New York Mets: Mark Simon

Opening Day W2W4: Matchups and magic

April, 5, 2012
Three things to watch for in Thursday’s opening-day game against the Braves:

Opening Day Magic
The Mets are 32-18 in season openers, and remember that they didn’t win any Opening Day games from 1962 to 1969.

They’ve won 18 of the last 20 season openers that were played in New York, including the last two, in 2006 and 2010.

They’ve also won the last eight times they’ve played an Opening Day game at home that was decided by one run. Among the wins was a 6-5 triumph over the Cardinals in 1985, a game won on Gary Carter’s walk-off home run.

Carter’s family will throw out the first pitch this afternoon.

Matt Diaz vs Johan Santana
Diaz is 16-for-32 in his career against the Mets lefty, though he was 0-for-4 in their last meeting.

Diaz is a lefty-shredder, a .329 career hitter against southpaws, which ranks ninth-best among active players. But over the last two seasons, he’s only hit .285, and has shown some statistical vulnerability against fastballs in the upper-third of the strike zone and above.

Hanson’s Hook
Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole will have to be mindful of Braves starter Tommy Hanson’s nasty curveball, one that he frequently uses to finish off left-handed hitters in two-strike counts.

Lefties have missed on 44 percent of their swings (mostly with two strikes) against the Hanson curveball over the last three seasons, the highest rate against any starter in the game.

Statistical stories for 2012

April, 4, 2012
Expectations are low for the Mets this season. Very low. Good luck trying to find someone who will pick them to finish with a winning record.

Yet, there is intrigue of a statistical nature to be mined from the depths of fan despair. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting numerical storylines for 2012:

Wright’s record pursuit
How long will David Wright remain a Met? Well, at least long enough to break a few records. Wright already holds the Mets marks for doubles and total bases. Among the most-prominent records in Wright’s sights are …

David Wright
Most RBI: Wright’s 725 are eight shy of the Mets mark held by Darryl Strawberry.

Most Runs: Wright enters 2012 with 699, 36 shy of now-former Met Jose Reyes.

Most Hits: No guarantee he’ll get this one, but with a full season, he should come close. Wright enters with 1,248 hits, 170 shy of Ed Kranepool’s 1,418.

Did you know … Lesser-known Mets records he could also surpass include most walks (45 shy of Strawberry), most strikeouts (63 shy of Strawberry), most sacrifice flies (five behind Kranepool) and times hit by a pitch (eight shy of Ron Hunt).

How will Citi Field play?
Last October, the Mets announced that there would be significant changes to Citi Field’s dimensions and outfield fence heights.

The reconfigured outfield wall will be a uniform eight feet in height. The dimensions from left to right are: 335-358-385-408-398-375-330.

The old measurements, although not precisely in the same spots, were: 335-371-384-408-415-378-330.

Mets management did studies showing the team would have hit 81 more home runs at home in the last three seasons, and allowed only 70 more with the new dimensions.

Those who figure to be most impacted by the changes are:

David Wright: Wright hit eight home runs to right-center field at Shea Stadium from 2006 to 2008, but only one to that area in the three seasons of Citi Field.

Jason Bay: During the last two seasons, Bay hit 12 fly balls to left field in Citi Field that traveled an estimated 370 feet or more. Only six left the ballpark. That’s underachieving. The typical 370-foot-plus ball to left field goes out of the ballpark 80 percent of the time.

Left-Handed Hitters: In their three-season history, no Mets left-handed batter has hit a home run to left field. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda should have a better chance at it now.

Did you know … The Mets have 169 road home runs over the last three seasons, second-fewest in the majors, ahead of only the Astros, at 158.

If nothing else, the Mets have a better-than-reasonable chance to spend at least one day this season above .500, since Johan Santana made it through spring training and will pitch on Opening Day against the Braves.
Tim Lincecum

The pitch to watch in Santana’s return will be the changeup. From 2004 to 2008, when Santana was in his prime with the Twins, there was no more valuable out pitch in baseball, per advanced stat measurements on In 2009 and 2010, the pitch was still good, but nowhere near as valuable.

What could be frustrating is if the Mets bullpen and bats fail to support Santana, something he was familiar with in his first three seasons.

From 2008 to 2010, the Mets lost 15 starts in which Santana went at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer. Over those three seasons, that was the most team losses in a pitcher’s starts in the majors.

Did you know … If Santana finishes the season as an ERA-title qualifier, with a sub-three ERA, he would have three such seasons as a Met. The only Mets with at least three such seasons are Tom Seaver (9), Jerry Koosman (4), Dwight Gooden (3), Sid Fernandez (3) and Jon Matlack (3).

Replacing Reyes
The expectations for Ruben Tejada aren’t necessarily great, but there will be pressure on him to at least be adequate in attempting to replace Reyes.
Ruben Tejada

What Tejada has going for him is that he’s young (22) and improving. He finished 2011 with a .360 on-base percentage (.368 after the All-Star Break) and had the second-highest line-drive rate on the team (21.4 percent), trailing only Willie Harris. He has shown flashes of being very good on the defensive end.

What’s missing from Tejada’s game is the wow factor that Reyes brought with him. In 174 major league games, Tejada has just one triple and seven stolen bases.

Tejada has minimal power, though he did hit a pair of home runs this spring. His .335 slugging percentage last season was two points lower than Reyes’ 2011 batting average.

