Stop Toying With Emaus’ Playing Time

Small sample sizes kill — player development, that is.

Brad Emaus was supposed to be the man at second base for the New York Mets this year. At least that’s what any reasonable person could have anticipated after a Spring Training in which the team cut ties with Luis Castillo, sent Justin Turner to the minor leagues, and slapped the utility tag on Daniel Murphy. Emaus profiled well, as Joe Pawlikowski noted, comparing nicely to fellow former Rule 5 pick Dan Uggla. For every reason imaginable, it was easy to see why Emaus was the popular in-house candidate: a 25-year-old, cost-controlled player with potential seemed exactly what the Mets needed to get back on track.

But Emaus was removed as the everyday starter after only six games. And he’s started half of the last eight. It’s pretty easy to see why — he’s posted an anemic 162/.262/.162 in 42 PA — but is it the right decision, based on such a limited number of plate appearances?

Last week, I listed five specific keys that the Mets should follow if it wanted to rebuild properly and escape the realm of perpetual mediocrity. Perhaps my list should have included a sixth note: Don’t pull the plug on worthwhile experiments without giving the players legitimate opportunities to succeed.

Face it, the Mets aren’t going anywhere this season. Daniel Murphy isn’t the answer, even as a stop-gap option. If the Mets did the unthinkable and attempted to demote Emaus, the team would have to offer him back to the Blue Jays and have him clear waivers. There’s no way the Mets hold onto him under those circumstances.

The Mets committed to giving Emaus a legitimate chance to remain a starter when the team decided to keep him in the major leagues, manager Terry Collins said earlier (per David Lennon of Newsday). Collins also said that putting Emaus in and out of the lineup was not the appropriate way to determine his value. Duh. Hopefully, Collins’ statements are truly indicative of his plans. Otherwise, Emaus is being wasted.

The Mets seem to have fallen prey to a common problem: Teams decide to test out prospects, but then shift toward safer short-term options when the initial results disappoint. The Mets saw something in the spring to think that Emaus was worthy of a starting position, so 42 plate appearances shouldn’t change that plan. Given the team’s current state, what’s the risk of giving Emaus the playing time he needs to help him develop into a major leaguer? In the simplest terms, the Mets need players exactly like Emaus — low-cost, high-reward guys who can help the team avoid crippling contracts.

Due to the nature of the Rule 5 draft —  players have to make the opening day roster or else be offered back to their original team — selections who stick in the big leagues are generally given more leeway. But not all Rule V selections who make the opening-day roster are slated to start. Teams that do grant starting roles to Rule 5 selections need to be ready to punt that position in case the player doesn’t produce.

In Emaus’ case, making that determination requires consistent playing time. Whether the tool of choice is statistical evidence or scouting anecdotes, nobody can be sure of anything regarding Emaus’ talent level yet. The same could be said if he were tearing the cover off of the ball.

If Emaus ends his 300th PA with a .232/.311/.338 slash line or something similarly putrid, then the Mets should begin to reassess the situation by comparing the numbers to scouting reports. But not after six games. Not after twelve games. And not after a month. It’s  too easy to sacrifice potential long-term success for a win or two in the interim. The Mets need to resist that urge and bite the bullet.

Giving up on Emaus after two weeks is what the Minaya-led Mets would have done. It’s time for the organization to prove that it has moved past that point.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


54 Responses to “Stop Toying With Emaus’ Playing Time”

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  1. Heather says:

    The Mets have a cash flow problem and declining attendence. That means as much as they’d like to put all the young guys out there and see what they can do, and essentially punt the season, they have to win some games to keep some people coming to the ballpark.

    I’m sure they’d love to keep Emaus in there, even if he was struggling, if people would still show up to the ballpark, win or lose. But I’m sure the Mets feel like they need to show some level of competitiveness or risk alienating the few fans that still show up.

    I’m actually rather sympathetic to the Mets’ plight….and things are going to get even worse when they sell Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and whomever else will fetch a decent price at the trade deadline.

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    • Anon21 says:

      If demand for their putrid on-field product is low, they should lower their ticket prices. Those seats aren’t making them any money sitting vacant.

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      • Schu says:

        The ticket prices at Citi Field aren’t outrageous. I bought a pack of tickets for the season out in left field and they averaged $35 each. That’s not really all that much money for a nights entertainment in NYC.

        It’s the concession prices that rape the wallet.

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  2. NBarnes says:

    Every time I read a story like this, I remember how terrible Dustin Pedroia was at the major league level. At first….

