Brad Emaus demoted, melodramatic uproar ensues
Yesterday, the New York Mets demoted Rule V pick Brad Emaus. The Toronto Blue Jays now have the option to reacquire Emaus for $25,000. The Mets have activated Justin Turner, a player who has been lazily compared to a right-handed Daniel Murphy, making them logical platoon partners at the keystone. Altogether it is a pretty ho-hum move for the Mets who stand to gain a negligible bit of value by taking advantage of platoon splits.
Which brings us to the melodramatic uproar part. The overwhelming reaction on Twitter and baseball comment boards was that the Mets overreacted to a bad but small sample (42 plate appearances). In a sense, this critique is correct; from a data analysis standpoint it is impossible and exceedingly unfair to judge a player on such a small body of work. If this is truly what the Mets did—punt a potentially useful asset based solely on 42 plate appearances—then shame on them.
However, it stands to reason that this is not what the Mets did. After all, the Mets have resources that extend well beyond the spreadsheets and MLB.TV game replays that many of us Internet-dwelling baseball pundits lean on. In various places, an argument has been made that demoting Emaus based on this sample is inconsistent with rostering him in the first place. Basically, the Mets decided he was good enough on March 30 and then decided he was not on April 19. The flaw in this logic is that there’s no reason to believe that the Mets ever decided Emaus was their man.
An alternate explanation could be that the Mets’ talent evaluators were unable to form a conclusion based on spring training action alone. Perhaps the scouts were split, thinking that maybe Emaus would be a useful role player or maybe he would be overexposed. Since the performance of the 2011 Mets is rather unimportant, it makes sense for the scouts to continue their evaluation into the regular season. In this scenario, they reached their conclusion on April 19, effectively pronouncing Emaus a quadruple-A player. In this case, the cash-strapped Mets essentially gain $25,000 to roster the similarly endowed Turner, making this an easy decision.
In case your appetite for Emaus related analysis has not yet been whetted, Paul Swyden continues the new Fangraphs tradition of making an All-Star lineup out of everything with The Brad Emaus All-Stars. That lineup might even be able to outperform the Seattle Mariners offense.
James Shields helps Rays improve to 8-9
Manny who? It was not long ago that the Tampa Bay Rays had raced out to an 0-6 start before “improving” to 1-8. Nine days later, the Rays are a respectable 8-9, which ties them for second place in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh how quickly the tables turn. Recently, Kevin Dame ran a piece on the number of 0-6 teams to reach the postseason. The results were pretty dire—two teams since 1900. Ostensibly, the results change for 8-9 teams.
The impressive thing is that this streak happened without Manny Ramirez or Evan Longoria. Instead, a motley cast of Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce, Sam Fuld and Felipe Lopez has propelled the Rays offense while the pitching staff has tightened up. Longoria is hoping to rejoin the club on April 29 which should give the team a much needed shot of adrenaline if they want to stay in the playoff race.
Yesterday, James Shields was the star, carrying the Rays to a 2-1 victory. Shields was sharp and efficient, continuing to pitch backwards to great effect. As R.J. Anderson concludes in the linked piece, Shields will need to be careful going forward with this strategy. Since breaking balls are generally more difficult to locate than fastballs, the emphasis on early count benders can be expected to lead to less favorable counts. And it’s not like major league teams won’t figure out that Shields is leaning on the early count spinner. Chances are good that advance scouts noticed this before Mr. Anderson did. The entire purpose of pitching backwards is to throw unexpected pitches. Pretty soon Shields is going to be “surprising” hitters with first pitch fastballs.