Lessons of Keith Hernandez’s Career

Keith Hernandez’s baseball career was one struggle after the next. First, it was his early hitting problems leading to a demotion. Then it was his clashes with Whitey Herzog leading to his trade to the Mets. Then it was the Pittsburgh drug trials where he was called to testify. However, despite all of this hardship, Keith Hernandez was the 1979 MVP, has won 11 Gold Gloves, and was part of two World Series Championship teams.

Now, I’m sure Keith Hernandez was devastated when he struggled in the majors and needed to be sent down. Keith does credit Ken Boyer with finally giving him the confidence he needed to succeed in the majors. However, Keith was a special major league talent. Overall, you could argue these early career struggles helped Keith deal with adversity. This was a good thing because he would face real adversity later in his career and he overcame it. So much so, in the eyes of many, Keith was a Hall of Fame caliber player.

I bring this up because one of the reasons the Mets state they do not want to put too much pressure on him and believe it would be devastating if he fails. As Keith Hernandez shows, if you’re a special player, you will have a successful career; no matter how much you struggle on your way there. In fact, you could argue the struggles help make you a better player (just look at Sandy Koufax’s early career). I’m not saying Conforto isn’t the answer. He may very well come up and struggle. With the Mets being where they are, they really can’t afford any more players to struggle offensively. You know what else they can’t afford? More of the same.

If Cuddyer can play, I’ll back off. Despite his struggles, Cuddyer is a major league caliber player, who is less than a season removed from being an effective major league hitter. However, if Cuddyer cannot be more than a PH/DH or he needs to be put on the DL, the Mets should call up Conforto. What’s the worst that could happen? What if he had a triple slash line of .169/.236/.344? Well guess what? That is the combined 2015 triple slash line of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and John Mayberry, Jr.. These are the players that will most likely platoon left field until Cuddyer is healthy or the Mets make a trade.

Therefore, if you are not willing or able to make a trade to improve left field, and Cuddyer isn’t responding to treatment, the Mets have little other choice than to call-up Conforto.

 

 

Realistic Immediate Moves

The Mets offense is officially offensive. As I tweeted last night, their runs per game is as follows:

April 4.35 runs per game

May 3.54 runs per game

June 2.96 runs per game

July 2.87 runs per game. 

This is unsustainable and had led to a -16 run differential. Things need to be fixed quickly to reverse these trends or the Mets run the risk of letting the season get away. For the purposes of this post, I’ll take the front office at face value and assume a trade can’t be competed just yet. Also, I’m not going to waste my breath here about bringing Conforto up to the majors (that’s for another time). The front office has made it clear he’s not getting called up. However, that does not mean something can’t be done now. 

First: Transfer Wright to the 60 day disabled list. He’s been gone for 60 days already. Not putting him on the 60 day DL is roster mismanagement. Once Wright is put on the 60 day DL, the Mets can call up someone not in the 40 man roster. 

Second: Call up Matt Reynolds (he’s not on the 40 man roster) and install him as the everyday SS. Let’s face it – since the day the Mets refused to resign Reyes, Tejada had been given several chances to become the everyday SS and failed. In this latest attempt, he had a triple slash line of .255/.322/.360 and a UZR of 0.8, i.e. he is bad at the plate and average in the field. CORRECTION: after posting this I learned Matt Reynolds is on the 7 day DL

Reynolds had a triple slash line of .270/.327/.410. I wasn’t able to find his UZR information, but scouts seem optimistic on his defense. If Reynolds minor league stats carry over, the Mets improve the SS position and the bench. If they don’t translate (the PCL is a hitter’s league after all), he had a cup of coffee. It’s not like his production would be so bad as to justify carrying Eric Campbell on the roster (side note: I’m sorry because Campbell works hard and really tries to help the team).  I know Reynolds isn’t on the 40 man roster, but so what?  Are you really afraid of losing 

Third: Outright Alex Torres and recall Logan Verrett. This would leave the Mets with only one lefty in the pen, Sean Gilmartin, who is not a LOOGY. However, Torres isn’t effective against lefties. Lately, he hadn’t been effective at all. In a small sample size, Verrett has been largely effective for the Mets. 

Fourth: Recall Dilson Herrera, bench Wilmer Flores, and release John Mayberry, Jr. In his last 10 games, Herrera is hitting .359 with a .390 OBP. He’s hot. Flores has been bad defensively and at the plate. However, he does have some pop in his bat and could be an effective PH. To make room for Herrera, Mayberry should be released. He just hasn’t hit. He’s taking up a valuable roster spot right now. 