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  3. Matt says:

    I know, I know, sample sizes and what not, but have you actually watched any of Emaus’ at bats? He looks completely lost up there. He can’t hit a major league fastball right now, much less breaking pitches. I want him to succeed as much as any Mets fan, but maybe he needs some extra work in BP or something, because right now he is not a major league ready hitter, no matter the sample size.

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  4. Matt says:

    Also Mr. Seidman, the link to your mets article is broken (one too many index.php in the hyperlink).

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      Link fixed, thanks. And yes, I’ve watched him play, and while I agree, it’s also very possible that in his next 50 PA he hits .330/.380/.520 and suddenly he “has his timing.” So the scouting anecdote is definitely noteworthy, but even for scouts you need more than 42 PA.

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      • Daniel Murphy says:

        “but even for scouts you need more than 42 PA”

        yeah he needs to get up to 59 pa. that was apparently enough pa in spring training to earn him the starting job.

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      • kranepool says:

        If Sandy Alderson makes his personel decsons based on what the fans want, then we will soon join them in the stands. If the Mets feel that Emaus should be given a chance then by all means stay the course with him give him 200PA and see what comes of it. Hate to break the news to my fellow Mets fans but we are not winning the NL Pennant this year

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  5. anthony says:

    What Heather said is right. Mets have to start winning and can’t continue to play guys hitting under .200. When Murphy came up a few years ago he started hot even being compared to a young Wade Boggs. I believe he played only one full season and hit around 260. Many Met fans I know remember that season being closer to 300. For some reason Met fans love Murphy.

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    • J.P. says:

      The problem is its not like they have anyone they can put at 2nd who they know is going to hit better. Luis Hernandez? Ruben Tejada? Justin Turner? Chin Lung Hu? It’s not like the other options are any better.

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    • Schu says:

      Because he showed he was the type of player we wanted the team to be full of: each at bat seemingly lasted 10 pitches per appearance and he walked! He was Castillo with pop (and he wasn’t Hispanic so the racists on WFAN, and writing for the Post loved him).

      The problem is, he’s not that player anymore. He hit that huge slump and was never the same player afterwards. He doesn’t walk, he doesn’t see as many pitches per appearance, and the power is definitely overrated. All he’s got left is his pasty white looks, his Dropkick Murphy’s intro song, and the reputation of a try hard.

      They should stick it out with Emaus. The season is trashed anyway.

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  6. reillocity says:

    Your argument would have some merit if Emaus were an elite prospect. But the truth of the matter is that he is merely a Rule V selection, so there’s little sense in getting bent out of shape as to whether he starts or doesn’t start. If the Mets like Emaus’ potential, their primary objective should be to keep him on the active roster (or disabled list) for the duration of the 2011 campaign (or at least for as long as they have the roster flexibility to do so). How many at-bats and innings in the field that Emaus accumulates in the interim will be dictated by his performance and is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Excluding irrational-thinking fantasy league owners of Emaus, no one should lose sleep over his playing time.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Right, because Rule 5 players are never great prospects. That Johan Santana guy — what a never-was.

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      • reillocity says:

        My point wasn’t that Rule V guys are worthless. Instead, unlike with the case of a prospect from your own system, you don’t have the luxury of getting them playing time anywhere but the bigs (unless you negotiate some sort of arrangement with the draftee’s former club). So if you like the guy, you pick and choose spots when you use him with the main objective of keeping him somewhere on the roster through the end of the season and beyond then you are free to send him to whichever level you feel is best for his development (or winter ball). Teams as a rule just don’t run rule V guys out there day after day (or start after start) to see if they are big league ready – Uggla’s probably the extreme exception of a rule V guy who was ready to be an everyday MLB player from the get go.

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    • John says:

      Definitely look up previous Rule V selections before saying something.

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  7. fjmanuel says:

    they’re also playing dan murphy in his stead, who has as much upside as emaus does, potentially.

    also, it’s fucking brad emaus.

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  8. acerimusdux says:

    Anyone who needs 300 PA to know Emaus sucks doesn’t belong anywhere near the decision making in an MLB front office. No he’s not as bad as he has looked, but his absolute peak, if everything goes right, is still not more than to one day be a decent platoon player, like a Tim Teufel.

    Yes, you need to have more than 300 PA to have anything approaching statistical proof. But that’s why stats usually play a much smaller role than scouting in making talent decisions on MLB prospects. The Blue Jays didn’t need even 1 MLB PA to decide that this guy didn’t belong on their 40 man roster; you seriously need 300 to know he doesn’t belong not only on the 25, but in the starting lineup?

