This is my first installment of a three part series titled, “Mets Need” where I’ll be discussing the Mets needs and suggesting how to address those needs.
First, the Mets need to develop a Department of Defense. What is defense? Defense is the action of preventing an opponent from scoring.Â In baseball, the team that allows the least runs wins the game. The teams that win the most games play meaningful October baseball and that’s what we’re all here for (that and the Mets Motivational Model).
So to Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya and the rest of the Mets Leadership, I say, “Mets Need Defense!”
***Updated with Catcher information***For the full article, click on the More button on the right. See you after the jump.
“Great, how do the Mets do this?”Â Simple. Hire Seattle Mariners Special Assistant to the G.M., Tony Blengino (or at least learn from him). Tony Blengino:
previously served as Milwaukee’s assistant director of amateur scouting under Zduriencik, and now holds the title of special assistant to the general manager, baseball operations. A chief financial officer and author of the book Future Stars, before joining organized baseball in 2003, Blengino will head Seattle’s newly created Department of Statistical Research.
“So what?”Â Well, thanks to Blengino and the Mariners front office, this is how the team improved from last year:
- -1.1 UZR/150 to a league-smacking 9.2 UZR/150
- -20.9 UZR to a 84.5 UZR (runs saved)
- 4.73 ERA to a 3.87 ERA
- 811 Runs Against to 692 Runs Against
To compare, let’s look at what the Mets did in the same span:
- 4.4 UZR/150 to a leagueÂ bottom -6.2 UZR/150
- 27.1 UZR to -50 UZR
- 4.07 ERA to a 4.46 ERA
- 715 Runs Against to 757 Runs Against
“So how did he do it? ” He did it by focusing on defense and with the use of statistical analysis. InÂ the Seattle Times, Geoff Baker reported how Blengino’s department played a key role in improving the team in the off-season.
Besides (Franklin) Gutierrez, whose stats were researched just as the department was being formed, the numbers-crunching branch has played a key role in the acquisitions of both Endy Chavez and Ryan Langerhans.
Similarly, the new Rays management focused on defensive stats to go from worst to best in the division. Sports Illustrated writer Albert Chen explains how the Rays were able to do this:
Tampa’s improvementâ€”from the worst team in defensive efficiency in 2006 and ’07 to the best last yearâ€”was the result of the front office’s calculated effort, after the ’07 season, to catch the ball better. They replaced the shortstop combo of Brendan Harris (-10.5 career UZR, meaning he cost his team nearly 11 runs) and Ben Zobrist (-7.5 career UZR) with Jason Bartlett (34.7 career UZR). They moved Akinori Iwamura from third to second (where his UZR was 1.3 runs higher) to accommodate the call-up of Evan Longoria (14.9 UZR), and they dumped Johnny Gomes (-16.9 career UZR) and Delmon Young (-18.1 career UZR) from the outfield. “People saw the drop in our pitchers’ ERAs, and [the pitchers] did a great job,” says Friedman, “but a lot of credit goes to the runs the defense saved. Based on our internal numbers, a lot of credit.”
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is a defensive metric that statisticians are now using to rate defenders.Â According to the fangraphs glossary, UZR is “The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined.” You might have seen many of ourÂ fellow MLBTR contributorsÂ use the UZR stat.Â Fangraphs.com’s Dave Cameron suggests a large sample size is needed, “Realistically, you need about 2,000 to 3,000 innings to eliminate enough of the variance to make a good judgment call.”
So now that we know what UZR is, let’s figure out how the Mets compare to the best. These players are the Dream Team of fielding over the past 3 years:
- 1B Albert Pujols 28.6 UZR
- 2B Chase Utley 46.7 UZR
- 3B Ryan Zimmerman 37.6 UZR
- SS Omar Vizquel 30.4 UZR
- LF Carl Crawford 35.9 UZR
- CF Franklin Gutierrez 31.7 UZR
- RF Randy Winn 32.1 UZR
And this is how the Mets compare:
- 2B Luis Castillo (-13.4 UZR)
- 3B David Wright (-2.1 UZR)
- SS Jose Reyes (5.6 UZR)
- CF Carlos Beltran (5.2 UZR)
- RF Jeff Francouer (6.4 UZR)
Team Defense has to be a focus in 2010, especially considering the poor play that we saw in 2009. Watching the playoffs, one thing was apparent to me, the Phillies and Yankees (to a lesser extent) played good defense. I know they do many other things well, but it’s undeniable that the ability to catch balls and turn double plays enable pitchers to get out of trouble and prevent the opposition from scoring runs. Don’t be fooled by some who may argue that Left Field and First Base are not important positions defensively. Adam Dunn has a -49.3 UZR and Prince Fielder has a -16.7 UZR over the past 3 years. Although many teams put their worse fielders at these positions, the Mets should not. The goal of the Mets should be to be the best fielding team in baseball.
