Series Preview #27: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Mets

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

I don't think I'm ruffling any feathers by suggesting that the 2013 New York Mets are not a particularly good baseball team. They're 33-45, which happens to be the third-worst mark in the National League. They've been outscored by almost fifty runs on the year, which tends not to be the sign of a good team, and to look up and down their roster is to see a bunch of guys who simply wouldn't have important roles on a contending team.

But if Baseball Hell is set up like Dante's Inferno, the Mets aren't anywhere near the ninth circle. As far as I know, most people expected the NL East to be a tough division, but that was to be in spite of the Mets rather than because of them. Most people generally assumed that the Mets weren't going to be that good this year, and eventually that sort of rhetoric spills over to fans of the team.

And they don't have to be. This is a team mired in the middle of a rebuild, and fans of rebuilding teams quickly learn to watch their team differently than fans of contending teams. There's a fair bit of interesting, young individual talent on the Mets, and if that talent is often overshadowed by the major structural problems on this team, welp, that's what 2014 and 2015 are for.

The 2013 season was a sacrificial lamb thrown to the wolves so that later years can prosper, and the Angel and Mariner fans stuck at the center of Baseball Hell have no sympathy.

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):


Arizona
(42-39)
New York
(33-45)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 90 87 Arizona
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
96/98 108/100
Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
24.2 -22.1

Arizona

Well, say, this sure looks like a nice respite from the Braves, doesn't it?

By way of an counter-jinx to that last sentence, I should probably note that the Mets rotation isn't half bad. Their ERA- is actually tied with Arizona's rotation, and while I can feel all of you gearing up to make snide comments about that, keep in mind that both rotations' ERA- of 104 is generally in the middle of the pack.

But generally, this is a team that's below-average in most facets of the game. Their offense is second in the NL in strikeouts behind the Braves, but unlike Atlanta they don't have a standout walk rate or a ton of power to offset it. Their bullpen is near the bottom of most categories, and their defense is bad by both conventional (21st in Fielding Percentage) and new-age (DAT UZR) measures. They aren't Marlins-bad at anything, but they're generally below-average at most things.

Starting Lineups

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Gerardo Parra, RF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Martin Prado, 3B
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Didi Gregorius, SS
8. A.J. Pollock, CF

New York Mets

1. Eric Young Jr., LF
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Marlon Byrd, RF
5. Josh Satin, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Juan Lagares, CF
8. Omar Quintanilla, SS

Bullet points, because I'm tired and writing this in the middle of the night.

  • David Wright has only had one season with an OPS below .800 since 2004. There are two noteworthy things about this stat: 1) David Wright is on a Hall of Fame track at Third Base and 2) David Wright has somehow been around for a decade. For me at least, the narrative stopped with Wright being perhaps the best of a class of young Third Baseman, possibly because the Mets fell out of the spotlight right around the time that narrative should have died.
  • The Mets outfield have somehow been exactly replacement level so far this year (at least according to Fangraphs), which probably explains why they were willing to trade for Eric Young Jr. Weirdly, they aren't the worst outfield unit in baseball, as the Twins (-0.3 fWAR) and the Astros (-1.8 fWAR) are well behind.
  • They've managed to do that a weird bounce-back season from a 35-year-old Marlon Byrd, who currently has an OPS of .803, which would be his best season since 2009. His HR/FB is more than twice his career mark, so I doubt it will continue, but it's sort of fun while it lasts, especially if the Mets are able to move him for something useful at the deadline.
  • Not that many people have been paying attention nationally, but Daniel Murphy has quietly become a fairly valuable infielder. Second Basemen with an OPS+ of 110 don't grow on trees, and it makes things a lot easier on the Mets going forward to have one around.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Wade Miley (4-7, 4.55) vs. Shaun Marcum (1-9, 5.08)

Insightful Commentary: One of the few good things to happen to the pitching in June is that Miley's rotation spot has been moved out of intensive care. After bottoming out with two straight starts at the end of May where he allowed seven runs apiece, it looked like we would see a replacement for Wade very soon. He hasn't lit the world on fire in June, and his peripherals remain worrisome, but his ERA of 3.56 ensures that he's no longer the biggest problem in the rotation.

