Archive for Mets

Lenny Dykstra Was Indicted Again

Art imitates life, and vice versa. I wouldn’t presume to call the words I scribble on these electronic pages “art” — and yet they, too, seem to imitate life. You see, way back in February, back before 26 of baseball’s 30 teams had been eliminated and hope still sprang eternal, I wrote about former Mets and Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra and his fantastic claims of extorting umpires. Dykstra, it should be noted, took a surprising amount of pleasure in what was, if true, undoubtedly an illegal exercise.

Now, on the topic of the former illegal exercise, one finds the following recent reprot:

To be fair, this isn’t Dykstra’s first run-in with the criminal justice system.

Since retiring from baseball, Dykstra has served prison time for bankruptcy fraud, grand theft auto and money laundering, and he declared bankruptcy in 2009, claiming he owed more than $31 million and had only $50,000 in assets.

Cocaine and methamphetamine charges don’t represent new territory for an ex-ballplayer: Esteban Loaiza pled guilty to the same this past August. A so-called “terroristic threat” would appear to be something altogether different, though.

Under Section 2706(a) of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania State Code, the crime of “terroristic threats” is defined thusly:

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Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger on Developing Their Sliders

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger — on how they learned and developed their sliders.

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Seth Lugo, Mets

“I’ve pretty much developed my pitches through repetition, especially my breaking pitches. My sinker, as well. I didn’t have them coming out of high school. I didn’t learn my sinker until Low-A. All of my pitches really came after that season.

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Elegy for ’18 – New York Mets

The Mets had expectations coming into the season, but they whiffed on most of them.
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

Some fanbases regard themselves as the best in baseball. Others pride themselves on their ability to hate anything, including Santa Claus. Still others are just a group of eight people cowering in the shadows of a creaky, nightmare-inducing home-run feature. But no fanbase does self-immolation like Mets fans, whose experience is one mostly of mind-numbing frustration peppered by only the occasional highlight.

That staring-into-middle-distance sadness is, of course, justified given the team’s history — and, more relevant to this post, the ups and downs and ups of 2018.

The Setup

New York’s 70-92 record in 2017, during which almost everything went wrong, was bleak enough to obscure the club’s recent success, including a World Series appearance in 2015 and return to playoffs in 2016.

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Jacob deGrom for NL MVP

Before we get going, allow me to say four things:

  1. This is not the official FanGraphs position. FanGraphs doesn’t have an official position on any awards. This is a company of a bunch of different writers, and any bunch of writers will possess a bunch of different opinions. These are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone.
  2. My vote this year is for the AL Cy Young. I do not have a vote for the NL MVP. If I did have a vote for the NL MVP, I wouldn’t be allowed to write this right now! As far as this race is concerned, I’m an outside observer.
  3. Reasonable people can conclude that Jacob deGrom shouldn’t be the NL MVP. In such an event, I imagine the support would go to Christian Yelich. Yelich has been amazing, especially of late. Every number has error bars, and Yelich has an argument. This case isn’t open and shut.
  4. You’ve probably read much of my argument before, written by different people in different places. This is the “best player” argument. It’s the Mike Trout argument. I’m just going to make the argument with different words.

So we can get into it, then. Last week, I wasn’t sure who I supported. I’ve never voted for the league MVP, so I’ve never given it all that much thought. But now I’ve come around, and I can say that, if I had a vote for the NL MVP, my first-place choice would be Jacob deGrom. My second-place choice would be Christian Yelich. deGrom, of course, is done for the year, because the Mets were bad. Yelich’s Brewers are playing literally right now, and for all I know, he’ll provide the winning hit that sends the Brewers straight to the NLDS. For so many voters, that’s likely to be a factor. Perhaps that’s likely to be the factor. I don’t believe that it should be. I believe that deGrom made a winning case.

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Ryan Borucki, Jacob deGrom, and Yefry Ramirez on Developing Their Changeups

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Ryan Borucki, and Jacob deGrom, and Yefry Ramirez — on how they learned and developed their changeups.

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Ryan Borucki, Blue Jays

“When I was 12, I hurt my arm. I had ‘Little League elbow’ from throwing too many curveballs at a young age. Because my elbow didn’t feel so good, my dad canned my curveball. He was like, ‘Alright. You’re just going to throw a fastball and a changeup.’

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The Manager’s Perspective: Mickey Callaway on His First Year in the Big Apple

Mickey Callaway’s first season as a manager hasn’t gone as planned. The Mets team he was hired to lead was expected to contend in the National League East, and that didn’t happen. Things looked rosy after a 11-1 start, but five months later, the Metropolitans are limping to the finish line, currently at 11 games under .500. All in all, Citi Field hasn’t been a happy place this season.

Callaway came to Queens from Cleveland, where he served as a pitching coach for a club whose culture has helped cultivate multiple playoff appearances in recent seasons. Led by a strong front office and manager Terry Francona, the Indians have been, in many ways, a model franchise. Conversely, the Mets had devolved into what could reasonably be called a dysfunctional one.

