Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2015

Another year has come and gone, Mets fans.  And for the first time since 2008, we're not saying goodbye to a year in which our favorite team had more losses than wins.  Does that mean this recap will be more happy than crappy?  Not exactly, especially if you've been following the goings-on in the National League East over the last few days.

The 2015 season began with Mets fans hoping the team would play their first-ever meaningful game in September at Citi Field and ended with the team playing their first-ever game in November in any of its three home stadiums.  In between, we saw new arrivals (Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto), some departures (Kirk Nieuwenhuis left, came back and then left again) and some arrivals who departed with dignity and class (we hardly knew ye, Michael Cuddyer).

It was also the year Yoenis Cespedes gave us two memorable months and no one had any memory of Dillon Gee pitching for the team.  What else happened?  Let's see.  Daniel Murphy deep-sixed the Dodgers and Cubs.  Jeurys Familia became a lights-out closer who got lit up to close out the season.  Matt Harvey came back and then became the Pedro Martinez to Terry Collins's Grady Little in the World Series.  The Mets got no-hit by a player who had five career wins at the time and by another player who had two eye colors.  And oh yeah, there were three National League teams that had to supply with Mets with champagne and the extended use of the road clubhouse for party purposes.

Is that all?  Not exactly.  Here's more of what made us all happy in 2015 and what made us feel crappy.  As usual, let's all get happy first.

The Mets ripped off 11 consecutive victories in April, tying a franchise record.  When the streak began, New York was three games out of first place.  Eleven victories later, they led the N.L. East by 4½ games.  All 11 wins came at the expense of the Braves, Phillies and Marlins - teams that combined to go 201-285 during the 2015 campaign.  A non-believer in the Mets (let's call them Nationals fans) might say that anyone could have won that many games in a row against those three teams.  A believer (let's call them intelligent baseball fans) would say that one of the reasons Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami had such poor records was because the Mets pounded them into oblivion early on, giving them no hope to be competitive for the remainder of the season.

Eric Campbell started more games at third base than David Wright.  Kevin Plawecki was behind the plate more times than Travis d'Arnaud.  The team's closer at the beginning of the season (Jenrry Mejia) was suspended not once, but twice, for the same drug.  Juan Lagares replaced his Gold Glove with one made of stone.  Michael Cuddyer reminded us of Jason Bay minus the concussion excuse.  Campbell, John Mayberry, Darrell Ceciliani, Danny Muno and Johnny Monell combined to have nearly 500 plate appearances.  And the Mets still won 90 games.  Just imagine what they could have done had they been healthy, made better decisions on which prescriptions to pick up at Walgreen's, and not been so dependent on Quadruple-A players.

Generation KO delivered a knockout blow every time one of its members took the mound.  Defending rookie of the year Jacob deGrom was better as a sophomore than he was as a Mets freshman.  Matt Harvey showed no ill effects from sitting out a year to recover from Tommy John surgery.  Noah Syndergaard was in character as Thor for the entire season, dropping the hammer on opposing hitters.  And Steven Matz made it back home, bringing his exuberant Grandpa Bert along for the ride to cheer him on after every victory.

The Mets entered uncharted waters in late July when Sandy Alderson decided to be a buyer at the trade deadline for the first time in his five-year tenure as the team's general manager.  First, he brought in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to be super subs.  Then he was hip to be square, deciding to keep the emotional Wilmer Flores, while balking at Carlos Gomez and his medical records.  Finally, as the clock approached midnight in Moscow (that's 4:00pm in the Eastern Time Zone) on July 31, the cold war being staged between Alderson and rival general managers reached a truce when Tigers G.M. Dave Dombrowski agreed to trade Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets for top pitching prospect Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.  The stage had been set for a magical summer at Citi Field.

Once the Mets swept the Nationals at a raucous Citi Field, then repeated the feat at Nationals Park a month later, it was a foregone conclusion that the Mets were going to win the N.L. East crown for only the sixth time in franchise history.  And when Daniel Murphy put the team on his shoulders in the division series and league championship series, the Mets played their way to an improbable pennant.

And that's when things got crappy...

The Kansas City Royals remembered all too well how close they came to winning it all in 2014.  This time, they would make sure no Mets lead was safe.  And in fact, the Mets led in all five World Series games and had the lead going to the eighth inning in four of the five contests.  But through poor fielding, a lack of hitting in the late innings and Jeurys Familia doing something completely un-Familia-r (blowing late leads), the Mets couldn't ride their October momentum to a World Series championship.

And once they lost Game Five on November 1, the dominoes started to fall.  Jon Niese was traded to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker.  Wilmer Flores lost his starting job to Asdrubal Cabrera, who had a Wilmer Flores-type season at the plate in 2015 but is six years older and is costing the Mets an extra eight million dollars-plus in 2016.  But hey, at least Bartolo Colon is back to provide comic relief at the plate.

Speaking of walking up to the plate, who will replace Murphy and Cespedes's production in 2016?  With Murphy gone to the Nationals and Cespedes gone fishing for a new team, the Mets have lost the man who tied for the team lead in RBI in 2015 (Murphy) and the neon-sleeved savior who made everyone forget about Eric Campbell and his clueless cohorts.  Will Walker and Cabrera be able to replace them in the hearts of Mets fans, and more importantly, in the stat sheets of those same fans?

Finally, the Mets acquired Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Lagares in center field.  Maybe Sandy Alderson goofed and thought De Aza's last name began with a lower case D and wanted to corner the market on similarly named players (he already has d'Arnaud and deGrom on the team).  But other than the fact that De Aza was probably cheaper than Denard Span, Gerardo Parra or Max Venable and was more likely to sign a one-year deal, why the fudge was he the guy targeted to be Lagares's platoon partner?  De Aza's dWAR hasn't been above zero since 2011 and he's started a total of 13 games in center field since the end of the 2013 season, or eight more games than Darrell Ceciliani started in center for the Mets last year alone and a baker's dozen more than you and I started.

I hope Sandy Alderson knows something we don't.  Then again, in 2015, he had all the right answers to all the question marks surrounding the team, even if he had to cough and clear his throat ten times before uttering each answer.

And there you have it, Mets fans.  You now know what was happy about 2015 and what was crappy about it.  Then again, if you've been following the Mets as carefully as the Studious Metsimus staff has over the past few years, you probably didn't need a 2,000-word blog post to tell you something you already knew.

One thing you may not have known is that our staff is heavily inspired by other Mets blogs.  And as we do every year, we'd like to give a shout-out to those sites in appreciation of their hard work and to thank them for not using a teddy bear as a roving reporter/culinary expert.  We'd like to think we've cornered the market with that.  So give a hand and show your support to each of the following Mets sites: A Gal For All Seasons, Faith and Fear in Flushing, Mets Merized Online, MetsMinors.Net, Amazin' Avenue, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, The Daily Stache, Mets360, Rising Apple, Kranepool Society, Mets Police, MetSilverman, Converted Mets Fan and Mets Daddy.

On that note, we'd like to wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.  And by "we", we're talking about Ed Leyro (that's the guy pushing the word count of this post up near Bartolo Colon's cholesterol level), Joey Beartran (the aforementioned roving reporter/culinary expert), Iggy Beartran (your source for all things related to Cole Hamels) and Taryn "The Coop" Cooper (she's just here so she won't get fined).