Reyes had four years in which he was worth at least five Wins Above Replacement in his last six seasons. A reasonable expectation would be for Tejada to be worth half as much.

Did you know … Tejada will not be the youngest Mets Opening Day shortstop. Nor was Reyes. The distinction actually falls to longtime major league coach Jose Oquendo, who started at shortstop on Opening Day for the 1984 Mets at age 20.

Everybody Loves Lucas
The offensive expectations for Lucas Duda seem to be high after an impressive spring training and stellar work in the latter part of 2011.

Some have drawn the Dave Kingman comparison, because Duda fits the profile of the slugger who can’t catch the ball. But on the offensive side, Duda may be a little bit better. His strikeout rate last season was such that if given 550 plate appearances, he’d have had only 90 whiffs.

Duda hit a respectable .219 and slugged .391 with two strikes last season, both considerably above the major league averages of .184 and .279 for non-pitchers. He only missed about once for every six two-strike swings, also better than the major league rate of about one in five.

Did you know … Duda slugged .482 as a rookie in 2011, the fourth-highest slugging percentage by a Mets rookie with at least 250 plate appearances. The three higher were by Benny Agbayani (.525), Wright (.525) and Strawberry (.512).

Nicer numbers likely coming for Niese

April, 2, 2012
Jonathon Niese didn’t win more than 11 games, pitch more than 175 innings or post an ERA below 4 in either of his first two full major league seasons.

Yet the Mets saw it as worthwhile to give him a five-year contract, one that buys out all of his arbitration years, plus a year of free agency.

What do the Mets like about Niese that would inspire this sort of move?

In short, it comes down to the three stats over which Niese had the most control -- his strikeout rate (7.9 per nine innings), walk rate (2.5 per nine innings), and home run rate (0.8 per nine innings).

In the sabermetric community, those stats combine to form a statistic known as Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). And the thinking is that if you have a good FIP, you’re a pretty good pitcher.

Last season, there were 25 major league pitchers who pitched at least 150 innings, struck out at least seven hitters per nine innings, walked fewer than three per nine, and allowed fewer than one home run per nine innings. Those are your kings of FIP.

If you went through that list, you’d see a lot of pitchers who would be on your no-doubter ace list. That’s the guys like Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

The second-tier guys are very good pitchers too -- the likes of Jaime Garcia, Matt Garza, and Shaun Marcum.

Of those 25, the pitcher who posted the second-worst ERA was Michael Pineda’s 3.74.

The worst belonged to Niese. His was the distant outlier of the group, with a 4.40 ERA.

That is an extraordinarily unusual ERA for a pitcher who puts up the sort of peripheral numbers that Niese did. Earlier this spring we speculated why that might be, in this piece about how Niese yielded an abundance of soft hits.

A check of showed that in the 50 years of the Mets existence, there have been 316 instances of a pitcher putting up that trio of numbers mentioned above.

Only twice in that span did one of those pitchers have a worse ERA than Niese’s 4.40. Chris Bosio had a 5.24 ERA for the 1987 Brewers and Jason Hammel had a 4.81 ERA for the 2010 Rockies.

Pick a pitcher at random from that list of 316 and there’s about a 50-50 chance you’ll hit one with a sub-3 ERA. Better than 80 percent of the pitchers on that list had ERAs of 3.50 or lower.

There were a total of 153 pitchers who combined for those 316 seasons. Of those, 63 of them (about 40 percent) were able to replicate that strikeout, walk, and home run rate combo at least one more time.

In signing Niese to this deal, the Mets are playing the odds that if Niese continues to develop, he’ll be one of them, and by contract’s end he’ll fit the profile of some of the best pitchers on this list.

What's next for David Wright?

February, 17, 2012
Left: David Wright’s power hot/cold zones in 2010
Right: Wright’s power hot/cold zones in 2011
Click here to create your own Wright heat maps
Baseball Tonight (airing at 3:30 p.m. eastern) will be taking a closer look at players in spotlight for 2012, and today's focus is on David Wright. Share your thoughts in the comments section and join in the discussion.

What's next for David Wright?

The New York Mets third baseman had his worst season in 2011, a year in which a back injury greatly hampered his production.

Wright came back in the middle of the season fully healthy and pelted line drives for a good part of the second half, though he hit only .216 with three home runs in September.

Wright’s biggest bugaboo in 2011 was pitches located on the inner-third of the plate and closer to him. He was unable to muscle an inside pitch in the air.

Our video analysis tool allows us to give a player credit for hitting the ball hard, meaning usually either a fast-moving line drive or a ball hit to the warning track.

In 2010, Wright had 27 “hard-hit” fly balls against inside pitches (about 36 percent of his fly balls). In 2011, he had only three (not even 10 percent). He also hit the ball on the ground with greater frequency, as noted in the chart on the right.

With the Citi Field fences now both shorter in distance from home plate and height, Wright has an opportunity to get back to being the hitter he was.

Will he succeed? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

What's next for Ike Davis?

February, 16, 2012
Left: Ike Davis' hot/cold zones vs lefties in 2010.
Right: Davis' hot/cold zones in 2011
Click here to create your own Davis heat maps
What’s next for Ike Davis?

Davis’ first two seasons with the Mets showed a lot of potential, with 2011 cut short by a freak injury that sidelined him for three-quarters of the season.

Davis says he feels good, and for now we’ll take his word for it.