The 43-year-old Callaway wasn’t about to change that on his own, certainly not overnight. But he is expected to help move the Mets in the right direction, and he feels that’s begun to happen. Despite the disappointing season, he believes that progress is being made.

The same can be said for his growth as a manager. Callaway acknowledges that there has been a steep learning curve. Moreover — and this is to his credit — he also admits there are a few things he should have done differently over the course of the summer. His job is by no means an easy one. Not only is he the rookie manager of a team in transition, he’s at the helm of a team that plays in The Big Apple.

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Mickey Callaway: “As a first-year manager, you come into the job with an idea of who you want to be and what you value. As you get into it, that quickly becomes, ‘OK, those were the things I thought about; now I have to implement them.’ The challenge is to continue to believe in all of those things. You have to make sure you stay in a good spot with the way you communicate, and the way you react to situations, both good and bad.

“All of these things you learn or get educated about from other managers… information is just information until you have to utilize it in your own experiences. Sticking true to certain things can be difficult. I’ve tried to do the best I can at being myself and believing in, and implementing, the things I’ve learned.

“I’ve tried to [bring aspects of Cleveland Indians culture], and not just because of Tito and the Indians. It’s because it’s what I believe is right. I’ve learned in different cultures. I’ve taken things from Buck Showalter, from Mike Scioscia, from Buddy Black, from Joe Maddon. Obviously Tito. All of those guys. They were always prepared and very thoughtful in everything they did. It makes sense to bring some of that over here.

“You learn pretty quickly that New York is a different animal. For a lot of reasons. You have to adapt some of the thinking you had when you were with a smaller-market team. You have to make sure you understand that this is a different situation, and you might have to implement things differently. The ideals can stay the same, but the implementation of things you want to do probably has to be a little different.

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Jacob deGrom and the MVP Precedent

Historically speaking, pitchers don’t win MVP awards — or don’t win them often, at least. There are exceptions to the rule, but the honor historically has been reserved for a league’s top position player. The logic among voters generally follows a couple recognizable lines of reasoning. Pitchers don’t play every day, some voters argue. They have the Cy Young all to themselves, say others. Whatever the justification, the record reveals a preference for position players over pitchers. Consider: since reliever Dennis Eckersley won the American League MVP in 1992, only Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander have been recognized as their respective league’s most valuable player.

It’s possible that some voters aren’t using entirely sound logic to arrive at their conclusions. Even if they’re employing the wrong process, however, they’re still usually arriving at the correct result: pitchers simply aren’t the best players in their leagues all that often. Position players make an impact at the plate and on defense. They just have more opportunities to create value. Their roles give them a competitive advantage.

Or, they usually provide a competitive advantage. This season, however, that hasn’t been the case. This season, the best player in the National League is likely a pitcher. While a lot of obstacles stand between Jacob deGrom and an MVP award, he deserves consideration — and there’s a really good argument he deserves to win.

Before we get to the more compelling arguments in favor of deGrom’s MVP candidacy, it makes sense to entertain the less compelling ones, too. First among them is the Mets, who have been poor this year. While voters are explicitly told that the MVP needn’t come from a playoff team, voters have typically evaluated a player’s performance in the context of his team’s performance, the logic presumably being that the player in question has been an asset in the most important situations. While the Mets are heading for a high draft pick now, it would be unfair to say that deGrom hasn’t been pitching in meaningful games. Thanks to their strong start, the Mets’ postseason hopes were remained alive into mid-June. Even if you wanted to assess deGrom some sort of penalty for playing for a bad team — let’s say you discount his second-half WAR by 50% — he would still lead the National League by that measure. It’s also worth noting that deGrom leads all National League pitchers in win probability added. In the games he’s pitched, in other words, he has been incredibly helpful to the cause of potentially winning a game, even if the end result has been disappointing.

Ultimately, there will be voters who are dogmatic in their views on which players are eligible for the MVP award. To those who contend, for example, that pitchers oughtn’t win it or that it should go to a member of a playoff team, I have little to say other than the rules and ballot history suggest otherwise. For those who are prepared to entertain the possibility of such a thing, however, then Jacob deGrom has a really good case.

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Jerry Blevins, Taylor Guerrieri, and Lance McCullers Jr. on Developing Their Curveballs

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Jerry Blevins, Taylor Guerrieri, and Lance McCullers Jr. — on how they learned and/or developed their curveballs.

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Jerry Blevins, Mets

“The story starts as a kid. You start learning about curveballs, and the reason mine is big and slow is because I wanted to visualize it. A lot of those smaller breaking balls you don’t really see from the perspective of a pitcher. I wanted to see the big break. That’s why mine is how it is.

