Thursday, August 03, 2006

In Trax- ion
By Ben Valentine

There’s an unfortunate reality in sports; loyalty comes second to winning championships.

It’s a realm where great ten years ago means little if you’re below average now. The phrase “thanks for the memories” only applies in the short term. Cold and wrong as it can appear, such is life in the sports world. If there’s a season on the line and you can’t produce anymore, then the team has no choice but to replace you with someone who can.

And it’s time the New York Mets do that with Steve Trachsel.

This is a team trying to get to a World Series and in an ideal world win it. They made overtures to bring in an ace at the deadline but things fell through. So forced to go into the postseason essentially as is, they need to figure out what combination of the guys currently on their roster gives them the best chance to win. With Tom Glavine struggling and Orlando Hernandez hit or miss, that fourth spot could well be crucial. They need the best possible candidate to start that game, history before this season be damned. As such, the Mets need to get rid of Trachsel and start auditioning more qualified candidates. The sooner the better.

Trachsel’s ERA is 5.12, but that isn’t the problem. It’s the stark decline in his peripherals this year which is so disconcerting. His K/9 is a career low by far, 4.14, and his K/BB is beyond horrible at .98. He’s walking more people than he’s striking out. Nobody really can survive doing that, though a groundball pitcher has a better shot at being respectable. But Trachsel’s GB/FB ratio is 1.06, meaning he’s a predominantly flyball pitcher. That is a bad sign.

It’s weird to think that a pitcher with a 5.12 ERA is lucky but it appears Trachsel has been just that. Look at his stats when compared with the last two holders of the Mets fifth spot in the rotation; Alay Soler and Mike Pelfrey.

Trachsel: 116.0 IP, 5.12 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 4.11 K/9, .98 K/BB, 1.01 GB/FB, 1.32 Hr/9, .308 Opp BA

Editor's Note: Pelfrey's stats are actually incorrect, courtesy of some faulty information (thank you WorldWide Leader). The correct stats are in italics below

Pelfrey: 21.1 innings, 5.48 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 5.48 K/9, 1.08 K/BB, 2.36 GB/FB, .75 Hr/9, .463 Opp BA .305 Opp BA

Soler: 45.0 innings, 6.00 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 4.60 K/9, 1.10 K/BB, 1.01 GB/FB, 1.40 Hr/9, .275 Opp BA

And the guy who the Mets have been so reluctant to actually give a starting spot to, John Maine:

Maine: 33.0 innings, 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 7.36 K/9, 2.70 K/BB, 1.06 GB/FB, 1.09 Hr/9, .198 Opp Ba

Both Soler and Pelfrey have been sent down to AAA. Neither had a real good argument to stay, except the fact that despite what their ERA and W/L records indicate, they’ve been better pitchers than Trachsel. Maine’s problem is that he’s a kid, only in his second big league season, so he’s clearly not as trustworthy as the veteran Trachsel. Of course, even if Maine did fall apart, it’s actually hard to be worse than what Trachsel’s been this year. In fact, according to the Hardball Times’ FIP (ERA with team fielding equalized), there is just one pitcher worse than the 35 year old righty; the Cardinals’ Jason Marquis. And if you take Trachsel’s expected FIP (which is the same stat with homer rates normalized), he is the worst in the NL at 6.06. With his poor K/BB and K/9 numbers, this is probably closer to where Trachsel should actually be. And for comparison’s sake, here are some other horrific pitchers who have graced the NL this year:

Jason Marquis: 141.1 IP, 5.67 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 4.14 K/9, 1.38 K/BB, 1.08 GB/FB, 1.59 Hr/9, .275 Opp BA

Livan Hernandez: 139.2 IP, 5.48 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 5.28 K/9, 1.61 K/BB, .89 GB/FB, 1.35 Hr/9, .301 Opp BA

Jae Seo: 103.1 IP, 5.84 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 5.23 K/9, 1.46 K/BB, .91 GB/FB, 1.82 Hr/9, .295 Opp BA (7 D-Rays appearences included)

Suffice to say, if Steve Trachsel hasn’t been the worst pitcher in the National League this season, he’s damn close. Marquis, lousy Livan and Jae Seo, who’s been bounced from LA’s rotation and exiled to Tampa Bay, have all out pitched Trachsel this year. Yet the Mets seem oblivious to this and continue to assure that he will be guaranteed a rotation spot.

