Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 14, 2006
BASEBALL: There They Go Again
It's almost a cliche at this point to say the Mets won the kind of game last night that championship teams win, pulling out a seesaw slugfest on the road against their only remaining division rival (paranoid as I am from years of losing to them, the Braves are toast, folks; they're 11 games back now) on a night when Tom Glavine (who has had nothing but trouble with Philly and Atlanta since he arrived at Shea) got smacked around for four home runs, and combining clutch hitting, great defensive plays (David Wright starting a crucial double play in the ninth) and some big bullpen innings to stretch their lead to 7.5 games.
Remember Bill James' "secondary average," basically extra bases on extra base hits plus walks plus steals divided by at bats? The Mets have three guys among the NL top 20: Carlos Beltran is third at .585, David Wright 16th at .400, and Carlos Delgado 19th at .380. But you might not expect the guy who's just off the leaderboard: Jose Reyes at .373 (Lastings Milledge is at .340, driven by power rather than patience). In part that's the fact that he's running tied withg Corey Patterson for the major league lead in steals, but it's also power and, yes, patience; if Reyes could just get his batting average from .251 to .281 at his present rate of extra base hits and walks, his line would read .281/.443/.356/. In fact, the team secondary average is .310 compared to .277 for the NL as a whole.
UPDATE: Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus (link for subscribers only) notes that the Mets' outfield defense, keyed by Beltran, has been crucial:
The real key to their run prevention, though, has been the defense, and in particular, the outfield defense. The Mets are fourth in the NL in Defensive Efficiency, converting 72% of the balls in play against them into outs. They have allowed 73 homers, good for just ninth in the league, but despite that they've allowed just a .389 SLG, last in the league, and an ISO of .147, second-to-last (to the Rockies?!?!). How is that possible?
Sheehan's chart shows that the next best team, the Padres, is at 4.65; the Mets have allowed 89 doubles, compared to 101 for the Giants, and 7 triples, bested only by the Reds (5). (I wonder if the Giants' low number is partly because Bonds plays so deep now to compensate for being unable to go back on fly balls, and how many singles that costs them). Beltran's defensive value is more quiet than showy, but the value of his glove is undeniable - the Win Shares system has also rated his defense very highly both last season and this season - and Cliff Floyd's defensive improvement under Willie Randolph has also been marked in 2005 and 2006.