And remember, Mets fans, if you see a team celebrating on an opposing team's field after recording the final out of the game, it doesn't always have to be Chris Heston or Max Scherzer celebrating a no-hitter.  Nor does it have to be the Kansas City Royals whooping it up as a World Series winner for the first time in 30 years.  Sometimes it might be a team decked in blue and orange celebrating a division title, division series victory or perhaps even a pennant.

Thanks so much for your support!  See you next year!

See, players celebrating on the field sometimes ARE the Mets.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dave Henderson, Who Nearly Beat the Mets in the 1986 World Series, Dies at 57

Dave Henderson (July 2, 1958 - December 27, 2015)

It was the tenth inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series.  The Mets and Red Sox were tied, 3-3.  And Dave Henderson stepped up to the plate against Mets reliever Rick Aguilera.  What happened next shocked Mets fans everywhere, as Henderson took Aguilera deep, running backwards to first base as the ball sailed over the left field fence to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

One of the reasons why the Red Sox were in the World Series in the first place was because Henderson had supplied another dramatic home run in the American League Championship Series against the California Angels.  With the Angels one strike away from winning the first pennant in team history, Henderson hit a two-run homer off closer Donnie Moore to give the Red Sox a one-run lead.  Now Henderson had given Boston a one-run lead against the Mets in the World Series, with the Red Sox needing one scoreless inning from the bullpen to wrap up the team's first championship since 1918.

Well, we all know what happened next.  And because of the Mets' improbable two-out rally in the bottom of the tenth and their 8-5 victory in Game Seven two nights later, Dave Henderson's home run heroics just became part of the story instead of the biggest moment in Red Sox history.

Incredibly, the home run by Henderson in Game Six was his third of the postseason - he also homered in Boston's Game Two victory over the Mets - after hitting just one home run in 36 games for the Red Sox during the 1986 regular season following his trade from the Seattle Mariners.

Henderson, who was the first player ever drafted by the Mariners in 1977, played 14 years in the big leagues, earning MVP votes in 1988 and 1991 as a member of the Oakland A's and making his only A.L. All-Star team in 1991.  His teams made the postseason four times and he played in the World Series each time, losing the Fall Classic with the Red Sox in 1986 and the A's in 1988 and 1990.  He was also a member of the 1989 World Series champion A's.

From 1988 to 1991, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson (who returned to Oakland in 1989) were the stars of the team.  But had advanced metrics existed then, more people would have noticed the contributions of Dave Henderson, whose 20.7 WAR from 1988 to 1991 was higher than anyone on the team, including the aforementioned Canseco (20.1 WAR), Henderson (19.5 WAR) and McGwire (13.5 WAR).

Henderson was a key contributor to each pennant-winning team he played for, as evidenced by his .298/.376/.570 career slash line in the playoffs.  Half of his 36 postseason hits went for extra bases (ten doubles, one triple, seven homers) and he drove in 20 runs in 121 postseason at-bats.  And most importantly for Mets fans, he batted .400 (10-for-25) against New York in the 1986 World Series, making a case for World Series MVP (which NBC reported had gone to Bruce Hurst prior to the Mets' miracle comeback) had the Red Sox held on to win the title.

Earlier today, Dave Henderson passed away from cardiac arrest at the young age of 57.  His death came one month after receiving a kidney transplant.

Dave Henderson may not have been a Hall of Fame player.  He was barely an All-Star.  But his contributions for all the teams he played for will never be forgotten, especially when those teams needed him the most.  And had it not been for an improbable rally at Shea Stadium on October 25, 1986, Henderson's name would always remain in the minds of Mets fans who would still be hoping to see the team win its second championship.

Rest in peace, Dave Henderson.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2015)

Is this where I deliver mail to Sandy Claus?

Dear Sandy Claus,

This is Joey Beartran once again, writing my fifth letter to you in as many holiday seasons.  I see other teams have written asking for stocking stuffers already.  I'm glad some of them got lumps of coal in their stockings, like the Giants, who got Jeff Samardzija as their main gift, even though he led the league last year by giving up more hits, home runs and earned runs than any other pitcher.  It serves them right after their fans invade Citi Field year after year, making it uncomfortable for Mets fans to enjoy any games against San Francisco.

Sometimes people just ask for things at the holidays, not once considering that it truly is better to give than it is to receive.  But I'm going to do a little of both, hoping that you'll appreciate that I'm not like all those other people, especially those who have 27 rings, ask you every year for a 28th, and then when you don't bring it to them, they constantly remind you about those 27 rings they already do have.  (I won't say who they are, but they really do yank my chain.)

So I hope you have a little bit of time on your hands, Mr. Claus, because as you already know from my previous letters to you, my missives are never just a few words long.  Sit back, have some cookies and milk, and get ready for a letter that's all nice and never naughty - kind of like me!

The beginning of a masterpiece.

I'd like a center fielder who can split time with Juan Lagares, especially if Lagares's arm is still kaput.  It would also help if this center fielder could find a way to get on base with a little more regularity.  I mean, Lagares's career OBP is .297, which is just barely higher than Denard Span's .287 lifetime batting average.  (Span also has a .352 OBP in eight big league seasons.)  Now I'm not saying you should put Span in the Mets' stocking.  Ah, who am I kidding?  Of course I want Span on the team.  And I'm not just saying that because he gets on base and steals bases (he swiped 31 bags in 2014 and has had three other seasons with 20+ steals).  I'm also not saying it because he bats left-handed which would allow him to be part of a righty-lefty platoon with Lagares.  I'm saying it because he absolutely KILLS THE METS!!  Did you know he's a lifetime .311 hitter vs. New York?  Did you also know that for a guy with little power, he has five home runs against the Mets, even though he's never hit more than three homers against any other team?  You better know that, because Sandy Claus is supposed to know everything!  Get me Span for the holidays and I'll be a happy bear.

I'd also like some better defense by the middle infield.  Last year, Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores got most of the playing time at second and short, respectively.  I know they combined for 60 doubles and 30 homers last season, but they only produced a 2.2 WAR between them, mainly because their defense left a lot to be desired.  The new double play combo in Flushing (Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera) almost doubled that with their respective teams last season, as Walker and Cabrera combined for a 4.1 WAR in 2015.  They're not going to win Gold Gloves out there, but they also won't make bone-headed plays.  Of course, just because they were serviceable last year doesn't guarantee anything this year.  Both Walker and Cabrera are in their 30s, so be sure to give them proper rest by having 26-year-old Ruben Tejada play for them every once in a while.

Once thing I definitely want is for Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler to be the second coming of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda and David Cone.  The 1969 and 1973 teams both had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, with the '69 team adding Gary Gentry and the '73 squad having Jon Matlack, but neither team had a fourth starter who gave them 25+ starts.  Meanwhile, the 1986 team didn't have David Cone yet and used Rick Aguilera as a fifth starter.  Aguilera was wild in the strike zone and allowed too many hits and home runs.  Only the 1988 team with Doc, Ronnie, El Sid, Bobby O and Coney had no weaknesses in the starting rotation, which was exemplified by the team's league-leading 2.91 ERA and 1,100 strikeouts.  Once Wheeler returns to the rotation in June, the 2016 pitching staff could rival the '88 staff as the franchise's all-time best when you consider all five starters.  I'm counting on you, Sandy Claus, to make sure none of our pitchers gets traded.  We need to keep our stars.