This isn’t to say rookie Mike Pelfrey, sent down Tuesday, isn’t better served in the minors, but right now with his one pitch, the 2 seam fastball, he’s already a better pitcher than Trachsel. Opponents are hitting .463 off him but that looks to be product of bad luck over a small sample size, especially considering opponents are slugging just .574. In more plain terms; Pelfrey’s surrendered 25 hits but 21 of them (84 %) have been singles. That suggests he was not getting hit that hard, no matter what his Opp Ba says. In comparison, 84 of the 134 hits Trachsel has allowed have been singles. (66%) And remember an opponents batting average against as high as Pelfrey’s is unsustainable. The league average is usually around .290, so the rookie’s .463 is utterly ridiculous and would not stay that elevated.

author's note: as Zach wrote in, ESPN's player card pages are messed up. When I just double checked it, the average again came up .463, but when it was refreshed it droped to .305. The correct line is .305/.408/.415 and 72% of the hits Pelfrey has surrendered are singles. Still a better line than Trachsel, but not as good.

But today, Mike Pelfrey is in AAA while Steve Trachsel continues to make starts for the Mets. If the rookie’s stats weren’t good enough to hack it in the bigs, then what’s keeping Trachsel here? The latter’s 10 wins?

A pitcher’s won/loss record is about the most meaningless statistic in baseball, even more useless than saves. Trachsel has 10 wins because the Mets have scored an average of 6.53 runs for him per start; good for second in the NL. So because Trachsel happens to be on the mound when the Mets pound an opposing pitcher, he gets the win. By the way, tied for the National League lead in wins is none other than… Jason Marquis! Still think wins are an important statistic?

Steve Trachsel was a solid 3rd /4th starter for the Mets in the past. But 2003 won’t help the Mets in 2006. It doesn’t matter what the right hander was then, all that matters is what he is now; one of the five worst pitchers in baseball. The Mets can do better and likely will need to if they want to win a championship this year. They’ve got at least one pitcher who can be and could find at least ten other guys on the waiver trade market who would be more reliable alternatives. Thus the message should be clear as harsh as it might sound.

Forget the past. Designate Steve Trachsel for assignment, now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Trax hasn't been that great so far, but he's coming off of surgery and has been victimized by at least 5 starts that were interrupted, delayed, or shortened by rain. This has got to have affected both his performance and stats. I guarantee you that lots of contending teams would jump at the chance to add him to the back of their rotations. You just don't release a solid starter, because that old cliche is as true as ever -- you can never have too much pitching.

As far as the postseason, which is where the the Mets should be setting their sights now, whoever is pitching best at the end of September should get the nod. I would even lump Glavine in that group, though I know they will guarantee him a postseason rotation spot.

If it's as you say it's all about what have you done for me lately, well Glavine has been pitching WORSE than Trax. So even Trax should get the nod over Glavine -- if current trends hold up.

At any rate, I wouldn't count out Trax pitching better in August and September. If he does, he deserves to start in the postseason. El Duque turned his season around, so I don't see why Trax can't. And El Duque before he came to the Mets was pitching WORSE than Trax is now.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mess with a winning streak-they don't come around that often.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't forget Bannister

9:31 AM  
Blogger Mini Me said...

If Steve Traschel is the Mets' biggest problem, they are doing great!

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can one take this blog seriously with a suggestion like that. While there's a decent chance he won't get a playoff start, releasing your #3 starter who is your most senior player and receives the most run support is just plain stupid.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trax is clearly not a pitcher the Mets keep beyond this year. He's lost velocity and is pitching purely on experience, trying to keep hitters off balance. However, last time I checked, he is second to Glavine in victories, ahead of Pedro Martinez. What kind of message would it send to the team if the Mets released him? Sounds like a bad idea to me...

