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October 1, 2008
  
Musings from a Depressed Fan: 2008 Edition, Part I
by: Dan Scotto on Oct 1, 2008 1:39 AM | Filed under: Articles

1. On the last weekend: the bullpen stayed true to form, but this is on the offense.

The Mets pitched well enough to win two of the three games against the Marlins, which is what it would’ve taken to get into a one-game playoff with the Brewers. They gave up only four runs, the bullpen’s choice time to give up homers aside.

But five runs in 26 offensive innings? If it weren’t for Johan Santana’s Josh Beckett circa-2003 impersonation, this would’ve been a sweep. You simply have to do a better job than that when the season is on the line. The hitting was just atrocious during the three-game set. Together, the Mets hit .189/.270/.256. This was the second-highest scoring team in the NL this season; they scored the same number of runs as their archrivals down the Jersey Turnpike, and they play in a pitcher’s park. But they didn’t get it done against the Marlins.

Sunday’s game was full of gut punches: Delgado’s warning track shot in the eighth and Church’s in the ninth still sting a bit.

2. Although there are many “what could have been” stories with the Mets, Ryan Church’s second concussion might be the biggest.

Ryan Church was the Mets’ MVP through May 20. He was hitting .311/.379/.534, accounting for just about every Mets’ game in right field. Met right fielders for the season, on the other hand, hit .285/.349/.426. It wasn’t terrible, but it was significantly worse than what Church brought to the table early on. After May 20, Met right fielders hit just .276/.341/.387.

It’s not really fair to assume that Church would have continued to hit .311/.379/.534. He hit a paltry .241/.314/.342 after May 20. I think it’s quite fair to use his PECOTA projection, though, as a simple barometer of expectations.

                       AVE    OBA    SLG
Church Expectation    .268   .349   .464
Met RF post-injury    .276   .341   .387

The big loss was in power. Anyone think those extra homers might have been enough to get the Mets two wins? I do. All of the Mets’ other injuries were quite predictable: Alou was a risk, Maine saw his innings increase significantly in 2007, the stress on Wagner’s arm made him a time bomb, El Duque is in his 40s, Pedro was coming back from substantial surgery. Church’s injury, though, was an utter fluke. And it cost the Mets dearly.

3. Luis Castillo might not be a lost cause next year.

It’s hard to get split defensive statistics; there is no “day-by-day” fielding database as far as I know, so much of the study of change in defense over time has to be done by scouting.

So on Castillo’s first day back, I noticed that he looked more agile and rangy at second base. I decided that I would create my own split, scouting be damned. I saved Castillo’s second base statistics on that date in an Excel spreadsheet, and I took the Hardball Times’ statistics at the end of the year, did some simple subtraction, and came up with a split:

Castillo’s zone rating, pre-injury: .727 (would rank last in NL)
Castillo’s zone rating, post-injury: .893 (would rank first in NL)

Limited sample size aside, my observations were confirmed by the data: Castillo got to a higher percentage of balls. This may simply be a product of random variation. It may also signify that Castillo’s knees benefited from the time off, and he concomitantly became better defensively. Remember, Castillo is a three-time Gold Glove winner.

When Castillo’s defense and on-base ability are strong, he is actually a valuable asset for a team. Beware the small sample size, but he may well come back next year to play some sharp defense at second. And the Mets’ beleaguered bullpen may benefit first and foremost.

No matter what happens in the future, I still strongly disagree with the Castillo signing. But seeing the Mets win is more important than being right, and Castillo’s defense is worth watching in 2009.

4. The bullpen quite obviously needs some work, though not as much as I thought initially.

There’s no way to describe this season other than the failure of one unit. The starting pitchers were good. The offense was very good. The bullpen in the second half was utterly atrocious. The best way to evaluate it, I think, is to go down the list and figure out who fits in for next year.

Eddie Kunz: The invisible man down the stretch, and the flip side of Manuel’s willingness to experiment–Kunz had that one bad game on Geek Night after not pitching for a week and a half, and that was the last we saw of him. Kunz should be in the bullpen next year, and he should have an important role.

