Jul 30

Bartolo Colon Struggles and Pitch Location Proves It

It’s extremely early in the morning. I woke up early, ready to begin another wonderful day with a review of the now not happening Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler for Carlos Gomez trade. I don’t know why the news leaked, how it leaked, or why the deal was pulled, but for Flores’ sake, the Mets need to sit him for a few days. He looked completely stunned throughout the game, devastated in parts of it, and it’s little wonder by game’s end he was essentially going through the motions to finish the game out.

What a horrible day for him.

On pitching related matters, last night wasn’t a particularly good day for Bartolo Colon. He pitched 2 1/3 innings of batting practice to one of the few teams, by fWAR, that are worse than the Mets at hitting. The Padres are 28th in the major leagues in fWAR, 6.2, while the Mets are 19th with 11.1. By batting average, the Padres are next to last, batting .237, while the Mets are rock bottom at .235, but I think the larger point is that Colon was generous with his sinker and fourseamer in his brief time on the mound. With his 54 pitches thrown, Colon allowed six earned runs on 10 hits with one strikeout. Colon allowed two more home runs on the year, one to Justin Upon and one to Yonder Alonso, and he has now allowed 17 on the season. The troubling part about that number is that Colon’s HR/9 rate is now 1.28, the highest it’s been for him since a rather miserable 2009 stint with the White Sox. Also, that really horrid .320 BABIP doesn’t help matters all that much.

Continuing along the lines of Tuesday’s pitching performance, here are Colon’s pitches by type:

Pitch Type Thrown Percentage
Fourseam 12 22.2%
Sinker 36 66.7
Changeup 3 5.6%
Slider 3 5.6%

Colon Pitches by Type

Here’s a breakdown of pitch outcomes:

Outcome Fourseam Sinker Changeup Slider
Ball 2 11 1 0
Called Strike 3 8 0 0
Swinging Strike 1 2 0 0
Foul 3 3 1 1
In play, no out 1 4 0 0
In play, run(s) 2 4 0 0
In play, out(s) 0 4 1 0

Colon Pitches by Outcome

Of the few fourseamers that Colon threw, his average velocity last night was 89.6 mph while he topped out at 92.2. I must have missed that one. The Padres probably didn’t. His sinker averaged 86.5 mph with a max of 90.

Looking at the locations by batter, that two seamer of his spent a lot of time in the zone.

150729_ColonStandPitch Location by Batter

It’s even more prominent if we look at the pitch location by pitch type:

150729_ColonPitchTypesPitch Location by Pitch Type

Yikes! He really was pitching batting practice yesterday. Even Bryce Harper would have entered the home run derby with gifts like those.

Daily Heat Check

Around the major leagues, Aroldis Chapman averaged 100.6 mph on his fourseam fastball yesterday with a max of 102. Is that right? That can’t be right? That’s the starting speed, so that’s what I’m working with. Wow. That’s not even tops for him this year since according to BrooksBaseball.net, Chapman has reached a max of 105.81!

For starting pitchers, Chris Archer averaged 95.44 with a max of 97.9 while one-timer starter and always a personal favorite Tanner Roark averaged 93.85 with a max of 94.1.

I’m still sort of reeling from that whole Chapman and 105 thing. Maybe I’m just woozy from sleep deprivation. Stupid non-trades.

Jul 29

Syndergaard Throws Really, Really Fast Again

The one thing I like about Noah Syndergaard is that for a kid with an explosive fastball he throws a good many curveballs and changeups. It’s sort of refreshing. It reminds me of high school when we could throw fastballs and curveballs all day long and still win a game 8-1. Well, not me. I threw mostly curveballs because my fastball was slower than a Jamie Moyer changeup, but guys who could actually throw the ball hard did stuff like that.

Anyway, I’m working on a new idea for the blog where I give a quick recap of the starting pitcher for last night’s game. It’s a work in progress, touching mostly on the pitches used, locations, and average fastball velocity. Once I figure this all out, I’d like to add a feature with average break and spin rate by breaking ball, but that’s for another day.

Last night, Syndergaard carried a perfect game into the seventh, and for the first time since Matt Harvey carried a no-hitter into the seventh against Minnesota in 2013, I thought I’d see some Mets history. To say Syndergaard looked good is a bit understated. On the night, he pitched eight innings, allowing three hits and striking out 9. He had one inning of trouble in the seventh, but with runners on first and third and no outs he got Matt Kemp to pop out and then Justin Upton to hit into a double play. It might be the first time I’ve ever seen a shortstop underhand toss a ball ten yards away, but Ruben Tejada’s toss was turned by Daniel Murphy and beat Upton by three steps.

Syndergaard’s pitches by type:

Pitch Type Thrown Percentage
Fourseam 51 47.7%
Sinker 24 22.4%
Curveball 21 19.6%
Changeup 11 10.3%

Syndergaard Pitches by Type

Here’s a breakdown of pitch outcomes:

Outcome Fourseam Sinker Curveball Changeup
Ball 13 10 7 6
Called Strike 11 7 3 3
Swinging Strike 6 2 5 0
Foul 11 2 3 0
In play, no out 2 1 0 0
In play, out(s) 8 2 3 1

Syndergaard Pitches by Outcome

Syndergaard’s average velocity on his fastball last night was 97-mph (96.96) with a max topping out at 98.40 and a bottom of 95.4-mph.

As noted in a previous article, Syndergaard hasn’t been pitching up and in to batters since his start against Milwaukee, and the trend continued last night. I’ve provided the pitch locations to both righties and lefties and also pitch location by type.

Pitch Locations Stand 150728Pitch Location by Batter

By pitch type:

150728_PitchLocationsPitch Location by Pitch Type

 

Jul 28

New Met, Old Met, No Met, Go!

It’s fun to wake up in the morning with a surprise.  Groggy-eyed, sipping my morning water, I open my iPad case and see an alert that Troy Tulowitzki was traded to the Blue Jays for Jose Reyes and a trio of pitching prospects.  It was like an espresso while I waited for my coffee to brew, and the trade was all the more surprising because I figured the Rockies were never going to trade their 30-year old shortstop and it was to the one team you assumed didn’t need offense.

Go figure.

This makes Toronto a more dangerous team in the near term.  I don’t know if a strategy based upon all hitting and no pitching is the correct one—the Blue Jays are like looking at a snapshot of the Mets in inverse—but trading a brittle 32-year old shortstop clearly in decline for a brittle 30-year old shortstop with a few good years left will certainly add a few wins.  I haven’t looked at the Jays prospect lists in depth to know if they gave up any pitching of note, but by all accounts the pitchers they sent weren’t top tier, Noah Syndergaard types.  People will undoubtedly wonder why the Jays went after bats when they need pitching, but if there’s an opportunity to add a dynamic talent like Tulowitzki to your club it’d be silly to pass because he doesn’t play once every five days.  Of course, with Tulowitzki’s injury history, that might be all the Jays get anyway.

