Series Preview: Reds at Mets

061412-mets_mediumAfter a 5-4 homestand, the Reds head back to the Big Apple for the last time this year to revisit the Mets. Thanks to a two game losing streak by the Pirates, the Reds enter this series with a 2.5 game lead in the Central. Given all the nasty illnesses running around the Reds' clubhouse, I have to say the they pulled quite the feat in sweeping a quality Indians ballclub.

For their part, the Mets are pretty much where we saw them last time: 4.5 games behind the Nationals and sitting in second place in the NL East. The biggest difference in how this team looks now vs. a month ago is its starting pitching, which has been very good of late. This culminated in R.A. Dickey's masterful performance Wednesday night. It is a source of genuine strength for this team, and is a good reminder that what a team (or player) has done to this point in the season doesn't tell you everything about what they'll do in the future.

That all said, the rest of the Mets' story is largely the same: solid offense that gets on base, horrifically bad bullpen, and below average (to be generous) fielding. As much as I know that the bullpen often doesn't have a major impact on games, the fact that they've been so bad will help me when I watch--the Reds will never really be out of a game, as long as they can get past the starter. I'm hoping for a nice series.

Park Factors: Citi Field

Previously, this has been a fairly severe pitcher's park, non-PETCO division. Over the winter, they brought in the walls. Here's a neato (though busy) figure, courtsey of Hit Tracker:

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via hittrackeronline.com

The Blue outfield line is the pre-2012 Citi Field fence. The black line is the 2012 fence. And the Red line is GABP's fence.

You can see that in many places around the park, the fences have moved in considerably. In particular, almost the entire left field fence is in, and you can see that it has resulted in many more homers this year compared to last year. That all said, when you compare it to Great American Ballpark, you can see that this is no home run haven. Right field, in particular, is still much deeper than GABP. Therefore, this is not likely to be an offense-friendly park. But it's probably much closer to neutral than it had been previously.

We don't have good park factor data yet, so I'm not even going to report it.

Lineups

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The Mets have gotten Jason Bay back, so watch out. He hasn't done much in a while, but for some reason I still expect him to turn it around (a bit). But since his arrival, the Mets outfield situation has been in flux. I'm reporting what's at mlbdepthcharts here (my go-to source for lineup/roster info), but the Mets have played six games since Bay has returned, and all have been at AL ballparks. Torres and Nieuwenhuis have largely split CF in that time, while Lucas Duda has mostly been DHing (because he's a horrible fielder) with Hairston getting a majority of starts in RF. I'm really not sure what we're going to see this week.

Omar Quintanilla was a new name for me, but the Mets have lost both their starter and backup SS's this year so he is the fill-in. He's 30 years old, however, and has been with the Rockies for his entire career until this year, amassing 633 PA's in the big leagues...to the tune of a .221/.282/.299 line. I don't think we can expect him to keep hitting.

Ike Davis is now over 200 PA's and is hitting .188/.273/.320. A lot of people were predicting a huge year for him with the new fences, but at the least it looks like the lost year last year has him pretty far behind the eight ball. I would not be surprised to see him starting to lose starts to Lucas Duda, at least until he can get his shit together.

On the Reds...I'm not sure about the status of Stubbs and Heisey, but my guess is that Kris Negron is at least starting today's game (barring a roster change I don't know about at press time). Brandon Phillips' wRC+ is over 100 for the first time since I started doing these this season. He had a hell of a series against the Indians. Let's hope he can keep it up!

Update: I buried the lead here. But this series features the #1 and #2 players by FanGraphs WAR in all of baseball. That's pretty neat.

Probable Starters

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Man, Dillion Gee is looking pretty good. I know his ERA's not sparkly, but he's striking out more than three times as many as he's walking, and getting tons of ground balls. Niese is following suit, just walking more. Both are quality.

Chris Young is back from the dead, sort of. But his first few appearances haven't been very encouraging, despite the fine results. I'd love to face him at Great American Ballpark when he's giving up flies 75% of the time...given the Reds' strength offensively (power), it seems like a pretty good match-up for the Reds. The best thing Young does is to be tall: he's got Logan Ondrusek beat by 2 inches!

Bullpens

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I think that Frank Francisco isn't quite as bad as he's looked. But he's not good either. The same can be said for most of the rest of this pen. The major exception is Bobby Parnell, who has looked very strong.

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