- Eric Simon at Amazin’ Avenue transcribed Sandy Alderson’s appearance with Keith Law on the Dish Podcast. It’s well worth your time to read the whole thing. Topics: acquiring talent to rebuild the farm system, developing talent and the difference between signing international guys and drafted players, how the Mets emphasize and develop “strike throwers,” the problems of scouting high school with little/unreliable data and MLB’s relationship to the Dominican.
- In one of his final acts as a Mets’ beat reporter, Mike Kerwick, at Baseball America, writes that Michael Fulmer is “back on track.”
- In 1962, NBA great Dave DeBusschere played for the Savannah White Sox. He’s #24 on the Gnats’ “Savannah’s Greatest Countdown.”
Among position players on the 2014 Mets, perhaps the most important is catcher Travis d’Arnaud. That’s not to say he’s likely to be the best Mets batter in 2014 – that should still be face-of-the-franchise David Wright. It’s just that d’Arnaud’s development is a bigger story with more uncertainty.
Wright needs another above average player or two to help him out, if the Mets are going to contend in the near term. Daniel Murphy has been solid enough at second base in recent years, and the Mets paid to upgrade the outfield this season. However, D’Arnaud is the Mets’ best chance to become the B to David Wright’s A, and do so cheaply. Since the Mets control d’Arnaud for six more years, if he does live up to the hype, or even become an elite catcher, it will change the franchise’s outlook.
Kristie Ackert has a nice profile of d’Arnaud in the New York Daily News. He discusses the fact that he was not quite fully comfortable when he was in the big leagues last year:
“Anxious would probably be the right word for it,” said d’Arnaud, who turns 25 on Monday. “I was just trying to impress everyone. Every time I went up there, I was trying to hit a home run. I was trying to throw my hardest and hit my hardest to prove myself every time I got a chance. I was trying to prove myself and I just wasn’t myself.”
Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus released their weighted means PECOTA forecast spreadsheet for the 2014 season. PECOTA, one of the top forecasting systems sees d’Arnaud hitting .250/.315/.414 with a 2 WARP. His top comps are Ryan Lavarnway, Devin Mesoraco and Geovany Soto. One of the nice things with the full PECOTA projections, which will be out later, are the forecast ranges from the the 10th percentile to the 90th.
Fangraphs’ ZiPS saw .245/.307/.392 with a 7.4% walk rate and a 24.1% strikeout rate. ZiPS’ rounded WAR forecast for catcher, added d’Arnaud to Anthony Recker suggested that the catcher position would be worth 3 WAR, tied for the second-best among the Mets’ positions behind Wright at third and even with Chris Young’s contribution in rightfield.
The other projections at Fangraphs are similar enough: Steamer (.254/.320/.418 – 2.6 WAR) and Oliver (.241/.312/.397 – 3.1 WAR). The WAR projection in Oliver is higher because the system sees d’Arnaud picking up more at bats (600) than Steamer (431) and being worth more defensively (13.3 to 7.2).
Basically, all of the projection systems see d’Arnaud as a useful starting catcher in 2014. The Mets hope for more.
Jeff Moore, who writes at Baseball Prospectus, has a column up on his personal site arguing that the Mets should play Wilmer Flores at shortstop in 2014.
His argument is that the “the Mets are not going to be competitive in 2014…The main goal for the Mets in 2014 is to figure out what they have for 2015. … And most importantly, what kind of major league hitter is Wilmer Flores?”
The argument would be a lot more convincing if the Mets hadn’t moved Flores off of shortstop two years ago. In 2012 and 2013, Flores played a mix of first, second and third, but not a single game at short. If the Mets thought Flores could play shortstop at all, they would have played him there at some point in the last two years.
- At Amazin’ Avenue, Chris McShane takes a very careful look at Travis d’Arnaud’s struggles blocking pitches in the big leagues. I noticed on a few pitches that he’s wincing rather than trying to catch the ball with his chest protector. He also reaches late a few times. I look forward to a followup when d’Arnaud has both more big league time and more time working with the big league pitchers in 2014.
- Mets first rounder Dom Smith talked to througthefencebaseball. He also apparently said something silly/homophobic on twitter. I missed the original tweet sequence, but here’s his apology.
- LHP Chase Huchingson is headed down to Venezuela to play winter ball. He was suspended for 50 games in late August for a second failed test for a drug of abuse.
Jeff Paternostro has his Top 30 Mets Prospects up. It’s solid.
Jeurys Familia threw 96-97 in the AFL Rising Stars game over the weekend, but hung a changeup at 87 mph that Brett Nicholas hit for a home run. It’s cool that Familia is trying to throw his changeup in the AFL, but I think it’s likely that Familia will be a fastball/slider reliever in the big leagues. There are many relievers who thrive in MLB who throw changeups, roughly never.
At Beyond the Box Score, Chris St. John looked at historical walk and strikeout rates for Top Prospects in a-ball. His first conclusion: High [walk]/High [strikeout] players have the best chance, while the players in trouble tend to gather towards average. Of his consensus Top 190 prospects who passed through a-ball in 2013, the only Met on the list, Kevin Plawecki earns a 27% chance of greater than .001 batting runs AND 1,500 plate appearance.
At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper argues that the current Options/Rule 5 system hurts international free agents who sign at the age of 16 because MLB teams must add them to their 40-man rosters earlier than their domestic counterparts who are older when they sign both out of high school and college. His two solutions, both of which must be collectively bargained:
It would help even the playing field if MLB and the Players Association adopted a rule that made players eligible for the Rule 5 draft after six years if they sign at age 16. Alternately, the international signing age could be increased to 17.
