Tag Archives: New York

Are the Mets Really This Bad With Runners in Scoring Position?

During today’s matinee matchup against the Rockies, the Mets muddled their way to a 2-1 loss while going 1-9 with runners in scoring position, causing announcers Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen to marvel at the team’s inability to hit with RISP.

Over the three game series with St. Louis that concluded yesterday, New York hitters went 4-33 with RISP, good for a .121 average. Those three games are part of a dismal stretch of fifteen games during which the team has hit  .155 with RISP. Unfortunately, this slump isn’t really much of a slump at all—the Mets’ yearlong average with RISP is an abysmal .206.

Cohen remarked that the Mets’ futility with RISP couldn’t be a fluke nearly four months into the season. Is this the case, or can fans hope for an improvement as the team nears the stretch run?

The mean batting average with runners in scoring position in MLB is .257, with a standard deviation of .0204. The Mets’ .206 average is 2.5 standard deviations below the mean, so given a normal distribution, there’s a 0.6% chance that their average with RISP could be .206 or lower.

If it’s so improbable that the Mets are this bad, then it appears that the team is bound to improve. However, it isn’t as simple as it seems. Although the Mets are tremendously unlucky when compared to the rest of the league’s stats, it’s a limited comparison. New York is starting off from a much lower baseline than the rest of the league because its average in all situations is a mere .238, worst in MLB, while league average is .255, with a standard deviation of .12. Since New York starts off 1.4 standard deviations below the mean, let’s subtract that from the original 2.5, leaving us with 1.1. Now, instead of a minuscule probability of .006 that the Mets are this bad, there’s a comparatively huge .136. In fact, in a thirty team league, it’s overwhelmingly likely that a team does as poorly with runners in scoring position as the Mets.

Those last two paragraphs were more based on intuition rather than hard statistics. Let’s take a look at it through a more official lens.

First we need to find a normalized statistic that prevents uneven baselines from affecting the numbers. I’ll use this simple formula: RISP Avg.  – Normal Avg. RISP Avg. refers to a team’s average with runners in scoring position while Normal Avg. refers to a team’s overall seasonal average (which includes its at bats with RISP). This formula excises other variables and hones in on exactly what we’re looking for.

Here are the teams with the biggest positive difference between their normal average and their average with RISP.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 4.16.53 PM

And here are the teams with with the biggest negative difference between their normal average and their average with RISP.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 4.22.33 PM

There are a couple of takeaways. First, there must be something in the New York water that causes its baseball teams to wilt with runners in scoring position, as the Mets and Yankees have the two largest negative differentials in MLB. Second, although the Mets have the worst difference in the league, the Yankees and Diamondbacks are both in the same neighborhood , while on the positive side, the Cardinals have an even bigger differential than the Mets. Accordingly, it’s safe to conclude that while the Mets have been unlucky this year, they haven’t been exceptionally unfortunate.

This only proves that the Mets haven’t been especially unlucky so far, meaning that there’s no guarantee that things get better because they can’t get any worse. However, we haven’t identified if these statistics have any predictive value. After over an hour of frenzied googling and trying to manipulate various baseball stats websites to give me half season splits along with RISP numbers, I was unable to find any statistics that would allow us to determine the predictive value of what we’ve seen so far. However, I’ll continue to look, and if I manage to find the stats, another article will soon be on the way.

All statistics accurate through July 27. 

Advertisements

2016 MLB Predictions

Admittedly, this article is coming out a day late, so these predictions are obviously all moot and completely worthless, as the three total games that have been played so far have determined everything that will happen in the regular season for the next six months.

