The best and the worst of OPS+

The best and the worst of OPS+

This week, we look at OPS+, which is a stat that measures a player’s contribution on offense and compares him to an average player that season. An average player is given an OPS+ of 100, so if a player has an OPS+ of 110, then he is 10% better than average. An OPS+ of 90 means he is 10% below average. Since it compares players to that season, this allows us to compare players across eras, since overall stats can be misleading. A player who hit .300/30/100 in 1968 would be much more valuable than a player who did that in the steroid era, for example. It also adjusts for home park, so hitting .300 in Denver is not worth as much as hitting .300 in L.A.

Mariners' Robinson Cano: Two more hits in defeat

Mariners' Robinson Cano: Two more hits in defeat

Cano went 2-for-4 in a loss to the Astros on Thursday.

Cano continues to be a bright spot for the Mariners in both victory and defeat, as he’s now hit safely in 12 of 15 April games. The only fault that could potentially be found with the 35-year-old’s performance thus far is a relative absence of power, as he’s slugged just one home run over his first 70 plate appearances. However, Cano’s sparkling .339/.471/.464 line is certainly serving fantasy owners well, and given that he’s smacked at least 21 round trippers in eight of his last nine seasons, his long-ball drought is unlikely to last much longer.

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Yankees' Matt Harvey not adjusting well with career-low velocity on fastball, slider

Yankees' Matt Harvey not adjusting well with career-low velocity on fastball, slider

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Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland discusses Matt Harvey

ATLANTA — Before Matt Harvey’s latest clunker, this one a six-inning, six-run effort in a 12-4 loss to Atlanta, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the Mets have yet to see Matt Harvey’s best stuff. After the poor outing to start this 10-game road trip, Callaway again said that he did not believe Harvey did not have it all working against Atlanta.

Callaway was then asked whether this is truly a case or Harvey not having his best stuff or if this is just who Harvey is at this point in his career.

The manager was unsure.

“I don’t think we know one way or another,” Callaway said.

Harvey’s rotation spot is in jeopardy after this latest loss dropped him to 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA, and the data reveals Harvey is not adapting to pitching with diminished velocity.

Through four outings, Harvey’s velocity is down on all of his pitches except his curveball, which he is just barely (81.54 mph to 81.46 mph) throwing faster than last year according to brooksbaseball.net. Harvey’s fastball is barely averaging 93 mph per start, and is down about 1.4 mph from last year (94.42 mph), according to the website. 

Harvey is not the only Mets starter whose velocity is down to start the year, but he is the only averaging career-lows on almost all his pitches. He’s only throwing his curveball slightly faster than last year, when he again had career-low velocity with that offering. 

Callaway noted that Harvey pitched in rough conditions his first three outings, but the first-pitch temperature for last night’s game was 56 degrees with 13-mph winds. Harvey’s heater sat at 92.8 mph, and he only topped at 94 mph, per brooksbaseball.net

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“I’m seeing a lot of the misses in the plate,” Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland said.

Harvey was noticeably defiant after the game, insisting that he is a starting pitcher when questioned about possibly losing his spot in the rotation. He labeled this outing as a step in the right direction since he ended the night with three shutout innings

Unfortunately for Harvey, the first three innings when he allowed six runs counted. The comeback season the Mets hoped for has yet to transpire.

Mets' Matt Harvey bristles over job security question: 'I'm a starting pitcher'

Mets' Matt Harvey bristles over job security question: 'I'm a starting pitcher'

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In the first two-plus weeks of the MLB season, there have been 24 postponed games due to inclement weather. USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — Five years ago Thursday, Matt Harvey had the Citi Field faithful chanting “Harvey’s better” as the young right-hander outdueled Washington’s Stephen Strasburg.

Harvey is no longer that caliber of pitcher, and he may no longer have a spot in the Mets’ rotation. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said it has not been determined if Harvey will make his next start after the righty struggled again, this time allowing six runs in six innings in a 12-4 loss to the Braves on Thursday night at SunTrust Park.

Harvey could be the odd man out with veteran lefty Jason Vargas set to return from the disabled list next week, but he was defiant when asked about his job security.

“I’m a starting pitcher,” Harvey said. “I’ve always been a starting pitcher, and I think showed in the fifth and sixth innings I can get people out when my pitch count goes up. 

“I’m a starting pitcher.”

Four games is a small sample size, but the early signs are not positive for Harvey as he attempts to rebound in the final year of his contract. The results are all too familiar to the previous two seasons when he struggled while dealing with injuries.

Harvey even sounded like he did the past two years by glossing over how poorly he pitched and instead focusing on what he believed to be a bright spot. 

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Harvey put the Mets (13-5) in a 3-0 hole in the first by allowing a two-run homer to Kurt Suzuki, and Atlanta doubled the lead two innings later. Nick Markakis’ RBI single pushed the lead to 4-0, and Preston Tucker’s two-run double put Atlanta up by six runs.

Harvey ended his night by retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced, and he viewed his success in the fourth through sixth innings as a “big breakthrough.”

“I dug myself in a hole the last four starts,” Harvey said. “I really feel those last three innings were a big step out of that hole.”

Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland said Harvey is leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate, and was not as upbeat about Harvey’s outing.

Since allowing one hit in five scoreless innings in his season debut against Philadelphia, Harvey has posted a 7.88 ERA spanning his last three outings.

The Mets received solo homers from Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez in Thursday’s loss, but relievers Jerry Blevins and Gerson Bautista allowed six runs in relief of Harvey. 

