6/08-6/10 Series Preview: New York Mets

(photo c/o Getty Images)

The Yankees welcome the Mets to the Bronx this weekend for the first of two home-and-homes they’ve played against each other every season since 1999 — though there are rumblings that the annual six games against the Mets could be a thing of the past with Houston moving to the American League next year. The Yankees are 49-35 all time against the Mets during Interleague Play, though despite this relative dominance I certainly won’t miss playing the Metropolitans six times a year if changes do come to pass.

The Bombers went 4-2 last season against a bruised and battered Mets team, winning both series and marking only the 7th time in 15 seasons that the Yankees won the season series (the teams have split the season series six times). This year’s Mets team entered the season with almost no expectations — though I told anyone who would listen during the offseason that I thought their starting pitching would be very good, and while it hasn’t been lights-out it’s still been plenty effective (top seven NL in K/9, BB/9, ERA and FIP) — and to the surprise of everyone, have considerably outplayed expectations to the point of being 32-26 and only 1.5 games out of first place. I’d wager most Mets fans would’ve looked at you as if you were crazy if you told them they’d not only have a winning record on the morning of June 8 but also be within shouting distance of first place.

The staff has been led by a resurgent Johan Santana — still riding high after authoring one of the most important moments in franchise history last Friday after finally breaking the team’s 51-year no-hitter drought — who has come back from shoulder surgery looking every bit the pitcher the Mets gave one of the richest pitching contracts in history to, putting up a 2.38 ERA/2.72 FIP, striking out 9.0 per nine and as usual, limiting the walks, all contributing to him currently residing in the top 10 most valuable starters in the NL by fWAR.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has continued what has to be one of the quietest runs of sustained success in the Majors — he actually has the 11th-lowest ERA of all qualified starters in MLB since joining the Mets in 2010. If that weren’t enough, Dickey also has — believe it or not – the lowest ERA against the Yankees, minimum two starts, of every starter the Bombers have faced since the beginning of 2010. Granted, it’s only across two starts, but the Yankees should be very happy they don’t have to see Dickey this weekend. Saturday’s starter Dillon Gee has also been effective if a bit unlucky on the season (4.48 ERA/3.59 FIP, 8.32 K/9), while Sunday’s starter Jonathon Niese has probably been the least-effective hurler in the Mets’ rotation thus far but that’s not saying much, as Niese boasts a 4.11 ERA/4.26 FIP and 8.95 K/9.

However, the pitching hasn’t been the entire story for the 2012 New York Mets. The offense currently ranks 5th in the NL with a .318 wOBA/99 wRC+, and much of that is due to David Wright, currently perhaps the hottest hitter in all of baseball, with a .438 wOBA and 182 wRC+ that both clock in at 2nd-best in the NL. That said, if you can navigate around Wright there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of firepower surrounding him. Lucas Duda (122 wRC+) is a threat at cleanup; recently called up journeyman shortstop Omar Quintanilla (141) has hit well above his head in limited duty which means he’ll almost certainly get a key hit or two this weekend; and rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis (110) and even constantly injured Jason Bay (108) are also providing above-average production, so the Mets aren’t without their weapons, although none of these names instill the level of fear that Wright does.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for the Mets, as their bullpen has been the team’s worst-performing unit, with a worst-in-the-NL 5.38 collective ERA. Righties Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch set up closer Frank Francisco, while Tim Byrdak and Miguel Batista hold down the fort in the middle innings.

The Pitching Match-Ups

Friday, June 8, 2012 at 7:10 p.m. LHP Johan Santana vs. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

You already know about Santana’s season — who had his most recent start pushed back to this game in the aftermath of his career-high 134 pitches used to secure the no-no — and stuff-wise he’ll attack hitters with his 89mph four-seamer 46% of the time and knock them out with one of the best changeups (2.38 wCH/C) in the game. Santana also chucks an 81mph slider 18% of the time and a sinker 14% of the time. Despite a career 4.18 ERA vs. the Yanks, Johan has always been a tough assignment for the Bombers, who haven’t seen him since they beat him behind a Mark Teixeira grand slam on Father’s Day in 2010.

HIROK! has historically fared rather poorly against the Mets, pitching to a 5.75 ERA in 36 innings across seven career starts.

Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. RHP Dillon Gee vs. RHP Phil Hughes

The groundballing (54.6%) Gee throws a 90mph sinker 28% of the time, four-seamer 26%, 83mph changeup 23% and 74mph curve 10% of the time. Though he primarily relies on the sinker, his changeup is actually one of the better weapons on the team, as it currently ranks 11th-most effective by wCH/C in the National League. Gee has one career start against the Yankees which came last July 2, and he started out strong before they rallied for four runs in the 6th inning en route to a 5-2 victory.