Fifth: Call up Travis Taijeron and send down Danny Muno. I know I joked yesterday about Taijeron and the Mets need for more minor leaguers. However, this post is seeking drastic measures to help this team, which is best done by eliminating most of the bench. This season Taijeron’s triple slash is an eye opening .271/.395/.523. Why hasn’t he been called up?  Well he is not a highly thought of prospect having been drafted in the 11th round in 2011. Why send down Muno?  He’s bad at baseball. Travis Taijeron is not in the 40 man roster, but I am comfortable exposing Wilfredo Tovar to waivers. 

With all the machinations, the Mets have mostly retooled their bench (except Nieuwenhuis and Recker) and they find out what they have in Reynolds and Taijeron. Also, it creates a spot for with Nimmo or Conforto in AAA and possibly Gavin Cecchini as well. Maybe I’m wrong, but at least this is something. 

Harvey Just Not Good Enough

The Mets offense has averaged 2.87 runs in the month of July. Murphy was horrid in the field. Lagares has either lost a step or is playing out of position. The Nationals came to play and the Mets didn’t. Doesn’t matter. If you’re Matt Harvey and you want to be the ace, games like Monday don’t happen.

I can point to all the things that went wrong leading to the 5 runs scored while he was pitching, but the fact his he set up two of the scoring rallies by allowing Espinosa to get on and walking Harper. Should Murphy had made the play or at least knocked it down?  Probably. Should Mayberry have been charging the ball better than Cuddyer can right now?  Definitely. Should Tejada have had a clue and thought about Harper at third?  Yes. Does Lagares catch that Robinson double last year?  I think so.

However, I also think it’s fair to say too much has been thrust on Harvey. Most pitchers falter the year coming back from Tommy John surgery only to round into form the next year. (for e.g. Adam Wainwright). Unfortunately, with the way this roster is constructed, Harvey cannot learn his way back. He has to be THE MATT HARVEY now.

I have faith he’ll dominate next week against the Nationals.  My faith is based upon his will to compete and his ability.  I only hope by then the Mets have something to play for, and the Mets are at least competent at the plate and in the field.

Are Mets Fans Shortchanged?

No, this is not a post regarding the Mets inability to obtain more offense while being in the middle of a pennant.  Rather, this is more about somehow Mets fans were ranked #27 in all of baseball.  At first, my eyes popped out of my head.  I couldn’t believe it.  Apparently, there were others who shared in my disbelief.  While, I don’t necessarily share some of Jayson’s Starks conclusions, specifically that “Mets fans ought to rank below Yankees fans,” I think he is correct that the data is skewed.

Note, this is not meant to be a hack job on the person who wrote the piece.  Obviously, the writer put some time and effort into this, and I do not think she deserves to be torn to shreds.  However, when analysis like hers is put out there, I do believe the work should invite some scrutiny.  In order to be fair, I decided to not only look at the factors, but also the raw data (which does not include the formulas to compute the raw data).

My first issue was the selection of 2014 as a basis for Power Rankings.  By their very nature, Power Rankings are supposed to be a current picture of the teams in a sport.  Notably for the Mets, the team has seen an increase in attendance from 2014.  I’m sure this rise will have an impact on the 2015 Power Rankings, but then we will be in 2016, which will be a much different year than 2015 was.

My second issue is the selection of average attendance as a percentage of stadium capacity.  The major flaw here is that the numbers are not weighted or adjusted for the home ballparks.  Fenway Park is reported to have a capacity of 37,673, which is one of the lowest in baseball.  Meanwhile, Dodger Stadium has a capacity of 56,000, which is the largest in baseball.  How do you reconcile these numbers especially when the Dodgers play in a two team geographical area and when teams are known for manipulating attendance figures?  What I also don’t know if the figures were predicated upon sales or “turnstyle” data.

My third issue is the secondary market criteria.  The author presents the information as being driven by demand without explaining how or why that is.  While I agree demand is one factor, it is not the only factor.  This also forgets average ticket prices.  The Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs have the highest average ticket prices.  Therefore, naturally, the resale of these tickets will go for a higher price because the people selling these tickets want to gain a profit, or at a minimum, break even.  Next, the secondary market price is driven by the team performance.  A 2014 ticket for the Mets in September was not as in demand as a ticket for the Royals.  The Royals were competing for the second Wild Card; the Mets’ season had been over for months.  Also, I did not see how this secondary price was presented in the raw data (although admittedly a smarter person than I could probably explain to me where it was reflected).

