Friday, May 28, 2004

Mets-Marlins Preview 

The Mets head down to steamy Miami with a cool 23 and 23 record to play three against the boys in teal. The Marlins are currently in first place but the Mets are only 3.5 games behind them. I have only been studying for the bar exam for three days but I already need a vacation so I’m heading down there to take in the Saturday and Sunday games in person. Maybe Art Howe will use me at first base as a defensive replacement for Mike Piazza in a tie game in the 4th inning. Here’s a quick preview of what we have to look forward to.

Tonight Mr. One Hitter Tommy Glavine (6-2, 2.13) takes on Dontrelle “WhatchootalkinboutWillis (4-3, 4.38). Willis started out this season hot, going 3 and 0 in his first five starts with a 2.73 ERA but has since cooled off. In his last four starts Mr. Rockette is 1 and 3 with a 6.26 ERA. Willis must be in a good mood knowing the Mets have rolled into town. In his 3 starts against the Mets last year Willis was 3 and 0 with a 0.86 ERA. Let’s hope the 6.26 version of Willis shows up tonight and not the Willis who struck out an average of a Met per inning last season. As for Glavine, despite his well documented struggles last year he actually pitched well against the Marlins. In four games started he had a 1.65 ERA. Expect Jack McKeon, if he has half a clue, to start Mike Redmond at catcher in place of Ramon Castro, since Redmond is a career .500 hitter off Glavine in 42 at bats.

Saturday will feature Jae Weong Seo (2-4, 5.30) and Carl Pavano (4-2, 3.68). The only Met batters to have a significant number of at bats against Pavano are Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza who combine for a .435 average in 46 at bats. Seo, who had a solid rookie season last year, was particularly good against the Marlins, going 2 and 1 in 3 starts with a 1.02 ERA.

Sunday’s finale will showcase Steve Trachsel (5-3, 2.83) versus World Series MVP Josh Beckett (4-4, 3.95). Beckett has been hot and cold so far this season but at home he’s mostly been hot. At Pro Player Stadium Beckett enjoys a 3 and 1 record, a 2.43 ERA, and opposing batters are only hitting him at a .184 clip. Trachsel, on the other hand, is quietly, and slowly, having one of the best seasons of all NL pitchers. Since getting violated in his first start against Atlanta, Trachsel has logged 60.2 innings with a miniscule 1.79 ERA and has not allowed an earned run in his last 15 innings pitched.

This should be a “meaningful” series. Let’s hope I return from Miami with a nice tan and the Mets a half game out of first place instead of me returning with a sun burn and the Mets 6.5 games out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Mets Expose Themselves 

No, the Mets didn't expose themselves a la Karim Garcia in a pizza parlor parking lot, but they did flash us their uglies in tonight's 7 to 4 loss to the Phillies nonetheless. The Mets were cruising with a 3 to 0 lead in the 7th inning when one of their primary weaknesses revealed itself in the form of yet another Kazuo Matsui error. David Bell pulled a ground ball to shortstop where Matsui had ranged to his left to get himself in a position to make the play. The ball skipped up about belt high but Matsui was playing back enough so that it should not have been a "bad hop." Instead of making the play, the ball skirted by Matsui into the outfield and Bell was aboard. The Phillies made the Mets pay for the error when Mike Lieberthal doubled to left and Bell sprinted home to score the first of many runs that would cross home plate this inning. Then, with the Mets clinging to a 3 to 2 lead with runners on first and third with one out, The Great Mike Piazza First Base Experiment (TM) went bad. And I don't mean Weird Science bad. Chase Utley hit a grounder to Piazza who tried turning two by winging the ball to second base to get the force out. However, Piazza's first to second throw did not look much better than his home to second throws, as the ball sailed over Matsui's head and ended up in left field. The tying run scored and the inning that seemed to never end marched on and by the end of the 7th inning the Phillies had scored 6 runs, only half of which were earned.

The three errors the Mets committed in the game were not atypical. Not counting tonight's follies, the Mets have the most errors in the NL with 36, are last in fielding percentage and are 14th out of 16 teams in range factor and zone rating. Kazuo Matsui is one of the usual suspects on this team of fielding felons, leading the NL in errors committed by shortstops, and is dead last in both fielding percentage and zone rating. You don't need fancy stats to see that Matsui is not the gold glove caliber defender he was billed as. And while an adjustment period should be expected because Matsui played the great majority of his career in Japan on artificial turf, that hardly explains why he has a shortstop's version of Mike Piazz's throwing arm and has less range to his right than Derek Jeter (.201), who many believe to be the worst fielding shortstop in baseball. ESPN's Jason Stark and an unnamed scout addressed Matsui's game thus far,
The Mets are a long ways from writing off Kaz Matsui, based on his first month and a half in America. But scouts are seeing very little of the tools Matsui was billed as having. "His defense is disappointing, and his range isn't as advertised," said one scout. "And his bat should be a concern. He doesn't get his lower body stabilized. He chases way too many pitches out of the strike zone. And he's going to get eaten up until he makes adjustments. He's not even as fast as advertised. We heard he was as fast as Ichiro, but Ichiro is way faster. I've seen him be out by a step and a half on plays I thought would be bang-bang." If this keeps up, you wonder how much hoopla there will be to move Jose Reyes back to shortstop when he finally gets healthy.
The hoopla actually started long before anyone ever saw Matsui play. Now that we have seen him play shortstop, or try to, consider the hoopla level on high.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Mediocrity is ours - all ours!! 

