I hate sacrifice bunts. I really do. Ever since I was a kid, it seemed strange to me to give up an out. When the pitcher does it, I can live with it, and it actually seems like a good idea. But otherwise, I detest it.
There have been studies done in the majors, Japanese baseball, and US college baseball which all show the unsurprising result that when a non-pitcher bunts a man over from first and gives up an out, this actually does not in fact significantly increase the chances of scoring. It actually decreases the chances of scoring more than one run in the inning.
Why then, does it still happen? I would guess for the same reason that in the 1970s pitchers were largely judged by wins and batters were largely judged by batting average. Today, pitchers are much more accurately judged by WHIP, and other stats which evaluate a pitcherâ€™s true effectiveness far better than W-L record. Steve Trachsel was not very good in 2006 when the Mets scored 6 or more runs in 11 of his 15 wins, while Johan was fantastic during that stretch last year in June when he pitched about six games in a row without a win largely due to anemic offense and offensive bullpen performances.
Back in the 1970s, OBP was not on baseball cards, and today it is starting to even pop up in ESPNâ€™s online box scores. As much as I fondly remember Dave Kingman from my childhood, the folks who compare Adam Dunn with him are really incredibly off base. Dunnâ€™s walks and OBP put him in an entirely different class from the very one-dimensional Kong.
The moral here? Old habits die hard in a conservative, change-hating game like baseball. It is the wise, forward-looking manager or GM who can take advantage of knowledge like this. Davey J was looked at somewhat suspiciously with his early use of computers, and Billy Beaneâ€™s habits have become somewhat commonplace. Jerry should stop all of the bunting. Of course, I am not talking about bunting for hits, which I wish Jose would do more. And I wish they would use the squeeze more, which requires that players be really good at fundamentals like bunting. That is another argument for another day.
Met fans really need to lay off of Luis Castillo. He was not that bad last year, and he has been fine, if not pretty good, this year. The Yankee game was an unmitigated disaster, but we have actually seen some serious character from Slappy since that play. His fielding has been very good this year, and has been excellent since that play. His mortified lookâ€”while taking every question like a stand-up guyâ€”after the play, as well as the broad grin which has been his reaction to the fansâ€™ cheering when he catches popups at home now, has shown a guy who not only does not run and hide from a play like that, but has come right back and continued to play well after it. And he has had fun with the situation as well. After all, despite the context, I am sure Luis prefers hearing cheers to boos.
Castilloâ€™s OBP has been around .380, and as always, he scores runs when he plays. And his fielding has been very good. He is not going to win any more Gold Gloves, steal 50 bases, or hit .330, but he is so far from being one of our serious problems this year, that it is becoming really ridiculous when people use him as a whipping boy.
Castilloâ€™s contract is indeed exorbitant, no doubt about it. But which of us would turn our employers down if they offered us much more than we were worth? Castillo is simply not the disaster that Samuel, Baerga, Alomar, and Matsui were in Queens. Checking the numbers clearly shows that.
As the eminently wise Case Street says, â€œSupport your second basemen in Queens!â€
I was ready to give up before the Cards series. Yes, I was a pessimist for a couple of weeks.
I allowed negativity to invade my Met world, even after I spent a large portion of the winter arguing on another nameless site with the folks who mocked the Wilpons, who mocked Omar, and who criticized everything about this team.
I had gigantic hopes for 2009, and for a week or so this month, I forgot how much I enjoy Met baseball.
The number of injuries we have seen has to be at least somewhat due to the methods of our training and medical staffs, and I sincerely believe that Jerry is far from ideal. I honestly think that a manager with the skills of Gil or Davey or even Bobby would have a few more wins with this team this year, and maybe one or two more each of the last two years. These issues must be examined in the offseason.
But still, here we sit, three weeks down and two to go in our five-week hell stretch, and despite going 7â€”11 so far, we are 1.5 games out of first. We have gained 1.5 games and 1 in the loss column on the Phils during this span. With our star first baseman, shortstop, and center fielder on the DL, with our number three and four starters having missed significant time, with our setup man having pitched injured for two months and then going under the knife, and with bench players missing time as well.
I feel like a traitor for losing the faith, and I have regained it. I loved watching the horribly miserable Mets finish last or next to last every year from 1977â€”1983. Yes, expectations were significantly higher this year, but I still love following this team. The Philsâ€™ recent ineptitude has certainly played a large role in our incredible staying power, but so have some other factors.
Wright is not homering, but his BA and OBP and doubles are all at career-best levels. His clutch hitting has been fantastic. His leadership seems to be seriously blossoming.
KRod has been as good or better than anyone we have ever seen close in a Met uniform. It is only a few games, but Omar may have struck gold with Nieve. After all, the Astro scout who signed Johan signed Nieve. And how many fantastic pitchers have come through Houston the last 30 years or so? Santos has been fantastic. Feliciano has been excellent. Livan has been as good as we could have hoped. Cora has been what many of us thought he would be. Sheffield has regained some of his fearsome plate presence. Omar is responsible for all of this.
So despite the horrific injuries, we are still very much in the race, and we have indeed had some nice surprises from unexpected places.
As others have pointed out, we will have perhaps several in-season acquisitions this year, and they might indeed includeÂ several of Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, JJ Putz, Billy Wagner, John Maine, and that lefty free-agent starter thatÂ some of us were happy to see back. OK, three of us: me, MetsFan4Decades, and Ollie himself. And any or all of these will come with the miniscule cost of sending an Argenis Reyes or an Elmer Dessens back down where they belong.
This season is far from over, and could indeed still become something very, very special. We may have the horses to win a 1973-style dogfight, and hereâ€™s one voice who has returned from a short visit to the land of pessimism. It is not a fun place, and I shall not visit there again.