Archive for the ‘New York Mets’ category

The Current Pitcher Most Likely to Win 300 Games

October 6, 2018

Starting in 2009 and every couple of years thereafter, I have written a piece handicapping the likelihood of any currently active pitcher winning 300 games in his major league career.  The last such post from about two years ago is here.

In my original post, I listed the average number of career wins the last four 300 game winners (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson) had at the end of their age 30 through age 40 seasons:

Average: 137 (30); 152 (31); 165 (32); 181 (33); 201 (34); 219 (35); 235 (36); 250 (37); 268 (38); 279 (39); 295 (40).

This is the age of the last four 300-game winners in the season in which each won their 300th game: Maddux 38, Clemens 40, Glavine 41 and Johnson 45.  In short,  and as you probably already knew, you have to be really good for a really long time to win 300 games.

When I first started writing these posts over a decade ago, I thought we’d certainly see another 300 game winner in my life time.  About five years later, I changed my opinion almost completely.  I now think it less likely than not that any current pitcher will win 300 games, but at least it could still happen, as I explain below.

Here are the current pitchers  I think are most likely to win 300 based on their current ages (during the 2018 season) and career win totals:

CC Sabathia (37) 246

Justin Verlander (35) 204

Zack Greinke (34) 187

Felix Hernandez (32) 168

John Lester (34) 177

Clayton Kershaw (30) 153

Max Scherzer (33) 159

David Price (32) 143

Rick Porcello (29) 135

Madison Bumgarner (28) 110

It’s worth noting that the list of pitcher contains the same 10 as two years ago, which I think is a good sign in terms of one of them reaching 300 wins.

I like Justin Verlander’s and Max Scherzer’s chances of winning 300 the best.  Both are coming off of terrific seasons at advanced ages at which they still had extremely high strikeout rates.  These are the kinds of pitchers who end up pitching into their early 40’s and thus have the chance to eventually win 300 games.

The 12 pitchers to win 300 games after the end of World War II all pitched into their 40’s as follows:

Phil Neikro 48 (in his last MLB season)

Nolan Ryan 46

Randy Johnson 45

Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn  44

Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Early Wynn 43

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine 42

Tom Seaver 41

With the exception of knuckleballer Phil Neikro, there is a pretty obvious connection between an ace’s strikeout rate in his respective era and how long he’ll be able to compete at the major league level.  That certainly suggests that Verlander and Scherzer could pitch well into their 40’s.

Verlander has averaged 15.7 wins per season in his first 13 full major league seasons.  If he can average 15.7 wins for his remaining seasons through age 42, he would win another 109 or 110 games, which would put him comfortably over 300 career wins.

Scherzer has average 15.9 wins per season in his first 10 full major league seasons.  If he can average 15.9 wins for his remaining seasons through age 42, he would win another 143 games, which would just get him over 300.

Thus, if either can avoid major injury and wants to keep pitching as long as it takes for a shot at winning 300 games, it could certainly be done, particularly when you take into account that MLB teams would be willing to carry them for an extra season or two at the end if either pitcher has a realistic shot at winning 300 game.

CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw have all won a lot of games at their respective ages, but none of the three seems like a good bet to still be pitching at 40, let alone 42 or 43.  Sabathia is likely coming back for another season with the Yankees in 2019, but it’s hard to imagine his big body holding up for as long as it would take for him to win 300.  King Felix’s arm may be shot — we’ll have a better idea a year from now.  Clayton Kershaw is undeniably great, but back problems don’t improve with age.

What all current aces need to improve their chances at winning 250 or 300 games is another round of expansion, which I think could easily add two wins per year to a top starter’s career wins total.

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Independent-A Run-Down

August 21, 2018

Here are some comments on the top prospects at this moment in the Indy-A Leagues.

27 year old Bennett Parry signed with the CPBL’s ChinaTrust Brothers as their back-up foreigner more than two weeks ago.  He still leads the Atlantic League in strikeouts as I write this.

Dave Kubiak also escaped the Atlantic League for the warmer climbs of Mexico.  Alas, his brains have been beaten out his first two Mexican League starts.

Blake Gailen is the Atlantic League’s best hitter for the umpteenth time, but at age 33 this year, there is nowhere for him to go except Mexico, where he has played successfully before and thus may not be interested in playing there again.  Otherwise, go to Mexico, Blake.