Anyways, here are the Sushi on Sports 2016 MLB predictions.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox

Detroit Tigers

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins

AL West

Houston Astros

Texas Rangers

Seattle Mariners

Oakland Athletics

Los Angeles Angels

NL East

New York Mets

Washington Nationals

Miami Marlins

Atlanta Braves

Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates

Cincinnati Reds

Milwaukee Brewers

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Francisco Giants

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

San Diego Padres

AL Wild Card

Chicago White Sox over Texas Rangers

NL Wild Card

Pittsburgh Pirates over St. Louis Cardinals

ALDS

Houston Astros over Chicago White Sox

Toronto Blue Jays over Kansas City Royals

NLDS

Chicago Cubs over Pittsburgh Pirates

New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers

ALCS

Houston Astros over Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS

New York Mets over Chicago Cubs

World Series

New York Mets over Houston Astros

AL MVP

Carlos Correa

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo

AL Cy Young

Chris Sale

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY

A.J. Reed

NL ROY

Steven Matz

AL MOY

A.J. Hinch

NL MOY

Joe Maddon

Who’s the Most Exciting Player on the Mets?

As we near spring training and inch closer to the beginning of the regular season, roles on every MLB team begin to crystallize. Teams identify their closers, determine how they’ll allocate playing time, and figure out the bottoms of their rotations.

While these roles are important to teams, as a Mets fan, at this point, I don’t really care if Lucas Duda hits fourth or fifth, or if Addison Reed or Antonio Bastardo enters the season as the setup man. What I care about is the player who gets me pumped for the game each night, the player who forces me to come to Citi Field simply to see him play, the player who gets me emotionally invested in the Mets.

What we’ll do today is figure out who that player is. Let’s get started.

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is tremendously exciting. His immense power is fearsome to behold and he plays the game with a joy that’s easy to see.

His play in the outfield is what sets him apart from other sluggers. Not his good play, mind you, but the kind of riveting drama that comes with not knowing whether or not he’ll catch a routine fly ball.

To be fair, his mistakes aren’t at the level of Kyle Schwarber’s fielding gaffes, but they’re still pretty painful.

However, there’s still plenty of good along with the bad.

In addition to those magnificent throws, one of Cespedes’ more entertaining quirks is his penchant for, after making a catch, throwing the ball back to the infield underhand.

Cespedes is very exciting, of course, but a lot of his excitement stems from his mistakes, removing the favorite from contention early on.

Jeurys Familia 

Familia too is a riveting player. The 26-year old took over the closer job last season and kept it for the rest of the year, racking up 48 saves.

He wields a variety of wicked pitches. The movement on this pitch is absolutely ridiculous:

Familia was good enough that he was able to come into games and easily shut the door on any potential threat. Just take a look at what he did to the Nationals at the end of one game last year:

Simply evil. That second strikeout, the one that came against 2015’s NL MVP, Bryce Harper, came on a filthy 96 mph splitter.

Most important, however, are his entertaining post-save celebrations.

You can’t be a good closer without being able to celebrate effusively after a successful save.

Familia’s case for being the Mets’ most exciting player has a serious flaw: Wouldn’t anyone put in his position be exciting? I mean, he’s a closer on a contending team, one that has provided him with plenty of opportunities for saves. In the pivotal ninth inning situations in which Familia most often appeared, Mets fans would have been glued to the TV regardless of who the closer was.

To be clear, Familia’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill pitcher, but I don’t think he’s quite worthy of the title of being the Mets’ most exciting player.

Noah Syndergaard

Syndergaard, put simply, is electric. Last year, as a rookie, no other starter averaged a faster pitch than Thor’s 97.3 mph four-seam fastball.

I love watching Syndergaard’s smooth delivery and unfair pitches. While writing this section, I went down a forty-minute wormhole of watching GIFs of Syndergaard. Here are the four best I found:

That pitch looked like it decided, about halfway to the plate, to slow down of its own volition. The best part of that pitch? The batter, Justin Turner, turning to the umpire afterwards, probably saying something like: “We need a rule change. That can’t happen again. That’s completely unfair.” The scary thing is that he might be right.

Ho-hum, just another nasty pitch to strike out the 2015 NL MVP.

Perhaps hitters should start wearing chin straps on their helmets when they’re facing Syndergaard. After all, it’s kind of embarrassing when you completely whiff on a pitch, spin around completely, and then, adding insult to injury, lose your helmet in the process.