This, hopefully, brings a close to all the constant chatter and dreamy looks Mets’ fans (me included) have tossed Tulowitzki’s way since the world realized the Rockies weren’t ready to compete.  With his departure, it does raise the question if Carlos Gonzalez will now be dealt and if the Mets want to trade for anyone not departing at year’s end.

From a personal standpoint, I’m more interested in this deal from the Reyes side.  Since 2011, when he signed with the Marlins in the offseason, he’s been traded twice and likely a third time (word is the Rockies will probably try to flip him to save additional money) and will be playing for his third team in the span of four years.  It’ll make four teams in five years if you count his last year with the Mets.  Reyes was always a favorite of mine, and he ranks comfortably ahead of all other Mets shortstops by fWAR.  His fWAR of 30.7 is more than the combined total (28.8) of the other shortstops in team history when filtered through qualified plate appearances.  He was easily the best Mets shortstop in my lifetime, and only Rey Ordonez tugs upon my heartstrings more forcefully.

Still, I thought it was a good idea when the Mets let him walk.  The team wasn’t ready to contend, and spending big bucks on a fragile infielder whose game is built on speed didn’t make much sense.  That kind of thinking doesn’t necessarily make me prophetic, like I’m reading the tea leaves here.  It’s pretty much common sense.  For the Mets, by not signing Reyes, they picked Kevin Plawecki with the supplemental round pick awarded for Reyes’ signing.

So, there’s that.

In other news, I thought the Tyler Clippard trade was a solid addition to the bullpen.  He doesn’t solve the Mets need for a lefty specialist (Jerry Blevins will certainly fill that role when/if he returns from the disabled list), but he has been particularly nasty to lefties this season with a .100/.222/.129 slash line and 17 strikeouts.  He pitched in a great pitcher’s park in Oakland, and that won’t change now that he’s moving along to Citi Field.  Along with Blevins, the Mets are slowly starting to resemble the 2014 Nationals bullpen.  Okay, that’s fine by me.  Clippard was force for the Nationals in the eighth inning last season, so it’s good to see those goggles once again EST.

I mentioned yesterday that I thought the Mets could help limit their starters’ innings and arm wear by improving the bullpen, and Clippard does that.  Trading a 20-year old pitcher with plenty of room to grow hurts a little, especially trading a potential starter for a few relief innings, but I’m not particularly bothered by it.  My only question in the way the Mets have been dealing is whether Sandy Alderson is going to trade for anyone not destined for free agency at season’s end.  I can only assume it’s both to limit the risk (why take on extra years for relievers?) and also the price is significantly cheaper.  Does that mean Gerardo Parra is now in play too?

Jul 27

On the Mets, Trades, & Patience

Maybe it’s a little early to call the trade for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe a resounding success, but two games in, it certainly feels like it. On Saturday, Johnson went 2-fo-6 in his Mets debut, hitting one of the team’s four home runs, while on Sunday Uribe drove in the winning run in the 10th. If you asked Mets fans their satisfaction level with Sandy Alderson’s job performance after the last two games, they’d likely give it a thumbs up rather than the other figure they’d been using lately.

I always thought the concerns about the offense were a little overblown. Yes, it was horrid, and it likely wouldn’t have scared anyone outside the Eastern League, but there were solid hitters in that lineup that needed, well, someone to throw them the ball. Why should anyone ever throw Lucas Duda a pitch near the strike zone when the guy hitting behind him is 36, battling knee issues, and hitting .250 with eight home runs on the season? The simple fact is that there weren’t enough major league quality bats in their lineup and the team suffered for it. Bringing in one major bat seemed like a surefire way to jump start the offense, but one bat wasn’t going to do it. The team needed to boost the median, if you will, and not concentrate so much on the outliers.

The team regularly gives at-bats to Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, and Eric Campbell. The OBP for those three are .279, .281, and .303 respectively. Kirk Nieuwenhis has been murder against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers this season (a combined .667 batting average with three home runs, six runs scored, and 8 RBI), but against everyone else he’s hitting .133 with no home runs and five RBI in seven times the number of at bats. His story is great. He returns back from a Los Angeles vacation, and he immediately sparks a few big wins. It’s tough to win a lot of games when 1/3 of the lineup can’t seem to make it on base 1/3 of the time.

It’s certainly not an indictment on guys like Nieuwenhis and Campbell. In limited minutes, providing spot starts, they provide real value. Being asked to carry an offense, though, on a team that receives as much media attention as the Mets have this season no less, is taking things a bit too far. Everyone had an opinion on what the Mets should do to improve their woeful hitting and everyone was irate that Alderson did nothing. Once again, I thought this was a bit short sighted. What did people want Alderson to do? Create some magical trade that sent Jon Niese and Brandon Nimmo to Cincinnati for Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier? No, better yet, why not send Dillon Gee and random fringe prospect to Oakland for Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard.

You have to sacrifice something to get something substantial in return, and dreams of Justin Upton and Zobrist without giving up anything of value were silly. If you want Alderson to make a deal in the best interests of the team long term, he needs time. Rash decisions based on the current standings were ridiculous. There’s a window here for the Mets to compete, but focusing too much on early favorable returns leads to trading Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. That trade still makes me sick, 11 years later, so I for one wanted Alderson to take his time in finding the right pieces for this club, no matter how ineffectual the offense is. Pennants may fly forever, but a horrid, short-sighted trade cuts deep and lives with you.

There’s a saying about losing feeling worse than winning feels good.

One thing missed in all this discussion, one thing glossed over by everyone in their dreams of big bats in the lineup, is that the Mets starters, no matter how ridiculously talented, are starting to pile up innings this season. Those innings are typically under the stress of close, low scoring games, and we’re all sort of assuming that Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard are going to motor right along come September. deGrom is already at 127 1/3 innings pitched and will eclipse last season’s career high of 140 1/3 likely in his next 2-3 starts.

Harvey is a year removed from Tommy John surgery, has thrown 125 1/3 innings, and will reach 2013’s total of 178 1/3 by season’s end. Will he still have gas in the tank? Will management rest him when needed if either the East or the wild card is so tantalizingly close? It’s great to trade Niese for some offensive dynamo, but the team needs his innings. I don’t know who I trust more between Niese and Bartolo Colon, but the team may need both of them by September, and rashly trading the former didn’t make much sense to me.

