A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Rome Was Not Built In A Day

With a slow news day being that there was no game last night, the article of the day goes to Bob Raissman. He goes over the perceived attitude problem that Lastings Milledge is said to have and the only thing that comes to mind is who cares.

So, there was hardly a word or whisper about how Milledge, during spring training, often had his watch set on "Pedro time," taking the star trip and arriving at the ballpark late. What about those legal issues Milledge encountered when he was drafted by the Mets in 2003? They were a figment of some reporter's imagination, right?

The kid might not be David Wright (who can possibly replicate my Sugar Pants?), but he sure has had a knack for saying the right things to the media during interviews so far. He seemed like a well adjusted kid with his head on straight before this stuff came to light. Now it comes out that he is a bit arrogant and was brought up to be put into an atmosphere more conducive for him to learn how to play the game right and learn some character.

Milledge just turned 21. To think that he still has some stuff to learn should not be that foreign. This is the reason that teams put together squads with character and guys that can guide the young players before they go off track. A team like the Marlins might not have that, but the Mets surely do. As far as Milledge’s legal issues when he was in high school, he had some ‘relations’ with a younger girl in school. That is not the first time that has happened I’m sure of it. Keith Hernandez admitted to using cocaine and he turned out just fine and Milledge’s past legal issues are far less worrisome.

Being around guys in the Mets clubhouse like Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine has to undoubtedly have a large influence on a player. How could being around two legends not? When words come out of their mouths, people tend to listen. That goes for Delgado, Franco, and Floyd too. Those are all guys that will have in influence on Lastings and all but one of them will be around after this year.

Yes, Milledge is a brash young prospect who has immense talent. Sometimes arrogance is a trait that kids pick up when they are gifted, rich, and successful before they are even allowed to drink. This is all nothing new and while Milledge might not be the person they want him to be right now, my guess is that he will eventually be that guy. He seems like a good person and a little flamboyancy in a good way is certainly something that is welcome. Whatever the problems that people have with Milledge, one thing is for sure. Lastings is no Delmon and Milledge’s cockiness will probably be shaped into a positive down the line.

When he dropped that ball in right field for a future Hall of Famer only to have that same guy come up to him after the play and have some words of encouragement is part of the process. If Milledge steps out of line and starts to act like he can do what he wants when he wants, then he needs to be disciplined. If Frank Robinson can discipline Alfonso Soriano at this stage in Soriano’s career, then Randolph can discipline Milledge. It is all a process and sometimes the skill comes before the character, but I have no worries about Lastings Milledge being the player the Mets want him to be down the line.

* * *

Due to DSL issues, this is all you get. This was tough enough to get out.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lineup Rumblings

It has been well documented that Reyes' performance typically drives the Mets and the disparity in his numbers between how he performs when the Mets win as opposed to when they lose is simply crazy. Jose is batting .128/.227/.205 in Mets losses and is batting .320/.366/.520 in Mets wins. What is really shocking is just how much pop Reyes exhibits in the Mets wins. For reference as to just how impressive his line is in Mets wins, Miguel Tejada came into last night's action batting .321/.374/.565. Reyes has sixteen extra base hits in Mets wins in 150 at-bats and four extra base hits in Mets losses in 78 at-bats. When Reyes hits a triple, the Mets have not lost in 2006. For his career, the Mets are 23-4 when he hits a triple.

We all know that Reyes makes this team go. However, Jose Reyes needs to simply find more consistency because at times he really hurts this team. Ideally, your leadoff hitter is not a work in progress and at this point in his career, Jose Reyes is better suited to bat second in my option. Reyes is a pull hitter and should be a line drive/groundball hitter and if he was able to bat second, he could have the huge benefit of batting with a runner on more often. Not only does he perform better with runners on, but it also opens up a hole between first and second if the runner is on first and he should be able to use that to his advantage.

While it is correct that a leadoff hitter is only a true leadoff hitter for one at-bat during the game, they have runners on in front them less frequently than the other spots in the order because of the bottom of the order and the pitcher's spot. With none on in 2006, Reyes is batting .236/.305/.336. With runners on in 2006, he is batting .284/.337/.534. Though not as pronounced, Reyes career splits still tilt towards him being a better hitter with runners on as well. The big problem is the Mets do not have many other choices. Maybe Milledge could be that guy down the line if he can continue to walk, but it is doubtful anyone else will ever leadoff for the Mets while Jose Reyes is on this team.

