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Don’t Knock Curtis, Even if He Isn’t Knocking It Out of the Park July 8, 2015

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Curtis Granderson has, for some reason, developed a reputation as a streaky hitter. For example, Adam Rubin opened this article from June 27 commenting on it, although the thrust of the article was Granderson’s defensive issues. Amazin’ Avenue was justifiably a bit more nuanced, describing Curtis’s change of approach at the plate as a favorable influence on Mets scoring. What’s surprising to me is that Granderson’s hitting has been described as a ‘streak.’

2015-07-08 Granderson’s hitting was unpredictable at the beginning of the season, certainly, but those sorts of fluctuations are natural with a small sample size. What’s visible from the time-series chart of Granderson’s first 85 games should be two things: his batting average has improved, and his hitting has been consistent if not trending upward.

Some rudimentary data analysis bears that out. A time-series regression of batting average on game number shows an intercept of .148 and an increase of .0016 per game, both significant at the 99% level (showing a bad start and a slow but steady increase). However, Granderson’s hitting is coming at the expense of his OBP, which showed a 99%-significant .360 intercept and a 95%-significant decrease of .0002 each game. The fluctuation of OBP, which is almost certainly due to his high proportion of walks at the beginning of the season, is about an eighth of the increase in batting average; Curtis’ consistent production can be counted on, whether the rest of the team contributes or not.

In A Pinch July 7, 2015

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Much has been made of the Mets’ inability to hit, often with the tongue-in-cheek point made that Mets pitchers are hitting better than Mets pinch hitters. In fact, that’s true: Mets pitchers have made 178 plate appearances, owning a collective .165/.174/.213 slash line with a .255 BABIP, while pinch hitters get on base slightly more often but otherwise do worse. The pinch hitters have 118 plate appearances thus far, hitting .147/.248/.186 with a ,242 BABIP.

Of course, a big portion of the Mets pitchers’ abysmal slugging average is Steven Matz‘ .500/.500/.667 in 6 plate appearances. Even so, the pitchers are still hitting fairly well – even without Matz, the pitchers have a higher batting average than the pinch hitters.

John Mayberry, Jr., has taken the most plate appearances as a pinch hitter for the Mets. In his 30 PA, he’s hit – though I’m not sure ‘hit’ is correct – .080/.233/.080, although with a terribly unlucky .118 BABIP. Darrell Ceciliani, who was recently sent back down, had 20 plate appearances at .176/.263/.235, inflated by a .375 BABIP. The recently recalled Kirk Nieuwenhuis is 0-14 with a walk (.071 OBP) pinch hitting. Together, those 64 plate appearances make up about half of the Mets’ pinch hitting appearances.

For comparison, MLB pitchers are hitting .132/.156/.163 this year collectively, while MLB pinch hitters have a collective.211/.283/.316 line. That means the Mets pitchers are decidedly above average hitters, but the thin bench is hurting their run production when it comes time to lift a pitcher for a bat.

Logan Verrett’s Three-Inning Save July 6, 2015

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During yesterday’s game, Mets reliever Logan Verrett came in to start the seventh inning during a 7-0 game. During the eighth, the Mets would add another run. Two interesting things happened.

slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop)

slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop)

First, Verrett made his first plate appearance in the majors. He’s a career .098/.132/.098 hitter in 56 plate appearances in the minors, so his groundout to second wasn’t a big surprise.

Second, he earned a three-inning save. Those aren’t common – in fact, the last Met to do so was Raul Valdes in 2010. Valdes actually hit a double in that game. Three-inning saves are a fairly rare beast; the most in the 2000s was 35 in 2001, and in 2014 there were only 9. There have already been 10 in 2015, though, perhaps in keeping with the trend toward using strong minor league starters as bullpen arms.

Matt Andriese of Tampa Bay leads the majors in three-inning saves this year (with two); Verrett is now tied for second (along with seven other pitchers).

Why isn’t Robles the left-handed specialist? July 5, 2015

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"Alex Torres on April 23, 2015" by slgckgc on Flickr (Original version)UCinternational - Originally posted to Flickr as "Alex Torres"Cropped by UCinternational. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alex_Torres_on_April_23,_2015.jpg#/media/File:Alex_Torres_on_April_23,_2015.jpg

“Alex Torres on April 23, 2015″ by slgckgc on Flickr, Cropped by UCinternational.

