Mets

Wake up stall

Given that the Phils and Mets scored the same number of runs last season, I thought I’d look for any area where the Phillies could improve. One is early in the game.

Here’s the runs scored for each of the teams in innings one through three, four through six and seven through nine:

 
Phillies

Mets
Innings Runs
scored
Per inning Runs
Scored
Per Inning
1 through 3 266 0.55 342 0.70
4 through 6 302 0.62 253 0.52
7 through 9 221 0.50 191 0.43

For each team the runs scored in innings one through nine does not equal 799. The Phillies scored ten runs in extra innings while the Mets scored thirteen.

In both the inning four through six and seven through nine categories, the Phillies outscored the Mets. For the season, after the third inning the Phils outscored the Mets 533 to 457.

The Phillies were actually better than the Mets in the second inning as well:

 
Phillies

Mets
Inning Runs
scored
Per inning Runs
Scored
Per Inning
Second 71 0.44 68 0.42

That means there must have been a big problem in the first and third innings. And there was:

 
Phillies

Mets
Inning Runs
scored
Per inning Runs
Scored
Per Inning
First 109 0.67 139 0.86
Third 86 0.53 135 0.83

The Mets clearly were getting out to a better start in ’08 in the first inning. Here’s at least part of the reason why:

First batter of the game

Team PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
PHI 162 253 290 344 634
NYM 162 346 370 532 902

Rollins was miserable in the first plate appearance of the game in 2008. He got the first plate appearance in 126 of the 162 games and hit 242/278/342 in those plate appearances. Victorino and Werth were the only two players on the team to get more than ten plate appearances as the first Phillie hitter of the game — Victorino hit 429/429/571 and Werth hit 300/417/300. Taguchi went 1-for-8 in the eight games where he hit first for the Phils.

Jose Reyes, on the other hand, was a terror for the Mets as the first hitter of the game. He got the Mets going by hitting 340/365/529 in the 159 times he got the first plate appearance of the game for New York.

It’s a lot less clear what happened in the third inning, but for whatever reason there were a lot of Phillies that just didn’t hit in their plate appearances that came in the third. Burrell hit .130, Werth .104, Victorino .211 and Ruiz .160.

Also possible is that the Phillies’ problems in the first inning forced them to send their 7-8-9 hitters to the plate more often in the third inning while the Mets were sending the better hitters at the top of their order. Here are the Mets hitting splits in the third inning.

The Phillies signed Miguel Cairo to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. He may be part of the competition to fill in at second if Utley isn’t ready for the start of the season.

Adam Eaton, who has made 49 starts for the Phillies over the past two season in which he’s thrown to a 6.06 ERA, suggests that the reason general managers might not be jumping all over the chance to trade for him is that he will be available without having to make a trade if the Phillies release him.

Bad news if you had Drew Naylor in your office Phillies opening day starter pool. Looks like the Phils may be going to go with that Hamels guy.

Rich Dubee suggests Kendrick is the favorite to win the fifth starter job in this article.


So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young, or slugging .659, anymore

The Phillies outscored the Mets 892 to 804 in 2007, a difference of 88 runs. That difference disappeared completely in 2008 as both teams scored an identical 799 runs. Offense was down across the league last year, but the Mets seemed less bothered than most teams. They scored five fewer runs than they had the year before while the Phillies scored 93 fewer.

There were injuries for the Phillies, most notably to Jimmy Rollins. Let’s hope that was it. Let’s hope what was not it is that the idea that the Mets are built around a pair of young stars in Reyes and Wright while the Phillies are built around a pair of young stars in Utley and Howard just isn’t as true as we’d like it to be. All four are definitely stars, part of baseball’s elite, but some of them are younger than others. Utley is 30 already and Howard turns 30 in November. Reyes won’t be 26 till June and Wright turns 27 in December. Utley and Howard, and Rollins for that matter, who turns 31 in November, are all going to start to get worse sooner than the younger Mets stars. I’m not saying that it’s started already, I don’t think it has. But it will, and when you look at some pairings of Mets and Phillies players over the past three years there are some concerning trends that help shed some light on how the difference in runs scored closed so dramatically in ’08.

Here’s the runs created, as calculated by Baseball-Reference, for Rollins and Reyes over the past three seasons:

rollinsreyes.jpg

Rollins was hurt for a lot of 2008, which will mess up your runs created, but even when he wasn’t Reyes outhit him. Reyes hit 297/358/475 for the year while Rollins hit 277/349/437.

Here’s Utley and Wright:

utleywright.jpg

After being outhit by Utley in 2006, Wright has been better in 2007 and 2008. It should also be noted that there were only four NL players whose runs created were better than the 130 that Utley put up in 2008 — Wright just happens to be one of them.

