I can see it.
Pitchers and catchers are reporting; the sun in Florida and Arizona is warm; hope abounds for every team in baseball that good things are going to happen in 2011.
Regardless of history, off and on-field drama and perception, all—however briefly—can believe.
There’s such a thing as the “best case scenario”; and there’s such a thing as an editor demanding a spin be placed on the Mets prospects for the season.
In reading this piece by Dan Rosenheck in the New York Times, I can’t help but envision the latter.
I can see the editors telling Rosenheck that it’s spring training, we all know the reality the Mets face in 2011 as they’re trapped in the same division with two top teams in the National League (the Phillies and Braves); and another with a load of young talent (the Marlins); but hope springs eternal and the spring begets hope. So, presumably, they told him to say something positive.
I can also see Rosenheck examining the circumstances surrounding the Mets, widening his eyes, puffing his cheeks and exhaling heavily…then hammering away with what amounts to a dream.
The title—If the Stars Align, the Mets Could Surprise. Really.—is an indicator of where the piece was going before reading the first sentence.
As justification for the thought of a Mets surprise, examples presented are the Giants from 2010; the overly enthusiastic suggestion that the Mets might—might—get production close to that which they achieved three years ago from their remaining stars; their young players; and the statistic WAR.
Let’s look at it realistically.
First, is anyone, anywhere thinking that Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana—coming off injuries and aging—are going to be a shell of what they once were?
Beltran is determined to get himself another big contract, but the fact is that the tools have been compromised by his badly damaged knee. He can’t run as well; he doesn’t have the leg drive to hit for power from the left side of the plate; his defense is compromised; and he’s going to need frequent rest days.
Santana is only now starting to soft toss. If he returns in the summer, his already declining velocity is likely to be worse than it was. He can still win, but the dominant pitcher the Mets thought they were getting from the Twins is gone forever.
David Wright is still one of the top third basemen in baseball; Jose Reyes is looking to get paid, so he’ll be healthy and have a great year; Jason Bay will be back to normal after his acclimating year in New York. But before last year, Angel Pagan had never played a full season without injury—he was a pleasant surprise as was R.A. Dickey—now there are expectations in not outright reliance.
The odds against this are great.
Then we get to the statistic WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
The stat is designed to simplify “value” for the masses by equating a player with a Triple A replacement. So if Wright gets hurt, a baseline minor league replacement would diminish the Mets number of wins by “X” amount.
It’s absurd to take a complicated issue and make it into an abridged, out of context number to give “value” to said player’s contribution.
No one is replacing David Wright on the Mets; no one is replacing Albert Pujols on the Cardinals; no one is replacing Felix Hernandez on the Mariners.
It’s an attempt to explain encompassing issues to those who does not understand the intricacies of the game and make it more comprehensible; but those who actually know the game numerically and practically can see that the true contribution of said player is not easily bundled into a number detailing what would happen if he were replaced by Cody Ransom.
The idea that the best case scenario laid out by Rosenheck is a possibility is the same thing as saying the Mets could also bring Tom Seaver out of retirement and for one year and one year only, he’d be back to the Tom Seaver of 1969.
How many games would they win then?
Or if they had Pujols? Or King Felix? Or an in-his-prime Ken Griffey, Jr.
What’s it mean?
To me, the whole concept of WAR is boiled down to the statements, “if we lose him we’re screwed”; or “we’ll live without him”.
No kidding. If the Mets lose Wright or Reyes, they’re screwed. Is this news? Do you need a stat to tell you this? And what team is going to account for losing a player of that magnitude? The higher salaried teams might have a super-utility player who will fill in adequately for such a devastating loss; other clubs might discover some young player who can fill in for bursts, thereby rendering WAR meaningless because he’s not a borderline big leaguer who hadn’t gotten a chance to play—he’s a useful component.
There were a limitless number of plays on words I could’ve made with Rosenheck. “Rosenheck Needs A Reality Check”; “What The (Rosen)heck?”
But no. I prefer to inject some objectivity into this.
The best case scenario for the Mets is if they do get big performances from the players who are still capable of delivering them—Francisco Rodriguez, Wright, Reyes and Bay; get improvement from Ike Davis, Jonathon Niese and Mike Pelfrey; have Dickey and Pagan come close to what they did last season; have Beltran healthy and able to contribute; and get Santana back with some semblance of effectiveness.
If these things happen, they’ll be over .500; if the Wild Card is limited to 88 or so wins (highly unlikely with the strength of numerous clubs), the Mets can hang around into September and hope to steal a playoff spot.
But even if they are contending, will they be able to add that big bat or arm at mid-season? While other clubs like the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals will be looking to do the same thing? Do the Mets have the money? Are they willing to surrender the prospects? Would it be worth it?
You can come up with a number to explain any assertion and make it so complex with twisted verbiage as a means of confusion, but that’s not real. It’s not accurate. It’s not the truth. It’s brainwashing the masses who don’t have the capacity to analyze without fear of criticism or numerical “proof”.
