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Mets Home Field Magic Number is 3, Because Time Is Running Out October 2, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.
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If you do the math, 163 – Mets Wins – Dodgers Losses, you’ll end up with a magic number of 4 wins by the Mets and losses by the Dodgers to clinch home field for the National League Division Series. Both teams are 89-70, so each team going 3-3 would result in a tie. Since the Mets own the tiebreaker, though, the Mets don’t have to beat the Dodgers, just tie them.

The Mets enter a the last three games of the series tonight with Noah Syndergaard facing off against Gio Gonzalez. Gio has seen a steady rise in his ERA since moving to the Nationals in 2011 and is currently 11-8. Gio also reliably hits one double and home run per year; he’s a career .088 hitter and has checked off the 2B box but not the home run box so far.

The Mets have won their last six games against Washington. Syndergaard has a win and a no decision in a team loss to the Nationals this year; Gonzalez is 2-0 with a losing no decision against the Mets. The Nationals were 2-3, but Gonzalez was 2-1, in September; Gio put up a 2.89 ERA in September.

Yesterday’s bullpen game was ugly, but only offensively. Losing pitcher Sean Gilmartin pitched 5 innings and gave up 2 runs. Tim Stauffer gave up one hit in two innings of relief, in a nice surprise. Dario Alvarez gave up a home run to Andres Blanco, but Jeurys Familia struck out Aaron Altherr to end the game. Kevin Plawecki took the only walk for New York.

Against the Nationals in New York, Terry Collins is likely to start his usuals who sat during yesterday’s noon game. More offense is likely, and with the bullpen’s B team putting together a quality game, Syndergaard supported by Jonathon Niese, Tyler Clippard, and Addison Reed should be able to hold Gio homerless.


How improbable is a division win for the Mets? September 22, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.
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Following a brilliant, but short, start behind Jonathon Niese, the Mets won a 4-0 game against the Braves last night. Terry Collins made some of us hold our breath, lifting Niese after only 88 scoreless pitches, but went straight to the lights-out portion of the bullpen. Addison Reed worked for a few minutes, followed up by Tyler Clippard returning after a five-day layoff. Clippard allowed a single to Pedro Ciriaco and then threw two wild pitches to allow Ciriaco to third, but nonetheless stranded him to hold the 4-0 lead. Since every win counts, Terry brought in Jeurys Familia to close the game.

Last night’s win pushed the Mets’ magic number down into Ed Kranepool territory. It makes sense that Collins is managing this as a must-win series, for two reasons. He obviously lacks some confidence in the Hansel RoblesBobby ParnellEric O’Flaherty portion of the bullpen, but he also wants to have the division clinched before Washington comes to town.

If we sweep Atlanta, then even if Washington doesn’t lose a game, our magic number drops to 5. From there, taking 3 from a four-game series against the Reds and 2 of 3 from a terrible Phillies team clinches the division. Giving up a game to Atlanta means having to sweep the Reds or Phillies instead, or relying on another team to help us, to clinch before the Nationals arrive. Since the end of the Mets series, the Nationals have scored 57 runs and allowed only 28 in 7 games against the Marlins and 3 against the Phillies.

Just one loss to Baltimore gives the Mets significant breathing room, because the Nationals play Philadelphia 3 times, the Reds once, and Atlanta three times before they meet the Mets. A team with some momentum could easily take those 7 games. A number of different possibilities exist to get a loss there:

  • The Sunday (the 27th) 1:35 PM game against the Phillies, following a 4:05 Saturday start
  • The one-day visit to Cincinnati (Monday the 28th) in between Philadelphia and Atlanta
  • The Atlanta series, where a few solid players combined with no remaining off-days might push Washington over the edge

Again, it’s incumbent on the Mets to win their remaining series. One more from Atlanta, 3 from the Reds, and 2 from the Phillies mean Washington only needs to drop one game some time between now and the end of the season for the Mets to win the divsion. This is looking promising.

The World’s Worst Mets Preview September 9, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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Tonight, the Mets start Jacob deGrom against the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. Seven current Mets have OBPs above .400 against Strasburg, and that list looks a little bit like a lineup:

Lucas Duda 6 3 1 0 2 0 .333 .667 .333
Travis d’Arnaud 3 3 2 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667
Curtis Granderson 7 5 2 0 2 1 .400 .571 .400
Michael Cuddyer 6 6 3 0 0 2 .500 .500 .500
David Wright 4 4 2 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500
Kevin Plawecki 2 2 1 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000
Wilmer Flores 5 5 2 0 0 2 .400 .400 .600
Total 54 49 15 0 4 13 .306 .370 .347
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/9/2015.

(Full list here– current Mets are .306/.370/.347 vs Strasburg).

