Matt is a high school student in New Jersey and avid Mets fan. He occasionally updates his blog at:
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Update to Pagan Trade re: Luck

Update to my previous post evaluating the Mets’ trade with the Giants: I’ve heard some people claim that Pagan was unlucky in 2011, while Torres was not. On the surface, it doesn’t appear as though Pagan was much more unlucky than Torres in 2011. Pagan had a .285 BABIP last year, compared to career average of .314. Torres, meanwhile, had a .293 BABIP, compared to a .307 career average. There’s a difference, mind you, but I don’t think it’s really significant.

In fact Pagan’s xBABIP (expected BABIP) was exactly .315 last season. Torres’s, however, was even higher: .316. Yes Pagan’s LD% (24%), was much higher than Torres’s (15.35%). Contrary to popular belief, however, LD% only has a small correlation with BABIP

Overall, while Pagan was a better hitter than Torres in 2011, I think the fact Torres was a much better fielder last season, and was an equally better hitter in 2010, makes up for their offensive disparity last season.

While Pagan and Torres will be hard pressed to repeat their 2010 performance, I believe both are better than they showed in 2011 as well.


Mets Moves Evaluated

Mets trade OF Angel Pagan to San Francisco for OF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez: The Mets got the upper hand of this deal, period. It’s not blatantly obvious, mind you; for all I know, Pagan will be worth 6 WAR season next year, while Kirk Nieuwenhuis will displace Torres as the starting center fielder by Memorial Day, and the Mets will trade Tores for cash considerations in August.

But on paper, this looks like a good deal. Swapping Pagan for Torres is more-or-less a lateral move, and on top of that, the Mets get a very good reliever in Ramon Ramirez.

Here’s some more extensive analysis on the deal:

Pagan: After posting an excellent 5.5 WAR season in 2010, Pagan hit just .262/.322/.372 and was worth just 0.9 WAR in 2011. His OPS. fell by over 70 points from 2010 to 2011 (.765 to to .694). His defensive decline, however, was even more precipitous, at least according to UZR. After supposedly saving 15.4 runs while splitting time between left, right, and center in 2010, Pagan cost the Mets -14.3 runs as their everyday center fielder in 2011. He also missed over a month’s worth of time in June with a stress fracture in his rib, and has quite a lengthy injury history.

Torres: Torres had an even better 2010 than Pagan. He was worth 6.8 WAR, tying for the 8th highest total in baseball with a guy named Jose Bautista. Like Pagan, he played every outfield position in 2010, saving 22 runs on defense, while providing excellent value at the plate (.268/.343/.479).

Torres was more valuable in 2011 than Pagan, totaling 2.1 WAR despite playing in 11 less games. While Torres offense steeply declined in 2011 (.221/.312/.330), he maintained his value defensively as the Giants everyday center fielder, saving 9.4 WAR. The injury bug also bit Torres in 2011, as he missed over 40 games with lower leg problems.

Ramirez: The 30 year-old Ramirez has bounced between Colorado, Kansas City, Boston, and San Fran the past four seasons, but he’s been solid everywhere he’s been, and 2011 was his best season yet: he posted a 2.62 ERA, with a 8.65 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, while also keeping the ball in the park (0.39 HR/9), with a 50% GB rate. While unspectacular, Ramirez does everything well; he misses bats, keeps the ball on the ground, and keeps his free passes in line.

Mets sign RP Jon Rauch to one year deal for $3.5 million, with a  $3.75 mil. club option and $250,000 buyout:

Out of the three moves, I’m most skeptical about the Rauch signing. Rauch’s strikeout rate has declined the past two seasons, he’s a flyball-happy pitcher (which may be a problem at Citi Field next year given the altered dimensions), and his velocity was also down a bit in 2011. He posted a 4.85 ERA  and a 5.26 FIP with the Blue Jays last season. My guess is that Alderson and co. are banking on Rauch’s numbers improving by getting out of the AL East. He was very reliable for the Twins in 2010. At $3.5 million, this signing might work out fine for the Mets, although I wonder if there were cheaper alternatives available.

Mets sign Frank Francisco for 2 years, $12 million: Francisco’s probably the front runner for the closing  job next season. He throws hard, racks up the Ks, and like Rauch, does tend to allow his fair share of homers. I think the Mets get fair value out of Francisco.

Between Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta, Ramirez, Rauch, and Tim Byrdak, the Mets have the makings of a pretty solid bullpen. Perhaps they’ll dangle Bobby Parnell this winter? If anything, I’m assuming they’ll be less interested in relievers in this year’s rule five draft.

While I generally scoff at the notion of long-term, expensive contracts for relievers, I can’t help but wonder: Given the softening closer’s market, instead of signing Francisco and Rauch for a combined $10 million dollars next season, wouldn’t the Mets have been better off simply signing Ryan Madson for three years, $30 million to close?



Would You Trade Fernando Martinez for Chris Tillman?