Tom Glavine chose one hell of a way to finally get the Mets to .500, bringing a no hitter into the 8th inning before it was broken up by Kit Pellow (30 years old with a whopping 162 career at bats), who belted a two out double off the right field wall. Glavine brushed the hit off and finished with a complete game, one hit shutout as the Mets won 4 to 0 to complete the three game sweep of the Rockies. Despite all the great pitchers to wear the blue and orange, no one has ever tossed a no no for the Mets. Nolan Ryan left Flushing to toss 7 career no hitters and Tom Seaver, Mike Scott (aka Mike "Scuff" to those of us who rooted against him in '86 when he was pitching for the Astros) and Hideo Nomo all left the Mets and threw no hitters for other teams. Adding insult to injury, Dwight Gooden and David Cone left the Mets and threw no hitters for The Evil Empire.

As noted earlier, yesterday's win evens out the Mets record at 22 and 22, which is three games ahead of last year's pace when, after 44 games, the Mets found themselves at 19 and 25. Just as encouraging is that their record has them right in the mix for the lead in the NL East standings, as the Mets are only 3 games behind the first place Phillies and only 2.5 games behind the second place Marlins. When you're a Mets fan it's all about redefining victory, so, along with being within striking distance of first place we can also take something away from the fact that it is over a quarter of the way through the season and the Braves are currently looking up at the Mets in the standings. Oooooh, ahahooooh, ohahoooooh.

The Mets can thank their very own "big three" of Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and Steve Trachsel for their success thus far, who have combined for a stingy 2.59 ERA. By comparison, Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson's previous "big three" of Barry Zito, Marc Mulder and Tim Hudson have combined for a 3.71 ERA so far this season. However, the true test of just how good, or bad, this team is occurs over the course of the next 12 games when the Mets play five games against the Phillies and seven against the Fish.

The first of two games against the Phillies will feature Trachsel (4-3 3.16) against Eric Milton (5-0 4.47 ERA) then Matt Ginter (1-0 5.06) will square off against Brett Myers (3-2 4.25). Keep an eye on Pat "the Bat" Burrell, who, besides having the coolest nick name in baseball, is also a Met killer. I tried to get the Smokin' Hot Corner (i.e. the wife) to call me "Norm the Bat" but she just laughed? Oh well. Burrell has 22 HRs against the Mets with an eye popping 1.042 OPS and he's smacked 3 HRs off Trachsel in 29 at bats. Jim Thome who, despite not having as cool a nick name as Burrell, has had success against Met pitching also. He has six hits in 18 at bats against Trachsel and half of those hits have been of the four bagger variety. With the exception of Mike Cameron, who is 5 for 22 with 2 HRs against him, Met batters haven't had a chance to see much of Milton who has spent his career in the AL before being traded to the Phillies this year. The same goes for Myers who is in his sophomore season, although keep an eye on Jason Phillips who is 5 for 10 off him. Art Howe will apparently take advantage of today's and Thursday's off days and pitch Glavine again on Friday to open the series against the Marlins, Jae Weong Seo on Saturday then Trachsel to close out the series on Sunday (maybe Leiter if he's healthy).

It should be a fun and "meaningful" 12 games.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Saturday Ramblings 

Between them, Jason Phillips and Danny Garcia had four doubles and four RBI in leading the Mets to a 9 to 7 win over the Colorado Rockies yesterday. Rookie right handed pitcher Matt Ginter, acquired in the Timo Perez trade (yes, someone actually gave us a decent pitcher with a live arm for Timo) followed up his solid 1 ER outing against the first place Astros last week with a less impressive start. Ginter went 5 innings, gave up 7 hits and 5 earned runs while walking 2 and striking out 5. Phillips, who was mired in an awful slump that prompted Mets manager Art Howe to not only bench him but also forget his name, is hitting his way out of his slump and into Howe's selective memory. In his last 5 games "what's his name" is hitting .471/.500/1.059 with 2 HRs. Meanwhile, Danny Garcia, who tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated moronically labeled the poster child for today's arrogant young players, has continued to fill in nicely for the injured Jose Reyes ranking in the top half in VORP among NL second basemen, just a fraction of a point below the Expos' Jose Vidro and above better known players like the Marlins' Luis Castillo. Mike Piazza got in on the fun yesterday as well with a home run. Most encouraging for the Mets offense is that Piazza appears to be locked in. Piazza has not been slumping this season but he did not appear himself in the batters box. Maybe he was pressing due to the HR record for catchers, maybe it was stress associated with switching positions, who knows, but Piazza's timing seemed a bit off. That's changed. Since May 2nd, Piazza has boosted his rate stats from .272/.327/.457 to a more Piazza'esque .301/.401/.541, hitting 5 HRs over that span and has assumed his position as tops among NL catchers in VORP. Piazza is showing that Shea Stadium, for him at least, does not drain the pop from right handed power hitters, as he's belting a cool .355/.474/.581 at home so far this season.