This one might be the most disturbing of all, comparing Howard and Delgado:

howarddelgado.jpg

Carlos Delgado isn’t the offensive player that Ryan Howard is, let’s not get silly here. But the similarity in the amount of offense they produced in 2008 is alarming. Even more alarming than the fact suggestion that Delgado and Howard created a similar amount of offense in 2008 is how dramatically Howard’s output has dropped since 2006 — for 169 in ’06 to 113 in ’08.

Finally, this one isn’t a natural pairing at all, but Carlos Beltran produced more offense than Burrell consistently over the past three seasons and widened the gap in 2008:

burrellbeltran.jpg

The two were very close in 2007. Both created more runs in 2008 than they had the year before, but Beltran had greater improvement between the two seasons.


The pen was mightier than runs scored

I think there’s a good chance that everybody who cares agrees already, but I did want to take one more opportunity to drive home the notion that it was the bullpens that created the most important separation between the Phils and the Mets in 2008:

Here’s the runs scored and allowed by both teams:

Team RS RA Run
Differential
NYM 799 715 84
PHI 799 680 119

The Phillies run differential was better by 35 runs.

The team’s scored the same number of runs in 2008. That’s a problem in itself for the Phils, coming off a 2007 season where they scored 88 more times than the Mets. But offense wasn’t the difference between the ’08 Mets and the ’08 Phils.

New York’s starting pitching was better than the Phillies:

Team IP RA RA/Inning
NYM 971 458 4.25
PHI 966.2 489 4.55
Difference   -31  

The starting pitchers for the Mets and Phillies didn’t throw exactly the same number of innings, but it was close. In about five fewer innings, Phillies starters allowed 31 more runs than Mets starters. Given that we know the run differential between the teams for the year is 35 runs, that means that Phillies relievers allowed 66 fewer runs than Mets relievers. And they did:

Team IP RA RA/Inning
NYM 493.3 257 4.69
PHI 483 191 3.56
Difference   66  

Again, the offense was dead even. Mets starters were better. But even though the relievers for each team threw only about half as many innings as the starters, the difference in the runs allowed by the Phillies and the Mets bullpens was enormous — in about half the innings the Phillies gained an advantage more than twice as large as what the Mets gained with their better starters.

Chase Utley takes weak grounders, but isn’t swinging the bat yet. Same article says Jason Donald is working out at second.


Some problems run so deep they can’t even be solved by replacing the guy with the 0.89 ratio

Billy Wagner did blow seven saves last season and the Mets lost the division by less than seven games. So while it may be tempting to conclude that Wagner, with his 2.30 ERA and 0.89 ratio, his 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and his 1.9 walks per nine innings, is to blame for the difference between the Mets pen and the Phillies pen, I really have trouble believing that was the case. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but in 2008 the Phillies pen was far better than the Mets pen. And not just in the closer slot — the difference between the Phils’ pen and the Mets’ pen wasn’t the difference between Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge or Aaron Heilman and Luis Ayala and Brad Lidge or anyone and Brad Lidge. The difference went much deeper than that and was bigger than any one player on either team.

Here’s what the Phillies bullpen did last season, with and without Lidge:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Pen w/o Lidge 413.6 406 176 158 3.44 1.41

And here’s what the Mets’ pen did, with and without Wagner:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
NYM pen 493.3 487 202 234 4.27 1.40
Wagner 47 32 10 12 2.30 0.89
Pen w/o
Wagner
446.3 455 192 222 4.48 1.45

If you take Lidge and Wagner out of the equation, the Phils pen put up an ERA that was a full run better than the ERA put up by the Mets.

With or without Wagner, you have to take a lot of key players out of the Phillies pen from 2008 before you get to an ERA near what the Mets threw to as a group.

Here it is without Lidge and Madson:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Madson 82.7 79 23 28 3.05 1.23
Without Lidge
and Madson
331 327 153 130 3.53 1.45

And without Lidge, Madson and Romero:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Madson 82.7 79 23 28 3.05 1.23
Romero 59 41 38 18 2.75 1.34
Without
Lidge, Madson and Romero
272 286 115 112 3.71 1.47

And without Lidge, Madson, Romero and Durbin:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
PHI pen 483 456 211 173 3.22 1.38
Lidge 69.3 50 35 15 1.95 1.23
Madson 82.7 79 23 28 3.05 1.23
Romero 59 41 38 18 2.75 1.34
Durbin 87.7 81 35 28 2.87 1.32
Without
Lidge, Madson, Romero and Durbin
184.3 205 80 84 4.10 1.55

So if you take out the top four guys in the Phillies pen, Lidge, Madson, Romero and Durbin, the other ten players who pitched in relief for the Phils in 2008 (Eaton, Kendrick, Condrey, Seanez, Happ, Gordon, Eyre, Walrond, Swindle and Carpenter) threw to a 4.10 ERA, better than the 4.27 posted on the season by the Mets bullpen as a group. That group of Phils does have a worse ratio than the Mets pen, 1.55 compared to a 1.40 for the New York pen.

