Jeremy Heit's Blog
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Al Leiter- Senator in Philly?

In this edition of As the Trades Turn, Al Leiter speaks...
Leiter is so upset and discouraged by a prevailing perception that he is directing Mets decision-making policy behind the scenes -- and also with the lack of support he is getting from the front office on the issue -- that he said yesterday he doesn't know if he wants to return next year under the present circumstances. ...

...Leiter has a mutual option for $10 million for 2005 with a $2 million buyout. He definitely wants to pitch next year and expects the Mets to decline the option and ask him to come back for less money. But people close to him are recommending he sign with the Yankees or Phillies next year.
"Good riddance."

Yup, that's what I said when I first saw this article this morning and that reaction sort of saddens me. Al Leiter is one of the reasons I'm a die hard Met fan and one of the reasons I write this blog. My mom let me stay up for the one game playoff vs. the Reds, way past my bedtime. And his performance was masterful and one of the reasons I became an obsessed Met fan.

So, with a few hours to think about it, my reaction has changed... a bit. It's more along this line...

"Thanks for the memories Al, but its time to move on. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Whether you believe any of this stuff about the Kazmir trade, him in the front office and all the rest of it is really up to you. And, really, one way or the other, that's not what my decision above it based on. Part of it is his atrocious IP/G and Balls/Strikes ratios, which you can read about here and here if you haven't been around here too long.

The other? His K/BB ratio, combined with his AVG/OBP/SLG against. The K/BB, which you'll see in a second has been slipping (along with his K rate) and his AVG/OBP/SLG indicate someone being saved by a defense this year. Take a look.

2000: 2.63
2001: 3.09
2002: 2.49
2003: 1.48
2004: 1.20

Declining rates, plus, if you look at his K/9, its the lowest its been in a long while, which means not only is the K rate down, but his walk rate is up (It's almost at 5 this year... 5!). And the batting lines?

2000: .228/.301/.357
2001: .252/.295/.393
2002: .250/.312/.386
2003: .260/.351/.396
2004: .218/.328/.342

I'll get to the part about the AVG drop in a second, but you can also see how much the walks have affected him... Look at how the OBPs aren't that far off the others despite the fact that his BAA against is much lower. But the most important thing to look at is the isolated power numbers (SLG-AVG), which show how much power hitters have hit off of him.

Isolated Power
2000: .129
2001: .141
2002: .136
2003: .136
2004: .124

The IsoPower rates stay fairly stable, which is a good thing. But, with a growing walk rate and declining K rate, how is he keeping his stable low to mid 3 ERAs that he's had as a Met. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play).

2004 BABIP: .232

Let's just be honest... that's way below the average pitcher. Why? Well, according to Hardball Times, the Mets have had a .759 DER when Leiter is pitcher. DER is defined as...
DER: Defense Efficiency Ratio. DER is the proportion of batted balls (non-HR) that the pitcher's fielders successfully converted into outs.
Now, the question is, won't the Mets defense be better, so this won't matter anyway, right?

It gets tricky. The Mets defense has been good at converting balls in play into outs and I think they'll be better next year, but relying on a pitcher that needs that help to be effective is risky, especially if it can get up to 6-7 million dollars including his buyout. Plus, its even more risky if that pitcher has a torn labrum and can only go 6 innings at most for start.

Al Leiter: High risk/high reward. What should the Mets do? If they are willing to go for it all next year, the risk might be worth it. If not... give someone else (Heilman would be nice) a shot or sign a younger pitcher.

Friday, September 17, 2004
Way Up or Way Down?

I, and others, often joke about our dislike for Kris Benson. Whether you like him or not is really up to you, but its often joked about because he is one of the faithful two pitchers that came over on Black Friday.

I bring this up because Kris pitched a masterful game the other day. And Met fans would like to see that only because he will most likely be in a Mets uniform next year and at that point, we have to hope for the best.

But what can we expect from Kris Benson? That I can't answer. If I could, I'd have a job with a major league team...

But, I do remember a little research Avkash did using game scores earlier this year and I wanted to dig a little deeper. First, here is Avkash's numbers and comments from his original post from August 16th...
Benson, 23 starts (49.3 avg GS)

Game Score

Less than 40: 7
B/T 40 and 60: 6
More than 60: 10

Now this is what I expected to find in Zambrano's game logs. Benson needs to find out what he's doing wrong in those < 40 starts and bump them up to 40-60. The rewards for the Mets if he can accomplish this are many, as Benson is putting up Top 5 type game scores in more than 40% of his starts. Whether this happens or not will mean the difference between the same old Kris Benson we've grown tired of watching and the Kris Benson who we've been awaiting since forever.
If you need more information on game scores, it is in Avkash's article.

Anyway, a lot of what he says is very true. Here is whether Mr. Benson stands now...