Hughes missed the subway series last year, and has two career starts against the Mets, both coming in 2010. In the first, he got hit around at Citi Field for four runs in 5.2 innings, and was much better a month later, holding the Mets to three runs over seven at Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 1:05 p.m. LHP Jonathon Niese vs. LHP Andy Pettitte

Niese is a fastball-heavy lefty, with a 91mph four-seamer (42%), 87mph cutter (21%) and 90mph sinker (13%). He also has a 75mph curve that he’ll throw roughly one-fifth of the time to both righties and lefties. Like Gee, Niese has also only faced the Yankees once, and held them to three runs in 6 innings last July.

The Prediction

The Mets always seem to find ways to win games they shouldn’t when playing the Yankees, even during their bad seasons, and so with the Mets currently playing very good ball this is a fairly tough call.

It’ll be interesting to see if Johan shows any ill effects from the career-high pitch count from last Friday — if he’s anything close to the guy that threw the no-hitter, he’ll be a tough match-up. The Gee-Hughes game seems like a complete wild card, as who knows whether Hughes will come out roaring like he did against the Tigers or follow up a superb outing with a clunker for seemingly the 1,000th time in his career. I also don’t know how I feel about the Niese-Pettitte game, as the Mets’ starters of recent seasons seem to be very good at bending slightly against the Yankees but not breaking. Of course, Pettitte’s been mostly ageless thus far in his comeback, and it’s hard to pick against him right now.

I think the Yankees probably lose the Santana-Kuroda game (although in one of those random scheduling quirks, the Yankees are actually 8-1 on Friday this season, with their one loss coming back on Opening Day) and then bounce back to take the Saturday and Sunday games behind continued strong performances from Hughes and Pettitte.

RAB Tickets

As always, RAB Tickets has your connection for seats, and this weekend, we have a special offer from TiqIQ. With the Mets coming to town, here is the rundown for deal info on each of this weekend’s games. Click on the image above to make a purchase.

Game 1:

  • 1900+ tickets starting at $34.
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  • Grandstand seats behind the dugouts or home plate start at $47.
  • 150+ Bleacher Seats available for less than $60. These tickets range from 23%-32% below market average.
  • 70+ seats available on the main level behind the dugouts for $57-$90. These seats range from 17%-31% below face price.
  • Prices for 100-Level Field seats start @ $97 (22% below face price).

Game 2:

  • 3200+ tickets starting at $25
  • 140 instant delivery eTIckets ranging from $57-$95.
  • 90+ tickets available for $50 or less.
  • Bleacher seats start @ $50 and there are over 300 available for less than $70, some for up to 33% below market value .
  • Grandstand seats behind the dugouts or home plate start at $40 and there are 100+ available for less than $60.
  • Main level behind the dugouts start at $70 (22% below face value.
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Game 3:

  • 2000+ tickets starting at $40
  • 15+ instant delivery eTickets available from $47-$212.
  • 150+ tickets available for less than $60.
  • Tickets in the Bleachers start at $53 and there are over 140 available for less than $70. These seats range from 15%-34% below market average.
  • Grandstand seats start at $47 (36% below market average) behind the dugouts and $56 (30% below market avg) behind home plate.
  • Main Level seats start at $55 (43% below market avg) and there are 60+ available for less than $100.
  • Prices for Field level seats start @ $74 (18% below face price).

ST Game Thread: Beat the Mets

Pelf gonna Pelf. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Believe it or not, today is the first time the Yankees and Mets will play each other in a Spring Training game since 1996. I guess that’s what happens when the two clubs play in the same state, but on opposite coasts. Here’s the lineup…

LF Brett Gardner
DH Nick Swisher
1B Eric Chavez
RF Andruw Jones
SS Eduardo Nunez
C Frankie Cervelli
CF Dewayne Wise
2B Bill Hall
3B Doug Bernier

RHP Ivan Nova

Available Pitchers: RHP David Phelps and RHP D.J. Mitchell are both scheduled to pitch, their final chance to make an impression and win that last bullpen spot. RHP George Kontos, RHP Brandon Pinder, RHP Mark Montgomery, LHP Juan Cedeno, and SwP Pat Venditte are also available if needed.

Available Pitchers: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Kelvin Castro, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Zach Wilson, LF Chris Dickerson, CF Abe Almonte, and RF Justin Maxwell will replace the starters.

Today’s game starts at 2:10pm ET and can be seen on YES, SNY, and MLB Network. Enjoy.

