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.
Was Craig Breslow’s decision to throw to third in the seventh inning of last night’s World Series game correct?
He says yes. His manager is not so sure.
Breslow, as quoted by Evan Drellich at MassLive.com, “I looked up and I saw that I definitely had a play there. I didn’t make a good throw. That’s not a throw I make too much, but it’s one I need to make there.”
Manager John Farrell: “I’m sure Craig would like to have that ball back and hold it with a chance to shut down the inning right there…”
I think they are both right.
Lets set the scene. In the seventh inning of game two, Craig Breslow relieved John Lackey. His first, and more important mistake was walking the first batter he faced – Daniel Descalso – by wOBA, the weakest hitter in the Cardinals lineup. The next batter, Matt Carpenter lifted a fly ball to shallow left field that tied the game. Jonny Gomes’ throw home was late and off line. Breslow picked the ball up and threw to third, thinking he could nab John Jay there. He airmailed the throw. That was mistake number two.
This is the diamond the moment before Breslow released the baseball.
I estimate that the speedy Jay, who is already sprinting full bore, is about 30 feet from third base in that frame. In just over a second, Jay will be sliding into third base. IF Breslow were to release the ball at that instant, he has about a second to get the ball to third base. Remember he needs to give Bogaerts time to apply the tag. I estimate that Breslow is 100 feet from third base. If he had a full second to get the ball there, he merely has to throw the ball at 68 miles an hour. He can do that. But he doesn’t have a full second. Because Bogaerts needs time to catch and apply a tage. If he has three quarters of a second, he would have to throw the ball at 91 miles an hour to nail Jay. His four-seam fastball averages 91 miles an hour. He can do that. That’s off a mound, with a windup. If Breslow was doing the math, which he wasn’t, if he had anything less than three quarters of a second from the instant of release to Bogaerts’ glove, he should not have thrown the ball.
And yet, it makes perfect sense for Breslow to think he had a play on Jay at third base.
Here is the diamond as Breslow was scooping up the ball after it left catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s glove.
Jay is barely 20 feet from second. This picture perfectly captures the reason Breslow thought he could throw Jay out at third. Go back to his quote, “I looked up and saw I definitely had a play there.. ” This is the part of the play he got right. However, the issue for Breslow is what happened in the intervening frames. He’s no infielder. He was too slow in getting from picking the ball to his release. While he was grabbing the ball off the grass, gathering himself to throw, and hopping, Jay was still running. Take a look for example, at how far Breslow hopped. He fielded the ball outside the dirt circle around home plate. He threw from comfortably inside it. That’s maybe a six-foot hop. While Breslow was airborn, Jay was running. While Breslow was winding up to throw, Jay was running. Perhaps Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew, Bogaerts or a well-practiced infielder could and would have thrown Jay out at third.
What happened? This.
Lets subtract eight feet of height from Breslow’s throw. What if it was shin-high and Bogaerts just had to catch the ball and slap a tag on the sliding runner? It looks from that shot as though it would have been late.
By the time Breslow released the ball, it was too late. This is the part Farrell got right.
Baseball players do not reach the big leagues by thinking in general that they will not make a play. Rather the reverse is the case. Guys reach the big leagues, by thinking that they can make the play. They work and practice to execute, and they are right – they do make the play – more often than anyone else on the planet, that’s what makes them big leaguers. But in this case, Breslow was doing something unfamiliar, throwing to third at maximum velocity under time pressure, that he rarely ever does.
So, in a sense, one of the hardest things for professional athletes to do, and the thing they do not train to do, is, in the most pressure-packed moment that their sport offers, think “no, I cannot make that play.” Coaches preach endlessly in the minors, “make the right play.”
In fact, I would argue, the key moment, and even better example of this, came earlier in the sequence.
Imagine what would have happened, if instead of throwing home, Jonny Gomes had thrown to the cutoff man. Sure, the tying run would have scored from second. But Jay would never have started towards third. And the Cards and Sox would have had a tie game with runners at first and second. Maybe in this alternate universe, Carlos Beltran still would have singled off of Breslow to drive home a run as he did in real life. In this case, that would have put the Cardinals ahead 3-2 instead of 4-2. Or Jay didn’t score on the single. Or perhaps, Breslow retired Beltran to keep the game tied.
Gomes has thrown out two runners at home plate in 2013, a career-high. He’s nailed seven runners at home in eight big league seasons, under one per year. Just once in his career, in 2009 with Cincinnati, has he thrown out a runner at home plate on a sacrifice fly. For his career, Gomes is one run above average with his arm.
