By Mike Steffanos
I've mentioned previously that I've become somewhat of a fan of statistical analysis of baseball. I have to qualify it with the word "somewhat" because I can't endorse the "numbers only" approach that so many of these guys insist on taking. For every insightful article that proved to me how the correct use of this tool could lead to a much better understanding of the game I love, I have had to endure another tiresome article by some pimply-faced adolescent genius who assured me that Jose Reyes is a terrible ballplayer and always would be.
Last Christmas Lisa purchased for me a one-year gift membership to Baseball Prospectus' web site. Despite having to endure an annoying anti-Mets bias on the part of a couple of their writers, I've enjoyed the web site for the most part. Since I don't feel the absolute need of the confirmed stat geek to believe absolutely everything I read there (such as Heath Bell is the second best reliever on the team), I've picked up many useful insights into the game. It's a great web site, and worth the price of admission.
I have to say, however, that this article from earlier in the week is a perfect example of why you shouldn't take everything you read there too seriously. Jason Grady drags out all of his best numbers to prove to you that Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner were not cost-effective upgrades at their positions, and that the Mets gave up too much to get them. My favorite overstatement of this article is this one:
In a third, possibly desperate, act to address a perceived problem and satisfy teeth-gnashing fans and media, Omar Minaya scapegoated Braden Looper and brought in free agent Proven Closer Billy Wagner, this time spending a marginal $7 million (and forsaking draft picks #18 and #37) for what could be expected to be only one marginal win, but has actually been no difference.
No doubt Wagner has been bad this year, but I think everyone except Mr. Grady understood the closer situation had to be addressed. Not being a small market team, the Mets were willing to spend a lot of money to address it. If Billy Wagner can find his way back to being Billy Wagner for this year and next, it was a good deal. If Wagner continues in his mediocrity, it was a bad deal. It was a reasonable roll of the dice, however. And as far as the draft picks, the Mets forsook only #18, my friend. Number 37 is the sandwich round pick the Phillies got for the Wagner loss; it's a bonus pick that doesn't come from the team that signs the player.
In an effort to more compensate a team that loses a top free agent, the team that loses the player gets one pick from the signing team and another in the sandwich round that comes at the end of the first round. Sandwich round picks are not forfeited by the signing team, but rather are specially created additional picks that are given to the team that lost the player along with the forfeited pick. I know the draft picks lost weren't the gist of Mr. Grady's argument, but this was a significant overstatement of what the Mets gave up.
I loved Mike Jacobs, and hated to see him go, but exactly how much leadership would he have provided if he was the starting first baseman this year? Mr. Grady's numbers can't tell him about the veteran leadership that Delgado, Lo Duca and Wagner have brought to this team. They can't take into account the aggressive pitch-calling of Lo Duca, and the great job he's done with the young pitchers. They can't tell you which guys come to your team and help other guys to be winners. There's simply no way to quantify what Delgado's presence has meant to Beltran. It's also hard to deduce from bare numbers what it might mean to have a closer in which you have real trust. These are all the "i" word that stat guys spend so much time and energy dismissing: intangibles.
I don't think Mr. Grady's arguments are all without merit, but they aren't the be-all and end-all that he seems to think they are. I do believe that the Mets have already reached the saturation point with older, high-pay high-risk ballplayers, and need to concentrate on developing some young (and cheap) talent. I believe that large-market teams can learn from the hybrid approach the Red Sox have been taking in Boston, where you take a core of veteran stars and surround them with young talent and very good role players. That's where I'd like to see the Mets go down the road. However, don't dismiss the importance of what Omar accomplished this winter with bare numbers. You'll be looking at only a part of the story.
This post is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.
Mets.com: Trade Winds
Chris Girandola gets Omar Minaya's thoughts on the trade market, particularly involving pitching:
Minaya has been proactive when it comes to trade discussions with other teams. He said he has been actively pursuing a quality pitcher who could help the starting rotation. Pitchers who have been mentioned in reports include the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis, the Nationals' Livan Hernandez and White Sox starters Javier Vazquez and Freddy Garcia.
But Minaya praised the improvement of rookies John Maine and Mike Pelfrey and said their performance this week -- along with the healthy return of Pedro Martinez expected this week and Brian Bannister in August -- could dictate whether the Mets go through with any type of transaction.
None of those names excite me in the least except for Willis, of whom I have zero belief that he's actually going to be trades here. If Pelfrey and Maine can continue to prove that they are legit major-league starters, why waste talent and money for guys who in Ron Darlings words, "will give you two good starts and one bad, then one good start and two bad."
Girandola also informs us that Brian Bannister threw a 5 inning simulated game, and quotes Omar that Bannister is "close to being taken out of rehab and put into a routine to get him back in the swing of things."
Daily News: Valentin
Peter Botte and Roger Rubin update on the continuing remarkable story that is Jose Valentin. He quotes the Mets second baseman on his terrific season:
I've gotten my second life. I wasn't playing at all at the beginning of the year. It was a bad situation. Now that I get to play every day, I want to stay there. I don't want to lose the job.
As I've stated previously, maybe it's not a bad thing that Willie won't come out and say that Valentin has the job for the rest of the year. It's been working so well like this, why mess with it? I stated my feelings about Valentin before the game yesterday, and will just restate that this guy's season is the antithesis of all of those "take the money and run" stories that Mets fans have had to endure over the years. Mo Vaughn probably stuffed more down strippers' g-strings over the years than Valentin is making in 2006.
Bergen Record: Francisco Pena
Aditi Kinkhabwala recounts the 16-year-old's introduction to the Big Apple.
Mets Walkoffs: Home/Road Splits
Mark shares some eye-opening numbers.