent of free agency allowed players to change teams at will.  Newsom played for nine teams during his 20-year career, a rather impressive feat considering there were only 16 teams in the majors at the time.

When Newsom was good, he was very good, as evidenced by his 211 career victories and four All-Star Game selections.  When Newsom was bad, he was downright awful (222 defeats, led the league in losses four times).  And at times, the Jekyll and Hyde-like Newsom was both.  Never was that more evident than in 1938, when Newsom was a member of the St. Louis Browns.

Seventy-five years ago, Newsom became a 20-game winner for the first time in his career.  He also led the league in starts (40), complete games (31) and innings pitched (329⅔), making his first All-Star team and finishing fifth in the MVP vote.   Most pitchers would love to have those numbers and accolades.  But not if they had to take some of Newsom's other numbers.

In addition to his many impressive statistics, Newsom's bizarre 1938 season also saw him lead the league in hits allowed (334), earned runs allowed (186) and home runs allowed (30), while posting an unsightly 5.08 ERA.  In doing so, Newsom became the first pitcher in American League history (and third pitcher overall) to cough up 30 dingers in a season in the modern era of baseball (post-1900).  And to this day, his 5.08 ERA remains the highest ever for a 20-game winner, while his 186 earned runs allowed are still the most given up by a pitcher since 1900.  You read that right.  The most runs yielded by a pitcher in a single season was accomplished by a pitcher who won 20 games in that season.

Newsom's season can be summarized by a start he made on June 19 against the Yankees.  In that start, Newsom allowed a whopping nine earned runs.  A total of 17 Yankees reached base against Newsom, with eight of them drawing a walk.  Of course, Newsom was the winning pitcher in that game, a 10-9 victory for the Browns.

That brings us back to Matt Harvey.  (Remember him?)  As mentioned before, Harvey has started 27 games in his career, receiving credit for a win in ten of them, while getting socked with a no-decision 11 times.  Harvey has allowed three earned runs or less in 24 of those 27 starts.  The Mets have lost 11 of them.

This year alone, Harvey has allowed one run or less in 11 of his 17 starts.  He has five no-decisions and one loss in those games, meaning that he has less than a 50-50 chance to earn a win when he allows no more than one run.  Meanwhile, Bobo Newsom allowed three runs or more in 31 of his 40 starts in 1938.  He earned a win in 11 of them.  That's one more win than Harvey has in his career.

Matt Harvey is not the first pitcher to have a low ERA and a smaller-than-expected win total.  He's not even the first Met to do this.  In 1978, Craig Swan led the National League with a 2.43 ERA, but only won nine games.  Swan was victimized by 13 no-decisions.  Nine years later, a former Met wished he had a few more no-decisions when he won an ERA title.  In 1987, Nolan Ryan finished atop the Senior Circuit with a 2.76 ERA.  But Ryan only had an 8-16 record to show for it.  He allowed two runs or less in 22 of his 34 starts for the Houston Astros, but was the losing pitcher in nine of those games and received a no-decision in six others.

In 1938, Bobo Newsom had a season in which he was easily hittable and allowed more runs than any pitcher in the modern era of baseball.  His reward for a lousy year was his first 20-win campaign.  Matt Harvey is doing everything better than Bobo Newsom did 75 years ago.  He's just not being rewarded for it in wins.  It's a bizarre story indeed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Joey's Small Bites: An All-Star Feast For Man or Beast

Hello, everyone!  Welcome to the latest edition of Joey's Small Bites.  I'm Studious Metsimus roving reporter and culinary expert, Joey Beartran.  And for this segment I'm serving both roles, as I found myself roving in the Caesar's Club at Citi Field on Wednesday chowing down on all sorts of culinary delights that will be part of the All-Star Game menu.

From new takes on traditional ballpark food to items rarely (if ever) seen at any sporting event, the Mets and ARAMARK had it all on display for this hungry bear to sample.  (Don't worry.  I left some for the other members of the media who were invited to the event.)

After a brief introduction to the new food items, including a description of the newest item - the All-Star Meatball Hero - by ARAMARK executive chef, Robert Flowers, it was time to dig in.  And boy, did I ever dig in!

Robert Flowers (photo by my Studious Metsimus colleague, Ed Leyro)

For my appetizer, I had the Trio of Mac and Cheese, which was topped with pancetta, lobster and three cheeses.  That was followed by the Citi Field Loaded Tater Tots, which were made with cheddar cheese sauce, bacon bits and scallions.  And although technically it's a dessert, my final appetizer consisted of a delicious raspberry cheesecake doughnut with a white chocolate dipping sauce.  I probably should have gotten two of these because my sister, Iggy, had most of mine.

