Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Know Thy Enemy III: The Mets 

So what is up with my fixation on the Mets this season? (Click here for Part I, click here for Part II) Simply put, I suspected that the Mets were going to be the Phillies main competition for the NL East title this season and so far it looks like I’m right: the Braves are slip-sliding out of contention faster than I can spell words like “egocentric”, “self-aggrandizing” and “arrogant”, words I used frequently in my review of Braves G.M. John Schuerholz’s book.

So the NL East is fast shaping up to be a two horse race, with the Phillies straining to catch up with the Mets. Tonight’s three game set will be important because the Phillies have a terrific opportunity to make up some of the six and a half games they trail. Let’s look to see how both teams are doing head-to-head:

Pitching: The conventional wisdom is that the Mets have a much, much better pitching staff than the Phillies. They, after all, have Pedro and Tom Glavine. I don’t buy it. Statistically, the Phillies aren’t much off the Mets:

Mets: 4.16 (3rd)
Phillies: 4.37 (5th)
League: 4.40

* 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). Both teams have surrendered roughly the same number of home runs, but the Mets get roughly one more strikeout a game while the Phillies surrender a third of a walk fewer per game. The Phillies rotation has some holes but it is getting straightened out. I think Ryan Madson might hit his stride soon, and Cole Hamels has shown real talent (after walking 9 batters in his first two starts he’s allowed just four in his last two, easing my fear that he’s a walk machine). The big surprise has been the terrific play of reliever Tom Gordon, who has out-played Billy Wagner by a mile this season.

The success that the Mets have had has been in keeping the ball in the park and limiting the opposition in their efforts to advance extra bases. I think this illustrates that point well:

Slugging Percentage* Allowed:
Mets: .382 (1st)
Phillies: .448 (15th)
League: .424

* Slugging Percentage: Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)

Part of that has been the sterling play of the Mets fielders, especially compared with the Phillies:

Mets: .713 (6th)
Phillies: .680 (15th)
League: .697

* 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. The Phillies have really, really struggled defensively in 2006 and I am baffled as to why. The Mets are much better, though I am mildly surprised to now see them closer to the top in DER.

Offensively, there really isn’t a whole lot seperating the two teams.

Mets / Phillies / League Average
OBP: .332 / .333 / .334
SLG: .444 / .434 / .424
ISO: .181 / .178 / .162
BA RISP: .260 / .237 / .266
R/G: 5.24 / 4.98 / 4.78

What was significant to me as I jotted those numbers down was the fact that the Mets and Phillies are doing the same things well (hitting with power) and struggling at the same phases of the game (getting on base to a certain extent and hitting with runners in scoring position). The Mets have a slight edge across the board. They aren’t really playing up to their potential, but they are playing some good baseball. Carlos Delgado has been a major upgrade for the Mets at first, a position they struggled with in the past. Delgado, Wright and Beltran make a fearsome middle of the order, every bit as good as the Phillies foursome of Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard.

Conclusions: This will be a hard-fought series and the Phillies had better play well. They need to make up ground before the All-Star Break and they won’t get a chance to play the Mets again until August 4th. Win now, get some breathing room.

Mike - nice post. I agree this is an important series, if for no other reason than to give the team (and the fans) hope that they can stay close to the Mets. Beltran is on fire right now, so they'll have to be careful with him.

We all know the starting pitching will make or break the Phillies for the rest of the season. I agree that Madson is looking better and hopefully Hamels can continue to improve (he's unbelievably talented). Besides one really bad outing recently, Myers has been terrific. However, it feels like every Myers outing is a must win for the Phillies because the rest of the rotation has been so incredibly inconsistent (read mostly BAD).

It sure would be nice to have a healthy Lieber and Wolf to provide some veteran leadership (along with Lidle). Lieber, Myers, Lidle, Wolf, and Hamels sounds pretty nice (with Madson as a fill in or working the 7th inning)...let's just hope we get there (and still are within striking distance).
I wonder about DER and FIP. For those numbers to be meaningful for comparison's sake, you have to assume that all balls put into play have an equal chance to be caught, until the differing abilities of a team's fielders come into play. This idea is, at the least, counter-intuitive. It also means that differences in players' batting averages, once you adjust for differing strikeout and HR rates, are also just a matter of luck. Steve Jeltz and Pete Rose then beome equal, at least until you adjust for factors other than BA.

The Mets have enough weak defensive players-Delgado, Wright, and Floyd stand out-that I question whether they're really a better defenive team than the Phillies.
Your blog is very very good. I would love you to vist self hypnosis and let me know what you think. Thanks
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