12/18/18

From The Desk… HOF Voting, Dusty Baker, Jacob deGrom, Jeff Kent, The Shift

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Good morning.



Baseball Hall Of Fame's  Prestige Takes Another Hit –

Here are some names to keep in mind now that Baines is about to be enshrined. Steve Garvey. Dave Concepcion. Tommy John. Dave Parker. Dale Murphy. Don Mattingly. This is a partial list of players that Baines finished behind - some by a substantial margin - during his relatively short stint on the BBWAA ballot. Of that group, I'd set aside John, and put him on  higher plane - he lasted 15 years on the ballot, maintaining a significant level of voter support.

Mack – The sad part is there still is no movement to get Gil Hodges into the Hall. 18 seasons. 370 home runs. 1,274 runs batted in. .846 OPS. And the heart of the original Mets. Sad.


Baseball Legend Dusty Baker  Wants to Harness the Power of the Sun –

               
        The avuncular baseball legend, who played with Hank Aaron and managed Barry Bonds years before the Washington Nationals fired him in 2017, is competing in a new arena. His Baker Energy Team, a startup based outside Sacramento, California, is developing, pitching and working on large projects for historically black universities, cannabis-growing operations, tribal reservations and commercial businesses. He’s just come back from touring the site of a 15,000-square-foot estate in development that needs an energy plan.


Mets and Jacob deGrom   get down to business on contract –

                 
      According to an industry source, team officials convened with Jacob deGrom’s representatives at the winter meetings in the first step toward potentially locking up the ace right-hander to a long-term contract.
Team COO Jeff Wilpon and assistant general manager John Ricco were among those who participated in the discussions — GM Brodie Van Wagenen is not allowed in the talks because he was deGrom’s agent with CAA.

Mack – Good. The three most important ballplayers we need to sign and lock down are deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler


The 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot:   Jeff Kent –

                  
     Offense isn’t everything for a second baseman, however, and in a Hall of Fame discussion, it needs to be set in its proper context, particularly given the high-scoring era in which Kent played. Taking the measure of all facets of his game, he appears to have a weaker case with regards to advanced statistics than to traditional ones. On a crowded ballot chockfull of candidates with stronger cases on both fronts, he has struggled to gain support, topping out at 16.7% in 2017, his fourth year on the ballot.

Mack – Kent hit .290, 377-HR over 17 seasons. That’s HOF numbers.


Banning the shift  in MLB generates growing, heated baseball debate –

                 
      Major League Baseball’s competition committee recently gave Commissioner Rob Manfred a green light to explore ways to limit shifts. The reason: Manfred, and many others throughout baseball, believe the game’s slower pace and lack of action is hurting the product. The shift, they contend, is a major culprit.

Mack – I’m old school. I like two infielders on the right and two on the left. How can we determine how a second baseman plays his position defensively if half his territory is taken by the shortstop? This isn’t baseball to me. It’s building a wall.


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12/17/18

Open Thread -- Outfielder Rajai Davis

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The Mets announced today the signing of speedster Rajai Davis, career .261 hitter, to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  He trails only Jose Reyes and Ichiro Suzuki in stolen bases among active players.  The Mets represent his eight ballclub.  By March 23rd the team must either add him to the 40-man roster (a strong possibility) or pay him a $100,000 retention bonus as they did last season with Jose Lobaton.  
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Reese Kaplan -- BVW in Public and in Private

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It was exactly one week ago today I asked the rhetorical question of whether BVW's big mouth was a pro or a con for the Mets?  After all, he was playing out in the media the eventual Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade, making lots of noise publicly about the possibility of a JT Realmuto deal and seemingly showing his cards on every transaction under the sun.

What a difference a week makes!

First came the never-even-hinted-at signing of Jeurys Familia to provide a one-two late inning punch alongside Edwin Diaz.  There was nary a whisper except among some fans clamoring for a reunion with the former All-Star closer.  That one was done pretty much under the radar.

Then on the heels of that deal came the pretty much out of nowhere signing of Wilson Ramos which simultaenously put to bed the JT Realmuto rumors and the question about whether or not it was worth giving up a draft pick to sign Yasmani Grandal.  