Iggy took advantage of the fact that I was enjoying my mac and cheese by eating my mini-doughnut.

The mac and cheese was very cheesy (which is a good thing if you're a bowl of mac and cheese) and the loaded tots were sublime.  When I asked Iggy how *MY* raspberry cheesecake doughnut was, all she said was "nom, nom, nom".  I took her comment as a "paws up" review.  During games, the mac and cheese can be found in the Citi Field suites, while the loaded tots can be purchased in the Promenade Club.  The delectable doughnut dessert is a product of the Acela Club.

After consuming my scrumptious appetizers, I moved on to two items that were perfectly sized for my bear paws.  The Mex Burger from Keith's Grill (which can be found on the field level in the left field corner near Section 132) and the Major League Grilled Cheese (it's in the Caesar's Club) were served in miniature versions that allowed me to have a few of each.

The tasty burger is a Brooklyn Burger patty served on a toasted sesame bun.  The burger is topped with cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese and comes with bacon, guacamole, chipotle aioli and jalapeños. The grilled cheese sandwich has a thick combination of Swiss, cheddar and gouda, topped with - you guessed it - more bacon!  Both sandwiches were incredibly mouth-watering and quite satisfying.

Despite all the food I put away, I still had a little room in my tummy for dessert.  And I'm glad I had that space available, as there were a number of delicious mini-cupcakes in five flavors to satisfy every bear's palate.

For Iggy, I chose the lavender blueberry cupcake, but I could easily have chosen from the selection of S'mores, red velvet, vanilla bean or chocolate cupcakes.  I, on the other paw, decided to have a slightly larger dessert.

After eating so much food (especially bacon) and dessert, I had to take a nap.  Fortunately, Mrs. Met was there to rock me to sleep.  Although I was in dreamland, my Studious Metsimus colleague took photos of some of the other food items (and apparently he took a photo of me in Mrs. Met's arms).

These items included fresh pea ravioli (made with ricotta, polenta and pancetta), Colorado frenched lamb chops (with an herb crust and mustardy goodness), chicken and waffles (or as they call it, "Batter Up" Fried Chicken with Warm Pizzelle and Maple Butter - I'm calling it chicken and waffles).  There was also a slice of pizza that was tentatively called the All-Star Slice (although my colleague was told that the name had not been finalized) that was topped with andouille sausage, crawfish, shrimp and a jalapeño pesto.

The piece de resistance was a meatball slider, which my colleague didn't photograph with the proper lighting (grrrr...).  The meatballs are made with a mixture of andouille sausage and ground beef and are topped with melted mozzarella cheese and a marinara sauce.  But the best part is that they don't serve the sliders in regular bread.  Rather, they serve them between a pair of garlic knots.  Yup.  You read it right.  Garlic knots.  Yum-a-licious.

Believe it or not, I have not included every new item in this review.  There were many more items to digest (quite literally) at this event.  I didn't get to sample the aforementioned new All-Star Meatball Hero created by chef Robert Flowers, but the news release given to us by the Mets promised that it is taken from Chef Flowers' 300-year-old family recipe and is made from several of Pat LaFrieda's best meats (ground beef, pork and veal).  The news release goes on to say that the meat is simmered in sweet red sauce for three hours and is then topped with buffalo mozzarella and fried basil.  The meatballs are served on a long sesame seed roll.

I'd like to thank the Mets, ARAMARK and Joe D of Mets Merized Online for making this culinary trip possible.  (Joe D was kind enough to pull the strings that got my colleague, Iggy and I into the event.)

It's going to take some time to get over my self-induced food coma, but believe me, it was well worth it.  And if you're fortunate enough to be attending the All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16, you'll see (and taste) for yourself exactly what I mean.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The REAL Reason Why Matt Harvey Is Starting Friday

In Terry Collins' post-game interview session, he alluded to the fact that Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler should be separated in the rotation, with Dillon Gee starting between them.  Although separating the Dynamic Duo would allow opponents to see a different style pitcher in Gee rather than getting two fireballers back-to-back, I believe I know one of the underlying reasons why Collins is separating the two pitchers.  And it has everything to do with July 16.

With Jonathon Niese now on the disabled list, the six-man rotation has been scrapped.  Therefore, Harvey's next start would have been on Saturday, June 29 because of tomorrow's off-day.  That would have put Harvey in line to pitch on Thursday, July 4 and Tuesday, July 9.  The Mets have their next off-day scheduled for Thursday, July 11.  However, with the Mets' first game after the All-Star Break scheduled for Friday, July 19, it would behoove the Mets to start Harvey on Sunday, July 14 - five days after his July 9 start.

