Thursday, April 30, 2009

Retrospect is Fun, Part 823660327

You are a Mets fan. While it is still early in the season, you have suffered through your team's 9-12 start, despite having players like Delgado, Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Santana, and K-Rod.

But alas, your Mets have a steady hand at manager. A man who will carry your team to bunting.

Mets hope small ball pays off big

Everyone buckle up, it's time to ride the lollercoaster.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Among the defeats the Mets endured during their September slide last season was one that particularly distressed their manager, because he was certain that it could have been averted had his hitters not adhered to their routine practices.

The same practices that provided the Mets with their 2nd best OPS month in 2008.

That night, Jerry Manuel would have paid a princely sum for a swing that perhaps would have produced a foul ball to extend a critical at-bat. He would have been quite content with a ground ball to advance a runner rather than a perfect and mighty swing designed to create a hero.

The Mets last 6 losses were by an average of about 2.83 runs. Playing for a run would have saved them maybe once. They would have then finished 2 games back. SMALL BALL!

For want of a small-ball component -- more contentious at-bats, a properly placed ground ball -- the Mets lost that night, prompting Manuel to lament during the postmortems: "There are things we can do to win games that we don't always try. ... There's more than one way to skin a cat."

Like through good pitching, good defense, kind of like what the Rays did in 2008, right? ...right?

Let those words stand as a warning for National League opponents as well as the feline population of Flushing. The 2009 Mets are likely to be far more resourceful than their immediate predecessors. Big swings, base-path thievery and anything else that might gain statistical favor in a salary-arbitration hearing will be acceptable, of course, but only at the appropriate instances.

Let this sentence echo in the hills:

Big swings, base-path thievery and anything else that might gain statistical favor in a salary-arbitration hearing will be acceptable, of course, but only at the appropriate instances.

Newsflash to Met players: don't do things that help you win at baseball games unless Jerry Manuel says it's ok.

On other occasions, these more Manuel Mets will do anything to accomplish their objectives, to win that night and ultimately find their way past the season's 162nd game. Whenever necessary, they will go outside the box score.

And how will this be accomplished?

"More Mark Lemke than Mark McGwire"



was the phrase that former Met Lenny Harris once used to describe the difference in how the game can be played at critical moments.

Because when I think winning, I think Mark Lemke and Lenny Harris.

Manuel advocates the former.

"You can have that kind of effort every day," he said last year when told of Harris' 10-year-old comparative. "That kind of play doesn't slump."

Because when you're bad enough as baseball, it becomes statistically impossible to slump.

So consider it symbolic and well conceived, too, that Manuel had his pitchers bat second in three home exhibition games last week to make them more familiar with small-ball maneuvers they probably will be asked to execute more often come April.

David Wright: /cries

And consider it his way of underscoring the skin-the-cat credo that he situated himself on the outfield lawn during intrasquad games so he could be a Jiminy Cricket for his shortstop, and that he assigned some of the team's most successful and highest-profile position players unfamiliar addresses in the batting orders.

Now I know it was only exhibition games and all, but, seriously, you have 3 legitimate MVP candidates on your roster...and you're thinking SMALL BALL?

"He wants us to think about other ways we can beat a team," Ryan Church said after he completed the arduous, 80-swings-in-six-minutes drill that Manuel implemented in hopes that his players would become more willing and better able to go with a pitch.

I am trying to determine what this drill actually accomplishes?
1) Muscular endurance
2) Strength
3) Keeping proper hitting form
2792) Going with a pitch

"He's reminding us all the time. He's saying it, and he's doing things to remind us," Church said.

And the Mets are listening, even accepting it.

"Why not?" David Wright said after his exposure to the 80-in-six torture. "It's not like we've been real successful doing it a different way."

Of all the people to change their hitting approach...
Wright's OPS+ by season

2005: 139
2006: 133
2007: 150
2008: 141

So far in 2009: 98

/slow clap for Manuel's hitting drill.

The Mets are ripe for Manuel. Even though he was involved in the two unrewarding Septembers, the players recognize that the fault lies with them, not the men who make trades, decide when to hit and run, and whether to wave a runner home. Moreover, they are being exposed to an all-for-one approach some five months after the Rays' "9=8" credo brought a less-proven team to the World Series.

For chrissakes, stop trying to crap on the Rays' 2008 run.
You know how the Rays won the AL?
With things like great defense.


"We know what Tampa Bay did," Jose Reyes said. "They were a good team. We are a good team."

Yes, you are a good team. You almost won the NL in 2006 with pretty much this cast of characters. The places you weren't so good, you've improved.

Who will pitch late innings for the Mets this year -- J.J. Putz and Frankie Rodriguez -- has changed, but little else, in terms of personnel, is different. So if this team is to be successful in its next 162-game pursuit, the changes will have to be in how it goes about its business.

Less Team Japan, more Team China.

Manuel intends to celebrate small-ball successes. When Nick Evans advanced a runner with a right-side groundout on Wednesday in the first exhibition game, against the Orioles, the manager lauded his contribution and made no mention of the base hits that Evans had produced in his three other at-bats.

Here's a perfect explaination of your slow start, Met fans. Nick Evans doesn't make an out, Manuel doesn't care. Evans makes an out, Manuel applauds.

Outball. Not winning championships since forever.

The day camp opened, Manuel went so far as to say that he might reward players for small-ball contributions and use them before those with more tangible, box score merit. Mark his words, Lemke over McGwire.

Lemke's career RC/27: 3.4
McGwire's career RC/27: 8.5

Yes, a lineup of 9 McGwire's would be worth nearly 830 runs / season more than a lineup full of Lemke's...but Lemke can bunt good and stuff!

General manager Omar Minaya insists that the talent he has assembled is sufficient.

And it is. It's more than sufficient. This is a team that will contend for the NL title for years to come.

He said the same last season and the previous year, too, but he says that this team has greater talent, certainly enough to bridge the gap from 162 to the best-of-five and the best-of-seven. He endorses Manuel's socialist approach.

Delgado's 2008 HR total: 38. Socialist projection: 9. (ironic analogy given Delgado's political persuations).

"It's a good way to play," Minaya said. "I think more teams will take that approach now..."

The funny thing is, less and less teams are taking that approach now. They would rather do things like score runs.

And most teams don't have the level of talent we have. "If we use the right approach with our talent, we should have a very good year."







And did I forget to mention, 9-12?

And to think, this post didn't even cover Dan Murphy's comedic Left Fielding and K-Rod pitching less innings than Sean effin Green. Oh yeah, and Omir Santos.

Congrats to your 2009 NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let No Dusty Baker Folly go Unmentioned

Dusty Baker batted Darnell McDonald second against the Mets today.

Just in case you are wondering, his career slash stats (in now 48 plate apperances) is .156/.208/.178.

That's a .386 OPS. That's lower than Tony Gwynn's career OBP. And he's not exactly some kid that hasn't hit his stride in pro baseball. He's 30.

Somehow, with Willy Taveras out of the lineup, Dusty Baker has managed to find someone that makes Willy Taveras look like Willie Mays, and bat him second.

Then proceed to lift him for a pinch hitter.

So why, you of rational thought, do you think Dusty Baker would bat a player like this anywhere but the 8th or 9th hole in the lineup?


Career steals in minors: 216. Career steal percentage: 73.5%.

Hope you enjoy 2009, Reds fans.