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Archive for the ‘Mets’ Category

The Yankees lost out on another potential trade target when Gio Gonzalez was traded to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects. At the price the Nationals paid, the Yankees probably weren’t a player for Gonzalez anyway, so the trade really doesn’t alter the team’s offseason strategy. However, it does further an interesting development taking place around baseball, and particularly in the N.L. East.

Nationals' fans may get down on their knees after their team acquired widely coveted Gio Gonzalez. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are a variety of differing opinions on Gonzalez. Some believe he is gradually emerging as one of the best young arms in the game, while others suspect he may not be able to continue outperforming his relative inability to throw strikes. As with most young pitchers, it’s hard to predict what path Gonzalez will take in Washington, but regardless, the Nationals’ aggressive move speaks volumes about the internal view they have about their team as well as the economic boom taking place throughout the game.

When the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, we learned that Arte Moreno’s shopping spree was being funded by a new multi-billion television deal. Similarly, the Rangers aggressive spending since being sold to the ownership group fronted by Nolan Ryan has been linked to TV money. Now, it seems, we can also add the Nationals to that list.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Nationals are in the process of negotiating a new payout from MASN that could be substantially higher than the $29 million fee they currently receive. With the expectation of increased revenue, the Nationals’ decision to accelerate their rebuilding strategy makes perfect sense. Even though Gonzalez, who is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, won’t cost the Nationals much initially, the price in prospects was very steep. The team’s willingness to cash in so many future chips for instant gratification must mean the Nationals either think they are ready to contend now, or have the financial wherewithal to significantly expedite the process. When Washington broke the bank to sign Jayson Werth last year, many pundits scratched their heads, but clearly, the organization has adopted a very optimistic outlook. Even though GM Mike Rizzo probably already regrets the decision to sign Werth, it says a lot that he and owner Mark Lerner remain undeterred in their attempts to quickly improve the team.

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Recent times have not been kind to Fred Wilpon.

The last five seasons haven’t been very kind to the Mets. Whether on the field or in the board room, the team has been besieged by a myriad of unfortunate circumstances ever since Carlos Beltran was mesmerized by a Adam Wainwright curve ball to end the 2006 NLCS. Not surprisingly, the Mets’ hardship has led to much ridicule, particularly from the less compassionate segment of the Yankees’ fan base. Despite the dark days still ahead, however, there is every reason to think the Mets could still have the last laugh.

In the three years since Bernie Madoff’s massive securities fraud was uncovered, Fred Wilpon has been desperately trying to maintain his hold on the New York Mets. Despite insisting at the time that the scandal would have no impact on his ownership of the team, subsequent events have proven otherwise. Since that time, which, unfortunately for the Wilpons, coincided with poor play on the field and a corresponding decline in revenue, the current ownership group has relied on debt to remain afloat. According to a recent report in the Daily News, those loans are about to come due.

The team is not for sale, not a piece of it, not a part of it. We are not for sale. We have no reason to sell. We have other money. Just because you guys don’t know how much money we have, we have other money outside of this, from diversity.” – Fred Wilpon, quoted by the New York Times, December 17, 2008

Despite Fred Wilpon’s fervent desire to remain as majority owner of the Mets, the prospect of looming debt payments and even further deflated revenue in 2012 could soon force his hand (while creditors, and perhaps even the commissioner, slowly pry loose his fingers). As Frank McCourt has learned with the Dodgers, the weight of debt can become too much of a burden, especially when the alternative is selling out and making a handsome profit.

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Bobby Valentine is the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. For a franchise trying to overcome the perception of dysfunction, that might not have been the best decision. Valentine is alternately one of the most revered and hated managers in all of baseball, so his presence in the volatile powder keg of Red Sox Nation is sure to provide a spark. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is matter of wildly varying degrees of perspective.

Is Boston ready for the song and dance that usually accompanies Bobby Valentine? (Photo: AP)

During his long managerial career, Bobby Valentine has probably made as many enemies as he has won games. And, it hasn’t taken long for some of them to rear their heads. One former adversary, blogger-extraordinaire Murray Chass, recently suggested (with stats to back it up) the Red Sox hired themselves a bona fide loser. Of course, Chass’ post is dripping with personal dislike for Valentine, not to mention disdain for his former employer the New York Times, so his sentiments can be taken with a grain of salt. However, one element of Chass’ hit piece is based on truth: Valentine is a very unpopular figure because of his outspoken, often arrogant manner.

Even though a figure like Valentine in a media market like Boston could become a distraction, likability probably wasn’t item number one on the Red Sox’ wish list. Otherwise, there would have been no need to part company with Terry Francona. However, there is a strong indication of discord within the Red Sox’ organization. If GM Ben Cherington really did prefer Gene Lamont, but was overruled by Larry Lucchino, then the reports of dysfunction within the Red Sox hierarchy might actually be understated. With all the rumors swirling around the Nation, Valentine could turn out to be one of the least controversial figures in Boston over the next few months.

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Whenever a team is forced to play a doubleheader, the manager will usually express a universal lament about how difficult it is to win both games. No manager has been more vocal about this perceived dynamic than Joe Girardi, but is it really true?