Though Willie has not really made any mistakes with the leadoff spot being no one else is really better suited for it, he has made some mistakes. Paul LoDuca has done an admirable job, but it still warrants a discussion to move him down or at the very least slide everyone else up when he is sitting. LoDuca is batting .302/.345/.438, but when he is out, the Mets are getting .212/.268/.318 from the two spot. Willie's insistence in putting replacement level players into such a vital spot while LoDuca is sitting is curious, but Willie tends to do some weird things.

Part of the reason why I still think Beltran should be batting second is because Willie's resistance to shake up the lineup when LoDuca sits. When Beltran sits he does and when Wright sits he does, but for whatever reason not when LoDuca sits. LoDuca is going to sit plenty so something more effective needs to be done there. I simply do not agree that those at-bats should be more or less given away. My other issue with the current lineup construction is that the Mets are 12th in runs scored from David Wright's spot in the lineup. Sugar Pants is the team's best hitter and leads the team in OBP. He needs to have people behind him who can drive him more consistently. Of course with Floyd playing better these days, that should happen, but that does not mean there still is not a better way.

While people can show me studies that lineup construction does not matter, conventional wisdom and other stats tell me otherwise. Even though you can put together calculations that can back lineup constructions' irrelevance, it does not take into account how certain people will perform in different situations. You will never know until things are set into motion. Despite Wright's struggles when he moved up while Beltran was out, I believe that is was just bad luck and coincided with a slump. The kid is just too good to not be able to hit anywhere.

All this is really just nitpicking being the team is in first place, but I think it is plain to see that team is not quite producing runs like they were earlier in the year. There are a lot of close games and stretches where it is tough for them to get something going without the long ball. For me, when I look at this lineup and see those things happening, I see that something has to be wrong. Maybe it is a deeper problem that cannot be fixed by juggling the lineup, but this team should be performing more consistently on the offensive end.

1st spot: .259 (9th) .317 (12th) .414 .414 (5th) - 5th in Runs
~ Reyes .254/.317/.412

2nd spot: .277 (13th) .322 (13th) .406 (12th) - 14th in Runs
~ LoDuca .304/.347/.443

3rd spot: .279 (10th) .401 (7th) .629 (2nd) - 2nd in Runs
~ Beltran .277/.394/.619

4th spot: .277 (4th) .362 (8th) .505 (7th) - 11th in Runs
~ Delgado .256/.351/.518

5th spot: .269 (9th) .344 (6th) .462 (8th) - 12th in Runs
~ Wright .325/.398/.546

.6th spot: 266 (8th) .347 (9th) .500 (5th) - 5th in Runs
~ Floyd .235/.333/.414

7th spot: .275 (7th) .343 (6th) .418 (8th) - 5th in Runs
~ Nady .267/.331/.484

8th spot: .247 (11th) .287 (14th) .363(11th) 13th in Runs
~ Matsui .211/.248/.285

* * *

  • Someone needs to test Jose Valentin for steroids. His play of late is getting seriously getting weird.

    "Championship teams have to win some games like this," Valentin said after the Mets' major-league-high 16th one-run win. "Sometimes you're going to face a team like today that's playing great baseball. You're going to face a top pitcher like Webb. It's better to win one-run games than lose one-run games."

  • Lastings Milledge had a rough day at the plate getting to see what a top pitcher can do to a rookie and he also made an error in the field by dropping a line drive. Of course Milledge redeemed himself in the field with a nice catch on the run and then flashing a great arm to nail a runner down going from first to third, but he he was exposed a bit at the plate and did not redeem himself there.

    Like Nady, Milledge likes to stand far away from the plate. When guys crowd the plate, they are trying to take away the outside part of the plate. When guys are too far off the plate, the outside part of the plate is a big weak spot for them. There is a happy medium and Milledge is not standing in that happy medium. The thing that confuses me is that with Milledge's bat speed, he is not vulnerable to pitches inside which should enable him to move towards the plate. I understand why someone would not feel comfortable crowding the plate, but you have to make sure you have full plate coverage. I know Nady and Milledge got where they are by doing what things their way, but it just seems that moving them in a tick could prove to be very beneficial.

