2007 Sabermetric Year In Review: New York Mets

Ummm… well… when your team does something that makes Bill Simmons re-write his Levels of Losing piece, it’s generally not a good thing.  I can’t even begin to imagine the horror and inglory of it all.  Not only did the Mets go from dusting off “Let’s Go Mets” in the summer to routinely snatching defeat from the very jaws of victory time after time (and to extend the metaphor sounding more like “Gets Metsmerized“), but the Yankees(!) somehow snuck into the playoffs too.  Stop #13 (see, even that’s unlucky), is in Queens to take a look at the year that was 2007 for the New York Mets.
(And yes, I read Bill Simmons.  He’s hilarious.)
Record: 88-74, 2nd in NL East (it looks so sterile when you put it that way)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula):  86.38 wins (804 runs scored,  750 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Take the 7 Train
More Mets Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status
Trade Rumors
Overview: The Mets.  Third highest payroll in baseball.  For what it’s worth, the Mets 2007 collapse can be taken as a lesson in how much the concept of luck works in baseball.  It’s unlikely that a team like the Mets would have lost that many games in that short a period of time and that the Phillies would have done the reverse.  Sometimes, in baseball, weird things happen.  If the Mets had gone on a similar slump in the middle of the year, no one would write poetry about it.  The Mets in mid-September were projected as having a 99% chance of making the playoffs by Baseball Prospectus.  Only in 1 out of 100 universes would they not have made it.  Sadly, Mets fans, you just happen to live in that one.
What went Wright: Hehe.  Well, that David Wright is a mighty fine baseball player.  The question is how good.  He’s been tossing up .900+ OPS seasons since he was 22.  He looks like he’s a good bet to hit 30-35 HR per year for a while, but unlike the “raw power only” folks where, he hits line drives and has a high BABIP.  The stolen base numbers are a little deceptive.  Yeah, he’s fast, although my speed scores have him just a bit above average, once you take into account things like going from first to third on a single, etc.  Still, if you had to pick a player right now around whom you’d like to build a team, he might not be at the top of the list, but he deserves to be somewhere in that conversation.
I hadn’t realized that the Mets got John Maine (and unfortunately, Jorge Julio) for Kris Benson.  Maine goes in the “What Went Right” column not because he had an amazing season or because I think he’s a future Hall of Famer.  He gets in because of all the Mets pitchers who somehow got the team into contention with smoke and mirrors, Maine is the one who somehow looked good doing it.  He does strike out almost a hitter per inning, but he’s rather inefficient in the use of his pitches.  Take a look at his game log and see that although he usually logged 100 pitches, rarely was he able to last into the 7th inning.  He had a “breakout” season with those 15 years, but in adolescence I had a few breakouts too.  Maine was his team’s best starting pitcher by VORP, which put him 45th in the league.  So, the Mets were operating with a #2 starter as their “ace.”  Maybe that’s why they want to get that Joahn guy.
What went wrong: Then again, the Mets’ top three starters were ranked #45 (Maine), #46 (El Duque), and #56 (Glavine), so they had a bunch of #2 guys in their rotation.  But, the Mets problem was clear even to the non-Sabermetrically inclined.  Bullpen was fine.  Line up was a bit over-priced (the Mets are starting to remind me of that other New York team).  The rotation is in a sad state of decline.  Tom Glavine’s strikeout rate has been sllllllllowly declining (with a small spike in 2006).  El Duque walks almost four per nine innings.  Oliver Perez is over four, and Maine was at 3.5.  Walks mean more pitches.  More pitches mean fewer innings for the starters.  That means more of a workload for the bullpen.  In other words, the Mets need to get some starters.  Plural.
Yeah, that about sums it up: Chan Ho Park got a start for the Mets.
Lastings Milledge… is he the next Alex Escobar?: Well, after all the talk for the last few years about Lastings Milledge and all the trades in which he was supposed to be included, he gets traded to the Nationals for… Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.  Last time the Mets went through this with an over-hyped outfield prospect, Alex Escobar, they got the twilight years of Robbie Alomar’s career.  Escobar was last seen as a part-timer at the home of failed can’t-miss prospects, RFK Stadium.  Does the same fate await Milledge?  I don’t think so.  Milledge hits line drives at one of the best rates in baseball, although he does strike out a little too much.  Still, Baseball Prospectus has him projected as about a 30 VORP player for each of the next 5 years, and by that point, he’ll hit age 27.  Those type of players don’t grow on trees.  The Mets goofed on this one.  I’m sure that the rap song made some stomachs turn, but the Mets have won a World Championship with some less-than-desirable characters before.
Damion Easley, the great mirage: Every year, it surprises me that Damion Easley is still in baseball.  Sure, he’s not bad (his OPS+ has hovered around the high 80’s and low 90’s) and he’s usually only slotted in as a sub/utility infielder.  The problem is that last year, it looked like he was having a Rennaisance (the word means “re-birth”) with the Mets.  What happened between Easley’s sub-par 2006 season with Arizona and his .280/.358/.466 season in 2007?  Did you say a significant jump in his BABIP rate, well above his recent career average?  If you did, you win a cookie (note: no actual cookies will be awarded).  Easley’s .297 easily (I’ve been waiting to use that) outpaced his recent figures of .247, .261, and .233.  Other than that, there’s not a lot of difference between the two years.  Easley is nothing more than a man who got a little lucky last year.  In fact, there’s one difference that I would draw the reader’s attention to.  He amassed 220 PA with Arizona in 2006 and 218 PA with the Mets in 2007.  His competition for second base playing time was Luis Castillo and Jose Valentin.  Think maybe the Mets knew something about what they were doing?
Pedro?: Remember when the Mets signed Martinez to that multi-year deal and people said “In the last few years, he’ll be hurt and the Mets will really regret over-paying him that much…”  Welcome to the last few years.  Take a look at his Pitch f/x profile and weep.  The fastball tops out at a pedestrian 86 mph.  He’s still varying his arm angles, and he can still get a little spin on the ball, but part of what made Pedro so effective was the 96 mph fastball and then the 73 mph curve that followed.  It wasn’t fair to subject hitters to that, but it’s how he managed to go by one name through most of the 90s.  Even if he’s healthy, Pedro hasn’t been Pedro in a while.  With Glavine returning to Atlanta, El Duque needing carbon dating, and Pedro something of a mystery, there’s talk of main set up man Aaron Heilman as a possible new member of the rotation.
Outlook: Johan Santana to the Red Sox would be just a move to keep him from the Yankees.  Johan to the Yankees would make sense, but everyone (including me) would whine that the Yankees were at it again.  Santana to the Mets would actually make sense.  The apparent package of latest report is Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez (two speedy CF who post low OBP numbers) and three right-handed starters of some promise.  (Is anyone else seeing eerie parallels to the Frank Viola deal from a few years back?)  Santana won’t solve all of the Mets problems, unless he’s willing to start every other day.