Former major leaguer David Rollins pitched his way out of the Can-Am League to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, but, alas, he got bombed in his first Pacific Coast League start.

Just turned 27 year old outfielder David Harris deserves another shot with an MLB organization.  Still 22 year old Martin Figuero also deserves another shot with an MLB organization, although he’s come down to earth since I wrote about him six weeks ago.

In the American Association, 25 year old Dillon Thomas did not go gentle into the good night of his career after the Rockies released him.  He’s leading the AA in with a 1.021 OPS.

Also 25 year old Dylan Tice earned his way back into the Mets’ organization.  Just turned 28 year old Jay Austin has earned his way up to the Mexican League, where so far so good.

28 year old Tommy Collier needs to pitch in the winter leagues this off-season to boost a move up to a better league, but I sure wouldn’t want to pitch in Venezuela again this winter.

The Wichita Wingnuts’ Travis Banwart, now 32, might more properly be pitching in the CPBL for a lot more money, what with his three seasons of KBO experience, but he’s actually from Wichita, which complicates the matter.  Banwart is one of the best American pitchers not to have pitched at all in the majors.

If you want to read more about Indy-A players who recently signed with major league organizations, go to the Atlantic League’s, the Can-Am League’s and the American Association‘s respective websites.  The Indy-A Leagues scream from the rooftops every time one of their boys signs with a major league organization — that’s what gets most of their boys to play for peanuts.

MLB’s Race Problem

August 2, 2018

I read this article today by Jeff Pearlman, which captures some of the feelings I have about the recent news of Josh Hader‘s, Trea Turner‘s and Sean Newcomb‘s high school homophobic and/or racist tweets.  Baseball has become primarily a white pastime in the U.S., and the revelations about Hader, Turner and Newcomb, and now possibly Sonny Gray, certainly isn’t going to convince many Americans of color that baseball is still their game too.

Sure, all of Hader, Turner and Newcomb were young and dumb when they posted their offensive tweets, but the age thing cuts both ways.  None of the three of them is over the age of 25, so they’re part of a generation that really should know better and be more tolerant of diversity.

Pearlman claims that major league club houses are “almost without fail” segregated in racial or ethnic groups, with white players hanging out with whites, Latinos with Latinos, and Asians with Asians.  Pearlman would certainly know better than I, as I have never been inside a major league clubhouse except by virtue of television.

If baseball really is becoming a whites-only sport among young domestic players and the fan base which pays the freight, which has been reported for some time, then MLB is in trouble.  Maybe not as much trouble as football with its brain injury crisis, but big trouble nonetheless.

Growth rates among non-hispanic white Americans is slowing down toward zero, with something like 26 states now reporting more deaths than births among non-hispanic whites.  There also aren’t a whole lot of Europeans looking to immigrate to the U.S. like their once were, as most poorer Eastern Europeans would prefer to emigrate to or within the E.U.

Little or no growth in the fan base means little or no long-term growth for MLB.  I noticed yesterday that the Miami Marlins are averaging only 9,800 fans a game in attendance this year.  Miami is large metro area with plenty of wealth and with a large Latino population with ancestry mostly from countries where baseball is extremely popular.  Yet the Marlins can’t draw flies.

Some of the Marlins’ attendance problems have to do with a terrible team and a history of unpopular owners.  However, it also seems like greater Miami has decided it can take or leave major league baseball.

In that vein, MLB isn’t helping itself in terms of maximizing fan bases and revenues.  The power plays of the wealthy teams in New York and Los Angeles and the San Francisco Giants, which are preventing third teams from playing in the Inland Empire, northern New Jersey or the A’s from moving to San Jose, is just pure stupidity in the long term.  Major league teams need to be playing where the fans are and will be in the future, particularly if MLB’s national fan base isn’t expanding at the same rate as the other major American team sports.

Nice to See the Oakland A’s as Buyers at Trade Deadline

July 22, 2018

The A’s have been a surprising over-achiever this year, and they are acting accordingly, acquiring Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets for prospects Bobby Wahl and William Toffey and $1 million in international bonus slot money.  In acquiring Familia, the A’s acquire a legitimate closer at a price that cannot be called particularly steep.