Sometimes the best decision is not to make the throw and cede the lead. Neither Gomes nor Breslow was thinking about the probability that he would succeed on his individual throw (and necessary catch, and tag). Neither was evaluating the reward of a successful throw versus the cost of an unsuccessful event. Neither was thinking about the much greater possibility of something going wrong. But maybe they should have.
Sometimes, the road to immortality (in a baseball sense) is for a player to best recognize his own limitations and learn to say no. Or just be Carlos Beltran and hit .339/.448/.714 (!) over 10 series in a post-season career.
I was watching the international feed of the World Series last night, with Gary Thorne and Rick Sutcliffe. In the second inning I believe, after Pete Kozma dropped Shane Victorino’s ground ball, Thorne and Sutcliffe grew exasperated with the Cardinals’ defense, which was not good.
And then Thorne said, (I’m paraphrasing, because I did not have my recorder going): “What’s surprising is that the Cardinals were very good defensively in the regular season, they were tied for the National League lead with fewest errors – 75.”
This is true, but silly. First, and most importantly, cumulative errors are a bad way to measure team defense. Second, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks, both of whom committed 75 errors in 2013 both committed the fourth-most errors in the game overall: the Yankees (69), Rays (59) and Orioles (54) all committed fewer. So even by Thorne’s own preferred metric, the Cardinals were not close to the best in baseball at avoiding errors.
A much more accurate measure of team defense is Baseball Prospectus’ Defensive Efficiency, which simply measures the frequency at which a team’s defense turns batted balls into outs in which St. Louis was 21st in baseball at .703. Boston was 17th at .706. Going a step further, adjusting for context, Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, rates the Cardinals even worse, at -0.94, 26th in baseball. Boston is 24th.
Other advanced metrics tell a similar story. By team wide UZR, the Cardinals at -42.9 were 27th in baseball. The Sox were 10th.
By Defensive Runs Saved per 1,200 innings, the Cardinals were 26th (-3). The Sox were 15th.
The outlier is Total Zone, where per 1,200 innings, the Cardinals were league average (0 – 16th in baseball). The Sox were 12th.
The metrics disagree about Kozma specifically. By UZR/150, he was 24th among MLB SS at +8. By Total Zone, he was fourth-best in baseball at 11 runs above average. BIS‘ +/- puts him fifth among MLB SS.
The part that bothers me is that Thorne’s line gets the story all wrong. The Cardinals were, by most full accounting systems, a poor defensive team, at best league average according to total zone. They mostly caught the balls they could reach, but their teamwide range was not strong. Thus, they committed relatively few errors while not being a strong defensive outfit. The Cardinals has strengths – they had one of the top offenses in the national league, an ace in Adam Wainwright, a young pitcher throwing like an ace in Michael Wacha, a bullpen that throws really really hard – but defense was just not one of them.
According to Thorne, it was. And that’s wrong and misleading to our future baseball-loving friends around the globe.
There’s no one way to build a contender or World Series team.
These are really fun reads from Dave Schoenfield at ESPN Sweet Spot about how the Red Sox and Cardinals were built.
Basically, the Cardinals were largely built internally, but they spent good money on outfielders – Matt Holiday and Carlos Beltran. The Red Sox have certainly had their development success stories (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Bucholz) but relied more on the free agent market.
The number that I think is most important is $83 million. That’s the number the Red Sox spent on 2013 contracts through free agency. Filling multiple needs simultaneously through free agency is expensive. Yes, the Mets have many needs – most notably in the rotation, in the outfield, and at short stop. In fact, I would argue that it is beyond the Mets’ budget (whatever that budget is) at the moment. Moreover, as Michael Baron pointed out two days ago, the Red Sox had a better base of proven, returning talent in 2013 than the Mets will have in 2014.
Put simply, I believe that the Mets have too many holes, and not enough money to address them all at once this offseason to become a playoff caliber team in 2014. (Unless, of course, the Mets have $80 to spend on 2014 payroll, and that strikes me as wildly unlikely.) Instead, the team should be focused on acquiring cost-controlled talent, so that when Harvey returns, and their talent base is closer to playoff level, the Mets can find their own Victorino, Holliday, or late-career Beltran.
Robert Brender and I preview the World Series, and discuss the left side of the Mets’ infield, including the popular David Wright and not-so-popular Ruben Tejada.
