Inside Look: Phillies

The Mets are in first place, and the first-place Mets will be facing the second-place Phillies for a 3-game weekend series for the right to first place.

Yes, I am going to harp on the “first place” thing as much as possible, since we don’t know how long it will last. May as well take advantage while we can.

Since we have all day today and most of tomorrow to bask in the glow of Mets’ first-place status, I thought you might enjoy reading some of the thoughts of fellow SweetSpot Blogger Bill Baer, whose blog Crashburn Alley focuses on the second-place Phillies.

(You can also see a similar Q&A over at Bill’s blog, where I answer his questions about the Mets.)

To reiterate, the second-place Phillies. Boy that feels good!

Anyway, here is our Q&A … and here’s to hoping the first-place Mets can remain in first place!

1. The Phillies were looking like world-beaters before the season began and through the first two weeks. However, they are 4-6 over their last 10 games. What’s going on?

It’s a little worrisome, but I would attribute part of the misfortune on injuries (Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, and Joe Blanton started the season on the DL; Jimmy Rollins and J.A. Happ soon joined them) and bad luck. Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, and David Herndon have been the unluckiest so far.

I think the starting rotation (when it includes Joe Blanton) is better than people think.

Doesn’t help that the Phillies have played 15 of their first 21 games on the road, either.

2. Jimmy Rollins made a preseason goal of 50 stolen bases. He stole 2 before going on the DL. Is his goal realistic, considering both Rollins’ skills and the Phillies’ overall offensive style / strategy?

It wasn’t realistic then and it certainly isn’t realistic now that he has missed two weeks. The most realistic goal of his is 200 hits since he gets so many at-bats at the top of a high-octane offense.

3. Ryan Madson is the closer while Brad Lidge is on the mend. Are you confident in Madson in the ninth? Do you have more confidence in Madson, or Lidge? How about the next option, Danys Baez?

If Lidge was completely healthy and he had the same velocity on his fastball and bite on his slider that he had in 2008, I may be slightly more confident in him than Madson. However, Lidge has just been squeaking above the 90’s while rehabbing and I really question his ability to handle high-leverage innings. I have much, much more confidence in Ryan Madson than anybody else in the bullpen. It’s a shame because many Phillies fans have labeled Madson unfit to close as a result of their armchair psychoanalysis.

4. Much was made about Ryan Howard getting tutored by Barry Bonds over the winter. Are you seeing any results from that?

Not really. As you know, Barry Bonds was a maven of plate discipline. Howard hasn’t brought that into the 2010 season as he is drawing walks at more than half the rate he had over the course of his career. So far, he has increased the rate at which he swings at pitches outside of the strike zone and he has decreased the rate of swings at pitches inside the strike zone. It is nice that he cut his strikeout rate by ten percent, but to be quite honest, I would prefer to take the strikeouts with his prodigious power, something we have barely seen this season.

5. We know all about Roy Halladay. But after him, the Philly starting rotation has been questionable. Even JA Happ, who hasn’t given up an earned run, has walked 8 in 10 IP. Is it simply a slow start by everyone, or is there valid concern that the current personnel will not be sufficient to pitch the Phillies into the postseason?

As mentioned above, Hamels has been unlucky in his four starts so far. Pitchers can’t control the rate at which balls put in play turn into hits (BABIP), so it tends to hover around .300 give or take a few thousandths of a point. Hamels last year sat at .325; it is .357 so far in 2010. Additionally, pitchers cannot control the rate at which fly balls land beyond outfield fences, so it tends to hover around 10% give or take a couple percentage points. Hamels so far has a HR/FB% of 20.6%. Hamels will come around.

Stats people are not expecting J.A. Happ to come anywhere close to the success he had last season. Despite the 0.00 ERA, he had pitched poorly in his two starts before landing on the DL. As you mentioned, he walked eight batters in ten innings and he was also striking out fewer than four and a half per nine innings. Happ doesn’t induce too many ground balls, so it is not good that hitters have been making contact as often as they have been.