Speaking of stars, I'd like some Star Wars toys under my tree.  Not because I want to play with them, but because I want to keep them in the box in pristine condition.  That way, I can sell them next October when the Mets return to the postseason and the money I make from those sales can help me buy playoff tickets.  Did you see what World Series tickets cost a few months ago?  It was certainly more than an arm, a leg and a paw, that's for sure!

$225 for a World Series ticket.  Secondary market was much higher.  I almost had to skip a few meals so I could afford it.

While I'm on the topic of collectibles, I'd like it if you could use your powers as the almighty Sandy Claus to get the team to offer more than 15,000 gnomes, bobbleheads, beach towels, etc. when they have a popular promotion.  If Free Shirt Friday can have 40,000+ shirts, why can't we have at least half that amount for the other giveaways?  There were many times when I arrived a full hour before first pitch only to find that all the items had already been given away.  For the Jesse Orosco 1986 World Series bobblehead, I stood under the hot sun for over an hour before the gates at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda even opened just to make sure I got mine.  I'd appreciate it if I didn't have to arrive at the ballpark more than three hours before first pitch just to get an item that 25,000 or so people are going to wish they had.  Not all of us have short distances to travel to get to Citi Field and we'd rather not have to leave home before the sun rises just to get a free giveaway prior to a 4:10pm start.

Let's continue talking about start times for games, particularly ESPN Sunday night games.  I know the Mets can't control which games are moved to Sunday night, but surely they can be a little more vocal about it.  Just last season, a Sunday game against the Nationals was moved from 1:10pm to 8:08pm.  And as is par for the course, because it was a Sunday game, kids were allowed to run around the bases in the Mr. Met Dash shortly after the conclusion of the game.  Think about that for a moment.  It was after 11pm.  And kids were running the bases at that time.  Do you really think their parents wanted to stick around for an extra hour or so just so that their kids can spend 30 seconds running in their sleep?  Everyone is tired and just wants to go home!  And with the Mets now becoming one of the better teams in the league, Sunday night games are going to become more prevalent.  This isn't a laughing matter!  Do something about this, Sandy Claus!

I don't think Sandy's little elf should be laughing about Sunday night games, either.

Enough about what I want in my stocking.  Now I'd like to thank you, Sandy Claus.  I'd like to show you my appreciation for doing what it took to give Mets fans an unexpected thrill ride during the season's final two months and in October.  We all know the story.  The Mets struggled to stay above .500 all season.  Wilmer Flores cried.  Then he homered against the Nationals.  Yoenis Cespedes came, saw and conquered National League pitching.  The team swept Washington.  Then they swept them again.  Finally, they celebrated in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Chicago all the way to the World Series.  Our dreams became reality.  And we couldn't have done it without you, Sandy.

I've also heard that your doppelganger and namesake, Sandy Alderson, has been undergoing cancer treatment.  Little Jeffy Wilpon might be laughing at other things, but I'm sure he's not laughing at this diagnosis.  Unlike the Phillies, Braves and Jonathan Papelbon, cancer is no joke.  It crushes dreams and rips families apart.  Sandy Alderson has made Mets fans dreams come true and in doing so, he helped us all become one big pennant-winning family.  I'd like to wish him all the best so that he makes a full recovery and can continue to be the baseball maverick that he's become.

Well, I guess that's it, Sandy Claus!  You see?  I didn't just ask to receive things.  I also gave my sincerest thanks where it was deserved.  And I also asked for other people to receive things, like good health.  Surely, this will keep me off the naughty list this year, right?  Thanks so much for listening and I hope you have a safe a merry holiday season!

Love and best wishes for the 2016 season and beyond,
Joey Beartran

Citi Field's gates were closed so I had to put this in a mailbox.  Ya gotta work on that for 2016, Sandy Claus.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

And Then There Were Three... (Soon To Be Two, Then One)

Wright may be Shea Stadium's sole survivor in 2016.  Niese is now a Pirate and Murphy and Parnell will be ex-Mets soon.  (All photos by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

During the 2015 season, a total of 49 players played for the Mets.  Of those players, four of them - David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Jonathon Niese and Bobby Parnell - had been with the team since the days when the Mets called Shea Stadium home.

But with yesterday's trade of Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker, that number has dwindled to three.  And with Walker taking up residence in Murphy's primary defensive home, there might soon be two Mets left who played for the team at Shea.

The number could very well be one by Opening Day, as Parnell has pitched just 25 innings over the last two seasons and they haven't been very good innings, as he's allowed 21 runs (18 earned) and 50 base runners (32 hits, 18 walks) in those 25 frames.  For all you kids out there, that's a 6.48 ERA and 2.00 WHIP since the start of the 2014 campaign.  In other words, if Bobby Parnell was left off the postseason roster in 2015, he should be missing in non-action again in 2016 and beyond.

Once David Wright becomes the last Met standing from the halcyon days of Shea, the honor of being the second longest tenured Met will go from a soon-to-be former second baseman (Murphy) to a player who's familiar with seconds (Jenrry Mejia), as his second drug suspension for the same drug in 2015 will cost him much of his 2016 campaign as well.  Mejia will be the second longest tenured Met by a matter of minutes, as he made his Mets debut during the sixth inning of a game on April 7, 2010, just three innings before Ruben Tejada graced us with his presence for the first time.  And yes, that means that not a single player of the 26 men who made their Mets debut in the same year Citi Field made its debut (2009) remains on the team.

Besides Mejia and Tejada, the only other players who played for the Mets as far back as 2010 and were still members of the team last season were Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee (remember him?), although Gee has been granted free agency and will probably join forces with Bobby Parnell in the Land of Make Believe You Were Never A Met.

Just like 2009, there are no players who made their Mets debut in 2011 who are still with the team.  In fact, of the 22 players who suited up as a Met for the first time just four years ago, only one - Josh Satin - made it as far as the 2014 campaign, but he and his eyebrows are now property of the Cincinnati Reds.

That bring us to the 2012 season, a year that saw the Mets debuts of just three players who played for the team in the just-completed 2015 campaign.  And one of those players (Kirk Nieuwenhuis) had a cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County near Disneyland this past season.  That leaves Matt Harvey (Mets debut in July 2012) and Jeurys Familia (Mets debut in September 2012) as the only players from the Year of the No-Hitter who are still with the team and have only played with the Mets.

So let's review.

There were four players on the 2015 roster who were in uniform at the Shea Goodbye ceremony.  One of those players (Jon Niese) will now be partaking of pierogies and Primanti Brothers sandwiches as a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Another one (Daniel Murphy) will be counting his money and his defensive lapses as a member of a new team in 2016.  A third (Bobby Parnell) was less dependable than Alex Torres's hat and is more than likely also going to be an ex-Met in 2016 - something Bartolo Colon will not be, no matter how much he slips up on the mound or elsewhere.

