Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Mets and the Mean

I think that I have been about as critical of the Mets as anyone so far this year, and Open Bar and I have been saying for a while now that it is a mistake to expect much out of this team (as he already noted). But I think it is still a little premature to write them off, especially given what happened last year. Coincidentally, or not, on May 24, 2007, the Phillies were under .500, in fourth place in the NL East, and 6.5 games out of first (as are the Mets today, almost exactly one year later). And on that same date, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Cubs (the three other 2007 NL playoff teams), were in last place, third place and second place, respectively. On June 1, 2007, none of the eventual NL playoff teams was in first place and only one of them was over .500 on that date. It was not until July 28, 2007, that the first of these four teams - the Diamondbacks - made it in to first place in their division (tied with LA on that date). And of course, as we all know, the last NL playoff team to take first place in their division was the Phillies (I just stabbed myself in the leg with a No. 3 pencil).

Of course, a number of surprising things had to happen for the Phillies and Rockies to get in, and for the Padres and Mets to fall out (side note: the Padres seem to be getting an absolute free ride here; they collapsed just like the Mets last year, and they suck just like the Mets this year. I know, I know, payroll. But still). I am hardly suggesting that we can count on other teams in the NL East to fall apart at the end of the season, but 6.5 games (six in the loss column) is hardly insurmountable with more than 100 left to play.

I think part of the explanation here is that, while it is impossible to resist the temptation to do so, it just is not appropriate to draw major conclusions based on a team's performance for just over a quarter of a season. In that span, you can see numbers that won't carry through for a whole year. Start with the Phillies. They are a solid team, and played a lot of their best baseball this year without reigning NL MVP, Jimmy Rollins. But their offense is still playing over its head: Chase Utley and Pat Burrell were both putting up unsustainable numbers for a while, and both have started to descend back to earth. Ryan Howard will improve, but strikes out too much. Neither Chris Coste nor Greg Dobbs can continue to hit in the .340's forever. On paper, our pitching staff is still better than theirs (even without an effective Pedro).

The Marlins are a great story, but have too many young pitchers to compete down the stretch. Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez are both going to have solid careers, but I would still take Reyes and Beltran for the long term (yes, I really would). Watch for this team to begin to fade shortly before the All-Star Break.

The Braves actually scare me more than anyone else in this division. Their pitching might prove to be competitive for the full year: Hudson is on par with Santana, Jair Jurrjens (or whatever) looks legit, Glavine will be serviceable, and their other starters have all performed pretty well. Their offense is solid (Chipper will cool off, but won't struggle), and their bullpen looks good (at least against us). They can't win on the road, which seems odd, but might correct itself by the end of the year.

The point is that while each of these teams has undeniably played better than the Mets, each of them has done so with almost all of their players performing at or above expectations. With the exceptions of Ryan Church and Billy Wagner, I think it is fair to say that every met has underperformed reasonable expectations for the year so far. Wright and Santana are close calls, but I think we could have expected better than 5-3 with 932 home runs out of Santana, and I know that Wright's numbers look decent right now, but other than one weekend when he was on an absolute tear in Philly, he has not been playing at his highest level.

The rest of the team is really just miserable. Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado have all disappointed, and it is reasonable to expect Maine and Perez to last longer than the fifth inning. I am pretty sure Mike Pelfrey really is that bad, so forget him.

I am not saying that I expect the Mets to make the playoffs, but I am saying that if everyone in the NL East regresses to the mean over a full season, I think we can expect it to be a bit closer, and the Mets to play a bit better. I can accept and admit that they may not be the best team in the division, but I struggle to believe that this is really a .500 team.


Open Bar said...

--Blog Nazi Alert!!--

Dude, really? You follow up my post without even commenting on my prior post? Bad form.

Just for that, I'm gonna nitpick.

So "Chase Utley [has] started to descend back to earth [sic]," huh?

Monday night, Chase Utley had a homer and 6 fucking RBI's. So much for descending back to Earth. (Also, "back" is redundant after you already wrote "descending.")

(Ha! That's like 3 nits I just picked!)

Side Bar said...

Fry, meet chair.

Dude -- his average dropped 100 points from April to May, his slugging dropped almost 300 points, his home run production was cut in half, and his OBP dropped 80 points. Yes, he had a nice Memorial Day (as did the rest of the Phillies), but on balance, Utley's numbers have declined dramatically after a very hot start (which is what numbers do; it's called "regression to the mean" and it was the entire point of my last post).

I am not saying Utley isn't a spectacular ball player. I am saying he and Burrell could never keep up the pace they were on, and the numbers have borne that out (despite the occasional outlier).

Also, dude, don't ever fucking [sic] me by the way. First, it's considered pompous except in limited circumstances. The proper use of "[sic]" is to prevent your reader from being confused when you quote another source, not to dbag it up. See, e.g., "Garner's Modern American Usage" Bryan A. Garner, Ed., 2003, at 724.

Also, when used properly, [sic] is placed immediately after the allegedly errant prose, so, even if it had been appropriate here (it wasn't) it should have followed "back" not "earth."

Lastly, but most importantly, your grammatical correction is not accurate in this case (resulting in, as Garner observes, the demonstration of the editor's ignorance, and not the writer's through the use of [sic]. Id.). "Descend" means to "come down" or to "move from a higher to a lower place." Therefore, it would be redundant to say that something is "descending down to earth" because there is no other direction for the subject to descend but down. But to tell the reader that the subject is descending "back" to earth informs him that the subject was once at a lower place, ascended to a higher place, and is now returning - by descent - to that lower place. For example, a satellite launched from Cape Canaveral may descend back to earth, because that is where it originated. A meteroite, by contrast, cannot descend back to earth, because it originated at or came from the higher point from which it is descending.

ChuckJerry said...


The Notorious LJT said...

Man, OB just got put in his place!

Open Bar said...

As Dr. Venkman once said, "Whoa whoa whoa, nice shootin', Tex!"

(You'll recall that was just after Egon went waaaay overboard trying to nail Slimer, destroying everything around him.)

Dude, the "[sic]" was for not capitalizing "earth" (which is itself somewhat optional, though in that particular case I'd lean towards capping it).

The other two nitpicks were, like, what's that thing? Jokes? Nah. I seriously think Chase Utley's gonna end the year batting .576 with 221 homers and a billion RBI's.

Open Bar said...

And, again, you didn't comment before posting. That's a foul. Mark it zero.

ChuckJerry said...

This isn't Vietnam, Side Bar, there are rules

The Notorious LJT said...

I am the walrus?