Report: Reyes headed to the Marlins

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Marlins and Jose Reyes have agreed to a six-year contract worth $106MM. The deal does not include a no-trade clause, and Jon Heyman says the plan is to move Hanley Ramirez to third base. I’d like to see them try him in center field, but that’s just me. To make matters worse for the Mets, they’re only going to get Florida’s third round draft pick as compensation (in addition to the supplemental first rounder). Ouch.

The Yankees were never serious suitors for Reyes, especially not that price. The first domino of the Winter Meetings has fallen though, and the next four days are sure to be fun.

Yanks turned down K-Rod, not in on Beltran

With the Yanks’ crosstown rivals looking to free up money to keep Jose Reyes while attempting to restock their financially depleted system, a few Mets have flitted across the Yanks’ radar. The Flushing Nine delivered an All Star surprise when they shipped K-Rod to the Brewers last night, but they didn’t send away their high-priced closer before checking in with the Yankees.

According to numerous sources (Olney, Klapisch), the Yankees could have gotten K-Rod for simply money as well but opted against the move. As we noted in last night’s post on the trade, I was nominally in support of a move to acquire K-Rod, but the Yanks’ rationale for turning down the Mets’ offer seemingly rests on two grounds, one sounder than the other.

The first, I have to assume, concerns the dollars. K-Rod is owed around $5 million this year and with a $3.5 million buyout. Even with the Mets’ picking up some salary, that’s a hefty amount to pay to a late-inning guy for two and a half months. The Yanks were willing to pick up Kerry Wood’s hefty salary last year because they needed set-up help. This year, their pitching dollars are likely allocated to any potential starter or lefty relievers who may become available. Plus, Brian Cashman should know by now that sinking dollars into replaceable late-inning set-up men isn’t a good use of resources.

The other reason seems to concern the bullpen composition itself. Joel Sherman reported that, had the Yanks acquired K-Rod, either he or Soriano would have manned the 7th while the other secured the 8th. The team, he said, thought that “would be a problem with [the] emotional duo.” Both are used to closing; both would be in reduced roles. It’s worth remembering too that K-Rod’s demotion to the 7th or 8th will likely cost him a hefty 2012 salary. Valid reason for giving up the chance to upgrade the bullpen for only dollars, albeit a lot of them? Perhaps so.

In other Yankee/Met news, Buster Olney says that the Yanks are not interested in Carlos Beltran. The Mets have more leverage with regards to Beltran than they did with K-Rod and will ask for a steep package for the outfielder who would make a fine AL DH. I believe he could have a role on the Yanks as a DH/OF, but that would involve marginalizing Jorge Posada. As Beltran is the best bat available, the Yanks are sending signals that want to spend on starting pitching.

Scouting the Trade Market: Francisco Rodriguez

As the revolving door of the Yankee bullpen swung open on Friday night, it was hard to believe the rogue’s gallery of relievers who came out to stop the Mariners had been among the best in the game this year. Hector Noesi, Boone Logan, Luis Ayala — seventh best in the AL only when sorted by last name — all made their appearances and kept the Mariners scoreless. Only Mariano, the future Hall of Famer, faltered, and he along with Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson are the arms in which we trust.

So somehow, after 54 games and with $17.75 million worth of relievers on the disabled list, the Yankees have a great bullpen. The pen’s 2.88 ERA is tops in the AL, and their strike out and walk rates are both among the top four in the league. On the flip side, their relievers have thrown 159.1, and as Mike explored, their troika of top relievers is racking up the pitches thrown. The club will have to bolster its bullpen either within or without.

Enter Francisco Rodriguez: Yankee fans have never taken to K-Rod. He came out of nowhere to help down the Bombers in the 2002 ALDS, and he served as foil in the 2005 playoffs as well. As the Mets’ closer, he has had a tumultuous time in New York. He was, of course, on the mound celebrating as Luis Castillo dropped that pop-up, and he was arrested for assault last year in an altercation that caused a season-ending injury. He also one of the Mets’ prime trade chips.

This year, very quietly, K-Rod is putting together a stellar season. With his save in the Mets’ comeback on Thursday, he has now appeared in 27 games — and finished 21 of them — while posting a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings. He has allowed a hit per inning and 13 walks but has yet to surrender a home run and has alluringly struck out 27.

Now, the Mets are in a predicament with Rodriguez. He is making $11.5 million this year and holds a performance-based option for 2012 that’s worth a whopping $17.5 million. If he closes out 55 games this year and his two-year total of games finished tops 100, the option vests automatically. If not, then he is owed only $3.5 million, and that’s why trading him must be part of the Mets’ plan. They can’t afford to pay and shouldn’t be paying a closer $17.5 million, but he’s on pace for well over 60 games finished this year.