None of that is to suggest that the bullpen wasn’t the difference between the two teams last season. I think it was. It just wasn’t one player. And if you look at the Mets pen from ’08, take out Heilman and Ayala’s numbers and replace them with the American League numbers Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz put up in 2008, things look a lot tighter:

  IP H
BB ER ERA Ratio
NYM pen 493.3 487 202 234 4.27 1.40
Heilman 76 75 46 44 5.21 1.59
Ayala 18 23 2 11 5.50 1.39
NYM pen
without Heilman and Ayala
399.3 389 154 179 4.03 1.36
Rodriguez 68.3 54 34 17 2.24 1.29
Putz 46.3 46 28 20 3.88 1.60
Rodriguez/Putz
added
514 489 216 216 3.78 1.37

The Phils ’08 pen still has put up a better ERA and ratio than the mythical creation of the Mets pen. But even without adjusting Rodriguez and Putz’s American League numbers the difference in both cases is pretty small.

Even so, heading into 2009 the Phillies pen is a little better. The thing that’s worrisome from a Phillies perspective is that last year it needed to be a lot better to win the division — the teams scored the same number of runs and the Mets starting pitching was better. There’s a good chance that the Mets starting pitching is going to be better again this year, so I think we better be hoping that the Phils can put some more runs on the board offensively to make up for what will surely be a tightening of the bullpens.

Will Ohman’s agent says they have had positive conversation with the Phils and the lefty would love to pitch in Philadelphia.

Article about Mike Zagurski’s health that also says Eaton will get chances to pitch in spring training.

Charlie Manuel calls Jason Donald “a Biggio kind of guy” in this article.


Race pace

In 2008, the NL East came down to a battle between the Phils and the Mets. There are a lot of reasons to think it will again in 2009. The chart below tracks the wins for each team as the season progressed:

Wins by Date, 2008

And here’s a review of how things looked on some key dates:

April 30: The Phillies end April at 15-13, tied with the 14-12 Mets for second place in the division. Both teams trail the 15-12 Marlins by half a game.

May 31: The Marlins still lead the NL East with a 31-23 mark. The Phils remain a half game back at 32-25, but the 27-27 Mets trail by four games.

June 17: Willie Randolph is fired by the 34-35 Mets. The Phils lead the division with the Fish in second, three games back. The Mets and the Braves are tied for third place, trailing by 6 1/2 games.

June 30: The Phils lead the NL with a 44-39 record, a half game ahead of the Marlins. After beating the Marlins on June 1 to go a half game up in the division, the Phils stay in first place the whole month. Their lead tops out at four games in the middle of the month. The Fish are back within half a game by the end of the month, but the Mets are under .500 at 40-42 in third place. New York trails the Phils by 3 1/2 games.

July 17: The Mets beat the Reds 10-8 to win their tenth straight game. The Mets and Phils end the day in a tie atop the NL East with identical 52-44 records.

July 31: The 59-49 Phils hold a one-game lead in the division. The Marlins have faded and are now in third place at 58-51, a game and a half back. The Mets, meanwhile, have surged past them and trail the Phils by a single game at 58-50.

The Mets and Phils came into a three-game set in New York July 22-24 tied for the division lead. The Phillies scored six times in the ninth to get a win in the opener, but the Mets won the next two games.

The Mets extended their lead in the division to two games with a win in St Louis, but dropped three of five to end the month while the Phils ran off five straight wins against the Braves and the Nats.

August 31: The back-and-forth month ends with the Mets atop the NL East by a game at 76-61. The Phils are a game off pace at 75-62. The Marlins are seven games out of first place.

The Phils controlled the early part of August, holding the lead in the division till the Mets tied it up on August 13. The Mets led every day but one until the end of the month, maxing out their lead at 2 1/2 games on August 21 and August 22.

September 1-3: The Phillies lost two of three to Washington start September. The Mets, meanwhile, swept a three-game set in Milwaukee and were suddenly three games ahead of the Phils.

September 10: After falling to the Marlins 7-3, the Phils drop to 79-67 on the year. They have 16 games left to play and trail the Mets by 3 1/2 games.

September 18: The Phillies beat the Braves 4-3 to win their seventh straight game. With the win they complete a three-game sweep of Atlanta, coming off the sweep of the Brewers in a four-game set. The Mets, meanwhile, dropped two of three to the Braves in New York on September 13 and 14 before splitting a four-game set with the Nats September 15-18.

The Phillies end the day a half game up in the NL East at 86-67. The have nine games left to play. The 85-67 Mets have ten games left.

