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Mets seek to win season series against Dodgers (Mets Game 49 Preview) May 29, 2016

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Chase Utley during 2016 Spring Training. Photo: Kdolson20 via Wikimedia Commons

Chase Utley during 2016 Spring Training. Photo: Kdolson20 via Wikimedia Commons

After a 9-1 loss last night, the Mets have thus far split the season series with the Dodgers 3-3. The final game is this evening at Citi. Tensions are high following Chase Utley‘s extremely strong performance and Noah Syndergaard‘s ejection for throwing behind Utley in the third inning.

You can’t comment on game 48 without weighing in on the Utley-Syndergaard controversy, so let me just say this: it’s ridiculous that Syndergaard’s manager is worried he’ll be suspended for not hitting Utley, after Utley never served a suspension for a malicious dropkick slide at Ruben Tejada. For Syndergaard to be ejected the same day Tejada is designated for assignment, and for Utley to then hit the go-ahead homer and hit a grand slam, seems almost like a lazy literary device in a bad baseball novel.

The Mets, though, have work to do. Hansel Robles seemed listless; he allowed Utley’s grand slam in his first inning of work, relieving Antonio Bastardo in the seventh, but otherwise got out of the inning with two strikeouts and a fly ball. In the eighth, though, Hansel allowed two more home runs and two walks (sneaking a double play in in the process). Robles wasn’t the same during the eighth, and it seemed like he had lost interest in it by the time Jerry Blevins relieved him.

As for Syndergaard, he half-jokingly suggested he’d be available:


Logan Verrett is probably unavailable after throwing 43 pitches in 3 2/3 innings last night; Bastardo tossed only 13, Robles 27, Blevins only 8 and Jim Henderson 16. Robles is almost surely available only in a pinch, but Bastardo is probably available. Nevertheless, having Syndergaard ready to pitch out of the bullpen does give the Mets some much-needed bullpen flexibility from a confident reliever. I’d be unsurprised to see him pitch Monday or Tuesday, but pitching him today might throw off his schedule.

Bartolo Colon starts tonight. Bart is unflappable; expect very little in the way of aftershocks from him. Utley has hit him mercilessly, 10-20 career with 2 doubles and a home run. Adrian Gonzalez is 13-28 (.464) with two doubles and three homers. Catcher Yasmani Grandal also has an OPS near 1, with a .250 average on 8 plate appearances including a homer of his own. Otherwise, the usual suspects are quiet: Justin Turner is 1-12, Carl Crawford 6-36, Howie Kendrick and anemic 3-25.

Still, it’s going to be hard to hit Clayton Kershaw. James Loney is 1-1 against Kershaw, but hasn’t joined the team yet. Likely first baseman Eric Campbell is hitless in 6 plate appearances against Clayton, as is Kevin Plawecki (6 PAs) and Alejandro De Aza (5). Usual threats Neil Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares are each 1-12, with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera each also at or below the Mendoza line. In fact, only Asdrubal Cabrera (.286/.375/.286) and backup catcher Rene Rivera (.250/.333/.250) are above the .200 mark. Wright, however, has walked 7 times in 28 plate appearances; one of those came on May 12 of this year in Colon’s uncharacteristic 5-0 loss to Kershaw. Wright sat on Saturday and will sit on Monday.

In order for the Mets to take the season series against the Dodgers, Colon will need to neutralize Utley. Defense is more important than usual, since Kershaw makes so few mistakes. Kershaw hasn’t allowed a home run since April 26 and has surrendered only 3 this year, so it’s incumbent on players like Wright and Granderson to get on base regardless of the circumstances and players like Cabrera and Walker to move them over. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets can squeeze a longball out of Kershaw – they’ve been very good at it this year – and as long as they keep the defensive pressure on, this game is eminently winnable.

Syndergaard and Utley (Mets Game 48 Preview) May 28, 2016

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Noah Syndergaard; Photo: Arturo Pardavila III

Noah Syndergaard; Photo: Arturo Pardavila III

Tonight, Noah Syndergaard takes the mound against the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda. The Mets enter tonight’s game 3-2 on the season against the Dodgers, following a near miss by normally lights-out closer Jeurys Familia.

The Dodgers’ Chase Utley has been, frankly, ridiculous this year. Utley has been producing in key positions for the Dodgers. After last year’s disappointing .212/.286/.343 season, Utley has raised his batting average to .292 and added almost a full .100 to his on-base percentage (chiefly by walking more). Utley is dangerous on base, scoring a run over 40% of the time. Though there’s speculation that Syndergaard will murder Utley, the Mets seem to have made their peace with him and are letting the fans exact his punishment – although, frankly, he’s batting in so many runs that I wish they’d just hit him instead of giving him the chance to clear the bases.