The point here isn’t that the team needs to hoard pitching. Major league capable starters sitting idly on the bench are wasted resources, but can anyone say what deGrom, Syndergaard, and Harvey are going to have left by September? deGrom touched 99-mph on the gun yesterday. What? Wasn’t the knock on deGrom prior to last season that he didn’t have that blazing fastball and he’d best be suited for relief duty? Will he have that extra gear by start 29?

We’ve all been operating under the belief that pitching would remain constant while Alderson could tinker with the bats. Give up Zach Wheeler to add a big bat? Why not? This is our time to shine! Think this through, please. If innings are going to be limited, and we’re looking at the long term health of the pitching staff, will a post-surgery Wheeler, at his lowest trade value, bring back enough of return to justify the cost long term? Sometimes you have to take a risk, but sometimes you just have to add major league quality starters, not import the big, gaudy numbers. Most of the time it’s been about execution on offense. Moving a guy from second to third with no outs. Driving a man in from third with less than two outs. I shouldn’t have to sit with a sense of despair when the team has runners on first and second with no outs. When did getting guys on base become depressing?

Here’s a thought: Wheeler was worth 2.5 wins last season according of Fangraphs. Is there anyone on the market that will provide that kind of return? How about a few seasons of those wins with the benefit of those relatively cheap arbitration years? Every move can’t be made with the fear of sacrificing years of decent return. Make a decision with a clear goal in mind, though, and that’s at least reasoned through. The thought of adding something to just make Jim Bowden prophetic seems like a gigantic waste, however.

The return of legitimate hitters such as Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright (maybe, possibly) will help add legitimacy to the lineup, but maybe instead of focusing on big bats and flashy names the team should look to add depth to the bullpen. Want to limit those innings? Make each of those starts six quick innings and around 80-90 pitches.

We’re still a few days shy of the July 31st trade deadline, and it would be great if another bat arrived to provide Duda some help. Each upgrade in the lineup is really adding two bats if pitchers are forced to throw Duda anything of quality. Still. Just having a lineup that looks like a major league lineup is nice start.

Jul 22

Syndergaard: Outside, Rarely Looking In

It took me a while, but I finally built out my PITCHf/x database. Well, to be entirely accurate, I finally took a few minutes to refresh my PITCHf/x database with the current season’s data, and I sit here both proud and ashamed that it only took four months to do so. In truth, with all the available R libraries and how-to resources, it was a breeze to update the data with the 2015 season and perform fairly useful queries in minutes.

Google really is a miracle.

For a test run, I wanted to take a look at a question that’s been bugging me for the last few months. This seems to be the week for answering unresolved questions, so why not test my graphing chops by investigating Noah Syndergaard’s pitch location. More specifically, has Syndergaard changed his pitching strategy since his May 17th start against Milwaukee. If you remember that game, forgive me, but on that Sunday Syndergaard was motoring through the Brewers’ batting order, not allowing his first hit until the fourth inning and allowing only three overall in six. It was in the sixth when Syndergaard lost control of a fastball, hitting Carlos Gomez in the helmet.

It was an unnerving experience to watch, but Syndergaard was visibly shaken by the experience and understandably struggled to regain his composure and get through the inning. Notably, as mentioned repeatedly by the SNY crew, Syndergaard stopped pitching inside, to anyone, and it was a Ryan Braun single on a pitch out over the plate that drove home Milwaukee’s lone run. Up until that time, Syndergaard had been especially dominant. He pitched up and in to both righties and lefties, and the Brewers had little chance against a 98-mph fastball in followed by a changeup or curveball away. There’s no diving in when a guy throws that hard inside. There’s falling backwards, the backside hitting dirt as the brain tries to figure out what happened, but there’s no guessing on pitches over the plate to drive. If this was the future of the Mets rotation, sign me up.

Since that afternoon I’ve been wondering if hitting Gomez messed with Syndergaard a little. You’d be hard pressed to argue such looking at the numbers. Since that start, his second in the major leagues, Syndergaard has thrown six or more innings in eight of his 10 starts while allowing two or fewer earned runs in seven of them. He’s hit double-digits in strikeouts three times with a season high of 13 against Arizona in his last start before the All Star break. For his raw numbers, in those 10 starts, he’s allowed 56 hits in 62 1/3 innings, striking out 67 and walking 10. He’s 5-5 with an ERA of 3.03. Batters are hitting .237/.268/.360 with a .305 average on balls in play.

Those are impressive numbers, admittedly, and the .305 BABIP is only high if you’re surprised that the NL average for starters is .298. Getting hits when putting bat to ball isn’t the problem in the modern game. It’s just, you know, actually hitting the ball.

I don’t want to be greedy. Really I don’t. I’m not expecting Syndergaard to pitch no-hitters and strike out batters at a Craig Kimbrel level. This is a kid two months shy of turning 23, and he’s more than holding his own at the game’s highest level. If he’s not quite dominating big league hitters, he’s at least making their trips to the batter’s box as unpleasant as humanly possible. In his last two starts against the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals (the sixth and seventh best offenses by both fWAR and batting average in the majors) he’s allowed nine hits in 15 innings while striking out 19. That’s a K/9 rate of 11.61, which is approaching that rarefied Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale territory of pitching greatness if carried through a season. Normal guys don’t do things like that. Run-of-the-mill starters luck into a few low hit games. They don’t overpower good offenses.

Still. Something seems different.

When I watch him pitch, Syndergaard definitely seems to stay away from righties a lot more. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it’s selection bias, and I’m seeing only those things that I want to see. Fastball inside? That’s an oddball. See, he just threw that 97-mph fourseamer to the outside black because that’s the only place he THROWS IT!

Easily, this sort of question can be resolved with a density plot. I could have gone to BrooksBaseball.net and looked up the answer before my database refresh, but this is about unresolved questions, not questioning unresolved procrastination issues. Anyway, when looking at the density plots for the pitch data in Syndergaard’s two starts (including Milwaukee) before hitting Gomez and the ten starts after, there certainly seems to be a trend.

thorMilwaukeePitch Location Prior to Gomez HBP

The second graph:

thorPostPitch Location Post Gomez HBP

These charts graph all pitches (including offspeed and breaking balls), and admittedly, the sample size for the data before hitting Gomez is rather limited. It’s impossible to call anything a trend after a few hundred big league pitches. If you look at that second chart, there’s a very clear pattern of a young pitcher keeping the ball away from right handers. What I also find pretty fascinating is that dark patch of blue up and in to righties. He’s up and over the plate. He pitches inside. He’s rarely if ever throwing high and tight to make a righty a little uncomfortable.

My question could be flawed. Maybe the real question isn’t whether he pitches inside but whether Syndergaard feels the need to pitch inside. He might believe that his stuff is just that good and he doesn’t need a psychological advantage.

Maybe Jacque Lacan could answer something like that. I can’t. Not with this data. So, at an impasse, I muddle through as best as I can.