Since the Yankees joined the American League as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, the team has played 1,746 doubleheaders, although a vast majority took place before the modern expansion era. Nonetheless, of that total, the Yankees wound up splitting (including games ending in a tie) or being swept in 1,150 (66%), which seems to lend credence to the age-old concern. Or does it?

Yankees Performance in Doubleheaders, 1901 to 2011

Source: Baseball-reference.com

On the surface, earning a sweep in only one of every three doubleheaders seems like a disadvantage, but how often do the Yankees win two games in a row anyway? One way to answer that question is to compare the Yankees’ franchise record in doubleheaders to the winning percentage compiled in single games. (more…)

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With the trade deadline drawing near and the Mets headed on a road trip that will last until August, Carlos Beltran’s fly out in the ninth inning of this afternoon’s game could turn out to be his last home at bat with the team. Realizing this possibility, what was left of the Citi Field crowd gave Beltran a nice round of applause, but one wonders if Mets fans truly appreciate how good the outfielder has been during his seven years in Flushing?

Although hampered at times by injury, Beltran has enjoyed a mostly productive tenure with the Mets. Based on WAR, he already ranks among the top position players in franchise history, despite having nearly 1,000 fewer plate appearances than many of the other leaders. With playing time factored into the equation, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that Carlos Beltran is the best Mets’ position player of all time.

Top-10 Mets’ Position Players, Ranked by Average WAR*

Player PA bWAR fWAR AvgWAR
Darryl Strawberry 4549 37.7 36.6 37.2
David Wright 4507 31.9 37.8 34.9
Carlos Beltran 3612 32 31.3 31.7
Jose Reyes 4644 27.5 32.4 30.0
Edgardo Alfonzo 4449 29.1 30.7 29.9
Mike Piazza 3941 24.6 30.2 27.4
Keith Hernandez 3684 26.5 27 26.8
Howard Johnson 4591 24.7 24 24.4
Cleon Jones 4683 17.6 23 20.3
John Stearns 3080 18.5 20.1 19.3

*AvgWAR = (bWAR + fWAR)/2
Source: baseball-reference.com (bWAR) and fangraphs.com (fWAR)

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Heading into the second half of the interleague schedule, the American League holds a 66-60 advantage over the National League. If that winning percentage holds, it will continue the senior circuit’s gradual improvement since losing over 60% of interleague contests in 2006.

Historical Interleague Records, By League

Note: Data as of June 23, 2011
Source: MLB.com

Most experts agree that the American League’s recent dominance of interleague matchups has been the result of having better players and stronger teams. Less clear, however, is whether one league or another enjoys an inherent interleague advantage, all else being equal.

For a recent article, I compiled aggregate data for all interleague-related plate appearances, which were defined as follows: DHs hitting in an AL park; pitchers hitting in a NL park; and pinch hitters batting in the ninth slot in a NL park. Not surprisingly, American League DHs posted an OPS that was 0.084 points higher, while National League pitchers outperformed by 0.070 OPS points.  What was interesting, however, is that when all of the relevant at bats were totaled, the combined performance was nearly identical. In other words, it seems as if neither league enjoys an overall advantage during interleague play.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Jose Reyes entered last night’s action as one of the hottest hitters in baseball, so naturally, the Atlanta Braves’ game plan centered on slowing the speedster down. Apparently, however, the team took that mandate just a bit too literally as even the grounds crew wound up getting in on the act.

The Braves were unsuccessful in their attempt to slow Jose Reyes down (Photo: AP).

There was nothing unusual about Jose Reyes’ infield single that led off yesterday’s game at Turner Field. It was not only the shortstop’s major league leading 95th hit, but also the 23rd time he started the first inning with a safety. In fact, Reyes’ early trip on the base paths was so far within the realm of reasonable expectations, the Braves had a surprise for the speedster lying in wait.

After reaching first base, Reyes barely avoided being nabbed on successive pickoff attempts by starter Jair Jurrjens. On both occasions, the Mets’ speedster spun out with his first step back to the bag, making it seem as if he was stuck in the mud. As things turned out, that’s exactly what happened.

Entering yesterday’s game, the Mets were second in the National League with 60 stolen bases, while the Braves were dead last with 19. Faced with such a significant speed gap, the Braves took a page out of gamesmanship 101 and instructed their groundskeeper to spend some extra time making sure the first base area was well lubricated for that evening’s game. Unfortunately for the Braves, however, first base umpire Bill Miller was not playing along.

After Reyes slipped for the second time, Miller halted the game and ordered that a drying agent be used to soak up some of the mud conveniently located just about where a base stealer would take his lead. After play resumed, Reyes promptly stole second base, providing justification for the Braves’ pre-game preparations. By the end of the night, the Mets had swiped four bags, including a second steal by Reyes.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t care. If it’s wet, I’m going to try and steal anyway. They can do whatever they want to.” – Jose Reyes, quoted in the New York Post, June 15, 2011

Although perhaps guilty of overzealousness, the Atlanta Braves aren’t the first team to accentuate strengths and minimize weaknesses by altering their home field. Throughout baseball’s colorful history, tailored mounds, slanted baselines, thick infield grass, roving fences and various other tactics have been frequently used to gain an edge. In fact, one of the most famous, and infamous, examples of creative field maintenance involved the very same approach used by the Braves against the Mets. What’s more, some people contend that the tactic helped decide the 1962 pennant. (more…)

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