“Did anyone ever try to change that? All the time. Every step of the way, coming through the minor leagues. Even in high school and little league. They were always telling me, ‘Look, you need something tighter.’ I always fought against that, and I think it’s done me well.

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David Wright to Retire

New York Mets third baseman David Wright announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 2018 season, at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. Wright’s been trying to mount a comeback for a few years now, following a 2015 diagnosis of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on the nerves. The condition is degenerative and, in the four seasons since the start of that 2015 campaign, Wright has managed to appear in only 75 games with the Mets. He was hoping to make one last attempt to resume his career, working with the St. Lucie Mets for most of August before a couple of tuneup games with Triple-A Las Vegas, but that time in the minors appears merely to have confirmed the challenges that a major-league role would have presented to him.

Finishing off my 30s gave me a perspective on chronic injuries that I didn’t have 20 years ago. I am decidedly not a professional athlete. That said, I’ve observed as my own random aches and pains have multiplied over the last decade. I assume that, for a professional athlete — with much higher physical standards to maintain and much more day-to-day activity than a doughy sportswriter — it’s much worse. There are those who will say, “Don’t worry. He has a $100 million. He’ll be OK!” Certainly that was one view of Prince Fielder’s own premature retirement. (That was another tear-jerker of a press conference.) And, in one sense, it’s not incorrect: David Wright is free from worrying about the day-to-day costs of living. But he’s also someone who’s entire adult life has been dedicated to a particular endeavor (baseball) and who’s now forced to contend with the fact that his ability to participate in that endeavor has been cut short by five or so years. Hearing Wright say that “physically, the way I feel right now and everything the doctors have told me, there’s not going to be any improvement” was tough to watch for any fan of Wright or any fan of baseball.

Wright’s major-league career isn’t quite over, though: the Mets will activate him to start at third base on September 29th against the Marlins. I like when teams have the ability to do this kind of thing, and I was personally disappointed when the Yankees didn’t play A-Rod at shortstop for the final inning of his career. And playing one last game seems a lot more satisfying than signing a one-day contract, as players sometimes do with clubs that have had particular relevance to their careers.

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Jeff McNeil and Rewarding Boldness

This has been an exciting year for rookie performances. Juan Soto has looked like the best teenage hitter in history, Ronald Acuna has helped lead the Braves to a (surprising) lead in the NL East, and Shohei Ohtani has short-circuited our understanding of player value with his two-way achievements. Rookies have always been a key component to baseball’s excitement, and this year’s crop is no exception.

Now, quick: what player leads rookies in second-half WAR? If you guessed Acuna, congrats! Acuna has caught fire, putting up a 190 wRC+ and 3.4 WAR since the break — second-best in baseball behind Matt Chapman’s 3.7 mark during that timeframe.

Let’s continue, though. Who’s second amongst rookies since the break? Soto? Sorry, no. Ohtani? Nope, not even after accounting for his contributions on all sides of the ball. It’s not the workman-like Brian Anderson, nor is it defensive wizard Harrison Bader. No, second among rookies in WAR during the second half is New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil. For some, perhaps that makes sense. For many, though, the likely response is, “Who?”

That’s understandable. Unless you’ve watched a Mets game since July 24th — and let’s be honest, why would you if you lived outside the New York MSA? — you’ve probably not heard of McNeil. Even if you were a prospect hound, McNeil could have evaded your eye. He didn’t appear on prospect lists for the Mets here at FanGraphs, at Minor League Ball, or Baseball Prospectus. At FanGraphs, only the enigmatic Carson Cistulli mentioned McNeil in an early July edition of the Fringe Five.*

*Since this article came out, it has come to my attention that several articles focused on or mentioning Jeff McNeil have been written by several authors. Among them include the Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Prospectus Mets prospect writers Jarrett Seidler (May 2018), Jeff Paternostro, and Alex Rosen (May 2018). Jeff’s coverage of McNeil in particular goes back as far as McNeil’s second season in 2014. This oversight was completely accidental on my part and not meant to disregard or disparage their work or the work of anyone else who has written about McNeil in the past

For a Mets fanbase that has observed the front office regularly block prospects in favor of flawed veterans — at least they finally freed outfielder Brandon Nimmo — it has to be mildly gratifying to see a young player getting reps in the waning days of the season. McNeil is not only second in WAR amongst rookies in the second half, he is 13th among all hitters by the measure.

Given McNeil’s lack of obvious tools, there’s still reason to doubt that he can put together a substantive major-league career, let alone sustain the pace he’s established since July. Despite these concerns, however, it’s encouraging that the Mets have continued to give McNeil — and Amed Rosario and Nimmo — sufficient playing time to earn a place on the big-league club.

