Monthly Archives: April 2013

Player Spotlight: Matt Harvey

Once underappreciated, now the real deal

Few people saw Matt Harvey as a future ace even as recently as this time last year.  Wheeler’s talent was plain to see, but Harvey?  He just wasn’t there.  Even after his debut “too long to delay rookie eligibility, too short to make a Rookie of the Year case” season, there were many who were not ready to believe.  Harvey’s still here, but his doubters have turned out to be the mirage.

Matt Harvey was drafted seventh overall in the 2010 amateur draft to indifference with a side of LOLMets.  The consensus seemed to be that Harvey went too high and the Mets played it safe with a signable pick with less upside than some of the younger talent that was still available (like currently drug-suspended catcher Yasmani Grandal).  Harvey’s supporters weren’t particularly vocal, but having a sensible, if not sensational, first round pick was an improvement over some of Omar Minaya’s previous drafts (see: “Kunz, Eddie”).  I’m sure Harvey’s detractors switched over to bashing the Mets for picking a kid who didn’t even play high school ball in the next draft.  They didn’t see the talent in Harvey that the Mets were banking on.

What I saw though were some pretty damn nice cards.  Long-time readers know that draft day(s) is an exciting time for me as I scour the depths of eBay for any pre-pro cards from the newest members of the Mets organization.  What started as a subset in the 1985 Topps set (best known for Mark McGwire’s first card) is now an entire segment of the hobby.  Between various Team USA sets and inserts and All-American game cards and autographs, many of the top amateur players have an extensive checklist before they get drafted.  For Matt Harvey, this included a few autographed jersey cards and some jumbo patch cards from one of his Team USA jerseys.

It didn’t take long for Harvey’s pro cards to materialize.  Topps featured autographs from Harvey in 2010 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects and Panini did the same in 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition.

As Harvey worked his way through the Mets’ system in 2011 and 2012, he became harder to ignore.  His efforts were rewarded with an appearance in the 2011 Futures Game, with pieces of his jersey from the event first appearing in 2011 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects.  Only red swatches could be found in 2011, but the black and white secondary colors followed in 2012 Topps Pro Debut.  Shortly after Pro Debut was released, Matt Harvey made his debut in the majors with an 11-strikeout statement that proved once and for all that he was for real.

Or at least it should have.  With arguably the best pitching debut since Stephen Strasburg, Harvey should have been in the discussion with the great young pitchers in the game.  Like R.A. Dickey a year earlier though, few outside the Mets fanbase could see the greatness that was clearly there.  Autograph collectors at least could be forgiven; there hadn’t been any Matt Harvey autograph releases since the 2010 products.  Harvey was on the checklist for autographs in 2011 Bowman Platinum, but the product released in July of 2011 only had this to offer:

As 2011 came to an end, there was no word on redemption fulfillment.  2012 came and went, but Topps could not get the cards, a pen, and Matt Harvey together in the same place at the same time.  Now well into 2013, all we have is a tweet from Topps indicating that the cards may have been dropped off with Harvey during spring training.

Was this all a mass delusion?  Could the stress of cheering on the Mets through collapse and utter failure have driven us to conjure up a savior who could lead the team to greatness?  Why could an arm that could throw a high-90s fastball with pinpoint precision not be called upon to put ink to cardboard?

Our fears were put to rest when Panini released 2012 National Treasures in, um, February of 2013.  This product, one of their best half-licensed baseball releases to date, included Matt Harvey’s autographs on cards (with pieces of his ’89 throwback jersey), on stickers, and on manufactured fabric.  The demand for these autographs was so great that the base versions (each numbered to 99) initially sold in the $20-80 range.  Harvey then went on to win his first four starts in such grand fashion that he was mentioned alongside some of the greatest pitchers in Mets history.  One of them, Dwight Gooden, then bestowed Harvey with the moniker “The Real Deal.”


