Saturday, March 04, 2006

Strangely Satisfying Video

That just sounds bad. Anyway, for those Mets fans who just can't wait, I found a clip from google video featuring Carlos Delgado up with the bases loaded, and Billy Wagner in his very first appearance as a Met on the mound at Shea. That this is a video game simulation strangely doesn't take away from the overall experience. And, at under three minutes, it's easy on the clock.

Can Delgado come through in the clutch? Will Wagner falter at home against the hated Braves? Click to find out!

P.S. Those with keen eyes will notice a blast from the past behind the plate- it ain't Lo Duca!

Baseball 101: Getting to First Base

Korea and Japan have outlasted China and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), to reach the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Unfortunately for the Koreans, they'll be moving on without their star and cleanup hitter, Kim Dong Joo.

The shoulder injury third baseman and cleanup hitter Kim Dong Joo suffered Friday sliding head-first into first base has knocked him out of the Classic -- and beyond. While discussing his team's victory, Korea manager Kim In-Sik broke the news that Dong Joo has a broken bone in his left shoulder and won't play again anytime soon...[Manager] In-Sik said the injury could sideline the star third baseman for up to three months.

Sliding into first base isn't "gutsy" baseball- it is pure stupidity. I happened to be watching the game- Kim Dong Joo wasn't trying to avoid a tag at first (the only time one might be thoughtfully inclined to slide), he was trying to beat the throw. It is a common misconception that one can get to first faster by sliding. This is ridiculous. First off, a player who maintains his speed down the line the entire way will arrive at first faster- sliding necessitates ending his stride and slowing down- he has stopped running and is now "coasting", in effect. Then, he begins slowing down even further with friction forces now being applied once he hits the ground.

The reason why the slide is so commonly used at other bases is to avoid a tag, and actually to slow down- as first base is the only base you can safely overrun, you don't want to be lumbering full speed into second base- you will pass second base and be tagged out.

And think about it- if sliding, hands stretched, got one to first base faster, wouldn't you imagine that world class sprinters, to whom hundredths of a second are crucial, would "slide" into the finish line? True, the risk of injury may be too high for such an endeavor (my point)- but imagine a sprinter in his last Olympics, going for final glory. You could develop a method of jumping hands first into the finish line, with a distinct falling method of rolling to minimize injury.

But you never see it. And rightly so. It doesn't get you there faster. But it does add completely unnecessary injury risk- as in the hypothetical case of the sprinter- and for Mr. Kim Dong Joo, who unfortunately will now be watching his teammmates move on, from home.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Jae Seo Keeps His Winning Way

I know, I know -
  • It's the World Baseball Classic and we don't know how great the competition is
  • It's only March
  • He pitched 2-hit shutout ball, but it was only 3 2/3 innings

But I can't help but be upset that the Mets got rid of Jae Seo. I really think it's a move they're going to regret.



-Rob Hyman

Thursday, March 02, 2006

World Baseball Classic Begins Today!

Major League Baseball is traditionally the most short-sighted of the professional sports leagues, but now, it is the people who cover the sport that have failed to embrace an idea that is long past overdue. It’s hard to believe the following statement, but baseball should learn from hockey.

The World Baseball Classic is not only a good idea, but the media, fans and baseball officials should not only be supporting this year’s inaugural tournament, they should realize that the right thing to do would be shutting down the regular season for two weeks once ever four years to continually stage the event. Why? Well, for one it’s good for the sport to have an international stage. And secondly, as the history of baseball shows, every great innovation in the sport was mocked when it first became a reality.

While Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are always given credit for “saving” baseball following the 1994-95 strike, it’s revisionist history not to remember that the sport’s popularity soared following the last work stoppage also due in large part to the advent of the three-division, wild-card format in 1995. The arrival of interleague play shortly thereafter has also been a rousing success. The wild card wasn’t the death of pennant race baseball, and the World Series has in no way been diminished by a three-game mid-summer series between teams such as the Yankees and Braves. In fact, one could argue that the Yankees-Mets Subway Series of 2000 began with added anticipation due to the Mike Piazza beaning incident of earlier that year.