There's only one problem with that.  By starting the last Sunday before the break, Harvey would not be allowed to pitch in the Midsummer Classic by MLB rule.  And how would that look with the game being played at Citi Field this year?  Therefore, by starting Harvey this coming Friday, his final start before the All-Star Game could be moved up to Saturday, July 13 instead of the final Sunday before the break.

Sure, it's always good to give opposing teams a different look from game to game, as it keeps them off balance at the plate when they face pitchers who have different styles.  But is that the real reason why Collins is thinking of separating Harvey and Wheeler in the rotation?

We know the real reason.  And fans looking forward to seeing Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game at Citi Field know the real reason as well.  It wouldn't be the same if July 16 wasn't a Harvey Day.

Buy This Book! (Because We're In It!)

Hello, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran, your favorite Studious Metsimus roving reporter / culinary expert / book critic.  Welcome to a special edition of Bears On Books.  Today, instead of reviewing a book, we're just going to tell you to buy it without a formal review.

I know, I know.  As a respected book critic, it's unprofessional of me to just tell you to buy a book without actually offering a critique on said book, but trust me.  There's a good reason for my behavior.  You see, my Studious Metsimus colleague had one of his blog posts quoted and used as the basis for one of the chapters.

The book is called "So You Think You Know Baseball? : A Fan's Guide To The Official Rules" by Peter E. Meltzer (available for purchase on or at your bookstore of choice).  In the book by the noted Phillies fan (but we won't hold that against him), Mr. Meltzer takes various scenarios and explains how umpires would handle them according to the official baseball rule book.  Mr. Meltzer does such a fine job of explaining difficult rules that even the two Adrians (that's umpires Adrian Johnson and Adrian Gonzalez) would have a tough time misinterpreting them.

But the chapter that I recommend highly is Chapter 18.  This is the chapter on base hits that explains when batters should get credit for them.  A piece written by my colleague, Ed Leyro, was considered to help answer a few questions about base hits.  If you haven't purchased the book, I took the liberty of taking some photos of the pages in question, which you can read below.  (I hope Mr. Meltzer doesn't sue me for that.  After all, he is an attorney when he's not writing books.)

 Click on the photos to enlarge in case your vision is as bad as Adrian Johnson's.

For the record, we know that Tom Seaver once pitched 8⅔ innings of no-hit ball against the Chicago Cubs on September 24, 1975.  But he was not one out away from a no-hitter, as the game was scoreless in the ninth.  Since the game was played at Wrigley Field, had Seaver completed nine hitless innings, the game would not have ended with the 27th out.  Seaver would have needed the Mets to take the lead in the top of the 10th and then he could have completed the no-hitter with a hitless tenth.  Therefore, my colleague's hypothetical situation in the left photo above was correct when he stated that Santana would have become the first Mets pitcher to come within one out of a no-hitter.

So what do you think, Mets fans?  Not bad, huh?  And in case you're asking "hey, it just says 'a New York Mets fan blogger' wrote that piece.  Where does it say that it was your colleague who wrote it?", allow me to show you another photo.  This is a photo of the "sources" section of Mr. Meltzer's book and should remove all doubt as to the identity of the so-called "New York Mets fan blogger".

Well, that does it for this special edition of Bears on Books.  My colleague would like to thank Peter E. Meltzer for finding his work worthy enough to be included in his book.  He'd also like to offer his thanks to Joe D. at Mets Merized Online for allowing him to write the original piece on his site.  Hopefully, the mention of MMO as a source in Mr. Meltzer's book will bring additional traffic to a truly wonderful site.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my reading.  There are 27 other chapters in the book that I need to read.  Happy reading and never stop believing.  Let's go Mets!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Matt Harvey Pitches With The Grace of a Swan

You've heard it coming at you from every angle and every media outlet.  Matt Harvey is a bloody good pitcher.  Since coming into the league less than 11 months ago, Harvey been the darling of the Mets' pitching staff.  In 25 starts, Harvey has posted a 2.37 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.  He has also struck out 185 batters in 163⅓ innings, while holding the opposition to a measly .196 batting average.  Unfortunately, that success on the mound has not translated to victories, as Harvey has only earned nine wins in those 25 starts.

Harvey's inability to earn a "W" is reminiscent of another ace who pitched for the Mets during a time when the team was struggling to win ballgames.  In fact, other than the strikeouts, Matt Harvey's career numbers so far are quite similar to the numbers posted by one Craig Steven Swan in 1978.