In other news, the brain freezing analysis of Baseball Tonight's John Kruk is back. In his latest column (yes, they let him write too) we are treated to the usual, "when I played pitchers were tough blah blah blah but now, the pitchers are wussies blah blah blah." Kruk's support?
These kids are taught that pitch count and innings are everything. They throw numbers at them on how someone can break down if they pitch too much too soon. You know what? You put that into anyone's head and I guarantee you they will break down.
Oh, okay, it's all in their head? So, according to Kruk, the Mets should fire pitching coach Rick Peterson and hire this guy or perhaps the Mets should rehire Mr. Arm Eater. Kruk has no use for statistics like "quality starts" and pitch counts,
I asked Mitch Williams why he decided to retire. He told me he didn't decide -- the batters did. They told him it was time to go. And that's what should determine when a pitcher comes out of a game. Not some statistic about what might happen. . . And forget about this "quality start" stat.
While Kruk dismisses these statistics, he's quick to embrace other stats when he says, "If you don't believe me, like I've said before, look at the numbers. They don't lie." Yup, the numbers don't lie, as indicated by Kruk's IQ, which is battling to make it into the double digits.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Doug Pappas Passes Away 

I was saddened to learn from David Pinto's site Baseball Musings that Doug Pappas passed away. Doug was the Chairman of The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Business of Baseball Committee, wrote for Baseball Prospectus and maintained a baseball related website and daily weblog. I never met Doug but if you have been visiting this site you will remember that Doug participated in my Mets Roundtable Discussion a few months back. I sent Doug a random e-mail asking if he would like to participate in the discussion, never thinking I'd hear back from him - me being a big nobody in the baseball world - and to my surprise Doug responded within hours with well thought out and articulate answers. I offer my deepest condolences to Doug's family. You can read more about Doug's passing at All-Baseball.com, Baseball Prospectus, and SABR's website.

The All New Piazza Line 

Speaking of fashion, has anyone noticed Mike Piazza's new line of clothing?

New Mets Blog 

Stop by The Metropolitans and say wasssuuuuup to Mike.

Jersey Tawk 

The highlight of yesterday's 11 to 4 loss to the Cards came in the top of the first inning when I noticed that the Mets had busted out their traditional home uniforms for the first time this year - white pants and jerseys with bright blue pinstripes with matching solid bright blue caps. Of the myriad of uniforms the Mets are wearing these days this one is my favorite. If the Mets are going to be a sub .500 team, at least they can do it with style. Which home uniforms are your favorites?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Dear Art Howe 

Art Howe
New York Mets Major League Baseball Club
Shea Stadium
123-01 Roosevelt Avenue
Flushing, NY 11368

Dear Mr. Howe,

I respect and appreciate the difficult job it must be to manage a Major League Baseball team. The difficulties must be exacerbated when managing in a city like New York where you are under a constant microscope. I do not envy you, with all the difficult tasks you are responsible for, like remembering all your players' names. If you can't remember your players' names, how can anyone expect you to make more substantive decisions, like when to take Mike Piazza out of a game when he is playing first base for defensive purposes. Since this is such a tricky issue and since it is clearly beyond you to make the call by yourself, I'm going to help you out. Simply put, always, and I repeat always, err on the side of leaving Piazza in the game. If the Mets are trailing late in a game, that's easy, leave him in. If the Mets are tied late in a game, that's easy too, leave him in. If the Mets are ahead by one run, leave him in. If the Mets are ahead two runs or more, then, and only then, can you take Piazza out of the game. If you have any trouble with these directions feel free to send me an e-mail during the game and I will tell you what to do.


Norm @ The Shea Hot Corner

PS: If Mike Cameron needs to spend some time on the DL due to the torn ligament in his hand, please take this person's advice and do not blindly insert Joe McEwing into the CF spot every day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Duquette on WFAN 

With the Mets playing inspired - albeit inconsistent - ball, it seems the fans are not the only ones intoxicated with thoughts of post season play. Mets GM Jim Duquette, appearing on WFAN's Mac & Sid Show, has apparently taken a few swigs out of the bottle of Absolut Playoffs as well. Duquette made it painfully clear that he is willing to trade away prospects, perhaps even "better known talent" in the Mets farm system for an impact player or two and wants to do it sooner rather than later. Duquette insinuated that he is hovering over the teams that have begun to fall out of contention but teams are unwilling to part with their players so early in the season. Two obvious possibilities, which Mac & Sid threw out to Duquette, are the Mariners Freddy Garcia and the Royals Carlos Beltran - both of whom are in their walk years. Duquette simply responded that anything is possible and that he would prefer trading "chips" over players currently on the big league club.

My initial interpretation of the Duquette plan was wrong. I originally thought that Duquette planned on pulling the wool over the eyes of the average Met fan by fielding a decent team this year that would keep fannies in the seats throughout the year while, on the down low, quietly rebuilding for the future. I was wrong. For good or bad the Mets find themselves in a quandary. The "decent" team they planned to field to simply keep things interesting has shown signs that it can overtake a weak NL East. With just a few more players, this logic goes, the Mets can either win the division or get into the playoffs via the wild card. While I would love to sit here and criticize the Mets for being short sighted etc..., I have to admit that I can't fault them for trying to take advantage of what may be a golden opportunity to sneak up on the NL East. That said, this does not mean that I would endorse any trade that would send a top tier prospect away for a half year rental. If, for example, Met top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir gets sent to Seattle for Freddy Garcia, there's a good chance I would drive to Flushing and introduce Duquette to my Uncle Louie. On the other hand, could anyone fault the Mets if, for example, they traded Kazmir for Carlos Beltran and signed him to a long-term deal? I certainly couldn't. I guess we're going to have to wait and see.

