Wow, the Mets and Mariners have never made a truly meaningful trade.
Papers say Ryan Franklin (2-8, 2.41) opposes Pedro Saturday and RHP Gil Meche (6-4, 4.38) v. Glavine Sunday
Ichiro is slumping, as detailed in this excellent, informative article:
Off the Wall: Is something wrong with Ichiro?
Thursday, June 16, 2005
By DEREK ZUMSTEG
SPECIAL TO SEATTLEPI.COM
Ichiro's batting average has dropped below .300, and many fans are wondering if it's time to be concerned. Because Ichiro doesn't hit many home runs, like an average right fielder, and doesn't take a lot of walks (without which he can't steal as many bases), he's only helping the team defensively without a high batting average.
As I write this before Wednesday's game, Ichiro is 5-for-28 in his last seven games (.179) -- and that's an improvement for this month. His monthly averages are almost as disturbing, seemingly showing a terrible drop-off in his game:
April: .356 (36-for-101)
May: .288 (32-for-111)
June: .174 (8-for-46)
Ichiro has had bad months before in his major league career. In April 2004, he hit .255, and in June, .274. In 2003, he seemed to wear down badly at the end of the season, hitting .242 in August and .273 in September.
There are a couple obvious theories as to why this has happened. He may be tired, to name the most obvious. Manager Mike Hargrove hasn't given Ichiro a day off yet this season (also true for Randy Winn and Raul Ibanez). I know Ichiro's a gamer and all, but it would seem like a day off couldn't make things worse.
Statistically, it's hard to find anything telling. Ichiro's stats are down a little in day games but way down in night games. Sometimes that's a sign of vision problems -- picking up the ball in the artificial light -- and can be solved by contact lenses, but I have a hard time believing Ichiro's problems are related to his eyes.
He's not hitting nearly as well this year with runners on base. Of course, it's not as if the bottom of this year's lineup has given him a lot of chances. Still, Ichiro's enjoyed a deserved reputation as a fearsome hitter with men on, as a hitter who can slap the ball into the holes created when fielders cover their bases instead of playing in their natural fielding positions. This year, he hasn't done that at all:
No one on: .376 in 476 at-bats
Runners on: .364 in 228 at-bats
No one on: .339 in 174 at-bats
Runners on: .200 in 80 at-bats
The problem with getting into this kind of deli-slicing of statistics is the size of the sample. The smaller the comparison, the less sure we can be about our conclusions.
For instance, I had a quarter on my desk (a 1988, which makes it only slightly younger than Mariners pitching phenom Felix Hernandez).
In flips 1-2: tails 100% of the time
In flips 3-4: heads 100% of the time
You can see where the problem is: the coin can be in perfect shape, flipping it a 50/50 proposition, but in a small enough carving, it looks like the coin is ice cold and then red hot. But it's no more or less likely to come up heads or tails after it comes up heads twice.
Sample size may provide some insight into Ichiro's perceived struggles, as it turns out.
Assume that Ichiro has the ability to hit .336 consistently (his major league career average to date). I dusted off my old computer skills and built RoboIchiro 2000«, which ran Ichiro through 10 simulated seasons, giving him a 33.6% chance to get a hit each at-bat:
Roboseason Final batting average
RoboIchiro 2000's 10-year average here is .326 -- a full 10 points below his true average, and that's with more than 7,000 simulated at-bats. Over an increasing number of seasons, that average will get closer and closer to .336, but for any individual season, there's a wide range of possible outcomes. Within individual months, it gets even weirder.
Take that .341 season. Here's RoboIchiro 2000's monthly performances:
Hey, with life-like early season comparisons to Ted Williams!
During another simulated season in which he hit .331, he had months of .259 and .267 (and a .457 July). There were long stretches in which he went hitless, and had long hitting streaks.
The point is not that Ichiro hits like a computer program, even though it sometimes seems that way. It's that you still see great variations in his performance even for a player who can consistently hit almost .340.
However, because Ichiro depends so greatly on his batting average, you can see where those variations come from. So many things happen every time Ichiro puts bat to ball that there's a lot of luck involved in whether, for that particular play, he reaches first safely or not. Take an infield grounder:
Where is it hit, and how hard? Who fields it, and does he field it cleanly? How strong and accurate is his arm, and does he make a good throw to first? Does the first baseman get to the base in time (or does the pitcher get to first before Ichiro)?
Sometimes the ball's going to elude a shortstop's glove by inches, and sometimes Ichiro's going to beat the throw to first by half a step (and sometimes, the ump's going to call him out anyway). Sometimes it finds the glove, and Ichiro's thrown out easily.
There's always going to be a lot of random fluctuation in Ichiro's game, and beyond that, he's human. He's been through slumps like this before, and for the rest of his career we're going to see him go through slumps balanced with scorching-hot streaks.
Whatever the causes of his problems in the past, we've seen Ichiro pull out of them before. He's constantly tinkering with his swing, looking to correct problems or find some tiny advantage, and it's worked for him thus far. We haven't seen anything to indicate that Ichiro's in the kind of serious trouble we should be worried about, or even that his struggles are that unusual for someone who plays his kind of all-average hitting game.
A nice outsider's scouting report of the Mets in today's Seattle PI, including a great quote from Pedro:
'New Mets' withstanding intense scrutiny
Expectations heavy with Martinez, Beltran added to mix
Friday, June 17, 2005
By JON PAUL MOROSI
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Optimism visits every baseball outpost each spring like a warm-weather Santa Claus in flip-flops and a loud flower shirt. Teams will play at perfect health, and everyone will perform better than career averages might suggest.