    You can’t make good use of statistical analysis in baseball if you aren’t prepared to embrace the uncertainty that is inherent in it. The fact is, we are rarely able to say anything with stats with as much certainty as we would like to have. Statistical analysis is at its most powerful when used as a supplement to what else we already know.

    On that account, the common mantra of “regress to the mean” also isn’t quite right. The proper Bayesian approach is really to regress to the prior expectation.

    In this case, the prior expectation should have been that Emaus sucks. Even just looking at stats, he sucked in AA in 2009, then he sucked in AAA last season outside of a home park that was a strong hitters park. Even for his 364 PA sample in AAA last year which looks good on the surface, if you look at MLEs, his projected peak according to Baseball Prospectus is .239/.321/.376. In other words, the MLEs also say that he sucks. That’s before even taking into account the scouting, which says he lacks athleticism, doesn’t have the range for 2B, and doesn’t have the bat speed to hit much against MLB pitching. The only similarity with Dan Uggla is that both were rule 5 picks.

    Arbitrary tests of significance levels should never have anything at all to do with when you make a move like this. You make a move when you have a better option, all evidence (including scouting) considered. In this case, the Mets had at least 3 better options from day 1 (Dan Murphy, Justin Turner, and Willie Harris; and you could maybe even make an argument for Luis Castillo).

    If you want him to have 300 more PA to judge him, let him get those PA in AAA. PA at that level tell you nearly as much as PA at the MLB level. And, if you are that high on him, then trade another minor prospect for him; Toronto can’t put too high a value on a guy they weren’t willing to protect from rule 5.

    There is a reason it’s fairly rare for a rule 5 pick to stick on an MLB roster for the season. It’s just not worth wasting MLB roster spots on low upside low probability experiments like Emaus. If you want to evaluate guys like this, that’s what the minor leagues are for.

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    • His name is Brad Emaus says:

      “If you want him to have 300 more PA to judge him, let him get those PA in AAA. PA at that level tell you nearly as much as PA at the MLB level.”

      LOL, yet you want to discount his entire AAA performance from 2010 because the MLEs don’t look so hot.

      Tell you what, check out the MLEs for Uggla and Pedroia based on their respective last year in the minors, and compare them to Emaus’. Hint: Emaus stacks up pretty damn well.

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  9. mattr84 says:

    To be fair, 4 out of the last 5 games were part of a doubleheader so he has played full games in the last three days the Mets have played baseball.

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  10. manuscript says:

    Much as I’d love to contribute to this gripefest (it’s like I’m really at a Mets game! ), something interesting occurred to me while.reading this piece. Which current major leaguers have stuck as rule 5 picks? And are there many players who’ve been returned to their original team only to make it later?

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  11. Dan says:

    I’m not sure I understand the fascination you Fangraphs writers have with Emaus. I know he had the super-sized OBP at the minor league level, but as Mets bloggers have noted (here: http://www.metsminorleagueblog.com/is-brad-emaus-a-vegas-mirage/) that came at the Las Vegas stadium which is an extreme hitters park. As Toby Hyde, the blogger, points out, Emaus’s line away from that park was 259/.383/.386. That is still some promising on base skills, but that’s a AA line. I’m all for them giving him a shot, but I don’t see a huge difference between playing him and Dan Murphy. Murphy has shown he can hit well enough to be an OK major league 2B if he can produce some decent defense. Giving them both playing time to see who emerges seems like a reasonable strategy.

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  12. Mike Bravard says:

    I like the idea of getting Murphy some playing time. He is just as likely to blossom as Emaus. Isn’t he?
    One of my pet peeves (I have a lot of them) is this idea that players’ knowing their roles is of some intrinsic value. If that were so, how did Casey Stengel win 5 titles in a row when his players never knew what a role was much less what their’s was?

    Does a guy (Betancourt in COLO for example) with bad splits benefit from pitching every 8th inning when his team is ahead? I think not.

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    • fredsbank says:

      it probably had nothing to do with the fact the guys casey stengel were running out there were whitey ford, mickey mantle, yogi berra, roger maris, and co…

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    • fredsbank says:

      also, betancourt has no ‘bad splits,’ he’s pretty much the same guy in every situation…

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  13. John says:

    My biggest gripe about the whole Emaus situation is that the only reason he was selected was because he was a JP Ricciardi guy, who is a Sandy Alderson guy. Get on Omar all you want for bringing in “his” guys – and yes, you can debate about the costs and age and risks and what have you – but Sandy and Co have done just that – Young, Hairston, Emaus, etc. It is understandable, bc you bring in players you know. The reality was, however, that Emaus and Turner’s lines in the minors last year were pretty similar, the only thing Emaus has is OBP. Granted, stat-heads will argue that OBP is more easily translateable to ML performance, bc “you can’t teach patience” or whatever it is they say. If Sandy and co were really concerned about things like OBP then Luis Castillo would still be here, who even in his decrepit old age would be playing defense better than Emaus and probably hitting at least slightly better. BUT they just want to bring in their guys. Even Collins didn’t want to give Emaus the starting job, which is probably why he was so quick to pull the trigger on the experiment. But Emaus is Alderson’s guy, like it or not, and even though there were 3 at least similar (or better) options already available, they brought Emaus here anyway.