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There’s Definitely Something Strange About Citi Field

The other day, I was reading something written by Tom Verducci over at Sports Illustrated. Verducci was ultimately making an argument about Jacob deGrom and his Cy Young candidacy, but on the way there, he talked about what’s apparently been dubbed the Mystery of Flushing. The mystery concerns why the Mets can’t hit at home. More specifically, it’s about why the Mets’ team BABIP consistently suffers at home. Citi Field has been modified multiple times, but it was modified most dramatically before the 2012 regular season. Since 2012, the Mets rank last in the majors in runs scored at home. They rank seventh in runs scored on the road. And, since 2012, the Mets rank last in the majors in BABIP at home. They rank third in BABIP on the road. There’s an existing BABIP gap of 30 points. This is spanning the better part of a decade. That’s big, and that’s weird. It’s worthy of some kind of investigation.

Verducci’s article, to be clear, was missing something. He analyzed the Mets’ hitters, but he didn’t analyze the Mets’ pitchers. Since 2012, they’ve allowed the eighth-fewest runs at home. They’re in 17th in runs allowed on the road. And, since 2012, they’re 12th in BABIP allowed at home. They’re 28th in BABIP allowed on the road. Run scoring in general is harder at Citi Field. Turning batted balls into hits in general is harder at Citi Field. Mets hitters are hurt, and Mets pitchers get to benefit. But a question remains: why? Why is Citi Field so strange?

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Defense, Contact Quality, and the NL Cy Young

This year’s National League Cy Young race invites multiple interesting questions about how best to evaluate pitching performance. Jacob deGrom, for example, is the league’s leader in ERA by a healthy amount; however, he’s also recorded only as many wins as reliever Jeremy Jeffress. Max Scherzer is having another great season, but his .255 BABIP compels one to consider whether his 2.31 ERA is the product of luck or defense (although the Nationals have recorded below-average defensive numbers both by UZR and DRS). Aaron Nola, meanwhile, has recorded a similarly low BABIP even as Philadelphia has produced NL-worst figures both by UZR and DRS. Finally, while the race has been viewed as a three-person contest for some time, it’s also possible Patrick Corbin has inserted himself into the conversation with a fantastic second half.

Sorting through the candidates is difficult. Ultimately, one’s choice for Cy Young will depend on how one weighs what a pitcher can and cannot control — and how best to quantify those effects. To start, here are some general metrics that should be familiar to FanGraphs readers.

National League Cy Young Contenders
Metric Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Aaron Nola Patrick Corbin
IP 202.2 188 188.2 179.2
K% 34.4% 31.3% 26.6% 31.3%
BB% 5.8% 5.7% 6.8% 5.9%
HR/9 0.93 0.43 0.62 0.65
BABIP .255 .290 .251 .293
ERA 2.31 1.68 2.29 3.01
FIP 2.66 2.08 2.86 2.38
WAR 6.7 7.3 5.4 6.0
Blue=Leader
Orange=2nd Place

Based on these numbers, Jacob deGrom is the pretty clear favorite for Cy honors, with Max Scherzer an equally clear runner-up. What’s less clear, however, is that the results of a vote would produce a similar outcome, as both pitcher wins and other versions of WAR are likely to influence writers — and arrive at different conclusions than the figures here. Below, I’ve included some different versions of WAR, each of which paint the field in a different light.

National League Cy Young Race and WAR
Metric Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Aaron Nola Patrick Corbin
WAR 6.7 7.3 5.4 6.0
RA9/WAR 7.6 7.9 7.3 5.7
BRef 8.7 8.1 9.4 4.4
BPro 7.2 6.6 6.1 5.5
Blue=Leader
Orange=2nd Place

Here we see a version of reality that suggests greater parity in the race. Averaging the numbers above, we’d still put deGrom first, Scherzer second, and Nola third, but Scherzer actually places ahead of deGrom in two of the four metrics, while Nola and Scherzer are more closely situated. Examining how each of WAR metrics arrives at its destination can help inform how to use them. Last week, Eno Sarris took a look at some of these same issues in a discussion of how large a role luck ought to play in Cy Young voting. There is also the question of what defines “luck” in the context of pitching, what sort of control a pitcher exerts over certain outcomes, and what role a a pitcher’s park ought to play in our evaluations of him.

The metrics above all feature different inputs which, naturally, lead to different results. In the version of WAR used at FanGraphs, those inputs are innings, strikeouts, infield flies, walks, and home runs — along with factors for league and park. DeGrom leads by this particular measure because his strikeout, walk, and homer numbers are all great. Scherzer has good walk and strikeout numbers but a closer-to-average home-run rate. Nola features slightly inferior (although still excellent) strikeout and walk numbers — plus a good home-run rate — but he falls behind Corbin, who has good numbers in all three.

The next metric, RA9, is another version of WAR carried at FanGraphs — one which, in this case, simply considers the number of runs a pitcher allows while also factoring for league and park. That’s how Nola, with the very good ERA, jumps up near Scherzer, though still short of deGrom. RA9 includes runs that were scored or not scored due to defense and sequencing, but does not try to make any adjustments for those factors.