The Mostly Mets Podcast can now be found on the SNY.tv Mets Podcasts feed – along with other great Mets audio content. Please subscribe to the feed HERE. The current Mostly Mets individual feed will soon be removed, so if you already subscribe there, you must re-subscribe to the SNY.tv Mets Podcasts feed HERE to continue to subscribe to Mostly Mets. You can subscribe in iTunes HERE or by clicking the link in the SoundCloud player above.
World Series preview
Looking at the left side of the Mets’ infield (9:45)
One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (32:50)
The Mets began the process of purging players from their 40-man roster last week. At the moment, including players on the 60-man disabled list, the Mets have 44 players on the 40-man roster. Those 60-man DL guys will start counting against the 40-man roster after the World Series. The deadline to add prospects to the 40-man roster to protect prospects is November 20.
Guys are either protected from the Rule Five draft three or four times. Players who are younger than 19 years old on June 5th before signing their first contract are protected four times while those who are 19 or older are protected three times. So, any college draftees from the 2010 draft are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this year.
The Mets 40-Man Roster Position Breakdown
Last week, the Mets outrighted RHP Greg Burke and LHP Sean Henn; neither were claimed. Meanwhile, the Dodgers claimed Mike Baxter while the Angels grabbed LHP Robert Carson.
The hard-throwing Carson has not figured out how to retire Major League hitters.In 33 inning in the last two years, he’s run a 13/11 K/BB ratio and allowed 11 homeruns on his way to a 6.82 ERA. His fastball is 93-95 and his slider is mostly 85 ish (82-88 per Brooksbaseball), but he has been less than the sum of his parts thanks to command troubles.
In 155 PA in 2013 in his age 27 season, Baxter hit .189/.303/.250 with zero homeruns. Sure, he’ll always have “The Catch” in Johan Santana’s no-hitter in 2012, but it’s looking more and more costly. He disclocated his shoulder on the play, and according to Kristie Ackert in the NY Daily News, “some in the organization feel that Baxter never recovered his power after that injury.” There’s little question that his isolated slugging percentage of .061 was his worst in his three seasons as a Mets.
There are seven more pitchers on the 40-man who are eligible to be free agents:
David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco, Aaron Harang, LaTroy Hawkins, Daisuke Matsuzaka
When these seven walk, the Mets’ 40-man roster will slim down to 37. That’s a start.
The Mets have relatively few must-add players this winter. The only three givens to me are:
1. Jacob deGrom - RHP who throws a low-mid 90s power sinker and ended the year in AAA. Adopted a curveball as his primary breaking ball in 2013. Still has a chance to start, but likelier a reliever in the end.
2. Jeff Walters - Fastball/Slider RHP who had a strong year out of the Binghamton bullpen. Will start 2014 in AAA Las Vegas and should make his MLB debut sometime in the warm part of summer.
3. Steven Matz - LHP stayed healthy for the first time in 2013 and made major strides. There’s no way the Mets let a lefty who can touch 96 get away.
Adding those three players would take the Mets back up to 40 players. So, if the Mets want to add any other players via the Rule 5 draft or free agency or a trade, they will have to drop more guys.
Adam Rubin suggested last week that in addition to the four players who were already waived, Scott Atchison, Zach Lutz, Andrew Brown and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are most at risk. I would add Jordany Valdespin and Hansel Robles to the list of guys who should be worried about their 40-man roster spots.
Prospects On the Bubble Outside Looking In
Luis Cessa – Really nice season for Savannah in a-ball, but is his combination of low 90s fastball, slider and changeup special enough for a team to carry out of a-ball? Highly doubt it.
Cory Vaughn – Auditioning for a roster spot in the AFL. I believe he’s not an everyday big leaguer. Perhaps he’s a platoon player/bench bat. We discussed that at more length a few weeks ago.
Bret Mitchell - Missed 2012 after hip labrum surgery but had a nice 2013 out of the Savannah/St. Lucie bullpen throwing 90-94 sitting 92-93. Still, 22 walks in 30.2 innings in the FSL signal that he’s not ready for a MLB 40-man roster.
Aderlin Rodriguez – left unprotected a year ago, Rodriguez hit .260/.295/.427 in 62 games for St. Lucie before hand/wrist injuries ended his regular season. He’s unlikely to be protected or drafted.
Worrying about the 40-man roster for a team that finished 2013 at 74-88 seems almost to miss the point. If the Mets are going to improve the squad for next year, they will need to replace the players they have with ones who are better. (That’s top-grade #analysis, right there.)