    Milledge is also taking his first boos in stride.

    "My parents were there," Milledge said. "They'll probably kill me for making an error. But it was a bad play on my part and (the fans) let me know about it. I didn't get upset about it. I would have booed myself. I didn't feel bad about them booing me on the play. But it was kind of like they had a short memory."

  • The Baseball Prospectus Stat of the Day:

    Top 5 2006 NL Third Basemen, by VORP
    Player          Team     EqA    VORP
    Miguel Cabrera FLO .338 30.9
    David Wright NYN .318 21.6
    Morgan Ensberg HOU .317 19.9
    Scott Rolen SLN .290 14.3
    Freddy Sanchez PIT .279 13.7
    Miguel is head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of VORP and with Scott Rolen in the lead for All-Star voting, David Wright might have trouble getting a spot on the NL All-Star squad if he is not voted in. While taking three third baseman on the team would be unlikely, Wright certainly deserves a spot.

  • The rumors surrounding Clemens and his return to baseball have some steroid speculation tied in. His deadline for signing with a team was just about the same length as a suspension for steroids. The penalty is fifty games and he returned just after fifty games. Would baseball allow this to happen to avoid another black eye? We know all about Clemens' workout ethic (like no one else works out hard but him), but when you get older it gets a little harder to rebound from games and keep fresh. Maybe it's just all poppycock, but it is all a little coincidental for sure.

  • Johnette Howard has a nice little recap of last night's fucking swell game.

  • According to the Journal News, the Mets are the Mets are 12-4-2 in their 18 series played so far this year.

  • The spin zone...

    "I don't think Pedro stepped up because of the matchup, I think Webb stepped up the way everybody steps up against Pedro," said Willie Randolph, who used every one of his position players to earn the victory. "Pedro's been doing this a lot longer.

    "But I have a great deal of respect for Webb."

    Webb must have been stepping up for his last two complete game shutouts prior to this start too. They have both been pitching spectacular this year and that's the bottom line. One is just winning games and the other is running into a lack of run support.
  • Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    Random Wednesday Stuff

    First things first in Pedro Beato. You have a guy who has an opportunity to cash in on a weak draft class. He is the thirteenth ranked overall prospect according to Baseball America but would have surely not cracked the top twenty picks had this been a year ago and maybe not even the top thirty picks. The thirteenth overall pick last year signed for $1.6 million dollars. The first high school pitcher chosen was Christopher Volstad and he got $1.6 million dollars. Beato figures to get a seven digit payday and the Mets viewed him as too expensive for what they thought he was worth. Newsday reported that they offered him $750,000 and he was looking for double that.

    Conventional wisdom says that it is a no brainer that the Mets would have signed Beato who was a first round talent when they had no first round pick, but the 22nd pick last year was also a high school pitcher who signed for $1.2 million, the 32nd pick last year was a high school pitcher who signed for just a tick over $1 million, and the 34th pick last year was a high school pitcher who had similar velocity signed for a tick under a million.

    A lot of players will make some money off this being a down year and there are years when teams are happy they do not have a first round pick so they don't have to waste first round money on second round players. I'm not saying a Beato is a second round talent, but in most years, he certainly would not be as highly ranked as he is now. If the Mets viewed him as a million dollar talent and he thinks the can get 60% more than what the Mets were offering by waiting another week, why would he sign? It would make no sense for him to accept the Mets deal regardless of what he may truly be worth. He is a lock to make more than what the Mets reportedly offered.

    The Mets most likely decided to not over pay and use that cash in the international market as they did last year when they got the talented Fernando Martinez. Jim Callis of Baseball America called Martinez a possible top five pick if he were eligible for the draft this year and they signed him for $1.4 million. Omar felt he could net more for the money on the international market and was not going to sign Beato just to sign him. You have to respect the fact that they didn't fold and stood strong. That money will not go to waste. It will be spent on talent, just not on Pedro Beato.

