This snippet of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple has been rolling around in my head today…

Oscar: Well they were mine, damn it. I have feet and they make prints. What do you want me to do, climb across the cabinets?

Felix: No! I want you to walk on the floor!

Oscar: I appreciate that; I really do.

They’re arguing, but they aren’t really listening to each other there.  It’s all about their volume and tone.

The baseball season is sixteen games old and while the Mets are performing (forgive me) the way most people expected them to perform, those who are inclined toward rationality and clarity of thought are preaching patience, while pointing out—correctly—that the “most people” referenced herein aren’t necessarily rational or clear minded.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve discovered my favorite daily writers, and they are in fact fairly rational, that I’ve missed most of the drumbeat of Mets negativity.  I regularly suppress the angst of my father, himself a Mets fan, when I read negative commentary, and try my best to do the same while actually watching games.  This is not so easy.  I’m the first-born son of a man who couldn’t even bring himself to cheer Kevin Mitchell tying Game 6 in ‘86.  A formative memory; I was barely four years old. 

(He cheered the winning run—another formative memory.  They’re all lumped in there.)

I do see most of this ping-ponging on Twitter, which I don’t yet take seriously, much like I don’t take Facebook seriously and, hell, much like I don’t take Tumblr seriously.  I’m not one for expressing cogent thoughts in one hundred forty characters.  I’m one for expressing dismay at David Gregory and swearing in one hundred forty characters.  Facebook’s for reposting Times articles and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” music video.  Don’t ask me what Tumblr’s for; I keep thinking I’m going to break it with this blog “relaunch.” 

But the ping-ponging does make me curious: when is it okay to take the temperature of the season?

That question isn’t rhetorical.  In the face of my slight readership, I ask honestly.  Ten percent of games in the books is not the right time?  Fine; I believe that.  You couldn’t ask me to project budget performance based on ten percent of a fiscal year.  You could ask me a quarter of the way through the year, though I would equivocate like a motherfucker.  “I don’t know what big-ticket items remain to be purchased; I can’t predict what precisely will happen if revenues fall.”  That’s the crux of the work done on budgets, and the work done to reporting against them: analysis of the past to develop plans for the future.  I’ve little desire to equivocate like a motherfucker when it comes to my one of my leisure activities, though. 

Y’know, I occasionally enjoy assembling model airplanes.  No one sees them because they all SUCK.  In fact, I throw them out after hiding them for a week.  “What grown man hides a crappy model airplane they built?” is what I ask myself.  But the Mets will continue playing. I will succumb to the lure of a Corsair F4U-4. I will crap the bed in building it.  The Mets have crapped the bed in playing.  And twenty-five grown men on the active roster can’t hide their crappy model airplane.  They either get better, or they don’t. 

The reason I bother to ask at all when the right time for analysis will be is that I can see myself growing frustrated at equivocation.  Equivocation isn’t such a bad thing, but regular, repeated equivocation will sound as hollow as regular, repeated negativity.  It’s like saying a word over and over again aloud.  It loses all meaning.

Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.

(For you Simpsons fans, pretend I just wrote “Jiminy Jillickers.”  For my friend Nora, pretend it was “rice pilaf.”)

This kind of annihilation of real meaning has the potential to seep into analysis within a game.  It has for me, already.  David Wright struck out twice against Tommy Hanson?  Doesn’t necessarily mean he will when he’s next up to bat.  Jose Reyes scorching the ball?  He may come down to earth before the game is out.

Cripes; I KNOW.  I watch this game to be entertained.  Not to be reminded how random life is.  I’m experiencing a particularly fantastic reminder of same, that has me relentlessly positive these days.  Forgive me if I don’t actively seek the patient middle.

In the end, I suppose I’m feathering the nest here for when I feel the need to come down on somebody hard.  I feel I’m allowed to do so as long as I don’t spin it into dogma (unless and until someone becomes another Oliver Perez, but I’ll never let that kind of thing go).  And I do respect statistical analysis and the pitfalls of small sample size.  In fact, I respect it so much, I’m concerned for the time I decide these guys are going somewhere or not; I don’t want to be lumped in with all the Negative Nellies or Positive Petes in the Mets Commentary Echo Chamber. 

I think I’ll know the difference between a good model airplane and an abortion of one.  I’m not saying I can tell with this one yet, but, you know, you really can tell before you finish, and generally well before.  And then after that, it’s all over but the yelling.

**

I wondered indirectly via Twitter yesterday when a Mets starting pitcher had last put together back-to-back 1-2-3 innings.  Including Dillon Gee doing it yesterday in the 4th and 5th against Atlanta, they’ve done it six times:

Game One: Pelfrey, in the 2nd and 3rd against Florida.

Game Two: Niese, in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (Florida, again).

Game Four: Young, in the 2nd and 3rd against Philadelphia.

Game Nine: Young, again, in the 3rd and 4th, then the 6th and 7th against the Nationals.

Game Thirteen: Capuano, in the 4th and the 5th against the Rockies.

Why did I check?  Ron Darling had mentioned something about Tommy Hanson’s elevated pitch count owing, at least in part, to his tendency to be a strikeout pitcher and thus requiring at least three pitches per batter to record an out.  Mix in some balls and fouls, and your minimum number of 54 pitches in six very quality innings rises, naturally. 

So why does it matter?  I figure a Mets starting pitcher who can wipe out an order in short order can save a bullpen some work, and get an offense back to the plate.

Not that it necessarily matters, or that such a “morale boost” is quantifiable.

But I ignored relief pitchers who could come in for consecutive quick innings (only Games 8 and 15); I ignored quick innings after a single or a homer or a walk; I didn’t get to the heart of the matter, which might be pitch count, or flyball-to-groundball ratio; I didn’t take into consideration that maybe a pitcher could throw 150 pitches in a game—hell, they did it years ago; though they were facing different competition…

Annihilation of meaning.  Or maybe call it statistical relativism.  This is not a negative.  It’s how we deal with the questions we ask and the answers such investigation produces that defines us as having any cache.  I remain concerned that Mets starting pitching can’t put together outs in bunches.  The Mets make outs in bunches and they’re 5-11.  If making outs in bunches reduces the number of chances to score, then doing the same to the opposing team should reduce their number of chances.

Before too long, I will want to ask questions that inure me to much of the relativism but keep me entertained.  This will require a somewhat different vantage point on the whole enterprise.  But this is fine; I’ve been looking for a way to work the phrase “perturbation analysis” into a post.

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