Tag: brian schneider

Mets Game 67: Loss to Rays

Rays 10 Mets 6

Another series lost.

The Rays reached starter Mike Pelfrey for 4 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings, but the bullpen did no better. Neither Bobby Parnell nor Sean Green retired a hitter, and they allowed six runs between them. This game was so far gone, in fact, that Brian Stokes, Ken Takahashi, and Jon Switzer each worked a full inning.

Notes

Pelfrey was using a slide step fairly often with runners on base, and though he was getting rid of the ball quickly, he wasn’t throwing too many strikes with that abbreviated motion. One step at a time, I guess.

Anyone notice that Wilson Valdez was thrown out at third base as the third out in the second inning? Anyone notice Mike Pelfrey not backing up home when Gary Sheffield air-mailed a throw to the plate in the fifth? Little things …

The first three hitters in the Rays’ lineup — B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria — combined to go 11 for 16 with 6 runs scored and 7 RBI. If only those three men came down with a stomach bug, the Mets would’ve won easily.

Carlos Beltran went 2-for-4 with a walk and David Wright was 3-for-5 with a double. The rest of the Mets had 5 hits in 26 at-bats and walked 4 times.

Lost in this debacle was Brian Schneider’s second homerun in as many games. As we know, Brian hits homers in bunches. He needs to get a homer in each of the next six games he plays to tie the record for most consecutive games with a homer shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly, and Ken Griffey. Since he’s the backup catcher, that could take two weeks. Schneider also drove in half of the Mets’ runs.

The Mets’ most productive position is catcher, as Mets catchers have driven in 48 runs this season.

Pedro Feliciano pitched for the sixth consecutive day. According to manager Jerry Manuel, as long as Feliciano pitches to only one batter, he can pitch as many days in a row as he wants. Really? Based on …?

Oh, by the way, Feliciano pitched a full inning in this game, and threw to more than one batter in 4 of these 6 straight games. Just sayin’.

Classic Keith Hernandez quote:

“When Pelfrey is up he loses the sink”

You think?

Next Mets Game

The St. Louis Cardinals come to town for a four-game series beginning on Monday night at 7:10 PM. The opener pits Tim Redding vs. Todd Wellemeyer.

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Ollie Spotting

Still waiting for a dispatch from Ollie, but until then we can share with you a photo of him participating in a human chess match at a Renaissance fair.

And who is that he’s about to remove from the board? None other than BRIAN SCHNEIDER !!!!

We were wondering where you were as well, Brian!

ollie-schneider-battle1

Where’s Ollie (and Brian) now? If you can’t spot him, then KEEP LOOKING !!!!

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Mets Game 4: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 5 Mets 4

Though the Mets lost this one, they did show a lot of fight in the later innings, which is something we didn’t see enough of in 2008.

John Maine pitched well enough for his first outing since shoulder surgery, allowing two runs on two hits and one walk in five innings, striking out five. Both runs came on solo homers, on the same high fastballs that Keith Hernandez “likes to see”. Yes, those high fastballs can be strikeouts, but they can also be gopher balls, unfortunately. At one point, Maine retired seven Fish in a row, and he began the game with two consecutive strikeouts. His velocity was up to around 93 MPH, but his command was nonexistent. It appears he’s healthy, and on the way back, but will take some time.

Spoiling Maine’s encouraging performance was the Mets bullpen, which allowed three runs over the final four innings. If this were 1978, we might have seen J.J. Putz enter in the sixth and K-Rod record a two-inning save, but this is 2008 and pitchers don’t do that anymore. So instead, we watched Sean Green, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and Darren O’Day show us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On a positive note, Carlos Beltran belted his first homer of the year, with three hits on the day. Ryan Church also had three hits, as did Danny Murphy, though two of Murphy’s “hits” easily could have been scored errors. We’ll take them, though.

On a negative note, the Mets stranded 14 runners on base. Fourteen. Ouch. Well, at least they’re getting guys on base, right?

Back to the positive: Jeremy Reed came through HUGE with his hit as a New York Met, blistering an RBI single in the ninth inning off Matt Lindstrom to tie the game at four. He was the Mets’ best hitter in spring training, and it’s a wonder it took this long for him to get an at-bat in a regular-season game.