Jamie Moyer is hit or miss but there worse ways to round out the back of a starting rotation. Speaking of which, I am counting the days until Kyle Kendrick returns to AAA Lehigh Valley.

6. Further to the previous question, what is wrong with Cole Hamels, and is he fixable?

Very fixable. He’s been unlucky. I know that answer doesn’t sit will with a lot of people, but them’s the facts. Phillies fans need to just ride it out — he’ll improve. Just don’t expect him to finish the season with Tim Lincecum-esque numbers. His true talent level is somewhere around a 3.50-3.75 ERA.

7. In 2009, the Phillies benefitted greatly by a scorching hot start by Raul Ibanez. This year, though, the story is quite the opposite. Have opposing pitchers “figured him out”, is he streaky by nature, or simply a slow starter?

Ibanez is streaky by nature, but I think part of the slow part is aging as well. From what I’ve seen, his bat looks slower and he’s having trouble catching up to fastballs. Since he started playing regularly in 2002, Ibanez has finished all but one season with above-average numbers against the fastball according to FanGraphs’ pitch type linear weights. Through April, Ibanez has been two runs below average per 100 fastballs.

I’m hoping that Ibanez gets on one of his patented hot streaks and he becomes a palatable option to move at the trading deadline. However, I doubt that many teams would be willing and able to take on the remainder of his contract (about $6 million by the 2010 trading deadline and $11.5 million next year). Trading Ibanez and clearing his contract may give the Phillies the ability to re-sign Jayson Werth after the season, in which case prospect Domonic Brown would take over in left field.

8. For the first time in a year, the Phillies are chasing the Mets. Do you think that will be the case for most of the season? Why or why not?

No, I don’t. The Mets just don’t have a good lineup or a good starting rotation (outside of Johan Santana) or a good bullpen. It sounds like I’m being a biased, hateful Philly fan, but it’s true.

The Mets had a $126.5 million payroll to open the season, and their most recent batting order was: Pagan, Cora, Reyes, Bay, Wright, Davis, Francoeur, and Barajas. That’s just not a good lineup. Pagan and Cora are back-ups on most other teams; Davis would be unknown if he were in a less-prominent team’s farm system, Francoeur is overrated, and — okay — I irrationally dislike Barajas because he didn’t block the plate during a game in Florida when he was with the Phillies. Hey, at least I’m honest.

Additionally, Mike Pelfrey has been extremely lucky. His BABIP is only .249 and he’s yet to allow a home run. His 0.69 ERA is not backed up by ERA postdictors like xFIP (4.31) and SIERA (4.38). That’s not to say that a 4.38 ERA level of production is not acceptable, it’s just that Pelfrey’s recent success is completely and utterly unsustainable.

Jonathon Niese has pitched over his head as well. His 4.40 SIERA is more realistic than his 3.68 ERA. Niese needs to harness his control before he can be considered an above-average pitcher.

Finally, while the ERA’s have mostly been good with the Mets’ relievers, one cannot expect them to maintain that level of success over the course of a 162-game season. Takahashi has really been the only true bright spot in the bullpen — he has pitched exceptionally well. Fernando Nieve and Jenrry Mejia have not pitched well while K-Rod and Pedro Feliciano have been average at best and that may be too lenient given their bad walk rates.

Thanks again to Bill Baer for his insight. You can read more of his commentary and stat-driven analysis regarding the Phillies at Crashburn Alley. I’m sure you would like to comment on some of his answers, so please do so below.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Disgruntled Mets Fan April 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm
    Why is it that any Philly player doing poorly has been unlucky but Mike Pelfrey’s great start is because he’s been lucky?

    Sounds like a Philly bias to me!

    And while I agree the line up might not be the strongest around, calling out the bullpen is ludicrous with what they’ve done so far this year.

  2. Bill Baer April 29, 2010 at 3:10 pm
    Why is it that any Philly player doing poorly has been unlucky

    Did you read the part about J.A. Happ?

    but Mike Pelfrey’s great start is because he’s been lucky?

