Thursday, September 17, 2009

Question For You

Is Bobby Parnell a major league pitcher?
I don't think so. He has failed as a starter (1-5 with a 7.93 ERA and a 1.899 WHIP in eight starts). He has failed a reliever (2-3 with a 3.74 ERA and a 1.599 WHIP in 54 appearances). He hasn't put up a good season in the minor leagues since he was 20 years old and pitching in Brooklyn. He has one pitch - a 95-plus fastball without enough movement - and has still not developed a secondary pitch.

To the Parnell fans out there, what have you seen in this guy that makes you think he will ever be an effective major league pitcher?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Roster Moves: September Call-Ups

September call-ups are the only thing worth watching for when your team is nearly 20 games out of first place. The Mets have only called up two players so far, in part since David Wright and Carlos Beltran have come off the disabled list since the month began. Of course, when you have the worst team in both the International League and the Eastern League, your minor league system isn't exactly brimming with major-league ready talent.

Josh Thole is the guy getting most of the attention, after a terrific season at Binghamton during which he put up a .328/.395/.422 line as a catcher. This is the second straight season in which he's posted a good batting average and shown patience at the plate - which in my book means it is time to start considering him a prospect.

He has started four games so far, all against right-handers, because Jerry Manuel inexplicably thinks that Thole needs to be protected from left-handed pitchers. Jesus Christ, why start turning a 22-year-old into a platoon player from the moment he hits the major leagues? Why not let Thole show whether or not he can hit left-handed pitching?

Thole isn't the next Matt Wieters by any stretch - he has just eight home runs in over 400 minor-league games and there are questions about his defense and throwing arm. That's fine; Thole needs to spend 2010 in Buffalo anyway. The Mets cannot make the same mistake they made with Daniel Murphy - it would be foolish and short-sighted to let Thole start next season with the big club.

We are talking about the Mets, of course, so Omar Minaya will probably annoint him the starting catcher on November 1 and fail to sign the one-year stopgap that the team needs instead.

The other call-up is Tobi Stoner, a guy I've kept an eye on for a few years. He dominated as a starter for Brooklyn in 2006 and has shown steady improvement across multiple levels over the past three seasons. Mack thinks that Stoner's future may be as a long reliever, and I like to defer to Mack when it comes to Mets' minor leaguers. He's not ready for the big leagues yet, either, but that's OK - he's another player who needs to be a Bison next season.

Mike Pelfrey
Bobby Parnell
Pat Misch
Tim Redding
Nelson Figueroa
Johan Santana - DL
Oliver Perez - DL
John Maine - DL
Jon Niese - DL
Fernando Nieve - DL

Francisco Rodriguez (closer)
Pedro Feliciano
Brian Stokes
Sean Green
Ken Takahashi
Elmer Dessens
Lance Broadway
Tobi Stoner
JJ Putz - DL

Josh Thole
Brian Schneider
Omir Santos

Daniel Murphy
Luis Castillo
David Wright
Fernando Tatis
Anderson Hernandez
Wilson Valdez
Carlos Delgado - DL
Jose Reyes - DL
Alex Cora - DL
Ramon Martinez - DL

Gary Sheffield
Angel Pagan
Jeff Francouer
Nick Evans
Cory Sullivan
Jeremy Reed
Carlos Beltran
Fernando Martinez - DL

Friday, September 11, 2009

RBI Totals Tell Very Little

I'm resigned to the fact that Jeff Francouer is going to be the Mets' right fielder in 2010, but I don't have to like it.

Yes, he has six hits in his last eight at-bats and his batting average as a Met has moved over .300. He still has just 12 home runs in 510 at-bats on the season, and another year is going to go by where Francouer's supposed power stroke still hasn't manifested itself. His next 30-home run season will still be his first. There's no point in even going into his inability to take a walk - in all Francouer is doomed to be a bad #7 hitter for the rest of his career.