So apparently BVW is capable of both making known his plans when it suits hie purposes and keeping them tightly under wraps when that's the way to go.  My apologies for having misjudged the man.  
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TOM BRENNAN - T.J. MCNEIL

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Let's sat you could sign a free agent infielder who has to date had 592 plate appearances, 544 official at bats, a .315 average, 47 extra base hits, and 8 of 9 steals.

He would be very highly sought after.

That "free agent" is actually a composite of T.J. Rivera and Jeff McNeil.

Many will say that neither has really proved himself, therefore they can't be counted on when we've got seasoned vets like .213 hitting Todd Frazier.

I say instead, show a little faith in these guys.

Yeah, yeah, I know the drill: one guy went undrafted.  Another was a 12th rounder.  Usually such guys are useless in terms of major league production. With such limited, even if highly productive, major league experience, we can't possibly count on them to be just as great in 2019, can we?

I say, "why not?"

"T.J. MCNEIL" IS MY GUY, AND I'M GOING WITH HIM!
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Reese Kaplan -- BVW Needs to Bolster the Bench

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While most of the attention is rightfully focused on who will be in the starting lineup and the bullpen, I got to thinking about the Mets bench in 2019 and who might reside there. 

Right off the bat, you figure there is now going to be a raging debate on the relative merits of keeping one of Kevin Plawecki and Travis d'Arnaud with yesterday's unexpected signing of Wilson Ramos to be the starting catcher.  It’s conceivable but highly unlikely they would carry three catchers given the tendency to go with 7-man bullpens.  Devoting two of five precious bench spots would be very difficult to do.

Next, you have the infielder position question.  If we assume for the moment that Todd Frazier is the starting third baseman, that would mean one of the bench slots must go to Jeff McNeil.  He’s left handed and thus far played both 2B and 3B in his career but not yet 1B, OF or SS. 

A similar player to Jeff McNeil is the long forgotten T.J. Rivera who may or may not be healthy enough to start the season.  Over the course of parts of two seasons Rivera has had 319 ABs with a .304 batting average, 8 HRs and 43 RBIs.  Unlike McNeil, Rivera has already logged some time at 1B and even 3 games in the OF.  Consider him something of a mirror image to the left handed hitting McNeil.

First base is a bit of a quandary as well.  As a betting man, I’m thinking Dom Smith gets a few weeks to showcase himself until the service time deadline passes and Peter Alonso ascends to the majors.  Another way to go would be to consider some combination of Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, TJ Rivera and Kevin Plawecki as adequate to tread water until the slugging rookie gets his ticket to Queens.

Outfield is most definitely a shortcoming for this club right now.  Until another move is made, Juan Lagares is penciled in to start in CF.  Consequently, there are NO natural outfielders on the roster worthy of a major league promotion.  One would think at least two more are needed with one a dedicated outfielder type and one perhaps a super utility who can play OF and also another position elsewhere on the diamond (Marwin Gonzalez, anyone?)  If they go with the four temporary horseman timesharing first base, then Dom Smith might be on the bench temporarily as an outfielder. 

So if the season started today the only players you could count on being ready 100% would include Kevin Plawecki, Jeff McNeil and Dom Smith.  Travis d’Arnaud and TJ Rivera are in DL-recovery limbo. 

Now there are some other players that have fallen by the wayside who could help, including Gavin Cecchini and Luis Guillorme.  Both are natural shortstops and even with Cecchini’s less-than-stellar performance there would still be quite an upgrade defensively over McNeil or Rivera. 

It will be interesting to see how BVW treats some of Sandy Alderson’s draft picks like Smith, Cecchini and Guillorme.  Thus far we have seen him peddle away Justin Dunn and Jared Kelenic already, so it would seem he wants to establish an identity of “his” guys.  Towards that end, we might see some of these minor pieces moved around to fulfill needs such as backup outfielder or middle reliever. 

It appears there is too much uncertainty with the catching situation and centerfield still up in the air, as well as question marks about the health of Lagares, Rivera and d’Arnaud to think that we’re even close to the roster that begins the season. 

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12/16/18

OPEN THREAD - C - Wilson Ramos

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The Mets have signed free agent catcher Wilson Ramos

It's a 2-year deal for a total of $19.5mil and comes with a 3rd year 2021 option.

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TOM BRENNAN - IS CITIFIELD A HITTERS' NIGHTMARE?

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The Mets hit well enough on the road in 2018.  

REAL WELL, IN FACT.

6th best at .252.  6th best in runs, too, at 402.   