    So you expect him to put up an 0.69 ERA at the end of the season?

    calling out the bullpen is ludicrous with what they’ve done so far this year.

    Past results are not an indicator of future performance. While they have had good results, most Mets relievers have pitched rather poorly, particularly in terms of walking batters.

  3. frank April 29, 2010 at 3:19 pm
    i don’t think bill baer knows who angel pagan is. he’s a back up on the mets, too. one who hit well in over 300 ABs last year.

    and the “most recent lineup” bill cites, (the one that doesn’t include castillo in the two spot where he’ll get the vast majority of the playing time) has been pretty good over the last ten games, i’d say.

    see ya this weekend, billy boy.

  4. WrightPlay April 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm
    Biased Philly fan I agree with Te first post
  5. VAR April 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    I would say that Bill Baer’s analysis is a mixture of subjective and objective. There’s no denying that several of the Met players are performing above their expected results while several Phillies are underneath theirs. Baer oversteps when he dismisses Ike Davis’s contribution and worth by labelling him “an unknown”. Similarly, he dismisses Francoeur as “overrated” and simply dislikes Barajas. His treatment of the bullpen is similarly biased.

    Make no mistake, the Phillies should still be considered the favorites in the NL East. I don’t dispute that. What may ultimately decide the Mets fate, though, is the contributions of Davis and Mejia and some health from the team’s oft-injured stars. Add in a positive contribution from Bay and the Mets are far from hopeless. The pitching staff as a whole was seen as a huge negative going into the season but has shown itself to be worthy of more consideration.

    Let’s go, Mets! Thank you for making the this year’s team so much fun to watch so far this season!

  6. Bill Baer April 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm
    Rod Barajas has a 52 OPS+ please don’t tell me you’re banking on the guy.

    Ike Davis has been good so far. But that’s only in 40 plate appearances — a ridiculously small sample. To expect him to continue hitting as well as he has is ridiculous.

    As for Francoeur, compare this ( to this (

  7. Mike April 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm
    He makes solid acceptable points about his players being unlucky and ours being lucky. This is solid data. But ultimately it requires a leap of faith to proclaim what is sustainable or what is the reasonable expectation of certain players. He can claim Hammels is unlucky and will likely get better, and that Pelfrey will start giving up runs again and come back to Earth, but there really is no telling if Hammels will pitch back to 2008 form or if Pelfrey is going to have a career year this season.

    Mets fans will argue Pelfrey is primed for a breakout season, that Ike Davis is a stud, and that this Mets bullpen will be good all year (though definitely take a step or two back), while Philly fans will argue against it. And vice-versa.

  8. Walnutz15 April 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm
    “Davis would be unknown if he were in a less-prominent team’s farm system”

    ^ I’d be the last guy punching any Met-prospect’s ticket to Cooperstown — but I’m more than curious as to why you think this is.

    As someone who’s followed Ike Davis’ career very closely – from the CWS w/ASU until now – he’s always projected to a productive Major League player.

    With the recent turn of events (i.e. – Murphy’s injury, Jacobs’ lack of production) – he’s obviously been fast-tracked.

    “Unknowns” typically don’t hit the Major League stage.

    Granted, the 2nd time around the league separates the champs from the chumps — but c’mon now.

  9. Bill Baer April 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm
    He can claim Hammels is unlucky and will likely get better, and that Pelfrey will start giving up runs again and come back to Earth, but there really is no telling if Hammels will pitch back to 2008 form or if Pelfrey is going to have a career year this season.

    Actually, it’s a proven fact that pitchers have very little control on BABIP and HR/FB%.

    That, along with this…

    …tell us what to expect over the season.

  10. Bill Baer April 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm
    I’m more than curious as to why you think this is.

    He’s had one good year in the Minor Leagues. No, make that one good half-year in the Minors.

    I don’t think my hard drive can compute how many players have accomplished that feat.

