Category Archives: Words

The Bob-o-pedic curveball

Bobby Parnell threw roughly 700 curveballs in the ninth inning last night. (And gave up two hits on fastballs. Go figure.) Rob Castellano over on Amazin’ Avenue has a breakdown of Parnell’s pitch selection, so go check out there for more on that.

For my brief take: Parnell’s curveball was his best pitch last night. He got into good counts with it, but he couldn’t command his fastball and put hitters away when he went back to the heat. Thole would set up on the outside corner, but Parnell put his fastball right in the middle of the plate.

Parnell is really, really close to being a dominant reliever, but only if he can use his curveball and fastball interchangeably. His curveball’s developed enough where he can use it effectively and almost-exclusively, as he did last night. But he needs to be able to put his fastball in the right spots after setting it up with curveballs.

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Matt Harvey or Miguel Batista?

Before we get into Matt Harvey vs. Miguel Batista, let’s briefly review the work of recent Mets making the jump from Triple-A to the Major Leagues midseason. The list is incomplete and short. But whatever, here’s some guys who did what Matt Harvey may soon do:

Chris Schwinden —
Triple-A: 26 starts, 3.95 ERA, 3.80 FIP
Majors: four starts, 4.71 ERA, 3.03 FIP

Schwinden pitched decently in his four-game showcase last September, and did not during his 8.2 innings with the Major League version Mets this season. Those three 2012 games aside, Schwinden has been an effective pitcher for the past two seasons. So if the Mets are unsold on Batista and don’t want to rush Harvey, Schwinden might be the unsatisfying, disappointing middle ground.

Jeremy Hefner —
Triple-A: eight starts, 2.96 ERA, 3.44 FIP
Majors: three starts, 6.89 ERA, 3.64 FIP

Hefner walked only two batters in his 30.1 innings pitched, but he also struck out only 17 and allowed 38 hits. So he may have pitched too much in the zone. Or whatever. I don’t know. You come up with something!

Dillon Gee —
Triple-A: 28 starts, 4.96 ERA, 4.01 FIP
Majors: five starts, 2.18 ERA, 4.20 FIP

Gee’s the strange case here, because his Major League ERA improved over his Minor League numbers in his first few starts. Out of the (small sample of) five pitchers here, Gee was the only one to post a better ERA in the Majors than the Minors. And Gee and Schwinden are the only two to be not-terrible their first few Major League starts.

Jon Niese —
Triple-A: seven starts, 3.40 ERA, 4.11 FIP
Majors: three starts, 7.07 ERA, 5.13 FIP

Remember Jon Niese’s first three starts? He was bad. Niese is a good pitcher now and was a decent prospect at the time, but the Major Leagues are scary and hard the first time through, even for ready-ish prospects who do eventually figure it out.

Mike Pelfrey — (2007 stats)
Triple-A: 14 starts, 4.01 ERA, 4.04 FIP
Majors: 13 starts, 5.57 ERA, 5.06 FIP

Yeah, same thing. Pelfrey actually debuted in 2006, but he’s got more Triple-A and Major League stats from 2007, so we’ll look at those.

So now getting into the actual point of the post, here are Batista’s and Harvey’s numbers this season:

Miguel Batista — (as a starter)
Majors: four starts, 4.00 ERA, 5.28 FIP

Matt Harvey
Triple-A: 19 starts, 3.34 ERA, 3.50 FIP

So the Mets’ decision here rides on two questions:

1. Will Matt Harvey pitch better than Miguel Batista over 10 or so starts for the remainder of this season?
2. Will Matt Harvey’s long-term development be positively or negatively affected by a promotion now?

I see the answers as:

1. I’m not sure Harvey will be better than Batista over 10 starts. If you look at other Mets pitching callups from recent seasons, most of these young pitchers struggled in their first few Major League starts; some struggled to ERAs in the 5.00-7.00 range. The following statement is obvious but stands to repetition: The Major Leagues are much harder than Triple-A. The adjustment is probably a little scary and intimidating for even the toughest young pitchers, and good Triple-A pitchers can and often do get rocked in the Majors. There’s no guarantee that Harvey will come up and pitch anything but terribly in his first three or four starts, or in his first ten starts for that matter. Harvey is pitching well in Triple-A, but he’s not dominating. And even young pitchers who dominate the Minors can struggle (see the Rays’ Matt Moore this season).

On the other hand: Miguel Batista, who is probably good for a 4.50-5.00 ERA for the remainder of the season, isn’t an inspiring alternative. I think Harvey will be better than Batista for 15-20 starts, but the two’s performances will be closer over the 10 or so remaining starts the Mets need to fill. But Harvey is not a clear upgrade for 10 starts in 2012; I’m not sure the argument for Harvey holds up from that angle, at least not yet. Which leads into our second answer, regarding Harvey’s development:

2. So the (realistic) best-case scenario is that Harvey is ready and pitches to a 3.50-4.00 ERA with the Mets for 10 starts. The worst-case is that Harvey struggles and descends into an existential crisis, leaves pitching to join a ninja monastery, and emerges years later as a crime-fighting vigilante. Which really isn’t that bad, all things considered. But a more realistic worst-case is that Harvey is rushed, struggles, and figures out a way to merely get by instead of truly succeed, i.e., throw nothing but fastballs low in the zone. That’s the risk that comes with any promotion: The player could improve, or implode or figure out how to just get by.

Do the benefits of Harvey-over-Batista outweigh the risk of screwing up a pitching prospect? It’s close. I’m not sure the benefits do outweigh the risks yet. Harvey’s performance would need to be a clear, clear upgrade over Batista’s performance to justify maybe-rushing him. And it’s not yet. Young pitchers struggle transitioning to the Majors, and I’d bet Harvey does the same.