My fourth issue is the use of Forbes annual team revenue as a factor.  This relies on Forbes’ valuation model without fully knowing what goes into Forbes’ model.  In fact, did you know that one of the Yankees’ revenue generators is the ownership of the YES Network?  I don’t see how the value of the YES Network should factor into analysis of who is the best fans in baseball.  Also, profits from jersey sales are not a factor in the computation of team value.  Accordingly, if your team leads in jersey sales, it is not reflected anywhere in team revenue and/or popularity.  To be fair, the author stated she weighed this lower than the ticket sales information, but how low?  We don’t know that.

The fifth, final, and biggest issue was the percentage of social media fans as a percentage of the metro area population.  First and foremost, how is the metropolitan areas defined?  Was the Yankees metropolitan area just the Bronx or did it include all 5 boroughs, upstate New York, and Northern New Jersey?  Was all of New England incorporated into the metropolitan area for Red Sox Nation?  How was San Jose treated in this analysis vis-a-vis the Giants and the Athletics.  Also, when there are two teams in a metro area population, how was the data weighted?  It’s easy to dominate a metro area when you’re the Reds and you’re the only show in town.  Indeed, the data shows the Reds have a 85.15% Twitter following (however that 85.15% is derived – seriously I don’t think 85.15% of the twitter accounts in Cincinnati follow the Reds).  However, it should be noted, these same Reds only have a Facebook percentage of 49.63%.  Now the data does seem to bear out teams generally have a higher percentage of Twitter followers than Facebook followers, but why?  Is there something to be said about a team’s social media activity and the percentage of followers?  Furthermore, as the San Jose controversy shows teams not only have their local metro area rights, but they also have other geographic rights.  Are the metro area and geographic areas one in the same?  We don’t know from this analysis.

Overall, I don’t know if there is a better way to calculate “MLB Fan Power Rankings” other than what the author did here.  The reason for that is because there really is no good method.  Even though I don’t know of a better method, I do question why certain data was omitted.  For example, I don’t know why something like ratings wasn’t included on this list.  Isn’t it important whether a city ACTUALLY WATCHES ITS TEAM PLAY?  Furthermore, is there any relevance as to what ESPN and Fox selects as its nationally televised games.  Their selections are based upon ratings, which are based upon factors such as popular teams, players, and fanbases who watch their team.  Also, why wasn’t any the data adjusted for team performance?  Looking at the last link regarding ratings, there is a snippet there which shows as the Mets have improved this year, there was a “27% growth in viewership for prime time games over last season.”  I also question why the same websites’ criteria is different for the NFL than it is the MLB?  There was nothing in these rankings regarding total attendance.  Since this analysis was performed across different sports by the same website, I also find it interesting there wasn’t a sport to sport analysis.  For example, the Steelers  were found to be the fifth most engaged, whereas the Pirates’ fans were ranked eighth.  Does this have any meaning at all?

Overall, I am not going to be an obnoxious like Cardinal fans and declare that Mets fans are the best in baseball (let’s see them hit hard times and find out what happens to their fandom).  However, I refuse to accept the Mets are 27th based upon flawed criteria.  While I am not a Mets fan obsessed with retaking New York, I have more faith in Mets fans than to dismiss them as one of the worst in baseball.

I Love Mr. Met

Mr. Mets is awesome. He is one of the best parts of the entire Mets organization. He was the first ever mascot to step onto the field, and he has been a legend ever since. Forbes magazine has named him the best mascot in all of sports.  Similar to our beloved Tom Seaver, Mr. Met is also a Hall of Famer.  He even has his own money!

The story of Mr. Met has been a story many have sought to tell. Paul Lucas has done phenomenal work trying to uncover who is the creator of the famous mascot. ESPN has dedicated one of its awarding winning 30 for 30s to find out who is the man inside the mascot. He was even the subject of a feature in Rolling Stone. Needless to say, Mr. Met has not only captivated the hearts and mind of Mets fans, but also the entire world.

