Archive for Better than the Mets

With the loss to Tampa Bay last night, the Yankees fell below .500 on their latest home stand, to 3-4. Thankfully, they still have three more pseudo home games to go. While they won’t be playing in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, they’ll still have a hometown crowd behind them this weekend as they face off with the Mets at Citi Field. A bout with the National League might be just what the Yanks need to rebound from a tough week at the Stadium.

The Teams

The New York Mets

At 20-22, the Mets currently reside in the NL East’s basement. That’s not as bad as it sounds, of course, since there are more than a few terrible NL teams. Five teams have fewer wins than them, one has the same number, and two have just one more, so the season is far from lost for the Flushing faithful. They need a strong series just as much as the Yanks.

Batting stats (NL rank)

BA: .246 (13th)
OBP: .320 (14th)
SLG: .385 (12th)
wOBA: .315 (13th)

The Mets lineup features a number of poor bats, including right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who has cooled off considerably after a torrid start. Management finally wised up and jettisoned Mike Jacobs and replaced him with Ike Davis, and the difference has been tremendous. Jose Reyes has also turned in an underwhelming season so far.

Pitching stats (NL rank)

ERA: 3.97 (7th)
FIP: 4.37 (12th)
K/9: 7.70 (5th)
BB/9: 4.54 (16th)
WHIP: 1.49 (13th)
LOB%: 76.5 (4th)

That last number pretty much explains the rest of them. The Mets have a good team ERA, but that’s because they’ve been able to strand the inordinate number of batters they’ve walked. This appears a bit odd, considering the Mets have the third lowest ground ball percentage in the league. Keeping the ball on the ground can help prevent base runners from advancing more than one station. Still, the Mets have fared well with men on base, and it has helped their run prevention unit considerably.

New York Yankees

Even after the rough homestand the Yankees still own the second best record in the AL at 25-16. A few teams are close — Toronto has as many wins but two more losses — so the Yankees have to make a quick turnaround after a rough patch. They’re still missing Jorge Posada, Nick Johnson, and Curtis Granderson, but will have Nick Swisher back for the weekend series.

Batting stats (AL rank)

BA: .279 (1st)
OBP: .365 (1st)
SLG: .453 (3rd)
wOBA: .364 (1st)

Even while missing a number of starters in recent weeks, the Yanks have only gone through one real dry spell with the bats. Otherwise they’ve hit the cover off the ball, as their AL ranks indicate. For what it’s worth, and it’s probably only worth something to die-hard statheads, the Yanks are obliterating the rest of the league in advanced metrics. Their wOBA lead is by .010, and they’ve produced 13 more wRAA than the next closest team.

Pitching stats (AL rank)

ERA: 3.93 (3rd)
FIP: 4.41 (9th)
K/9: 6.88 (7th)
BB/9: 3.35 (6th)
WHIP: 1.30 (3rd)
LOB%: 74.0 (4th)

Like the Mets, the Yankees have prevented a good number of runners from scoring, at least relative to the league. They have also done a good job of preventing hits on balls in play — their .280 BABIP ranks second lowest in the AL. Part of that low BABIP comes from a high groundball rate, 44.9 percent, which ranks fourth best in the AL. This is even better, because the Yanks have the highest HR/FB ratio in the bigs. Keeping that fly ball rate down, then, means fewer home runs.

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As we wait for the second game of the Yanks-ChiSox series, I thought it was worth pointing out this piece of nonsense. Daily News reporter Kevin Deutsch apparently rolled into Citizen’s Bank Park last night for the Mets-Phillies series wearing Mets gear, and taunting Phillies’ fans. Chants of “FIRST PLACE METS,” and “”Phillies suck” were delivered not far from the city’s famed LOVE sculpture.

And people wonder why the newspaper industry is on life support. Facts and objective reporting have been benched in favor of brash over the top accusations and discernible bias. Deutsch is not part of the team, he’s a reporter covering the team. Apparently he’s also a Mets’ fan, which is perfectly fine, but his job description is to report facts and not taunt opposing fans. Report the news, don’t be the news.