Davis looked like an All-Star for the first 36 games of 2011, bashing right-handed pitching like few other hitters in the majors. He hit .372 with seven home runs against them in 99 plate appearances.

But, over that small sample, Davis did have one issue that could cause him trouble in 2012- his performance against left-handed pitching.

Davis looked really good against lefties his rookie year, hitting .295 with 12 extra-base hits in 122 at-bats.

In 2011, it looked like some lefties had figured him out. Davis was just 7-for-43.

That’s not necessarily predictive of future performance, but there was something noteworthy about the way he was pitched.

Davis showed some vulnerability in his debut season when a lefty worked him away, with about half of his outs coming on pitches on the outer-edge or further outside. In 2011, two-thirds of his outs came on those pitches.

You can see that the outside part of the plate was a "cold zone" for Davis in the heat maps above.

Davis stopped swinging at those pitches when a lefty got him in a two-strike count. He took strike three on (or just off) the outside corner fives times against lefties in 2010. That rose to 11 in 2011 (in about one-third as many chances).

The NL East added two quality left-handers in Mark Buehrle (Marlins) and Gio Gonzalez (Nationals), the latter of whom will pair up with John Lannan. The Phillies duo of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee both return as well.

So it won’t be an easy task for Davis to find the approach that works best for him.

Will he be able to do so and perform at superstar level in 2012?

You tell us. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

What's next for Daniel Murphy?

February, 15, 2012
Daniel Murphy's hot zones in 2011 included areas outside the strike zone.
Click here to create your own Murphy heat maps
Continuing our series looking ahead to notable Mets for 2012

What’s next for Daniel Murphy?

Before his season-ending injury, Murphy had a 109-game run in which he was basically the Mets second-best offensive player behind Jose Reyes.

Murphy hit .320 with an .809 OPS and key to that was what he was able to do against pitches out of the strike zone.

Murphy had 32 hits against pitches out of the strike zone last season. He was the master of getting a hit against what we’ll call the eye-high pitch.

Murphy became adept at hitting line drives against that pitch, rather than ground balls. And when he swung, he rarely missed.

The average major leaguer misses about once every four swings at an eye-high pitch. In 2011, Murphy took 101 swings and missed on only 10 of them.

Had Murphy played the entire season, he’d likely have led the major leagues in hits on those pitches, ones that missed above the strike zone, according to our pitch-performance data.

Instead, he finished with 18, tied for sixth-most in the majors, and tied with then-Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman for the most by a left-handed hitter.

How valuable was that specific "skill" to Murphy’s success?

Those 18 hits might not sound like a lot, but had Murphy hit against those pitches like an average major leaguer (which was how he fared in 2009), he’d have had seven hits instead of 18.

The 11 extra hits were worth nearly 30 points to his 2011 batting average.

There are some hitters who are good at guiding the ball when it’s out of the strike zone, who can maintain that success over an extended time period. Ichiro Suzuki in his prime and Rangers infielder Michael Young (like Murphy, not necessarily viewed as adept with the glove) are two examples.

The optimistic Mets fan might think that Murphy can be that sort of hitter, since at age 27 (which he’ll turn on April 1), he’s just entering the prime of his career.

The pessimist will tell you that Murphy couldn't do this sort of thing in 2009 (he hit .197 against eye-high pitches that season) and that his 2011 performance was a fluke.

Can Murphy stay healthy, sustain this sort of success and become the sort of hitter that the Mets can count on over the long term?

You tell us. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

What's next for Lucas Duda?

February, 13, 2012

Lucas Duda's 2011 spray chart at Citi Field.

Continuing our preview of notable Mets heading into 2012

What’s next for Lucas Duda?

Duda made significant improvements on the offensive end from 2010 to 2011, finishing with a .370 on-base percentage, .852 OPS and 10 home runs in 301 at-bats.

What should we be watching for from Duda in 2012? The Mets have done two things that should lead to further improvements.

Offense: Citi Field fences moved in
Duda only hit two home runs at Citi Field last season, but a look at Duda’s Citi Field spray chart from last season (at the top of this article) shows a few balls that came close to being home runs.

Significant among those are that two of them are doubles (one to right center, one to dead center) that came against left-handers- Braves southpaws Mike Minor and a 410-foot to right center against Jonny Venters.

Duda has not yet homered in 86 career plate appearances against a left-hander. But he has shown the ability to hit the tough lefthander, as he did in those instances.

Lefties hit only .127 against Venters with two extra-base hits in 79 at-bats. Duda had one of them.

They only hit .145 against Phillies lefty Antonio Bastardo, but Duda had one of those hits, a fly ball triple that just missed reaching the right-center warning track.

Balls like those may do more damage in the new-look Citi Field.

Defense: Addition of Torres
It’s a good thing that Duda will have a good defensive centerfielder next to him in Andres Torres. He’s going to need the help.

Remember last September 3 against the Nationals when Duda botched what turned out to be Ryan Zimmerman’s two-run walk-off single with a failed dive for the ball in the bottom of the ninth?

That was one of 16 Defensive Misplays & Errors that Duda was charged with by the folks from Baseball Info Solutions in his 335 innings in right field.

Duda had trouble coming in on balls and he had trouble going back on balls too. Duda had four Defensive Misplays for failing to anticipate the fence, which rated his biggest defensive issue.

Pro-rated over a full season, Duda’s misplay rate would come equate to nearly 60 Defensive Misplays & Errors for an everyday player over a full season. That would be about as bad as could be. Last year’s major league leaders, Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and Mike Stanton of the Marlins, had 49.