Benson, 28 starts (50 avg GS)

Game Score

Less than 40: 8
B/T 40 and 60: 8
More than 60: 12

In his last 5 starts, he's bombed once, had two decent ones and had two good ones.

So, based on this, I decided to try to go a little deeper and take a look at what he's done in the past two years, to see if there is any progress. Take a look...

Benson, 18 starts (45 avg GS)

Game Score

Less than 40: 5
B/T 40 and 60: 9
More than 60: 4

Benson, 25 starts (46 avg GS)

Game Score

Less than 40: 9
B/T 40 and 60: 12
More than 60: 4

The numbers look a little different, don't they? Not as many high quality starts...

A better way to look at this is percentages, arranged as 2002/2003/2004 in each column (I would chart, but I can't)...

Less than 40: 36/27.8/28.6
B/T 40 and 60: 48/50/28.6
More than 60: 16/22.2/42.8

As you can see, his 60+ starts have gone way up as his middle starts have fallen. His bad starts have fallen a little too, but not THAT much.

Explanation? It seems as though he's taking some of those mediocre starts and turning them into very good starts. It also seems he's taken one or two bad starts and made them mediocre. But that will still make him a low 4.00 ERA pitcher, most likely.

So, as Avkash says above, its all about him turning a few bad starts into decent ones and we could have a pretty good pitcher on our hands. Will it happen? I don't know. Some people think pitchers tend to figure it out later than hitters, by 29 or 30 and whether that is true or not, I don't know. Can Peterson help? Maybe.

But, it is nice to see Benson has made progress before (by getting more top notch games) which gives me more confidence it is possible for him to improve on his bad starts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
As you already know, Art Howe has been fired, but will hang on until the end of the year, a move I find somewhat senseless, but whatever...

Here's the money quote...
"The fact is, I'm not fired now. I'm leaving after the season," Howe said. "I'm not a quitter."
Say it with me now: He's a battler! ("He is going to battle" is also acceptable).

Jewish New Year starts tonight, so I doubt I'll be posting until... Friday, I think.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
The Scott Kazmir line, vs. the Red Sox

6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 92 pitches

And I know Kris Benson is pitching masterfully tonight, but I don't care, because we don't like him.

On the other hand, David Wright is 3-4 with a 2B and HR and 2 RBIs. Go Messiah!

Jason has all your news covered.

Kazmir is pitching now.

Mets winning 3-0
after three right now. David Wright is still God. Don't let anyone tell you different!

Monday, September 13, 2004
I heard about this story on the radio this morning on the way to school. Safe to say, I was happy, though not overly excited. And I pretty much still feel the same way... especially after reading this part...
Mets officials, like the team's fans, view Lou Piniella as the ideal candidate to succeed Howe. But several factors work against the Devil Rays manager relocating to Flushing, and team brass is not optimistic it can land him.
Ideal candidate? Since when did we, as fans, start believing that? Maybe it is time for that little fan/hoping for winning essay...

Anyway, I'm getting away from the point, which is that most fans realize that Pinella will not make a big differnce in the end and even if he would, the cost, which would be giving the D-Rays another one of our major prospects, is not worth it at all.

That's the only real story in Metsville today, so I figured I'd let you see some fun Mike Cameron stuff...

IsoP- .251 (career high)
AB/HR- 16.1 (career high)
G:F- 0.59 (lowest total in career)
Home: .225/.310/.427
Away: ..245/.342/.540

Safe to say, its been a somewhat strange year for him. His defense has not quite been what we thought it would be (which isn't to say it still isn't great), but he has hit for a ton more power, mostly on the road (at least for being above his career high). He has also elevated the ball more that usual and has actually struck out at least more than last year (pace wise).

That acutally places him 8th in the NL in VORP for CF at 26.5. When you consider his very good defense, you probably get a guy worth 4 wins, if not a little more.

So, it may not have been quite what we expected, but its still good. At least one move the front office has made since the end of the 2003 season has worked.

Sunday, September 12, 2004
I'm pretty tired, have schoolwork to do and football starts today (Go Jets!), so I'm making this fast, focusing on the one thing of importance I missed Friday and Saturday.

Victor Diaz got called up and started in RF yesterday. He went 1-3 with a walk before being double switched out. The one hit? A 2-RBI double. So, why did that take so long?

The Mets still lost 11-9, in extra innings, because everyone really is just demanding more Mets baseball.

Also, Jeff Keppinger, who was up in August and now getting playing time only to attempt to justify the Kris Benson deal, has officially stolen OBP! Danny's (credit to OFF for the nickname) 2B job the rest of the year and his first backup MI infield spot next year because of a few homeruns and the fact that he doesn't strike out even though that has led to a ton of GIDPs (6 in 65 AB! He grounds into a DP about once every 11 ABs, which over the course of a 500 AB season would be 45 GIDP. Eek!). His OBP is .299, by the way.

Glavine vs. Padilla today and the Mets could actually win a series... never thought I'd be saying those words in September.

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