YouTube video posted by psu19420

Jenrry Mejia, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda will now replace Murphy, Niese and Parnell as the second, third and fourth longest tenured Mets.  They will join David Wright as the only players who know what it's like to be managed by Jerry Manuel and who remember firsthand what the Great Wall of Flushing used to look like before half of it was blocked by the Party City Deck.

Since Kirk Nieuwenhuis sported Angels red for a spell in 2015, that will leave Matt Harvey and Jeurys Famila as the fifth and sixth longest tenured Mets, respectively.  So who rounds out the top ten as far as longest tenured Mets are concerned?  Try this on for size.

  • No. 7 - Juan Lagares (Mets debut on April 23, 2013)
  • No. 8 - Carlos Torres (Mets debut on June 16, 2013)
  • No. 9 - Zack Wheeler (Mets debut on June 18, 2013)
  • No. 10 - Wilmer Flores (Mets debut on August 6, 2013)

With Neil Walker and new Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on board, the days for Ruben Tejada as a Met could be numbered.  Jenrry Mejia is one suspension away from not only being an ex-Met, but also an ex-major league baseball player.  That means Lucas Duda might soon find himself as the only Met besides Wright who remembers Omar Minaya signing anyone.

The days of players who were continuously with the Mets for nearly a decade are long gone.  The way things are going, half-decade players could be a thing of the past for the Mets as well.  How long will it be before players on the team start calling Wilmer Flores the old man on the team, assuming Flores sticks around long enough?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Joey and Iggy Beartran Thanksgiving (2015)

This blog post will go on Snoopy.  Just let us know when Snoopy is behind us.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Greetings and happy Thanksgiving, Mets fans!  I'm Joey Beartran and I'm spending the holiday with my sister, Iggy.  On this special day, we're not going to say anything bad about the Mets, the Wilpons or Cole Hamels.  Instead, we're going to celebrate Bartolo Colon's favorite holiday by sharing what we are most thankful for.

Why are we sharing this on a day when no one reads Mets blog posts because they're either watching football or eating Friday and Saturday's leftovers before they become leftovers?  Because what else are you going to do during the boring halftime shows or while your Aunt Tillie is giving her ten-minute thank you speech at the dinner table making everyone at the table wonder why she was invited in the first place?

So sit back, relax and enjoy what we're most thankful for this Thanksgiving.  We promise we'll be thankful for something other than the gif that keeps on gif-ing.

Gotta work out the arms and hands that hold his knife and fork.

Joey:  I'm thankful Iggy and I have been Mets fans since birth.  Because we're such die-hard fans, no one thinks it's unusual when we travel to so many cities to attend baseball games.

Iggy:  I'm thankful we also have a designated driver in the family.  We needed someone to drive us to Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh to watch the Mets play on the road.  We couldn't drive because ... well ... see for yourself.

I'd actually be a great driver if I could see where I was going.

Joey:  I'm thankful the Mets haven't signed any free agents so early in the off-season.  The last two years, the Mets acquired Chris Young and Michael Cuddyer before Thanksgiving.  They both ended up being turkeys for the Mets.  And not the good kind.

Iggy:  Speaking of turkey, I'm thankful we got to try new foods while we were away on our road trips.  It helped us forget that Young was ever on our team and that Cuddyer ... oh wait ... he's still on our team, isn't he?  Well, at least we'll always have coneys and chili cheese fries.  Or at least you did.  I was busy taking this photo of you while you were enjoying the Cincinnati staple.

Why doesn't Coney Island have coneys?  And why isn't it an island?  Something to ponder as I chow down.

Joey:  I'll always be thankful for what Yoenis Cespedes did to get the Mets to the playoffs and what Daniel Murphy did to carry the Mets to the World Series.  Without them, my dreams of attending a Fall Classic game with Iggy would not have come true.

Iggy:  Aw, thank you, Joey.  And I'm thankful that Murphy showed he can hit left-handers in the playoffs, homering twice off Clayton Kershaw and once off Jon Lester.  Speaking of southpaws, did you know that Daniel Murphy has owned that smiling ass, Cole Hamels, over his major league career, batting .321 with four doubles and a homer off Hamels in 53 lifetime at-bats?  What?  I wasn't supposed to say anything bad about Hamels?  But I wasn't.  I was complimenting Daniel Murphy.

Will Cespedes and Murphy be back to pose for more photos like this?  (Photo courtesy of

Joey:  Finally, I'm thankful that we're going into the 2016 campaign as defending National League champions.  With Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey leading the rotation and a full season of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz's services, not to mention the return of Zack Wheeler, the Mets look like they will be in contention for another postseason berth next year and in the years to come.

Iggy:  I'm just thankful this blog post is over.  All this talk about baseball and Thanksgiving dinner made me hungry for peanuts, Cracker Jack, hot dogs, turkey, stuffing ... oh, and Joey would probably want something, too.

These are just our appetizers until we get the main course.

Well, I guess we've reached the end of our annual Thanksgiving Day post.  We're glad we were able to provide a distraction from your Aunt Tillie's Thanksgiving Thesis.  And we're even more glad that you (the reader) and us (Joey and Iggy) all have something in common.  We're all fans of the defending National League champion New York Mets.

It's been a wonderful year - one we will not soon forget.  You should all be thankful that you got to experience it with your fellow Mets fans.  Let's make 2016 even more special.

From our family to yours, we hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.  And never stop believing in your team.


Keep reaching for the stars and you'll always believe!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Mets Look to the Future by Trying to Avoid a Repeat of the Past

Matt Harvey and his teammates hope to turn their frowns upside down in 2016.  (David J. Phillip/AP)

The 2015 Mets had a wonderful season that ended in disappointment, as the team's fifth World Series appearance resulted in their third Fall Classic defeat.  The two previous times the Mets won the pennant but lost the title, they had poor seasons in the year immediately following their World Series appearance, with the 1974 squad going 71-91 and the 2001 club needing a sizzling September to barely finish the year with a winning record (82-80).

Clearly, the 1974 and 2001 squads are not the the same as the team that what will become the 2016 Mets.  But there are some similarities with the '74 squad that should be looked at if the Mets want to avoid regressing to the style of play that permeated Citi Field from 2009 to 2014.

During the 2015 regular season, Mets pitchers were decent at keeping opponents off the scoreboard from the eighth inning until the game's conclusion.  They allowed 139 runs in 331 innings after the seventh frame - an average of 3.78 runs per nine innings.  (The team as a whole allowed 613 runs in 1,462 IP, an average 3.77 runs per nine innings.)  But that changed in the postseason, as Mets pitchers combined to give up 22 runs in 34 innings in the eighth frame and beyond - an average of 5.82 runs per nine innings.

Now let's compare this to what happened in 1973 and 1974.  The 1973 Mets allowed 112 runs after the seventh inning.  In 1974, the pitching staff combined to give up 150 runs from the eighth inning on.  That's nearly a 34% increase in runs allowed in the late innings and in extra frames from their pennant-winning season to their lackluster 71-91 followup campaign.

The 2015 postseason began to show a crack in the late inning armor.  That cannot continue in 2016 if the Mets don't want a repeat of what happened in 1974.  Making sure the bullpen - especially Jeurys Familia - is not overworked, is critical to the success of next year's team.