As the World Baseball Classic gets underway, the National Hockey League is beginning the second half of its season following the Olympic break. Now granted, in no way are the audiences between baseball and hockey comparable, but the NHL gains a lot of viewers during the Olympics that would not otherwise watch the league. And there doesn’t seem to be any bad public relation fallout despite injuries in the Olympics to some of the league’s brightest stars. The Olympic tournament was thrilling and the games were passionately played. While it’s true a serious injury did not occur, that is the risk you take in order to grow your game and reach a larger audience.

The World Baseball Classic has flaws, because new ideas always have flaws. Pitchers won’t be ready to go all out, and a pitch count essentially means the games are not true baseball contests in which a great starting pitcher could dominate a game, or even a whole tournament.

But even with its flaws, the WBC is good for the game of baseball, and that’s all that really matters. Now, about that World Series home-field being decided by the All-Star Game…

- Scott Silversten

Lastings Milledge Impresses


Top prospect Lastings Milledge went 3-3 yesterday, including a double, a triple, and a 2-run single off Mike Pelfrey, according to Newsday.

"He's got quick hands. He attacks the ball aggressively," manager Willie Randolph said. "And you have to like his speed. He's just a very effortless type of runner. When he hit that triple, it looked like he was coasting. Just real smooth. It's that young talent, that raw kind of young skill you like to see."


Anyone else dying for the season to start already?

Pitching Prospects Humber and Pelfrey in NY Times

Speaking of pitching woes, a winter cleaning has left the Mets farm system depleted. In fact, the Mets' most highly touted pitching prospect, Mike Pelfrey, has yet to pitch his first game in the minors. He, as well as Philip Humber, are profiled in today's New York Times.

For the moment, the 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound Humber is the almost-forgotten phenom, his locker against a wall in a corner of the clubhouse. The only time video camera operators head toward him is to interview the man across from him, David Wright. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-7-inch, 230-pound Pelfrey is on the fast track, drawing slack-jawed stares and rave reviews for his poise, fluid mechanics and, oh yes, that 96 mile-an-hour fastball. A recent session in which he pitched live batting practice elicited smiles from the crowd of Mets officials gathered behind the cage. "His stuff makes you go, 'Wow!' " Manager Willie Randolph said. Humber is on a much slower track. Despite innovations in Tommy John surgery, it still takes about a year for the body to adapt to a tendon for use as a ligament, and there is often a temptation to return too quickly. Humber said he is following his doctors' orders and adhering to the rehabilitation plan. He can participate in all pitchers' drills, and next Monday will throw his first bullpen session. It will be only 15 pitches, and he will throw only at half-effort, he said, but it will mark the first tangible evidence that he is on his way back.

The other buried headline within the article would be "Rick Peterson, Shakespeare of Our Time". On the two prospects, Peterson quips:

"They have all the ingredients for a delicious recipe," the pitching coach Rick Peterson said. "But that doesn't mean they'll be gourmet chefs immediately."

Wait a minute- are they the food or the chefs? Wait, so they have the ingredients, like the ingredients are in them. Oh I see! The "ingredients" mean talent! Perhaps tools! So then they're the food. They need a "chef" to prepare them. Ah, I see. So in this case, a "gourmet chef" really would be someone like a coach or a manager, maybe it could even mean something abstract like playing experience. So they wouldn't be the chefs themselves. They need them. I think. Oy. I'm confused.

All in all, this is the second most nonsensical statement ever uttered by Rick Peterson- second, of course, to "I can fix Victor Zambrano in ten minutes."

Pedro Says Adios to WBC

Manny Acta has confirmed that Pedro Martinez will not be participating in the World Baseball Classic, as reported by MLB.com.

Pedro Martinez is not expected to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, manager Many (sic) Acta confirmed Thursday. "I don't think physically he's up to the challenge," Acta said. "It would be too much to ask."


For Mets fans, this is both good and bad news. The good news is that Pedro can now focus his attention and energy on spring training, and on getting physically ready for the upcoming season. With a starting rotation full of question marks, none is as potentially detrimental to the Mets as an unhealthy Pedro. The bad news of course is that Pedro is now within strinking distance of the season and still unable to pitch competitively.

STOP THE PRESSES! REYES WALKS!

I am sure most Met fans have heard about the thrilling walk Reyes had in his first at-bat of the spring. According to the NY Post:

In Reyes' opening at-bat, he fought off an 0-2 count from Billy Wagner and fouled off several pitches to draw a walk.


