An Absurdly Detailed Look at the Batters Mejia has Faced This Spring

The Mets have been so impressed by 20-year old Jenrry Mejia in Spring Training that they are planning to make him a middle reliever to begin the season in the bullpen.  But how impressive has Mejia’s spring actually been?

Mejia has faced 40 unique hitters over 43 plate appearances in spring training.

Here are their AB by level in ’09:

Total 6490 3387 4735 909 464 234

On Monday and Tuesday, the Mets wanted to test Mejia to see if he could work in back-to-back games as he might if he were in the Major League Bullpen. Prior to Monday, here’s the breakdown of AB by level from ’09:

Before 3/22 3897 2488 4735 909 464 234

Let me make that point clear in case the previous two tables didn’t. On Monday, the Mets prepared their top pitching prospect to become a reliever primarily on his performance in 35 Spring Training plate appearances against players who had 8,830 at bats in the minor leagues in 2009 and 3,897 in the big leagues!  The Mets decided Mejia was ready for a big league bullpen based largely on his performance against AA caliber batters.

Yes, Mejia’s fastball is electric. His power changeup and curveball are tantalizing.   But, prior to Monday, when he was facing one of his final tests of his bullpen mettle, he had faced exactly SIX batters who had 300 or more MLB AB in ’09. Six. Anything can happen over six AB.  As decision-making processes go, isn’t this the equivalent of going to the beach in Far Rockaway, wading knee deep into the ocean, and deciding that since you not only didn’t die, but feel good, you’re going to swim to Spain?

Mejia has seen something which approximates an MLB lineup once.  Against Atlanta, he set down Yunel Escobar, Matt Diaz and Nate McLouth in order.  For the complete-ists, on March 8, he retired Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla in consecutive AB, but two batters at the beginning of spring training does not a lineup, or even an inning, make.

It’s true that Mejia has handled the more advanced hitters who have faced him.  Players who saw any MLB time in ’09 are a combined 1-for-22 (.045) against Mejia with seven strikeouts, a walk and ten ground ball outs.  MLB regulars, generously defined as those who had 300 or more AB, are a collective 0-for-10 against Mejia with just one strikeout.  The “real” big leaguers might not have the bat speed to hurt Mejia yet, but at least like the minor leaguers and fringe guys, they can still put a bat on his stuff.

Want a good reason not to take any of this too seriously?  The players who didn’t play a day in the big leagues in ’09 are hitting .316 (6 H/19 AB) against Mejia this spring.

What does this all mean?  Nothing really, and I think that’s the point.   Mejia’s early success came against players who are unlikely to be in the big leagues on Opening Day.  He’s set down the few legitimate Major Leaguers he’s seen.  He’ll probably face another 15 or so hitters before camp ends, which is another truly meaningless sample.  That the Mets are willing to put Mejia in the MLB bullpen on this performance says more about the team’s decision-making process than anything else.

And around the web, the national guys started nailing the Mets on Wednesday.

At Keith Law is blunt in his discussion about the Mets plan to move Mejia to the ‘pen:

I hate it. He’s a raw, high-upside arm with the weapons to be a  starter in the long term, if he’s given time to improve his command and consistency on his change and curve. Instead they’re cutting off that upside for a quick fix in the pen. By the way, promoting prospects who aren’t ready is a hallmark of GMs in fear for their jobs.

Baseball America’s Jim Callis made the same point in his ESPN Chat:

Peter (NY)

Jim, What is your opinion on how the Mets are handling Meija’s development? If he has a chance to be a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher, arent they hurting his development by rushing him to the majors and developing him as a late inning 1 or 2 pitch reliever?

Jim Callis

(2:10 PM)

The Mets’ front office is in win-now/save-our-jobs mode. I would have sent him to Double-A as a starter to begin the season.

There’s an interesting point here about the divergence between the Mets fans and decision-makers on this one.  Fans, at least judging by what I read, are on the whole opposed to putting Mejia in the ‘pen to start the year.  Fans have a longterm relationship with the Mets.  Most grew up Mets fans and will be Mets fans after 2010, in 2011, 2012 and beyond.  The Mets decision-makers, operating on essentially a one-year win-or-else mandate from ownership rationally cannot afford that long time horizon that Mets fans enjoy.  Strange, but true.

**If any readers are interested in playing with this data further, email me.  I have all of this lovely information in a handy spreadsheet with each player’s OPS by level that I didn’t even discuss in this post.**

There are 12 comments

  1. theperfectgame

    Any way you slice it, bringing Mejia up at this point is a BAD idea. I’m holding out hope that this is all some kind of ill-conceived theatrical smoke and mirrors stunt being put on by the front office and that there’s no actual chance of Mejia doing anything but starting the year in the AA rotation where he belongs. Otherwise, it would seem that the only people out there who either don’t realize or don’t care how epically stupid this is are the guys at the helm. And that’s just too cruel. Even for Mets fans.