That’s dastardly. That’s a 98 mph pitch that changes direction right as it hits the plate, curving in as a strike, even though it had looked to be a ball. You’ve gotta feel for Yangervis Solarte; there wasn’t anything he could have done about that.

So yeah, Thor is ridiculous. But is he the most exciting Met?

He’s definitely close. He’s got some of the best pitches in the game, and, at 23-years old, he’s only getting better. The problem is that his starts, while spectacular, aren’t quite events. To me, the most exciting player on the team is the guy who forces me to come to Citi Field, simply to bask in his glow, joining the revelry surrounding the game. Syndergaard isn’t quite there yet.

Matt Harvey

I’ve got the same opinion of Harvey as just about every other Mets fan: I like him, but he fell considerably in my eyes after the innings-limit debacle of last season.

However, there’s absolutely no question that Harvey is the Mets’ most exciting player. No one else on the Mets inspires quite the same mix of emotions as him, that unusual combination of mild disgust and disdain coupled with effusive admiration and love.

And, remember the criterion I just mentioned? Harvey’s starts are true events. On Harvey Day, fans come in droves to watch him pitch, sporting Batman masks and cheering on their homegrown star.

Just remember what happened last season in his return to Citi Field after his long absence due to Tommy John surgery? In case you forgot, here’s his first pitch back on the mound:

That chanting, those cheers, that excitement that Harvey produces? That’s what makes him the Mets’ most exciting player.

The Blockbuster Trade That Needs to Happen

As fans, blockbusters are fun to think about. It’s great to imagine stars flying around willy-nilly, the landscape of the league changing every other minute.

The problem with blockbusters is that they almost never occur. The reason why blockbusters so rarely happen can be easily explained by Newton’s first law: An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (thanks 8th grade science!). GMs are unwilling to gamble their jobs on one big move, so rather than taking a chance, they’re content to just sit back and do nothing.

There are a couple of stars rumored to be available: Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. However, it’s unlikely that a team overcomes its inertia to pull off a blockbuster trade for either of them, because Doc Rivers’ asking price for Griffin is sky-high and teams have little interest in trading for Howard, who’s on an expiring contract, is declining, has dealt with nagging injuries, and will expect a max contract in free agency, one that starts at $30 million per season. In addition, the team that has the most assets available in a trade and is looking for a star, the Celtics, “have recoiled at paying a price Houston would find acceptable,” according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Speaking of those Celtics, although they won’t be going after Howard, there are still plenty of other options. And that’s the impetus for the blockbuster trade that absolutely needs to happen:

New York trades Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland 

Cleveland trades Kevin Love to Boston

Boston trades David Lee, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, James Young, unprotected Brooklyn 2016 1st round pick, top-7 protected Dallas 2016 first round pick to New York

I absolutely love this trade. It works for every single team involved.

As we were just saying, the Celtics are in the hunt for a star, and Danny Ainge has long been an admirer of Love’s game. The two make a perfect fit.

Personally, I’m not so high on Love, as to me, he’s just a more famous version of Olynyk, but if Ainge wants him, this is a reasonable price to pay. Even better, unlike Howard, Love is signed long-term; he won’t reach free agency until 2020.

Losing five good young players will hurt, but as we discussed a few days ago, the Celtics might have too many good players (if that’s possible) and are therefore unable to play them all. The same logic in trading three good players for a very good player like Al Horford applies here as well.

This trade would make Anthony happy. Melo said last Friday: “I think everybody always kind of dreams and hopes that they can play with another great player, another star player,” adding “It’s a star players’ league. I think that’s what we all talk about every time we get together.”

We can infer from that quote that Anthony is hoping to play with a star and doesn’t want to wait for Kristaps Porzingis to blossom into one. And what better a way to do it than to join his friend LeBron in Cleveland for a title run?