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7 Responses to 2007 Sabermetric Year In Review: New York Mets

  1. Pizza,
    I just finished plugging every NL/AL SP into my SP Effectiveness System and here are the top four starters from the Mets, Phillies, and Braves.
    A score of 50+ equates to having a true “Ace” season. +36 to +49 is a #2 SP season. +27 to +35 is a #3 SP season. +15 to +26 is a #4 SP season. From +1 to +14 is a #5 SP season. After that, 0 and negative numbers are guys who should not have been in the rotations or were not very effective for their team – whether it be due to injury, poor pitching, or not getting enough time out there.
    I’ve also included their overall rank of the 73 NL Pitchers used.
    METS
    17) Glavine, +43
    18) Perez, +41
    21) Maine, +35
    35) O. Hernandez, +26
    PHILLIES
    5) Hamels, +65
    23) Kendrick, +34
    30) Moyer, +28
    32) Lohse, +27
    BRAVES
    2) Smoltz, +69
    7) Hudson, +63
    54) James, +6
    62) Carlyle, -1
    When we look at that, it tells us that the Mets were using 2 #2 Starters (Glavine, Perez), a #3 Starter (Maine), and a #4 Starter (Hernandez).
    The Phillies had a #1 in Hamels, and 3 #3 Starters in Kendrick, Moyer, Lohse. Eaton was at -5.
    The Braves had TWO #1’s in Smoltz and Hudson but after that they had a #5 in James and a #6 in Carlyle.
    So, the Mets did not have an ace and still came within one game of the playoffs, however the season ended.
    It just shows you what sort of an effect an Ace or #1 can really have. Other than the Phillies having Hamels as a clear-cut Ace, their rotation was strikingly similar to the Mets. And, the Braves rotation was top-heavy but then very ineffective after that.

  2. Joe says:

    Pedro deserves some more credit here, he doesn’t have the speed anymore but he knows how to pitch, I guarantee a solid year out of him if he doesn’t get hurt again.

  3. The “if he doesn’t get hurt again” is why he won’t get as much credit as many think he deserves.
    I completely agree that, if healthy, Pedro is a dominant pitcher – but he is a question mark. My feeling is he needs at least 18 starts to have a significant effect on the Mets.

  4. I’m gonna have to agree with Eric here. Despite the fact that there was no clear cut ace on the team, they had a far more talented pitching staff than they are being credited with.
    John Maine gets a lot of warranted credit for the positive aspects of the season. But make no mistake about it, the most dominating pitcher was indeed Oliver Perez. His walk numbers are highly misinterpreted. There were a couple of games which he allowed an absurd amount of walks. However, no one was more important to the staff. No one has as much upside either.
    This isn’t going to cover the fact that the starters had issues consistently making it to through the 7th inning. Even though that can also be attributed to poor fielding. The team as a whole, did not get it done.
    Last, I must correct you on Pedro Martinez. After a terrible 2006 series of injuries, Pedro returned from surgery and rehab. During his starts, he very clearly became stronger with each pitch. He seemed like he didn’t miss much of a beat at all. 32 ks in 28 innings, 7 BB allowed, 0 HR allowed, and all of this was done while limiting his pitch count. Also, he did NOT “…top out at a pedestrian 86 mph…”. Pedro topped out at 93mph. He only did that once in his entire return. The rest of the time, he topped out at 92 mph.
    So to think that the Mets are getting anything less than a star pitcher is short-sighted. There are hardly any Mets fans who will regret signing Pedro Martinez, if any at all.

  5. Pizza Cutter says:

    Having a bunch of #2’s is a decent way to build a staff. It’s possible that Pedro’s pitch f/x profile is based on an earlier start in which he wasn’t as strong. It occurs to me that Shea probably isn’t a pf/x park, so point well taken there.

  6. Np Captain Cutter. Mets fans, like myself, have to be picky about where our good points of the season were, lol.

  7. Mike Fast says:

    Pizza,
    The PITCHf/x data for Pedro comes from four of his five starts in September: 9/3 at Cincinnati, 9/9 vs Houston, 9/15 vs Philadelphia, and 9/21 at Florida. There is no PITCHf/x data from his final start on 9/27 vs St. Louis.
    His top fastball speed from those four starts came in at 90, 90, 90, and 88 mph on PITCHf/x. It looks based on Josh Kalk’s corrected data that the raw data is about 1 mph slow.
    The data that Josh has up on his player cards already contains park corrections, and there it looks like Pedro tops out around 91.

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