The world has finally accepted Matt Harvey as no mere figment of the imagination or hallucination brought on by whatever is in the air in New York City.  And now the world is buying up his autograph cards in a frenzy, pushing the price of even his most common autographs over the $80 mark.  If you don’t already have a Matt Harvey autograph, you probably can’t afford one.  And don’t bother looking in any current Topps products, they can’t even get him to sign cards from 2011.  They do have some jersey and patch cards though, so it’s not like they don’t acknowledge that he exists.  Maybe MLB’s appointed one true card manufacturer has become invisible to Matt Harvey.


It only took two years…

18 April 2013, Mets at Fisher Cats

Solid contact and a few breaks put the B-Mets over the Fisher Cats 4-3

Yeah, it was that kind of night for Wilfredo Tovar

Box Score

Some games are blowouts, some games are pitchers’ duels, and some games are tight back-and-forth affairs between two tough teams.  This was not one of those games.  With a chilly breeze blowing on fleece blanket night and Air National Guard KC-135 tankers flying overhead on their way into Manchester Boston Regional Airport, the action on the field was less than stellar.  Deep fly balls that only Matt den Dekker would have gotten to, baserunning blunders, and fielding faux pas were the order of the day for both teams, but the Mets prevailed with more of everything, good and bad.

Starting pitcher Tyler Pill signed autographs before the game as the 2013 B-Mets made themselves much more available for autos than the 2012 crew ever did.  Cory Mazzoni was among the notable pregame signers, though he didn’t have any injury updates (clearly the arm is still attached and functional though).  After a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, the game was underway with a quick and uneventful first inning.

Pill vs. Pillar, Round One: Pill by a mile. Well, a good foot and a half at least.

Call Me Maybe made its debut as Cory Vaughn came to bat in the second and got the first hit of the night.  A strikeout, double, and walk loaded the bases for Wilfredo Tovar, who grounded into a force out at second to end the inning.

The Fisher Cats went down in order again in the second inning, but Ricardo Nanita opened the bottom of the third with a deep fly ball that Alonzo Harris got a glove on but couldn’t get under control, sending Nanita to second.  Nanita advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a single, putting New Hampshire on the board.  Kenny Wilson then dropped a bunt down the third base line that Josh Rodriguez chased down, except his foot got to the ball before his glove.  Rodriguez then chased the ball behind the plate in a scene that was so comical that I forgot to take a picture.  That put runners at second and third for Kevin Pillar, who singled in another run.  A walk loaded the bases, but Pill worked a pair of strikeouts to limit the damage to two runs.

Binghamton answered back in the 4th with Cesar Puello one-upping Nanita with a triple to center and scoring on a Daniel Muno single.  That would be all for the Mets, now trailing 2-1.

Ricardo Nanita would not be outdone, hitting a solo home run to extend New Hampshire’s lead to 3-1.  Tyler Pill settled in from that point on, only allowing a single before exiting the game after the 6th inning.

The Mets on the other hand were just getting started.  Darrell Ceciliani singled in the 5th, advanced to second on a single, and stole third to get within 90 feet of making it a one-run game.  Actually, he got a bit closer than that, too close to get back to third in time after Rhyne Hughes lined one straight back to the pitcher and into a double play to end the Mets’ rally.

The 6th started off with Kenny Wilson chasing another deep fly ball that dropped in on the warning track giving Cory Vaughn a double.  Cesar Puello missed his chance to top Nanita’s solo home run when he was pinch hit for by Allan Dykstra, who took a pitch to the ankle to join Vaughn on the basepaths.  Francisco Pena advanced the runners on a sac bunt and, after a pitching change, Daniel Muno doubled in two runs to even the score at three.

Muno advanced to third on a groundout by Tovar and then Alonzo Harris made Kenny Wilson run the other way on a shallow fly ball that made it past the tumbling New Hampshire center fielder.  Muno scored and Harris had Binghamton’s third double of the inning, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead that they would not relinquish.