Look, everyone knows this is meaningless, but during March you grab on to anything that gives you hope. And I too am happy Reyes was able to draw a walk. However, what the hell was Wagner doing walking a guy who never walks, after being ahead 0-2!! Trade Wagner!! :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Unpatriotic ballplayers

Billy Wagner has just withdrawn from the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic. I could have sworn I had just read a quote from Wagner saying how excited he was to have the chance to represent his country. So much for that. Who's dropping out next? Soon Buck Martinez is going to have to recruit some minor leaguers to put 9 men on the field. I agree with Rotoworld's comment: "Hopefully, all of these players who are withdrawing now without decent reasons don't receive any consideration for future teams."

Reyes Thinks Like a Leadoff Man

From The NY Post:

"I have to get on base, man," Reyes said. "That's the most important thing. When it was two strikes, I have to put the ball in play, no matter what happens."

We like. We really, really like. No one doubts his speed- 17 triples and 60 stolen bases in 2005. I mean, this guy is fast. And exciting to watch on the bases. He's a 22-year old starting shortstop, and just had his first full injury-free season. There's a lot to get excited about.

But 27 walks and a .300 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter? Ooof. The ability to walk, and a good eye for the strike zone, are notoriously hard to teach. If Reyes can even nominally improve at getting on base, though (and stay healthy- two BIG if's), he will strike fear in opposing pitchers. However, as long as he shows a tendency to hack at junk, and a penchant for popping the ball up, the Mets will continue to have one of the more worthless (albeit exciting) leadoff hitters in the league.

Keep up the good eye Jose!

And Then There Were Three...


Bret Boone officially announced his retirement today, according to MLB.com.

"I don't think it would be fair for me -- or fair to the Mets -- to continue something I've loved my whole life and had so much passion for, and all of a sudden that passion isn't there anymore."

The race for 2B just got a little more exciting... Show 'em what you're made of this spring, Anderson!

Bonds Plays Dress-up



Barry Bonds sends a message to those who suspect his prior use of steroids: "I'll show you testicular atrophy! I'll show you manboobs!"

Quote of the Week – Rickey being Rickey

It is almost too easy to go with a few Rickey Henderson quotes for this week’s “Quote of the Week” entry. You could almost have a separate weekly feature for Rickey quotes. But before we have a little fun with Rickey, let’s give him the props he deserves. In some ways, Rickey was actually well ahead of his time. Rickey was a walking machine well before Moneyball opened the eyes for so many about the importance of OBP. He was in the top 10 in his league for OBP a whopping 16 times. Look at this quote, and maybe Rickey is smarter than we think he is:

"To be in a class with Babe Ruth, you can't ask for anything more. Walks have been underappreciated. It's lost in the stats sheets. It lost its appeal somewhere. Another thing lost in the stats is on-base percentage. That's the most important thing in baseball. If nobody's on base, nobody scores."
---Rickey on breaking the career walks record

Hey, some current players and managers could learn a lot from the above, including our current pathetic leadoff hitter. But alas, if you are going to use Rickey for “Quote of the Week,” you need to bring out the goods. So, for this week’s entry, we present to you a few of our favorite Rickey-isms:

"Listen: People are always saying, 'Rickey says Rickey.' But it's been blown way out of proportion. People might catch me, when they know I'm ticked off, saying, 'Rickey, what the heck are you doing, Rickey?' They say, 'Darn, Rickey, what are you saying Rickey for? Why don't you just say, 'I?' But I never did. I always said, 'Rickey,' and it's become something for people to joke about."
---Rickey on 3rd person

"Let's see, for breakfast Rickey will have bacon and eggs, and grits if I can get 'em. Then I'll have a good meal after the game, either the clubhouse buffet or at a restaurant someplace. I'll eat a steak sometimes, sure. But not too much. I always leave something on the plate. Never eat till I'm full; pick here and there, eat small, eat often."

"I really don't snack in the dugout. Seeds are going to make us fat. I tried them, but they're really not that good for me. I am always telling everyone to lay off the seeds or else they'll be getting fat. There's fat in those seeds. And they always say 'Right, there's a lot of fat in a seed.' Maybe my favorite is water. Water's kind of boring though. I like to chew bubble gum. Maybe that's my favorite. Rickey's going with bubble gum."