    Next thing on my boring agenda is Lastings Milledge. He just looks like a ball player. He looked anxious at the plate during his first at-bat, but ripped a ball to short in his first with runners on base and later doubled in the seventh inning for his first Major League hit. Most of us have seen him in Spring Training, but seeing him in high def goodness is always better. His bat is as fast as advertised and as Keith pointed out, the kid has a very level swing. For those of you who worry about his power, it is surely something that will take a bit longer for him to develop than David Wright's did.

    Wright hit 11 in 135 games at 19, 15 in 133 gams at 20, and 32 in 160 games between AA, AAA, and the bigs at 21. Wright does not have a huge uppercut, but he certainly has a bit of an uppercut swing and gets some lift on the ball. Milledge hit 15 in 87 games at 19 and 8 in 100 games 20. This year he has not flashed much homerun power, but his swing is line drive swing and he simply will not get much lift on the ball. He will pepper the wall until he gets stronger, but most of his homeruns will be mistakes when he gets under the ball. Milledge's power not coming right away has nothing to do with him being a productive player, but it will probably take him a few years before he starts hitting a significant number of homeruns.

    The last thing is Alay Soler. His rough first inning with that horrible stolen base call seemed to set the stage for the day. He had tons of trouble getting his breaking stuff over the plate in the first inning and stayed away from his fastball. He gave up two runs even though he should have made it out unscathed. He then came back to the fastball a bit more and pitched OK until the fifth inning when he got lit up by a few homers. Soler ended up laboring on a humid night and the Mets really played one of their sloppiest games of the year behind him which did not help the situation.

    Yes, he should have been out of the first inning with no runs allowed and a few less pitches, but those types of things happen and you have to overcome and move on. He was unable to and was very angry with himself throughout the game while Miguel Batista kept calm and worked out of trouble all night to throw a complete game. It just was not the Mets night. Alay's next start is against the Dodgers in Los Angeles and with John Maine's return and him having started his rehab assignment, Soler really cannot afford another bad start.

    * * *

  • Jon Lieber has joined Cole Hamels on the disabled list and that is bad news for the Phillies to say the least.

  • Lastings likes the word fabulous.

    "It's fabulous to be in New York," Milledge said. "What a feeling."

  • Lee Jenkins rehashed the Kazmir deal and makes a lot of good points. Yes, it was a horrible deal, but if the deal was not done, would the Mets be where they are now? Obviously we will never know and people will differ in opinion, but most likely the Mets would not be exactly where the are. Maybe they could have been better, but that is doubtful. Most likely, the would have been worse and Omar would not be here.

    However, one thing that stuck out me more than other things was this:

    At 5:15 p.m., Duquette called Chuck LaMar, then the Devil Rays' general manager, and said, "Do we have a deal?"

    Not only did the Mets want to do this trade, but they were chasing LaMar down. Lamar had to think about the deal. The guy should have been fired as soon as the deal was done if that was the case. He has to be the worst GM of all time.

  • The Redbird Nation is strong and loud. Albert Pujols leads all All-Star voting and is more than half a million votes in front of second place Carlos Delgado for first base. Scott Rolen has David Wright edged out by about 48,000 votes, Jose Reyes is third behind second place Edgar Renteria and first place David Eckstein, Paul LoDuca has a small lead over Mike Piazza, and Carlos Beltran is second in the voting among outfielders.
  • Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    Hello Lastings

    I guess Milledge heated up at the right time. He is now a member of the New York Mets as Xavier Nady has been DL'd. Milledge will be starting tonight for the Mets against the Diamondbacks.

    Working Hard For Their Money

    We are fifty games into the season and the Mets are in front of the surging Braves by 4.5 games. The Mets have the second best home record behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the entire Major Leagues and only the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers have a better road record in the Majors while the Mets are tied with the Cardinals for the best road record in the National League.

    Their bullpen has played a large part in their early success and have been worked hard though they have been a bit more mortal these days. They have been worked hard mostly because of the back end of the rotation and the lack of production being received from the last three starters. There has been only one time this season in which two starters not named Martinez or Tom Glavine were involved in a win streak and managed to notch a victory. The only time this season that scenario happened is when the Mets won seven in a row early in the season and Trachsel, Bannister, and Zambrano each picked up a victory during that streak. Since then, any consecutive victories involved one starter from the back end, Glavine and/or Martinez, and/or the bullpen. They have been the rally killers. They have been the anti-Pedro.

