Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for December, 2010

Joe Martinez: Why Not? (UPDATED)

Posted by JD on December 22, 2010

UPDATE: The Indians acquired Martinez for a PTBNL or cash today. I like the guy and everything, but the only way I’d make that trade is if the BTBNL was Luis Hernandez.

From MLB Trade Rumors comes news that the Pirates have designated Joe Martinez for assignment today. Not the biggest of news, I know. But I’d like to see the Mets make a claim on him anyway.

Martinez will be 28 next seasons and doesn’t seem to have overwhelming stuff. Scouting reports that I’ve found on the web read much like this one from Pirates Prospects: four pitches with a fastball that sits between 86-90 but can touch 91-92 on occasion and some indication that he’s a “ground ball machine”. That hasn’t translated at the major league level: Martinez has pitched 49 innings over 18 games (six as a starter), generating a 6.16 ERA and 1.872 WHIP while striking out only 28 batters. Fangraphs.com shows that his xFIP is 4.76, indicating that he may have been victimized by some bad defense behind him.

Digging a little deeper, we see that he has 2.0 BB/9 and 7.3 K/9 ratios in his minor league career. Martinez also has a 3.58 ERA and 1.218 WHIP over 702 innings. Not the stuff that dreams are made of, but indicative that he could be a productive long man in the bullpen who makes an occasional spot start if necessary. And who knows? Maybe the change of scenery combined with a new pitching coach and a pitcher-friendly ballpark result in a slight bump in performance?

Martinez basically profiles as a right-handed Pat Misch: a replacement level pitcher who can contribute in spots. He’s not the fifth starter that the Mets need, but with an open spot on the roster they have the ability to take a gamble on him. Yes, they’ll need that spot (and more) when they sign a starting pitcher and a fourth outfielder, but what’s the harm in putting Martinez on the roster now? Worst case scenario, they DFA him when the time comes and the Pirates re-claim him.

I won’t be upset if the Mets choose to pass on Joe Martinez: there are plenty of other replacement-level pitchers in the free agent pool at this point. In fact, I kind of expect them to make similar moves (mostly involving non-roster invites to spring training) once they sign their free agent pitcher of choice. But why not take a shot now, while the Pirates are trying to use the holiday slowdown to pass a useful player through waivers? Can’t hurt, right?

 

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Fernando Martinez, Jay Payton, and Injuries

Posted by JD on December 20, 2010

The other day, Metsblog linked to this post from Mack’s Mets on Fernando Martinez. The gist of it is that Mack feels that Martinez’ arthritis moots his status as a prospect and ruins his trade value. I think I understand where Mack is coming from here: the hype surrounding Martinez just three season ago reached such unsustainable levels (remember the “Teenage Hitting Machine”?) that a healthy Martinez would have struggled to meet them. His subsequent injuries have both hindered his development and started to create a “bust” feeling about him. I can see that, yet I think writing Martinez off as a prospect/trading chip is very shortsighted.

First, the medical condition. Did you know that there are over 100 types of arthritis? I didn’t. The more familiar kinds are osteoarthritis (the most common form, acquired via wear and tear on the joint), rheumatoid (a disorder in which the body’s own immune system starts to attack it), lupus (a vascular disorder), and gout (inflammation caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in a joint). We know Martinez doesn’t have gout and it’s never lupus, but what about the other two? I’m no doctor, but it would seem safe to say that since the arthritic condition exists only in Martinez’ right knee, it’s not rheumatoid arthritis. And that’s just not as bad as it seems on the surface.

Let me be clear: I am not diminishing the suffering arthritis causes. My mother deals with it on a daily basis: I know the discomfort she deals with everyday. But it’s far from hopeless: better diet and increased activity have mitigated her pain and allowed her to use pain killers sparsely. My mother is 61 with arthritis in both hands, both wrists, and both knees (to start). Fernando Martinez is 22, with “minor” arthritis in his right knee. I hate to say this, but if she can deal with it successfully, he’ll probably find a way to manage it and keep playing.