    What I don’t understand is why any writers would care about Emaus playing time anyway. The guy had 1 good, park-aided minor league season. Whoever is holding onto 2b this year is just a place holder. Reese Havens is the future 2b of the mets. Not Murphy, not Emaus. This season is about biding time and building trade value for EVERYONE on the roster, and with that respect, then yes, Emaus should get playing time in the hopes of duping some other GM to take him off our hands. That’s what I am hoping for my NL only fantasy team anyway

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  14. Dave G says:

    Emaus also had a fine year in ’08 in the minors in high A, but no one seems to mention that. And in his three previous Major League Spring trainings (over 100 ABs combined) he OPS’d well over .900. It’s spring training, but you do face major league pitching there. I agree he needs about 150 to 200 ABs. He does look overmatched, but he’s also facing some excellent pitching thus far with the Phils and Braves on the schedule. If he’s OPSing under .700 into late June, then yes, start to look elsewhere, since Turner or even Josh Satin could provide that production from the minors. But give him a legit chance, it can take time for a rookie to find his way in the majors. Not everyone comes out of the gate on fire.

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  15. Dustin Pedroia says:

    After 33 PAs, my OPS was .308. That is my OPS, not my batting average.
    After 41 PAs, my OPS was .247. Yes, that’s still my OPS.
    By 98 PAs, I had my OPS all the way up to .561!

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  16. Ryan says:

    Obviously sample size is incredibly small, but FWIW Emaus appears to be a bit unlucky – he’s hit four line drives but none for hits. League BA on line drives is .743, so if you grant him the league average of three hits out of his four line drives it raises his BA to a slightly better .243 and OBP to .333. (Quick and dirty math, could be wrong). Still nothing super-special, but better than his current line.

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  17. Joe D says:

    Meh, I don’t expect the kid to turn into much.

    My problem is with the process more than the results, and I think the author would agree.

    You can use your entire offseason and Spring Training to decide Emaus is the guy. Or Hu is the guy. Or Turner, or Murphy, or Castillo. Or a platoon, or trifecta, or whatever. At this point you are working with mountains of evidence — major league performances, minor league performances, scouting reports, spring training numbers from the current season and previous seasons etc etc.

    So based on all that good stuff, you make a decision.

    Then, based on 25 plate appearances, you decide you were wrong in the first place. Is that not asinine?

    Same deal with Scoscia and the Walden/Rodney situation. With the mountains of evidence he had available, he decided Rodney was his closer after months and months of thought. Then, two innings later, he sees enough evidence to change his mind. Cool on him that he got the right answer…but the faulty process being employed is beyond embarrassing.

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  18. Dan says:

    I agree that small samples sizes should not spook a manager off of a decision they have made but in this case you are making the assumption that they made the decision that Emaus was the guy to start 2B full time and then freaked out and changed their minds. I follow the Mets pretty closely, read multiple pro and fan blogs each day and I can’t recall the management ever really fully endorsing the guy. I think they had three 2B of about the same potential and they sent the guy with options to AAA, put the guy who could play multiple positions on the bench and put Emaus at 2B. Smart move, but it was hardly the same as handing him the position and promising him 600 plate appearances.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I think this is the key point. They didn’t decide that he’s their absolute best option, far and away better than the rest, and then panic after a couple weeks. They viewed him as a mediocre option that might pan out but might not – and the reason they gave him the job is because he couldn’t be sent to the minors, nor could he be a utility player. In the last couple weeks, he’s shown no ability to hit major league pitching. He looks terrible at the plate – and has no defensive value. They gave it a shot, and he hasn’t come through. I just read that he was designated for assignment so it looks like they’re ready to move on.

      He’s not a potential star that’s starting off slow. He’s a potential average player who is showing no ability to hit.

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  19. CaseyB says:

    I guess it’s possible Emaus could eventually break out … but it sure doesn’t seem likely. It’s not just that he isn’t hitting, but he looks awful at the plate — so overmatched. His fielding has been spotty as well, with a few clear failures, one of which cost the Mets a game. It seems he hasn’t hit the ball hard once all year, with everything being hit softly into the infield. He’s been worse than Castillo.

