Time for our annual "Best in New York" roundup, courtesy of our friends at Baseball Info Solutions and the great Bill James Handbook.
Before moving on to the broader categories, let's start where we always do with the pitchers who were most effective last year with the four main pitches -- fastball, curveball, change and slider -- and the hitters who were best at hitting each of them. The key measurement is on-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS.
For batters, the requirements were 251 plate appearances against fastballs -- where a fastball was the pitch resulting in the hit, out or walk -- 50 PAs against curves and changes and 32 against sliders.
For pitchers, it's 251 batters faced with their fastball as the decisive pitch, 100 batters faced against both the curve and change and 64 against the slider.
Also, though we use last year's stats, we're concentrating on this year's rosters. So some highlighted players were on different teams or even in different leagues last year.
Alex Rodriguez is the best fastball hitter in the city, with a .967 OPS that was 13th best in baseball. He beats the Mets' best heater hitter, Carlos Beltran, at .924. But note that both were significantly off the league-leading paces set by Albert Pujols (1.196) in the National League and Carlos Quentin (1.101) in the American League.
A-Rod takes the prize against curves, too, with a .861 OPS. To say any Mets hitter fared well against the curve would be an overstatement. Carlos Delgado finished at .745, just ahead of Jose Reyes. The best in the majors last year against the deuce was Chase Utley (1.257 OPS) and the AL leader was Quentin (1.063). It's funny, when I was in Arizona for the fall league in 2007, people couldn't stop telling me how smart an organization the Diamondbacks had, and then they ship out Quentin and keep Eric Byrnes, whom they couldn't give away this winter.
The champ of the change was Mark Teixeira at 1.076 (only the NL version, but the AL Tex probably just failed to qualify). Carlos Delgado was near the middle of the qualifying pack at 1.021. It seems that hitters really tee off on changeups relative to other pitches. But not when Johan Santana or CC Sabathia throws them. More on that later.
The sliders also must be fat or flat very often as A-Rod led all of baseball at 1.168 closely followed by Robinson Cano (1.034) and David Wright (1.008). Fernando Tatis was relatively low on my list of qualifiers at .944.
As for the pitchers, the best fastball was Sabathia (NL version only at .610). I don't have AL CC. I don't like how baseball splits guys by league after they're traded, either, but those are the rules. Joba Chamberlain wasn't far behind at .618 (fifth overall compared to third for Sabathia). The league leaders in 2008 were Ben Sheets (.599) and John Danks (.605). There's no Met on my list, which cuts off at Gil Meche (0.698). John Maine is generally among the leaders here, but didn't make the list in 2008, probably due to his arm trouble.
No surprise that the best curveball belongs to new Yankee A.J. Burnett (.573), but that was well behind former teammate and Major League-leader Roy Halladay (.480). No 2008 Met really featured a curve, which is a dying pitch. A scout told me last year that you don't see many curve specialists anymore. The closest on the current Mets staff is import Tim Redding (.771).
Santana had the fifth-best change (.533), behind four other NL pitchers (led by former Met Tom Glavine). NL Sabathia wasn't far behind (.558).
Best slider in New York is Sabathia's, as he was among the leaders in both the NL (.417) and AL (.449). No Met made the list I was sent, which cuts off after 30 places at Edwin Jackson (.596).
Now let's look at some other leaders, in quick-hitting style.
Best lefty vs. lefty hitter: Cano edges Delgado, .794 to .789.
Most power: Delgado hit a 470-foot homer last year, edging A-Rod (467). However, Rodriguez had the second-highest average length of homer in baseball (413 feet, just behind Justin Upton, 417). Robinson Cano was also among the leaders in average length (404 feet).
Most fan-tastic hitter: A-Rod again, who missed on 24 percent of swings, well off the pace (37.7 percent) set by Mark Reynolds.
Most aggressive hitter: Delgado, swinging at 36 percent of first pitches. Least aggressive: Johnny Damon, 10.6 percent. Former Yankee Bobby Abreu swung at first pitches just 6.2 percent of the time.
Best bad-ball hitter: David Wright (.534 average plus slugging on pitches out of the strike zone).
Fastest heater: Joba Chamberlain, of course, with three pitches over 100 mph and 590 over 95 mph.
Most ground-ball oriented: Andy Pettitte (Chien-Ming Wang didn't quality) at 1.80 grounders per flyball.
Most flyball extreme: Oliver Perez, the most extreme in all of baseball at 0.7 grounders for every flyball. What would Davey (Johnson) do? Daniel Murphy would be playing second base every time Perez starts just like Kevin Mitchell used to play short back in 1986 when Sid Fernandez started (because Sid was so fly-ball extreme). That's about 30 starts at second for Murphy right there. Just trying to help, people. I do realize there's no chance of this happening.
Best throwing catcher: No contest, as Jose Molina (43.2 percent caught stealing) is tops in all of baseball.