Hughes may have been out, but he refused to vacate third base until the field was empty, for whatever that’s worth

Pill wrapped up his night with three quick outs in the bottom of the 6th.  Rhyne Hughes continued the doubles parade in the top of the 7th but misjudged a Vaughn fly ball and was tagged out at third to end the Mets’ offense for the night.  Call Me Maybe did not turn out to be lucky for Cory Vaughn the second time around.

Will someone get these guys a bullpen phone?

John Church and Chase Hutchingson each pitched a scoreless inning for the Mets and Jeff Walters was called in for the save as the Harlem Shake took over the stadium.  New Hampshire had a chance to start something with one out in the bottom of the 9th when Ricardo Nanita (of course) dropped a shallow pop fly just inside the line in left for a single.

Nobody’s got it. Well, except for Daniel Muno when you try for second.

Unfortunately for Nanita, he thought he had a double and did not count on Wilfredo Tovar making the throw to second in time.  Tovar sent the next ball hit his way over to first base for the final out and the B-Mets won their first game in New Hampshire this year 4-3.

The official scorer was being generous, it sure looked like a lot more than one error out there…

As Long As There Are Victorino Gaffes, There Will Be Victorino GIFs

The $39 million man is worth every penny

With his move to Boston (and the AL), Shane Victorino has selfishly (praise Beltran) deprived Mets fans of his GIF-worthy antics.  I would have loved to have seen him in a Mets uniform, but I enjoy seeing things that make people’s heads explode.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox were far more desperate for a circus act after letting Bobby Valentine seek other employment, leading them to offer twice as much money as any sane person was expecting Victorino to get after a down season.  Instead of Citi Field, we will have to settle for Fenway as the backdrop for the next batch of Victorino GIFs.  And yes, there will be GIFs.  While we were waiting for the home run derby in Philadelphia to end, I got to work on this spectacular display of teamwork.

And to think, Boston fans have three years of this to look forward to!  Three years of spills, chills, mixups, and takedowns.  In a way, I envy them.  Sure, Jordany Valdespin has a knack for displays of momentary boneheadedness offset by occasional brilliance.  But Valdespin isn’t getting paid enough to guarantee regular playing time.  With Ellsbury in center, what could have been a disaster turns into a mere embarrassment.  But with Valdespin in his place?  You could sell tickets based on that alone.

There’s really no point to this beyond me not wanting to wait until next year’s GIF roundup to post this.  And come on, this is pure brilliance.  Victorino freezing in place as if to make himself invisible is what really sells this one.  He didn’t try to make the catch or go after the ball when it dropped.  He just curled up and disappeared.  He’s on to us, you see.  He knew the GIFs were coming and did his best to avoid making a scene.  Shane Victorino is a GIF magnet.  This is his blessing and his curse.  And we are all better off because of it.

The Good Pitcher Effect

A better way to predict pitcher injury and regression

You know, I’m tired of being a nobody blogger. As I’ve pointed out numerous times, I’m just as qualified as the big shots. The only thing keeping me back is the lack of an ego large enough to shout absurdities and get them accepted as truth. It’s time to change that. We’re going for the big time with this article by revealing the secret to predicting which pitchers are due for injury and regression. I call it the Good Pitcher Effect (GPE).

You may be familiar with the “Year-After Effect” from a so-called sportswriter who will remain nameless. It is also known as the “Verducci Effect,” named for someone whose name I won’t mention. On the surface it sounds logical: young pitchers who increase their workload too much are likely to have trouble the next year. Some may point out that picking names out of a hat is just as likely to get you the same results, but we can all agree that these stat nerds are ruining baseball with their bizarre measures of greatness that are far more complicated than simple stats like batting average and earned run average. I mean, how hard is it to count up at-bats and earned runs? It’s not like there are arcane rules governing what does and does not count.

I don’t want to rely on stats to predict who is at risk this year, they’re just too unreliable. Instead, let’s look at something much more meaningful, voting by baseball writers! These guys know baseball, so they should be the experts we listen to. Unfortunately, they don’t vote on which pitchers will be injured next. All we have to work with is the Cy Young Award voting, so let’s go with that.