    Don’t get me wrong — he hit well, but again, it’s in a limited sample size. There’s more reason to believe he will be a AAAA player than the next Don Mattingly.

    Weren’t Mets fans proclaiming Daniel Murphy as the next Mattingly last year?

  11. Mike April 29, 2010 at 4:37 pm
    Oh and young pitchers don’t ever figure it out? I was agreeing with you that Pelfrey can’t be this good, but to expect him to be a solid number 2 and have a sub 4 ERA and put up his best overall numbers is not far fetched. Pelfrey is at the point where he either gets it and enters his prime or fades away into bust territory. I’m saying just because he isn’t THIS good and will regress statistically, doesn’t mean he won’t put up great numbers. and Hammels has been bad since he was ridden through the World Series in 2008. Or bad compared to his amazing 2008 season. Unlucky or not he is trending downward. I’m a Mets fan, I will argue he won’t return to form and that Pelfrey is about to have a career year, what’s wrong with that?
  12. Walnutz15 April 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm
    Idiots were proclaiming Daniel Murphy as the next Don Mattingly — just as some still dopes refer to Sandy Koufax whenever Oliver Perez takes the hill.

    Ike Davis blows Murphy out of the water. You’re obviously trying to ruffle feathers with that statement; or never saw Davis play at peak-form.

    He was a stud at ASU, and was only hampered by being a left-handed hitter in Keyspan Park.

    If anything, he may have been to The Bigs faster in another organization. The Mets were kidding themselves with their roster management coming out of St. Lucie this past-Spring.

    He’s far from “unknown”. We’ll see what he’s really got as time goes by…..but I’m confident that 90% of the fanbase would have taken him over Murphy heading into this season.

  13. Bill Baer April 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm
    I’m a Mets fan, I will argue he won’t return to form and that Pelfrey is about to have a career year, what’s wrong with that?

    You can believe it all you want. You can repeat it and repeat it but it is not backed up by the statistics. He has been a mid-4’s pitcher since he came into the Majors (4.64 career xFIP; xFIP has been kinder to him than ERA every year except 2008).

    Pitchers can essentially control three things:

    – The amount of hitters they strike out
    – The amount of hitters they walk
    – The distribution of batted balls that are ground balls or fly balls

    If Pelfrey can increase his bad strikeout rate, improve his walk rate slightly, and maintain or improve his ground ball rate, he’ll be fine. He has increased his strikeouts in his first four starts this year but he has also increased his walk rate as well.

    I would be very hesitant to draw any meaningful conclusions based off of four starts. That is a ridiculously small sample size. Pelfrey is much more likely to be like 2009 Pelfrey than 4-starts-in-2010 Pelfrey going forward.

  14. Mike April 29, 2010 at 4:54 pm
    Not everyone thought Murphy was a stud. I’m not one of them. Mets fans will always get lumped with the masses that call WFAN and think Daniel Murphy is a batting champion waiting to happen but on this blog most of us don’t believe that.

    Ike Davis was a first round pick 2 years ago that struggled in his first try at minor league ball. Scouts have him at a 25 HR, .270 Avg, decent OBP clip. He isn’t an all-star necessarily, but he doesn’t have to be. Not everyone needs to be a super star to be a successful team. He will be good, not great.

    Pelfrey has increased his swing and miss percentage greatly. I’ve seen the numbers on ESPN but can’t find them right now. That shows me he is changing one of the things he can control. In 2009 he had a terrible defense behind him and it killed him making him (and you’ll love this) VERY UNLUCKY. His BABIP is shown here

    So please don’t assume he is never going to be better than 2008, when honestly he wasn’t THAT good. His sinker will always make him dependent on defense and having a real 1st baseman and Jose Reyes will help him greatly. Plus he will always have low HR rates because of that sinker.