Every couple of years, we see Melo on Team USA, enjoying himself, just swishing three-pointers whenever someone passes to him. On the Knicks, he can’t be a complimentary player; on the Cavaliers, he can. Even better, if Tyronn Lue decided to stagger his three stars’ minutes, two of LeBron James, Melo, and Kyrie Irving would be out on the floor at the same time. All three of those guys can create shots for themselves and others, meaning that Cleveland’s offense wouldn’t miss a beat when LeBron takes a breather.

Speaking of LeBron, this trade would make him happy too. James has historically wanted to play with his friends, and Melo would make basketball sense for the Cavs as well.

Love is shooting 36.8% from three-point range, while Anthony is shooting 32.7%. However, Anthony is attempting far more challenging shots than Love; 61% of his three point attempts have come on catch-and-shoots, compared to 91% of Love’s. As you can see, unlike Love, Anthony is capable of creating his own shot. And, as more of a complimentary player, Anthony will be playing off the ball more, leading to more catch-and-shoot attempts. That’ll raise his 3FG% much closer to Love’s.

Defensively, Anthony is far superior to Love. A good way to measure defensive prowess is by defensive field goal percentage. Comparing the player’s defensive FG% to the usual FG% of the player being defended allows us to find out how the defender is playing when compared to an average defender. To illustrate this point, holding Stephen Curry to 45% shooting is considered a success, while allowing Lance Stephenson to shoot 45%, well, isn’t.

Anyways, in this regard, Anthony is a big winner. He ranks sixth in the NBA among the players who have played in at least forty games, holding his opponents to a FG% 6.3 percentage points lower than their norm, while Love ranks 229th out of the 250 players, with a mark of +4.3.

As we can see, Anthony is a clear upgrade over Love. Naturally, that leads to the question: Why wouldn’t the Celtics just trade for Melo instead? Well, Anthony has a no-trade clause, and although he’ll likely waive it if he’s sent to Cleveland to play with LeBron, he’s unlikely to allow the Knicks to trade him to Boston. On top of that, Love is 27, four years younger than the 31-year old Melo, which makes him a better fit for the up-and-coming Celtics team.

Now that we’ve established why both the Cavaliers and the Celtics would make this trade, it’s time to figure out why the Knicks would too.

Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out. Anthony is nearly twelve years older than Porzingis, and by the time the latter enters his prime, the former will be way past his. Accordingly, the Knicks would be wise to build around Porzingis and this trade would allow them to do so.

Porzingis is 20, Rozier is 21, Olynyk is 24, and Young is 20. The two 2016 first rounders will be similarly aged. Add in the 23-year old Jerian Grant and the 24-year old Langston Galloway, and that’s the start of a damn good roster.

The Knicks will also have control of all of those players for years to come, allowing them to develop chemistry through continuity.

The last guy New York would acquire is Lee. He’s an unimportant part of this deal, as he’s on an expiring contract and would be included just to make the salaries work.

Again, I’m doubtful that this blockbuster will ever occur, but if ever there were a time for NBA teams to overcome their inertia to actually make a trade, this is definitely the trade with which to do it.

Cespedes Returns: A Mets Fan’s Perspective

When I found out earlier today that Yoenis Cespedes would be returning to the New York Mets, I was ecstatic. I was dumbfounded. I called my dad and just screamed happily at the phone until he hung up. That’s what happens when your team does what you’ve been asking for, pleading for, praying for all along.

For weeks, now, I’ve been advocating for Cespedes to return to the Mets. Not on a five-year deal, mind you—that’s far too long—but on a shorter contract. I was in favor of a one year contract or a longer one with an early opt-out clause. Unfortunately, that seemed out of the question as Cespedes was reportedly searching for upwards of one hundred million dollars over at least five years.

Free agency wore on, and Cespedes remained unsigned. I started to hope, just a little, that maybe, just maybe, the Mets might be able to snag him on a short contract. Again, I was happy to pay him as much money as he wanted, just not for five years, and as the days rolled by, the chances of that happening slowly increased.