One of the best pitchers in Mets history with some of the worst luck.

Craig Swan was a second round draft pick out of Arizona State University in 1972 and made his major league debut with the Mets during their "Ya Gotta Believe" stretch run in 1973.  Swan pitched briefly for the Mets from 1973 to 1975 before getting his first extended look as a starter in 1976.  Unfortunately for Swan, by the time he was ready to make his mark in the rotation, the team was making a beeline for the bottom of the NL East standings.

Swan got off to a poor start in 1977, going 1-4 with a 6.16 ERA through late May.  But beginning with his start on May 31, Swan pitched beautifully on a team that was about to trade its best pitcher (Tom Seaver).  In 14 appearances (13 starts) from May 31 to August 15, Swan was 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA.  The Mets were 9-5 in those 14 appearances.  Meanwhile, they were 24-34 in all other games during Swan's graceful stretch.

That was enough to make Swan the ace of the staff in 1978, especially with Jerry Koosman coming off a lackluster 8-20 campaign in 1977.  And what a year it was for Swan in '78.  He led the league with a 2.43 ERA and was runner-up in WHIP (1.071) and fewest hits per nine innings (7.119).  Opposing batters hit .219 against Swan in 1978, and were only able to reach base against him at a .275 clip.

Surely, Swan must have contended for the Cy Young Award, right?  Not exactly.  In fact, he didn't even receive a single vote.  So why was he overlooked by the voting panel?  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he only won nine of his 28 starts.

After allowing a season-high six earned runs to the Phillies on May 7, causing his ERA to "balloon" to 3.02, Swan was brilliant for the rest of the season.  The right-hander went 8-4 with a 2.28 ERA over his last 23 games (22 starts), but the team lost seven of his 11 no-decisions during that time.

Although Swan allowed two runs or fewer in 19 of his 28 starts in 1978, the Mets lost ten of those 19 games.  Furthermore, Swan did not allow any earned runs in five of his starts, but of course, the Mets somehow found a way to lose three of those contests.  Unlike Matt Harvey, Craig Swan was not a strikeout pitcher, but he did reach double digits in strikeouts in two games in 1978.  Naturally, the Mets lost both of those games.

Matt Harvey's reaction says it all.  Here comes another no-decision.

Matt Harvey should know a thing or two about frustrating no-decisions.  Through 25 career starts, Harvey has not received a decision ten times.  That includes his current stretch in which he's received a no-decision in eight of his last 11 starts, despite posting a 2.64 ERA and holding the opposition to a .260 on-base percentage over that period.  And like Swan before him, the Mets have lost six of those 11 starts.  For his career, Harvey has allowed two runs or fewer in 19 of his 25 starts.  Not unexpectedly, the Mets have lost nine of those starts.

Let's just stop right now and give you the comparison I've been leading up to.  Here are Craig Swan's 1978 numbers followed by Matt Harvey's career numbers through his first 25 starts.

  • Craig Swan: 28 starts, 9-6 record, 2.43 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, Mets won 12 of his starts
  • Matt Harvey: 25 starts, 9-6 record, 2.37 ERA, 0.992 WHIP, Mets won 12 of his starts

Craig Swan was a very good pitcher on some bad Mets teams.  When he played his last game for the Mets, his 59 wins were fourth-most in franchise history behind Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack.  (Swan is now tied for 12th with Rick Reed.)

Matt Harvey has a long way to go to reach the pitching heights scaled by Seaver, Koosman and Matlack.  But right now, his career numbers (other than strikeouts) are looking more like Craig Swan's 1978 season than anything else.  Like Swan before him, Harvey has been the victim of a poor offense, where putting up a bunch of zeroes on the scoreboard still doesn't guarantee a victory.

Craig Swan pitched a lot better than his numbers show.  So has Matt Harvey.  But for now, Harvey still has a long way to go to earn those comparisons to Seaver, especially in the win column.  Until the offense starts producing for him, Harvey will just have to settle for being known as a hard-luck pitcher - a hard-luck pitcher who pitches with the grace of a Swan.

Shaun Marcum's Winless Brethren

When the Mets signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal prior to the 2013 season, they thought they were getting a bargain.  After all, Marcum was one of the few pitchers in baseball with over 100 career starts who had a winning percentage over .600.  (At 57-36, Marcum had a .613 winning percentage in 149 starts.)