First, let’s start with Outfield and First Base. I’ve compiled a list of 2010 and 2011 Outfield and First Base Free AgentsÂ with a minimum of 1500 innings and a positive UZR forÂ the past 3 seasons:
- Jayson Werth 40.5 UZR
- Carl Crawford 35.4 UZR
- Randy Winn 35.3 UZR
- Matt Holliday 29.1 UZR
- Austin Kearns 28.3 UZR
- Andruw Jones 23.9 UZR
- Coco Crisp 20.3 UZR
- David DeJesus 20.2 UZR
- Willie Harris 19.0 UZR
- Eric Byrnes 16.0 UZR
- Marlon Byrd 13.5 UZR
- Mike Cameron 11.0 UZR
- Emil Brown 10.8 UZR
- Geoff Jenkins 8.0 UZR
- Magglio Ordonez 7.0 UZR
- Corey Patterson 2.3 UZR
- Willy Taveras 1.4 UZR
- Albert Pujols 28.6 UZR
- Derrek Lee 8.5 UZR
- Ross Gload 6.9 UZR
- Lyle Overbay 6.2 UZR
- Carlos Pena 1.3 UZR
- Paul Konerko 0.5 UZR
Just to compare, let’s look at the Mets in-house options.
- Angel Pagan 9.0 UZR (1573 inn.)
- Jeremy Reed 3.6 UZR (2320 inn.)
- Cory Sullivan -13.9 UZR (2209 inn.)
- Daniel Murphy 4.7 UZR (879 inn.)
- Chris Carter is also an option but he doesn’t have any ML time at first base.
This information isn’t perfect but it does give usÂ a starting point.Â Obviously the Mets will not trade for Jayson Werth or Albert Pujols. But Carl Crawford is a trade candidate and Matt Holliday and Randy Winn are both free agents. There are also a bunch of interesting names like Harris, Byrd and Cameron (anyone else shocked to see drive-by Met, Emil Brown on the list?, who along with Carlos Beltran are the only players to lead the Royals in RBIs for three consecutive seasons. I digress.) On the First Base side, other than Gload, all of the players on the list will have to be acquired via trade. Players like Lee, Overbay and Pena have been mentioned once or twice on this blog. I’d try to trade for Crawford and Lee. Otherwise,Â I like Winn, Cameron or Byrd and Murphy at First Base with Angel Pagan as the Forth Outfielder.
As much as I support Luis Castillo, when it comes to his defense, “NO LO PUEDO SUPORTAR!”. In the off chance that the Mets are able to trade Castillo this winter, here are some 2010 and 2011 Second Base Free Agents with a minimum of 1500 innings and a positive UZR forÂ the past 3 seasons:
- Mark Ellis 29.3 UZR
- Placido Polanco 22.7 UZR
- Kaz Matsui 8.1 UZR
- Felipe Lopez 4.9 UZR
- Jamey Carroll 4.7 UZR
- Adam Kennedy 3.0 UZR
Felipe Lopez or Placido Polanco would be good additions to the infield. The Mets will not be able to fix every problem in one single swipe and obviously extraneous issues like playing through injuries effects the stats, which is the case with Carlos Beltran. Yet, we must demand that the Mets improve defensively, especially with such a large park where many balls will drop in for a hit without a good outfield. Which free agents or trade candidates do you want playing for the Mets or should Angel Pagan and Daniel Murphy be our starting Left Fielder and First Baseman? And if Luis Castillo is not with the Mets next year, who should be playing Second Base?
(Updated 11/13/09) In addition to Left Field, First Base and possibly Second Base, the Mets may need to acquire a Catcher to share duties with Omir Santos. There have been some reports that the Mets are interested in veterans Bengie Molina, Chris Snyder and Rod Barajas. I think we can agree that some of those guys would not be the way to improve defensively.
There are various ways that Catchers are analyzed defensively. Most agree that the ability to prevent stolen bases and blocking pitchers are the most important skills for a Catcher. After a quick research ofÂ the subject, I found some interesting articles at Driveline Mechanics, Beyond the Box Score, and Basement Dwellers. MLBTradeRumors has a list of free agent Catchers and a list of Catchers on the trade market.Â Below is a list I compiled of available “defensive” Catchers:
Bengie Molina (led league in caught stealing), (zero passed balls)
Jason Kendall (zero passed balls)
Assignment:Â Compile a list of available players that you want playing defense for the Mets andÂ post your picks asÂ a comment (Especially if you have never commented here. I want to hear from you.)Stay tuned next week for the next installment ofÂ ”Mets Need”. And if you are onÂ Facebook or Twitter, please become a fan or followThe Real Dirty Mets Blog. Let’s Go Mets!