People still pay attention to RBI totals, and Francouer does have 33 in 55 games as a Met. But, as Yahoo's Jeff Passan points out, that doesn't mean much either:

Jeff Francouer has split time this year with the offensively challenged Braves and Mets, yet has the fifth most at-bats with RISP (157). Francoeur's RISP plate appearances are lower because he’s walked just 10 times. His average is puny: .248 with only two homers, but still good for 53 RBIs.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Readers Strike Back: L Millz

Angst writes: you just love that racial boogeyman don't ya? Can't believe I gotta side with the Wilpons but when your fledgling star sings bitch, ho and nigga on a rap album and you wanna sell a product to parents and children, they;re not racist, they're business men. F*** this moral safe house where everyone does it so he should be excused.

(I edited out that bad word beginning with F, because nobody should use bad words.)

I know you live in a fantasy world where racism ended 20 years ago, but the rest of us don't live there. To deny that the elements of racism exist is to turn a blind eye to a problem that will never go away. I ask you: are those dirty words really that big of a deal? I mean, if David Wright sang in a punk band and released a cover of "It's So Easy" by Guns N' Roses, would he have gotten the same treatment as Milledge?

Angst responds: I don't live in a fantasy world, of course racism exists. but yours is a perceived racism, a convenient excuse to lay blame. This is the organization that gave New York its first and second black managers and has poured millions of dollars into non-white players. When David Wright fronts a punk cover band you let me know. David though never angered his teammates and showed up the opponent, he didn't have to be investigated prior to draft for statutory rape and Wright don't show up an hour before game time. When the organization has to answer as to why one of their players records a song celebrating guns, drug use, and the objectification of woman, its a fast ticket out of town. I'm not the censorship police, but he gave management enough justification to trade him. To scream racism is narrow minded. Save your outrage for honest to God bigotry.

Like most people, you have to get your facts straight about Milledge.

* If I leave a handwritten note at your garage that says "Joe Falzarano molests collies," it doesn't mean you should be branded as someone who was investigated for bestiality. Therefore, perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to brand Milledge as someone investigated "prior to the draft for statutory rape" based on such incredibly flimsy evidence.

He was the target of an anonymous and ultimately unfounded accusation - an unsigned handwritten note that suggested he was receiving sexual favors from 13-year-old students at his high school. As that witch-hunt played out, Milledge (who was 17 at the time) eventually admitted to having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. That's it. Read the story here.

Think of the term "statutory rape" and what it implies. Then realize what Lastings Milledge actually did and realize how inappropriate it is to apply that term to it. Google "Genarlow Wilson" to find out what can happen to black teenagers from the South who hook up with girls two years younger than them. Luckily for Lastings, he is from Florida and not Georgia, and didn't end up in jail for the heinous crime of getting some before the age of 18.

By the way, isn't it funny how you never hear of a white athlete getting caught up in a "scandal" like this? I guess white kids never have sex before the age of 18, and even then it only happens with other 18-year olds. Oh wait, I might be accused of conjuring up the racial boogeyman again instead of saving my outrage for honest to God bigotry. I'll be curious to see which category the Wilson case will fall into in your eyes.

* Milledge exchanged high-fives with fans when he returned to his position after hitting his first major league home run to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning. He didn't show anyone up - he shared the enjoyment of a memorable moment on the baseball field with some of the paying customers. This is supposed to be indicative of a negative character issue? Where does this outrage over the perceived "showing up" of an opponent even come from? Who, exactly, decided that ignoring the fans during the game is considered a sign of good character, while engaging with them in the moment is a sign of bad character?

* Professional baseball is a job. Do you show up at your job two or three hours early each day so you can get better at it? Or do you show up on time, do your work and go home? I know you aren't pulling daily 11-hour shifts so you can become the best worker in your garage. Why, then, does Lastings Milledge have to show up early at this job?

Milledge's comments from the linked article: "You know, there's always a thing where, 'Oh, rookies have to be here 2-1/2 or three hours before stretch.' No. I'm not gonna be here three hours before stretch. If you're here and you get your work in, it shouldn't matter how early you're at the field. You know what you need to do. That's fine. You don't have to be at the park three, four hours before the park if you don't want. You don't see nobody clocking in three or four hours before they have to show up to work. So, I mean, some people feel like they have to get here to read the newspaper or do crossword puzzles or get their mind ready. I feel like I come to the park, I have 45 minutes of stuff I have to do to get prepared for practice and get ready for the game. Five minutes might be watching videos. Fifteen minutes might be going in the cage. And then getting whatever other work I need."