Instead of incorporating his offspeed and breaking pitches, how has Syndergaard used his fastball before and after?

thorMilFFFastball Location Prior to Gomez HBP

The second graph:

thorPostFFFastball Location Post Gomez HBP

It’s not surprising the charts are similar. Syndergaard throws his fourseamer about 40% of the time, so we’d expect the graphs to share a resemblance. With lefties Syndergaard seems comfortable pitching inside, but he doesn’t come inside to righties with the heat at all. If anything, compared to the Post Gomez Pitch Location graph above (the second one), it appears that Syndergaard rarely comes inside to righties unless he’s throwing offspeed or breaking balls. Oddly enough, if we go back to the density plots to examine all pitches that are not fastballs split between the two dates, there’s a clear indication that’s exactly what’s happening.

thorPreNFOffspeed / Breaking Ball Location Prior to Gomez HBP

The second graph:

thorPostNFOffspeed / Breaking Ball Location Post Gomez HBP

Syndergaard pitches inside to righties with his offspeed and breaking balls now more than with his fastball. He also throws his change, curve, and slider outside to lefties more.

Is it a mechanical issue, though? Is the way Syndergaard positioned when he releases the ball make it more likely that the end result will be middle-out? Is it by design, something that Syndergaard and pitching coach Dan Warthen are deliberately doing? Perhaps the percentiles here are off, and we should examine these starts in two to three start blocks. Are there changes? Is Syndergaard still pitching outside or was that largely after his Milwaukee start?

Well, let’s be symmetrical here. Since I’m using the first two starts of his big league career as a point of comparison, I’ll take Syndergaard’s last two starts against Arizona and St. Louis and see if he’s been pitching inside with his fastball more.

thorZonaFFFastball Location vs. Arizona and St. Louis

If there’s any indication that he’s throwing his fastball inside more over these last two starts, I’m not seeing it from this graph. This doesn’t provide any clear answer, and we still have questions. I’m not a pitching coach, so I won’t pretend to give an answer. They’re worth asking, however, and thinking there’s an alternate answer other than one wild pitch.

Jul 20

Cuddyer, a Balky Knee, and Questions

I’d like to revisit an earlier post. Or part of a post. Really, what I’m intending to do is return to a post from December where I called the Michael Cuddyer signing a way for the budget conscious Mets to sign a bat for the middle of the lineup on the cheap. No one else was trying to sign Cuddyer away from Colorado. Not with a first round compensation pick tied to it. So, I worked out that Cuddyer probably earns a few million less over two years than he would have gotten with the one-year qualifying offer from the Rockies plus who knows what else in 2016 (but it’s a guaranteed $21M), plays for a team ostensibly on the rise, and the Mets sacrifice a first rounder to see if Cuddyer can stay healthy and produce. A little bit of eh, and a whole lot of bleh on those two. I don’t normally revisit posts, but with the news that Cuddyer is likely heading to the disabled list, I think it’s relevant.

I’ve been thinking about this signing a lot lately. I’m not particularly broken up about the draft pick compensation. Not entirely. At this point it’s a sunk cost, and fretting over not having another young player in the minors won’t change things. I could imagine what Trent Clark (the player drafted 15th, where the Mets would have selected, by Milwaukee this year) could do in the Citi Field outfield someday or dread 2018 when Brady Aiken (selected by Cleveland at 17) replaces Matt Harvey in the rotation as management panic trades their ace because they’re too cheap to re-sign him, but why bother? There’s enough to worry about in the world.

No, what bothers me is when Sandy Alderson said that Cuddyer had been overused this year. Apparently the team signed the 36-year old with the intention of not playing him as often as they have. As of today, he’s played in 81 of the team’s 92 games. His time of late has been limited, however, or severely reduced with Cuddyer either sitting out or relegated to pinch hitting duty in every series since Atlanta a month ago. Maybe that’s too much. Maybe Alderson envisioned Cuddyer playing in about ¾ of the team’s games, somewhere around 120-122. That seems optimistic to me considering Cuddyer has only surpassed that total once since the beginning of 2012, and he was a youthful 33 way back then. He won’t make 120 games this year either thanks to a sore knee, so I suppose Cuddyer will get that rest the Mets’ brass envisioned. It won’t help the team’s offense, and it won’t make Travis d’Arnaud or David Wright heal any quicker, but sometimes objectives are Met no matter how circuitous the route (see what I did there? Impressive).

I know this news came out on the 9th of July. That was eleven days ago if you’re not looking at a calendar. It’s been bugging me for eleven days.

I’m not particularly upset about Cuddyer being barely worth a tenth of a win as per fWAR (seriously, his fWAR is 0.1, which is a tenth of a win more than me and I’m sitting here writing a stupid baseball blog), which places him 49 out of 59 qualified outfielders in the major leagues. The Mets could have traded for Matt Kemp (-0.3 fWAR) or signed Melky Cabrera (-0.7) instead, so in those terms, his signing was a real positive. I’m not even upset by the .130 ISO, the .250/.300/.380 slash line, or the career high K% and the career low BB% as a regular. These are likely related to the bad knee, will improve a little over time (when healthyish), and are just numbers anyway. Every team needs a guy with a head streaked with gray, and Cuddyer fits that role quite nicely.

No, what’s bugging me is signing him in the first place with the knowledge that you wanted to limit his playing time. I don’t know if 120 games was the target. Maybe management thought he could play more (if so, why?), but it’s reasonable to assume that 75% of games played was a fine number for which to hope. At the time of Cuddyer’ signing, assistant GM John Ricco said, “I think this is a message that we’re going to be aggressive. Right out of the box we had a guy we liked, and we went and got him.” Super. You got the guy you liked with a hope that he wouldn’t play full time? What does that even mean? They also lose a chance to add a talented 18-22 year-old to their minor league depth for a guy that (admittedly, by my own assumption of 75% playing time) would barely qualify for full-time health care coverage, which is set at 30 hours according to HealthCare.gov.

To me, it doesn’t make sense to pay someone $10.5M a year only to have to sign someone else, say another $1-2M, to play those 40 games when Cuddyer sits. Plus lose the pick. Why not just go after Nick Markakis (something I originally discussed when Cuddyer signed) and get the added benefits of youth (younger at least), defense, and full time play? Cost? Not knowing how much it would take to sign Markakis, there was a risk of paying a little more than the four years, $44M Markakis ultimately signed for, but you can assume he’d play enough to warrant the cost.

If $10.5M is the going rate for a quasi-starter, what’s the cost of losing out on a cost controlled teenager to provide organizational depth? At 15, you can hope to strike lightening like the Angels did in 2009 when they signed Mike Trout with the 25th pick, or you could even hope to pick Randal Grichuk like the Angels did one pick earlier.

