Thursday, December 20, 2012

How much better did the Blue Jays just get?

Prepare yourselves Metsrospectus readers, we are going to start talking about the Blue Jays a lot. The Blue Jays were in fact not all that bad of a team last year. They finished with 73 wins ,ahead of eight other teams, while playing in the toughest division in baseball. They did this while also missing their star player for a good portion of the year and having pretty much one sort of OK pitcher (Morrow). However as you may know, the Jays got a little better this year, let's examine how good using the ever useful WAR.


The Jays traded away about 2.5 wins worth of talent to acquire this group and I excluded some less important acquisitions from this list so we can settle and say they added about 20 wins worth of talent. If these players had played for the Blue Jays last year they would have finished with 93 wins, tied with the Rangers and O's for the AL Wild Card spots.

This has got to down as one of the greatest off season's any team has ever had. I mean we are barely talking about the fact that they added Melky Cabrera who was one of the best players in baseball last year. That alone would have been a huge coup in addition to the entire starting rotation and batting champion SS they also threw in. However they did add Mike Nickeas, who could be worth -21 WAR and just negate the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gettin to know Colin Cowgill

What an awesome pose he is doing here. What do you think he
is saying? 

Since Moneyball A's all have some mystical quality. No matter how bad a player is, if he was an Athletic at some point you just kind of assume that he has some secret value that you can't see on the surface. That is really the only thing Cowgill has going for him, he doesn't appear to have any baseball skill so one can only assume he was traded for to gain some nebulous, peripheral ability... have you seen has statistics playing left field against right handed Dominican batters in August!

Before coming to the Mets he played baseball for in the blue grass state for UK and then was drafted by the D-backs before heading to Oakland in the Cahill trade. His career slash with 212 MLB appearances is .255/.319/.311. The best one can say about him is that he almost has a good OBP, also how often do you see guys with a SLG lower than the OBP? Not an easy feat to accomplish. In addition young Mr. Cowgill strikes out a lot to the tune of 25.5% strike out rate. Welcome to the Mets Colin, you will fit right in.

Monday, December 17, 2012

R.A. Dickey, Blue Jay.

What is there to say about R.A. Dickey leaving the Mets? This is ostensibly a Mets blog but over the year I have been writing it, it has been more of an R.A. Dickey blog. Part of my love for Dickey was the fact for a while no one seemed to appreciate him. I wrote the Dickey Report because I felt that after two great seasons in 2010 and 2011 people still felt Dickey wasn't anything special and worse, they thought he was a fluke.

2012 was the year that all changed. Dickey went from great to unstoppable. He transcended what it meant to be a knuckleball pitcher with his unprecedented control of a famously uncontrollable pitch. Before R.A. it was unheard to have a knuckleball pitcher who led the league in K's and had so few walks. June 2012 will probably always be one of my favorite stretches of baseball I have ever watched. It started with the Johan no hitter and then was followed up with back to back Dickey one hitters and multiple other Dickey gems. When Nick Swisher hit that home run off R.A. to end his incredibly scoreless inning streak, I was heart broken.

More than this R.A. was amazing off the field. He wrote a best selling memoir, helped to comfort victims of sexual abuse and inspired many with his amazing story. He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity and read books to school children. R.A. was also a rare candid athlete, a guy who was actually worth interviewing because he would give honest, interesting answers. I will always remember the day when after a string of Mets losses and a string of player excuses R.A. told the press that maybe the reason we were losing is because the team wasn't very good. It was that kind of honesty and forthrightness that endeared us all to the Dickster.

A few weeks ago I might have been more upset about this but now I am happy for R.A. I am excited for him to go play for a good team and to possibly pitch in a post season. In 2013 my number one wish for baseball is a World Series win for the Dickster. For awhile this felt like an end, but as we know their are no ends, just new beginnings. I will continue to write about Dickey as often as I did before and will continue to cheer for and be awed by him wherever he goes.

How the Mets screwed R.A. Dickey

R.A. Dickey is heading to Canada in what has to be one of the more negative dealings in Mets history. As a trade itself I think the deal is perfectly equitable, ridiculously fair even. In this trade and in the Wright signing Sandy Alderson has shown himself to master deal maker and one of the few executives in baseball capable of properly valuing players. Now this is not a deal I would have done, I personally believe that Dickey has at least three to five years of elite level pitching left and could in fact improve on his 2012 campaign. That being said Travis d'Arnaud was previously traded for Roy Halladay so I can't say it's unfair for him to be traded for Dickey. The problem with the Dickey trade wasn't the trade itself it was the Mets curious (but somehow predictable) decision to screw their ace on his way out of town.