Other advanced defensive metrics are not kind to Duda either. Duda was charted as costing the Mets eight runs with his right field defense, combining the value of his ability to get to balls with the deterrent ability of his throwing arm.

The Mets hope that the value of what Duda brings in will be far greater than what he lets in.

Do you think it will? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

What's next for Frank Francisco?

February, 10, 2012
Left: How Frank Francisco fared against lefties through July 20.
Right: How Francisco fared through the rest of the season.
Click here to create your own Francisco heat maps
Continuing our statistical look at some of the key players for the 2012 Mets, we focus today on new closer, Frank Francisco.

What’s next for Frank Francisco?

The Mets hope their newest closer, signed to a two-year, $12 million deal in the offseason, will have meaningful games to close and that he will do so in a manner similar to how he fared in the latter part of 2011 with the Blue Jays.

Francisco got shelled early in the season, one that started late due to injuries, but closed the year strong, with a 1.17 ERA and .218 opponents on-base percentage in his last 22 outings.

Statistically, the difference for Francisco almost entirely was in how he fared against left-handed hitters over the final two months.

Lefties hit the ball all over the place against Francisco throughout the first half of 2011.

In the second half, Francisco mixed up his pitch location a bit more. He threw up and away to lefties more frequently, rather than middle-away -- an area that had been a bugaboo for him early in the season.

He also threw his splitter a little bit more often, and that pitch became more of an out pitch than it was earlier in the season.

The results were such that two primary issues were greatly reduced -- his line-drive propensity and his walk rate.

In turn, he was able to finish the year in a positive fashion from a statistical perspective. That netted him this deal from the Mets.

So what’s next for Frank Francisco?

Can he replicate his late-season success for a full year? Will he have any games to close?

You tell us. Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

Dickey's defensive skills key to climb

February, 9, 2012
Mike Zarilli/Getty ImagesR.A. Dickey was among baseball's best fielding pitchers last season.’s Jim Caple talked to R.A Dickey about his mountain climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the exploitation of young women in Mumbai.

In what has been a rough offseason for the Mets, Dickey has been all about knowing how he can best assist. That’s a trend he exhibited during 2011 as well.

Did you know that Dickey led all major league pitchers with 58 assists last season?

That was 15 more than the pair -- Tim Stauffer and Jake Westbrook -- with the next-most, and the most in the majors since Livan Hernandez had 61 in 2004.

Amazingly, Dickey finished just two assists shy of the Mets single-season record for a pitcher (60), set by Roger Craig in 1963, and one more than Al Jackson’s 59 in 1962.

Since then, only two Mets pitchers, including Dickey, finished with at least 50 in a season. The other was Dwight Gooden, who had 56 in 1988. Dickey was the first Met to lead the NL in assists since Ron Darling shared the title in 1986.

Dickey has yet to win a Gold Glove, but he did finish second to Mark Buehrle in the 2011 Baseball Info Solutions Fielding Bible Awards, a vote of 10 baseball experts rating the best defender at each position.

Dickey got second-place votes from both ESPN’s Doug Glanville and ex-Sweet Spot blog editor Rob Neyer.

Dickey rates well by advanced defensive metrics, such as Baseball Info Solution’s Plus-Minus rating, which assigns credits and debits to all fielders on every batted ball. Dickey rated six plays above average for a pitcher in both 2010 and 2011, which tied him for third-best in the majors last season.

Dickey’s best attributes on defense suited him well on his mountain climb.

He puts himself in the best position to succeed with a follow through that ends with him ready to field any ball hit his way. He’s also shown that he has good instincts.

Dickey’s agility has been on display from his very first start as a Met.

His willingness to do whatever gets the job done also aids him in his defensive cause. As Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen pointed out after watching this play in 2010, “He’d make quite an infielder.”

Dickey is also averse to people taking what doesn’t belong to them. In other words, he is good at managing baserunners (he allowed seven steals in 208 2/3 innings). Dickey recorded a caught stealing and five pickoffs on the mound last season, including an odd reverse spin that caught Marlins baserunner Mike Cameron by surprise to help preserve a 2-1 Mets win last August.

The five pickoffs were tied with fellow New Yorker A.J. Burnett for the third-most by a right-handed pitcher in the majors. His success in limiting stolen bases helped him finish with eight Defensive Runs Saved last season, one shy of the major league lead.

Dickey’s skills have contributed to the Mets cause, meek as it has been over the past two seasons.

Check out Caple’s article for more on a Mets story that may cause you to do what a player does when someone else on his team makes a nice play -- tip your cap.

What's next for Jonathon Niese?

February, 9, 2012

Locations for the 30 base hits that Jonathon Niese allowed on softly hit fly balls in 2011.
(Thirty ranked tied for second in MLB.)
Continuing our statistical look at some of the key players for the 2012 Mets, we focus today on Mets lefty Jonathon Niese.

What’s next for Jonathon Niese?

The lefty, who missed the final five weeks of the season due to a strained oblique, represents a glimmer of hope for Mets fans. At age 25, he is perceived to be just coming into his own.

Statistically, there’s a reason to be optimistic about Niese for 2012.

Though Niese finished 2011 with a 4.40 ERA, there are reasons to think he pitched better than someone with an ERA that high.