However, Syndergaard has had his way with Utley. In 8 plate appearances, Utley has only gotten on base once – a single. Noah has been similarly effective against Howie Kendrick (1-11), Yasmani Grandal (1-7), and Yasiel Puig (1-6). On the other side, former Met and current troll doll Justin Turner has been successful (2-6, both doubles). Enrique Hernandez is 1-1 with two walks, one intentional.

As for Maeda, Mets fans may recall him as the dude Noah hit two home runs off of a few weeks ago. Other Mets haven’t been as effective: Michael Conforto, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera are each 1-3, but no one else has hit him. This one is going to require Syndergaard to pitch effectively and our batters to leave it on the field. Syndergaard’s numbers versus current Dodgers are below.


Howie Kendrick 11 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .091 .091 .091 .182
Adrian Gonzalez 10 9 2 0 0 1 1 1 4 .222 .300 .556 .856
Yasmani Grandal 8 7 1 0 0 1 1 1 3 .143 .250 .571 .821
Corey Seager 8 8 2 0 0 1 1 0 4 .250 .250 .625 .875
Chase Utley 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .125 .125 .125 .250
Justin Turner 7 6 2 2 0 0 0 1 2 .333 .429 .667 1.095
Carl Crawford 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333
Joc Pederson 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .167 .000 .167
Yasiel Puig 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333
Enrique Hernandez 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Clayton Kershaw 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Kenta Maeda 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Trayce Thompson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 78 72 12 2 0 3 3 6 20 .167 .231 .319 .550
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/28/2016.

Jeurys Familia earns the rare Condor Win May 28, 2016

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I thought the story of last night’s game would be Julio Urias, but I was wrong.

Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

May 27 was the worst outing Jeurys Familia has had since 2012. He came into a non-save situation – four runs up, but he hadn’t worked in a few days – and promptly allowed singles to Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick before striking out Joc Pederson. Yasiel Puig singled, followed by Yasmani Grandal walking to force in a run. Trayce Thompson struck out, but Chase Utley squeaked a two-out double to clear the bases. With the game now tied, Familia struck out Corey Seager to end the inning. (Fortunately, Curtis Granderson picked him up with a home run.)

I’ve heard some people describing Jeurys’ win last night as a ‘vulture win,’ but I disagree. A vulture win is granted when a pitcher blows the save but wins the game anyway. Familia didn’t blow the save – he blew a non-save situation. That’s much bigger than a vulture win – it’s a condor win.

The lore around Familia has become that he’s a high-pressure worker – that he pitches well in save situations, but that he can’t manage to bring it home when he just comes in to stay busy. I’m not so sure that’s true.

First, this year’s numbers: Jeurys has had 16 save oppportunities in 2016, over which he’s had 60 plate appearances, held opposing batters to a .207/.233/.224 slash line, and walked 2 batters while striking out 12 for a 6.00 KBB. In 2015, there were only eight relievers (who pitched in 40 games or more and relieved 95% of their games) to keep a KBB above 6; that number will likely come down a bit, although Familia’s pitching style means it’s likely to stay above average. (A list of last year’s relievers sorted by KBB is here.) Meanwhile, in his 8 non-save situations this year, Jeurys has allowed a .371/.421/.486 slash line over 38 plate appearances with 9 strikeouts but 3 walks. Hm – not closer stuff, definitely, but keep in mind that Jeurys’ defense tends to help him out more in save situations. His BAbip in save situations this year has been .261 – below the league average, which hovers around .300, by a bit – but in non-saves it’s been considerably worse, at an even .500. This could indicate that the defense behind Jeurys plays a role in those results.

In fact, last year’s numbers bear out a significantly similar trend:

in Sv Situ 49 199 185 12 37 5 12 55 4.58 .200 .247 .314 .561 .254
in non-Sv 27 109 100 4 22 1 7 31 4.43 .220 .284 .300 .584 .309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/28/2016.

The results are similar, with a slight nudge upward in non-save situations, but Jeurys gets significantly ‘luckier’ with BAbip when he’s in for the save.

Julio Urias’ debut and a full Mets bullpen (Mets Game 47 Preview) May 27, 2016

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Urias in 2014 spring training. Photo: Dustin Nosler via Wikipedia.