However, Feliciano and O’Day couldn’t hold the tie, and the blur known as Emilio Bonifacio won the game with his legs, reaching base on an infield single and racing home on a hit by Jorge Cantu. It was the second time in three innings that Bonifacio changed the game with his speed — he’d earlier reached base on a two-out bunt off Parnell, eventually scoring the Fish’s fourth run.

Game Notes

John Maine’s stats belied his performance. He gave up only two runs and walked one, but many of his strikeouts had more to do with undisciplined Marlins hitters chasing balls out of the strike zone than Maine throwing great pitches. Further, Maine was consistently missing spots, even when he was throwing strikes. This may not make sense, or it may sound like nitpicking, but the truth is, Brian Schneider was doing a lot of reaching to catch Maine’s pitches, because Maine was missing the intended target by a foot or more — that’s too much for an MLB pitcher.

Luis Castillo came to bat with runners in scoring position about fifteen times in this game, and failed in each one. We’ll still try to hammer that square peg into the round eighth hole of the lineup.

Speaking of, did anyone notice Castillo’s strike-three looking in the top of the seventh? It was a darn close pitch on the inside black of home plate. Maybe you also noticed Marlins catcher John Baker “stick” that pitch — he held it exactly where it crossed the plate, and was awarded with strike three. Maybe I’m harping too much on the art of catching lately, but the concept of “framing” is one of those universally taught, yet completely illogical, baseball skills that needs to called out and buried. (That “thump” was the sound of me hopping off the soap box.)

Ryan Church remains red-hot, against righties and lefties. He must like the month of April, because he started out similarly last season.

A little strange to see Gary Sheffield, instead of Ramon Castro, come in to pinch-hit for Brian Schneider. Seems like a waste to burn two players in one shot like that, especially in a close game where you might be going into extra innings.

Sean Green appeared in yet another ballgame. For those unaware, Green pitched very well for Seattle for the first half of 2008, then had a poor second half, and most people felt it was because of overuse. His arm action and mechanics certainly do not make him look durable. Green, Parnell, Feliciano, and Putz are on pace to appear in 121 games each this season.

The young Marlins look like they are finally starting to “get it”. If they can find one more solid bullpen guy — or a legit closer — they will be a serious playoff contender.

People love to bash Jorge Cantu for his poor fielding, but the guy made some really nice snares on hot smashes in the late innings. That man has no fear of the ball, that’s for certain.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Marlins do it again, serving as the opening act to Flo Rida. You won’t see the first hour of the game, but can listen to it on WFAN or XM Radio. SNY coverage begins at 7:00 PM. Livan Hernandez makes his Mets debut against Ricky Nolasco, though there’s no guarantee that either pitcher will still be in the game by the time it is broadcast on your TV set.

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Mets Game 2: Win Over Reds

Mets 9 Reds 7

This one was reminiscent of a 2008 ballgame: Mets jump ahead, Mike Pelfrey has control issues, loses the lead, gets it back, and barely gets through five, and the bullpen keeps us on the edge of our seat through the final out. If this were 2008, we’d expect the offense to go to sleep after the fifth. But this is 2009, and the offense did something that was rarely seen last year: they tacked on runs in the later innings.

Carlos Delgado gave the Mets a two-run lead with a prodigious blast in the top of the first, but Joey Votto did one better with a not-so-prodigious but more productive fly ball.

It took Pelfrey 43 pitches to get through the initial inning, an early signal that the bullpen would play a key role in the contest.

However the Mets came back with three runs in the fifth, when Delgado grounded out with the bases loaded and Carlos Beltran followed with a two-run single. Delgado added another run in the seventh, singling in David Wright. The two Carloses combined for 6 of the Mets’ 9 runs on the night.

Brian Schneider broke the game open in the seventh with a three-run double to make it easy on the bullpen, which was less than perfect.

Notes

Luis Castillo made several key defensive plays throughout the game, including a throw to home to cut down Joey Votto attempting to steal home on a pickoff attempt.

Big Pelf was falling behind with his sinker, which was running too hard and far in on the righties / away from the lefties. My guess is he was having trouble getting a good grip on the ball in the cold weather, and/or his thumb was a little too high and to the side of the ball at the release. When the thumb slides up, the ball will go flying in the opposite direction. Cold, slightly humid weather can make the ball feel slick and cause that to happen.

Bobby Parnell started off the sixth with two quick outs, then walked the next two batters. He was saved by Darnell McDonald, who showed why he spent 11 years in the minors by swinging at the first pitch (out of the strike zone) following a four-pitch walk. McDonald fell behind 0-2 and grounded out weakly to end the almost-rally. Parnell was hitting 94-95 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball, but was unable to spot the slider in the strike zone.