A pick that was originally the Mets.

On losing the pick, Ricco said, “In this case, we looked at [giving up picks], did the analysis and decided that [Cuddyer] was worth it.” Oh? I’ve always secretly hoped that the Mets signed Cuddyer to “trade” their first round pick to the Rockies. There was an arrangement, at some designated time, and the pick was part of a plan for a bigger trade in the offseason. No. The Mets really just wanted to bail out Colorado for their one-year qualifying offer.

Gratis.

So, it seems as though I’m hung up on the pick, but I’m not. Not entirely. I’m wondering who is making decisions and what are the motivations? Was this Alderson, Ricco, and Paul DePodesta really seeing Cuddyer providing enough value to warrant the contract (which would have been easy to justify financially with a halfway decent season) and surrender a pick, or was this a decision mandated by the owners to show fans that they were doing something to improve the team? Look, this guy was is a “professional” hitter and really balances out this lineup!

The price was right for a team with a tightly controlled budget.1

I’m not saying that there’s no plan, but if there is a plan I’d like to know if they’re making edits after a glue-sniffing session. Alderson, Ricco, and DePodesta need tighter controls on those write permissions to that master plan.

chmod 0644 gentlemen.

I think these are legitimate questions. I wonder if Alderson is attempting to put spin on the poor year Cuddyer’s having by letting it be known that he’s been overtaxed, as though his struggles stem from too much playing time as opposed to decline. Nothing to see here. This wasn’t a poorly executed offseason plan. It wouldn’t be the first time the Mets management had been caught making up things as they go along: from how they handled Dillon Gee to the bullpen and/or rotation; the six-man rotation that was, that wasn’t, that was again, now isn’t; the shuffling of Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and Wilmer Flores all around the infield; and the wasted innings of each starter as Alderson waits to bring in a bat until, presumably, the other team eats a whole lot of contract.

Needless to say, I find Alderson’s claims to limit Cuddyer’s playing time dubious at best.

  1. Don’t even get me started on that one.

Jul 16

Frequenting the Freq(ing) Mets

The American League won the All Star game. Since I paid attention for all of one Mike Trout home run, any sensible write-up will have to come elsewhere. There was a score, presumably, but I don’t know what that final score was. The AL won, though. SI and ESPN likely have very nice write-ups. I’m too devastated to read them, seeing that I really wanted the National League to have home field advantage and now those dreams are ruined.

Stupid Mike Trout.

In more important matters, without expending mental energy fretting over All Star games or home run derbies, I started thinking about other things. Notably, I began thinking about how a player’s hits are distributed across games in a season. It’s one thing to say that Wilmer Flores is batting .252/.286/.395 on the season, but it’s highly unlikely that Flores is recording one hit precisely every four at-bats. That would be something special if it did occur. It would also be a great way for the defense to rest in those at-bats that are destined for a hit as if ordained by Teiresias. “Take ‘er easy,” Michael Wacha waves to his infielders. “Scouting report pegs this one as a double.”

I thought it would be fun to look into how frequently the Mets get hits and reach base and which of the team’s batters are doing so with the most regularity. I didn’t comb through the game logs for all teams, so there won’t be any league-wide averages to play with. No. I’m strictly looking at the Mets starters as listed on Baseball-Reference (for example, I left out Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera and don’t even think about David Wright or Travis d’Arnaud appearing anywhere close to this post) and what we can reasonably expect each to record in a given game. This had the benefit of not filtering through all the game logs for Anthony Recker and Daniel Muno and it would reasonable filter out a lot of the pinch hit type games, or late defensive replacements, that wouldn’t provide much value. Also, I’m only looking at game logs from this season.

Surprisingly, if you’ve spent any time watching the Mets this season, the typical game for one of the main eight involves at least one hit. In just over a 1/3 of the games, about 37.8% of the time, does one of the starters go hitless. Sure, they all seem like they’ve been bunched together lately, but the numbers back it up. Furthermore, if I expand the search out to reaching base rather than recording a hit, it’s downright cheery. In a game, a Mets player fails to reach base via a hit, walk, intentional walk, or hit-by-pitch only 24.8% of the time, which is almost as frequent as reaching base twice in a game: 24.4%.

Type 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Hit 37.8 42.1 16.6 3.1 0.5 0 0
On Base 24.8 40.2 24.4 8.9 1.2 0.34 0.17

Frequency of Mets Hits / Reach Base

If the numbers don’t exactly equal out to 100% it’s because I rounded up. The good news is that based on the wonders of frequency tables, I now know that the Mets batters are more likely to both record a hit than to not and also to reach base than to not.

Of course, looking at the information like this, you’d assume all games are equal. It might be better to break this down further and look at frequency of hits and/or reaching base in a game based upon plate appearances. It’s difficult to imagine the percentages would be extremely high for Curtis Granderson to record two hits in a game if he only had one plate appearance. Granderson can do a lot of things, but I doubt that that’s one of them.

PA 0 1 2 3 4
1 81.8 18.2 0 0 0
2 62.5 37.5 0 0 0
3 50 43.6 6.5 0 0
4 36.7 43.3 17.3 2.5 0.27
5 21.6 44.1 25.5 6.9 2
6 0 63.6 27.3 9.1 0
7 0 0 50 50 0

Frequency of Mets Hits by Plate Appearance

The chart above is no surprise. As the number of plate appearances increases, the likelihood of a batter recording a hit goes up. In the 13 occurrences where a Mets batter has visited the plate six or more times, they’ve come away with at least one hit 100% of the time. Fantastic! That’s the secret then. Just get to the plate a lot. Not surprisingly, batters record four plate appearances in the majority of all games, and that matches up well with what we saw in the previous table. 36.7% of the time the batter is denied a hit, but in 63.3% of all such games the batter is rewarded.

Let’s look at that chart above but this time looking at the times reaching base:

PA 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 66.7 33.3 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 50 37.5 12.5 0 0 0 0 0
3 38.7 50 9.7 1.6 0 0 0 0
4 22.7 41.6 26.8 7.7 1.1 0 0 0
5 9.8 34.3 33.3 18.6 3.9 0 0 0
6 0 27.3 27.3 36.4 0 0 9.1 0
7 0 0 50 0 0 50 0 0

Frequency of Mets Reaching Base by Plate Appearance

Similar to the table above, with more plate appearances, the likelier it is to reach base. Even for a team with one of the worst offenses in baseball this is true. What I didn’t know before, which is great, is that in over 1/3 of all games, if a Mets batter makes it to the plate four times they’ll be on first base at least two of those at-bats.

See? This has value!