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, the Orioles “would be willing to” trade right-hander Chris Tillman.

If you recall, Tillman, who will be just 24 next year, was, not too long ago, one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the game. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft by Seattle, the Mariners traded Tillman in a five-player package highlighted by outfielder Adam Jones to the Orioles for Erik Bedard before the 2008 season.  Tillman’s prospect profile took off from there; he dominated AA in 2008, ranking as the 22nd best prospect in the game by Baseball America heading into 2009. Tillman continued his success in AAA the following year, making his major league debut at 21 years-old in July of 2009.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Tillman’s arrival has thus far marked the high point of his career. He has bounced between AAA and the Majors the past two seasons, struggling mightily in the big leagues; he is 7-15 with a 5.58 ERA in 180.2 career innings. His fastball velocity has steadily declined over the last three seasons, from an average of 92 mph in 2009 to 89.5 last season (although that might be partly be due to throwing a two-seamer more often), and his overall development has clearly stalled.

One thing I find interesting is that Tillman’s performance did show some marked improvement at the big league level in 2011. In 62 innings, he posted a 5.52 ERA but his BABIP  (.348) was high and his LOB% (65.7%) was well below the league average. His K/9 rate was 6.68, and his BB/9 3.63, both of which aren’t too far from average and was an improvement over his 2010 campaign. Tillman’s Achilles heel is his extreme fly-ball tendencies, inducing grounders just 37.3% of the time in 2011. Nevertheless, Tillman’s 4.83 xFIP is far more representative of his 2011 season. While not exactly ace-like, it’s hardly terrible, especially considering he pitched in the AL East.

What’s perplexing is that Tillman actually performed worse in AAA during 2011, posting a 6.25 FIP with a 6.37 K/9 and 4.48 BB/9 in 76.1 innings. Perhaps he was just experimenting at the AAA level, and his big league performance is a better reflection of what he is capable of right now.

On the plus side, Tillman doesn’t have any history of arm injuries. Even if he does regain his old form, Tillman’s fly-ball propensities will probably preclude him from ever really dominating at the big league level. But, many pitchers — such as Ted Lilly — have performed quite well in spite of similar fly-ball tendencies. Worst case, Tillman can very easily be a decent bullpen arm.

And who knows, the good ol’ change of scenery might do wonders for the youngster. While it’s hard to say the Orioles have shown a systemic failure in developing young pitchers, a long line of disappointing pitching prospects — Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Tillman, Matt Hobgood, Daniel Cabrera, Hayden Penn, Rhadames Liz, newly signed Met Adam Loewen, Matt Riley, etc. — at the very least, suggests Tillman might benefit from working with a different coaching staff.

So would it be worth trading F-Mart for Tillman? Tillman probably has a better chance of making at least some impact for the Mets, as either a back-end starter or a middle reliever, given his lack of injury history. At this point, whom would you rather gamble on?



Time is Ripe to Trade Dan Murphy

I know conventional wisdom says the Mets, a financially strapped team that is at least another season away from contention, should almost certainly hold on to a guy like Daniel Murphy, but I can’t help but think they’re best off trading him this winter.

First and foremost, this is assuming the Mets have completely buried the idea that Daniel Murphy can be an everyday second baseman (or at least the better half of a platoon). In which case, Murphy is most valuable as an everyday third baseman.  By keeping Murphy on the bench, the Mets fail to maximize his utility. In other words, for those not familiar with economic jargon, he’s more valuable to another team than he is to the Mets, so long as David Wright is still around.

Of course, a lot of people contend that Murphy would prove quite useful and accumulate plenty of at-bats as a “super-sub.” While the whole Ryan Freel-esque “super-sub” idea sounds really good in theory, it’s flawed and doesn’t really jive with the composition of the current Mets roster.

For one, even if it were the case that Murphy could collect 300-400+ at-bats in a utility role, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s more valuable to another team where he’d accumulate 550-600 at-bats. In other words, an average everyday player provides more value than the best utility player. It’s the same reason why it’s usually ill-advised to move a valuable starting pitcher to the bullpen. (In fact, moving an everyday player to the bench is probably worse; at least pitchers are almost guaranteed to improve their performance if converted to relief. Many hitters’ productions would suffer with more sporadic playing time).

Further, the Mets would be hard-pressed to find playing time for Murphy as a backup. Murphy can play first and third reliably, but David Wright — barring injury — will play every day unless a brutal slump necessitates he take a day off. Ditto Ike Davis, and both Murphy and Davis are left-handed, so he can’t even spot Davis occasionally against a tough southpaw like Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.

Murphy can probably play second occasionally, so there’s that. Than again, we’ve seen what happens when Murphy only plays second every now and then. He can maybe — maybe — play the corner outfield, though, like Davis, he and Duda are both left-handed. Murphy’s defense will undoubtedly negate a lot of his value in the outfield, so it isn’t that hard to find a fourth outfielder, ala Scott Hairston, that could provide similar value.