“You gotta start from the first inning on,” Eiland said. “You can’t take three innings to find yourself.”

Harvey’s struggles come at an inopportune time as the Mets will soon have to clear a rotation spot for  Vargas, who is on track for a return next weekend.

Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are the candidates to be removed from the rotation, and Harvey has performed the poorest of the trio. 

The Mets could try Harvey in a bullpen role, but he’s never truly pitched as a reliever except for entering in the second inning of a September game last year. 

Harvey would have to agree to be sent to the minors.

“I can’t answer that right now,” Harvey said of accepting a demotion to the minors.

Harvey’s spot in the rotation is next slotted for Wednesday in St. Louis, and the Mets have the option to skip him due to Monday’s day off. 

Despite his insistence, Harvey may not be a starting pitcher anymore. 

“It’s only 18 games we’ve seen these guys where it’s mattered, so we’re still getting a feel for it,” Eiland said in reference to the new coaching staff. “We’re going to make decisions that are going to help this team win baseball games. Period.”

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Red Sox's Andrew Benintendi: Breaks through with first homer

Red Sox's Andrew Benintendi: Breaks through with first homer

Benintendi went 2-for-5 with a solo home run and three RBI in Boston’s 8-2 win over the Angels on Thursday.

After going his first 15 games of the season without a home run, Benintendi broke through with his first long ball of the year with a sixth-inning blast off Nick Tropeano. Despite the lack of power, Benintendi has been getting on base at a solid clip (.384 on-base percentage) and he now sports an .834 OPS. Fantasy owners will hope the breakthrough homer means he’s primed to get his power stroke going after he left the yard 20 times in his first full big-league campaign last year.

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We all love him, but it's time for the Mariners to release Ichiro

We all love him, but it's time for the Mariners to release Ichiro

The Ichiro moment of truth is coming quickly.

The Mariners are doing everything within their power to put it off as long as they can, juggling the roster with moves that delay the inevitable, but you can see where this is going.

Heck, you could see it coming the day in early March they signed Ichiro after Ben Gamel went down. It was a feel-good event, bringing back the icon for one last fling, and Ichiro got his deserved ovation on opening day and many more after. But at some point, everyone knew, there was going to be a reckoning.

And it’s here now. Gamel is back in the lineup. The Mariners have five active outfielders, one more than any team needs. And by any measure — other than career achievement — Ichiro is a distant fifth.

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Sadly, it’s time.

It would not be easy for the organization to part ways with Ichiro, who has meant so much to the Mariners, and to Seattle. Yet this is the scenario that they set up the moment they brought him in. It was not in their winter blueprint to have a 44-year-old outfielder on the roster, and he has shown nothing in his play this season to warrant a change to make it so. If they choose to go another route, concoct more maneuvering to keep him on the roster, it will look like they care more about nostalgia and gate sales than winning.

This is not an Ichiro-bashing column, by the way. I bow to no one in my admiration for his accomplishments and the brilliance of his career. He’s provided some of the greatest memories of my lifetime watching and covering baseball. I have deep respect for how hard he’s worked to survive this long in the majors. I appreciate the way he’s fit in this Mariners ballclub, providing a great example for the younger players of what it takes to be a pro.

Ichiro is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and an all-time Mariner legend. It’s not an indictment to say — with regret and melancholy — that despite all that, it’s time to end this experiment.

This is the natural order of things. What’s unnatural is playing and contributing at age 44. Ichiro has given it a valiant effort, but Father Time remains undefeated. Even the esteemed Ichiro, with his unparalleled work ethic and his desire to play until age 50, is finding that out.

Ichiro is hitting an exceedingly weak .212 in 33 at-bats — so weak (all singles, no walks) that his on-base and slugging percentage are also .212, never a good sign. He made one dazzling catch to save a home run in the opening series, but has looked shaky on other balls. When Ichiro plays, which figures to be with much less frequency now that Gamel is back, he is often replaced on defense late in games. It’s hard to pinpoint what he offers other than leadership, which is not enough on a veteran-heavy team trying to end a long playoff drought. We just saw these past three days against the Astros that they need all the production they can muster.

The flash point may come on Sunday, when the Mariners have to activate a fifth starter. Or it might come shortly after that, when first baseman Ryon Healy comes off the disabled list.

Eventually, the Mariners are going to have to decide if they need eight relievers, as has become the industry standard, or if they can get by with seven. If it’s the former, then that leaves a three-man bench — the backup catcher, the utility infielder, and a fourth outfielder. By any possible measure, Guillermo Heredia is far more valuable at this juncture than Ichiro — at the plate, on defense, on the bases.

If they decide to scrape by with seven relievers — dangerous with a rotation that only rarely works into the seventh inning — then a far better case could be made for giving the extra spot to Dan Vogelbach or Taylor Motter, rather than keeping a fifth outfielder for whom playing time will be hard for manager Scott Servais to find.

What would keep Ichiro around — and it’s a powerful force — is sentiment and reverence for his stature, mixed with the hope that Ichiro will eventually find his groove after a shortened spring and a calf injury. But his recent resume doesn’t give much hope for that. They could possibly manipulate a spot on the disabled list for him, but that only delays the hard question.

I was at Candlestick Park, working, on May 28, 1989, when Mike Schmidt played his final game for the Phillies. He went 0 for 3, saw his average drop to .203, and decided that, at age 39, he had reached the end of the line. The next day, Schmidt announced his retirement.

There’s no shame in running out of time. It happens to everyone — even the great Ichiro.