Pedro Feliciano and J.J. Putz gave up a run each in the 7th and 8th, which was OK since the Mets had a significant lead. However, Francisco “Don’t Call Me K-Rod” Rodriguez made things interesting in the ninth, giving up another run(wow it sure felt like he did) loading the bases with one out before retiring the side on a strikeout and a long fly ball to the warning track. Get used to this, Mets fans — Frankie was famous for these thrillers in Hollywood.

Nine walks by Mets pitchers in this game. That’s too many, for those who aren’t sure.

K-Rod threw 30 pitches; is he available to close on Thursday afternoon?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Reds do it again in an early afternoon game tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST. Oliver Perez goes against Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo had been suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, but reportedly is OK after a cortisone shot. Too much guitar playing?

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Pros and Cons of Dan Murphy at Number Two

It’s official: Daniel Murphy will be the #2 hitter in the Mets’ lineup, according to manager Jerry Manuel. Furthermore, Luis Castillo will bat eighth.

Should we break out the Champagne now, or wait for October?

In all seriousness, Manuel did in fact anoint Murphy as his on-deck guy to start every game — only weeks after announcing that Murphy would NOT be platooning with Fernando Tatis, nor anyone else.

Per Manuel:

“I think the evolution of Murphy, that might be his best spot,” Manuel said. “Somewhere in the top. That type of guy, the way he swings the bat and puts the ball in play, you’d like to see him get as many shots as you could.”

Is this the best fit for Murphy, and the rest of the Mets’ personnel? On the one hand, it’s good to have a high OBP guy in the #2 spot, for obvious reasons — to set the table for the big boppers. On the other hand, will Murphy have a high OBP? Yes, he’s been tearing it up this spring, and posted a .397 OBP in his brief debut last year. But neither his 149 MLB plate appearances in 2008 nor his ability against out-of-shape AA pitchers are guarantees that he’ll continue to get on base 40% of the time. It’s true, he has shown patience and the ability to go deep into counts. But he’s taken pitches more to set up his own at-bat, rather than to give Jose Reyes a chance to steal. Will he take pitches down the middle so Jose can take second base? Should he?

Another question: can Daniel Murphy sacrifice bunt? I don’t believe I’ve seen him square around yet. Of course, the statheads will tell us that doesn’t matter, because the bunt is such a low-percentage play. OK, fine, but can he hit-and-run? Again, I don’t know, I haven’t seen him do it enough. In addition, he’s been more of an opposite-field hitter than a pull hitter, which means when he dumps singles into left, Jose Reyes likely will have to stop at second.

Before I condemn this announcement, I do have to admit there are many reasons it makes sense. The best reason is that by putting Luis Castillo in the eight hole, you have, in essence, a second leadoff guy at the bottom of the order. With the pitcher batting behind him, Castillo will likely draw more walks than at the #2 spot. If Castillo is on first, he’ll soon be on second, thanks either to him swiping the bag or by the pitcher bunting him over. Better yet, Castillo steals second and is bunted to third by the pitcher. In either case, Jose Reyes — who happens to be a strong hitter with runners on base — can be presented many RBI opportunities. In contrast, it’s doubtful that Brian Schneider (who likely would be #8 if Castillo were #2) would get on base and score as many runs as Castillo.

Oh, and there we have the other issue with this lineup plan: Schneider would most likely be batting seventh. Let’s get something out of the way: I love Brian Schneider the catcher. Brian Schneider the hitter? Not so much. Offensively, he’s average to below average for an MLB catcher in this day and age. He’s a typical #8 hitter, meaning, you want him to come to bat as few times as possible, because there are seven players who are better. Putting him #7 means he needs to do a little better than he did last year — and I’m not sure that’s possible.

Ah, but there’s another glaring observation: if Schneider is #8, that means Murphy is likely #7, Church #6, and Delgado #5. See a pattern? Four straight lefthanded hitters, making the Mets vulnerable to the LOOGY. Therein lies another good reason to put Murphy #2 and Castillo #8 — to cut that vulnerability down by at least one hitter. That is a huge deal, particularly since Fernando Tatis and Ramon Castro could be the only two RH hitters coming off the bench.

Everything depends on Murphy continuing to hit like he did in his first 30 games in MLB, and not like his last 20. Otherwise, that lineup could change quickly.