I got worried, really worried, when rumors started rolling in that the Nationals had jumped into the fray. A Washington team with Cespedes and Bryce Harper is a force to be reckoned with, one that might have been able to push the Mets in the divisional race.

But then, late Thursday night, Ken Rosenthal reported that a pair of sources believed that Cespedes would prefer to return to New York. And on Friday morning, Buster Olney reported that the Mets and Cespedes were discussing a three-year contract with an opt-out after the first year, the same exact contract I’d been advocating for all along. By then, I was extraordinarily excited.

Finally, on Saturday morning, news broke that the Mets and Cespedes had agreed to a three-year contract with an opt-out clause. That’s when I called my dad and screamed at the phone. That player! In that lineup! With that pitching staff! On that contract!

And, oh boy, that contract. I mean, this could not have possibly gone any better for the Mets. Cespedes, barring a serious injury, is a cinch to opt out after one season, but that’s fine. We’ll get him for a season of his prime, and although it’ll be extraordinarily expensive, it’s still great. And here’s the kicker: If Cespedes leaves the Mets after next season, the team will recoup a first round draft pick for their troubles. That’s awesome: Cespedes will contribute to both the current great Mets team and the next great Mets team.

To sum it all up, the Mets now have a great player for one of his last valuable seasons and, on top of that, they’ll score an extra first round pick if he leaves in free agency. Kudos to Sandy Alderson and kudos to the Mets’ front office for this spectacular deal.

And to all my fellow Mets fans out there: It’s gonna be a helluva season.

I can’t wait until Opening Day.

Notes From Knicks-Jazz

Last night was chock full of basketball, with local channels carrying both the Knicks-Jazz and Nets-Cavs games.

Luckily, I was able to avoid most of the ugly Nets game in favor of the Knicks, but the one significant play I saw was a classic LeBron transition dunk met with cheers from the Barclays Center crowd. The TV only showed the seats close to the court, but those seats were filled with Cavs fans. I guess Nets fans have officially given up on the most boring team in the league. Good for them.

Anyways, let’s talk about the Knicks-Jazz game.  I was very impressed with how Young Kristaps was able to hang with Trey Lyles, a speedy power forward, on defense. That skill a big part of his appeal: He’s big enough to play center but fast enough to cover stretch-4s. That flexibility gives the Knicks multitudinous lineup options.

Rudy Gobert, the French Rejection, the Stifle Tower, is a gangly 7’2″ center for Utah. He’s not much of a driver—Gobert drives only once every two games—but early in the first quarter, he put the ball on the floor and drove for a layup. If Gobert can combine some offensive skill with his fearsome rim protection he could become even more valuable than he already is.

And, for the record, he is already extremely valuable as a rim protector on defense: Opponents have hit only 40.7% of their shots at the rim against him, one of the best marks in the league. Gobert displayed his rim-protecting prowess last night when he absolutely destroyed a Melo dunk attempt

As always, Walt Frazier’s rhyming commentary was entertaining and enjoyable. After Robin Lopez hit his unblockable hook shot, Frazier noted that he was “looking and hooking”. Following YKP’s lovely turnaround shot from the baseline with the shot clock running out, Frazier exclaimed that the Latvian was “shaking and baking”.

The best one of the night, though, was a triple-rhyme: “bounding and astounding and confounding”.

After yesterday’s game, Carmelo Anthony has now played a combined ninety-one minutes over the past two games. For someone who underwent a season-ending knee surgery last season, it seems a tad reckless to be playing so much. The Knicks certainly don’t need another Amar’e Stoudemire clogging up their cap for years. New York would do well to sit Melo for a game of rest sooner or later.

We need to talk about Gordon Hayward, the Jazz’s starting small forward. He’s a very good player, but his lips are bright red. It’s scary. It looks like he rehydrates on the sideline either with Kool-Aid or blood, I’m not sure which. Someone needs to investigate this.

Anyways, the Knicks ended up winning 118-111 in overtime. Including free throws, New York shot a blistering 11/16 in OT, scoring nineteen points over the five minute period.