His article ends with “First place never felt so good,” which is both sad and laughable. You know who was in first place last year on May 1st? The Blue Jays, White Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Cardinals, and Dodgers. Exactly two of those teams were in first place at the end of the year. Enjoy first place while it lasts Mr. Deutsch, there’s only 86% of the season left to play.

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If you were to survey a random group of 1,000 baseball fans about their most hated team, I suspect the Yankees would be the most frequent answer. There are just so many reasons to hate them. They buy their team via free agency. They have an unmatched payroll. They win, a lot. And their fans have developed a sense of entitled arrogance. I think this picture sums up how fans of other teams view Yankees fans.

According to a recent study, though, there are other teams that face a bit more net hate than the Yankees. David Biderman of The Wall Street Journal describes a survey conducted by Nielsen Co. — the company that determines television ratings with their set-top boxes. They developed an algorithm that searches the internet to determines the positive and negative reactions to various brands. Among baseball teams, the Yankees somehow did not score the lowest.

That honor belongs to the Cleveland Indians with a score of 0.9 on the -5 to 5 scale. The Red Sox were the next most hated team at 1.1. You have to get past the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros before you get to the Yankees, in the No. 5 spot, at 1.8. The Mets rank as the ninth most hated team, and our very own Ben Kabak has a quote in the article regarding that.

“Even Yankee fans don’t hate the Mets these days,” says Benjamin Kabak, a writer for the River Avenue Blues Yankees blog. “We just feel bad for them.”

I suspect this survey suffers from a volume issue. Are the Indians, Reds, and Astros really more hated than the Yankees? Obviously not. The issue, I think, is that there is so much positive reaction to the Yankees that it offsets a lot of the negative remarks. Again, I’m not sure of the exact algorithm, but I’m pretty sure that the positive reactions from the large Yankees fan base played a big part in their ranking. Compare that to the fan bases of the Indians, Reds, and Astros, all of which have experienced a few losing seasons lately.

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Apr
02

Yankees win the sAL East

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If we’ve learned anything over the past six months, it’s that spreadsheets love the Yankees. Back in October, on the eve of the ALCS against the Angels, we found out that the Yankees won the sALCS. Clay Davenport of Baseball Prospectus ran simulations of the ALCS and then World Series and the Yankees came out on top more frequently than their opponents. This time SG at Replacement Level has done it, and you can expect a familiar result.

He explains his methodology, which involves running five projection systems through 1,000 Diamond Mind simulations. He puts them all together and outputs projected standings. You can see the NL results at the methodology link, and you can see the AL here. The Yankees won the AL East 40.7 percent of the time, with the Red Sox winning 30.3 percent. We ran the numbers for many of these projection systems in our 2010 season preview series, and little, other than Javy’s aggressive projection, stood out. Everything’s relative, though.

SG did a fantastic job here, writing up capsules for each team and creating some neat pie charts. I’ll share my favorite with you. Head over to see the rest.

When I read these posts I couldn’t help but think of my favorite FJM ever.

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As the Hot Stove League rounds third and heads for home, the Yankees are again in everyone’s crosshairs. With the World Series trophy once again ensconced in the Bronx, the Yankees are baseball team’s to beat, and as AL teams gear up to take on the champions, the runners-up have their eyes on them too.

During his first press conference of the year, the svelte-looking Charlie Manuel, manager of the NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies, spoke about the Yankees. First, he spoke about losing to the Yanks in November:

“If you go back and look and followed us playing the Rockies and the Dodgers, we played real good. We didn’t really play as good as we can against the Yankees. It might have been because of their bullpen and their pitching. We ran into a situation in the World Series with how it went, the Yankees were a well-balanced team with their offense. At the end, Rivera did what he’s been doing all these years. We can play better and we can pitch better offensively and defensively. I felt like in the ones they beat us, they were like a step ahead of us. We were always chasing them and trying to catch up. They were always ahead of us … It was who got the breaks and they got the good breaks. We can beat them. At the end of the World Series last year when I talked to our team, I told them that I feel like we owe the Yankees one … They got us.”