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7 Myths About Pudge Rodriguez Dispelled

Every excuse in the book is being thrown around as to why the Mets simply cannot sign Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. The Hall of Fame-caliber catcher’s recent performance in the WBC has the natives restless, creating so much noise that Mets’ Assistant GM Tony Bernazard (The Office reference — “no Tony, assistant TO the GM!”) felt the need to respond through Puerto Rico newspaper El Nuevo Dia. (Google translation here.)

Let’s go through some of the myths that are keeping Pudge out of Flushing.

1. He doesn’t fit in the Mets’ payroll — not with two catchers already under contract.

Really? Even after the Mets saved themselves about $1.6M by cutting Duaner Sanchez? From all public reports, Ivan Rodriguez is dying to play for the Mets, and likely would take much less than $1M. In fact, he might just take $500K for the opportunity to play for a pennant chaser in New York. Last year, manager Jerry Manuel liked the idea of having three catchers, and chances are good that both Robinson Cancel and Rene Rivera will spend time on the 25-man roster in ’09. Would you rather pay around $400-750K for a combination of Rivera and Cancel or about the same amount for Rodriguez?

2. Ivan Rodriguez hinders the development of young pitchers / doesn’t work well with them.

This is one of the most illogical knocks against him, but don’t take it from me — look at past history. For example, look at the two teams that Pudge LED into the World Series — the 2006 Tigers and the 2003 Marlins. The Tigers rode the arms of 23-year-old stallions Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander; 24-year-old Zach Miner; and 21-year-old Joel Zumaya, among others. In fact, of the 19 hurlers who threw a pitch for the Tigers in ’06, only 3 were over the age of 29.

Compare that to the 2003 Marlins, whose aces that year were 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis and 23-year-old Josh Beckett, who led a rotation that also featured 25-year-old Brad Penny and 27-year-old Carl Pavano. Of the 22 pitchers from that squad, only four were over the age of 29.

Again, both the Tigers and the Marlins went to the World Series, with Ivan Rodriguez catching their young phenoms. I’m not sure where this myth emanated from, but it has no legs.

3. Ivan Rodriguez calls too many fastballs … and can’t call a game in general.

This one really gets my blood boiling, since I’ve been a catcher myself for the past 30 years. Let me just say this: it’s next to impossible to catch every day in MLB for nearly 20 years and be “bad” at calling a game. Even if you’re as dumb as a stump, after all that experience you have to pick up SOMETHING.

As far as the “too many fastballs” BS, I want to know exactly what pitchers expressed that complaint. In my experience of catching several hundred pitchers, there have been quite a few who “fell in love” with their breaking balls, to the point where they’d throw them on 3-1 counts despite it not being their best pitch. Anyone who complains about throwing “too many” fastballs probably needs to work on his command, and probably likes to mess around too much with trying to fool hitters instead of doing his job of throwing strikes to specific spots.

4. Ivan Rodriguez can’t hit any more.

This is a favorite of Yankees fans, who base their opinion on his 96 at-bats in pinstripes last year. In the first 82 games of 2008, in a Tigers uniform, Pudge hit .295 with a .338 OBP and .417 SLG. Those aren’t anywhere near the numbers he put up in his younger days, but no one is expecting him to return to MVP status — all the Mets need is someone to platoon with Brian Schneider. Those offensive numbers will be fine in the #7 or #8 spot in the order.

5. Ivan Rodriguez may hit for average, but so what? His OBP stinks.

Hmm …. the sabermetricians have me there, don’t they? Well it’s true that Pudge’s combined OBP last year wasn’t too hot — only .319. But his career OBP is .340, which isn’t too shabby. And his OBP as a Tiger in 2008 was, as previously mentioned, .338 — which by the way is one point less than Brian Schneider’s .339.

Again, we’re talking about a seventh or eighth-place hitter on a National League team, who will be making less than a million dollars — does he need to be an on-base machine? Oh, and as long as we’re so enthralled with OBP, Robinson Cancel’s was .288 last year, and Ramon Castro’s was .312.

6. He’s not the same player since he stopped taking PEDs.

Got me again. But then, neither is Paul LoDuca, Guillermo Mota, Ron Villone, Mike Piazza, Lino Urdaneta, Matt Franco, Todd Pratt, Todd Hundley, Lenny Dykstra, Mark Carreon, Mo Vaughn, Scott Schoeneweis, Mike Stanton, Matt Lawton, Yusaku Iriki, or Felix Heredia. But he’s still a fairly productive and durable player off “the juice”.