  15. chris pizz April 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm
    Bill, while I think you are incredibly biased in blowing off the Mets this year, it is nice that you stuck around to defend/explain some of your comments with us. Since you’re here, I’ve always wanted to know,,,is Jayson Werth the biggest pr1ck in the world or what? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pleasant look on his face. He comes off like turd to the world outside Philly.
  16. Bill Baer April 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm
    Chris, I can definitely understand that. I would probably dislike Werth were he a Met/Marlin/Brave and not a Phillie. Isn’t Victorino the most hated Phillie though?

    Mike, that’s why I use ERA estimators. They neutralize the pitcher’s luck and take into account the factors he can control. Pelfrey has pitched like a mid-4’s pitcher throughout his Major League career. To escape that, he would need to alter something significantly.

    As for your swing-and-miss claim, it has barely changed. His contact percentage (swing-and-miss would be 1 minus contact%) can be found here:

  17. Mike April 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm
    Victorino and Rollins are probably most hated by Mets fans as I see it.

    Ok I’ll give you that his swing and miss % hasn’t changed much, but considering his major change (adding a splitter) his contact percentage on pitches outside the strike zone is way down from last season which is encouraging. I might be looking too deeply into this but with a new swing and miss pitch like a splitter it would make sense that this number would go down. I isn’t the only reason that number is down, but I see that as an important indicator of higher strikeout totals.

    The nice thing about baseball is it tends to average out over time. If at the end of the season he meets his projections then sure you will have been right, and I’ll admit it. But I really don’t think these projection systems are (obviously) always right. No one predicted Jason Werth would be THAT good last year or Cole Hammels would be THAT bad. I’m arguing Pelfrey will be better than projected.

  18. astromets April 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm
    I just stopped reading at the Hamel’s part. I know that in a small sample, pitchers can be awesome but unfortunate in where the ball is batted; but over a long enough period, the best pitchers are more often going to have a lower BABIP because their stuff is nastier and worse contact is made and the worst are likely going to have a higher BABIP because their stuff is hit harder. Also, it should be a lot easier to succeed with a low BABIP, so the most successful should be lower. Similarly for HR%, sinker ballers will never have a high HR% and some dudes will always give up a lot of homers; especially at CBP. So comparing him to the average and expecting him to trend towards that doesn’t make sense to me, what if he has just become more homer prone. Instead of calling Hamels unlucky, admit he hasn’t been at his best yet. I would not have called Maine unlucky in his first two starts, he wasn’t at his best; but he has a nice 3.80 ERA the past 3 starts (stat courtesy of
  19. Lawrence April 30, 2010 at 12:52 am
    Those Franceur comparison links are ridiculous (and I don’t even like the guy’s talent that much). The first is an article from 5 years ago (before the guy was demoted to AAA and traded to another team) and the second contains stats that show the guy has got an OPS+ of 120 in almost 400 PA with the Mets. While no one is confusing him with Albert Pujols, an OPS+ of 120 is considerably BETTER than most thought he would do with the Mets. Franceur was clearly overrated 5 years ago but today, not so much.
  20. hmmm April 30, 2010 at 2:14 am
    The thing about statistics is that they don’t change, nor are they biased, nor do they “think” or come up with brilliant ideas of how things “should” be. astromets’ comment shows clearly that he just doesn’t get it. 2 + 2 = 4 no matter how you think that maybe in the hands of a great mathematician, that second 2 may be stretched into a 3 and make 2 + 2 = 5.
  21. Bill Baer April 30, 2010 at 2:31 am
    the best pitchers are more often going to have a lower BABIP because their stuff is nastier and worse contact is made and the worst are likely going to have a higher BABIP because their stuff is hit harder.

    High strikeout pitchers, like Nolan Ryan, tend to have a lower than average BABIP.

    Mike Pelfrey is not a high strikeout pitcher.

    Similarly for HR%, sinker ballers will never have a high HR% and some dudes will always give up a lot of homers; especially at CBP.

    Pitchers have very little control on HR/FB%. Note that it’s home run per fly ball. Pitchers who allow more fly balls will allow more home runs in aggregate, but not as a rate per fly ball.