Seems reasonable – Granderson in right, Michael Conforto in left, Yoenis Cespedes in center, d’Arnaud catching, Duda at first, Flores at short, Daniel Murphy at second, and Wright at third. (Murphy is 1 for 6 lifetime against Strasburg.) That leaves Cuddyer to come off the bench as an early pinch hitter; Plawecki, despite his .500 OBP against Strasburg, is probably not our best option off the bench. [NOTE: Cuddyer is unavailable. Mea culpa.]

Meanwhile, with Ryan Zimmerman day to day, the Nats are missing his .375/.333/.350 against deGrom; that leaves their best options as Yunel Escobar (.500/.545/.600 in 10 plate appearances) and Bryce Harper (.385/.429/.462 in 14). Jose Lobaton (.500/.500/.500 in 2) and Ian Desmond (.308/.308/.538 in 13) also appear to be threats, but of course Desmond’s defense makes him a double-edged sword. In 109 plate appearances, current Nationals hit .223/.250/.350 against deGrom.

In a crucial late-season game, this one looks promising for the Mets.

Not the bullpen again… April 1, 2014

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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In the “Stuff Gary Cohen Says” pile, let’s add “When you score six runs, you expect to win the game.” Why he said that, specifically, I’m not sure, since at the time he said it, the score was 5-5.

Offensively, the Mets had a great game yesterday. In any just universe, two homers in regulation giving a five-run score should have won the game; last year, only 308 teams lost in 9 innings or less with 5 or more runs scored, compared to 1697 teams that won in regulation with at least five. This, of course, isn’t a just universe; it’s Queens.

Dillon Gee had a quality start by game score (53), if not under the official definition, allowing 4 earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched. That was a little long, and the Mets’ commentary team pointed out that Warthen and Collins seem to plan to let their starters work a little longer this year. Given the bullpen’s performance, I’m not shocked by that – although Jose Valverde pitched a perfect inning and a third (striking out three), two of the Mets’ relievers walked their only batter faced. Bobby Parnell blew a save, giving up a crucial double to Denard Span in the 9th and showing velocities that were surprisingly low. Aside from Valverde, the bullpen looked as unreliable as it did last year.

Parnell had an injury-marred season last year. It’s important not to take too much out of a single appearance. That said, I’ve never been a big fan of Parnell. Valverde isn’t the answer – he may not even be as consistent as Latroy Hawkins was last year, judging by his spring performance – but the Mets have an inexperienced bullpen and they desperately need some consistency from the pen. Parnell’s neck still raises concerns, as does his seeming inability to handle pressure. There’s no reason the Mets should be relying on Jeurys Familia in the tenth inning on opening day.

It’ll take a few weeks before the system shakes out, of course, and we’ll see whether the Mets’ pen steps up and develops over the early season. That said, the closer position will definitely need some attention.

Chad Billingsley’s Home Run June 6, 2011

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Chad Billingsley had what was by all accounts an unremarkable start on the mound last night: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, all of them earned, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 HBP. Considering that the Dodgers have seven tough losses already (only the Rays and the Nationals have more), this would ordinarily be a short entry commenting on how Billingsley needs some work.

Actually, scratch that. I wouldn’t make that entry – the folks over at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness would.

Billingsley managed to earn a mention last night by hitting the second home run of his career (solo in the second) and going 2 for 2 with a walk. Billingsley’s Win Probability Added (WPA) from the plate was a team-leading .215 (Matt Kemp was second with .168). Of course, he evened that out with actually subtracting WPA as a pitcher. Still, his walk in the third forced Casey Blake in for a second RBI, and his double in the fifth brought James Loney home and ultimately pulled Reds starter Travis Wood out of the game.

Oddly, Wood himself managed a three-RBI night back on May 9, as did the Diamondbacks’ Zach Duke on May 28. Like Billingsley, both of them took the win in those games.

The most stylish home runs by pitchers happen when the player doesn’t even know he’s a pitcher, though – on April 13, 2009, Nick Swisher hit a home run in the top of the fourth inning while playing first base and then was called on to pitch the bottom of the 8th in a 15-5 loss to the Rays. He’s the only player in the last 10 years to start the game as a position player, hit a home run, and pitch. Admittedly, that’s a weird set of conditions. Luckily, there’s another instance that almost fits, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating. Keith Osik didn’t start on May 20, 2000, but came in as part of a triple-switch in the top of the 8th to play third base. Osik hit a two-run homer to bring Mike Benjamin home in the bottom of the 8th, then gave up 5 earned runs on 5 hits in the top of the 9th.

Hopefully Billingsley will repeat his performance at the plate and will continue cleaning up on the mound. Last night was his first Cheap Win of the year, and he already has two Tough Losses. Not a bad showing as far as ability goes.