Through 15 games to start the 2015 season, there are no teams whose performance has been more different than the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. Coming into Thursday, the Mets own the best record in baseball at 12-3, and a pythagorean win-loss of 10-5 which is tied for best with a few other teams. The Brewers, on the other hand, have a win-loss and Pythag of, well, see for yourself:
Looking ahead at the remaining 147 games of the 2015 season, there are few teams whose performance projects to be more similar than the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. Below is PECOTA’s updated projection for both teams:
|New York Mets||74||73||578||573||0.243||0.305||0.384||0.263||-0.1|
For the record, FanGraphs is slightly more optimistic for the Mets and pessimistic for the Brewers, projecting the Mets to go 73-74 for the remaining 147 games and the Brewers to go 69-78. But, as we’ll see below, I am going to argue that even this doesn’t really matter, the teams are still basically the same going forward.
This is the sort of thing that should make Milwaukee fans happy and Mets fans indignant. The Mets have an exciting pitching staff anchored by Matt Harvey with plenty of depth on the farm, and a closer in Jeurys Familia who has been lights out. The Brewers, on the other hand, have a pitching staff that thus far has looked like this:
The Mets have promising hitters, including the recently promoted catcher Kevin Plawecki and young power-hitting shortstop Wilmer Flores. The Brewers have that gif of the chorizo falling down filling their entire batting order. The Mets have Juan Legares nominally playing centerfield but actually defending the entirety of New York better than George Washington ever could. The Brewers have Logan Schafer manning center while Carlos Gomez is on the DL. The Mets have an exciting narrative driving their march to become New York’s team again, they’re ’86 all over! The Brewers have the narrative of a 2014 hot start followed by an epic collapse in September followed by an offseason where their biggest acquisition was probably Adam Lind. 15 games into the season, the Brewers are growing increasingly desperate:
— Gregory Jon (@gregoryjon) April 23, 2015
But it’s only April. And no two teams illustrate that sentiment better than the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. The best team in baseball and the worst team in baseball. Looking ahead, the exact same team.
By this point in the season, there is plenty of exegesis from beat writers and fan blogs and broadcasters and excitable columnists of the 15 games past, pointing to why they’re real and what we can learn from them. And there are the more calm voices pointing to small sample sizes and stabilization and measures of future performance. Let me be clear that I have no intention of evaluating the wins and losses the Mets and Brewers have already posted. Those are real and they’re spectacular. They’re in the books, and actually PECOTA is accounting for them in the projections posted above.
This point last year, I could have written this article about the Brewers and the Mets and the roles would have been reversed. The Mets started 2014 basically .500 through the first 15 games, but they didn’t have Matt Harvey and David Wright was struggling and no one expected much from the team at all; they were written out of contention pretty early on. The Brewers started 2014 going 11-4 in their first 15 games and would ride a hot streak through August, staying first in their division much of the way before the bottom fell out and they dropped all but 10 games after August 15. The Brewers would finish the season with a pythagorean win-loss of 82-80. The Mets’ pythag was 80-82 by the end of 2014.
Over the offseason, neither team did much of anything to remake themselves either into a contender or a bottom dweller. The Brewers unloaded some pitchers who didn’t particularly excite anyone in exchange for some hitters who didn’t particularly excite anyone. The Mets tried to surprise everyone with a Cuddyer signing right out the gate to start the offseason and then followed that up by signing… um… let me see… John Mayberry Jr. That’s it.
Coming into the season, expectations were pretty much matched for both teams. The very smart readers of Banished to the Pen saw the Mets as an 84 win team in 2015, and the Brewers as an 81 win team, pretty much in line with their projections across the major sites. Since then, 15 games have been played, and one team has the best record in baseball and one team has the worst, and this is an article about how nothing has changed.
But it’s not enough to say “small sample size.” Let’s dig into each team a little deeper, compare position-by-position, and see if we can understand WHY these teams project to be so similar.
What I WON’T be doing is making a declaration of the likelihood of each team to reach the playoffs, or finish at X place in their division, or be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. This is an apples to apples comparison of each team, to try and understand why the projections don’t believe the Mets are recreating 1986 and don’t believe the Brewers are recreating the 2002 Tigers.
I’ll reference both Baseball Prospectus’ and FanGraph’s depth charts and projections, compare each position and make a bold proclamation of what has been real thus far and what has been purely mirage. In so doing, I hope to provide one more bit of propaganda in the war against small sample sizes.
You can see the depth charts here:
Mets: Travis d’Arnaud is a hot, exciting catcher who’s below average in terms of defense but makes up for it with an exciting bat that seemed prime for a breakout in the first games before he landed on the DL. Behind him is Kevin Plawecki, who is a good prospect and not a bad fill in for d’Arnaud.
How believable is their start? Let’s say 75%. d’Arnaud has been known as an injury prone catcher who can hit, and has lived up to that reputation
Projected fWAR: 2.8
Projected WARP: 2.7
Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy is a hot, exciting catcher who’s a friggin tour de force in terms of defense and has been stellar the past few season with his bat and seemed primed to breakout as an MVP candidate again after a great 2014. He was functionally useless in the first 12 games of the season before landing on the DL. Martin Maldondo is his replacement and shouldn’t actively hurt the team.