In yesterday’s post, I made reference to Terry Collins‘ maddening habit of treating Alex Torres as a left-handed specialist against all better evidence. In 17 of Torres’ 33 appearances, he’s faced three batters or fewer; those numbers are similar to bridge man Hansel Robles‘ 26 appearances, in which 15 appearances have faced three batters or fewer (each has faced a maximum of eight batters). Robles’ median appearance is a full inning pitched, whereas Torres’ median was 2/3 of an inning. 19 of Torres’ appearances have come in a clean inning, whereas Robles has come in 16 times to start an inning and twice more with one batter on but 0 outs. Overall, the two pitchers are being used in very similar ways, except for one major factor: Almost 48% of the batters Alex Torres has faced are left-handed, as opposed to a hair over 38% for Hansel Robles.

Against righties, Torres has a .297 OBP-against, compared to Robles’ .328, neither being much to write home about. (Closer Jeurys Familia allows a .225 OBP against right-handers and .254 against left-handers, and reliable eighth-inning dude Bobby Parnell carries .294 against righties and .222 against lefties, in a very limited sample this year.) But against lefties, Robles strictly dominates Torres. Robles has a .222 OBP allowed against right-handers, which is as good as Parnell and a smidge better than our closer. But Torres, who’s faced 59 lefties, more than anyone except Familia? Torres allows a monstrous .407 OBP when facing left-handers!

.407.

Four oh seven.

That’s the worst platoon split of any active Mets pitcher. Not only is Alex Torres not even better facing lefties than righties, he’s so bad that Alex Torres Against Left-Handers should be sent down to keep Alex Torres Against Right-Handers on the roster! If Left-Handers Against Alex Torres were a single player, they would rank #3 in OBP in the National League, ahead of Anthony Rizzo with .405.

Both Parnell and Robles are better against lefties than righties, but Parnell should be comfortable in his eighth-inning role. Why not bust out Robles against lefty-heavy lineups and see if he can keep up his difference? But for heaven’s sake, quit using Alex Torres against left-handers.

One pitcher and two guys on the disabled list July 4, 2015

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This season, the Mets have been fighting against a pernicious series of injuries, mainly focused on the offense. Although we lost Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler, and Jerry Blevins, we’ve also lost David Wright for much of the season and missed Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer, and Juan Lagares for smaller pieces. Let’s take a look at some interesting statistics:

Steven Matz leads the team in OBP (1.000) and total bases per game (4). Second to Matz in OBP is David Wright (.371); Travis d’Arnaud is second in total bases per game (2) and fifth in OBP (.338). Wright follows up with 1.75 total bases per game. In order to get to active position players, we have to go 3 deep to Lucas Duda (OBP of .358 and 1.56 TB/G) and Curtis Granderson (OBP of .348, 1.54 TB/G). In other words, of the Mets’ top 5 hitters, one is a pitcher who’s played one game, and two have spent more time on the disabled list than on the field. Argue with the choice of metric, but our best active hitter can’t touch Andrew McCutchen‘s 10th-best OBP (.370) or the total bases mark (Duda has 122, Granderson 125, and the bottom of the top 10 is a three way tie with 162 total bases involving Prince Fielder, J.D. Martinez, and Manny Machado).

Of course, it could be worse: we could have Ike Davis (.322 OBP, 1.3 TB/G). (But I still like Ike.)

So here’s the problem: When the Mets started off the season, they were hitting incredibly – during the first 25 games, they averaged 4.04 runs per game and allowed only 3.28. The league average this season is 4.01 runs scored to 4.11 allowed, so that was a pretty nice set of stats. But during games 26-50, those stats slid to 3.84 runs scored and 4.04 runs allowed, and in games 51-75, the Mets averaged only 3.16 runs scored to still 4.04 runs allowed. Our pitching, despite being at times inconsistent, is still better than the league, by average.

Although the Mets have made some interesting moves in the bullpen, and Terry Collins‘ insistence on using Alex Torres as a left-handed specialist is maddening at times, the pitching side of the equation is okay. All the team needs is a break on the offensive side – Duda could break out. Cuddyer could stay healthy. Murphy can keep up his hitting and Wilmer Flores can continue developing. This season has been a comedy of errors offensively, but SOMETHING has to go right soon.

Not just offense – consistent offense. April 9, 2015

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Jacob deGrom pitched a quality start last night and got almost no run support.