So how about the Yankees? At some point, you might say, the Yankees have to stop acquiring overpaid, one-inning relievers. It hasn’t worked out for them since the days of Steve Karsay, and yet, the Yankees are still doling out contracts to guys left and right only to see them wind up on the disabled list. Rodriguez, though, would be just a rental, and if the Yankees are willing to take on most of his remaining salary along with the $3.5 million buy out they will owe him when, as a non-closer, he doesn’t get to his games finished milestone, the price tag should be relatively cheap. Pick a second-tier prospect and adjust accordingly for cash contributions.

Of course, as we’ve noted over the last few weeks, the Yankees and Mets do not trade with each other too frequently. They last sent Mike Stanton to Queens for Felix Heredia in 2004 and before that, tried to plug Armando Benitez into the Bronx for a handful of disastrous games. For the Mets, trading their closer to the Yankees would be one of many potential white flags, and if they get no return outside of financial relief while the Yanks add K-Rod as a third set-up option, the Shea Faithful won’t be too pleased.

For the Yankees, though, K-Rod is another potential target. He just might be the most available reliever out there, and unless the club truly expects Soriano, Marte or Feliciano to return at full strength any time this season, he should be a potential trade target.

Series Preview: New York Mets

"Hey Jose, isn't it weird how this one rain cloud follows us everywhere?" (AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)

Has the Subway Series lost some of its luster over the years? Maybe as the quality of the competition has dropped (zing!), but I still enjoy these games because I know and am related to a lot of Mets’ fans, and it’s always fun to rub it in. Believe you me, they still hear about Luis Castillo’s dropped pop-up on the holidays. I’m not sure if there will be anything that memorable at Yankee Stadium this weekend, but are you putting to past them?

What Have The Mets Done Lately?

Quite a bit of winning, actually. The Amazin’s have won two in a row, three of four, six of eight, and nine of 13, and they’ve also thrown two straight shutouts. The last run allowed by a Mets’ pitcher was on an RBI single by Marlins’ reliever Burke Badenhop in the 11th inning of Monday’s game. Go figure. They’ve won four of their last five series, and have outscored opponents 47-36 in the process. The Mets are coming in hot and feeling good about themselves, no doubt about it.

Mets On Offense

Won't be seeing either of these two this weekend. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Could you imagine if the Yankees lost Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez at the same time? That’s basically what has happened to the Mets, who will be without Ike Davis (ankle) and David Wright (stress fracture in his back) for the next few weeks. That’s not just a straight first base and third base comparison, the position stuff is actually just a coincidence. Davis (.397 wOBA) and Wright (.346 wOBA) have been the Mets’ second and fourth best hitters this season, respectively, like Tex and A-Rod have been for the Yankees. You don’t replace guys of that caliber, you just hope to survive.

Luckily for them, the Mets still have the resurgent Carlos Beltran, who’s hit .277/.368/.539 on the season and .286/.388/.643 this month. Like Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers or Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, this is the guy the Yankees can’t let beat them this weekend. He’s easily their biggest bat the moment. Jose Reyes is doing a fine job from the leadoff spot (.317/.373/.468 with a league leading 16 steals), but Jason Bay just has not hit as a Met. Last year’s disaster (.336 wOBA and injuries) has been followed by .238/.330/.357 batting line this season, and that’s after yesterday’s 3-for-4 effort. I still don’t feel comfortable when he’s at the plate though, he hurt the Yankees too many times while with the Red Sox. Those are the guys you know about, so let’s talk about everyone else.

Former Yankees’ draft pick Justin Turner (unsigned 29th rounder in 2005) was called up when Davis got hurt and played some second before moving to third once Wright got hurt. He’s hitting .333/.393/.490 in 18 games and is making plays all over infield, so he’s my early pick for the guy that annoys the crap out everyone all series with curiously long at-bats and timely hits and great defense. Daniel Murphy eventually took over at second but has since moved to first, and he’s hitting .233/.298/.367 after a wretched .167/.234/.228 stretch during his last 18 games. Jason Pridie is playing center for the injured Angel Pagan, and he’ll probably be best remembered as the third guy the Twins received in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young swap despite his respectable .235/.325/.441 line. The punchless Ruben Tejada (.500/.571/.500 in all of seven plate appearances) is the second baseman, and Josh Thole (.221/.300/.260) splits time behind the plate with Ronny Paulino (.313/.405/.344).

I have no idea who is going to DH for the Mets this weekend, but they’ve already indicated that it won’t be Beltran despite his grenade with the pin pulled knees. Their best bench bats are my boy Scott Hairston (.244/.309/.327) and a pair of recent call-ups in Nick Evans and Fernando Martinez. You might actually see Bay serve as the DH with one of those three in left field. I guess we’ll find out tonight.