Urias in 2014 spring training. Photo: Dustin Nosler via Wikipedia.

Friday night, the Mets host the Dodgers for the home portion of their season series. The teams split their early May series with wins for Mets starters Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, and the Koufaxian Clayton Kershaw. The Mets will start Jacob deGrom against the debuting Julio Urias.

deGrom started against the Dodgers on May 10; he pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on 8 hits, 4 strikeouts, and no walks. He was lifted after 103 pitches, and a ninth-inning home run by Trayce Thompson off Hansel Robles won the game for Kenley Jansen. In two starts since, deGrom has had a confusing set of numbers – he’s held opponents to a .220 batting average and a .313 OBP, along with a luckier-than-average .233 BAbip, but allowed 7 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings pitched for a 5.56 ERA. Current Dodgers have hit deGrom fairly well; first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has hit a monstrous .375 against deGrom in 18 plate appearances, plus a walk for a .389 OBP; though he’s struck out 8 times, he’s hit two home runs for a .750 slugging average. In 14 plate appearances, Justin Turner (3B) has hit .357/.357/.571 with two doubles. Likely leadoff hitter Chase Utley (2B) is hitting .267/.353/.333, followed up by shortstop Corey Seager at .333/.333/.556. With Gonzalez, and then Turner, following up, there’s a huge chance (about 57%) that Gonzalez will come up with at least one man on base and 0 or 1 out. On the other hand, deGrom tends to strike out opposing hitters at an alarming KBB of 4.33 (13 Ks, 3 walks) the first run through the order. The second time through, the strikeouts stay high but the walks climb (2.00, 12K to 6 BB). In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, though, deGrom’s ERAs are 1.29, 2.57, and 1.29; deGrom shows the confusing trend of having stronger batting-against stats but allowing more runs in the early innings. As long as he can get through that first run through the Dodgers infield, deGrom can serve as a strong bridge to the bullpen with Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia.

Note that Familia is tied for second in the NL with 16 saves, behind only the Phillies’ Jeanmar Gomez.

The 19-year-old Urias is making his MLB debut. He’s been filthy at AAA this year, with a .780 WHIP, a 1.10 ERA and a 9.7 K9 in 41 innings pitched. Young pitchers have mixed success moving to the majors – you’ll always have your Clayton Buchholz types who take advantage of their unfamiliarity to opposing hitters, but you’ll also have young pitchers who need development to grow into their roles – so it’s tough to predict how Urias will do. When he was bumped from AA to AAA last season, for example, he started two games but allowed 9 runs in only 4 1/3 innings, leading to an unsightly 18.69 ERA. Mets fans can hope Urias has some difficulty adjusting tonight, considering the volume of the Citi Field crowd.

Dodgers numbers against deGrom are below:

A.J. Ellis 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .333 .600 .333 .933 0
Alex Wood 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0
Adrian Gonzalez 18 16 6 0 0 2 6 1 8 .375 .389 .750 1.139 0
Justin Turner 14 14 5 3 0 0 1 0 1 .357 .357 .571 .929 0
Chase Utley 17 15 4 1 0 0 0 2 3 .267 .353 .333 .686 0
Joc Pederson 12 9 1 1 0 0 0 3 2 .111 .333 .222 .556 0
Corey Seager 9 9 3 2 0 0 1 0 4 .333 .333 .556 .889 0
Yasmani Grandal 9 8 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .222 .250 .472 0
Yasiel Puig 9 9 2 0 0 1 1 0 3 .222 .222 .556 .778 0
Carl Crawford 11 9 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 .000 .182 .000 .182 0
Howie Kendrick 10 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .100 .100 .100 .200 0
Enrique Hernandez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0
Clayton Kershaw 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0
Total 121 109 25 8 0 3 9 11 33 .229 .298 .385 .683 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/27/2016.

Mets Game 17 Quick Preview April 24, 2016

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The Braves have hit terribly against Jacob deGrom. Current Braves’ .209 OBP against deGrom includes pitcher Julo Teheran going 1-3 against him. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski and second baseman Kelly Johnson are both hitless; Freddie Freeman is a mighty 2-10 with two walks.

That is all.


Freddie Freeman 12 10 2 0 0 1 1 2 4 .200 .333 .500 .833
Kelly Johnson 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jace Peterson 7 6 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .333 .429 .500 .929
Nick Markakis 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333
A.J. Pierzynski 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Julio Teheran 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667
Matt Wisler 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 43 40 6 1 0 1 1 3 11 .150 .209 .250 .459
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/24/2016.