Duquette also spoke of Mets top position prospect David Wright and his time-table for arriving at Shea. Duquette said that the organization is currently in discussions regarding the proper time to send Wright from AA to AAA ball. If I were part of these discussions I would quietly lean across the board room table and ever so subtly say, "GET THE KID ON THE FIRST BUS TO NORFOLK!!!" Wright, in 145 at bats, is hitting .338/.452/.586 with 7 HR, 23 RBI and 14 SBs. Wright finds himself in the top 5 in just about every offensive category in the Eastern League and, combined with the offense, also plays a stellar defensive third base. Duquette continued that the Mets would like to send Wright to AAA to see how he reacts to better pitching and from there "anything can happen." In other words, Wright will not be making a Miguel Cabrera-like jump from AA to MLB but his stint in AAA may be short lived and we will likely see Wright manning the real Shea Hot Corner at some point this season. Duquette compared Wright's planned MLB track to that of Jose Reyes who, according to Duquette, was ready for the bigs in May of last year but was kept in the minors for a few more weeks of seasoning. Reyes had 275 at bats in AA then 160 at bats in AAA before being called up. Also of note is that the Mets plan to move AA pitching prospect Matt Peterson (3 & 0, 2.35 ERA) in unison, or very close, to Wright if possible. If that's the case, we may see both Wright and Peterson in Flushing by the end of the year.

Finally, regarding the back of the starting rotation, Duquette said that Matt Ginter, who pitched 5.2 innings of one run (one earned run) ball against Roger Clemens and the Astros last week, earned himself at least one more start. Whichever pitcher is manning the back of the rotation it's clear they are on a short leash. Duquette said that one of the reasons Tyler Yates was demoted to AAA was that Rick Peterson spotted some flaws in his mechanics that caused him to lose velocity. Yates was able to make two modifications to his mechanics in AAA, regained some of his lost velocity, and tossed 5.2 innings of no hit ball while striking out 5 in his first start for the Tides.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Saturday Ramblings 

It's been a few days since my last entry. Between final exams, the obligatory bender after the last final exam I'll ever have to take for law school (provided I passed), planning for the crazy family to come into town for graduation and the fact that my computer is fried (a new Dell is currently en route), posting has been hard. I can't link to anything since opening a new browser prompts the chipmunks that power my five year old Gateway to yelp and stop working, so here's a quick stream of conscious about the Mets.

Have ace, will beat. Is this the Mets new motto after beating Branden Webb, Randy Johnson and Roy Oswalt on consecutive nights? Bring on Andy Pettitte, that overrated scrub, and Roger Clemens that fat piece of garbage. The last win has the Mets in third place only 3.5 games out of first place.

The Mets need to show the same cajones they used in dropping Ricky Gutierrez and demand that Kazuo Matsui and his noodle arm move to second base when Jose Reyes returns. I did not like the decision to move Reyes over to second base when Matsui was first acquired but I kept an open mind. That open mind is closing with each game I have to watch that annoying, weak side-armed throw Matsui makes to first. The Mets seem open to optimizing their offense in bringing Mike Piazza out from behind the dish and rotating several players at first base, so why wouldn't they want to optimize their defensive effectiveness as well? The defense is optimized with Reyes at shortstop and Matsui and second. Make it happen.

The Mets are toying around with the idea of sending Tyler Yates back to the bullpen. So, a full year of effective starting work with an 8.5 K/9 IP, a dominating spring training against a mix of minor and major league hitters, and 6 major league starts with ups and downs, and Yates is staring at the possibility of ending up back in the pen? Yates' surgically repaired arm had this to say, "Quit messing with me!!!"

As the Mets hover just under .500, like they have most of the season, and with no one in the NL East running away with the division, it's becoming clear the team is just one or two players away from getting out of the red and into the black and maybe even making things interesting in the NL East. Cliff Floyd is one of those players and thankfully he's back. Jose Reyes is the second but who knows when he'll be playing again. The Mets can make a trade to acquire a player to push them over the hump. However, making a trade for an impact player would compromise the future of the team to make a run this year - but let's be realistic - this is not our year. One thing the Mets can do that will provide a spark now while at the same time will not compromise the future is to bring up David Wright. I was hesitant to endorse such a move early on in the season when Wright had only some 50 AA at bats. Now, with over 120 at bats under his belt, it's getting harder and harder to ignore Wright who is now hitting at a .346/.459/.615 clip with 7 HRs and 14 SBs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Message from Jeff Pearlman 

Hi all. I'm swamped in final exams hell right now but I just wanted to pass along a message from Jeff Pearlman. Oh, I also just wanted to say, regarding James Baldwin, I told ya so!! Nanny nanny poo poo!!

Mets Fans:

It's me - Jeff Pearlman, author of "The Bad Guys Won" about the '86 Mets.
Have a favor. Book has been out for two weeks (good reviews and good
sales, I might add) and I have a favor. For anyone reading it and/or
anyone who has read it or plans on reading it, I'd love to be made
aware of any factual screw-ups found. Three relatively small ones have
been brought to my attention thus far. It's very important, because
things can be altered in the paperback.