Bobby Wahl looks ready to be a major league reliever.  He has a 2.27 ERA (but a 3.63 run average) at AAA Nashville with 65 strikeouts and only 17 hits allowed in 39.2 innings pitched so far this season.  The knocks on him are that he is already 26 years old and there are still questions whether he has major league command.

I remember when Wahl was drafted by the A’s in the 5th round of the 2013 out of Ole Miss.  He was widely predicted to be a late first round or early second round pick (Baseball America had him going 36th overall), so it was certainly a surprise when he fell to the fifth round.  In fact, he didn’t really start putting it together as a professional until the 2016 season.  However, he’s got more upside than your typical 5th round draft pick.

William Toffey is a 2017 4th round draft pick out of Vanderbilt.  At age 23, he’s been playing 3B for the Class A+ Stockton Ports of the California League.  He’s only hitting .244 but has a .741 OPS.  He appears to have the tools to be a major league third sacker, but he currently makes too many errors.  Toffey appears to be a player the Mets wanted more based on his scouting reports and draft pedigree than his actual, but limited, professional performance so far.

The $1 million in international bonus slot money counts as another prospect of probably equal value to either Wahl or Familia.  The Mets can sign a pretty good 16 to 18 year old international prospect for a $1 million, or they can aggregate the money with the large pool they will be receiving next year to sign whomever they believe to be the top prospect in next year’s international class.

The A’s are taking on the remaining $3M of Familia’s 2018 salary and lose him to free agency after the 2018 season.  Still, the A’s are sending the right message to their relatively young core of players: that the organization thinks they are putting together a group that can make the post-season now and in the future, the team is willing to make moves to get the squad over the hump.

In a somewhat related note, the A’s set an Oakland Coliseum baseball record by drawing 56,310 fans to an inter-league game against the San Francisco Giants yesterday.  As a special, but pre-planned, occasion the A’s opened up the Mt. Davis football seats at $10 a pop.  The A’s also sold out Friday night’s game (45,606) for the first time this season in the first game of the inter-league set.

Even after these two games, the A’s are drawing a dismal average of 17,340 per game this season, better only than the Tampa Rays and the Miami Marlins.  Obviously, as far as the A’s are concerned, inter-league play, and particularly the annual home-and-home series against the Giants, are a very, very good thing.

Tim Tebow Somehow Makes Eastern League All-Star Team

June 30, 2018

What a sick joke.  I’m actually more disturbed by the idea that Tim Tebow made the Eastern League All-Star Team than I am at the prospect of his playing later this season in the major leagues for the Mets.

The question, I guess, is whether the fans voted him in or someone in management made the decision.  If the former, well that’s the fans’ choice, and I can live with it.  If the latter, then it’s just pandering to his celebrity and ignoring some better Eastern League player who deserves the honor more based on his actual performance.

Tebow is in the news, because against the odds he’s batting .317 this month in AA ball, which sure didn’t seem possible a year ago.  I give props to Tebow’s athleticism and his reported work ethic, but I’m still suspicious of his abilities as a professional baseball player.

By my count, Tebow currently has the 38th highest OPS in the Eastern League, which for a guy who has played exclusively left field ain’t no All-Star, no matter how well he’s hit in June.

That said, sure, the Mets should promote him to AAA after this All-Star game on July 11th if he’s still hitting.  If he hits reasonably well at AAA, sure the Mets should promote him to the majors in September if only because the Mets are going nowhere this year, Tebow is a potential box office draw, and professional baseball is at the end of the day nothing more than a form of entertainment.  Give the fans what they want, give the baby its bottle.

Being selected to an All-Star game at any level, unless the selection is made by the fans whose cans in the seats pay for everything, should reflect a player’s performance, or at least his past performance, and not solely his box office appeal.  Whoever got left off the Eastern League All-Star team to make way for Tebow got the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Tebow’s June performance could just be a fluke, but it also says something about the value of athleticism and hard work.  Teams like to draft great athletes because there is more upside there, although athleticism by itself doesn’t allow you to hit a professionally pitched baseball or throw a baseball like a pro.

I’ve always been suspicious of Tebow’s minor league baseball venture because of his age and the fact that once his NFL career as a quarterback didn’t pan out, he didn’t try to make an NFL team at another position like fullback.  I’ve always wondered/suspected that he didn’t try to become an NFL fullback, a position his body type, athletic ability and football skills would seem ideal for, because it’s not a high-profile position.  Fullbacks get the sh$% beat out of them trying to open holes for running backs, protecting quarterbacks or trying to get that last two yards for the first down or the score.  There’s not much glory there, unless you score a lot of those two-yard touchdowns.

