Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Any discussion of the Mets feels like we should be playing Darth Vader’s March from The Empire Strikes Back in the background. (Da-da-da, da-de-da, da-de-da...) The Mets, not the bland and forgettable Braves, are the Evil Empire of the NL.
I grudgingly give the Mets credit for assembling a pretty darn good team in Queens. When the Mets began their spending spree after the 2004 season I remembered when the Mets spent big bucks after the ’01 season and saw their team utterly implode in '02. ("We got Mo Vaughn! How can we fail?") Has history repeated itself?
No. The Mets have made some shrewd deals and are playing some good baseball. Going into today's game the Mets are 21-10. Ironically enough they had the Phillies record, 17-14, at this point last year. The Mets are scoring runs, pitching well and playing good defense. This is a strong team. Probably the best in the NL right now.
We’ll have to see if their mega-deal with Carlos Beltran is a wise investment over the long term, but this season Beltran is playing well: .316 GPA, .315 ISO … I like the fact that he is hitting for power and still has more walks than strikeouts. The Bill James Handbook thinks Beltran will end his career with around 400 home runs and 400 steals …
Carlos Delgado is to me, the piece that completes the Mets puzzle. Delgado is a terrific bat and gives the Mets what they’ve been lacking: a power-hitting first baseman. In 2005 the Mets First Basemen had a slugging percentage of just .391 and an OBP of .303, both worst in the NL. The Mets also ranked dead-last in Runs Created per 27 Outs for 1Bs and thirteenth in isolated power (ISO).
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
This season? The Mets 1Bs are third in RC27, second in ISO, seventh in OBP and third in slugging percentage. Delgado is giving the Mets a major presence in the middle of their lineup and has given David Wright and Carlos Beltran protection.
In terms of pitching, the Mets have been a mild surprise: you expect Pedro, today's starter, to be the Mets stud pitcher and he’s continuing to live up to the hype. Tom Glavine is a surprise however: he’s leading the NL right now in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the NL ahead of the Phillies Cory Lidle and his old teammate, Greg Maddux. Glavine is forty this season, but he’s turning in a great performance after some shaky years after he left the Braves.
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
Glavine is a big reason why the Mets pitching staff is leading the NL in team FIP.
Billy Wagner has been a decent acquisition as their reliever, but I think he might be starting to slow down. (Eight walks and three home runs allowed in seventeen innings? Shame, Billy.) No doubt his accusations that the Phillies hated him and Pat Burrell called him a "rat" will fire the Phils up even more to face him.
The Mets staff is also benefiting from some strong performances from the Mets position players in the field. The Fielding Bible’s Plus / Minus system put at the Mets at -20 in 2005, twenty-second in the MLB. The Mets were weak everywhere in 2005, and that was with super-fielder Doug Mientkiewicz playing first. This year, however, the Mets seem to be playing some solid defense. Delgado might be a downgrade at first defensively, but I don’t think that is a big deal because I don’t think he is as bad as his reputation suggests. Overall, I think the Mets are better because Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran are healthy. At the moment the Mets are +13 and are fifth in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER).
Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
Do the Mets have staying power? I doubt it. Sure Pedro and Glavine are throwing well, but the Mets rotation is pretty weak. The Phillies actually have a deeper rotation than they do: I'd rather have Cory Lidle as my No.3 starter than Steve Traschel, and Ryan Madson is better than Victor Zambrano any day of the week. I'd actually give a slight edge to the Phillies in the pitching department and I suspect that once the Phillies break out of whatever fielding slump (dead-last in DER, dead-last in Plus / Minus) they are in we'll have the better defense as well. Offensively, the Mets are pretty formitable, but I think that the Phillies are a little deeper here too.
The Phillies enter the game with an eight game winning streak, the team's best since 1991, when they won 13 in a row. I think the Phillies will surprise most people and take two out of three games here. Let's see.