Mets On the Mound

Dickeyface! (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Friday, RHP R.A. Dickey: The Yankees have seen as many knuckleballs as any team in the league thanks to Tim Wakefield, but not all knuckleballs are created equal. The UCL-less wonder actually throws two of them, a hard one and a soft one that he uses to disrupt timing. He also throws a helluva lot more fastballs than Wakefield ever did, about one for every five pitches and it hums in around 82-84. Dickey has not pitched as well this year as he did last mostly because a) his walk rate shot back up to his career norms (3.16 BB/9 this year after 2.17 last year), b) some bad BABIP luck (.328), and c) far fewer swings and misses (6.8% after 8.4%). That said, his 4.52 FIP is probably more indicative of his true talent than his 5.08 ERA. Dickey is coming off three straight disaster starts, I’m talking 16 runs in 18.1 innings with a .350/.381/.500 batting line against. Also: Dickeyface!

Saturday, LHP Chris Capuano: Chris Young is out for the rest of the season with yet another shoulder issue, but Capuano has held up pretty well so far. His ugly ERA (4.78) is BABIP-inflated (.340) and masks some solid peripherals (4.03 FIP). He’s struck out 7.06 men per nine (11.2% swings and misses) while unintentionally walking just 2.91 per nine and getting a ground ball 43.8% of the time. Capuano has crushed lefties (.255/.305/.291) and gotten crushed by righties (.315/.380/.532) with his upper-80’s fastball, low-80’s slider, and upper-70’s changeup mix, splits in line with his career norms but a little on the extreme side at the moment. He’s coming off three pretty good starts (six runs in 18 IP total) and is a pretty safe bet for six innings if the Yankees right-handed bats do not do their jobs.

Sunday, RHP Mike Pelfrey: Has anyone figured out what Pelfrey is yet? He’s supposedly a sinkerballer but he doesn’t get a ton of ground balls (44% this year, 49% career) and he certainly doesn’t strike anyone out (4.38 K/9 this season, 5.06 career). The walk numbers aren’t anything special (3.28 BB/9 both this year and career) and his platoon split isn’t huge (.292/.370/.461 vs. RHB career, .283/.333/.487 vs, LHB). Pelfrey has some Jon Garland in him, in that he throws a ton of innings every year and has gotten labeled as a ground ball pitcher without actually being one. Anyway, he’s coming off three fine starts (three runs or less and 6.2 IP or more in each) and is going throw low-90’s fastball after low-90’s fastball (both four and two-seamers) with the occasional split and slider thrown in for effect. The Yankees have seen plenty of him in the Subway Series throughout the years, though haven’t really seen the “new” version of Dickey and have faced Capuano just once, many years ago.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Bullpen: Francisco Rodriguez is having a very typical Francisco Rodriguez year as the closer (lots of walks, lots of strikeouts), but his ERA is a shiny 0.83 thanks to a 93.8% strand rate. He’s putting nearly three runners on base for every two innings pitched. K-Rod has thrown in each of the last two days and in six of last eight, so his availability tonight is very much up in the air and who really knows for the rest of the weekend.

Like the Yankees, the Mets have a former closer working the eighth inning, except Jason Isringhausen has actually been pretty solid for new manager Terry Collins (3.56 ERA in 14 IP). He had yesterday off but has pitched in three of the last five days, and at 38 years old with an elbow that’s undergone two Tommy John surgeries, who knows what kind of restrictions he’ll have this weekend. Tim Byrdak is a lefty specialist in every sense of the term (.231/.259/.385 vs. LHB this season), and former Rockie Taylor Buchholz is the secret weapon. He’s struck out 9.97 batters per nine while walking just 2.91 per nine in 21.2 middle relief innings this season. He’s their David Robertson, and he’s nice and fresh after having four days off.

The rest of the relief corps consists of second lefty Michael O’Connor (just 4.2 IP since being recalled, though he’s another LOOGY), third lefty Pat Misch (just four innings since being recalled, but he can throw multiple innings if needed), and surprising Rule 5 Draft pick Pedro Beato. The young right-hander grew up in Brooklyn and was just activated off the disabled list (elbow trouble), and before the injury he pitched to a 0.00 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 17 IP thanks to a 5.29 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, and 42.4% ground ball rate. Pretty good for a kid that skipped right over Triple-A. Beato has worked mostly lower leverage situations, and we hope to see a lot of him late in the game when the Yankees have the lead.

Recommended Mets Reading: Amazin’ Avenue and MetsBlog