* On the rare occasions when you're late for work, does your boss single you out, publicly embarrass you and question your commitment to your job? Do your co-workers use your lateness as an opportunity to advance a negative agenda about you? Lastings Milledge's former co-workers did. You are continuing to do so.

* Milledge didn't record a song about guns, drug use, and the objectification of women, as you baselessly claim. He produced a song on his personal rap label for a childhood friend named Manny D called "Bend Ya' Knees." And yes, on that track he used language that he should have his mouth washed out with soap for. But there wasn't one lyric in that song that glorified guns and drug use. It doesn't excuse the objectification, but it's one more example of how, with Lastings Milledge, his critics are always willing to play fast and loose with the truth in an attempt to denigrate his charcater.

So let's review. Lastings Milledge had sex with his girlfriend as a teenager. He slapped hands with ecstatic fans after hitting his first major league home run. He goes to work on time instead of a few hours early. He said some bad words on his friend's rap album. "Character" issues like this have been used to paint him as a brooding malcontent, if not an outright thug.

But if I think that some of this silliness might have something to do with Milledge being black, I'm being narrow-minded.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

L-Millz: Prelude

He's hitting cleanup for the Pittsburgh Pirates these days, but that says more about the quality of the Pirate lineup than it does about the quality of the player. But Lastings Milledge is raking right now, and the Pirates are benefitting from looking past the silly things that have been whispered and written about him during his brief professional career.

Milledge was acquired by Pittsburgh at the end of June, rescued from a Washington Nationals organization that decided seven games in 2009 said more about the player than 138 games did a season before. Washington badly mishandled Milledge in 2009 - they tried to change his approach at the plate before the season started and banished him to Triple-A when he didn't take to it quickly enough.

Things got worse from there - Milledge broke his hand while in Syracuse, which washed away most of the first half of the season. He was only beginning to make his way back when the Pirates traded Nyger Morgan to Washington for him as part of a four-player deal. Now Morgan's season is over, ironically from a broken hand, and it is Milledge who looks like a budding star again.

Milledge had two more hits for the Pirates last night, and has a .328/.378/.448 line with Pittsburgh in 32 games. The power still isn't there yet - Milledge has just eight doubles and two home runs in 155 plate appearances this season. If he isn't going to hit 25 home runs a season (and at this point it looks like he's going to be more of a 10-to 20-homer type), Milledge is going to need to hit 30 or 40 doubles a year to still be a regular at this level.

He seems to have settled in as Pittsburgh's left fielder, however, and should be the Opening Day starter in 2010. Perhaps a full season without being bad-mouthed and jerked around by his organization will finally allow Milledge to reach his full potential.

His minor-league track record suggests future stardom - he hit well at every level of the Mets organization despite being young for most of the leagues he was in. There is still work to be done - Milledge is not a good baserunner, nor a particularly good fielder. These are things that can be taught, or at least improved upon, if someone is willing to work with him.

I've written a lot about Milledge before, because I think he got a raw deal in New York. I think that raw deal was largely a product of overreaction to Milledge's real or perceived maturity issues. I also think that race had something to do with it; too much was written about cornrows and saying bad words in hip-hop tracks to make me think otherwise.

I still believe in Lastings Milledge, and I still believe that he's going to be a star in this league for years to come. As the 2009 Mets stumble to the finish line in this lost and disatrous season, I'd feel a lot better about the future if they had someone like Lastings Milledge to play left field in 2010.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Readers Strike Back: American League MVP

DJ writes (via Facebook): Hello Mr Flynn- I agree with you analysis of Joe Mauer's year and I agree that with no major shift in numbers in September that he should get it. The Yankees have played like such a team that it is okay if we dont get the MVP, we'll have the Cy YOUNG and a 27th WORLD SERIES ring- that will have to do.

The Yankees signed Zack Greinke? He leads the American League in ERA, Adjusted ERA+, complete games, shutouts and WHIP (among qualified pitchers). He's also third in innings pitched and second in strikeouts.