Anyhow, I can be e-mailed at sedrictony@yahoo.com. Help, as always,
hugely appreciated. Also dig good/big feedback.


Jeff Pearlman

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Down and Out: Yates Down, Mets Future Out 

After taking the loss against the Brewers yesterday, Tyler Yates was optioned to AAA and James Baldwin (no relation to these guys) was brought up to take his spot in the rotation. Simply put, the Mets gave up on a talented, hard throwing rookie who will be a key cog in the future of this team after only 6 starts in favor of a washed up 33 year old scrub with a career 5.02 ERA who will be a key cog in AARP soon. But hey, the scrub had a decent 33 innings in Norflok. Can someone please get me something, I think I'm going to be sick.

What makes my stomach turn is that Yates' did not crash and burn, a la Grant Roberts, but rather his problems stemmed from ordinary run of the mill rookie mistakes: 1) missing his spots; 2) getting a little too much of the plate in pitchers' counts; and 3) combined with 2, problems finishing hitters off. These are problems that will stay masked or worsen in the minors and can only get better in the bigs facing Major League hitters under the watchful eye of Rick Peterson. In the minors, Yates has been able to get away with not burying a 1 and 2 fastball inside enough. In the majors it gets drilled. In the minors Yates doesn't learn because he gets away with it. In the majors, after watching said 1/2 fastball sail over the outfield wall, Yates learns. To think Yates should have made these adjustments in only 6 starts is laughable.

What's not funny, however, is the demotion of Yates and the promotion of the scrub signals that the Mets brass does not have the stomach to handle a rebuilding project. Yes Yates, while showing flashes of brilliance, also displayed poor decision-making and execution that you will get with any rookie, save the very rare phenoms. Yes, a 6.04 ERA is not pretty. Welcome to rebuilding, a necessary present evil in hopes of achieving future success. But Yates' 1 and 4 record and 6.04 ERA is not nearly as bad as it looks. First of all, take away the awful game against Atlanta that should have never been played in that weather and Yates' ERA dips to 4.98. Again, not great, but not that bad for a rookie feeling his way through his first few starts. Second, consider that the Mets offense has only averaged 2.4 runs of support in those 5 games for Yates and we see that his poor win/loss record is deceiving. Lastly, consider that the defense has been God awful when Yates pitches. The Hardball Times stats through 5/6 (thanks to Jeremy for directing me over there), show us that Yates has had the worst Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) of all the Mets starting pitchers. In other words, the new and improved Met defense is not converting batted balls into outs when Yates pitches. Not surprisingly, Yates' Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which is basically the proportion of ERA that can be directly attributed to the pitcher, has been 1.69, better than both Jae Weong Seo and Steve Trachsel. Add 3.20 to that FIP to get an approximation of what Yates' ERA would be with an "average" defense behind him, and we're looking at a 4.89 ERA. Again, not great but not bad for a rookie through his first 5 big league starts. Compare this to Yate's actual ERA through 5/6, which was 5.63, and you can see that the Mets defense has been particularly bad when Yates starts. A veteran pitcher should be expected to overcome a defense that puts almost a full run onto his ERA and still walk away with a win, not a rookie 5 or 6 starts into his first season.

Some argue that the only success Yates has had has been against the Montreal Expos, which, as the logic goes, are only a minor league team masquerading as a big league club. I don't think that's a fair critique. First of all, the Expos have some very good hitters on their team, like Carl Everett and Jose Vidro to name a few. Secondly, Yates faced the Expos in his last spring training game so the hitters had seen and had time to prepare for him in his first start on 4/9. They couldn't, as Yates blanked them through 6 IP. Then Yates had to go up against the Expos again on 4/19 and by this time those hitters had a chance to see Yates twice in only a few week period. They could not adjust again, as Yates held them to one run in 5.2 IP. Lastly, whenever anyone criticizes any Met pitcher for "only" beating the Expos or any Met batter for their success against Expos pitching, I remind myself that these "lowly" Expos were picked by many so called "experts" to finish ahead of the Mets this season.

Others argue that 6 games should have been enough for Yates to show that he is able to adjust and improve. My first response to that is to say that 6 starts is nothing. However, assuming 6 starts is enough for a rookie pitcher to make noticeable improvements on the Major League level, I contend that Yates was indeed improving. That is, improving until he was given a one-way Greyhound ticket to Virginny. Yates had much success in the minor leagues primarily due to his solid strike out numbers, where he punched out 8.5 batters per 9 IP throughout his minor league career. Yates even maintained this number after Tommy John surgery and switching over to be a starting pitcher. Yates' problems this year stemmed from the aforementioned piss poor defense combined with the fact that he wasn't missing many bats. Through his first 5 starts Yates had only struck out 4.7 batters per 9 IP. In his last start, however, Yates struck out 5 batters in only 5 IP, including back to back Ks with the bases loaded to get out of a jam (i.e. learning and adjusting). But for one errant pitch to Lyle Overbay, one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now, Yates was well on his way to a solid outing.