  22. isuzudude April 30, 2010 at 6:54 am
    I’m glad I steered clear of this conversation. Even when using statistics in your argument there is still no cut and dry, definitive right answer to this debate. And regardless if Pelfrey can keep up his success, or if the bullpen can keep putting up zeros, or if Francoeur is overrated, the bottom line comes down to this: can the Mets still win? I don’t have the answer to that conundrum. All I can say is that it would be OH SO NICE if Pelfrey outpitched Halladay on Saturday, the offense continued to rake, and the bullpen continued to shut down the opposition. If that happens, no matter how they managed to do it, that will be the evidence Met fans need to show Philly that this team means business this year. If they see it they will believe it. And I gotta say, I’m pretty much in the same boat.

    By the way, where has DC Niner fled to while the Mets have gone 9-1 in their last 10? Come out come out where ever you are, you fickle, cowardly little weasel!

  23. DC Niner's Mom April 30, 2010 at 8:06 am
    I wish I never had him….seriously.
  24. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 8:42 am
    This is really sad. Really, really sad. You attribute the Phils losing to injuries, but then you get on the mets for having Pagan and Castillo in the line up (who happen to be backups). I missed the part where Bud Selig signed into law that every pitcher must complete the entire maturation process in his first few years.

    I’ll give you credit for admitting Hamels is far from an ace but everything else I’ve read is exactly what I’ve come to expect from biased, uneducated, ridiculous bandwagon Phag phans.

  25. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 9:04 am
    Cora* not castillo
  26. isuzudude April 30, 2010 at 9:10 am
    Joe has also contributed his thoughts on Bill’s website regarding the upcoming series, which can be read here:

    That said, I would hope we pay Bill the same respect as we want the Phillie fans to pay Joe over at crashburn alley. All Bill has done is provide an opinion and back it up with indisputable evidence. Perhaps he is a little biased, but who among us isn’t biased in favor of the Mets? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, no? You can disagree with him, by all means. But the lack of respect and juvenile name calling gets this conversation no where. All you do is provide the rest of us COHERENT Met fans a bad name.

  27. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 9:22 am
    dude youre almost ridiculous as this guy….saying a pitcher absolutely cannot evolve after 4 years in the majors is not indisputable evidence…it sounds more like a little kid crying cause he realized his team really isnt on our level.
  28. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 9:31 am
    also he’s calling pelfrey lucky because a lot of balls hit into play are recorded as outs against pelf…completely ignoring the fact that up until this year (pre-splitter) he was known 100% for his power sinker, which if bill knew anything about baseball he would know INFLUENCES BABIP. you claim a pitcher can change his gb/fb ratio but not babip….so does that mean balls hit in the air are as easy to turn into an out than ground balls? i would love to hear “indisputable evidence” to back that up.
  29. Mike April 30, 2010 at 9:33 am
    While I agree with ‘dude on the name calling, (really? This is the internet but how old are we here?) I don’t agree that Bill is being fair in his arguments. As Tyler points out his unwavering reluctance to even consider than Pelfrey would progress shows me he only cares about stats. As much as I love stats and think they should be a vital part of baseball analysis I’m not doubt enough to think Pelfrey will only regress to the mean this year or fall in line with projections. I love a good debate I just don’t think Bill has won based solely on projects and statistics. Thanks for coming here and speaking with us.

    I read Joe’s interview, nothing really to talk about. Just his usual tell-it-like-it-is commentary. I did like the Francoeur question, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Joe talk about him in this way before. If Frenchy put up those numbers then I would be a very happy man.

  30. Mike April 30, 2010 at 9:36 am
    Wow, I should have reread that before submitting. I don’t sound nearly as grateful that Bill is actually speaking to us on here as I would have liked. Really, thanks, I love this stuff.

    Also I definitely meant to say dumb instead of doubt and projections instead of projects.