Despite no DH.  

Amazing road hitting, I would conclude.  WOW!


But at home?  At "HOME"?

The Mets hit .215 at home.  Worst in baseball.  

Second worst San Diego hit .231 in their home park.

The Mets scored 274 runs at home.   Worst in baseball.

Some "HOME."  Some Home Field Advantage.


OH, AND THE BRONX BOMBERS?

THOSE FELLERS SCORED 453 RUNS AT HOME.  

179 MORE RUNS THAN THE METS IN THEIR HOME GAMES.

HOW ENTERTAINING.  FOR THE BRONX FANS.

On the road?  The Bronxians scored 398 runs and hit .238.

Worse than the Mets did on the road.


So, the Mets scored 128 more runs on the road than at home.

Bizarre differential. 

The Bronxites scored 55 more runs at home than the road.

Normal differential.


Overall wins and losses?  

The Bronxites were + 6 at home (53 wins vs. 47 on the road).

The Mets were -3 at home (37 at home, 40 on the road).

Even the awful Orioles won 9 more at home than on the road.

Some Mets home field "advantage."


Conclusion: something screwed up in Flushing.


Mr. Brodie, sir, wheel and deal, go ahead.

BUT FIX THE PARK CURSE TOO.
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Mack – Post Winter Meetings Observations

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Morning.


Some thoughts…

   1.     BVW came out of the box with an excellent beginning of the off season. Prospect lovers may not agree but:

a.     Robinson Cano is am upgrade at 2B

b.     Jeff McNeil is an upgrade at 3B

c.      Edwin Diaz is an upgrade at closer from everyone present and the ghost of Jeurys Familia.

Add Peter Alonso, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto and we now have six of the field positions set for 2019.

   2.     Things were pretty slow going into the end of the last night of the meetings. We all went to bed dreaming of sugar plums and Andrew Miller (no, I didn’t just call him…) and woke up with ‘Family’ back in the fold.

Jeuryrs Familia now joins Diaz as one the best one-two back end bullpen punches in baseball and, added to the already stellar starting rotation.
The great news here is, trade wise, we traded Familia last year for a genuine third base prospect (Will Toffey) and… Familia.

   3.     The Rule V draft brought us four new minor leaguers.

The Mets chose 25-year old flamethrower, RHSP Kyle Dowdy (from Cleveland) in the Rule V draft. He was a 12th round draft pick with the Tigers and was traded mid-season last year to the Indians. Throws in the high 90s but always has been a high ERA/WHIP guy. 3 season total:  3.99/1.33. A Met insider told one of the Mack’s Mets writers that the Mets pitching brain trust think they saw something that can be corrected here and allow them to convert him from an unsuccessful starter to a productive mid-inning reliever.

In the minor league portion of the draft, the Mets have selected outfielder Braxton Lee from the Marlins. He's a 25-year old speedster with basically no power. Best year was 2017 where he hit .309/20-SB in AA. Like Dilson Herrera, a good minor league player to fill an open slot. Going into the draft, the Mets had only three outfielders on their AAA board: Tim Tebow, Keven Kaczmarski, Kevin Taylor
Also in the minor league portion of the draft, the Mets selected 29-year old RHP Chris Mazza from the Marlins. He pitched very well as a starter in 2017 for the AA-Miami affiliate and was then converted to a relieve in 2018 where he went 13-G, 4-starts, for 3-teams, 2-1, 2.55, 1.11. I’m slotting into Syracuse since he finished last season at that level with decent numbers (7-app, 3.94), though he WHIP was a bloated 1.63 (16-IP, 8-BB).

And the last player chosen in the minor league portion was 26-year old C Mitch Ghelfi from the LAAASLV (Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim Soon To Be Las Vegas) chain. His combined A+/AA stats last year were 1520-AB, .237/.289/,341/631, 3-HR, 19-RBI. His last full time season was 2016 (402-AB) so I assume he has become a backup looking forward. That’s fine. We need three catchers per affiliate. For now, I put him on the Binghamton spring training team, battling out with Ali Sanchez, Jose Garcia, and Dan Rizzie. Loser goes back to Lucy.

So… what are my final observations?

1.     On the bright side, we improved at second base (Cano over McNeil), third base, (McNeil added to Frazier), closer (Diaz over the departed Familia) and 8th inning relief pitcher (Familia over everyone else on the staff. That’s four of the 25 slots available.