7. Bringing in Pudge might upset Brian Schneider, Ramon Castro, and/or disrupt the chemistry of the clubhouse.

So what? Last I checked, that “chemistry” was in serious doubt, and leaderless. The rumblings we keep hearing is that the Mets’ clubhouse is comprised of segmented factions and clicks, with language as a dividing line. And why wouldn’t you want to disrupt a team that blew September leads and wilted under pressure two years in a row? Maybe Pudge can be a go-to guy for the media — a role that is sorely lacking in that clubhouse.

As for Schneider and Castro, neither of them have proven to me that they deserve to be comfortable. I see no World Series rings nor MVP trophies from either that suggest they’ve earned the right not to compete for their jobs. And Castro’s joking manner and “ability to keep the team loose” may be just the thing Jeff Wilpon was talking about when he mentioned “addition by subtraction” last fall. Until the Mets laugh their way into the playoffs, I’m not buying into Castro’s personality being a positive factor … though, in his defense, it’s easier to be funny when you win.

Bottom Line

Pudge Rodriguez wants to come to New York, and NOT for the money … how often do you find that combination in a player? Heck, I guarantee there are at least 3-4 current Mets who would gladly play in Kansas City, or a similarly small media market, if they could take their hefty salary with them. Further, no one is suggesting that Pudge would be the Mets’ everyday catcher. Rather, he’d be an ideal platoon partner with Brian Schneider, and/or a third catcher and RH bat to have on the bench. And he’ll probably come at a price less than what the Mets are paying Cory Sullivan. Isn’t it worth giving someone with his resume and postseason experience a shot — particularly when your team can use a durable, righthanded hitting catcher?

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Can the Mets Make a Deal?

It’s less than a month before spring training, and the Mets still need a frontline, #2 / #3 type starter; middle relief help; starting rotation depth; and a legitimate left fielder (who ideally bats with power from the right side). They also have a question at second base and might have interest in upgrading the catching position — though those issues are not nearly as dire as the others.

If you hear it from Omar Minaya, however, the only question is the starting pitching. Whether he’s lying through his teeth or not is up for debate, but his public opinion is that the middle relief will be handled by one of the rule 5 picks and Sean Green; the starting pitching depth is covered by Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell; and he’s very comfortable with Fernando Tatis and Dan Murphy in left field.

The reality is that, if he truly believes what he says, then the Mets are likely to finish in third … or fourth place. The Phillies, Braves, and Marlins all will be competitive in ’09, and the Mets as currently assembled do not look head and shoulders above any of them. They could tip the scales their way with the acquisition of a big bat and a solid starter, and there’s still time to do so.

However, it appears that neither of those acquisitions will come through free agency. It’s interesting to see the media and fans clamoring for the return of Oliver Perez — only months ago, many of these same people couldn’t see the inconsistent Ollie flee fast enough. That said, the idea that Perez is the “frontline” starter the Mets need is somewhat amusing. But hey, he’s the best left of a sorry lot, and if the Mets can re-sign him, then that one hole is filled.

But if they don’t, what is their recourse? The latest rumor suggests that Ben Sheets is the answer. Sheets does have frontline skills, but would the Mets want to add another health risk to a rotation filled with question marks? The next-best option after Sheets is Jon Garland, who is a nice innings-eater but at best a #4.

Conversely, the big bat the Mets need has been staring them in the face all winter: Manny Ramirez. For whatever reason, though, they continue to resist making an offer to the best righthanded hitter in the universe. After Manny, no options exist; the only other righthanded-hitting outfielders of consequence are Andruw Jones, Jay Payton, Jonny Gomes, and Kevin Millar (though, Moises Alou has not yet officially retired). Like Manny, the Mets have shown no interest in any of these players.

Maybe the Mets sign one of the aforementioned starters. But if they don’t go after Manny — and that appears to be a foregone conclusion — where will they find that righthanded bat for left field? Certainly not from the farm system — the only position player close to MLB ready is Nick Evans, who was overmatched in his short stint last year. A trade would have to be made.

But what do the Mets have available for a trade? Their organization is so low on valuable chips, it took four minor leaguers, three MLBers, and help from the Indians to obtain J.J. Putz. In order to make a trade for an impact bat, the Mets would likely need to orchestrate a similarly complex deal, or create another hole to fill.