But Marcum has done everything but win for the Mets.  He's lost as a starting pitcher.  He's lost in relief.  He's lost after pitching seven shutout innings in a game that lasted longer than two games (the 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins on June 8).  Through his first 11 appearances (9 starts) as a Met, Shaun Marcum is 0-9.  At least the Mets won his two no-decisions, so he has that to hang his hat on.  But that's not enough to keep him off an exclusive list.

Shaun Marcum is now the third pitcher in franchise history to begin a season with nine consecutive defeats.  Prior to this season, the only two hurlers to start a season with a goose egg in the win column and a nine under the "L" were Bob L. Miller in 1962 and Anthony Young in 1993.

Bob L. Miller started the Mets' inaugural campaign by losing his first 12 decisions.  After appearing in 32 games for the Mets in 1962 with nary a victory to show for his efforts (20 starts, 12 appearances in relief), Miller finally earned his first victory of the season in the Mets' last win of the year, beating the Cubs in a complete-game effort on September 29.  Miller defeated Cubs' starter Dick Ellsworth, handing Ellsworth his 20th loss on the season.  In doing so, Ellsworth became only the sixth Cubs pitcher to lose 20 games in the modern era of baseball (since 1900).

Miller left the Mets after the 1962 season and pitched for five first-place teams and three pennant-winners.  He won World Series rings as a member of the 1965 Dodgers and 1971 Pirates before coming back to pitch for the Mets in 1973 (his sixth first-place team and fourth pennant-winner) and 1974, where he fared slightly better than he did in 1962.  This time, Miller won two games in his second go-round in New York.

Anthony Young started the 1993 campaign with an 0-13 mark.  This came on the heels of a 2-14 record in 1992 in which he lost his final 14 decisions.  (Yes, that means Anthony Young began the 1992 season with a 2-0 record.)  Young was actually pretty decent during his 27-game losing streak.  He saved 16 games in between the two dozen-plus losses and had an extended period of dominance during a two-month stretch out of the bullpen.  From July 7 to August 28, 1992, Young made 20 appearances in relief for the Mets, allowing no runs in 23⅔ innings.  He also saved nine games, holding opposing hitters to a .154 batting average and no extra-base hits.  Basically, on the worst team money could buy, Young was a good buy.  He just couldn't buy a win.

On July 24, 1993, Young lost his 27th consecutive decision.  The loss dropped his record on the year to 0-13, making the hard-luck pitcher to first hurler in team history to begin a season with an 0-13 mark.  Four days after knocking Bob L. Miller out of the record books, Young was in line to lose his 28th straight after allowing an unearned run in the ninth inning to give the expansion Florida Marlins a 4-3 lead.  But run-scoring hits by Ryan Thompson and Eddie Murray not only took Young off the hook for the loss, it gave him his first win in 15 months.  It would also be his final win in a Mets uniform, as Young was traded to the Cubs prior to the start of the 1994 campaign.  He did, however, lose three more games as a Met before his trade to Chicago.

With losses in his first nine decisions, Shaun Marcum has turned the Miller and Young duo into a trio.  Surely, Marcum will notch a victory at some point this season.  But if he doesn't, he'll be the only Met to have a winless season with as many as nine losses.  In fact, there have been very few pitchers in Mets history with as many as four losses in a season that featured no victories.  And only two hurlers in club annals have ever completed a winless season with as many as five losses.  Those unlucky souls are:

  • John Franco (1998):  0-8
  • Oliver Perez (2010):  0-5
  • Sherman Jones (1962):  0-4
  • Phil Hennigan (1973):  0-4
  • Rick Aguilera (1988):  0-4
  • Jason Jacome (1995):  0-4
  • Donne Wall (2001):  0-4
  • Jose Lima (2006):  0-4
  • Jenrry Mejia (2010): 0-4
  • Pat Misch (2010):  0-4
  • Collin McHugh (2012):  0-4

As denoted in the list above, no Met pitcher has ever finished a season with no wins and more than eight losses.  Should Shaun Marcum not receive credit for a victory in 2013, he would become the losingest winless pitcher in franchise history.  But even if he wins one game, he stands to join a very exclusive list - albeit not one to be proud of.

Since the franchise came into existence over half a century ago, only three pitchers have ever lost nine games or more in a season in which they emerged victorious just once.  If you've been paying attention to the rest of this piece, two of the three names should look quite familiar.

  • Anthony Young (1993):  1-16
  • Bob L. Miller (1962):  1-12
  • Tom Parsons (1965):  1-10

(In case you were wondering, Tom Parsons lost his first four decisions for the Mets in 1965 before earning his sole victory of the season in a complete game shutout over the Cubs on July 5.  He never pitched again in the major leagues after the 1965 campaign even though he was only 25 at the time of his final appearance.  He toiled in the minor leagues in the Astros and Red Sox organizations for four years before leaving baseball for good following the 1969 season, the same year the Mets won a World Series championship without him.)