11:29 AM  
Anonymous YOU IGNORANT IDIOT! said...

Wins are meaningless statistics! You brain dead idiot! Wins are what it's all about. You sabermetric spewing punks seem to forget this fact. You want hard luck losers with good WHIPS over a proven winner?

Curt Schilling has given up many homeruns this year and has been relatively inconsistent. But he has the intangible quality of being a "WINNER". Name anyone else you want out there in a big spot!

This is not a defense of Trachsel so much as an indictment of you annoying saber-geeks. Get a life!!!!!

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trax is awful. I can actually go and get a raw hot dog cooked and a soda and come back to my seat and not miss a pitch. It's ridiculous. The Human Rain Delay...not to mention the fact that his teammates have actually stated in interviews that "they like pitchers that have a faster tempo because they're less prone to errors and mistakes defensively because they get less complacent and they're more aware..." if that doesn't tell you something I don't know what does...

1:46 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Just because a lot of contending teams would jump at him doesn't make him good. Teams make mistakes. Lots of teams would have paid AJ Burnett 60 million this offseason. That doesn't mean they're right.

I'm not in favor of guarenteeing spots to anyone, but right now there is no indication Trax will rebound. I'd prefer the Mets try out Maine/Pelfrey/Bannister and see what they've got. If the Mets give them the same run support they give Trax, they'll win games too.

A good team is not consoled by a winning streak, they identify how to improve. The Mets are winning in spite of Trax.

I held up on Bannister because he's actually been Trachsel-esque, walking more people than he's striking out. But he's young so it's possible he finds himself.

El Duque wasn't pitching as bad as Trax. He was in a hitter's park, was K'ing a ton of hitters and had a K/BB above 2.50. He was serving up gopher balls, but that was the product of ballpark. El Duque is no great pitcher, but he has been a better guy than Trax this year.

Wins are meaningless. Tell me, what makes Steve Trachsel an impressive pitcher? The fact he gets 6 and a half runs per game. That means he can pitch to an ERA of five and still get the win. He must be the only pitcher who can do that!

You are completely wrong about Schilling this year. He's given up a lot of home runs, but he's also striking out 8.15 batters per nine and has an unheard of K/BB ratio of 7.67. In other words, he's walking about a batter per game. Combine that with his 1.12 WHIP and you realize most of Schilling's homers come when there's no one on. Don't compare Schilling to Trax; it's just wrong on so many levels.

2:34 PM  
Blogger baconfiend said...

I posted on a few days ago that they should probably just leave him off the post-season roster. I don't think it's necessary to upset the apple cart right now. But especially since Trachsel is apparently totally incapable of pitching out of the pen, when playoff time comes, he has no value. I'd much rather have someone who can start or relieve. I'd rather see Maine and Pelfrey on board, even though they're so young.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because a lot of contending teams would jump at him doesn't make him good.

Good is a relative term. What one team considers good, another may not. The point is, Trax seems to keep his team in the game almost every time out. Maybe he pitches to the situation. I don't know. But he just does. Teams value that. And I bet he has no problems getting a FA contract next year from a good team (ie, one that is in real contention for the postseason this year).

I'm not in favor of guarenteeing spots to anyone, but right now there is no indication Trax will rebound. I'd prefer the Mets try out Maine/Pelfrey/Bannister and see what they've got. If the Mets give them the same run support they give Trax, they'll win games too.

Neither am I. But then why is Glavine continueing to get starts? He stinks now worse than Trax. The point is you maintain your depth in starting pitching. What if Pelfrey goes out with Bannister in Norfolk for some after game chow and their cab gets in an accident and both are out for the season? As we've seen recently, scenarios like this are not too far fetched. Especially with the Mets. I still maintain that they should make up the postseason rotation with whomever is pitching best during September. If that's Trax, fine. If it's El Duque, fine. If it's Maine or Pelfrey or Bannister, fine. Just don't DFA Trax as he's serviceable now, winning, and may start pitching better the second half. Also, with El Duque's advanced age and past injury history, he may not even be healthy at season's end. If the Mets DFA Trax, then lose him to another team, and go on to lose a couple of more pitchers late in the year to accidents or injury, then Omar should be fired.

