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Is Hughes Future in the Bullpen, Mets Finances, Sign Stealing,Is Josh Thole a Starting Catcher, Where is Boomer?



By Mike Silva ~ August 11th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

Ivan Nova had another strong outing last night to improve his record to 11-4. He now has 25 career starts, and is 11-4 with a 4.05 ERA. Despite a low strikeout rate (5.8), he gets an extreme number of groundballs (55%), which is what you saw on display last night.

The Yankees won’t go with a six man rotation. It would be a shame to see Nova sent down till September just to keep Phil Hughes in the starting rotation. Hughes season was lost early in the year. He’s finally gotten back to the point where he is a serviceable starter, but he has yet to show the ability to navigate a game like Nova. I also wonder if the future of Phil Hughes might be the bullpen.

Take a look at his career comparison as a starter vs. reliever

I Split W L ERA G CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO BF WHIP SO/9
as Starter 27 20 4.92 65 1 1 0 353.1 356 193 47 130 275 1520 1.375 7.0
as Reliever 6 2 1.51 47 0 0 3 53.2 33 9 2 14 68 203 0.876 11.4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/11/2011.

Add Hughes to a deep middle relief corps this season makes sense. Perhaps keeping him in the bullpen long term, where he’s experienced the most success in his career, makes even more sense.

The Yankees have young arms that could move ahead of Hughes in the next 1-2 seasons. Adam Warren and David Phelps will challenge him in Spring Training. Of course, there is Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. I suspect we will see one, or both, of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia back next season. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees made a huge push for Rangers starter C.J. Wilson this offseason.

***

How sweet is David Einhorn’s ownership deal with the Mets? Howard Megdal had this to say in yesterday’s Capital New York column:

Consider that we now know the Wilpons need to come up with $430 million to pay JPMorgan Chase by June 2014, or in less than three years. That’s assuming they can weather the storm of further team losses, debt payment on Citi Field, the hundreds of millions of dollars borrowed against SNY, and don’t forget … Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee for the Bernie Madoff victims, is still seeking $1 billion from the Wilpon group.

In other words, Einhorn is betting that a judgment coming from the Picard case will be a knockout blow. If Wilpon somehow escapes from that suit unscathed — for instance, if the August 19 hearing to dismiss the case goes his way — Einhorn is still betting that another one of the massive debts coming at Sterling will force a change in ownership. And if, against all odds, they weather Picard, JPMorgan Chase and all the rest, Einhorn’s hoping that coming up with another $200 million in five years to pay him off is a bridge too far.

Howard and I have been discussing the Mets finances offline for a couple of weeks. I have told him I do not worry about the Wilpons finances when it comes to the structuring of the team because this is about ownership vs. non ownership. Nothing they do with the roster is going to help them keep the team long term.

For example, not signing Jose Reyes to a long term deal will not help them pay off Picard, JP Morgan Chase, or Einhorn. They have around $70 million in payroll already committed to next year. If they don’t invest in the team there is no chance they can turn a profit from the franchise anyway. Could you imagine Citi Field if they let Reyes go and don’t invest in any kind of moderate roster improvements? I am not sure there are enough soccer matches to book that will help them offset the empty seats.

The Wilpons stripping down the roster to stave off losses is the equivalent of a retail store electing to not stock their shelves because they owe too much money. What’s the point of staying open? They either need to close their doors, or sell the store to someone who has the necessary capital to grow the business. There is no middle ground in this situation. Even a Florida Marlins-esque fire sale won’t save them.

I believe the Einhorn deal sets up a seamless transition from Wilpon ownership. Bud Selig won’t have to worry about the team being auctioned off in bankruptcy, and a rogue owner he doesn’t want pushing his way into the mix (see Mark Cuban and Texas Rangers). The Mets will not even get to the point of where Texas was because of the way everything is structured.

As Howard points out the end game is near. It’s just a matter of how long the Wilpons hold on to the fantasy of sports team ownership.

***

ESPN wrote an article citing statistical analysis and player quotes about the Blue Jays stealing signs at the Rogers Centre:

From the visitors bullpen at Rogers Centre in Toronto, an American League pitcher screamed at Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista as he took his position late in a game in the spring of 2010.

“It’s not too [f------] easy to hit home runs when you don’t know what’s coming!”

The enraged player and his teammates could hardly believe what they had seen in the previous inning. As they sat on the perch above the right-field bullpen at Rogers, they caught sight of a man dressed in white about 25 yards to their right, out among the blue center-field seats. And while the players watched, the man in white seemingly signaled the pitches the visiting pitcher was throwing against the Jays, according to four sources in the bullpen that day.

You can read the article that cites statistical analysis that involves some complicated statistical deviation. Apparently the guy was positioned right above the pitcher so to be right in the batters sightline. If Toronto is doing this, then why is their home record only 30-28 this year? The instances cited in the piece are from 2010. That year the Jays were 45-33 versus 40-44 on the road. Again, there are numerous statistical indications that something may be going on in Toronto:

- Toronto’s home run rate on contact at home last season was 5.4 percent, about 50 percent higher than on the road, yet their opponents hit fewer homers in Toronto than at a neutral ballpark.

- From 2005-09, the Rogers Centre saw .002 more home runs for every ball put in play than average. In 2010, that number shot up to .011—but only for the Blue Jays.

- In 2010, the Blue Jays had the highest isolaTed Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of any team since 1954—most of which came at home. (The 150 homers they hit in Toronto were three shy of the all-time home record set by the Rangers in 2005.)

