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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Friday, May 04, 2007

The 2007 Mets: House of Cards? 

Nice win last night over the Giants, even when you take into account Adam Eaton's six runs allowed in five innings of work. This West Coast swing to San Francisco and Arizona might be just what the Phillies needed most. The Phillies always seem to play N.L. West teams well. The Phillies play another three games in the City by the Bay this weekend. A 4-0 sweep is a little much to ask for, but the Phillies ought to walk away from this series with three wins or so.

Give credit to the new regime New York Mets. As Phillies fans we were used to the seeing the Mets bumble around, spending zillions of dollars while still managing to lose games. Remember the 2002 Mets? They spent $94 million dollars on free agents – Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz – to win a whopping 75 games. The Phillies spent just $57 million to win 80 games that season.

I hate these new-look, competent, Mets. Since Omar Minaya was installed as General Manager and Willie Randolph became the team’s manager after the 2004 season the Mets have made a number of savvy moves. First they signed Pedro Martinez to be their ace hurler. Then they inked Carlos Beltran to be their star in center field. The next year they poached Bill Wagner from the Phillies to be their closer, signed Carlos Delgado as a free agent from the Marlins, and brought in Paul Lo Duca to catch. Finally armed with enough talent, they easily dethroned the Braves as division champs and basically ran away with the division title last season.

Thus far this season the Mets are locked in a tight race with the Braves for the N.L. East lead with the Phillies and Marlins lagging behind. As I looked at the numbers I wondered: Are the Mets really that good?

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
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 If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however.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.
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
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).
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.
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

I want to focus my attention on their pitchers to start. With Pedro out and Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez well into their forties, the Mets rotation seems like it ought to have serious issues. The Mets Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is 4.05, worse than the league average of 3.97. The Mets are issuing a lot of walks – 107, or 4.1 per game, far worse than the league average. Yet to my stunned amazement, the Mets are actually leading the N.L. in ERA at 2.96 and are surrendering the fewest runs per game at 3.54. What gives?

I looked up the numbers and notice that the Mets are turning in a spectacular job with their gloves. As I write this, the Mets Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) is .727, second-best in the N.L. after the Cubs (.733), and much better than the N.L. average of .697. So the Mets fielders are doing a nice job covering up the fact that the Mets hurlers have been making mistakes. Also, despite losing Pedro, the Mets hurlers are getting a lot of strikeouts: 7.5 per game, compared to the N.L. average of 6.7.

The Mets offense is a major force to be reckoned with here. They score 5.38 runs per game, second-best in the N.L. They are doing a lot of things right at the moment: the Mets OBP is well above the league average (.362 vs. .332) and their slugging percentage is an impressive .444, forty-five points higher than the league average. The 2007 Mets are doing nearly everything well – hitting for power, getting on base, leading the league in stolen bases, etc.

Individually the 2007 Mets probably boast the strongest lineup that the N.L. has seen in years. Despite some struggles by David Wright and, especially, Carlos Delgado, the Mets boast a brutal murderers row:

Runs Created / 27 Outs:
1. Jose Reyes: 9.9
2. David Wright: 4.8
3. Carlos Beltran: 8.8
4. Carlos Delgado:3.6
5. Moises Alou: 5.5
6. Shawn Green: 7.5
7. Paul Lo Duca: 2.9
8. Jose Valentin: 6.6

I think the 2007 Mets are easily capable of hitting the 900 run mark. If they played in the A.L. with a DH, I think we could honestly say they'd be a threat for 1,000 runs scored.

But can the Mets tremendous success at the plate get them past the fact that they have real issues with their pitching? I am not convinced that it can. I was interested to see, parusing The Hardball Times website, that the Mets are underperforming in the Pythagorean Win-Loss numbers. Here are the standings as of yesterday:

N.L. East:
1. Atlanta: 17-10
2. New York: 16-10
3. Florida: 13-14
4. Philadelphia: 12-15
5. Washington: 9-19

Now scope out the Pythagorean Standings:

N.L. East:
1. New York: 18-8
2. Atlanta: 15-12
3. Florida: 14-13
4. Philadelphia: 14-13
5. Washington: 7-21

The Braves are doing a nice job winning close games. They are 8-5 in games decided by 2 or less runs. The Mets are 4-3. The Phillies, in particular, are struggling at this at 3-8. Ordinarily when teams outperform their Pythagorean Win-Loss I assume that these teams will regress to the mean and struggle down the stretch. Not here. I am predicting that the Braves will win the N.L. East because of their sterling starting pitching and their revamped bullpen, featuring Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, two pitchers the Braves acquired in the off-season who, along with closer Bob Wickman, are making the Braves bullpen pretty brutal to deal with. With Tim Hudson (3-0, 1.40 ERA) and John Smoltz (3-1, 3.96 ERA) hurling well, I think the Braves have the best pitching in the National League right now and have to be the favorites to take the N.L. East flag.

In the long run, the Mets reliance on offense will come back to bite them during the mid-summer when teams begin to hit their thin pitching staff more aggressively. Ultimately the Mets will start to struggle and will see the Braves take a commanding lead. The only team who can catch them are the Phillies, the only team capable to matching the Braves pitching factory.

Have a nice weekend ...

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Delgado chose to sign with the Marlins over the Mets as a free agent. Then after his first year the Marlins had a fire sale and traded him to the Mets. The Mets also traded for LoDuca. He did not sign with them as a free agent.
I always was a Phillies fan, but I also liked the Mets over the years. When the Mets signed Burnitz, Alomar, and Mo, I turned away from them completely.

They made me more of a Phillies fan, and yes, the Mets went out and spent some money and it seems like it may be all that the Mets need this year. I hope your right in predicting a struggle for them, because at this point in the season they look like the team to beat in the NL East.

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