That is why the best thing the Mets organization has done in recent years is to make him eminently available to Mets fans young and old. In fact, if you want to see him at Citi Field, the Mets have provided a schedule of his appearances:

12:10 Game 1:10 Game 4:10 Game 7:10 Game 8:05 Game
10:45 a.m.* 11:45 a.m.* 2:45 p.m.* 5:45 p.m.* 6:40 p.m.*
11:20 a.m. 12:20 p.m. 3:20 p.m. 6:20 p.m. 7:15 p.m.
2nd Inning 2nd Inning 2nd Inning 2nd Inning 2nd Inning

Mr. Met is always there rooting along with us Mets fans. Win or lose, he always has a smile on his face (of course he does, he gets to go to all the Mets home games). His smile greets Mets fans as they come to Citi Field, and it is there when we make our way home. I also find Mr. Met is always at his best around young Mets fans.

I know this is true because my son loves Mr. Met. When we have been to Citi Field, Mr. Met has given my son his autograph, a high five, and has taken a picture with him. Thanks to Mr. Met, we have memories of the Mets games we have spent together

I look forward to more memories like this with my son, and God willing, future generations of Mets fans. Thank you Mr. Met.

Time to Throw Down

After watching the Mets-Cardinal series, it’s easy to be negative . . . I know I was. The Mets got blew a great Thor game, we saw the fork sticking out of Colon, and then watched them take 18 innings to score three runs. However, it’s the beginning of a new week, so let’s start that week off with some optimism.

Going into the All Star Break, the Mets were 2 games behind the Nationals (3 in the loss) with 12 games yet to play against them. After an awful weekend in St. Louis (and really is there any other kind there), the Mets are still in the same position. Now, the Mets come storming into Washington with Harvey, deGrom, and Thor. The Mets are ready to throw down (yes, the pun is intended).

This was Sandy’s rebuilding plan come to fruition. No matter how bad the offense is or how much it is struggling, good luck trying to score.  Harvey has a 16 inning scoreless streak, deGrom has given up 12 runs in his past 10 starts (not including the All Star Game), and Thor’s last four starts have seen him allow 2 ER or less.

The Mets have been brutal on the road, but their three best pitchers are going out there. This is a pennant race. Through everything that has happened thus far this season, I’m still excited. Lets Go Mets!

Can We Trust Sandy?

Last month, The Sporting News ranked Sandy Alderson right in the middle of all GMs in Major League Baseball (15/30). That sounds about right, although I could quibble with the order. To me, when you give Sandy a rating of 15/30, you’re really giving that rating to the entire front office, which includes Paul DePodesta, JP Riccardi, and John Ricco.

Since Sandy Alderson has been the GM for the Mets, he has really been tasked with getting rid of salaries and selling at the trade deadline. To that end, he and his front office have done an admirable job. In my opinion (and most people’s really), his three best trades were to sell and not to buy:

  1. RA Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas for Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wullmer Becerra;
  2. Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler; and
  3. Marlon Byrd, John Buck & cash for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.

Looking over the rest of the trades, there really is not much to get worked up about, except the two trades Sandy Alderson made to help the team on the field (and not the team down the road):

  1. Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon S. Ramirez; and
  2. Collin McHugh for Eric Young, Jr.

There has been so much written about the first trade. Rather than regurgitate all that has been written, I’m going to make a couple of quick points. First, this was part of a quick hitting series of moves to try to rebuild the bullpen and TRY to take attention away from Jose Reyes leaving. Second, it seems like every year this team is trying to build a bullpen because the prior season’s acquisitions  were terrible or everyone got hurt again. Lastly, this trade violated the old adage of “the team that gets the best player wins the trade.”  We knew then Pagan was the best player in that deal.

I want to focus on the EY deal because with the Mets rotation, it has largely been ignored. In full disclosure, I didn’t see it with McHugh. I thought he was an AAAA starter or a 12th man in the pen. I didn’t see him finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting last year or having another solid year for the Astros, especially when he pitches half his games is Minute Maid Park.

Just because I didn’t see it, it doesn’t excuse the current front office for this mistake. EY was acquired because Paul DePodesta loves him. In EY’s two seasons with the Mets, he was a 0.9 WAR player, who won a stolen base crown. The Mets were under .500 and had no shot at the postseason.

In the same time, McHugh has combined for accumulated WAR of 5.2, i.e. he has been the best player in the deal. I shutter to think what the careers Cory Mazzoni or Brad Wieck will be.

Now after all of this, how can I be expected to trust Sandy’s regime to properly rate their own prospects?  Sure when he has someone of value, he does a good job maximizing the return. However, when he is making a deal to improve his club, he has been shown to undervalue his assets.