Speaking of Familia, let's look at the closer in 1973 - Tug McGraw.  McGraw recorded 25 saves in the Mets' pennant-winning season and allowed runs in 18 of his 58 relief appearances.  A year later, McGraw struggled, giving up runs in 20 of his 37 relief efforts and recording a mere four saves.  (The Mets bullpen as a whole had just 14 saves in 1974 - the lowest total by any Mets team since the save became an official statistic in 1969.)  It should be noted that between the regular season and the playoffs, McGraw pitched a whopping 137 innings in 1973, which was 26⅓ innings more than his previous career high.  Similarly, Familia reached a career high in innings pitched in 2015, tossing 92⅔ innings last season after never having pitched more than 77 innings in parts of three major league seasons before 2015.  Familia's workload cannot be as heavy in 2016 if the Mets want him to continue to be one of the most reliable closers in the game.

Do I have to get on my knees for the Mets not to overuse Familia in 2016?  (John Starks/Daily Herald)

Moving on to the hitting, the 2015 Mets batted .244 as a team, which was only one percentage point ahead of the San Diego Padres, who finished the season with a league-worst .243 team batting average.  However, the Mets finished near the league average in on-base-plus-slugging (OPS), posting a .712 OPS which was just under the league average of .713.  Both numbers improved when there were runners in scoring position, as the Mets batted .252 with a .736 OPS in RISP situations.

The same thing could be said for the 1973 squad, a team that batted .246 overall with a .653 OPS in all situations during the regular season.  But when there were runners in scoring position, those numbers increased to .254 and .702, respectively.  A year later, the 1974 club could only manage a .238 batting average and .644 OPS with runners in scoring position.  Both of those numbers were worse than what the 1973 squad put up in all situations.

By not being able to drive in runners from second or third base, the 1974 team put more pressure on their pitchers to allow fewer runs and the moundsmen were not up to the task, as Tom Seaver posted the first non-winning season of his career and Jon Matlack had a 13-15 won-loss record despite his 2.41 ERA and seven complete-game shutouts.  The 2016 Mets must continue to drive in runners when they reach scoring position.  If they lose Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy to free agency, the two players must be replaced with guys who are effective in RISP situations.

Another crucial hitting situation is the one that involves a runner on third base with two outs, where a hitter cannot settle for a fly ball to drive in the runner as he would when there are fewer than two men out.  In 2015, the Mets were not very good in these situations, batting .209 with a .648 OPS.  However, the 1974 squad would have loved to have had that type of production with two outs and a runner on third.  That team batted just .198 and had a measly .547 OPS when those situations occurred - a far cry from the .236/.652 marks the team put up in its pennant-winning 1973 campaign.  The .209/.648 performance by the 2015 club with a runner on third and two outs was not very good and must be improved in 2016 if the team wants to compete for another postseason berth.  If those numbers get any worse, the team could be looking at a sequel to the 1974 season.

Finally, let's look at the Mets' ability to win close games.  The 2015 team was 25-24 in games decided by one run, went 9-6 in extra-inning affairs and only lost four games via the walk-off.  All of those numbers are quite acceptable.  The 1973 pennant-winning Mets - a team that finished the regular season with an 82-79 record - wasn't nearly as good as their 2015 counterparts in close games, as they went 31-32 in one-run contests, 7-12 in extra innings and 6-9 in walk-off games.  However, those numbers were superior to what the Mets produced in 1974 - a year in which they finished 17-36 in one-run games, 4-16 in extra-inning contests and 3-14 in games that ended on a walk-off.  Clearly, the 2016 club must continue to play well in tight ballgames.  To fall as far as the 1974 squad did in the late innings and in extra innings would be disastrous.

The 2015 Mets went places that no one expected them to go.  Although they fell just short of a World Series title, they have the pieces in place to make another run at the team's third championship.  But they can't fall into the trap that befell the 1974 Mets.  That team had a closer that was overused in the previous pennant-winning campaign, could not keep opponents off the scoreboard in the late innings, had difficulty driving in runs with runners in scoring position and was absolutely useless in getting runners in from third base when the other team needed one out to get out of the inning.  The 1974 club followed up their World Series-losing season by winning 71 games.

The 2016 squad still has many players who participated in all or most of the six straight losing seasons the team recorded from 2009 to 2014.  Although those players have wonderful memories of 2015, the memories of those sub-.500 campaigns are also still fresh in their minds.  Next year's team should look at what happened in 1974 and learn from that team's mistakes so as not to repeat history.  Terry Collins cannot overuse Jeurys Familia next year.  Sandy Alderson has to put together a bullpen that will not give up run after run in the late innings, a la the 1974 squad.  And the team has to show that even with the potential loss of Murphy and Cespedes, it can drive in runs in critical situations.

A dropoff in several key categories and positions killed the Mets' chances to return to the World Series in 1974.  It can do the same for the 2016 team.  Alderson, Collins and the players have to make sure the Mets don't repeat the past if they want to be successful in the future.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Joey's Soapbox: My 2015 Obviously Biased World Series Pick

I don't think Pete Rose believes I should be sharing my picks on this platform.

Hi, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran and it's time to share my World Series pick.  I'm picking the Mets.  That was simple, wasn't it?

Well, if you came to this page, that means you probably want to see more than just an obvious pick from a roving reporter/culinary expert.  So I guess I should give you a reason why it would be a wise decision to pick the Mets to win their first World Series in 29 years instead of the team that was the defending world champion when the Mets last lifted the trophy.

The reason is because I've correctly picked 87.5% of this postseason's winners.  I chose the Astros and Cubs to win their respective wild card games.  I was two-for-two with those picks.  Then I batted .750 in the four division series, banging out hits when I picked the Blue Jays, Royals and Mets to advance to the league championship series.  However, I whiffed by picking the Cardinals to advance.  Hey, even Daniel Murphy doesn't hit one out of the park every once in a while.

Once the ALCS and NLCS were both set, I picked the Royals and Mets to face each other in the World Series.  And sure enough, my picks were as automatic as Jeurys Familia has been in the ninth inning (and sometimes the eighth as well).

What?  Picking seven out of eight winners isn't a good enough reason for you to place a bet on the Mets in the Fall Classic?  Did Pete Rose coerce you into thinking that?  Fine.  Here's why I think the Mets will defeat the Royals in the World Series.

World Series

New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals

The Mets have already taken out the 92-win Dodgers and the 97-win Cubs en route to their fifth National League pennant.  They've gone 7-2 in doing so, with only one of the losses being legitimate.  (The Dodgers didn't earn the Chase Utley game, but Chase Utley sure earned his suspension and his tee time on the golf course.)  Meanwhile, the Royals needed to go the distance against the upstart Astros in the division series, needing a furious comeback in Game Four just to force a fifth and deciding game.  Then they lost two more games to the Blue Jays in the ALCS and could have lost a third, but they had help from a fan in the outfield on a "home run" by Kansas City's Mike Moustakas and also benefited from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson's strike zone, which became wider than Bartolo Colon's waistline when Ben Revere was at the plate in the ninth inning with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

Kansas City has an excellent bullpen.  But the Royals need to have the lead to use their top relievers.  And their starting pitchers aren't exactly turning heads.