Naturally, the Mets won’t be trading Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Mike Pelfrey, nor Johan Santana. You can probably add Carlos Delgado to that mix, and it’s hard to believe they’d swap away John Maine — he’s needed for the rotation and his injury puts his stock at an all-time low. No one wants Luis Castillo, so forget about that idea. Ryan Church might have some value, but because of his headaches, his greatest value may be to the Mets. Pedro Feliciano also might draw interest, but then the Mets are without a steady lefty in the bullpen. At times this winter, there’s been talk of moving Brian Schneider, perhaps to the Red Sox but 1) will he be enough to bring back an offensive force, and 2) if so, where do they find a new starting catcher? Would free agent Ivan Rodriguez be an option? The Mets would need to move fairly quickly to swap Schneider and still have time to sign Pudge.

Looking around MLB, there isn’t an abundance of available outfielders that fit the Mets’ needs. Righthanded hitters with some punch have become a rarity — which is why the Phillies were forced to add LH-hitting Raul Ibanez to their already lefty-heavy lineup. A quick look around turns up the names Eric Byrnes, Austin Kearns, Jose Guillen, Marcus Thames, Xavier Nady, and Gary Matthews, Jr., as players who might be available. Not exactly an awe-inspiring group, and yet most of them are probably unattainable in return for what the Mets have for trading chips. It might make sense to spin a youngster like Evans for a proven hitter stuck in AAA — someone like Matt Murton — or to take a chance on a guy who once showed promise, such as Gomes. But that doesn’t really upgrade the current situation of uncertainty in the outfield — rather, it muddles it further. There are only so many at-bats available in spring training to offer the likes of Tatis, Murphy, Evans, Jeremy Reed, Angel Pagan, Marlon Anderson, and whomever else is invited to ST.

Bottom line — unless their thinking changes in regard to the free agent pool, the Mets are likely to enter spring training with similar personnel as they have today. But of course, anything can happen.

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Does Brian Schneider Stink?

Earlier this offseason — before Omar Minaya went into hibernation — there were rumblings that the Mets might be looking to upgrade their catching situation. Various rumors swirled involving Jason Varitek, Ivan Rodriguez, and Bengie Molina, among others. According to “sources with knowledge of the Mets’ thinking”, the team was hoping to get more offensive production from their backstops. The lefty-righty tandem of Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro combined for 16 HR, 62 RBI, 45 runs scored, and a .253 average. Not bad, but not great either. It’s about the same output as Varitek’s 2008.

Most recently, statistics published on Adam Rubin’s “Surfing the Mets” blog suggest that Schneider could be more the scapegoat of the Mets’ failure — but because of his defense, rather than his offense. The numbers reported in Rubin’s column, by way of “RayRubin Sports Analytics“, are as follows:

SANCHEZ caught by CASTRO 65 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=292
SCHNEIDER 108 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=454

HEILMAN caught by CASTRO 50 ABs , allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=340
SCHNEIDER 195 ABs, allows 9 HRs and OPP SLUG%=456

FELICIANO caught by CASTRO 36 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=306
SCHNEIDER 134 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=455

WAGNER caught by CASTRO 49 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=204
SCHNEIDER 99 ABs, allows 3 HRs and OPP SLUG%=313

SANTANA caught by CASTRO 333 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=297
SCHNEIDER 524 ABs, allows 15 HRs and OP SLUG%=401

PEDRO M caught by CASTRO 138 ABs, allows 2 HRs and OPP SLUG%=377
SCHNEIDER 185 ABs, allows 15 HRs and OPP SLUG%=600!!!!!

Same phenomena holds with John Maine, Claudio Vargas and Nelson Figueroa. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Huh … those stats are worrisome, particularly since Schneider’s value as a ballplayer is tied directly to his defensive performance. If he can’t hit, AND can’t catch, how can the Mets move forward with him behind the plate?

Before we go piling on Brian and blaming him for all the Mets’ woes, let’s take a better look at what these numbers mean.