---Rickey on his diet

"This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey."
---Rickey leaving a message on the answering machine of San Diego GM Kevin Towers

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Willie Speaks

Ever thoughtful, Mets manager Willie Randolph took time out in this Daily News article to reply to some of my critiques of his lineup construction. The following are some of his more choice quotes:

1. Carlos Beltran: "When I see Carlos in the big picture, he's a guy we've invested a lot in," Randolph said. "He's going to hit wherever I put him. But I see him prototypically as a guy who is going to be in the meat of our order."

A short recap of Willie's statement: we pay Beltran a lot of money. The money he earns impacts my thinking about where we place him in the order. In spite of criticisms, and in spite of last year's failure to produce from the 3 spot, he's still our 3 guy.

Really, I am not here to beat a dead horse. But come on- "invested a lot in"? There is no bigger mistake than allowing the salary of a player to have any impact on playing time or placement in the batting order. The money paid to Beltran is a sunk-cost. At this point, the most rational use of Beltran would involve placing him in the order where he is most likely to help the Mets. Anyone who watched him in 2005 knows that is not in the 3rd spot- and to hit him there even partly to justify his large contract is mind-bogglingly bad baseball. Might he return to the Beltran-like form everyone expected? Perhaps. But to reserve that spot for him in the lineup while he's still "adjusting" to NY baseball is ludicrous. All I can say here is it is a testament to some hypocrisy on Willie's part that David Wright is still proving himself (see rest of this post), while Beltran doesn't have to prove anything. In fact he is given a free-pass to arguably the most important spot in the lineup- regardless of production. Beltran should have to earn his lineup spot just like anyone else- and to date, this seems to not be the case.

Just for fun:
Beltran, 2005 (proven producer): 582 AB/.266 AVG/.330 OBP/.414 SLG/16 HR/78 RBI
Wright, 2005 (needs to prove himself!): 575 AB/.306 AVG/.388 OBP/.523 SLG/27 HR/102 RBI


2. David Wright: The manager countered that Wright might not have had as good a year had the manager not protected the youngster by placing him down in the order early in the season."No one really gave me credit for doing what I did. They just criticized me," Randolph said. "There was a little method to my madness, if you will. This year is going to be the same thing. I feel confident he can handle it, but I still want to make sure going into the season that we don't just feel like, 'Okay, he had a great year last year, so, bam, he should be here.

Good god. Willie still wants to "protect" Wright, and still wants him to prove himself. And insinuates that Wright benefitted from being misused in the lineup!
Wright doesn't need protection by Willie- he needs protection from him! At least he acknowledges the "madness" part, though.

3. LoDuca/Matsui and the 2 hole: Lo Duca's low strikeout total and bat control suit him batting second, but Ramon Castro may catch 30-35% of the time. Though Randolph suggested it's not disruptive shifting a player between the second and third slots, he agreed it's probably better to anchor Beltran mostly in one position. Kaz Matsui could emerge as the No. 2 hitter when Castro catches, provided he staves off Bret Boone. "If he [Matsui] is healthy and shows a certain patience, he might be an ideal No. 2 hitter because he's a switch-hitter, he can run and he can bunt," Randolph said.

Matsui, 2005, from 2 hole: 171 AB/.269 AVG/.312 OBP/.351 SLG/22 K*/8 BB/6 SB
*No stats available at press time as to "whiffs at balls in the dirt"

It's actually amusing to me that Willie's reasons for Matsui being an ideal 2 hitter are more true for Beltran than Matsui.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ode to My Favorite Player

Although I’m excited for the first time Billy Wagner jogs in from the bullpen to shut the door after 8 brilliant innings from Pedro, the off-season acquisition I am most looking forward to is Carlos Delgado. He has the potential to be the best position player to ever play for the Mets, even though that crown most likely will stay with Mike Piazza for many years. Delgado is only 34, coming off a great season, and despite missing 34 games two years ago, has never been a health risk. If all goes according to plan, there is no reason to believe Delgado can’t set several Met single-season records, especially for a first baseman.

But before Delgado lights up Shea, I want to reminisce about the best first baseman the Mets have ever had….who also happens to be my favorite player ever. And no, I am not talking about Keith Hernandez. Who then? Well, the man, the myth, the legend…John Olerud.

Yes, defensively, Hernandez certainly was superior. And since he played for the Mets for several more years, Hernandez also probably meant more for the franchise. However, Hernandez never had as solid of a three year stretch that Johnny-5 enjoyed in orange and blue.