Maybe it’s time to look at the individual players. For this exercise, to make things a bit easier to present and to read, I limited plate appearances to three or more times in a game. Any fewer than that would have introduced too much noise and, in my estimation, provided little worth. Here’s a breakdown of hits in a game by player:

Player 0 1 2 3 4
Curtis Granderson 35.8 39.5 18.5 6.2 0
Daniel Murphy 30.6 45.2 14.5 8.1 1.6
Eric Campbell 53.8 30.8 15.9 0 0
Juan Lagares 28.4 48.1 19.8 2.5 1.2
Kevin Plawecki 40 44.4 15.6 0 0
Lucas Duda 37.3 39.8 19.3 3.6 0
Michael Cuddyer 31.4 44.3 21.4 2.9 0
Wilmer Flores 29.6 51.9 16 1.2 1.2

Frequency of Mets Hits by Plate Appearance by Player

What sort of surprised me here is that Lagares and Flores had the fewest of games where they didn’t get at least one hit. Thinking about it, though, it makes sense when you consider the table following this one where I account for all times reaching base. Both are free swingers with a combined 22 walks between them. If either player is reaching base, it’s going to be with the bat. Furthermore, that would reasonably explain why each has a hit in nearly 50% (or more in the case of Flores) of all games where they went to the plate three or more times.

Today’s post is why our eyeballs sometimes speak TRUTH!

Another thing that sort of surprised me was that Cuddyer is getting at least two hits in nearly a quarter of the games he plays. He may be hitting a lowly .244, but when he does hit, there’s a one in four likelihood that he’s getting another. Another way of saying that, though, is that if it seems like Michael Cuddyer doesn’t record hits in many games you’re probably right. You probably tuned out during those games where the hits came in bunches.

What about Mets batters reaching base?

Player 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Curtis Granderson 17.3 33.3 33.3 14.8 1.2 0 0
Daniel Murphy 21 40.3 19.4 12.9 4.8 0 1.6
Eric Campbell 30.8 35.9 23.1 7.7 0.0 2.6 0
Juan Lagares 23.5 43.2 27.2 4.9 1.2 0 0
Kevin Plawecki 28.9 42.2 22.2 6.7 0 0 0
Lucas Duda 18.1 32.5 28.9 19.3 1.2 0 0
Michael Cuddyer 21.4 41.4 31.4 4.3 1.4 0 0
Wilmer Flores 19.8 55.6 19.8 3.7 1.2 0 0

Frequency of Mets Reaching Base by Plate Appearance by Player

This makes sense. Granderson has walked 45 times on the season, Duda 39, so those two would clearly have the fewest games by percentage where they never reached first. Flores and Lagares can be explained with their highly aggressive approaches to hitting, which accounts for a lot of base hits but not a lot of repeat trips during the same game. If you had no idea who the Mets hitters were, if this were your first exposure to this team, you’d clearly see from the above table that Duda and Granderson have been the Mets two best hitters. Duda has reached base two or more times in a game nearly half of the time (49.4%) while Granderson has done the same 49.3% of the time. Is that good? I guess I could compare what I’m seeing here against the game’s best like Trout and Bryce Harper.

Maybe in the future.

I don’t think that would necessarily tell us anything valuable in regards to where we’d expect the Mets hitters to be. Trout and Harper aren’t exactly average hitters, so we might as well compare Wilmer Flores to Joe Morgan and complain that he can’t compete. It’s a relatively painless experience to gather the information, so I’ll do so in the future for a point of comparison. We’ll have so much fun.

Jul 11

Syndergaard Drops Thor’s Hammer on Arizona

I know everyone is quick to anoint Joc Pederson or Kris Bryant the eventual NL Rookie of the Year winner. Pederson has 20 home runs, makes highlight worthy catches, and certainly has Vin Scully’s support. Bryant has been the talk of baseball since the season started, has been worth nearly 3.5 wins (fWAR), and looks in every way like a superstar. Either would be a worthy choice. Neither may end up winning the award.

By the end of the year, we might be discussing Noah Syndergaard as the rookie crop’s crown jewel. It would be the first time a team had back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners since Bobby Crosby and Huston Street won the award for Oakland in 2004-05 respectively and the first time in the NL since the Dodgers did it five years in a row with Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, and Todd Hollandsworth taking the honors from 1992 through 1996. That’s assuming you foolishly believe that ’94 actually happened.

Currently, Syndergaard leads all NL rookie pitchers in fWAR, and while admittedly he has a fairly sizable gap to catch up to either Pederson or Bryant, Syndergaard certainly has the ability to be keep his name amongst MLB’s best frosh. If Syndergaard pitches games like he did last night, against an Arizona team that has the fifth best offense in baseball by batting average and sixth best by fWAR, he’ll be forcing his way into that conversation.

Take, for instance, the sequence of pitches to Paul Goldschmidt in the third inning last night. Syndergaard started Goldschmidt away with two curveballs away, a fastball up and out of the zone, another curve Goldschmidt waved at, and then a 97 mph fastball on the outside corner that Goldschmidt swung at but really had zero chance to hit. In one sequence, Syndergaard changed pitch type, speed, and location. After two 82 mph curveballs, his fastball looked untouchable. Watching the game in the comfort of my living room I was shocked at the disparity in pitch speeds.

I wonder what Goldschmidt was thinking?

He struck out Jake Lamb in the first on a curveball that nearly hit the lefties back ankle, then in the sixth struck him out on a 98 mph knee high fastball that painted the outside black. Seriously? Have fun with that.

Here are a couple of images from Fangraphs, detailing the pitch locations from Syndergaard last night.

chart-2

Pitch Location to Righties vs Diamondbacks

Syndergaard stayed out of the middle of the plate for the most part, keeping the ball away. Here’s the chart to lefties:

chart-3

Pitch Location to Lefties vs Diamondbacks

That one green triangle on the far right is that little beauty he threw to Lamb.

Syndergaard struck out 13 Diamondbacks last night. He struck out the side in the sixth and from the fifth through the seventh struck out seven of the 10 batters that stepped into the box. Chase Anderson, the opposing pitcher, recorded the lone hit through those three innings because pitchers, as a rule, wallop these days.

Those 13 strikeouts by Syndergaard are the most by a Mets pitcher this year and is tied for ninth for the most in the major leagues this season. It’s also the most strikeouts by a rookie through their first 11 games since Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 Pirates in his 2010 debut. It’s kinda impressive. I mean I’m sorta impressed. It’s not Kerry Woods level strikeouts. Woods struck out 13 or more batters three times in his first 11 starts, including a fairly magical 20 strikeout game against Houston that still is the single highest game by Game Score. How is 20 strikeouts even possible in any league that’s not high school and involves real people? Syndergaard hasn’t done that yet.

Still.