Baseball-Reference begins with something like FanGraphs’ RA9 calculation but makes further adjustments for opponent and team defense, which is a significant factor in this year’s race. Nola tops the Baseball-Reference WAR leaderboard because of how well he’s prevented runs despite Philadelphia’s poor defense. Generally the effects of these defensive adjustments are muted, but because Nola appears to be headed for one of the 10 best bWAR seasons of the last 50 years, this case invites some scrutiny. Patrick Corbin suffers from the opposite scenario: Arizona has recorded strong defensive numbers, meaning he receives a “penalty” of sorts for his contribution to run-prevention.

Here are the overall team defense numbers by DRS, which Baseball-Reference uses, and UZR, which is included in WAR for position players but not pitchers here at FanGraphs.

NL Cy Young Race and Team Defense
Metric Max Scherzer Jacob deGrom Aaron Nola Patrick Corbin
UZR -13.2 -27.1 -38.2 14.8
DRS -50 -79 -113 105

There is obviously a much larger spread with the DRS figures, as defensive adjustments alone mean a difference of 24 runs between Nola and Corbin, which is about four times as much as the difference by UZR.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, their Deserved Run Average (DRA) metric accounts for as many aspects of a pitcher’s game as possible and attempts to factor for everything including park, opponent, catcher, umpire, and pitch effectiveness to determine how many runs a pitcher should have allowed with all those variables rendered neutral. By their methods, Scherzer leads over deGrom, with Nola and Corbin a ways behind.

There’s certainly an argument to be made for considering the strength of a defense behind a pitcher, and reason dictates that a defense can help or hurt a pitcher’s run-prevention numbers. Defense alone, however, isn’t going to fully explain the difference between a pitcher’s FIP and ERA. Luck is involved, as well. We can use Statcast information to determine just how much defense and luck might be involved, though it won’t do a good job separating those two factors. For starters, here are the xwOBA and wOBA figures for each of the pitchers above.

NL Cy Young Race, Defense, and Luck
Name wOBA xWOBA Difference
Max Scherzer .245 .256 -.011
Jacob deGrom .240 .257 -.017
Aaron Nola .247 .266 -.019
Patrick Corbin .256 .289 -.033
League .312 .322 -.010

In terms of what a pitcher has deserved to concede based on quality of contact, strikeouts, and walks, Scherzer has gotten just about what we might expect, while deGrom and Nola aren’t far off expectations. Corbin is the outlier here, and there is a case to be made that Arizona’s defense is partially responsible for his good fortune. What’s interesting, though, is that Corbin’s ERA is actually much higher than his FIP. This could mean that Corbin has been rather fortunate this year on home runs or that the contact he’s conceded on balls in play has been of higher quality than the sort conceded by other pitchers.

We can remove the most skill-based aspects from above by taking out strikeouts and walks and looking at xwOBA on just batted balls.

NL Cy Young and xwOBA on Contact
Name wOBA on Contact xwOBA on Contact Difference
Max Scherzer .340 .357 -.017
Jacob deGrom .317 .345 -.028
Aaron Nola .296 .325 -.029
Patrick Corbin .343 .397 -.054
League .364 .379 -.015
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Here we see almost no effect on Scherzer’s outcomes, with a slight benefit for deGrom and Nola, and then a big help for Corbin. You’ll note that the league-wide numbers are off by 15 points from each other, likely due to a potentially dead baseball, as the estimates on launch angle and exit velocity are based on previous seasons, when the ball was perhaps a bit more lively. As we are looking at numbers between pitchers in this season alone, the comparisons still provide value. What happens when we remove home runs and look solely at batted balls? See below.

NL Cy Young and xwOBA on Balls in Play
Name wOBA on BIP xwOBA on BIP Difference
Max Scherzer .256 .310 -.054
Jacob deGrom .287 .325 -.038
Aaron Nola .251 .296 -.045
Patrick Corbin .292 .361 -.069
League .293 .334 -.041
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

In theory, these numbers factor in both defense and luck on batted balls this season. As we can see, it appears that, whatever poor defense has victimized Nola has likely been evened out by good fortune. The same is true for deGrom. Scherzer, meanwhile, appears to have received a slight benefit, with Corbin being the recipient of some good defense in Arizona. This probably doesn’t leave the reader with any definite conclusions. We have a better idea about the quality of contact and how defense might have affected run totals — which is to say not much — but the extent to which a pitcher exerts control over that contact is also a matter of debate.

If you believe that a pitcher controls very little of opponent contact — or, alternatively, are unsure of the level of control — the version of WAR hosted here at FanGraphs is your main resource. If you believe that a pitcher is wholly responsible for the quality of contact he concedes and also that defensive quality doesn’t move the needle much in one direction or another, RA9/WAR makes some sense for you. If you believe further adjustment needs to be made for defense, bWAR can provide some help. If you want a more granular look at individual pitches, DRA provides guidance. If you just want something based entirely on xwOBA, a crude attempt is made below.