While Yates has pitched better than his numbers indicate, sending him down is part of a bigger issue. Whether its Yates, Seo, Aaron Heilman, Matt Peterson, or Scott Kazmir, early big league struggles should be expected and worked with. Instead, the Mets made a move as if they were in the thick of a pennant race by hindering the progress of a young pitcher who will be essential for the future, in an effort to gain a few more wins this year - a year that just about everyone agrees will not include October play. I don't know about you, but I'd forego those "meaningful games" this September for playoff games the next few years. The Mets, on the other hand, would rather risk the playoffs and a possible World Series title in 2005 and beyond to simply put some fannies in the seats this year. Perhaps it's Fred Wilpon who needs this and not me because to get better the team has to be able to stomach suffering through some growing pains.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Mets Win!!!! 

The Mets win 2 to 1 in the botton of the 11th on a Mike Piazza HR!!! That was one of the best regular season games I've ever seen! I'm going crazy over here! The neighbors are knocking on the walls! I don't care!! Whoooohhhooooo!!! The Mets win!!!! Piazza's the man!!!! I can't think rationally right now I'll be back tomorrow. Sweeeeeeeppppppppp!

Let's Go Mets! 

The season has been pretty frustrating so far. No matter how many times I tell myself that this is only a .500 team and not to get frustrated with losses, the Mets give me hope that they are much more than that. Throughout the season it has seemed that when the starting pitching has been on, the bullpen has been off. And when the bullpen has been on, the offense off. Etc... But for the first time since perhaps the first series of the season the Mets, as a team, are firing on all cylinders. I for one am going to sit back and enjoy it while it lasts. Tonight NL ERA leader Al Leiter (1/1 1.65) takes the mound against Giants ace Jason Schmidt (2/2 4.70) and the Mets are looking for the sweep. Let's go Mets!

Stream of conscience 

Just want to check in and brain vomit onto the blog.

Congratulations to Mike Piazza for passing Carlton Fisk on the all time HR list for catchers. There's a reason why there are no catchers on the overall top 50 HR list - it's hard as hell to be a MLB catcher and still be an offensive force in the batter's box. This is truly an impressive record and I'm glad I have been able to watch Piazza chip away and finally brake it as a Met. I don't know what's more impressive, Mike's earlier MVP caliber seasons (Mike was robbed of the MVP in '97), or the fact that he's now 35 years old and his "poor" seasons are still better than career years for other current "elite" catchers.

Please please please someone tell me you saw Shane Spencer last night dancing in the dug out and high fiving Mike Cameron after Cameron scored the go ahead run in the 2nd inning. Thank God I have Tivo and was able to rewind and watch it again and again. He looked like the guys from A Night at the Roxbury. I thought I would need oxygen I was laughing so hard. Right up there on the funny scale was when Edgardo Alfonzo fouled a ball off that went up into the broadcast booth, hit Keith Hernandez in the ribs, knocking him off his chair and onto the floor. All you heard was, "BANG," "Grumble, grumble" "scratch" "inaudible" and Fran Healy - "are you okay Keith?" Thankfully the camera guys were on their toes and panned into the booth and all you could see was Healy looking down on the floor and Hernandez was no where to be found. I almost died laughing. And to cap it all off, the Mets won, making it three in a row and moving within 4 games of the first place Fish.

So Grant Roberts got his walking papers. That's too bad. And Ricky Botallico has been brought up. Good for him. With the team only 4 games out of first place, the Mets would be cheating themselves and the fans by treating the team as an AAAA club by trying to have Roberts work out his kinks on the big stage or by replacing him with a kid they are not entirely comfortable with. It's a shame he's out of options but oh well, it was up to him to put up or shut up. And he shut up. Botallico is 33 years old but pitched lights out in the spring, pitched well in Norfolk, and can help the team now. I'm not ready to give up on the team this early in the season, the players certainly don't seem ready to give up, so it's nice to see the Mets brass hasn't given up either.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 

With Cliff Floyd and Ty Wigginton both coming off the DL soon, who should stay and who should go? Since I'll be in final exams, I'll leave the floor open to you all.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Bonds To Sit 

ESPN is reporting that Barry Bonds will sit out tonight's series opener against the Mets due to a sinus infection. Somewhere in Queens right now Met pitcher Steve Trachsel is gaining enough confidence to get out of the fetal position, off the club house floor, and onto his feet.

Chill Baby Chill Baby Baby Baby Wait 

Well, the feeding frenzy is in full effect with the Star Ledger, Post, and now the NY Times all publishing articles calling for Wilpon's head on a platter. Hey, I'm for cheaper ticket and concession prices as much as the next guy, but for the most part the articles are way off base. Let me just point out that it's ONLY MAY 4th PEOPLE and the Mets are only 5 games out of first place! Jeez, you would think that with these articles coming out the Mets would be chained to the basement of the NL East in August. To the contrary, it's early and the Mets are in decent position to regroup and make a run of things. Listen, I'm not unrealistic, but if you told me before the season started, without telling me anything else, that the Mets would only be 5 games out of first place on May 4th I'd take it in a heart beat. If you told me that on May 4th the Mets pitching staff would rank 3rd in the NL in earned runs allowed and ERA, I'd take it in a heart beat. If you told me that after 5 Leiter starts and 6 starts for Glavine that these two cagey veterans would rank 1st and 3rd respectively in ERA in the NL, I'd take it in a heart beat. If you told me that Danny Garcia would step in for an injured Reyes and find himself 9th in VORP among NL second basemen, I'd take it. Sticking with VORP, if you told me that Kazuo Matsui would be in the top half among NL short stops, Zeile 7th among NL third basemen, Piazza 6th among NL catchers, Cameron 8th among NL center fielders, Spencer 7th among NL left fielders, and Karim Garcia 8th among NL right fielders, I'd take it quick fast in a hurry. Obviously, not everything is rosy with the Mets. But things aren't nearly as bad as those articles suggest, even if Wilpon, according to the media, is wanted dead or alive. We can't run away! We're not livin' on a prayer! We just need to stick to our guns and keep the faith!