El Duque wasn't pitching as bad as Trax. He was in a hitter's park, was K'ing a ton of hitters and had a K/BB above 2.50. He was serving up gopher balls, but that was the product of ballpark. El Duque is no great pitcher, but he has been a better guy than Trax this year.

El Duque's ERA was 6.11 when he came to the Mets which was worse than Trachsel's. If you want to attribute that all to the AZ park, fine, but then how come he was able to go back there with the Mets and shut out the opposition? Poor excuse. If he's better than Trax this year, it's only by a little. El Duque's composite ERA is now 5.00 vs. 5.12 for Trax. Peripherals are only secondary to the most important stat -- how many runs you give up. And as I said above, before you start penciling El Duque in for a postseason start, make sure his arm isn't falling off first.

Tell me, what makes Steve Trachsel an impressive pitcher?

I'm not sure if anyone was calling him impressive. The question is really what makes Steve Trachsel valuable? His value is in his durability and consistency. He's more durable than El Duque and Pedro, and he's more consistent than Glavine right now. And as I said, he keeps you in the game most times.

What I see you haven't addressed is the point I brought up before about Trax having to deal with at least 5 rain delays, interruptions or cancellations. This no doubt has affected not only his performance, but his stats. That's why one needs to look at the big picture sometimes, and not just pure stats.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Trachsel stinks. Period. Especially when the Mets are a winning team.

Mets 82-80 2001 - 11 13 4.46
Mets 75-86 2002 - 11 11 3.37
Mets 66-95 2003 16 10 3.78
Mets 71-91 2004 12 13 4.00

This Mets team wins despite him. While I don't suggest DFA for him, he should be waiver wire bait later this month.

If Omar is serious at all about pitching, Trachsel and Glavine (especially if he continues his downward trend) will not return in 2007.

I would rather see Maine, Pelfrey, et al get their shots.

I shudder at the idea of handing Trachsel the ball in Game 3 of ANY postseason serious.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New York City professional sports fans are blessed to have not one, but TWO Stevie Franchises.

One has no talent, but eats up a rotation spot.

The other has talent, but eats up a salary cap.


6:02 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

With Trachsel's performances this year he's actually kept other teams in games, rather than letting the Mets run away with it. Imagine for a second if Pedro got that much run support. He's have a better won loss record than he currently does.

You'll find no bigger Glavine hater than myself. I've trashed him numerous times on this blog. But he's been better this year than Trachsel. And as much as I'd like the Mets to give his starts to someone better, at 10 mil a season it won't happen. I'm counting down the days when Glavine is off the team however.

I also don't love El Duque. But he's shut me up. ERA isn't everything. Over roughly the same period where El Duque racked up his high ERA, Brian Bannister had an ERA below three, because Bannister had just been masterful at getting out of jams. Despite that a look at Bannister's K/9, K/BB, and GB/FB will tell you he's heading towards implosion. Every stat he had was indicative of a pitcher with an ERA in the mid 5.00's or higher.

And remember, El Duque has had good starts mixed in with the clunkers. Trachsel it's been mediocre or bad every start except his very first of the season.

Trax isn't durable; he's averaging nearly 5.2 innings pitched this year. He's worked seven innings twice in 21 starts. He's pitching into the sixth inning and that's it. Pedro and Glavine can both do that and do it more effectively.

As for the rain delays/interruptions, if you want to give him a pass for the Cinci game, fine. But that was a lone occasion. The only notable start I remember of his that really got hindered by rain was against the Phillies, but in that case the game was called after 4 and a half innings. And do you have any proof than pitching in the rain worsens a pitcher's abilites? (Not including the Cinci game which is one start out of 21.)

Believe it or not, there are few pitchers in the majors who are as bad as Trachsel. It just so happens the Mets ran Jose Lima and Geremi Gonzalez out there so we Mets fans have low standards when it comes to back end starters. But make no mistake; if Trachsel were 25, he'd be in AAA right now. He's a vet, so he gets to keep his spot.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Bryan Koch said...