Now, that’s not unusual. Last year, 2546 teams had their starter pitch 5 or more innings and allow two earned runs or fewer; 781 of those teams lost, for a winning percentage of around 69%. It’s not unusual for the Mets, either; they had 84 such games last year, including 16 from Bartolo Colon (14-1 in those games), 15 from Jon Niese (4-4), 19 from Zack Wheeler (11-2), and 13 from deGrom (9-1). The Mets were right in the middle for all of this – the median across MLB was 85 games and 61 wins in those games. Washington had the most games (101) and the most wins (79), along with the highest percentage of wins coming in 5-inning starts with 2 earned runs or fewer from the starter (82.2%).

Take note, though, of how disproportionate the wins were. Colon won all but 2 of his solid starts, with the Mets averaging 6.4 runs of support; Jon Niese only got 8 decisions, four of them losses, despite having almost as many games as Colon. Behind Niese, the Mets scored only 2.6 runs per game. deGrom had about 4.2 runs per game behind him and won 9 games; Wheeler had six more games with the same 4.2 run support average, but only got two more wins than deGrom in those games.

deGrom maintained last year’s high standards in this year’s first start, and the Mets provided very little run support; even deGrom didn’t support himself very well, shaving almost 40 batting-average points to hit only .178 in these starts compared with .217 in other starts.

Given, the Nationals are coming off a fantastic year as the best team in the National League’s regular season, so we can handle a 2-1 loss early in the season, but the offense needs to be more consistent if we’re going to take a rotation full of talent and turn it into a 90-win season.

Mets Run Support by Starting Pitcher August 1, 2014

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Yesterday’s post discussed distributional wins and losses based on the Mets’ inconsistent bunching of runs together. Since the boys didn’t play last night, I had a pretty stable dataset to work with, and the opportunity to crunch some numbers to see if the hypothesis that we’re working with is true. In addition, I took a look at each of our current starting rotation’s run support numbers and found some surprising things.

First of all, no pitcher had a statistically significant run support number than any other. Although Dillon Gee‘s run support is .77 lower than the average pitcher, for example, the p-value is .44, meaning the probablity that that’s statistically different from 0 is just about 56%. Jacob deGrom has a similar number – .796 runs below the average, but a .42 p-value. The only pitcher with a positive effect on run support is Bartolo Colon, but his p-value is a whopping .72, meaning it’s more likely than not that his number is a statistical artifact.

The runs allowed are a bit more stable – deGrom allows 1.18 runs fewer than average with a .2 p-value – but Gee, Jonathon Niese, Colon, and Zack Wheeler all have statistically 0 effect on runs allowed. Their ps are, respectively, .91, .84, .64, and .79. Basically, this means that an effect would have to be really big to show up in such a small sample size, not even all 108 games are covered in the sample.

Another way of tracking pitcher run support is to track team wins and losses in the games started by those pitchers and compare it to the team’s Pythagorean expectation in those games. This is a bit more revealing; for example, the Mets are 6-8 in starts by deGrom, but would have a Pythagorean expectation of about .568, or about 8-6, in those games. Wheeler also ends up with a Pythagorean expectation better than his record, predicting the Mets would have won 11 rather than 10 of his 22 games. The other pitchers are more or less in line with their expectations, although, like Zack, the pitchers don’t always get credit for the wins they pitched in.

Behind the cut is the table of regression results for a linear model with a dummy variable for each pitcher’s starts, plus a totally useless Away game dummy to look for home field advantage. (Surprise: There is none for the Mets, but all pitchers do allow roughly .74 more runs on the road than at home.)

(more…)

What If The Mets Spread Their Runs More Evenly? July 31, 2014

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Runs allowed by the Mets over the first 108 games

Runs allowed by the Mets over the first 108 games

The Mets have had quite a run lately – they sandwiched a 6-0 shutout loss on Tuesday between a 7-1 rout and an 11-2 dismantling of the Phillies. The whole series is a microcosm of the Mets’ season – the wildly inconsistent run production, the overuse of Josh Edgin, the disappointing start from Dillon Gee, and the totally unnecessary hit by Jeurys Familia. (Familia is 2 for 2 on the year with a 2.000 OPS.) If the Mets had spread out those 18 runs among the 3 games, there would have been a slightly different result – free baseball on Tuesday, but let’s assume the Mets would have lost the game anyway. In fact, the Mets have an average of 3.92 runs over the first 108 games of the season, and they’ve allowed an average of 3.79. If the Mets had spread out all of those runs evenly, then on average, the Mets would have won every game. (Fractional runs mess this up a little.) Of course, the Mets have been pretty wild with the runs they allow, as the graph at right suggests.