Which begs the question, what really is the value of Murphy’s versatility? While Murphy’s offense (.750-.800 OPS.)  is definitely an asset at second — and given the declining state of third base, at the hot corner as well — he doesn’t really provide much value anywhere else. Like I said, fourth outfielders aren’t that hard to find.  Murphy’s offensive production is below average for first basemen, and there are plenty of AAAA mashers out there who could probably provide the same offensive production at first.  And we’re only talking occasional playing time, so marginal differences in value don’t really make a huge difference

Perhaps I’m being naïve here, but the whole value of versatility seems pretty overblown. After all, instead of counting on one guy to be your backup at almost every position, wouldn’t having a solid fourth outfielder, a slick-fielding middle infielder, and a backup first baseman/pinch hitter extraordinaire accomplish the same thing?  Maybe having a super-utility guy allows the team to carry an additional bullpen arm, but a National League team still has to carry at least a four-man bench regardless.

Some people will argue that the Mets should keep Murphy around in case Wright/Davis/Bay/Duda or whoever gets injured. But it’s stupid to keep Murphy around solely because of the possibility that someone might get hurt (especially since none of those players are particularly injury-prone), at the expense of trading him for say, another starter, an outfielder, etc. that you know will play everyday.

Again, if the Mets think Murphy can hold his own at second base, then it makes a lot more sense to hold onto him. His UZR last season was actually quite good at second, although we’re talking about a very small sample size. Having seen his past two seasons derailed by injuries at second base, I imagine the Mets are quite skeptical.

This is also assuming the Mets don’t, of course, trade David Wright instead. At the very least, however, I don’t expect Wright to be dealt before the beginning of the season. Because his 2013 option is voided if he’s traded, Wright’s a one-year rental this year, and a one-year rental the following year to the team that trades for him, and it makes little sense for the Mets to trade him now, as Wright is coming off his worst season and the walls are finally being moved in to accommodate Wright. Although, on the flip side, if Wright merely repeats his 2009-2011 performance, despite the new Citi Field dimensions, his value will not hold steady, but further decrease, since such a season would pretty much confirm the fact that Wright will never re-approach his 2005-2008 MVP-caliber seasons.

What exactly could Murphy fetch in a trade? It’s hard to say, but given production at third base is the lowest it’s been in over a decade, now might be the best time to capitalize on his value.

If the Phillies fail to sign Michael Cuddyer, Murphy could be a very attractive option for the Phils. Murphy appeals to the Phils for the same reasons they are interested in Cuddyer: he could play first base until Ryan Howard returns, and replace Placido Polanco at third, and even occasionally play left or second.  Ideally, the Phillies would want a right-handed bat to balance out their lefty-laden lineup, but otherwise, Murphy certainly dovetails with what the Phillies are looking for.

What could the Mets get? Here I think are a few potential options.

Daniel Murphy for Vance Worley

I think a Murphy for Vance Worley swap could benefit both teams. Worley isn’t as good as his 3.01 era. last year indicates, (3.66 xFIP) but a potential cost-controlled number three or four starter is still quite valuable.

Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell for Domonic Brown

Ok, this might be a bit too optimistic on my part. The Phillies situation with Brown, however, reminds me a lot of the Mets situation with Lastings Milledge four years ago. Not to say Brown will be a bust like Milledge, but Milledge was a similarly highly regarded prospect at the time the Mets dealt him. The Phils appear to have soured quite a bit on Brown the past season, and do not seem willing to commit to him as their everyday left-fielder next season. As the Mets did by trading Milledge to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, the Phils would be trading Brown’s potential for two more dependable  (not to mention cheap) options for next season, at two areas they could use improvement at (first/third base and bullpen). It wouldn’t be the first blunder Ruben Amaro’s ever made.

What do you think? Does it make sense to keep Daniel Murphy around? Why or why not? Let’s discuss in the comments.


Manny Retirement Underscores Hypocrisy

NOTE: this is an article by Matt Himelfarb. It is entirely his opinion on the situation, and not necessarily one I (Joe Janish) agree with — but, it’s a free country and we like to share all viewpoints here for discussion and debate. That said, direct your comments to Matt.

As most you are probably aware, the baseball universe is awash with news that Manny Ramirez has opted to retire following a second positive performance-enhancing drug test instead of facing an 100 game suspension.The news marks and ignominious end to an otherwise illustrious career.

As a 16 year-old who grew up watching Manny dominate in Boston, and later during a short stint with the Dodgers, I am shocked, and deeply saddened by this tragic news.

Not because I care that Ramirez, ZOMG, might have used performance enhancers. Again, mind equals blown. Nope. The real tragedy is


Blind Faith and False Hope

NOTE: this is a post by Matt Himelfarb

I went via the Long Island railroad to the Mets’ home opener, and man, the dickey was wild (sorry, couldn’t resist).

So, after a three-game winning streak sent Metropolitan fans into a giddy frenzy like Bartolo Colon at Cheesecake Factory, the Mets