Friday, March 16, 2007
The 2007 New York Mets are going to be the Phillies chief competition for the N.L. East crown and they will put up a fight. The ’06 Mets basically ran away with the division, putting nine games between them and the second-place Phillies from June 7 to June 26, and basically holding off the field by ten or more games for the rest of the season. The mighty Mets wouldn’t get stopped until the playoffs, when they ran into a team with much better pitching than they had to offer, the Cardinals. But the ’07 Mets are back with (basically) the same nucleus and have the potential to repeat their 97-65 record from ’06.
I. The Offense. The ’06 Mets were potent, scoring 834 runs, third-best in the N.L., after the Phillies (865) and the Braves (849). The Mets did a lot of things well at the plate, hitting 200 home runs and stealing 146 bases in 2006. The Mets offense was a nice balance between power (their isolated power at the plate was second-best in the N.L.) and speed (they led the N.L. in steals by an impressive 18). I suspect that the Mets are going to be just as strong in 2007 as they were in 2006. They return their starting lineup with a few upgrades. Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright return, along with Jose Reyes. All four players had 100+ Runs Created in 2006.
Beltran is the key player for the Mets. Personally, I think that he will be the N.L. MVP for 2007 because he is going to have a great year and the New York Media is going to magnify that for all of the world to see. It is hard not to be impressed by Beltran. He hit 41 home runs and had 80 extra-base hits. He stole 18 of the 21 bases he tried. He had 125 Runs Created, with a GPA of .323 and an Isolated Power number of .319. For being a power hitter, Beltran draws a lot of walks and doesn’t strikeout much. He’s a great base-runner, rating a +21 from Bill James. And he’s a great defensive presence in the outfield, committing just two errors in 2006 against 13 assists. Ryan Howard might be the best pure hitter in baseball, but Carlos Beltran is the best all-around player, better even than Albert Pujols.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
New additions include Moises Alou and Shawn Green. Green joined the Mets late in the ’06 as part of a trade with the Diamondbacks and Alou fled the Giants after two seasons. Both will be productive hitters, no doubt, but you do have to wonder about their durability: Alou is 40 and Green in 34. Combined, Alou and Green and the rest of the Mets returning lineup gives the Mets major power:
After their murderers row, there is catcher Paul Lo Duca and second baseman Jose Valentin, two capable hitters. Lo Duca is a solid hitting catcher who tends to see his production fall off in the second halves of seasons due to the fact that he spends weeks squatting in the dirt in the hot sun at the start of the season. I’m not a big fan of Lo Duca’s personally: he swings at too many pitches.
II. Pitching. This is an area where the 2007 Mets will be very, very weak. Their best pitcher is Tom Glavine, who will be 41 on Opening Day and has hurled well over 4,000 innings in his career. The #2 starter is Orlando Hernandez, who people think is 37 (although his exact date of birth is a mystery as I recall). After that the Mets have John Maine, a pitcher who inspires fear in … well, nobody. Pedro Martinez, their big-time pitcher and one of their key acquisitions in 2004, probably won’t return to the mets in 2007 and may not ever return. By the way, Pedro is 35. This is a thin rotation and I anticipate seeing the Mets raid some downtrodden team during the season to pry loose a starter.
Bottom-line, the Mets starting rotation is a major flaw and will be their biggest obstacle to winning the N.L. East again. Hernandez and Glavine are old, Martinez might be gone forever, and Maine and the rest of their rotation can best be described as journeymen. Compared with the Phillies revamped rotation of Garcia, Hamels, Myers, Moyer and Eaton, the Mets don’t stand a chance.
Luckily for the Mets, they do have an outstanding bullpen. In fact, the Mets bullpen had the best ERA in the N.L. in 2006, led by former Phillie Billy Wagner, who saved 40 of 45 games for the Mets in ’06. Bolstered by talented set-up men like Corey Bradford, a major figure from Moneyball, the Mets boast a formidable bullpen that will give them chances to win games, should the Mets enter the late innings with a lead.
III. Defense. The ’06 Mets were outstanding defensively, ranking just behind the San Diego Padres in terms of Defense Efficiency Ratio* at .706. Reyes played good shortstop for the mets, but the key to the team was their outstanding center fielder, Carlos Beltran, who might be the most complete player in the majors. Beltran committed just two errors all season long (.995 fielding percentage) and had 13 assists to his credit. He has a fearsome arm and excellent skills. He ranked sixth in terms of Plus / Minus by John Dewan and was the top center fielder in The Fielding Bible awards for 2006. With Beltran, the Mets will always be a good team.
* 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.
IV. Outlook. Can the Mets repeat their 97-65 season this year? I am skeptical that a team can approach 100 wins again with such a weak starting rotation. The Mets offense might be more dangerous than the Phillies, but the Phillies have clearly gained the superior starting pitching and that gives them the edge they need. I think the Mets will do something like 90-92 wins in 2006 and finish a game or two (or three) behind the Phillies in the N.L. East race. Unless the Mets can dramatically shore up their rotation, I think the Phillies will have an edge.
Losing him is big, as is losing last year's long reliever Darren Oliver. Even Roberto Hernandez (now with Cleveland) still has some stuff left in the tank, albeit he's old.
Jon Adkins, Ambiorix Burgos, and Scott Schoeneweis will be trying to make up for those losses this year. And I think Adkins is the only one of the three that will be any good.
Excellent analysis as always. I think that the questions about the Mets' pitching staff make it all the more important for the Phillies to come out of the gate fast this year. If they can get a few game lead by the time the Mets' staff takes shape, they may be able to hold serve through the summer.
add that to the impact peterson has on oliver perez (see the line from the red sox game today), and that they'll add a big-game pitcher in midseason for a rotation of:
Pedro, Trade-target, Glavine, Perez, Maine/Hernandez; that's pretty good.
The Mets, because of their pitching depth, are going to be as good as the Phillies pitching staff this year. Likely, the Phillies are going to burn through their bullpen by the All-star break and have nothing in the tank for the rest of the season. either that, or the starters are going to weigh down under the stress of having to go more innings because of a weak bullpen and break down by the all-star break. the phillies essentially don't have much margin for error or injury, which in this NL East pennant race, could be the most important factor.