2.     On the gloomy side, we left town without a new center fielder, catcher and third relief pitcher.

3.     We lost two of top prospects (Dunn, Kelenic) but we all know that prospects prove nothing until they do it at the major league level. In return, we got back a future HOF second basemen and one of the top five closers in the business.

4.     There is one more ray of hope here. Not many players cut a deal for a new uniform leaving a shite load of free agents available to sign before opening day.

5.     Everyone in baseball said that no one moved faster in the halls than BVW. We seem to have a whirlwind here.

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12/15/18

Tom Brennan - DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE!

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Tom Brennan - DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE!

Defense is often the forgotten ingredient in what makes a team successful.  

Or unsuccessful.

The Mets D in 2018?  Kind of middle of the road, but not terrible.  Let's briefly look at some team stats:


Fielding % - Houston's Astros had a remarkable .989 ratio, with just 63 errors.  Surprisingly, St Louis was the worst at .978, with 133 errors.  

The Mets?  Tied for 13th at a low 88 errors (.985).


Unearned runs?  Houston excelled at just 33, but the Mets were close at just 46.  Detroit was worst at 70 unearned runs.


Passed balls - surprisingly, two of the best teams (Boston and NYY) led with 25, while the lowly Reds allowed just 6.  

The Mets impressed with just 9.


Wild pitches?  Pittsburgh led with 95 passed balls.  

Lowest team, with just 26?  The Mets!!!  

Between passed balls and wild pitches, the Mets catchers?  Pretty darned good. Of course the pitchers get much credit too. Lousy pitch placement adds to wild pitches and passed balls.


Stolen bases allowed, though?  The range was again wide, 136 for the worst team, 46 for the best (Grandal's LA Dodgers).   

The Mets allowed 134, a very close second, while gunning down just 36 (LAD nailed 33, so their caught stealing rate was 42% - the Mets' rate?  A paltry 21%.   That's gotta hurt.  How much due to catcher throwing weakness, how much due to pitcher carelessness or inability?  You tell me.


DER - MLB.com has this stat, which it defines as follows:

Defensive Efficiency Ratio is the rating of team defensive outs recorded in defensive opportunities. To determine Defensive Efficiency Ratio for a team, divide the total number of hits in play allowed (subtracting home runs and times reached on error) by the total number of defensive opportunities (all balls hit into play, not including home runs), and subtract from one: 1-(((H+ROE)-HR)/(PA-(SO+HBP+HR))) 

The best DER was .717 (Oakland).  The worst was .675 (Baltimore).  

The Mets were 17th (.691).


Message to Brodie: 

While building a winning team, defense matters, too.  

The Mets were middle of the road in 2018.  

One goal should be to improve there in 2019.  

Not just improve the offense and pen.

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Reese Kaplan -- Baseball-Reference NOT Liking Mets

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So a great many folks think I’m overly harsh in my assessment of the team.  Let’s try to use a more reasonable evaluation based upon some people with greater analytical abilities such as BaseballReference.com.

If this is the projected lineup going into 2019, then here are the numbers we can expect:

First Base
Dom Smith – 22/57/.210
Todd Frazier – 22/63/.216
Peter Alonso – no projection, but mine would be .235/30/82

Second Base
Robinson Cano – 16/60/.275

Shortstop
Amed Rosario – 10/46/.258 with 10 SBs

Third Base
Jeff McNeil – 7/30/.289 (but only expected to do that in 291 ABs, so you could roughly double that)

Catcher
Travis d’Arnaud – 8/28/.241 (but only expected to do that over 224 ABs)

Outfield
Brandon Nimmo – 14/47/262 with an OBP of .380
Juan Lagares – 5/21/.251 over 235 ABs
Michael Conforto – 25/74/.250

Starting Rotation
Jacob deGrom – 10-9, 2.76
Noah Syndergaard – 10-6, 3.21
Zack Wheeler – 9-8, 3.83
Steven Matz – 6-10, 4.19
Jason Vargas – 9-9, 4.65

Bullpen
Edwin Diaz – 2-4, 3.03 and 30 saves
Jeurys Familia – 5-4, 3.52 and 14 saves
Seth Lugo – 5-4, 3.60
Robert Gsellman – 6-4, 4.29
Drew Smith – 2-2, .3.92
Daniel Zamora – 2-1, 3.90

So it would seem that in comparison to the baseball experts, my outlook for the team is positively rosy.  I think they greatly underestimated what Cano, Rosario and Nimmo will provide.  They’re slightly under on Conforto and McNeil.  They are probably on target with Frazier, Smith, Lagares and d’Arnaud.  On the pitching side of the ledger they appear to be wildly underestimating the results and the wins totals in particular are disturbing. 