Only Herb Score and Dwight Gooden have more double digit strikeout games through their first 11 starts with each man having four. Syndergaard, having now accomplished this feat three times, has placed his name in a group with 11 others, including such notable names as Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, Woods, and Luis Tiant. Masahiro Tanaka added his name to that list last season.

Of course, in Mets history, Syndergaard is just behind Gooden and tied with Ryan.

How far does Syndergaard have to go to break the Mets record for most double digit strikeout games in a season? Well, that’s not happening. Gooden had 15 such games back in 1984, proving that Gooden is the greatest Met pitcher in my lifetime. There’s no debate here. Maybe a little. I should write about this.

In more recent company, though, Matt Harvey struck out 10 or more six times back in 2013. Kerry Wood did it nine times. Hideo Nomo did it a ridiculous 11 times back in 1995. Not quite at Gooden’s level, though. 15 times! Sorry. This could quickly turn into my love for Doc and my need to always wear 16, but you don’t want that.

Anyway, Syndergaard now has 72 strikeouts on the season. Through the first 11 games of a pitcher’s career with the Mets, that ranks third behind Gooden and Ryan.

We’re back to my original point. Pederson and Bryant are the clear choices for Rookie of the Year halfway through the season. Syndergaard is making his push, however. While Pederson has recently struggled—batting .177/.326/.310 with three home runs in his last 34 games—and Bryant has a slump of his own—after a 14-game hitting streak ended Bryant is batting .206/.329/.441 over his last 20 games—Syndergaard seems to be getting better and better. Over his last three outings, Syndergaard has allowed 11 hits in 22 innings, striking out 24 with an ERA of 1.23. Batters are hitting .145/.185/.224 against him in that span with a .192 average on balls in play. Two of those offenses (the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks) rank among the top six in baseball with the Dodgers as the best, according to Fangraphs.

It’s not so early that we can’t discuss this, but it’s not fait accompli that Pederson or Bryant wins the award either.

#ThorROY

Jul 10

Making Sense of Lucas Duda

Maybe it’s too simplistic to look at Lucas Duda’s batting line and pinpoint an exact time when things went haywire. Was it in early May when Duda’s OPS dipped below .800 for the first time, a few days before perhaps, or do we look to the very end of May when Duda’s OPS dropped from an impressive .947 to his current rate of .761?

We can certainly target June, seeing as every ounce of protection in the lineup evaporated with Daniel Murphy’s exit (June 4th was his last game until his recent return), Travis d’Arnaud’s return (June 10th) and subsequent injury (June 20th), and David Wright has been out since April 14th. It’s an obvious starting point. Two key contributors were out, and others such as Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores hit .211/.237/.311 and .221/.257/.337 respectively. At-bats destined for Murphy, Wright, and d’Arnaud ended up going to two rookies and a minor leaguer. Throw in the carousel of outfielders seen throughout the month, and it makes sense. When did things go wrong for Lucas Duda? The moment when pitchers stopped throwing him anything to hit.

At least, that’s my line of reasoning. Seeing how Jake Peavy attacked Duda in Wednesday’s afternoon game, not to mention every other instance where pitchers worked him early in the count with fastballs that were marginally close to the strike zone then feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls that broke past his back foot or three feet in front of the plate, makes me think I’m probably right. I rarely am, but I think in this case I probably am.

Still. My own average on being right has fallen below the Mendoza line recently. Correct / Observations = Wild Guesses.

One way to see what’s happening is to look at how pitchers have attacked Duda. For the most part, since the first few months, pitchers have steadily decreased fastballs thrown to Duda while attacking him more with offspeed and breaking balls. So far, in July, pitchers have thrown Duda a breaking ball a whopping 37% of the time, which I suspect is because he’s so often behind in the count. That might be true too. A lot of things here might be true.

BrooksBaseball.net can show us how pitchers have pitched Duda, and in the early going, up until June, pitchers started Duda with a fastball a majority of the time and then moving to the offspeed and breaking pitches when they got ahead. When Duda was ahead, he saw the hard stuff 63% of the time from lefties and 64% of the time from righties. Since June, however, lefties throw fastballs (fourseamers, cutters, etc.) nearly 82% of the time while righties have dropped to 57%. Since he’s seen righties a majority of the time, the overall numbers favor fewer fastballs. From this kind of math, we can deduce (and the numbers back this up) that pitchers then proceed to throw him a steady diet of offspeed and breaking balls when they’re ahead. Right-handers, notably, now attack Duda with offspeed and breaking pitches 57% of the time when ahead and 57% of the time with two strikes. Those numbers are up significantly from the early part of the year when righties did the same 48% and 50% respectively.

Up until the end of May, in the first pitch of the at-bat, Duda swung only 22% of the time, and 43% of the time Duda was rewarded with a 1-0 count. That matters. He hit .526 with three doubles and a home run in 1-0 counts as opposed to .273 with a double and a home run down 0-1. This was just in May. On the season Duda hits .440 in 1-0 counts as opposed to .312 down a strike after the first pitch. If you’re wondering, he’s equally effective in counts where he doesn’t have any strikes at all. In those situations, he’s batting .414 with eight doubles and six home runs. It pays to be patient, right? So, since the beginning of June what’s different?

Since the beginning of June, Duda has swung at the first pitch in at-bat around 20.8% of the time, a slight decrease, but he’s started his at-bats in a 1-0 count nearly 52% of the time. That’s a big uptick in pitches out of the strike zone with that first pitch.

He actually swung at fewer 1-0 count pitches after the beginning of June (41.4% after compared to around 48% prior) while seeing a ball roughly the same percentage of time when he did take (34% after while 333.% prior). No, that doesn’t fully explain what my eyeballs are seeing, but if we look at his Strikezone Discrimination (again at BrooksBaseball.net) there’s a marked decrease in any ability to recognize the strikezone. Or, if he does, Duda doesn’t care one bit because he’s looking to provide some sort of offense to a struggling team.

Lucas  Duda Strikezone DiscriminationLucas Duda Strikezone Discrimination 2015

Fangraphs has heat maps that break down zone location based upon pitch count. This is a useful tool. While it won’t provide us with a breakdown by date, it’s interesting to see how pitchers are locating against Duda.1

Lucas Duda 0-0 Count

Lucas Duda Zone Profile 0-0

I’m not crazy then. It sure seemed as though pitchers are constantly starting Duda with pitches away. How does that compare with what Duda sees overall?

Lucas Duda Overall

Lucas Duda Zone Profile Overall

That matches up fairly well. There’s a little more activity on the inner black. I haven’t looked yet because I want this to be a surprise, but I suspect pitchers are attacking him inside with two strikes.Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 6.03.51 AM

Lucas Duda Zone Profile 2 Strikes

Well, down and in certainly, and there’s much more activity down and out of the zone. A result of all those breaking balls. If we look at one more image, we can see if Duda is swinging at these pitches:

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 6.09.06 AM

Lucas Duda Swing % All Counts

There’s a lot of blue. We can see, however, that Duda likes that pitch up and he’s not against taking hacks at pitches up and in. On 1-0 counts the chart looks similar.