While the question of value is somewhat objective, there is some subjectivity involved, but if making a decision on the Cy Young, it’s important to have as much information as possible to determine why one pitcher might be better than the other. It isn’t enough to simply prefer one stat over another and blindly rely on it because you generally agree with the methodology. Look at how the results are reached to make the best possible decision.

*****

As promised in the final paragraph above, here’s a rough approximation of WAR based on xwOBA:

NL WAR Based on xwOBA
Name IP xwoba xWAR
Max Scherzer 202.2 .256 7.1
Jacob deGrom 188.0 .257 6.5
Aaron Nola 188.2 .266 6.0
Patrick Corbin 179.2 .289 4.4
Zack Wheeler 167.1 .293 3.9
Clayton Kershaw 137.1 .277 3.9
German Marquez 164.1 .294 3.8
Noah Syndergaard 128.1 .277 3.8
Mike Foltynewicz 157.0 .291 3.8
Ross Stripling 110.1 .262 3.7
Jack Flaherty 132.1 .280 3.7
Jameson Taillon 164.0 .299 3.5
Miles Mikolas 173.2 .304 3.4
Tyler Anderson 153.2 .302 3.2
Alex Wood 144.1 .299 3.1
Walker Buehler 110.2 .279 3.1
Kyle Freeland 176.1 .312 3.0
Nick Pivetta 145.0 .304 2.9
Jon Gray 157.1 .309 2.9
Anibal Sanchez 113.2 .288 2.8
Kyle Hendricks 169.2 .313 2.8
Vince Velasquez 134.0 .302 2.8
Sean Newcomb 149.1 .314 2.4
Wei-Yin Chen 118.1 .305 2.3
Zack Greinke 181.1 .324 2.3
Kenta Maeda 117.0 .306 2.3
Zach Eflin 114.0 .306 2.2
Steven Matz 133.2 .314 2.2
Joe Musgrove 103.1 .301 2.2
Jake Arrieta 154.2 .322 2.1
Jhoulys Chacin 168.0 .327 2.0
Carlos Martinez 108.2 .310 2.0
Jose Urena 151.0 .325 1.9
Tanner Roark 170.1 .329 1.9
Trevor Williams 148.2 .330 1.6
John Gant 96.0 .314 1.6
Derek Holland 152.2 .331 1.6
Stephen Strasburg 107.0 .320 1.5
Robbie Ray 97.1 .317 1.5
Madison Bumgarner 105.2 .326 1.3
Julio Teheran 159.1 .338 1.3
Junior Guerra 135.0 .334 1.2
Gio Gonzalez 151.1 .337 1.2
Joey Lucchesi 110.1 .330 1.2
Luis Castillo 148.1 .338 1.2
Brent Suter 101.1 .329 1.1
Jose Quintana 147.2 .339 1.1
Rich Hill 108.2 .332 1.1
Tyson Ross 143.2 .339 1.1
Luke Weaver 133.1 .338 1.0
Andrew Suarez 139.1 .341 1.0
Zack Godley 159.2 .343 0.9
Mike Montgomery 107.2 .336 0.9
Matt Harvey 138.2 .343 0.8
Chase Anderson 150.1 .346 0.8
Ty Blach 110.0 .345 0.6
Trevor Richards 102.2 .345 0.5
Ivan Nova 146.2 .351 0.5
Eric Lauer 95.2 .346 0.4
Chad Bettis 112.0 .349 0.4
Tyler Mahle 109.0 .348 0.4
Sal Romano 134.2 .354 0.2
Jon Lester 158.0 .360 0.0
Clayton Richard 158.2 .362 -0.2
Dan Straily 122.1 .369 -0.4
Chris Stratton 126.1 .374 -0.7
Tyler Chatwood 103.2 .378 -0.9
Homer Bailey 106.1 .382 -1.0
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Min. 400 batters faced. Numbers through Saturday.

Would Peter Alonso Outplay Jay Bruce?

The New York Mets are a treasure trove of interesting case studies. They’re a large-market team run frequently like a small-market one, a club that doesn’t always seem to consider the present quality of the team when making decisions about the future, an organization whose various departments — medical, public relations, etc. — don’t always appear to interact. Whatever they are, the Mess are never boring.

Fresh off rumors that the team is interested in pursuing, for their next general manager, someone who is less reliant on data, the team has recently caused the internet buzz again by choosing not to promote the team’s top first-base prospect, Peter Alonso. My colleagues Jay Jaffe and Sheryl Ring have already addressed the service-time games that involve Alonso, but I think it’s interesting to also tackle the situation by looking directly at Alonso vs. Jay Bruce as a pure baseball decision.