But two weeks from now, things may look much clearer. Especially if Harvey throws up a few gems and Miguel Batista throws up some lumps of coal. But should the Mets hold off on Harvey until August, I think they’re making a smart, if boring, call.


Filed under Columns, Mets, Words

Oral history of WFAN

Eagle: The phenomenon of WFAN really hit in 1992. They made me the board operator for “Mike and the Mad Dog,” and I can tell you from firsthand experience that they became rock stars. Everywhere that they showed up, it would elicit a reaction. To me that was the breakthrough year, when the station just exploded. As their success grew, their problems grew. They were both making great livings. Their Q ratings were high. But then the petty stuff started creeping in. Contract disputes. Who’s getting more money? Who’s gaining more popularity? It just brought a separate set of problems. They were on the air together five hours a day, five days a week.


If you missed it: Grantland has an excellent oral history of WFAN, which includes stories from Howie Rose, Steve Somers, and Chris Russo. And then a whole bunch of other FAN folks drop in, too. Go read it.


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Wright to the point

“It’s a fair question,” David Wright said earlier this week. “It’s an easy answer. We’re good.”

– David Wright

The New York Times has an article on the Mets’ poor second halves in recent seasons. The above is Wright’s response to the question whether a swoon could happen again. Wright and Dickey provide thoughts on what may or may not be different about this season’s team; plenty of good stuff in there.

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Playing the UZR guessing game

As inspired by this post on Amazin’ Avenue, I avoided defensive statistics for 2012 until this week. I haven’t looked at Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), or Total Zone. I averted my eyes on Fangraphs, didn’t look upon WAR on Baseball-Reference. One of ya’ll mentioned David Wright’s UZR in a tweet at me in mid-May, this I believe the only slip up. But otherwise I haven’t seen any advanced defensive statistics for this season. I have no idea what anyone’s UZR is.

But I have watched the Mets, and I have tried to pay extra attention to their fielding with this experiment in mind. So here’s what I’ve got: I have my own notes about the Mets fielders below. I’ve also made a guess at how many runs each one has cost or saved the Mets defensively in 2012. Then I looked up each player’s actual defensive numbers to see how close my eyes and the numbers agree. So here we go: Continue reading


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The Falling Cameraman

Here’s some great detective work by Gothamist, uncovering the SNY cameraman who stages slapstick falls on TV. One such clip is seen here, but Gothamist has the damning second video as well.

❤ the Mets. Via Mets Police.


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Nice job, Cyclones

Thursday night was Williamsburg Night for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ lovable Minor League team. Among the promised attractions: food vouchers for bearded fans, a postgame running of the bases for anyone wearing skinny jeans, and a shuttle bus from hipster ground zero. The evening started at Full Circle Bar, a Skee-Ball dive on Havemeyer. Twenty-five bucks bought you a beer, a hot dog, a ticket, and a ride. Thirty minutes before departure, a few dozen people milled in the bar. None drank PBR. Budweiser — the Fourth of July–edition can — was ascendant.

– Chadwick Matlin, “This Is Not a Beard: Scenes From the Brooklyn Cyclones’ ‘Williamsburg Night’”
NY Mag

How did I miss this event! Entertaining read from Mr. Matlin, who discovers what counts as a true beard and that hipsters never admit to being hipsters.

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Jon Niese in two halves

We neglected to mention Niese in our list of Mets MVPs for June and perhaps that was a mistake, as he was 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts.

Niese’s strikeout-to-walk ratio for the month was resemblant of R.A. Dickey, 34-to-5.

The key to that was fastball command. Niese threw his fastball for strikes 72 percent of the time last month, up from 61 percent in April and May.

– Mark Simon, ESPN New-York

Mark Simon point out things we all missed, as he is wont to do. I had no idea that Niese had pitched that well in June. I guess that’s what happens when Johan Santana throws a no-hitter and R.A. Dickey does what R.A. Dickey does in the same month.

Anyway. Niese is on pace to have the best season of his career, posting a 3.55 ERA and 106 ERA+, the breakout performance the Mets were banking on when they signed Niese to an extension this spring. That is, it’s a breakout performance except that Niese has done this exact same thing in the first half of every season in his young career:

And then this happens the next three months:

Niese’s performance was far, far worse in the second half of 2010 and 2011, which is why his career ERA still sits at a less-than-impressive 4.23. (Dillon Gee’s career ERA is 4.14. Is anyone else on the Dillon Gee bandwagon yet? There’s plenty of room ya’ll. I made brownies. Guys? Guys? No wait, let me show you this handmade pamphlet on xFIP.) Note Niese has allowed 307 hits in 300.1 first-half innings, and then 193 hits in 159 second-half innings. His strikeout-to-walk rate has dropped a bit in the second-halves, but that’s not as alarming as the huge rise in hits. Also note the 12 unearned runs in 2010, when Niese pitched even worse than his ERA shows.

Niese’s second-half struggles could be just a fluky statistical thing — particularly if we want to account for the huge rise in hits by citing BABIP and leaving things at that — but it is something to keep an eye on this season. I’m still not totally sold on the Niese extension, but this year’s second half should prove an early test for that deal. Or something.


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Let’s Talk about Terry Collins

Terry Collins’ Mets are 43-37 as of right now, in second place in the NL East and would play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card play in game if the season ended today. (It doesn’t.) So that’s all good. Let’s give Terry Collins a report card/review of sorts:  Continue reading


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Hey, let’s see what Ryan Howard is up to . . .

Oh my. To be fair, that’s a bad picture and Howard doesn’t look that spacious in videos here. But still, my goodness.


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