Joe Smith: He’s a great one-batter righty but is overtaxed at this stage in his career in other roles. He held righties to a paltry .193/.279/.304, but lefties crushed him (.327/.450/.469).

Aaron Heilman: He takes a lot of flak from Met fans, but he was very good for two-and-a-half years out of the ‘pen, and it’s been reported that he battled tendinitis in his left knee all season. I don’t know what it is about Met relievers pitching through injuries, but there’s really no shame in the DL.

Pedro Feliciano: If I had to guess, I would assume that Feliciano was nursing an injury down the stretch this year. His meltdown was entirely unexpected, but a lot of it was on the .331 BABIP. A high BABIP can signify one of two things: very bad luck, or an overly hittable pitcher. In either case, I’d probably bring him back next year in a lesser capacity.

Brian Stokes: A proverbial live arm. I’d love to see what a dynamic pitching coach could do with him, but I think he earned another shot. (My impression is that Warthen is much more hands-off than someone like Rick Peterson.)

Scott Schoeneweis: The left-handed Joe Smith, he stifled lefties to the tune of a .178/.239/.277 line in 2008. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be back in this division next year. He’s worth keeping, if the manager protects him from righties. But he still gets stuck facing righties for some reason, with dreadful results. I would rather upgrade this spot.

Ambirox Burgos: If he’s healthy, he should have every chance to make the team in the spring.

Luis Ayala: Thrust into the closer’s role for very little reason, he was actually serviceable, except for the homers. I’d rather cut bait.

Duaner Sanchez: There’s a good parody of Ben Folds’ “Not the Same” to be written about Duaner Sanchez, starting with “You took a trip in a taxi to get some food in Miami,” but the rest plays itself out to be rather tasteless. As it goes, Sanchez’s peripherals were roughly on par with where they were in aught-six, excepting a few extra homers. He’s an arbitration guy, so he might be worth bringing back for one more go-around, but with a very short leash.

They actually do have some options for next year, and some of these guys will inevitably bounce back. There may well be some work to do in the trade market. Eric Simon suggests that the Mets pursue both Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood as a back of the ‘pen. I think it’s a good idea, and I like it certainly more than K-Rod, whose K-rate decline is pretty dramatic.

K-Rod’s a great closer, but not at the six years and $120 million it’s going to take to get him.

On principle, it would be nice to see a wholly new bullpen. Trading some of the useful parts (see: Joe Smith) for other useful parts is not out of the question.

5. From their high watermarks, the Mets’ just accomplished a very low probability event.

This is strictly for making us more upset. It’s also an interesting probability problem.

Let’s say, for instance, I had the ability to see into the future in bits and pieces during the month of March of 2007. The two things I was able to see were two dates, one for 2007 and one for 2008, in Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds, which just happened to coincide with the Mets’ regular season “high watermarks.” So I knew only those two pieces of information and nothing else. In 2007, the Mets’ had a 99.80% chance of making the playoffs at one point, and those odds were 92.04% at their highest in 2008.

If I had those two pieces of data in March 2007, I could have calculated a bunch of different probabilities for the two seasons:

Odds that the Mets would make the playoffs in at least one of 2007 or 2008: 99.884%
Odds that the Mets would make the playoffs in both years: 91.86%
Odds that the Mets would make it in 2007 but not 2008: 7.94%
Odds that the Mets would make it in 2008 but not 2007: 0.18%
Odds that the Mets would miss the playoffs in both years: 0.016%

That’s 16 out of 100,000. It’s worth taking a moment to ponder how colossally painful this has been.

Check back tomorrow for my final five points about the Mets’ failures.


15 Responses to “Musings from a Depressed Fan: 2008 Edition, Part I”

  1. Comment posted by D in ben lomond on October 1, 2008 at 2:37 am (#870186)

    no burgos. after he beat up his girl? no way. Rather lose, than see that kind of loser on my team.

  2. Comment posted by jacksup on October 1, 2008 at 3:33 am (#870187)

    Great article.

    “My impression is that Warthen is much more hands-off than someone like Rick Peterson.”

    Chester the Molester is more hands-off than Rick Peterson.

  3. Comment posted by WilmerHasArrived on October 1, 2008 at 6:27 am (#870188)

    Great probability stats. Mind numbing really.