September 19: The Phils fall to the Marlins in Florida, losing 14-8 behind a miserable start by Brett Myers. The Mets, meanwhile, take a half game lead in the division when they rally for four runs in the eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie in Atlanta.

It’s the last time that New York will lead the division in 2008, though. The Phils come back and take the next two from the Marlins while the Mets drop a pair of tight games to the Braves. The September 21 game in Atlanta features the Mets taking a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth only to yield four runs. A two-run blast by Delgado in the top of the ninth gets New York to within a run, but they can’t tie the game.

The loss in combination with the Phillies win puts the Phils 1 1/2 games up after the day’s action on September 21 is over. New York has seven games to play and the 88-68 Phillies have six.

September 22: The Phils extend their lead to 2 1/2 games with the help of a 6-2 win over a decimated Braves team. JA Happ gave the Phils his second straight excellent start down the stretch and the Phils broke open a 2-2 tie with a four-run eighth inning that featured a three-run bomb from Burrell. The Mets, meanwhile, fall to the Cubs to drop their third straight.

The Phils had a chance to put it away then. But they didn’t. They dropped the next two with Atlanta.

Santana, Reyes and Wright led New York to a win over the Cubs on September 23 in New York, and the Mets trailed by just a game and a half as play started on the 24th. The Mets couldn’t capitalize on the Phils’ loss, though. They led Chicago 5-1 going into the top of the fifth, but Chicago tied the game with a four-run frame. Chicago took a 6-5 lead in the seventh before a bases loaded walk to Ramon Martinez in the bottom of the eighth forced in a run to tie the game at 6-6. It went to extra innings and a two-run homer by Aramis Ramirez off of Luis Ayala in the top of the tenth helped the Cubs put three on the board. Chicago won the game 9-6 and the Phils held a game and a half lead.

September 25: The Phils were idle while the Mets played the game that was accounting for all the half games in the standings. Trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Mets scored four times in their last three times at the plate to earn a 7-6 win.

The 89-70 Phillies led the 88-71 Mets by just a game. Each team had three games left to play. The Phils hosted the Nationals and the Mets hosted the Marlins.

September 26: It was pretty much over after September 26. Utley and Howard combined to drive in seven runs in the first two innings and the Phils rolled to an 8-4 win. The Mets, meanwhile, couldn’t find an answer for Chris Volstad. Volstad held New York to an unearned run over six innings and the Fish took the game 6-1.

The Phillies led by two games with two games left to play.

Brilliant defense by Jimmy Rollins and a solid outing by Moyer led the Phils to a 4-3 on September 27. And then it was completely over. The Mets won on the 27th, but lost on the final day of the season while the Phillies won, capping the season with the Phils three games ahead.

Ryan Howard and the Phillies agreed to a three-year, $54 million contract.

This says the Giants have offered Rich Aurilia a minor league contract.

Tom Gordon signed with Arizona.


Mets and Phillies today

I answered some questions for Mets Today.

Brett Myers (8-10, 4.40) faces righty Mike Pelfrey (13-8, 3.66) tonight in New York. Pelfrey has been fantastic over his last four starts, going 3-0 while throwing to a 1.88 ERA (six earned runs in 28 2/3 innings). He’s pitched into the seventh inning in each of those games and went nine in two of them. He hasn’t allowed a home run over 33 1/3 innings in his last five starts. Lefties have hit him hard this season, though, they’re hitting .315 against him with a 1.74 ratio. Righties haven’t fared as well, they’re hitting .239 with a 1.04 ratio. He has been way better at home than away, going 8-5 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.13 ratio at home and 5-3 with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.68 ratio away. Utley is 3-for-8 with two home runs against him in his career.

Pelfrey has made two starts against the Phils this season, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.90 ratio. Both of the starts came early in the season. On April 9 the Phils made four errors, including two by shortstop Eric Bruntlett, and the Mets scored seven runs, six of which were unearned, against Kendrick in 2 1/3 innings. The Mets rolled to an 8-2 win. Pelfrey allowed two runs on five hits and two walks over five innings.

On April 20 the Phils hit him harder. Pelfrey again went five innings, but was charged with four runs on ten hits and two walks. Utley hit a pair of home runs off of Pelfrey, one in the first and on in the fourth, driving in four runs. The Phils won the game 5-4. Feliz hit a seventh-inning homer off of Feliciano to break a 4-4 tie.

Myers has been a different pitcher since his trip to the minors. Since his return he has made eight starts, going 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.13 ratio. The Phillies have won six of the last seven games that he has started.

Myers has made one start against the Mets, which came on July 23. He allowed three runs on three hits and five walks over five innings. The Mets scored three in the sixth on a homer by a finger-waving Jose Reyes and went on to win 6-3.


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