(bumped from the FanPosts. --eric)
My evolution as a baseball fan reminds me of a memorable exchange from "Lost," specifically from the Season One finale entitled "Exodus Part II."
John Locke: That's why you and I don't see eye-to-eye sometimes, Jack -- because you're a man of science.
Jack Shephard: Yeah, and what does that make you?
John Locke: Me, well, I'm a man of faith.
Those who follow the popular television series know that Jack and Locke once had diametrically opposed viewpoints. Jack, a renowned spinal surgeon off the island, refused to accept anything that couldn't be explained rationally. Meanwhile Locke, who was wheelchair-bound off the island, could miraculously walk again. He was convinced that some greater power was at work.
As Mets fans, we were raised on this notion of faith, perhaps more than any other fanbase. We're the ones that, while thrilled to even have a National League team again, persevered through a 394-737 record before shocking the world in 1969. We're the ones who saw a black cat cross the path of Ron Santo on the way to becoming a "miracle." We're the ones who were told "You Gotta Believe!" by Tug. We're the ones who didn't stop believing with two outs against Calvin Schiraldi in Game 6, even when the scoreboard said otherwise. We're the ones who sat in the rain, witnessed "The Grand Slam Single" and believed that four straight wins against the hated Braves were possible, at least until the final, painful ball-four. We've been there, whether through our own experiences -- or a parent's -- or a grandparent's. We believed. And would you look at that, we have two of the most improbable World Series championships to show for it.
I'm generalizing, of course, but there's something unique about the team's history that asks one to suspend logic when evaluating the team. I mean, remember the "Always Believe" slogan in 2002? Was Bobby V supposed to be an evangelist or a manager? Hard to tell sometimes. Either way, I always bought in. "Generation K"? Bring it on. "Catch the Energy"? Sold. I believed in Alex Ochoa's five-tools. Ryan Thompson's, too. Carlos Baerga was my favorite player for a while, even though he had a truly awful .266/.303/.364 line in 1998. I honestly didn't care what his line was or what kind of range factor he had. It looked like he genuinely cared about what he was doing. So I believed in him.
In turn, I guess that's what makes this evolution so improbable, at least to me. You see, this lifelong believer is now a fledgling stat-geek. Just one year ago I couldn't have told you what a high FIP meant for someone that was pitching over their head (cough: Oliver Perez: cough) or why WAR is an effective way to measure players (David Wright was robbed of at least one MVP award). I never wrote about any of that stuff in nearly four seasons at MetsBlog. Nope. It was just the basics -- ERA, batting average, homers, RBI. But ever since Adam Wainwright's called third-strike to Carlos Beltran, I have been searching for answers; ones that couldn't be provided by the traditional means of a beat writer or a sports-talk show host. It turns out that I can't get by on faith alone.
As I've told friends and fellow bloggers, Sabermetrics have been like Lasik Eye Surgery to my baseball experience. Revolutionary sites like Fangraphs, Baseball Think Factory, The Hardball Times, Baseball HQ and Baseball Prospectus, among others, have given me the power to evaluate talent at a click. I'm routinely humbled by these new technologies, but recognize their importance and relevancy for the future of our game and enhanced understanding of it. I look forward to observing and discussing our Mets under this microscope. As long as I can throw a little bit of faith in, too.