CC Sabathia has been very good, and he's leading the league in wins and innings pitched, but Greinke has simply been better. Zack is also making over $10 million less in 2009 ...

Angst writes: Hard to argue against Mauer, but would Texas be where Texas is without Michael Young? He's about to go on the 15 day DL, we're about to find out...

Michael Young has had a terrific season and did so after moving to third base to accommodate Elvis Andrus. He deserves more consideration than he's getting.

Sarcastic Bastard writes: Hands down Mauer gets the nod ... he has been nothing short of unbelievable at the most demanding position in baseball ... Greinke would have probably 18 wins by now if he didn't play for a minor league team ... so he gets the Cy ... despite being a Yankee fan, I have to laugh at the yearly notion that the Yankees are the home to the MVP ... as if it is our right to hoard every piece of hardware because we are the Mighty Pinstripers ......

it's almost as laughable as the Red Sox trying to complain that the Yankees are an Evil Empire that can buy many players on the Red Sox of 2004 and 2007 were home grown?

moving could argue that Tex didn't really start going until A-Rod came off the who really is the more valuable one? and until Jeter stops being a near defensive liability he won't get my blessing for the MVP ... if he does win one, it'll strictly be for his career numbers...not because he is the linchpin to the Yankees offense ...

It pains me to say it, but Jeter has a legitimate claim to MVP. SS is the second most demanding defensive position and the metrics indicate he has been much better defensively this year. Throw in a .333/.399/.480 line with 17 homers and 23 steals, and he belongs in the conversation much more than Teixeira.

DJ retorts: You Met fans are irrational ... Sabathia will get the cy young-mauer will get MVP and that arguement about texeria is bs-you could say that about any 3 and 4 hitter combinaion in baseball history - Tex still has to hit the freaking ball!

We may be irrational, but it doesn't mean we are wrong!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The American League MVP Race

Let me start this by saying that the American League Most Valuable Player this season has to be Joe Mauer. When you get a .367/.434/.611 line from your catcher - who just happens to have 26 home runs to boot - there really should be no debate.

This is no different that the arguments I would have with people who didn't realize just how good of a hitter Mike Piazza was in his prime - putting up sterling offensive numbers at such a punishing defensive position is exceedingly difficult to do. Piazza was robbed of the MVP in 1997, and you could make a very good case that he should have won in 1995 and 1996 as well.

I've found it amusing then, that there has been any push to consider Mark Teixeira as an MVP candidate over Mauer. Teixeira has had a very good year, although his offensive numbers are slightly down from his previous two campaigns. He has not had a season anywhere near as good as Mauer's, however, and it's not a stretch to say that he hasn't even been the best first baseman in the American League.

Player A: .281/.380/.541 with 32 home runs, 101 RBIs and 67 extra-base hits in 590 plate appearances.
Player B: .314/.358/.597 with 30 home runs, 94 RBIs and 69 extra-base hits in 506 plate appearances.

Player A, of course, is Teixeira. Player B is Kendry Morales, the California Angels' first baseman. Morales, a Cuban defector in his first full season as a starter, is outshining Teixeira in most mainstream offensive categories - although you wouldn't know it if you only read the New York newspapers.

Teixeira has a reputation as an outstanding defensive first baseman, even though Fangraphs has him with a -1.1 UZR this season. (That's not bad, by the way; I don't fully understand Ultimate Zone Rating but it seems to be a preferred defensive statistic among people who are serious about analyzing defensive performance.) Morales, meanwhile, is at 2.7 UZR, which suggests he has been better than Tex in 2009.

There is a school of thought that the MVP has to be from one of the best teams in the league, if not the best team. Personally, I would like to expel every student in that school and burn the building to the ground. But even if you gave that line of thinking some credence, Morales stands with Teixeira, considering both of their teams are on the way to a division title.

It's natural that hometown sportswriters end up pushing hometown guys for major awards. Their readers - who are generally fans of the team that the sportswriter is writing about - want to believe that their guy is the best and that everyone else in the league is a bum. That's where "Teixeira for MVP" stories are born; I suspect that the voters will get it right in November.