More than ever, that was Spring Training '05 for the New York Mets. The year ahead would be wildly successful, or at least quite interesting.
By that measure, they are batting .500.
It started last December, when Pedro Martinez warmed the New York winter by signing a four-year, $53 million contract. His signature, and later that of Carlos Beltran, catapulted the Mets into the realm of relevancy -- at least nationally and just maybe in their hometown, too.
Martinez has come as advertised, with an engaging intellect, sharpened opinions and superb (if not overpowering) pitches. He is changing speeds as if on I-5 -- his fastball ranged from 84 to 93 mph in his most recent start -- and has owned National League lineups in compiling a 7-1 record and 2.56 ERA.
He has kept on generally good terms with the New York media. He remains a genuine charmer when he chooses. Sometimes he's serious. Often he's not. He was, for example, asked if he is looking forward to pitching at Safeco Field tomorrow, given his history against the Mariners (13-0, 1.30).
"I prefer not to come to Seattle," he said after thinking on the question briefly. "It's really damn far."
He enjoys his new teammates -- "We have fun, but you guys (the media) can't share that" -- and speaks well of the New York fans -- "It's been flowers so far."
Still, he is like many with whom he shares clubhouse space: impressed by the talent around him, but disappointed that it has not translated into more victories.
"I was hoping to do a little better," he said.
As they begin their first series in Seattle, the Mets of Martinez, Beltran and manager Willie Randolph are 33-33. The Mets of John Franco, Al Leiter, and Art Howe were 32-34 after 66 games last season.
With the Yankees struggling to break .500, and a new Flushing ballpark on the way at last, this was the year to become the apple of the Apple's eye. Yet, the Mets have been inconsistent, much like their rival cousins from the Bronx.
New York began the road trip with a record (32-31) good for third place in three divisions. Unfortunately, the NL East is not one of them. There, the Mets are last. It is a close last -- only six games behind first-place Washington -- but last nonetheless. Judging by the October veterans signed in the offseason (Beltran, Martinez, Randolph and Doug Mientkiewicz), this was not the intent.
Lose they may, the Mets retain a certain fascination, perhaps due to their status as an on-road sociological study. Theirs is a multicultural roster, based in a multicultural city. First-year general manager Omar Minaya was baseball's first Hispanic GM, with the Expos in 2002. Randolph is the first African-American manager of a big-league team in New York.
The staff includes pitchers born in the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Mangum, Okla. The last on the list would be Braden Looper, nephew of Mariners executive Benny Looper.
"Players are players -- it doesn't matter where they're from," Martinez said. "We have Korean, Japanese, Latino, American players. All kinds. Hopefully we'll have the same success as we have diversity."
Two hours before Wednesday's game, Ramon Castro, Victor Diaz, Roberto Hernandez, Jose Reyes, and Victor Zambrano sat at a table in the visiting clubhouse, speaking their common language. In this clubhouse, most everyone seems able to relate and communicate with his teammates. Mientkiewicz, born in Toledo, Ohio, has learned a little Spanish, too.
"It fits well," Beltran said. "New York is a city of all. We have Latin people, guys from everywhere. I am happy to be here, on a team like this one."
Four players in yesterday's New York batting order were born in Latin America. No name is bigger, though, than the one who appears on the lineup card once every five days. Martinez has much to do with increased home attendance, up by almost 6,000 fans, to an average of 34,517 per date.
"Look how Pedro Martinez is drawing Dominicans to the Mets, probably quite a few of whom were formerly much more prone to go to the Yankees," Andrei Markovits, a University of Michigan political scientist, wrote in an e-mail.
After Beltran signed, much was made of how his reserved personality would play in New York when he hit an inevitable slump. Still bothered by a strained right quadriceps that limited him to one pinch-hit appearance in an eight-game span last month, he was hitting .229 in June and .053 in his previous five games before homering yesterday.
His season numbers are hardly criminal -- .278, eight home runs, 32 RBIs -- but they fall short of expectations attached to his seven-year, $119 million contract.
"I'm not frustrated, I'm not satisfied," he said Wednesday. "I'm not feeling 100 percent. But it's OK."
He has been, depending on one's definition, slumping -- and handling it well, according to teammates. Beltran has tirelessly analyzed his at-bats on DVD and continued to be courteous with the media.
"He's quiet, at ease," veteran Cliff Floyd said. "He's not allowing the city of New York to bring him down. If anything, he should be worried about getting too lax. Sometimes being relaxed, they take it as meaning you don't care.
"But he can't change who he is, even though he might pay a price for that in this type of city. I hope he never changes because in my opinion that's the way to play the game."
At the January news conference that announced his signing, Beltran professed excitement at joining "the New Mets," words that have since spun in promotions. They grace the media guide cover and are also heard in the greeting of Shea Stadium's receptionist.
Beltran, meanwhile, continues searching for his old self in a new place of his creation. Like his teammates, he will be scrutinized this weekend at Safeco, and for the rest of the season. There is an interlocking "NY" on the crown of his cap, which means there are many eyes watching his every move.
"It is different in New York," said Mike Cameron, the former Mariner. "You have to keep your guard up. I had to change. It's just the way it is."
That is to say the intrigue comes standard, with success somewhat harder to earn.