Even playing in the minor leagues, Tebow is high profile because it so unlikely that he’d succeed as a 29 year old beginner.  If Tebow made the decision to try pro baseball because he decided it wasn’t worth the physical abuse and brain damage that comes with playing NFL football, well that I could respect because it’s at least a rational, sensible decision.  If it was more about his building up his brand for his post-sports life, that seems a lot less noble to me.

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2018

May 12, 2018

Shohei Ohtani has more or less blown up any discussion of the best hitting pitchers in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be the next two-way player, although he’s still got a long way to go and his hitting abilities may not be able to keep up with his pitching abilities as he shoots up through the minors.  McKay is already ready for a promotion to A+ ball as a pitcher, and I wouldn’t hold him back to let his hitting catch up.  Still, major league pitchers who can also pinch hit should have value in today’s extreme relief pitching game.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  I didn’t want to jump on the Ohtani as hitter bandwagon too soon, but I was convinced he’s for real (even if he doesn’t continue to bat .344 and produce over 1.000) when he beat the shift with a double down the left field line about a week ago.  Ohtani has what it takes to be a great major league hitter, although he’ll face his forced adjustments and his hitting performance will be affected by the many games in which he does not bat.  That said, the baby-faced 23 year old phenom can hit.

2.  Madison Bumgarner (.185 career batting average and .555 career OPS).  MadBum is still baseball’s best full-time pitcher hitter, but the bloom is off the rose compared to Ohtani, who will be DHing three times a week until major league baseball pitchers prove they can get him out.  A one-on-one Ohtani-MadBum home run derby at the All-Star Break would be an enormous amount of fun.  Madbum should be healthy by then.

3.  Zack Greinke  (.229 BA, .579 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Yovani Gallardo (.229, .564).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher may be over, but he sure could hit.

5. Adam Wainwright (.199 BA, .529 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

6.  Noah Syndergaard (.181 BA, .561 OPS).  A poor start to the 2018 season has brought Syndergaard’s batting average below the Mendoza Line, but he has power and will take a walk.

7.  Daniel Hudson (.226, .567).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson has had only one plate appearance since 2012, but he could hit.

8.   Mike Leake (.200, .511).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

9.  Tyler Chatwood (.214, .485) and Tyson Ross (.199, .476).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable MentionsCC Sabathia (.212, .539)  CC hasn’t had a hit since 2010, but he could hit when he had the opportunity to bat more than three or four times a season.  Travis Wood (.185, .537).  Wood’s major league career appears over.

Young Hitting Pitchers to Watch.  Michael Lorenzen (.226, .618).  A shoulder injury has prevented Lorenzen from pitching or hitting so far in 2018.  Ty Blach (.194, .505) hit as a rookie in 2017 but is off to a terrible start with the bat in 2018.  Ben Lively (.182, .545) still has to prove he can be a major league starter.

Matt Harvey Will Be Available

May 5, 2018

The New York Mets are reportedly going to designate for assignment Matt Harvey, and Harvey has made it clear he won’t accept a minor league assignment, so he will be available.

The Giants certainly have a need with Johnny Cueto just on the disabled list and Madison Bumgarner still a ways from coming back.

Harvey hasn’t been good since 2015, but he’s still only 29 years.  He’s worth a tryout at the minimum wage once he clears waivers, which he certainly will since his 2018 contract is a too robust $5.625 million for someone of his recent performance.

I don’t see that the Giants have anything to lose giving Harvey a few starts at the minimum wage, if Harvey is willing to pitch in San Francisco.  The Mets only gave Harvey four starts, so it’s entirely possible they gave up on him too soon.

Andrew Suarez‘s May 1st start may have made Harvey a whole lot less desirable to the Giants than they might otherwise be.  I certainly think it would be worth demoting Derek Holland to the bullpen and D.J. Snelton to AAA for three Harvey starts, since Harvey has more upside.

I have to say that the 2018 Giants season is so far better than I thought it would a week into the season.  They are a game over .500 (and leading 8-3 in the 7th today, and they’re ahead of the Dodgers.  That’s two things to be thankful for through 31 games.