There are tools that sabermetricians use as ERA predictors. These have funky names such as FIP, xFIP, SIERA and True ERA.

What these formulas measure are the different factors related to Niese’s performance, such as his strikeout and walk totals, his flyballs or home runs allowed, and his ground-ball rate, and come up with what Niese’s ERA should have been, based on historical precedent.

The thinking is that if a pitcher’s ERA was higher than his predicted ERA, that his performance was impacted by other factors, such as his defense, pitching in a hitter-friendly environment or bad luck.

Thus, if those factors can be better controlled the following season, and the pitcher continues to pitch at the same skill level or better, his performance should improve.

Studies show that the predictive ERA tools are very good at determining success the following season. Their biggest hits last season were Rays ace James Shields and Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, both of whom improved greatly upon their 2010 numbers in 2011.

This year, the ERA predictors have their eyes on Niese, whose strikeout-to-walk rate and groundball/fly-ball rates were pretty good.

The estimates on what Niese’s ERA should have been last season range from 3.28 (xFIP) to 3.77 (True ERA). That’s a substantially different ERA than a 4.40.

What caused Niese’s ERA to be so high last season?

We have a few tools that allow us to look at Niese’s performance. One is some video-review data that rates every ball hit against a pitcher as “softly/normally hit” or “hard hit.”

Something jumped out at us when we looked at that, along with some hit-location charts for all the fly balls and pop ups Niese allowed.
The average pitcher allows hits on about 10 to 12 percent of soft/normally hit fly balls and pop ups.

Niese’s rate last year? A whopping 27 percent.

That led to his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) being among the highest in the majors -- .333.

In baseball-measurable numbers, that’s the difference between allowing 30 hits on such balls (as Niese did) and allowing 11 hits (what the data suggests the average pitcher allows).

At the top of this story is an image that shows the location of those 30 hits. There are two clusters -- one in shallow center field and one along the right-field line.

The optimist will tell you some of those balls will be caught this season by new center fielder Andres Torres and some of those balls that straddled fair/foul status will bounce Niese’s way.

The pessimist will tell you Niese has a history of giving up more hits than the average pitcher, even dating to his minor league days, and that those issues will be replaced by new ones in 2012.

Mets fans, which will it be? Will Niese rise to the level of statistical expectation or continue to perform as an average pitcher with the occasional glimmer of hope?

You tell us. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

What's next for Jason Bay?

February, 8, 2012

Left: Results when Jason Bay hit a ball in the air at Citi Field in 2011.
Right: Results when Bay hit a ball in the air on the road in 2011
Baseball Tonight returned to the air at 3:30 pm Tuesday and featured a segment asking "What's next?" for various players around the majors. We decided to get in the spirit of that, so we'll be breaking down some Mets in the coming days, asking you to tell us "What's next?" First up: Left fielder, Jason Bay.

What’s next for Jason Bay?

In two injury-filled, disappointing seasons with the Mets, Bay has hit 18 home runs, half as many as he hit for the Red Sox in his final year with them in 2009.

Much has been made about how moving the fences in at Citi Field should help Bay’s power numbers get back to something close to what they used to be.

A few of the deep flies that Bay has hit for long outs and the occasional double now have a better chance of being home runs.

But that may not be the only issue Bay has to fix.

Bay has the same number of home runs at home as a Met as he does on the road. Away from Citi Field, his performance has been awful.


Bay had a couple of flaws that were more prevalent away from Citi Field.

One was that he missed more frequently on his swings, which made him a more frequent strikeout victim.

The other was that he didn’t pull the ball when he hit it into the air. Take a look at that in the chart on the right.

Bay was an easy out when he lifted the ball straightaway or to the opposite field. He made 31 outs to the center fielder and right fielder at home, but made 49 to those spots on the road.

Those outs along with his strikeouts were killers to both his batting average and his power numbers.

The image at the top of this article shows Bay’s spray charts for when he hit fly balls in home games and road games last season.

You can see the vast difference, and the larger number of increased can-of-corn fly outs in the chart on the right.

It was a long way from 2009 when Bay could take aim at the Green Monster. In that season, he pulled the ball nearly half the time when he hit it in the air, regardless of where he was playing.

So while it’s easy to say that Bay should be better, it’s important to note there is more than one issue that may need to be addressed.

What’s next for Jason Bay? Will he return to being the power threat the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him? Or will he continue to struggle?

You tell us. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Torres was a statistical star in 2010

December, 7, 2011
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesNew Met Andres Torres caught balls at a very high rate of success in 2010.

It’s fairly easy to look at newest Mets Andres Torres numbers in 2011 and proclaim that he had an awful season.

But go back a year and dig deep and you could at least make the case that Torres didn’t just have a good 2010, but a great one.

The Angel Pagan/Torres swap in centerfield was done with sabermetrics in mind. And Sandy Alderson is banking on the statistical chance, however slim it might be, that the Torres of 2010 will re-emerge.

Two seasons ago, Torres ranked eighth among major league position players in the advanced stat, Wins Above Replacement, via the methods used at

Torres was valued at 6.8 wins above what a minor league fill-in (think: Jason Pridie) would have produced.

That is All-Star level and was the same value that the stat attached to Blue Jays star Jose Bautista.

To the average fan, that seems ridiculous.

So how does Torres’ .268/.343/.479 slashline (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage), with 16 home runs, 84 runs scored, 26 stolen bases equate to Bautista’s .260/.378/.617 with 54 home runs?