Their four starters (Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, Johnny Cueto and former Met Chris Young) were quite ordinary in the regular season and continued to be so in the postseason.  The not-so-fearsome foursome combined to post a 3.77 ERA and 1.22 WHIP during the regular season - numbers that would have been worse had it not been for Young's contributions (3.06 ERA, 1.09 WHIP).  And as good as Young was during the regular season, it was mostly due to what he did in the first two and a half months.  Through June 16, Young had a stellar 1.98 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  In his final 20 appearances (10 starts, 10 relief outings), those numbers shot up to 4.06 and 1.24, respectively.

When Chris Young has a lower ERA and WHIP than these guys, it shows they don't have a true ace. (USA TODAY Sports)

Once Volquez, Ventura, Cueto and Young got to the postseason, they fell apart, combining to post a 5.33 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.  They also became more erratic with their control, walking 31 batters in 59 innings.

Of course, the team's hitters bailed them out on numerous occasions, as Kansas City scored five or more runs in six of their seven victories against the Astros and Blue Jays.  But both Houston and Toronto shared so-so starting rotations and bullpens, and it showed in the playoffs.  Neither team had a deep starting rotation and neither club had a Jeurys Familia-type closer.

The Mets have all of that, and then some.

Kansas City went 5-44 in the regular season when they scored fewer than three runs.  That continued in the postseason, as they lost all three games in which they failed to cross the plate three times.  It should be noted that in the 171 games the Mets have played this year, they've allowed three or fewer runs in 90 of those contests.  For all you kids out there, that's 52.6% of the time.  That bodes well for the Mets as they go up against a starting rotation that combined to post an ERA north of 5.00 in their 11 postseason starts.

The Royals also have a starting rotation that's entirely right-handed, with only Franklin Morales and Danny Duffy pitching from the left side out of the pen.  That means more at-bats for Michael Conforto and more comfortable plate appearances for Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson.

The key to defeating the Royals is to get into the late innings with a lead, as Kansas City boasts a three-headed monster in the bullpen with set-up men Ryan Madson (2.13 ERA, 0.96 WHIP), Kelvin Herrera (2.71 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and closer Wade Davis (0.94 ERA, 0.79 WHIP).  That's where the Mets' starting rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz will come into play, and they're more than up to the task.

The four pitchers combined to post a 2.92 ERA and 1.08 WHIP during the regular season and continued to shine in the postseason against potent Dodgers and Cubs lineups (2.60 ERA, 1.10 WHIP).  Kansas City finished tenth in the majors in ERA and 13th in WHIP.  And for all of you saber-dudes out there, the Royals' 4.04 FIP was below the 3.96 league average.  When the Royals faced a team that was better than them in all three categories, their won-loss record was 17-20.  They were 78-47 against all other teams.  For the record, the Mets were fourth in the majors in ERA, second in WHIP and sixth in FIP (3.53 - more than half a run better than the Royals).

Last year, the Royals hit well against the Giants in the Fall Classic, scoring 26 runs in the 40 innings not pitched by Madison Bumgarner.  Of course, they crossed the plate just once in the 21 innings tossed by the Bumgarner Buzzsaw and that was enough to give San Francisco the crown.  The Royals are now about to encounter a staff full of Bumgarners when they face the likes of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in this year's World Series.

Kansas City might be Royal, but it's the Mets who will be celebrating a coronation.

Prediction: Mets in 5.

See you at the World Series!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm Keith Hernandez - Happy Birthday To Me!

Hello, my friends.  I'm Keith Hernandez.  And today is a special day for me.  You see, today is my birthday.  That's right, all you kids out there.  I'm now 62 years old.

In honor of my 62nd birthday, the cast and crew at Studious Metsimus asked me to give you a brief recap of my life.  To be honest with you, I've never heard of Studious Metsimus, but the offer of unlimited Tootsie Pops was too much to refuse.  Plus, they promised me there would be no traffic on the Long Island Expressway so I could make a quick getaway.  How could I pass that up?

Anyway, I was born in San Francisco on October 20, 1953.  Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with a mustache.  The picture you see below is one of my early pictures.  Yes, the ladies loved me even then.  Can you blame them?  I mean, look at me!  I'm Keith Hernandez!

Unfortunately, I failed in my petition to get my own name on my Little League jersey.

After my days as a Little League lothario were done, I was drafted in the 42nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.  (Yes, I did go to high school between my Little League days and my high school graduation, but that was an awkward time for me, so I'd rather not talk about it.)  Clearly, the scouts back then were terrible judges of talent if they waited that long to draft me.  Unfortunately, I did nothing to earn that selection early on in my minor league career until I was promoted to Triple-A Tulsa in 1973, where I hit .333 and showed those other kids out there how a real baseball player was supposed to play the game.

In 1974, I hit .351 for Tulsa and was promoted to the big show on August 30 of that year against my hometown San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.  I reached base three times in my first big league game, drawing two walks before collecting my first big league hit and RBI in the ninth inning off Giants' starter Mike Caldwell.  Unfortunately, we lost that game 8-2, but I let it be known to my teammates and the rest of the league that I was here to stay.

Once I settled in to the big leagues, I made my presence felt in the clubhouse and on the field.  The Cardinals just had to keep me around.  Therefore, they traded incumbent first baseman Joe Torre to the Mets after the 1974 season (more on first basemen being traded to the Mets a little later ... after a few more paragraphs and my first Tootsie Pop).  I was a Cardinal now, and St. Louis was about to see what Keith Hernandez was all about.

It was in St. Louis that I let my trademark mustache grow.  That is also where I earned my first Gold Glove in 1978 and my first MVP Award one year later.  (Okay, so it was a co-MVP award that I shared with Willie Stargell.  But in Strat-O-Matic, I kicked Willie's posterior.)  St. Louis was also the place where I claimed my first batting title (also in 1979), my first World Series championship (1982), my first line of ... umm ... baseball cards (yeah, that's the ticket) and my first comparison to adult film thespian Ron Jeremy.

If you ask me, I don't see the resemblance.   He looks more like Mike Piazza than he does me.  Also, my acting skills are far superior to his.  Was he on "Seinfeld"?  I don't think so.  That was me.  Why did they choose me over him?  Because I'm Keith Hernandez!

Less than eight months after bringing home St. Louis' first World Series championship since 1967, I experienced one of the saddest days of my life, or so it seemed at the time.  On June 15, 1983, I was traded from the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals to the perennial cellar dweller New York Mets.  Shockingly, I wasn't even traded for future Hall of Famers.  I was shipped off to the Mets for Neil Allen, Rick Ownbey and a half-empty box of Tender Vittles.

It was already an insult to me that I was traded to the team known as "Pond Scum" and the "Stems" in St. Louis.  But come on!  Couldn't the Mets have offered some 9 Lives to the Cardinals instead of Tender Vittles?  After all, Morris the Cat was all the rage back then.  I mean, he was the O.G.  (Original Grumpy cat).   I would have accepted a trade for Allen, Ownbey and 9 Lives, not Allen, Ownbey and half-eaten Tender Vittles.  Sheesh!

I guess since the Cardinals already had the Clydesdale Horses, they didn't need another animal in the barn.

Anyway, the Mets didn't do too well after I got traded there.  We finished 68-94 in 1983, but showed some signs of life.  Old punching buddy Darryl Strawberry came up in May and future broadcast colleague R.J. (that's Ron Darling for all you casual Mets fans out there) was called up when rosters expanded in September.