It’s a completely non-controversial opinion that 2018 has been a monster season for Alonso, one that has given him real hype as a prospect, something that was not a foregone conclusion entering the year. Even the ZiPS projections for Alonso didn’t quite see this comping, ranking him as the No. 2 Mets prospect coming into the season, the No. 3 first-base prospect in baseball, and the No. 99 prospect overall — all of which I believe were the most optimistic forecasts. Alonso started off the season blazing hot, hitting .408/.505/.776 with seven home runs in April for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. That performance led to a mid-June promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas. Alonso struggled early there, hitting .171/.330/.368 with 29 strikeouts in 76 at-bats for the 51s. That was extremely concerning in light of the fact that, at 23, Alonso was not a young player at Double-A, but he hit .297/.367/.676 with 17 homers in 182 at-bats after the All-Star break.

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David Wright, Peter Alonso, and the Law of Metropolitan Frugality

The New York Metropolitans have had what might be termed a disappointing season. (If this comes as news to you, I’ll wake you up when September ends.) Two of the Mets’ more recent debacles have involved a pair of players at very different stages in their careers. First, there’s David Wright, the Mets’ team captain and erstwhile third-sacker, who, as Jay Jaffe wrote last week, is attempting to work his way back from spinal stenosis, among other injuries. Then there’s Peter Alonso, the Mets’ first baseman of the future and author of a .285/.395/.579 slash line and 36 home runs across the upper minors this year, whom the Mets seem determined not to make the first baseman of the present.

Naturally, this has ruffled some feathers. The story with Wright seems to be that the Mets aren’t activating him because they instead want to collect insurance money, which is currently covering 75% of his salary while he’s on the disabled list. He’s not medically cleared to play despite appearing in minor league games.

This has led some to accuse the Mets of committing insurance fraud. (In a bizarre twist, MLB has a long history with insurance fraud, leading most recently to a case in which Ted Lilly was convicted of insurance fraud related to $4,600 worth of damage to his RV.)

Before we continue, please make sure you sit down, swallow any food or beverage in your mouth, and note the date and time, because I am about to defend the Mets.

No, the Mets are not committing insurance fraud.

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Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

Notes
A comparison of DJ Peters’ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
Year AVG OBP SLG K% BB% BABIP wRC+
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

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David Wright, the Mets, and the Cost of Goodwill

Update: Less than an hour after this was published, the Mets announced that Wright would join the team for this weekend’s series in San Francisco “to continue his rehab under the watch of our training staff” and adding that he “will remain on the DL [disabled list].” Via the New York Post, “Sources said the Mets most likely would not activate Wright on the current road trip but would be more likely to do so Friday [September 7], when they return home.”

In the latest demonstration of their 80-grade ability to transform good news into bad, the Mets have turned David Wright’s promising rehab assignment into another illustration of the club’s parsimony and clumsy relationship both with players and fans. Even while promoting the 35-year-old third baseman and team captain from their High-A affiliate to their Triple-A one on Tuesday, the team — which has gone 48-73 since April 13, just half a game better than the NL-worst Padres — indicated that it’s unlikely to promote Wright to the major leagues this year, even for a September cameo, because of the insurance implications.

A seven-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and career .296/.376/.491 hitter, Wright hasn’t played in the majors since May 27, 2016 and has played just 75 big-league games since the start of 2015 due to chronic spinal stenosis (a narrowing of his spinal column) and problems with his right (throwing) shoulder. He has undergone three surgeries since his last MLB appearance, one to alleviate a herniated disc in his neck (June 2016), one to repair his right rotator cuff (September 2017), and one to alleviate pressure on a nerve in his back (October 2017). In August 2017, before the shoulder and back surgeries, he attempted a rehab stint, but it lasted just three games before he was shut down again.

In the wake of that operating table double whammy, Wright wasn’t cleared to resume baseball activity until June, and had to re-learn the mechanics of throwing. His pregame exercises to prepare his neck, back, and shoulder start at 1:30 pm for a night game, and he deals with pain on a daily basis. As The Athletic’s Marc Carig described it in his recent profile of Wright:

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The Mets Freed Brandon Nimmo

No matter what else is happening in your life — no matter how dire your circumstances seem, or how far away salvation might appear — you can at least take consolation in the fact that you are, almost certainly, not a New York Met. And yet despite yet another season nearly entirely unsullied by success or inspiration of any kind, 25 blessed souls still labor on in Flushing, and one of those souls is housed in a body named Brandon Tate Nimmo.

According to a profile of the young man published in the New York Times shortly after Nimmo was selected 13th overall in the 2011 first-year player draft, young Brandon grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, dreaming of one day becoming a bull-rider. Instead, he became a Met. In the years that followed, Brandon Nimmo turned out to be quite good at playing baseball, as was possible but not overwhelmingly probable back in 2011, and by early this spring writers at this site were calling for him to be given quite a bit more playing time this year, in 2018, than the 215 plate appearances he was allowed in 2017.