When Torres is at his best, there are two elements of his game that add greatly to his value-- his baserunning and his defense.

Let’s take a closer look at how he fared in each in 2010:

We’ve previously gushed in this space over what Brett Gardner’s defensive value would mean to the Mets.

In 2010, Torres had a season that was a near-match for what Gardner gave the Yankees on the defensive side, finishing second to Gardner in the defensive stat (Ultimate Zone Rating) used in the Wins Above Replacement calculation. His defense was valued at saving his team 22 runs.

Our metric of choice to evaluate defense is usually Defensive Runs Saved, and Torres ranked a bit lower (his 12 Defensive Runs Saved were ninth-best among outfielders last season) in that. But both stats draw from the same data, which shows that Torres was above average, if not elite.

Torres ranked first among centerfielders in Revised Zone Rating, which looks at all the batted balls hit to spots in which a centerfielder converted them into outs at a rate of 50 percent or higher.

Torres’ best attribute was that he caught 161 of the 167 balls hit into his zone in centerfield, giving him a Revised Zone Rating of 96 percent.

By comparison, Pagan caught balls in his zone at a 90 percent rate. That six percentage point gap between the two players is meaningful, one probably worth at least a dozen balls over a full season.

Torres didn’t rate highly at getting to balls outside his zone (think those that become doubles or triples in the outfield gaps) as a centerfielder, but rated very well in doing so playing both left field and right field (an example from his trip to Taiwan a few weeks ago can be seen here.

That too added considerably to his defensive value, though that may not be as relevant for Mets management, who view Torres as an everyday centerfielder.

The other thing that fans will likely notice is that Torres does not make many mistakes. He’s not going to overrun or bobble balls with the frequency that Pagan did in his Mets stint.

Baseball Info Solutions charts every play of every game and uses trained “video scouts” to tags plays into 80 subcategories of Good Fielding Plays (GFP) and Defensive Misplays & Errors (DM&E).

Torres was credited with 11 GFPs and 11 DM&Es in his 655 innings in centerfield in 2010.

He’s not someone who will make a lot of flashy Web Gem-type plays (his rate of GFPs per inning is low), but his rate of mistakes that season (one every 59 innings) was well better than Pagan’s (one every 40 innings) and well above the big league average (one every 39).

Last season, baseball researcher Mitchel Lichtman introduced a stat to measure baserunning value-- Ultimate Baserunning Rating. It became a component of the Wins Above Replacement statistic, applied retroactively.

By this measure, Torres ranked third in the National League and eighth in the majors, with his baserunning valued as adding 5.5 runs to his team over the course of the season.

That’s not necessarily difference-making, but it’s pretty good.

That season Torres stole his 26 bases in 33 attempts, his 78 percent success rating a little above the major league average of 72 percent.

Torres also gained 25 bases on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, passed balls, balks, and defensive indifference. That tied for 10th-most in the majors.

Torres also went first-to-third 11 times out of the 19 times that he was on first base when a single was hit. That’s five more times than the average baserunner would be expected to do.

Those successes, combined with Torres being able to limit his outs on the basepaths (he made four outs attempting to take extra bases and was picked off four times, totals not exorbitant given his successes), were what keyed his excellent baserunning rating.

What does it all mean?
In 2010, Torres value as a hitter ranked 47th in the majors, his defense ranked second, and his baserunning ranked eighth. That’s pretty good for a guy whose previous experience prior to 2010 was minimal.

Smush all those stats together and Torres rated very well-- the toughest player to statistically replace on a Giants team that won the World Series.

If the Mets get anything remotely close to that, they’ll have done fairly well for themselves with this swap.

Every (mis)play an adventure

April, 16, 2011
Thursday evening, we wrote about the Mets defense, or lack thereof, citing their awful performance, and their rank in a significant sabermetric statistic.

Today, we take one more step in our examination and look at the Mets from another perspective.

Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) charts every play of every game. With regards to defense, its founder, John Dewan, along with sabermetrician Bill James, has created a series of categories to evaluate good plays and defensive misplays.

BIS employs trained "video scouts" (former amateur and pro players) to categorize plays as they happen in games.

A "Good Fielding Play" could involve anything from making a catch on a balls that had a better chance of being a hit than an out, scooping a throw out of the dirt, or cutting off a ball headed to the fence to prevent a baserunner from advancing.

A "Defensive Misplay" would include things such as a fielder slipping, breaking back on a ball that landed in front of him, or failing to turn a double play in a situation in which that was judged (by the video scouts) to at least be possible. A misplay must have a consequence. In other words, something bad must have happened to the defensive team (a baserunner advancing or a run scoring) as a result for it to be ruled a misplay.

This was done with the intent of allowing a fan to look beyond the basic defensive stats. These have nothing to do with UZR, Runs Saved, or any of the other new stats you may have heard about. But, they can reveal a lot.

For example, in Thursday's disastrous doubleheader, the Mets were charged with only one error by the official scorer, but they were credited with nine Defensive Misplays.

In Game 1, each of their outfielders made a Defensive Misplay.

In the fifth inning, Angel Pagan lost Dexter Fowler's catchable fly ball in the outfield, resulting in a double. The Rockies eventually scored in that inning because of Pagan's failed catch.

In the sixth inning, Scott Hairston received a "Wall Difficulties" Misplay for failing to gauge where the right field fence was in Citi Field, allowing a Jose Morales fly ball to fall for a double.