Runs scored by the Mets in the first 108 games

Runs scored by the Mets in the first 108 games

Let’s leave a little bit more to the opponents and just examine the Mets’ distribution. Above, the same graph shows the Mets’ distribution of runs. What would happen if they scored exactly 3.92 runs in every game? That would surely have taken a couple of losses off their docket, but probably earn them a couple of wins, as well. In fact, there are 15 games where the Mets scored below their average that they could have won if they’d scored over 3 runs. These losses are disproportionately spread over the Mets’ younger starting pitchers. Although Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero and Daisuke Matsuzaka each started one of these games, and Bartolo Colon started two, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom each started four. Those aren’t all starting pitcher losses, but Wheeler and deGrom have both had several tough losses that could have been taken away through some better run support.

On the other hand, there were 11 games the Mets won that they would have lost by scoring only 3.92 runs. Mejia,, Matsuzaka and deGrom each started one of these games, with Wheeler and Colon each starting two, but Niese is clearly the beneficiary of a lot of convenient run support here – he started four of these games that would have been losses.

After 108 games, the Mets have a 52-56 mark. Turning 11 of those wins into losses and 15 of those losses into wins means that number could be reversed – to a 56-52 mark – with more consistent run support for the starting pitchers. They have the capability to score those runs, and have definitely benefited from bunching those runs up at times, but on the whole deGrom and Wheeler would be better off, as would the entire team, with a bit more consistency.

Colon’s Value May Never Be Higher, so what can the Mets do with him? July 28, 2014

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Bartolo Colon‘s previous start gave a solid 6 2/3 innings of perfect baseball before Robinson Cano broke it up with a single. Though Bart had raised some concerns earlier in the year with his inconsistent performance, he’s shown he still has the capability to throw an excellent ballgame and not lose control when it gets broken up.

The Mets have a perfectly cromulent rotation – Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom are currently in the rotation, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dana Eveland, and Carlos Torres each have the capability to function as a swing starter – and a bullpen that is slowly becoming more reliable.  Though the Mets are allowing a below-average 3.8 runs per game, they’re also scoring a below-average 3.9, indicating that the highest marginal benefit is probably to disassemble Colon for a bat or two.

Trading Colon would leave a hole in the starting rotation that could be filled with one of the bullpen arms; Eveland and Josh Edgin are both operating as lefty bullpen arms, so Eveland might be the more reasonable choice. In the alternative, a AAA starter, rather than a bullpen pitcher, might be promoted. In either case, that leaves a net zero change in the balance between bats and arms. With Wilmer Flores up from Vegas, we can avoid the unfortunate situation of Eric Campbell playing shortstop again. Wilmer may also be able to help by keeping Campbell out of defensive-replacement scenarios, allowing him to focus on pinch hitting. Alternatively, grabbing a low-budget DH player to function as a professional pinch hitter would also be an option, and allow Flores to continue to develop in Las Vegas.

Essentially, the team needs to start supporting its pitchers more consistently. Dropping Colon would eliminate some variance in run support and open up the possibility of using the extra budget room to develop more run support.

July 18, 2014: Tales of Interest July 19, 2014

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  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis has a .580 slugging average. Let me put that into slightly different terms for you. When Kirk walks up to the plate, assuming he doesn’t walk, he’s averaged over HALF A BASE. ASSUMING HE DOESN’T WALK. And that’s including his rough start! In 37 plate appearances since returning from Las Vegas, he’s at .656.
  • Another day, another intentional walk for Ruben Tejada. Ruben’s OBP is .358, and in the 8th position (usually with the pitcher behind him) it jumps to a filthy .375. Yeah, it’s a bit inflated, but even if you removed his ten intentional walks from the season entirely, you still end up with 92 times on base and 287 plate appearances for a .320 OBP. The median OBP for qualified shortstops is .317; I never would have guessed Tejada for an above-average batter. Yeah, yeah, he’s got the pitcher behind him. He’s also costing us less than $4,000 per plate appearance (and falling).
  • Bobby Abreu‘s OBP, meanwhile, is .377. I’m so glad we have a credible threat off the bench. The man’s even got a bunch of doubles, which would be triples if Kirk were hitting them.
  • Lucas Duda (.482), Curtis Granderson (.422), David Wright (.416) and Daniel Murphy (.408) are qualified and have SLG above .400. On the other hand, since coming back from the disabled list, Juan Lagares hasn’t walked at all in 63 plate appearances. Last night, Juan was 1 for 4 with 2 RBIs.
  • Since moving to relief, Jenrry Mejia has a 2.25 ERA, including his two blown saves. That’s 2.95 in save situations, but 0.69 in successfully converted saves. When it rains, it pours.
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