To their credit, the Mets have mostly given Nimmo a starting outfield spot this season. To Nimmo’s credit, he’s made the most of it. On the year, for example, Nimmo is slugging .503, with an ISO of .238 and 15 home runs in 413 plate appearances. All four figures are career highs, besting both the marks Nimmo set last year and, in perfect order, also the standards he set in the year before, when he made his debut in Queens as a 23-year-old. This power is especially surprising for Nimmo because, with the exception of a stint at Triple-A that forced his original call-up back in 2016, his power numbers were never anywhere close to this good at any stop in the past. My former colleague Travis Sawchick covered this subject back in June.

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Zack Wheeler’s Future Is Bright Again

The New York Mets are currently not a good baseball team. This isn’t news, and it can also be the source of occasional amusement. In the future envisioned by Futurama, the New New York Mets are the worst team in baseball’s successor, blernsball. But the humor provided by the Mets isn’t solely confined to the future; it provides comedy in the present as well. Upon Wednesday’s announcement of the 2019 MLB schedule, our own Dan Szymborski got in a dig at New York’s second-favorite team.

This current state of Mets-dom is unlikely to change anytime soon. That said, the Mets are actually having a decent August. At 12-11, with three series wins and one split in six series against admittedly weak competition, August represents a major improvement over the months of May through July (27-51 combined record).

The underlying numbers back up this August run. Most important of all is the fact that the Mets have put up the third-highest pitching WAR for the month, trailing only the Indians and Braves in that timespan. Their staff has been led by Jacob deGrom (1.7 WAR, best in MLB in August), Noah Syndergaard (0.8 WAR, 17th-best), and Zack Wheeler (1.0 WAR, eighth-best). While this level of performance isn’t out of the ordinary for deGrom or Syndergaard, Wheeler’s appearance alongside them is little surprising, at least relative to expectations. Prior to the season, the projection systems placed Wheeler at around 1.2 WAR, with all three of ZiPS, Steamer, and Depth Charts projecting him to be worth less than Jason Vargas.

That’s not to say that Wheeler’s talent level was expected to be worse than Vargas’s. It was just hard to know. After 2015 and 2016 seasons wiped out by Tommy John surgery and then a poor 2017, there was little sense of what to expect from the former top prospect. However, Wheeler has rebounded in 2018 to the tune of 3.3 WAR, 15th-best among pitchers in all of baseball. This turnaround has come at a beneficial time for the Mets, a club now looking to build for 2019 and beyond.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 8/20/2018

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets
Level: Appy   Age: 18   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 3-for-3, 2B, BB

Notes
The Mets have made effectual changes to Mark Vientos’s swing since he signed. His stance has opened up and his hands set up in a way that has enabled him to lift the ball better than he did in high school, especially pitches on the inner half. His hands are more alive and powerful than they were a year ago, and Vientos has launched balls out the other way even when he doesn’t fully square them up. His size/build might eventually cause a tumble down the defensive spectrum (he’s been projected off of shortstop to, at least, third base since he was a high-school underclassman), which would mean power alone won’t be enough to enable him to profile. His early-career contact rates are positive, especially considering Vientos doesn’t turn 19 until December.

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Defending the Mets’ Mess

The Mets’ trade deadline strategy seemed a bit dysfunctional. They traded pending free agent Asdrubal Cabrera for an upper-level pitching prospect, which seems like a good idea. However, that was basically the one positive thing the Mets did. They also traded Jeurys Familia, but the return was incredibly light and could have been stronger if the Mets were willing to pay down any of Familia’s salary to get better players back. They added Austin Jackson and kept Jose Bautista for some reason. Keeping Devin Mesoraco wasn’t that terrible because he will probably pass through waivers. Zack Wheeler was shopped extensively but did not move. All of this comes on the heels of a public relations debacle regarding Yoenis Cespedes’ injuries, and a disappointing Tuesday ended with an exclamation point thanks to a 25-4 loss to the Nationals that night.

It certainly appears as though the Mets don’t know what they’re going. Even more concerning, the Mets might actually agree. The following words come from the Mets’ Assistant General Manager, John Ricco, in Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece from deadline day.

“I think all that happened today is we did not make a trade by the trade deadline,” the assistant general manager said Tuesday in a conference call. “It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re headed into one direction or the other [on the starting rotation]. We’ll make a more informed decision this offseason.”

Davidoff further elaborates on the difficult task the next Mets General Manager faces with an organization in disarray and an ownership group that has repeatedly underfunded the team in an embarrassment to the franchise and the game. The Mets — who over the past half-decade have not been tanking nor rebuilding in a way that would justify a low payroll — haven’t had a payroll higher than 15th in MLB since the 2012 season. From 2000 through 2011, the Mets’ average payroll ranked fourth in baseball, congruent with their status in a massive media market as a club with good attendance and a great local television contract. The Mets are still in a massive media market, generate solid attendance, and have a great television deal, but over the past five years they’ve spent money like the Royals.

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