"D'oh!  I'm getting compared to Anthony Young!" (Photo by Paul J. Bereswill)

Shaun Marcum was signed by the Mets prior to the 2013 season in a move that was expected to bring a veteran arm into an otherwise young starting rotation.  But Marcum has been beaten to the victory column by every one of those young rotation members.  Even Zack Wheeler, who has made all of one start in the major leagues, earned a victory before Marcum.

Anthony Young.  Bob L. Miller.  Tom Parsons.  Shaun Marcum.  It's not a list of players Marcum expected to be associated with this late in the season.  And if Marcum doesn't earn a win at some point this season, John Franco might be popping the champagne cork at the end of the year.  It's too bad the champagne won't be for something to be proud of.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Memories of Father's Day and Baseball

As we reach another Father's Day, let's take a break from discussing the Mets' recent ups and downs (mostly downs).  Today is not a day to discuss why Sandy Alderson continues to play musical chairs with the Mets' bullpen and outfield, nor is a day to talk about how the Mets have fewer wins than every team in baseball other than the one team who has the most wins against them (Miami).  Today is a day 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 17th season, the Home Run Challenge has raised over $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 center field 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.  But prior to Santana's gem, the Mets had had numerous no-hitters pitched against them, including the perfect game tossed by the aforementioned Bunning in 1964.  Before Santana accomplished his 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 44 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!)


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Keith, The Mets & Me: A Thirty-Year Love Affair

I became a Mets fan on Memorial Day 1981.  My father wasn't feeling well that day so we had to cancel our annual Memorial Day barbecue, leaving eight-year-old me to find something to do since I was home from school that day.  My ill father was in bed all day, so I decided to lay back on his comfortable-beyond-words recliner and watch TV.  The last person who watched the tube had left it on Channel 9 and since 1981 was the pre-remote control era of television (at least it was in our household), I didn't feel like getting up to physically change the channel, so I just watched was on WOR at the time.  It was a Mets-Phillies game.  And it was beautiful.

The Mets destroyed Philadelphia, showing no brotherly love for their division rivals in a 13-3 romp.  Although many players performed well for the Mets that day (Hubie Brooks, Lee Mazzilli and Joel Youngblood had three hits apiece and Dave Kingman hit a grand slam), it was Mookie Wilson who captured my attention and made me thankful that we weren't a remote control household.  Mookie reached base four times that day (two hits, two walks).  He also scored three runs and drove in two.  After leading off the game with a walk, Mookie proceeded to swipe second and scored the first of the Mets' four runs in that inning.  It was the first time I had been exposed to Mookie's baserunning abilities, and I was utterly amazed.  Six innings later, Mookie crushed a long drive to center off former Met Tug McGraw that went for a two-run triple.  His gazzelle-like speed mesmerized the eight-year-old me to the point where I checked the TV guide (I had to get off the couch eventually) for when the next Mets game was going to be aired on WOR.

Less than three weeks after discovering Mookie and the Mets, baseball went on strike.  For two months, I couldn't indulge in my new passion - my New York Mets passion, that is.  Fortunately, my father recovered from his illness and we were able to have many barbecues to pass the time during baseball's two-month hiatus.  Baseball returned to my TV screen in August, and I quickly eschewed burgers and hot dogs on the grill for Mookie and the Mets on my grill.

Run, Mookie, Run!

Although my father hails from Puerto Rico, an island paradise that loves its baseball, he has never been much of a sports fan.  He knows the object of the game, but can't differentiate between an infield fly and an unzipped fly.  So naturally, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to get him to take me to a Mets game at Shea Stadium.  Every conversation would start the same way ("We're not doing anything this weekend, right?  Can you get us tickets for this game?") and unfortunately, they would also end the same way ("No.").  It took over two years for me to finally make it out to Shea to meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and greet the Mets.  And when I did, it was because my Little League team went as a group.  The date was June 15, 1983 - thirty years ago today - and it became a memorable day not just for the then ten-year-old me, but for all Mets fans.

When we got to the game, I remember how disappointed I was that Mookie Wilson was not in the starting lineup (Danny Heep took Mookie's place as the leadoff hitter and centerfielder for the game.  It was only the second time all year that Mookie wasn't in the starting lineup for the Mets.)  My fleet-footed hero didn't start, but Craig Swan did, taking the mound for the Mets against future Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins.  Unfortunately, Swan was not graceful that night.  By the time I got back from my second bathroom break in the second inning (my Little League teammates were not amused that I kept stepping on their feet every time I tried to squeeze by them in our upper deck seats), Swan was out of the game and the Mets were down 4-0.