The Knicks are back to .500 at 22-22 as they head into a challenging stretch of their schedule. They currently stand a half-game out of a playoff spot in the East, and if they can survive the next few games, they’ll be in prime position to make a run at the playoffs after the All-Star Break.

Should the Giants Sit Their Stars?

The Giants are finally nearing the end of yet another lost season. Only one more game remains: a matchup against the Eagles at 1:00 this Sunday.

While they get all the attention, teams that are locked into their playoff seeds aren’t the only teams who have to think about benching their stars. This week, the Giants face an intriguing decision: should they sit their studs to keep them safe or should they play them for pride?

The main reason the Giants should consider sitting players like Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. is that it makes no sense to risk your star players over a meaningless regular season game. Football is an inherently dangerous sport, and the more one plays it, the more likely it is that one gets hurt.

Those who think that teams should play their stars, even in meaningless games, like to point out that Week 17 is no more dangerous to players than any other game, as shown in the graph below.

In this graph, (found here, at Football Outsiders) the orange line shows that the risk of sustaining a new injury is stable throughout the season (Week 1 looks like a significant outlier, but, as the article notes, “anybody who suffers an injury in the offseason, training camp, or preseason will first appear” in Week 1’s stats). Accordingly, the logic goes, teams should play their stars because the risk of sustaining a new injury in Week 17 is no greater than the risk in any other game.

There’s an easy retort to this argument. While it’s true that a player is not more likely to get injured in Week 17 than in any other week, it’s also true that a player is more likely to get injured playing in a Week 17 game than sitting it out. Why should the Giants increase the risk of an injury to Manning or Beckham Jr. even slightly by playing them in a meaningless game?

It’s important to note that this graph does not indicate what kind of injuries were sustained. Obviously, there’s a significant difference in importance between a mild hamstring strain and a torn ACL, and that difference needs to be taken into account when determining the risks of playing one’s stars in a meaningless game. Logically, there’s no reason why the rate of serious injuries in Week 17 should be different than in any other game, but if anyone has any statistics on the matter, please email me at sushionsports@gmail.com.

Many will say that Eli Manning’s streak of 150 consecutive games started should not be broken, and that he needs to play to keep the streak alive. However, there’s a simple solution to this problem: play Manning for the first series of the game, and then sit him down for the rest of the afternoon.

The biggest reason the Giants should play their stars is out of loyalty to their fans. This game is being played in the Meadowlands, the Giants’ home stadium. The cheapest seat in the stadium, according to StubHub, is $50. That’s a significant amount of money to shell out for a team that’s not trying to win.

The Sixers, the preeminent tanking team, have realized that no one wants to pay a lot of money for a team that intends to lose. Accordingly, for their next home game, against the Timberwolves, the cheapest ticket available on StubHub is for a grand total of $9. That’s all. The price for a seat right behind the basket is $44. That’s cheaper than the cheapest seat in MetLife Stadium!

The Giants owe it to their fans, who are paying a lot of money to come watch the team play, to do their best to win the game. If it was on the road, that’d be another story, but it’s not. People come to Giants games to see Beckham Jr. and Manning, not Sidney York and Ryan Nassib.

And, just to prove my point, you definitely didn’t realize that Sidney York is the name of an electro-pop band, not a football player. Rather, it’s Elliott Brood who’s the current WR6 on the Giants.

So what do I think the Giants should do? It’s a tough decision, and I’m glad I don’t have to make it. Still, if I had to choose, I’d lean towards playing the stars for the sake of the fans. If I’m the Giants, I definitely don’t want to be compared to the Sixers.

And besides, who wants to see guys like Elliott Brood play football? Well, actually, it might be pretty awesome as, although you didn’t notice, Elliott Brood isn’t a wide receiver; it’s a Canadian alt-country band. And unless you want to see these guys playing for the Giants, you’d better hope the starters are playing on Sunday.

This article can also be found at Jock Journal.