Later, he spoke again about facing the Yankees and beating them the next time around. “We can play with the Yankees. We could have beaten the Yankees but we didn’t,” he said. “That give us more determination and everything. We definitely want to get back to the World Series. I know that. I know we want to go back to the World Series and win it. It’s hard to go two years in a row to win the World Series. We got there but didn’t get it done. This year, we’re going to key on that. We’re going to keep our same philosophy.”

As we sit here on the edge of February, it’s not a stretch to imagine an October rematch between the Yankees and the Phillies. With Javier Vazquez aboard to beef up the rotation and Curtis Granderson patrolling the outfield, the Yankees have more depth from the get-go and are becoming younger in the field while maintaining their prodigious offensive output. The Red Sox have put together a defensive-minded team that should score runs, and they have the pitching to compete; the Mariners are the prohibitive favorites in the West; but the Yanks remain the American League’s team to beat.

In the National League, the Phillies are the clear-cut pre-season favorites. They will enjoy a full season of work from Roy Halladay and have a solid rotation behind him. Perhaps the Cardinals could unseat them; perhaps everything could go just right for the Marlins; perhaps the Rockies have the pieces to regain their 2007 NL title. As the Yankees are in the AL, though, the Phillies should be primed for a wire-to-wire run at their third consecutive National League crown.

As the Yankees and Phillies remain baseball’s crown jewels heading into 2010, I can’t help but think about the Mets, a historical rival to both teams and a rival to neither right now. In an e-mail to me and Joe last night, Mike expressed his condolences for Mets’ fans. In the face of their worst finish since 1993 and their second highest loss total since 1993, Omar Minaya and the Mets have basically stood pat. Their biggest move came when Jason Bay signed with them for too many years and too many dollars, and their loudest recent splash involved a move that netted them an outfielder who can’t hit, can’t field and hasn’t flashed much power lately.

It’s true that some of the Mets’ 2009 failures stemmed from bad luck. The team was not equipped to handle the injuries that befell them. But at the same time, they’re heading into 2010 with Fernando Nieve as their fifth starter and Omir Santos as their starting catcher. Bengie Molina saved the team from themselves, but they couldn’t find a league average innings eater type such as Jon Garland to shore up a shaky rotation.

I don’t root against the Mets. I have nothing against the Flushing Faithful, and I believe the city benefits with two competitive baseball teams fighting it out for a playoff spot and media attention. But as the Mets reach a recent nadir, I’m glad to be a Yankee fan. I’m glad to see Brian Cashman actively working to improve the team and generally knowing what does and does not work. If the stars align properly, the Yankees and Phillies should be back in the World Series, and as long as Omar Minaya is in charge in Queens, the Mets will be at home watching.

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As the Mets bumble through another off-season and make headlines for all the wrong reasons, the Yankees find themselves pulling far ahead of the Flushing Nine in the stadium memorabilia race as well. As The Post reported over the weekend, Yankee Stadium seats are far outselling those from Shea Stadium.

According to Melissa Klein, only 10,311 of the 16,000 Shea Stadium seat pairs put up for sale over 16 months ago have been snatched up. The Yanks, meanwhile, have sold 15,000 seats in the last eight months. To make matters worse for the Mets, the Yanks’ seats at selling at $1500 a pair while the Mets’ seats go for just $869 per duo. That’s quite the revenue disparity.

Over at NBC’s Circling the Bases, Craig Calcaterra ponders the meaning of this discrepancy. He writes, “I’d be curious to hear New Yorkers’ take on the subject, but given that the Yankee Stadium seats only date back to the mid-70s renovation at the oldest, this can’t be a matter of some overwhelmingly disparate historical relevance of the given seats. On a gut level this just seems about right in terms of weighted fandom.”

I don’t agree with Calcaterra’s take about general views of weighted fandom in New York City. When it comes to seat sales, only the diehards with money are going to drop a grand and a half on some plastic seats. While the Mets have struggled in recent years to put a good product on the field, the diehards are always there, and the Mets don’t have appreciably fewer fans than the Yanks. The team should be able to sell out 15,000 seat pairs.