In the seventh inning, Willie Harris botched a play on Seth Smith's hit, allowing him to turn a single into a double (he went to third on Pagan's error).

In Game 2, the Mets made one error, but were charged with six Misplays. It was a particularly rough game for Brad Emaus, who was charged with three, two for failing to convert double plays (including the costly one on a potential inning-ending ground ball that the Rockies turned into five runs), and one for failing to tag Troy Tulowitzki on a steal attempt.

These Misplays may not show up in the box score, as errors do but they've proven to be quite costly to the Mets this season.

Combine the two stats and you'll see that the Mets enter Saturday ranked tied for fourth in the majors with 39 Defensive Misplays/Errors (trailing the Tigers, Mariners and Athletics ... the Tigers lead with 43). It should be noted that the National League's top team, the Phillies, have the fewest in the majors, just 17.

Remember when we Met: Beating the best

April, 7, 2011

US Presswire/Getty Images
The Mets have had their share of notable wins against baseball's greats, including Juan Marichal, Curt Schilling, and Roger Clemens.

Each Thursday, Mark Simon will commemorate the Mets 50th season with stories and notes related to the history of the team.

Three pitchers have had seasons in which they’ve gone 4-0 against the Mets as part of a Cy Young Award winning campaign.

Sandy Koufax was 4-0 with an 0.29 ERA against the Mets in 1963.

Bob Gibson was 4-0 with a 1.18 ERA against the Mets in 1968 (The Year of the Pitcher)

And Roy Halladay was 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA against the Mets in 2010.

While you wouldn’t put Halladay in Koufax’s or Gibson’s class, he’s making his way towards great-of-the-game status with his two Cy Young Awards and this three-year stretch from 2008 to 2010 in which he went 58-31 with a 2.67 ERA, including a perfect game in the regular season and a no-hitter in the playoffs.

Beating Halladay will be a challenge, but it’s one to which the Mets have a long and storied history of rising. Yes, they’ve had issues with some of the game’s all-time best, most notably Koufax (21-2 vs them) and Greg Maddux (35 wins, the most by any pitcher vs the Mets), but we’re here to celebrate victory rather than wallow in defeat. With that in mind, we ask the question: What is the Mets best win against an all-time great pitcher?

Here are the first nine candidates that came to mind for me. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section.

The first
The Mets first win against a future Hall of Famer was also their first walk-off win, a 3-2 victory over the Braves on May 12, 1962. The game ended on Hobie Landrith’s two-run home run off Warren Spahn in the bottom of the ninth inning. Spahn would finish his career with 363 wins, including four for the Mets in 1965, his final season in the major leagues.

A dandy versus Sandy
One of the most notable wins of the early days was the one in which they beat Sandy Koufax for the first time. Koufax went 13-0 in his first 14 appearances against the Mets and didn’t lose until August 26, 1965, when a young starter named Tug McGraw (who would become famous later in his Mets career) edged him out, 5-2.

Juan and Done
Hall of Famer Juan Marichal has come to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters on a few occasions, and on one, I asked him if he remembered when the Mets beat him 1-0 in 14 innings on August 19, 1969.

Tommie Agee,” he said wistfully, recalling the game-winning home run in that contest. “I can still see that ball going over the fence.”

19 K … and a loss
On September 15, 1969, Cardinals pitcher Steve Carlton (who would go on to greatness with the Phillies) struck out 19 Mets, but got beat, 4-3, by a pair of Ron Swoboda home runs. Carlton would win 329 games in his Hall of Fame career, but the Mets beat him on 36 occasions, more than they’ve beaten any other pitcher.

Nailing Nolan
The Mets found themselves in a must-win situation in Game 2 of the 1986 NLCS against the fireballing (and ageless) Nolan Ryan. Much like he would do in Game 5 of the series, Ryan overpowered the Mets early, before an offensive onslaught led to five runs. Keith Hernandez had the key hit, a two-run triple that got the ball rolling in the right direction and helped even the series.

Curt-in Call
Curt Schilling would go on to win two World Series with the Red Sox, but in his Phillies days, he had a few intriguing matchups with the Mets. The most notable of those came on May 23, 1999, when Schilling took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Mets rallied in a fashion resemblant of some of their best wins in 1986, scoring five runs. John Olerud got the winning hit, a walk-off single with two outs.

Beating Mariano
Mariano Rivera has only one blown save against the Mets, but in came in an amazing game. On July 10, 1999, the Mets beat the Yankees, 9-8 on Matt Franco’s two-run two-out single in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets persevered in a gutty effort, surviving six Yankees home runs to win.

Measuring up to the Big Unit
Randy Johnson had a losing regular season against only one National League team. He finished 6-7 against the Mets, but it’s a postseason loss for which he’s best known. In Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS, after the Mets had just won four straight games (including a one-game playoff in Cincinnati) just to make the postseason, the Mets hammered Johnson for seven runs in an 8-4 victory. Attach a bit of an asterisk here because the Mets got the game-winning hit (Edgardo Alfonzo’s grand slam)off reliever Bobby Chouinard, but Johnson took the defeat nonetheless.

Rocking the Rocket
Mets fans have taken great satisfaction in their success against Roger Clemens, primarily because it’s viewed as payback for both his beaning of Mike Piazza and his throwing a bat shard at Piazza during Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.