  31. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 9:45 am
    *as ground balls. i need to start proofreading.
  32. Bill Baer April 30, 2010 at 9:47 am

    The average hitter BABIP on ground balls was .236 last year and .138 for fly balls. So we would actually expect Pelfrey — a ground ball pitcher — to have a higher BABIP.

    Dave Allen:

    If a pitcher could regularity locate pitches in the string zone, but just on the inner edge he could drastically lower his BABIP. I am not sure there are a lot of pitches with the control to pitch with the speed and movement required to get out major league hitters AND locate the ball that finely. If they miss too much to one side it is a ball, too much to the other it hits the heart of the plate.

    Everybody else, thanks for the kind words and for the discussion.

    For those of you who are new to Sabermetrics and have no idea what I’m talking about, try giving this pitching stats primer a read.

  33. mooshinator April 30, 2010 at 10:10 am
    Thanks, Bill, for stopping by with your input! As other have stated, I think you’re being a bit hard on the Mets but that’s okay; we can disagree. 🙂 You didn’t say anything that merits name calling.

    I think you’re missing a few potential upsides, specifically:

    1) I assume you are aware that Angel Pagan and Alex Cora are both backups. Much of this season will depend on the return of Carlos Beltran; how soon he returns and how well he plays. However, assuming a mid-June return and assuming he plays at slightly below his career averages, I think that a lineup of Reyes, Castillo, Beltran, Wright, Bay, Davis, Francouer, and Barajas is pretty darn good.

    2) I disagree that Ike Davis would be unknown if he played for a different team. If your point is that he’s not likely to be an All-Star, then yeah, I agree. But the Mets don’t need an All-Star at first base, they just needed someone better than Mike Jacobs or Fernando Tatis, and no matter how you slice it, Ike Davis is much better than those options. I think there’s a reasonable chance he’ll project out to an Adam LaRoche or a Paul Konerko, not an All-Star but not a slouch.

    3) Another commenter has already pointed out that Francouer is only overrated if you go back four or five years. I don’t recall anyone last year referring to him as the second coming. He’s a streaky, fairly decent hitter, and an outstanding right fielder. Not an All-Star, but not a slouch.

    4) Pelfrey is only 26. Your projection of a 4.50 ERA for Mike is based on his career stats, but those were taken from age 22-25. If you were taking age 27-30 stats and saying that at age 31, he’s not likely to improve based on career averages, then yeah I completely see your point. But doesn’t Mike’s age make it more likely to exceed projections based on career stats? Of course he’s not going to keep up his 0.69 ERA, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 3.50 ERA instead of a 4.50 ERA.

    5) The Mets have played 16 of their 1st 22 games at Citi Cavern. I expect that as the season goes on, the pitching staff is going to have a rougher go of it, but by the same token I think the offense is going to have some upside surprises.

    Thank you, Bill, for stopping by with your input!

