Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting Worried Yet?

The Mets are making a lot of their fans grumpy these days.

On offense, they are firing on nearly all cylinders. They have a .283 team batting average and six of the eight regulars are performing at or above expectations when it comes to their slash stats.

There remains a perception that the Mets cannot hit with runners in the clutch, but the overall stats aren't clearly bearing that out. Their slash stats with men on base, with runners in scoring position and in so-called "clutch situations" are remarkably similar. They are all about 30 points off the pace of "non-clutch situations," which is not good but also is not an unusual difference. Some individuals are struggling more than others (hello, David Wright!), but there is no evidence of the team-wide malaise that some have suggested.

Last week, Adam Rubin of the Daily News suggested that continued ineptitude on the field might lead to some signficiant changes - both on and off the field. Winning 2 out of 3 against the dreadful Nationals this weekend may have stemmed that tide somewhat, but there are two important things to consider about the 2009 New York Mets:

* We are still only 18 games into the season, and firing coaches or demoting core players would look both panicky and vaguely amateurish. It's one thing to release someone like Darren O'Day, who was never being counted on to make a huge impact on the season. It's quite another to try demoting any of your front four starters. Even Oliver Perez, as awful as he's been so far, has no business in the bullpen or in Buffalo. When you make $12 million a year, you get more than four starts before getting bumped from the rotation.

Nothing has happened in the last four weeks that has led me to believe any coach should be fired or re-assigned, because nothing can be legitimately inferred about the Mets by such a small sample size. Oh sure, I have SUSPICIONS - that the starting pitching just isn't that good and that the bullpen is overrated. But I had those suspicions going into the season. Making changes now will just make everyone involved look incompetent for not having recognized these problems in the off-season.

* It may also just be that the Mets aren't playing that badly right now; it may just be that the Mets were never that good in the first place. This entire team was built on a wing and prayer and shockingly enough, not all of these hopes and dreams are panning out.

The only change to the rotation was adding Livan Hernandez - possibly the worst starting pitcher in baseball. The Mets re-made the bullpen by adding a closer with steadily increasing peripherals and a former closer coming off an injury-plagued, ineffective season. The only change to the starting eight was a hot-shot young hitter who was an infielder for his entire minor-league career. Perhaps handing him the starting left fielder's job in the absence of any legitimate alternative wasn't such a hot idea after all.

Omar Minaya was a lazy general manager this offseason. He decided to address only one of the three core areas of his team and simply assumed the other two would be up to snuff. That's a recipe for failure - and so far that's exactly what has been happening.


James Allen said...

I agree with you on the "clutch" thing. The RISP thing is a red herring, it's fun to talk about, but it's not really a problem in that you can't really do anything about it. And besides, teams go 1 for 10 with RISP (or similar) in games all the time. If only the Mets were doing it, then I'd be worried.

Running the Mets numbers through Paul Johnson's NERP (new estimated run production) the Mets estimated runs is 93 and they've scored 89, a 4% difference (about .2 runs per game) which is not significant, especially given the sample size.

This is pretty much what the Mets are.

P.S. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the acquisitions of Livan Hernandez and Gary Sheffield are complete wastes of time. I'm going to ram my head through a wall the next time I hear someone say that Sheffield needs to be given more and more at bats to "really see what he has left." As if taking away AB's from better hitters is a good idea. Phooey.

Jack Flynn said...

James, where can I find more about NERP?

James Allen said...

Drag, I'm upset the comments aren't translated into Spanish.

Anyway, there are numerous writings on ERP and NERP, the best article being A Brief History of Run Estimation from Dan Agonistes.

There have been numerous formulas (formuli?) and it's somewhat related to Linear Weights. I'm not a big Sabermatrician, but I dabble, so it's quite a lot to digest. Hopefully I'm applying it in an appropriate manner.