In that case, change is good. So, do the Mets have the ability to spend in the free agent market? Can they be creative in the trade market?
Keith Law has revised and upgraded his outlook on Noah Syndergaard.
From his chat at ESPN last week.
Jeff (NY): Still Sanchez over Syndergaard? I know you go based on ceiling, but does probability start to factor in now?
Klaw (1:15 PM): No, I can’t stay with that, seeing Sanchez’ delivery and potential injury risk. Syndergaard doesn’t have Sanchez’ offspeed stuff, but he has to be as low a risk for an arm injury as any major starter prospect in baseball. Fix Sanchez and we can talk again.
The Sanchez is Syndergaard’s former teammate in the Toronto system: Aaron Sanchez who had a solid year in the Florida State League in 2013.
Byron (Portland): I believe you, but I’m never going to remember that Syndergaard is the high-probability, low-risk guy and Sanchez is the opposite. Not with one of them having a name that looks like someone grabbed a handful of Scrabble tiles.
Klaw (1:20 PM): Wait until Bill Guahxq reaches the majors.
Silly Trade Ideas
Chris (NYC): Mets get Jose Bautista for Montero, Matz, and Plawecki…we close? Bautista’s injuries have to be concerning.
Klaw (1:07 PM): You’re not close. You’re playing the delusional Mets fan.
Lets get caught up with some links.
Last week, John Manuel wrote up the Baseball America Draft Report Card for the Mets’ 2013 haul.
Best Pure Hitter: Dominic Smith
Best Power Hitter: Ivan Wilson
Fastest Runner: Champ Stuart
Best Defensive Player: Smith over Luis Guillorme
Best Fastball: Tyler Bashlor (93-94, touching 97)
Best Secondary: RHP Andrew Church/ Johnny Magliozzi (curves)
After a slow start some of the Mets participants are warming up in the AFL
Scottsdale played six games this week and went 3-3
Aderlin Rodriguez went hitless Monday to extend his start to 0-for-10, but has since gone 5-for-13 with a double. Through 6 games he is hitting .217/.250/.261 with 5 K and no walks. In the field he has made two fielding errors while playing 3B.
Cory Vaughn also started slowly last week, but now has a 5 game hitting streak with a 6-for-16 week, with his first homer, his second triple and two stolen bases. He’s hitting .241/.313/.483 over 7 games. He has struck out 9 times, walked twice, been caught stealing once and has made two errors in the OF.
Cam Maron had just one hit last week, but the C/DH picked up 6 walks moving his slash line to a silly .188/.435/.250 with 7 walks and 2 K, and a double from last week.
Hansel Robles started Thursday and allowed a run on 2 hits and 1 walk, striking out 4 over 3 IP. He threw 30 of 48 pitches (62.5%) for strikes. Hard to make anything out of 4 IP, but nice to see the K’s at least.
Chasen Bradford has appeared 4 times for 4.1 IP, and allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 3. After his good year in St. Lucie and Binghamton he should be overmatching the competition, on his way to the Vegas pen for next year.
Cody Satterwhite has also appeared 4 times for 4.0 IP, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4. As a minor league veteran these results shouldn’t be a surprise.
Jeurys Familia had a clean inning with a K in his first appearance, then has a blow up inning on Thursday. He struck out the first batter, but on a wild pitch that allowed him to reach. Another wild pitch, a ground out, and a single brought the first run in. Travis Shaw then knocked a two run homer off Familia before he retired the next two batters to finish the inning. And that’s how you get to the strange looking 1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K pitching line.
Travis Shaw spent this year with Portland, Boston’s AA franchise hitting .221/.342/.394 with 16 homers. As a 9th round pick he looks like someone who could help Boston soon, as a high OBP, three outcome type hitter. (78 BB and 117 K this year)
The Mets drafted the switch-hitting Jared King in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of Kansas State. At the time, Baseball America’s Jim Callis praised the “value,” in the pick.
King hit .266/.365/.347 in 63 games in Brooklyn this year with 15 doubles and one home run. At 5’11, 208, he played mostly leftfield for Brooklyn and four games in center. If he’s going to profile in a corner, at some point, he will have to start putting the ball over the wall.
Jeff Paternostro at Amazin’ Avenue seems to like him well enough and puts his ceiling as an everyday corner guy.
He should start 2014 in leftfield for Savannah.