    1. enut

      I cannot express how much this move angers me, so much that I deep down want to find a new organization to root for, one that knows how to handle our players. We are so close to having our own homegrown ace, when was the last time that happened? This is such bs, I truely hate you Jerry and Omar, with all the passion in my body. It hurts so much to see other organizations grown their own talent, it’s incredibly frustrating! This is going to ruin this kids career, I PRAY that he fails so miserably that he gets demoted and sent back down to the minors so he can start again.

  2. WC

    “Fans, at least judging by what I read, are on the whole opposed to putting Mejia in the ‘pen to start the year.”

    These are an extremely small cross section of Mets fans. Most haven’t heard of Mejia till this spring and want him in the bullpen, and even more probably won’t know his name until he pitches a few times in the big leagues.

    Fans who spend half their day posting on Mets message boards, reading minor league blogs, or screaming at beat writers over twitter are not a representative sample size.

    This move will please most of the fan base. S-B-T

      1. ravin108

        With rare exceptions, the only thing that pleases Mets fans is winning games. With the help of our fantastic beat reporters, typical NYM fans think only in the short term.
        I wish reporters could be held accountable for what they write, like all the guys who wanted the Mets to sign Manny a couple years ago.

  3. HoustonMike

    Yep, lame duck manager and general manager equals ruining Mejia career. My worst fear come to life. They seemed like they were smart enough to not do this but Jerry tipped their hand very early. i knew better than to trust them on this. Once they went to the AFL and watched him pitch I knew this was the plan all along, but I hoped it would not happen. I wanted Mejia to fail in spring training and force them to send him to AA. Mejia/Davis/Martinez are the only reasons I still feel good about this team long term and I know that once Omar and Jerry are gone this year that things will work out much better, BUT, just as long as they don’t screw up the three guys worth anything AA and above. -sigh-

  4. WC

    Sad but true.

    It really is sad, if there was significant fan pressure to send Mejia to the minors, and beat writers were knocking the Mets for the idea of rushing him, he’d be in the minors.

    1. mark4212

      No… By that logic we would have Manny Ramirez patrolling Right Field, and John Lackey in the starting rotation.

      This is the same exact situation as Bobby Parnell last year, with the execption being Mejia has the upside to be a VERY GOOD starting pitcher, while Parnell didn’t have that upside.

      Once Big League hitters get video and a detailed scouting report in Mejia he will struggle to get out in May on, just like Parnell did last season.

      If you look at Parnell’s stats, in April he pitched to 1.74 ERA in 10 innings, May 2.45 in 11 innings… June 13.5 in 8 innings. He WHIP and BAA rose as well.

      Looking at Parnell, he actually had decent success as a starter in September.. 3 starts 20 innings, 21k 14BB 20 hits 3.95 ERA .264 BAA 1.65 WHIP…. Not to shabby but i digress.

      Mejia will most likely have immediate success as a reliever in the Big Leagues, then will struggle and without very good command of his secondary pitches his era and other peripheral stats will increase as the season progresses as well.

  5. Not4Nuttin

    Awesome piece Toby. I think you hit it right on the head. This is all so frustrating because the only conclusion to be drawn is that we care far more about the long term prospects of the Mets organization than current management does. And ownership either just doesn’t get it, or simply picked the wrong time to finally let the baseball people make baseball decisions without interference.

    To be clear, its not like we have not had more than our fair share of frustrations the past few seasons. But in most of those instances, it was easy (okay, sometimes not so easy) to rationalize that (a) we did not have all the facts that management is considering, (b) we obviously cannot believe all/most of what we read in the papers and (c) some decisions are bang/bang decisions, which always leave them open to second-guessing.

    But here, this is a long, drawn out decision-making process, with enough people sounding out warnings to just leave us all addled. And taking a dispassionate view of the FACTS, no matter how you slice it, it is impossible to come to the conclusion that this move could ever be in the Mets’ long term best interest. Virtually every way to look at this leads to the inevitable conclusion that Mejia must be sent down. UGH!!!

    WC, very good points on both the average fan and the (in this instance) moronic beat writers who are beating the drum for this move. You are probably right that if we could get a few of the beat writers to start lambasting management for the move, they probably will back off.

  6. KevnCt

    The minute Omar and the front office start making baseball decisions based on the advice of fans and/or the media is the day they become a joke!

    These same fans were swallowing the drivel from Rubin and others that the organization was barren and had no prospects close to the majors. These same fans that want Omar fired are all excited about prospects Omar/organization scouted, drafted,signed and developed.

    Jerry’s job is to want Mejia and Omar’s job is to say no, just like he did this offseason when he refused to trade prospects for a “big splash” or overpay for pitching that wasn’t worth the investment. It would have been easier for Omar to do some deals to calm the fans and media, but he refused. I personally believe there are enough candidates for the pen and that Mejia is not ready and should start at AA. Fans and the media are Monday morning quarterbacks, ready to jump on the bandwagon when things go well and scream incompetence when they don’t.

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