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Game Notes: Mets vs Giants (04/24/2006)

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(Source: fangraphs.com - what's this?)

Well, this one went downhill pretty quickly. The Mets committed the cardinal sin of intentionally adding a baserunner and it bit them in the ass . . . twice. It's possible that by pitching to Barry Bonds in the first and seventh innings that he would have driven in five runs or more, but it's not very likely. That's what Moises Alou -- not quite Bonds, but still a career .301/.369/.514 hitter -- did against Mets pitching last night. Alou put the Giants on the board with a three run blast in the first inning and then put the game out of reach with a two-run single in the seventh.

It's not like they walked Bonds to get to Mike Matheny, a career .238/.293/.344 hitter who the Mets also walked intentionally last night. They walked him to get to Alou, a very good hitter. It's almost never a good idea to intentionally walk a batter to pitch to someone else because the difference in value between the two batters is almost always less than the value of having an extra runner on base.

For instance, in The Hidden Game of Baseball, Pete Palmer calculated that a walk was worth .33 runs. Using 2004 stats (the last time both Bonds and Alou played a full season):

      RC      PA     RC/PA
Bonds    184.9    617      .30
Alou     118.2    675      .18
The difference between these two players is .12 runs per plate apperance, and that's using stats from Bonds' ridiculous .362/.609/.812 2004 season. So that .12 runs is just over one-third the value of the walk we just gave Bonds for free. The biggest reason that walking Bonds to pitch to Alou doesn't make sense can be expressed thusly:
       .33 > .12
Sometimes intentionally walking a batter works out, sometimes it doesn't. Value-wise it almost never makes sense, and the Mets got burned by it twice last night.

Still, the biggest problem for the Mets is their hitting right now, which is doing doodily-squat. Though they each picked up a single and an RBI last night, Jose Reyes and Paul Lo Duca (who Keith Hernandez consistently calls "De Luca") have been black holes at the top of the lineup, rarely reaching base of late and forcing Carlos Delgado to bat with nobody on. In fact, of the three homeruns that Delgado hit in San Diego, only one came with a man aboard, and that man? Endy Chavez, who replaced Carlos Beltran midway through the first game of the series.

The Mets could use a healthy Beltran in the lineup, but they're not losing because he's not playing. They're losing because they're not hitting at all. The Mets have enough firepower in the lineup even with Beltran on the bench, but it's a real kick in the grapes when your entire lineup picks the same time to go into a prolonged slump.