Rather, I think these numbers — wide even in the face of a huge price gap — show the love people had for Yankee Stadium and the general disregard even Mets fans had for Shea Stadium. Even though Yankee Stadium lost a lot of its original character in the mid-1970s renovations and even though many of the seats and other memorabilia for sale date back to just the Reggie Jackson era and not the Babe Ruth era, Yankee Stadium was still a baseball cathedral in the Bronx. It was a spot of Mystique and Aura, and it witnessed, even in its post-renovated incarnation, magical moments. It was also a baseball destination.

In Queens, meanwhile, Shea was often called the toilet bowl of Flushing. With a moving lower bowl, it was a hybrid baseball/football stadium that was state of the art for a few years and then fell into disrepair. Even when a replacement was no sure thing, the stadium suffered through years of tough love. The site lines were bad; the upper decks far recessed; and the amenities bare bones. It was just another cookie-cutter stadium built in a parking lot surrounded by chop shops. Can you blame the Queens faithful for wanting to put the Shea Stadium past behind him?

In the end, the seats will sell, and the stadiums will fade into baseball memory. One of them — that House in the Bronx — will live on in memory. The other will become a relic of a bad era of stadium architecture, and that is why the seats won’t go quickly into the night.

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NPB Tracker passes along a report (translated article) that says the Mets have asked agent Arn Tellem for the medical reports on Hideki Matsui‘s knees. We’ve already seen some speculation that the Mets could bring Godzilla to Flushing, possibly to play first base.  Despite his fantastic year with the stick, Matsui is a man without many options. There are more available DH’s than DH spots (like every winter), so Homer-deki needs all the leverage he can get, even though he’s going to use it against the Yankees.

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We don’t like to rag on the Mets too often around here. In baseball, karma finds a way to bite you. But I enjoyed Ken Belson’s baseball-focused take on Black Friday. During yesterday’s crazy shopping day, the Yankee Clubhouse Store was packed while the Mets’ store further east along 42nd St. was a ghost town. As fans spent hundreds of dollars on Hideki Matsui World Series MVP gear and little on the Mets’ new throwback uniforms, Yankee fans basked in the glow of being on top. As Aoi Niwa, a Yankee fan from Portland, Oregon, said to Belson, “It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth it.”

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We Have The Yankees

You may have seen that one yesterday, but it’s worth seeing again.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Devils, Islanders, Nets, and Knicks are all in action tonight, plus there’s a new South Park. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.

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Oct
10

Could Matsui stay in New York?

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But with the Mets? Some guy with the same name as me at MLBTR passed along this report from Newsday, where David Lennon speculates that Yanks’ DH Hideki Matsui could wind up in Flushing with the Amazin’s next year. Allow me to quote:

With Hideki Matsui telling friends he’d like to remain in New York above all else, as well as return to leftfield, it would be logical for the free agent to appear on the Mets’ radar this offseason.

In fact, Matsui is so eager to play the field again after a full year as the Yankees’ designated hitter that he’s also told people he would consider trying first base – a position he hasn’t played since high school.

[snip]

One baseball official suggested that the limited duty for Matsui this season will work to his advantage in allowing him to return to the outfield. With less wear and tear at DH, it was a chance for Matsui to recharge, and another four months off during the offseason obviously will be a big help, too.

The Mets obviously need all the help they can get, but can Matsui hold up all year while playing in the field? In leftfield, I’m not so sure it could be done. Godzilla needed to have his knees drained a few times this year after doing nothing more than running hard around the bases. Maybe he could pull it off at first, but he’ll almost assuredly be a negative-UZR player there, likely Giambi-esque.

Of course, Matsui’s amazing production this year (.274-.367-.506 with 28 jacks) is going to make it real hard for the Yankees to let him walk away. Granting, he’s not worth his $13M salary, so it’s unlikely the team will offer his salary arbitration after the season, even though he projects to be a Type-A free agent. FanGraphs valued his 2009 production at $11M, though I would be shocked if he pulls down eight-figures next year. What do you guys think, does one year at $8M seem reasonable for Matsui’s services next year?

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