First of all, I don’t see the actual stats for Maine, Vargas, and Figueroa, so I’m taking for granted the source is telling the truth. Further, I don’t see any stats for Pelfrey, Perez, Smith, Schoeneweis, Stokes, Muniz, Sosa, Ayala, Wise, Rincon, Parnell, Knight, Niese, Armas, nor Kunz. Maybe the guys at RayRubin found similar trends, but didn’t deem it necessary to continue belaboring the point. Or, perhaps the split performances of the other pitchers don’t fit RayRubin’s argument, and thus were conveniently left out.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say which is the case, because I can’t for the life of me find these individualized stats anywhere (if someone can, please send us the link!). All I can find is the “Catcher’s ERA” (CERA), which has Schneider at 4.11 and Castro at 3.68. Before we judge Castro the big winner there, consider that most statheads find CERA to be an unreliable indicator of a catcher’s performance.

But put all that aside for a moment, and let’s look at RayRubin’s reported numbers specifically. What could be the explanation for such a dire contrast in performance from Schneider to Castro? Right off the bat I’m seeing an issue with the sample sizes. Other than in the cases of Martinez and Santana, Schneider caught about double the ABs for each of the pitchers in question (with Heilman and Feliciano, it was nearly FOUR TIMES as many at-bats). Is it possible that Castro simply caught those pitchers on “lucky” days? What if the appearances were reversed — if Castro was the one to catch Heilman for almost 200 batters, for instance? Would Heilman have pitched extraordinarily better? No one knows for sure. These numbers suggest that Schneider looks bad simply because he was the guy that was usually behind the plate, rather than any negative impact he had on the pitching staff.

Which brings up another point — even if Castro was that much better as a receiver, it matters little since he couldn’t stay healthy enough to remain on the roster.

Looking at the rest of the defensive stats, Schneider has a fairly solid advantage over Castro (other than passed balls). Schneider threw out 21 of 63 (33%) runners attempting to steal, while Castro nailed 5 of 23 (21.7%). Passed balls — Schneider , Castro 1. Errors — Schneider 4, Castro 4. That last number is a bit scary, since Schneider caught 109 games and Castro only 47. If Castro caught, say, 120 games, he might have committed 10 errors or more. Another stat I can’t find anywhere is the number of wild pitches allowed per catcher. Though wild pitches aren’t necessarily a catcher’s fault, the better catchers minimize their occurrences. My eyes tell me that Schneider is much more nimble behind the plate than Castro, and my guess is that Schneider does a better job of keeping balls from getting past him.

As many of you know, I’m a catcher myself and so you may want to know my personal thoughts on this idea that Schneider is a prominent scapegoat. I have to say no — at least, I wouldn’t blame the Mets failures on Schneider’s defense or game-calling abilities. I do believe it’s possible that the pitchers who were with the Mets in previous years were probably more comfortable throwing to Castro, and I can tell you firsthand that it takes a while for a catcher to learn how to get the most out of a pitcher. When Schneider was swatting at balls early in the season, many wondered how a defensive specialist could commit so many passed balls. Anyone who’s caught at a fairly high level can tell you instantly — it’s hard as heck to catch a guy who (a) you haven’t caught before, or very often; (b) is throwing 90+; and/or (c) is wild. Since Schneider missed nearly all of spring training last year, he didn’t get a chance to catch the Mets pitchers as much as he should have. You can read the rest of my explanation on his passed balls here and here.

In other words, it probably took a while — probably half the season — for Schneider to both get comfortable with, and begin to learn how to extract the most from, the Mets’ pitching staff. A good catcher has to manage the pitcher’s emotions as well as his pitching repertoire, and also needs to know when and how to push / motivate a guy — and when to stroke his ego to build his confidence. In addition, the catcher needs to gain the pitcher’s confidence. When I look at those big slugging numbers, I wonder if the extra-base hits were due to Schneider calling a bad pitch, or the pitcher shaking off a pitch? We all remember that fateful NLCS game, when Guillermo Mota continually shook off Paul LoDuca; sometimes the catcher has the right idea, but the pitcher either doesn’t have confidence in the call, or doesn’t have confidence in himself to throw the pitch. Who is to blame in such a situation?

Assuming that Schneider returns to catch in 2009 — and all signs seem to point that way — I believe that the numbers cited above by RayRubin will improve, based on the fact that Schneider will have a better “feel” for his pitchers, and in turn, the pitchers will be more comfortable, and have more faith, in him. In short, NO — Brian Schneider does NOT stink — and the pitching staff can only improve with the continuity of Schneider behind the plate in 2009.

(Schneider has at least one more thing going for him — as of today, Martinez, Heilman, Wagner, and Vargas are not on the 2009 roster … so those terrible numbers can’t get any worse!)

******** Shout out to “isuzudude” for suggesting this subject *******

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