  4. Comment posted by john on October 1, 2008 at 8:21 am (#870190)

    The problem with the bullpen stems from their relievers lack of ability to get both sides out. Smith, Heilman get the righties just fine…..but the lefties hit them……Show,Feliciano just the opposite. Too many specialists and not enough guys capable of giving innings.

  5. Comment posted by dabey62 on October 1, 2008 at 8:44 am (#870194)

    i would love to know how many of those hits/runs allowed occurred when the pitchers were ahead in the count. looking back, it seemed that so often they would get a 1-2, 0-2 count and not have the ability to put someone away. was it just me, or was that really the case?

  6. Comment posted by john on October 1, 2008 at 8:48 am (#870197)

    That may have been the case……the thing ive noticed the most tho was the walks. I havent looked it up but I think if I did the mets relievers would be towards the bottom of the NL in walks im guessing.

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  8. Comment posted by sweetlew on October 1, 2008 at 12:18 pm (#870524)

    Heilman used to be money vs. LHH. When he abandoned his change, they started hitting him.

    If he gets his change back, he could be very servicable again.

    Smith should be used in high-leverage spots vs. RH and low leverage vs. LH — I think he could eventually be a decent either or guy.

    No way Wood leaves the Cubs.

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  10. Comment posted by sweetlew on October 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm (#870528)

    I do love this article. And like I said on Monday, the Mets offense needs a player who fires them up and makes them confident.

    For all their talent, they lacked faith in themselves, pressed under pressure and choked.

  11. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on October 1, 2008 at 12:35 pm (#870550)

    Smith, IMO, does not have enough data against left-handers and is too young to make definite conclusions about his ability to handle lefties. He showed signs in extended usage that he can handle left-handed hitters with a little work if given a chance.

    I don’t touch Burgos.

    I still think this talk about having “faith in yourself” and needing a “leader” is wildly overrated to the point of being near-gibberish.

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  13. Comment posted by Mike Newman on October 1, 2008 at 3:08 pm (#870825)

    Great breakdown of the Mets relief woes. I agree with all of your assessments except for Stokes. He has never really had success in the bigs and I’m not sure why Mets fans are so excited about him. While Wood/Fuentes would be great, Fuentes and Wood are both likely determined to close and can the Mets really invest 20-25 million in two relievers? Just like signing K-Rod for HUGE money would be an overreaction, signing two closers when you are already on the hook for 10+ million in an injured closers salary is even more of an overreaction.

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  15. Comment posted by Mike Newman on October 1, 2008 at 3:12 pm (#870830)

    I forgot to write about Church. I simply do not think he’s a starting corner outfielder on a first division ball club. With Delgado and Beltran seemingly very streaky hitters, a powerful #6 hitter is a must. Church and his 15 home runs per season just isn’t getting it done.

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  17. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on October 1, 2008 at 7:15 pm (#871201)

    the Mets offense needs a player who fires them up and makes them confident.

    Manny.

  18. Comment posted by cp on October 2, 2008 at 8:15 am (#871345)

    I think you might be overstating the “Church gap.” You compared his Pecota to Mets RF production after Church’s concussion and found a gap of .077 sluggint points. That accepts the part of his season that outperformed Pecota without adjusting for what it would have taken for the rest of the season for him to finish at his projected numbers.

    If you truly want to use Pecota as the “what we should have gotten” barometer then a better comparison might be be to compare Church’s Pecota to overall RF production for the season.

    It looks like this:

    Actual Mets RFers 08 .285/.349/.426
    Pecota Church 08 Proj. .268/.349/.464

    A better BA, identicle obp and .038 drop-off in slugging. That’s still a power drop off but it’s exactly half of the gap you chose. That’s still meaningful but depending on the timing of those extra HRs may or may not have changed the outcome of any games.

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  20. Comment posted by Peter H on October 2, 2008 at 2:43 pm (#871762)

    Dan,

    Where do you get the RF post-injury-to-Church stats?

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  22. Comment posted by Peter H on October 2, 2008 at 2:44 pm (#871763)

    I’m curious, because I’d like to know the Mets RF & LF stats by month.

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