"ERA isn't everything."

Ben, you're mostly right in your pitching analysis, but this is the point you keep on missing. Over the short term, I agree, ERA is only a semi-relevant statistic. Over a couple of innings, or a few weeks, indicators should be taken into consideration.

However, over a SEASON or more, indicators become meaningless (except in extremely rare circumstances). ERA IS all that matters, because the ultimate measure of a pitcher's performance is the number of runs he has allowed. No one gives a damn about K/9 or K/BB; nor should they. You're losing sight of the long-term goal here.

Also, I do think it would be absurd to send down a clubhouse veteran when the team is cruising to a World Series and there's no replacement who's significantly better. If you want to stick him in the bullpen come October, or even leave him off the roster, so be it. But there's no reason to screw with things right now when there's no significant upgrade.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No one gives a damn about K/9 or K/BB"


7:15 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Bryan- Trachsel's ERA is 5.12. That's 38th out of 44 qualifiers in the NL (or at least that's what ESPN says). It's not as if Trax is pitching to a respectable number with miserable peripherals; he's pitching to a miserable ERA with even worse peripherals.

At this point the Mets should have the division all wrapped up. Their goal should be identifying the pitchers who have the ability to get opponents out consistently. Trax hasn't done that and his numbers suggest he'll get worse rather than get better. As a result the Mets might as well cut bait now and open up the spot for someone else to audition.

With an ERA of 5.12, it's hard to be worse as Trax has been. As bad, maybe, but it would take a Jose Lima-esque effort to be worse. And I would think Pelfrey/Bannister/Maine and even Soler won't stink that bad.

11:30 PM  
Blogger June said...

No one gives a damn about K/9 or K/BB; nor should they.
Different "no one"s give a damn about your ignorance. way to bring a preachy global judgment down on an analysis that you disagree with. your disagreeing with something doesn't make it untrue.

I don't know why I bother

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trying to quantify everything completely overlooks and makes a mockery of the concept of team chemistry. Trax is the longest serving Met on the team and deserves to have a shot to sniff October baseball. You obviously never played baseball on a team and hence don't know anything about that.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

No I haven't played professional baseball, but unless you're a professional athlete you're opinion is about as valid as mine. Competative sports is not little league; loyalty is nice. But few teams are willing to blow a shot a title based off loyalty. And besides, since when did playing a sport become a qualification of evaluation. If that's the case, someone needs to tell Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan they were two of the best ever, so they should know how to build a team full of chemistry and talent!

Team chemistry something people throw out there to protect the status quo. The reason? It sounds good yet is complete unquantifyiable. How to measure team chemistry? Barry Bonds is supposedly disliked by many in baseball, yet if the Giants bullpen could hold a lead, he'd have been part of a WS team. The 86 Mets from everything I've heard and read were not great people or even teammates. But they won. Heck in 1994, the New York Rangers dealt a great player in Mark Gartner for Steve Larmer and they won the cup.

Team chemistry is nothing more than a hypothetical because it has never been proven to improve or worsen a team's play. However a pitcher who walks more people than he strikes out, gives up a lot of home runs and just isn't very good definitely hurts his team's chances of winning once every five days.

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously. Do you live your entire life by Moneyball? Strikeout ratios are not what entirely determines how good a pitcher is. If you want to throw out ERA and WHIP, that's fine but you completely ignore the fact that there are other ways to make outs in baseball aside from the strikeout.

3:33 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

There are other ways to get hitters out to be sure, but statistical research shows that for the most part, guys who are flyball pitchers need to strike people out and not walk that many. Why? Because if you're not getting the ball hit on the ground, you're more liable to give up home runs, and less likely to get double plays to bail you out when runners get on base.

Trachsel is a fly ball pitcher who doesn't strike out many hitters and walks as many as he K's. That's a recipe for disaster, even pitching at Shea Stadium. There is no redeeming quality about Trachsel's numbers except his win total. But that's indicative of his run support more than anything else.

6:29 PM  

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