Olerud holds (or is tied for) the Mets single season record for batting average, on-base percentage, games played, bases on balls, runs created, times on base and hit by pitches. He is also in the top 10 for most of the other offensive categories. While never a real homerun hitter, Olerud still ranks third on the Mets career slugging percentage leaderboard, thanks to a healthy dose of doubles each season. His career on-base percentage with the Mets is a sparkling .425, the only player in franchise history to end his Met career in the 400s.

Olerud retired following the 2005 season, despite a fairly productive 173 ABs with the Red Sox. I miss him already. No one was classier, on the field and off. Respected by teammates, fans and the media, the game will certainly miss him. So before we welcome our new first baseman to Shea, let’s take a moment and give Olerud his due. His B-Ref page sponsor sums it up best:

Johnny O exemplifies all the ideals of a baseball player. He is a classy, graceful, intelligent, modest, kind-hearted guy with the sweetest lefty swing ever.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Willie's Lunacy is Contagious


There isn't any other way to explain the following, from mlb.com:

Floyd has, as he said, "done the math," and his figures add up to him batting sixth, directly after David Wright, two places lower than Carlos Delgado and the position from which he produced most of his numbers in 2005..."No way D-Wright's hitting sixth. And Willie doesn't want me right next to [Delgado] -- you can't have two lefties one after the other -- so I'm not hitting third or fifth. And you know I'm not hitting second. Sooooooo..."

Randolph has provided little insight into his thinking about the batting order other than stating last November that Delgado bats fourth.

I've also "done the math", and conclude the following:
1. Willie Randolph knows nothing about managing a baseball team
2. Willie Randolph is competely incapable of an original or fresh thought; his thinking is based on his personal experience alone, and can and will never change- even in the face of mounting evidence
3. Willie Randolph's manhandling of the lineup will cost this team wins- again

Last year, Willie took to the daily task of setting the lineup. I won't even get into his consistent (mis)placement of David Wright in the order- too easy. However, Willie had an algorithm last year for filling the top three spots in the lineup:
1. Jose Reyes
2. 2B- Kaz Matsui/Miguel "veteran professional leadership experience" Cairo
3. Carlos Beltran

In lean times, he never waffled, and never wavered from this algorithm. He never said to himself, "Beltran is clearly injured and playing under his potential- maybe a move to a less pressure-filled spot for a few games would do him good." I don't fault him for not realizing that Beltran's career numbers are far better from the 2 hole- this requires research, and "gut"s are notoriously bad at math. But I do fault him for not changing when change was clearly needed. He also never said to himself, "Cairo is one of the worst hitters in the league- with twin OBP and SLG [.269 and .270, respectively, over the crucial August and Sept months]- perhaps hitting him so high in the lineup and giving him so many at-bats would be detrimental to my team." Perhaps Willie could not see beyond the Yankee Cairo who'd produced effectively a year prior- but when he penned in Cairo day in and day out into that 2 hole, and saw those results day in and day out, you have to wonder how a man could be so in denial of facts.

Unfortunately it's looking like more of the same for 2006- lineup decisions using "baseball experience" and "gut", and seemingly set in stone. You have to wonder if Willie isn't setting Delgado at 4 just to justify his preferred lineup- Reyes, LoDuca, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Floyd. Even poor Cliff has started to believe in the junky rhetoric of "lefty-righty-lefty-righty" always, no matter what. If Willie is married to L-R-L-R, why not then bat Delgado 3rd (with Wright 4th and Cliff 5th)? With Delgado "set" at 4th, Willie can shrug his shoulders and claim that the only sane lineup is the one he's planning. Unfortunately, it seems like the players are buying what Willie's selling.

I know there are Mets fans who disagree with me about Willie. We did, in fact, go from a 71-win laughing-stock to a respectable 83-win team in one year. However, the fact remains that based on our runs scored and runs scored against, our record should have been 89-73- not 83-79 - one tantalizing win away from a wild card berth. In fact, the Mets were the worst team in the NL in this regard- they lost more games than expected than any other team. Surely, luck and random variation have some role in this- but consider this: if each and every day, for 162 games, you use a lineup that is not optimal given your 25 men, you have to wonder if underachievement isn't also set in stone.

P.S. For an excellent article about the Mets' lineup in 2006, feel free to check out this article from The Metropolitans
"I've had a pretty good success facing Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third base."
- Carl Erskine

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