The bullpen pitched very well after Swan’s early exodus and the Mets rallied to tie the game.  Mookie did pinch-hit in the fifth inning, but struck out against Jenkins, denying me the opportunity to see him fly around the bases.  Of course, his one-day replacement in center field, Danny Heep, followed Wilson's strikeout with the game-tying hit, causing my Little League teammates to tease me by saying that Heep was going to be the centerfielder of the future.  I'm glad they were wrong.

Neither team scored after Heep knotted the game, necessitating extra innings and causing some of the parents and chaperones to wonder if they should take the kids home.  They decided to stick around for the tenth, but told us all that if the game went to the 11th, we would have to leave.  We did get to see the game to its conclusion, but it wasn't the conclusion I wanted.  The Mets lost the game to the Chicago Cubs in ten innings by the score of 7-4.  An error by first baseman Rusty Staub and a timely bunt by Bill Buckner set the Cubs up for their big inning and my bigger disappointment.  But errors by Mets' first basemen were about to become a thing of the past, thanks to a brilliant trade engineered by general manager Frank Cashen.

A Gold Glove, a sweet swing, a killer 'stache.  Keith Hernandez brought it all to the table.

Earlier in the evening, the Mets announced that they had acquired first baseman Keith Hernandez from the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in a trade for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  I remember how happy the sparse crowd of 11,631 was when the announcement was flashed on DiamondVision.  I also remember how confused I was that the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the “big TV screen in left field” rather than the events taking place on the field.  But as the years went by and my love of the Mets grew, I realized just how special Keith Hernandez truly was, both as a player and as a team leader.

As you all know, the trade for Keith Hernandez set off a chain of events that led to a World Series championship three years later (a World Series that turned my man Mookie into a Mets legend for all time).  Hernandez's arrival gave instant credibility to the languishing franchise, although it took until the following season for that off-the-field credibility to translate into on-the-field wins.

In hindsight, it didn’t matter that the Mets lost on June 15, 1983.  It was one of 94 games they lost that season anyway.  That day was important to me for more than just a game.  That day began my love affair with Shea Stadium and my subsequent appreciation of Keith Hernandez.  I should have known the Mets had acquired someone special when I listened to the sweet voice of Bob Murphy after the game during the radio post-game show when he said “the Mets lost the game tonight, but they have gained a superstar.”  Thirty years ago today, the magic that was the Mets entered my life.  It has never left.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The #MetsTwitterDraft Thank You Speech

Hello, everyone.  This is Joey Beartran, otherwise known as the more entertaining half of the Studious Metsimus blogging duo.  If you're on Twitter, then you're aware that today was the #MetsTwitterDraft.  The good folks at The Daily Stache decided to conduct a special draft today to honor the best tweeters, players, bloggers and Mets personalities who use the 140-character social media outlet.

My colleague at Studious Metsimus was selected by #TeamPresser as the 14th overall pick in the draft (7th round).  He was so thrilled by his early selection that he decided to compose a thank you speech.  However, as most of you know, he's a big chicken who has no public speaking skills whatsoever.  Therefore, he left it up to me to read it to you.  Here goes.

I dedicate this photo to my colleague, the chicken who couldn't even deliver his own thank you speech.

I can't tell you how honored I am to have been selected by #TeamPresser in the #MetsTwitterDraft.  Actually, I can.  It's something I never thought would happen, considering my humble beginnings.

As a child, I used to write Mets-themed anecdotes and was always fascinated by statistics.  I even won five bucks once for knowing that Cleon Jones' 52 RBI in 1972 was the lowest full-season total for a team leader in RBI.  And those five bucks immediately went toward the purchase of Mets tickets.

But there was only one problem with my statistical-driven stories.  They were too short.  It wasn't until the advent of Twitter (did Al Gore take credit for inventing that as well?) that I found the perfect outlet to share information that would bore the common man (i.e. Yankee fans who only know how to count to 27), but would pique the interest of the uncommon man (i.e. Mets fans).

Since I joined Twitter several years ago, I've created a number of memorable and recycled hashtags (#HakunaTejada, #BackToYouLaGAREs, etc.), made fun of Jason Bay and Ike Davis in ways no one knew was possible, and delivered as much Mets minutia as can be absorbed by the human brain.