Free at last! (Mets Game 16 Preview) April 23, 2016

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Matt Harvey finally notched his first win of the year, going 5 innings with 7 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 1 walk (to Nick Markakis), and 5 strikeouts. That walk came in the fifth inning, when Harvey has traditionally labored; fortunately, a dead-on throw from Yoenis Cespedes to Travis d’Arnaud kept A.J. Pierzynski from bringing Markakis home to end the fifth and get Harvey through the minimum.

Freddie Freeman. Photo: Bruce Tuten via Wikimedia Commons

Freddie Freeman. Photo: Bruce Tuten via Wikimedia Commons

Cespedes extended his streak of extra-base hits to 7; over those 7 games, he’s hitting .345/.406/.931 with a .400 batting average on balls in play. In the first 8 games of the season, he hit .233/.324/.333 with a .333 BAbip. The Mets were 3-5 during those first 8 games and 5-2 during Cespedes’ streak. Yo left the game after an extended rain delay due to aggravating his leg injury sliding into second for last night’s double; Juan Lagares may make the start in center tonight. Ces has never faced Braves pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, but Lagares is 2-6 lifetime against him with a double.

Curtis Granderson hit two home runs including one grand slam, along with a single, for 9 total bases and 5 RBIs. One of those RBIs came when Harvey made it to first on a throwing error by the pitcher, trying to force Asdrubal Cabrera out at third. On this road trip, Granderson is hitting .353/.476/.941 on a close-to-league-average .300 BAbip. Granderson is 1-2 with a walk against Chacin. Neil Walker is .333/.333/.556 against Chacin in 9 plate appearances.

Freddie Freeman extended his lifetime hitless streak against Matt Harvey to 9 plate appearances with a pop foul, a flyout, and a swinging K. Freeman hasn’t hit well this year (.167/.318/.241, compared to last year’s .276/.370/.471), but he’s been fairly good against current Mets: he has an OPS above 1 against 5 Mets pitchers, including starter Steven Matz(1-3, walk), relievers Addison Reed (1-2) and Jerry Blevins (3-7), and closer Jeurys Familia (5-11, walk, 2 home runs). Freeman hit .246/.317/.509 in his first 15 games last year, so his OBP isn’t too big a surprise – it’s really the last of extra-base hits that’s causing the Braves trouble.

Steven Matz is largely unproven against the Braves. His only previous start against Atlanta was in September of last year, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks for 1 run. Current Braves have hit him reasonably well, so it will be good to see whether Matz continues what he started last time out or whether he looks more like his first start against Miami.

Daniel Castro 3 3 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.667 2.333
Freddie Freeman 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167
Adonis Garcia 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667
Nick Markakis 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667
Matt Wisler 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 14 13 5 0 0 1 1 1 1 .385 .429 .615 1.044
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2016.

Off to Atlanta (Mets Game 15 Preview) April 22, 2016

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Matt Harvey in 2012. Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

Matt Harvey in 2012. Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

The Mets will start Matt Harvey tonight against the Braves’ Bud Norris.

The Mets have hit Norris at a .257/.382/.392 clip since 2009. The results have been mixed: though Neil Walker has smacked Norris around for .391/.517/.565 in 29 plate appearances, David Wright has hit .091/.333/.091 in 15. (Note, though, that those 15 include 3 walks and a hit by pitch, so Wright still manages to get on base regularly.) Lucas Duda is 1-3 (double) with a walk; Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki are each 1-3. In 11 plate appearances, Yoenis Cespedes is hitting .300 with a home run and a walk against Norris. Cespedes has hit homers in the last two games and four of the last 6; the Cespedes/Walker combination is likely to be dangerous. Norris gave up 4 earned runs including 2 homers to the Marlins last weekend; it’s imperative the Mets are aggressive with him early on to knock him out of the game, as the 4-11 Braves had 5 blown saves in 8 save opportunities.

Meanwhile, this game may be an opportunity for Harvey to get his season on track. In 26 plate appearances, current Braves have hit .080/.115/.120 against Harvey; Jace Peterson and former Mets backup infielder Kelly Johnson are both 1-3 against Harvey, but Harvey has held Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hitless in 6 plate appearances. Good defense is key, since Harvey seems to get rattled when things don’t quite go his way. The Mets were 5-5 in Turner Field last year, outscoring the Braves 43-36. Three of those wins came from starters and two from the bullpen. In six of those games, the Mets scored 4 or more runs, and they lost only one; providing Harvey with more than his current 3.33 runs per game of support will go a long way toward allowing Harvey to do what he does well.