Big Brother didn't come around in 1984 like he was supposed to, but we had our own little Animal Farm at Shea Stadium.  Top pitching prospect Dwight Gooden was called up in 1984 and Davey Johnson became the new Mets manager.  The team responded by going 90-72 and giving the Cubs all they could handle in the NL East.  As a result, I was no longer saddened by my trade to New York and only occasionally did I wonder if Whitey Herzog had finished what was left in the box of Tender Vittles.

After falling short again in 1985, we put it all together in 1986.  That was the year I won my second World Series championship and helped bring the first title to Flushing since the Miracle Mets did the same in 1969.  I also paired up with another Ronnie after bringing the trophy home in 1986. 

What?  No Gary?  Fine.  Then we'll just have to make do with Keith and Ron instead.

After my tenure with the Mets ended in 1989, I decided to give acting a try.  I wasn't going to tell you this, but the Tootsie Pop dangling in front of my face has convinced me to do so.

Did you know that "Seinfeld" was not my first attempt at acting?  Before TV immortality, I wanted to be a movie star.  My time with former actor Ronald Reagan in the White House showed me that if he could be President and a movie star, then I could be a baseball legend and a movie star as well, so it was off to Hollywood for me.

I first gave acting a shot when I auditioned for the movie "Major League".  However, it ended up being a bad dream and instead of playing for the Cleveland Indians in the film alongside noted actors Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes, I ended up playing for the REAL Cleveland Indians.  It was not a good time to be Keith Hernandez.

There's no way I would've let Roger Dorn get away with not diving for ground balls.

I was injured for most of my time in Cleveland.  Because of that, I only played in 45 games for the Indians, batting .200 with one HR and eight RBI.  You know it wasn't a good season when my Studious Metsimus editor reminded me that I had to write out my home run and RBI totals in words (one and eight) instead of numbers (1 and 8).  Needless to say, I retired after the 1990 season and went back home...

...which didn't last long.  In 1992, I appeared on Episode #34 of "Seinfeld".  The special one-hour episode, named "The Boyfriend", featured me trying to date Elaine Benes, but not being able to get past first base because I used to smoke back then.  Another subplot involved me being accused of spitting a magic loogie on Kramer and Newman, when in fact it was my former Met teammate, Roger McDowell from the grassy knoll.

"That is one magic loogie."

My appearance on "Seinfeld" in 1992 and my subsequent cameo in the series finale in 1998 parlayed into several broadcasting appearances for the Mets.  When SNY debuted in 2006, I teamed up with former radio play-by-play man Gary Cohen and analyst/former teammate Ron Darling as the new broadcast team for the New York Mets.  My boothmates and I are also part of Gary, Keith and Ron, or GKR for short.  Together, we've raised money for our favorite charities, such as the Cobble Hill Health Center (for Alzheimer's care) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (hoping to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes).  In addition, we've also focused on helping victims of domestic abuse.  And for all you kids out there, there's nothing funny about domestic abuse.

Fans might know me for my baseball career.  Others might know me for my excellent acting on "Seinfeld".  Some of you might even know me for my Just For Men commercials with Walt "Clyde" Frazier.  Current Met fans know me for my unabashed analysis on SNY telecasts of Mets games. 

I'm all of those people. Although I'm a year older today, I'm still only 62 so I have plenty left to accomplish.  Maybe I'll mass produce my Mex Burgers.  Or perhaps I'll go from flashing the leather to wearing it on a broadcast.  Hey, I might even create a fantasy league for Strat-O-Matic players.  (Why haven't I thought of that before?)  Who knows?  One thing is for sure.  No matter what job I have or what position I fill, I'll always be around.  Why wouldn't I be?  After all, I'm Keith Hernandez!

It's not easy being me, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Cubs May Hit Their Share of Home Runs, But...

During the 2015 regular season, the Chicago Cubs became the first team to ever sweep a season series of more than six games against the Mets.  The Cubs outscored the Mets, 27-11 en route to a 7-0 record against New York.  Chicago hit seven home runs in the seven games, en route to a season total of 171 long balls.

Chicago's penchant for hitting the ball out of the park continued in the postseason, as they homered twice in the wild card game against the Pirates and walloped ten home runs in the four NLDS games versus the Cardinals, including six in Game Three.

When you combine the Cubs' power with an ace pitcher like Jake Arrieta, it's not surprising that Chicago won 97 games in 2015.  However, they can be beaten, and the Mets may just be the right team to keep the curse of Murphy the billy goat intact.

As much as the Cubs flexed their muscles at the plate during the regular season, it was the Mets who finished with more home runs.  New York hit 177 homers, or six more than the Chicago's total.

Kris Bryant was one of the Cubs' top home run hitters, smacking 26 homers in 151 games.  However, it should be noted that he hit just five of those home runs on the road, and that handful of homers came off the following pitchers:

  • Kyle Lohse, Brewers (5.85 ERA, 1.46 WHIP)
  • Odrisamer Despaigne, Padres (5.80 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
  • David Murphy, Indians (a position player)
  • Alex Wood, Dodgers (4.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
  • Alec Asher, Phillies (9.31 ERA, 1.79 WHIP)

For all you kids out there, those four pitchers and one position player combined for a 5.82 ERA and 1.43 WHIP during the 2015 campaign.  Those were the only players Bryant could muster a homer against away from the Friendly Confines.  It should be noted that the Mets will have home field advantage in the NLCS.

With great power comes great strikeout-ability, and the Cubs created enough of a breeze with their swings and misses to power a wind turbine.  Led by Bryant's league-leading 199 whiffs, Chicago batters struck out a mind-boggling 1,518 times during the regular season.  That's the most in franchise history, surpassing the team's old mark of 1,477, which was set just last year.  Prior to then, no Cubs team had ever struck out more than 1,269 times.  In addition, the Cubs had more strikeouts than any other team in the majors.  Houston had the second-most strikeouts in the big leagues with 1,392, but was still well behind Chicago's total.  And with six of the seven games potentially being started by Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, who combined to fan 559 batters in 530 innings, Cubs batters should be seeing strike three quite often in the series.

Speaking of the Mets starting pitchers, let's talk about what they did against the Dodgers in the division series.  For as many home runs as Chicago hit, it was Los Angeles that led the National League, as Dodgers players circled the bases 187 times in 2015.  That gave the Mets valuable experience against a team that knows how to hit balls out of the park.  So how many times did the Dodgers take Mets starting pitchers deep in the five-game series?

That's a big fat zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Cubs batters might have done well against lesser hurlers this season, but they're in for quite a surprise when they face the velocity and movement of pitches thrown by Harvey, Syndergaard and deGrom.

So if the Mets prevent the Cubs from hitting homers, can Chicago score any other way?  The answer is one that even Grumpy Cat can agree with.