  34. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 11:37 am
    the phils are awful. wilson valdez and jamie moyer would be nowhere near anyone else’s roster.
  35. hmmm April 30, 2010 at 11:42 am
    So is Oliver Perez, but yet the Mets still trot him out there every fifth day. At least try to be SOMEWHAT objective instead of calling names that applies more to you than the people you intended them for.
  36. Bill Baer April 30, 2010 at 11:56 am
  37. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm
    hey genius, that was sarcasm. you take away from our success beause we have pagan and cora in the lineup. but then you dismiss the phils failures because they dont have jimmy rollins. the guy filling in for beltran IS A BACKUP. a damn good one too. the phils replacement for jimmy rollins is not a backup. hes a 3rd or 4th ss on pretty much any 40 man roster. i am begging you to please use at least similar sets of standards for both teams. getting on us for being injured, but giving the phils credit for the same thing makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.
  38. hmmm April 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm
    I would have had a clue what you were talking about and picked up on the sarcasm had you gotten your facts straight. Wilson Valdez isn’t Rollins’ backup. Juan Castro is. The problem with that? Juan Castro doesn’t suck. Quit while you only look like a normal idiot before degrading into a complete tool.
  39. Dave G April 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm
    To say the Mets don’t have a good lineup is a little silly and yes, biased. They may not have as good a lineup as the Phils, but when compared to other National league lineups, it is pretty solid. Pagan could start for a lot of National League teams, his numbers last year back that up. And if and when Beltran gets back (yes, big if) then this lineup becomes one of the top 3 or 4 in the league. Davis won’t hit .350 but if he can hit .280 with an OPS over .820 that is a big upgrade for them, and that is doable for him. The Phils pitching has as many question marks as the Mets. They have two things they can count on – Halladay and Hamels, and not much else.
  40. Tyler April 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm
    if the phils can count on hamels we can count on ollie and maine and we can count on beltran coming back tomorrow
  41. isuzudude April 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm
    You’ve got to be joking, Tyler. Earlier this year Hamels threw an 8 inning game where he gave up just 2 runs on 7 hits and 0 walks with 8 strikeouts and needed just a bit over 100 pitches to do it. I seriously doubt either Ollie or Maine will come anywhere close to that type of start anytime this season. Not to mention Hamels has been good for at least 28 starts in each of the last 3 seasons, while Perez and Maine can’t keep themselves healthy or consistent enough to last half a season.

    Unless you’re going to hide behind your veil of sarcasm again, I would suggest shutting your trap as you are making the rest of us look bad.

  42. Bill Baer April 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm
    They have two things they can count on – Halladay and Hamels, and not much else.

    Dave, did you know that over the past few years, the Phillies have been:

    – The best offense in the National League
    – Among the best defenses in the National League
    – The most efficient base-stealing team in the National League

  43. Tony April 30, 2010 at 11:34 pm
    Although there are truths in your claims about the mets, I think you’re making them out to be a lot worse than they actually are.

    First of all Barajas is an 8th hitter, and his main purpose is to guide the pitching staff with his veteran presence. Anything he does at the plate is a plus in my eyes, and even then he has the potential provide the Mets with 15-20 home-runs while procuring a couple of clutch hits during the season. He gave them both power and the ability to call a good game.

    Secondly all Mets fans know what we’re getting with Franceour. He’s a streaky hitter and a terrific fielder. He’s obviously not going to be an All-star but he fills his role.

    Ike Davis is a solid player and will continue to be a solid player. He has power (his first home-run was an absolute rocket) and great plate coverage. I mean, we’ll see his true colors the second time through the league, but what young player doesn’t struggle when there’s a scouting report on him?

    Also, besides the fact that they lead the league in walks, the mets pitching staff isn’t half bad. Niese is looking to be a solid back of the rotation guy. Pelf always had the stuff and potential to be that number two starter, and i think this is the year he finally steps up. Yes, Maine and Ollie are horrible. Also their bullpen is deceivingly above average. Feliciano has been one of the best lefty specialists in the game for the past few years, and is now turning into a crossover reliever. K-rod is K-rod. He’ll get you the save, but he needs to give you a heart attack first. Yes i’m sure they can’t keep it up. Takahashi will be figured out sooner or later. But it really isn’t that bad.

    The Phillies are definitely better than the Mets. However, they deserve more respect than they have been receiving. They have more fight than the previous year. They’re more fundamentally sound. Those two factors alone make them a better ballclub. I doubt they can compete at the top of the NL-east this year, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. They definitely have the talent to compete for the wild-card.

  44. Tyler May 1, 2010 at 2:43 am
    barajas shouldnt hit anywhere near .270, nor should his obp be near .300 but like tony said, his offensive production is a bonus…hes obviously doing something right with the pitching staff. what i like most about him is it seems like every ball he hits is in the air…he wont ground into many dps, he can hit sac flies, he can walk to 2nd if he puts one in the gap at citi, but most of all in a sandbox and against bad pitchers its only a matter of how many hrs. this was one of the best games i’ve ever been to. bill does this remind you of anything? the last time the mets were remotely healthy and in 1st place?