    I think Daniel Murphy right now would give you more. Is it worth it to wait out Emaus? Not if you don’t think he can be a long-term productive solution at second base. And I just can’t see him being one. After this year, perhaps Tejada or Havens would be better options at second, or they’ll need to look outside the organization. But right now Emaus is killing them. They should give Murphy and Turner a chance. At most, give Emaus till the end of April. But if he doesn’t start hitting and fielding better, then give someone else a chance.

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  20. Sean says:

    The Dustin Pedroia comparisons are beyond bogus. Laser Show was three years younger and had a much better pedigree (take that for whatever it’s worth). I get that DP and Emaus are both scrappy, short second basemen, but I don’t see much more in common beyond that.

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    • His name is Brad Emaus says:

      Incorrect. Emaus started off this season having just turned 25. Pedroia hit .258 .303 .561 in a 2006 cup of coffee. Then entered 2007 as the Red Sox regular 2B anyway, at age 23.6. That’s a difference of 1.4 years, not three.

      Pedroia’s MLEs based on his AAA line: 682 OPS
      Emaus’ MLEs based on his AAA line: 690 OPS

      S’ok. By the end of this season, it’s going to be very nice having yet another thing to point and laugh at the Mets about.

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      • Sean says:

        The previous comments were referring to the cup of coffee season (See “Dustin Pedroia” and “NBarnes”) so that’s where I started the comparison. If you want to say that 2.4 years is closer to 2 than 3, ok. I went by Baseball Reference’s season by age, which I think use June 30/July 1 as a cut-off date.

        I hope Emaus turns into a perennial all-star and MVP candidate like Pedroia. It’s fun to root for guys like that. I’m just saying that not every 2B “prospect” with an MLE in the 690’s is going to turn into Dustin Pedroia. My guess is that most AAA second basemen with those MLEs are far more likely to be the next Anderson Hernandez than Dustin Pedroia.

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  21. Sean says:

    Also, I get that you’re a Phillies fan, but how have the Mets suffered from “perpetual mediocrity” unless perpetual means “from 2009 until now.”

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    • Matt says:

      To Phillies fans the earth began in 2007. They don’t remember that they have the most losses in MLB history.

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      • B says:

        herp derp, here’s a lesson on the Mets perpetual mediocrity.

        3,739 wins
        4,075 losses
        .479 win %

        5 total division titles (3 since 1973)
        2 world series titles (1 since 1969)

        The only thing the Mets really have on the Phillies org is they weren’t around since the 1890’s. If the played 19,500 games as well they’d be the only other team in baseball history with 10,000 losses.

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  22. Matt says:

    Well, Emaus is officially on Rule V waivers. If I was Alderson (and I’m certainly not), I would have first sent a feeler out to Toronto about what it would cost to keep him. Any type of analysis can show that he’s not getting good at bats right now, but it is probably worth it to keep him in the organization to see if he settles down soon. Of course, the Jays have their own 2B issues with Aaron “Fluky Babip” Hill, so maybe they want the depth, too. Short answer: The Emaus experiment was rapidly failing and costing the team wins. The final answer: He should still be given a chance to turn it around, just not on the major league roster.

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    • Dave G says:

      Emaus was not “costing them wins.” The Mets starting pitchers having an ERA over 6 has been costing them wins.

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  23. MikeH says:

    Daniel Murphy is more effective batting with a wet piece of spaghetti than Emaus is with a nice hunk of maple.

    Emaus had a good eye, but that doesn’t warrant a big league starting gig.

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    • Trotter76 says:

      “hunk of maple” **sigh**

      Are we running out of ash trees? Isn’t having one major leaguer (Colvin) stabbed in the chest by a jagged chunk of maple bat lesson enough?

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  24. MC says:

    Wow, this is disappointing, if for no other reason than it potentially shows the Mets’ unwillingness to take risks on young players.

    So far the debate has been about whether Emaus will or will not project into a good player. That’s a bit of red herring – I don’t think anyone knows right now, including Alderson et al, what kind of player Emaus will be – without giving him some at bats to prove himself in the majors.

    I don’t see what the Mets had to gain by making this move – Murphy is not substantially better – and they’ve already lost some depth because of this. Unless they did this because they’re desperate to bring in another relief pitcher?

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that the rebuilding must start ASAP.

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  25. Johnny "The Gout Man" says:

    NOOOOBOOOODDYY CAAAARRREEESSSS!!!!

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