Pitcher as Position Player April 22, 2016

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Earlier this week, a reader found the World’s Worst Sports Blog by searching “Pitcher as Position Player.” While the WWSB is well-versed on position players hopping on the mound, there haven’t recently been many opportunities for pitchers to take the field. When they do, it’s often for strategic reasons.

Twice – in 2011 and 2012 – the Houston Astros’ Wesley Wright took the field to keep him in the game. Wright, a left-handed specialist, was noticeably better against lefties than righties. In 2011, his slash line against right-handers was .385/.429/.923 in 14 plate appearances. Against lefties, it was .067/.138/.067 in 30 plate appearances. I cannot emphasize how much Wesley Wright is two different pitchers depending on who he faces. The numbers weren’t as stark in 2012: .269/.367/.423 in 90 plate appearances against righties, .198/.265/.273 in 133 appearances against lefties. On August 23 of 2011, Houston manager Brad Mills put Wright in to pitch the 8th against the Colorado Rockies. Wright got Carlos Gonzales to pop out. Mills wanted a righty to face Troy Tulowitzki, so he stashed Wright in right field. Brian Bogusevic left the game to make room for Wright in the outfield and David Carpenter came in to face Tulowitzki. Carpenter induced a groundout, and then Wright came back to the hill to strike out Todd Helton with J.B. Shuck in right.

On July 27 of 2012, Wright did a similar shuffle: he came in in the 8th to get a groundout from Pittsburgh’s Alex Presley, but Brad Mills brought in Wilton Lopez to face Andrew McCutchen. Wilton replaced Wright on the mound with Ben Francisco leaving the game to make room for Wright. McCutchen doubled to center and Lopez left the game, so Bogusevic came in to play the field. Wright then took the mound again and got outs from Garrett Jones and Neil Walker, then from Pedro Alvarez in the ninth. (Interestingly, Bogusevic also hurled an inning in a blowout in 2012.)

Manager Bo Porter used fellow Astro Tony Sipp in the outfield twice in 2014, as well: right field on June 9 while Jerome Williams walked Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks, and left field six days later while Josh Zeid struck out the Rays’ Evan Longoria. Meanwhile, in 2010, pitchers Kyle Lohse and Roy Oswalt each spent some time in left field – 3 innings for Lohse and 2 for Oswalt – in extra-innings games. Neither had spent any time in the field in the minors.

Though an injury last year to David Wright made it look like the Mets might have to use Jacob deGrom as a shortstop, the Mets settled on putting catcher Anthony Recker at third base instead. It’s highly unusual to use a pitcher in the field because of the lack of experience and potential for injury. Even using pitchers to run is controversial. However, pitchers do occasionally come in to pinch hit, as Colin Rea did for the Padres earlier this year in an extra-innings game.

Are extra-innings contests evenly matched? (Mets Game 14) April 21, 2016

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The Mets lost to the Phillies in 11 innings last night. That was a surprising result – based on the run scoring in the first two games, the Pythagorean expectation for the same Mets team facing the same Phillies team would have been around 95.5%. Even going into extra innings seemed to be a stretch with Bartolo Colon pitching. Plus, the Phillies were in the bottom of the league in extra innings last year.

Addison Reed blew his first save of the year when he allowed a single to Peter Bourjos that scored David Lough. Despite strong performances from Antonio Bastardo and Jim Henderson, Hansel Robles allowed a double, a wild pitch, and a single that brought Freddy Galvis home.

Once we hit the tenth inning, it’s evidence that the teams are evenly matched, right? Not necessarily. in 2015, there were 212 extra-innings games. The home team won 111 of them, about 52.4%. That’s obviously higher than expected, but keep in mind that if this were a fifty-fifty coin flip we’d expect at least 111 wins around 22.5% of the time. Where it gets interesting is that the home team has (with the exception of 2014) consistently won over half those games, but that the more games that are played, the better visitors do. Since 2006, 2144 extra-innings games have been played with teams winning 1130 of them for a .527 winning percentage; that’s something that, if this truly is a 50-50 proposal, should only happen by chance 0.6% of the time.

Year G W L perc
2006 185 105 80 0.568
2007 220 117 103 0.532
2008 208 108 100 0.519
2009 195 106 89 0.544
2010 220 116 104 0.527
2011 237 134 103 0.565
2012 192 96 96 0.500
2013 243 125 118 0.514
2014 232 112 120 0.483
2015 212 111 101 0.524
Total 2144 1130 1014 0.527

One other result gives us pause: from 2006-2015, 24297 games were played and the home team won 13171 of them. That’s a considerable home field advantage, since all teams play half their games on the road and half at home. That corresponds to a .542 win probability for any home team. If that, rather than .500, is the expected win rate for a home team, then teams perform significantly worse in extra innings.

