Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Saturday, January 31, 2004
  Well, that's that.

Some of my links got wiped out for no apparent reason. Everything else seems to be in working order. I'll get around to restoring and updating the links portion of the page at some point.
  So, is this working yet?

My blog appears to be still busted. Testing, testing... 1, 2, 3.
Thursday, January 29, 2004

My template's acting funny. In a way that doesn't allow me to edit it. Let's see if I can screw it up further by posting right now, shall we?
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
  More mildly maddening Met moves

Aggravating acquisitions allow for annoying alliteration. Now the Mets have sent Jaime Cerda to the Royals in exchange for Shawn Sedlacek. Now, I've always liked Cerda, even after his major league performance ceased to warrant it, but I think even someone with no emotional attachment to either player can see that this deal doesn't make a whole lot of sense from the Mets' perspective. Now it's true that spots in the New York bullpen are at a premium given the sizable collection of more experienced, higher paid (and likely less effective) relievers already fitting Cerda's prospective job description at the major league level and the gaggle of recently acquired relative youngsters likely to be pushing up on him from the minor league level in the coming months and years, but you'll have a hard time convincing me or anyone else who's paying much attention that Sedlacek will be any more useful to the Mets at the major league level. While Cerda may have struggled with the Mets in 2003, not only was Sedlacek's ERA at AAA nearly four times that of Cerda, but Sedlacek is more than two years older than Cerda and has never had a year in the majors nearly as successful as Cerda's 2002, when he put up a 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings, striking out 21 and walking 14 while giving up no home runs (incidentally, Cerda pitched at both AA and AAA in 2002 and didn't give up a dinger in the minors either).

This isn't a move likely to greatly impact the future of the New York Mets franchise, but based on Cerda's often dominant minor league career and some flashes of promise in the big show, he seemed like a candidate to be a relatively useful lefty out of the Mets' bullpen in the years to come. Sedlacek seems like a candidate to never see the inside of Shea Stadium without the word "September" atop his calendar. The Mets are understandably unsure about putting the fifth spot of the starting rotation up for grabs among Aaron Heilman, Jeremy Griffiths, Grant Roberts and whoever else they can dig out of the the minors, but if none of those guys pitches well enough to beat out Sedlacek for the spot, 2004 will have already started off on a sour note.

In other news, the Mets seem to be near signing up former Yankee flash-in-the-pan Shane Spencer to compete for spot in some sort of right field platoon. I don't really have a problem with this, especially if it's just a minor league deal he signs, as he won't be blocking a whole lot of better options in the Mets organization, but I won't exactly be ecstatic to see him make the team either. I still think if Victor Diaz can be taught to play right field halfway competently, he'd be clearly the best option out there, but I haven't seen anything to indicate that the Mets are thinking along those lines. It looks like we'll have little more than hope that 2004's right field situation will be a significant upgrade over 2003's.
Monday, January 19, 2004
  Todd Zeile a Met again

So, any guesses on who'll be the biggest waste of a Mets roster spot, Zeile or perennial contender Joe McEwing? Just a baffling signing.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
  So it's come to this; Mets sign Garcia

So, aside from all the hubbub and hoopla over his medical records, the Mets' affair with Vladimir Guerrero is over, and so they've turned to what I guess is supposed to be the next best free agent option in right field, former Yankee Karim Garcia.

Last year, Garcia hit .262/.302/.422 in 244 at bats for the Yankees and Indians, which doesn't look too impressive, even next to Roger Cedeno's 2003 numbers (.267/.320/.378 in 484 at bats). Those numbers are skewed a bit by his particularly awful performance with Cleveland and against lefties. Against right handed pitchers, he put up a halfway decent .291/.335/.476 line with 10 home runs in 189 at bats. And he really picked up his play after arriving in New York, hitting .305/.347/.457 in 151 at bats with the Yankees. Presumably the Mets are banking on the 28 year old putting up similar production after the trip across town to Shea. It's worth noting that he put up better numbers on the road than at Yankee Stadium, where he hit just .270/.316/.405 with 3 home runs in 74 at bats. But basically it seems that a slight power advantage was the only significant edge Garcia had over Cedeno last year.

But post-trade surge or not, 2003 was something of a down year for Garcia compared to his recent production. His numbers over the last three years are .281/.312/.511 with 32 home runs in 491 at bats, which looks a bit like one decent season of every day play. If he can come close to matching that over the course of a full season at Shea, we'd probably have to be happy with that. If the Mets can find someone to platoon with the man who hit .297/.327/.528 against righties over the past three years, they might actually have themselves an adequate situation in right field.

Of course, all of this ignores the matter of defense. Anyone who watched a lot of Mets baseball last year would probably conclude that no one could be worse out there than Cedeno was. The only defensive stat I've seen so far on the two was Range Factor, in which Cedeno actually had a 2.36 to 1.84 edge in right field last year. Hopefully some more sophisticated metrics tell a different story, because if Garcia isn't even a defensive upgrade over Cedeno, that's a scary proposition.