Right now Dickey and his representatives are negotiating a contract extension, one that will be smaller than he could gotten had the Mets not publicly strung him along. Dickey originally requested a contract extension of four years, forty million dollars. This was a fair deal but still a little below market price. Angel Pagan signed this exact deal with San Francisco and I think we can agree that Dickey is more productive than Angel will ever be. Significantly worse pitcher Anibal Sanchez signed a deal with the Tigers last week for one more year and double the money. Dickey however wanted to stay with the Mets who indicated they weren't going to sign an extension at that price. Here is where things get hairy.

At this point it is pretty clear the Mets plan to move Dickey or if they can't, resign him for as cheap as possible. Dickey at this point obviously thinks he has a good chance of resigning with the Mets so he lowers his request to 2 years, 26 million dollars. This makes it even easier to trade the Dickster since he now has an even lower price tag associated with him. So Dickey, now negotiating with Toronto is almost assured to not get anything better than 26 million since he has already indicated he would sign for that much in New York. Baseball is a business, I get that. However it seems entirely reasonable that all of this could have been done in a way that didn't so specifically ruin Dickey's negotiating power. A little bit of honesty from Sandy's part about his intentions, a little bit of discretion about salary numbers and perhaps even, shocking as it may sound, a little bit of respect for a departing ace who did nothing but help the Mets over the last three years. The Mets could have actually tried to get R.A.the best possible deal while also helping themselves.

Sadly this isn't the worst of it. Outside of the Mets decision to screw Dickey financially they made what is also become a somewhat predictable decision to try and make Dickey look bad as he leaves town. For three years R.A. has been the lone bright spot in the Mets organization. A rare reason to get interested in a 70 win team. The Mets of course had nary a negative word to say about him. But now as he is leaving we hear that the team has “mounting concerns whether all of Dickey’s off-the-field endeavors could impact his on-field results, or his standing in the clubhouse, if the perception is that he has become too absorbed with his new celebrity.” Well I know that I am worried writing a memoir and appearing in a documentary will affect Dickey's ability to be the best player on the team again. 

The Mets through their anonymous team sources and their hack mouthpieces like the NY Post's Ken Davidoff have taken it upon themselves to attack a good man, perhaps the best man left in baseball. This again, will do nothing to help Dickey financially. Who wants to sign a pitcher who is obsessed with his own celebrity and pisses off his teammates? They are giving him one of the worst labels a baseball player can get: a bad clubhouse guy. More so their is a moral issue at play here. R.A. Dickey did everything he could to make the Mets a better team both on and off the field. The Mets could have have shown him the mutual respect he deserved. They could have traded R.A. in a way that helped both him and the team and they could have shown the fans some respect by explaining why this trade helped the Mets in the long run. I think we all would have been OK with that. Instead they handled the situation the way the Mets handle most things with lies, blunders and a lack of class. In the end the Mets don't deserve R.A. Dickey or our support as fans.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Some quick thoughts on the Josh Hamilton signing

I love fiscally responsible clubs. Teams like the Rays and A's that do so much with so little will always be my favorites and deserve the greatest respect. That being said, nothing is as fun as high impact free agent signings. While Omar Minaya may have screwed the Mets in the long term we always knew he would try to solve our problems by throwing huge amounts of money at top players.

Last year the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. They had probably the best rotation in baseball and the best player of a generation. During the year they added the best rookie of all time and a Cy Young winner and still missed the playoffs. They could have pulled a Marlins, cashed in some chips and went back to trying to grind it out with the rest of us palookas. Instead Jerry Dipoto looked down at his cards, eyed the competition and pushed all his chips into the center of the table.

Josh Hamilton is an Angel.

Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are a power trio the like we have rarely seen before. In 2012 they combined for a 17.9 WAR. Exactly equal to every member of the Rockies and higher than eight other MLB clubs.

Combined they hit 103 home runs equal to the entire SF Giants.

They had an average slash line of .308/.366/.552

The combined for 296 RBI and scored 317 runs.

They did all of this and none of them even played a full season (Pujols came the closest with 154). Imagine what these team can do if they stay healthy and productive? The 2013 Angels are going to be an absolute spectacle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

R.A. at 42: a look at knuckleball pitchers from age 38 to 42.

Right now people are negotiating over R.A Dickey's contract and doing a very bad job of it. Somewhere in an office at Citi Field an offer was made of 2 years, 20 million dollars to resign the man who just won the Cy Young. 10 million dollars a season is less money then Dice-K and Joe Blanton made last year, Derek Lowe made about 5 million more. According to 2012 salaries Dickey would be the 36th highest paid pitcher in baseball, just ahead of Matt Garza. The sad part? Dickey isn't far off from accepting. He is asking for 26 million dollars over two years, having lowered his previous request of 40 million over four years. They say that Dickey worries he will be seen as a fluke (discounting the fact that this is his third year in a row of elite pitching) and other teams aren't willing to pay what he deserves because of his age. I thought it would be interesting to see how other knuckleballers fared in their age 38-42 seasons, the period Dickey is entering now.