Take your pick among Clemens’ six losses to the Mets for the best one. We like two in particular, a 12-2 drubbing on June 9, 2000, and an 8-0 win on June 15, 2002. The former featured a Piazza grand slam. The latter was highlighted by Shawn Estes, missing on his attempt to hit Clemens with a ball, but clobbering a Clemens pitch for a home run later in the game.

There are those who say Clemens got what he deserved for another reason. Next time you watch a replay of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, check out the shot of Clemens celebrating in the Red Sox bullpen, which was defaced with a huge “RC” in red spray paint.

A vote for Hernandez, Olerud

December, 27, 2010

Getty Images
Keith Hernandez and John Olerud were clutch throughout their baseball careers. But were they Hall of Fame worthy?

There is a little ledge above my bedroom window, on which rests various pieces of sports paraphernalia.

On one end is a Starting Lineup figurine of John Olerud. On the other end is one of Keith Hernandez.

I bring this up because our Stats & Information Group is conducting its own Hall of Fame balloting.

Our rules are the same as those for the Baseball Writers' Association of America, with one exception --you’re allowed to write in candidates no longer eligible for consideration by the actual voters. And on my ballot, I’ve included both Olerud and Hernandez.

My vote is based partly on the eye test (which also allows me to vote for Jack Morris and Dale Murphy) and partly on the stat test (why I’ve also checked off Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines). I’ll admit to being biased. Hernandez and Olerud are my father’s two favorite Mets, so I’ve been subject to many lengthy discussions in which their virtues were extolled.

I vote for both rather than just one because the two are baseball’s version of identical twins. Thus, if I think one is worthy, the other is as well.

Bill James devised a similarity score metric that allows you to compare players. Olerud rates as Hernandez’s 10th-most similar player. Hernandez is Olerud’s seventh-best comparison. But in my view, they’re even closer than that. Consider the following:

Hernandez was the son of a minor league player.
So was Olerud.

Hernandez hit .296 in 17 major league seasons.
Olerud hit .295 in 17 major league seasons.

Hernandez walked a lot (11.2 percent of the time)
Olerud walked a lot (12.6 percent of the time)

Hernandez finished his career with a 128 OPS+
Olerud finished his career with a 128 OPS+
both had an OPS 14 percent better than league average
(thanks to the commenter who pointed out that it's 14 percent better, and not 28 ... 128-100, then divide by two)

Hernandez age 24 to 33 :.305 BA, 134 OPS+
Olerud age 24 to 33: .307 BA, 136 OPS+

Sabermetrician Sean Smith devised a defensive rating for players, Total Zone Runs, which uses play-by-play data from Retrosheet and accounts for nearly 60 years worth of games. I’m not going to pretend I fully grasp it, nor am I going to extol it as an end-all, be-all stat, but a look at the numbers gives me some basis for legitimacy. The players I’d think should rate near the top and bottom rate near the top and bottom.

Hernandez rates first among first basemen in Total Zone Runs.
Olerud ranks third among first basemen in Total Zone Runs.

In regards to their Hall of Fame candidacies, I am fully understanding of those who say that these were a pair of very good players, but ones not worthy of the game’s top honor.

If you feel that way, I would encourage you to read the work of Chris Dial and Jack Moore, each of whom has done an impressive job in making the case for their legitimacy. A quick summary would be that both Hernandez and Olerud were great hitters and elite defenders compared to their peers, and each were integral parts of championship teams.

I want to add one more piece of analysis to their arguments.

A statistical measure, Leverage Index, measures the importance of every plate appearance relative to how much it can impact the outcome of a game.

The most important plate appearances would be in situations such as a tied or one-run game with men on base in the mid-to-late-innings. Those are categorized as high-leverage situations. The least important ones would be in blowouts, with no one on base. Those are low-leverage situations (there is also a category for in-between: medium leverage).

Using their Mets careers as examples, Hernandez’s two-run single that cut the Red Sox lead from 3-0 to 3-2 in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, came in a high-leverage-situation.

Olerud’s two-run go-ahead single against Braves reliever John Rocker in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 1999 NLCS, also came in a high-leverage situation.

Hernandez reached base 40.1 percent of the time for his career in such plate appearances, including on-base percentages of .422, .486, and .445 from 1984 to 1986, three pretty significant years in Mets history.

Olerud reached base 40.7 percent of the time and had an on-base percentage of .395 or better in all three of his season with the Mets (all of which were playoff-contending teams).

Both of those rate as exceptional marks in the context of their eras (Hernandez slightly moreso, because most of his career came outside the steroid era and his primary ballparks favored pitchers).

I’m fully aware that the window of opportunity has closed on Hernandez, who never got even 11 percent of the vote in his nine years on the ballot, and he wasn’t included in the recent Veterans Committee consideration list (in which the closest player to getting elected was a Hernandez contemporary, shortstop Dave Concepcion).

That same window is likely to close quickly on Olerud given that this year’s candidate field is crowded with worthy potential inductees. Some voters are having a hard time limiting their choices to just 10 and the likelihood is that Olerud won’t get the five percent necessary to be on next year’s ballot.

But they’re assured of at least one vote in our Hall of Fame voting. My window of opportunity is forever open to both of them.



Daniel Murphy
.299 9 52 70
HRL. Duda 23
RBIL. Duda 69
RD. Murphy 70
OPSL. Duda .841
WB. Colon 11
ERAZ. Wheeler 3.48
SOZ. Wheeler 148