Now, thanks to Mr. Matthew Falkenbury and Señor Jon Presser, all that hard work has finally paid off.  I'm now the 14th overall pick in the #MetsTwitterDraft, or the meat in a @marccarig / @RageWynn sandwich.  That's a pick that Mets fans don't take lightly.  After all, only two Mets have ever been drafted as a 14th overall pick - Lee Mazzilli in 1973 (you may have heard of him) and Rich Puig in 1971 (the most famous Puig in baseball until Yasiel showed up in Hollywood).

I promise I will be more like Mazz and less like this little Puiggy as I embark on doing whatever it is a 14th overall pick does.  And I promise, if anything unfortunate should happen to the lucky 13 taken before me by #TeamStache and #TeamPresser (i.e. getting permanently stuck in a Citi Field elevator, being part of a mass demotion to Las Vegas to keep Ike Davis company, etc.), I will gladly take over the top spot and treat it with the respect it deserves.

Thanks again to all my supporters, to the Daily Stache, and to #TeamPresser for taking a chance on a Mets blogger who needs a teddy bear to read his speeches for him.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Time For The Mets To Switch Things Up

Unless you've been spending the first few months of the 2013 season in seclusion, you know that the Mets are off to a less-than-spectacular start.  Through 56 games, the Mets have a disappointing 23-33 record.  The only teams in baseball that are more than ten games under .500 are the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.

One of the reasons for the Mets' poor start is their inability to hit.  New York ranks 29th of 30 teams in batting average, with only the Marlins (.227) possessing a lower team batting average than the Mets' .228 mark.

The Mets' lack of success at the plate is more noticeable when two statistics are considered.  New York's right-handed batters are hitting .225 versus right-handed pitchers and their left-handed batters hit a mere .210 against southpaws.  Ordinarily, a team would combat this by employing a switch-hitter or two.  That way, there would be more lefty-righty matchups, which have traditionally favored the hitters.  There's only one problem with that.  The Mets don't have any switch-hitters.  And it's not like they have many switch-hitting options in the minors, either.

Last of the Mohicans?  Not really.  But Andres Torres was the last switch-hitter to bat for the Mets.

New York's current 40-man roster does not feature any switch-hitters.  But wait, there's more.  Their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas had only one switch-hitter on the roster.  However, that dually skilled hitter (catcher Landon Powell) was only batting .159 in 82 plate appearances and was released today.  The Mets also have just one player who bats from both sides of the plate at AA-Binghamton.  But switch-hitting second baseman Daniel Muno is only hitting .217 in a team-leading 241 plate appearances.

Unless the Mets make a trade for a switch-hitter, it does not appear as if they will have one on the major league roster at any point this year.  The only other season in which the Mets did not have a single at-bat credited to a switch-hitter was 1964, almost half a century ago.

In late inning situations, opposing teams usually have left-handed pitchers available to face lefty hitters.  Similarly, they use right-handed relievers against right-handed hitters.  But with the Mets not having any switch-hitters on their active roster, they're forced to use their bench players or keep their starters in the game for a unfavorable hitting matchup.

An average starting pitcher can go about six innings.  Therefore, innings six through eight are usually reserved for tiring starters and/or middle relievers.  Any batter should be able to hit a tiring starter.  Likewise, a switch-hitter would have no problem against a middle reliever because he can bat from either side of the plate.  So how are the Mets doing at the plate in innings six through eight?  They're hitting a paltry .211 in those innings with a .273 on-base percentage - numbers that are considerably lower than their overall figures (.228 batting average, .295 OBP).  Makes you wonder if those numbers would look better if the Mets had a couple of switch-hitters in their employ who could foil potential lefty-lefty and righty-righty matchups in the later innings.

When constructing a roster, teams always try to have a lefty or two in the bullpen.  The Mets currently have two such pitchers in Robert Carson and Scott Rice.  But teams should also have their share of switch-hitters on the roster.  The Mets have zip, zilch, nada.  Their inability to send a switch-hitter up to the plate in the late innings has made them very vulnerable against an opponent's bullpen.  That makes it exceedingly difficult for them to erase late-inning deficits.  (The Mets have been outscored, 97-71, from the sixth through the eighth innings.)

The Mets need many things.  They need a dependable bullpen.  They need better outfielders.  They need to clone Matt Harvey.  But one thing they also need is a switch-hitter.  After all, they already have a bullpen (sort of).  They have outfielders (or guys who play outfielders on TV).  They even have a Matt Harvey (and his achy breaky back).  But they don’t have a switch-hitter.  It’s time for the Mets to switch things up if they want to fix that gaping hole on the active roster.