Yes, Shaun Marcum was a front-line starter on a playoff team just two years ago. No, you did not dream this. Met fans can take solace in the fact that Marcum's FIP is just 3.27, which is actually lower than his mark when he took the Brewers to the playoffs, and his BABIP and Strand Rate both suggest some positive improvement. Still, his Line Drive Rate has increased since then, and his velocity has tailed off, and neither of those things are good signs for pitchers on the wrong side of 30.

Tuesday: Patrick Corbin (9-0, 2.22) vs. Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 3.72)

Insightful Commentary: I don't want to say that Corbin has gotten in the habit of just making one mistake per game, because I'm not enough of a pitching guru to entirely separate process from results, and anyway it's a reductive way of looking at things. More accurately, he's recently had an observable pattern of making just one pitch per game that gets punished. In three straight starts, all of Corbin's runs have come on one pitch, each of which went for home runs. I'd say he should stop doing that, but he's only given up five total runs during this streak, and really the offense should be decent enough to let him get away with one punished pitch per game.

Jeremy Hefner is a young right-hander with a fastball that tops out in the low 90s, a solid slider, and hit-or-miss off-speed stuff. He doesn't strike out that many, but his walk rate is low enough to get by. If you're wondering how such a stereotypical Padre Pitcher (TM) can pitch for anyone other than the Padres, just look at his minor league information. He's trapped in a weird alternate timeline where he isn't allowed to embrace his destiny as a Padre Pitcher (TM), and it's sort of sad, really.

Wednesday: Randall Delgado (0-2, 4.05) vs. Matt Harvey (7-1, 2.00)

Insightful Commentary: Despite having the audacity to not be Julio Teheran in his last start, Delgado has been fairly solid. The home runs are a problem, and they aren't going to go away automatically with Chase as his home ballpark, but otherwise he's been plenty good enough to stick around. All he needs to do is stop pitching against promising young pitchers who shut down the Diamondbacks and...crap.

Matt Harvey was ranked 54th on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects in 2012. As pitching prospects went, he was sandwiched between Wily Peralta and James Paxton. So when his first start was one of the most dominating starts by an opposing pitcher I saw against the Diamondbacks that year, it felt like it came out of nowhere. As it happened, it was just the first page of what looks like a very dominating career.

Thursday: Ian Kennedy (3-4, 5.36) vs. Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.60)

Insightful Commentary: The one remaining thing about Kennedy that keeps me from giving up on him entirely is that his second-half ERA (3.13) has been vividly better than his first-half mark (4.46) throughout his career. I tend to be nervous about these types of splits, but this one sort of checks out. His K:BB is better later in the season almost every year, and he allows markedly fewer home runs. I'm not expecting him to revert to late-2011 IPK, because that pitcher isn't coming back, but this isn't just BABIP from a couple of Augusts in a row. It's a legitimate cause for boundless carefully guarded optimism.

After something of a rocky start to the season, Gee has rounded into form lately. He entered June with an unsightly ERA of 5.68, but that's dropped thanks to a June that's seen him put up a 2.73 ERA in five starts. Although truthfully the turning point came the week before, when Gee struck out 12 Yankees in 7.1 innings on May 30th.

Three Pressing Questions:

Whatever happened to Ike Davis, anyway? Well, these are his fWAR totals over the past four years: 3.1, 1.3, 1.0, -1.0. That is the literal opposite of the expected progression from a young player, and that negative figure came in just 55 games. So he's in Triple-A trying to sort out his offense, and 28-year-old Josh Satin is starting in his place. I'm sure there's a joke to be made about replacing a former (Sun) Devil with the Dark Lord Satin, but I can't think of it.

Zack Wheeler update? He's struggled a bit since his shutout first start against Atlanta, giving up nine runs in his past two starts. Still, he's a 23-year-old who's hitting the high 90s with his fastball and Bahahahahahaha Giants.

Say, wasn't Shaun Marcum the guy who thr--Yup.

Marcum2_medium

via cdn.fangraphs.com


Mets Blog: Amazin' Avenue

(Stats via Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)

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