This and That

Monday, May 03, 2004

Mets Robbing Fans? 

Head on over to SaberMets, where Eric posts and has some commentary on the latest article to signal the NY sports media's feeding frenzy on the Mets.

Hot Corner Quote of the Day 

"That was sweet," Piazza said after watching the play again on a clubhouse television. "I'm like the Italian-American gymnast. I looked like [actor John] Travolta." - Mike Piazza on making a painful looking full split in the fourth inning of yesterday's game when he stretched for a throw by Zeile. Thanks to Mike for pointing out my laziness in not posting this gem earlier.

The Giants are Coming 

The Mets (10 and 15) start off a six game homestand tomorrow with the first of three against Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants (12 and 14) before playing three against the Brewers (12 and 13).

Tues. RHP Brett Tomko (1-1, 7.57) vs. RHP Steve Trachsel (2-3, 4.50)
Trachsel is a career 7 and 3 with a 2.63 ERA versus the Giants.

Wed. RHP Jerome Williams (3-1, 3.93) vs. RHP Jae Weong Seo (1-3, 5.06)
Seo is coming off his first solid outing since, well, last season. According to CBS Sportsline, with today's day off the Mets will not need a fifth starter until Saturday so the Mets will skip Tyler Yates' turn in the rotation and start Seo.

Thurs. RHP Jason Schmidt (2-2, 4.70) vs. LHP Al Leiter (1-1, 1.65)
Leiter's 1.65 ERA tops in the NL.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Sunday Papers 

Shea Hot Corner Axis of Evil member Bob Klapisch reviews Jeff Pearlman's new book about the '86 Mets, The Bad Guys Won. What a surprise, Bobby has almost nothing nice to say about it. I'm beginning to feel that I could scroll the letters M-E-T-S on a gold bar, hand it to Bobby, and he would find something to bitch about. I haven't had a chance to read Jeff's book yet, but it's on the top of my list of non law related books to read after the bar exam. The book is currently getting rave reviews from everyone I know that is reading it.

The Post's Mike Vaccaro has some harsh words for Met ownership in GET THE FRED OUT! Vaccaro calls for an all out fan boycott of the Mets in hopes of chasing the Wilpons out of town. I'd settle for a cut in the hot dog prices?

Mets second basemen by default Danny Garcia gets some ink today. Check out Jorge Arangure's story here and a Mets.com article here.

Hammygate, Vogue-Rod, and VORP 

Saving the Pitcher author and Baseball Prospectus writer/radio talk show host Will Caroll stopped by The Shea Hot Corner yesterday and weighed in on Hammygate. Will must have stumbled onto my site when he Googled "hysterical Met fan talking out of his butt about sports medicine" and my site was the first result. It's nice to hear from someone who actually knows what the hell he's talking about. You can link directly to the comments here.

In a follow-up to a previous Shea Hot Corner article, Yankees to Feature Most Devastating Line-up of Metrosexuals in MLB History, the Smokin' Hot Corner brought to my attention (I swear) that Alex Rodriguez and his wife Cynthia are featured in the current edition of Vogue. Vogue-Rod is pictured "in Robert Talbott shirt and Giorgio Armani pants." In the article we learn that Derek Jeter does not stand a chance of maintaining his title as the Yankees' Metrosexual Captain. "Alex truly loves fashion, and he truly has a knack for it," Cynthia says. Alex interrupts, "It sounds kind of weird . . . but I just really enjoy putting things together-fabrics, colors." Cynthia goes on to gush that Alex has taught her a thing or two about fashion.

He truly has educated me. . . He has widened my horizons when it comes to the different types of styles. He can walk into a store and pull ten things off the rack and I'll try them on and they'll look fabulous. He's really great with that.

Mm'kay, whatever floats your pickle Alex.

Baseball Prospectus has posted their 2004 VORP by team for position players. Below is a quick list of where our Mets rank and their VORP thus far.

1B: Jason Phillips 24/24 (-5.9). Ouch!
2B: Danny Garcia 22/30 (-0.6); Joe McEwing 28/30 (-2.5); Ricky Gutierrez 30/30 (-5.0). Yikes!
SS: Kazuo Matsui 5/26 (5.4). You go witcha bad self Kazuo (snap, snap, snap).
3B: Todd Zeile 9/24 (3.1); Ty Wigginton 22/24 (-3.1). If you scoffed at the Mets signing Zeile, take note.
C: Mike Piazza 5/33 (5.3); Vance Wilson 15/33 (0.2). Prediction: Mike finishes 1st by year's end.
CF: Mike Cameron 9/23 (5.5); Jeff Duncan 19/23 (-2.0). Not bad for a guy en route to K 598 times.
LF: Shane Spencer 8/26 (5.1); Cliff Floyd 14/23 (2.6); Eric Valent (0.7). Cliff who?
RF: Karim Garcia 9/28 (3.2). Vladamir who?