This brings me to an extremely important point: Sandy effectively traded a first round pick for Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer hasn’t been himself at the plate or the field (even preinjury), which further exacerbated this “trade.”  All in all, I’m not sure we can trust this front office to go out and get a player. With that said, I’m sure I’m just wasting my breath because there is no way the Mets would take on money to improve this team.

ZZZZZZZ . . . Huh? What? Mets Finally Scored?

It took 18 innings to score 3 runs. Mets finally win. They’re offense is pathetic. Bullpen is better than expected. All starting pitchers not named Colon pitch well for the Mets. This game summary is longer than this game warranted. 

GEE I Wonder Why COLON Remains in the Rotation

The Mets lost to the Cardinals again. Going into the second half of the season, the conversation has been about the Mets’ great rotation. Truth be told, this rotation has three pitchers pitching like aces right now, an improving Niese, and a failing Colon.

I don’t know how many people realize just how bad Colon has been this year. He has a 4.86 ERA. That’s terrible. Seriously, why is he in the rotation?  Is it because he eats up innings?  Well not exactly. His last five games here are his innings pitched total: 4.1, 6.0, 7.0, 6.0, and 4.1. Is it for his entertainment value?


I doubt it. Is it because with the Matz injury, there are no better options?  The only other realistic option right now is Dillon Gee, who is 0-3 with a 5.90 ERA. I think we need a take a deeper look into Gee.

Most of the damage came from his last two starts; starts he made after being jerked around by the Mets. He came off the DL and had a bad start. Then he gets sent to the bullpen and only gets one appearance for 1.2 innings giving up one run. Then out of nowhere the Mets decide he needs to make a spot start, and it was horrendous.

After spending time in limbo after being outrighted, he had a rough start in Las Vegas. When you look at Gee’s numbers, you have to keep in mind the PCL is about a hitter friendly league as it gets. Despite the struggles, he seems to have found himself and turned things around. Here are the numbers from his last few starts: 7.0 innings 2 ER; 6.0 innings 4 ER; 6.1 innings 1 ER.  The numbers aren’t amazing. Rather these are the numbers of a capable major league pitcher. For those watching the game Saturday, did Colon look like that?

Despite the Mets mismanagement of Gee, he’s improving. Colon is getting worse. It seems like the Mets want more for the $11 million going to Colon than the $5.3 million going to Gee. These penny wise pound foolish decisions are hurting a team with no margin of error. The sooner the Mets admit Colon is done, the sooner they can help themselves.

Bargain Basement Shopping

According to Marc Carig of Newsday, it seems like the Mets will not go for the available top shelf outfielders, but rather seek out Will Venable or Gerardo Parra. Similar to Carlos Gomez and Justin Upton, their contracts expire at the end of the year.

However, unlike Upton and Gomez, Venable and Parra will most likely not receive a qualifying offer. This is very important because of the prospect price. Besides being better players, Upton and Gomez have a higher price tag because if the Padres and Brewers respectively offer them a qualifying offer, then the team that signs them forfeits their first round draft pick (second round for 10 worst teams in baseball). Therefore, if you want Upton or Gomez, you need to offer first round talent for a trade to even make sense. First round talent is equivalent to Matz, Conforto, Thor, and pretty much every player you don’t want the Mets to trade.

So that leaves us to decide whether Venable or Parra is the  better player. For my money, I’d rather have Parra. First and foremost, he’s got a great glove. I know the Mets need offense, but with Lagares’ problems on offense and his injury, the Mets could use Parra to play left or center. I know Venable plays center for the Padres, but that is more akin to the Mets playing Cedeno and Burnitz in center in 2003, i.e. poor roster construction rather than capability.

On top of the offense, Parra rates as a better bat. Parra has a triple slash line of .311/.345/.502 to Venable’s .258/.328/.408. I know Miller Park is a hitter’s park and Petco is a pitcher’s park, but Parra leads in OPS+ (130 to 108). For comparison, the Mets best offensive weapon this season, let alone outfielder is Granderson with .247/.344/.429 (OPS+ of 115).

So if the Mets make a move, Parra would be the prudent move. However, even if the Mets get him for a reasonable price, that still leaves holes at SS, LOOGY, and the bench. That’s why I again reiterate, there are too many moves that need to be made now. It is better to sit pat and maybe wait to see what is there in August.