The Times editors got what I presume they wanted—hope for the Mets where there is a limited supply for 2011.
Liz writes RE Fantasy Baseball:
Wow, there’s an actual strategy to fantasy baseball? I used to pick the best-looking players for my team… I was under the impression that’s what “fantasy” was referring to?
All silliness (or seriousness) aside, I may just choose some of these players and see how your predictions play out. I never win anything, so what have I got to lose? However, I don’t know about Berkman – I think his heavy hitting days might be numbered.
I often joke about my fantasies having literally nothing to do with baseball!! (Don’t ask.)
I don’t know the strategies—that’s the thing. I’ve never even thought about playing. I’m sticking to my statement—swiped from Whitey Herzog—when I stopped physically playing the game (again, don’t ask): “Baseball has been very, very good to me since I quit trying to play it.”
Why muck with a good thing?
Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE my Fantasy Baseball lists of whom to consider:
Nice list! I went with the Pineiro pick VERY late last year and it did benefit me until he went down for the season. I like the Javi Vazquez pick this year. He’ll be undervalued and there late… AND it’s clear he’s better suited to pitching in the NL (and NOT in Yankee pinstripes).
The Javier Vazquez case is interesting in that the Yankees continually look at the numbers and ignore the human being. Bringing him back was a mistake they were prepared to make again with, unbelievably(!)—Carl Pavano.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Fantasy Baseball:
I don’t play fantasy baseball. I have enough trouble keeping up with players on my own team. But thanks for the rundown.
We’re old school, Jane.
You and me.
Pam writes RE Fantasy Baseball:
As a fervent fantasy baseball player, I thank you for this from the bottom of my heart! The reason that I enjoy playing is because since I’m constantly poring over player information, I find myself enjoying players that might have otherwise slipped under my radar. Last year, as I was looking for another C to add to my line up, I noticed some kid named Buster Posey who seemed to be surging. I locked him up on my fantasy team before he became a big name, and I had the pleasure of watching him blossom. If not for playing FF, I probably wouldn’t have been as acutely aware of him until the playoffs.
Plus, I’m a nerd.
Ain’t nothing wrong with being a nerd. Within reason. And Posey was a great pick.
Mike Fierman writes RE Fantasy Baseball:
A worthy effort from someone who claims not to know the rules. actually the “rules” and strategies vary wildly from league to league…I like having a few sleeper picks that I get in late rounds that give me great rewards. Ibanez the year he went to the phils, 2008 I believe was a steal. i knew him going from safeco to the bandbox was a match made in heaven. i was an early Bell , Wilson and Broxton guy. My late closer pick this year is Kimbrel. Last year I had Wagner on all of my teams..No one was picking him.
There are way too many good pitching options to go with javy and his nothingball. must disagree there. I always have my eye on Gregerson. he gave me many holds last year. not sold on Yunel. I think he’s a flameout type. I don’t see Hinske being drafted by many people except in a VERY deep offense only league. I had Morse and Niese on a couple of different teams at point or another last year and was very happy with what they did for me.
Quote from The Dark Knight (twisted for my nefarious purposes): “You got rules. The Prince? He’s got no rules!! Nobody’s gonna cross him for you!!!”
When you get into the “deep offense league” my eyes glaze like a monkey staring at a bright red ball.
My analysis of Luke Gregerson expands beyond the numbers and whether “holds” are applicable. It’s an examination of the Padres; the type of year I think they’ll have; that Heath Bell is a free agent at the end of the year and since their GM Jed Hoyer came from the Red Sox, he’s not paying big money for a closer; and that Gregerson is the likely replacement if and when Bell is traded. You’ll get your saves then.
Gabriel writes RE Fantasy Baseball:
I play Fantasy Baseball in the MLB.com site, and it’s fun. Last year I noticed José Bautista‘s sudden rise and it paid off.
I agree with you about Billy Butler and Yunel Escobar (I believe the Blue Jays’ season depends on whether Adam Lind and Aaron Hill bounce back).
I used to pick Lance Berkman a lot, but last year I put Paul Konerko instead, and it paid off too.
I’m 100% with you on Lind and Hill.
Berkman is similar to my selection of Gregerson; it’s circumstantial. In that lineup with Pujols and Matt Holliday, he’ll see pitches to hit and his defensive limitations will mean nothing on the fantasy stat sheet. (They don’t count defense, do they?)
The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Zack Greinke:
I’m glad somebody else thinks Zack Greinke is being overrated and overstated. You should have heard all the moaning and groaning from the Dallas media when the Brewers got him.
He was going to be Plan B if Cliff Lee left, but I never wanted any part of him and his lifetime 4.23 ERA, which includes every year but one.
The bad ERA is misleading because of his early-career struggles; but the Brewers getting a Roy Halladay-type year in Greinke’s move to the National League is highly presumptuous.
The Brewers defense is terrible. They made two flashy moves in getting Greinke and Shaun Marcum, but I’m looking at them with a tilted head and an “I dunno” countenance.