Not many surprises here. The production out of the first and second base spots has been downright awful. Jason Phillips has been virtually nonexistent and second base is a bottomless, unproductive pit of despair without Jose Reyes. Hopefully, now that it looks like Reyes is no where near returning, Danny Garcia can bring something to the table. PECOTA projects a 11.0 2004 VORP from Danny. It looks like Garcia will get a chance to play so we'll see. I'm not even going to tell you where a certain former Met farmhand ranks right now among AL second basemen. Todd Zeile has picked up the slack from the struggling and ulcer-ridden Ty Wigginton at the hot corner and the Pizza Platoon has produced beyond expectations. If the Mets can just get a little better than replacement level out of first and second base while the rest of the guys keep on keepin' on, the Mets offense would not be half bad.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Neyer is Full of It 

ESPN's Buster Olney wrote an article shortly after the World Series introducing the world to the "productive out." His latest article featuring the new "stat" POP, or Productive Out Percentage, has got the stat geek's panties all up in a bunch. And justifiably so. The concept seems to be gaining quick acceptance, as Peter Gammons has spouted off about it on Baseball Tonight and John Kruk, after failing to find his neck, said that he thinks Juan Pierre is more valuable than Barry Bonds! The concept is complete BS. But what I find even higher on the BS scale is that Rob Never has not come out and publicly bitch slapped Olney, Elias and anyone else associated with POP. In Neyer's most recent ESPN on-line chat, someone wrote in a question that was the perfect softball to blast this "stat" into McCovey Cove. Instead, Neyer said "I don't know enough about Buster's Productive Outs statistic to make an educated comment." Oh, c'mon! Olney starts treading on Neyer's stat turf at ESPN, which whips the sabermetric community into a frenzy, and Neyer, ESPN's resident stat geek, doesn't know enough about it to comment? Neyer continued, "But I'm getting a lot of e-mail on the subject, and I hope I'm given a chance to write something in the next couple of weeks. Intellectual freedom rocks, man!" Yeah, it rocks when you exercise it. If Neyer doesn't come out with an article that crucifies this BS "stat" I'll lose a lot of respect for him and ESPN.

Hammy Specialists Blast Mets 

There is a lot of speculation out there regarding Jose Reyes' temperamental hamstring. Is Reyes dogging it? Are the Mets giving Reyes the proper care? Etc... If you have been living in a hole the last year and a half, here's a quick hamstring chronology:

5/03: Reyes injures his right hamstring, presumably his first hamstring injury, in a Triple A game. Reyes is shelved for about three weeks.

6/03: Reyes is called up to the big league club and only three weeks into his Major League career, he "tweaked" the right hamstring and sat out 5 games.

3/14/04: For the third time in 10 months Reyes injures the same right hamstring he first injured in May of 03 in Norfolk and reaggrivated only three weeks later in June when he was called up.

And don't forget about the pulled left quad and sprained ankle Reyes also suffered along with his hamstring problems.

After the third injury to the same hamstring you would think the Mets would do more than send him down to Port St. Lucie, apparently under minimal or no medical supervision, to "feel his way out" of it. Well, that's exactly what happened and not surprisingly Reyes has reagrivated his injury. The Mets finally ordered that Reyes undergo and MRI, which revealed the injury had not yet healed after seven weeks. This prompted Met officials to shut him down. No baseball activity until further notice. Too much too late. The hamstring specialist Reyes should have been sent to the moment he strained his hamstring in spring training, Mackie Shilstone, blasted the Mets when he told NY Times Lee Jenkins that if Reyes was sent to him immediately following his latest injury, he could have cured Reyes in only three to seven days. Shilstone, in not so subtle a fashion, stated that the Mets were putting immediate wins before Reyes' long term health when he said,

But in the heat of battle, teams are sometimes stuck on dealing with symptoms. . . I would have looked at the root of the problem and taken care of it. Until the Mets address this, it will be a nagging thing. Unless they get to the bottom of it, even if Reyes comes back, I'd say there's a 60 percent chance he'll get hurt again.

At this point the Mets can't even send Reyes to Shilstone, as he's currently booked training Roy Jones Jr. for a fight in mid May. But there are other experts out there, and they aren't shy in calling out the Mets either. Mack Newton, who the Mets are familiar with because he treated Vince Colemen's hamstring injuries when he played for the Mets, was in agreement with Shilstone,

You can't do this in-house. . . You have to look outside your organization and look at all the resources, or you're really not serious about being successful. You're not insuring your investment and that's stupid. If the people in-house knew what they were doing, how did it get to this point in the first place? It's not like this started the day before yesterday.

According to Jenkins, both Shilstone and Newton "hypothesize that there is scar tissue or an adhesion in the hamstring that will require deep-tissue massage." They also think Reyes will even have to learn how to run differently and, obviously, take better care of his legs.

The Mets should be ashamed of themselves for telling a 20 year old kid - "hey, it's up to you. Oh, and by the way, our offense sucks. But no pressure. Come back when you want. Did you see our record? You can go see the expert if you want but that will take a lot of time, but it's up to you." The scariest part of all this is Shiltone's prediction that Reyes has a 60% chance of reinjuring his hamstring if he is not treated properly. Since Reyes has a 100% chance of the Mets not giving him the properly guidance and treatment, we might want to up that prediction.
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