    Now it seems like the Mets are sufficiently deep in terms of the rotation and should be getting starters going deep more consistently in games taking some pressure and innings off of the bullpen. If there is no relief for the bullpen in the second half, there might be some big problems down the stretch and come playoff time.
    Name             G  IP   BB   H   SO   ERA  P/IP
    Duaner Sanchez 79 98 38 73 70 2.30 15.4
    Aaron Heilman 73 92 38 76 86 3.03 16.2
    Billy Wagner 73 76 35 57 105 3.00 18.2
    Darren Oliver 44 73 16 60 70 3.04 14.6
    Pedro Feliciano 57 48 13 35 48 2.35 16.3
    Chad Bradford 70 54 13 57 51 4.15 14.7
    The Mets basically have two guys in Aaron Heilman in Duaner Sanchez who are on track to be over worked and they are the two biggest pieces to this bullpen. Salomon Torres, who threw 94.2 innings, and Scott Shields, who threw 91.2 innings, were the only players who totaled 90+ innings out of the bullpen in 2005 and neither Torres nor Schields topped 80 games. No one in the Mets bullpen is on target to top 80 games, but they are throwing a lot of pitches.

    There are legitimate concerns about the bullpen getting over worked and even though Duaner likes to get his work in just about daily, something has to give. A reliever throwing a 100 innings it probably just too much when you consider they will be needed for more innings in the playoffs and got some work in during the World Baseball Classic as well. Willie routinely goes with those two for two innings at a time and one has to wonder what type of toll this will take on them towards the end of the year.

    The Mets are going to win a lot of games this year and that means a lot of work for their big three relievers and it is tough situation for Willie. You do not want to get too caught up looking ahead at risk of losing games early in the regular season by not using your best relievers, but to ignore possible consequences as a result of today's actions is not the best way to go either. Juggling a bullpen and proper use of it could be the hardest thing for a manager to do and probably the most important thing for this Met team and their present and future successes.

    * * *

  • I have not really been very critical of Willie this year, but putting the hit and run on with a strikeout guy at the plate in Jose Valentin and a slow guy at first base in Xavier Nady seems silly. Almost as silly as the first sentence below.

    "I'm the type of manager that I don't like to know a lot of information about teams," Randolph said. "I don't believe in all that. You go with your strengths and deal with other teams when they come in. It's a quick series, in and out. We know their players; we study their players, we have scouting reports and we deal with that."

    Yeah. Who needs information? While I get what he is really trying to say here, it could have been worded a bit better. As for his decision to hit a run last night, it ended up being a moot point since the Mets won with an amazing ninth inning capped by a Sugar Pants' game winning RBI, but it was still a curious move to say the least.

    "I keep reiterating it over and over ... but this team always comes back with an answer," Wright said after his bat provided a walk-off RBI for the fourth time this season. "One thing I've learned is that you have to want to be up in those situations ... and I think I've become pretty relaxed when I'm up there with the game on the line."

    When the Mets were down be run after the three run homer by Chad Tracy, I thought to myself that the Mets only needed one run. One run is not a big deal for this team no matter what inning. Sure enough, it was not a big deal.

  • I'm digging all of the soccer-style chants.

  • The unthinkable has happened. Jose Valentin is going to be the starting second baseman for the foreseeable future.

    "I'm 36 but I think I can still play every day," Valentin said. "Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for your moment."

  • Cliff Floyd is heating up.

    "'Bout time. It's (almost) June 1," Floyd said last night after going 2-for-3 with a mammoth home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth in the Mets' 8-7 win. "Hopefully I'll continue to swing the bat well and we win and everybody can be happy."

    Since May 12th, Cliff is batting .310/.420/.595 with four doubles, a triple, a homer, and three RBIs. I think it is safe to say Cliffy is back.

  • No Pedro Beato for the New York Mets.

    he Mets were unable to come to terms with 19-year-old Pedro Beato, their 17th-round pick in last year's draft out of Xaverian who reportedly was seeking a seven-figure signing bonus after a strong season pitching for St. Petersburg J.C. The Mets had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. last night before he'd be eligible to re-enter this year's draft.

    Back to the drawing board.