Obviously although the Winter Meetings are over, it doesn’t mean the trading season and free agent signing period has ended.  Theoretically groundwork has been laid in person with a great many targets and there’s no reason to assume that if they never spoke to a player such as Luis Avilan it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t.

So we’re back to the question of whether or not this team is ready to compete for the post-season?  Now, with BaseballReference.com’s analysis supporting me, take another look and tell me what you foresee for the 2019 season.  Even if the site’s glass half-empty view is way off base, let’s see what an realistic view might look like:

First Base
Peter Alonso –35/90/.260

Second Base
Robinson Cano – 25/75/.285

Shortstop
Amed Rosario – 20/64/.270 with 30 SBs

Third Base
Jeff McNeil – 18/70/.290

Catcher
Travis d’Arnaud – 18/65/.260

Outfield
Brandon Nimmo – 20/70/.275 with an OBP of .400
Juan Lagares – 8/40/.265
Michael Conforto – 30/85/.270

Starting Rotation
Jacob deGrom – 14-9, 2.35
Noah Syndergaard – 13-6, 2.89
Zack Wheeler – 12-10, 3.35
Steven Matz – 10-10, 3.49
Jason Vargas – 9-9, 4.65

Bullpen
Edwin Diaz – 2-4, 2.76 and 40 saves
Jeurys Familia – 5-4, 3.15 and 14 saves
Seth Lugo – 5-4, 3.50
Robert Gsellman – 6-4, 4.00
Drew Smith – 2-2, .3.50
Daniel Zamora – 2-1, 3.90

So these projections of my own are considerably better, but it still seems that there’s work to be done to improve the roster.  No one can guarantee that Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud will actually stay healthy enough to produce at their levels. 

So again, with about $20 million to spend, how would you make it a stronger team more likely to ascend to the post-season?  I’m still serious about playing the tie a bad contract to a desirable resource game to free up some more money to address the needs properly.  Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas and Juan Lagares all fit into this $9 million+ salary dump picture.  If someone comes calling and wants a guy like Andres Gimenez then insist they take along one of this tragic triumvirate.  Then you get back both a player or players in return in the deal AND you gain some extra money for the next deal, be it now or at mid-season if indeed you are close to serious contention. 

If you want to spend what you have right now, I’m not a fan of going after Yasmani Grandal.  After pillaging the minor leagues, giving up another draft pick to sign him (not to mention the AAV of the contract and the term of it) wouldn’t seem terribly prudent.  I am also dead set against squandering $6 million per year or more on a guy with a career batting average in striking distance of Todd Frazier but without the power.  No Maldonado for me.  I’d sooner roll the dice on the no-compensation choice of Wilson Ramos and hope that half a season of him and half a season of d’Arnaud would be livable. 

As far as centerfield goes, you most definitely need a reinforcement there.  Even if Lagares miraculously stays healthy and maintains his new batting approach, they are down to three outfielders.  Adam Jones had an off year offensively and his CF days are pretty much over.  You could trot him out there a’la Curtis Granderson, but unless he’s willing to take a major pay cut on a very short term deal, move along. 

I’d be much more interested in acquiring the lefty Michael Brantley who made only $11.5 last season in Cleveland and is well known to manager Mickey Callaway.  Last year they trotted out Nimmo, Conforto and Bruce.  While the latter didn’t produce as desired, it wasn’t as if his left handedness was the problem.  I want teams to get out of this mindset that lefties can only hit righties and vice versa.  You face far more righties than you do lefties, so it would make sense to tip the scales in your favor with a lefty-heavy lineup.  I would then live with Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto in CF.

For the pen, yes, Andrew Miller would seem to be a primary target but then you go into the season with an injury-recovering high-priced player and Daniel Zamora from the southpaw side.  Might it make more sense to go after the healthier and cheaper Oliver Perez, Luis Avilan and/or Tony Sipp?

So now that you have the numbers, both pessimistic and realistic, are you optimistic? 

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