How believable is their start? I’m going with 0%. Unless Lucroy pulls a Jason Castro, which seems nigh impossible, he should come back and be the player he was before. He is a “small sample size” poster child, having put up -0.1 fWAR in his 12 games to date and still projected to be worth 3-4 WAR ROS depending on your projection system. Nothing about his slow start is believable, except his broken toe which I assume has x-rays to support it. It’s surprising that PECOTA doesn’t love Lucroy’s glove more, honestly.
Projected fWAR: 3.3
Projected WARP: 2.2
Mets: The Mets’ combo of Duda, Murphy, Flores and Wright in the infield is an intimidating group of bats. It is also, with the exception of Wright, a laughable group of gloves. Wilmer Flores could lead the league in Not Top 10 plays on Sports Center this year, and if the Mets had any depth at all at short stop it’s impossible to imagine he wouldn’t be in the minors by now. Wright is injured again, and the Mets’ lack of depth was exposed when he was replaced by Eric Campbell.
How believable is their start? They can hit and they can’t defend. This is 100% believable and undeniable. Bring back a healthy Wright and they should score plenty of runs. Trade for a short stop or deal Murphy and they should be able to turn maybe some double plays at some point. But that sort of speculation is not allowed in this exercise, and the spirit of the LOLMets should live on as long as anyone hits a grounder up the middle to these guys. The difference in measuring defense explains the difference in projected WAR.
Projected fWAR: 10.4
Projected WARP: 8.1
Brewers: Last year the Brewers started a tripping Chorizo at first base, so Adam Lind’s projected 1.4 fWAR is a substantial upgrade. Last year Jean Segura turned into a tripping Chorizo, and even a tripping Chorizo bounces. Aramis Ramirez is still alive. Scooter Gennett is a prototypical 2nd baseman. This is not an exciting infield, but it is an infield and that’s actually kind of an upgrade compared to the Brewers for long stretches of 2013 and 2014.
How believable is their start? All of these people continue to exist, so this is 100% believable.
Projected fWAR: 5.9
Projeted WARP: 5.5
Mets: Juan Legares could be the most watchable player in baseball right now. Statcast may prove that he is actually a cyborg or alien or X-Man. Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer will owe him lots and lots of beers when he bends space and time to catch balls that Granderson can’t run to and Cuddyer can’t hear. Cuddyer was the team’s big free agent acquisition of 2014, and has played the part through the first 15 games, posting a .283/.345/.434 slash line driven by a .400 BABIP. Granderson has performed about exactly the same as anyone would have expected thus far into the year and actually should improve. Not his defense, I mean, but his bat.
How believable is their start? Legares should continue to be amazing to watch and maybe he’s figured it out at the plate but even if he hasn’t will still be a positive contributor to the team. Cuddyer’s inflated BABIP is cancelled out by Granderson’s deflated BABIP to make these guys something like 65% believable, all combined.
Projected fWAR: 5.7
Projected WARP: 5.5
Brewers: Second only to the pitching, the Brewers’ outfield has been the biggest disappointment of early 2015. Carlos Gomez is injured, Khris Davis has been nothing much to speak of, Ryan Braun has done very little to make anyone like him, Gerardo Parra has falling Chorizo disease, and Logan Schafer is.
How believable is their start? 5%. A healthy Carlos Gomez and regression back to the mean for Davis and Braun moves this entire team up a notch.
Yeah but what about Ryan Braun’s likability? Oh yeah that is 100% not going to change no matter what he does on the field sorry if that wasn’t clear.
Projected fWAR: 7.6
Projected WARP: 9.3
Mets: Matt Harvey is back! Jacob deGrom was amazing last year! Bartolo Colon is on pace to bat in over 20 runs!
How believable is their start? If the Mets were going to succeed in 2015 it was going to be on the strength of their starting pitching, and thus far they’ve posted a 2.80 ERA and lead the MLB in Wins. Those are not very projectable stats. Matt Harvey looks like he’s back, and their rotation is still a strength, and they are exciting to watch but if this were 1998 and you were viewing this on Netscape I would apply the <BLINK> HTML tag and turn on caps to spell out Small Sample Size. The projections are in disagreement on the true talent of this team, mostly based on opinions around Jake deGrom and Syndergaard/Montero’s potential.
Projected fWAR: 12.2
Projected WARP: 6.1
How Believable is Their Start: It’s really not. That Chorizo is gonna make it across the finish line. Right now Kyle Lohse has a 10.34 ERA and 3.78 xFIP. Garza, Fiers, Peralta and Nelson’s ERAs are all more than a run better than their xFIPs. Keep your pants on, Brewers fans. It gets better. 0% believable.
Projected fWAR: 6.9
Projected WARP: 3.2
It’s still April. Don’t look at the standings.Next post: Write-Up For Yesterday: April 23, 2015
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