As mentioned before, the Cubs hit 171 home runs during the regular season.  They accomplished this in 5,491 at-bats.  They also had 1,174 hits that didn't leave the yard.  That means when the Cubs kept the ball in front of the outfield fence, they only batted .221.  Chicago scored 414 runs this year that didn't cross the plate on the strength of a home run.  That's just 2.6 non-homer aided runs per game.  In the division series against the Cardinals, it was homer-or-nothing for the Cubs, as ten of their 30 hits in the series left the yard.  Chicago batted just .175 (20-for-114) when they didn't hit the ball out of the park and scored 14 of their 20 runs on homers, averaging just 1.5 runs per game that weren't because of home runs.

The Mets, in particular their starting pitchers, have done their best to limit their opponents from producing big innings against them.  One way they've done this is by keeping the ball in the park.  Including the postseason, Harvey, Syndergaard and deGrom did not allow a home run in 50 of their 87 starts.  Harvey, the Mets' Game One starter, has not allowed a home run since September 2.  He has pitched 28 consecutive innings without giving up a tater.

So yes, it's true that the Cubs' offense revolves around the home run ball.  But they may be running into the worst possible team at the worst possible time if they plan on continuing to score most of their runs on 360-foot trots around the bases.  The Mets will still have to score some runs of their own, but they may not have to out-slug the Cubs to do so.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Joey's Soapbox: My 2015 Obviously Biased LCS Picks

I'm a bear, not a Cub.

What's shaking, everyone?  This is Joey Beartran, back with more postseason predictions that may or may not be biased.  Have you been following along with my prognostications since the playoffs began?  If so, you would know that I correctly picked both wild card game winners and three of the four division series winners (stupid Cardinals had to put a blemish on my record).

It's now time to continue sharing my expert picks with you, as tonight we'll kick off the first of two league championship series.  But first, here's a little tidbit that is sure to make your brain explode like Marvin in Pulp Fiction.

The four participants in this year's league championship series (Blue Jays, Royals, Cubs, Mets) have each not raised the World Series trophy in over 20 years, with Toronto being the most recent champion, having won it all in 1993.  That's the first time since the advent of divisional play in 1969 that none of the final four teams had won a championship in more than two decades.  (The 2006 final four teams - Tigers, Athletics, Cardinals, Mets - had their most recent champion in 1989, when Oakland won it all.)  And the odd thing about that 20-plus year drought is that prior to this season, the Blue Jays had gone the longest without a postseason appearance - 22 long years.  But they're still the most recent World Series champion of the four remaining teams, as the Royals and Mets haven't won it all since they won consecutive championships in 1985 and 1986, respectively, and the Cubs haven't worn the World Series crown in about a thousand years, give or take a couple of campaigns.

This year, someone will end an over two-decade dry spell.  But before we get to that point, we have to whittle down the contestants from four to two.  And these are the teams that will be left standing in late October and perhaps early November.

American League Championship Series

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

Let's get one thing out of the way quickly.  The Blue Jays played their home games outside of this country.  But their offense was completely out of this world.

Toronto led the American League in home runs, doubles, runs scored, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and spectacular bat flips.  Their pitching wasn't as potent, but it wasn't that bad either, as the Blue Jays were fifth in the league in ERA, third in WHIP and issued the fewest walks of any staff in the league.  But I did find one problem with their pitching.

Will the A.L. flag rise in K.C. again?
Four of the team's five starting pitchers produced FIPs above 4.00.  That's not good.  At all.  The only starter under 4.00 was David Price, and he produced his exceptional 2.22 FIP in only 11 starts with the team.  And because the team regularly bludgeoned its opponents, they pitched in fewer save situations than most teams.  But when games were tight, the bullpen did not come through as well as they would have liked.  Toronto's bullpen had a combined 4.47 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in save situations, which contributed to the Blue Jays' awful 15-28 record in one-run games.  When Toronto blew out the opposition (winning by five or more runs), the team won 37 of 49 games.  When their opponents kept the game relatively close (within four runs), the Blue Jays were a sub-.500 team (56 wins, 57 losses).

Meanwhile, Kansas City had an exceptional bullpen that recorded 56 saves (second in the A.L.) and posted a 2.22 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in save situations, which pretty much explains the high save total.  That allowed the Royals to win tight contests (23-17 in one-run games) as well as affairs that were not very competitive (26-17 in blowouts).

Pitching wins championships, and as long as the Royals and Blue Jays are keeping the score close, that will swing the pendulum in Kansas City's favor dramatically.  Well, that and the fact that the Blue Jays had a losing record on the road, Kansas City was 51-30 at Kauffman Stadium and the Royals have home field advantage in the series.

Prediction: Royals in 7.

National League Championship Series

Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

Dude, do you really have to ask?  No analysis necessary.  And you can not throw out the narrative of the Mets losing all seven regular season games to the Cubs.  That was pre-Cespedes, pre-Conforto, d'Arnaud and Wright were on the disabled list, and players like Eric Campbell, Johnny Monell, John Mayberry Jr. and Darrell Ceciliani all started games against Chicago.  Any team could be a world beater against those guys.

The Mets are a different team now.  A better team.  They just won a series in which former and future Cy Young Award winners started four of the five games.  Jake Arrieta might be the Cubs' Mike Scott (minus the scuffing), but the rest of the staff is not that impressive to me.

The Mets have several aces, and Cubs hitters will be introduced to all of them just minutes before they return to their dugouts after making yet another out against them.

New York will make Chicago fly the "L" flag.

Prediction: Mets in 5.

I ain't 'fraid of no Cubs.  And neither should the Mets.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Offer To The Mets In Response To Ruben Tejada's Injury

While many Mets bloggers have discussed and will continue to discuss ad nauseum the play that added nausea (along with a few other things) to Mets fans everywhere - a play that ended with Ruben Tejada fracturing his right fibula - I am going down a different path.

I will not talk about the details of "The Crack Heard 'Round The World".  I will not even mention the player on the opposing team's name.  I am just going to make an offer to the Mets instead.

After a season in which the Mets gave us so many happy moments, I would like to give something back to them.  It's something that would please me and millions of other Mets fans if the team chooses to accept it.

In 2013, as part of Season Ticket Holders' Appreciation Day, I entered a trivia contest to win a Mets prize.  I was asked by Mets public address announcer Alex Anthony to identify the only player who played for the Mets in each season in the 1980s.  My correct response of Mookie Wilson won me an autographed Ruben Tejada baseball.

I have held onto that ball for two years now but I am now willing to part with it.  I will gladly donate it to the Mets on one condition.  They have to somehow find a way to get it into a division series game, especially when a certain dirty player comes to bat.

And they have to drill him with it.

Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus

Not only do they have to drill him with it, but they have to do it so skillfully that the ink from Tejada's signature is permanently tattooed on the player's skin.

Am I asking for too much from the Mets in return for the donation of this baseball to them?  Maybe.  But someone has to do something in response to what happened to Ruben Tejada in the seventh inning of last night's affair.  Obviously, the most P.C. thing to do is make the dirty player watch the Mets celebrate on the field after New York wins two more games in the series.  But due to the nature of Tejada's injury and the repeated offenses on Tejada - and other middle infielders - by this player,  I demand that more should be done.

That is why I'm offering this baseball to the Mets.  The ball has become more special to me than I ever thought it would, but in light of the events of last night's game, I am more than willing to part with it for this appropriate cause.

Do the right thing, Mets.  Take my baseball, please.  And make sure the dirty player never forgets Ruben Tejada's name.