Will he ever be as fast as he once was? Probably not, but to translate that into “he can’t be a productive major league player” is nonsense. However daunting Martinez’ injury history may be, other players have overcome similar challenges in the past and gone on to have productive careers. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Jay Payton is just such an example.

Drafted in 1994 out Georgia Tech, Payton played 58 games for short season affiliate Pittsfield and eight games for AA Binghamton. He followed that up by playing 135 games in 1995, 85 in Binghamton and 50 in AAA Norfolk. That season marked the start of his injury troubles: though he was named the Eastern League’s MVP, he played most of the season in pain from an injury suffered in spring training. That September, Payton had surgery to transplant a tendon from his wrist to his right elbow.

1996 saw Payton play in just 71 games for four Mets’ affiliates (55 were played in AAA Norfolk). This was largely as a result of a surgery in May to remove bone chips from the same elbow. A third surgery (in January 1997) was needed to remove scar tissue. The surgeries forced Payton to move to first base, but it was no use: Payton underwent a second reconstructive surgery that cost him the entire 1997 season. If you’ve lost count, that’s a total of four surgeries on the same elbow.

Payton reached the 100 game mark in 1998, only the second time in his career that he played that many games. He played 85 games for Norfolk, beginning the season at first base but moving back to the outfield after 25 games. He would end the season in New York, making his major league debut and playing 15 games for the Mets. However, the news was not all good: Payton underwent a pair of arthroscopic procedures on his left shoulder in January 1999.

Payton returned in time to play 45 games for Norfolk and 13 for the Mets. 2000 saw him play 149 games for the National League champion Mets, the first of nine consecutive seasons in which Payton would play at least 100 games at the major league level.

Was he the superstar many expected him to be? No, but he was largely a productive player: according to both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, Payton only had one season* of negative WAR and totaled roughly 14 WAR over his career. More notably for our purposes, Payton gave the Mets 3.7 WAR (2.8 if you go by Fangraphs) over parts of five seasons for around $866,000 dollars, excellent bang for their buck. While his Mets’ career never met the hype, he was a productive, cheap asset that was wasted in a bad trade (most likely brought on because Steve Phillips thought he was selfish).

*Due (I think) to differences in the way both systems weight defense, they differ on which season was negative. B-R.com has Payton’s 2001 season as -0.3 WAR while Fangraphs has his 2005 as -0.5.  Such disagreements are common. I think it’s safe to generalize that both systems have him at 14 career WAR.

Fernando Martinez is 22 and has only played in 349 games (not including fall and winter league games). Jay Payton was 21 when he started his career (27 when he played his first full major league season) and dealt with far more serious injuries (e.g. elbow reconstruction). While we may want to forget about super-stardom for Martinez, Payton’s career is more than enough reason to remember that we should not throw the baby out with the bath water: there is time enough for Fernando Martinez to help the Mets win baseball games.

Posted in Mets | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

The Rule 5 Draft and Elvin Ramirez

Posted by JD on December 8, 2010

On the eve of the annual Rule 5 draft, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York broke the news that the Mets expect to lose pitcher Elvin Ramirez. Buster Olney followed that up with a tweet stating that Ramirez is “the guy widely expected to be the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft”. Well, that sucks…especially because Ramirez has been hitting anywhere between 94 and 98 MPH on the radar gun in the Dominican this winter.

Or does it? I’m not so sure. Yes, given the Mets’ current shortage of major league arms and surplus of open spots on the 40-man roster (35 going into the draft), failing to protect anyone who can top out at 98 MPH raises eyebrows. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that his BB/9 has steadily risen from 4.0 in 2008 to 4.8 in 2009 to 5.5 in 2010 while his SO/BB has remained in the 1.23 – 1.72 range. Ramirez had a nice season at Savannah in 2008, and that deserves notice. But he’s done little to distinguish himself since.