The numbers at Fangraphs back up Duda’s aggressive approach as well. Duda’s O-Swing % (those pitches he swings at outside the zone) is up to 30% while his Swing % is up to 43.3%. If you think about that, Duda is swinging at 43.3% of the pitches that he sees and swinging at 30% of the pitches outside of the zone that he sees. He’s also swinging at 63% of the pitches that he sees inside the zone, markedly up from the 59-60% from his last two seasons. Sure, that sounds great and all, but that means he’s been more aggressive over all, perhaps swinging at pitches that are strikes but not exactly where he can drive it.

So, if all of this makes sense, Duda is thrown more junk since the beginning of June; he’s up 1-0 in the count over half the time; but now, anticipating that he’ll see more pitches out of the zone, Duda is taking more often 1-0 and ending up even in the count. Then, seeing his advantage quickly diminished, Duda is being too aggressive after being too passive. One more image will back this up:

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 6.16.10 AM

Lucas Duda Swing % 1-1 Count

Duda is swinging at a lot of pitches out of the zone 1-1. So, Duda is officially passive aggressive? My head hurts.

  1. I really need to refresh my PITCHf/x database. Sigh.

Jul 09

Score Four and One Home Run Ago: Mets Win!

When I was in high school, I thought my life could only be made complete with an official Dwight Gooden jersey. The jersey had to be the road grays, and of course it had to have that sweet Mets logo on the left sleeve. I won’t bore you with an ode to jerseys, so this is more about how much I love the road grays. The colors work for me. The blue lettering with the bright orange outline. The blue striping. Coupled with the blue and orange of the hats/helmets, it’s a great look that brings decades of Mets players back in flashes of memory: Howard Johnson, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Juan Lagares.

I love watching road games. Typically, especially this season, the results haven’t been the best. Entering Wednesday’s afternoon game against San Francisco, the Mets were 14-28 on the road. That’s tied with the Marlins for the second worst road record in the majors and topped only by Philadelphia’s road woes. Apparently the NL East is horrid on the road as a rule since both Atlanta and Washington are sub .500 as well. That makes the East the only division where all their teams have losing records on the road. Is that important? Maybe. Maybe come playoff time that could mean something. A .333 winning percentage like the Mets had (15-28 now!) will certainly mean something when trying to make the playoffs.

Things have been pretty bad on the road. You don’t need me to tell you that. Not really. Here I am anyway. Prior to this road trip, the Mets had won only two series on the road, neither of which was against a team with a winning record. They did take two of three against the Nationals to open the season. But the Mets won the first game, so technically the Nats were never above .500. To win two of three against both the Dodgers and the Giants and their winning ways is big. It’s not earth shattering, season altering big, but it’s nice to not have to answer stupid questions about not winning on the road.

The team didn’t really answer any questions about the offense either. In the ninth inning, Eric Campbell hit the team’s first home run in 10 games, and in the six games of this road trip the Mets have topped three runs just twice. Both times in the final game of each respective series with eight scored against the Dodgers and four yesterday. Since the beginning of June, the team has scored three or fewer runs 23 times out of 35 games with a 16-19 record to show for it. That’s pretty remarkable actually. How many teams can score so few runs but be a break or two away from .500?

Ooh, ooh! I know that answer.

The Mets are tied with the Mariners, having scored three or fewer runs 50 times. The Mets record of 13-37 in those games is typical of all teams when scoring so few runs. Collectively, entering yesterday’s games, teams had a combined record of 280-938 when they’ve scored three or fewer runs. That’s good for a winning percentage of .229. So, the Mets winning percentage of .260 is slightly better than you’d expect. That’s good for the 11th best winning percentage in the major leagues.

Only the St. Louis Cardinals and their ridiculous 19-24 record in such games are close to a .500 team. They’ve also won 55 games, so maybe that’s part of the reason. If you’re wondering (and you should be), the Nationals are 14-29 in such games with a winning percentage of .326 good for second best in the majors.

Give the Mets pitchers four or more runs, though, and look out. The team is 31-5 in those games. It’s just, you know, it happens so infrequently.

Terry Collins is trying to generate some runs. Yesterday he called for a hit-and-run with Jacob deGrom batting in the seventh. It’s at least the second time, that I can recall, where Collins called for a hit-and-run with the pitcher up. Why not? These guys can hit. While Bartolo Colon is amusing to watch and by all accounts works extremely hard on his hitting, guys like deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Niese, and Steven Matz can sort of rake. According to Fangraphs, the Mets pitchers have been worth 0.5 fWAR at the plate. That number is tied with the Cardinals for third and behind only the Giants and Reds.

Remember when it was an oddity to see Collins place the pitcher in the eighth spot? Oh, that Collins. He and Sandy Alderson are so hip with these metrics. Always fiddling with tradition. Tinkering. I love Ruben Tejada and want nothing more than for him to succeed, but would it be completely crazy to see deGrom bat second in his place? Matz has eight fewer RBI than Tejada in 193 fewer at-bats.

Collins did and should try just about anything to generate runs since with the staff they’ve assembled, one more than a few typically means a win. While Lucas Duda continues his tailspin (entering yesterday, a .158/.271/.233 slash line since the end of May with one home run); Michael Cuddyer fights through a balky knee, age, and decline; Lagares regresses at the plate; and the front office plays musical chairs with random Triple-A guy to provide what value they can (hey, this works for Buck Showalter and the Orioles so I’m not knocking the strategy), the Mets work to eke out just enough runs to pass that mystical Run Scoring Maginot Line.

When you get pitching performances like deGrom gave the team yesterday, your team has a great chance to win. deGrom went eight innings, striking out 10 while allowing two hits. His fastball dominated the Giants, painting the corners with more than a few Giants watching fastballs for strike three, and the occasional curveball thrown was sharp and cruelly effective. I’ve read suggestions that the Mets should trade deGrom for hitting. No.

Slap someone who suggests that. It’s okay. No court of law could find fault.

The Mets are sixth in pitching fWAR as a team, and that’s with Syndergaard’s growing pains, Matt Harvey returning from a year and half off, the Dillon Gee trade auditions, Bartolo Colon showing every bit of 42-years old lately, and now a six-man rotation. It’s been a spaghetti on the wall sort of season.

Might as well do the same with the bats. Pitcher batting second? Sure. Hit-and-runs with Matz or deGrom? Second pitch.

Just get ‘em to four runs, guys. Let your pitchers handle the rest.

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