I decided to take a look at the knuckle ball mafia that helped Dickey get where he is, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield. Three knucklers who all pitched well into their 40's and represent a good mix of eras. First up, let's look at Niekro:

Niekro age

The first thing you should notice here is that 9.4 WAR. Niekro had the best season he ever pitched at age 39, for some context a 9.4 WAR would have beat every pitcher in 2012 by about three wins. Niekro pulled ERA's under three for every year but one and actually improved as time went on, posting his lowest ERA in this group at his age 42 season. The amount of innings he pitched went down through the years but it pretty much doesn't matter when we are talking about a drop of 330 IP to 275 four years later, all of those numbers would have led the league in the current day. We can see here that Niekro showed no deterioration as he got older and remained an elite pitcher through age 42. Next up is Charlie Hough:

Hough age

Charlie also continued to play well into his 40's. He had a poor age 41 season where he battled some injuries but came back and was positive again at age 42. For those wondering if that was the beginning of the end for him should take note of his age 45 season in 1993 when he put up a 2.4 WAR for the Marlins. One thing you will notice with Charlie is his relatively poor strike out and walk numbers. In his age 41 season he has a precision index less than .5 and even in his best years he had a lot of trouble. This is typical of most knuckleballers as the ball tends to move all over the place and produce more outs from weakly hit balls than by K's. Dickey is all by account the first knuckleball pitcher to overcome this. He has never issues many walks, frequently being a league leader in strikes thrown. In addition he led the league this year on strikeouts with 230.

Finally let's take a look at Tim Wakefield:


Wakefield was not as good but the important note here is that he was consistent. From ages 38-42 he never put up an ERA under four but his career ERA was 4.41, a number he beat twice in those years. While Wakefield was never great he remained about as good as he always was. He also continued to be an innings eater, posting pretty good numbers of IP throughout this five year stretch. I always heard from Pelfrey apologists how important his ability to pitch so many innings is, why don't we value this as highly for the Dickster?

These numbers reliably show one thing. Knuckleball pitchers do not show any significant drop off in their later years, specifically their age 38-42 seasons, which Dickey is entering now. Each of these men continued to excel and in some cases get better as they aged. R.A. Dickey is not a fluke. He has proven over three years he is an elite pitcher and all the evidence shows his best years may be yet to come.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

R.A. Dickey honored with two GBBY's

Mets Ace R.A. Dickey was honored with two Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards. He was crowned "Best Starting Pitcher" in baseball and "Breakout Pitcher" of the year. He was nominated in the "Storyline" category but did not win. You can read the full rundown here.  I never get enough of R.A. winning awards. Please don't trade this man.

Mets also nominated but who did not win include Mike Baxter for his no-no saving coach in the "Best Play" category, the Praying Mantis game for the "Oddity" category and Johan's no hitter in the "Pitching Performance" category.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Please don't trade Dickey.

Please don't do this. I want it offically noted for the record right now that if we trade Dickey, it will blow up in our faces. My belief is that Dickey has 3-5 years of dominant pitching left in him and will in all likelihood be much more productive than any second tier draft pick we get for him. Dickey is as close as a team can come to a dream signing. He is an elite level player, a no drama, good clubhouse guy and a draw for the fans who can be had for a bargain basement price because of his age and salary history. Whoever signs Dickey will be getting one of the best values in recent baseball history, please let it be the Mets.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wright extended

As Veronica Mars once said "the one who stays is the one who cares" and it's nice to know that David Wright cares so much about the NY Mets. Wright's deal is a very reasonable eight years, 138 million dollars. 138 mil is a perfect valuation for Wright. Sandy is known for being a savvy, smart GM who doesn't make bad deals and this is just further evidence. I may not always agree with Sandy but I know I can count on him not to make overpay, hype signings. That being said I would have been a little happier with less years. This contract carries Wright through his age 37 season which will likely include a bad year or two. That being said it could have been much worse and we aren't carrying 5+ years of expected declining play like some other contracts.

A few people have said Wright's on field play has not been worth the roughly 17.25 mil he will be making a year. Let's take a look using the WAR to dollars formula. Popular consensus says that a player is worth about 5 million dollars per win he adds to the team. So a player with a WAR of 2 should get paid ten million bucks. Let's take a look at Wright's history.

Dollar Value (in millions)









According to these numbers Wright has earned a salary greater than 17.25 mil in all but two seasons, one of which was his rookie year. I am not always bullish on Wright. He tends to strike out a lot and go on long slumps and regress as the season goes on but at the end of the day I am a numbers guy and Wright's number are elite. For those worried about how Wright may look in future seasons I suggest you read my projection article from last month, good things should be in Wright's future.