In other words, though the home team still has an advantage, that advantage shrinks once we hit the tenth inning.

The Mets are idle tonight. They’ll pick up in Atlanta on Friday.

Vince Velasquez Really Didn’t Pitch That Badly (Mets Game 13) April 20, 2016

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Or, back to that wretched Phillies bullpen

Brett Oberholtzer as an Astro. Photo: Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Brett Oberholtzer") [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Brett Oberholtzer as an Astro. Photo: Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

Vince Velasquez is starting to look human, but don’t get too excited. Entering last night’s game, he was 2-0 on 15 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 walks, a whopping 25 strikeouts, and no runs. He was coming off a shutout of the Padres on a monstrous 97 game score. Contrast that with last night: in 4 1/3 innings, Velasquez gave up 5 runs on 5 hits, although only two of them were earned because, in arguably the most important play of the game, Mets pitcher Logan Verrett reached on an error to start the third inning. Reconstructing the inning without the error:


However, because Verrett was safe at first, he was on base for Michael Conforto to single him over to second, and then for Yoenis Cespedes to bring them home on a home run. Although Conforto had already hit a wind-aided homer off Velasquez in the first, it’s debatable whether those hits would still have come at the beginning of an inning with a fresh pitcher. Since Conforto has been so problematic for pitchers, it’s likely he’d have made it to base in the phantom fourth inning, but Cespedes had struck out in the first, and the wind was certainly a factor in his homer; it’s plausible the fourth inning would have gone:

  1. Conforto singled
  2. Cespedes flied out to center
  3. Neil Walker flied out to right
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to short

Then we enter the fifth inning with Velasquez down 2-0, rather than 5-0. That inning may have looked like this:

  1. Travis d’Arnaud grounded out to shortstop
  2. Verrett doubled.
  3. Granderson hit by pitch
  4. Wright struck out looking.

Now it’s the fifth inning, you have Conforto on deck, men on first and second, but the lead runner is a pitcher. Verrett is unlikely to score on a single. Even though Conforto beat Velasquez up pretty badly that evening, Velasquez is one out away from his fifth inning, making him eligible for a win if the Phillies turn it around. Additionally, entering last night’s game, Velasquez’ platoon splits were all in favor of having him face the lefty: he doesn’t strike lefties out as often, but they hit significantly worse. Bringing left-handed specialist Elvis Araujo in to face Conforto was a move that made sense if Velasquez was being beat up, but in this case I’d have been likely to leave him in as a development move. It’s not a given that Conforto would have hit him. Then, we have a totally different game.

Fortunately, the Phillies bullpen is terrible.

Araujo was perfect for two outs and Dariel Hinojosa pitched a perfect ninth, but Brett Oberholtzer allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in two innings; three (!) of those hits were home runs. James Russell allowed another two runs on three hits (one homer) and a walk. Russell was visibly shaken, although his ERA dropped .21 to 18.69. Meanwhile, Verrett gave us six scoreless innings; a rested Jim Henderson was perfect, and although Rafael Montero pitched relatively poorly (gave up one run, with at least one more saved by a killer catch by Juan Lagares in center), Hansel Robles got three outs on one hit. He was visibly pitching around Cameron Rupp (double) and Darin Ruf (struck out looking), both of whom handled the fact that Robles had attempted to murder them with grace and aplomb.

I’m not saying that last night’s game was a fluke. Conforto’s development has come at an alarming pace. Still, the two key plays last night that knocked Vince Velasquez out of the game boiled down to Logan Verrett reaching base twice. Pete Mackanin waved the white flag by leaving Brett Oberholtzer and James Russell out to eat innings, when an extra inning from Vince Velasquez may well have made this one a nailbiter. (Seriously, three and two thirds innings pitched by three different lefties?)

The Mets close out their series against the Phillies tonight. Bartolo Colon took a tough loss against the Phillies in his first start; Jeremy Hellickson has allowed a .256/.316/.430 slash line to current Mets. Yoenis Cespedes has hit .444 in 10 plate appearances against Hellickson; David Wright is .600 in five plate appearances. Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell are each 1 for 3, while Granderson and Lucas Duda are both below the Mendoza line in 23 and 8 plate appearances, respectively.


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