I like the length and value of this deal, as it doesn't preclude the Mets from going after an actual good right fielder next year or even via trade during this year should the opportunity present itself. But overall, this deal's not much to get excited about aside from the psychological benefit of not having to look at Roger Cedeno in the outfield. Hopefully Garcia will work out better than previous former Yankees at Shea Stadium.

Sunday, January 11, 2004
  Vlad to Anaheim

Roger Cedeno.
Raul Gonzalez.
Timo Perez.
Joe McEwing.
Prentice Redman.

Somebody teach Victor Diaz to play right field. Fast.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
  On Braden Looper...

So the Mets went out and got themselves one o' them Proven Closers the folks on TV are always talking about. And not just any closer, the Mets somehow managed to get their hands on Braden Looper, formerly of the World Champion Florida Marlins. Of course, Looper did get shifted to the role of Proven Middle Reliever in favor of Ugueth Urbina in the middle of the season, but still, all that experience coming into the game in the ninth inning with nobody on base and finishing the job has to count for something, right?

Honestly, I don't hate this move. It really is in the best interest of the Mets to have someone on whose forehead they can stamp "CLOSER", thus decreasing the number of decisions Art Howe has to make and potentially screw up during the course of a game. And the fact that Looper's only signed up for two years seems to indicate that the team just sees him as a stopgap solution until one of the numerous minor league relievers Jim Duquette traded for last year is ready to take over the job. And Looper certainly isn't a bad pitcher. But is he really the best option the Mets have for a closer?

Well, first of all, he's pretty clearly not as good as the guy who couldn't hold onto the job last year, Armando Benitez. Last year, Benitez, despite the fact that his performance did continue its recent decline, was significantly better than Looper in terms of strikeout rate (9.25 per 9 innings vs. 6.25) and ERA+ (145 vs. 109) and Benitez was as about as good or better than Looper in terms of strikeout to walk ratio, opponents' batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and WHIP. In fact, the only number in which Looper had a significant edge over Benitez was home runs per nine innings, 0.45 to 0.74, and neither of those numbers is particularly awful. But Benitez wore out his welcome with not one but two New York teams last year. Hopefully Looper can keep his breakdowns confined to games other than those nationally televised ones against the Braves and Yankees.

But bringing back Benitez wasn't really an option for the Mets, and I certainly am not arguing that I wanted to see him back. So how does Looper compare to the Mets' internal options at closer? I took a look at David Weathers, Dan Wheeler and the much-criticized Mike Stanton (whose profile almost mockingly still shows him wearing a Yankee cap) in comparison to Looper and didn't find much to make him stand out from the pack. Of the four, Looper's strikeout/9 ratio ranked third, beating out just Wheeler, 6.25 to 6.18, but still trailing the leader, Weathers (7.70) by a decent margin. As for strikeout to walk ratio, Looper's 1.93 did rank second, but the difference among the group was fairly minor between Stanton's 1.79 and Wheeler's 2.06. The most encouraging sign was that Looper's home run rate was the best of the group, and coming to Shea should allow him to keep that up. Weathers' 0.62 was pretty good too, while Wheeler and Stanton both gave up a little over one home run per nine innings. Looper and Weathers tied for the worst opponents' batting average among the four, at .264 and Looper bested Weathers for third place out of four in terms of opponents' on-base percentage, .323 to .346, as walks were more of a problem for Weathers than the other three last year. Looper did manage to put up the best opponents' slugging percentage of the four, .363, but the worst of the four was Wheeler's .392. Again, not a huge edge for Looper. As far as WHIP, Looper came in third, ahead of only Weathers. Interestingly, Mike Stanton actually had the best of the four in that category. His bloated 4.57 ERA last year seems to be largely the result of giving up six home runs in just 45.1 innings. That seems to be largely a function of luck and small sample size to me, and unlikely to be repeated at the friendly confines of Shea Stadium. He did give up four of the six on the road last year, but maybe we're in for a little bounce back from Stanton. In terms of ERA+, only Stanton's 93 was worse than Looper's 109 last year, and in fact Weathers rivaled Benitez with a 138.

So what does all this tell us? Well, Braden Looper doesn't seem to be a significantly better option at closer than the guys the Mets already had under contract, but he doesn't seem significantly worse, either. Weathers seems like perhaps the best option, although his walks (4.11 per 9) are a little scary. I suppose the hope is that Rick Peterson can work his magic and turn Looper into a dominant closer, but couldn't he have worked said magic on, say, the 26-year-old Wheeler, too?
Disseminating descriptions and accounts of New York Mets games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball or the New York Mets since 2003.

Location: Hatboro, Pennsylvania, United States
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