Here’s how the GPE works: if a pitcher gets a vote for the Cy Young Award, he is at risk for poorer performance in the following season. That’s it. No complicated math, no comparisons between seasons. Age doesn’t matter, body type doesn’t matter. If you get a vote, you’re at risk. Does it work? Let’s look at what happened to the 2011 Cy Young vote recipients in 2012:

Name ERA11 ERA12 + .5 1 2 IP11 IP12 15 30 45
Justin Verlander 2.40 2.64 X 251.00 238.33 X
Jered Weaver 2.41 2.81 X 235.67 188.67 X X X X
James Shields 2.82 3.52 X X 249.33 227.67 X X
CC Sabathia 3.00 3.38 X 237.33 200.00 X X X
Jose Valverde 2.24 3.78 X X X 72.33 69.00 X
C.J. Wilson 2.94 3.83 X X 223.33 202.33 X X
Dan Haren 3.17 4.33 X X X 238.33 176.67 X X X X
Mariano Rivera 1.91 2.16 X 61.33 8.33 X X X X
Josh Beckett 2.89 4.65 X X X 193.00 170.33 X X
Ricky Romero 2.92 5.77 X X X X 225.00 181.00 X X X
David Robertson 1.08 2.67 X X X 66.67 60.67 X
Clayton Kershaw 2.28 2.53 X 233.33 227.67 X
Roy Halladay 2.35 4.49 X X X X 233.67 156.33 X X X X
Cliff Lee 2.40 3.16 X X 232.67 211.00 X X
Ian Kennedy 2.88 4.02 X X X 222.00 208.33 X
Cole Hamels 2.79 3.05 X 216.00 215.33 X
Tim Lincecum 2.74 5.18 X X X X 217.00 186.00 X X X
Yovani Gallardo 3.52 3.66 X 207.33 204.00 X
Matt Cain 2.88 2.79 221.67 219.33 X
John Axford 1.95 4.67 X X X X 73.67 69.33 X
Craig Kimbrel 2.10 1.01 77.00 62.67 X
Madison Bumgarner 3.21 3.37 X 204.67 208.33
Ryan Vogelsong 2.71 3.37 X X 179.67 189.67

Ouch. Of the 23 players on the list, 19 of them had a higher ERA and pitched fewer innings in 2012, including every AL pitcher. Only Matt Cain and Craig Kimbrel reduced their ERA and only Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong pitched more innings. Increase the thresholds to an ERA increase of 1 point or more or a workload decrease of 30 innings or more and you’re still left with 12 players. That’s more than half of the players on the list with significantly worse performances in the season after they received Cy Young votes. I think we’re on to something. So how are last year’s Cy Young vote recipients doing? We’re only a week into the season, but there are some interesting small sample size results:

Name ERA
David Price 8.18
Justin Verlander 2.19
Jered Weaver 1.50
Felix Hernandez 2.57
Fernando Rodney 16.20
Chris Sale 1.84
Jim Johnson 0.00
Matt Harrison 8.44
Yu Darvish 0.00
R.A. Dickey 8.44
Clayton Kershaw 0.00
Gio Gonzalez 0.00
Johnny Cueto 2.77
Craig Kimbrel 0.00
Matt Cain 8.38
Kyle Lohse 1.50
Aroldis Chapman 0.00
Cole Hamels 10.97

Out of the 18 vote recipients, 6 have started out with an ERA of more than 8, including both Cy Young winners.  Success!  Update: shortly after this was posted, Jered Weaver was injured and will now miss a few weeks.  They’re dropping like flies.

For those of you still reading this, yes, this is a joke. Pitchers get injured. Players regress. There’s no magic formula to predicting who is due for trouble, mainly because this sort of thing is so common. Older players are at risk. Younger players are at risk. Good players are at risk. Mediocre players are at risk. Healthy players are at risk. Injury-prone players are at risk. All we really know for certain is that the repeated throwing of a ball at high speed isn’t exactly a recipe for an injury-free life. But if you want a shortlist of pitchers due for some trouble, you could do worse than the GPE.