And even if he had, how many Rule 5 picks actually stick with the club that selected them? Looking back at last year’s draft, in which 17 players were selected, reveals the following: nine were offered back to their original clubs (eight clubs accepted and the Braves declined the rights to Edgar Osuna), three were involved in deals that allowed the selecting clubs to keep them in the minors, and four stuck at the major league level. Yes, that equals 16: Kanekoa Texiera was claimed off of waivers by the Royals. And yes, one of the four that stuck was Carlos Monasterios, who was selected by the Mets and traded to the Dodgers for cash. My overall point is the same: the majority of the players picked were returned to their original clubs.

Sure,  Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, and Josh Hamilton were all Rule 5 draftees (to name a very select few).  But so were Jared Camp (selected ahead of Santana) and Ryan Goleski (selected ahead of both Soria AND Hamilton). Both Camp and Goleski were the “first player selected in the Rule 5 draft”. Where are they now?

To make a long story short, don’t focus on Ramirez’ availability. The Mets may well lose him tomorrow. But if you add the track record of previous Rule 5 picks to Ramirez’ performance over the past three years, you’ll find that it might not be much of a loss at all. At the very least, it’s nothing to lose sleep over.

Posted in Johan Santana, Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Evolution of Angel

Posted by JD on December 7, 2010

While we wait for the next Mets’ transactions (Ronny Paulino, come on down!), I thought I’d take another look at one of my personal “hot-button” issues from the past two seasons: Angel Pagan’s “baseball instincts”.

One of the more pleasant aspects of this past season was watching the change in Mets’ fans collective opinion of Angel Pagan. When I wrote this post in February, it was still popular to say that he had poor “baseball instincts” (i.e., he was not “scrappy” or “gritty” enough to be a “winner”). That had largely changed by the time I wrote this post in May, but there was still a bit of resistance. I think it’s safe to say now that the vast majority of Mets fans recognize that Pagan is a solid baseball player, which is refreshing.

If any additional evidence is necessary, it can be found in the 2011 Bill James Handbook. Pagan finished fifth among center fielders in the voting for the Fielding Bible Awards (Peter Gammons listed him as the best center fielder in the game, so he’s got that going for him). His one year Plus/Minus and Runs Saved numbers were not among the ten best in any of the outfield positions. This is not a good thing, obviously, but I wonder if it’s related to the fact that he played all over the place last year? I doubt it, because his 94 games in center field (as opposed to just 33 in right and 27 in left) seems like it would be enough to qualify him there. I don’t know enough about advanced defensive statistics to know how to weight this properly. My point is that Pagan’s defensive skills have entered the national discussion, a major shift from the previous season.

The story gets better when you look at Pagan’s season on the basepaths. Bill James’ base running stats factor in league averages for base running events (such as advancing to third from first on a single), “sum(s) up all of the positives and negatives from players being above or below average,” and factors in stolen bases (this is still a an over-simplification, so I’d still highly recommend buying the book for a more detailed explanation). Pagan was +12 in 2009. This year, he lead all Mets base runners with a +35. That tied him with Drew Stubbs for 12 best in baseball. The rest of the best:

1 Juan Pierre +54
2 Carl Crawford +52
3 Brett Gardner +50
4 Elvis Andrus +46
5 Michael Bourn +44
6 Austin Jackson +42
6 Ben Zobrist +42
8 Shane Victorino +39
9 Rajai Davis +38
9 Bossman Junior +38
11 Carlos Gonzalez +36

Although he improved almost across the board, one of the biggest reasons he improved was by stealing bases more successfully. In 2009, Pagan was successful in 14 of 21 attempts (66.7%), which was just about league average. In 2010, Pagan stole 37 times in 46 attempts (80.4%), an impressive jump. If it weren’t for Jason Bay’s perfect 10 for 10 (only Florida’s Emilio Bonifacio had more steals (12) without getting caught), Pagan would have lead the team in stolen base percentage.

Pagan’s 46 attempts were good for thirteenth overall. If we draw the line there, Pagan’s 80.4% is good for 7th in all of baseball. That’s way too arbitrary for my tastes, but the point is there were only a dozen base runners better than Pagan and, depending on how you slice it, a dozen or two better base stealers. Not bad at all.

The public perception of Angel Pagan has come a long way in a year, and his performance in 2010 did nothing to diminish it.

Posted in Angel Pagan, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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