- Seven Blue Jays regulars had an OPS at least 50 points higher at home than on the road; six of them were more than 100 points higher; three were 200 points higher.

Typically the unwritten rules of baseball state that stealing signs outside the white lines is unacceptable. That means using individuals, computers, equipment, etc. Unfortunately, teams haven’t adhered to his throughout the history of the game. The ESPN piece cites sign stealing as early as 1876.

Over at The Baseball Codes, Jason Turbow cites various instances of sign stealing happening, including the Indians using a military-grade gun sight brought back from WWII by Bob Feller.

The only thing you can do is use multiple signs even with the bases empty. If you remember, the Mets have long felt the Phillies steal signs at Citizens Bank Park. There was one late season series in 2007 where it appeared the Phils just knew what was coming. They wound up sweeping the Mets in four games.

This seems to make great media copy, but the history of baseball indicates it’s nothing new. It also is something that probably won’t go away.

Personally, I would find it distracting to see a guy with a white shirt waving at me right in the batters eye. Couldn’t you see such tactics having a negative effect on the players?

***

Josh Thole had four hits last night to raise his batting average to .269. His offense has been a disappointment this year, leading me to wonder if he is the answer behind the plate. Defensively, Thole hasn’t been terrible, but he isn’t the caliber of what we saw out of Henry Blanco or Rod Barajas last year. Although his bat has more upside, I am not sure it’s good enough to keep in the lineup for a player that has played good, not great, behind the plate. The tandem of Thole and Ronny Paulino has produced a decent offensive line (.279/4/42), but I wonder if it would behoove the team to consider Paulino on a more consistent basis, or bring in a veteran receiver.

Some defensive catchers that could be available via free agency this winter are Gerald Laird, Henry Blanco, and former Met Ramon Castro. At their advanced age they probably can’t play more than a couple of times a week. The only internal option appears to be Mike Nickeas, who can certainly catch, but doesn’t appear to have a big league bat.

More than likely, the Mets will give Thole another chance in 2012. He seems to have improved, but is this his ceiling defensively? I am not just talking about throwing runners out, which he is a respectable 23%, I am talking about calling a game, blocking pitches, and managing a staff. The kind of things that Russell Martin has done so well for the Yankees.

I am not sure Thole is ever going to be good enough in those areas. It wasn’t his forte in the minors. Again, his offense isn’t terrible. He’s embraced the Mets patient philosophy offensively (.346 OBP), but I prefer more of the kind of things Russell Martin does behind the plate to a high OBP for my receivers.

***

Where is Boomer Esiason? I find his vacation from the Morning Show this week very mysterious. Was it planned? Is this his way of getting away from his public relations nightmare sidekick? Between Playgirl, Carton bringing Esiason’s daughter on the air, and the constant cheap radio gimmicks that occur from 6 to 10 AM Esiason very well may have needed a mental break. Can’t you see this becoming a more frequent situation?

Esiason wanted this gig to talk some sports and promote his charity events. He is not trying to become a Howard Stern “mini-me” like his narcissistic partner. I suspect the risk of bad publicity far outweighs any reward the overrated Morning Show brings.

The Morning Show has developed their own unique niche, but make no mistake about it, they are benefiting from real estate developed by Don Imus. Mike Francesa – who developed the afternoon drive real estate with Chris Russo- didn’t see ratings move during his excessive summer vacation.  Anyone who has success on the FAN in these time slots going forward owes it to Imus, and the early days of Mike and Chris.

Also, doesn’t it seem like Carton is struggling without Esiason? Doesn’t it seem strange the FAN has been unable to find a sub for Esiason this week? I believe many have learned their lesson, and don’t want to be a prop in Carton’s shtick for four hours. Chernoff and company might be stuck with a twitching mess every morning. I could only imagine the sweating good old CC is doing in the back. Those 10-12 daily bits can’t be repeated forever. Don’t you see what happens when you put someone in charge incapable of content and analysis? You get Carton talking to a goofy makeup girl for 4 hours.

Finally, notice the excessive citation of stories this week? Seems like Phil Mushnick’s column where he called out Carton has made an impact. Now all Carton has to do is apologize to me on air for swiping my audio, and taking stories from this site without proper credit.

I have challenged him to an on air debate, which he has yet to accept. This is probably due to the fact he will lose, and look bad in front of his audience.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to Is Hughes Future in the Bullpen, Mets Finances, Sign Stealing,Is Josh Thole a Starting Catcher, Where is Boomer?

  1. 86mets

    I don’t see how the Mets can give Thole the starting job in 2012. I don’t think he’ll ever be better behind the plate than he is now. He might be a servicable back-up who can come off the bench with his contact oriented approach. But he has absolutely no power to keep pitchers from simply overpowering him with good fastballs. He can hit a single and draw a walk but that’s about it. You need your regular catcher to be able to lead a pitching staff, call a good game, and be able to block pitches in the dirt. Thole has shown little of these skills in abundance this year. While the F/A market is not very appealing for catchers this winter a trade could be possible, but the Mets have to address their catching this winter without a doubt.

  2. vtmet

    quote: Defensively, Thole hasn’t been terrible, but he isn’t the caliber of what we saw out of … or Rod Barajas last year.

    You didn’t really say that did you? Barajas was awful…absolutely awful…he hit HRs and that was it…Blanco I can agree with, he was excellent behind the plate and worked well with the pitchers but…I can’t believe that you found Barajas to be anything more than a DH behind the plate…

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