Over at Fangraphs, Nathaniel Stoltz does an excellent, in-depth breakdown of Mets’ SS Amed Rosario. After praising his bat speed, Stoltz focuses on Rosario’s inconsistent mechanics at the plate especially his tendency to dip his back shoulder which creates a cascade of problems throughout his swing.
In his debut season, the Mets assigned the 17-year-old Rosario to the Appalachian League where he hit .241/.279/.358 with eight doubles, four triples and three home runs in 58 games. He should begin 2014 in Extended Spring Training and follow that up with an assignment to Brooklyn.
Things I’ve read recently that I’ve liked.
- At Amazin’ Avenue, Jeff Paternostro finished up his series on the best Mets prospects he saw in person this year with Cesar Puello and Brandon Nimmo grabbing the top two spots among position players and Rafael Montero and Steven Matz doing the same in the pitching category. (Note: Jeff missed Syndergaard in 2013. Tough luck).
- ESPN’s Mark Simon thinks that of all of the players active in the 2013 World Series, Red Sox SS Stephen Drew is the guy most likely to be a Met in 2014.
Baseball (Big Picture)
ERA + and minus
Sky Kalkman has a strong critique of ERA+ which is not linear. He argues for the use of ERA- or a modified ERA+. He storified a twitter rant about it. So, no more ERA+ (for me).
Rob and I have discussed “Clutch” a couple of times recently on the podcast. Tom Tango argues that clutch exists, but because “it’s very hard to detect,… it’s there. At the same time, because it’s hard to detect, it really doesn’t change the managerial decision-making proces…”
Perhaps the best longish thing I’ve read on the subject is Tom Tango’s piece from 2009 at the old Hardball Times. Tango asked fans to identify “clutch” players. When fans as a group identified clutch players as a group, they selected players who did perform better in high leverage situations BUT (and it’s a big but) their performance improved by less than the ordinary platoon advantage.
The Head Trauma in Football Series at MMQB was outstanding.
Discourse on the Otter is wonderful, adorable and most importantly full of otters.
- At Beyond the Box Score, Lewie Pollis adapts a piece of his college thesis to do new research on the price of a win on the open market. He comes up with a number of $7 million. This is really, really important as it should influence the evaluation of signings and trades. The old $5 million per win had been feeling extremely dated.
- At Amazin Avenue, Jeff Paternostro writes about how much he likes Mets’ fifth-round pick Jared King.
- Patrick Flood, who used to write for this very network, writes about the experience of blogging and baseball. It, like everything Patrick wrote, is well worth reading, and surely deserves a bigger audience than it will receive.
- There is a tumblr dedicated to Craig Sager’s suits. It’s just as awesome and colorful as you would expect and hope.
Ben Badler in Baseball America:
there’s a chance Syndergaard could eventually eclipse Wheeler in the pecking order. … With a fastball that ranges anywhere from the low-90s up to 98 mph, Syndergaard throws just as hard as Wheeler, but his fastball command is well ahead of Wheeler’s. With the improvement of his secondary stuff this year, he has the look of a potential No. 2 starter.
I had a scout tell me he put a #1 projection on Syndergaard this summer. He’s not the only one.
According to Lynn Worthy in the Press and Sun Bulletin, Syndergaard names his gloves.
“On Saturday at NYSEG Stadium, he sported a glove with ‘LION’ written in cursive letters on it.
“Lion is just the mentality on the mound,” Syndergaard said. “King of the jungle. King of the mound, I guess.”
…His other gloves are named Heisenberg for the character in the television show “Breaking Bad”; Rick Grimes for a character in “The Walking Dead”; and Drago as in Ivan Drago, the overpowering, muscle-bound, blonde-haired Russian boxer in the movie “Rocky IV.” Drago is Syndergaard’s game glove.”
- Ben Lindbergh at Prospectus has an absolutely must-read on the Mets and their team baserunning, which has become the best in baseball. There are quotes from Daniel Murphy and Tom Goodwin, the team’s baserunning/1B/outfield instructor who Murphy and Terry Collins credit with the improvement. The Mets particular advantage is that they have become good at taking the extra base on hits and have a chance to set a new record in the category.
- At Fangraphs, David Lauria talks to Ian Levin, the Mets Manager of Baseball Analytics. They spoke in such generalities, it’s hard to take too much from it. His skepticism with respect to defensive metrics has been well-traveled over the years:
“Trying to better quantify defense is something teams are working on, and some of that information isn’t necessarily in the public domain. To find a way to value defense appropriately — within the environment of how we value it with offense and pitching — would be extremely valuable…. I think scouting is the most important component of defensive metrics, and it may continue to be.”
Levin also touches on player personality as it relates to team-specific information:
“To a large degree, proprietary information is knowing subjective things. A lot of it is makeup-related, or knowing how players react in certain situations.”
- At ESPN, Mike Petriello argues that the “Closer Myth is Dying.”
“If the playoffs started Thursday, not a single one of the six division winners would be using a closer they paid top dollar to on the open market.
All told, the six closers for the division leaders are making a total of just less than $16 million combined this year, which is only slightly more than the $13 million Papelbon …”
Somewhere in Florida, Frank Francisco nods sagely.
- I’m not even sure if this counts as “sports-writing,” but I know it’s absolutely hilarious. Brian Philips (@runofplay on twitter) revisits a US Men’s Soccer photoshoot from 2002 at Grantland. The thing had me giggling, visibly and audibly, at my desk.