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Series Preview #7: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Mets

NEW YORK - MAY 22:  Mike Pelfrey #34 of the New York Mets pitches against the New York Yankees on May 22, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 22: Mike Pelfrey #34 of the New York Mets pitches against the New York Yankees on May 22, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Following a surprising series victory against the division-leading Reds, our Diamondbacks travel to New York to square off against the Yankees Mets in the venerable "House that Madoff Built."  With the New York Knicks currently in the NBA playoffs and officially competent again, the Mets have been thrust into the role of "Dysfunctional Team the New York Media Enjoys Ruthlessly Scapegoating."  Not that it's unjustified.  From 2006 until 2010, the Mets' management strategy consisted of trading valuable minor leaguers for players who either were Ambiorix Burgos or strongly resembled Ambiorix Burgos, and spending seemingly their entire revenue stream, which includes an exclusive television contract in the largest media market in the country, on one big name player per year while continuing to give Luis Castillo 400 at-bats. 

From that standpoint, perhaps it's not all that surprising that the Mets are where they are today: last in the NL East with a record of 6-13.  The pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries to Johan Santana and (Evil) Chris Young, their number 1 and 2 starters going into the season.  On the offensive side, Jason Bay has finally returned to the Mets' lineup, giving them a healthy dose of competency in left field.  This is good news for a lineup that has featured Carlos Beltran, Ike Davis, and not too much else.  In their previous series, they lost two out of three to the Astros, making them the first team this year to lose a series to the Astros.  Yeah, it's that bad in Queens. 

More making fun of teams that aren't the D-Backs after the jump!

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

                             Arizona (8-9)                                 New York (6-13)                                    Edge

Hitting (wRC+)*:   106                                                    84                                               Arizona

Pitching (FIP):     4.36                                                  4.64                                              Arizona

Fielding* (UZR):   -2.8                                                   -7.4                                              Arizona

*By popular 'Skins' demand, I will be using wRC+ (weighted Runs Created) rather than wOBA from now on.  Essentially, wRC+ is just wOBA adjusted for park and league effects and scaled to 100. 

Hey, we managed to stumble across one of the few teams that's started off the season with worse pitching than the D-Backs!  The Mets are located near the bottom of all three categories, which at least makes them well-rounded,I guess. In addition to the injuries mentioned above, the Mets' pitching has suffered from some bad luck, as they have a BABIP of .323.

Starting Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Willie Bloomquist, LF
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Stephen Drew, SS
Chris Young, CF
Russell Branyan, 1B
Miguel Montero, C
Ryan Roberts, 3B

New York Mets

Jose Reyes, SS
Angel Pagan, CF
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
Brad Emaus, 2B
Josh Thole, C

At first glance, the Mets appear to have a pretty formidable lineup.  When healthy, Jose Reyes is one of the best leadoff men in baseball and Beltran is still going strong at age 34 with an OPS+ of 145.  Ike Davis was one of the best rookies in the NL last year and he has continued into 2011, with slash line of .290/.392/.452 so far.  However, there are a pair of black holes in the bottom of the lineup in the form of Josh Thole and Brad Emaus, who have put up an OPS+ of 51 and 20, respectively.  This seems to be a common problem with Mets' lineups: plenty of star power and high-end production, but two or three players who hover around replacement level and torpedo the offense's productivity (I'm looking at you, Jeff Francoeur).  The team is also waiting for David Wright and Angel Pagan (AKA "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell") to round into form, which has hurt the middle of the order. 

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Joe Saunders (0-2, 6.32) vs. Mike Pelfrey (0-2, 9.72)

Insightful Commentary: Joe Saunders has not pitched well so far this season.  His ERA is 6.32, and his FIP isn't far behind at 5.86.  He has walked way more batters (5.74 per 9) than he should while striking out significantly fewer (3.45 per 9) than would be altogether desirable.  Luckily his opponent, Mike Pelfrey, has had many of the same issues.  In four starts this season, he has yet to get out of the sixth inning and his unsightly ERA is above for all to see.  However, his peripherals work in his favor, as his walk rate and K rate are both better than Saunders'.  His ERA is largely a product of his .397 BABIP, and should go down as he regresses.  However, when you see this kind of stat line from a team's alleged "ace," you can understand why they're struggling so much. 

Saturday: Barry Enright (0-1, 6.23) vs. Dillon Gee (1-0, 1.59)

Insightful Commentary: I'm going to be honest: I had no clue that Dillion Gee existed, let alone was a starting pitcher on a Major League Baseball team, before I started writing this.  According to the Internet, he's made 6 starts in the majors, including one this year, where he went 5.2 innings and gave up a run.  Gee is 25, and his fastball runs in the high 80s.  Basically, Dillion Gee is a symptom of the rash of injuries that have plagued the Mets' rotation.  But as a Diamondback fan, I just hope he pitches as poorly as he spells the name "Dylan."  As for Enright, he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings last time out against the Giants.  Considering how much we talked about him out-performing his peripherals last year, it's funny to me that Barry's actually due for some regression in the good direction, with an ERA that's over a run higher than his FIP (5.12).

Sunday: Armando Galarraga (3-0, 6.00) vs. Jonathan Niese (0-3, 5.87)

Insightful Commentary: At this point, I'm secretly hoping that Armando Galarraga continues pitching horribly and winning just to see what happens when the all-star voting rolls around.  If he has a great W/L record, he'll make the managers grit their teeth and say "Well, he DOES have a bunch of wins..." while simultaneously infuriating the sabermetric community because, hey, he's Armando Galarraga.  Who knows, Galarraga could end up being the straw that breaks the camel's back in the stats vs. guts debate.  That's right, Armando, you're our best hope for causing an all-out war between nerds and angry old baseball men.  Don't you dare screw this up by losing and/or pitching well.  Meanwhile, Jonathan Niese has struggled thus far this season, as his Ks have dropped and his walk rate has risen.  He's still only 24, though, and should rebound.  He doesn't have a great fastball (around 90 mph), but he makes up for it with a solid slider and cutter.

Final Verdict: The Mets are a mess right now, and they look like they will continue to be a mess for at least a little while.  Jason Bay's return should help the offense at least be competent, but their lack of pitching depth is coming back to bite them.  The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are coming off an encouraging series win against a tough team on the road and should have confidence going into this series.  The cynic in me is worried that the D-Backs will disappoint, but if they want to be a playoff contender, they have to take this type of series.  D-Backs two games to one.

Visit Amazin' Avenue for the Mets' side of the story.


Current Series

3 game series vs Mets @ Citi Field

Arizona Diamondbacks
@ New York Mets

Friday, Apr 22, 2011, 7:10 PM EDT
Citi Field

Joe Saunders vs Mike Pelfrey

Mostly cloudy,rain. Winds blowing in from center field at 5-15 m.p.h. Game time temperature around .

Complete Coverage >

Sat 04/23 1:10 PM EDT
Sun 04/24 1:10 PM EDT

(All batting stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, pitching stats courtesy of Fangraphs)