Author: Mike Surace

There’s No Place Like Home…Or is There?


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Once viewed as the answer for a New York Mets team that was starved for offensive production, Amed Rosario is now viewed by many Mets fans (perhaps unfairly) as a guy that is one more mediocre season away from being a complete bust. The potential is there, no question about it, but 2019 needs to be a year where we consistently see Rosario performing at the level which made him baseball’s #1 overall prospect only a couple years back. The problem is in order to be consistent, he will have to learn to hit at Citi Field. Easy right? Well, one of the only things that Amed has been consistent with through his 2 year tenure has been NOT hitting at Citi…

amed_splits
As you can see from the splits above the difference in offensive performance between home and away games is drastic. Over 385 at bats on the road, Rosario is putting up numbers in line with the likes of Trea Turner,  Jean Segura, and Andrelton Simmons. At Citi Field he’s not much better than, well, he’s not better than anyone.  And what’s even more worrisome is that the gap in home and away split is getting worse.

Even during his hot second half last year, Rosario’s home performance was actually getting worse. He made up for it by mashing on the road, but why can’t we see that kind of hitting in Queens? It’s almost like his performance on the road and at home are inversely correlated. Look, I know Citi Field is not a hitters ballpark. I’m aware that Mets hitters generally have worse splits  at Home, but not to the level we observe with Rosario. The table below shows player’s On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS) home and away splits over the past two seasons. The only other player to even come close to experiencing such a significant home/away split was Asdrubal Cabrera.

all_splits

Given everyone knows that Citi is a tough place to hit, I thought maybe pitchers attack Amed differently when playing there as compared to being on the road. I analyzed the pitch location densities for all games in Rosario’s career. Home games are presented on the left and away games on the right. 

There appears to be a similar trend to attacking Amed down-and-in, but it actually seems as if pitchers are throwing the ball over the heart of the plate more at Citi, utilizing a “here it is, hit it” style of pitching. So is he getting blown away or is he generating contact and just having bad luck? The table below shows the percentage of at bats that he put the ball in play and the corresponding batting average for those at bats. 

babip

With similar numbers of balls put in play, but significant differences in batting averages for those balls put in play, it appears that Amed is either experiencing good fortune on the road or misfortune at Home. We can only hope it’s the latter. 

The Mets have started off the year with series wins in DC and Miami and are coming back to Citi for the home opener this afternoon. Amed has played well to start the season, supporting a .333 OBP and knocking in 5 RBIs; most of which in clutch fashion. As great as it’s been to see Amed continue his offensive success on the road to start the year, it would be equally disappointing to see him continue his struggles at home. He’ll get his first opportunity to flip the scipt when the Mets play their home opener against the Nats today at 1pm.

LGM.

Pete Alonso – The Debate of Service Time


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One of the hottest topics this spring in Port St. Lucie has been Pete Alonso. The guy is absolutely mashing the baseball, playing good enough defense to show he may not be such a liability in the field, and showing that he could have also played outside linebacker for the Giants. Just ask Josh Riddick. The debate resides in whether or not Pete will be the starting first baseman for the New York Mets on March 28th or will the Mets front office opt to keep Pete in AAA a little bit longer in order to gain an additional year of team control. Here are the two main sides of the debate:

  • Keep Pete Down – Why forfeit a year of team control over two additional weeks to start the season? Financially, it makes more sense for the team to keep Pete in AAA. This is a good long-term move for the organization.
  • Bring Pete Up – The NL East is projected to be one of the toughest and closest divisions in all of baseball. Not having Alonso in the lineup for the first couple of weeks could end up costing the Mets a playoff berth. If the Mets truly want to win now, they must bring north their best players.

Now, there’s truth in both of those perspectives, but they are not the way we should be thinking of this situation.  The problem with both of the agruements is that they rely on unknowns. The first assumes the Mets will want to have an extra year of team control over Alonso in 6 years and the second assumes Alonso will perform better than Dom Smith over a two-week horizon.

Why None of that Should Matter

Let’s be simplistic for a minute and assume there are three possibilities for Pete Alonso’s career:

  1. He ultimately never lives up to his potential.
  2. He turns out to be a solid first-basemen in the league.
  3. He becomes one of the top-tier first-basemen in the league.

If the first scenario comes to fruition, which to be real for a minute is quite possible given he has never played a big league game in his life, then team control doesn’t matter. Do you really care how long  Thomas Nido or Luis Guillorme are under team control? No you don’t and you shouldn’t. Or what about this guy?

milledge

In the second scenario, how much is it really going to impact your team’s future to lose a year of control over a league average first basemen? Not much and there is always the realistic possibility of resigning Alonso when he becomes a free agent. An average player in his thirties won’t demand an absurd contract. If he fits at that time, re-sign him.

The last scenario, which we all dream will come true, is where most of the debate stems from. Imagine losing out on a year of team control of a Paul Goldschmidt type player all for an extra 2 weeks of games in 2019? Imagine losing the division by 1 game while Pete hit 6 home runs in AAA during the first two weeks of the season? That said, the Mets must consider two things. First, there is no guarantee at all that Pete Alonso performs as an elite or even above average baseball player in both the short and long terms. Prospects don’t pan out all of the time.

Secondly, if he does pan out than don’t let him ever reach free agency. Extend him after a few years of team control and don’t look back. It’s a move that can be argued is beneficial for both the player and the team. The player gets his money quicker and secures his future and the team gets to enjoy a price discount on the deal. Considering the recent free agency markets, what player wouldn’t want to lock up a long-term deal as quickly as possible? The same thing happened to Luis Severino, Aron Nola, Mike Trout, Corey Kluber, and even Alex Bergman just a couple of days ago. It’s a move that both players and teams are becoming more inclined to make.

The Mets shouldn’t make decisions based on the assumptions of how Pete’s career will pan out or from fears that keeping Pete in AAA will cost the team a playoff berth. The Mets should make decisions that maximize the team’s chances to win. Making Alonso the starting first basemen on opening day does just that and doesn’t jeopardize the team’s future. Bring Pete north and let the rest work itself out.